Legal Fiction: Chapter 2

A job is a funny thing. You probably don’t like yours but does that matter? You gotta have one, right? Harry Cohen understood this. He was a senior associate at the firm Chelsea Hale had worked in and he understood just how frustrating it can be to play a game you don’t want to play. Yet it wasn’t until Chelsea Hale’s death that he decided to stop.

The turning point for him started on the morning after. He had been putting in long hours on an upcoming deal and had heard nothing of her passing until he walked into his office. The first clue was his secretary Ann, who wasn’t wearing her usual smile but rather, a look of restrained urgency. “Did you hear?!” she asked softly. It was clear she was trying to sound somber but the gossip in her couldn’t resist a conversation. Harry had almost walked right by her; this caused him to stop in his place. “Hear? Hear what?” he quizzed.

“Ms. Hale … she took her own life yesterday.”

“Chelsea?”

“Yea. Yesterday. She jumped off the Brooks Mauer Fields building, over at 50th St. Almost fell on some tourists, they said.”

Harry was immediately skeptical. “They said? Who’s they?”

“The news. I’m surprised you didn’t see it anywhere. It was on all the stations last night.”

“I was buried work last night, reviewing those merger filings. Didn’t even get out of my office until 2 A.M.” Harry groaned.

He was tempted to stick around and find out more but he had a policy against lingering in the hall too long lest one of the partners see him and try to throw more work on him. “I’m gonna get settled in,” he added, pointing to his office, “but I want to hear more about this.” Ann knew exactly what that meant. What it did not mean was to follow him into his office. The young associates and assistants had a system for looking busy and avoiding the stern reprimands of the partners—a system known as GChat. This was where most of the office gossip was dished around.

Once he settled in, Harry started getting up to date on all the buzz. Yet, the word on Chelsea’s death had one feature about it that stuck out like a sore thumb: it was inconsistent. Details varied wildly from person to person. Such is gossip, right? But even the news accounts didn’t make sense to Harry. What was she doing at Brooks Mauer? As far as Harry knew, she wasn’t working on any case with them. How would anyone other than an employee get access to their balcony? He’d been to their buildings a few times for depositions and remembered that the floors above 50 required a keycard to access. Since the balcony was quite a ways above the 50th floor, she couldn’t have gotten up their without some help.

More to the point, why would she take her own life and in that way? Harry didn’t work all that much with Chelsea but she never showed any signs of depression. To the contrary, she was a fighter, a self-proclaimed “confident woman” and he couldn’t imagine her doing something she’d once called “weak” in a lunch meeting with some associates.

Nothing added up to Harry and he found himself growing increasingly frustrated with other office workers’ willingness to accept what they were hearing as true. Maybe this was it. Maybe this was the sign he needed to go from white shoe to gum shoe. In college, Harry was torn between pursuing a career in journalism or going to law school. After his friend was mugged in an alley, he made up his mind. He was gonna go off and become a prosecutor. Better late than never, right? He was probably too late for journalism but working as a prosecutor wasn’t outside his reach. Maybe this could be an ‘audition’ of sorts. He could discover the truth behind Chelsea’s death and show his talents for solving crime. The only thing was, he’d have to commit to this right here and right now or it’d never happen. Inertia is a powerful force—especially when accompanied by a large paycheck. Before he could talk himself out of it, he walked into his boss’ office.

There was a moment of silence then Harry made his declaration. “Sir, this is my two weeks notice. I’m quitting.”

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