Sophie finished up at the office and headed out to her car, her next appointment that morning was Philip Nigel. It was pertinent, she was told, that they get his signature on the cancellation of the contract so that his project could be sent to the accounting department for payment collection.
Knowing Philip Nigel she thought, that was going to provoke him from his home and into the Knight offices to restate his significance in society. Sophie’s gut churned as she thought about seeing the man’s face again and his snake of a tongue.
“Okay, I am too. See you in fifteen.”
Casey giggled on the line, then said, “Yeah, you’re not bad yourself,” to someone. It sounded like she was in a coffee shop from the sounds of espresso steam and dishware in the background.
“Hmmm?” she said into the mouthpiece of her phone.
“You really coming or are you picking up a piece of pastry with that coffee?” Sophie asked. With the Nigel project a lax attitude on arrival time wasn’t going to cut it. Sophie tried not to dwell as well on the fact that she’d taken the project over from Casey in the first place.
“Oh yeah, hold on.” She said to someone, “What’s that Sophie?”
“Casey. Nigel project. Are you coming now? If we’re late this entire meeting will escalate from a scrimmage to war with him.”
“Yup. Just getting my coffee now, see you there.” She said and ended the call.
Sophie gritted her teeth and headed toward the Nigel’s residence the long way to avoid the spot where she dumped her car on its head.
She was five minutes early when she pulled her rented sedan into the drive of the Nigel residence. Sophie pulled out the contract docs and reviewed them until it was time to go in. There was no sign of Casey.
The sun beat down on the massive cherub water fountain next to her car, they splashed gaily in their waterlogged orgy.
Sophie waited two minutes past the hour for Casey then knew that going in then alone would be better than ten minutes without her. She gave Casey one last ring before going in.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on my way Sophie, should be there in five.”
Sophie closed her eyes, “That will be too late. I’m going in. Come straight in when you get here, got it?”
“No Sophie, don’t go in. I’ll be there in just a few minutes and we can go in together. The last time I was there he threatened to choke me and I believe him, he has some serious negative energy.”
“He’s not going to choke me, and besides if he tries it won’t be until he gets to the contract signing part. I’ll delay until you’re here.”
“I’m not kidding Sophie, just stay out until I’m there.”
“Hurry up then.” She said and hung up.
Sophie got out of the car and made sure she had her back up plan in her new purse then slipped the contract documents into her new case.
Having everything she needed she beeped the rental’s lock and headed to the front door. She pushed her sunglasses up on her head and took a deep breath before knocking. She gave the solid door three raps of her knuckles. As she did the door gave, as if not latched, and swung in. The cool air of the foyer wafted out and Sophie stepped in.
“Mr. Nigel?” she called. Her voice echoed off the immaculate surfaces and moldings. “Mr. Nigel are you here?”
The front seemed to be deserted as she came in, she didn’t close the door behind her and couldn’t say why, other than the skin along her arms rose up in goosebumps. “Hello?”
The only sound in return was the click of her heels on the floor as she slowly stepped toward the front table.
“Mr. Nigel it’s—” She turned as heavy footfalls came swiftly at her. Philip slammed the door shut and red faced grabbed her arm. He yanked her around and tossed her onto the pulled out chair of the front table.
She landed with a thud as her bags hit the floor.
“You’re late!” he hollered. The vein at his temple matched the one at his throat. Both bulged as if to burst.
Sophie winced at hitting her side and simultaneously realized that the rumors about Philip Nigel were true.
“Mr. Nigel. You will not manhandle me.”
“Where were you Sunday? I waited all day and all day Monday. I was told you were in an accident. What do you people make me for? An idiot?” He hollered.
Sophie stood scooping up her purse, “I was in an accident—”
“I am no idiot!” he said as he came for her again.
She pointed at him making him halt as she said, “You’re not an idiot, but if you touch me again, you’ll be a very sorry son of a bitch.”
Sophie tapped into her deep emotional well letting the flood gates of her fury fly open, justly.
Philip Nigel stopped his bloodshot eyes squinting. Sophie smelt the bourbon then.
“Are you threatening me Ms. Sparling?”
“Very good Mr. Nigel.” She said and slipped her hand into her purse just in case. “How about we sit down like adults and go over the contract now.” She said gesturing at the table next to her with her free hand.
Her side throbbed.
Sophie could see that he wasn’t letting the threat go.
He looked at the table then back, “Did you just threatened me in my own home?” he came for her again shoving the chair to the side. The chair clattered backwards to the floor. As Sophie stepped back she pulled her hand from her purse.
“And I’ll put you down in your own home if you don’t sit down right now.” She said gripping her compact stun gun in her hand, “How are you with five million volts?”
He stopped, his features contorting. His coiffed hair was flared at the side and his shoulder sweater had slipped off kilter.
“Sit down.” She said and hoped like hell Casey would come through the door closed door.
“Not in any domain ruled by Lucifer will a woman tell me what to do in my house!” He said and took a step toward her.
“Fine, I’ll leave then.”
“Too late for that Ms. Sparling. You don’t just come into my home and threaten me and get away with it.”
Sophie said, more calm than she felt, “You will let me leave or you’ll get to see what five million volts does to your body Mr. Nigel. You will let me go.” She said taking a step backward toward the door. Her case was still on the floor behind him and she was gladly leaving it behind.
He took a step at her, “You don’t scare me.” He hissed then came for her.
Sophie tried to side step him and jab the tazer against his skin but missed. His lunge caught her around the middle and took her to the floor.
She struck the floor losing her stun gun. Pain shot up her body and she screamed. Instincts kicked in as Philip Nigel’s sweaty palms grappled with her. Sophie’s knee came up into his crotch. He let out a yowl and let go. Sophie rolled away and grabbed her stun gun. She twisted back to him.
Philip Nigel grabbed her leg screaming, “You fucking bitch!”
She kicked him off with her other foot and reached forward. She jabbed the stun gun in his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. All five million volts shot through him.
As his body convulsed arching she let go of the trigger. In just a second he was rendered unconscious.
Sophie scurried back from him and grabbing her purse and case fled out the door.
She yanked the door back and ran straight into Cason.
High on adrenaline she screamed again. Immediately his arms went around her and shoved her behind him. She stumbled, arms laden, and went down on a knee in the drive. Cason kicked the closing door wide open and went in.
Sophie just sat paralyzed on the drive staring at the open door until he came back.
When he did he went to her and knelt beside her a pulling her into his arms.
The adrenaline had already started to bleed out, making her shake.
“Shhhhh.” He said and rubbed her back with one hand as he dug through her purse with his other.
Pulling out her cell he dialed 9-1-1.
Sophie was in a daze. Had she just volted a client? Was he still alive? And did he really think that tossing her about was going to get him his way? She could still feel his fingers on her arm where he’d gripped her before tossing her into the chair. With shaking fingers Sophie lifted her sleeve to inspect. There, on the upper part of her arm, were Philip’s five fingers.
Cason hung-up with the police, and touched her arm. “Any others?”
“He tackled me, but those bruises are from this weekend.”
He was thoughtful for a moment touching the red marks then, his fingers gently brushed a lock of hair off her face.
“How much did you juice him with?” he asked softly.
“Five.” She said absently.
Cason whistled low, “Good.” He said then added, “If he weren’t unconscious in a pool of his piss, I’d suggest you do it again.”
Sophie nodded, “He pee’d himself.”
“Tazing him, seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”
“It was the right thing. I just wish I’d gotten here sooner.”
She looked up and smiled half heartedly at him, “So you could have tazed him back into the ether? I don’t need him dead Cason, dead clients don’t pay their bills.”
She heard the rumble of a in his chest, “You’re so picky.”
Sophie shook her head remembering again, “I still can’t believe he tossed me into a chair then tackled me, the fucking boozed bastard.”
“Are all your clients like this?”
Sophie rubbed her arms, “No.” Said feeling the shakes start to pass and clarity slowly return. She looked up at again Cason kneeling with her, “Come to think of it, what are you doing here?”
She nodded, “Thanks. I think I have it handled though.”
“I see that.”
“Really though, what are you doing here?”
“Like the other night?” she asked.
“No, that one I had something to say.” He said and changed the subject, “Where’s the person you’re supposed to meet him with?”
“Not here.” She said and took one last moment to absorb the feel of his secure grip on her.
Taking a deep breath she pushed away from Cason and started gathering her things.
As she stood Casey’s black Mercedes rolled in and right behind it was the flashing blue and red lights of the police.
“Looks like she finally was able to make it.” Sophie said wrapping the tight wall of protective indifference around her and headed toward her car as Cason stood and followed her.
“Do me a favor? Don’t let her near me.” Sophie said then tossed her things into the back of her car and headed toward the officers.
“Oh my God Sophie!” Casey exclaimed, as Sophie walked past her getting out of her car. The other woman’s doe eyes were wide as she rushed toward her.
Sophie looked at the black haired beauty and her tight red shirt and white jeans and heels and held up a hand, “Stop. You’ll want to stay away from me for a while.” She said then continued walking.
“Sophie? You went in? I said not to! Where’s all this hostility coming from?” she whined from behind her.
Sophie ignored her and went to the officers. She shook their hands and began to fill them in on what happened. At the mention of the homeowner getting tazed the first officer left them and went into the house. Sophie heard from their radioing that he was up and self medicating with more bourbon. His pants still wet.
The second officer, her age and a half head shorter, had his aviators tucked into the top button of his uniform, whistled low, “Sounds like the time I met my wife. Responded to a domestic disturbance to find her standing over a guy who broke in and was riffling through her kitchen.” He said, his southern drawl pulling out the vowels in his words.
Sophie relaxed, “I take it he got tazed too?”
He shook his head, “She was holding a forty-five and shaking like a leaf. But she’s a dead shot. Hit him in the foot, he was still howling when we got there. I asked her out that night.”
Sophie smiled, “Got a thing for dangerous women it sounds like.”
He smiled warmly back at her, “Y’all need to be respected. No one makes women like they do here in the South, just fine.” He said then tapped his notepad, “Now, I’ll need to take a few words from the other folks here and we’ll start processing the charges today. Personally from the sounds of it and his reputation I think Mr. Nigel has learned his lesson, but we’ll leave the application of charges in your court.”
“Thanks.” She said then added, turning to look at where Cason had gotten to, “Cason McPherson is the man who showed up as I was leaving and Casey Hutchinson is the woman who was supposed to meet me.”
He opened his pad again and made another note, “She have a reason why she didn’t meet you?” he asked becoming quizzical again.
“No, but I had a phone call with her confirming that she’d be here and it sounded like she was too busy flirting with the guy on the other side of the phone at her coffee shop.”
“I see. And from the looks of it, it’s something she does often?” he said nodding in her direction.
Sophie looked over to where Casey was with Cason, and sure enough she had a charming smile on her face and was leaning forward slightly one hand on the hood of her car, Cason directly in front of her.
Sophie wasn’t prepared for the odd sensation in her gut when she saw Cason’s grimace of a smile back at her.
“Looks like your man likes what she’s saying.”
Sophie shrugged her shoulders in an attempt for nonchalance but ended up wincing at the pull of her ribs, “He’s not my man.”
“You alright? You need medical assistance?”
She shook her head and put her hand to her rib, “No, it’s from a different… thing.”
The officer took a moment and said, “Sparling. Was that your rig in the tree this weekend?”
“That was me.” She said and saw Cason look over at her and head her way. Casey stopped him and taking her card from her purse scribbled something on the back of it and handed it to him. He took it absently before joining Sophie and the officer.
The officer nodded as Cason approached and as they shook hands, “McPherson. Thought I recognized you.”
“Officer Gage. Good to see you again. Sad we can’t meet over a beer instead of like this.”
He smiled and nodded toward Sophie, “This your girl? She tosses luxury rides into trees and now she’s assaulted an old man in his own home. Nicely done—”
“She’s not my girl.”
“I’m not his girl.” They said at once.
“Uh-huh.” He said then putting his cop face back on said to her, “I’ve got a few questions for Mr. McPherson here then the Hutchinson woman. You’re free to go, but if I have any questions I’ll give your phone a call, y’hear?”
“Yessir. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. And Ms. Sparling?” he called after her. When she turned he said, “You keep your head down, OK? Messes come in threes, I take this,” He said pointing down, “and your vehicle as two, you don’t need a third.”
“Noted.” She said and slipping her sunglasses on got into her rental and driving past Cason’s truck headed back to the office. When she started to shake out on the road she just pulled the wall of life and work tighter about herself. “This too shall pass.” She whispered to herself.
The office was bustling when she entered and she informed her boss and a few coworkers on the Nigel Project on what happened. She was told to take the rest of the week off to recover. Sophie insisted she was fine, but did take the offer for the rest of the day.
As Sophie wrapped up the last few emails and answered questions to the curious she made a mental note to buy a new car and a few bottles of wine as recovery therapy. She picked up her things with her good side and headed out of the office and to the elevator of the ten story building.
Sophie stepped in and just as the doors were closing Casey slipped in with her.
“No.” Sophie said automatically hitting the door open button. She hadn’t seen Casey in the offices but it was apparent she’d just gotten back as her purse was still on her shoulder.
“Just hear me out Soph.” Her chest and ample bosom heaving with her short breath as if she’d run up the flight of stairs.
“It’s Sophie and always has been Casey.” She said ramming the door open button repeatedly, when the elevator began it’s slow descent Sophie gave up and turned on Casey. “I told you to give me space Casey for your own good—”
“I know but I—”
“And now you’ve trapped yourself in a metal box with me.”
“Yes because I think we should talk about what happened and about that guy that showed up.”
“What happened was that you were too busy batting your eyelashes at the barista at your coffee shop to show a client the time of day. As a result you left me to deal with the client alone and I handled it. And the man who showed up is none of your business.”
“But Soph! You were just assaulted!”
At the word assaulted Sophie’s eye twitched and she gripped her bag tighter as not to use it around the other woman’s slender throat. “If I remember correctly Casey, the person on the floor when the cops arrived was Mr. Nigel. I’m not the victim here, stop trying to make me into one. And we have a few more floors to go so I’d suggest you use the time wisely and be quiet.”
“OK.” She said, “I’ll be quiet about the Nigel thing, but the guy Cason, how long have you known him?”
“I meant quiet as in not using your vocal cords.”
“Is he your brother?”
Sophie began screaming in her head. “No. My brother is dead Casey. Cason is just a long time acquaintance of mine.”
“Oh good! I asked him out and then I realized that it might be all too much for you today if it was your brother.”
As the elevator doors slid open Sophie thought of Officer Gage and his warning to her about messes coming in threes.
Sophie walked briskly out of the elevator and toward her rental, there would be no car buying that afternoon. Just wine drinking.
“So is that a yes? You’re OK with it all?” Casey hollered from behind.
Sophie slipped her shades on and she said out loud, “Three.”