Day of Reckoning
By Meg Lark

Ben Stone hung up the phone, clenched his fists, and banged them softly on his desk. Then he went to see his boss, District Attorney Adam Schiff.
"The forensic accountant says he's snowed under for at least another month." He paced the office, his voice rising in proportion to his frustration. "Trouble is, the books of the firm need to be examined now, before the search warrant expires."
"Thought you had the records," growled Schiff.
"We have them, but if we don't do anything about interpreting them, we'll have to hand them back. I was hoping you could pull some strings with Jack, get him to free up Frank Bell for a week or two. Otherwise, we'll have to contract out for a Certified Fraud Examiner."
"Can't do it." Stone thought he detected an unnecessary relish in Schiff's voice. "If you and McCoy can't work it out between you, nothing I say will make any difference. What about one of his CPAs?"
"I need a forensic accountant. A CFE would strengthen our case." He sighed. "I guess we'll have to contract out."
"Not in the budget, my boy. There has to be another forensic accountant on staff besides Frank Bell. Start asking."
Which meant going another round with Jack McCoy. Back in his office, Stone slumped down into his chair and wished he could figure out what McCoy's problem with him was. Would it have killed Jack to free up his one forensic accountant for even a couple of days? What was his problem, anyway? Stone refused to believe it was that heartbreaking business with Barney Hoskyns.
A discreet knock sounded at his door, and a moment later his secretary poked her head in.
"Mr. Stone? I'm leaving for the day. Can I do anything for you before I go?"
"No, Annie, thanks -- Wait!" Of course! Annie had transferred from Fraud a scant four months earlier. She would know the staff. He outlined his problem, then asked, "Do you know of any other forensic accountants?" and held his breath.
She pursed her lips. "Would a CFE candidate do? Someone who passed the licensing exam and just needs to fulfill the experience requirements?"
"Is there a CFE candidate?" He felt like kissing her, then noted her hesitant manner.
"Well ... sort of. Me."
"I passed the exam last March and assisted on two forensic cases before I transferred down here."
"You gave up a CFE to become my secretary?!" Stone could hardly believe his ears.
"Now you sound like Frank Bell. He was always on my case about being 'too intelligent to be a secretary.' "
"He had a point."
"Oh, really? You think it doesn't take brains to keep you and Mr. Robinette on track with all your cases and court dates?"
"Let's get back to this CFE thing," he hedged. "Can you do it?"
She nodded. "I think so. Frank will probably agree to review the work I do. As long as he doesn't have to actually do any of it, we should be OK. Shall I give it a shot?"
"Can you still function as my secretary?"
"If I hand off the routine stuff, and put in a lot of overtime. And yes, I know the overtime budget is over, so I'll keep a separate log of my hours. You won't get in trouble over it."
Stone nodded slowly. "All right. Let's try it."

With her usual frightening efficiency, she had all the details arranged by the end of the next day. Paul Robinette agreed to be the conduit for channeling routine work to the other clerical staff. Annie would spend most of the day in an empty conference room, "dissecting the business," as she put it with the same ghoulish delight as any other forensic specialist. Robinette would leave his typing for her to accomplish in the early morning, and she and Stone would catch up with his own business on evenings and Saturdays.
"Frank Bell has agreed to supervise my work and sign off on it. I'll be meeting with him on Friday afternoons, if that's OK?" Stone nodded; it wasn't as if he had a choice. "How would you like to arrange briefings between you and me, sir? I'll be needing to bring you up to date on my progress, and explain accounting terms as I go, so I anticipate it will take at least a few hours."
"Sunday afternoons? I can pick you up at home around 11:30, take you out to lunch, and we can come back to the office to work on this thing."
She frowned. "I don't get out of church until around 12:30."
"Go to an earlier Mass."
She look she gave him took him aback, a look compounded of disbelief and pity at his ignorance. "Russian Orthodox services start anywhere between seven and nine a.m., and run until at least noon. Fortunately, our priest starts them at nine. Unfortunately, I'm lucky to get out by noon."
With a feeling of having crashed the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, he gave in. "Twelve-thirty, then, and where?"
She gave him directions, and they began the work that would establish a motive for the murder of a bookkeeper by, apparently, a senior accountant. Fraud had always been a prime motive for murder, and this shabby, sordid little affair had all the earmarks.

On Sundays, Stone attended the earliest Mass at his parish church. He was too honest to pretend that there was anything mystical about the 7:00 a.m. Mass. He simply missed the reverence of the pre-Vatican-II Tridentine liturgy, and, like the other refugees gathered there, preferred a quiet conversation with his God to the joyful cacophony of guitars and tambourines at a later hour.
After Mass, he usually stopped into Kraus's Cafe for coffee and rolls and, now that his daughter was away at college, spent the remainder of the day with the New York Times and his jazz records. On this Sunday, however, he had other plans. Three hours of church was too unbelievable, even for a church as exotic and unknown as the Russian Orthodox, and he had decided to see for himself. Accordingly, after Mass he purchased coffee and rolls to go, then made for the garage which housed his venerable Volvo and headed east on Atlantic Avenue, through Brownsville and into East New York. As he found a spot to park, he noted a very few other cars parked in the vicinity of the gold-domed church.
It would take him several weeks to sort through the panoply of icons, candles, votive lamps, and incense that greeted him as his eyes adjusted to the gloom. A sweet soprano voice chanting in Russian soared to the height of the domed ceiling and settled back down on him like a blessing. Here be angels, the thought came unbidden, then his jaw dropped as he located the source of the melody. He was surprised only that he felt surprise: he had known, after all, of Annie's affinity for the music of her faith. He supposed that he hadn't expected the purity of her voice, its clear operatic tone lightened by a bell-like clarity, a voice he could listen to for hours, days ... well ... yes, for an eternity.
All too soon, she was joined by an inexpert choir of a cappella singers, the church filled gradually, the Russian Mass began to take shape, and Stone was transported back to his childhood. Serving the Mass in Latin with Monsignor Kunig. Every altar boy in St. Margaret's had dreaded serving under the crotchety, arthritic Bavarian who sincerely believed that children were the devil incarnate, who had berated a ten-year-old Stone to tears -- and then been so wounded by the child's reaction that his clumsy attempts to comfort the boy had dried up the tears in sheer astonishment. Stone smiled faintly at the memory. The pre-Vatican-II Church suddenly lost some of its halo of nostalgia. Then it was over, winding down as gradually as it had built. He took bread from the hand of the priest, introduced himself, and exited the church as he had entered it, to the strains of a voice as sweetly fresh as if three minutes instead of three hours had passed. At length, she joined him in the narthex.
"I asked my priest about working on Sunday," she told him shyly. "He said that in the circumstances, a genuine emergency exists, so it doesn't violate the Fourth Commandment." Stone nodded as he held the door for her. A thousand questions bubbled up, questions he repressed almost ruthlessly. Annie had the look of a woman profoundly, secretly, in love; he sensed that he had been shown a glimpse of her deepest self, and he was reluctant to intrude.
He took her out to lunch as promised, listened to her explanation of her forensic efforts, took notes, asked questions, marveled at the clarity of her explanations. He had never before met an accountant who could explain finance in plain English, and he told her so.
"Maybe that's because English is my second language. I grew up speaking Russian, and sometimes I still have to translate a thought from Russian into English. It makes me careful in my speech. Mr. Stone, if I might ask -- when are we going to the office?"
He smiled wryly. "I've been putting it off. The office isn't my favorite place to spend a Sunday afternoon. I guess I've put it off as long as I can, though. All right, let's go."
"There's always my house."
In the act of taking out his wallet, he stopped and stared at her. If it had been anybody but Annie, he thought....
She shrugged. "If you really want a break from the office. We have coffee, tea, honey cakes -- oh, and," her eyes suddenly sparkled with mischief, "Martha Washington's gingerbread. My sister bakes all day Saturday for the folks in the Russian Department at NYU."
He had to smile. "What's Russian about Martha Washington's gingerbread?"
"Absolutely nothing. But you've got to taste it."
He could feel his smile growing by the second. Home-made gingerbread. "All right, you're on."
Feet propped up on her coffee table, Rachmaninov in the background, he sipped tea, munched on gingerbread well laced with rum, and pondered the many facets of her personality: musician, accountant, secretary ... nun .... For one insane moment, he found himself wishing she hadn't taken holy vows. She made a home so easily. He could get used to her presence. He wondered what his home would feel like, with her in it.
He swung his feet down and concentrated on her explanation of fraud disguised as fringe benefits. "It's a perfect place to stash extra money, because everybody knows how crazy health-care benefits are. So you have this enormous budget for health insurance that makes it look as if you really care about your employees, but in the meantime, where's the money really going?"
"Wouldn't the auditors look at that during the annual audit?"
"Not if you kept the increases under control. Auditors only get suspicious when amounts are really glaring, like when the travel budget goes from $700 last year to $7,000 this year. Normally, if you pad the travel budget maybe $200 from year to year, you can hide all kinds of fraud, and a routine audit will never catch it. And health care is even better, because it really does go up by thousands year after year."
"So what made this bookkeeper suspicious?"
"Mike Logan did a little checking for me-"
"For you?" Stone's eyebrows rose. "Doesn't Logan have enough investigating of his own to do?"
She blushed. "Well, I had the same question as you. What made this bookkeeper a target for murder? So the last time Logan was in, I asked him to dig around her background a little. She was taking night classes at Queens College to get her own degree in accounting, and it looks like she got a little nosy about the books. Look here, and here." She pointed to little question marks pencilled into the margins of the ledger. "I checked these amounts out on the computer printout, and they're way different."
"Keeping two sets of books? Is that legitimate?"
Anne's eyes widened and sparkled. "She kept these books at home, sir. Logan and Briscoe found them when they searched her room. Her husband said he always thought it was their household accounts."
Stone shook his head. "I'm concerned about confidentiality issues. It's bound to come up."
"But if the woman thought they were committing fraud, she would have had a legal obligation to accumulate evidence. This looks to me as if she was."
"What about her obligation to her employer? These records are supposed to be confidential."
"Confidentiality is one thing, but if an illegal act having to do with finance has been perpetrated, an accountant's obligation to the public supersedes his obligation to his client, or his employer."
"Or hers," he felt obliged to remind her, and she made a face.
"You can debate semantics. I have enough trouble with the English grammar I learned in school. You can't imagine how confusing it can be, trying to keep two languages straight in your head, especially when all you speak at home is the mother tongue. Nowadays they have English as a Second Language classes, but in those days, ESL was a paddle."
Stone chuckled. "Oh, I had more than a few nuns who used a paddle regardless of what language you spoke. I didn't think the public schools were allowed to use corporal punishment, though."
"I wouldn't know. My parents sent my brother Steve and me to the Russian school in our church basement because they thought the public schools were hotbeds of communism. They actually bit the bullet and sent me to a Catholic high school. That's how desperate they were."
"And your brother?"
"Stiva is mildly retarded. In those days, the retarded were considered ineducable. So they taught Stiva at home. He's actually pretty good. He can handle the bar and grill that my father owned before he died."
Suddenly a shadow fell across him, and he looked up into the intimidating bulk of Annie's older sister. "The angel is at the table," she pronounced, in a tone that would have made St. Michael himself quake, and meekly Stone and Annie followed her into the kitchen.

Over the ensuing weeks, a pattern gradually developed. Weekdays had their own rhythm, as Stone tried to deal with the twin irritations of Anne's absence and the inevitable errors of clerical personnel unaccustomed to his style. Saturdays soon took on the feel of the only day when he got any real work done; although he knew that this was untrue, he felt an enormous relief at being able to fire off nebulous ideas and having them returned to him, a few hours later, as full-blown memoranda and letters. As he told Robinette one evening, "The beauty of it is that she knows when to use legalese and when to use plain English. I never thought I'd find anyone as good as Mary McCann, but Annie -- in some ways, she's even better."
Robinette grinned. "I wouldn't go that far, Ben. I miss Mary's sense of humor. She had a snappy comeback for everything. You ever find out what happened to her?"
"Briscoe and Logan tracked her down to her daughter's in Rhinebeck. Seems she just didn't like the idea of saying goodbye, so she put in her retirement papers without saying a word to any of us and just didn't come in to work. She was right, I would have wanted to give her a big send-off. I miss her, too. She understood what it was to be a Catholic D.A. But Annie makes me think about what I do, instead of just reinforcing patterns the way Mary did." He took a long pull at his mug. "Besides, Annie makes better coffee."
Robinette laughed. "By the way, speaking of Rhinebeck reminds me. I, ah, I've been approached by a law firm in Albany. They like my style, whatever that means, and I've been trying to find a way to tell you that I'm considering their offer." Stone nearly dropped his coffee mug. "Paul, you sure know how to sandbag a guy. You're not really considering.... I'm sorry. That's great news for you. How much have they offered you?"
Robinette told him. "Plus a partnership option in three years, if we all shake down together."
Stone whistled. "Take it. By all means, take it. I'm damned if I know who I can replace you with, though." He shook his head and smiled ruefully. "It took me nine tries to get it right -- you knew I had eight assistants before you, didn't you?"
Robinette nodded and grinned. "I spent every day of the first year walking on eggs."
The rueful grin broadened. "But look how good you are. Well, I'm glad you told me. Now you can help me find your replacement."
"Victim Number 10," joked Robinette. Now that it was out, he felt light-headed with relief.
"I'll make sure whoever it is knows what your shoe size is," Stone growled, and the two walked companionably into the chilly March evening.

That night, as he prepared for bed, Stone recalled the conversation and wondered if Robinette had seized on the name of the small Upstate town to deflect the focus of the conversation. Discussion of their personal beliefs rarely entered explicitly into their line of work, although each understood tacitly the ethics of the other. It was probably what had made possible their long and smooth-functioning association.
That Robinette and his wife were active in the Sunday School of their congregation was an open secret, as was Stone's practice of attending Mass daily during Lent. He wondered what a new assistant would bring in the way of personal ethics; thinking over the available candidates, he realized with a slight shock that he couldn't think of a single one whose ethics were based on anything deeper than a commitment to the legal profession. Not that there was anything wrong with that. But now, as he put on his blue pin-striped pajamas and brushed his teeth, he remembered Mary McCann, until September his secretary.
Mary had probably had more to do with his return to the active practice of his faith than anyone since Sister Mary Francis, who had talked him into serving Mass when he had been in fourth grade. After so many years away from the Church while building his career, he had felt hypocritical, returning at the lowest point of his life. But the divorce, coming as it did out of nowhere, had left him doubting his own worth as a human being. With a faith to rival the Pope's, Mary had pushed him back into the fold, and the security of old, still-held morals and ethics had allowed him to rebuild himself into an image he could live with. Those morals and ethics had led him to the selection of Robinette, and New York's loss would unquestionably be Albany's gain.
Who could possibly replace Paul? He climbed into bed and put on his reading glasses, picked up his book, then set it down with a thud as a new thought struck him: who in the office was open-minded enough to put up with an emphatically eccentric but eminently logical wacky secretary like Annie? Whoever he chose would have to deal with her, too. Mary may have reminded him of what it was to be a Catholic lawyer, but it was Annie who was leading him beyond the definitions of Catholic practice, into the realms of a professional life shaped by faith. Whether the topic was capital punishment or fraud, education or culture, legal or secretarial ethics, Annie had a definite opinion on the subject and a sound argument to back up her point of view. Only that morning, for instance, she had handed him yet another interview transcript riddled with errors. Usually, he let these go by, contenting himself with allowing the interviewee to make the needed corrections in pen; but this morning, he had been in a persnickety mood. "Look at all these typos!" he had admonished with a frown. "Do it over. This is poor quality work. It's not what I expect of you."
"I will if you want me to, sir, but actually, it's a technique I learned when I was a secretary with Internal Affairs."
"That was how I put myself through college. Took me longer, but the degree is just as good. Anyway, the Sneaker Squad taught me to make at least two mistakes on every page of an interview transcript. That way, when the interviewee reads over the transcription, he has to correct the errors and initial each correction. Then when the case goes to court and he tried to retract his statement by saying that he never read it through, his initials are all over the thing to prove that he sure as heck did read it."
He had taken a deep breath, nodded, and held out his hand for the transcript. "You never cease to surprise me," was all he could think of to say.
"Sometimes, you know, you have to be willing to look stupid to do a thing right. Your having a solid case in court is more important to me than how I come across. That's a matter of professional ethics for me, you know?" And she had left before he could reply.
Now he linked that conversation with Robinette's news. How he wished he could offer her the position of assistant D.A. Why hadn't she taken the next step, after her paralegal studies, of studying law itself? She certainly had the brains. As he pondered ways to convince her to further her legal studies, his daughter's cat leaped onto his bed. "Fluffy, how many times do I have to tell you, your bed is in the kitchen, and mine is off limits," he scolded gently. Shaking his head in exasperation, he gave the cat the requisite scratch behind the ears and an affectionate cuddle, then set it down and made a mental note to write a letter to Assumption College about its dratted no-pets policy.

"Winter is making its Irish goodbyes," Annie told him one morning as they entered the office together.
He smiled. "How's that?"
"You know what an Irish goodbye is? That's where you say, 'Goodbye, and remember me to your aunt,' and the other person says, 'Oh, speaking of my aunt,' and the conversation ping-pongs between 'Goodbye' and 'Oh, speaking of' for another half an hour. Well, that's what winter is doing. One day you're positive that spring has finally arrived, and the next, we're back to this slop." She gestured at the sleet that was all too evident outside his window, and he smiled again as he hung up his coat. For someone who hadn't grown up speaking English, she had a remarkable command of the language.
Two hours later, he wasn't smiling.
"Gardner has changed attorneys," he told Robinette and Schiff. "Apparently, Levine felt that he could no longer serve the best interests of his client, and he referred Gardner to this guy Giamarino, who's an accountant-turned-lawyer, and who specializes in stewing accountants in their own juices on the witness stand."\par Schiff grimaced. "Well, that's just dandy. And who have we got on our side? A secretary. What did you say your other degree was in? Writing fiction? You're going to need it, my boy, by the time the Bar gets through with you. Does your secretary," he emphasized the word with heavy irony, "know about this new development?"
"Not yet."
"Better tell her."
Annie was unimpressed. "He can only nail you if you don't know chapter and verse of your case. See, Mr. Stone, the real problem is that accounting is an art, just like medicine and law. Sometimes you have to go on gut instinct, and there's this constant balancing act between the interests of your client and the public interest in your client's financial health. That's not the case here. A forensic accountant doesn't have to make any decisions. You just have to find out what killed the corpus delicti , which is usually a defunct firm. In this case, we have both a dying firm and a dead body. I'm much more concerned about something I found buried in a long-term asset account." She nibbled distractedly at her nails. Stone restrained an impulse to grab her hands and hold them, as he had done to break his daughter of the habit. "Frank Bell missed it completely --"
"I have an appointment with him at 2:30 to review the account." She looked unhappy. "All I can think is, what else has he missed that I haven't picked up?"
He sank into a chair as the full import struck him. They could lose this case. They would lose this case. Schiff had been right, their only card to play was the expertise of a secretary who wasn't even active in her chosen profession -- and why the hell not, he wondered yet again?
Suddenly she leaped to her feet. "Okay, I know what I'm going to do. I'll be out of the office from 2:30 today until the weekend, but I'll meet you here on Saturday as usual." She began to sort through the chaos of materials, creating orderly piles of papers and ledgers. "Don't worry, sir," she added with a smile. "I've got one last ace in the hole."

He would never understand how they pulled it off. The face of Beverly Gardner, as the jury foreman read out the verdict of Guilty on one count of murder and one count of fraud, would be one of Stone's sweetest memories for many a long year. Hands jammed into his pockets, he sauntered the halls whistling, stopping only at Annie's desk.
"Giamarino told me to tell you you're wasted as a secretary," he said, hiding his jubilation behind a low-key half-smile. "He said you were only the second accountant he wasn't able to shake." She handed him a typed brief. "That's because I knew what I was up against."
He shook his head. "I still can't believe you hired an outside firm to check your work. How the hell did you pay them?"
"Sold some stock. It was worth it, if only to reassure myself that Frank really wasn't blowing me off. That one long-term asset was the only account he missed."
"The jury indicated on its post-trial questionnaire that your testimony was a key factor in their verdict. One juror even said she'd never understood accounting until you explained it." He chuckled. "I know how she felt."
"I had a lot of help, sir." She cocked her head in the direction of the painting that had adorned her desk these many months, and he nodded, sucking at his upper lip.
"What do the Italians say? 'Mock all the priests you want, but leave the saints alone'? Which one is that?"
"Matthew the Tax Collector. Patron saint of accountants."
"Who's the patron saint of Russian lawyers?"
"No idea. I keep meaning to look it up, but accounting keeps getting in the way."
She was laughing at him. He shook the brief at her. "This better be letter-perfect," he growled and moved off.
"Oh, and sir? Frank Bell sent down an envelope for you. Probably a summary. It's on your desk."
He waved the brief again and strolled into his office, a man at peace with the world. He should, he reflected fifteen minutes later, have seen that feeling as a portent of disaster.
The conference with Schiff lasted almost the whole rest of the afternoon. At its end, he was forced to capitulate, and he did so with bad grace. He picked up the phone.
"Annie, see me in Adam Schiff's office?" She was there in record time, looking scared. Wordlessly, he handed her the report from Bell, then studied her face as she read it with attention. Nothing could have prepared him for her reaction.
"Pff." She handed him the report with a disbelieving look on her face. "Who does he think he's kidding." It wasn't even a question.
"He's not kidding, Annie. What's more, he's right."
"He's what?! Are you out of your mind, sir?" She stood and faced him off. "Me, go back to Fraud just to work as a forensic accountant? I don't think so! The only reason I went for it to begin with was so I could get out from under McCoy. Well, I'm out from under McCoy. How stupid would I have to be to go back?"
Stone shoved his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders. "Adam's already approved the transfer."
"Sir." She turned towards Schiff. "Have you notified anyone of my transfer?"
"Not yet. Tomorrow morning."
"Then you can revoke approval."
"I can. But I won't. You're more valuable to the City as an accountant."
"With respect, sir, accountants are a dime a dozen. Secretaries are worth gold."
"So are ethical accountants. The subject is closed. You have a week to complete any unfinished projects. And I congratulate you on a job well done." Schiff turned away.
Stone stole a glance at Anne, saw her take a deep breath and nod. That was it, then. He rather wished she had put up more of a fight. He'd thought they made a good team. He'd thought she shared that opinion.
"Right, then. You'll have my resignation in the morning."
For a moment, Stone wondered if he had imagined her saying that. Then he saw the look on Schiff's face.
"Annie!" he burst out. "You can't! You have all those years of City employment! What about your pension?"
"With respect, gentlemen," her voice, icy, trembled with suppressed emotion, "what part of 'no' do you not understand? I will not return to Fraud while Jack McCoy heads it. Good night." She turned to go.
"Annie!" Stone rapped out. "My office, now." She froze in her tracks, then made for the door that connected the two offices. "I'll get through to her, Adam," he added to Schiff, who nodded.
He could see, through the connecting door, that she was trembling from head to foot. With fear? With rage? "What part of 'no' haven't you told me?" he addressed her back.
"I won't go, sir." Her voice sounded strangled. He moved around the office until he faced her, noted with consternation her flushed cheeks and unshed tears.
"Then give me a reason why. You're turning down the promotion of a lifetime, you're threatening to throw over nearly twenty years of civil service. I need a reason."
"It's personal."
His mind raced in the silence. That McCoy chose female assistant attorneys on the basis of who looked most likely to sleep with him was common knowledge. Thanks to Barney Hoskyns, he also knew the reason for McCoy's insatiable appetite. Was it possible, he thought incredulously, that the man had tried to add a nun to his trophies? He took her hands and pulled her into a chair beside him. "Jack made a pass at you, didn't he?" he pressed gently. From the corner of his eye, he saw Schiff in the doorway, listening.
"Several, actually." She took a deep breath, but it was too late, the tears had spilled over, and she swiped at them angrily with her finger. Stone fished out his spare handkerchief and passed it to her. After a second's hesitation, she took it, nodded, and applied it to her face.
"I can't imagine," he probed carefully, "that he was successful."
"He wasn't." She tried to laugh. "He was between assistants, and desperate."
"He didn't try to rape you, did he?"
She shook her head so that her short cap of curls flew. "He isn't that stupid, sir. Just crass."
He nodded thoughtfully. Yes, Jack could be very crass. No wonder Annie treated him so worshipfully. After McCoy, he must have seemed almost saintly to her. And that assessment, he reminded himself, was strictly comparative. He covered her hands with his.
"Don't worry, Annie," he said softly. "I'll get this around Adam somehow. You won't have to go." As he watched, Schiff gave a brief nod and disappeared. The matter was already settled.
"Thank you, sir," she said, and blew her nose.
He had no idea how long they sat there, she with her thoughts and he with fruitless speculations about the things McCoy must have said to her, done to her. First Barney, now Annie. I'll hunt him to perdition's flame, he thought savagely. I'll see him out of this office if it's the last thing I do.
The shadows lengthened around them, the sky behind them grew gold, then pink. At length, she looked up and sighed. "I guess I've kept you, sir. I'm sorry."
He shook his head. "Doesn't matter. Let's collect your things, and I'll take you home. And --" He put his hands on her shoulders and smiled into her eyes. "I'll see you in the morning. Lots of new cases to start working on. This one's done. As they turned out the lights and left the office, he breathed a prayer of thanks to the English lawyer and martyr, St. Thomas More, and whoever his Orthodox counterpart was. On second thought, he decided he was more grateful to Matthew the Tax Collector, after all. Trust an accountant to recognize and protect a valuable asset.


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