The man came into the waiting room of the attorney’s office, stray flakes of snow blowing in behind him as he closed the big wooden door.
“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked brightly.
“Is Mr. Jeffers available? I was hoping to speak to him for a minute.”
“I’ll check with him — may I ask your name?”
The receptionist glanced at the clock showing five minutes before noon, and picked up her phone. “Mr. Jeffers? There’s a Bill Perkins here who would like to talk to you. No, he doesn’t have an appointment. Yes, I was leaving early for lunch to go to the bank. Okay, I’ll go now.”
She put the phone down and said to Perkins, “He’ll be with you shortly.” She gathered up her bag and coat and locked the front door. “Mr. Jeffers can show you out the back when you’re done.” She gave him another professional smile and exited through a back door.
A short man in a suit opened up a side door and stuck his head out. “Mr. Perkins? Why don’t you come on in?”
Perkins followed the man into a well-worn office with a fireplace flickering on one side and a large oak desk in one corner. Jeffers sat in the large leather chair behind the desk and gestured Perkins to one of the interview chairs in front of the desk.
“Well, Mr. Perkins, how can I help you?”
Perkins shifted in his seat, pulling his large wool overcoat tighter around him. “About a month ago, Mr. Jeffers, you contacted the police and told them that you had some items from houses burglarized here on Lincoln Street.”
Jeffers cocked his head. “Yes?” He was unsure of Perkins’ thrust.
“Trooper Landau told me that the burglar came to you in a fit of remorse and turned over the things he had stolen.”
“A client did provide me with the items, Mr. Perkins. I gave them to Trooper Landau and I believe my involvement ended there. Due to the rules of confidentiality, of course, I could not answer the trooper’s questions about who it was.” Jeffers left his own question unsaid.
“My wife and I’s house was one burglarized, Mr. Jeffers,” the older man said.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Were all of your items returned?”
Perkins fought to keep his voice level. “My wife was badly hurt in the burglary, Mr. Jeffers. She’s still in the hospital.”
Jeffers frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. I hope — ”
Perkins leaned in. “Who was it?”
Jeffers sighed. “Mr. Perkins, I’m sure Trooper Landau told you that I am bound by confidentiality and cannot say who my client is.”
Perkins nodded angrily. “Yes, he gave me the same crap. Rules, and confidentiality. I don’t care! Who was it? Who hurt Brenda?”
Jeffers stood up. “I think we’re done here, Mr. Perkins. I would suggest you contact Trooper Landau — ”
Perkins let his overcoat fall open, and pulled out the handgun he had stuck into his belt. He pointed it at Jeffers. “Sit down,” the older man said, voice wavering.
Jeffers froze. “Mr. Perkins, I think — ”
“I said sit down,” he said with more force.
Jeffers sat down. He was staring at the gun, a matte black revolver that seemed much bigger than it was.
Perkins nodded toward a framed picture on a side credenza of a woman and two young girls. “Your family?”
Jeffers nodded, silent.
“I have a daughter. She’s at her mother’s side at the hospital. Been there every weekend for five weeks.” Perkins took a deep breath and forced out what he’d been planning for two weeks. “If… if you want to see your girls again, you will tell me the name.” The gun is pointing directly at Jeffers’ chest.
“Look, Bill — can I call you Bill? You don’t want to do this. Do you know how much trouble this could get you in? Why don’t you just leave now and no one has to know — ”
“I don’t care what you call me, and I don’t care how much trouble I could get in. Jail is fine so long as that bastard pays for what he’s done.” Perkins took another deep breath. “Give me the name.”
Jeffers rubbed his temples with his fingers, his eyes closing briefly. He looked over at the picture of his family, then at the framed Certification from the Supreme Court announcing his entry in the bar. His gaze jumped between the two, and then he blew out a breath.
“No,” Jeffers said softly.
“No. Go ahead and shoot me.” Jeffers put his hands on his desk, palms down and fingers spread. His voice was steady. “I swore to obey the canons of responsibility and I intend to. So shoot me then, you sonofabitch, and may God have mercy on your soul.” He glared at Perkins.
Perkins cocked back the hammer of the revolver. The muzzle twitched slightly. “Tell me,” he said.
The two men stared at each other for long moments, the gun between them an ugly thing neither would look at.
Then Perkins un-cocked the hammer, put the revolver on the desk in front of him, got up and left. The back door slammed behind him.
Jeffers put his head on his desk and let out a long, agonized breath. He stayed like that for a few minutes, turning his head slightly to stare at the revolver. Then he sat up, picked up his phone and dialed a number.
“Police? Yes, this is Clinton Jeffers, attorney. I have a handgun I need to turn over to the police. No, I can’t tell you where I got it…”
Ramon Rozas III creates written artifacts of unbearable beauty in West Virginia. He also writes SF and submits that instead. EDF, Aoife’s Kiss and Atomjack have all made the questionable decision to publish his pieces.