KIDNAP.org



You Want Something Different? Fun? Satisfying? Here It Is!

KINDLE  OTHER
Kidnap.org is a crime caper novel. The first thing a family member said about it was, "I had to look up what a caper is."
Sorry.
Definition: The typical caper story involves one or more crimes (especially thefts, swindles, or occasionally kidnappings) perpetrated by the main characters in full view of the reader.
Like the movie Ocean's Eleven and the Leverage TV series, the reader approves of the "crimes" in a caper novel and enjoys the results.
I originally wrote the book as a string of incidents that were funny and not much more, but my editor (who is wise beyond her years) made me go back and add depth to the main character, Robin. In the final version, readers understand why she's almost compelled to right wrongs done to the weak and powerless when she can. She's joined by a cast that's funny but in many ways well-qualified for the tasks they take on. It just won't ever be easy for Robin, because they aren't what anyone would call a "normal" gang of kidnappers.
They begin their lives of crime out of desperation and continue out of a sense that justice can sometimes come only from actions that are illegal. You will understand them. You will come to love them. They intend no harm to anyone, so readers can indulge themselves in harmless, vicarious satisfaction as the bad guys we see every day in real life are taken down in fictional fashion.

It's fun. It's satisfying. It's suspenseful. And there's a dog.

Available as an e-book, print book, or audio book.

One Reviewer's Opinion: This isn't a violent book-with the exception of the vile individuals in the final case. It is an unusual and remarkable book that will catch your attention, and be hard to put down before reading to the end. I read it in a couple hours, only stopping once, and not by choice! It is a captivating story (no pun intended) that I highly recommend. Book 2 is coming, and it can't be soon enough for me!

Read the first two chapters and you'll be hooked...



Chapter One

Robin was taking her second shower of the day when her phone played a few bars of “Fat Bottomed Girls.” As the ringtone sounded a second and third time, she leaned out to see the caller ID, but clouds of steam obscured her view. As Freddie sang out a fourth time she stepped out of the stall, dripping water and soapsuds onto the fleecy bathmat. Taking up the phone, she stabbed the connect button and said, “Hello.” It was more of a challenge than a greeting.

“Um, Robin, this is Carter. Your friend from down the hall?”
She suppressed a sigh of irritation, in no mood to chat with a neighbor who was eccentric, to say the least.
It’s not his fault you’re upset.
A glance at the mirror revealed a face still blotchy from tears. Despite aroma therapy promises, her lavender-scented soap had not relaxed her tense muscles. After the worst morning of the year—make that two years—she wasn’t in the mood for people, not even harmless guys like Carter.
Still not his fault.
The voice that often spoke in her head tended to be argumentative, making Robin doubt even her best intentions. Still, it was correct in this instance. Her disastrous day wasn’t Carter’s fault.
Grabbing a fluffy, pink towel from the bar, she dried her face with her free hand as she tried for a normal tone. “What’s up?”
“I—I shoved a guy and then I locked him in the trunk.”
Robin stopped toweling, and her own concerns slid into second place. “What?”
“We had a fight and I pushed him and he fell into the trunk and I closed the lid and I drove away and now he’s real mad.” Carter’s voice rose a tone as he asked, “Should I let him out?”
Be careful. When Carter’s nervous he chokes up, and you’ll never get a straight answer.
A year before, when he moved into the apartment down the hall, Carter Halkias had briefly stirred Robin’s fantasies. Tall, dark, and handsome enough to model for romance novel covers, he’d carried in large items of furniture as easily as if they were toys. It had been disappointing to learn he operated at about the level of a ten-year-old. Though Carter managed simple life tasks like paying the rent and purchasing groceries for himself and his ailing mother, he had few social skills and seemed unable to fathom the world of adults.
They’d become acquainted in the building’s uninspired but adequate workout room, where Robin pedaled the stationary bike in an attempt to keep extra pounds from attaching to her thighs and butt. Each morning as she sweated and the bike hummed, Carter lifted large weights and recounted his achievements on various video games, complete with sound effects. Apparently, tossing out an occasional “Wow!” had made her a friend in Carter’s mind.
“Robin?” Worry came through in his soft Georgia accent. “Should I open the trunk and let the guy out?”
Now there’s a question I never imagined being asked.
“Where are you now?”
“You know the empty grocery store on Twelfth Street by the green church? I parked behind it so nobody can hear the noise he’s making.” His voice rose. “What should I do, Robin?”
Toweling more vigorously, she replied, “Don’t do anything, Carter. I’ll be right over.”
The outside temperature wasn’t too bad for February. After putting on soft jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, Robin added a light jacket and slid her feet into flats rather than her favorite flip-flops. Since her hair was still wet from the shower, she covered it with a hat, and since the heater in her car was almost non-functioning, stuffed gloves into her jacket pockets. After a few irritating moments spent locating her wallet and keys, she was on her way.
Cedar, Georgia, was a city whose fine old bones were fast succumbing to inferior replacements. Buildings that had once held dignified offices now rented to tattoo parlors and vape shops as wealthier tenants moved to multi-story buildings downtown or branches in the suburbs. As she steered her battered CRV through streets too narrow for the traffic they carried, Robin’s thoughts jolted, stopped, and swerved like the vehicles around her. She tried to push her bubbling cauldron of worry to the back of her mind and concentrate on driving carefully. It wouldn’t do to have a cop notice some minor infraction and follow her to where Carter waited.
If Carter thinks I can help, he obviously doesn’t know me very well. Her eyes filled with tears for the third time that day. I can’t even help myself!
She replayed the conversation with Carter, imagining what she should have said instead of what she had said.
“Robin can’t come to the phone right now. Call someone else.”
“I’m in the shower, Carter. Can’t hear a thing.”
“Robin moved to Seattle to experience Puget Sound and the Cascades.”
“You’ll have to move to Tibet, because no one here can help you.”
“I’m your neighbor, not your keeper, your mother, or your friendly neighborhood 9-1-1 operator. Take your body in the trunk and stuff it—somewhere else.”
She couldn’t have said any of that. Carter was a nice guy with problems he wasn’t equipped to handle. His mother’s death a month before had no doubt contributed to whatever he’d done today. If she explained to the man in the trunk about Carter’s mental challenges, his shallow understanding of societal norms, and his recent bereavement, she could smooth things over. She was likely to have better luck fixing his mistakes than she ever would with fixing her own.
***
Carter stood next to a vintage Lincoln Continental whose rear end protruded slightly from behind the abandoned grocery store. Even if she hadn’t known there were problems afoot, she’d have detected stress in his repeated gestures: mussing his hair and wiping his hands on his shirtfront. Full-blown panic wasn’t far away.
As soon as she got out of her car, Robin heard curses coming from the rear of the Lincoln. The voice sounded tired, as if the speaker no longer believed his threats would come to anything.
“Who’s in there?” she asked.
His beautiful brown eyes avoided hers, but that wasn’t unusual. “Mr. Barney Abrams. He’s a Cedar County commissioner.”
Great! Why didn’t you choose a decorated war vet or a homeless six-year-old?
“You attacked a county commissioner.”
He looked at her briefly before his gaze slid to the side again. “I guess.”
Staring at the trunk Robin repeated, “Barney Abrams, County Commissioner.”
Though she wasn’t politically aware, an overly-smiley face plastered on billboards around town before the last election came to mind: Honest Abrams. Despite the epithet, Robin recalled the man being accused of corruption more than once. He’d wriggled out of it each time, claiming the charges stemmed from misunderstandings or personal vendettas. Once when undeniable proof of wrongdoing was offered, he’d blamed it on a mistake and fired some nameless staffer. Her bosses at the law firm sometimes commented on Abrams’ “acumen,” which she read as “ability to make big profits while not getting arrested.”
“Tell me how Mr. Abrams got into the trunk.”
Carter rubbed at his chest as if he had some weird kind of rash. “Remember I told you I had to see about a mistake with my mom’s property?”
She recalled him saying something about it, but the clanks of lifted and dropped weights had interfered with her hearing. She’d been impressed though, because Carter usually wasn’t willing to interact with strangers. The matter must have been important to him.
“You went to take care of a problem and this is how things ended up?”
“I can hear you, young woman.” The voice from the Lincoln was scratchy but loud enough to make her scan the area for passers-by. “Explain to your retarded friend that he will never breathe air outside an institution again!”
“Let’s move over there.” She led Carter to a spot some distance away, where his prisoner couldn’t hear. He glanced back at the Lincoln nervously, and she realized he needed time to collect himself. “Wait here.” Crossing the street to a gas station, she bought two sodas and hurried back. Ice sloshed in the foam cups as she held them out, allowing Carter his choice. After he chose the Pepsi, Robin sipped at the Sprite. “Tell me about the mistake.”
Taking a long pull on the straw, Carter swallowed and began. “Mom, Dad, and me lived out in Westfield my whole life. Dad was a farmer, so we had a lot of property.”
A farm family. That explained some of Carter’s discomfort in social settings.
“Dad died two years ago. Then Mom got sick, so we moved into town so she’d be close to the hospital for chemo and stuff.” He took another drink, which seemed to calm him. “After she died I found out she sold the farm.”
“Without telling you.”
His eyes went sad. “She used to cry about how I wouldn’t have anybody to take care of me. I told her I can do stuff myself, but I guess she didn’t believe it.”
“She did what she thought was best.”
“Except she got cheated.”
“You’re sure about that?”
Shifting his muscular shoulders, Carter nodded. “At the funeral, one of our old neighbors said our place is gonna be worth a lot of money soon. He hoped Mom didn’t sell too cheap.”
“Why will it be worth a lot?”
“They’re going to build a mall out there, and I guess our farm’s the best spot for it.”
Robin’s gaze shifted briefly to the Lincoln. “Abrams bought your mom’s farm?”
“Somebody else did.” Carter’s dark eyes clouded. “But Mr. Abrams came to our apartment one day back in November, when I wasn’t there. He told Mom I’d need money for her funeral and stuff. He said the farm wasn’t worth much but he knew a guy who’d take it off her hands.”
She pointed at the Lincoln. “This guy got your mom to sell her farm to a different guy?”
“He says he never, but Mom’s letter says he did.”
“Letter?”
“Mom wrote a bunch of stuff down for when she was gone and I couldn’t ask.”
Robin pictured Mrs. Halkias, a tiny, slightly querulous woman who’d tapped her forehead one day as she told Robin, “My boy is different. The Lord gave him to us because He knew we’d take good care of him.”
Had a couple of local crooks cheated a dying woman and her special son?
She thought about what had happened to her earlier that morning. It must be open season on people who can’t fight back.
“So you went to ask Abrams about the land deal. How did he end up in your trunk?”
“Not in my trunk.” Carter’s tone implied that would be silly. “The car is his.” Robin couldn’t think of anything to say to that, but he went on. “The lady at his office said Mr. Abrams wasn’t there, but I saw him go in. She was real snotty about it, so I decided to wait outside until he went to lunch and talk to him then. Around noon he came out and headed for the parking ramp. I followed him to his car, and he opened the trunk to put a suitcase in there. When I tried to show him Mom’s letter, he grabbed it right out of my hand and tore it up.”
For the first time Robin felt empathy for Carter, not just sympathy. “He destroyed a letter your mom wrote to you?”
Carter’s gaze stayed just to the left of Robin’s. “He started yelling at me, and he hit me on this shoulder.” He touched the spot as if the location of the blow was crucial to her understanding. “He poked me with his finger a couple of times. It didn’t hurt because he’s kind of blobby, but he wouldn’t stop, even when I asked him nicely.”
He scrubbed a hand through his hair, leaving a curly clump at the crown that made him look like a kindergartner just up from his nap. Though Robin didn’t know what his mental capacity actually was, Carter’s axons obviously fired in a whole different way from those of most people.
She squeezed his arm, finding steely muscles that contradicted his childlike demeanor and hesitant manner. “We’ll tell the police you didn’t mean to kidnap the guy.” Five minutes after meeting him, a cop would understand Carter had trouble making decisions under pressure.
“He said he’ll have me put in jail.” Again Carter’s eyes met hers briefly. “I wouldn’t like being locked up, Robin. I need to go outside sometimes and look at birds and stuff.”
“He threatened to have you arrested for asking questions?”
“Yeah. He took out his phone and said he was calling the cops.” Carter sniffed, trying to hold his emotions in check. “That’s when I got scared and kinda mad, and the next thing I knew, I shoved him and he fell into the trunk, and I—I shut the lid.” The words came out in a rush.
“Is he hurt?”
“I don’t think so. He started making noise right away, kicking and hollering. I thought somebody might walk by and ask why he was in there.”
And well they might. “What did you do?”
“When I shoved him, his phone went flying and his keys fell on the ground. I picked them both up, and then—” He paused before the next admission. “—I got in his car and drove away.”
Changing the crime from simple assault to kidnapping. “Why did you do that?”
Another hair tousle. “I thought if I drove around for a while, he’d calm down and listen to me. Whenever I get nervous, I go for a walk or a drive and it helps a lot.” Carter paused, genuinely unable to see where he’d gone wrong. “But he just keeps getting madder.” A sharp thump from the car trunk verified the statement.
Oh, my Great Aunt Fanny.
“Did he actually call the police?”
“No. He just waved the phone around like he was gonna call them.”
A bluff? If Abrams wanted to scare Carter but didn’t want a cop to hear what he had to say, could she use that against him somehow? She rolled her shoulders in an effort to ease their tension.
“The phone works, even after it dropped on the concrete,” Carter said. “I’ll give it back when he feels better.”
Great idea, neighbor, but it’s hard to say when that will be.
Had Carter actually uncovered a plot between Abrams and a second man to cheat an old lady out of her property? It seemed improbable, but working at a legal firm had opened Robin’s eyes to how heartless—and how devious—people could be when large sums of money were involved. “You said your mom should have gotten more for her land. How bad was it?”
“She sold a hundred acres for ten thousand dollars.” His mouth twisted sideways as he added, “Ms. Kane says we got screwed because my mom was a dodo who lived in the past.”
Emily Kane lived across the hall from Robin and next door to Carter. Though about the same age, she was the opposite of Carter’s mother, sharp-minded where Mrs. Halkias had been vague, and opinionated where the other was self-effacing. Robin wondered how the two women had become acquainted, but infirmity might have created commonality. Mrs. Halkias was weak from cancer, while Ms. Kane thumped around the building with a cane due to a bad hip.
A practical question occurred to her. “Don’t car trunks have escape buttons these days?”
The tension in Carter’s face cleared. Cars were something he could talk about all day, and he was far more comfortable with facts than feelings. “Since 2001 they have to, but this is a 1996 Lincoln Continental 75th Anniversary Edition. It’s got leather seats, voice-activated cell phone, JBL audio system, auto electro-chromatic dimming mirror with compass, and traction control. He updated it with some really cool stuff, too. It’s got remote access and starting—”
“We don’t need the Wikipedia version.” Another thud sounded from the Lincoln. “Can he breathe in there?”
Carter pointed at the car’s rear end. “He punched out the tail-lights on the way here.”
She stared at the trunk as another thump sounded. If Abrams had read Internet advice on how to behave when kidnapped, he’d soon start waving his necktie through the opening.
Not funny, Parsons. The man had every right to have Carter arrested. Things she might have suggested two hours earlier, hiring a lawyer or contacting the press to address her neighbor’s grievances, weren’t possible anymore.
“He said the sale was legal and I should get over it.” Carter’s brow knit as he struggled to recall Abrams’ exact words. “I need to accept the way the world works.”
Robin cringed as the phrase she’d heard so often growing up came into play for the second time that day.
The way the world works. Grow up. Face it. There’s nothing you can do to change it.
Brushing at her forehead as if to push the words off to one side, she focused on Carter’s situation. “Abrams tore up your mother’s letter, and then—the rest of it happened.”
“Yeah.” His hands flew out from his body and back in like frightened birds. “I tried to tell him I’ll let him out if he’ll be quiet, but he keeps swearing at me.” He gave the trunk a chiding glance. “It isn’t nice to swear.”
As Robin stood debating, Carter dragged the heel of his shoe across the concrete. “I don’t want to go to jail, Robin. You’re a lawyer, so I thought you’d tell me what to do.”
Returning from her own dark thoughts, she corrected his misconception. “I’m not a lawyer, Carter. I work at a law firm.” Grimacing, she added, “I did. I got fired this morning.”
“How could you get fired?” He scowled at the air. “I bet you were really good at your job.”
“Really good isn’t enough sometimes.”
Wiping a hand on his shirt, he struggled to comprehend. “You helped me with the landlord.”
“Her so-called reason for raising your rent after your mom died was a crock. I told her I worked for a law firm and let her draw her own conclusions.”
Gesturing toward the Lincoln he asked, “Can you fix this for me like you fixed that?”
If her boss hadn’t given her the ax that morning, she’d be receiving a paycheck right about now. If she’d been busy at work, she wouldn’t have answered Carter’s phone call. Someone else would have dealt with the commissioner in the trunk.
Why me?
She tried to focus. “Did you say he put a suitcase in there?”
“Yeah, and this was on the car seat.” He handed her a paper sleeve that held a boarding pass for the train to Atlanta at 2:34 that afternoon. One plus in a day of minuses: no one at his office was expecting Abrams back after lunch.
“He said he had a busy weekend coming up.” Carter cleared his throat. “He didn’t have time to explain a business deal to a retard.”
Though her anger boiled up again, Robin struggled to remain logical. She couldn’t let herself get so emotional that she did something crazy for a second time in a single day.
She took Carter through the story again, looking for any hint of dishonesty or exaggeration. His account remained the same; in fact, he seemed incapable of changing it either to gain sympathy or to excuse himself. Carter knew the difference between how much his mother had been paid and what the land was worth. Abrams had taken advantage of a sick, dying woman, but he’d underestimated her son’s ability to spot a bad deal. Faced with his crime, Abrams had tried to stonewall Carter. The resulting trouble had engulfed them both.
If he hadn’t overreacted, Carter might have gone to court and claimed his mother wasn’t in her right mind when she signed away her property for a pittance. His halting speech and delayed thought process would have worked against him, but he’d have had a shot. Now he’d committed a crime against a local dignitary and stood little chance of being heard, much less forgiven. She imagined the lawyers at her former firm reading accounts of Carter’s arrest for kidnapping and commenting, as they often did, on the need to “lock up the crazies.”
Little-boy eyes looked at her from an oh-so-manly frame. “What are we gonna do, Robin?”
A year ago, a month ago, even a day ago, she’d have said something completely different. Now, as she thought about all those who suffered at the hands of small-time grifters and big-time crooks, she replied, “We’re going to teach Mr. Abrams a lesson.”

Chapter Two


Leaving Carter with instructions to buy a bottled water and stuff it through the damaged tail light, Robin went shopping. A plan had formed in her head—crazy but irresistible.
It was wrong, so wrong. She shouldn’t do it—shouldn’t even think about it. But Carter was in trouble because he appeared too weak to fight back. And buddy, do I know what that feels like.
Entering the first home store she found, Robin thought of the cheaters she’d encountered in her lifetime. First and foremost was her father. She lived with the damage Dear Old Dad had done to her self-confidence every single day.
Next came the drunk who’d killed her mother. Though his license had been pulled years before for multiple violations, he’d been driving under the influence when he ran a stop light and T-boned her car. Six months before that, her brother had been critically injured in a petroleum-based war nobody with an iota of common sense thought the U.S. could win.
How do so many bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it and so many good things happen to those who keep getting away with stuff they shouldn’t?
If only Carter hadn’t asked for her help on the very morning she’d screwed her own life up like an out of control power drill.
She’d been twenty minutes late that morning getting to work. The bosses never arrived until nine, and none of the office staff said anything. By 8:25 she was at her desk, transcribing handwritten notes that looked—and smelled—as if wine had been spilled on them. In several places she had to guess what it said. It was a good bet the job hadn’t originally been hers but had been passed down the pecking order to the last hired and the least likely to squawk, due to her aforementioned tendency to arrive late.
Though Robin was cordial to her coworkers, the fact that she was years younger than the others and unmarried meant she was regarded with suspicion, as if she might steal their jobs—or their husbands. Her lack of interest in office gossip didn’t endear her to them either.
When Mr. Eldon Green, Esquire, arrived, the chirping of the other women quieted and the atmosphere in the dark wood-paneled offices became sedate. As he passed, Green called to Robin with a terse, “Parsons. Come in.” She followed him into his inner sanctum, where even darker wood and deep carpeting created the feeling she was entering a giant coffin.
Dubbed “Grass Green” by the staff to differentiate him from partners “Pea Green” and “O.D. (Olive Drab),” he took off his Burberry and hung it on the wrought-iron tree beside the door. She caught a whiff of the Dior knock-off aftershave he bought from Smelz-Like-It.
Boss, you really need to know: it doesn’t.
Robin waited a few steps in, tablet in hand. She’d learned not to get too close, since Green often “accidentally” bumped her chest with a hand or arm. He always apologized, but insincerity was evident in his eyes. She always accepted, hiding the disgust in hers.
Taking off his suit coat, Green hung it over the back of the chair, adjusting it so it wouldn’t get wrinkled. That done, he pulled out his leather chair and sat down, wriggling his large posterior until he found the most comfortable spot. Though she couldn’t help thinking he looked like a toad in a Brooks Brothers shirt, Robin kept her expression neutral and her eyes alert.
“Ms. Parsons,” he said without asking her to sit. “I won’t keep you in suspense. We’re letting you go.”
She stood there with what was no doubt a stupid look on her face, temporarily unable to fathom the meaning behind the words. There’d been no hint of impending layoffs, no dissatisfaction expressed with her job performance.
“Mr. Green, if this is about the times I’ve been late, my car is—”
A shake of his head stopped her. “It’s nothing like that.”
“I’m signed up for more classes next term. If I made mistakes—”
This time he raised a hand, his expression faintly irritated.
Robin stopped talking. It was one of her weaknesses: a tendency to explain too much and take blame onto herself that didn’t belong there. She struggled to find an argument that would let her keep her job.
Don’t they know my car’s about to fall to pieces and my rent is three days late?
Folding his always-damp hands on the smooth desktop, Grass said in what she thought of his smarmy voice, “We’re sorry to lose you, of course. It’s this awful economy.” He attempted a sympathetic expression, and she was reminded of times she’d watched him lie to clients about how terrible he felt about problems he had no intention of addressing. “Of course we’ll provide you with excellent references. A talented worker like you will soon find something else.”
Are you going to pay my credit card bills till then? She tried to recall how much money she had in her bank account. Six, seven hundred dollars, maybe.
Surprise began turning to anger. She’d sacrificed for this job, studying at night and working all day. Her social life had sunk to the level of a Benedictine nun’s. She’d told herself it would lead to future advancement. It wasn’t just the amount of work she’d done that fueled her outrage either. She’d lost tiny bits of self-respect every day as she dealt with clients and her bosses, all of whom lived for money and gloated about how cleverly they went about getting more of it.
Still, she needed both the references Green mentioned and the pay she’d earn in the two weeks they were required to give her before a layoff. Digging her nails into her palms until it hurt, she stared at the bland wall over her boss’ shoulder and managed to say almost nothing in response to his insincere comments.
Don’t think about it right now. Think about pillows and rocky road ice cream.
When Green finally dismissed Robin, her legs didn’t want to work. Her chest muscles seemed intent on squeezing the air out of her lungs. Only a month ago she’d finished paying off her mother’s debts and the funeral expenses that had kept her at starvation level for the last year and a half. Now, when the light at the end of her particular tunnel had begun shining ever so dimly, Green, Green & Green had stepped in to unscrew the bulb.
Forcing herself to walk slowly and keep her head up, she made it to the bathroom before tears overcame her. Locking herself in, she tried not to sob too loudly. Were the others aware of what had happened? Were they sorry or glad to see her go? Either way, she fell back on the only worthwhile lesson she’d ever learned from her father: Don’t let the hurt show.
Once she recovered, Robin returned to her desk and went through the motions of her job, filing, typing, and texting, almost unaware of what she was doing. Her mind buzzed with questions that had no answers. At 11:00, when the lawyers retreated to O.D.’s office, one of the women hurried over to speak to her. Eileen was the friendliest of the staff at Three G’s, not because she was a nice person, but because she loved to spread gossip. Squatting beside Robin’s desk she said breathlessly. “It sucks what they’re doing to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You got laid off, right?” She glanced around to make sure no one else was listening. “O.D.’s golfing buddy came in last week, and I happened to overhear their conversation. His daughter just got an associate degree from some business school, and he asked them to find a spot for her.” Eileen raised drawn-on brows. “Apparently the girl needs experience.”
“Experience?”
Eileen deepened her voice in a parody of a father’s tone. “‘Her mother and I want Daphne to go on with school, but she says she’s tired of studying. It’s time the girl learned about the world of work.’” She glanced around the office as if imagining the future. “His baby girl probably never had a real job in her life. The rest of us will have to pick up the slack.”
“They’d do that?” she asked. “Replace me with some girl they don’t even know?”
Pushing long bangs out of her eyes Eileen replied, “The other Greens weren’t thrilled, but when I saw the look on your face this morning, I figured they did it.” She leaned in close, and Robin smelled Scope. “Did he bring up all the days you’ve been late?”
“No. It was pretty much ‘Here it is. Deal with it.’”
Eileen shook her head, causing her bangs to slide back over her eyes. “You’re a good worker. It’s just that if you questioned the layoff, they could say you’re late a lot.”
“Is that why they picked me to boot out?”
“Well, sometimes you’re not very respectful when you talk about clients.”
“Only the ones who are scumbags.”
The bangs fell back down and Eileen brushed at them again. “It isn’t our job to judge them.”
“I can’t help it. I hate dishonest people.”
“I get that, but the bosses decide who we deal with, not us.”
Robin blinked away fresh tears. “Why’d they pick me?”
Eileen was only too happy to tell. “I happened to hear O.D. say that an attractive woman like you can always find a husband with a good job. Then you wouldn’t need to work.”
“Prince Charming rescues Cinderella?”
“It didn’t work for me,” she said ruefully. “But men like the Greens still think that way.”
When Eileen retreated to her desk, thrilled to have delivered devastating news, Robin sat stunned. “I’ll fight them,” she muttered, but it was an empty threat. The Greens were lawyers, after all, and it wasn’t like there was a union supporting the rights of mistreated office workers.
Nobody was going to listen to her complaints. Nobody was going to save her job.
I have no power, so I lose.
Warmth spread through her chest, up her neck, and into her cheeks. As anger surged through her like a tide, she dropped her pen, rose from her desk, and headed for O.D. Green’s office. Without knocking, she threw open the door so hard it banged against a filing cabinet. The three men looked up from restaurant flyers they’d been deliberating over.
“You’re laying me off so you can hire someone else.” Robin fought to keep her voice under control, but it shook with rage. “That’s not fair.”
“Miss Parsons—” Pea began, but she paid no attention.
“I’ve worked hard for you people, and this is what I get? You’re disgusting!”
If Grass resembled a toad, Pea was a slightly confused owl who molted his way around the office, leaving dandruff and dry skin cells everywhere. “Miss Parsons, please calm down.”
“Nobody should be treated this way!”
O.D. Green (who, to continue the animal analogy, reminded Robin of a boar) spoke in a growl, his eyes hard and his lips tight. “Young woman, this business belongs to us, and we’ll run it as we see fit. I advise you to grow up and accept the way the world works.”
“You make me sick!” She was yelling now, loudly enough that the whole office would hear. Stalking away she stopped at her desk, snatched up the few things she wanted, and turned her back on the Green Law Firm forever, ignoring the surprised looks on her coworkers’ faces. She meant to slam the door as she left, but the hydraulic closure prevented it. Instead of a bold punctuation mark, she heard only an unconvincing hiss of air behind her.
Hurrying to the car with her Minnie Mouse stapler and her essential oils diffuser, Robin had consoled herself by imagining the good old boys at 3 G’s learning on Monday morning that no one else in the office knew how to make coffee in the new brew pot or change the toner in the copy machine. And Grass would have to hope the new girl wouldn’t mind if he “accidentally” brushed her breasts or touched her butt.
Which doesn’t change the fact that you’re broke and out of—
“Excuse me?” The voice, coming from only a few steps away, startled her so much she jumped and had to grab her purse to keep from dropping it.
A man in an orange apron regarded her with a concerned expression, and she realized she’d been muttering under her breath.
“Can I help you find something?”
She took a deep breath. There wasn’t much she could do to fix her own situation. But she had an idea how she might fix Carter’s.
“Yes, you can,” she replied. “Where can I find the duct tape?”

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