It was almost noon Monday when the heating & air guys showed up. Millie and Molly’s two nights and one day without heat hadn’t been unbearable but still left them with that ‘tent-camping’ feeling of tiredness, not to mention Molly’s irritability.
Like yesterday, they each had stayed under the covers until there was an interruption. Sunday’s was the super knocking on the door, just checking in and updating them on when to expect the repairmen. This morning, at 10:30, it was Alisha’s text. To Molly’s chagrin, the notification beep had spawned an instant lie.
“Who’s that?” Millie had asked three feet away head barely visible from beneath a mountain of covers.
“Oh, someone offering psychic reading services.”
While untangling from the twisted coverlet and thermal blanket, Millie had responded with a multi-sentence castigation of Google and its ‘listening’ ability. “Dang, it must have picked up on our conversation last night about psychiatrists in New York City.”
Molly dared not reveal she’d used her new phone to communicate with Alisha during the last leg of her and her mother’s bus ride. The battery in Alistar’s secret phone had been low and Molly couldn’t wait to tell her best friend they’d almost reached the Big Apple.
“Me first.” Molly was out of bed in a flash, running to the bathroom, iPhone in hand. “I’m about to bust.” Millie just stared and walked to the kitchen.
Inside, on the commode, Molly sent Alisha a text. “Me here, you here. Morning. Can’t talk now, and don’t use this number. I used it Saturday by mistake. I’ll text you later from Alistar’s phone. Love you.” The lack of privacy was definitely going to be an issue, Molly thought as she stood, washed her face, and rolled her eyes as Millie knocked on the bathroom door.
Molly and Millie took showers, dressed, and were out of the apartment by 12:30 PM, leaving the hard work to the two heating and air guys.
Yesterday afternoon, Millie had called her new boss as he’d requested. Like Matt in Chicago, Stephen Canna was polite, respectful, generous, and anxious to acclimate Millie to her new work home, a few of her associates, and a summary of her initial job assignments. The two had agreed on 1:15 as a convenient time for all parties to meet.
With Molly’s help, Millie had decided the best way to travel to (and from) the law firm of Bird & Foley at the Woolworth Building in south Manhattan was New York City’s subway system; it definitely was cheaper than Uber or a taxi. The journey planning, with the aid of Google Maps, was relatively simple, although it included two walks, a nine minute one from their apartment building at 334 East 79th Street to the 77th Street subway station, and a second one, five minutes at the tail end, from the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station to the Woolworth Building. The cost, each way, per person, was only $2.75. Even better, Millie had discovered the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) offered a monthly discount card for $127.00 which provided unlimited use of the subway system. Again, per person.
The walk to the 77th Street station was enjoyable with a blue sky and an unusually warm temperature. Thank goodness the snow had stopped and the streets and sidewalk were clear. Two things caught Molly’s attention during the nine minute walk: the Yorkville Library on 79th Street just before turning left on 3rd Avenue, and the Spectrum Store on 3rd Avenue before turning right on East 77th Street. To her, it wasn’t too early to start thinking about things to do after school and while waiting on her mom to arrive home from work, which, from past history, could often be as late as six or seven PM.
Millie and Molly descended the stairs to the subway tunnel at 12:33 PM. A train was departing as they approached. Per the overhead digital sign, the next train would arrive in four minutes. Both Millie and Molly had downloaded the OMNY App (One Metro New York) to use in paying fares. They approached a turnstile and tapped their smart phones. The dings meant they’d successfully paid the $2.75 fare.
Molly wasn’t really surprised at the eclectic mix of strangers busing around the platform: business professionals in suits, pink-haired teenagers with piercings and tattoos, mothers pushing strollers, vagrants sleeping on the benches along the concrete walls, and older men or women with tattered back packs likely containing everything they owned.
Like Greyhound bus-lines, the next train arrived on time. The second it stopped the narrow doors opened. Although there were available seats, Millie insisted they stand next to one of the vertical poles equally spaced along the center of the train, and hold onto the leather hand loops dangling from the ceiling. Her reasoning was this would be good practice for the time they’d have no choice given a large crowd of weary travelers.
Molly counted thirteen stops along their twenty-two minute ride; none took longer than a minute or two. Over the creaks and squeaks of the metal tube shimming at high speed, Millie was lost in thought the entire trip, mostly imagining a typical day once she started work at Bird & Foley. What she dreaded and hated the most was Molly having to fend for herself. Although the two would leave the apartment at the same time each morning five days per week, their walk paths would diverge at 2nd Avenue where Molly would go left and walk three blocks to Robert F. Wagner Middle School, while Millie continued onward to the 77th Street station. She made a mental note to search for another student who attended Molly’s school. Maybe the two could become friends, but, at least walk together the seven minutes to and from school. Somehow the air changed directions and the putrid smell of body odor racked Millie back into reality. A greasy haired man in a dirty hooded jacket stood beside her anxious to exit the train.
As expected, the train ride ended at the Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station. After waiting for a dozen other passengers to depart, including two well-dressed professionals, three older women lugging shopping bags, and a young mother clutching a young child, Millie and Molly exited the train.
After ascending the stairs, Millie immediately recognized the Woolworth Building although they were a five minute walk away. It was grand, beautiful, and no doubt, commanded a premium monthly rental. Bird and Foley had to be a financially solid firm. From Millie’s research, she’d learned the neo-Gothic structure was built in 1913, and once was the world’s tallest building. No doubt, it remains an architectural landmark.
After their five minute walk, both Molly and Millie shed their jackets. The wind had calmed and the temperature was approaching sixty degrees.
They were several minutes early so they took the time to stare at the Woolworth Building’s unbelievably beautiful lobby. It was ornate to say the least, not only for its marble floors and granite walls, but for the various sculptures, mosaic ceiling, and other architectural touches. In a word, it was dazzling.
Millie’s favorite sculpture was rather grotesque, one depicting the building’s original owner, Frank W. Woolworth, with him holding one of the nickels that created his five-and-dime empire. Molly liked the sculpture depicting Cass Gilbert, the architect of the Woolworth Building, holding a model of the tower.
During the elevator ride to the twenty-eighth floor all Millie could think about was the boring, uncreative design of the Chicago skyscraper that housed Matt’s office. She hoped the Woolworth Building foreshadowed a new and exciting world, one intricately designed to shed wonder, hope, and vision to its occupants. When they reached their floor, Molly asked, “what world did you go to?”
The elevator doors opened, and a tall, thin man with close-cropped red hair stood smiling in the hallway outside double mahogany doors. When Millie sent Stephen a text announcing they were in the building she hadn’t expected him to give them such a welcome. He took three steps toward them and held out his right hand as though to shake but quickly removed it and gave Millie a hug.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you.” He turned to the precocious twelve-year-old. “Gosh, this can’t be Molly. You could pass for my ninth grade daughter.” Instead of hugging, they did a fist bump.
After a few questions about the new apartment, and both Molly and Millie thanking Stephen for the groceries, he guided them through the giant mahogany doors to the law firm of Bird & Foley.
“This is Candice, our receptionist.” Stephen said as he walked toward a sixty’ish looking woman with narrow eye-glasses perched on her nose, wearing a denim jacket, and standing behind a semicircular counter built to match the heavy wooden front doors. “If you’re ever in doubt who to ask for something, start with Candice.”
“Hello Millie and Molly, welcome to Bird & Foley.” Candice said, smiling, but quickly returning her attention to a document she’d been reading.
The office was huge, encompassing the entire twenty-eighth floor. Stephen’s tour consisted of two phases. First, he quickly led them past an assortment of multi-sized conference rooms, associate attorneys offices that were as nice as any at Quinn Law in Chicago, a giant room filled with cubicles for support staff, and through another set of double-oak doors, and past ten offices with great views along the south and west sides of the Woolworth Building. These larger offices were reserved for the partners. So far, other than Candice, neither Millie or Molly had seen another person.
The second phase started with a brisk walk to the eastern side of the building and into a large room that housed the firm’s kitchen and dining room. There, Stephen paraded Millie and Molly around and introduced them to at least forty people of all shapes and sizes, many wearing Santa hats. Obviously, the casually dressed hoard was enjoying a final party and exchange of gag gifts before departing early for a long Christmas holiday.
Not once did Stephen attach a label to identify what the person’s role was within the firm. There was no, “Ken is a partner”; “Sally is Ken’s secretary”; or, “Billy is our custodian.” The same feeling Millie had sensed when Candice welcomed her and Molly, instantly recognizing them, was how she felt. Wow, every employee was aware of her joining the firm.
Before exiting the dining room, Stephen, who seemed to possess detailed knowledge about each of the firm’s employees, introduced Millie and Molly to a man named Ed, whose daughter, Elizabeth, is an eighth grader at Robert Wagner Middle School. “Give me your number and I’ll have Lizzie call you.” Ed said looking at Molly, who looked at Millie before announcing her phone number.
Surprisingly, Stephen’s office was the most unkempt of all the partners. Unlike theirs, created, designed, and selected, Stephen’s was random, chaotic, and accumulated. The bookcases on two walls were anything but neat and orderly. The two arm chairs facing his giant, drawer-less desk were piled with an assortment of multi-colored folders. The small round table in the corner was strewn with pencils, markers, opened envelopes, and both letter and legal size documents in disarray. Even the couch that backed to the floor-to-ceiling windows was a mess. A New York Giants coverlet that likely was intended to lay across the length of the couch was pushed to one end and titled. The thermal blanket and two pillows in white cases loudly declared its occupant spent nights in the office.
Stephen quickly removed the bed items, tossed them into one of two chairs at the round table, and motioned for Millie and Molly to sit on the couch. “I’ll grab some water.” Stephen said without asking. He walked to and opened a small refrigerator on the credenza behind his desk. Millie hadn’t noticed it before. He returned, handed each of them a bottle, and repositioned the remaining chair to face Millie and Molly.
“I won’t take long since I know you have tons of things you need to do. But, I wanted to give you an idea of what to expect on the sixth when you start. Millie was thankful for two weeks before the roller-coaster ride of work and life outside the Woolworth Building began.
“First, if it’s acceptable to you, I want you to work on the civil side of the practice.” Millie recognized Stephan’s politeness and consideration. She was his employee, her work assignments didn’t have to meet her approval. Anyway, it was the thought that counted. He digressed a little and gave an overview of the firm’s practice: pretty much equally divided between the law’s two main divisions, criminal and civil. “Oh, to start with, you’ll be in the trenches, that’s what we call the large room we walked by with all the cubicles. This is where all the paralegals and other support staff have their homes. Except for the four supervisors. These experienced paralegals direct a team that corresponds to the four main practice areas, criminal, blue-collar; criminal, white-collar; civil, personal injury, non-death cases; and, civil, personal injury, death cases.
Molly raised a hand as though she was in class. “Where’s the nearest restroom?” Millie made a mental note to ask her daughter if she was having any health problems. It seemed she’d been going to the bathroom a lot lately.
“Through that door.” Stephen pointed to an oak door beside his credenza at the opposite side from the small refrigerator. Molly thanked him and left Millie and Stephen alone. He leaned forward and asked, “I want you to tell you in person that you can confide in me, about anything. I can only imagine what you’ve gone through and continue to go through.”
Millie thought about Matt’s caring and compassion. Now, Stephen seemed to be a spitting image. How fortunate could she be? “Thanks so much. That means the world to me, but I don’t want to be a burden. It’s imperative for me to do my job and become an asset to your firm.”
“Our firm. It belongs to all of us. You’ll see when you receive your first bonus. But, let’s talk about that during orientation.” Molly returned and started surfing her phone.
There was a soft knock on the door next to the hallway. It was Candice. Millie and Stephen had arranged this yesterday afternoon. Candice would take Molly to the front desk and start introducing her to the phone system. His ninth grade daughter was already adept at receiving and transferring calls and had offered the same to Millie on behalf of Molly. “We’ll be along in thirty or forty minutes.” Stephen said as Molly followed Candice.
“Now, here’s my plan. The supervising paralegals all have private offices. They’re scattered among the associate offices we passed. The other partners and I have agreed to create a whole new division, which will necessiate another supervising paralegal. The placeholder name, for now, is civil, personal injury, churches. Notice, I didn’t distinguish death and non-death because these lawsuits ….” Stephen paused as though to catch his breath, he seemed so excited, or to scan his mind for what he hadn’t previously said but should have. “Bird & Foley is a criminal defense and plaintiff’s firm. We do not represent defendants in civil cases. Now, back to this new division.
“Over the past few years we’ve represented a number of individuals who have been hurt by the church and other religious organizations. Of late, we’ve been inundated with cases against Southern Baptist Churches. I don’t know if you’ve heard but the Southern Baptist Convention has recently released a report that details widespread sexual abuse cases. We have several new cases in this area. But, that’s not the only type case we’re involved with and continually trying to add to our inventory.
One such case, a fairly new case is the wrongful death case brought by the family of Deanna Parisi. Here it is in a nutshell, obviously, we’ll discuss it at length on the sixth. Our claim is Mount Zion Baptist Church and its lead pastor, Carl Warren, were negligent in the counsel they provided Ms. Parisi, which later committed suicide. There’s also a claim of sexual misconduct against a currently unidentified person, who also was or is still a member of Mount Zion.
Stephen paused to give Millie a chance to speak. “I assume I’ll do typical paralegal work on this case, things like conduct legal research and write memos that will go to an associate for review; prepare discovery requests, review discovery requests, and index depositions.”
Stephen raised a hand, palm out. “Of course, but I’m interested in you becoming much more involved. For now, let me just say, I’ll want you to do some investigating on your own. Nothing dangerous mind you, but scouting out and interviewing potential witnesses.”
This is something Millie didn’t have much experience in. “Isn’t this normally done by the firm’s investigative team?”
Before Stephen could answer, Ed from the dining room, stuck his head inside and asked if he could have a few minutes. Stephen nodded and motioned him inside, and looked again at Millie. “Our investigators are currently swamped, and, I hate to say, pretty well known in Manhattan. I need you to be more incognito, and disarming.”
Ed seemed anxious to speak with Stephen alone so he dismissed Millie but not before reminding her to call if she had questions or needed any help at all.