CHAPTER FOUR – Trouble at Home
Lindsey scowled at the stack of files on his desk. He desperately needed a new file clerk. His had accidentally stumbled into a meeting with him, Lilah and the firm's new obnoxious upstart, Mark Lustig, and a band of Kolmvan demons. Seeing ten-foot tall creatures made up of little more than translucent purple flesh and teeth, she had screamed. Kolmvan demons hated that. She had disappeared down their gullets in bloody chunks before the lawyers could do anything to stop them, as if they could.
It was one of the things that made Lindsey wonder why he still worked for Wolfram and Hart. He didn't consider himself to be an evil person but he was forced to do some awful things. He was playing with fire and had been badly burned already. And it didn't change the fact that he needed a file clerk. But with Holland's recent death, Wolfram and Hart was still in an uproar.
Lindsey reached for a file, knocking it to the floor. He cursed, having forgotten his dominant hand was now a useless piece of flesh-toned polymer. His brain was still reformatting to accept the idea that he needed to use his other hand. He didn't know why he even bothered wearing the prosthesis. Did it really stop the pitying looks or cause more? All it really did was maintain the streamlined look of his decadently expensive suits.
He leaned over and scooped up the fallen file, glancing at the name on it. 'Dinklelacker.' God, there was a name he couldn't change fast enough if it were his. He set it on top of Darksidatha Moon's file. As far as he was concerned, Ms. Moon had all the rights in the world for killing her parents for that bit of punnery. And to think he had grown up hating his name; he hadn't realized how lucky he was.
Still, growing up in his barely middle-classed Midwest high school, things had been rough. Not only had he been way below the poverty, short and had a 'girl's' name, he had been smart. He might as well had gone to class with a target painted on his head. He learned quickly how to be a scrapper. It was the one thing his father had taught him, how to fight, how to stand up for himself. He would always owe his dad for that.
Hearing the click of heels, Lindsey turned back to the doorway of his spacious office. He had purposely had wood flooring installed by the door since no sound could be heard over the lush carpets in the firm and he hated being sneaked up on. Lilah stood there in her perfect grey linen suit and behind her was Mark, his platinum blond hair sleeked back.
Lindsey was beginning to hate that man. Maybe it was a little bit of jealousy. Mark was the new guy, younger and rising fast. That had been Lindsey's place in the firm, the young go-getter that everyone was afraid of. Now, he and Lilah had some pretty big stains on their reputations. Before his death, Holland had expressed disappointment in Lindsey. But him losing a hand for the firm had sponged some of the stains clean. It didn't make him like Mark though. Or maybe it was just that Mark had grown up rich in Boston, gone to Harvard and had a silver spoon sticking out his asshole since the day he was born that made Lindsey hate him so.
Lindsey had to scrape for everything he got. It left its mark on him, in his unflagging desire to achieve, on his small body undernourished as a child, in the two tiny caskets that held his flu-slain siblings. Those coffins he saw in his nightmares surrounded by big showy and cheap mums. He hated mums. Their very smell dredged up horrible memories, forced him to remember sleeping in that huge musty bed with all of his siblings jammed under the covers with him, to remember what it felt like to wake up with his brother curled up against him, cold, stiff, eyes closed in death. He felt these trials made him the better man but Mark never let an opportunity slide by where he could remind Lindsey how blue his blood was.
"We need to talk," Lilah said, shutting his office door.
He frowned and didn't invite them to sit. "As if I need to ask about what."
"This thing with the Chumash artifact is getting out of hand," Mark said, perching on the edge of Lindsey's desk, nearly spilling some files to the floor.
Lindsey eyed the blue-suited young man sourly. "And whose fault is that?"
"All of ours," Lilah said. "If Linwood is to be believed."
"I'm not the one who had Dr. Ashworth murdered." Lindsey glared at Lustig. "We were handling things just fine until you overreacted, Mark."
The younger lawyer looked bored. "She was going to smuggle the artifact out of the country. Now, that's not a problem."
"Except that you could have dropped us in the middle of a police investigation," Lindsey said, his living fingers toying with the hilt of his letter opener as he considered just quietly burying it somewhere in Mark.
"The cops here can be bought," Lilah reminded him.
Lindsey nodded, conceding that. "And now all our formal paperwork, which would have gotten us that artifact, is a matter of public record and we're obvious suspects in her murder, thanks to you Mark."
"Give it a rest, Lindsey. I had the balls to do what you couldn't. I eliminated the threat." Lustig smiled at him, no not smiled, Lindsey decided. He was showing his teeth like a feral animal and he didn't dare back down, not even a hair.
"Yeah, until her friend rolls in from overseas," Lindsey said. "Do you think she'll be happy until she finds out who killed Dr. Ashworth?"
Mark laughed. "What do you think she can do? This Dr. Maddoc is just another archaeologist. She's not even an American. She has no access to anything on the dig and so what if she packed up Ashworth's undies for charity or whatever before you could stop her. She's hardly a threat."
"She does know that Wolfram and Hart were interested in that artifact." Lilah shoved back a lock of her long hair, her characteristic smirk absent. "Linwood isn't happy about that."
"She has a copy of all our correspondence including emails. That's really going to upset Linwood," Lindsey said. "She turned that all over to the police."
"If she becomes too much of a problem, she can go the way of her friend," Mark said, his grey eyes narrowing brutally.
"Is that your answer to everything?" Lindsey swallowed hard. He didn't like this at all. He wasn't going to sign on for wholesale murder. That wasn't what he was about. "Assassination? Murder might look good for the short term but for the long run it's just going to generate attention Wolfram and Hart isn't going to want. You don't want to do that." Lindsey rather hoped Mark did get the senior partners attention in a bad way. It would be the best and bloodiest way of getting rid of the snob.
"Don't tell me what to do, cowboy." Mark leaned in close.
Lindsey sat back, wrinkling his nose. Whatever designer cologne Mark wore, he obviously swam in it. It completely overpowered Lindsey's Bijan for men and made his eyes water. "Hey, you want to sign your death warrant, go ahead." He glanced over at Lilah for support but she remained quiet, buffing her nails on her jacket, affecting boredom. Lindsey knew, however, she was listening intently and absorbing it all.
Mark tapped Lindsey's cheek with his high-buffed manicured fingers. "I think our cowboy wants to throw his rope around the good Dr. Maddoc, Lilah. That's why he's so concerned whether or not I take out a hit on her."
Lindsey's blue-green eyes darkened. For a moment he sat in stunned disbelief over what Mark had said then he snarled, "I'm not your cowboy. And I have no interest in Dr. Maddoc past this case."
"Sure you don't. We both saw you at Dr. Ashworth's apartment. You were practically drooling on Maddoc." Mark shot him a superior little look. "Not that I blame you. She had some great tits and that ass, sweet enough to eat off of."
"You're a pig, Lustig," Lindsey said.
"You did seem a bit taken with her," Lilah said, just stirring the pot. From her look, Lindsey knew she was just out to upset him. She still wanted to be head of their department alone. Sharing it with him was a disappointment. He felt the same way. He knew he shouldn't be shocked by crassness or threats between associates. Wolfram and Hart was rift with power-hungry lawyers and he didn't expect any decorum from any of them.
"But the real question is, what would she want with a charity case like you?" Mark tapped Lindsey's prosthetic hand and he jerked it out of reach, cradling it reflexively.
Lindsey saw from the looks on Mark and Lilah's faces that they knew Mark had scored a direct hit. God, he hated them both just now. Almost as much as he hated Angel. His plastic hand hurt from the sudden jostling he had just given it. He knew the pain wasn't real but the sharp fire racing up from a limb that no longer existed felt horribly real. The doctors told him they didn't know how to stop phantom pain and that he'd get used to it. He didn't want to get used to it any more than he wanted to show weakness in front of his fellow lawyers like he just had. Mark was savoring it.
"Have you even been with a woman since you lost that arm?" Mark showed him a huge fake smile at that.
"The last one he tried it with shot him down." Lilah gave him a cattish look. "And she was a pro. You would have thought Darla would have been more grateful for what you did for her but I suppose she's not into stumps."
Lindsey's face drained of color at the mention of Darla. That wound was still fresh and bleeding and Lilah could scent it like the shark she was.
"I guess the question is, has he ever even before the hand went under the ax?" Mark grinned wickedly. "From the way our farm boy acts I'd say he doesn't know what to do with a woman."
"Get out of my office," Lindsey grated past clenched teeth. "Out. Now. And I'm not going to let you drag me down with this artifact debacle, Lustig."
"What debacle? We have the artifact in our vaults and we're already on the trail of the companion artifact to go with the tomolo. Ashworth didn't know about it, no one does. The stink Maddoc is putting on this will blow over in days." Mark said, getting off Lindsey's desk. "And I'll be the hero when all is said and done. Maybe they'll give me your office and you can go off and practice your one-hand stroking." He mimed a little jacking off for Lindsey
Lindsey, for his part, refrained from crushing Mark's head in with an object d'art. "Lilah, when this blows up in our face, don't make me tell you I told you so."
She just smiled and sauntered out of the office with Mark in tow. Lindsey got out of his chair and stared out the window. He had a gorgeous view, which was wasted on him at the moment. He shouldn't have let them get to him. It was the worst thing he could have done. But it hurt, the reminder of Darla and of his loss. He shouldn't have denied noticing Dr. Maddoc. A blind man would have noticed her. And he had spared a few moments thinking of what he'd like to do with that luscious body. He was a man, after all.
But that didn't mean he had any plans on acting on that. She was in the enemy camp. And maybe his associates had a point. He was self-conscious about his arm. How could he not be? He had tried with Darla but it was some weird desperate love. He needed to feel love, to feel something and he knew it was wrong. He had stopped himself with great reluctance. The fact her body was disease-ridden before it became a vampire host again had a lot to do with that. But his arm had just as much to do with it. He had been ashamed to let her see him without the prosthesis. He was afraid to let anyone see, really. He wasn't sure he could handle being laughed at, or worse, see pity reflecting in a lover's eyes. He could barely look at it himself. Nights were the hardest part of his day. Showering, going to bed, anything that required him to see the ruined end of his arm sent a frisson of pain through him. And some days, the one thing that kept him going was the thought of making Angel pay for what he'd done.
With a heavy sigh, Lindsey turned back to his files.