A topic in Morgan Mandel's third novel, Killer Career is quitting your day job. Morgan still has hers. She puts her experience as an administrative assistant at a workers' compensation law firm to use in this book's setting. The excerpt below, taken from the 12th chapter, provides a short glimpse into the workers' comp world.
The chapter also illustrates how even a gorgeous day can turn deadly. A side issue here is Julie's fear of elevators and closed-in places. Her phobia becomes a major part of the plot later in the book.
From "Killer Career" by Morgan Mandel
Julie sighed. Vacation must wait until she waded through the mounds of paperwork which claimed her attention. Legal descriptions to examine, trials to get ready, new cases to consider, telephone messages to answer, her duties were endless. Would she ever break loose?
She needed to remind Dade to look for a partner. He seemed to be ignoring the inevitable, as if that would make her stay longer. He had to accept she couldn’t go on like this. It wasn’t her anymore.
She’d driven downtown early his morning instead of relaxing on the train, since she’d be working late again.
Julie swung the top of the holder closed and took a deep breath. In a few minutes she’d tear herself away from the office and trek to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission where she’d fight for her clients’ rights. Before that, she’d relax a few more minutes, enjoy the loons on the paperclip holder, and think good thoughts.
Like how in a few days she’d be at the workshop. Delicious anticipation shot through her at the thought. She loved the learning process and could hardly wait to incorporate some of it in her book. Also, she had to admit Jensen’s continued interest in her was flattering.
It was fun daydreaming and not thinking of chores. With her mind still in the clouds, she grabbed her briefcase and told Dee she’d be back around noon.
As she stepped into the dreaded elevator and the doors closed behind her, the familiar helpless feeling rushed over her, making her feel faint. The slow descent began. Would the torture every stop?
It wouldn’t hurt to adopt Jensen’s advice. Transferring her fears to the typewritten page would be daring, but ignoring them hadn’t helped. As soon as she got a chance, she’d explore that possibility.
As the doors swung open on the ground floor, she breathed a sigh of relief. She’d made it. She was safe.
* * *
Julie was almost in front of the Thompson Building, when her cell phone rang.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know where Dade is,” Pam, the receptionist asked.
“He didn’t say anything to me. What’s the problem?”
“Mr. Burns says Dade was supposed to meet him an hour ago at the Commission about an offer, but he hasn’t shown up. I can’t reach him on his cell.”
“The client may have gotten the date wrong. Dade’s good at remembering appointments. Just in case, I’ll look around for him inside. If I see him, I’ll let you know. Don’t worry, he’ll show up.”
As she replaced the phone in her purse, she smilingly admired the play of sunlight across the glass panes of the octagonal architecture of the James R. Thompson Center, which housed the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. On such a gorgeous July day, nothing could go wrong. Sure, she had tons of work and it might take a while to follow her dream, but she’d survive.
Another good thing was her dizzy spells had vanished. They’d probably been caused by overwork. That situation wouldn’t last forever. Her goal was within reach.
She just knew she’d win all of her cases today.
Stop woolgathering, she told herself, using a favorite phrase of her mother’s.
Upstairs on the eighth floor, she glanced around for Dade but didn’t see him. Just in case he turned up, she left a message with the receptionist for him to call the office. She called Pam back and told her what she’d done. After that, she gathered her client, Danny Devers, out of the waiting room. “Let’s go get ‘em,” she said.
He flashed her a timid smile.
“Don’t be nervous. Just tell the truth.”
The man had a good case. They’d get through in no time.
Her prediction proved correct. It wasn’t long before Julie smilingly sent her client on his way. She sailed through the next case as well, then strolled across the concourse to look for Dade. She didn’t see him in the hallway, meeting rooms or the downstairs eating area where the attorneys often met to hash over cases. He must have already gone back to the office.
She may as well head back too. When she saw him, she’d learn soon enough how the mix-up had occurred.
As soon as Julie stepped into the office, Pam’s frantic voice greeted her. “You didn’t see Dade at all at the Commission?”
“No. You mean he still hasn’t called?”
Pam shook her head. “He never did. I don’t know where he is. The phones are going crazy. What do I tell the clients?”
“Just say he’s at an emergency trial and will get back to them.”
Julie frowned. A strange uneasiness gripped her, making her terrific mood evaporate. Dade was meticulous about advising the office of his whereabouts. Something was wrong.
Her steps quickened. Even before she reached her desk, she grabbed her cell phone from her purse and punched the quick dial. “Be there,” she said.
It didn’t even ring. Strange. If the telephone were out of range, at least his voice mail should kick in. Maybe his phone was broken.
Or maybe his mom was sick and he had to rush her to the hospital and didn’t have time to call. No, it couldn’t be that. Marcia and Avery had gone to Wisconsin. They wouldn’t be back for a week.
Now what to do? Julie glanced at her watch. It was past one. Maybe she was being an alarmist, but she couldn’t help it. What if Dade had fallen and banged his head in the shower this morning. His life’s blood could be flowing out of him while he hung on, hoping to be rescued. God forbid, it might already be too late.
She called the operator and asked for his condominium’s office. Once she was connected, she requested a well being check. Ten minutes of pacing passed. Julie was about to dial back when Dee’s voice rang over the intercom, “There’s a Linda, from Dade’s building on line nine.”
Julie snatched up the receiver. “Is he all right?”
Thanks for letting me share a portion of my book with your readers, Diane.
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