Scott was reviewing a contempt petition that Josie had drafted—she was really good at document production; he only ever changed things to suit his own personal flavor—which today was a bit prickly with a dash of snotty—when Josie buzzed him on the intercom.
“Yes?” he asked.
“It’s Mark for you.”
“Okay.” He picked up the receiver and selected the line. “Mark, what can I do you for this evening?”
“Oh, nothing. I was just calling to shoot the shit.”
“Yeah, I don’t have court tonight and there’s nothing else going on.”
“Come over here and I’ll put you to work,” Scott laughed.
“Busy enough. I don’t have any complaints.” Which was true enough. Scott saw a dozen or more clients every week and was retained by most—and that didn’t count his court-appointed cases in City and Circuit, which averaged another four or five clients per week.
“Good,” Mark replied, sounding as if he meant it. “So, I was wondering, do you have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving?”
Scott felt Mark was finally getting around to the real purpose behind his call. “I don’t have any plans yet.” He chuckled dryly. “Of course, a holiday centered around food doesn’t mean that much to me anymore.”
“I didn’t think about it like that, but… yeah… I guess it wouldn’t have much appeal to you.”
“But I do have Clarice for the night,” Scott added, “so I suppose I ought to think of something to do with her.”
“Oh, well, then,” Mark said, perking up again, “ya’ll can come to my house for dinner, if you like. And Josie, too, if you were planning on spending the evening with her.”
Scott could hear the smirk in Mark’s voice. “I don’t know what Josie’s plans are,” Scott replied with cool professionalism. “I assume she’ll be with her own family.”
“Ah, well, then just you and Clarice. Whatever. Invite a bunch of people; I don’t care. We always seem to have a lot of strays at the table. My kids are always bringing someone home. I’m starting to have a hard time telling which ones belong to me,” he laughed.
“I appreciate the offer. Let me see if Clarice wants to go; she might have wanted to do something—go see a movie, or something.”
“That’s fine. How old is she again?”
“Nine—nearly ten. She’ll be ten the first of December.”
God, that made him feel old. Where had ten years gone?
“Oh, she’s the same age as my son. They’ll have a good time together.”
“I don’t know if I should let her around a boy related to you,” Scott teased.
Mark laughed. “He’s a firecracker, that’s for sure. He breaks more stuff than any kid I’ve ever known. And he does it with such innocence—like it never occurred to him that hitting a stereo with a hammer would break it. He’s not malicious—just clueless.”
“Sounds like he needs to become a demolition engineer or something like that,” Scott laughed.
“Yeah, that’d be right up his alley. So, anyways, call me about Thanksgiving once you know.”
“I’ll do that. Thanks.”
As Scott hung up the phone, he couldn’t help but feel touched that Mark thought about him. His family might be sorry, but he sure had some good friends.
* * *
Josie was all-too-happy to go with Scott to Mark’s on Thanksgiving.
“My family always does lunch,” she explained, “and I was already dreading having to go up there on only a few hours of sleep. I can just tell them that I can’t get do something that early, and that I’m just going to do supper with you, instead.”
“If you need to take a half day Wednesday night, so you can go home and sleep, you can do that,” Scott offered.
“Shut up. I want it to work out this way.”
“But… won’t your family blame me for keeping you away?”
“Just my parents,” she said dismissively.
“But I’m meeting them in a couple of weeks, aren’t I? We shouldn’t be antagonizing them this closely to our first meeting, should we? I mean, can’t you go and maybe… I don’t know… smooth the way a bit?”
She looked at him incredulously. “That’s not going to happen,” she said bluntly. “And the fewer holidays I have to spend listening to them bitch, the better. Besides, it will be easier to face them if you’re with me.”
Scott began to wonder if Josie’s brave defiance of her parents was a bit more bravado than actual courage. But, as long as she didn’t cave completely, he had enough fight in him for both of them. After all, he’d already been disowned by his own family; what was Josie’s family to him?
Maggie dropped Clarice off at the office shortly after dark. As soon as she was out of sight, he turned off the lights and drove the few blocks to Josie’s house.
“Where are we going?” Clarice asked.
“We’re going to eat supper with one of my friends.”
“Oh. I thought we were going to Grandma Melly’s.”
“Not this year,” Scott said elusively. He hadn’t told Clarice that he wasn’t on speaking terms with any of his family. It wasn’t something she would understand.
“I miss going there,” she said wistfully. Scott glanced in the rearview mirror and noticed she was staring out the window. “I liked playing with Wyatt and Barrett,” she added, speaking of her two cousins.
“Mark—my friend—has a son your age; you and he can play together.”
“Okay,” she said, sounding as if she was reserving judgment.
He pulled into the driveway at Josie’s house. A moment later, the lights in her living room blinked out and she emerged, locking the door behind her.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” she told Clarice, as she got into the front seat of Scott’s SUV.
“What’s that?” Scott interrupted. Josie had some sort of bottle in her hand.
She showed it to him. “Wine.” She grinned sheepishly. “I can’t go to someone’s house and not take something with me. It’s a Jewish thing, I think—always have to have wine or food available.”
“Mama doesn’t drink,” Clarice said from the back seat.
She said it matter-of-factly, as if she was just throwing out a piece of semi-related information, but Scott wondered, though, if there was something more to it than that. Had her mother told her to watch and report back if anyone drank around her?
Josie look at him questioningly; obviously she didn’t know what do make of Clarice’s statement either.
Scott decided to take the same tack he used when she asked him questions about being a vampire: honest, but unconcerned, like it was no big deal. “No, you mother has never liked to drink,” he replied casually. “But I’ve always liked to have a beer or a little wine now and again.”
There. He acknowledged that Maggie didn’t drink—not that there was anything wrong with that—but that he drank sometimes, so there was nothing wrong with Josie having some wine.
Clarice didn’t reply; she seemed interested in looking out the window as they drove through town.
Crisis seemingly averted.
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee