Hazel Lancaster was unsure what she would find when she walked into her father’s office. The past few days had been a blur.
Looking around his office she almost forgot why she’d come. She went back into her memory thinking about the image she always had of him.
Her father was a well respected, kind man. Business owner and provider of jobs in the community for more than fifteen years. Despite that, he never let work get in the way of family. She remembered every trip to the park, dinners all the time, every dance recital, and softball game. Very wise man, seemed to have the answer to every tricky math problem or how to spell any word.
He was so incredibly understanding. She would talk with him about anything and everything that was bothering her. He taught her all her values about life, treat others how you want to be treated, and be kind. To find a job in life that you were passionate about, that brought you joy to go to work everyday.
Which she pursued, going into law school was a daunting challenge. But with his support and encouragement, that was all she needed.
Looking back, she wished she didn’t have to look further. She wished she didn’t have to find the truth. And she wished more than anything she hadn’t answered the phone that day. She could still remember the voice on the other end, her astonishment to remember it as one of her father’s advisors.
“Danial Lancaster is a low life liar! He’s been putting on an act for years! He thinks I’ll take the blame for everything? He’s to blame! Listen to me very carefully, Hazel,” She was confused to be hearing the voice of her fathers most trusted advisor on the phone. And claiming all these things about her father, what had gotten into him?”
“Rory, I don’t know what’s going on but I think you just need to calm-”
“Don’t tell me what I need! Just listen, I know you don’t want to believe me but I know you will. You visit your father for lunch every Tuesday. Tomorrow you're gonna ask why I’m not at work and he’s gonna say I had family business and decided to leave indefinitely to deal with it. That’s a lie, I was going to be arrested.”
“Arrested? The hell are you talking about?”
“Your father is not the man he says he is, you want to know why our company does so well? It’s not because people love printers, it’s because your father is a monster! I should know, I’m the one who's been keeping a record of everything. From every small bribe to fraudulent sale to the blackmailing of competitors. He’s done it all.”
Hazel shook her head in disbelief. “Rory, I know you're upset, but just because you got fired doesn’t mean you have the right to bad mouth my father.”
“You still don’t believe me, do you?” She heard him chuckle. “You have no idea what you’re up against, honey. It’s gonna blow your mind, just wait for tomorrow. After he lies again I’ll give you another call to explain it all. Just wait.”
But she did pick up the phone. She looked at his desk. Neat as a pin, not a speck of dust. It was three days ago that she sat with him for that lunch. She so easily forgot about Rory beforehand. How naive she was. She’d eaten with him since she was a child, a tradition she continued through adulthood. All the lunches with the same order, ham sandwich and salad. Simple, pleasant with the same theme of conversation.
Her situation now was anything but. She shed a tear for the child who had it easy, away from all the troubles of the world. Troubles had swamped her when they dined that day. She walked in from a satisfying morning finishing a long case in court. Happy with the results she slipped into her father’s office.
He smiled just to look at her. “Hazel, come on in, Luna should have our food soon.” Before he could stand she was around his desk giving him a tight hug. “Thanks, my darling, but you hold me so tight I may burst next time.”
She gleamed with joy, “I’m just really happy.” She sat down on the chair in front of his desk.
“What’s got you so chirper, kiddo?”
“You know the Charleston case? I’ve been trying to get him for weeks.” She continued to grin from ear to ear.
He responded curiously even though he already knew what was to come. “I believe so, why?”
She jumped up, “I got em! I finally got him, dad! He’s sitting behind bars right now for the next ten years, can you believe that!?”
“Of course, I can. I knew you could do it. It’s that Lancaster work-ethic in yeah, work-”
“Until you get results. I know it well.”
“Good. I’m so proud of you. Look at you, my little girl, putting criminals behind bars as a successful lawyer. Simply incredible.”
“Thanks, dad.” Then Luna walked in with their lunch. They talked a bit more. It surprised her how much it bothered her not to see Rory. That call was probably just a prank. He’s probably sick today, or taking a vacation, right? Still she felt a need to ask, just to relieve her curiosity.
“What’s up, kiddo?” He had mayo on his bottom lip.
“Well, firstly you’ve got something here.” She pointed to the same spot on her face.
He laughed and wiped it off. “Ha, still as messy as a boy.” She laughed. He noted the gears turning in her brain, he always had such a curious daughter. “Is there a secondly somewhere?”
She almost didn’t want to say anything. He was so happy, made her smile. How could Rory be right? How could she possibly be thinking Rory was right? Before she could answer there was a knock at the door. Luna came in with a box.
“Where do you want the rest of this, sir?”
“Just chuck it, it’s not important anymore.” Luna left not noticing something that fell out of the box. Hazel saw the pen but didn’t pay it much attention.
“What was that?”
“Had to fire Sam from accounting the other day. Nasty business, hate firing people. That was some stuff he left behind. Nothing important.” She smiled in response. He didn’t notice the wave of relief she had to know it wasn’t Rory who was fired.
She was right, there was no reason to be worried or get worked up about some random phone call. She sat back and enjoyed the rest of her lunch with her amazing father. When she was done she gave her dad a hug and headed for the door.
“Thanks for lunch, dad.”
“My pleasure, darling.” He smiled. She opened the door and it was blocked by a pen. She shrugged and picked it up.
“Hey, is this your pen?”
He took only a glance, “Probably, but I've got plenty. You can take it.”
“Thanks.” She placed it in her purse and headed for the parking lot. As she reached her car she realized she forgot to take her keys. She opened her purse, it was a mess like usual, tons of unnecessary yet necessary items. As she dug around for her keys she noticed the pen turned on its side had writing on it. An inscription.
Property of Rory Macintosh.
She blinked hard and rubbed her eyes. She looked at it again and again. Not her father’s pen, Rory’s. It could have been a coincidence, they worked together, he was bound to leave a few things in her fathers office. Yet this wasn’t there when she walked in was it. How’d it get there?
The box, the fired employee. It was Rory! She felt her heart beating out of her chest. Her mind was swirling with so many questions. He was telling the truth? Was her father truly a liar? It can’t be true? There was one key thing that made a conviction in her line of work, evidence. As much as she didn’t want to believe it, the evidence was in her hand.
The moment she got home she called Rory back. He explained it all, all the lies, the betrayals, the tricks, the scams, everything her father had done. All she wanted to do was slam down the receiver and ignore every word. But she forced herself to listen to every crime and every evil deed.
She let a few tears fall as she listened. Her father, her loving, kind, amazing father, was not who she thought. She took a moment to let herself get used to the idea that everything she had ever believed about her father was a lie. Once she’d pulled herself together she put herself in lawyer mode.
“Alright, Rory, I’m telling you I believe you. But this is still just all of your accounts of what’s happened, you’ve told me you have every record, I need to see them all.”
“I don’t exactly have them, I got fired, remember, kicked out. I left all my stuff there.”
“I know I watched them throw it away. Is there anywhere else the proof could be? I’m gonna need something Rory.”
“Alright, alright. There’s a file in his office labeled octopus. Over the past ten years he’s been buying smaller companies, they still keep their name but they're under the control of your father’s company. I think there’s about twenty now. It’s in the cabinet to the left of his desk I think.”
She turned and stared at the cabinet. She stood for a moment. She knew as a lawyer that if she found anything incriminating she’d have to convict him. Before she opened it she decided to just be human, she cried. She sat down in the chair in front of her fathers desk letting the tears fall. Feeling not only sadness but the burning of anger falling down her face. She felt the aches of her fathers betrayal.
The man who was known for being honorable, for being kind to all. The man who scowled her for lying about stealing the last cookie. The man who always went above and beyond to take care of her and make her happy. When she had no more tears to shed, she dried her eyes. Her lawyer kicked in again. Time to find the truth.
Shoving away from the chair she opened the cabinet, shoveled through all three drawers to find nothing labeled octopus. Damn it! After all the emotional turmoil she’d just been through just to be left still confused and with nothing. She leaned against the cabinets and rubbed her tired eyes. When she opened them again she noticed something strange about the chair. A slate of the wood on the seat was ever so slightly shifted. Must have moved when she sat up.
She went over to push the slate back and noticed an opening on the other side. She reached her hand in and pulled out a scroll of paper tied with a piece of string. She clawed at the string, ripping it to shreds desperate to see inside. A large stack of papers, somehow over fifty sheets were rolled up in that scroll. But the most significant part was found when she looked on the first page.
As her trembling fingers gripped the papers her father swung open the door.
“Hey, darling, Luna said you dropped by-” He paused at the sight. His daughter red-faced on her knees holding the papers he’d made sure to keep hidden for years. He was at a loss. He didn’t know what to do, plead, explain, apologize, lie? He could’ve done anything, yet all he did was stare.
He watched Hazel. She slowly stood, wiped off her pants, straightened her jacket, and smoothed out her hair. His daughter, the most expressive person he knew, stared at him cold. He saw his eyes looking back at him, but not in their sweet, loving way. They were distinctly cold, almost heartless with no soul.
“No,” She put up her hand to stop him. She took a breath to steady her voice, but she felt the tear building. “I want you to remember this. Remember how I look, and remember how I’m looking at you right now. With total disgust and hurt-” She paused, her voice was sounding more like a whimper as the tears came again. She decided to use them as fuel. “Deep, deep hurt of your betrayal. I want you to know how much pain-” the word came out in a cry-”it’s caused me to realize what a truly AWFUL human being you are.”
With all her energy the last words came out steady and soft. But still deepened with anger. “When you are convicted, and I will make sure of it, you will go to jail. And I want you to remember this moment in particular because it will be the LAST time you see your daughter.”