This is the first chapter of my most recent manuscript. I realize it's still in draft form, so please excuse any potential fuzzy parts, and hopefully just enjoy the content…

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Chapter One


    The law firm of Webster, Banks & Cohen, like most firms of its ilk
around the county, had a clearly delineated hierarchy. Unlike nearly all the
others though, it assigned offices in ascending order of seniority. 
     The first floor was entirely consumed by the palatial offices of Martin Webster, Jack Banks, and
Howard Cohen, though they were rarely, if ever, seen in them. 
     The second floor was subdivided into six offices, each of them filled with the first
hires of the firm nearly forty years before. Two of the men had already retired
into schedules similar to the founding members, while the other four still at
least pretended to be working most days.
     The third floor was split into ten offices, the second-year hires, followed by eight floors with
fifteen offices each. All of those offices were filled with people that had been
with the firm a minimum of twenty-five years. Every one of them still showed up
a minimum of five days a week, many still working the same long hours they had
when they started.
      Somebody had to keep their trophy ex-wives in the lifestyles they'd grown accustomed
to.
      Above those eleven were fifteen more floors, all belonging to the firm. Levels twelve through
twenty-four consisted of attorneys ranging from those on the cusp of making
partner to those just a few years removed from law school. Grouped in teams of
three to five, each one had their own receptionist and paralegal, a veritable
free standing entity unto themselves.
     Way up on top, the twenty-sixth floor was reserved exclusively for the rookies. Every single
attorney that had ever working for Webster, Banks & Cohen started on the
two-six, a fierce testing ground for new hires.
     The entirety of the two-six was one large room with a tangle of desks arranged haphazardly about. On
their first day the new hires were assigned to a particular desk, but where they
put it and how they chose to interact with the room was entirely up to them.
     Corporate America's truest Rorschach test.
     Some of the rookies angled for the windows, taking advantage of the fact that their firm was the
only one in the city that didn’t bury new hires in the basement. Others chose
the middle of the room, displaying their bravado for all to see and daring
others to challenge them.
    On his first day, Shane Lazlo chose the corner. 
    Not the one closest to the door or the one where two banks of floor-to-ceiling windows intersected, but
the far corner.
    As others sought out the highly coveted positions that first day, shoving their heavy old desks into
position while wearing expensive designer suits, Shane merely nudged his into
the darkened corner and began unpacking his bag. By the time some of his smaller
coworkers had managed to post up exactly where they wanted, Shane had already
read through the employee handbook and was moving on to the standard stack of
first day documentation.
    Cradled by dark brown brick to his rear and left, Shane positioned his desk tight against the side
wall. It afforded him a good view of the room and even a decent sightline to the
windows should he so choose. 
     Strategically speaking, it was an excellent move. On the social scale, it was closer to
self-imposed exile.
     That fact had barely registered with Shane the day he chose the seat. Not once in the months since
had it done so either.
     Most days Shane was the first person to arrive at the two-six, finding his spot in the corner long
before anybody else bothered to come in. He wasn’t necessarily a morning person,
but his preference for the quiet solitude of dawn made up for it. 
     Some nights, like this one, he was the last to leave as well.
     Not a single light illuminated the enormous expanse of scattered desks save the small lamp on the
corner of his and the laptop screen in front of him.
     New Year's Eve, a night when most people in Boston were at the North End enjoying dinner with
family or at Faneuil Hall having drinks with friends, Shane sat alone in the
semi-darkness. He had no family to speak of and only a handful of friends,
making it easy to dodge the handful of half-hearted invites tossed his way.
     Not that he had much to celebrate these days anyway. 
     Just six months removed from law school, Shane was twenty-six years old and over a hundred
thousand dollars in debt. The firm required seventy billable hours a week from
him, which in actuality was more like ninety. The only person he had waiting for
him at home each night was a temperamental cat. 
     The sadistic irony of being a twenty-six year old cat lady was definitely not lost on him.
     Ten months before, when the offer to join Banks, Webster & Cohen first came in, Shane jumped at
the opportunity. The chance to practice environmental law with a renowned firm
caught his interest within seconds. The chance to one day make the type of money
they were telling him was possible sealed the deal. 
      Within weeks the new car smell of the whole thing began to wear off. By Thanksgiving
the closest he'd been to the environment or big money was accidentally wondering
into the Public Gardens on his way home one evening. 
      With a heavy sigh, Shane tossed his pen down on the desk and rocked back in his chair. He unknotted
his tie and let it hang down from either side of his neck, placing his
fingertips along his temples and kneading in slow, even circles. After several
long moments he dropped his hands to his side, leaned forward and slid open the
bottom drawer from his desk. He withdrew an ancient clock radio and plugged it
into the wall behind him.
     Brought it in especially for the occasion, Shane adjusted the dial through a sea of static
before finding what he was looking for. Clear and even, the familiar graveled
voice of Ron Rickshaw floated out from the speakers, filling the desolate two-six.
     Yes sports fans, what we saw here in the first half was truly a performance for the
  ages. Ohio Tech running back Tyler Bentley, fresh off a top five finish in this
  year’s Heisman race, making a strong case that he should have been the one
  hoisting that trophy at the Yale Club three weeks ago.”

      Immediately jumping in was Rickshaw's on-air sidekick, Ken Lucas. “It’s really a
shame that the folks tuning in this evening are listening on the radio instead
of watching a television, Ron. I just don’t know that we can do Bentley's
  performance justice. Coming out of the backfield for the Crimson Knights
  Bentley had rushes of 67, 45 and 38 yards, finishing the half with nearly two
  hundred yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Forget the Heisman, this
  guy’s making a strong case that this could be his last game in a college uniform.”

       “All week Bentley has been dodging questions about foregoing his senior season and turning pro,”
Rickshaw said, “stating he will not address those issues until after the Centennial Bowl. I
tell you from the way he’s carrying the ball right now, I can’t imagine there
are too many college coaches out there that wouldn’t help him pack up his dorm room.”

      “This performance comes as no surprise to Crimson Knights fans out there though, Ron. This is
exactly what he’s managed to do pretty much all season for Coach Bob Valentine’s
club. Over sixteen hundred yards on the ground, another five hundred receiving,
a dozen touchdowns, he’s even passed for one and returned a kickoff for another.
About the only things this kid hasn’t done yet are tear tickets and hawk programs.”

      Rickshaw chuckled heartily at the comment, his husky voice rasping out through the speakers. “Right
you are Ken. Let’s take it down to the field for a moment and get the word
coming out of the locker room from sideline reporter Sue Barnes. Sue?”

      Shane took a long swig from a paper cup of tap water on his desk and rocked back as far as his chair would allow him. He put the soles of his loafers on the corner his desk and smirked slightly. 
      “Atta boy.”
      Unlike his co-workers who perpetually reminded him of their Ivy League pedigree, Shane was a card
carrying alum of Ohio Tech University. In total he'd spent seven years on campus
there, enjoying the price breaks for local students and the life that
accompanies a college town during football season. 
      Tailgates, student sections, road trips. Shane had done everything and regretted nothing.
      “Thanks Ron,” Cheng said. “I spoke with Coach Berg of the Virginia State Falcons and he said that his team had to find a
way to contain Tyler Bentley. Coming into tonight they had planned to try and
take away all other options for the Crimson Knights and force Bentley to beat
them. Right now their plan is quite the opposite. Stop Bentley and force
everyone else to beat them. 

      “On the opposite side, Tech Coach Bob Valentine said they really have no need to change up what they’re
doing. Remaining largely on the ground they’ve been able to control the clock
and the tempo of the game while building a comfortable lead. If it’s not
broke…

      “Back up to you guys in the booth.”
      “Thank you, Sue. With that we are all set to begin the second half. Darkness has fallen over Bill
Irwin Stadium here in Miami and the temperature has dropped into the high-60’s,
a perfect night for football as Virginia State kicker Drew Lenton gets ready to
kick us off.

     “Lenton draws back his standard eight yards and two to the side, has the referee’s whistle, and we're
under way here in the second half. Ohio Tech returner Maurice Welsh settles
under it just shy of the goal-line and has a bit of a crease, returning it to
about the thirty-one, make it thirty-two yard line for the Crimson Knights.”

     “Knowing that Virginia State will be crowding the line and bringing eight or nine guys into the box to
try and contain Bentley,”
Lucas interjected,
“it’ll be interesting to see if Tech tries to open it up here. Maybe catch the
defense edging forward and try to pop a big one right off the bat.”

     “First play from scrimmage Tech quarterback Nate Simmons takes the snap and drops back,”
Rickshaw said, “and he finds tight end Brent Hanson over the middle. Hanson breaks one tackle
before being drug town by a host of Falcons. That's good for an eleven yard gain
and a first down.”

     “If Virginia State is going to commit that heavily to stopping the run,”
Lucas said, “they’re going to be susceptible to that all night long. Their only hope is they can get enough
pressure on Simmons to keep him off balance, otherwise this could really be a
long night for the Falcons.”

      Rickshaw continued with the play call, not  bothering to comment on Lucas's analysis. “First
  and ten from the Crimson Knight’s thirty-three. Simmons takes the snap and
  hands off to Bentley up the middle for a gain of seven. State was pressed up
  hard onto the line, but Bentley was still able to squeeze through to the second level.”

      Shane finished the water, sat the cup on the desk beside his computer and checked his watch. “One more play and then back to work. I might even make it home for the fourth quarter.”
      “Right now Tech has State completely on its heels. The Falcons have no idea what’s coming and no way
of stopping it even if they did,”
 Lucas announced.
      “Here on second down Simmons takes the snap and pitches it out to Bentley, swinging hard around the
right side,”
Rickshaw said. “Nifty spin-move to avoid the first man, crosses the line of scrimmage and–
      “Oh! He just got leveled at the forty!”
       An audible groan from the crowd broke like a wave through the radio.
      “Oh my Ken, this does not look good. Tyler Bentley went down hard and he is not
  getting up.”

      Shane leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk, turning the volume up a little higher and staring intently at the
  radio.
      “I’m taking a look here on the reply,” Lucas said, “as State safety Harris Burton
comes flying in and…”
He let his voice trail off, offering only a slight
gasp as he sucked in a breath of air between his front teeth.
      “Folks,” Rickshaw said earnestly, “I know you can’t see this right now and be thankful for that. Burton quite literally just
put his helmet through the knee of Tyler Bentley. This does not look good.”

      “Oh my, Ron,” Lucas said. “As you can see on the replay, it’s a perfectly legal hit. Burton works off a block
and throws himself at Bentley, who’s foot is planted. Boy did he take a shot right there.”

       Shane slid back in the chair and rested his chin on his chest. He closed his eyes and returned his fingertips to his
temples, massaging them in even circles.



     “The
  angle that his knee is in just after Burton connects is difficult to watch
  folks,”
Rickshaw said, a certain measure of sorrow in his voice. “Not
surprisingly, they are immediately calling for the stretchers.



“We can
only hope this looks worse than it actually
is.”


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