Rachel Thompson

Poison Pill by M.A. Granovsky (Excerpt)


Chapter 1
October 14, 2010 (eight months earlier)


Olga returned a few minutes later looking much happier.

“All handled then?” asked Benedict.

“Yep. I found Robert, the associate who’s actually on this case and who didn’t know anything about the settlement. He contacted another partner on the case, who contacted my insane boss and pretended that he’d already instructed Robert to mark up the agreement. So I’m off the hook. Part of me is sad that we calmed McIvor down. He’s less likely to develop an aneurism or a fatal heart attack.”

“And these byzantine machinations are normal in your world?”

“Normal? That’s an interesting term. Frequent, certainly. But I hope not to stay at that place long enough for them to appear normal to me.” Olga drank from the water glass the bartender had placed on the bar along with her ordered shot.

“What kind of lawyer are you?” asked Benedict

“A litigatrix. I still love saying the word even though I loathe what being one entails. I litigate patent-related matters.”

“Your firm sounds like a modern-day torture chamber.”

“It’s not just my firm. Most big law firms are similar. Come to think of it, though, this firm does have an unusually high asshole quotient.”

“My brother used to say that every situation is either a good situation or a good story. I’ll bet you have some good stories.”

Olga sighed. “I have thousands.”

“Tell me a few.”

Olga stared at the liquor bottles behind the bar unseeingly, trying to come up with a particularly illustrative example.

“Okay,” she said, turning back to Benedict and again becoming disconcerted by his looks. “My best friend was marrying a Marine who served three tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He was given short leave just to get married before being sent back. There was no way I was missing this wedding, but because of work I planned to fly out on Friday evening and come back on Sunday afternoon. Except that McIvor had other ideas. He went ballistic when I reminded him that I was taking part of that weekend off. Turned out he’d screwed up and had forgotten to give me an assignment the client was expecting on the following Monday, an assignment that had sat on his desk for over a month by then.

“I really thought that the mention of Marines and Afghanistan would shut him up, but I was wrong. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s your own sister coming back from Mars to get married.’ The choice was clear, either cancel the trip or face the possibility of losing the job.”

“And did you? Cancel the trip, I mean?”

“I didn’t. But I did work at the airport, and at the hotel, and through the night after the reception.”

“Let me guess. McIvor met you with flowers and chocolates when you returned.”

Olga laughed. “No, he met me with deafening silence on this matter for the next couple of weeks. When I finally asked about the client’s reaction to my memo, he said ‘Didn’t I tell you? The client called me on the Friday before the deadline and said he wasn’t going forward with the project. So I never sent him your memo. It was a real bitch convincing Kress,’ that’s our managing partner, ‘to write off your time. Why did you spend so many hours on it anyway?’”

Benedict shook his head. “Brilliant!”

“Oh, and here’s a doozy!” Olga continued. “It’s Christmas Eve two years ago. A male partner and a female associate leave a deposition together. He’s 6’3”, 350 pounds easy. She’s 5’1”, 100 pounds soaking wet. Leaving aside the fact that she’s schlepping all the deposition materials in a heavy box while he is carrying just a dainty Hermès leather briefcase, he spots a homeless man sprawled on the sidewalk and wants to do something good because it’s Christmas. So he fishes a twenty out of his wallet, gives it to the associate, and tells her to give it to the homeless man. He actually says, ‘I’m too disgusted to touch the guy myself, so you go give it to him.’” Olga stopped and took a deep breath. “Okay, that’s plenty. There’s a fine line between telling stories and devolving into a psychotic rant.”

Benedict picked an olive out of his martini glass and chewed reflectively. “Why don’t you leave?” he asked eventually.

“I plan to. Just as soon as I figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” Olga passed her finger along the rim of her shot glass, seeing if she could make it sing. She was growing bored with the conversation. It was far too similar to the reel that was constantly playing in her mind. “Can we please change the subject? If I spend so much of my discretionary time speaking about Kress Rubinoff then they win, and I’m determined not to let them.”

Benedict raised an eyebrow. “Do they even know you’re at war with them?”

“Probably not, which is even more frustrating. Seriously, new topic, please. Impotent rage is not an attractive emotion.”

Benedict looked down into his martini glass. “I’m very familiar with impotent rage,” he said quietly, but didn’t elaborate.

Olga unilaterally decided to switch directions before the conversation descended into even greater gloom. “Why are you going to Istanbul?” she asked.

“Research.” Benedict brightened in response to the new topic. “I’m a historian specializing in the Ottoman Empire. I go over at least twice a year because much of what I need is in the Imperial archives.”

“I’d have thought these papers would be digitized by now to minimize human contact with the originals.”

“Many have been, but thankfully not all. Life’s going to be awful once everything is available online and there’s no good excuse to travel for work.”

“That would be a bleak world, indeed. So you’re an academic? Tenured?”

Benedict smiled. “And by ‘tenured’ you’re implying old,” he teased Olga, who shook her head vehemently at his remark. “No, I’m still working on my Ph.D.,” he explained. “And yes, I am well over thirty.”

“You’re a grad student?” Olga’s eyes widened in surprise. “How does a grad student afford business class?” she asked, and immediately regretted her intrusion into his finances even though Benedict didn’t seem to take offense.

“Trust fund. Mine’s not sufficient to make working for a living unnecessary, but it does help to make life more civilized. You do ask a lot of questions, don’t you,” he said when Olga looked like she was about to speak again, but his smile neutralized some of the sting his words carried.

“Yes,” she said, biting off the question she actually wanted to ask. Then she suddenly gasped. “Rock climbing!”

“Sorry, what?” Benedict appeared confused.

“Your hand. I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember what those calluses reminded me of, and I finally got it. My friend climbs and his hand feels like yours. Sorry, got us completely off topic, but I did warn you of my tendency to do so.”

“Quite all right. What else can you deduce, Sherlock?”

“Alas, not much. You spent your formative years in England but you’ve been living in the U.S. for a while now. At some point in the last few years you lost between twenty and thirty pounds. You’re a smoker who’s trying to quit, hence the nicotine gum in your bag’s pocket.”

Olga paused to drink her vodka. “I scare my father when I say vodka tastes sweet to me,” she said. “In Russia, that was considered the sign of a true alcoholic.”

“So your name fits. You are Russian.”

“Not ethnically. I was born in Russia, but my parents are German on the one side and Jewish on the other. Queue long argument about whether Judaism is only a religion or an ethnicity, but in the Soviet Union it was considered an ethnicity so that’s how I define it, too. And my father is a descendant of those Germans who came over during the reign of Catherine the Great and settled on the Volga about 250 years ago. All were shipped off to Siberia by Stalin during the war and allowed back only much, much later. Anyhow, my parents couldn’t agree on a name from either of their heritages so they went with Olga.” She waved her hand. “But we’re off topic again. I was telling you you’re trying to quit smoking. Except I might have that wrong. You might be an unreformed smoker who’s facing a 10-hour flight on which smoking isn’t allowed. And here’s something I got completely wrong: before knowing you were a historian with a trust fund, I pegged you as one of those guys who builds algorithms for hedge funds.”

Benedict laughed. “A quant? Whatever gave you that idea?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Olga. “Perhaps because I’ve been spending far too much time with some of them for one of my cases. Now tell me everything else I got wrong.”

“The weight. It’s held steady for the past fifteen years or so. What made you think I’d lost?”

“The band on your watch. You used to use the second notch and now you’re on the fourth.”

“Impressive observation skills.”

“Impressive but entirely wrong. Fill in the blanks for me. English public school education?”

“Yes. I was born in England. We moved around quite a bit when I was growing up because of Dad’s job, but I was sent back to England to boarding school. The family was going to be in Albania for a while, and my parents thought that my brother and I would do better, academically speaking, back home. I continued a fairly peripatetic existence into adulthood, except that now home base is New York and has been for over ten years.”


“Dad was a diplomat. As you might imagine, Albania wasn’t a prize posting. For a diplomat, my father had a remarkable talent for pissing powerful people off.”

“And the watch mystery?”

“It belonged to my brother, who inherited it from Dad. He has no use for it anymore so I wear it.”

Olga took Benedict’s tone for dismay at his brother’s disregard for a family heirloom. “He prefers to tell time by his smartphone?”

“No. He’s dead,” said Benedict curtly. Olga was taken aback and fell silent. She didn’t know what to say but sensed that a trite “I’m so sorry” would land badly. Benedict stared distractedly at the stem of his martini glass, occasionally turning it a quarter of a turn. He was entirely tuned out, and when their food came, it took the bartender a couple of excuse me’s to get his attention.

Benedict pointed at his glass. “I’ll have another of those.” Then he returned to the conversation with Olga. “Thank you for the silence. You’ve no idea how I despise people murmuring ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘oh, how awful.’ What do they know.” He ran a hand through his hair, then collected himself. “There must be something about airport bars that invites confessional conversations like these. I vote we speak of the weather from now on.”

Olga agreed, and they spent the next half hour discussing safe and banal topics. Benedict glanced over at the clock above the bar. “We should get ourselves to the gate. It’s nearly time to board,” he said, pulling out his wallet and signaling to the bartender for the bill. Olga followed suit. “Glad you managed to upgrade to business.”

He picked up his travel bag and offered to carry Olga’s computer bag too. She hesitated a moment before accepting his offer. Chivalry wasn’t common in her world and she’d forgotten the appropriate response to it. Benedict was growing on her by the minute.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Legal Thriller

Rating – PG

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Maria Granovsky on Twitter & GoodReads

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS
Read Comments


Post a Comment