I groaned softly as I settled back at my desk, reaching down surreptitiously to massage one of my calves.
“Too many trips to the copier again, Zainab?” My boss asked me sympathetically on her way by with her third cup of coffee.
I heaved a deep sigh, starting to respond, but she was already back through her office door, letting it swing mostly closed as she settled in, sipping her coffee. I shook my head and shifted my massage to my sore feet. It certainly wasn’t my fault they installed the copier on the far side of the floor – and it wasn’t Cleo’s fault that she needed things copied a hundred times a day.
I’d been Cleo’s assistant for not quite a year, on my fifth attempt at finding a steady job in the field. My first boss had been a kindly older man, but his second heart attack had forced his retirement, and there’d been no other job open for me that wouldn’t have required more sucking up than I was willing to do. My second boss had tried to convince me that assistants always worked until 3 a.m. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind long hours. I don’t have a life for them to interfere with anyway. Still, if I wanted to work eighteen hour days seven days a week, I could have gone to law school – and then I wouldn’t be holding down assistant jobs for crap pay and no benefits. The third and fourth jobs…well, the less said about those, the better.
Then I had come to Briggs and Associates, a tiny law firm that consisted of Cleo Briggs and her partner, the elderly man whose practice she had taken over. He was near retirement, but apparently didn’t like his wife all that much – so a young, ambitious lawyer who could take over his practice while not making him work too hard fit him like a glove.
Cleo also had two paralegals who worked for her, but I rarely saw them much. They worked on another floor of the office building where the law firm had its offices, and we shared them with two other such firms, so I basically only knew them as names on interoffice mail envelopes.
Cleo Briggs had made a reputation for herself as a trial lawyer in her late twenties – now in her late thirties, she practiced mostly as a trial consultant to larger firms. She still cut quite an imposing figure on the rare occasions she actually went to a trial, though – tall, fit, caramel skinned, long legs, cold brown eyes – she was the very image of a ruthless, bloodsucking lawyer.