THE NEXT FEW months were busy with classes, studying cases, memorizing facts, creating legal briefs for assignments, writing, writing, reading, and more writing!
All while I was doing this, I was making plans to go up to the Fehlers’ place in New Albany for Christmas this year. I was so excited to see her in-person, and not on a video screen! We made the most of our daily calls, but it wasn’t the same! The trip was also going to be my one real chance to see everything Beth had planned for our wedding too. I was really looking forward to it with as happy as the preparations were making her!
I had to get through Thanksgiving first though, and ended up going up to Aunt Ruth’s for the holiday since she insisted I wasn’t allowed to be alone! They were in the midst of moving out of their large house, with their kids picking through long stored possessions of theirs too. Judge Ruth Jones would be taking her place on the Supreme Court after the holiday for her lifetime appointment! Because of that they had sold their house and were moving to one just outside the capital.
We had just finished dinner on Thanksgiving and I tried calling Beth. She didn’t answer, but I figured she was probably just busy. I soon found myself helping out with sorting and packing Judge Jones law library, and became quite distracted when she gave me two two-hundred-year-old law books to keep! They were in as perfect of condition as any book that age could be, and I thanked her profusely. Her youngest daughter Jenny was the closest to my height, only a bit over a foot taller than me, which made her kind of my go to friend those couple of days that I stayed in the full house. It was a chaotic place with Judge Jones' large family, and I felt overwhelmed through most of my stay there, as her four kids and four grandkids made their previously quiet house – very not quiet!
I had a good time though, and I was kept quite busy until I left to drive home to my apartment at Harlan Saturday morning. It was only then that I realized Beth hadn’t ever called me back. Thinking it was quite odd, I tried calling her again.
“We’re sorry, but the phone number you have dialed has been disconnected…”
“What?!?” I shouted.
I dialed it again, manually, to see if I just had some weird bug. The same message played.
I tried her dad’s number.
I had her mom’s number and tried it too.
“What’s going on?” I said aloud.
I called Dad, “Dad, do you have any idea why Beth and her family’s numbers are all ringing as disconnected?”
“No…? Let me try from here, maybe you have a bad line.”
We hung up and I watched the highway pass by for a few minutes before he called me, “I have no idea Cameron… Maybe their phone bill got messed up?”
“I’m worried Dad,” I told him.
“Give it a day… if it’s still that way we’ll see what else we can find out.”
When I made it back to my apartment I called again.
I used my computer to try and contact her via messaging apps.
I had some access to state and national records requests through the law school that I immediately got to work diving into the next week since I still hadn’t heard from her! I found information on their house in New Albany in a records database under her mother’s maiden name. I was excited to have picked up the trail since I still hadn’t been given their address yet for safety reasons. My relief immediately turned to disbelief, and dismay, as I discovered it had been sold for cash… cheap and quick, the day after Thanksgiving!
I tried searching for any other sign of records for Mr. and Mrs. Fehler, but came up empty.
I almost drove up right then to check on them, but I received some follow-up from the new property owner the day I was considering it. They confirmed the Fehlers had left even before the house was rapidly sold with all of the contents in it.
Over the next weeks, no matter how I searched, no matter who I enlisted to help me, the Fehlers seemed to have fallen off the face of the planet!
I had half-hoped I would see a filing in Ames by a judge about a case against Mr. Fehler for failing to raise his daughter according to the stipulations. A case that maybe showed contempt of court, or anything!
The morning I flew home for Christmas I held the desk piece she had made for me of her poem, Inches, and couldn’t help but fear I had been thwarted by mere inches yet again.
CHRISTMAS PASSED BY, and Dad and I took a trip to see if we could pick up any piece of the trail on the Fehlers. The property owner mentioned he had found a bunch of receipts that seemed like they probably were needed by them for some tax write-offs, so he’d not thrown them away. When he handed them to me, I couldn’t help but blanch at the sight of diapers in both the right size for Beth… and also a bigger size that would probably have fit her mother.
“What the Hell happened to them, Dad?” I asked him.
“No idea Cameron… Do you have any idea what the job was that they were looking at? That’s the only other lead I can think of?”
I shook my head. He was right, that was our best lead, so we focused on asking questions about that. Unfortunately that led to its own dead end as we asked around town about them. After a few days of finding nothing, Dad flew home, and I drove home to my lonely apartment. The clutter that had built up got to me, and I began binge cleaning almost immediately to cope with my stress about Beth. One of the worst parts of my apartment was a tall pile of junk mail sitting on a counter by the door. I began tackling it with a large trash bag, shredding as needed, and tossing the mail that was truly worthless.
I hadn’t tackled it since before Thanksgiving, so it was quite a pile! I noticed the ad I had saved from Serendipity Industries. I was about to just throw it away, but instead sat down at my desk and opened up my browser on my computer. I searched the company and found it was just a front company being held by another major corporation, SafeFoods.
“Well, I thought it sounded kind of like something Addy’s parents would be involved in,” I shook my head as I threw it away. “I wonder how many people get caught by those free money ads for being a guinea pig?”
Before I could think much more about it though my phone rang. Like every time it rang, I looked at it hoping it would be Beth, but instead saw that it was Aunt Ruth.
“Hi, Aunt Ruth,” I said to her over the video screen.
“Any word about Beth?”
I shook my head, “Dad and I ran into a complete dead end up in New Albany. I don’t know what happened… There was a receipt for diapers in both her and her mom’s sizes that got left behind. I’m worried something bad happened to them and either her dad had to run away with them… or they were adopted and something happened to him.”
“I’m sure he’ll make contact with you eventually Cam,” she told me.
“I hope so… We’re supposed to be married in June… How can things like this keep happening to me?” I couldn’t completely hold back the tears.
She had a tear on her face too, “I don’t know Cameron, but I’m sure things will work out in the end. Be patient!” She sighed, “I needed to call and tell you that I think David Benson from Benson and Stein is going to be giving you a call.”
“About?” I asked while thinking, ‘They’re one of the biggest firms out there for Little Rights and Malfeasance cases!’
“About a job.”
“Really? Why me?”
“Well, I might have had a conversation with him and Kendra Stein at a reception the other night at a conference. I told them about this brilliant law student who I thought would fit their firm really well.”
“Thanks for that.”
“Well, you deserve it! You have a brilliant legal mind and I know you’ll do well. At some point I hope you end up sitting on the bench yourself.”
“Not likely with my size,” I told her.
“Not impossible though – there are no laws against it you know!”
I laughed lightly, “I do know… Thanks for letting me know they might be calling.”
“Cameron, take advantage of this if they call. It’s the right move for you to get a good start. Even if you don’t stay with them for more than a few years, you’ll have time to get your feet wet, and some cases under your belt.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” I said.
“And Cameron, let me know if you hear anything about Beth. I’ll do all I can to help out if I need to…”
I smiled, “I know you will, thanks, Aunt Ruth.”
We hung up and it was only then that I realized in the short time I had known her she had kind of taken on the role of a surrogate mom. Not like a mommy, mind you, but a caring mom who wanted to see me succeed.
After I got off the phone with her, I began doing some research on Benson and Stein. It was pretty remarkable actually, as it was a team of a Mid and a Big for the partners of the firm… and the Mid’s name was first! I thought it might have just been alphabetical at first, but reading into some of their cases it seemed more like the Mid, David Benson, was the one that led everything in the courtroom. Kendra Stein, his partner, seemed to be almost there more for literal muscle. Their cases were truly intriguing to me as they tended to run the gamut of abused Littles, improperly adopted Littles, Mids with rights reduced, and other civil rights cases, all the way to cases of things like companies committing ethical violations in their testing. I saw a couple of cases of suits involving illegal uses of chemicals to do things to patients at daycares and hospitals listed too.
In short, I suddenly found myself really hoping they would call!
It wasn’t a right away phone call for them though. Instead, two days later I had a professor mention they’d gotten a call and they were checking up on me. I kept busy while I waited for them to obviously vet me before approaching me. In the meantime, I was busy with preparing a case with my group of friends for the Law School to litigate about a drug patent. I’d gotten dragged into doing it because of my chemistry degree, and I dragged my friends in to help me. The minutia of preparing the briefs and the court filings kept me busy and unable to dwell on Beth as much.
Not that I wasn’t still constantly worried about her, and hopelessly searching everywhere for her and her parents! Staying busy was a way to cope with my loss though.
During the third week of the semester, I received a phone call, “Mr. Sylvester?” I heard on the other side of the line.
“My name is Kendra Stein, with the Benson and Stein Law Firm. We’re looking for a couple of young attorneys to join our staff, and your name has been brought up to us by a few people. I was wondering if you might be willing and able to meet with my partner at our office this Friday.”
“I’d be happy to!” I told her. “I didn’t submit an application or anything, do I need to do so?”
She laughed, “Trust me, your application was submitted for you by your excellent work.”
“Where’s your office located?”
“We’re in downtown Crescent City, not far from the courthouse.”
“Okay, I’ll have to see about finding a place to stay the night. Any chance you know of any hotels that would be Mid friendly? I tried renting an apartment last summer and that resulted in a small claims suit…”
She laughed, “We know, it was a great pleasure to see the court ordered them to pay you for that one! We’ll arrange your hotel and accommodations, as well as pay for a stipend for your gas and meals on your trip up here. Do you think you can be up here by say… two o’clock?”
I looked at my calendar, “I have a class, but I think Professor Roberts will let me out of it for this.”
“Sounds good, looking forward to meeting you!”
I hung up the phone and felt excited that a career I dreamed of was within my grasp.
Then I felt sad that it looked like the love of my life wouldn’t be able to join me.
THE REST OF the week flew by with coursework keeping me busy. I also took time to put together a portfolio of my best work on briefs for the university’s legal team, a copy of my resume, and some of the decisions that I had formally assisted Judge Jones with.
Driving in my car to Crescent City, I couldn’t help but wish this had happened a couple months ago when I could have just stayed with her! She’d bought a house with her husband about thirty minutes outside the Capital where they were able to get a bit of land around them, along with a wall and a security system that was certainly needed for someone in her position. She’d gotten approved by the slimmest of majorities through the senate after her decision this summer almost universally disqualified her in the minority party’s view. Whatever had taken her over the finish line though, she was now a justice until she decided to retire or died – and I knew her personally! It made me smile a little to think about that.
Unfortunately, that just gave me more time to think about Beth's disappearance while I drove. I really had tried everything I could short of one of those damn bounty hunters like Ms. Dane had used. Nothing seemed to pop up no matter where I searched, and I just hoped that maybe her dad had gotten them out in the nick of time from whatever had gone wrong.
Eventually the city’s tall skyscrapers came into view and the car navigated to a parking garage they told me to use. “Sir?” The attendant at a gate asked.
“Hi, I’m here to meet with Benson and Stein?”
“Cameron Sylvester,” I said and watched the guard type my name in.
He looked up, “You’re expected. If you’ll enable the auto-guide feature of your car we’ll get you parked. You’ll want to take the elevator to the lobby, and then they’ll get you to your floor.”
“Thank you,” I said appreciatively and okayed the prompt my car was showing me.
A lot of times I still had to manually drive the car with the hand controls in the garages and parking lots of places, but this was clearly a place that had invested in an auto-parking system. It soon had me parked in a row of spaces mere feet from the elevators he’d mentioned.
I opened my car door and straightened my tie out. I pulled my suit coat on, and grabbed my briefcase. I found the elevator had two sets of controls, one for Bigs, and one for Littles. Seeing as how the Littles were closer, I almost used them, but the last thing I wanted to do was appear weak if anyone was watching. I leaned up on my tip-toes and pressed the lobby button on the taller panel.
I found myself in a large imposing lobby with a reception desk to one side. I walked over to it and said, “Good afternoon, would you please direct me to Benson and Stein’s office?”
The tall woman looked down at me and gave me a demeaning smile. “Why would you be going to their offices?”
“Just directions please Ma’am,” I told her.
She gave me a look like she wanted to argue, but someone else walked up then and she said, “Take that elevator over there to the forty-second floor. They have a receptionist there that will get you to wherever you need to go.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” I told her with a smile. ‘I sure hope not many Littles try and get up there on their own…’
I walked into an open elevator and was going to use the Bigs panel again, but ‘42’ was way too high up on it. I instead sighed and pushed the ‘42’ that was about my shoulder height on the Littles panel. It looked like there were a total of fifty floors in the building, but even at the forty-second floor I knew it would be a higher office than I had ever been in!
For being so high up in the air, the ride was surprisingly quick! I stepped out into the office and was surprised to see a receptionist that was a Little. “Can I help you sir?”
I smiled at her, “My name is Cameron Sylvester, I have an appointment?”
She looked down at a tablet she had turned on and nodded, “Yes sir, give me just a moment to let them know you’re here. Would you like water or something while you wait?”
I looked at her and realized if there was ever a random secretary, I would trust it would be her, but shook my head, “No thank you. Do you have a restroom though by chance?”
She smiled, “Down the hall and to the left.”
I made a quick pit stop before walking back and sitting down in a chair near her desk.
I wasn’t seated long before a man a smidge taller than me, and probably close to fifty, came to me from a hallway. “Mr. Sylvester?”
I stood, “You must be Mr. Benson?”
“I am, David though please, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you! My partner and I have heard really great things about you from multiple sources. We’re looking forward to speaking with you today,” he said.
“You all have a great reputation here; I’m looking forward to it too!”
I was led to a conference room where a tall woman was already seated. She stood when I entered the room, and Benson said, “Cameron, this is Kendra Stein, my partner here at the firm.”
She held her hand out to me, “Cameron Sylvester, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” I told her.
She towered over me, and I guessed her height was a few inches shy of being twelve feet. She was dressed in a tan skirt suit that flattered her figure quite well. “Please, have a seat,” she said and directed me to a desk chair that pneumatically took me to a height I could see over the table without the need for a booster seat. ‘Hmm… I need one of these…’
“Well, let’s just get down to business,” David said. “We’re looking for a couple of new lawyers to join our team as our caseload is increasing recently. Kendra and I would prefer to give a bit of a helping hand to some students from our alma mater at Harlan if we can. I was already going to speak with some professors there, but before I did so Judge Jones mentioned you at a reception…” I soon found out that they’d been looking into me for a while and vetted me with every source they could, “So, we’re sure that you’re a quality person that will probably be a big help to our firm. What we want to know is, would you be interested?”
I nodded, “I appreciate that, and I am interested! Before we start hammering out details though, I would like to know what my role will be?”
Our conversation was a cordial one that went on far longer than I think any of us anticipated, but at the end of it we shook on a deal for me to be hired and making a six-figure salary in my first year, before case bonuses! We also discussed who else might be a match for the firm, and I suggested my friend Edgar who would be a good Big to add to offset my height. That was something they were looking for to create a balanced team.
I left the meeting and called Dad first to tell him the good news. He was just as excited as I was, and told me that when he retired in five years, he would come join me there. My next phone call had to be to my ‘Aunt Ruth’ of course. She was properly congratulatory, but most importantly I thanked her for her part in getting me the job!
Even with a great job in hand before graduation… All I could think about was Beth... What happened to her…?
In June our wedding date came, and instead of waiting for her at the front of the aisle, I found myself surrounded by Dad’s arms crying. Fortunately for me he had thoughtfully come out to visit me in Crescent City that week as I moved into a new apartment.
More than anything, I just wanted to know that she was safe!!!
I will be posting more chapters on Friday of this week most likely. Thank you to those who have commented!
Thanks for reading!
NxK · Jan 13, 2022Scared of what's happened in the story, but can't wait for Friday to see what will happen! Thank you as always for the stories!