1. the science or philosophy of law.
  2. a body or system of laws.
  3. a department of law: medical jurisprudence.

The text came soon after their morning conversation. The message was simple, direct: I found someone for you to talk to. Meet me at 809A Cambridge St. in 15.

“Thank God,” Angie breathed, feeling relief flood her body.

She searched her memory, knowing Cambridge Street well enough to direct a tourist there, but unfamiliar with this exact address. Within seconds she’d plugged in the location. She was surprised to find 809A was nestled across the street from her favorite doughnut shop, but understood how she could miss it, given she was usually so enraptured by the aroma of sugar she saw nothing but the doughnut store itself during her weekly visits.

Be right there!, she messaged back.

Things were busier on Cambridge than she’d expected. Her nervousness grew as she searched for a parking space, the minutes ticking away. The thought of losing her chance at funding for lack of a parking space, seemed like the ultimate irony.

Angie made a quick right into the parking garage, finding a space at the far end. She sent a quick message to let Amrin know she was still coming.

Shuffling through her bag, she grabbed her proposal and her purse, double checked her makeup and ran toward the exit.

Amrin flagged her down with a quick wave of his hand. Standing well over 6 feet, he was easy to spot.

His usual easy smile was gone, replaced by a more serious look. He had changed as well, trading in his usual ripped jeans, faded tee, and sandals for slacks, a tucked in button-up shirt, and loafers.

Normally Angie would’ve thought he was trying to impress her, but he seemed to look nervous today–nice and pulled together, but thoroughly nervous. She pushed the thought aside as she approached him, guessing he must just want her to succeed at her business pitch. He knew how much this meant to her.

“Ready?” Even his tone was more serious. Her stomach churned as her own nerves rose to the surface.

Angie gave a quick nod, clasping her portfolio to her chest as she followed Amrin into the men’s clothing store.

Inside the dimly-lighted store fabric, clothing, thread, and buttons were tucked into every corner of the claustrophobic store. Eyes of dozens of men turned toward them as Amrin led them to the counter where two men were talking.

Men of every size packed the small shop. Some were having their measurements taken, others were trying on pieces of tailored clothing, while still others were inspecting bolts of fabric. It took Angie a moment to realize she seemed to be the only woman in the entire store.

With a few words, Angie somehow missed, one of the men at the counter left and headed toward the back, behind a thick grey pinstripe curtain. Angie looked around the shop, noticing one tailor working steadily while others seemed busy with all the store had to offer.

“Follow me.” The tall man held aside the curtain, leading them toward a green door at the back of the store. But instead of heading out the door, he made a quick gesture to his right. A small door on the floor was open revealing a set of concrete steps, down into what looked like a shelter.

Amrin led the way. Angie stayed close behind him, straining to see.

Once they stood on solid ground, the door above was quickly closed. Angie moved closer to Amrin than she had ever dared. They had been friends for years and he had always been helpful, but when he confessed to having a crush on her, Angie was careful to maintain physical boundaries. Now as she stood peering into the darkness, boundaries seemed to be less important.

It took a minute before her eyes adjusted to the room. Once they did, she realized the scant bit of light was pointed in the direction of a small figure hunched on the other side of the room beside a massive man.

Angie moved closer until Amrin firmly grabbed her elbow.

A closer look revealed a petite woman wrapped in a bright yellow silk kimono, thin frail fingers peeking beneath the long, richly colored sleeves. To Angie the woman resembled a golden raisin, shriveled and small, but somehow possessed the air of a monarch reigning from her throne. She seemed statuesque, seated against the concrete wall. Except for the quick piercing grey eyes set deeply in her head, she moved very little.

Angie guessed the woman must’ve been in her 80s.

With the door closed behind them Angie felt a world away from the bustling activity in the store above. The silence was tempered only by Amrin’s heavy breathing. Angie glanced in his direction, her eyes adjusting to the darkness and noticed a sheen of sweat forming on his forehead. This lower level was warmer, but not as suffocating as the small shop above. She shrugged off his strange behavior.
“I’m intrigued by your venture, Ms. Dupree.”
The small woman’s voice caught Angie off guard. It was clear, almost youthful for someone who appeared ancient. Her accent was heavily coated with the sound of Essex.
“From the little I’ve been told, I can say with enthusiasm that your business sounds promising.”
Hope cautiously bubbled in Angie’s blood as she noticed the woman seemed anything but enthused.
“I’m certain this is the opportunity I’ve been looking for, Ms. Dupree and I’m ready to back you, for an 80 percent cut of your weekly profits.”
Angie’s excitement crumbled.
“Eighty percent?! Are you insane? Absolutely not! That’s robbery!”
“Who do you think you’re talking to?” The woman’s tone was cold, exacting, silencing Angie.
The oversized man to the woman’s left reached across his body slipping his hand into his suit jacket.
With her small lifted hand, the tiny woman put a halt to the bodyguard’s motions.
Angie’s blood cooled in her veins. Amrin remained quiet.

It quickly became clear that only Angie was unaware of the jurisprudence of the situation.

“Mr. Singleton, you said your friend was in need of financing,” the woman said patiently. “I’m not sure she’s aware of that fact. She seems quite ungrateful.”

Amrin was silent.

“I’ll give you two a moment to talk this over, Mr. Singleton.”

The woman left slowly, her bodyguard following closely as they moved toward the far wall. With a gentle press, the concrete gave way with a scraping sound. Light pored from the space until the man’s girth filled the doorway.

“Mayor Bellingham,” the old woman spoke with warmth now, “how’s your hand looking this round?”

The door scraped close again leaving Angie and Amrin in silent panic.

“Amrin! Who exactly am I talking to,” Angie hissed, sweat creating damp rings on the cotton tee beneath her suit jacket. “Who’s this old lady? Because she doesn’t seem to quite fit the profile of an angel investor.”

She wanted to wrap her shaky hands around his throat, but decided against it, considering she needed some fast answers.

“She’s mad now,” Amrin stammered.

“Who is she,” Angie demanded.

“Helen Lancaster-Bordeaux.”

That name froze Angie’s thoughts for a split second until she remembered how impossible this situation was.

Helen Lancaster-Bordeaux, the self-made billionaire turned black widow had dethroned her husband Jacques Bordeaux and run several institutions throughout the city back in the 60s, before being killed by one of her closest allies, or so the rumors said.

Angie burst into laughter, as her mind recalled enough facts to calm her nerves. Her laughter bounced off the walls until Amrin clasped a quick hand over her mouth.

Angie wiggled free of his sweaty palms.

“What’s wrong with you,” he demanded. The fear in his voice halted her laughter, scaring her silent.

“Helen Lancaster-Bordeaux is dead,” Angie said, realizing her head was pounding now. “She died almost 40 years ago!”

Amrin shook his head.

“That’s what she’s wanted everyone to think,” he hissed, “but she’s alive and well and able to raise and lower her hand and altar your life. So at least show some respect, Angie. She may not run the entire region like she used to, but she holds sway in this city and can help you. ”

The silence seemed almost deafening as Angie tried to comprehend what Amrin was saying. She shook her head. This was impossible. Her anger boiled over.

“This morning when I said I needed money for my business venture, I meant an opportunity to talk with an investor or maybe someone at a bank about funding my food truck–not some corrupt, crazed woman who is willing to use my business to further her illegal deeds and fillet me like a fish if I step out of line,” she hissed back.

The entire scenario seemed impossibly crazy.

“How do you even know her?!”

“I did some volunteer work for her my senior year… Remember, when I needed an internship to graduate?”

Angie shot him a foul look of disbelief mixed with incredulous anger.

“When you said you were working with senior citizens, I thought you meant at a convalescent home reading to them or something–maybe playing some chess–not working in some seedy den of iniquity!”

Her voice rose uncontrollably, bouncing off the walls.

“Calm down, you’re going to get us killed,” he hissed back.

“Wait… she wouldn’t kill us would she?” The thought seemed inconceivable and all too plausible.  “I mean you know her, right? She wouldn’t do that to you!”

“I’ve worked with her, but that doesn’t mean I’m not expendable.”

Panic consumed Angie’s mind.

“We have to leave…” she stammered, dropping her proposal. Papers cascaded to the floor.

Angie ran into the darkness toward the steps, slipping on papers before falling into the concrete floor. Amrin’s strong arms lifted her easily to a standing position, holing her steady.

The concrete door scraped open, laughter and light filling the empty basement once more. Angie’s heart thudded, catching in her throat and she tried to think of a way to escape. All she wanted was to have a food truck to share her grandmother’s recipes and now she was going to die or lead a life of crime.

“No matter what happens, stay calm,” Amrin hissed through gritted teeth, shoving her behind him.





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