April 29, 1905
Although my office door was ajar, there was a slight knock. It was Long.
“Here’s the afternoon mail,” he said, placing a stack of letters and a rolled up newspaper on my desk. “Anything you need doing before I leave?”
“No, nothing. Have a good evening,” I said, reaching over to take the mail.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Emmett,” Long said. He turned, leaving my door open. I heard his heavy steps down the narrow hallway, the main door to the office squeak on its hinges at it swung open, then a sharp slam shut.
I exhaled, closed my eyes, leaned back in my chair. The day was over. Cephas was still not here.
I’d been tense all day, expecting him back from Tallahassee; I’ve been girding myself all day, I have notes in front of me about what I would say to him about the Daniels case — I had a list of things I would say to him to try to explain why I never showed up in the courtroom yesterday.
But the truth was that I was so stressed out the day before I was to defend Daniels — I’d been working nonstop for days on it so it would be perfect — that I stayed late here in the office.
I’d kept my promise to Cephas for the most part since graduation, since I became his partner, since I moved in with him. I’d not had a drink, except on rare social occasions. I limited myself to one or two drinks maximum. I was doing it — I was showing him, myself, everyone, that I was just as good as Cephas, that I could handle everything, meet all of the expectations people had of me.
In fact, the case for Daniels was beautifully assembled, if I say so myself. I was proud of it.
So, the night before the case, I finished up around 10 pm. I remember stretching, feeling good, as I organized the files in front of me, cleaned up the desk.
I deserve a break, I remember telling myself. I’ve worked hard. I earned it.
I rooted around in Cephas’ closet, and I found his precious stock of fine, twenty-year-old Scotch.
I opened one of the bottles — I remember holding the bottle in my hand, and inhaling the strong, nutty smell of the alcohol. My mouth literally watered at the scent.
I took a crystal glass from Cephas’ sideboard. I poured two fingers of the lovely brown liquid — I held the glass in my hand, cradling it only for a moment — then I downed the entire thing.
It burned all the way down. I gasped for breath; I wiped my mouth, my eyes, on my shirt sleeves.
I caught my breath. I laughed out loud as I felt my face flushed, a tingling go up my spine.
“Hello, old friend,” I said to the bottle, as I poured another glass full.
And I suppose you can guess what happened next.
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