Chapter Six

Chapter Six

A Chapter by Oliver Sands



Mark did not know why he felt that way, but when private detective Harry Smiley entered his office, he looked more like an Italian mob enforcer to Mark. Granted, the name Smiley was not Italian. Nevertheless, he still looked the part. 

He seemed to be in his forties and was as wide as Mark’s front door. He was very short, and looked like a person who would relish a knife fight. His head was completely shaved, and he had a diamond earring in his left earlobe, with a noticeable scar on his left cheek, which made him look more menacing. When God was distributing handsome faces to men, he must not have been present, Mark thought.

After Harry Smiley introduced himself, he looked at Daniela, who was still seated on the corner chair, and then said to Mark, “I was hoping to talk to you alone.  What I have to say is very confidential.”

He wore a blue Guayabera over khaki pants that seemed too small for his huge physique, and had a booming voice, which made Mark wonder whether he was a member of the Sicilian opera, if one even existed.

“This is Daniela Curtis, my paralegal. I don’t hide anything from her. Have a seat,” Mark said to the private detective, while pointing to one of the two chairs facing his desk.

“I’ll come right to the point, Mr. Stone,” Harry said, fixing his eyes on him as soon as he was seated. “I have a client who is not too happy about you getting involved in the Prentiss case.”

How did they find out about this so fast? I have yet to do anything in the case and I’m already making someone nervous, Mark thought. That did not make him feel good. When he lived in New York, he had heard that the mob was involved in real estate.  Hearing Harry convey his objection to Mark’s involvement in this construction contract case, made Mark wonder whether the same situation existed in Florida.

It was quite possible that Harry’s client had nothing to do with the mob. But whoever the client was, Mark knew that the person might be dangerous. 

“Who is your client? And why would your client care about my cases?” Mark asked, as he returned Harry’s gaze.

Harry waved his fat fingers, dismissing Mark’s questions. “I don’t reveal the names of my clients.  You should know that. We know that you’ve had some problems getting clients lately, so my client wants to be generous and help you if you drop the case.”

Mark, who expected Harry’s response regarding the identity of his client, was not offended. He could see that Daniela wanted to say something, but he was glad that she didn’t.

If I agree to drop the case, how is your client going to help?” he asked, pretending to be interested in his offer.

My client is willing to hire you and pay you sixty-five thousand dollars to write a will and a prenuptial agreement for me.”

That sounds like a bribe to me,” Mark replied, amused by Harry’s boldness. “I don’t know anything about wills and prenuptial agreements.”

Mark’s reaction caused Harry to smile, which did not improve his look. This is not a bribe.  My client believes that if you spend time on the Prentiss case, you won’t have time to do the necessary research to learn about this type of law to be able to create these legal documents for me.”

“I see,” Mark said pensively. “If I take your case, what happens to the Prentiss case?”

“That’s my point,” Harry said, widening his smile. Mark was expecting to see nicotine-stained teeth. Surprisingly however, he was wrong.

Harry continued, “The Prentiss case will conflict with my interests and, as you know, an attorney can’t keep cases that have conflicting interests. You will have to choose.”

 “Those are some expensive legal documents,” Mark observed, as he twiddled his thumbs over the desk.

 “What can I say?” Harry replied, with satisfaction in his voice. “We believe in your ability to create these documents and we want to pay you well for them.”

“So who is hiring us, you or your client?” Daniela asked, which prompted both of them to look at her. She had been silent and they had almost forgotten that she was in the room.

“Me, of course,” Harry said, shifting on his seat to take a closer look at Daniela. “You see, I am not rich, Ms. Curtis. My client is just a friend who wants to help me to have a will and a prenuptial agreement to protect my interests.”

“I can see how you would have a lot of interests to protect,” Daniela said.  If she was mocking him, it did not show. “When is the wedding?”

“The date has not been set yet,” Harry replied. He paused momentarily, as if he was giving some thought to Daniela’s question. “In fact, I haven’t made any decision about who the bride is going to be. But I will definitely need the prenup in advance.  All I will have to do then is to just write in her name, when the right woman comes along.”

“I see!” Mark said, stroking his chin.  If I had listened to my gut, I would not be here facing bribery and possible mafia involvement in this case, he thought. “I’m sorry, Mr. Smiley. I can’t help because I’ve already accepted the Prentiss case. You can come back after I’m finished with the case. I can write the papers for you at that time.

He shifted back in his seat to face Mark. “I’m afraid that’s not possible. It might be too late. I might have died or gotten married.”

“I can see how your death or an emergency wedding could ruin your life.”

“I’m glad you understand,” Harry replied with a smug smile, ignoring Mark’s sarcasm.

Harry’s facial expression annoyed Mark further. He got up from behind his desk, signaling that the conversation was over. “Death and marriage can be so cruel. But I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

“Too bad,” Harry said, also getting up. “You’re making a mistake. My client is very powerful and is not going to be happy about this.”

“Did you make this offer to John Curtis too?” Daniela asked.

Harry frowned, turned slightly to look at Daniela, and asked, “Who is John Curtis?”

“John Curtis was the attorney who was previously handling the Prentiss case, and Daniela is his daughter,” Mark said. He figured that if the mob was connected to the death of Daniela’s father, Harry might be caught off-guard and reveal some hint of emotion, confirming the connection. However, Harry, who was still looking at Daniela, remained impassive.

“I’ve heard about the lawyer named Curtis,” Harry said. “I’m sorry about his death. He did a lot of good in this community, but I never met him.  Besides, he was very wealthy. Why would he need sixty-five thousand dollars?”

Harry’s last statement made Mark feel cheap. Suddenly, Mark had an idea and, instead of responding, he looked at Daniela and said, “Daniela, put the clipboard down and let’s walk Mr. Smiley to the elevator.”

Daniela, who didn’t know why Mark was being so polite to a guy who had just tried to bribe him, got up, left the papers behind, and followed both of them to the elevator, which was around the corner.

Mark and Daniela shook hands with him, and as soon as the elevator door closed behind Harry, Mark quickly said, “Let’s go! We need to reach the parking garage before he gets there.” 

Before Daniela could object, Mark was already running toward the stairs.  Daniela rushed after Mark, and they both ran down the flights of stairs. 

Daniela was lucky that she was not wearing high heels. “Do you really believe that we’ll get there before him?” she asked, as she sprinted after Mark.

“You’ve seen how slow the elevator is,” he replied, as they reached the final flight of stairs that led to the parking garage. 

Mark had left his jacket in his office and Daniela did not get a chance to pick up her purse.  When they entered the garage under the building, Mark rushed toward his old Toyota Camry. 

He pulled out the keys from his front pocket and used the remote control to open the doors for them.  They were both out of breath when they got into the car.

Mark sat behind the wheel and waited. Daniela, who was sitting in the front passenger seat next to him, asked him, “What was that all about?”

“I’m thinking that after we rejected his offer, he might have to go somewhere to meet someone to report what happened. If he does, we might be able to discover who his client is.”

“So we’re going to follow him?” Daniela asked, skeptically.  “What if he calls his client instead?”

“It’s worth a shot,” he replied. “We don’t have anything to lose.”

Soon afterwards, they saw Harry enter the parking garage.  He got into a blue Ford Taurus and drove out of the building.

They followed him at a distance as he drove north toward the criminal courthouse building, which was several miles away from the civil courthouse in downtown Miami.  Mark passed the criminal courthouse and drove a few blocks past the nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital, until they reached an old two-story office building, with a small parking lot in front. The building was painted light yellow and had several bail bond signs up front. One sign also read “Harry Smiley, P.I.”

“Damn, we followed him to his office,” Mark said, as they saw him park his car and enter the building. “I guess you’re right. He was talking on his cell phone. Maybe he already called his client.”

“Let’s wait to see if he comes out,” Daniela suggested, as they watched from across the street. “You might still be right.”

They waited for another ten minutes.  They were about to give up, when Harry came out.  He got into his car and drove a few more blocks to a strip mall. He then got out and entered a barbershop.

Mark was speechless.  He watched him sit in the barber chair and realized that the trip was wasted.

“I can’t believe it. It’s 10:30 in the morning and the guy is getting a haircut,” he swore under his breath.  “He doesn’t even have any hair.”

“Let’s go back.  We have to figure out something else,” Daniela advised.

“No. Let’s go to his office,” Mark proposed. “He must have a file there on his client.”

“What are you going to do?” Daniela asked suspiciously. “Do you think his secretary will just allow us to come in and look at his file?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll think of something to say,” Mark answered.  He did not have a clue how he was going to do it, but he was determined to find out who Harry’s client was. He believed that knowing the identity of the client might be the key to the case, and even to finding out if Daniela’s father was really murdered.  


They drove back quickly to the building and parked in one of the guest parking spots before going in. Harry’s office was on the first floor. It was the last office on the right at the end of a long hallway. There was a small sign on the door with Harry’s name on it.

They tried to turn the knob to enter, but the door was locked. Mark then knocked on the door, but there was no response. The building was old and the door frame was not completely flush with the door.

“I have a flat screw driver in my car. I think I can use it to push the spindle back inside the door to pull the door open,” Mark suggested.

Daniela’s eyes grew wide. “Are you trying to break in?” She was dismayed by Mark’s suggestion.

Mark, who was trying to convince himself that he had the courage to do it, said, “Harry is at the barbershop.  It will take him about forty-five minutes to finish. All I want is to quickly search his files or his desk to find out who his client is. It won’t take long. We’re talking about possible murder.”

“I still don’t think it’s a good idea,” Daniela said. She was shaken and conflicted by Mark’s proposition. On the one hand, she wanted to find out who her father’s murderer was. On the other hand, she did not want to break the law.

Sensing Daniela’s hesitation, Mark said, “Wait here while I get the screw driver from my car. I’ll be right back.”

When Mark returned, it did not take him long to open the door.  Harry’s office was a small room, with the desk by the only window in the room.  The shades were pulled down and it was dark inside.

Mark flipped the switch by the door to turn on the lights.  There were three chairs in the room. Two were guest chairs and one was Harry’s chair, which was behind the desk.  Like the desk, all of the chairs were full of papers.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Daniela said, as she reluctantly entered the office behind Mark.

“We’ll only be here for few minutes, tops. I promise,” Mark said. He quickly walked over to Harry’s desk and started shuffling through the papers.

Daniela did not move. She was standing in the middle of the room in fear. Mark then suggested that she go over to the file cabinet in the corner of the room to look through the files.

The top drawer was unlocked.  Daniela pulled the drawer out and was getting ready to grab the first file, when the police showed up.


© 2012 Oliver Sands

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Added on January 17, 2012
Last Updated on March 18, 2012
Tags: legal thriller, john grisham, the pelican brief, scott turow, mystery, suspense, legal


Oliver Sands
Oliver Sands


Oliver Sands is the the pseudonym for the author of the most anticipated legal thriller, The Kappa File. He is an attorney and handles government litigation. For a longer preview of The Kappa File,.. more..

Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by Oliver Sands

Chapter Two Chapter Two

A Chapter by Oliver Sands