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Six Degrees of Mistrust (7/?)
playthewoman
Title: Six Degrees of Mistrust

Rating:T/PG-13

Pairing: none, gen!fic

Warnings: language, but milder than what you'd see on the show. Also unbetaed.

Disclaimer: I do not own "Suits" or any of the content affiliated with it.

Summary: in the aftermath of the merger, relationships unravel at the old Pearson & Hardman, as the landscape of the firm changes. In the midst of it all, Travis Tanner returns and he is not the bearer of good news. The witness in Tanner's lawsuit, however, turns out to be more deeply connected to the firm than anyone could have imagined and that is only the beginning.



Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan






“Back in the good ol' USA so soon, Jinx Johnson,” he said in lieu
of greeting, as he approached Vanessa waiting for him by the already
close news stand.






She smiled seraphically at him. The streetlight nearby casted more
shadows than actual luminosity, but the restrained beauty of that
single smile alighted her delicately-drawn features perfectly.






“The world is not enough, James,” she replied airily.






“Wrong movie.”






Her smile didn't falter. “But the correct Bond. You were right,
Harvey. The investigative agency the former Darby&Cook uses in
Europe kept extremely detailed accounts of Emmeline Moretti.” She
handed him a USB flash drive and took the seizable money envelope
from him. Her smile waned, as she weighted the money in her hand.






Harvey paused, studying her attentively. “How detailed?”






“You'll see. I got you a copy of everything they had. Things I
could've gotten myself. Things I would've never had access to. And a
lot of things nobody should see or hear about another person. I got
you all types of information over the years, Harvey, but this is
beyond that. It's even nothing compromising. The woman didn't so much
as illegally cross the street in all her time in Italy, yet someone
constantly went through her life with a fine comb. It's just...,”
she stopped as if to search for the right word.






“Wrong,” he finished for her, the flash drive suddenly heavy in
the breast pocket of his jacket.






~ * ~






TriBeCa, Manhattan, Harvey's apartment






Vanessa had been right. Every little detail, confidential or
otherwise, of Emmeline's life of the past thirteen years was on that
flash drive he held in his hands now. That petite, frail woman was
flayed open on the screen of his personal laptop. With one exception
that made all the difference. How this woman was connected to his
newly-extended firm. The lengths to which Darby had gone to keep an
eye on her, however, were very telling. Harvey himself had more than
once gone on a leg for a client and stepped in to settle matters that
were more personal than business. It came with the territory of
keeping said clients attached to him and his firm.






But this was over the top and then some. Even if the whole stalking
for years weren't in itself illegal, the methods used to obtain some
of the information in that dossier had to be enough so that, if
discovered, they would bring down any law firm. And Jessica had given
him a hard time just because he had hired a kid without a degree to
be his associate, when she had managed to merge them with Wolfram &
Hart.






The worst part was that it was only the tip of the iceberg. Nobody
risked that much for a client, no matter how well-paying. Whatever
cards Courtenay held were all aces, while Darby and by extension,
they had a crappy hand. A crappy hand they played in the dark. His
light switch lived in Sunnyside, Queens.






Harvey knew he had enough on Emmeline to charter a way into her mind
and use it to fill in the nagging blank he had stumbled across. The
easiest way was painfully clear to him, but it also had the bitter
disadvantage of representing one more line to cross, after he had
just recently broken the law in his vain attempt to stop the merger.






Loath as he might be to admit it, Mike had a point. Not a very good
one, but he did have it. He had been wrong then. If not about the
merger itself, then about the way he had rushed head-first to stop
it. He should have known better. He knew Jessica, after all. He
should have seen the kind of leverage he had handed her in Mike's
secret. He should have trusted her less, instead of letting her
blindside him like that. Too late. What was done was done and they
were left with the consequences. Or at least, he was.






He wanted to talk to Donna, have her scream at him for what he was
contemplating and make him give up. But that would be cheating
himself out of both the responsibility and the decision. That wasn't,
however, his only motivation and the other reason was even harder to
take. He couldn't bear the thought of Donna thinking ill of him,
especially not after everything she had done for him. Shredding that
memo during his fraud lawsuit had been illegal, but ultimately
selfless, as she had done that to protect him. What he was
considering, albeit not perfectly legal, was monstrous.






He stood up, taking his barely touched glass of single malt with him
and walked to the window. A fantastically-lit vision of Manhattan
greeted him. He took a sip from the tumbler, as he gazed at the
resplendent city buzzing lively under the stars. It wasn't late yet
and even if it were, New York never slept. How had he gotten here?
When along the bloody struggle to save Jessica and the firm, had he
lost both? How much or how many more could he stand losing?






What would happen to Jessica, when Darby had the merest option to
throw her under the bus? What about Mike? The managing partner had no
qualms about using his secret as a weapon. She had used it against
him. She would use it against Mike himself, too. What about Donna?
Donna had lost her job once, just because she had tried to protect
him. What about someone like Louis or even that scary secretary of
him? And the rest of them? The people Mike and Donna cared about at
the firm? Like that Rachel Zane.






He felt like he couldn't breathe, his apartment both oppressive and
cavernous. He opened his balcony door and stepped outside. The clamor
of the city below arrived toned down to his ears. The early spring
evening air was cold, yet none too refreshing. He finished his drink
and moved closer to the ledge, his eyes searching in the mass of
buildings and lights the closer and the more distant neighborhoods
his own inhabited. Jessica had a house in the Village. Donna lived in
the Lower East Side. Louis had once mentioned the Upper East Side,
which was in character. Jerome Jensen, one of his favorite clients,
lived there too. Mike's shady substitute for an apartment was farther
away, across the Brooklyn Bridge.






He had once claimed he protected his own. Yet for all his winning, in
that he had failed. He couldn't protect Jessica from her own
mistakes. He couldn't protect Donna, when Jessica had fired her. And
he couldn't save Mike from Jessica's blackmail. Ultimately he
couldn't protect the firm, that was no longer theirs, either. That
Emmeline woman was a stranger and that should have made his decision
for him right there.






~ * ~






Emmeline buzzed him in without comment and opened the door on his
second knock. She looked like she had had gotten some much-needed
sleep, since they had last met.






“You keep sending things to my office and people are gonna start
talking.”






“I only signed my second expedition,” she reminded him indicating
a chair by an approximation of a coffee table somewhere not far away
from the door. Studio apartments offered not much space for
decorating, especially when someone had as many books as she did. But
he had to give her props for keeping the place spotless and in the
perfect order.






“I came to return this,” he said setting the file she had sent
him on the table.






“Are you sure you don't want to hold onto it? That's excellent
blackmail material. Coffee?”






“Blackmail material which you have no problem passing around.” He
sat in the proffered chair and immediately regretted it, as the piece
of furniture was rock-hard. She sank to the settee opposite from him,
but he didn't envy her one bit. The thing looked old and lumpy. What
did the woman have against decent furniture? “And no, thank you. I
think there's still some caffeine left in my system since the last
time.”






“Unlike my father, I don't exactly make a secret of the
circumstances of my accident,” she said making no move to retrieve
the file. “I'm afraid aside from coffee, chamomile tea and tap
water is all I have to offer you.”






“No single malt then?”






“No alcohol. Period. It's a depressant and depression of any kind
is never a good idea for a former cocaine addict.”






He nodded in understanding. Though she had managed to clear most of
her life in Italy for him, not even Vanessa had found any records of
her being in rehab, but then many organizations in the field operated
with complete anonymity. He had no idea how she had gotten off the
drug, but she clearly had.






“If you came to reopen our last conversation, then it was all for
naught. That was all I had to say on the matter, Mr. Specter.”






“Harvey,” he corrected.






“Alright, Harvey. Call me Emmeline. Knock yourself out, make fun of
it. My father picked the name, not me.”






“Well, at least, it's not Alexander,” he said remembering her
brother's names.






She laughed curtly. “Delusions of grander are tradition in my
family.”






“Truth be told, I don't have much room to mock you here. My middle
name is Reginald,” he confessed.






Her reaction amounted to virtually none. “Your parents had high
hopes for you. Harvey is an old name of Breton origin meaning
battle-ready, while Reginald is the latinized form of a German
one signifying something like rule of advice or ruling by advice.
Very fitting, counselor.”






He tilted his head to the side in surprise. “And yet no idea what
Terminator is.”






“You'd be surprised at all the things you have time to read, when
you don't watch television.”






Suddenly he realized the most disturbing detail about her apartment.
The one thing that not even Mike in his Brooklyn studio got wrong:
the TV set. She actually didn't have one.






“What's wrong with television?” he wanted to know.






“Nothing. I just don't watch it,” she replied lightly, as if that
was supposed to make sense.






He bit his tongue before he could ask her if he was of the Borg, as
he had a feeling she was the only person suspected of being human
not to have watched any Star Trek. “Listen, Emmeline.” He leaned
forward towards her, deciding to go in for the kill and wearing his
best version of the I'm on your side deposition face. “I can
help you get your job in Rome back.”






She laughed and it was all he could do to contain his disbelief. She
didn't know him, but still for her to insinuate he couldn't.... “No,
you can't. And even if you could, I'd still not tell you what you
want to know. And before you say anything, it's not because I'm
protecting my family. They have a habit of always landing on their
feat.”






He stared at her as if she had just sprung a second head, which she
might as well have, given the outlandish implication in her
statement. “You're not trying to protect me by any chance, are
you?”






“No. You strike me as someone who'd actually find that offensive.
All I'm saying is that... this firm of yours, it's just another
mammoth law firm among others. I don't know you and you... probably
had me thoroughly investigated by now...”






He gave her an indulgent version of the famed Specter smile. “Some
people might have a problem with that.”






“In my family, we spy on others for kicks. I may have quit doing it
myself, but it doesn't exactly shock me when someone else does it.”






“Fair enough. You were saying....”






“I'd like to give you a piece of advice, if you'll permit me.”






He nodded, willing to listen to her out of sheer curiosity. She made
him feel a little like he imaged the crew of Enterprise did, after
coming across a brand new and particularly strange alien species.






“It's clearly you're invested in this firm. If it's money, forget
about it. From what I read on you, you have no problem making it.”
He smiled again, preening a little, while perching dangerously on the
edge of that murder weapon she called a chair. “If it's something
else, get that thing or that someone out of there and cut your loses.
You don't need this particular head-ache. You're not name or managing
partner. Let them take the Advil.”






He frowned before he could stop himself. Her words echoed too close
for comfort. For a moment he was completely blind-sided or at least,
enough not be sure whether she was truly this insightful or she had
unknowingly struck a chord within him. Her face didn't give him much
to go on. Everything about her screamed casual and harmless, but her
pictures of thirteen years ago were still fresh in his mind. There
once had been something very dangerous about this woman and he
wouldn't make the mistake of forgetting that.






“Like you said, you don't know me. I've been fending some vicious
attacks on my firm for a year. I'm not afraid of your father, Darby
or their secrets.”






“Were those attacks frontal?”






“Not always,” he replied coldly, not liking that she was
insinuating his previous adversaries had been easy to defeat.






“Either way, they must've been open attacks and those you stand a
chance to fight, even when you're out-gunned. This isn't an attack.
This is a scorpion in a flower garden. It's already in, but
camouflaged so you can't see it. As long as you don't bother it, it
won't bother you. But attract its attention and it will sting back.”






“I haven't heard so many mixed metaphors in a while and I have a
colleague who's their team captain.”






She laughed airily. “I can do you one better.”






“You're gonna spring the sleeping dogs on me, aren't you?”






She gave him a mock-suffering look. “I can't now.”






“Thanks for the friendly warning then,” he said standing and
heading towards the door. Ever the gracious host she stood up as
well. Two strides later and right before touching the handle, he
turned back to her, teetering on the fine knife edge of a decision he
had earlier that evening already made. This was not breaking Chinese
walls and using privileged information to stop a merger. It wasn't as
illegal, yet it made his skin crawl, as the memory of an ancient,
unwelcome emotion surfaced: self-loathing. He didn't like it but he
ground down on it and did what he was supposed to.





“Do you like baseball?” he asked
suddenly, visibly catching her off-guard.




“I don't know a thing about baseball.
So no idea, really.”




“How can you be born in America and
not know anything about baseball?”




“Well, let's see: I was born in an
insanely rich family, where the only acceptable sports were golfing
for men and ballet for women. I went to a boarding school in
Switzerland starting at the age of 12. Then I went to university in
England. I can play go, though.”




“So how would you like to go to a
Yankees game with me this weekend?”




“Absolutely not,” she replied
without missing a beat before her expression grew puzzled and she
retreated towards one of her book shelves to grab for her
encyclopedia of pop culture.






He stared at her wide-eye. “You don't know what the Yankees are!”
He paused for breath at her nod of confirmation. “You play go as in
the Chinese board game with stones and you don't know the Yankees.”






It was her turn to stare. He just shrugged. “What? I saw it on Kill
Bill.”






She smiled softly. “I actually know this one. Tarantino movie. The
game is actually less stylish-looking in reality and more Asian war
board game of chess. Oh, and just so you know, I'm not interested in
going out with you, I won't sleep with you and you can't charm me
into spilling my secrets.”






He grinned, fully aware of the devastation that kind of a smile could
wreck. “I don't know about the last one.”






She grimaced. “You're all humility, aren't you?”






“No, I'm all perfectly-polished good looks.”






“I've noticed. In fact, I think you own more hair products than I
did back when I used to be a debutante.”






It was his turn to grimace. “Now the deb part is disturbing. So the
game on Saturday? In or out?”






She hesitated for a moment or two. “I suppose I can take the time
to google the Yankees till then. And I still won't sleep with you.”






“You should. Dully noted. I'll pick you up at three,” he said
opening the door, while mentally slamming one in the budging guilt's
face.






She tilted her head seemingly unsure of her words. “Three's fine.
And what, you need a friend who's not a lawyer or something?”






“Aren't you a lawyer of some kind, too?” came his only reply.









TBC



































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