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Authors: Robert Whitlow

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Water's Edge

Water’s Edge

Other Novels by
Robert Whitlow Include

The Tides of Truth Series

Deeper Water

Higher Hope

Greater Love

Mountain Top

Jimmy

The Alexia Lindale Series

Life Everlasting

Life Support

The Sacrifice

The Trial

The List

Water’s Edge

ROBERT WHITLOW

© 2011 by Robert Whitlow

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Thomas Nelson, Inc., titles may be purchased in bulk for educational, business, fund-raising, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail [email protected]

Scripture quotations are taken from THE NEW KING JAMES VERSION. © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved; and the Holy Bible, New International Version
®
, NIV
®
. © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Publisher’s note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Page design by Mark L. Mabry

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Whitlow, Robert, 1954-

  Water’s edge / Robert Whitlow.

      p. cm.

  ISBN 978-1-59554-451-3 (trade pbk.)

  I. Title.

  PS3573.H49837W37 2011

  813’.54—dc22

2011014866

Printed in the United States of America

11 12 13 14 15 16 RRD 6 5 4 3 2 1

To those willing to walk in the ancient paths.

Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient
paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and
you will find rest for your souls . . .

—J
EREMIAH 6:16 NIV

contents

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

CHAPTER THIRTY

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

CHAPTER THIRY-FOUR

EPILOGUE

READING GROUP GUIDE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

chapter
ONE

C
hiseled deep into the rock face of Stone Mountain, Georgia, is a football field–sized carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Young Atlanta lawyer Tom Crane was on the brink of a promotion as important to him as Lee’s selection as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia—litigation partner at Barnes, McGraw, and Crowther.

The phone on Tom’s desk buzzed. He picked it up.

“Arthur Pelham from Pelham Financial is on line 802,” the receptionist said. “Do you want to take the call?”

“Yes, put him through.”

“Good afternoon, Tom.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Pelham,” Tom replied in his best professional voice.

“It’s time you started calling me Arthur,” the sixty-year-old investment adviser replied. “I was Mr. Pelham when you and Rick were playing on the same Little League baseball team in Bethel. You’ve been earning a paycheck long enough to use my first name.”

“I’m not sure I can do that,” Tom answered, relaxing. “Would it be okay if I called you Sir Arthur?”

“As long as you stay away from King Arthur.” The older man laughed. “I heard too much of that when I was in grade school and someone wanted to pick a fight with me. Listen, I know you must be busy, but do you have a few minutes? It goes back to our conversation at the cemetery after your father’s funeral.”

“Sure.”

“We had a board meeting in New York yesterday, and I brought up the possibility of hiring your law firm to handle some of our litigation load. Most of our clients are happy with our services, but there are always a few bad apples who get upset and file lawsuits for all the crazy reasons you’re familiar with.”

Tom sat up straighter in his chair. Landing a client like Pelham Financial with offices in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, would be the most significant event of his legal career. It would cement his rise to partnership status and give him instant influence at the highest levels of the firm.

“That would be outstanding,” Tom said, trying to contain his excitement. “Would I be the primary contact person for your firm?”

“Yes, you’re the man I trust. Lance Snyder, our general counsel, wasn’t at the meeting yesterday, and I want to get his input before making a final decision. Until that happens and I get back to you, I’d ask you to keep this conversation confidential.”

“Of course.”

“Excellent. I’ll be in touch with you by the first of next week.” Arthur paused. “How are you doing personally?”

“Okay. I have to make a trip to Bethel soon to shut down my father’s practice. Bernice Lawson is contacting his clients, but there are things only I can do. The trick is finding the time to work it into my schedule.”

“You’re not too busy to take on more business, are you?”

“No, no,” Tom answered quickly. “And if I have the opportunity to represent Pelham Financial, it will become my top priority.”

“That’s what I like to hear. Every client believes his files are the most important matters on his lawyer’s desk.”

“With you, that will be true.”

“Excellent. I hoped this would be a good time to bring this up with you.”

“Yes, sir. It couldn’t be better.”

The call ended. Stunned, Tom sat at his desk and gazed out the window. Stone Mountain never came into focus. Future potential always outshines faded glory.

______

The following morning Tom and Mark Nelson, another senior associate in the securities litigation group, were in a small conference room down the hall from Tom’s office. Spread before them were documents delivered the previous evening from a regional stock brokerage firm that had been sued by a small group of disgruntled investors who lost several million dollars in a corporate bond fund.

“What are we missing?” the dark-haired Mark asked. “Each of the plaintiffs signed comprehensive acknowledgment and disclosure documents. They knew the risks before they invested a dime.”

The two lawyers worked in silence for several minutes. Tom laid out a complete set of the disclosure forms so that the signature pages were side by side, then carefully inspected them.

“Take a look at this,” Tom said to Mark. “The handwriting for the signatures is similar, even though the names are different.”

He slid the documents across the table to Mark, who held them up in front of his face.

“Maybe.”

“Particularly the
m
,
p
,
t
, and
w
,” Tom continued. “And one is from a man, the other a woman.”

“So?”

“Yet both are written in a feminine style.”

Mark leaned over for a closer look. “The originating broker on both accounts is a woman, Misty Kaiser. If you’re claiming she forged both signatures, it doesn’t fit the gender and makes you a chauvinist.”

“Unless Ms. Kaiser is like the girl you dated last year who took you on a ten-mile hike and had to stop and wait for you to catch up every fifteen minutes.”

“It was every thirty minutes, and I’ve got the right girl now,” Mark replied, tossing a crumpled piece of paper at Tom’s head. “Megan may not be as flashy as Clarice, but she’s not texting me in the middle of important meetings demanding that I pick up her dry cleaning and stop for Chinese takeout on the way home.”

“What about the signatures?” Tom persisted.

Mark shrugged. “I have to admit the handwriting is similar. Should we get an expert to take a look at them?”

“Maybe. But first let’s find out if Kaiser is still with the company. I don’t want to bring up something this inflammatory based on a random suspicion.”

“I’ll call Sam Robinson, the human resources director,” Mark said. “He’ll also know whether there are complaints on file from any of her other clients.”

Tom looked at his watch. “Why don’t we circle back this afternoon? I have a meeting with McGraw in a few minutes.”

Mark sat up straighter. “Are you going to talk to him about a partnership?”

“That’s for him to bring up, not me,” Tom answered evenly. “You know McGraw. His agenda will be my agenda. I scheduled this meeting to ask for time off so I can close down my father’s practice in Bethel.”

“Okay, but just to let you know, I’m putting my name in for a promotion,” Mark said.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else. I’m going to let them know I’m interested too.”

“What are you going to say if they ask us to critique each other?”

With the conversation with Arthur Pelham in his pocket, Tom knew the time would soon be right to broach the partnership issue with McGraw; however, he didn’t want to hurt Mark.

“Becoming a partner isn’t about cutting you down,” Tom replied. “I’m going to make my case, not criticize you.”

Mark took a deep breath and sighed. “They’ve been watching both of us for years. Nothing we say now is probably going to make much difference. But you can imagine how stressed out I am. I’ve been here almost eight years. If I don’t make partner soon . . .”

Mark didn’t finish the sentence. He didn’t have to.

______

Tom stood in front of the gold-framed mirror in the hallway on the thirty-sixth floor and straightened his tie. Six feet tall with broad shoulders, wavy brown hair, and dark-brown eyes, he was wearing the blue suit he usually reserved for court appearances. Reid McGraw was an old-school lawyer who sneered at business-casual attire. If Tom wanted to become a partner, he’d better start dressing like one.

The trip to the thirty-seventh floor was a journey to another world. Tom’s floor was a beehive of activity with lawyers and support staff crammed into every available inch of space. Phone conversations spilled out from scores of cubicles. Humming copy machines spit out reams of paper. People walked fast, talked fast, and worked frantically because every tenth of an hour was billable time. On the floor above them, the senior partners operated from spacious offices with individual secretaries. Millions of dollars were discussed as casually as thousands.

Tom passed the office formerly occupied by his boss, Brett Bollinger. Tom liked Brett’s cherry desk. When he moved to the thirty-seventh floor, he’d keep it. The beige carpet, on the other hand, would have to go. Something with a pattern would be nice. Clarice had a good eye for decorating.

McGraw’s office was a corner suite with its own reception area. The senior partner’s assistant was a very attractive young woman about Tom’s age. When she was hired, Tom thought about asking her out; however, the risk was too great. If she didn’t like him, it might cause her to make a sour comment to McGraw. His future at the firm couldn’t be subject to the whim of a woman.

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