For a Thursday night, Mike thought, the pub was unusually crowded. It was the usual after-work crowd, still in their three-piece suits or work heels, taking the edge off of another tough day. He slid sideways through the mass of people standing in front of the bar and made his way to one of the booths at the end of the room .
“Hey,” he said to his companion. “You don’t have a drink. Do you want one?”
“Have a seat, the waitress has come by once already. I’m sure she’ll be by again.”
“So,” said Mike suspiciously. “To what do I owe the honor of your company?”
The redhead said nothing but gave him an expectant glare.
“It’s getting out of hand, isn’t it?” said Mike.
“You need to talk to him,” she said, not unsympathetically.
“Why me?” said Mike, more out of reflex than genuine puzzlement.
“As if I even have to answer that,” said Donna.
“Worth a shot,” said Mike, grinning slightly. “No getting out of this, is there?” he said hopefully.
“He’s going to be pissed. Take it personally. I don’t really know how, yet, but he will.”
“You bet your ass he will, Sparky.”
“So…” said Mike hesitantly. “Remind me why I’m doing this again?”
“Do I even have to dignify that with an answer?”she said, losing patience.
“No,” said Mike, suddenly introspective. “No, you don’t.”
The waitress came to take their drink orders, and as she headed to the next table, he looked at Donna and said with concern, “You know him better than anyone on the planet. Why is he acting this way?”
Donna sighed, picked up a paper napkin, and began twisting it between her hands. “I can’t tell you all of it, and Harvey will kill me for telling you this much, but you need to know.” She stared at the wrapped paper in her hands for a moment.
“What, Donna? You’re freaking me out, here.”
“You know that Cameron Dennis stepped down as DA.”
“Yeah,” said Mike, “some kind of deal he made with the DOJ.”
“The new deal he made with the DOJ. Cameron’s original deal with the DOJ would have left Harvey twisting in the wind.”
“Shit,” said Mike, exhaling and leaning his head back against the booth. “Does Harvey know? Oh God, he does know, doesn’t he?” Mike was hoping she would correct him, but she simply gazed at him sadly.
“Wait, you said something about a new deal. How did that happen?”
Mike knew that Donna could put in an Oscar-worthy performance when called upon, but at that moment she didn’t bother to hide the guilty look on her face. It spoke volumes.
“You did something, didn’t you? Something to protect him, but that also pissed him off. That’s why he was so angry with you a couple of weeks ago. But Jessica would have never stood for it unless-“
“Smart boy,” she said. “You’re getting the picture.”
“You and Jessica.”
“I never said anything.” Donna put her hands up in mock surrender. “But would you keep it down over there, all that clicking into place is kind of deafening.”
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put the pieces together,” said Mike. “He thinks you and Jessica betrayed him, doesn’t he? I know how loyal he was to Cameron.”
“He’s ‘forgiven’ us, but yes.”
“Cameron, Jessica, you… and now me,” said Mike, consoling himself with an extra-long swig of Sam Adams. “But that doesn’t make any sense. He’s been nearly pathological with regard to looking out for me lately. Why would he do that?”
“You don’t get it, Mike. In the last three weeks, you’re the only person that is close to him who hasn’t let him down. That means everything to him.”
“He was pissed I didn’t tell him about the diploma,” said Mike, his mind whirling.
Donna looked at him with fondness and grabbed his hand across the table. “He told me about that. He also told me you were hell-bent on throwing yourself under the bus to save his ass. That… means a lot. To him and to me.”
“I didn’t have to,” said Mike. “Lola’s records held up well.”
“That’s not the point,” said Donna.
Mike took another swig of his beer and said, “Okay, I’m officially getting off the merry-go-round.” He was starting to get irritated that every time they seemed to get near a point, it crawled away and hid under another rock. “What exactly are you saying?”
Donna sighed and shook her head. “This is me you’re talking to, alright? I see everything that goes on in that office.”
“Don’t I know it” Mike said under his breath.
“Don’t be a smartass,” said Donna. “That same loyalty that means so much to him also makes you incredibly vulnerable, to Trevor, Louis, Kyle, everyone. He feels like he has to protect you from that.”
“That really does explain why the first-years flee like a crowd in a Godzilla movie every time he walks in the room these days.”
“And if there were one particular person in the crowd that they knew would never be stomped to bits because he was Godzilla’s favorite, I can imagine how well that would go over.” She gave Mike a meaningful glance.
“It’s going about as well as you’d expect,” said Mike. Harvey was swooping in to rescue him more often these days, but he never saw the wide swath of resentment that he left in his wake.
“It’s not just the associates. Even Jessica is noticing. And Louis,” she said with a slight smile. “Louis wants Harvey’s head on a platter.”
“Over me? Oh God…”
“Relax kiddo,” said Donna. “It’s not about you, it’s about Harvey. Jessica was going to talk to you herself, but she and I both felt it would be better coming from me.”
God, Mike thought. He couldn’t imagine having this same conversation with Jessica. Donna was literally the only person he could talk to about this. She knew Harvey better than anyone, and he and Harvey had never had to keep their secret around her. Instead of giving voice to these thoughts, which she seemed to be reading on his face anyway, he merely said, “Have I told you this week that you are amazing?”
“I think you’re under your quota, actually,” she said, batting her eyelashes exaggeratedly. “Look,” she said, turning serious. “I know we’re all concerned about Harvey, but I also know the last couple of weeks have been hard on you.”
He didn’t bother to deny it, knowing Donna’s ear was surgically attached to the office grapevine. Half the associates weren’t speaking to him out of fear, and the other half were secretly plotting ways to make his life even more miserable the minute Harvey dropped this insane crusade he’d been on lately. He was also going to rip in half the way Louis and Harvey were fighting over him these days.
“Goes with the territory, I guess,” he said nonchalantly.
“No, it doesn’t,” she said sympathetically. “I lay most of the blame for this on Harvey. So does Jessica, by the way. But that’s not the point. The point is to fix it before it gets out of hand.”
“No pressure, huh?” said Mike, raising his beer bottle.
She matched his with her own in an impromptu toast. “No pressure at all.”
* o * o * o * o *
Stay tuned for the next installment, which is coming shortly!