"We've gathered here today to remember a man of fairness, a man of unrivaled kindness and spirit when it came to his friends and family alike,"
I closed my eyes and shook my head slowly.
"Malcolm Robinson was a man of great ambition and always wanted the best for those around him and even though he knew that he wouldn't always be able to deliver on the promises he made, the fact that he would do everything in his power to make them come true is a far cry from what most men would do,"
I saw that she was barely able to hold her emotions together.
"He...was also my husband," she sobbed.
Knowing that she was going to lose control of herself, I stepped up before taking her hand. After nodding slowly, she took her seat as I stepped up to speak.
"I didn't know Malcolm as long as many of you but he was one of the closest friends I've had in my life...he helped me through a lot of difficult times and he always managed to bring out the warmer side of me, even if he was a little bit of a pest at times,"
The crowd had a collective chuckle at my comment.
"All jokes aside, he was always a man who tried to see the good in others...even if they themselves were blind to it and he gave me a chance to work for him...it never once felt as if I was underneath him,"
My fist clenched as the memories came flashing back but I took a deep breath and steadied my thoughts; I couldn't afford to break as his daughter did only a few moments ago.
"He would never speak to anyone who worked for him as if they were only a means to an end...he befriended each and every one of us and it wasn't long before I too began to feel as if I were part of the family..."
A few tears began to go down my blank face but I ignored the stares.
"To many of you he was much more than just a man...to me, he was my best friend and the person who gave me a chance to turn my life around...may he rest in peace,"
I prepared to leave the podium, but I immediately turned back upon remembering some words he spoke to me.
"Malcolm was never the kind of guy who let anything get him down...so don't cry for him because you all know he'd prefer everyone to be having fun,"
The crowd seemed a lot more lively once I said those words. Satisfied with what I said, I made my way back to my seat.
"Thanks for the speech Max,"
I turned to see that it was Malcolm's wife, Gianna who had spoken.
"How're you holding up?" I asked.
"...As best I can," she replied.
She was not a woman that I was used to seeing saddened; she always had a beautiful smile when she came to visit from France on her free days. She and Malcolm were practically inseparable but their jobs forced them to make a compromise with one another. I couldn't think of a couple that managed to make such a distanced marriage work so well.
"So what's gonna happen to the company now?" she asked.
"The merger is turning into more of a takeover...and there isn't anyone eligible to lead the company because no one knows it as well as he did," I replied.
She sighed deeply.
"A lot of good people may end up losing their jobs because they prefer to have their own staff involved instead of outsiders,"
"That much I know...but that's not what bothers me...I know who killed him,"
She looked at me in shock.
"Did you report it to the police?" she asked.
"I did...but he was able to pay bail and get out clean,"
She cursed under her breath.
"How could he get away with something like that?"
"When you're an Iverson in this city, not to mention having the backing of a huge company like Clarence Brokers? I'm not surprised that he got away with it,"
"It's disgusting how the law allows scum like that to roam the streets and others get thrown in jail for things as stupid as jaywalking," she said.
"I agree whole-heartedly,"
I felt a tug on my jacket and I turned around to see that it was Gianna's son, Harry.
"Hi uncle Max," he said.
I ruffled his hair and crouched down.
"How's it going big guy?" I asked.
"...I don't want to go to France,"
Gianna sighed deeply and approached her son.
"He's going to have to come back with me because I'm his only legal guardian," she said.
"There's no family who can take care of him while you're away?" I asked.
"He only has a cousin here...and I don't want to burden her," she continued.
"If you leave him with her, I'll make sure to check up on them often and help out where I can,"
Gianna smiled at me.
"That's just like you Max...always trying to help," she said.
"I know what it's like to move around a lot...I don't think he'll adjust to life over there very well, especially since all of his friends are here," I explained.
She nodded slowly.
"I'll make the arrangements," she said.
I sighed softly in relief and put a fist on Harry's forehead.
"Your mom has my number so if you need me, I'm only a call away," I said.
"Thanks uncle Max,"
My phone went off.
"Hey, what's up?" I asked.
It was Justine...and her voice sounded rather distressed.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"...I got into some trouble at school,"
"There was a girl that kept bullying me...I ended up in a fight with her,"
"Stay there, I'm on my way,"
I hung up the phone and cursed under my breath.
"Something wrong?" asked Gianna.
"Niece got into a fight at school, gotta go speak to the principal," I replied.
She smiled at me and held up her keys.
"Thank you for coming Mr. Solomon,"
"Not a problem, so why have I been called?" I replied.
The principal cleared her throat.
"Earlier today, your niece was involved in a fist fight with another student,"
I looked at Justine, who had a bruise on her right cheek as well as a few scrapes on her arms.
"Which would concern me how?" I asked.
"Violence is not something that is tolerated here and disciplinary measures must be taken,"
I rolled my eyes.
"Who was the person that she fought?" I asked.
"Nancy Arnolds," interjected Justine.
I held up a finger at her, turning my back to the principal. She seemed a little scared at first but once I winked and smiled at her, she got the idea and continued to look scared.
"I don't want to hear a word out of you young lady," I scolded.
I turned back to face the principal with a fake angered expression.
"I'll take care of it ma'am, there's no need for either girl to be suspended or anything of the sort," I said.
"I know the way I raised Justine and I know that she would never hit someone unless she had a reason to retaliate, it's the very philosophy that we follow and adhere to...so when you tell me that she fought someone, I can only conclude that she did so in retaliation," I said.
"According to Nancy, she was the aggressor,"
I shook my head.
"I know my niece very well ma'am and I train in Wing Chun with her four times a week; she would never lay a hand on someone else unless she was defending herself,"
I looked to Justine, whose expression didn't change at all. I then sighed softly.
"Do you understand that fighting her was wrong Justine?" I asked.
She nodded slowly.
"I'm sorry uncle Max," she said.
"Did you already make her apologize to Nancy's parents?" I asked.
"That's the next order of business,"
She pressed a button on her office phone and a few seconds later, the parents entered the room with their daughter. I sighed inwardly to myself; I knew that Nancy's parents were very high up the food chain and absolutely loved to spoil their kids. Nancy had a younger brother who also got into trouble about a month ago, a story that Justine told me was as a result of their inherently terrible temper.
"Justine, apologize to them right now," I said.
She sighed softly and nodded before stepping forward.
"I'm sorry for fighting your daughter and it won't happen again," she said.
"You can think about that when you're on suspension," screamed the mother.
I rolled my eyes and turned to the principal.
"I'm not interested in hearing any of this crap so I'm taking my niece home so I can take care of those bruises on her face," I said.
"Not so fast, do you think we're letting you get away with this that easily?"
I turned to face Nancy's father, none other than Arthur Arnolds. He was a well known lawyer in the city and also had a reputation of having a bad temper.
"You're aware that she broke Nancy's nose and left a bruise on her leg right? Medical charges have to be paid for," he demanded.
"You're a very well paid lawyer Mr. Arnolds, I'm sure you'll have no problems taking care of your short tempered daughter," I retorted.
He looked at me in disgust.
"How dare you!" he snapped.
"Nancy's been on my niece's case for the past few months and I'm getting sick and tired of having to come into this place to sing the same song so I'll say this once and only once,"
I took a breath.
"Keep your daughter away from my niece because if you don't, I'm not responsible for anything that she does in retaliation,"
I held my hand out behind me.
"Let's go kiddo," I said.
She eagerly took my hand as I began to lead her outside the office. I then stopped abruptly before turning to the principal.
"I suggest you install security cameras in the hallways because at least then, you'll be able to prove who started what...I'm not going to stand in a room and listen to a bunch of rich snobs run their mouths about how their child is an angel and the other is a devil,"
Before any of them could retort, I took her outside. Once we were out of earshot, I turned around and examined her face.
"How'd she hit you?" I asked.
"She hit me from behind...and once when I was trying to get my bearings back," she replied.
"And the bruise on the leg?"
"Two of her friends,"
"And you only broke her nose? What about the other two?"
"Threw them to the ground; they were just followers so I didn't think I had to hit them,"
"That's my girl!"
She smiled and hugged me.
"You're the best uncle Max!" she cheered.
"I don't tell you this enough...but I'm very proud of you,"
She looked at me with slight shock in her eyes.
"Your mother would be very proud of the woman you're becoming," I said.
"And she would be so happy that you're raising me the right way!"
My eyes narrowed as I thought about Madison.
"Yeah...pretty sure I didn't do myself any favors by being so blunt with those people a while ago...pretty sure that my name's gonna get thrown around a lot now that I insulted the Arnolds family,"
I approached the door to see that Gianna was still outside waiting for us. She looked astonished at the bruise on Justine's face.
"Are you okay honey?"
"I'm fine aunt Gianna,"
The bright smile on her face seemed to assure her.
"Everything okay in there?" asked Gianna.
"Handled it as best I could; those Arnolds are seriously a pain in the ass," I mumbled.
"It was them again?" she asked in disbelief.
I sighed and nodded. She shook her head before taking out her phone.
"Let me worry about them, let's get you two home," she said.
She tossed me her keys, causing me to raise an eyebrow.
"You're letting me drive that expensive Mercedes?" I asked.
"With the amount of rage I'm about to pour onto Arthur's wife? It's safer if you drive,"
I laughed loudly and shrugged.