Holiday Indulgence – Shavuot (Part 1 of 3)

A152 ShavuosPart1

Written by Dirty Di. Dirty Di is the author of Astray and Deborah and Aviva.

A Note from Di: “This is the first part of a series called Holiday Indulgence. The series will be following the adventures and misadventures of our heroine Malka Berkovich, a fictional character that simply can’t resist celebrating and cherishing her Judaism, throughout the Jewish calendar year.

Each installment can be read as a separate story – although, because the character develops over time, I wouldn’t advise it. And because I want you to read it all. Also, it’s long. Very long. A lot longer than it was supposed to be, but I had a lot of fun writing it, so I hope you enjoy. So, without further ado, I present you Shavuot!”

Rated RMalka Berkovich, Esq., stood outside of the conference room of Berkovich, Flaherty & DuBois’s office in Upper East Side Manhattan. She took a deep breath, letting the air out of her lungs slowly, straightened her jacket and went inside the room.

Twenty two people were scattered around the area, some chatting, some drinking coffee, and when she came in, twenty two people went silent, finding seats around the oval-shaped table that stood in the middle.

She smirked to herself, proud of the behavior she elicited from her subordinates; a behavior that took her many years to shape and even more years to earn.

“Good morning, all,” she said, taking her place on the head of the table. “I hope you are well-rested and fed, because starting today, your bed and families will be forgotten. Starting today,” she continued, eyeing each and every one of those present with her dark eyes, a trick she learned from an old friend, “we will devote ourselves to the Sinai Assignment. As you all know, we have fifty days until we have to deliver the project, so listen carefully because I am not going to repeat myself. For the next seven weeks, you will do nothing that’s not related to Sinai; you won’t talk, write or even think about anything else. I need your full attention and cooperation, are we clear?” She didn’t wait for an answer, knowing she wouldn’t need one.

“You will be divided in five work groups, each one in charge of a specific task. I will be having short weekly meetings with each work group. In that meeting you will give a written report as well as the oral. Additionally, every Monday from now until the fiftieth day, we will have a general debriefing meeting.

“I don’t care if you have to live here for the next two months, just get the work done,” she said, accentuating the last words. “Bradley has the list of the work groups, go talk to him and start working ASAP. That would be all, thank you.”

She got out of the room satisfied, patting herself on the back for a well-structured, empowering speech. She was not above self-assurance, not even after all these years.

Walking into her office, she prayed Bradley would soon finish distributing duties to get her her longed for morning double espresso. She could already feel the smell of the coffee, her mouth watering at the thought. Her contemplation on tropical coffee fields, sowed and reaped by some third world farmers was interrupted by an unannounced, unexpected presence inside her office. The outsider, a blonde, long haired woman, was sitting on a chair in front of Malka’s desk, eyeing a book.

She stood by the door expecting the visitor to notice her presence, and when she didn’t, Malka cleared her throat loudly, startling the stranger and making her rapidly close the book and put it back where it belonged. She then stood up facing Malka.

Satisfied with the woman’s reaction, Malka walked majestically to her working space, sitting on the comfortable black leather chair, custom made to fit her taste a few years back.

“Who are you?” asked Malka, using the harsh tone as a way of getting revenge for the fact that the woman simply appeared there without any kind of prior notice.

“Hannah. Hannah Dayan, nice to meet you.” Still standing, the visitor extended her hand to greet the other woman, who ignored her. “And you must be Malka,” she said, with a knowing tone Malka didn’t quite like.

“See, I don’t care about your name. I meant what are you doing here in my office.”

“Then why didn’t you ask that to begin with?” Hannah asked, raising an eyebrow, taking a seat in front of Malka.

“A good listener needs few words, which, I’m assuming, you are not,” she said venomously, waiting for the other woman to respond. She did not. “Well?”

“Like I said, I’m Hannah Dayan. I’m from Johnston Inc.”

“That’s in Boston.”

“I realized that when I had to board a plane to get here.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you’re here, Miss Dayan, all the way from Massachusetts.”

“Oh, it’s really not that far away. I’m just here to help with the Sinai delivery.”

“That’s my job, the Sinai Assignment is my project; I fail to see your firm’s or your involvement in it.”

“I’ll be assisting you.”

“On whose orders? Wait. You are an accountant,” she realized, delivering the affirmation with an accusatory tone.

“Technically, I’m an auditor. But yes.”

“And why would I need ‘assistance’ from an auditor? Who approved this?”

“My orders come from higher ranks.”

“Higher ranks? There are no higher ranks here in Berkovich, Flaherty & DuBois. I’m Berkovich, I am the higher rank! And I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you hover over my work just because someone thinks I need a babysitter.”

Malka took a deep breath to keep her emotions from showing in her eyes, but it was too late; she had raised her voice. She never raised her voice, not even when she felt cornered, which she did right now. It took her years to learn to modulate it, to find a tone that was intimidating enough without having to scream on top of everyone else. Damn this woman for throwing all her hard work to the trash, and damn her for appearing at that moment, when all the hard work on Sinai was basically already done.

She took her cell phone out of her purse, a state-of-the-art gadget that she didn’t hadn’t quite mastered yet, and made a call, one of the few functions she knew how to operate.

“What is going on, Flaherty?” she asked as her partner answered the phone.

“I’m sorry, Malka, I was going to tell you but I honestly couldn’t find the time to do it,” the man apologized. “Massachusetts’s Governor has taken interest in the Sinai Assignment, so we have to cooperate with Johnston.”

“What is that supposed to mean? I thought it was a New York initiative.”

“It’s not anymore; that means it has to be perfect, and for that, we need the accounting records to be absolutely flawless. And before you say anything, no, I am not implying in any way that your work is less than perfect,” this man knew her too well, she realized, “but we have a court order, there is nothing we can do about it.”


“Yes. I got subpoenaed yesterday.”

“Johnston can’t do that, Isaac!”

“He can and he did, Malka. But listen, this could be a good thing.”

“I find I’m not liking you very much this morning,”

“Look, I talked to Johnston for a few minutes this morning. We didn’t get to finish the conversation, but from what I gathered, he has some very useful ideas. We’ll discuss it this afternoon but, bottom line, this is a very important project and it has taken a somewhat national relevance. Johnston is just providing his services in what I believe will be used to ask us for partnership on the project later on. You know what that means?”

“They’ll take it away from me.”

“No, Malka, we will never allow that. On the contrary, this will allow the Sinai Assignment to further its horizon were we never thought possible. And Johnston said he wants you on board all the way. He knows no one but you could pull this off, I was perfectly clear on that.”

“Wonderful,” she said hanging up, another task she managed to perform without sending her phone into haywire. “Apparently, I am to cooperate with you,” she said, glaring the other woman. “Go talk to Bradley. He’ll be more than glad to fill you in. And do try to keep out of my way, dear, I don’t have time for any interference.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Hannah said, not moving an inch from the chair she was occupying. “You are in charge making the Sinai delivery, so you will be the one talking to me, not some Bradley guy.”

“Listen, Miss Dayan,” she said with the bossiest tone she could manage. “I don’t know what your orders are and I don’t know what you are used to in Johnston Inc., but here–”

“You are the boss, I know. And that’s why I want to be close to you, not to Bradley, Bobby, or anybody else. So where do we start?” Malka was not satisfied with the patronizing tone, but right now she would take any victory she could.

“Well, if you insist, dear,” she said, walking to a cabinet and opening the top drawer, where at least fifteen files could be seen, each one with hundreds of documents. It took Malka more than a year to develop the Sinai Assignment and every single piece of paper ever issued on the matter was in that cabinet. “Here are the files with all the information. They are organized chronologically, so it shouldn’t be a problem,” she smiled brightly. “Oh, and don’t forget the other two drawers,” she said, pointing the rest of the cabinet.

If Malka was expecting Hannah to back up in fear or to show disdain, or any other reaction, she was disappointed. The woman simply stood up, took a brief look to the opened drawer, extracted the first folder and walked to a small, circular table on one corner of the office.

Splendid. Apparently the babysitting involved actual contact and closeness to the auditor.

“Why did Johnston send an intern to do his dirty work, anyway?” Malka asked, not resisting the urge of undermining the other woman.

“Intern, really? I’m hardly younger than you, but thanks for the compliment.”

It was true, Malka mused. If she had to guess, she would say the other woman was around thirty-two, maybe thirty-five years old, although her almost casual attire and long hair made her look twenty-five if you weren’t paying much attention. Not that Malka was paying her any attention, of course.

“It wasn’t supposed to be one.”

“Oh, I know.”

Didn’t this unnerving woman ever back off? Whatever else happened, Malka was determined to crush her spirit sooner rather than later.

Continue reading…

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Dirty Di has the stuff that you want; she is the thing that you need. So if you're feeling devious, and looking glamorous, let’s get mischievous and polyamorous, because you live only once, so be sure you got it right. And if you don't, try again.