Jacob Weiss eased himself into the chair facing the well-ordered desk, on the edge of which rested a bronze placard engraved with the words LESLIE DANIELS, ATTORNEY AT LAW. The woman herself stood on the opposite side, backed by a wall decorated with several degrees and diplomas, a collection of her framed trophies nailed to drywall. She seated herself after the perfunctory handshake, her smile tensing as she watched the old man’s lean arms tremble with the effort of doing the same.
“Mr. Weiss, how are you feeling?” she asked.
Jacob exhaled with relief. “I shouldn’t complain,” he said. “I am not in pain. The doctors, they keep me comfortable. I am grateful for that much.”
“And the treatments?”
“Ah.” Jacob sighed. “A useless chore. I discontinued them. My doctor, he tells me it does not matter.”
“I’m so sorry,” Leslie said. Her look of concern made the wrinkles around her eyes more prominent.
“God’s will,” Jacob replied. “They tell me they have never seen the disease spread so fast. Almost overnight, they said. I present them with an unusual case, I think.”
“I’m sorry,” Leslie repeated.
“No, no. For most, they waste away slowly. I prefer it this way. Though I admit, I do find it strange myself. So sudden. But that is not why you invited me here, to listen to me prattle on. What can I do for you, Miss Daniels?”
“Oh, yes,” Leslie said. She laced her fingers on the desktop, smiling, slipping back into her business persona. “Well, I thought you might want to know, it looks like we’ve found a family for the baby.”
“So soon?” Jacob replied, stroking his beard.
“It doesn’t take too long to adopt out the little ones. People always want infants. They’re a nice couple. I think you’d approve.”
“They’re Jewish, I think. Not that it was a big issue or anything. Works out nicely, though. I know you had some interest in adopting the child yourself.” Leslie diverted her gaze. “I’m sorry,” she offered a third time.
“It was not meant to be,” Jacob answered. “And my children, they are much too, ah, practical.” He paused. “It is for the best.”
“I like to think that, someday, the parents will tell little Brian what you did for him.”
“That’s what they’re going to name him. Brian.”
“Do you know yet how he came to be in the river?” Jacob asked.
“Oh, yes, we do. Sad story. The birth mother threw him in. Young girl, teenager. Got pregnant and somehow managed to keep it a secret. Wanted it to stay that way, I guess.”
“Terrible,” Jacob said.
“Of course the courts will seal all that information once the adoption’s complete. Something like that, the kid’s better off not knowing.”
“With the girl being a minor and all, the courts should go easy on her. Not so sure about her family. They’re very strict. Old World strict.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah. Part of the old Greek community out around St. Augustine. Very set in their ways. They don’t want anything to do with the baby. It’s a shame.” She smiled. “But at least there’s a silver lining, thanks to you. Well, anyway, I just thought you would want to know.”
“I do. Thank you, Miss Daniels.” Jacob undertook the struggle to rise from the chair. “That boy is destined for great things,” he said, securing his balance with his cane.
Leslie clasped his hand. “You’re the hero, Mr. Weiss.”
“I was but the instrument of the Almighty,” Jacob relied. “Perhaps you will see it for yourself, perhaps not. But that child is here for a purpose. This I know.”
Jacob said goodbye and excused himself. Heading for the exit, he passed the receptionist in the lobby, a pair of plastic shrubs acting as sentries. The secretary, a young woman with bleached blonde hair and braces, waved to him.
“You take care now,” she said.
“It was worth it,” Jacob muttered. “Worth the cost.”
Jacob smiled, noticing the receptionist for the first time. “Oh, nothing, nothing. Just talking to myself.”
“You have a good day, sir,” she chirped.
“And you as well.” Jacob opened the office door. Bright sunlight flooded the room.
“Great things,” he whispered, stepping out into the golden warmth of the day. “Great things.”