Happy Wednesday, All!
As some of you may know, I am a lawyer by training as well as a high-conflict family law mediator.
I mention that because up until now I haven’t been able to write about any aspect of law. That was work. Writing romance was escape.
Now that I’ve put a little distance between me and the courtroom, I am jazzed about legal storytelling.
Below is my first chapter (rough) of my new endeavor. Although there will be some romantic elements in this story, it is more of a legal thriller. Because it isn’t romance central, I’m thinking of using M.L. MacDonald as my author name. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
I’ll still write quirky Celtic-based romance under the name, Leigh Morgan. This newest creation is simply too far afield from that.
What do you think? Should an author have multiple identities if there are divergent genre’s involved?
Wish me luck, and Happy Reading,
A TIME TO KILL
Molly MacBride made her way out of her law office, a Gone Fishing sign in one hand, her Jeep keys in the other. She was wrapping the twine string over the rusty nail on her front door when her phone rang. She stopped and waited. It was after five, about three minutes after, yet still after hours. Most people gave up when she didn’t answer by the fifth ring.
This caller was different. This caller let the phone go unanswered for ten rings. Most didn’t have the patience for that kind of unrequited commitment. That alone should have told Molly all she need to know about whomever was calling. She hooked the sign and turned the key on the front door. She needn’t have locked it. No one in Settlers Grove would dare enter a business after hours. Especially one that owed as much cash as it produced. MacBride Law Offices had nothing worth stealing, unless one counted the old newspapers Molly hung on her office wall. A left over from her father, who’d brought them back from Edinburgh. James MacBride had been proud of them. For that reason and that reason alone, Molly kept them. They reminded her of an easier time, when her parents were alive and life’s joys included more than fishing on a spring evening.
She managed to get the door of her Wrangler open before her cell phone began to vibrate. She ignored the first few vibrations as she started the Jeep. Henry was no doubt already waiting for her at the river. She’d seen him this morning packing the cooler with Leinenkugels and oranges. Her surrogate father loved oranges. He’d been telling her since she could cast a line that the secret to catching fish was eating oranges. Fish like oranges. And limburger cheese. Molly drew the line at limburger, but she ate the oranges.
Her phone stopped vibrating, then started again. Few people had her private number. Molly didn’t hand it out. She hated talking on the phone outside of work. She hated carrying her work with her. She’d only gotten a family plan, because Henry was getting older and she didn’t want him thinking he couldn’t reach her when he need to.
Molly looked at the phone. The number came up as blocked. That meant government number. Not a good sign. Few people at the court house had her cell number. Those who did, wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. Especially at almost five minutes after five on a Friday afternoon. Everyone who knew Molly well enough to have her cell number knew she’d be on the water casting lines with Henry until dusk.
Molly answered the call. “Someone better be on fire,” she said.
“Caught you before you could sink a line, MacBride?” judge Boyd asked, knowing he had.
“If I’d have made it to the water, and I knew it was you, my phone would be in the river by now.”
“Ah, Molly, you wound me, you really do.” Seamus Boyd’s voice grew more serious, “You know I wouldn’t be calling if I had another option.”
Molly took a deep breath. That’s exactly what she was afraid of. Seamus liked fishing even more than she did. He wouldn’t violate the sanctity of the fine art without a damned good reason. “I’m not on call today, Seamus.”
“But you are on Monday.”
“Fine. Call me Monday.”
“This won’t wait.”
“Whatever it is, give it to Dirk. He’s on call on Friday.” Dirk James was the attorney for any child needing emergency services on Fridays. Among the Guardians ad Litem, he’d drawn the short stick because he was the newest and the youngest. No one wanted to work Fridays in juvenile court. Social workers always seemed to take kids on Fridays and hold them for the weekend. Shit duty. Molly had done her share of it. She earned her way out. Monday was her day.
Nothing of consequence ever happened on Monday. Unless it was a trial, and those required scheduling. Monday was clear for Molly. No trials. No emergencies. Nobody on fire.
Molly rubbed her forehead. She looked at her watch. Ten minutes after five. On a bloody Fishing Friday. “I’m not going to get out of this, am I Seamus?”
“I could order you, if it would make you feel better.”
“I’d rather you just tell me why Dirk can’t handle whatever it is. He’s new, but he’s not stupid.” Molly was looking for any way out of what was coming. Dirk James wasn’t stupid, but he wasn’t the brightest bulb either. Hard work didn’t seem to be his default position.
“I’ve got a removal case,” Seamus said pausing.
Molly waited. Removal cases were family court cases. A pain, but hardly emergent. They involved one parent removing the children from their ‘home state’ and coming to live in another jurisdiction. Like Settlers Grove, Wisconsin. Child placement in those cases was always an issue. One Molly, or any of the Guardian’s ad Litem who worked for the county, would address. It was the Guardian’s job to give a recommendation to the court on what was in the child’s best interests regarding when they spent time with each parent and under what conditions. Guardians gave recommendations on more than that, but that summarized the gist of what they did in family court.
Seamus’s voice thickened. “I’ve issued a Juvenile Injunction based on what little I heard from Dirk. He interviewed the elder girl and gave me a verbal summary on the record.” Seamus paused. “I stopped him after thirty seconds. It’s bad, Molly. Really bad. I want to go home and hug my kids and never let them go, right after I vomit, kind of bad.”
“Where are they?” Molly asked.
“Women’s shelter on your way home,” Seamus said, sounding relieved and tired at the same time.
“When is the hearing for the Permanent Injunction?”
“Monday. Nine a.m. I spoke to the father on speaker phone after Dirk James gave his summary. I ordered him in at eight so you’d have time to interview him. No doubt he’ll come with a barrage of lawyers, so if you need more time, I’ll grant you an extension for another seventy-two hours.”
“What aren’t you telling me, judge?”
Seamus Boyd chuckled without mirth, “So it’s judge now, is it?”
“It is when I’ll be facing a barrage of lawyers first thing Monday, on a case that makes you physically sick.”
“Wish I had someone else I trusted to give it to, Molly. I really do.”
The sincerity in Seamus’s voice put the final nail in the coffin that had been her peaceful evening. Followed by a weekend of reading and riding and eating more of Henry’s Sunday waffles than anyone her size should.
“What are you trying so hard not to tell me, Seamus?”
“The father is a senator.”
Molly chest constricted. “State senate?”
“No such luck. Junior U.S. Senator from the great state of Idaho. His secretary told me so before she put him on the phone.”
“Exactly. I’ll text you the details.”
“You said Dirk interviewed the elder child. How many kids am I representing here?”
“Two. Both girls. Ages twelve and nine.” Judge Seamus Boyd sighed heavily. The strain in his voice evident when he said, “Their names are Grace and Lily, for Chrissake. Doesn’t get more pure and innocent than that.”
Something in Seamus’s tone made Molly’s skin crawl. “The abuse is sexual?”
“Yes. Among other things.”
Molly paused then asked, “Any good news, Seamus?”
“I’ve ordered your bill paid outside the GAL contract. At fifty bucks an hour over your normal hourly rate.”
“You’re not making feel better about the case, judge.”
“Didn’t intend to. Text with case info is coming. Keep your phone on MacBride. That’s an order,” judge Seamus Boyd said, killing the call.
“And it started out to be such a promising weekend,” Molly said looking up to the heavens. It was a personal quirk of hers, talking to God. It helped. Even when Molly was certain the Almighty wasn’t listening.