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Not at Liberty

By Marva Dale All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Mystery


When savvy lawyer Liberty Sloane helps out an old friend, Dr. Daniel Baumgard, with his stolen computer files, she finds more than she bargained for in pro bono work when the doctor ends up stabbed to death on his doorstep. As she investigates, Liberty meets PR manager, Madeline Kime who knows more than she’s willing to sign as a deaf person. And along the way Liberty finds romance with an unlikely cop who’s also investigating the doctor’s murder.

Chapter 1

As they rode in the limousine, Brandon Stiles went over the press release he had been preparing for his boss.

“Liberty Sloane, age 33, graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University Law School. At present she’s a trial attorney, specializing in women’s rights. Her most recent case garnered international news when she won an acquittal for Diana Sherry, the Baltimore mother of three, accused of shooting and setting on fire her abusive husband. For her efforts on behalf of women’s rights, Ms. Sloane has been interviewed on Good Morning America, and the Today Show, and has offered expert commentary on legal matters for CNBC, Fox News, CNN, and One America News. Her law office is located in Bethesda, Maryland, and Ms. Sloane resides in nearby Rockville. For more information, contact Brandon Stiles at Sloane & Associates...etc., etc.”

Liberty Sloane shifted in her seat to loosen up her skirt. Ever since she slid into the limo’s backseat, the hem had tightened and cut into her thighs. The crisp, navy-blue linen skirt and matching jacket complimented her turquoise silk camisole, all a bit clingy to emphasis her smooth curves and righteous body, even though these uncomfortable moments remained the price she paid for looking good.

“That’s great, Brandon,” Liberty complimented, “but you forgot to include that I’m a BAP, Black and Proud of it.”

Peering over his gold-rimmed glasses, Brandon gave his boss a puzzled look. “Do you really think that’s appropriate?”

“I’m joking, Brandon,” she told him. “Overall, you did a great job with my dossier, but let’s take out the word expert. It makes me sound pompous.”

“We could add BAP with an extra P, Black, Pompous and Proud of it.”

Liberty puckered her brow. “Cute, Brandon, cute. What do we have going on after the dedication?”

Brandon consulted the schedule on his tablet. “After the dedication you have an open hour, and then drinks at five with the district attorney. But after that, you have a free evening, to do whatever your heart desires.”

Liberty sighed. Could she really do such a thing as relax? She never truly felt free of obligations, meetings, court appointments, and “must shows” to keep herself in the public eye and generate business. But for Dr. Daniel Baumgard and the opening of his new center for battered women and their children, she would gladly clear her tight schedule and support his most recent endeavor. In fact, Liberty served on the board of directors for the Hope For Tomorrow Foundation, Dr. Baumgard’s non-profit enterprise to aid abused women through free or low-cost health care. That he also performed abortions at his Morning Star Clinic was well known, although not freely publicized along with his other accomplishments.

The newly constructed Community of Hope center next to the clinic would provide not only shelter for abused women and their families but offer career counseling, computer networking, job placement, and a day care center.

“Do me a favor,” Liberty asked, “and call Jeff to cancel our meeting at Applebees.” R.C. “Jeff” Jeffries served as the district attorney for Montgomery County. “Actually, ask him if he’ll take a rain check. I’m just not in the mood for schmoozing over margaritas and nachos, his usual happy hour fare.”

Deciding to heed her aide’s suggestion to take the night off, she wanted nothing more than to kick off her heels and indulge in anything but work as soon as this dedication ended.

Brandon grinned. “I think our accommodating DA wants to wheedle your trade secrets out of you so he can win a case once in a while.”

Liberty laughed. “As you know, I never reveal my tactics or accommodate anyone from the opposing camp. Let Jeff earn his pay check, such as it is for a government employee, although he’s not a bad prosecutor once he gets going.”

While Brandon brought up the number for the DA’s office on his iPhone, he added, “I bet you’re glad you don’t work there anymore.”

He referred to Liberty’s early years working for the DA, a thankless job for little pay. But once she had a few good, important cases under her belt, she left to start her own firm, a move she never regretted even when two prestigious Washington, D.C. law firms had courted her.

“I’m more than glad; I’m ecstatic and grateful to be out of that legal wasteland.” Liberty didn’t need to add the particulars of her experience there, all the back stabbing that went on while everyone tried to climb the ladder of success with little hope for recognition and decent compensation. Only the ruthless survived, but not without paying the price in worthless and often grueling cases where the defendants were guilty as sin and not fooling anyone. Yet a court-appointed attorney had to go through the motions anyway to try and defend his or her clientele. After all, the American legal system worked on the premise that defendants were innocent until proven guilty. Ha!

Nope, now she had everything she wanted.

In fact, Liberty had to thank her lucky stars for Brandon Stiles. Without him, she would never have gotten her firm off the ground. Even though a legal aide, he knew the law backward and forward, as well as kept her on track with his knack for multi-tasking. Of course, Liberty’s office manager, Corey Alvarez, added much-needed support, but Brandon kept the scales of justice balanced in his boss’s favor. Barely twenty-two, he possessed a tall, lanky body with a thatch of baby-fine, sandy hair, and serious brown eyes.

And he dressed for success, often in three-piece suits with coordinating ties, cuff links and wingtip shoes. Only once had she seen Brandon out of uniform when he came to help with a case on a Saturday and wore a pair of new jeans with crisp creases down the legs. Liberty wondered if he took the time to iron the jeans in order to achieve such precision, and use spray starch to boot. Along with the jeans, he wore a chambray shirt, an ivory sweater vest, and a pair of shiny Italian loafers.

Unfortunately Liberty could not pay Brandon his true worth, but she knew his parents—who ran a successful medical supply company in Baltimore—helped subsidize his penchant for clothes and shoes. He also had a keen eye for interior decorating. With a start-up office, Liberty had very little available cash to furnish her environs in a tone befitting a law firm, one that oozed with professionalism, maturity and confidence. Brandon stepped in and found office furniture at warehouse prices, polished walnut desks and credenzas, a large mahogany conference table, chairs upholstered in avocado-green microfiber, and oak-veneer file cabinets. For a touch of class, Brandon added floral prints in gilt frames and Chinese porcelain vases with bouquets of silk flowers.

What else could Liberty say about him? In addition to his efficient manner, good taste and legal expertise, Brandon added an amiable and jocular note at times. He joked that he was “the token white boy,” certainly an apt description with his pale skin. Actually the office trio represented three races as well as three shades of color, white, brown and black, or as Liberty often thought on a whimsical note: alabaster, nutmeg and burnt sienna.

The limo ride today had been a freebie from a satisfied client, and Liberty liked the idea of being driven by a confident, uniformed chauffeur rather than driving herself. Of course, she could hardly afford to make a habit of it.

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