Book Excerpt: CHASING SHADOWS by Karen Harper

chasing-shadows-front-coverCHASING SHADOWS by Karen Harper

But it wasn’t her family at her hospital room door. It was a senior partner of Markwood, Benton and Chase, Attorney Nick Markwood, not decked out in his lawyer suit but in gray casual slacks and a bright blue golf shirt. He took the roses from the cop and came in to sit in the chair beside her bed, laying the bouquet beside her sheet-covered leg. Like an idiot, she hoped her hair and make-up looked okay. At least she had a robe over this stupid-looking hospital gown.

“I know that officer,” he said. “I asked him not to say it was me, or I figured you might not see me. We were adversaries, and I know you probably hate me for grilling you the way I did. But I have a proposal—a job offer—if you’ll just hear me out.”

“I don’t hate you, and I want to thank you for helping me yesterday. They gave me a transfusion, but it could have been worse if you hadn’t stopped my bleeding.” Still, she thought, that didn’t mean she trusted him. But if he was going to offer her a job at that prestigious law firm… “Okay, here’s the deal,” he said, crossing one ankle over his other knee. “I intended to talk to you about this just before you were shot. I could use your help immediately on an important issue in St. Augustine.”

“St. Augustine? Do you have an office there? With this situation—I have a young daughter too—I can’t really work outside this area.”

“I need your expertise and talents and so does an innocent woman who’s a friend of mine. If we don’t move fast, she may soon be indicted for murder. She’s the dead woman’s daughter, and the whole thing hinges or whether it’s an accident, suicide or murder. It will not only impact her, but the state of Florida. Needless to say, I’ll make it worth your while. I’d like to retain you as a consultant, have you conduct some interviews on site there. We need to prove that her daughter did not commit the murder.”

“If it were a local case, but St. Augustine’s about as far from here and still be in the state. As I said, I have commitments here.” “I hear you’re being released later today. I’m sure you’ll want to get home to your daughter, but can we meet to talk this over again soon, and I’ll give you more details? I saw your physician in the hall, and he said not to stay long right now.”

Her eyes widened and her lower lip dropped before she got hold of herself. The reach of this man amazed her. He knew the cop on her door; he’d consulted with her doctor. Wasn’t anything about her condition or release privileged? Was this master manipulator the kind of client she could trust? She really should not have trusted poor, dead Fred Myron either. But, she sure needed that job, and this one could be an entre to others. It had to be high-profile.

“Claire, could I pick you up tomorrow and take you over to Lake Avalon mid day? I’ll bring lunch. We’ll talk, so I can explain everything. The case, the people—your fee, of course. Unless you’d rather not go out into open spaces right now.”

“I’m not going to cower under my desk. Besides, those bullets surely weren’t meant for me. Really, I don’t have any enemies…not someone who would do that.”

Just yesterday, she would have said this man was her enemy from his trying to tear her testimony to shreds. She shouldn’t trust him now. No way she was going to leave Southwest Florida to work for who knew how long in the northeastern part of the state. She might as well be going to Alaska for all she knew of that area. And this was something that would affect the entire state? This guy was good with words, with convincing people, but not her.

“I  really don’t want to do profiling of possible murderers,” she told him. “That can be tricky and dangerous. That would be what you’re looking for, isn’t it, I mean if it’s murder? In Lifeboat v. Sorento, I was only trying to establish that Sol Sorento was alive. I turned up nothing to prove his friends and family wanted him dead or would have committed murder.”

He put both feet on the floor and his elbows on his knees as he leaned closer and fixed her with his riveting, silver stare. “Think of it this way then. I’m not asking you to profile a murderer, but a victim. Surely, this woman’s daughter would never have hurt her. The deceased had panic attacks and was on powerful meds, so maybe she accidentally or intentionally overdosed. It would be what you called on the stand a forensic autopsy.

I want you for this. And then we’ll go from there.” I want you…And then we’ll go from there…And the woman had panic attacks…powerful meds… Claire closed her eyes for a moment. She felt for this poor dead woman and her daughter. And, she hated to admit it, but she was moved by Nick’s passion for this case.

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