Author of The Headline Murders

Chapter One

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Marsha LeGrange. She was - and is - stunningly gorgeous, with a figure that would make a Miss America jealous. And in school, there she had been: absolutely gliding along, all the sought-after senior boys chasing her, on her way to becoming not only the best cheerleader, the best tennis player (male or female) in her high school and valedictorian of her senior class. The gliding stopped, though, when at age fifteen her father died. She'd been pushing a wheelbarrow full of responsibility up a rocky mountain trail ever since.

Not much time for those popular boys. Boys and tennis were exchanged for working part-time twenty-plus hours a week and studying even harder so she could get a college scholarship. Still, she was voted best cheerleader and she was named class valedictorian.

She was still pushing that wheelbarrow, now, however, as a litigator. Only days earlier, Marsha had been worrying about keeping her job at the law firm of Wilkins, Wilkins & Dunn. This Great Recession was costing many lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants their jobs, not only here in Pittsburgh, but all over the country. But today she would become a star. Untouchable? Maybe. She could only hope.

Three weeks ago, a senior partner had handed Marsha the trial file. The case alleged severe injuries to a woman, caused, she claimed, by an accident she was involved in with a person insured by Interstate Insurance Company, one of WW&D's largest clients. "It's yours now, Marsha," the senior partner had told her. "Best guess is, you'll be picking a jury in seven to fourteen days."

Seventeen days later - only a few hours ago - she came back to the office with a victory for the defendant, her client. In that four-day trial Marsha had proved that the woman's severe injuries were caused by a fall down the basement steps in her own home a week after the motor vehicle accident she'd had with the man whom Interstate insured.

Jeff Guilfoyle was the first to stop by to congratulate her. Jeff - tall, in great shape, a beyond-handsome man. Marsha had been to his home several times and had met his lovely wife and their two young sons. Jeff was the youngest senior partner at the firm. Some were saying he was only a few years away from being elected managing partner. Everybody took to Jeff Guilfoyle. Jeff, like the other senior partners, could come and go as he pleased.

"Hi, office star," he said. "You are going with me to the Rusty Bucket to celebrate your triumph today." Telling, not asking.

The Rusty Bucket was where lawyers in Pittsburgh went to trumpet their victories or pour booze on their wounds. It was only a block from the Allegheny County Courthouse and on any given late afternoon or early evening you could find a table or two surrounded by lawyers from the firm.

"Sure," she said. "I'll go along with you to the Rusty Bucket, if you're buying."

At the Rusty Bucket, she counted three tables surrounded by lawyers from WW&D. Everyone got up and said hi to her when she and Jeff walked by, and all of them praised her for her victory. Martha LeGrange - one day worried about her job, now the center of mostly male lawyer attention. She was used to plenty of male attention, but this was a different kind. This was for Marsha, the victorious trial lawyer, not Marsha, the lovely young single woman.

A tall glass of her favorite Chablis was placed in front of her as soon as she sat in a chair that a senior partner held out for her. How, she wondered, as she smiled and nodded her thanks, did they know my favorite brand of Chablis?

Late afternoon filtered through more praise into early evening. The celebration of her victory added to the high she walked in on. She was trying to go slow on the wine, but after the second glass she began to feel just a little more than a buzz. She shook her head. Unwilling to leave. But she had a late date and it was time to go. As she carefully made her way to the door, everybody had their eyes on her.

She turned at the door, smiled, and waved. "Gotta go," she said. "Late date." Marsha knew men stopped in their tracks to take her in. But she hadn't been with a man for way too long.

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