featured author: cara Putman
“Ms. Gordan.” The bailiff’s softly drawled words, jerked Avery Gordon’s pen across the legal pad. “Didn’t mean to startle you.” He held out a slip of paper and a rose.
“It’s all right, George.” This was a short recess, the time to collect her thoughts for the next round of battle in a trial gone wrong. She had to face the possibility she’d failed her most important client…her sister.
Without something drastic happening, Ashley was headed to jail. All because a key document had disappeared overnight.
She’d looked through the trial file so many times she’d practically memorized the paperwork, but the missing memo, the one explaining Ashley had warned her boss about the embezzlement, had vanished. Ashley could go to jail for a crime she’d been framed for.
Avery claimed the note and grimaced when the rose pricked her finger. “Thank you.”
Its message was simple.
Two lines of instructions.
“When you arrive, look for the book with a carnation. Come alone and within the hour if you want to help your client.”
When not if.
She glanced at George, still standing a step from her table. “Who gave this to you?”
“He didn’t give his name, just said it was important. The kind of thing you couldn’t wait to do.” His jaw tightened in his somber face. “The judge has an emergency hearing in chambers. Said it’ll be at least an hour. Maybe a cup of coffee and fresh air…”
“Maybe…” She didn’t want to tell him it would take more than that to save Ashley. What could help her client? She was desperate to find that. “Some fresh air would be good.” Even if it meant stepping into winter’s grip. If nothing else the walk might give her a different perspective of a case in downward spiral.
As Avery clutched the note around the stem of the rose, her mind screamed to turn around, return to the courthouse, and search one more time even as her leopard heels slipped and slid further away.
The frigid January wind snaked down the back of her coat, her scarf ineffective against its chilled fingers. She shivered and felt the fool for coming, knowing a random note wouldn’t lead to a simple fix for the trial.
Avery glanced at her watch, then looked back at the large wooden door. Walk in? Or walk back to court and scan the file one more time for the missing memo? The one that had been there two nights ago but would still be missing in an hour when she cross-examined the prosecution’s star witness.
After pulling the red door of the Brew Starts Here open, Avery stood in the doorway scanning for a book with a carnation. Some tables were hard to see as patrons clustered around them, a buzz of conversation rivaling the music piping from speakers. No one watched for her until her gaze landed on a man who looked an awful like Charles Caudill. Her shoulders tensed and her left foot pivoted like she’d walk out the door.
She didn’t run. That was his job when she asked him to represent her sister. She frowned and squinted. Was that an envelope on the table in front of him? Next to a book with …a carnation? She rolled her eyes. It felt corny now that she knew it was him.
Then sank back to the chair.
She refused to look at him, but walked to the barista who smiled at her.
“Nice rose. Here’s your white chocolate mocha, hold the whip.”
“I haven’t ordered yet.” She pulled out her billfold.
“He did and paid for it too. Enjoy.” The woman gave her another smile then turned her attention to the person behind Avery.
“Thanks.” She frowned then took a sip. It was perfect. Frustratingly perfect. Avery walked toward Charles’ table. She tugged the note from her pocket, dropped it to the small table. “What do you want? I’m in the middle of the trial for a client you wouldn’t take.”
“I know.” He swallowed, as if words abandoned him.
She glanced at her watch, eased to the edge of the chair. “I have ten minutes, Charles.”
He held up the envelope, then slid it across the table. “You need this.”
Her eyes widened and her lips parted. “What is that?”
“A memo. The one you need to prove the prosecutor has the wrong woman. It was mixed in with the discovery your assistant delivered yesterday. In our case.” He pressed it into her hand. “You wouldn’t take my calls.”
“You could have couriered it over.”
“I knew you’d need it today, but when I reached the courthouse, the trial had already started. It’s important enough to hand deliver.”
She took the envelope. “Thank you, and thanks for the coffee.” She laid the rose on the table. “I won’t need this in court.”
A look of something, maybe remorse, tightened his face. “I’m sorry, Avery.”
“For not taking your sister’s case.” He paused. “But you’re the attorney she needed.”
She fought the tears that rose in her eyes as she waved the envelope. “If that were the case, you wouldn’t have this.”
“But you found the memo. You believed her with a ferocity no one else had when she needed it. She needed you.” He slid his hand across the table, and her fingers connected with his.
A jolt shot through her. She wanted to pretend he didn’t affect her, but he’d noticed.
He smiled slowly, the one that always got to her. “And maybe after you decimate the state’s witness this afternoon, you can forgive me.”
She studied the envelope, and the silence lengthened. Then she set her mug down. “I do. Forgive you.” It felt freeing to push the words out.
“So you’ll let me take you out?” He breathed the words.
She smiled with a nod. “You can take me to dinner tonight, Charles Caudill. But first I have a client to save.”
She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana. Her latest romantic suspense novel, Lethal Intent, released from Thomas Nelson in January 2021. You can connect with her online at caraputman.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.