COTW: Burden of Proof, Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

Offices of Marshall, Bateman & Powell
Pittsburgh
June 3
5:30 PM

With a weary sigh, Chelsea Hanover pressed slim fingers to her throbbing head and willed her raging migraine to disappear. She didn’t have time for this. Philip Myers went to trial for armed robbery and assault in less than three days, and she’d yet to find a single loophole in the prosecution’s case.

Pushing her fingers through her long, copper-colored curls, she scowled at the files spread open on her desk.

“Damn it, Jerry!”

She told him this case was a bad idea. Never mind the partners forbade him to take it. Being Jerry, he naturally ignored her advice and the instructions of two of the firm’s senior partners, and — no surprise — the case blew up in his face.

Chelsea’s stomach heaved, and she could hear her sister’s chastising voice, reminding her stress could kill her. Sally was convinced her younger sister’s problems would be solved if Chelsea just slowed down. The thought made her ill.

Or maybe she was ill because she’d consumed nothing except half a cup of coffee and a stale doughnut since six this morning. The mere thought of food brought a protesting heave from her knotted stomach.

Just what she needed to end up a hellish Thursday. A bodily mutiny.

What she needed, Chelsea conceded, as her vision blurred from exhaustion, was some kind of evidence that put Myers elsewhere at the time of the robbery. Lacking that, she reached for her trusty bottle of aspirin. She grimaced as she washed several down with a gulp of cold coffee.

A rap at the frosted-glass office door rescued her from the sea of paperwork on her desk.

“Come in.”

The door opened, and Gene Marshall poked his balding head through the opening. “Got a minute, Chelsea?”

A warm smile tugged at her lips. Gene wasn’t just her boss. He was her mentor and adoptive uncle, and one of the very few men she trusted.

“Sure, Gene. I’m just going over the Myers case one last time.”

His frown reminded her none of the senior partners were happy with Jerry Merrick’s decision to take on the case in the first place. If it failed, it would make the entire firm look bad.

From what she saw, it would fail. Miserably.

“Give it back to Merrick,” Gene growled, shutting the door behind himself. “You’re working too hard on an airtight loss. The partners have had a meeting, and we’ve decided to let Jerry sink or swim on his own. If he pulls it off, great. If not, it gives him his third strike and gets him tossed out on his ear. We should have done it a long time ago.”

Chelsea’s brow furrowed. “Why are you telling me this, Gene?”

He shrugged. “I know you, kiddo. You’ll feel guilty if it fails. Which it probably will.”

A wry smile tugged at her lips. “Is that what you came in here for? A pep talk?”

He paused, his expression uncomfortable. “Actually, no. A big case just landed in the firm’s lap, and the partners agree. We want you to handle it.”

The knot in her stomach tightened. Was Gene actually trying to sell her on a case with flattery? He knew that crap was lost on her. The one and only time he’d tried and succeeded before now ended up being a very messy kidnapping case she almost lost, even though her client was actually innocent. “What kind of case?”

“A big one.” Gene skimmed a file across the mess on her desk. “Murder One.”

Chelsea’s blood froze in her veins. First degree murder? Dear God, he wasn’t suggesting that she, a junior partner, handle another capital case, was he?

“You’re kidding.”

He sighed. “Unfortunately, no. I know you said you didn’t want any more capital cases after the Brantley kidnapping, but this case is just too important, and you have the best track record of all the junior partners.”

Resignation flooded her. The partners handpicked her for this case, so she didn’t have much of a choice. She might as well hear him out. “What’s the story?”

“I’m not entirely sure. The woman’s name is Marlene Cavarella. They arrested her this afternoon, and details are still sketchy. According to Eleanor, she was incoherent when she called.”

“Incoherent?” Chelsea thumbed the edge of the file and shot a curious glanced at Gene. “How?”

“From crying, not intoxication. Eleanor said she was pretty close to hysterical, on the phone. Lucky us, to be the family law firm.”

“That seems odd for someone facing a Murder One charge.” Chelsea’s brow furrowed as something he said sank in. “Cavarella? As in Dominic Cavarella, of Cavarella Enterprises?”

“Yeah.” Gene settled his five-foot-ten-inch frame into one of the plush leather chairs opposite her. “Small world, huh? We handle all their corporate legalities.”

Chelsea nodded absently. She handled three of the well-known advertising agency’s legal disputes over the past two years, herself. She even met “The Big Man,” as Gene called him, once. Dominic Cavarella struck her not as awe-inspiring, but downright intimidating. He made her skin crawl. She frowned. She had way too much experience with powerful men to ever trust one.

“So who is Marlene?”

Gene laughed in disbelief. “You really need to get out more, kiddo! Marlene’s the Big Man’s wife.”

Chelsea’s head snapped up, even as she opened the file he’d tossed her. “Cavarella’s wife? Who’s the victim?”

Even as she asked, the answer stared up at her from the open file in her hands. Chelsea’s breath rushed out on a quiet curse. “She offed her husband?”

“Sam Spade, I presume,” Gene intoned wryly, but nodded. “Yeah, the victim was Cavarella himself. According to the police, there were sixty-four separate stab wounds to his chest and upper abdomen. The detective I spoke with said he figures Cavarella was dead long before she stopped hacking at him.”

Chelsea winced at his indelicate choice of words. Gene wasn’t one to sugarcoat. “So why me?”

Gene’s expression was sympathetic as he rose to his feet. “She asked specifically for you. I figure she heard her husband talk about your handling of the past couple of corporate cases. It’s not likely she’d distinguish between cases.”

Chelsea sighed as she closed the file. “Exactly what do you expect me to do? The woman was literally caught red-handed, if these reports are to be believed.”

“The question is, are they?” He shrugged. “Check it out. Talk to her, at least. She claims she’s innocent, and the firm trusts your judgment enough to give you free rein either way you go. If you feel the case isn’t worth the risk after you’ve talked with her, we’ll simply farm it out to the Public Defender.”

She sighed, pressing her fingers to her forehead again. “All right, Gene. I’ll head over there first thing in the morning. Where’s she being held?”

“Allegheny County Jail, at least until the arraignment.”

She nodded as she rose to her feet. “Got it. Do we have any idea who the District Attorney’s picked for the case, yet?”

Gene’s grimace stopped her halfway up, and ice trickled through her. Prosecutors never bothered Gene; he didn’t look at them with the same distaste many defense attorneys did.

“Gene? What is it?”

“More like ‘who’,” he muttered as he met her eyes. “Rumor has it Martin’s giving the case to the Executioner.”

The blood drained from her head so fast it made her dizzy, and she sank back into her chair as an image flashed before her eyes of dark blond hair, clean-cut good looks, and green eyes so intense they could pierce her to the soul from a yard away. She could barely draw a breath as she croaked out a single word. “Blakely.”

Gene nodded glumly. “From what I hear, that man’s been looking for a rematch ever since you trumped him at the Fairman trial, two years ago.”

She managed a wan smile. “I didn’t trump him — the evidence did. Chad was innocent. Even the Executive Assistant District Attorney can’t be right all the time.”

Gene snorted a laugh. “So far, you’re the only one who’s managed to prove that theory. His record for convictions was spotless, until you came along. Damn him, and his absolute devotion to the law.” A rueful smile flickered across his face, then. “Unfortunately, it works all too well for him.”

Chelsea’s heart stuck in her throat as she recalled the first and only time she faced Justin Blakely in court. It was the first time she was terrified since Rob tore away her innocence, and her sense of safety, in college. The idea of being in the same courtroom with another Blakely, and one fed with a silver spoon so like Rob’s, made her physically ill. She kept seeing the judge who turned her personal horror into living Hell. When she saw Justin, the first day, the sensation slammed into her, and rocked her clear off her game. No one knew how close to losing that case she came. No one knew how much his soul-piercing gaze rattled her. God, how would she ever face him again?

“You okay, kiddo?” Gene’s worried voice broke through her thoughts, banishing Justin’s face from her mind. She nodded. She could do this. She wasn’t a thunderstruck rookie, anymore. Her record was even more impressive than Blakely’s. After all, she hadn’t lost a case, yet.

Gene, halfway to the door, turned to give her another concerned glance. “You look like hell, Chelsea. You’re only twenty-four, for God’s sake. You need to slow down. Do yourself a favor, and get some rest before you tackle this one. The D.A.’s office is having a psychologist sent over from Western Psychiatric tomorrow afternoon, to see if Marlene’s even fit to stand trial. Save yourself the aggravation. Wait until Monday.”

Anger hardened Chelsea’s resolve. Psychiatrists, she could do without. They were all alike, trying to convince people the worst terrors were all in their heads. Trying to tell frightened, traumatized women they were crazy to feel afraid.

“No. If she’s as upset as you say, Mrs. Cavarella will be too fragile to withstand psychological analysis. I want to get her side of the story before the state’s headshrinkers get to her.”

Gene sighed in resignation. “All right, then. Good luck.”

As Chelsea turned to shove the Myers case into a file box and gather up her tape recorder and legal pads, she swallowed back a grimace. Between the little information in the file, and the roiling sensation in her gut, Chelsea feared she needed a good bit more than just luck. She needed a miracle.

Like what you’ve read so far? Consider donating to my fund in benefit of RAINN and The Rape Foundation. 50% of all proceeds will be divided between the charities and donated directly. 50% of the proceeds will go into a special fund to help with publication costs to get this book printed and more widely circulated, to further help these causes.

BECOME A PATRON – DONATE HERE

©Burden of Proof by Esther Mitchell
All Rights Reserved
Any unlawful reproduction, duplication or presentation of this material without the express, written consent of the author is subject to prosecution under Intellectual Property Rights laws.

Burden of Proof Final

COTW: BURDEN OF PROOF

Our first Chapter-of-the-Week book is Burden of Proof

The charities benefited by this book are the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and The Rape Foundation.

Thank you to the talented Nikita Gordyn for the beautiful cover art.

This book contains possible triggers for those who are survivors of rape and domestic violence. Chapter specifically involving trigger information will be marked with a trigger warning.

About the book:

When Justice Fails, Can Love Prevail?

Chelsea Hanover prides herself on one undisputed fact; she’s never lost a case. A crack young defense attorney, she takes only cases she believes in, and sticks to her rule of never mixing business with pleasure. Now, Pittsburgh socialite Marlene Cavarella has been arrested in the fatal stabbing of her wealthy husband, Dominic, and Chelsea finds herself thrust into the midst of a murder case set to turn her entire reality inside out. And the only man who might save her is a man she doesn’t want to trust, or to love.

Burden of Proof Final

If you, or someone you love, has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault,  please know you are not alone.  Domestic violence and sexual assault crimes are the  largest number of unreported crimes in the US and Europe. Break the silence, and help take back the night.  For help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or  RAINN at 1-800-656-4673. 

Get involved, and help take violence out of our homes, and rapists off the streets. Contact  your local shelters and domestic crisis organizations.  Together, we all make a difference.

Chapter-of-the-Week Book

Today, I’m starting the Chapter-of-the-Week Charity Book.

From this point on, post titles for this venture of mine will begin with “COTW:” and then the title and chapter of the book currently up for reading.

As stated previously, these books are being provided for you to read for free. However, as they benefit charities, I would hope if you are able, that you would consider donating something in exchange for the read.

Thank you all, and happy reading!

Books 01

Chapter-A-Week Books

Starting tomorrow, I will be posting one chapter each week of one of my charity books, every Saturday.

I won’t be requiring you to pay to read them. But I would remind you that these books are for charity, and if you like what you’re reading, you can show your appreciation by donating, either weekly or at the end of your reading adventure. At the beginning of each book, I will put up a post detailing the charities the book supports, and why, as well as a “cover synopsis” so you can decide if you’re interested in reading.

Donations will be divided between the charities, and a fund to pay for getting these books published in print, so they can generate more money for the charities.

I’ll be starting tomorrow morning. Happy reading, and I hope you find my writing worth helping out some good causes!

single_candle by hotblack

image by hotblack

Not Something I Usually Do…

Normally, I reserve this blog only for all things writing, and try to leave anything personal off of here.

I’m sorry for this post, but it’s become necessary to do this, because not addressing this issue will most certainly impact not just my health, but my life, and my ability to continue writing.

Due to an ongoing medical condition, I was forced to leave my job back in February. Up until June, I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth with the help of family and close friends. Now, I’m facing the possibility of losing my car — my only source of reliable transportation — if I don’t come up with at least $750 before 8/15.

To press home the point of what I’m up against, I thought I’d share something a little more graphic, since I gather most people might not understand how important it is I find a way to keep my car…

Here’s a photo of my left leg, from mid-shin down, taken earlier this evening. What you see is the damage still remaining 3 years after my immune system and disease tried to destroy my ability to walk completely, by eating away at the blood vessels, tissue, nerves and bone throughout my body — most visible in my feet.

HSP Scars Left Leg - 8-9-16

The Rheumatoid Arthritis is another symptom of the widespread autoimmune disease eating away at me. All of this limits my ability to walk to practically nothing, and requires I have transportation that doesn’t mean having to walk more than a handful of feet to get to it.

This is why it is so absolutely imperative I find the support I need to keep my vehicle. Without my car, I won’t be able to leave my house, and my ability to get medical treatment, medication, and basic necessities to life will disappear. If this happens, it won’t be long until I am unable to write at all, and the rest of the eventualities are too terrifying for me to even consider, at this point.

If you’re willing to help, you can do so on the Go Fund Me page below, where my friends and family have been contributing toward the goal of paying off my car and helping remove a stress that contributes to my continued illness.

https://www.gofundme.com/esthermedical

Everyone who contributes can opt to receive special gifts, as well as complete repayment of the contributed amount, as soon as I possibly can. Just be sure to leave your name and address when you donate.

If you prefer not to donate via GoFundMe, you can e-mail me at esthermitchell(at)esthermitchell.com (replace “(at)” with @) for additional options to donate.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. If I can keep my car, and lower my stress, I can complete books faster, which means more for you to read.

A Writer’s Value: Breaking Down the Math

There’s been a lot of discussion, lately, about the value of a writer’s work. I have to say, it’s not just about authors, though I will be approaching this mostly from a writer’s perspective. But I have to say it: Artisans in general have been devalued, because people say “I can do that” without a clue what goes into the art.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people, right in front of me, say “Oh, I can make that myself” when looking at my jewelry.

You know what? Maybe you can. But you won’t. And it’s likely in most cases you won’t take the time or lay out the money to learn how to do it.

Writing involves learning, and the layout of money, on the faith that someone will find your work worthwhile enough to pay for. Most people have no idea what writing requires. I’m here to tell you.

It requires having the idea.

It requires research (months of it… sometimes years).

It requires focus.

It requires hours and hours of dedicated time, away from family and friends, with focus entirely on the work being done.

It requires a desire to create something larger than yourself — characters that people are going to care about more than they will ever care about you, stories that can convince readers to suspend reality.

My average book takes anywhere from four months to three years to write, depending on how deep the research goes. Can you honestly say that isn’t worth $6 for the final product?

If you calculate out the hours spent, versus my royalties on a $6 book (that’s roughly $2 I get per book sold), that means I have to sell at least 4 books just to make 1 hour’s pay, at minimum wage($8/hr). When you factor in that I spend, on average, 2,500 hours on each book, and calculate that out at minimum wage, it breaks down like this:

2,500 hrs x $8/hr = $20,000
(to break even just on time spent, at minimum wage)
+
200 pgs (average) x 4 printings (average) = 800 pages /500 pg per ream = 1.55 reams of paper x 3.64/ream = $5.47 paper cost (average)
+
0.67 cartridge ink (average) x 4 color (1,200 pages per cartridge) = Use of 2 2/3 cartridges (average) x $20/cartridge = $53.40 ink cost (average)
+
Notebooks, copies, pens, etc items usually come to about $50 per book, on average.

So, on average, that totals out to:
$20,000 + $5.47 + $53.40 + $50 = $20,108.87 on average for a book, and that’s just in production cost on my end (the writing), and assuming a publisher will pick up publication costs.

Now, remembering I will only be making (on average) $2 per book sold, just to break even, I’m going to have to sell 10,055 copies just to break even on writing one book… and that doesn’t include any advertising costs or other post-production expenses I’m expected to eat as an author.

You want to know what my average yearly income from writing is? About $30 (if I’m lucky).

Considering how much I have to fight torrent sites, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn I’m probably losing 10 times that amount to people stealing my work because they feel entitled to read it for free.

So… It takes a certain amount of dedication and drive to write a whole book (never mind a series or three), and the sacrifices. And everyone who devalues authors with “Oh, I could write a book if I wanted to” and “It’s not like it’s hard work” or “Well, authors make so much money, they can afford to lose the sale if I get it for free off a torrent site” are so full of crap, it’s coming out of their eyeballs.

Could you write a book?
Yeah, maybe you could. But you probably won’t. Because the minute most people realize how difficult and thankless it actually is, they give up. If you aren’t writing now, you probably don’t have the dedication and drive to do it for a career.

Is it hard work?
You bet your ass it is.

It’s grueling.

It’s time-consuming.

It’s hours and days and months of aggravation, missing out on things because your muse has you glued to a notebook or computer screen, writing away.

It’s heart-breaking at times, and exhilarating at others.

It’s 72 hours straight without sleep because you’re terrified if you stop, you’ll lose that brilliant idea that’s currently consuming you.

It’s ripping out your heart and soul and offering it up so some critic who’s having a bad day can make themselves feel better by stomping all over it, and then pasting on a smile and saying “Well, I learn from the bad reviews”… And days of bouncing off the walls with joy, and no one to share it with, when someone deems your hard work the best thing they ever read.

It’s a damned roller coaster of “I don’t know what to feel, right now” when you’re stuck between watching a love affair come together, and watching a life fall apart, right there on the page, and not being quite sure how either came to be, because they damned well weren’t in your outline, plot cards, or rough draft.

Can we afford to lose even one sale?
Not a snowball’s chance in Hell. We’ve bled for each and every sale, long before that book hits the shelves for sale. Writers are fragile creatures, and we base our self-worth on how worthwhile you, as the reader, consider us. Telling us “I want to read your book, but you’re not worth a measly $6 to read” tells us you think we, as a writer, are worthless… Many a good author has given up, discouraged, because they feel worthless in the eyes of their readers, because readers make the mistake of thinking every writer is the #1 Best Seller book, and making millions of dollars.

But you know how a book gets to that exalted position? People buy it.

So, unless you’re willing to buy, don’t call yourself a fan.

Books 01

“Dangerous Request” – Excerpt from BLOOD DEBT (Project Prometheus)

BloodDebtCoverArt

When Doctor Michael Banks asked his brother to find him a specialist to help combat the biological weapon wiping out entire villages in the Amazon jungles, he expected a dedicated, licensed doctor with enough lab time to make Albert Schweitzer green with envy, and warrior enough to handle himself in the Amazon.  So he was stunned and disappointed to find himself face-to-face with a petite spitfire of a woman with no degree, desert features, and china blue eyes.  To beat the poison, Michael will need everything at his disposal, and the Persian spitfire at his side has the key to his most valuable weapon — if he can keep her far away from his darkest secret.

 

“Dangerous Request” –Excerpt from Blood Debt (Project Prometheus, Book 4) :

Michael, his head bent in concentration over the most recent batch of blood tests, jerked upright as a scream tore through the camp. As his brain registered the sound came from the nearby blood-supply tent, where Shahdi was working, icy panic lanced through him.

He lunged for the lab’s entrance, and dashed out into the bright light of day, with barely an acknowledgement of moving as he tore into the canvas of the collapsed tent next door.

“Shahdi!”

“Michael,” her faint voice, even muffled by the heavy canvas, sent an electric charge of relief through his veins. Shoving aside canvas as he went, Michael waded through the collapsed tent, until he uncovered a sight that made his blood run cold.

Shahdi lay pinned beneath a large chunk of the main support pole, with the heavy beam wedged sideways across her body from left shoulder to right hip. That thing had to be crushing her!

Scrambling to her side, Michael grasped the pole, muscles straining as he lifted the beam away. It wasn’t as heavy as it was awkward to lift, but it was still heavy enough to do damage when dropped from nearly fifteen feet above. Discarding the pole, he dropped to the ground at Shahdi’s side even as she tried to sit up.

“Don’t move!”

She gave him an odd look — probably questioning the sharp fear in his voice — but subsided with nothing more than a sigh and a wince. Michael ran his hands quickly over her body, checking for cracked or broken bones and warmer than normal spots that would indicate internal bleeding. Relief poured through him when he found nothing.

“This is not how I planned to have your hands on me.” The humorous lilt of Shahdi’s voice snapped his gaze to her face, and he scowled as his fear boiled over into anger.

“You could have been killed, and you’re cracking jokes?”

She rolled her eyes as she slowly sat up, his hands steadying her in spite of her apparent strength.

“You must learn to not fret so, Michael,” she murmured. “The point is that I was not harmed. Therefore, a little humor puts the situation into its proper place.”

“You’re going to have nasty bruises by tomorrow–”

“But they will heal with time.”

“You’ll be stiff and hurting–”

“But I am alive.”

He eyed her testily, his nerves drawn to breaking point. Damn it, she was hurt; couldn’t she see how much the idea scared him? “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

“No.” Her good humor fled, and her somber blue gaze met his. “I do not know how to make you love me.”

Blood Debt – Available from Desert Breeze Publishing on May 11,2016