"She won't be able to get out of this mess," Tom whispered in her ear. "This time she'll answer for what she's done."
A Secret of Color
Donna G. Pierce
Sheldon County Courthouse Carson, Alabama
Thursday, June 1998
The courtroom was full but she knew it would be. As usual, she was late. Maggie hesitated inside the doorway, her hand holding the tarnished brass knob. Memories from childhood flooded back to her. She jerked her hand away from the door knob. Would that keep the memories away? Maggie had no time to reminisce.
Maggie, Kat and Tish were here to face their foe. His name was Jim Handley, and he was Kat's father, a bigoted district attorney. The people of Carson had been duped by one of the best but duped nonetheless. This wasn't a murder trial and Handley knew it. It was revenge, plain and simple. This time Handley played his game for keeps.
The courtroom gossips hadn't noticed her, and Maggie slipped back into the hallway. Why was she here? Maybe because two of your best friends need you, a little voice inside her head answered back.
Maggie frowned. Another fine mess you've gotten yourself into, Tish. What would you do without Kat and me?
Her family should count their blessings, Maggie thought and turned her back to the door leading to Handley. At least she wasn't showing too much of her liberal side today.
Maggie learned to dress conservatively when she began covering court cases for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution two years before. Even so, she still liked her personality to show. Today, she'd worn one large earring accompanied by one stud in each ear, instead of her usual three studs.
Smiling to herself, Maggie adored the fact that she had a small secret. Most people in Carson would die if they knew her silk blouse covered a small dove tattooed on her shoulder. As a sign of rebellion, she wore a navy skirt a few inches above her knee. Maggie knew the people of Carson would talk for days about her long legs and her short skirt.
"Hey there, Red." Maggie gasped as two long arms squeezed her in a bear hug almost taking her breath away. She recognized the voice and relaxed.
As Maggie looked into the face of former mayor Edgar Powell, she felt a smile form on her lips. Who wouldn't smile back at this man? His deep chuckle helped her relax more.
"It's good to see you." Maggie hugged him back.
"You're running late as usual I see."
Mr. Powell teased her just as he did when she was a child. Maggie knew that in today's world teenagers called adults by their first name. She grew up during a different time. He'd always be Mr. Powell to Maggie.
"Got any gumballs with you?" Maggie asked thinking back to her childhood. She and Kat dropped by Mr. Powell's office every day after school to choose which color gumball they wanted from the machine on his desk.
"Those were the days. I miss you girls."
Maggie laughed. "Carson hasn't changed much since those days, except we've all grown older. In the two days I've been here, Pop's phone has rung off the hook with gossips."
"I know it seems that way Maggie, but most are concerned about Tish's welfare. People like her now. She's almost respectable." Mr. Powell winked.
"Maybe so . . . " Maggie stopped. She looked around the hallway, then reached over to touch a leaf on a corn plant. "The courthouse hasn't changed much, has it? I think this is the same plant that was here when we were children."
He chuckled again. "It probably is."
"We'd come and sneak inside to watch her father try cases," Maggie said fingering the plant. "Handley's talent in the courtroom was something to see back then."
"Handley's power has dwindled a lot." Mr. Powell peered around the hallway. Maggie knew he looked for eavesdroppers. "He's not as strong as he used to be."
"I hope you're right," Maggie turned back around. "When Kat came to live with us, she told us not to ever call him Mr. Handley in front of her. She said only respectable people were called Mister"
"She was right," Mr. Powell's face relaxed again and his smile returned. "So, why did the Constitution send you over to cover a trial in a little country town like Carson?"
"Well, Mr. Powell, it's like this, Carson is near the Alabama/Georgia state line."
"In this trial, there is a poor black lady accused of murdering a federal court judge. In addition, Jim Handley, who used to be one of the top defense attorneys in the state of Alabama, is the district attorney and assisting in the case," Maggie rattled off.
"Uhuh. Got that right." Mr. Powell smiled down at her. "You're on top of things over there, aren't you?"
"Oh, and don't forget, Katharine Handley O'Connor, who is now one of the top defense attorneys in the state, is defending the poor black lady," Maggie finished. "It doesn't get any better, now does it?"
"Guess not, Red." Mr. Powell held the door open for her. "Guess not. It's time to go in now."
Maggie stepped forward and hesitated before crossing the threshold. She glanced at Mr. Powell who nodded. She stepped inside Handley's world. People stood along the walls, and she heard others shuffling in the balcony section overhead. It was definitely the best show in town.
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