Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Hero Amicus Curiae - Chapter 2

Here's the next chapter in the seventh 888-555-HERO saga!


The next morning, Aisha Franklin sat beside Carol Inunza at the defendant’s table in one of Canyon Pointe’s federal district criminal courtrooms, wondering how the hell she let her law partners talk her into temporarily representing Carol. Harri had refused to press charges against Carol for kidnapping her and was still searching for a criminal defense attorney for Carol. However, their fellow attorney couldn’t escape the charges for aiding and abetting the prison break of four inmates from Mauvaises, the federal maximum security prison specifically for those inmates classified as supervillains.

“I still don’t understand why you’re doing this,” Carol murmured. She wore an orange jumpsuit and had what Harri referred to as “jail stink”. Aisha had never noticed the odor before she had superpowers. Harri claimed Aisha’s smoking back then had deadened her nose to the funk. But with the super senses her mother-in-law gifted her, the scent was a million times worse than a skunk.

“Because your husband did me a solid when Mike Michaels had Harri arrested on trumped up charges,” Aisha said. The former Canyon Pointe D.A. was now doing his own residency in the state pen for corruption and fraud.

“Pablo wouldn’t do a ‘favor’ for anyone with a case in his court,” Carol whispered. “He follows the law. Always.” And she was right. Pablo Inunza had a perfect reputation as a criminal court judge.

Until his wife was arrested. Now Aisha’s ex-husband Calvin Johnson, one of the few assistant D.A.s to survive the Michaels purge, headed the city’s district attorney’s office. Cal didn’t have a choice but to investigate Judge Inunza because the judge had made a lot of enemies, and the mayor and city council were embarrassed as hell after their pledge to clean up the city after what their predecessors had done.

“Right now, I’m thinking you should have followed in his footsteps,” Aisha hissed back.

“Hi, Aisha!”

She looked up at Jim Duncan’s cheery greeting. The federal prosecutor was still as good-looking as he had been in law school. He was a sweetheart in life, but in the courtroom, he was a freaking bull shark. She was kind of glad she was only handling the arraignment.

“Hey, Jim.”

“Can we talk for a moment?” He inclined his head toward the empty jury box.

“Of course.” She turned to Carol. “I’ll be right back.” She stood and strode over to Jim.

He lowered his voice. “My boss is refusing to offer a plea deal.”

“My client cooperated and spilled everything she knows about Miss Purrception and Trubble,” Aisha whispered back.

“She’s also a member of the bar in a city that just last year had a huge scandal in the D.A. and mayor’s offices.” Jim crossed his arms.

“These are federal charges,” Aisha protested.

“I’m aware of who I work for,” he said dryly. “If it helps, I believe Carol thought she was protecting her husband and son. But let’s face it, she kidnapped Harri and planned to murder Trubble. I can’t get a plea deal to fly. Not right now.”

“Did you argue the money coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets by taking this to trial? Not to mention burying an upstanding judge as collateral damage?”

“Girlfriend, give me a little credit.” Jim made a face at her.

“What about bail?”

He shook his head.

Aisha nodded. “Okay. Thanks for trying.” She returned to her seat.

“What did he say?” Carol whispered.

“No leeway,” Aisha murmured. “His boss thinks your case is a slam dunk.”

“Damn.” Carol stared at her shackled wrists. “I’m so screwed if I go to prison.”

“Don’t give up just yet,” Aisha said. “Let’s give the judge a chance.” Carol was totally right though, but Aisha couldn’t give in to despair. She hadn’t lied about Carol’s chances, but neither could she look at the glass as half-full like Harri did.

However, part of her wished Susan was handling the arraignment. The newest partner had a lot more trial experience. But they needed to look out for Mother Defiant’s interests, and the superhero preferred Susan. Harri was right about it being a nuisance suit from Dewey & Cheatham, but maybe they should have sent one of their super clients with Susan to watch her back. Aisha still had a sneaking suspicion Dewey & Cheatham were in bed with the dismantled black ops group Corvus.

Carol snorted softly. “I’ve been in front of Judge Castillo before as an attorney. He likes throwing books at people. Especially attorneys who do dumb shit.”

Aisha kept her mouth shut. Insulting her client wasn’t going to help the situation. She also didn’t want to give Carol false hope, but maybe, just maybe, she could get the judge to recuse himself.

“All rise,” the U.S. marshal acting as bailiff called out. “The United States District Court, District of Southern Mojave, is now in session. The Honorable Judge Francis Castillo presiding.”

The judge strode into the courtroom. He was medium height with salt and pepper hair and beard. His black robes rustled when he dropped heavily into his chair. “Be seated.”

For once, Aisha didn’t have to nudge her client to stand or sit in court. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

While everyone resumed their seats, his clerk handed him the first case file and he flipped it open as he put on his black plastic reading glasses. “The United States versus Inunza.”

Aisha, Carol, and Jim stood.

Judge Castillo looked up from the paperwork. He ignored Aisha and Jim, and his attention focused Carol. His expression was a cross between anger and a disappointed dad. Aisha crossed her fingers, praying he would say something, anything, truly stupid, in order for her to move for him to recuse himself from Carol’s case.

Alarmed murmurs and the slaps and clicks soles and heels on the tile came from the hallway. Something was going on outside the courtroom. Aisha turned to look.

“Am I boring you, Counselor?” the judge snapped.

“Sir, I think we need to evacuate the court—” Aisha started.

The bang of the public doors of the courtroom crashing open made everyone look toward the back. A security guard panted. “Judge, we need to clear everyone through your—”

A shot rang out, and the guard collapsed, blood drenching the front of his uniform. Shrieks and shouts from the other attorneys, accused, and spectators filled the air.

Masked people in black rushed inside, armed to the teeth. The lead invader aimed and fired. The bailiff didn’t even have a chance to draw his weapon before he went down in a spray of red.

Instinct kicked in. Aisha pulled Carol off her chair and down to the carpeted floor before she covered her client’s body with her own.

“Get on the floor!” one of the assailants yelled. Everybody who hadn’t done so already, including Judge Castillo, hit the carpet.

Someone poked something metal in Aisha’s back. She tensed, waiting for the bullet that would tell the whole world she was a super.

“Are you Aisha Franklin?” a gruff masculine voice said.

She gritted her teeth and raised her hands. Something in her gut said he already knew who she was. “Yes. I’ll cooperate. Please don’t hurt anyone else.”

“Get up,” he ordered.

She slowly and carefully got to her feet. The leader was around six foot tall. From the snug and proper way his tactical gear fit, not only did he know exactly what he was doing, there wasn’t an ounce of fat under his clothing.

He slammed an item on the defendant’s table. “Call the Ghost Owl. We want him in return for the hostages.”

Aisha stared at the cheap burner cell phone.

Well, crap. Maybe hiding her superhero identity’s gender wasn’t such a smart move after all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Hero Amicus Curiae - Chapter 1

While I work on getting some paperbacks out, here's a preview of the next 888-555-HERO episode, Hero Amicus Curiae!


Susan Kennedy slammed down her phone receiver and roared, “Harri!” Fury ignited every cell in her body, a fury not even the sweet floral scent of the chamomile tea on her desk could soothe She shoved back her chair, stomped across her office floor, and grabbed the papers she had printed off during her phone call. For once, she was glad she’d accepted the partnership at Winters and Franklin. There was someone to share the rage with. She yanked open her office door to find the law firm’s intern Steve Connors reaching for the knob.

“You okay?”

“No! I’m pissed!”

He stepped back, not out of fear. The kid was a super after all, and smart enough to go to law school instead of joining the underwear crowd. She charged down the short hallway to the reception area with Steve following. “Harri!”

Harri’s office door was wide open, and their legal assistant Patty Ames wasn’t sitting at the reception desk. Instead, their IT guru Arthur Drallhickey perched on the chair with wide eyes and the receiver at his ear. “She’s in a meeting at the moment,” he said to whoever was on the other end of the line while he pointed towards the breakroom.

Harriet “Harri” Winters stepped out into the reception area from the breakroom with a steaming mug at the same moment Aisha Franklin poked her head around the edge of her own office door.

“What the hell is going on out here?” Harri said.

“One moment, please.” Arthur jabbed a button on the phone console. “Would you mind taken this to another room? There’s a client on the phone, and she can hear everything you say.”

Susan blew out a deep breath. “Sorry, Arthur.”

Harri inclined her head toward Aisha’s office.

Susan trooped into the room after her. The anger burned itself out with Arthur’s reminder of propriety. It was bad when a former supervillain showed most decorum out of everyone in the building.

Once Steve closed the door behind him, Harri slurped her coffee before she said, “Start from the beginning.”

“I just got off the phone with Mother Defiant.” Susan crossed her arms to keep from shaking thanks to the adrenaline rush draining away. “She was served this morning. Right in the middle of her stopping Professor Geode from stealing the new meteorite at the Museum of Natural History.”

“Well, that’s either the bravest or the dumbest process server in history,” Harri muttered.

“Who sued her and why?” Aisha asked.

Susan eyed her. “Our former employer.”

Harri choked on her coffee. Brown liquid sprayed everywhere. Between one blink and the next, the shades in Aisha’s office closed, and Steve held a wad of paper towels full of coffee splatters. And probably spit. Susan didn’t want to think too much about the second.

She grabbed Aisha’s waste can and held it out for Steve. He dropped the nasty towels into the receptacle. She eyed the kid. “I guess it’s a good thing you’re not a germophobe.”

He grinned. “You learn to ignore certain things.”

Aisha dropped into her office chair. “I’ve been waiting for them to try something since I quit. I’m just surprised it took them over a year.”

“They stole Mother Defiant from me to begin with.” Susan unfolded her arms and held out the sheaf to Aisha. “Why are they pulling this crap now?”

Harri was too busy trying to clear coffee droplets from her trachea with some extreme coughing to comment. Steve dashed out of the office and returned with a bottle of water from the break room. They traded her cup for his bottle.

Aisha flipped through the copy of the lawsuit and frowned. “We aren’t named as defendants. I thought for sure they’d go for a tortious interference in a contract complaint against the firm.”

“I made sure Mother Defiant crossed her ‘t’s and dotted her ‘i’s before we signed her,” Harri croaked.

“And they can’t touch Winters and Franklin without us filing a cross-complaint over how they used Mother Defiant to plant that virus on my phone and thereby infecting your computers,” Susan said.

“So the alternative is going after our clients instead.” Aisha grimaced. “Let me guess she wants you to handle this personally.” She handed the complaint and initial discovery request to Harri who scanned them.

“Yeah.” Susan grinned. “I think Harri scares her even more than you do.”

“I scare her?” Aisha’s right eyebrow rose.

“Now that she knows your alter ego.” Susan grinned.

Harri looked up from the copies of the complaint. “Go to Hermanville, talk Mother Defiant down, and file the answer. This is a nuisance suit.”

“That’s exactly the point.” Susan gestured in the direction of the federal courthouse here in Canyon Pointe. “Carol Inunza’s arraignment is tomorrow. You really think they’re not going to use that against us? Divide and conquer”

“Look, we already know we can’t handle her defense—”

“And we can’t find any of our friends crazy enough to take her on as a client either,” Aisha muttered as she glared at Harri.

“No.” Susan slashed her hand. “We are not rehashing whether or not Harri should have pressed charges against Carol.”

Aisha jabbed a finger in Harri’s direction. “Don’t tell me you actually agree with her—”

“Stop,” Harri growled. “Just stop. Have you ever handled an arraignment before?”

“Not since Captain Mojave’s DUI when I first joined Dewey and Cheatham.” Aisha sighed. “That was only because Howard Dewey was in the U.S. Virgin Islands with his current girlfriend, and I got thrown in the deep end to see if I could swim.”

“You’re nominated to replace Susan,” Harri said. “Because I’ve never done one, and Carol needs competent representation.”

“You’re the one who thinks Carol didn’t kidnap her, Little Miss Stockholm Syndrome,” Aisha snapped.

“Which is exactly why you need to do it,” Harri.

Something smelled a little fishy. Susan frowned. “What’s the real reason you don’t want to handle the arraignment?”

Harri’s cheeks flushed. “It’s got nothing to do with Carol.”

“Or maybe it has something to do with the prosecutor.” Aisha leaned her elbows on her desktop. “Please don’t tell me you and Jim Duncan hooked up—” “Excuse me?” Harri grimaced. “That was Jeremy.”

“You and Judge Castillo?” Steve blurted.

Harri’s flush went from pink to red. “It was one date,” she muttered. “It didn’t end well, so I need you to handle it, Aisha.”

“Unless you want to go to Hermanville in my place?” Susan raised both hands in a balancing gesture. “But I can guarantee Mother Defiant will throw a fit.” “I thought she was scared of me?” Aisha said sourly.

“Doesn’t mean she won’t bitch.” Susan shrugged.

Aisha sighed again. “Fine. Can you run through the points of Carol’s arraignment with me before you take off?”

“Of course.” “Good.” Harri nodded sharply. “That’s taken care of.” She strode out of the office.

Steve shook his head before he turned back to the other two women. “Harri never struck me as the one-night stand type.”

“I wouldn’t say anything about it outside of this office.” Susan smirked. “She’d make Arthur design a weapon that would take you out.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Status Update - March 2021

Things have been hopping in Casa Harden. If you have checked the Release Schedule lately, you'll have noticed nothing will be released in June or July.


DH and I going to be first-time grandparents, and Genius Kid and Significant Other want us there for the birth. It's exciting, thrilling, and scary all at the same time. Plus, the kids want to bring the baby here for Christmas. Plans are tentative and subject to change, which is why I'm keeping my schedule open for the rest of 2021.

I promised two Justice and two HERO novels this year. "A Place at the Table" is completed and under contract for October. I have a Christmas story under consideration by an editor for an anthology. If the editor passes on it, I'll publish it in December anyway. Those are the only certainties in my publishing schedule.

I hear you ask, "What about the Millersburg Magick Mysteries and Soccer Moms of the Apocalypse series?"

Those are being worked on, but I can't guarantee when they will be released at the moment. That's the reason preorders aren't live on any of the retailer sites. Those will be something I work on during the roadtrips to see the new addition.

Also, I need to get caught up on getting paperbacks out for last year's release, something I'm really behind on. I have three or four PDFs I need to review and return to my formatter. In fact, she checked on me, worried that I had caught the coronavirus since I hadn't contacted her in so long.

On the brighter side, DH and I are eligible to get the vaccine starting tomorrow. We definitely want ours before we're anywhere near the baby.

So that's what's happening. I'll update the release schedule as I finish books.