Parnell Hall: The Innocent Woman

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Parnell Hall The Innocent Woman
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    The Innocent Woman
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Parnell Hall

The Innocent Woman


Steve Winslow frowned. “What’s the charge?”

Tracy Garvin pushed the long blonde hair off her forehead. “That’s not the point.”

“It may not be the point, but it’s certainly relevant. What’s the charge?”

“You have to understand,” Tracy said. “This is a respectable young woman. It’s hard to imagine her being accused of anything. I think as soon as you see her, you’ll agree that-”

“What’s the charge?”

Tracy took a breath. “Petty theft.”

Steve smiled. “I’m not surprised.”


“If it were serious, you’d have said so. The more you stalled, the more trivial it had to be.”

“If you’ll just talk to her,” Tracy said.

“About a petty theft?”

“That’s not the point.”

“So you say,” Steve said. He leaned back in his desk chair, cocked his head. “Tracy, one of your chief jobs as my confidential secretary is to keep stuff like this from crossing my desk. I don’t have a normal law practice. I’m not looking for clients. If an offer I can’t refuse comes along, fine. But aside from that I have only one client. I’m administering Sheila Benton’s trust fund. Not a particularly demanding job, but mine own. I am not actively seeking trail work. Particularly a case involving petty theft.”

Tracy Garvin took her large round framed glasses off, folded them up, put her hands on her hips.

“Uh oh,” Steve said. “The glasses off routine? I’m guess I’m in trouble now.”

“Damn right you are,” Tracy said. “I don’t need a lecture on your law practice. I mean, give me a break. It’s me, Tracy. I know what you do and don’t do.”

“Then you know I wouldn’t touch this.”

“You took the Kelly Blaine case.”

“That was different.”

“How was it different?”

“She was naked.”

Tracy’s eyes blazed.

Steve held up his hand. “Sorry. Withdrawn. I don’t want to get into it. The point it, that case was unusual.”

“How do you know this one isn’t?”

“A petty theft?”

“All right, look,” Tracy said. “You say my job’s to listen and weed ’em out. Well, I listened and I’m bringing you this. If you don’t trust my judgment, what’s the point?”

Steve sighed. “All right, what’s the case?”

“I’d rather you heard it from her.”

Steve grinned. “I’m sure you would. If I’m going to see her, I want the background first. What’s the basis of the charge? What is it she supposedly stole?”


“From whom?”

“Her employer.”

“And how was this alleged theft accomplished?

“She’s accused of taking money out of petty cash.”

“The petty theft of petty cash,” Steve said. “Great. And you’d like me to get this woman out of jail?”

“She’s not in jail. She’s in the outer office.”

“She’s not in jail?”

“You know that,” Tracy said impatiently. “I told you she was here to see you.”

“Right,” Steve said. “Sometimes attorneys ask a question to which they know the answer just to make a point. So, I’m not dropping everything to get this young woman out of jail-she’s not in jail. Tell me, when did this crime occur?”

“About a month ago.”

“Is that when she was arrested?”

“That’s right.”

“She’s been arraigned for petty theft?”

“Yes, she has.”

“What was the disposition of the case?”

“She was bound over for trial and released on her own recognizance.”

“Why doesn’t she have a lawyer?”

Tracy hesitated a moment. “She has a lawyer.”

Steve’s eyes widened. “Oh?”

“A court appointed lawyer. She had no money to hire one, so court assigned counsel.”

“Really?” Steve said. “So, at her arraignment the judge bound her over for trial, released her on her own recognizance and assigned her counsel. Am I to assume he also set a court date?”

“Yes, he did.”

“And when might that be?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

Steve’s grin became broader. “So,” he said. “The young woman is charged with petty theft. She’s been arrested, arraigned, given a court date and the trial starts tomorrow. She has a court appointed attorney representing her, and she has no money with which to hire any other. And you would like me to hear her case?”

“That’s right.”

Steve Winslow shook his head. “I can’t beat logic like that, Tracy. This is almost irresistible. By all means, show the young woman in.”


Amy Dearborn was an attractive young woman, with short dark hair, curled under and framing a face that at first glance appeared as innocent as a newborn babe.

All except the eyes, which were calculating and shrewd.

For Steve Winslow, who had grown adept at sizing up prospective jurors, that was his first impression-that Amy Dearborn was a young lady motivated by self-interest, and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

She wasn’t one to mince words, either. “You don’t look like a lawyer.”

Steve Winslow smiled. Indeed he didn’t. He and Tracy both wore jeans around the office, since they had no clients to impress. Today he was also wearing sneakers, blue T-shirt, and brown corduroy jacket. That, coupled with his shoulder length hair, didn’t really conjure up the image of a lawyer.

“Then we’re even,” Steve said. “You don’t look that much like a thief.”

Amy Dearborn’s chin came up. “If you’re a lawyer, we’re not even,” she said. “Because I’m not a thief.”

“I understand,” Steve said. “Why don’t you tell me about it?”

“Nothing much to tell,” Amy said. “My boss says I took some money and I didn’t.”

“Some details might help,” Steve said. “For starters, who’s your boss?”

“I work for F. L. Jewelry. On 47th Street.” She jerked her thumb. “Just on the next block.”

“What’s F. L. stand for?”

“Fletcher and Lowery.”

“They’re partners?”

“That’s right.”

“Which one is accusing you?”



“Mr. Fletcher.”

“Frank, is it?”

Amy’s eyes narrowed. “No, it isn’t. It’s a small firm. Everyone’s on a first name basis.”

“I see.”

“There’s nothing between me and Frank Fletcher.”

“I never said there was.”

“Don’t give me that. You said, Frank, is it? Implying there was something going on. Well, there isn’t. And I resent the implication.”

“Noted,” Steve said. “May I assume the same is true of Mr. Lowery?”

Her eyes widened. “Marv? Are you kidding? Of course not.”

“I see,” Steve said.

Her face darkened. “Just what the hell’s going on here? I’m accused of a crime. All you can think of is sex.”

“I’m sorry if I gave that impression,” Steve said. “But in any crime, the basis is the relationship of the people involved. So if you don’t mind, could you tell me something about these two men?”

She took a breath. “Marvin Lowery’s in his forties. He has a wife and, I think, three children. He’s always been a perfect gentleman, never made a pass at me, if that’s the way your mind’s running.

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