Courting Trouble

Former lawyer Lisa Scottoline has taken the adage "write what you know" to heart and penned best-selling, fast-paced legal thrillers about the quest for justice. Courting Trouble is Scottoline's ninth novel. She visits us on Wednesday to talk about her tale of an attorney who struggles to solve her own murder.

Read an excerpt from Courting Trouble:

Chapter One

Anne Murphy barreled through the bustling lobby of the William Green Federal Courthouse, her long, auburn hair flying. She was about to do something crazy in court and couldn't wait to get upstairs. If she won, she'd be a hero. If she lost, she'd go to jail. Anne didn't think twice about the if-she-lost part. She was a redhead, which is a blonde with poor impulse control.

"Ms. Murphy, Ms. Murphy, just one question!" a reporter shouted, dogging her heels, but Anne charged ahead, trying to ditch him in the crowd.

Federal employees, lawyers, and jurors crisscrossed the lobby to the exits, hurrying home to start the Fourth of July weekend, but heads turned at the sight of the stunning young woman. Anne had wide-set eyes of willow-green, a straight nose dusted with freckles, and a largish mouth, glossy with an artful swipe of raisiny lipstick. Very female curves filled out a suit of cream-colored silk, and her long, lean legs tapered to finely boned ankles, ending in impractical Manolo Blahnik heels. Anne looked like a model, but given her past, didn't even think of herself as pretty. None of us outgrows the kid in the bathroom mirror.

"Oh, oh, here comes trouble!" called one of the court security officers, as Anne approached the group of dark polyester blazers clustered around the metal detectors. Manning the machines were five older guards, all retired Philly cops, flashing appreciative grins. The guard calling to Anne was the most talkative, a still-trim figure with improbably black hair, bifocals, and a nameplate that read Officer Salvatore Bonanno. "Gang way, fellas! It's Red, and she's loaded for bear!"

"Right again, Sal." Anne tossed her leather briefcase and a Kate Spade messenger bag onto the conveyor belt. "Wish me luck."

"What's cookin', good lookin'?"

"The usual. Striking another blow for justice. Paying way too much for shoes." Anne strode through the security portal as her bags glided through the X-ray machine. "You gentlemen got plans for the holiday weekend?"

"I'm takin' you dancin'," Officer Bonnano answered, with a dentured smile, and the other guards burst into guffaws made gravelly by cigarette breaks at the loading dock off of Seventh Street. Bonnano ignored them cheerfully. "I'm gonna teach you to jitterbug, ain't I, Red?"

"Ha!" Officer Sean Feeney broke in, grinning. "You and the lovely Miss Murphy, Sal? In your dreams!" Feeney was a ruddy-faced, heavy-set sixty-five-year-old, with eyebrows as furry as caterpillars. "She's an Irish girl and she's savin' herself for me." He turned to Anne. "Your people from County Galway, right, Annie? You got pretty skin, like the girls in Galway."

"Galway, that near Glendale?" Anne asked, and they laughed. She never knew what to say when someone remarked her looks. The X-ray machine surrendered her belongings, and she reached for them as two reporters caught up with her, threw their bags onto the conveyor belt, and started firing questions.

"Ms. Murphy, any comment on the trial next week?" "Why won't your client settle this case?" "Isn't this ruining Chipster's chance to go public?" They kept interrupting each other. "Anne, what's this motion about today?" "Why do you want to keep this evidence from the jury?"

"No comment, please." Anne broke free, grabbed her bags, and bolted from the press, but it turned out she didn't have to. Officer Bonnano was confronting the reporters, hard-eyed behind his bifocals.

"Yo, people!" he bellowed, Philly style. "You know the rules! None o' that in the courthouse! Why you gotta give the young lady a hard time?"

Officer Feeney frowned at the first reporter and motioned him over. "Come 'ere a minute, sir. I think you need a full-body scan." He reached under the security counter and emerged with a hand-held metal detector. "Come on, in fact, both of youse." He waved the wand at the second reporter, and the other security guards lined up behind him like an aged phalanx. "But I'm the press!" the reporter protested. "This is my beat! You see me everyday. I'm Allen Collins, I have ID." Behind him, his canvas briefcase stalled suddenly in the X-ray machine, and the guard watching the monitor was already confiscating it. The reporter turned back, puzzled. "Hey, wait a minute!"

Officer Bonnano dismissed Anne to the elevators with a newly officious air. "Go on up, Miss!"

"Thanks, Officer," Anne said, suppressing a smile as she grabbed the open elevator and hit the button for the ninth floor. She hadn't asked for the assist and felt vaguely guilty accepting it. But only vaguely.

Minutes later, Anne reached the ninth floor and entered the spacious, modern courtroom, which was packed. The Chipster case, for sexual harassment against Gil Martin, Philadelphia's best-known Internet millionaire, had attracted press attention since the day it was filed, and reporters, sketch artists, and the public filled the sleek modern pews of dark wood. Their faces swiveled almost as one towards Anne as she strode down the carpeted center aisle.

Bailiffs in blue blazers stopped conferring over the docket sheets, law clerks straightened new ties, and a female court reporter shot daggers over her blue steno machine, on its spindly metal legs. Anne had grown accustomed to the reaction; men adored her, women hated her. She had nevertheless joined the all-woman law firm of Rosato & Associates, which was turning out to be a very redheaded career move, but that was another story.

She reached counsel table and set down her briefcase and purse, then looked back. A young man dressed in a light trenchcoat was sitting, as planned, on the aisle in the front row behind her. Anne acknowledged him discreetly, then took her seat, opened her briefcase, and took out a copy of her motion papers. The motion and the young man on the aisle had been Anne's latest idea. Chipster.com was her first big client at Rosato, and Gil Martin had hired her because they'd known each other at law school. She had never tried a case of this magnitude and in the beginning wondered if she had bitten off more than she could chew. Then she decided that she had, and stopped wondering.

"Happy Fourth!" whispered a voice at her ear, and she looked up.

Excerpted from Courting Trouble by Lisa Scottoline Copyright 2002. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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