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A human retrovirus has exposed long-suppressed DNA sequences, sequences that carry the genes for vampires, giants, shapeshifters, and even Gorgons. As the world struggles to deal with the consequences of the transformation, Erin finds herself caught in the middle. She's involved in a high-profile legal case, one aimed at classifying the transformed as violent criminals, but she's also threatened by a group of vampires who believe she's a traitor to the transformed community.
My head was splitting in two, but I forced myself to take a sip of water before standing and approaching the witness.
He smirked at me, another overconfident soon-to-be ex-husband, thinking he was going to put his wife through the divorce wringer.
Inhale, Erin. Put on your game face. Intimidate this sucker. Let him know not all women cave.
I stepped up to the witness, got in his face.
"Mr. Hannah, isn't it true that you have repeatedly smoked marijuana in the presence of your child, Benjamin?"
He stared at me, his eyes bugging out, as if I'd transformed into something out of a cheap horror flick.
I'm Erin Tsong, twenty-eight, slender. In real life, I was okay to look at, but I'd trained myself to be scary in court. I was a divorce attorney so I liked that kind of reaction.
"You have snakes in your hair," Hannah blurted.
That took care of any misplaced sympathy on my part. I was proud of my cornrow braids and decorated them with little jewels. In the right light, they might look a little snakelike. But bug-eyes and facial perspiration was an over-reaction. It looked like Hannah's drug problems went a lot deeper than an occasional toke.
"Please answer the question, Mr. Hannah. Did you smoke marijuana in the presence of your son?"
"Jesus! Your honor, she's threatening me with those snakes. Get them away from me. What kind of a trial is this, anyway?"
"We're not talking about my braids, Mr. Hannah. We're talking about your drug abuse problem and how--"
Judge Harry Eagle banged his gavel. I expected him to throw the book at Hannah. Didn't happen.
"This court is in recess untiltomorrow morning at ten. And Ms. Tsong, do something about your hair. I don't find your display particularly amusing or suitable for a court of law."
"Yes, your honor." I'd worn my hair in braids since college and Eagle had seen me that way twenty times at least, but in the courtroom, the judge is King, no question.
My client scooted out the door before I could talk to her--and everyone else cleared away in a hurry.
Okay, I was abandoned. Still, I figured Hannah had made my case and Franky Jamison, his low-rent lawyer was probably telling him that. Nobody was going to believe anything he said about drugs. Not after he'd wigged out on the witness stand.
I gathered up my papers, stuffed them in my laptop bag, then phoned the office.
I got Amelia DeRuby, the admin who keeps the entire office going. "Let me talk to the boss-man."
A few seconds later, Hale's gravelly voice came over my cell. "Get that divorce taken care of, Erin?"
"Sorry, Mr. Hale. The Judge continued the case until tomorrow. But here's the good news. I was probing Hannah about his drug use and he completely flipped out. He said he saw snakes in my hair. In response to a question about drug abuse. Is that too perfect?"
Hale laughed. "What a gift. Ole Jamison must have been shitting bricks. No wonder he asked for a continuance."
My silly grin faded. "That's the weird thing. Judge Eagle just announced it. Jamison didn't even ask."
"You must have missed it. Eagle is cleaning out his docket. He's getting ready for a fishing trip."
I didn't think so, but Hale was the boss. "Might be. Anyway, I'll be back on the case tomorrow and I'll finish nailing Hannah to the courtroom wall."
"You do that, Erin. I have to tell you that when we hired you, I wasn't so sure about your killer instincts. But you've got the right stuff."
In lawyer-speak, that constituted high praise, and I lapped it up. "Thanks, Boss. I'll see you in a few."
I headed out the mile or so to my car.
The security guard at the courthouse has a crush on me so I wasn't too surprised when he stared but couldn't get up the nerve to say hello. Just another day, I told myself. But maybe it was time to comb out the braids and chop off my hair into something that fit the lawyer image.
When I got to my Honda Civic I glanced at the mirror.
I'm not a vain type and don't spend hours staring at myself in the mirror, but movement caught my attention and held me riveted.
I froze for a moment, not wanting to believe what I saw. Not so easy. I'm a lawyer. I'm trained to lie only after I figured out what the truth was.
And no lie, something was moving in my hair. It definitely wasn't just my braids.
Hannah had been right. I did have snakes in my hair.