Sounding as innocent and thankful as she could, she said, “That’s really sweet of you. How about this? If Percy starts teaching me with one of your guns, then we can figure what kind might suit me best, and we’ll go buy it.”
“Get her started with the .22, maybe,” Percy said.
“Good idea,” Bonnie agreed. As though Rhianna might feel cheated by the smaller caliber offering, she added, “Don’t worry, you’ll trade up. You’ll be shooting cans off the fence with a .38 in no time.”
Rhianna liked the sound of that. “Thanks for thinking of me, both of you.”
“It’s my pleasure.” Bonnie beamed. “I don’t ever want you feeling vulnerable when you’re out here by yourself.”
Percy endorsed this sentiment wholeheartedly. “Want to take a man down with a single shot? Stick with me.”
Rhianna smiled. A bullet with Werner Brigham’s name on it. That was a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
The client was ordinary. His hair clung to his skull in a thinning sandy thatch threaded with gray. His face was clean shaven with a nondescript nose, fleshy lips, and a soft chin. Women would probably find his bland looks comforting, and men would not feel threatened, despite his height and build. He was on the heavy side, but it wasn’t muscle. He carried the flab of a man who had been active once but no longer put in the hours.
Carl Hagel, managing partner at Sagelblum, in-house shorthand for Salazar, Hagel & Goldblum, stepped to one side of the conference room door and said, “Mr. Brigham, let me introduce your new lead counsel, Julia Valiant.” As the client stood to shake hands, Carl completed the formalities. “This is Werner Brigham. I think you know his mother, Mrs. Audrey Brigham.”
“Naturally.” Jules produced a watered-down version of the professional smile expected of a woman. The client’s handshake was half courtesy, half grateful squeeze. “I admire your mother’s charity efforts for children with cancer.”
Audrey Brigham had personally requested that Julia head her son’s no-expense-spared defense team five months earlier during the pre-trial phase. According to Carl, she’d showed up at Sagelblum’s Denver office with several clippings about Jules, including one that named her a “Super Lawyer” and claimed she was “the sex offender’s dream defense counsel,” not exactly the accolade her parents had dreamed of when they mortgaged their house and sold half their possessions to pay for her education.
Jules had been a little over halfway into a year’s leave of absence from the firm when Audrey Brigham slapped her money down on the table. She had seriously considered abandoning her overseas studies to take the case right away; it was unwise to say no to such a woman. Not only was Mrs. Brigham a major player on the charity circuit, she was also a formidable political fundraiser with influential friends. She had offered Sagelblum a performance bonus only an idiot would refuse, conditional upon Jules stepping in as lead trial attorney.
Declining was not an option, but the year in England reading philosophy at Cambridge University had been Jules’s promise to herself when she graduated from law school at NYU, and she could not bear to sacrifice her studies. Instead she’d cut short the European tour she’d planned for the final months of her absence, agreeing to take over Brigham’s defense when she returned. She had three weeks to get herself up to speed before the trial date.
Carl chatted for a few minutes to bolster the client’s confidence. He made a big deal of Jules’s acquittal record, one of the best in the business, then said, “If you’ll both excuse me. Sid Lyle will join you as soon as he gets back from court.”
Jules thanked him and opened the file she’d carried into the conference room. Watching the client closely, she said, “Rhianna Lamb.”
She had his attention and repeated the name in a musing tone, letting it linger.