Sheba eyed the envelopes with doubt, and then shrugged. She was finding out that her job as a new defense attorney at Falks & Ritter involved more hands-on secretarial work than she had anticipated. Just about gone were her goals of trying a major case her first year at the prestigious Charleston law firm. Jackson placed the stack of envelopes on the corner of her desk and left, continuing his rounds.

As a first-generation Ethiopian immigrant, Sheba had lived in Charleston since she turned five years of age. She was Ethiopian by birth, but American by preference. She had worked hard, studied and sacrificed plenty to get where she was today, no easy feat for someone who had just celebrated her twenty-sixth birthday. According to her friends, Sheba was a beauty, though when she looked in the mirror, she saw inevitable flaws; her cheekbones were too pronounced, her mouth a little too wide, her nose with that perturbing slant to it. Still, she accepted compliments gratefully, especially from her roommate, Janelle. Janelle was the true beauty, Sheba thought, with dark ebony skin so smooth that she could be a walking ad for Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate. Sheba, in contrast, had skin the color of a cup of coffee with exactly one creamer stirred in, or so Janelle claimed, always with a smile.

Sheba sat back in her chair, forgetting the documents in front of her for a minute, focused on her personal life, where thoughts of Janelle had taken her. Her best friend would be moving out in another month, to be married to the man of her dreams. Sheba would be left alone, again. She sighed. Why she had such trouble finding her ‘perfect soul mate’ as Janelle called her fiancé, she didn’t understand. Oh, she’d been on plenty of dates, some good, some so horrible she’d sooner forget them completely. Still, she’d never found a man yet who had satisfied her – sexually or otherwise. Sure, some of her relationships had certainly been hot and heavy, but even then, the men in her life had always lacked – something. She wondered if she were destined to become an old maid, something her mother constantly teased her about.

Sheba groaned and then sat up, pushing thoughts of men and marriage from her mind. She had more important things to worry about at the moment than her love life. Gazing down at the documents on her desk once more, she rifled through them, shaking her head. One of her best friends from high school and college had just been charged with first-degree murder – with special circumstances. Shawn had just been drafted by the Chicago Bears football team as a second string tight end just this past summer. Shawn was big, handsome and gregarious to a fault. Sheba shook her head, smiling as she recalled how many girlfriends he’d had in high school and into his college years. She re-read the complaint against him, stunned. His apparent victim was a pregnant woman that he had been dating. According to the testimony of her best friend, the woman, named Tanney Jacks, claimed the child was his, while he was just as adamant that the child wasn’t. He’d demanded a paternity test, which was still pending as the murder charges had been filed. Shawn’s trial date was set to open two weeks from today in Chicago’s Cook County Courthouse on Michigan Avenue, presided over by… she ruffled some more papers, by one Judge Solomon Pike. The name rang a bell and she turned to look out her office window, trying to recall where she’d heard the name before. Then it hit her.

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