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As they were riding up, she had her first chance study Mary Ellen. The girl was about five-seven—at least half a foot taller than Nicole—with long, straight, fair hair. She had a lovely figure, slender and willowy. At the airport, surrounded by shouting reporters, she’d been flushed, her face pinched in distress. Now that things were calmer, Nicole could see what the girl really looked like. She wore no makeup, but her skin was a glowing ivory set off by the natural pink of her cheeks and full lips. Mary Ellen might have been beautiful but for the way she held herself with her shoulders slumped and her head thrust forward. She exuded a sense of haplessness, vulnerability, and defeat.
Part of it was what she was wearing: a pink, flowered dress with puffed sleeves that appeared to be an old Laura Ashley. It was so out of fashion, it might have been regarded as trendily vintage. But it showed signs of wear, and Nicole had a hunch it was a hand-me-down. The girl wore it awkwardly, occasionally pulling at the skirt and smoothing it out as if she wasn’t used to wearing dresses. Across her chest, bandolier-style, she wore a white plastic purse. A small gold cross hung on a chain around her neck.
No doubt Mary Ellen’s virginal, fundamentalist appearance was what Women Against Rape needed for a case like this. She looked like someone a jury would want to protect against a big, hulking athlete. Nicole wondered how much race would weigh in this trial since Doshan was African American and Mary Ellen was white. Even in this post-millennium age—in the bluest of blue states—race prejudice was very much alive. And the Santa Monica jury pool was overwhelmingly white.
Liar Liar is the third Nicole Graves novel, following The Swap and The Bequest, each of which can be read as a stand alone. Readers are invited to connect with Nancy through her website.
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