Conflict of Interest, Part 1

(by SSTORYMAN, 28 August 2002)


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This fictional account contains explicit sexual materials, adult language and
sexual themes.  If these offend you, please do not read further.  The persons
and events described in this work are fictional.  Any similarity to actual
persons or events is strictly coincidental.  Copyright 2002 by SSTORYMAN.  All
rights reserved.  Permission is granted to reproduce this story in any form
and for any purpose as long as this notice is reproduced and no financial

This is a sequel to the author's "Revenge" posted March 2000 and "The Affair"
posted January, 1997.  It may be helpful to read (or re-read) them before
reading this story.  There are also some references to characters who first
appeared in the author's "Lisa's Quest" and "The Vacation."  But familiarity
with these stories isn't necessary to enjoy this one.

Finally, thanks to AZ-MAN for his editorial suggestions, support and
encouragement.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST

1.	Blackmail.

   It was after twelve.  Still no sign of Sandy.  Larilyn Dahlberg promised
herself she wouldn't smoke till Sandy got there.  But her nerves were shot.
She had to calm herself, so she opened her purse and on the table she put a
gold pack of Benson & Hedges 100's.  Shaking one loose, she put a cigarette
between her lips and clicked her gold monogrammed lighter.

   Thick, rich, full-flavor tobacco smoke filled her mouth.  It tasted good!
But then, it always did.  She promptly sucked the creamy substance deep into
her chest.  A peaceful smile spread over her face.  God, she loved to smoke!
She'd become pleasantly accustomed to, or rather, satisfyingly _addicted_ to,
the relief and gratification she got each time she lit up and smoked.  She
drew again, harder this time, and pulled another deposit of full-flavored
smoke into her eager body.  This time she held it longer, enjoying the
peaceful, intoxicating sensation.  She sighed happily, releasing tendrils of
smoke from her mouth and nostrils.  She was so happy being a smoker.  She
couldn't imagine living without her cigarettes anymore; nor did she want to!

   She took up smoking a few months earlier when her daughter Susan made her
try it.  Despite initial fears and misgivings, she learned to adore it.  Soon
she wholeheartedly gave herself over to what quickly became a deep-seated,
entrenched habit.  Actually, it was hopeless addiction, but Larilyn didn't
care.  Rarely did anyone her age start smoking, but she did, and she loved it!
She now averaged one to two packs of full-flavor cigarettes a day, plus an
occasional cigar.  Both her daughters now smoked, and she was so glad they
forced her to try it.  She was hooked, and she knew it, but she loved sharing
her inflexible addiction to nicotine with her girls.  She savored each and
every opportunity to indulge her habit.  Though 44, she was damn good looking,
and she knew it.  She felt smoking made her seem even more mysterious and
daring.

   But Sandy Rogers and her fuckin' anti-smoking paranoia ruined her
relationship with Susan for years, because Susan smoked.  The situation didn't
improve till Susan forced her to smoke.  Following her dramatic smoking
conversation, Larilyn swore someday she'd get back at Sandy for what she'd
done.  Hundreds of times she thought about it.  But now that she was no longer
with her ex-boyfriend Mitch, it was finally time for some decisive action!

   Watching the door, she repeatedly hit on her B&H.  She luxuriously exhaled
smoke in slow, recurring bursts, time after time.  Through the hazy discharge,
finally she saw Sandy Rogers.  She signaled her.  Sandy walked to her table
and sat without a word.

   "Nice to see you, Sandy," Larilyn smiled.  She still had her cigarette in
hand.

   "I wish I could say the same, Larilyn."  She glanced disapprovingly at the
pack on the table and the burning cigarette between her friend's fingers.

   Sandy Rogers was in her early fifties, and still quite attractive.  Her
short blond hair, pretty but grim facial features, and petite, lithe figure
always reminded people of Hillary Clinton.  In fact, her colleagues at the
lung association often called her "Hillary" behind her back.

   "This is the first time you've seen me smoke, isn't it, Sandy?"

   "Yes.  I don't understand why you betrayed us and took up the filthy,
destructive habit.  You, Larilyn, of all people!  You were on my lung
association board and an anti-smoking advocate.  Now, look at you!  You're in
the smoking section of a restaurant, filling your lungs with deadly
carcinogens."  She shook her head.  "I don't get it."

   Larilyn expected this.  "Sandy, I got converted, like in the old gospel
song:  'I once was lost but now am found; was blind, but now I see.'" With a
smile she purposely dragged extra-long on her cigarette.  "I found out
smoking's great.  It's worth damn near anything to keep smoking, anything at
all."  She paused to release a cloud of smoke.  "But I don't expect you to
understand; at least, not yet."

   Sandy grunted.  "What do you want?  Let's get it over with.  I don't like
being in a smoking section.  I'd like to outlaw all the places you smokers
gather to indulge your evil habits.  You know that, Larilyn.  What's so
important?  We have nothing in common anymore."

   Larilyn opened her purse and removed some rubber-banded photographs.  "Yes
we do.  Take a look at these, Sandy.  Tell me if you recognize them."

   She leafed through the photos and gasped.  "My God!  These are of you and
me.  It's you and me ?in bed together."

   "Right.  We had fun as lovers in the old days, didn't we?  I wonder what
your lung association board would say if they saw copies of these pictures?"

   Sandy reacted with a look of horror.  "What?"

   "Sandy, I'll be blunt.  My daughter made me smoke.  I didn't want to, but
she made me.  It was her revenge for all the years I nagged her about smoking.
She said I couldn't see my new granddaughter till I tried it.  So I did, and
had an amazing conversion.  I found out smoking is great!  Now I understand
why smokers so stubbornly defend the habit.  The more I experienced it, the
more I wanted to keep smoking.  And I want you to have the same encounter I
did."

   Sandy said nothing.  Larilyn went on.

   "I found these in my basement.  We took them a few years ago when we were
secret lovers.  My kids know I'm bisexual; I have nothing to hide.  But that's
not true for you, is it?  No one knows about your thing for women.  You'd do
anything to keep these pictures from the lung association board.  I bet you'd
even smoke for me!"

   The waitress came to take her order.  Sandy waved her off with an
impertinent gesture.

   "Are you blackmailing me?"

   Larilyn smiled.  "Whatever."  She exhaled a stream of smoke into her blond
companion's face.  "I want you to smoke with me, Sandy, one whole pack, twenty
of my death sticks, as you call 'em, or I send these pictures to every member
of your board."

   Sandy took the pictures and stuffed them in her purse.  Larilyn laughed.

   "Go ahead.  Keep the copies as a memento.  The negatives are safe.  That's
my deal.  You smoke; I give you the negatives.  Take it or leave it."

   Sandy sputtered.  "You bitch!  It's blackmail.  It's illegal.  You can't do
this."

   "Yes I can.  But I'm not a total bitch.  Smoke with me, and I'll make it
worth your while."

   "What do you mean?"

   Larilyn smirked.  "One of my friends is a beautiful, young bisexual girl
named Adrienne.  She smokes, and has a thing for older women, like you do for
younger ones.  You two will be a perfect match.  Adrienne has agreed to
participate in a sexual tryst.  She and I'll teach you to smoke, while we play
with your tits and eat your pussy."  She let out a guttural laugh.  "You'll
like it, Sandy.  It'll be fun.  Smoking and sex are nice together.  I want you
to see, first hand."

   "That's fuckin' sick, Larilyn.  You're out of your mind.  I'd never agree
to such a thing!"

   She took a final hit on her B&H.  "Too bad, because these pictures will be
the end of your career at the lung association."

   In a huff, Sandy stood.  "Fuck you, Larilyn.  Even suggesting such a
perverted idea shows that you're sick!"

   "Oh, Sandy, get off your high horse.  It's not so bad.  You'll love
Adrienne.  She's brunette, in her mid 20's, and incredibly hot.  Big tits,
beautiful body, and eats pussy just the way you like it!"  She licked her lips
with an evil laugh and a glint in her eye.  "It won't hurt to learn to smoke,
Sandy.  Maybe sometime in the distant past you used to smoke.  I don't know,
but I wouldn't be surprised.  Lots of antis are just frustrated ex-smokers.
Either way, though, I bet anything you'll like it!"

   "Go to hell!  I'm calling my lawyer!"

   Larilyn shrugged.  "Have it your way.  You have till Sunday night to
decide.  If you don't say yes, copies of the pictures will be delivered to all
lung association board members Monday morning.  I promise."

   Without a word, Sandy stormed out of the restaurant.  She crossed the
street to the parking lot.  She had to call Ed Smith!  He was a senior partner
at Williams & Connors, the lung association's law firm.  She had no choice but
to tell him about this.  It was attorney-client privilege anyway.  He'd tell
her what to do.  There had to be a way to stop Larilyn!

   Sandy got in her car and turned the key.  As the engine idled, she grabbed
her cell phone.  Before dialing, she thought about Larilyn's scheme.  Her old
friend knew her well.  She _did_ have a soft spot for beautiful young girls,
and it'd been too long since she'd been with a real hot one.  For a moment she
fantasized what Adrienne looked like, wondering if she was as hot as Larilyn
promised.  Then she came to her senses.  It didn't matter!  She could never
agree to smoke.  But even so, her left hand found its way to her crotch.
Reaching under her skirt, she stroked herself, thinking about the delicious
possibility of Adrienne taking turns with Larilyn eating her pussy.  Oh God,
she sighed wistfully.  If only!  She re-directed her attention and dialed Ed
Smith's office.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   A petite, fifteen year old blond girl walked up to a large, Tudor home in
the north suburbs.  Penny Preston was happy.  Her sister Priscilla dropped her
off at the Crawford home.  She and Grace Crawford would work together on a
history project.  Their teacher assigned them, but Penny was glad.  Grace
Crawford was the best student in ninth grade!

   At school Grace promised to tell Penny a secret.  She made a big deal of
it, which excited her.  The ninth grader _loved_ secrets.  She didn't know
what it was, but she'd promised not to tell a soul.  She could keep secrets.
Why, only last week her mom told her a big family secret, the one about her
aunt who ?.

   The front door opened.  "Hi, Penny."  A charming, petite brunette greeted
her from behind the screen door.

   "Hi, Grace.  My sister dropped me off.  I'm glad we'll start our project
for history class."

   "Me, too," Grace, a slender brunette nodded.  She wore short shorts and a
halter top.  Penny didn't know Grace well, but no one in her class did.
Though adorably cute, Grace was a loner with few friends.  Penny didn't know
why, but Grace kept to herself and rarely hung out with other girls.  Penny
shrugged.  It was none of her business.  The only thing she cared about was
that Grace was smart; she'd benefit from her brains on their Civil War
project.

   Grace opened the door.  "Come on in.  I'll get you something to drink.
Diet Pepsi okay?"

   "That'd be great."

   There was a strong smoky odor in the house, but it didn't surprise Penny.
She knew Grace's mom smoked.  The girls at school gossiped about it, as ninth
graders are prone to do.  Each morning when Mrs. Crawford dropped off Grace at
school, she had a cigarette in hand.  Penny hated the smell.  Her family
disapproved of smoking, so, naturally so did she.  After all, her aunt _was_
the president of the local lung association!

   Grace poured a glass of Diet Pepsi and gave it to Penny.  She took a sip
and sat at the kitchen table, waiting for Grace to join her.

   "Penny, do you remember that I said I'd tell you a secret today?"

   Grace nodded eagerly.  "I remember."

   "I want to tell you this before we start.  This is important.  Can I trust
you not to tell?  Do you swear?"

   "Sure, I swear."

   Grace took a deep breath.  "Okay, here it is.  I smoke."  She paused to let
the words sink in..  "No one at school knows.  It's important no one finds
out.  Mom and Dad let me and my sister smoke at home.  That's why I wanted to
meet at my house, not yours.  I smoke here in the afternoons after school.  I
kind of need to," she added apologetically.

   Penny was dumbstruck.  She thought the secret would be about a boy Grace
liked, or something like that.  It never occurred to her a girl her age
smoked.  God!  They were freshmen!

   "You're kidding, right?  This is a joke, isn't it?"

   Grace shook her pretty brunette head.  "No joke, Penny.  For us to work on
this project, you need to know.  There's no way I can skip my usual
after-school cigarettes.  I'm way too addicted.  After a day at school without
cigarettes, I need to smoke when I get home.  I hope you understand, and that
you'll keep it quiet.  I don't want my folks to get in trouble for letting
me."

   Penny didn't know what to say.  She just sat there, her mouth open.

   Grace went on with a pixyish smile.  "Come on, Penny.  It's not so bad.
It's not like I'm a murderer or something.  I just smoke.  It's no big deal,
really."

   "But you're too young," protested her guest.  "You can't smoke cigarettes!"

   Grace smiled.  "I can't _buy_ them; not legally," she corrected her.  "But
I can smoke 'em if my parents give 'em to me.  It's illegal for me to buy
cigarettes.  But Dad says we're not doing anything wrong, legally or morally.
It's okay for me to smoke here at home.  Honest."

   "But why?  Why do you want to do something so awful?"

   Grace grinned.  "Penny, it's obvious you never tried it.  Otherwise, you'd
know why.  I like it.  Smoking's incredibly cool.  I love it.  I've been
smoking a couple years, and I don't want to quit, ever.  I can't wait till I'm
eighteen so I can stop hiding and smoke in public."

   "And your older sister, Beth?  She smokes, too?"

   Grace nodded.  "We all smoke; Mom, Dad, Beth and me.  It's totally cool."

   Penny sat in stunned silence as Grace walked to the kitchen counter.  "If
you don't mind, I need a cigarette now, before we start."  She grinned
sheepishly.  "Talking about smoking makes me want one."  She returned to the
table with an ashtray and a pack of Salem Lights 100's.  She pulled a lighter
from the pocket of her shorts.  "I hope you don't mind.  But it's kind of a
necessity for me."

   Penny _did_ mind.  But what could she say?  It was Grace's house.  She
watched in amazement as her pretty brunette classmate put a long white
cigarette in her mouth and clicked her lighter.  Smoke poured from the end of
the cigarette as Grace's cheeks caved in.  The teenager took a drag, sucked
the smoke into her lungs, and smiled happily.

   "God, that's nice," she sighed, expelling smoke with words.  She looked at
Penny, still stunned.  "By the way, if you want to try one, it's fine.
Smoking's the best!"  She returned the cigarette to her mouth for another long
drag.

   "No thanks," Penny muttered.  "I think I'll pass."

   "No problem."  Grace exhaled a long, thin stream of smoke from her lips.

   Penny didn't know what to say.  How would this work?  She'd be with Grace
every afternoon for a couple weeks till the project was done.  The thought of
being with a smoker terrified her.  No wonder Grace didn't have many friends
at school.  Who wanted to hang out with a smoker?  She shook her head.
Somehow she'd make it through this.  The hope of an "A" on their project
motivated her to endure Grace's smoke.

   Charity Hamilton sat at her desk at Williams & Connors.  The paperwork in
litigation wasn't her favorite part.  She liked the heat of battle, deposing
witnesses, arguing in the courtroom, and so on.  But the mundane things also
had to be done, things like research, writing briefs and so forth.  She
sighed.

   She was a fourth year associate at the firm.  In the last year her career
had really taken off.  She won a big victory for an important bank client,
earning a reputation as one of the firm's toughest young litigators.  Ed
Smith, the senior litigation partner, delegated important cases to her.  He
treated her as a peer, not like a dumb blond, as did some of the firm's
lawyers.

   Charity's looks were both a blessing and a curse.  She was petite, and
looked young, younger than twenty eight.  And she was attractive; almost too
pretty.  Studying ballet had molded her supple body.  She had the posture and
curves of a fashion model.  People saw her pretty face, long blond hair, and
petite, gorgeous figure, and too often treated her like a bimbo.  She hated
that.  She liked looking young and pretty, but anyone who underestimated
Charity soon learned there was more there than met the eye.  Much more.

   Her phone rang.  She picked it up.  It was Ed Smith.

   "Charity, Do you remember Sandy Rogers?  She's president of the lung
association.  I don't think you've worked with her before."

   "No, Ed, I haven't.  What's up?"

   "Sandy's been a client, and friend, for years.  We get good publicity
working for her lung association, though they don't pay much.  We give them a
damn charity discount."  He laughed at his own joke.  "'Charity' discount!
Get it?"

   "Yeah, I get it."

   "Sandy has a personal problem, not lung association business.  I told her I
can't bill the lung association.  I told her she has to pay for it from her
own pocket.  Sandy was irate, but I said I have a good, young associate who's
cheaper than I am, and a real kick-ass litigator.  I was thinking of you."

   "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ed.  What's her problem?"

   "One of her ex-board members, named Larilyn Dahlberg, is blackmailing her.
I ran a quick conflicts check on our database, and it looks like we can take
this case.  I told Sandy we'd give her a break on fees.  It's a doozy of a
case.  It seems this Dahlberg lady has some, shall we say, compromising
pictures?  The pictures could devastate Sandy's career and reputation."

   Charity's interest picked up.  She loved scandal.  "What kind of pictures?"

   Ed laughed.  "That's the best part.  It seems Sandy's a closet dyke.  She
and this woman had a torrid affair some years ago.  I always wondered why
Sandy never married.  She's damn good looking, especially for her early
fifties.  Well, I guess that's why.  It seems she likes the ladies.  So, Sandy
wants to put the kibosh on this blackmail scheme.  I explained it might not be
smart to go to court if she wants to keep the pictures quiet.  But she's
insistent, so I told her you'd advise her.  Sandy wants good work, of course,
but she can't pay my hourly rate.  It's a perfect project for you.  Keep Sandy
happy by solving her blackmail problem.  Remember, her lung association work
gives us a real 'do-good' image in the community.  You know?"

   Charity paused.  "God, Ed, I'm busy with the Renner case.  I'm not sure I
should take this."

   "Don't be an ass, Charity.  Have Phillips help you with Renner.  I want
_you_ taking care of Sandy Rogers."  He laughed.  "Don't worry.  She won't hit
on you.  She may be a closet dyke, but she's completely professional."

   She winced.  Ed wouldn't take no for an answer.  She sighed.  "Okay.  What
do you want me to do?"

   "That's the girl!  Sandy will call this afternoon to make an appointment.
Interview her and try to settle her down.  See if there's any way to get her
former lover to back off without going to court.  Sandy doesn't realize how
expensive it'll be.  You tell her _that_ bad news.  Keep her happy, and do
what you can.  Okay?"

   "Okay."

   "And Charity, one more thing?  Don't think I'm a pervert or anything, but
if you get the pictures, I'd love to see them.  Just for a laugh, of course."

   "Of course, Ed.  Bye."

   Charity hung up.  God!  Ed would never ask her to do this if he knew the
truth  But then, no one at Williams & Connors knew she was a lesbian, or that
she smoked!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

   "Are you okay splitting the work this way?"

   Penny nodded.  "I think so.  I'll do the political stuff, and you cover the
battles.  We'll work together on building the battlefield model."

   In an hour and a half, the girls reached agreement on how to proceed.  The
fifteen year old brunette stretched and reached for another Salem.

   Penny watched her new friend light up again.  Three butts were already in
the ashtray.  Grace smoked automatically, effortlessly.  It mystified Penny.

   The little blond girl just had to speak up.  "It's so weird, Grace, seeing
you smoke.  Don't your parents care that you smoke so much?"

   "At first they weren't exactly excited.  But they adjusted real fast.  And
now that Mom smokes, too, it's a total non-issue."

   "What do you mean?  Didn't she always smoke?"

   The ninth grader shook her head.  "Oh God, no!  Mom only started a couple
years ago, right after Beth and me.  We couldn't believe it.  It was totally
cool."

   "But why?  I mean, what happened?  What possessed her to start?"

   "Mom and Dad were having marriage problems.  Dad smokes, but Mom hated it.
She nagged him all the time.  She only let him smoke in the basement.  He got
so fed up he talked to one of his lawyer friends about getting a divorce.  Mom
didn't want a divorce, so she decided to meet him half way.  She learned to
smoke, to eliminate tension between them."  Grace put her cigarette back
between her lips and dragged.  "It didn't take long," she went on with a
smile, holding smoke in.  "Pretty soon Mom was hooked.  Now she and Dad get
along great, and they smoke together all the time."  She giggled and released
another exhale.

   "I don't get it.  All that happened _after_ you and Beth started smoking?"

   "Yep," Grace confirmed.  "A friend of Beth's got her started.  Then I tried
it.  We liked it, and we smoked secretly for awhile.  Mom sort of knew, but
didn't let on for fear it'd piss Dad off if she held it over his head that he
was a bad influence.  Believe it or not, Mom asked me and Beth to teach her."
She giggled again.  "We did, and it saved their marriage.  All of us smoke
together now.  That was our deal with Mom.  She agreed to let us smoke if we
helped her learn, so she could keep Dad happy.  It's great!"

   Penny had never heard of such a thing!

   They heard the garage door open and close.  The door from the kitchen to
the garage opened.  It was Grace's mom.

   "Hi, honey," Sherry Crawford said pleasantly.  She looked at Penny.  "Who's
the friend?"

   Grace was still holding a lit cigarette.  "Mom, this is Penny Preston.  I
told you she was coming over.  We're working on a history project.  I hope you
remember.  You promised to drive Penny home when we're done."

   "Oh, yeah," Sherry nodded, smiling at her guest.  "Penny, nice of you to
come."  She looked at the ashtray.  "And do you smoke, too, like Gracie?"
There was no concern or hesitation.  From the tone, her question could as
easily have been whether Penny liked chocolate.

   Grace answered.  "No, Mom, Penny doesn't smoke.  But she promised not to
tell anyone that I do.  Didn't you, Penny?"

   Penny nodded, and Sherry Crawford let out a relieved sigh.

   "That's good.  We appreciate you being discrete, Penny.  God knows we don't
need any trouble about the girls smoking!"  As her voice trailed off, her eyes
fixed on the table.  "Gracie, honey, can I have one of your Salems?  I'm out."
Without awaiting an answer, she picked up the pack on the table and shook out
a cigarette.

   Grace smiled.  "Mom, what's mine is yours.  You know that."

   "I know, honey," Sherry replied, holding a Salem to her lips.  She clicked
her daughter's lighter and lit up.  "But I don't like to take 'em without
asking."  With the cigarette dangling, she smiled and took a long, hard drag.
After sucking smoke in, she went on.  "You can't understand, Penny, as a
non-smoker.  But whenever a smoker, like Gracie or me, needs a cigarette,
well, it's really a fairly desperate situation," she chuckled.

   Penny nodded.  "I'm beginning to figure that out."

   Sherry released a long stream of smoke.  "I'm sure you are.  I see Gracie's
been demonstrating, from the look of things."  She motioned to the butts in
the ashtray.  "So, what do you think?  Are you completely scandalized that we
let Gracie smoke?"

   Penny lied.  "No, Mrs. Crawford.  I think it's great you get along so well
and don't fight about it.  Really.  Lots of parents wouldn't be so ? so
understanding."

   "That's right."  Sherry took another drag while heading for the stairs.
"Go ahead, girls.  Keep working on your project.  Gracie, let me know when
Penny's ready to go.  I'll run her home and stop at the store to pick up
another carton of Benson & Hedges Menthols.  In the meantime, I'll have to bum
your Salems."

   "No problem, Mom," Grace yelled as her mom disappeared up the steps.  She
turned to Penny.  "Mom smokes a different brand.  Her Benson & Hedges Menthols
are stronger than my Salem Lights, but if she really needs a cigarette, she
likes my menthols better than Dad's or Beth's non-menthols." Penny didn't
understand.  Grace laughed.  "Never mind.  But as you can see, we get along
fine when it comes to smoking."

   "Yeah," Penny nodded.  She frowned.  "Let's finish.  My parents expect me
home soon."

   Grace smiled.  "Right.  And Mom will be eager to get to the store."

   They returned to their work, and Grace lit up another cigarette.  Penny
sighed.  This was certainly weird!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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