Posts Tagged ‘Dark Moon’

I was sitting at the vet’s office this morning, waiting for Summer Moon’s appointment for her second puppy shot.  She’s been home since September 11, and Rhythm and I have been adjusting to being a two-retriever household again.

The vet’s office has glass doors on all the exam rooms; and across the waiting room, I could see a woman bending over a dog, lying on the exam table.  She was obviously waiting for the vet to come in.  But more than that, the angle of her body and the way she held her dog, told me that she was pouring out all the love and comfort she had on a seriously ill pet. My heart ached.  That was me, back in May, holding Melody, my twelve-year-old Golden Retriever, and telling the Universe not to take her.  Please, please, please.  Not my Melody.  Not now. Not yet.  Not ever.  Please.



Well, I lost that round.  Obviously.  And, as I sat watching the woman on the other side of the glass and sending her all my love and prayers, I also thanked the Universe for starting me on another journey with a new, beloved pet.

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Summer Moon

But then it hit me.  Hard, and then harder.   Love is still who we are, really.  Fundamentally.  At our core.  We love each other.  We love our pets. We love the small moments that make life wonderful and magical.  A sunny day.  The first hint of autumn.  A vermillion leaf on the sidewalk.  A rainy day and a cup of hot tea with honey.   The smile of a husband or a wife or a child.  We love on in the face of loss.  We love unconditionally.  We are champions at love.

As I sat in the vet’s waiting room, I realized that I was looking at love through the glass door where the woman stood over the table, holding her dog.  There are terrible people in the world who do terrible things.  We’ve seen that yet again this week.  But the black souls among us cannot change the true meaning of US, which is love.

I didn’t see the lady and her dog when we came out of the exam room after Summer’s checkup. But I hope the vet sent her home with good news. I was grateful for the moment when I’d seen her behind the glass and realized that love is truly the driving force inside us.   Love, I told myself as I left with the exuberant new life the Universe has entrusted to me.  Love.  Focus, focus, focus.



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The jail was never quiet at night, but it was quieter than in daylight. Alexa Reed shifted on her cot so she could see the single star shining through the tiny window of her cell. She guessed it must be midnight. Everyone seemed to be asleep except for someone crying softly down the hall. Probably a new prisoner. Everyone cried at first until the sheer futility of grief became apparent.

Someone had come to see her today. Or was it yesterday? All the days ran together, and she couldn’t remember which was which. A woman with deep dark eyes and a scar down one cheek. A ragged, unexpected scar in a beautiful face. And she’d had a man with her. Tall, warm hands, and the kindest eyes she’d ever seen. They said they’d come to help her. If anyone could help, they looked as if it might be them. But no one could end the nightmare she was awake in.

If she thought too long about Meggie and Sam, she’d start to cry like the lost soul down the hall. She hadn’t seen them since the third of June. It must be July by now. No, probably more like August. Wrapped in her semi-conscious state, she had lost the ability to speak, so she could not ask what day it was. There were words in her head, but none of them would come into her mouth to be made into sounds. Grief had left her mute, but it didn’t matter. No one had believed anything she’d told them about that awful night. Mute was better than being called a liar.

She wished she could wake up and find herself back in the rented cottage in Pacific Beach with Meggie and Sam. She would have given anything to be following the old routine of supper, bath, bedtime story, prayers, and goodnight kiss. She was glad she’d never taken even a minute of it for granted.

She could see Sam’s chubby little hands playing with the cut-up bits of fish sticks on his Winnie The Pooh plate. He was out of the high chair now and into a booster seat at the table, but he had to stretch just a little to reach his food. He loved to wipe the bits of fish through the ketchup at least twice and then stuff them in his mouth, giggling at Meggie because he knew he was supposed to use his fork. Meggie, who took her older sister status very seriously, alway frowned and reminded him about that fork. Then Sam would look at Alexa and giggle some more because he’d gotten the hoped for rise out of his sister.

Alexa missed bath time, too. Meggie and Sam loved to play with Sam’s shiny black plastic submarine. Sam scooted it across the water, making what he imagined were boat noises even after Alexa reminded him subs ran silently. Meggie, who was endlessly patient and precocious, liked to take the red, green, and yellow baby subs out of the mother ship and line them up on the edge of the tub coming up with new patterns every night.

Alexa didn’t mind if they splashed a little. Michael, who had much stricter rules, was never there to complain. If he was in town, he was at the office until after midnight. But more often he was on the road for weeks at a time. Meggie and Sam never saw him; and they were both a little bit afraid of him. But she shouldn’t think about that.

After the games in the tub and after trying to sing Row, Row, Row, Your Boat as a round, there was always that wonderful moment of lifting each precious little body out of the water, wrapping their chubby pinkness in big fluffy terry towels, and breathing in the smell of gentle soap and baby shampoo. Alexa marveled at each perfect finger and toe as she helped them into pajamas. At six, Meggie could do everything except button her nightgown in the back. But Sam, who was five, would dance naked down the hall to escape clothes altogether if he could.

They shared a room. When it was time for Sam to give up his crib, he’d been frightened unless he could sleep in Meggie’s room. Alexa always sat on Meggie’s bed with the two of them between her to read their bedtime story. Sam’s favorite was Goodnight Moon, but Meggie adored Runaway Bunny. She loved the part where the Baby Bunny asks the Mother Bunny what would happen if he ran away, and the Mother Bunny says she’d come after him. Meggie always asked, “You’d come after us, too, wouldn’t you?”

That was before Michael realized how effectively he could use family court to terrorize them. He had cemented them as a threesome by leaving them alone together. And then he launched his attack to destroy them. The star twinkled down at Alexa, reminding her to stop thinking about Michael and his scorched earth litigation tactics to preserve whatever remnants of sanity she had left. Since the horror of being arrested on June third and the even greater nightmare of the preliminary hearing, she could stay in her semi-conscious state, floating free from everything that surrounded her only if she didn’t think about Michael and Brigman. If those memories crept in, or worse yet if she talked about what they had done, it would bring her crashing back to the horror of being locked in this cell. That’s why she was glad she could no longer speak, and that’s why she was glad she couldn’t talk to the man and the woman who’d come today. Or yesterday. She wasn’t sure.

The man’s eyes haunted her. They were so kind. She hadn’t seen eyes like that since her father died. She’d been just Meggie’s age when her parents went off to church one wet Sunday morning, leaving her with Gramma Beth because Alexa had a sore throat. Her father’s mother lived with them, and she often stayed with Alexa when her parents went out.

Who would have thought a drunk driver would crash into their car at 9:30 on a Sunday morning? Gramma Beth said her parents skipped church that day and went straight to heaven where they became angels looking after her. The childhood fiction was still comforting. The star twinkled down at her, saying, yes, your parents are still watching over you, and now Gramma Beth is with them. You aren’t alone. She liked to think all three were standing right there in the dark cell with her. She hoped they’d come for her soon. People who went into the white tunnel and then returned always said your loved ones were there to help you pass over. Her parents and Gramma Beth would be there when it was time.

She had tried to endure the horrors so that she could get back to Meggie and Sam. She knew what it was like to have your parents vanish. The woman with the scar and the man with the kind eyes had been trying to tell her to hang on a little longer. But she already knew that was useless. Michael had done exactly what he’d threatened to do: he’d made sure she was separated from her children forever.

If she’d had Meggie and Sam with someone like the man with the kind eyes, they’d still be together. The four of them would have been a forever family. She had known Michael was a mistake as soon as she was pregnant with Meggie, but she had thought she could endure for her children. She’d been dangerously wrong.

Her precious star was nearly out of sight. A star was a sign of hope. When she was a child, the priest had always insisted God would never let his people give up hope. She’d believed that through everything Michael had done to her until the day they arrested her for double murder. She closed her eyes and wished she could be ten years old again, sitting with her grandmother in St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, wearing her perfect attendance Sunday school pin and singing the hymns. Sometimes now she sang hymns to herself. Not out loud because she couldn’t speak. But in her head. One was beginning to play over and over now. “Savior, like a shepherd le-ad us.” Alexa had always loved the way “lead” was drawn out by the melody. What was the next line? She couldn’t forget that; chanting hymns to herself kept her floating in her out-of-body world. Ah, here it was. “Much we need thy tender care.” She knew she wouldn’t forget.

Nothing could ever be more precious to her than Meggie and Sam. Since Gramma Beth had died, they were the only people on earth who needed her. The thought of them with Coleman and Myrna Reed was more than she could bear. So she wouldn’t think about it. The star was gone, and it was time to stop thinking about anything.

But thoughts are hard to stop. Another hymn began to sing to her: “When I tread the verge of Jordan, all my anxious fears subside.” You crossed the river Jordan to reach the promised land. Death was now her promised land. Coleman wanted her to die, and she wanted to die, too. But not his way. Not after twenty years in a cell like this one, waiting while the lawyers like the ones who’d come today tried in vain to save her life. Would Justice Moreno still be on the Supreme Court when her last death row appeal came before the justices? Mary Moreno had liked her; she’d warned her not to marry Michael.

But, of course, neither Coleman nor Mary could hear her case if they were still on the Court when the end came for her. More words of the hymn comforted her: “Guide me oh thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but Thou are mighty.” Alexa was weak, but God wouldn’t let her down. She’d die, but not Coleman Reed’s way. God would find her the dignified exit she deserved because He still loved her. And He loved Meggie and Sam, too. God wouldn’t want them saddled with the stigma of their mother’s execution. No, He’d find a better way out of life for her. She had first thought starving herself was the answer; but the guards threatened to force feed her, so she ate just enough to prevent that and nothing more.

For now, she could only lie on this cot, waiting for the star every night, and praying God would come and get her very soon. He could see she was still the ten-year-old in the perfect attendance Sunday school pin, holding her grandmother’s hand; and she knew He’d answer her prayer. She knew it as surely as she knew she hadn’t killed anyone.
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A jail is nothing but gray, Sarah thought on Tuesday afternoon. She and Jim had been sitting in gray metal chairs at the gray metal table in the attorney-client interview room for a half hour without any sign of Alexa Reed. Sarah looked around to keep from being mesmerized by Jim’s gentle eyes, studying her from his seat at the end of the table. He looked good in a suit. She’d never seen him in one before. Feelings would complicate things; she couldn’t have feelings. But his eyes tempted her to have them. She needed a night with David and soon to make her forget about Jim. Hadn’t he said his wife was in Cabo this week? She’d call him after work, and see if he was free that evening.

She took in the dust-gray walls, the gray chairs and the table where they were seated, the gray door they had come through and the metal bars over the peek-hole window. A guard in a gun-metal gray uniform peering at them through the large glass security window directly in front of her completed the set. Sarah hadn’t been in a jail in a long time. Her clients were all wealthy business executives who bypassed lockup with millions of dollars worth of bail.

“I think she’s standing us up,” Jim said.

“Maybe. Trevor said she’s been curled up in a fetal position and hasn’t spoken since the preliminary hearing.”

“So she’s incompetent to stand trial.”

“I’d say yes for sure, but there’s a hearing September 3 to make that determination. I’m going to interview the psychologist who’s evaluating her as soon as I can get an appointment.”

“You’ll want me there in case he lies on the stand at the hearing.”

Despite her best judgment, Sarah’s eyes darted to his and remained fixed on their brown depths longer than she’d intended. “Yes, I will. Definitely.”

The gray metal entrance door began to slide to the right, extremely slowly, creaking as it moved. She and Jim turned toward it, thinking Alexa was about to appear. Instead, they saw only a portly fortiesh woman guard with a sour look on her face.

“Are you Sarah Knight?” she demanded. “Where’s you bar card?”

Sarah tried to stifle her annoyance, knowing a rise from her was what this nameless jail official wanted; but she’d shown her state bar identification card more times in the last half-hour than she had ever displayed it in her entire career. She was tired of dragging it out of her wallet.

But she did, and the guard scanned it for several minutes as if she thought it was counterfeit.

“And you? “ she demanded of Jim. “Where’s yours?”
Without a word, he patiently handed over both his California bar card which showed he was on inactive status as a lawyer, and his private investigator’s license. Sarah noticed he fumbled with his ex-FBI agent’s association id card for the grumpy guard’s benefit.

“You used to be an agent?”


“Then why are you working for defense lawyer scum?”

“Have to make a living.” Jim gave her a half-smile and put his credentials away.

“Well, bad news. Your client won’t get up to talk to you. She’s lying on her bunk, eyes open, saying nothing.”

“And this has gone on for some time?”

“Since they brought her back from the prelim on June 17. Somehow she eats enough to stay alive. But that’s it.”

“I’d like to go down to her cell and introduce myself,” Sarah said. “She’s never met me.”

“It’s against jail policy.”

“I can get a court order if you’d rather.”

The guard frowned at them both, delaying the moment when she’d have to admit defeat.

“You don’t have to. I’ll escort you down there.”

The interior corridors were even grayer, Sarah reflected a few minutes later as she and Jim followed the woman to Alexa’s cell. They twisted and turned through narrow hallways with the astringent smell of lemony disinfectant until they reached the tiny space Alexa Reed occupied.

Their sour guide dialed a combination lock on the door of the cell, and then used a key to complete opening it. Sarah and Jim stepped inside when it swung open, but there was barely room for both in the tiny dark space lit only by a three by three window high up on the outside wall.

She was a tiny bag of bones, Sarah reflected as she looked down at the woman in the navy blue prison scrubs curled up on the single cot. Her blonde hair was matted and uncombed, and apparently unwashed for weeks. Her large light blue eyes stared straight ahead, unfocused and distant. She was about five feet tall, Sarah guessed, and must have weighed all of ninety pounds.

She knelt by the cot. “Alexa, I’m Sarah Knight, your new attorney. And this is my investigator, Jim Mitchell. We’ve come to hear your side of things. Will you go down to the interview room with us where we can talk?”

No response. Alexa’s blue eyes remained blank and fixed on the opposite wall.

Jim leaned over and took one of Alexa’s small hands in his much larger one. Sarah couldn’t explain why she didn’t like that. She thought she saw a flicker in Alexa’s otherwise vacant blue eyes when Jim took her hand, but it might have been her imagination.

“She isn’t going to talk to you,” the hostile guard announced. “You’re going to have to leave.”

Jim let go of Alexa’s tiny fingers and stood up. He really did look good in a suit, Sarah thought once more, and then wondered why she was thinking about Jim’s looks and Alexa’s hand in his.

Sarah stood also and turned toward the door. Suddenly, on impulse, she paused and fished one of her business cards out of her brief case. She pressed it into Alexa’s unresponsive hands.

“Here’s my card, Alexa. We’re here to help you.”

* * *

That night, Sarah found herself standing in front of Jim’s olive green bungalow at seven thirty. He’d insisted on making dinner again to give them a chance to talk over the day’s events. She had called David as soon as she’d gotten back to her office, ready to cancel the evening with Jim if he was free. But his wife had unexpectedly backed down from her Cabo trip, so seeing him was out of the question. Had Tessa guessed about their relationship? That possibility nagged at Sarah as she thought of calling Jim to set up a meeting at a restaurant where she would feel more in control. But the need for confidentiality trumped her scruples about being alone with him.

He put a glass of cabernet in her hand and motioned for her to take a seat on one of the tall stools around the island in his kitchen.

“I was in the mood for burgers, although not the ones you burn over a gas grill. Feeling the French bistro vibe tonight, so I’ve made grilled onion confit and Bearnaise sauce and shoestring sweet potato fries.”

“I’ll have to work out tomorrow for sure.”

He turned from stirring the onions and gave her a once over. “I doubt that. You look very Audrey Hepburn tonight in those black skinny pants and black shirt with your hair cut short like hers. Do people ever tell you that you look like her?”

“Once in a while. When they don’t otherwise know my ‘day job.’”

“I have to admit you had me fooled that night at Trend.”

Was it really less than a week since they’d met, Sarah reflected. Why did she feel as if she’d always known him?

“That was tough today at the jail,” Jim observed, turning back to his onions.

“Yes, it was.” Sarah paused to take a long drink of her wine, wondering if she should have asked for scotch instead.

“She’s barely alive.”

“Trevor Martin warned me, but it was much worse than I’d pictured.”

“She’ll be declared incompetent to stand trial. She’s completely incapable of assisting with her defense.”

“Yeah, that’s blatantly obvious. Still, I want to interview Percy Andrews to find out what he’s going to say at that competency hearing. I’ve got an appointment with him on Friday at 9 in the morning.”

“I’ll be there with bells on.”

* * *

They ate in Jim’s small dinning room at a small antique maple table. He dialed the lights down, and lit candles in clear glass holders. Sarah wondered if he considered the evening a business or personal occasion.

“How long have you been in San Diego?” He asked as he put the plates on the table and motioned for her to take the seat opposite his.

“Since January. What about you?”

“Two years, now. It’s easier being on the opposite coast.” His eyes darkened as he spoke, but he gave her that gentle, honest smile that she found hard to resist. “Do you miss New York?”


“Why didn’t you go with a big firm here like Warwick, Thompson?”

“I thought about it. I talked to Alan Warwick. In the end, I was tired of working for someone else.”

Jim smiled. “I can understand that. Any broken hearts left behind in New York?”

“Only the ones I mentioned the other night, the dry cleaning delivery boy and the Chinese food messenger. But I doubt they miss anything but the tips. I was always generous. What about you?” Why was she picturing him holding Alexa Reed’s tiny fingers?

“I’ve tried. No luck. Still head over heels for Gail.”

Jealousy was an inappropriate emotion Alexa reminded herself as he refilled her wine glass. “What is she like?”

“Funny, smart, beautiful. Taffy hair, big blue eyes. Knockout figure. Grew up in Boston. She teaches third grade and loves it. Cody has a half-sister, Brittany, whom he adores.”

Sarah studied him across the table. A white knit shirt tonight with navy linen pants. Such a kind, gentle face. Hard to believe he hadn’t found someone else by now.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

“My hourly rate is a lot higher than that.”

“Guess I can’t afford them, then.”

“I thought you were a trust fund baby.”

He laughed. “I tend to forget about the old man’s money. I did without it all those years. Ok, I’ll pay your hourly rate if you tell me why you’re looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“As if you were reading my mind.”

“Now that would be a useful skill for a defense attorney. But I don’t do mind reading. I was just thinking a guy like you should have hooked up with someone by now.”

“I could say the same about you.” The tone of his voice made her tummy flutter, and she decided this conversation had to end and quickly.

“I do see someone. From time to time.”

Did he look disappointed? She wasn’t sure.

“Lucky him. What’s he like?”

“A busy important, CEO of a commercial real estate firm. His brother, who works for him, had a minor problem with the Securities and Exchange Commission last winter, just after I got here.”

“And you took care of it for him?”

“Made it all go away.”

Jim studied her in the candlelight. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Sara traced the circle of the bottom of her wine glass. “Now you’re reading minds.”

“I’ve interviewed hundreds of witnesses. I know when someone’s holding back.”

Her dark eyes met his, and she smiled. “You’re really good. I’ll give you credit. David Scott is very married.”

“Ah, I see.” He crossed his knife and fork on his plate in a gesture of finality before bringing his eyes back to study hers. “Then why waste your time?”

“He’s witty, well educated, and charming.” And I can’t fall in love with him. But Sarah would never say that out loud.

“Does the wife know?”

She frowned as she thought of the defunct Cabo trip. “I don’t think so.”

“But you’re not sure.”

“She was supposed to be in Cabo tonight.”

“And he was supposed to be with you?”

“But she cancelled. I don’t think it had anything to do with me and David.”

“Well, my luck that she stayed in town.” He leaned over and started to refill her glass, but she put her hand over the top.

“I’m driving, remember?”

“And I’ve got that guest room, remember? This was a tough day. You need it. Let me put the plates in the sink and then join you in the living room. I’ve learned a lot about Alexa Reed since this afternoon. I think you’re going to be interested in what I’ve found out.”

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I’ve spent the week writing blog posts for Dance For a Dead Princess for blogs that didn’t happen. Sigh. Oh, well. And I’ve been working on novel three (novel two being in the editing stages), so since I haven’t had time to write for my own blog, I’m sharing the first chapter of Dark Moon with you this week.

August 2013

She was sitting at the bar, staring at the full moon over the glass smooth, night-black Pacific. Her back was toward him, but Jim Mitchell could see her reflection in the mirror behind the bar. Her dark hair was very short like a child’s pixie cut, and she was all eyes. They were the saddest brown eyes he had ever seen as they gazed through the window at the blank ocean.

Judging by her long elegant legs and graceful posture, he guessed she was a model or a dancer. But no, he told himself. Models and dancers don’t hang out at La Jolla’s exclusive Trend Bar in conservative black couture suits and impossibly expensive white silk blouses. She was obviously a business woman. A retired model, he decided who now ran her own modeling agency. He was glad he’d worn his business casual tan chinos and thrown his navy sport coat over his white knit shirt. She didn’t look as if sloppy have appealed to her.

She was lost in thought, and she didn’t turn when he slid onto the stool beside her. He wondered what such a beautiful woman was doing alone on a bar stool at 9 p.m. on a Friday night, and he wondered how many of the losers several stools away had tried to gain the seat he now occupied. And he wondered how long she would let him hold it.

“Mind if I sit down?”

“Help yourself.” Her eyes riveted on his, still sad but now guarded. He noticed a long scar snaking across her left cheek. He guessed it must have ended her career in front of the camera. She watched him glance down at her left hand.

“If I were married, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Me, either.” The bartender shifted from one foot to the other, waiting for his order. “Martini, two olives. And may I get something for you? Your glass is just about empty.”
“Another one of my usual.”

Satisfied the bar tender scurried away to earn his tip.

“If he knows your usual, you must come here often.”

“Not an original pickup line. Besides, you had me at ‘mind if I sit down.’ My office is just down the street. I like to come by on Friday night to wind down.”

“But happy hour is long over.”

“I don’t do happy hour. Too crowded.”

“Me, either.”

“Is you office just down the street?”

“No. I work out of my home in Pacific Beach.”

“Then why aren’t you in a bar in Pacific Beach?”

“Too loud. Too noisy. And I’m too old.”

He saw the first glint of amusement in her dark eyes as she appraised him. “You don’t look too old.”

“I’m forty-two. That’s too old for twenty-something coeds.”

She laughed, a deep honest laugh that he liked. “I know plenty of men your age who wouldn’t agree with that.”

“They have their preferences. I have mine. If I feel like a drink on Friday night, I drive up here. What about you? You could be down in PB with the party crowd.”

Her eyes darkened slightly, but her tone remained light.

The bar tender appeared with their drinks, and he noticed her “usual” was red wine.

“To Friday night! I’m Jim Mitchell, by the way.” He held up his glass.

“Sarah Knight,” and she lightly touched his glass with hers.

Afterward he said, “I’m not believing the ‘too old’ stuff about you.”

“Thanks, but it’s true. I’m four years ahead of you.”

“You look ten years behind me.”

She smiled. “I’ve finally reached the point in life where that’s an advantage. When I first started out as an attorney, no one took me seriously.”

“You’re an attorney?”

“Don’t sound so surprised. Lots of women are these days.”

“No, no. I didn’t mean that. I took you for a former model, now head of her own agency.”

Sarah threw back her head and laughed. “Now that’s a first. Thank you. I think.Ever heard of Craig, Lewis, and Weller?”

“Sure. They’re big time rivals of my old man’s stomping grounds, Cravath, Swain, and Moore.”

“Well, I went with Craig, Lewis out of law school– ”

“Which was Harvard, I bet.”

“Wrong, Yale. And I became a partner in their white collar crime section eleven years ago.”

“A woman who looks like a model and who does white collar crime.This has got to be a movie. I would never have guessed.”

She smiled. “I think looking like a kid gave me an advantage in front of juries, particularly with the female jurors.”

“So what brought you back to San Diego?”

“I grew up here, and I got tired of New York winters.”

“I can relate to that.”

“If your dad was a Cravath partner, you obviously grew up in New York.”

“Well, not in the city. We had the regulation big house in the Connecticut burbs.”

“And you are Jim, Junior, and your father wanted you to follow in his footsteps.”

“Now, I think you’re psychic. James Chapman Mitchell, III. He sent me to Andover because it was his prep school, and he sent me to Brown because it was his college, but then I rebelled and went Georgetown because it wasn’t Harvard, his law school.”

“And did you go to work for Cravath?”

“For one miserable year. And then I joined the FBI.”

“It’s difficult to see that as an act of rebellion.”

“As far as my father was concerned, it was.”

“Why’d you pick the FBI?”

“I wanted to put the bad guys away. I thought it would give some meaning to my life.”

“And did it?”

“Too much meaning as it turns out. I got very caught up in my work. Finding a lead in a cold case was like an addiction. But my partner, who was single, had no trouble leaving work at six o’clock to hang out with my wife, who was tired of sleeping alone. Seven years ago, Gail handed me the divorce papers and put Josh’s ring on her finger instead of mine.”

“Sounds tough.” Her eyes were unreadable again.

“The toughest part is being away from my son Cody. He’s thirteen, and I only get a few weeks with him every summer. He’s just gone back to Baltimore where his mother lives. What about you? Ex-husbands? Children?”

“No time. Remember I made partner at a Wall Street firm at thirty-five. I couldn’t date my clients, and I don’t like office romances. That left the dry cleaning delivery boy and the kid who brought Chinese takeout when I got home before midnight. And I don’t do younger men.”

“Darn. And I was just getting ready to proposition you.”

“An ex-FBI agent propositioning a criminal defense attorney? In what universe?”

“This one. I’m a private investigator now. I had to leave the Bureau after Gail married Josh. I saw and heard too much, and I couldn’t take it. I’m still in love with Gail, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I noticed.”

“I moved out here two years ago to get a fresh start. I literally closed my eyes and stuck a pin in the map. And San Diego it was. Here’s my card. I’m really good. You never know when you might need an outstanding gumshoe.”

She took the card in her long, graceful elegantly manicured fingers and studied it for a moment. She seemed to be thinking something over. Finally she said, “Actually, I do need someone.”

“I can’t believe my luck.”

“You might not think that when I tell you about the case.”

“Try me.”

“Do you know who Alexa Reed is?”

“Sure. The daughter-in-law of United States Supreme Court Justice Coleman Reed. She was arrested here in June for the murder of her husband, Michael, and a local psychologist, Roland Brigman. She and Michael, who was a partner at Warwick, Thompson, and Hayes were locked in a custody battle for their two children. Brigman seems to have been on Michael’s side. The papers say Alexa was losing custody even though she had given up her career at Warwick, Thompson to be a stay-at-home mom. She snapped and killed Brigman and her ex.”

“I was appointed to represent Alexa today.”

“Wow! That’s going to be a tough one.”

“You have no idea. There’s a lot more, but I can’t talk about it here in public.”

“Of course not.”

“Are you in?”

“Definitely. Hey, I know a great little restaurant where we can talk. Tomorrow night at seven.”

“Ok. And where would that would be?”

“My place. Here’s the address.”

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