This book has been published by Kindle Press!
Back to top

First pages

Chapter 1

“Robin, will you come out here?” Carly sounded close to tears.

“Sure.” I got up from behind the desk in my office and went out into the reception area of the Executive Suites, where an old man stood with his hands in the pockets of a navy windbreaker.

“Uh…a gentleman is here to see you,” Carly said from behind her counter.

The man was perhaps no older than his early sixties, and, despite the lines in his face and the sagging flesh, his hair was still dark blonde. His gaze moved over me appraisingly, as if he were considering a not-very-promising side of beef for purchase.

I approached him, extending my hand, but he kept his in his pockets.

“You’re a stringy thing,” he said, his lip curling to reveal yellow teeth so mottled with brown that they might have been rotting out of his head. “From the newspaper pictures I thought you might be, but I couldn’t tell.”

I let my hand drop. I am a female an inch shy of six feet, and I had been called worse things than stringy. “What can I do for you?”

“Do we have to talk about it here in the open, in front of Madam Nosey there?” He jerked his head in the direction of the reception desk where Carly sat stiffly, blinking her eyes. Though she was an attractive woman in her mid-thirties, she did have a large nose made more prominent by the narrowness of her face.

“She goes by Carly,” I said.

“What?”

“Carly. And she has a last name, but it’s not Nosey.”

“Well?” he said.

I shook my head. “Come on back.”

He followed me back through the archway that led into the little cluster of offices where my own was located. Of the three doors, only mine and that of a detective named Rodney Burns were open. My friend Brooke Marshall, who had the middle office, was off evaluating some company’s IT system.

“At least you’re pleasant to walk behind,” the old man muttered.

I stopped in my doorway and turned on him. “Look. I don’t know who you are or what you want. I don’t know what you said to Carly. But one more impolite remark, and we’re done. Do you understand me?”

He eyed me. “Are you this welcoming to all your clients?”

I cocked an eyebrow at him.

“Yes, I understand you. And for what it’s worth, I think you’ll do.”

“Do for what?”

He withdrew a hand from the pocket of his windbreaker. The hand clutched several folded sheets of paper limp with perspiration. He handed them to me. “I’m about to be arrested for murder,” he said as I unfolded the papers.

The document was a search warrant for the residence of Robert Shorter, 3412 Meander Lane, Richmond, Virginia. Midway down the page, it read, “This Search Warrant is issued in relation to an offense substantially described as follows: In violation of Virginia Code 18.2-32 to wit: First or Second Degree Murder.” I looked up.

“You’re Robert Shorter, I take it.”

“Bob Shorter. That’s me.”

I flipped the page to look at the search inventory, my nose wrinkling at the smell of stale cigarette smoke that rose off the document. The police had taken a denim shirt, a pair of pants, and nine kitchen knives. “Come on in.” I continued into my office and remained standing behind my desk until Shorter had taken a seat in one of the two client chairs.

I sat, dropping the papers on the top of my desk. “Tell me about the shirt and pants they took.”

“They had blood on them.”

“Not yours?”

“No, not my blood. I never saw the blood until the police pulled the clothes out from under my hanging clothes.”

“They were on the floor?”

“On the floor between my shoes and the wall. What I think is that someone got into my house, dribbled blood on my clothes, and shoved them back there.”

“So they were your clothes,” I said.

“Yeah, they were my clothes.”

“Any signs of forcible entry?”

“Not that I could tell. Cops didn’t say anything about it, though I did see them looking at the lock on my back door.”

“So what’s your explanation?”

“I go for a walk every morning and evening. My neighbors all see me. Anyone would have had plenty of time to go in and do their mischief.”

“How would they have gotten in?”

“Don’t know, though I used to keep a spare key out in my tool shed. They could have used that.”

“Is it gone?”

“I didn’t think to check. Wouldn’t mean anything anyhow. If it’s there, maybe whoever used it put it back. Or he could have borrowed it while I was out on one of my walks any time in the last ten years, made a copy, and put it back. Or it could be that it’s not even there anymore. It’s been years since I’ve seen it.”

“You said he. Who do you see doing this?”

He shook his head. “Could have been a woman, any of my neighbors. They all hate me.”

“Do they also hate…” I flipped to the affidavit attached to the search warrant. “…William Hill?”

“Bill? Probably not. He’s annoying as hell, always whining about his various health problems, both real and imagined, but I don’t know that people hate him. Course, I don’t talk to any of the neighbors much.”

“How about you? Do you hate Bill Hill?”

“He’s a pathetic son of a bitch, just sits and moons out the window. When the weather’s nice enough, he sits on his back patio, staring across at my house. It’s annoying as hell, but I don't hate him for it. Once upon a time we were pretty good friends, but we had a falling out, a practical joke that went a little wrong. That’s been years though.”

“Someone stabbed him.”

“That’s what the papers say.”

“With your knife, do you think?”

“Could be. I can’t find my paring knife, and I don’t remember it among the knives the police took. Last time I remember seeing it, I left it on the counter after cutting myself up an apple. That’s been a few days.”

“Was it part of the same set as the knives the police?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I think it was.”

I went back with him over the timeline. Bill Hill’s body had been discovered the day before, on Sunday, sometime in the late afternoon. By evening, the police were searching Bob Shorter’s house.

“I’m not sure when it was the murder’s supposed to have happened,” Shorter said. “Not yesterday, I think. The day before, or the day before that.”

“Maybe as early as Friday.”

“Yes.”

“So on Friday or Saturday, someone walked into your house, maybe one of your neighbors, maybe using the key he found in your tool shed. He found your knife and some of your clothes, walked them over to Bill Hill’s house…How far away is that, by the way?”

“Just across the street and around the corner.”

“Carried your knife and clothes around the corner, stabbed Bill Hill, a man whom nobody hates, carried the bloody clothes, but evidently not the knife…” I paused, raising my eyebrows.

“Not the knife,” Shorter confirmed.

“…back to your house and jammed them into the back of your closet for the police to find.”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“Tell me about this note that Bill left,” I said, tapping the warrant and its accompanying affidavit.

“All I know is what it says right there. Evidently Bill scrawled my name on something before he died. From something one of the cops said, he may have written it in his own blood.”

I leaned back in my chair, studying Shorter. My office was not a big one, and the smell of stale tobacco was beginning to be overpowering. Though Shorter met my gaze squarely, the whole thing didn’t feel right. There was something entirely too self-possessed about Bob Shorter, given that it looked like he was about to face murder charges. In the circumstances, I didn’t like his calm demeanor, and I was pretty sure I didn’t like him. “There are a lot of lawyers in Richmond,” I said. “Why come to me?”

“I’m in a fix.” He turned his hands so that they rested on his thighs palms up, the movement drawing my attention to the yellow-brown stains on the thumb and first two fingers of his right hand. “I’m in a fix, and I know it. It may be that nobody can get me out of it. If so, if this is my last hurrah, I might as well have a long-legged—”

I lowered my chin, looking at him from beneath raised eyebrows.

“Hell, you’re not going to tell me your legs are short. Anyway, I read about you in the newspaper. It seems to me you have an unconventional way of doing things, and to my mind you’ve got a better chance of breaking a frame-up like this than some paunchy, middle-aged shyster who sits around on his flabby ass all day drafting documents and waiting for the police to uncover the facts he’s going to have to deal with.”

I didn’t respond, just sat looking at him.

“Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m here because your ass ain’t flabby.” He bared his nicotine-stained teeth at me.

I stood. “I don’t want your case. Thank you for coming in.”

He stayed in his seat, hands in his jacket pockets, tilting his head to keep his eyes on my face. “Now don’t be like that. Okay, I said something I shouldn’t of. I’m sorry. I can make it up to you.”

“I doubt it.”

He stood, too, but instead of turning to leave, he reached into his jacket’s inside pocket and came out with a checkbook.

I shook my head. “You’re wasting your time.”

He opened the checkbook and tore out a check that had evidently been filled out in advance. He laid it on my desk, turning so that the writing faced me, and pushed it toward me. The check had my name on it and was made out for thirty thousand dollars, about twenty times what I had in the bank at the moment.

“I know I don’t got what you might call a winsome personality, so I compensate. A lot of times I find a big check will make up for my failure to honor some of the social niceties.” He grinned his rotting-corpse grin at me.

I picked up the check.

“That’s not a retainer, it’s a fee,” he said. “You get to keep it regardless of how much time you put in, regardless of what results you get. How about it?”

“Don’t you want to wait for an arrest? You don’t even know there’s a case yet.”

“That’s my lookout. I got some bloody clothes and a missing knife, and I don’t see any other explanation for it but that somebody’s framing me. I want to be ready for ’em.”

“I don’t know what you said to my receptionist, but if you upset her again, I’m done—and, short of a court order, I won’t be returning your check. I’ll keep every penny of it I can get away with.”

He started to cackle, but it broke down into a smoker’s cough. When he recovered, he said, “You’re a ruthless bitch, aren’t you? I like that. That’s why I’m here.”

“And of course, if this check bounces, everything’s off.”

 

We had some paperwork to fill out. When we had finished it, I walked him out and stood just inside the glass doors of the Executive Suites until the elevator doors on the opposite side of the hall had closed on him, cutting off his yellowed face from view.

“He’s a dreadful, dreadful man,” Carly said behind me. “Tell me you’re not going to take his case.”

I turned to put a hand on the counter. “What did he say to you?”

“It was just his manner.”

“No, it wasn’t. His manner didn’t upset you like this.”

She took a breath. “He came in asking about you. He wanted to know if you were as good as the Times-Dispatch made you out to be. When I started telling him how good you were, he interrupted me with, ‘Why am I asking you? You’ve got a year of community college under your belt, if that, probably wouldn’t know a criminal case from a case of Bud Light. Mid to late thirties, no wedding ring, no engagement ring—you don’t have a whole hell of a lot on the ball, do you?’” She sniffled. “It just came out of nowhere. I didn’t know what to say. I just sat there kind of stunned, and he told me that frizzing out my hair and putting on makeup with a trowel didn’t…didn’t help my looks any.” The sentence ended in a squeak, and she couldn’t go on. She just sat blinking her eyes and trying very hard not to cry.

“I’m sorry. If it makes you feel any better, he called me a stringy, skinny-assed bitch—or something to that effect. He did manage to work both the a-word and the b-word into the conversation.”

It got a smile from her. “So you didn’t take his case?”

“I’m not sure there is one. If there is, we probably won’t see much of him here. He’s likely to be in the Richmond City Jail, verbally abusing the turnkeys and the other inmates.”

The idea seemed to please her. “Maybe someone will stick a … a shiv into him,” she said hopefully.

“Well, you’re a blood-thirsty wench,” I said.

“What’s he done anyway?”

“What he says he hasn’t done is murder a man named Bill Hill. Can I borrow your newspaper?” I tapped the counter beside it. “There might be an article about it in there.”

“Someone killed Bill Hill?” she asked, pushing it toward me.

“You know him?”

“No. It just sounds like it ought to be a Quentin Tarantino movie.”

“You watch Quentin Tarantino?”

“He’s just so twisted. Pulp Fiction got me hooked. From there, it’s only a short step to Kill Bill, Volume 1.

“I guess it is,” I said, picking up the newspaper. Carly always seemed to have a romance novel going, one of those with a picture of a shirtless, well-muscled man on the cover. As for her taste in movies, I would have thought she was more of a rom-com sort of girl.

“Don’t you watch Tarantino?” she asked me.

“I saw Pulp Fiction,” I said.

 

Bill Hill was on the third page of the local section.

 

Richmond Man Found Dead in Home

William Hill, 63, was found dead of a knife-wound inside his Richmond home yesterday. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

“There was no evidence of forcible entry, but the back door was unlocked when police got to the house,” said Richmond Police Detective Ray Hernandez.

Police are withholding further details about the crime scene.

 

Brooke Marshall, the pretty redhead who had the office next to mine, got back from her consulting job while I was reading. She and I were about the same age—she was thirty, and I was thirty-one. “Hey,” she said.

I looked up. “Hey.”

“What you reading?”

Kill Bill Hill, Volume Three,” I said.

She unslung her purse and took a seat. “Quentin Tarantino is coming out with a new movie?”

“No. I may be starring in this one.” I turned the paper around so she could see the article. After a moment, she said, “Not much there.”

“No.”

“So how are you involved?”

“An old man came by, said he was about to be arrested for the crime.” I told her about Shorter’s visit, including his effect on Carly.

“I’m surprised you took the case.”

I slid the check across the desk to her. Her eyes widened. “Maybe not,” she said.

“I’m going to walk by his bank on the way to my own, see if he has sufficient funds, then I’m going to deposit the check and go home.” I got my purse out of the bottom desk drawer.

“It’s barely two o’clock,” Brooke protested.

“I’m going to go by Shorter’s neighborhood, see if I can talk to some of the neighbors. He says they all hate him.”

She looked at her watch.

“Want to come?”

She shook her head regretfully. “I’ve got to get some work done.”


Chapter 2

So far I didn't have a client who was charged with anything, but there’s nothing like thirty thousand dollars in the bank to pique a girl’s interest. Shorter’s house was a small, white clapboard with vinyl siding, its lawn mostly dirt, the weeds just beginning to green. I stopped against the curb and got out. The March air was brisk, but I still had on my coat from my walk to the parking garage downtown.

The door of the house next door opened, and a woman came out to stand on her front stoop, her arms folded across her chest. She didn’t say anything until I started across the lawn to Shorter’s door.

“He ain’t there.”

I stopped.

“The police was waiting for him when he drove in about half an hour ago.”

“They arrested him?”

She was too far away for me to be sure, but she appeared to be grinning like a maniac. I started toward her, and she watched me come.

I stopped when I got to her lawn. She was indeed grinning like a maniac.

“I’m Robin Starling,” I said.

“A friend of Mr. Shorter’s?”

“No.”

“No,” she repeated. “Bob Shorter don’t got no friends.”

“He does seem singularly unlikeable. I just met him this afternoon.”

“So what you want with him?” She was staying on her porch, her arms crossed. I took a step closer.

“To talk to him. He thought the police might arrest him. I wanted to talk about why.”

“Huh. Why the police might arrest him is he killed poor Mr. Hill.”

“You think he did kill him?”

She sniffed. “You’re a lawyer, ain’t cha?”

“Well,” I said vaguely. In some places, lawyers were less well regarded than politicians and sex offenders.

“You don’t want to go taking Bob Shorter’s case. He’s guilty, just as guilty as sin. He killed poor old Bill, sure as I’m standing here.”

“You are standing there,” I acknowledged.

“And he killed Bill Hill.”

“Why would he do that? Do you know?”

“Because he’s evil. That Bob Shorter would kill a man just for the pleasure of watching him die.”

“Has he ever killed a man before?”

She pressed her lips together, which I took as a no.

“What makes him evil?” I asked.

“What makes any man evil? The blackness of his soul, damn it to hell.”

“What’s he done though? How has the evil manifested itself?” In talking to this woman, I was trying to sound less like a lawyer, more blue collar. You can see how that was working out.

“What hasn’t he done?” the woman retorted.

I waited. When she didn’t say anything, I said, “You can’t actually see the color of his soul.”

“Oh, can’t I?” She smirked with the satisfaction of having delivered the perfect refutation.

“Well, his soul doesn’t have to be black, does it? It could be puke green and covered with pimples and sores. The point you’re making is he’s a bad man.”

“Yes he is. That’s my point exactly.”

“He’s a bad man who’s done bad things,” I prompted.

“Oh, yes. Bad things.”

“What’s your name, anyway? I’m Robin Starling.” I’d been moving closer as we talked. Now I put a foot on the step leading up to her porch and held out a hand. She didn’t take it—her arms remained folded across her chest—but she did tell me her name.

“Jenn. Jenn Entwistle.”

“Glad to meet you, Jenn. You know about some of these bad things he’s done. I don’t, but I’d like to.”

She raised her eyebrows. “And how long you known him?”

“A couple of hours. He did make my receptionist cry, but that’s all I know about so far.”

“You know he killed Bill Hill.”

“Well, no. What I know is that the police have charged him with killing Bill Hill.”

“And why would they charge him if he ain’t done it?” Her tone was richly patronizing. “You tell me that, Ms. Lawyer.”

“Because there’s evidence that points to him,” I suggested.

“Exactly.”

“But maybe there’s another explanation for the evidence that seems to point to him.”

“What kind of explanation?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the evidence yet.”

“Yet? You’re going to take his case then?”

“I guess I already have.”

“You’re going to help that monster get away with murder.”

“No, I hope not. If he committed murder, I wouldn’t want him to get away with it.” My own expression was as mild as I could make it as I met her glare.

“So what are you gonna do?”

“Examine the evidence to see if there might be an innocent explanation. Make the prosecution prove its case.”

She blew me a raspberry. “Ain’t nothing innocent about Bob Shorter.”

“Probably not.”

“So why’re you helping him?”

“I don’t like him. He may be a monster just like you say he is, but there are a lot of monsters out there. All of them can’t have killed Bill Hill.”

“I can’t believe it. You’re incredible.”

“He’s entitled to his day in court like any of us would be.”

“You’re a monster yourself, ain’t ya? All you lawyers.”

I tried a smile on her. “I like to think not.”

She lifted her chin. “I don’t have nothing more to say to you.” She turned and jerked open her door, and, as she went in, she slammed it behind her. So much for the power of a smile.

 

Bill Hill had lived around the corner in a split-level house that probably dated from the 1950s. Though it was part brick, the eaves and the second-floor siding were badly in need of a good paint job. I walked around the house, letting myself into the backyard through the gate in a wobbly chain-link fence. Bill had a small patio outside his back door, a square of cement with a single lawn chair sitting on it, one of the chair’s crisis-crossing straps broken and hanging down. The yard in back was like the front, with more clover and henbit than fescue. Against the house to one side of the patio was a big, rust-spotted tank for heating oil.

The back door, though it may not have been locked when the police came, was locked now. Peering through the glass, I could see a bit of the kitchen with a small table against one wall and two chairs. I hoped he had occasionally had a visitor to occupy one of them. I checked under the fraying rope doormat for a house key, then on the sill of the nearest window. No luck. If I wanted to take a look through Hill’s house, I was going to have to be more creative.

The fabric of the lawn chair stretched and popped as I took a seat to consider my options. Neither Bill nor his neighbors had a privacy fence, and the backyards were separated only by waist-high chain-link fences. It was not a prosperous neighborhood, but I liked its openness. People could know their neighbors here. They could have a sense of community.

The house next door to Bill’s was on the corner, and I could see directly across its backyard to the front of Shorter’s house. Bill’s chair faced Shorter’s house, in fact, as if to allow Bill Hill to watch Shorter come and go on his twice daily walks.

A curtain moved in a window of the house next door. I watched it out of the corner of my eye, but it didn’t move again. Judging by the size and placement of the window, I thought it might be the window over the kitchen sink.

I got up and went back around Hill’s house, letting myself through the gate again. There were a few scraggly bushes along the house’s foundation, looking as forlorn and neglected as the house itself. Just to be thorough, I tried the front door, but the house was locked tight.

Next door to Bill’s, at the house where I’d seen the curtain move, I stepped up onto the front stoop and rang the bell. Chimes sounded inside the house, but no one came to the door.

“Hello?” I said.

Silence.

“My name is Robin Starling. Your neighbor Jenn suggested I might talk to you.” Okay, so Jenn had done nothing of the sort. Desperate times call for lying like a son-of-a-gun. “I was hoping to get some information about your neighborhood.”

I had started to turn away when the deadbolt clicked back. The door opened and the pale face of a woman with pale hair appeared in the narrow opening. She looked up at me with the anxious face of a woman who feared unpleasantness.

“Hi,” I said. “Thanks for opening the door.”

“Jenn didn’t send you,” she said in a voice so soft I had to lean in to hear her.

I dropped my gaze, doing what I could to look abashed. “Well, no. She did spend some time talking to me. I was hoping you would, too.” I refrained from putting my hands behind my back and digging my toe into her welcome mat. I do have some shame.

“What do you want to talk about?” she said, again almost in a whisper.

Lowering my own voice, I said, “For starters, I understand your next-door neighbor died recently.”

She shook her head in a quick, birdlike gesture. “He didn’t die. He was killed.”

“By a man named Bob Shorter?”

“That’s what they say.”

“Why would he do it? Do you have any idea?”

“Maybe for the fun of it?”

“That makes Shorter out to be pure evil. Is he really as bad as that?”

She seemed to study me.

“I’ve met the man, so I can readily believe he is.” I smiled. “I would be interested in supporting evidence.”

“Jenn said you’re going to try to get him off.”

Jenn had been busy. “It’s more complicated than that,” I said. “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”

“Is that a quote from someone?”

“It sounds like it, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure it’s not Shakespeare, but that’s about all I can tell you.”

She took a breath, steeling herself. She stepped back and pulled the door wider. “Come in.”

We sat in her living room in facing chairs. Her hands were clasped in her lap.

“My name is Robin Starling,” I said.

“So you said.”

I waited.

“Melissa,” she said finally.

“Melissa…”

“Stimmler.” Her eyes were the color of the sky.

“Melissa Stimmler. Do you know anything about what happened next door?”

She shook her head.

“Did you ever see Bob Shorter entering or leaving Bill Hill’s house?” I asked. “I mean, in the last week or so.”

“No. Never.”

“Did you see anyone else entering or leaving?”

“Just Bill. Bill doesn’t have many visitors.”

“But he has had some?”

“Not recently.”

I nodded. My list of alternative suspects remained a blank page. “Did Bob Shorter hate Mr. Hill, as far as you know?” I asked.

“He hates everybody.”

“Did Mr. Hill hate Bob Shorter?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Do you know why?”

“Lots of reasons.”

“For instance…”

“You said it yourself.”

“I did?”

“Mr. Shorter is evil. He’s an evil, evil man.”

“That sounds like a story.” I sat back in my chair, smiled encouragingly, but she didn’t say anything more on the subject of Mr. Shorter’s evil nature. I tried leaning forward. “What’s he done?” I whispered conspiratorially.

“He killed Bill Hill.” Her blue eyes brimmed with tears. “Poor ol’ Bill,” she said. A tear spilled from her lower lid and slid down her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

She nodded.

“May I leave you a business card? Maybe if you think of something…” I put it on the end table by her chair. I was at the door when she said something, and I turned back.

“Don’t help him,” she said. “Don’t help him get away with it.”

“We can’t be completely sure he did it, can we?”

“I’m sure.”

“How can you be? Did you see something? Hear something?”

“I’m just sure. We all are,” she said.

Chapter 3

Paul Soldano’s car was parked on the curb in front of my house, I noticed as I crossed my street to the alley that led to my driveway. I parked my car in the garage and walked through the house to the front door.

Paul was sitting on the front steps with my dog, a chocolate Labrador retriever. As I pulled the door open, Deeks spun out from under Paul’s arm so fast that he nearly turned himself inside out. Paul got up more slowly. He was shorter than I was and more squarely built. Okay, he was chubby, a teddy bear of a man who I think would have been content to have me drag him around by one arm everywhere I went.

“Back from your trip early?” I said, stepping onto the front porch and scratching the top of Deeks’s head. Paul was a bank examiner, and he was on the road more weeks than not, visiting banks in Hampton Roads or Fredericksburg or even Grundy, a little town of one thousand or so in the southwest corner of the state.

“I didn’t go anywhere. I’m in town this week, remember?”

I hadn’t remembered. Feeling a pang of guilt for not keeping better track of him, I kissed him on the mouth. Deeks head-butted my thigh to regain my attention, and I broke the kiss just as Paul seemed to be getting into it.

“I thought I’d surprise you,” he said, giving Deeks a look as Deeks stuck his nose between my legs just above my knees for some serious head-scratching.

“With dinner? You brought food?” Deeks’s tail was going ninety-to-nothing as I scratched. I bent over him to rub his sides.

“Well, no,” Paul said. “The surprise is that you have a dinner guest—me. I thought you might have the food.”

I looked up at him, still scratching Deeks. “Salad, some deli meat, a balsamic vinaigrette,” I said.

“And beer. Remember? I brought over that case of Lowenbrau.”

“Very considerate.” I myself didn’t drink beer, but it did give me something to offer my teddy-bear boyfriend when he came over. I straightened. “Well, come in. It's cold out here. I thought you knew where my spare key was.”

“I do know where your spare key is. In fact, I let myself in before I went over to get Deacon.”

When I was at work, my dog stayed across the street with a retired physician named Dr. McDermott. I liked to think it gave them both some welcome companionship. “I can see you got Deacon,” I said. “Why didn’t the two of you go in?”

“He wouldn’t let me go in.”

I stopped with my hand on the doorknob. “What do you mean, he wouldn’t let you go in?”

“Actually, it would be more accurate to say he wouldn’t let me stay in. I went over and visited with Dr. McDermott, and when I left Deacon was perfectly happy to go with me. He ran here and there as we crossed the street, kept circling back to give my hand a lick—it was like I was his best friend. I opened the door to your house, and he bounded past me, streaked into the kitchen and then back into the bedroom looking for you. I was still in the entrance hall when he realized you weren’t home and came back to eject me from the house.”

“He’s a dog. How did he eject you?”

“He growled at me.”

“Ooh. He growled at you.”

“I’m serious. He came toward me with his head down and his tail down, a big rumble deep in his throat. I tried to walk past him, and he lunged at me.”

 


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Tightly plotted books with engaging characters and a big payoff at the end—those were the kind of books that as a boy kept Michael Monhollon tucked in odd corners of the house reading when he should have been doing almost anything else. His writing career began modestly, when, as a fifth grader, he earned a D on an essay about wanting to be a writer. He was more encouraged when Signet published his first legal thriller, Criminal Intent, and he left his law practice for teaching and writing.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
The fast pace. Clean writing that doesn’t get in the way of the story. Protagonists who are able to show humor even in the midst of stressful or even dangerous situations.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
I’d leave that to the experts, but when I’m writing I tend to see Gwyneth Paltrow in my mind’s eye. She would make a great trial lawyer of the sort who doesn’t feel the stress of interpersonal conflict the way you and I would. And she’s tall: the actress is only 2 inches shorter than Robin Starling.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
Devil in the Dock is a stand-alone legal thriller set between what have previously been books 4 and 5 of the series. It is an expansion of a 20,000-word novella that used to occupy that spot in the chronology of Robin Starling’s courtroom adventures.

Next in:
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
The Turncoat
When Hate Is Skin Deep
Imperfect Memories
A perfect memory turns deadly.
SHADOWED BY DEATH: AN...
Even a reluctant assassin is deadly