It was the trial that electrified the world. Not only because of the defendant, Maggie Bradford, the woman whose songs captivated the world's heart. Not only because of the victim, Will Shepard, the world's most glamorous athlete. But also because everyone said Maggie had murdered not just one husband, but two. And because in Maggie's world--the world she feared and despised but could not escape, the world of the powerful, the rich, and the ruthless--both death and life could never be what they seemed.
From James Patterson, comes his most brilliantly realized thriller, a story that will shatter your expectations... and hold every last one of your nerves in thrall, with each twist of the plot and every turn of the page.
Early winter, 1984
More snow. Another Christmas season. Almost a year after Phillip's death—or as some would have it, his murder.
I sat back in the yellow cab as it bounced and plowed through the slush—filled New York streets. I was trying to put my mind in a calm place, but it wouldn't be still for me. I had promised myself I wouldn't be afraid— but I was very afraid.
Outside the streaked, wet taxi window, even the Salvation Army Santa Clauses looked miserable. Nobody sane or sensible was out walking today; those who were would not take their hands from their pockets to make a donation. The traffic cops looked like abandoned snowmen. The pigeons had disappeared from every windowsill and rooftop.
I glanced at my own reflection in the cab's window. Very long, blond hair, mostly with a mind of its own, but my best physical attribute, I thought. Freckles that no amount of makeup would ever cover. Nose a little out of proportion. Brown eyes that had, I knew, regained at least some of their half-forgotten sparkle. A small mouth, thickish lips—made, as Phillip joked in the happy days, for fellatio.
The thought of him made me shudder. The idea sex still makes me afraid, and much worse.
It had been a year since the terrible shooting at Point. My recovery was slow, both physically and mentally, and it wasn't complete. My leg still hurt, and brain didn't function with the clarity I'd once taken pride in. I found myself frightened by small noises. I saw threats in nighttime streets when none existed. Previously in pretty good control of my feelings, I had 1ost that control. I would cry for no reason, grow angry a neighbor's kindness, be suspicious of friends and afraid of strangers. There were times when I hated myself!
There had been an investigation, of course, but no trial. If Jennie hadn't been so badly beaten, if it h been only me with bloodied hair and a damaged leg might have been sent to prison that first time. But t fact that my three-year-old was injured too made our claim of self-defense more convincing.
No prosecutor wanted to take on the case, and the military academy was only too happy to have it hushed up.
Officers, it was a well-known fact, did not attack their wives and daughters. Wives and daughters really didn't exist at the Point. We were decorative.
So I took flight, and traveled to New York City, where I rented a two-bedroom apartment. It was a second-floor walkup in a dreary brownstone on West Seventy-fifth Street I located a day school for Jennie. Our lives began to move at a slower pace.
But I hadn't found what I wanted most: an end to the pain, a beginning to a new life.
I was twenty-five years old. I wore the letter M. I had taken someone's life, even if it had been in self-defense.
No guts, no glory, I urged myself on. I was definitely moving on sheer guts that day. I was chasing a dream I'd held on to and cherished for more than a dozen years.
Perhaps today that new life would start. But was I doing the right thing? Was I ready for this? Or was I about to make a horribly embarrassing mistake?
I tightly held a briefcase in my lap, filled with songs I had written during the past year. Songs—the music and the words—were my way of exposing my pain and expressing my hopes for the future.
Actually, I'd been writing songs since I was ten or eleven. Mostly in my head, but sometimes on paper. The songs were the one thing that everybody seemed to like about me, the one thing I did well.
Were they any good? I thought maybe they were, but Jennie and a squirrel named Smooch were the only ones who had heard them, and, eager for praise as I was, I knew enough not to trust the opinion of a four-year-old, or a squirrel.
Soon, though, there would be another listener. I was on my way to audition the songs for Barry Kahn, the Barry Kahn, the singer-composer who had electrified America a decade ago and now was one of the most important record producers in the world.
Barry Kahn wanted to hear my songs.
Or so he said.
Copyright © 1996 by James Patterson
Read by Terri Nunn
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