Authors: Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
First published by
Probation Officer Ann Carlisle can’t afford to surrender to her personal feelings about Jimmy Sawyer, despite the way the young dope dealer behaves when they are together.
She can’t afford to surrender to the sexual hold that D.A. Glen Hopkins has on her, despite the way he turns her on whenever she is in his arms.
She can’t afford to surrender to the feelings of love that come whenever she thinks about her missing husband.
She can’t afford to surrender to the screws of terror tightening around her—because her first moment of weakness may be her last…
As a probation officer, beautiful Ann Carlisle knows what it means to walk a treacherous thin line between dangerous criminals who have scores to settle—and the system that seeks to punish them. But now an unseen assailant has shot and seriously injured her, thrusting her into a new world of terror.
Who pulled the trigger? The good-looking young drug dealer in her charge? An accused rapist now on trial? Her mysteriously missing husband, who may or may not be dead? Ann Carlisle has already stopped one bullet. But will she be able to stop an unknown enemy who’s made her a target? If she’s lucky. If she lives…
“A MUST…THRILLING AND UNPREDICTABLE.”
St Petersburg Times
“LIFE-THREATENING DANGER…KEEPS YOUR ADRENALINE PUMPING.”
Burlington Free Press
“BUZZES WITH SUSPENSE AND INTRIGUE…ROSENBERG NOTCHES UP ANOTHER PAGE-TURNER.”
“FAST-PACED ACTION, STEAMY SEX, A KILLER…AND A TRULY ENGAGING HEROINE.”
“MESMERIZING…GRIPPING…A MASTERPIECE THAT RANKS WITH THE FIRM.”
Affaire de Coeur
“COMPELLING TENSION…GUTSY AND FULL-BLOODED.”
“FAST-PACED ACTION AND SUSPENSE…UNPUTDOWNABLE.”
“HIGH-LEVEL CORRUPTION AND BETRAYAL…A FULL-THROTTLE LEGAL THRILLER.”
The Poisoned Pen
This one is for the gang:
Forrest and Jeannie, Chessly and Jimmy,
Hoyt Amy, Nancy, and my husband,
must give credit where credit is due. Michaela Hamilton, my marvelous editor at Dutton Signet, played a large part in making this book what it is. Mike, you are not just an editor, you’re a great friend and an excellent taskmaster. You always manage to get me to put forth the extra effort.
Also, I must express my gratitude to my agent, Peter Miller, of PMA Literary and Film Management, Ltd., for his tireless efforts in my behalf, and to Jennifer Robinson, also of PMA, another friend and adviser. I would also like to thank the entire staff of Penguin USA, including Peter Mayer, Marvin Brown, Elaine Koster, Lisa Johnson, John Paine, and many more. Particularly, I would like to thank the hardworking and supportive sales staff.
A special note of gratitude to my publicist and close friend, Alexis Campbell, for all her diligent efforts.
Last, this book was written in tribute to the thousands of dedicated probation and parole officers, a job of little glory and much toil. You not only make the world a great deal safer, you bring reason and impartiality into the troubled waters of our criminal justice system.
he courtroom was armed and waiting. Assistant district attorney Glen Hopkins was making notes in his file and sipping a cup of coffee while the defense counsel, Harold Duke, glanced at his watch anxiously. Two court clerks and a uniformed bailiff were staring straight ahead like statues. A probation officer, Ann Carlisle, an attractive woman with short blond hair and classic features, had her head braced in her hand and intermittently glanced over at the well-built district attorney, wanting to catch his eye.
Judge Hillstorm took another look at the clock and then glared at the defense attorney. Originally from Georgia, the white-haired judge still spoke with a distinctive southern accent. “Your client is late, Mr. Duke,” he chided. “This here hearing was scheduled for four o’clock. In exactly sixty seconds your client will forfeit his bail, and a bench warrant will be issued for his arrest.”
Harold Duke, a small, wiry man, gulped and swallowed. He turned toward the double doors for the hundredth time and then let out an audible sigh of relief when they were thrown apart by a lanky, long-haired young man wearing black jeans, a black shirt, and black leather boots with jangling chains and fake spurs. He strode into the courtroom as if he owned it, marched straight to the counsel table, and flopped down in the chair between his attorney and the probation officer. Duke’s relief quickly dissipated when he saw the entourage that followed.
The judge had the gavel in his hand and had opened his mouth to call the court to order when he froze. Four striking young girls pranced into the courtroom, each one flashing a smile at the judge. They looked like recycled hippies: bell-bottom pants, bare midriffs, breasts bulging and jiggling, platform shoes, long straight hair. They slipped into the back row and huddled together.
Following them was a tall, handsome Chinese man in his early twenties. He rushed up to the defendant at the counsel table, dropped down on one knee, and whispered something. As soon as he was finished, he took a seat several rows up from the girls, glancing back and smiling at them over his shoulder.
Judge Hillstorm’s face flushed, and he slammed the gavel down to call the courtroom to order. As he did, the back doors opened again and another attractive young man, this one with blond hair, burst through the doors, scanned the courtroom, and then quickly took a seat next to the young Chinese man.
“Well,” Judge Hillstorm said nastily, “now that we’re all assembled under the big top, why don’t we try a little law on for size? People versus James Earl Sawyer II.” He nodded his head at the probation officer, and the sentencing hearing was officially on record.
“Mr. Sawyer spent six days in custody subsequent to his arrest and prior to the court’s setting bail,” Ann Carlisle said, her words clearly enunciated as always.
“According to the felony disposition, the defendant should receive credit for time served of twelve days, pay a fine of one thousand dollars, and be placed on twenty-four months probation. Since the original charge was a felony and involved narcotics, it’s our recommendation that the defendant be placed on formal probation with full drug and search terms.”
“I see,” the judge said slowly, turning toward the district attorney. “Mr. Hopkins.”
At that moment Glen Hopkins was leaning over the counsel table, gazing across the room at Ann Carlisle. He was a tall, muscular man in his late thirties. His face was more rugged than handsome; fine lines radiated out from his eyes and clustered around his mouth from too much time spent in the sun. Raised in Colorado, he had once ridden bulls on the rodeo circuit. That wildness of spirit had not left him, either. No matter how expensive or well tailored his suits were, he always looked uncomfortable in them, constantly pulling his starched collar away from his neck as if it were strangling him.
Ann Carlisle flushed when she realized he was eyeing her. Several months ago, after a year of fencing and flirting, she had finally given in to his advances. Sex with him was an adventure, she had quickly found out. Knowing he could see her long legs under the table, Ann slowly crossed and uncrossed them. Then she stiffened her back and stared straight ahead, annoyed at herself for having such thoughts in the courtroom.
“Mr. Hopkins, we’re in session here. Could you please give us your full attention?”
“What? Oh,” the district attorney said, instantly collecting himself and facing the judge, a sly smile on his face. “I think Ms. Carlisle is mistaken. We agreed on the fine and the credit for time served but not supervised probation. The negotiated disposition states summary probation.”
Judge Hillstorm looked down at his file and riffled through the papers. “Ms. Carlisle, do you have a copy of this agreement?”
Ann looked up. “Yes, Your Honor, I have the documents right in front of me, but the agreement only states twenty-four months probation. It doesn’t specify summary or formal. My agency is recommending formal.”
“It was an oversight,” Hopkins said impatiently, speaking to Ann instead of the judge. “The typist just failed to type the word ‘summary’ next to the word ‘probation.’”
“Mr. Duke,” the judge said, “would you like to comment?”
The diminutive attorney stood formally to address the bench. “This is a first offense. Your Honor, and my client is an earnest young man who unfortunately bowed under peer pressure. He has never used drugs before and is preparing right now to enter college. All he did in this matter was accept what he thought were ‘smart pills’ from a stranger, not knowing they were controlled substances or in fact hallucinogens. This same individual then told Mr. Sawyer that they would help him concentrate at a higher level. Mr. Sawyer, after ingesting these—”
“Mr. Duke,” the judge said, interrupting the attorney’s dissertation, “we’re only discussing one point here, and we wouldn’t be discussing even this point if there hadn’t been an oversight. I mean, you are aware that this case has already been settled? You’re not in the wrong courtroom, are you?” Hillstorm smiled as chuckles acknowledged his wit.
“Of course not,” Duke said, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably.
“Well, then,” Hillstorm said, “this is what we’re deciding: will your client be on summary probation to this court, basically unsupervised, or will he have a probation officer? Once we determine that, we can all go home.”
Duke continued, his voice carefully modulated, showing no hint that he was annoyed. “There’s no reason to submit my client to supervised probation.”
Judge Hillstorm played with his glasses, taking them off and then putting them back on again while he made his decision. “James Earl Sawyer,” he finally said, “in case number A5349837, I hereby sentence you to twenty-four months
probation. As a condition of this here modified probation, you will have what we call drug terms, and you will pay a fine of five thousand dollars by October 23rd, exactly one year from today. Now, I know this here fine is more than this agreement stated, but the agreement between you and me was that you were to appear in this court promptly at four o’clock and you failed to honor that agreement. That,” Hillstorm said, chuckling, “is what we call breach of contract. Running this operation costs what a young fellow like you’d call
. As for your probation, you’ll have to report once a month to your probation officer, Ms. Carlisle. She’s the pretty little lady sitting right next to you. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand,” Sawyer answered stiffly, not looking at Ann, whose mouth was open in outrage.
“This court’s adjourned, then,” Hillstorm said, standing and quickly exiting the bench down the back stairs.
As soon as the judge disappeared, the court reporter began folding up her machine and the court clerks bolted from the room. Ann remained at the table, incredulous. Hillstorm had done it again. The old judge had developed an annoying habit of making up the rules as he went along. A judge could modify the terms of a person’s probation, but there was no such thing as modified probation per se, and Ann did not supervise probationers. Judge Hillstorm, however, was a dinosaur. He thought every offender should have his own private probation officer. It simply wasn’t possible. The field supervision officers now handled only the most serious offenders, and their caseloads were still mammoth and unmanageable. This was the second time Hillstorm had done this to Ann, sticking her with a probationer to supervise personally, and she was hopping mad. Her desk was piled sky-high with files as it was.
“What did that mean?” Jimmy Sawyer asked her. “You know, what the judge said?”
Ann looked over her shoulder—let the man’s attorney explain it to him—but like everyone else, Harold Duke had made a run for the hills. Everyone, that is, except Glen Hopkins. The district attorney was still seated at the counsel table, packing files in a large black litigation case, a scowl on his face.
“I guess it means I’m your probation officer. Jimmy,” Ann said, her expression making it clear that she was not happy about the situation. “Call me tomorrow to set up an appointment, okay? Then I’ll get your terms and conditions typed and go over them with you.” She picked up her files and started to leave.
Sawyer held out a hand to stop her. “I understand about the probation part. But the drug terms—what does that mean?”
“It means you have to urinate in a bottle once a month anytime I ask you. If the test comes back dirty, you go to jail for a violation of probation.” He flinched as she bore in on him. “You also have search terms. They go along with the drug terms. That means I can come out to your house and search for narcotics without notice, anytime I wish. Any more questions?”