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Authors: Kristin Hannah

Magic hour: a novel

BOOK: Magic hour: a novel
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Cover Page

Title Page





Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six



About the Author

Other books by Kristin Hannah

Copyright Page


This one is for my son, Tucker.
It seems like only a few years ago I could hold you in my arms.
Now we’re touring colleges and talking about your future.
I am so proud of the boy you were and the man you are becoming.
Soon you will be leaving your dad and me to find your own way in the world. Know that whatever you do, wherever you go, we will always love you.



Several people were instrumental in the writing of this novel. Thanks go out to:

Lindsey Brooks, investigative manager/case management department, Child Quest International;

Luana S. Burnett, police services officer, city of Newport, Washington;

Kany Levine, criminal defense attorney and friend;

and Kim Fisk and Megan Chance, who both helped more than they know.


“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.
“It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.

The Velveteen Rabbit
Margery Williams




Julia Cates had lost count of the times she’d told herself that very thing, but today—finally—it would be true. In a few hours the world would know the truth about her.

If she made it downtown, that was. Unfortunately, the Pacific Coast Highway looked more like a parking lot than a freeway. The hills behind Malibu were on fire again; smoke hung above the rooftops and turned the normally bright coastal air into a thick brown sludge. All over town terrified babies woke in the middle of the night, crying gray-black tears and gasping for breath. Even the surf seemed to have slowed down, as if exhausted by the unseasonable heat.

She maneuvered through the cranky, stop-and-go traffic, ignoring the drivers who flipped her off and cut in front of her. It was expected; in this most dangerous of seasons in Southern California, tempers caught fire as easily as backyards. The heat made everyone edgy.

Finally, she exited the freeway and drove to the courthouse.

Television vans were everywhere. Dozens of reporters huddled on the courthouse steps, microphones and cameras at the ready, waiting for the story to arrive. In Los Angeles it was becoming a daily event, it seemed; legal proceedings as entertainment. Michael Jackson. Courtney Love. Robert Blake.

Julia turned a corner and drove to a side entrance, where her lawyers were waiting for her.

She parked on the street and got out of the car, expecting to move forward confidently, but for a terrible second she couldn’t move.
You’re innocent,
she reminded herself.
They’ll see that. The system will work.
She forced herself to take a step, then another. It felt as if she were moving through invisible wires, fighting her way uphill. When she made it to the group, it took everything she had to smile, but one thing she knew: it looked real. Every psychiatrist knew how to make a smile look genuine.

“Hello, Dr. Cates,” said Frank Williams, the lead counsel on her defense team. “How are you?”

“Let’s go,” she said, wondering if she was the only one who heard the wobble in her voice. She hated that evidence of her fear. Today, of all days, she needed to be strong, to show the world that she was the doctor they’d thought she was, that she’d done nothing wrong.

The team coiled protectively around her. She appreciated their support. Although she was doing her best to appear professional and confident, it was a fragile veneer. One wrong word could strip it all away.

They pushed through the doors and walked into the courthouse.

Flashbulbs erupted in spasms of blue-white light. Cameras clicked; tape rolled. Reporters surged forward, all yelling at once.

“Dr. Cates! How do you feel about what happened?”

“Why didn’t you save those children?”

“Did you know about the gun?”

Frank put an arm around Julia and pulled her against his side. She pressed her face against his lapel and let herself be pulled along.

In the courtroom, she took her place at the defendant’s table. One by one the team rallied around her. Behind her, in the first row of gallery seating, several junior associates and paralegals took their places.

She tried to ignore the racket behind her; the doors creaking open and slamming shut, footsteps hurrying across the marble tiled floor, whispered voices. Empty seats were filling up quickly; she knew it without turning around. This courtroom was the Place to Be in Los Angeles today, and since the judge had disallowed cameras in the courtroom, journalists and artists were no doubt packed side by side in the gallery, their pens ready.

In the past year, they’d written an endless string of stories about her. Photographers had snapped thousands of pictures of her—taking out the trash, standing on her deck, coming and going from her office. The least flattering shots always made the front page.

Reporters had practically set up camp outside her condo, and although she had never spoken to them, it didn’t matter. The stories kept coming. They reported on her small-town roots, her stellar education, her pricey beachfront condo, her devastating breakup with Philip. They even speculated that she’d recently become either anorexic or addicted to liposuction. What they didn’t report on was the only part of her that mattered: her love of her job. She had been a lonely, awkward child, and she remembered every nuance of that pain. Her own youth had made her an exceptional psychiatrist.

Of course, that bit of truth never made it to press. Neither had a list of all the children and adolescents she’d helped.

A hush fell over the courtroom as Judge Carol Myerson took her seat at the bench. She was a stern-looking woman with artificially bright auburn hair and old-fashioned eyeglasses.

The bailiff called out the case.

Julia wished suddenly that she had asked someone to join her here today, some friend or relative who would stand by her, maybe hold her hand when it was over, but she’d always put work ahead of socializing. It hadn’t given her much time to devote to friends. Her own therapist had often pointed out this lack in her life; truthfully, until now, she’d never agreed with him.

Beside her, Frank stood. He was an imposing man, tall and almost elegantly thin, with hair that was going from black to gray in perfect order, sideburns first. She’d chosen him because of his brilliant mind, but his demeanor was likely to matter more. Too often in rooms like this it came down to form over substance.

“Your Honor,” he began in a voice as soft and persuasive as any she’d ever heard, “the naming of Dr. Julia Cates as a defendant in this lawsuit is absurd. Although the precise limits and boundaries of confidentiality in psychiatric situations are often disputed, certain precedents exist, namely
Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California.
Dr. Cates had no knowledge of her patient’s violent tendencies and no information regarding specific threats to named individuals. Indeed, no such specific knowledge is even alleged in the complaint. Thus, we respectfully request that she be dismissed from this lawsuit. Thank you.” He sat down.

At the plaintiff’s table, a man in a jet-black suit stood up. “Four children are
Your Honor. They will never grow up, never leave for college, never have children of their own. Dr. Cates was Amber Zuniga’s psychiatrist. For three years Dr. Cates spent two hours a week with Amber, listening to her problems and prescribing medications for her growing depression. Yet with all that intimacy, we are now to believe that Dr. Cates didn’t
that Amber was becoming increasingly violent and depressed. That she had no warning whatsoever that her patient would buy an automatic weapon and walk into her church youth group meeting and start shooting.” The lawyer walked out from behind the table and stood in the middle of the courtroom.

BOOK: Magic hour: a novel
9.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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