As promised, here’s a scene from the work-in-progress.  Briley is the defense attorney, Bystrowski the prosecutor, and Erin the defendant in a capital murder case.   I think you can see from this excerpt how careful I’ve had to be to get all the details right.  (I’ll never take Law & Order for granted again!)  

Several weeks ago I posted the first few scenes from this book–this scene is from the middle. 

Chapter Forty-seven

Shirley Walker, Erin and Jeffrey Tomassi’s housekeeper, appears even smaller and older behind the oak railing of the witness box. In comparison, Travis Bystrowski looks like a giant as he reinforces the fact that Erin was an unhappy wife by quizzing the housekeeper about the Tomassi marriage. 

“All that poor girl wanted was a baby,” Shirley says, touching a tissue to the corners of her eyes. “And he didn’t want one.” 

Briley studies the jury. Four of the women visibly soften at this remark, but most of the men sit with blank and unreadable faces. She’s been watching the jury all morning, trying to discern how they’re feeling about her client. What are they thinking about Erin’s scratched and bruised features? Do they see her as victim or some kind of hellcat? 

When Bystrowski concludes his examination, Briley approaches the lectern with a smile. “Mrs. Walker, how many years have you worked for Jeffrey and Erin Tomassi?” 

“I’ve been with them since they first married.” Shirley settles her hands in her lap. “They’ve never had any housekeeper but me.” 

“You worked at their house—what, once week?” 

“That’s right. I cleaned every Tuesday.”

“Did you know them well?” 

“I knew Erin real well,” Shirley says, her eyes bright behind her glasses. “Him, not so well. But she confided in me quite a bit. I got the feeling she didn’t have anyone else to talk to.” 

“Did you like her?” 

“Yes, I still do.” As if to prove her point, Shirley leans forward and sends a smile winging toward the defense table.

“Tell me, Mrs. Walker—in all the time you spent with Erin, did you ever see her do anything intended to hurt someone else?” 

“Heavens, no.” Shirley’s lower lip trembles. “That girl wouldn’t hurt a fly.” 

“How can you be so sure?”

“Well, once we found this kitten in the gutter in front of their brownstone. I brought it inside, thinking I’d take it to the Humane Society as soon as I finished cleaning, but Erin picked it up and started lovin’ on it. Next thing I know, she’s feeding it milk and tuna and calling it Tinkerbell. I thought maybe she’d finally found something to help her feel a little less lonely, but the kitten was gone when I came back the next week. Erin said Jeffrey wouldn’t let her keep it.” The woman frowns. “I only hope he took it to the Humane Society instead of dropping it in a dumpster. I wondered about that, but didn’t have the heart to check.” 

Concerned that Shirley may have given the jury another reason to believe Erin killed her husband, Briley moves on. “That’s an interesting anecdote, but it doesn’t really establish Erin Tomassi’s character. After all, people can love animals and resent other human beings, can’t they?” 

The housekeeper blinks behind her glasses. “I suppose so.” 

“Did Erin ever say anything about resenting her husband? Or anyone else in particular?” 

Shirley hesitates, then shakes her head. “I don’t think so. That girl was more sad than hateful. But I never heard her say a bad word about her husband or anyone else, and generally people who resent other people talk bad about ‘em. But Erin isn’t the gossipy type.” 

“You testified that Erin was unhappy in her marriage and that Jeffrey often raised his voice to his wife. Did you ever hear Erin yell back at him?” 


“Did you ever see her strike out at him, even in jest?” 

“Heavens, no. Erin isn’t the type.” 

“Not a fighter, then? Not a brawler?” 

“No.” Shirley’s forehead crinkles as she glances toward the battered woman at the defense table. “I don’t know what happened to her, but I know she’s not the type to pick fights. Especially not with her husband. He was so much bigger than her.” 

“Thank you.” Briley glances at her notes. “What sorts of things did you do at the Tomassi home?” 

“You mean . . . what did I clean?”

“That’s right.” 

Shirley shrugs. “I vacuumed all the carpets, dusted the entire house, scrubbed the kitchen sink and counters, cleaned the bathrooms, changed the sheets in the master bedroom, and put fresh flowers on the foyer table. Erin loves fresh flowers in the foyer.” 

“Did your duties include cleaning the windows?” 

A smile gathers up the wrinkles by the woman’s mouth. “Sure. I did the windows about once a month.” 

“Did you raise and lower them, or just clean them on the inside?”

“I usually cleaned the inside.” 

“Did you ever have occasion to raise the windows?” 

“Well . . . sometimes when the weather was nice, I raised them up to let in some fresh air.” 

“Did you always lower the windows before leaving the house?” 

“Well . . . no.” 

“Objection.” Bystrowski stands, a look of weariness on his face. “While this is fascinating, it’s also irrelevant.” 

“I have a point, Your Honor,” Briley says. “If I may be allowed to continue, my reasoning will become clear.” 

Judge Trask nods. “Objection overruled. Get to your point, Ms. Lester.” 

Briley turns to the bewildered housekeeper. “Is it possible, Mrs. Walker, that after opening some of the Tomassi’s windows, that you might have left a window unlocked?” 

The housekeeper’s smile dissolves. “Why—I didn’t mean to.” 

“But on the days when you left and some of the windows were still open . . . someone might have closed a window without locking it, correct? And it remained unlocked for an indefinite amount of time?” 

Her face goes pale as uncertainty creeps into her expression. “You mean . . . I might have let the killer in?”

Briley braces for another objection, and Bystrowski does not disappoint. “Objection—unresponsive. The witness did not answer the question.” 

Trask sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Objection sustained. The jury will disregard that last remark.” 

Briley tries her best not to smile. Mrs. Walker leapt to the appropriate conclusion, and the jury followed her. She turns toward her witness again. “Emptying the household trash cans—was that another one of your duties?” 


“Did you often see syringes in the trash?” 

“Every once in a while.” 

“Did you find these in the bathroom trash bin? Or did you ever find them in other areas?” 

“The kitchen,” Shirley says. “Sometimes Mr. Tomassi would test his blood in the kitchen and give himself a shot at the sink.” 

“Did he carry that syringe into the bathroom and dispose of it in the special sharps receptacle?”

“Shoot, no, he couldn’t be bothered. He’d drop it into the trash compactor. I learned to be real careful when emptying that machine—I didn’t want to get stuck with a needle. Those syringes come with plastic caps for protection, but Mr. Jeffrey never bothered to put them back on.” 

“May I approach, Your Honor?” 

The judge motions her forward. 

Briley walks to the courtroom clerk and picks up the bag marked state’s exhibit one. “Mrs. Walker—” she holds up the evidence bag— “does this look like one of the syringes you occasionally saw in the trash compactor?” 

Shirley nods with great enthusiasm. “Yes.” 

“And for the record—will you state whether or not the cap is on the needle?” 

“It’s missing.” Shirley directs her gaze toward the jury. “No cap on that one.” 

Briley smiles at the witness. “Thank you, Mrs. Walker.” 

So–if this were a TV show and you had just tuned in, would you keep watching? 


  1. Mocha with Linda

    As if you EVEN have to ask! Wow – I am so hooked. How long do we have to wait for it to come out?

  2. Dana

    I hate it when you do this!!! Now I’m going to wonder about this all day. When does the book come out???

  3. sara

    yes, yes, yes…..when will we get to read it in whole!

  4. Angela

    This is the part where y’all want to inject me with something lethal. As of today, this book doesn’t release until December 2009.

    (Ducking). I know, that seems like forever away. But at least in the interim I can offer THE FACE and SHE’S IN A BETTER PLACE . . .

    Aren’t my lawyers well-behaved? 🙂


  5. K-Mac

    I’ve been absolutely hooked!
    And now you’re going to make us wait…Oh well, I can always use some more work on my patience 🙂

  6. Dazer Linda G

    Angie, you are such a tease to give us just this much! It looks like it will be a great read.
    I do see what may be a typo.
    Shouldn’t the line “You worked at their house- what,once week?”,
    “You worked at their house- what,once a week?”

  7. Lisa

    Ahhhh! We have to wait how long? I’ll try to be patient and I will definitely enjoy The Face and She’s In a Better Place.

  8. Smilingsal

    You know how to Hook a Fish and Reel it in, don’t ya?

    Aside: Why do authors have prosecutors AND defense attorneys with the same initial beginning last names–Briley and Bystowski–it’s confusing. Why not Smith and Jones?


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