Authors: Tori Scott
LONE STAR JUSTICE
Copyright 2011 Tori Scott
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With thanks to my husband Tony for the cover art, Cindi Mitchell for the
Beta read and for being a great fan, and to my children for being proud of me. You all make this writing career worthwhile.
LONE STAR JUSTICE
Greendale, Texas 1997
Madelyn Cooper shivered in the air conditioned doctor's office, wearing only a cloth gown as a shield against the cold. But it was more than the temperature making her shaky. Being not quite eighteen, pregnant, and the daughter of a murderer seemed to have the same effect.
The examining room door opened and Doc Myers walked into the room, a frown on his face. "Maddie," he said with a quick nod.
She tried to smile, but just didn't have the energy.
"I see you're complaining of exhaustion. Have you been taking your prenatal vitamins?"
"Yes, every day." She hated them. They made her nauseous, but so did everything these days. Her whole damn life made her sick.
Doc wrote on her chart, then set it aside to check her blood pressure. As he squeezed the bulb and cut off her circulation, he asked, "Have you given any more thought to what we talked about last time?"
What a round about way to refer to abortion. And her answer had not changed, even though her circumstances had. "I'm not getting rid of my baby, Doc. No way."
Doc sighed and removed the blood pressure cuff. "Maddie, surely you aren't planning to have this baby after what's happened? Rand will never forgive you, so any idea you had about marrying him is gone. Hell, the whole town is against you right now. What kind of life will that be for a child? You have no one left, your father is in jail, and you can't even take care of yourself, much less a baby. Being a single mother is hard enough when you have a support system."
Maddie lifted her chin, defiant. "I don't care, Doc. We'll be fine."
He shook his head. "No, Maddie, you won't. You won't be able to find a job. There isn't a single person in the entire county who would hire you right now. And you need to worry about reprisals. I don't think you understand how angry everyone is about what your father did." He listened to her heart and lungs, then hung the stethoscope around his neck. "Look, I feel bad about what's happened. You've had a rough time of it since your mom died. I'm going to give you some money, enough to help you get out of town and make a new start somewhere else."
Maddie shook her head. "I don't want your money, Doc. I'm leaving for a while anyway. My aunt is coming to take me home with her until the baby's born. All I need is a refill on my vitamins to hold me until I find a new doctor."
Doc seemed to relax a bit. He patted her knee like he had since she was a toddler. "Well, I think that's a great idea, Maddie. Your aunt lives in Dallas, right? Far enough away and big enough for you to blend in, hide out. But I still think you should consider terminating this pregnancy. The last thing Rand needs is for you to spring something like this on him. Poor boy is devastated. He hates you now, you know."
That broke Maddie's heart. She didn't kill Rand's parents, though she might as well have. They were dead and he refused to speak to her. And now her baby would never know its father.
"So," Doc said, heading for the door, "when do you leave?"
Was it her imagination, or did he seem especially anxious for her to go? He'd been good friends with the McCades for many years, so he probably hated her, too. "I'll be gone by this afternoon, Doc."
"Good. He nodded and started to leave, turning back for one final shot. "And Maddie? Don't ever come back."
Montgomery County, Oklahoma 2011
Madelyn Cooper glanced at her watch for the fifth time in as many minutes. "Where the hell is Pioretti?" she demanded of no one in particular. No one dared reply. They knew she tolerated no tardiness in her courtroom, not even from her best friend. Maddie did everything by the book, and no one was immune to being held in contempt.
Jerry March, the bailiff, only shrugged in reply. The defense counsel scowled and glanced at his watch as he drummed his fingers on the tabletop. Maddie couldn't help but wonder if he was more concerned about missing his dinner than he was about the missing prosecutor.
She watched the double oak doors as though Anne would appear if she wished hard enough, but they stayed stubbornly closed. Maddie had no patience left after a full day of dealing with defense lawyers and two-bit crooks hoping for nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and all she wanted to do was get the pre-trial motions out of the way in the Delgado case, the last on today's docket. Then she could go home to her daughter.
It wasn't like Anne to miss something this important. When she still hadn't arrived by five o'clock and no one had appeared to take her place, Maddie continued the case until the next week and left the courtroom. More worried now than angry, she hung her robe on the coat rack in her office and went to her desk to call Anne's office. No answer.
A frown creased her forehead as she cut the connection, then dialed her home number. Brandy should be home, safely ensconced in front of the television, but her daughter would fret if Maddie was late getting home.
Brandy answered on the first ring and Maddie breathed a sigh of relief. "Hi, honey. How was school?" She smiled as Brandy rattled on about the latest happenings at Wadsworth Junior High. At thirteen, her daughter was still young enough to enjoy the social life at school without all the teenage angst that would be inevitable in another year or two.
"Sounds like you had a good day. Listen, I'm going to be a little late getting home. I need to stop by Anne's house on the way. You keep the doors locked and don't open them for anyone, okay?"
Brandy huffed as only a teenage girl can when she thinks she's grown but is being treated like a child. "Sure, Mom. I know the rules. Can you pick up a pizza on your way home? Oh, and see if Anne got that Brad Paisley CD yet. She said I could borrow it."
"Pizza? Again?" Brandy would eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if she'd let her. "I'll ask her about the CD, but you are not going to copy it, understand? That's illegal."
"Geez, I know that. I just want to see if I like it enough to buy my own copy."
"Okay. Now remember, keep the door locked and don't open it for anyone. And stay off the computer until I get home."
"Mo-om. There's nothing else to do."
"Just do as you're told, Brandy. I'll be home as soon as I can."
Maddie checked her messages to see if Anne had called. Sure enough, she had. As she listened, she jotted notes on a legal pad. The message was disjointed and didn't make a lot of sense. Something about weird things going on and someone following her, to be careful. Maddie had never heard her sound so rattled before. She was definitely going by her house now. Maybe Anne would make more sense in person.
By the time she locked the door behind her, the building was nearly vacant and the staccato sound of her sandals against the linoleum floor echoed down the hallway.
She rounded a corner and nearly jumped out of her skin when she found herself face to face with Jerry. "What are you doing still here? I thought everyone had gone home."
Jerry looked embarrassed, but managed to stutter, "I wanted to walk you to your car. I don't think you should go into that parking garage alone."
"But I do it all the time, Jerry. It's no big deal."
He gave a jerky nod and fell into step behind her as she marched to the elevator. "I know, Your Honor. But, you being a woman and all, someone should go with you to make sure you're safe."
Maddie punched the down button. "Okay, what's up, Jerry?"
The elevator door opened and the bailiff shuffled in behind her before he answered. "Max Lucas got out of jail yesterday."
Maddie swallowed hard and willed her voice to be strong and steady. "They let that scum out on the streets? I thought the parole board was going to keep him in?"
"Guess not. Anyway, you need to be careful, Your Honor. You know what he said."
"He was just spouting idle talk. I don't think he'd risk another term to get back at me. But I appreciate your concern, Jerry. I'll watch my back."
The bailiff stayed with her until she'd reached her SUV, then checked inside and under the vehicle before he let her climb in. It annoyed her that she'd let him make her nervous about Max. She never let the threats get to her. If she did, she'd have to give up her job, and she'd worked too hard to get where she was to quit now.
As she drove to Anne's house, she wondered if her friend's strange message and failure to show in court had anything to do with Max's release. His threats had been aimed more toward her than Maddie. But Anne wasn't easily frightened, either, and Maddie couldn't picture her hiding at home. She could more easily see Anne stalking Max and taking him out when no one was looking.
Anne was as tough a prosecutor as Maddie had ever seen. She made grown men tremble under cross-examination. On one memorable occasion she'd even made one wet his pants while on the stand. When Max made his threats in court, Anne looked him right in the eye and threatened to make sure the entire cell block knew he favored little boys.
So what had happened to make Anne so afraid?
Maddie turned onto Anne's tree-lined street. The sun was little more than a speck on the horizon. Shadows covered the street and yards, and a shiver of nerves chased up her spine. Did she really want to risk running into Max in the dark? What if he was lurking in the dark shadows cast by the street light's vain attempt to shine through the trees? And who would take care of Brandy if anything happened to her?
No one, that's who
. Anne was Brandy's designated legal guardian if anything happened to Maddie. She'd never thought to name an alternate if the unthinkable happened and both she and Anne were killed. She made a mental note to correct that oversight as soon as possible and pulled into Anne's driveway, looking around before she opened the car door.
All was eerily quiet and still. She tried to shake off the foreboding that stole over her.
You're being silly. Nothing is wrong. Anne just forgot her court date or something.
She wouldn't have left town without letting you know where she was going, no matter how scared she was.
The house looked empty. Anne's car wasn't in the driveway, but she might have parked it in the garage if she was spooked. Maddie grabbed a flashlight from the glove box and stepped out of the car, slamming the door hard enough to announce her presence. No one came outside to see who had come to visit. No one peeked through the curtains. No dogs barked a warning.
She stepped onto the wide front porch and cupped her hands around her eyes, trying in vain to see through the sheer curtains covering the bay window. There was no sound of a television or radio, no footsteps echoing from within the house. No sign of life.