Authors: Mary Jo Putney
Twist of Fate
Book 3 of the Circle of Friends Trilogy
Mary Jo Putney
(c) 2003, 2011 by Mary Jo Putney, Inc.
Cover Design by Kimberly Killion, Hot Damn Designs
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To Susan King,
for support and friendship
that's practical, creative, and metaphysical.
How about lunch?
∗ ∗ ∗
It's amazing the number of topics I know nothing about, but luckily there are many generous people willing to share their knowledge.
To Louis B. Curran, Julie Kistler, David Blum, Harriet Pilger, Jane Langdell, Susan Tanenbaum, and Judge Alvin Cohen, my legal advisory board, many thanks for your help, and I hope I didn't make too many mistakes in translating your knowledge to my book.
Special thanks also to Cynthia Parker and Cass Roberson, for their insights into my attempts to do justice by my African-American characters; to Denise Little for information on the Big Sister/Little Sister program; Catherine Abbot Anderson and Alice Cherbonnier on what it means to be a Quaker; and Tracy Farrell on the care and management of ultra-curly red hair.
Thanks also to the usual suspects: my fishy friend, John Rekus; my fearless editor, Gail Fortune; my ever-supportive agent, Ruth Cohen; Mary Kilchenstein, for her keen eye; and Pat Rice on general principles.
∗ ∗ ∗
He pushed away the remains of his last meal: shrimp Creole, corn bread, chocolate mousse cake, and single malt Scotch whiskey to wash it all down. He'd been liberal with the whiskey, wanting to dull the edge of his fear. He would die as he'd lived, with cold superiority.
The guards arrived to take him to the execution chamber. He had come to know all the regulars on death row. None of them loved him--he'd made sure of that--but none of them looked happy about his last walk either. He hoped they'd have nightmares.
It was only a few steps down the corridor to the place where legal murder was done. Face composed, he refused the offered comfort of a minister and scarcely glanced at the witnesses who had come to watch him die. He made a particular point of avoiding the gaze of the one family member present. No question about the nightmares there.
The guards strapped him onto the gurney. It took effort, now, to act as if he didn't care.
Three shots--the first for unconsciousness, the second to paralyze his breathing, the third to stop his heart. He flinched involuntarily as the first needle went in. Then the second stabbed...
Rob Smith jerked awake with hammering heart, sweat on his face. He always woke at this point, just before the end. Would the nightmare leave him if it ever progressed to the end? Or would his heart quietly stop as if the lethal drug really had been injected?
He stared through the darkness at the ceiling as he forced his breath into a steady rhythm. Gradually his tension eased. After all, he had never been on death row. He was plain Rob Smith, a man whose only crimes were the sort that didn't get prosecuted.
That wasn't the same as being innocent.
∗ ∗ ∗
Val Covington barreled into the office, briefcase swinging. "Sorry I'm behind schedule, Kendra--the judge was in a chatty mood. Has the FedEx package from Houston arrived?"