gotten used to it, having complained to Jack throughout the trial that when she looked calm, the media attacked her as coldhearted; if she cried, they said she was faking; when she flashed even the slightest smile, they declared her a sociopath.

The jury took their seats, and everyone else in the room did the same.

“They’re not looking at me,” Sydney whispered.

Somewhere-probably TV-Sydney must have heard a lawyer say that if the jurors didn’t make eye contact with the defendant as they filed into the courtroom, it signaled a guilty verdict. For Jack, a far better indicator was the number of courtroom deputies hovering around the defense table, ready to grab his guilty clients before they could make a mad dash for the door. Somehow, the deputies always seemed to know.

The judge broke the silence. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”

“Yes, sir,” the twelve answered in unison.

Jack glanced over his shoulder and spotted Sydney’s parents in the back row. Geoffrey Bennett, hands clasped and praying, was seated beside his wife. Behind them stood the police investigators who had found Emma’s body.

“Would the foreman hand the verdict form to the court deputy, please.”

A woman in the dark blue uniform of courtroom deputies approached the jury box and received the verdict form. She handed it up to Judge Matthews. He inspected it, making sure that all was in order, showing no expression as he turned page after page. Finally, he looked directly at Jack and his client.

“Will the defendant rise along with counsel.”

I know it’s going to be okay. That was what he wanted to tell his client. But how could anyone say such a thing? How could anyone know?

Jack’s gaze swept the jury box. Each juror had taken the same oath to “render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence,” and the evidence against Sydney was entirely circumstantial. Cause of death, unknown. Manner of death, a matter of inference upon inference and expert opinion. No eyewitnesses. No confession from the accused. Yes, the jury had been told that in a court of law circumstantial evidence is as probative as direct evidence-a point that the prosecution hammers home in every trial. Beyond their own awareness of what they had decided, however, the jurors didn’t know anything more than the rest of the players in this courtroom drama. For all their forceful argument, the prosecutors didn’t know what had happened. Neither did Judge Matthews, the investigators on the case, or the experts who had testified at trial. The pundits on television sure as hell didn’t know.

“Madam clerk,” said the judge, “you may publish the verdicts.”

Not even Jack knew.

“In the circuit court of the eleventh judicial circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida, State of Florida versus Sydney Louise Bennett. .”

None of them knew, because they hadn’t been there for Emma’s final moments.

“As to the charge of first degree murder. .”

What they knew was in actuality nothing more than what they believed. And what Jack believed as he stood at Sydney’s side and heard those words-“We the jury, find the defendant”-is what he would believe to his dying day: There was more than one person in that courtroom who knew what had happened to Emma. And Jack could have proved it.

If only Sydney had wanted him to.

Chapter Two

'Not guilty!”

The shout from atop the courthouse steps carried across the street and all the way to the jurors’ parking lot, loud enough for most of the sunbaked crowd to hear. Silent and filled with anticipation, many of the onlookers were following a slightly delayed Internet live stream on smartphones and electronic devices, which just a moment later confirmed the verdict. Those not stunned into speechlessness erupted in anger.



“That jury must be nuts!”

By default-not a seat to be had in the courtroom-Theo had made himself part of the outdoor vigil, conspicuously taller and darker than the predominantly white, female crowd around him. The shade of an oak cut the glare on his iPhone. BNN was covering the trial live, and their on-screen graphic summarized the verdict. First degree murder: not guilty. Manslaughter: not guilty. Criminal child neglect: not guilty. Sydney was convicted on one count of providing false information to police investigators. Essentially, the jury believed what the defense lawyers had said about their own client: She was a liar, not a murderer. Television cameras captured her fighting back tears of relief, propped up by Hannah Goldsmith. The camera cut to Jack as the court polled the jurors, and Theo was glad to see that Jack wasn’t flashing some cocky lawyer’s grin and slapping high fives with everyone around him. One by one, each juror verbally confirmed that this was his or her verdict.

“Unbelievable,” was the running commentary from BNN’s anchor. Through his earbuds, Theo heard the judge thank the jurors and dismiss them. Then the BNN anchor said it again, this time with attitude: “Simply un-be-lievable.”

Theo glanced around him. The crowd was becoming more vocal, their expressions of anger and despair making it hard for him to hear the TV coverage. Theo increased the volume, then lowered it. Faith Corso was on a rant that needed no amplification.

Corso, a tough former prosecutor turned TV personality, had spotlighted the Sydney Bennett case from the beginning. It had started with a desperate, monthlong search for a missing two-year-old girl-but without the usual sympathy for the mother. Police quickly pegged Sydney as a liar about everything, from her place of employment to her whereabouts on the day of Emma’s death. She’d led her parents to believe that she was holding a steady day job as a bookkeeper at a Key Biscayne resort. In fact, she was a “shot girl” at a popular South Beach nightclub-one of the scantily clad young women who roamed through the crowd with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a tray of shot glasses in the other, cajoling drunk young men into spending ten bucks for a shot and quick squeeze of the shot girl.

Sydney’s biggest deception, however, was in what she hadn’t said.

“What mother fails to report the disappearance of her own child if she isn’t covering up a homicide?” asked Corso, her voice laden with disgust. “And what kind of mother goes out partying the night her daughter goes missing, parties again the next night, and the night after that?”

Corso had been asking those questions for three years. The prosecutor had put them up in bold letters on a projection screen during closing argument. Corso, the prosecution, the crowd outside the courthouse, the millions of viewers on television-all had expected the jury to answer with a verdict of guilty.

Theo’s iPhone flickered, but the Internet connection remained strong enough for him to hear something about the scheduling of a sentencing hearing on the “false information” conviction. The judge announced that Sydney would remain incarcerated until then. Corso quickly explained to her viewers that the maximum sentence for the conviction on the lesser count was one year. Because Sydney had already spent three years behind bars awaiting trial, she would likely serve no additional time.

“Shot Mom will be free and back to her wicked ways in a week,” said Corso. Dubbing her “Shot Mom”-a play on “shot girl” and “hot mom”-was one of the signature devices that Corso had used throughout the trial to express her contempt for Sydney Bennett.

Corso checked with one of the BNN reporters on the scene: “Heather, what’s the reaction outside the courthouse?”

“Faith, it is way beyond disappointment. People here are genuinely heartbroken. I’ve spoken to a group of mothers who traveled all the way from Arizona, college students from New Orleans, retirees from New York. All of them filled with a sickening sense that there has been no justice for Emma.”

Theo suddenly sensed an echo. He looked up from his iPhone and realized that he wasn’t just hearing the

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