“They want to kill me, don’t they?”

“If they’ killed everyone they’ wanted to kill, death row would be the most overcrowded place on Earth.”

“Don’t sugarcoat it. I’m not clueless. I can watch television in here now.”

That was new. Until her acquittal on murder charges, Sydney had been housed under the category of Protective Custody Level One in the high-security section of the detention center. One hour a day to take a shower, sit in the dayroom, and make collect calls from the jail phone. She could access books from a library cart to take back to her cell, but Level One inmates had no television or computer privileges.

“Okay,” said Jack. “Some people may want to kill you. Some want to marry you. Some want the trial to start all over again so they have something to do while they knock off two bottles of chardonnay before lunchtime. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about what ‘they’ want.”

“You’re right. From now on, the only thing that matters is what I want.”

That wasn’t exactly what Jack was saying, but he moved on. “Let’s talk procedure. And safety.”

“Safety’s a good thing.”

“The correctional facility is walking a fine line,” said Jack. “Until you get outside the gate, you’re their responsibility. The last thing they want is for something bad to happen to you on their turf. On the other hand, they don’t want to be accused of giving you special treatment. They want this to go according to standard procedure, as much as possible.”

“Seems weird that turning a woman out on the street after midnight would be standard procedure.”

Jack had once filed a lawsuit on behalf of a twenty-year-old woman who was raped by a carload of gangbangers on the night of her release. The case was dismissed, since putting women on the street alone after midnight actually was standard procedure.

“You won’t have to fend for yourself,” said Jack. “I’m walking out with you, and we’re going straight to an SUV.”

“SUV, huh? Faith Corso said I was getting a limo with a hot tub.”

Jack didn’t doubt it. “It’s a Chevy Suburban with a hundred and thirty-two thousand miles on it. I use it to trailer my boat.”

“Cool. We’re escaping by boat?”

It was a rare attempt at humor. Acquittal suited her well. “No. Theo is under strict orders to leave the boat behind.”

“Theo,” she said, smiling thinly. “So I actually get to meet your friend Theo?”

“Yes. Theo’s driving.”

“Loved his interview with Faith Corso. That crack about the rot-in-hell snuggies was hilarious.”

“Yeah, he’s a real stitch.”

“He seems totally my type.”

“Theo is nobody’s type.”

“That’s exactly my type.”

Jack drew a breath, then let it out. “Sydney, let me give you some fatherly advice.”

“You’re not old enough to be my father.”

“Yeee. . almost. Let’s call it friendly advice. You need to keep a low profile when you get out.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“I don’t mean just for a week, or even a month. It’s going to take a long time for this craziness to subside. The first photograph of you in a club having a good time is going to be worth a hundred thousand dollars.”

“So that’s no B.S. from Faith Corso? Someone is actually willing to pay me a hundred thousand dollars for my picture?”

“No, they won’t pay you a thing. They’ll pay the photographer who snaps the picture.”

She pursed her lips, then an idea came. “I know. Your buddy Theo’s a bartender, right? We go to his bar, you snap the picture, and we split the hundred grand.”


“Why not?”

“First of all, I’m not interested. Second, as things stand right now, I would say that I’m concerned about your safety, but we can manage it. The moment this trial puts ten cents in your pocket, it’s a different story.”

“How do you mean?”

“Let me be clear. No magazine can pay you enough for a photo, no publisher can pay you enough for a book, no movie studio can pay you enough for the film rights to cover the costs of the security you will need if Faith Corso tells her viewers that you’ve turned the murder of your daughter into personal profit.”

Sydney gripped the table’s edge. “I didn’t kill my daughter.”

“We didn’t prove that.”

“I’m not supposed to have to prove it.”

“That’s true. That’s why you’re about to be a free woman.”

“Free enough to work for free? Is that it?”

“I didn’t say you can’t work for a living.”

“Who’s going to hire me? Other than a porn king?”

Those calls had already come to Jack’s office. “Don’t go that route.”

“I may have no choice. In two days I have to pay rent, eat, just like everyone else.”

“This will pass with time.”


“That’s up to you. It could be never, if you become the poster child for taking blood money.”

The words made her cringe. “I don’t get that term, ‘blood money.’ On The Sopranos that was what a hit man got for a contract killing.”

“It’s one of those terms that has gotten away from its original meaning. Technically, blood money is what a murderer pays to compensate the victim’s family.”

“Perfect. TV murdered my daughter. Over and over, day after day. They can pay me for the rights to the made-for-TV movie. All nice and legal. Blood money. You can cut the deal.”

“I’m not cutting any deals.”

He said it with finality, no room for negotiation-which elicited a cold glare from Sydney. She suddenly didn’t look like a teenager in pajamas anymore. Reporters who had watched their interaction in the courtroom and described similar expressions as “pouty” had no idea what the real Sydney was like.

“Then I’ll find someone who will,” she fired back.

Jack let her simmer, but she wasn’t cooling down.

Sydney rose. “Are we done, Jack?”

“We haven’t really covered the whole plan for Saturday night.”

She walked to the green metal door and knocked for the guard. “I don’t care about the fucking plan,” she said, not even trying to get her temper under control. “Just do your job and get me out of here.”

The door opened. Sydney stepped out, and one of the corrections officers led her back to the housing unit. Jack gathered his briefcase and exchanged glances with the other officer at the door. The guards had seen many meetings between Jack and his client end this way-Sydney gnawing at her lip, fists clenched, red-faced with anger.

“What’s she so mad about now?” the guard asked.

“I handed her my bill,” said Jack.

The guard laughed. It was public knowledge that Sydney was indigent. “Good luck with that, partner.”

“It takes luck,” said Jack, continuing to the visitors’ exit.

Chapter Four

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