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Dead Wrong A Novel of Suspense
By J. Jance
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2006 J. Jance
All right reserved.
Ken Galloway sauntered up to the lectern and wrenched the neck of the microphone to its full height. Then, smiling, he gazed out at the "Candidate's Night" audience assembled in the spacious meeting room of the Sierra Vista Public Library.
"First off," he said with an engaging grin, "let me say that I'm in favor of motherhood and apple pie. After all, if it weren't for my mother, where would I be?"
The anticipated ripple of polite laughter drifted through the crowd. This was Ken's favorite way of opening his stump speeches. It always served him well in getting things off to a good start. Beginning with a familiar joke was a way of putting his whole political agenda front and center.
Seated off to Ken Galloway's right, Sheriff Joanna Brady steeled herself for what she knew would come next. She folded her hands in her lap, plastered a faint and entirely fake smile on her face, and willed her ears not to turn red. This far into the campaign she should have been used to her opponent's constant references to what he described as her "delicate condition." Joanna should have been accustomed to it, but she wasn't. The subject still rankled her every time Ken Jr. brought it up. She resented his constantly drawingattention to her growing belly and casually discussing her pregnancy again and again as though she were nothing more than an obliging live-action mannequin in some high school sex-ed classroom.
"The point is," Ken continued, "when my brothers and I were little, our mother stayed home and took care of us."
Yes, Joanna thought, because your father took off and left Lillyan Galloway penniless. She ended up living on welfare and raising her kids on Aid to Dependent Children. But Ken Galloway never mentioned that part of his wonderfully idealized family history, and neither did Joanna.
"Call me old-fashioned," Ken went on, "but I think there's a lot to be said for mothers being at home with their kids. Cochise County is a big place. There have been times in the last four years when Sheriff Brady hasn't been as responsive to her duties as she might have been due to the very real conflict of having a child at home. How much more difficult will it be for her to attend to law enforcement needs when she has two children to contend with, including a newborn baby?"
In the back of the room a woman, applauding furiously, rose to her feet. "That's right, Ken! Way to go!" Eleanor Lathrop Winfield shouted. "You tell her."
Joanna's mother's enthusiastic outburst was enough to propel Joanna out of her dream. She awakened panting and sweating, but the dream stayed with her for several long minutes. Although those were likely Eleanor's true feelings, to Joanna's personal knowledge her mother had never made any such statement -- at least not in public -- not during the campaign or after it.
The election itself was now a full three months in the past. Joanna had managed to eke out a narrow 587-vote victory, so she should have been over the campaign nightmares, but she wasn't. Night after night, in some variation of that same dream, she was perpetually running for office, and night after night her mother's continuing disapproval was always with her.
She reached out, longing to cuddle up to Butch's comforting presence, but he wasn't there. He had left early the previous afternoon for El Paso and a weekend mystery conference, where he would be on what his editor called the "limbo" panel -- made up of first-time writers whose books were sold but not yet published. Butch's first novel, Serve and Protect, wasn't due out until September, but his editor, Carole Ann Hudson, had engineered his being placed on a panel at the conference so he could "start getting his name out there."
"I'm not going to go running off to El Paso for three days when the baby's due in less than a week," Butch had declared.
"Due dates aren't exactly chiseled in granite," Joanna had responded. "Look at Jenny. She was ten days late, and I was in labor for the better part of eight hours before she was born. Think about it. El Paso is only five hours away, especially the way you drive. If I called you right away, you'd be here in plenty of time. Besides, Carole Ann must have gone to a lot of trouble to make this happen, including having bound galleys available. You need to be there."
But now, with the nightmare still lingering and her back hurting like crazy, Joanna wished she hadn't insisted Butch go. What she would have liked more than anything right then was one of his special back rubs. And although massages helped, Joanna was tired of having a sore back. Tired of not being able to sleep on her stomach. Tired as hell of being pregnant. And, as if to add its own two cents' worth, the baby stirred suddenly inside her and began hammering away at her ribs.
"All right, all right," she grumbled. "Since we're both wide awake, I could just as well get up."
Pulling on a wool robe that no longer connected around her middle, Joanna waddled out into the kitchen and started heating water. The bouts of morning sickness that had plagued the beginning of her pregnancy no longer existed, but her aversion to the taste of coffee lingered. Tea, not coffee, was now her drink of choice.
Joanna stood at the back door while Lady, the loving Australian shepherd she had rescued the previous summer, went outside to investigate the news of the day. In the crisp chill of early morning, Joanna savored the gentle warmth of the heated floor on her bare feet. Radiant heat in the floor was one of the things Butch had built into their rammed-earth house. At the time he suggested it, Joanna had thought it a peculiar thing to be . . .
Excerpted from Dead Wrong by J. Jance Copyright © 2006 by J. Jance. Excerpted by permission.
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