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The Law And Lady Justice
By Ana Leigh
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Good afternoon, I'm Sherilyn Matthews, speaking to you from outside of the Milwaukee County courthouse where, in an interesting turn of events Judge Jessica Kirkland has released LeRoy Gilbert, suspected murderer of his girlfriend, stripper Cindy Fires."
Jessica stood just inside the courthouse entrance, safely out of sight of the human vulture with huge hair, several loose strands whipping dangerously in the wind. The reporter proceeded to caw into her microphone, sensationalizing the latest disaster in Jessica's courtroom.
"Many of you will recall how Judge Kirkland, less than a year ago, released another murder suspect. Elected to the bench on a record of championing victims' rights as a prosecuting attorney, it would appear that Judge Kirkland has left those days behind her."
Jessica took a step forward, causing the police guard at the door to frown and shake his head. She sighed, knowing he was right. She was a judge. She did not have to explain herself to anyone - least of all blondie of the big hair and bigger mouth.
Just as she turned to leave, she saw him. Lounging against the courthouse wall, listening to Sherilyn as if he had nothing better to do in the world than look too good in a rumpled suit and loosened tie. How many times had she seen him in her courtroom looking just like that?
Tall and dark, he appeared just a bit dangerous, despite the well-trimmed hair and ever-present suit. She knew he wore a Glock 23 automatic beneath his jacket, which added to that high-powered energy he emanated. Although they'd rarely spoken beyond heated arguments, she'd been close enough to him to know that beneath those mirrored sunglasses his eyes were blue, and he smelled like a titillating blend of summer sunshine and midnight memories.
An obvious break in Sherilyn's cawing brought Jessica's attention back to the reporter, whose smile reminded Jessica of a cat with canary feathers hanging out of its mouth. Sherilyn had seen something she wanted, and she actually licked her lips in delight. Her cameraman barely had time to blink as he hurried after her when she made a beeline for the man still lounging against the courthouse wall.
He didn't retreat, remaining motionless as the reporter rushed at him, microphone waving like a talisman.
Shoving the microphone into her quarry's face, Sherilyn kept on talking. "Detective McGuire, you were the arresting officer on this case. What are your feelings on the matter of Judge Kirkland and her unfortunate habit of releasing your suspects back into the population at large?"
Jessica bit her lip. There was little love lost between her and homicide detective Doug McGuire. Though she might privately think he had the best pair of buns that ever graced a witness chair, in public, well -
"I wish just once a judge would put aside concern for the rights of the guilty and consider the rights of the victim."
Anger propelled Jessica forward, and she now stood in the open doorway of the courthouse, her gaze focused on the scene playing out only a few feet in front of her. When the guard approached, Jessica's glare halted him.
Raising his hands in surrender, he shrugged. "It's your funeral, Your Honor," he mumbled as he retreated, which only added to her frustration. Why did everyone but the judge get to have his or her day in court? Why did everyone, including the guilty, get to have his or her say on television?
McGuire looked straight into the camera, expounding his viewpoint to southern Wisconsin as Sherilyn gazed at him like a teenage girl salivating over Ricky Martin.
"What do you mean, Detective?"
The reporter bobbed her head and her hair tilted at a precarious angle. Jessica hoped the mass would fall off and hit McGuire between those sensuous dark blue eyes of his; but luck wasn't with her, and Sherilyn's hair appeared to do nothing other than whiplash his face with a few wayward strands.
"I mean," McGuire said, "this man got away with murder! I know it. You know it. The judge knows it. The guy's lawyer probably knows it for sure. So why is that man back on the street?"
"Because there's such a thing as an illegal search, Detective."
Jessica's outburst fell into a silence so loud she could hear a siren wailing down Interstate 43 behind them. She hadn't realized she'd stepped out of the shadow of the courthouse and into the bright June sunshine. All eyes turned toward her - so did the camera. The microphone nearly hit Jessica in the teeth as Sherilyn dove in her direction.
"Judge Kirkland, would you care to elaborate?"
Jessica ignored Sherilyn, for the moment concentrating on McGuire. She continued to glare at McGuire as he stopped lounging and stood up straight, seeming to tower over her even though a distance of several feet separated them. Slowly he removed his glasses, giving her an uncommon view of his eyes. She wished he'd put the shades back on. For once his eyes didn't spark with annoyance or anger, instead they looked - interested. That difference disconcerted her.
Jessica pulled her gaze away as Sherilyn waved the microphone dangerously close. "Would you care to elaborate, Your Honor?" the pushy reporter repeated.
"If I allowed the case in question to go to trial it would only be thrown out. The search of the suspect's premises was illegal. That is the law, not my opinion. My hands are tied."
"So were the victim's." McGuire had crept up on her, startling her.
The man moved too fast and too quietly for someone of his size. "Excuse me?" she said in her best judicial voice. She could not allow him to see how much his nearness rattled her. She was a tall woman, with confidence to spare, yet McGuire always made her feel tiny.
"You said your hands were tied, Your Honor. Well, so were the victim's. Do you think she'd want her murderer to go free over a legal technicality?"
Her mind flooded with memories, and she blinked at their vividness. The sun seemed to beat hotter; the voices around her buzzed louder - her temples pounded. Sweat trickled between her breasts, down her back, and she felt the silk blouse beneath her jacket sticking to her skin. She stared into McGuire's angry blue eyes, forced the past back where it belonged, and then she got mad, too.
She understood about victims ... pain ... and the need for justice in an unjust world. She'd spent the past fifteen years of her life working for what she believed in. She'd given up any hope of a husband, a family. Heck, she had no life at all, because she searched for one thing - justice.
How dare McGuire question that?
"I'm sure the victim doesn't care about the law. But I have to. If I don't follow the law, I'm no better than the ones I presume to judge. And neither are you, Detective. Do the job right next time, and we'll have no further problems."
"I did the job." He stepped closer, crowding her. "I got the warrant."
"With false information." She took a step forward, determined not to be the one to back off.
"I didn't know it was false at the time."
"That doesn't make it right."
"Well, this is very interesting," Sherilyn interrupted, her microphone separating the two of them, who were nearly nose-to-nose. "If you two could answer a few questions for our listeners ..."
Jessica flushed. She'd forgotten she was on television. McGuire made her forget a lot of things. She glared at him and turned toward the camera.
"I just want the people to know that something has to be done to stop criminals from being set free on technicalities before the case reaches the courtroom. If anyone has a solution, I'd be glad to hear it."
She turned on her heel and marched back into the courthouse, ignoring the shouted questions and the scent of that man, which she knew would taunt her long into the evening ahead.
Excerpted from The Law And Lady Justice by Ana Leigh Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.