Let Darkness Comeby Angela Hunt
A MAN LIES DEAD
The murder trial promises to be the most sensational to hit Chicago in years. And attorney Briley Lester knows it could makeor breakher career. The tabloid headlines are screaming that a long-mistreated society wife has killed her abusive husbandthe scion of one of the city's wealthiest, most powerful, most/p>/strong>… See more details below
A MAN LIES DEAD
The murder trial promises to be the most sensational to hit Chicago in years. And attorney Briley Lester knows it could makeor breakher career. The tabloid headlines are screaming that a long-mistreated society wife has killed her abusive husbandthe scion of one of the city's wealthiest, most powerful, most dangerous families .
A WOMAN STANDS ACCUSED
It seems like a hopeless, open-and-shut case, but Briley is becoming more and more convinced that her client truly is innocent. A tragic secret, almost too shocking to be believed, could be the key to proving it. But before she can bring the truth into the light, she'll have to face this woman's shadow-haunted pastand her ownand let darkness come .
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Meet the Author
With nearly four million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, including The Tale of Three Trees, Don’t Bet Against Me, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Hunt is one of the most sought-after collaborators in the publishing industry. Her nonfiction book Don’t Bet Against Me, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Angela’s novel The Note (with sales of over 141,000) was filmed as the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie for 2007 and proved to be the highest rated television movie in the channel’s history. She often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences, and she served as the keynote speaker at the 2008 American Christian Fiction Writers’ national conference. She and her husband make their home in Florida with mastiffs. In 2001, one of her dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest dog in America.
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Read an Excerpt
The night was made for murder.
She waits until his breaths are deep and even; waits until he snores in a regular rhythm. Then she slips out of bed and moves to the window, raising the blind until a wave of silver moonlight floods the room.
She won't risk waking him by turning on the lamp. Moonlight suits her purposes; it has always suited her nature.
She creeps into the bathroom and pulls the basket with his sharps and bottles from beneath the sink. These she transfers to the nightstand, then she lifts a syringe, unwraps it, and presses the thin needle into the neck of a bottle.
He took his insulin before bedtime, a dose guaranteed to stabilize his blood chemistry throughout the night. This second injection will stabilize him forever.
She measures out fifty units of regular insulin and drops the bottle back into its basket. The gentle chink of glass against glass does not rouse him. The man sleeps like a log, particularly on nights when he is so full of himself that he can't resist berating his wife.
Idiot. White trash. Slut.
Never again will those words pass his lips. Never again will she wear long sleeves on hot summer days.
Never again will his fist slam into her belly.
She lowers herself to the mattress, lifts the syringe in her left hand, and gently tugs on the covers with her right. His snoring halts, then erupts in an explosion of breath. His body has sensed the abrupt change in temperature, and his fingers fumble at his pajama top, searching for the comforter.
When he stops moving, she slides the thin needle into the pale flesh of his abdomen and presses the plunger. The instrument of death makes no sound, nor does its bite make him flinch. Theneedle has nipped at this flesh many times.
Like a loving mother tucking in a child, she covers him again and stands as he slumbers on, oblivious to his fate.
She returns the basket of supplies to the bathroom vanity and tosses the syringe into the trash. Her gaze falls on the mirror, where a ghostly image of her form is reflected in shadows. Then she crawls back into the warm bed and closes her eyes, willing herself to sleep.
Kate Barnhill, the paralegal assigned to the second-floor associates, sticks her head into Briley Lester's office. "Did you get rid of the dragon lady?"
Briley holds up a handwritten memo and drops it into the Busch file. "Case dismissed," she says, sighing. "Now I can move on to the next innocent and misunderstood client." She stares at the stack of folders on her credenza. "Look at all those dog cases. Franklin is breathing down my neck about clearing at least five files a week, but it takes time to handle clients properly. And since most of these are civil cases, I'm a little out of my element."
Kate tucks a strand of blond hair behind her ear and steps into the room. "At my last firm, they'd just send the client a letter saying the case wasn't worth their time."
"And now I understand why you don't work there anymore." Briley picks up the next file and skims the case summary. "This concerns a real estate deal. Don't we have an associate in real estate law?"
"The red-haired guy back by the water cooler—he's handling real estate." Kate reaches for the file, jingling a loaded charm bracelet on her wrist. "I'll carry it over."
"I've never seen anybody in that office."
"That's because he's always out in the field, or so he says. But though he may not be around much, somehow he manages to bill two thousand hours per year."
"No wonder I'm getting nowhere in this firm—I'm breaking my neck to bill fifteen hundred. More and more these days I can't remember why I ever became a lawyer." Briley picks up the next file, skims the summary report, and frowns. "Haven't I represented Clive Thomas before?"
Kate smiles as she moves toward the door. "Surely you remember the dognapper. You pleaded him down to nine months in Cook County Jail."
"You're right—the Chihuahua thief." Briley drops the folder onto her desk. "Now he wants to sue the state over the inmates' food. He says it's nutritionally lacking."
"You going down to the jail to brush him off?"
"No," Briley answers, settling into her creaky desk chair. "Him, I'm writing a letter."
In the windowless waiting room outside the morgue at the Cook County medical examiner's office, Erin Tomassi shivers beneath a thin blanket. Her brain buzzes with the faint rumblings of a headache while disjointed memories of the morning jostle in her mind. Impossible to believe that she's sitting in a public place in her robe, pajamas, and slippers. Impossible to believe that Jeffrey lies in the room beyond, lifeless and blue.
She stares at her hand and counts off five fingertips, one for each year of their marriage. Jeffrey is thirty-five years old; men of that age do not die in their sleep. But dead is what he is, or so the EMTs insist. They have to be mistaken, because Jeffrey is king of whatever hill he's climbing. When it comes, Death will have to wait for an appointment like everyone else.
An older man in a lab coat steps into the drab room and offers a sad smile. "Coffee?" He gestures toward a pot on the counter. "It's not very good, but it's hot."
She shakes her head. "I'm fine."
The man moves toward the counter and takes a foam cup from a slanted stack. As he pours, he glances in her direction. "Do you need to call someone to pick you up?"
"That— My father-in-law is on his way."
The man pours two sugar packets into his cup, then stirs the brew with a ballpoint from his pocket. "Never a spoon around when you need one," he says, a thread of apology in his voice as he taps his pen on the side of the cup. "Are you sure you wouldn't like a cup of coffee?"
"Never learned to like it." She catches her breath, horrified that the words have sprung so easily to her lips. If Jeffrey were here, he'd tell her to take the coffee, drink it, and act grateful for it, because one never offended voters by refusing offers of kindness.
She lowers her eyes, afraid the man might see a trace of the emotions warring in her breast. Jeffrey might be dead… and if he is, she will mourn him, but she will be free. Free to refuse cups of coffee, to sleep past seven, to stay in her house and ignore the clamoring world. If she can trust what the EMTs told her, she will finally be able to relax inside her own home. She'll be able to slip on her pajamas and go to bed without a sense of dread.
But Jeffrey can't be dead. Because the city is still running, the sun still shining, and the planet still turning. Most telling, she is still breathing… and Jeffrey always said she'd die before he did.
He'd make sure of it.
Awintry wave of grief shivers the skin on Antonio Tomassi's arms as he stares at the body of his dead son. Beside him, Jason keeps murmuring, "How? How could this happen?" but Antonio cannot think or reason. Shock has engulfed him in its numbing wake, and he can barely maintain an upright posture.
He places his hand on Jeffrey's lifeless shoulder and feels a shudder move through his core. No parent should ever have to experience this kind of cold.
The baby-faced assistant in the lab coat hugs his clipboard. "The M.E. will want to do an autopsy. It's routine in matters like this."
When a perfectly healthy young man stops breathing for no apparent reason, he means.
"How could this happen?" Jason asks again. "How does a guy like Jeff die in his sleep? He was fit, he worked out—"
The youngster shrugs. "We can't say until we have the autopsy and toxicology results. It would help us to know if he had any preexisting medical conditions.…"
"He was strong," Jason insists. "My brother was in perfect health."
"Diabetes." Antonio pries the word from his unwilling tongue. "Jeffrey had diabetes."
"But that was under control," Jason argues. "He hasn't had any health problems in years. Jeff knew how to manage his condition."
"If he was getting worse, his wife would have said something." Antonio focuses on his only surviving son. "Did you see Erin? Is she here?"
Jason jerks his chin toward the door. "She's curled up in a chair out there. In shock, if you ask me."
Antonio exhales softly. He can't blame his daughter-in-law for being stupefied by this unexpected turn of events. No one was more alive, more bursting with energy and potential, than Jeffrey Tomassi, Illinois state senator and potential U.S. congressman. No man in Chicago had a brighter future, but in the space of a heartbeat it had… vanished. Why?
The intrusive idiot in the white coat clears his throat. "We'll release the autopsy results as soon as we know something. Toxicology reports, however, can take up to six weeks—"
"I won't wait that long." Antonio fixes the youngster with a hot stare. "I want those results as soon as possible."
"But the reports usually take a couple of months. There's a backlog at the lab, and things are going to get worse, especially with the holidays approaching."
"I am Antonio Tomassi," Antonio says, buttoning the top button on his overcoat, "and you will have the medical examiner call me as soon as those reports come in. I will not rest until I know what killed my son."
Kate steps through the doorway and deposits a grilled chicken salad on Briley's desk. "Fifteen bucks should cover it," she says, holding out her hand. "And yes, I tipped the delivery guy."
Briley pulls a five and a ten from her wallet and drops the money into Kate's palm. "Thanks, that looks good." She takes the lid off the salad and pops a crouton into her mouth. "Delicious. Just a hint of garlic."
"By the way—" Kate glances at Briley's computer "—are you keeping up with your e-mail?"
"Franklin just sent a memo to everyone working on the Bishop case. He's scheduled most of the witness interviews for Friday. I have to pull all the documents you'll need."
Briley winces. "This Friday?"
"At 8:00 a.m. in the conference room. And if you don't finish on Friday, he wants you to come in on Saturday."
Briley exhales an exasperated sigh and flips the pages on her desk calendar. "Another Saturday down the tubes. Bad enough that the associates here are expected to work twelve-hour days—"
"Pay those dues with a smile, honey. Put in your hours, write out a few hundred legal briefs, and bankroll your retirement. When you're a partner, you can play golf and put your underlings to work."
"I wish I had your confidence."
Kate slips away as Briley's cell phone rings. She glances at the caller ID and smiles as she snaps the phone open. "Hey there. I was beginning to think this day was going to be a total bust."
Timothy Shackelford's warm voice draws her gaze to the photo on the corner of her desk. "Your boss giving you a hard time?"
"No harder than usual. But it looks like I'll be working Friday night. Either that, or I'll have to work Saturday."
"Bummer. Now I'll have to impress some other woman with my charm and good looks."
"That's what I like about you, Shackelford—your boundless optimism." She grins at his framed picture. "By the way, how's your client?"
"Sleeping like a baby. I'm beginning to think he's traded cocaine for Rozerem. Whenever he gets a little shaky, he pops a pill and goes to bed."
"I thought sober companions were supposed to keep their clients away from drugs."
"The nonprescription variety, sure. But I've already told Dax that after tomorrow, there'll be no more sleeping in daylight hours. But I didn't call to talk about him—I called to ask if you've heard the news."
Something in his voice sends a ripple of apprehension through her bloodstream. "What news?"
"Jeffrey Tomassi passed away. Turn on your TV—the reports are on every local channel."
Briley snatches a wincing breath. Last night she and Timothy attended a fundraiser for the charismatic state senator. The event appeared to be a huge success, and no man ever looked healthier or more like a winner than Jeffrey Tomassi.
She reaches for the remote in her desk drawer and powers on the small set on a shelf of her bookcase. "Do they suspect foul play?"
"They haven't said. But I'll bet that house is crawling with detectives right now."
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