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When tragedy separated teen sweethearts Keri Mahoney and Justin Kramer, they promised to reunite someday. Now, fifteen years later, their meeting was bittersweet. After his wife's murder, Justin sought refuge with his twin sons at the childhood cabin in Missouri where he and Keri had first met. But Keri had become a police officer...and Justin might soon be facing a murder charge. Could past wrongs be forgotten and love rekindled as he and Keri joined forces to find the true killer, and prove Justin's innocence ...
When tragedy separated teen sweethearts Keri Mahoney and Justin Kramer, they promised to reunite someday. Now, fifteen years later, their meeting was bittersweet. After his wife's murder, Justin sought refuge with his twin sons at the childhood cabin in Missouri where he and Keri had first met. But Keri had become a police officer...and Justin might soon be facing a murder charge. Could past wrongs be forgotten and love rekindled as he and Keri joined forces to find the true killer, and prove Justin's innocence beyond a reasonable doubt?
Justin Kramer knew two things for certain.
One, he hadn't murdered his wife.
Two, the detectives weren't buying it.
The four-month-old memory of Amelia's body lying facedown on the blue living-room carpet was etched as a horrifying image in his mind. An image Justin knew he wouldn't shake for the rest of his life — which, if the cops had their way, would be spent up the river, without possibility of parole.
The detectives stood over him like a couple of lions working together to bring down a zebra. Justin's glare swept them both. "What do you think my wife's killer is doing while you two are playing good cop/bad cop for the third time?"
Detective Raney slapped his hands flat on the table and rested his considerable weight on tree trunk-like arms. He leaned forward and stared Justin square in the eye.
Disgusted, Justin clamped his lips together and shifted backward. The guy's breath stank of cigarettes and coffee — one or the other was enough to gag a horse. Together they were nothing less than cruel and unusual punishment.
The detective pressed forward to close the distance caused by Justin's not-so-subtle retreat. "Just shut your smart mouth and answer the questions."
Without even trying to hide his amusement, Justin twisted his lips. "I can't shut my mouth and answer the questions at the same time." He knew he sounded like a juvenile delinquent, but he was getting pretty sick of being accused of murder when he'd done nothing worse than allow Amelia to run all over him for years.
DetectiveAppling clapped his partner on the shoulder, effectively getting him out of Justin's immediate air space.
Appling's face molded into an amiable expression — one obviously carefully practiced and intended to instill confidence in the would-be criminal. "Come on, Justin. Don't you think it's time to tell the truth?"
The good-cop routine was getting old. Justin leveled his gaze at Appling. "Didn't you two switch roles? Seems like last time you hauled me in for questioning, you were the heavy."
Detective Appling's eyes glittered hard. His lips tensed and turned down at the corners. He perched on the edge of the table, no longer playing a pal. "Let's talk about where you were the night your wife was killed. Say...around eleven-thirty."
"He's told you where he was. Repeatedly." Bob Landau, a friend and the only attorney Justin knew, sat in a chair at the other end of the table, looking a lot more comfortable than he had any right to while Justin's freedom dangled from a worn-out thread.
Justin's call had interrupted a workout, so the lawyer had gunned it over to the police station without bothering to change out of a pair of sweats, running shoes and a sweatshirt. Nor had he bothered to remove his Chicago White Sox baseball cap. In Kansas City Royals territory that act alone was practically criminal.
Detective Raney sneered at Bob. He snagged a metal chair leg with his booted toes and pulled it out. With a grunt he plopped into the seat. "I'm tired of getting the same answer."
Too bad for him. Justin only had one answer to give — the truth. "For the third time, I was at the Victory Mission Men's Shelter. All night. I didn't leave until a little after six the next morning."
He'd never forget sitting up with Ike Rawlings all night while the alcoholic shook and vomited out his addiction. Only Jesus had gotten them through those horrific hours. In the morning, Ike had surrendered to Christ. Chills still crawled up Justin's spine at the awe of a life changed. God's love and glory manifested in one life-changing moment.
Raney jerked his head at Justin and picked up a manila file folder from the table. He waved it under Justin's nose like a plate of filet mignon. "Know what I have here?"
"Not a clue. But I have a feeling you're going to tell me."
In one fluid movement, the officer slapped the file open on the table with the flat of his hand, keeping the bottom of the page covered.'signed testimony from two men who say you left during the night and came back later."
Triumph gleamed in the detective's eyes. Closing the file, he leaned back, lacing pudgy fingers over his ample gut.
Unwilling to give Raney the satisfaction of knowing how badly the news had rattled him, Justin forced himself to keep a bland expression. "You're bluffing."
The officer glared over the rim of an enormous coffee mug. He set the cup back down, gathered a long, slow breath and started again. "The cards are stacked against you, Kramer." He held up his thumb then one finger and another as he counted off the marks against Justin. "A murdered woman, no sign of forced entry and there are witnesses who demolish your alibi. And, I have to tell you, those separate bedrooms don't exactly speak of marital bliss."
Bob shifted forward. "Why don't you guys give him a break? You haven't even charged him with a crime."
The smirk on the cop's face touched a raw nerve, but Justin knew he had to stay calm — not give in to the goading.
Detective Appling scrubbed at his bristled face and half sighed, half growled, obviously disappointed not to have rattled him. "You went to the shelter and waited until everyone fell asleep. Then you snuck out, strangled your wife and got back before anyone knew you'd gone. Not bad for a rookie killer."
"What makes you think I'm a rookie?" Justin had meant to be flippant — a knee-jerk response to the ridiculous assumptions. Big mistake.
The officer leaned in, his brow arched. "Is that a confession?"
"Hey! Objection!" Bob's hand smacked down hard on the cheap, plastic-veneer tabletop.
Shifting his gaze to Bob, Appling cut a look that was nothing less than derisive. "Give me a break. This isn't a courtroom."
Bob shot from his chair. "Do you realize that Mr. Kramer's cooperation is voluntary?"
"We hear you, Mr. Landau. But we have a good reason for questioning him about his so-called alibi.And like you said, he agreed to the questions, so he might as well answer the right ones, or there's really no point, is there?"
"Just watch how you phrase your sentences. I'd hate to slap you with a lawsuit."
Excerpted from Reasonable Doubt by Tracey Bateman Copyright © 2005 by Tracey Bateman. Excerpted by permission.
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