Dr. Phillip Madison has everything: wealth, power, and an impeccable reputation. But in the pre-dawn hours of a quiet California suburb, the revered orthopedic surgeon is charged with double homicide—a cold-blooded hit-and-run that has left an innocent young couple dead. Blood evidence has brought the police to his door. An eyewitness has placed him at the crime scene . . . and Madison has no alibi. With his family torn apart, his career forever damaged, no way to prove his innocence, and facing life in prison, Madison hires an investigator to find the person who has engineered the case against him.
As his privileged world is brought crashing down by a psychotic seductress, as family and friends abandon him, Madison’s only hope for vindication rests in revealing a truth at the heart of a lie. It is a disclosure that could cost him more than he ever imagined.
False Accusations is a psychological thriller that instantly became a national bestseller and launched Alan Jacobson’s career, a novel that spurred CNN to call him “one of the brightest stars in the publishing industry.”
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About the Author
Jacobson’s books have been published internationally, and several have been optioned for film and television. A number have been named to Best of the Year lists.
Jacobson has been interviewed extensively on television and radio, including on CNN, NPR, and multiple ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox network affiliates.
Alan Jacobson is the national bestselling author of the critically acclaimed FBI profiler Karen Vail and OPSIG Team Black series. Jacobson’s years of extensive research and training while embedded with federal and local law enforcement agencies have influenced him both personally and professionally, and have helped shape the stories he tells and the diverse characters that populate his novels.
Read an Excerpt
By Alan Jacobson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2011 Alan Jacobson
All rights reserved.
December 1 11:26 P.M.
Del Morro Heights Sacramento, California
THE DARK BLUE CAR snaked around the curve, its headlights slicing like razors through the dead air. It slithered through the neighborhood, hunting for food, sniffing out its prey. With one punch, the large engine muscled up from thirty-five to sixty in less than three seconds, its hunger for speed ravenous.
The man crossing the street caught a glimpse of the looming vehicle and twisted backward, shoving his companion toward the sidewalk —
But there wasn't time.
The car's bone-crushing impact threw the woman onto its hood, then tossed her aside ... while the engine yanked the man underneath its front end, swallowing him whole.
The dark vehicle lurched slightly as its tire ran over the fallen prey. It then sped off down the street, hung a sharp left, and slipped into the pitch of night.
THE MAN'S TORSO WAS twisted, his head a bloody mess, with bits of brain tissue scattered around his crushed skull. The woman's body was much more intact, having slid off the side of the car's hood after being thrown up into the air by the initial impact. Her legs appeared to be broken and were bent into an unnatural position, the way a rag doll sometimes lands when a child tosses it aside after she has finished playing with it.
Most of the available officers in the City of Sacramento that night had been diverted to the minority neighborhood of Del Morro Heights to contain an escalating battle sparked by a broad crackdown on gang-related activities. When the call came in to investigate the discovery of a possible hit-and-run several blocks away, the two officers who responded anticipated more of the same, an offshoot of the hostilities.
But they were wrong.
OFFICER LARRY SANFORD SLAMMED his car door and ran over to the woman, who was lying face up in the street; the other victim was obviously deceased. Both were black. Sanford pulled a hand out of his leather glove and felt her neck for a pulse. "Shit," he said, the vapor that emanated from his mouth tailing off into the cold night air. He looked up and down the street, but saw no one. He glanced over to his partner and shook his head.
"Dispatch, this is Unit Nine," the other officer said.
"We've got a Code Twenty on San Domingo Street. Notify homicide. Securing crime scene."
"Roger, Unit Nine."
"She's still warm," Sanford said. "Let's get this area roped off." Using a roll of yellow tape, he established the boundaries of the crime scene while his partner blocked off the street and its adjoining arteries with traffic cones. Although out of the academy only six months, they both knew the routine: quick response, safeguard and preserve. That is, secure the crime scene to protect all materials in the vicinity because everything was considered evidence until proven otherwise. No one — not even another police officer — was to enter the area until the detectives arrived. One of the most significant threats to a homicide investigation was the disruption of physical evidence: nothing was to be disturbed, moved, stepped on, or contaminated in any manner.
With the thermometer at 33 degrees, Sanford rolled up the fur collar on his standard-issue blue nylon jacket and shoved both hands into his pockets. He sucked a mouthful of damp air into his lungs: rain was on the way. He sent his partner back to the gang-related conflict while he stood watch over the crime scene.
IN HIS BOXING DAYS, Detective Bill Jennings had a flat, rock hard gut. Some thirty years later, the musculature was stretched thin by the ravages of abuse, resulting in a bulging beer belly. Nevertheless, he carried his weight well and never hesitated to throw it around, both literally and figuratively ... sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.
By the time Jennings arrived at San Domingo Street, his partner, Angela Moreno, was already there surveying the scene. Moreno, thirty-five with short-clipped brown hair, nodded at Jennings as he approached.
"Long time no see," he said.
"Yeah, what, three hours?"
"What've we got here?" he asked as they walked over to the two bodies.
"Looks like a hit-and-run. Got two of 'em," she said, kneeling down in front of one of the victims. "And we've got some broken glass. A headlight," she said, turning over a large fragment and looking through it.
"Don't touch it," Jennings said, grasping her arm. "Saperstein should be here in a few minutes."
"You called Saperstein again?"
"He was the one on call."
"You haven't even looked over the scene. It's just a hit-and-run. We don't need a criminalist poking his nose all over the damn street to tell us what we already know."
"The man single-handedly saved my career, Angela."
Moreno waved a hand. "I read the reports, Bill. It was a clean shoot."
"Of course it was. But a white cop had just shot and killed a black kid. The media had a juicy story and took it for a ride. And with the election and all, I was a fucking political hot potato ... people kicked me to the curb like I had the plague or something." Jennings shook his head. "I was guilty before the body was cold. Everyone bailed on me except Saperstein."
"I heard all about it. Don't you think I checked you out before I took this assignment?"
"You checked me out?"
"I vaguely remembered reading something in the paper about it. Then my Vice partner started getting on my case, telling me I should look into it." She placed the glass fragment back where she had found it. "The comments you'd made back in eighty-seven with Stockton PD didn't help any."
"Yeah, well those were taken out of context —"
"You don't have to explain," Moreno said. "I checked into it."
Jennings stood up, his five-nine frame putting him eye-to-eye with his partner. "When Saperstein took the stand and started explaining that the shoot happened the way I said it did, I felt vindicated. He had all these formulas that showed I was standing where I said I was, and that the perp had turned to fire on me." He pulled a pair of crumpled leather gloves from his pocket and struggled to insert his pudgy fingers. "Without Saperstein's analysis of the physical evidence, those accusations would still be hanging over my head. So don't give me shit about using a criminalist. I'm gonna use one anytime I can. And if you're smart, you will, too."
"But this just looks like a simple hit-and-run," Moreno said.
"I don't care. What it looks like and what it turns out to be may be two different things. I'm not taking any chances."
With the assistance of several other officers who had just arrived on scene, they quickly canvassed the surrounding blocks to ascertain if anyone had seen or heard anything relative to the murders.
Thirty minutes had passed when a car drove up to the yellow crime scene tape half a block away. Out stepped a man in his mid-forties, his hair an uncombed mess, his suit coat creased and covering a severely wrinkled shirt.
Stuart Saperstein exchanged pleasantries with Jennings and received a cold reception from Moreno, who was apparently silently protesting his need to be there. No doubt sensing the tension, the criminalist excused himself and began the task of documenting the scene by arranging a handful of halogen floodlights a short distance from the bodies.
He opened his field kit and within a couple of minutes was on his hands and knees, examining each of the bodies. He measured distances and calculated angles, dictating his findings into a digital recorder. Steam was rising off the hot floodlights against the cold, damp December air.
Squinting at the ruler through his reading glasses, he motioned for the identification technician who had just arrived to photograph and document the scene. "As soon as I mark this, let's get a series of shots. When you take the midrange shot, I want to be in it."
"You're so vain," Jennings said, leaning over his shoulder.
"It helps for the jury to see me at the crime scene examining the physical evidence. It gives me an advantage over the defense's expert —"
"I know. Just giving you shit."
Moreno shook her head and walked off down the block in the direction of an officer who was approaching with a man at his side.
Saperstein stood up and faced Jennings. He tilted his head back and looked at the detective through his glasses, which were resting on the tip of his bulbous nose. "You look like shit."
"Thanks. So do you."
Saperstein smiled. "Yeah, but I always do." He motioned to Moreno, who was nearing the officer down the block. "She doesn't like me."
"Nothing personal. She just didn't think a criminalist was needed here."
"New to Homicide?"
"Transferred in from Vice three months ago."
"Guess I'll have to prove her wrong. Teach her a lesson." Saperstein bent down to measure again. He was a perfectionist, and with good cause: when there were no obvious suspects, homicide detectives often relied heavily on the criminalist's interpretation of the scene. If he could accurately ascertain what had happened, he could then surmise why it happened — which could help determine the sequence and mode of death, the victim's position at the time of the deadly blow, or how many shots were fired in a gun-related homicide. Often, the physical evidence the criminalist gathered at the crime scene was enough to narrow the field of suspects, help locate the perpetrator, or obtain a confession from him.
JENNINGS LOOKED UP AND saw that Moreno was talking to the man the officer had brought over: a witness. As he made his way toward his partner, he rubbed his gloved hands together to bring blood and warmth to his numb fingertips.
"What's the deal?" he asked as she flipped her notepad closed.
Moreno nodded at the man to her left. "This is Clarence Hollowes. Says he heard a big bang around eleven-thirty, ran out into the street, and saw a car leaving the scene."
"I don't want to get involved with no po-leece," Hollowes said, jawing on a piece of gum. He was dressed in clothing that was even more wrinkled than Saperstein's. He was unshaven and his hair was peppered with gray.
"Why not?" Jennings asked. "Got something to hide?"
"Po-leece mean trouble. That's just the way it is. You get involved, you get in trouble."
"We're not going to cause you any trouble, are we, detective?" Jennings glanced at Moreno, who frowned at him. More fallout from having called Saperstein. He turned back to his witness. "What can you tell me about the car?"
"Well, as I was telling this lady here, it was dark colored. A fancy one, real shiny, kind of like a Mercedes."
"Was it like a Mercedes, or was it a Mercedes?"
"I'm not an expert or nothing on fancy cars, but it was a Mercedes. I'm pretty sure."
"He got a partial plate," Moreno said.
"Oh. You saw the license plate, sir?"
"Yeah, like I told her, I saw two numbers. A two and a C."
"Did you get a look at the driver?"
"Looked like a white guy. Wearing a baseball hat."
"Did you see a logo or anything on the hat?" Jennings asked.
He hesitated a moment. "Maybe there was something on it, I don't remember."
"What'd the driver look like?"
"You know, a white guy."
"Old or young?"
"Uh, no beard, I don't think."
"Any distinguishing marks? Scars, moles —"
"Just a white guy, ya know? Didn't see no face. Drove by me real fast."
"Did you see what color hair he had?"
Hollowes shrugged. "Nah, too dark. Too fast."
"What about the car? Any dents, broken lights or windows?"
"Man, I don't know. It happened fast, you see? Bang, boom, I ran over and saw the car leaving. Then I saw them bodies in the street."
"I'm gonna give you my card," Jennings said as he pulled a wallet out of his jacket pocket. "Call me if the car comes by here again, or if any of your friends say they saw something, okay?" He looked at Moreno. "You got his address?"
"Ain't got no address," Hollowes said.
Jennings had already guessed the man was homeless — which made the detective grateful for the information Hollowes had provided. In his experience, the homeless tried not to get involved, preferring to function outside of society,
"In that case," Jennings said, "call us collect."
Hollowes took the card and studied it.
"Oh," Jennings said. "One last thing. Did you touch the bodies?"
"Touch them?" Hollowes asked, looking down at the ground. "Now why would I do something like that?"
"You know, to get some change, a buck or two for food."
"I just took the cash, that's all. Gotta eat, you know?"
"Did you take anything else?" Jennings asked. "It's important that we know."
"You see? Talk to the po-leece, get in trouble."
"No trouble, Mr. Hollowes. We're not gonna arrest you. It's just that we have to know if you took a wallet, or anything like that. We'd need the identification to tell us who these people are."
"No. Just the money. There was eight bucks in his wallet, twelve in hers. They were dead. They ain't gonna miss it."
"Did you move the bodies in any way?"
"No. I didn't touch no dead bodies. Just took their money."
Jennings nodded. "Thanks again for your help. We'll be in touch."
"They good people," Hollowes said.
"Who are?" Moreno asked.
Hollowes indicated the bodies with the wave of a hand. "Them."
"You know who they are?"
"Can't remember their names. They help us get a place to stay on nights like this when the cold go way down to your bones."
"You mean they did this for the homeless, like it was their job?" Moreno asked.
Hollowes nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
"Is there anyone who'd want to hurt them?" Jennings asked.
"None of us, that much I can tell you. They been good to us."
Moreno nodded. "If there's anything else you think of, please give us a call."
Hollowes turned to walk away. "Them rich people think they can flash them fancy cars in our neighborhood ..." he said as he walked off out of range of the streetlight's glow and into the shadows of a nearby tree.
"I was wondering the same thing," Jennings said to Moreno. "What the hell is a white guy doing driving a Mercedes in Del Morro Heights at eleven-thirty at night?"
"Taking a shortcut?"
"A shortcut on life, you mean. The guy's lucky they didn't catch him."
"The neighbors," Jennings said as they walked back toward Saperstein. "It would've made our job easier."
"How so? We'd have three murders to write up." They exchanged a smile as Jennings fastened the top button of his overcoat.
"You know, this could've been personal," Jennings said. "Something related to their work with the homeless."
Moreno bobbed her head. "Possibly."
"Detective," yelled an officer who was jogging down the street toward them. "We just got a call from someone with a partial plate on the car."
"Another witness?" Moreno asked.
"Don't know," said the man, who was heaving mouthfuls of vapor into the air. "It was an anonymous call. The desk sergeant thinks it was a female voice. She said she saw a dark Mercedes sports sedan," he said, looking down at his notepad, "with a license of two, C, and O or U. Couldn't see the driver's face. Driver was wearing a baseball hat, and was weaving a bit about a block away from where we found the victims."
"Did she say where she witnessed it from?" Moreno asked.
"Have them run a voice print analysis. I want to know more about this caller," Jennings said. "Anonymous tips are bullshit."
"Can't get a voice print."
"Why the hell not?"
"Call didn't come in on the 9-1-1 line. She called the division directly. They don't record incoming calls. She was in a real hurry to get off the line. Didn't want to get involved."
They headed back toward the bodies as a light rain began falling.
"So what's the story?" he asked Saperstein, who was placing a couple of plastic bags filled with specimens into a nylon duffel bag, out of the drizzle.
"Hit-and-run. The car left with a broken left headlight."
"That's it? A broken headlight?" Moreno shook her head. "I already knew that."
Jennings, ignoring Moreno's comment, reached into the male victim's coat and removed a wallet. "What about the speed of the car?"
"Judging by the damage to the bodies and the tire marks down the street, the driver must've been accelerating. He came off that curve," Saperstein said, nodding to the area down the street, "and brought it up to, oh, about fifty, maybe sixty, would be my preliminary estimate, at the time of impact."
Jennings looked over at Moreno, as if to say You wouldn't have known that.
Excerpted from False Accusations by Alan Jacobson. Copyright © 2011 Alan Jacobson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
A riveting story with a truly frightening villainess...A terrific book!