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In OUTFOXED by David Rosenfelt, New Jersey defense lawyer Andy Carpenter spends as much time as he can working on his true passion, the Tara Foundation, the dog rescue organization he runs. Lately, Andy has been especially involved in a county prison program where inmates help train dogs the Tara Foundation has rescued to make them more adoptable, benefiting both the dogs and the prisoners. One of the prisoners Andy has been working with is Brian Atkins, who has 18 months left on a 5-year term for fraud. Brian has been helping to train Boomer, an adorable fox terrier the Tara Foundation rescued from a neglectful owner. Brian and Boomer are clearly a terrific match. In fact, Andy hopes that Brian will adopt Boomer himself, once his sentence is up.
But one day, Andy arrives at the prison to discover that Brian has used Boomer to make an ingenious escape, and man and dog are both in the wind. The next day, the man on whose testimony Brian was convicted is found murdered. Brian is caught and arrested for the crime, though he forcefully protests his innocence. Suddenly, Andy finds himself with a new client in Brian and a new dog in Boomer. And as he starts to dig deeper into the murder and the events leading up to it, Andy realizes he might be putting them all in far more danger than anyone had realized.
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By David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Tara Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
I've been enjoying work lately. I'd have to check my diary, but I think the last time I said that was never. Of course, the last time I wrote in a diary was also never, but that's another story.
My change in job satisfaction is probably because I'm doing very different work these days. I'm a defense attorney, have been my whole life, but lately I've been successful in not taking on new clients, leaving me no one to defend. I like it that way; trials can be very trying.
I wouldn't say that I've retired, it's more like taking a year off, much in the way a baseball pitcher does when he blows out his elbow. I like to say that I haven't had "Tommy John surgery," it's more like "F. Lee Bailey surgery."
My current work involves dogs, which are pretty much my favorite things, living or otherwise, on the planet. My partner, Willie Miller, and I run the Tara Foundation, a dog rescue group in Haledon, New Jersey, that covers Paterson and surrounding communities.
I've been spending a great deal of time helping Willie and his wife, Sondra, handle the day-to-day activities of the foundation, work that I couldn't do as a practicing lawyer, especially during trials. The days are enjoyable and rewarding, no more than when I watch a dog go to his or her new home with a terrific family.
And, best of all, I don't have to cringe and wait for a jury to decide whether I did well or not. All I need to see is a wagging tail.
I'm also heading up a program called Prison Pals. Passaic County has followed the lead of a number of other communities around the country in bringing rescue dogs in need of training and socialization into prisons to be trained by the inmates.
It's a win-win: the dogs get needed training and loving care, and the prisoners get the chance to interact and bond with some really great dogs.
Because I have a familiarity with the prison and criminal justice systems, and because I corun a dog rescue foundation, I was the county's choice to run this program, and I was glad to accept. I am Andy Carpenter, spreader of human and canine happiness everywhere. And the truth is that I've enjoyed every second of it.
One of the inmates working in the program is Brian Atkins, who is also a client. His lawyer had been Nathan Cantwell, a legend in New Jersey legal circles for sixty years. I had dinner with Nathan a couple of years ago and he told me that he would never retire, that even though at that point he didn't have many clients, the only way he would quit working would be by dying.
And dying is exactly what he did, three days later, at the age of eighty-seven. He had neglected to mention at the dinner that his will included a request for me to watch over his clients. Had he mentioned it, I would have pleaded for him to reconsider.
But Brian, at least, has been an easy client. He has served three years of a five-year term after being convicted of embezzlement and fraud, the victim being the software company that he cofounded. He's in the minimum-security area of East Jersey State Prison, and he will be up for parole in four months. I have it on good authority that he'll be granted that parole.
Today I'm bringing dogs and trainers to the prison, including the dog that Brian has been working with, an adorable fox terrier named Boomer. He clearly loves Boomer, and in a way it's a shame that Boomer is almost done with the program and will be finding a permanent home. If the timing had been just a little different, he could have been Brian's dog when he gets out. I really like Brian, so I'm looking forward to this conversation.
"Fred will be coming in, but I wanted to talk to you first," I say, referring to Fred Cummings, the trainer who has been working with Brian and Boomer.
"So you're not staying while Fred is here?" he asks, petting Boomer the whole time.
It seems like an odd question, but I say, "No, I'm meeting Laurie for lunch, and then we've got a parent-teacher meeting at the school. I just wanted to tell you that I've been pretty much assured you'll be getting your parole. You'll be out in no more than four months."
He nods. "Good. Thanks."
It seems like a strangely muted, unenthusiastic response, but my guess is he is just in "I'll believe it when I see it" mode.
"You okay?" I ask.
"I'm fine, Andy. Thanks."
"The parole hearing itself will be in three months, but it's basically a formality. We'll have time to prepare."
"Okay ... I understand."
I'm not sensing any excitement here. "Any questions?" I ask.
"No. Thanks again."
"She has no idea what she's talking about."
"Mrs. Dembeck?" Laurie asks. "How would you know that? All she said so far is 'Hello' and 'I'll be right back.'"
"She's had Ricky in her class for less than two months. How can she know anything about him?"
Ricky is the child that Laurie and I adopted six months ago, and Mrs. Dembeck is his third-grade teacher at School Number Twenty. We're sitting in her classroom, squashed into two of the kids' desks. These desks were a lot bigger when I went to school here.
The session has already started in an ominous fashion. As we were coming in, we saw our friends Sally and Brian Rubenstein, who had just finished their meeting about their son, Will.
Will, Ricky's best friend, is a great athlete, excellent student, and all-around terrific kid. Brian and Sally were all smiles with Mrs. Dembeck; no doubt their perfect child got a perfect report, and she's saving the bad stuff for Ricky.
I hate perfect kids.
"Just give her a chance, Andy."
"These teachers don't know how to handle kids; they never have and they never will. When I was in third grade, the teacher would put me out in the hall for talking."
She thinks for a moment. "That's a good idea ... maybe I'll try it when we get home."
"If she says anything bad about Ricky, she will live to regret it."
"Hold that thought," Laurie whispers, as the door opens and Mrs. Dembeck walks into the room, an evil smile on her face.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," she says, as she sits at her desk. It's right in front of us, and even though she's maybe five foot four, with us hunched in these little desks, she towers over us. Her goal is obviously to gain the psychological advantage.
"So let's talk about Ricky," she says, looking through some papers in a folder in front of her. "I'm sure you know this, but he is a very special, very wonderful child."
I nod and smile. It is a pleasure to hear a trained, dedicated professional like this talk about her work.
She goes on to talk about how friendly Ricky is, how popular he is among his classmates, and how he clearly is a leader among his peers. This is a woman who knows what she is talking about.
"Let's talk about individual subjects," she then says. "He's particularly proficient in mathematics."
Laurie smiles. "I know; sometimes the calculations he makes in his head amaze me."
Mrs. Dembeck returns the smile. "I overheard him the other day lecturing his friends about point spreads."
Uh-oh. I'm about to be busted. "Kids," I say.
"You mean point spreads like in betting on sports?" Laurie asks her.
"Yes. He's quite knowledgeable on the subject."
"Kids," I repeat. "The things they pick up from their friends."
Laurie is staring at me in a way that indicates she is not buying the bullshit I am selling. This comes as no great surprise to me. "How's he doing in history?" I ask.
Laurie rolls her eyes as Mrs. Dembeck opens her mouth, almost as if the movements are synchronized. "History isn't part of the curriculum," she says, "but Ricky —"
She stops when the door behind us opens. It's the principal of the school, Ms. Jansing. "I'm sorry to interrupt," she says, "but there is an urgent phone call for Mr. Carpenter."
I stand and immediately head for the door. I'm worried, because in my experience the word urgent isn't used when the news is terrific. The other thing in my mind is how few people, if any, knew I was here.
I follow Ms. Jansing down the hall to her office, and I pick up the phone that is lying on her desk. "Hello?"
"Andy, it's Pete."
Pete Stanton is a close friend of mine and a captain in the Paterson Police Department. The fact that it's him is further evidence that this is not going to be good, and I experience a moment of panicked worry about Ricky, even though I know he is down the hall at gym class.
"Is this bad news?" I ask.
"Bad and worse," he says. "The bad news is that Brian Atkins escaped from prison."
This makes no sense to me, but I've got a feeling that it's going to be downhill from here. "And the worse news?" I ask.
"He killed two people."
I was right; that is way downhill, and doesn't compute with my understanding of him. "That can't be," I say.
"Oh, it be," Pete says. "Are you his lawyer?"
I'm not really sure how to answer that, so I say, "I was working with him on the parole hearing."
"I think you can safely put the parole preparation on hold. So, are you his lawyer, or not?"
"I guess I am, at least for now."
"Then you might want to come talk to me."
"Where are you?"
"I'm at the murder scene."
"Where is he?" I ask.
"That is the question of the day."
"Your dog helped him escape." Those are Pete's first words to me when I meet him at the address he gave me in Englewood Cliffs. It's the home of Brian's ex-partner, Gerald Wright, who used to live here, when he was alive. And according to the coroner, he ceased to be alive about two hours ago, when he was stabbed seven times.
We're standing outside near Pete's car. The scene is as busy as every murder scene I've ever been at, and I've been at more than my share. It is a very fashionable neighborhood in a very expensive area; this house would definitely sell for seven figures, and the first number would be a crooked one.
Pete is in charge, but most of the work is being done by the forensics people. Pete has no doubt given them their marching orders, but they are pros and know what to do. The coroner's van has come and gone.
"What the hell does that mean? And which dog are we talking about?" I ask.
"I don't know; the dog is a fugitive as well. When we catch it I'll ask for a photo ID."
"How could a dog help him escape?" I ask.
"Atkins locked your trainer, one Fred Cummings, in a supply room and took his clothes and ID. Then he left with the dog, pretending to be the trainer."
"And that worked?"
Pete shrugs. "It's a big place, and it's minimum security. Plus the guard at the gate was new to the job, which your client probably was aware of."
"Aren't there cameras in the prison that would have recorded everything? Wouldn't someone have seen him do that to Fred? Is Fred okay?"
"He's fine," Pete says. "The camera in that particular hallway was awaiting repair. Your client did his homework."
"The dog must be Boomer," I say.
"Thanks for sharing that; it's a terrific clue."
"Who is the other victim?"
"A woman named Denise Atkins. That last name might ring a bell for you."
"Brian's wife?" He had told me a few visits ago that Denise had filed for divorce, but that it wasn't official yet. That filing is apparently now as moot as the parole hearing.
"One and the same. Apparently he found out his soon-to-be ex-wife was involved with his ex-partner, and that didn't sit well with him. If he contacts you, you might want to suggest that he turn himself in."
"Okay, good. Any other instructions for how I should deal with my client? I'm hanging on your every word."
"You think we're not going to find him anyway?"
"I'm surprised you found me." Then, "So you've made him for this murder already? Rushing to judgment, are we?"
"A neighbor walking by saw him running from the house. She knows him, so had no trouble recognizing him. And she saw the dog in the back of his car."
"Who found the bodies?"
"She did. Your client left the door open when he ran out. It seemed strange to her, so she went to the door and looked inside. The fact that there was blood everywhere tipped her off that something was amiss."
"You going to do any detecting, or just let it go at that?"
"I'll do my best, but it's a real whodunit."
The crowd in and around the house seems to be thinning somewhat, so I ask, "Okay if I go in and take a look around?"
"Gee, that's a tough call. We ordinarily love to invite defense attorneys into our active crime scenes, but maybe not this time."
There's not much more to be learned from staying here, and Pete is getting on my nerves, so I leave. I call Laurie and find out that the conferences are over and she is home from the school.
She's reading with Ricky, a ritual that they both really enjoy, so I don't ask her how the rest of the meeting went. I'm also afraid that the teacher revealed that Ricky is running a bookmaking operation at the school, utilizing the information he learned from me about point spreads.
The ride home gives me time to consider the situation with Brian. It doesn't seem likely that Brian is a person who could have committed the murder, though my knowledge of him is fairly limited. It's not like he was in jail for murder; he's a white-collar criminal, and one who has always professed his innocence of even that crime.
But while I can't quite picture him committing the brutal killings, his escape from jail doesn't really require visualization; it's a fact. And it is completely bizarre.
Here's a guy who has served three years already, and was to be released in a matter of months. Being in any jail is no fun, but Brian was not exactly pounding rocks and eating small helpings of porridge. This was a fairly comfortable, minimum-security prison, and his life was not terribly difficult.
Even after paying back the embezzled money and a fine, Brian is still a wealthy man. A comfortable life awaited him on the outside. The idea that he would run from staying in jail for a short time longer, and in the process expose himself to a life on the run and a longer jail term in a tougher prison when caught, defies logic. And there was nothing about Brian that said he was lacking in logic or smarts.
At least I now know why he reacted to my parole news with obvious indifference. Something was driving him to escape from the prison, acting irrationally and against his own self-interest. Whatever that force was also could have caused him to commit murder; that will not be known until he is caught. Pete is making the early assumption that jealousy and revenge were the driving factors, and a jury might certainly accept them as credible motives.
One thing is certain: he will be caught. Brian is not El Chapo; he does not rule a vast criminal empire filled with soldiers who will go to any lengths to protect him. Brian will be out there alone, with few allies, and no understanding of what it takes to elude a manhunt.
If he is lucky and smart, he will be taken into custody. If he's unlucky and stupid, he could get killed in the process.
Laurie is tucking Ricky into bed when I get home, so I get a chance to go in and kiss him good night. They had dinner together earlier, so while I eat she tells me that Mrs. Dembeck was basically glowing in her praise of his progress in school.
I then go on to tell her about Brian's escape and the subsequent murders. She never met him, but she's heard me talk positively about him these last few months. Regardless of Brian's true character, or lack of it, escaping prison a few months before parole is not an easy thing to understand.
After we talk about it for a few minutes, Laurie asks, "Have you checked the animal shelter? Is there any sign of the dog?"
"No. Maybe he still has Boomer with him. I hope he's okay."
"You would think he wouldn't want a dog with him. It just makes him easier to find."
It's not until I'm in bed, still thinking about this at three o'clock in the morning, that it hits me. I don't know where Brian is, but I sure as hell know where Boomer is. Or at least I know how to find out.
I wait until 6:30 A.M. to call Willie Miller. He's an early riser, so he's probably up by now. But either way, I don't want to wait any longer.
He answers on the first ring with the words, "I was about to call you. I saw the news; why didn't you call me yesterday?"
"Sorry," I say. "I should have." Willie loves every dog we take in, so I know he's worried about Boomer. I doubt he gives a damn either way about Brian.
"I'm going to get him," Willie says. "You want to come?"
Once again, Willie is way ahead of me. We put small GPS devices in the collars of all our rescue dogs, in case they get out or run away from owners that have adopted them. We've used it to great advantage a number of times. Willie has instantly realized this, while it took me until last night to do so.
"Have you checked the GPS?" I ask. The base unit is at the shelter, so Willie would have had to have gone down there early this morning.
"Just got back," he says. "Boomer is in Freehold, the address I've got is a motel."
Freehold is about an hour south of Paterson, and the fact that Boomer is there tells me one of two things. One could be that Brian wanted to get out of the immediate area, where the publicity would be greater and there would be more chance that he would be noticed by someone.
Excerpted from Outfoxed by David Rosenfelt. Copyright © 2016 Tara Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Can always count on an Andy Carpenter mystery to entertain. Fast-paced, solid characters, interesting plot twists. Formulaic? You betcha, and it works!
Like all good Andy Carpenter books, this one starts with a dog. Andy has started a program where he pairs dogs from his rescue foundation with prisoners in a low security prison so they can train the dogs and make them more adoptable. It all worked well until one of the prisoners makes his escape with one of the dogs. And then he is found fleeing the house of a friend that is found brutally murdered along with Brian’s soon to be ex-wife. What’s worse is he is a client of Andy’s, inherited from an old lawyer that Andy knew, which means Andy has to work. From there it is a wild ride trying to get evidence and, in trademark style, taking different pieces of information that from 2 seemingly unrelated incidents and tying them together. Rosenfelt’s characters are well defined and likeable. His plots are always well thought out and devious. Many of his books goes past the verdict to find the real perpetrator which I find really intriguing. The other thing I find that is interesting to me is that it takes place in New Jersey and there are a lot of mob related issues. I don’t think there is too much organized crime in the small town in Minnesota where I grew up. At least I don’t think the Elks are mob related. Maybe the Masons? Nah. I love these books!
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