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All 31-year-old, Las Vegas criminal lawyer Joanne Galvin wants for Christmas is a few clients so she can make ends meet. Instead she’s roped into defending the notorious, alleged Timepiece Arsonist; tracked by a hunky special agent and his arson dog; and chased by a serial killer. Just when her life is starting to feel like the Nightmare Before Christmas, she receives an unexpected gift that offers hope for this Christmas to possibly be the most wonderful time of the year…maybe even for years to come.
A story about a down-on-her-luck lawyer, a jinxed special agent, and an arson dog named Maggie who join forces in this heartfelt, humorous romantic-mystery.
November 5, 2015
Eighth Judicial District Court, Courtroom 14A
Las Vegas, Nevada
Judge Darren Fields, his dark-frame eyeglasses in stark contrast to his mop of snow-white hair, peered down at public defender Joanne Galvin as if she were an alien with a law degree. “You just told the jury that the DA plays fast and loose like a gunslinger. Has defense lost her mind?”
Whispers rippled throughout the courtroom. Someone stifled a laugh.
Locked in a stare-down with the judge, Joanne had the irrational urge to answer “yes.” And she knew exactly when she’d lost it, too—at one o’clock this morning when she’d found in the DA’s discovery a buried reference to someone who had seen “Tater” drinking a beer “that night.”
She’d missed the significance of that reference the first time she reviewed those pages, but when she read it again at one this morning, her instincts went on orange alert. This “someone” had to be the key witness who could finally prove her client, twenty-year-old Sebastian Vaughn, had been at a dive bar thirty miles away and not at the scene of the attempted murder the DA was trying to hang on him. A quick call to Sebastian’s mother confirmed that years ago some of his buddies had called him “Tater,” slang for home run as he had been a star on the high-school baseball team.
By then it was nearly two a.m. At nine o’clock sharp, she and the DA would begin presenting their closing arguments in the trial, during which neither were allowed to enter new evidence, such as this witness. Despite the ungodly hour, Joanne called the judge and begged him to please re-open the trial based on what she read. He grumpily agreed to meet her and Sam Burnette, the DA, in his chambers precisely at eight o’clock.
A meeting that had gone about as smoothly as a Three Stooges farce.
Judge Fields had alternated between swilling coffee and popping antacids while Sam Burnette furiously accused Joanne of obstructing justice by purposefully waiting until the night before closing arguments to read parts of discovery.
She countered that the DA had played dirty by doing a discovery dump on her—referring to the hundreds of pages of police reports, interviews and other documents that the DA’s office provided the defense during the pre-trial phase. Only Esmeralda—an elderly Vegas fortune teller who regularly swindled tourists on the Strip—and Her Crystal Ball could have divined the hidden meaning of that purposefully vague reference on first read-through.
After that the judge quietly belched and cleaned his eyeglasses for several thoughtful moments. Putting his glasses back on, he said the mere inference of evidence, obviously favorable to the defense, was insufficient reason to upset the orderly administration of justice in his court. Therefore he ruled the trial would not be re-opened.
Donning his judicial robes, he griped about his lack of sleep and stated he was not in the mood to put up with any more tomfoolery.
Colleen Collins is a private investigator and award-winning author who has written over thirty books for Harlequin and Dorchester, including two indie romantic-mysteries and four indie nonfiction books. Her recent romantic-mystery, THE UNGRATEFUL DEAD, won the 2015 Aspen Gold Readers’ Choice Award, short story category. Colleen is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.
When not sleuthing or writing, Colleen loves spending time with her husband, two Rottweilers (named Jack Nicholson and Aretha Franklin), and three cats.