Principal Accused


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Scott Fenney 2
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53



Also by Mark Gimenez

The Colour of Law 
The Abduction 
The Perk 
The Common Lawyer

Hachette Digital

Published by Hachette Digital 2010

Copyright © Mark Gimenez 2010


The moral right of the author has been asserted.


All rights reserved. 
No part of this publication may be reproduced, 
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any 
form or by any means, without the prior 
permission in writing of the publisher, nor be 
otherwise circulated in any form of binding or 
cover other than that in which it is published and 
without a similar condition including this 
condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.


All characters and events in this publication, other

than those clearly in the public domain, are futitious

and any resemblance to real persons,

living or dead, is purely coincidental.


A CIP catalogue record for this book 
is available from the British Library.


eISBN : 978 0 7481 1506 8


This ebook produced by JOUVE, FRANCE


Hachette Digital
An imprint of
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DY


An Hachette Livre UK Company

The author - a BOI himself — dedicates this book to the 
residents of Galveston, Texas, w; ho are working hard to 
rebuild their great Island after Hurricane Ike.


My sincere thanks to everyone at Sphere/Little, Brown UK, including David Shelley, Thalia Proctor, Sean Garrehy, Nathalie Morse, Andy Hine and Simon McArt, as well as everyone at Hachette Livre and Little, Brown in Australia and New Zealand and Penguin Books in South Africa. And a special thanks to all the readers around the world who have emailed me about my books. Your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated. Also, thanks to Joel Tarver at T Squared Designs in Houston for my website and new release emails.

[image: 001]

Innocence: The absence of guilt.
Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Ed.


When she opened her eyes, she did not know that her life would never be the same.

All she knew was that her body was shivering violently. She wrapped her arms around herself but felt even colder, almost wet from the sea breeze. The French doors leading to the deck outside stood propped open, and the breeze billowed the sheer curtains. In the vague light, they looked like whitecaps of waves rolling ashore. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand: 3:45 A.M.

She got out of bed - the tile floor felt damp beneath her feet, as if it had rained in - and went over to shut the doors, but the scent of the sea lured her outside. She parted the curtains and stepped out onto the deck. The house stood on tall stilts like an eight-legged white flamingo perched among the sand dunes; the second-story deck overlooked the secluded stretch of Galveston beach and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. She walked to the far railing where she could see the last ripples of high tide dying out just feet from the house. She inhaled the sea and tasted the salt in the air. She often woke and came out here in these quiet hours when the moon offered the only light, when all color was washed out by the night, when her world was painted only in shades of gray.

She lived her life in shades of gray.

She gazed out at the twinkling lights of the offshore drilling platforms dotting the distant horizon; she liked to think they were the lights of Cancún. She had often imagined taking the yacht straight across the Gulf the seven hundred fifty miles to Cancún — and never returning. Maybe one day she would.

Maybe. One day.

The breeze blew her short nightgown tight against her lean body; the silk seemed to stick to her skin. She clutched herself again. It was early June, and the night temperature had not dipped below eighty, but she had still caught a chill. A big wave splashed ashore, and the sea spray hit her. She licked the wet from her lips then reached up and wiped her face; she could not see the dark streaks down her cheeks that her hands had left in their wake, but her face now felt even wetter. She touched her cheeks again then looked down at her hands. Her palms were shiny with a wetness that was dark in the moonlight, dark and wet like ...

She turned and ran back inside. She fought her way through the curtains then slapped her hands against the wall until she found the light switch — the stark white bedroom was suddenly ablaze with incandescent light. The shades of gray were gone. Her world was now painted bright red: red on the white bed sheets ... red footprints on the white tile floor leading from the bed out to the deck where she had stepped ... red handprints on the white wall where she had searched for the light switch ... red on the white curtains where she had fought through them ... red on her white nightgown ... and red on her. Bright red. Blood red. His blood. She stood drenched in his blood. And he lay on the bed with a knife in his chest.

Rebecca Fenney screamed.

Chapter 1

Three hours later and three hundred miles to the north, Scott Fenney was drenched in sweat. The sun had just risen that Friday morning, only the fifth day of June, but the temperature was already pushing ninety. It was going to be a hot summer.

He was running the streets of Highland Park. He ran five miles every morning, before the town came alive, when the roads were still free of foreign automobiles and the air still free of exhaust fumes, when the only sounds were birds chirping in the tall oak trees that shaded the broad avenues and the only sights were other white men waging war against middle age in running shoes. Scott was only thirty-eight, so he could still avoid such a daily confrontation with his future. But he could not avoid a daily confrontation with his past.

He ran past the lot where the small rent house he had grown up in had once stood, home to mother and son, the poor kid on the block. He ran past the Highland Park football stadium where he had been a high school hero under the bright Friday night lights and the SMU stadium where he had become a college legend on a glorious Saturday afternoon in the fall of his twenty-first year. He ran past the law school where he had graduated first in his class then had struck out for downtown Dallas to find his fortune in the law. He ran past the country club where lush green fairways bathed in a soft shower from low sprinklers, an exclusive golf course that would later that morning welcome the wealthiest white men in Dallas just as it had once welcomed him. He ran past the mansion he had once called home.

He was now the poor lawyer on the block.

It had been two years since that life had become his past. He had not mourned the loss of his partnership at the Ford Stevens law firm or the money that had come with being a successful lawyer or the things that money had bought — the home, the club, the car ... okay, he did miss the car; it was a red Ferrari 360 Modena that could do zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds. But he had what money could not buy and what no one could foreclose, repossess, or otherwise take from him by legal process. He had his daughters. So while his morning run reminded him of the past, he did not long for the past. He had gotten over his past.

Except Rebecca.

She had not screamed or cursed or said goodbye. She had just left. She wanted nothing from him and took nothing — not her community property or her clothes or her child. After eleven years of marriage, she had just wanted out. So twenty-two months and eight days ago, she had walked out of their house and marriage and left town with the twenty-six-year-old assistant golf pro at the club. Scott blamed himself. If only he had been more attentive to her needs, more thoughtful toward her, more caring toward her, more ... something. Whatever it was that a woman needed from a man. What she had needed from him. He had not given her what she had needed, so she had found it with another man. In another man’s bed.

He now slept alone. When he slept. The other hours he lay awake and alone, thinking of her and wondering if he would ever again feel the love of a woman lying next to him, holding him, touching him, wanting him. He wanted to love again, to feel the heat of passion again, to experience that special connection — physical and mental — between a man and a woman, when he and she were one. Those moments were the best moments of a man’s life. Those were the moments with Rebecca he recalled now.

He longed to share his life with another woman. But he couldn’t, not until he understood why his wife had left him. Until he knew what she had needed and how he had failed her. So if he got a second chance at love, he wouldn’t fail again. But for now Scott Fenney had no reason to stay in bed each morning.

So he ran.


Scott entered the small cottage through the back door that led into the kitchen and was greeted by the smell of eggs, chorizo, and coffee. Consuela had already arrived and was cooking breakfast.

‘Morning, Consuela.’

‘Buenos días, Señor Fenney.’

Consuela was thirty, round, and Catholic. She wore three crucifixes and kept prayer candles lit on the windowsill. Her husband, Esteban Garcia, dropped her and the baby off each morning on the way to his construction job in Dallas. Little Maria sat in a high chair and smeared mushy food on her face. Scott leaned down to her.

‘And how are you this morning, Señorita Maria de la Rosa-Garcia?’

She spit up something green.

‘She no like brécol,’ Consuela said.

‘Don’t believe I’d like broccoli for breakfast either.’

The fifteen-month-old child smiled at Scott as if she understood what he had said. He scrunched up his face and rubbed noses with her — she liked that — and said, ‘You don’t want that yucky broccoli, do you? Tell your madre you want huevos rancheros and chorizo so you can grow big and strong and get a fútbol scholarship.’

Her parents were Mexican nationals but she was an American citizen — born in the USA. She raised her arms to him.

‘Oh, Uncle Scotty can’t play now, honey. I’ve got to go to work.’

He gave the child a kiss on her forehead and a little hug and came away with slimy green broccoli on his cheek. It smelled awful — or maybe it was him. He swiped a sweaty sleeve across his cheek then grabbed a bottled water out of the refrigerator and walked down the hall to his daughters’ bedroom. He knocked on the door.

‘Come on, girls, I can’t be late today. Closing arguments.’

The door opened, and his eleven-year-old daughters emerged from a small bedroom cluttered with posters of the Jonas Brothers and a smiling Michael Jordan on the walls, books stacked on shelves and scattered about the floor, clothes hanging over chairs as if one of them - guess who? - could not decide what to wear that day, and a small television with rabbit ears. They had pushed their twin beds together in one corner so they could read together at night. They shared clothes, they brushed each other’s hair, they were like sisters - and now the law said they were.

Barbara Boo Fenney was wearing jean shorts, a black T-shirt with white print that read ‘Obama Ba-Rocks My World’, green retro sneakers without socks, and her red hair pulled back in a ponytail. She looked more like her mother every day, albeit less expensively dressed. Pajamae Jones-Fenney wore a color-coordinated short outfit, matching socks folded down neatly, and black-and-white saddle Oxfords. Her skin was tan and flawless, her hair brown and fluffy and cut in a bob. She too looked more like her mother every day. One girl was the product of his failed marriage, the other of his law practice. Two years before, he had defended Pajamae’s mother against a murder charge and won, only to see her die of a heroin overdose two months later. Pajamae had no one except Boo and her mother’s lawyer, so he had adopted her.

‘Morning, girls.’

‘Whereas, Mr Fenney,’ Pajamae said.

‘What’s your pulse?’ Boo said.

‘I didn’t check my pulse.’

‘Do you feel faint or dizzy? Are you experiencing chest pain?’

‘No, Boo. I feel fine.’

‘A. Scott, I still think you should be on a statin.’

‘I think you should change that T-shirt. The school won’t like it.’

‘I told her, Mr Fenney. I said, “Girl, you can’t be wearing a T-shirt reminding these rich white folks there’s a black man in the White House.”’

The conservative Republicans in town — which is to say, the entire Town of Highland Park — had not gone for Obama. They had hoped that George W. would salve their electoral wounds by coming home to Highland Park, but he had retired to his old stomping grounds in North Dallas instead. Even Dick Cheney had forsaken his former home town for Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But Bush did give the Parkies a consolation prize: the $300 million George W. Bush Presidential Library would be located on the Southern Methodist University campus in Highland Park.

Boo shrugged. ‘What are they gonna do, suspend me again, on the last day of school?’

She had been suspended earlier in the year for fighting. With a boy. He had called Pajamae ‘Aunt Jemima’ on the playground, so Boo had punched him in the mouth and made him cry. She had a heck of a right cross for a girl. Scott had threatened to take the school district to court — and more effectively, the story of a white boy bullying the only black student in school to the newspaper and local television - so the school had dropped the suspension after one day. Now, whenever the principal threatened Boo with disciplinary action for defending her sister against bullies, her standard response was, ‘Call my lawyer.’

‘Consuela has breakfast ready.’

The girls went one way down the hall and Scott the other. He entered the ‘master suite’ of the two-bedroom, fifteen-hundred-square-foot cottage. The master closet in his former residence dwarfed the small bedroom and adjoining bath. Scott undressed in the bathroom, stepped into the cramped shower, and stood under the hot water. The mansion and material possessions that had once given his life value were gone. His ambitious years, that period in a man’s life when human nature and testosterone drive him to prove his net worth to the world — when the score is kept in dollars and cents — were over. For most men, the ambitious years extend well into the fifties, even the sixties, and come to an end only with a heart attack or a positive prostate exam, when a man confronts his mortality. But it wasn’t the prospect of his own death that had brought his ambitious years to a premature end for A. Scott Fenney, at age thirty-six; it was the death of a US senator’s son.

He got out of the shower, shaved, and dressed in a $2,000 custom-made suit; the suits and Consuela were all that remained of his past life. She was part of the family, and the suits still fit. And he was still a lawyer.


Scott returned to the kitchen where the girls were eating breakfast tacos and playing with Maria. ‘Last day of school, girls.’ Scott sat and ate his taco and studied his adopted daughter’s face. ‘Pajamae, are you wearing makeup?’

‘Blush, Mr Fenney, like Beyoncé. You like it?’

‘What’s a Beyoncé? And please call me “Dad”. It’s been a year and a half.’

‘Don’t seem right, Mr Fenney.’

‘Why not?’

‘’Cause you’re Boo’s daddy.’

‘I’m your daddy, too, and don’t you ever forget it.’ He drank coffee and said, ‘So what do you girls want to do this summer?’

‘The other kids are going to Colorado, Hawaii, the south of France ...’

‘We can’t afford that, Boo.’

‘What can we afford?’

‘Well, we could camp out in a state park.’

‘That’d be fun. We could never go camping with Mother. She hated to sweat.’

‘Boo, she’s still your mother.’

‘I don’t have a mother.’

Her anger seeped out from time to time. Or was it a sense of shame? Everyone in Highland Park knew her mother had run off with the golf pro.

Scott turned back to Pajamae. She seemed glum, too.

‘Pajamae, smile — you’re about to graduate from fifth grade.’

‘She doesn’t smile because the other kids make fun of her,’ Boo said.

‘Because of her color?’

‘Because of her teeth.’

‘Her teeth?’

‘My teeth are all crooked, Mr Fenney. It’s embarrassing.’

She needed braces. Ten thousand dollars worth of dental work. Scott paid $30,000 in annual health insurance premiums for the three of them plus Consuela and Maria, but the plan did not include dental.

‘Mr Fenney, when I’m playing pro basketball, how am I gonna do endorsements with crooked teeth? You see Michael Jordan’s teeth? Look like a string of pearls.’

‘Honey, I’ll find a way to pay for braces, okay? Before next school year.’

‘You promise, Mr Fenney?’

He nodded. ‘I promise.’

She started to smile but caught herself.

Braces for Pajamae. Another financial promise he wasn’t sure he could keep, like the mortgage and office overhead — unless he won the case that day and if the city didn’t appeal the verdict and if...

Boo stood and tossed her napkin on the table.

‘Let’s get this fifth grade over with.’


Ten minutes later, Scott was driving the Volkswagen Jetta to the elementary school past the mansions of the most important people in Dallas — or at least the richest. The streets of Highland Park were no longer vacant. Mothers were taking their offspring to school, and fathers were taking themselves downtown. From the back seat, he heard Pajamae’s voice, sounding spooky.

‘Boo ... I see white people.’

They fell over each other laughing hysterically. They had seen The Sixth Sense —  the edited version on network TV - and were always coming up with new variations on the ‘I see dead people’ line.

Of course, Pajamae did see white people. Only white people. Exactly one black family lived in Highland Park ... and one black girl named Pajamae Jones-Fenney. The Town of Highland Park was a two-square-mile enclave entirely surrounded by the City of Dallas — the bright white hole in the middle of the multicolored Dallas donut. Few people of color could afford to live in Highland Park — the median home price was $1 million — and those who could, like the pro athletes who played football for the Cowboys, basketball for the Mavericks, and baseball for the Rangers, weren’t keen on being protected by a police force whose standard operating procedure for traffic stops was ‘If they’re black or brown, they’d better have tools in the back’.

‘A. Scott,’ Boo said from the back seat, ‘since we can’t go to the south of France this summer, can we at least get cable?’


‘Can we have a cell phone? We can get a family plan.’


‘Can we have a Facebook account?’


‘Can we get our ears pierced?’

‘No — and why would you want holes in your ears anyway?’

‘I don’t, Mr Fenney,’ Pajamae said.

‘A. Scott, we’re the only kids we know without cable, iPhones, pierced ears, or who haven’t seen Juno.’

‘Because it’s rated PG-thirteen and you’re not thirteen.’

‘It’s PG-thirteen for mature thematic material and sexual content and language, but they only say the F-word once. We hear it more than that at recess.’

‘Kids say the F-word?’

‘Hel-lo. Come on, A. Scott, we’re practically teenagers.’

‘Two years, Boo. It’ll come soon enough. Enjoy being eleven. When you’re older, you’ll miss it.’

‘Do you miss being eleven?’

‘I miss being nine.’

‘Why nine?’

‘I lost my dad when I was ten.’

‘We lost our mothers when we were nine.’

So they had. The girls were quiet for a few blocks then Boo said, ‘So can we at least have cable? Just for the summer. Please.’

‘Boo — ’

‘A. Scott, it’s hard on us — at school, living in Highland Park.’

‘Because you don’t have cable?’

‘Because we don’t fit in.’

‘Why not?’

Pajamae joined the fray. ‘Because I’m the only black kid in town.’

‘And we’re the only kids without a mother. Walking around the Village, everyone looks funny at us.’

‘And cable will make life easier for you?’


Scott had steadfastly refused their pleas for cable. But he now felt his resolve weakening: he couldn’t give them a mother; he could at least give them cable TV. He was just on the verge of saying yes when he caught the girls grinning mischievously in the rearview. They were gaming him. Again.


‘But we can’t watch Sex and the City reruns like the other kids.’

‘Fifth-graders watch Sex and the City?’

‘Oops. Forget Sex and the City. Think Discovery Channel.’


She frowned as if pouting, but Boo Fenney wasn’t the pouting type.


‘Boo, don’t say fudge. Everyone knows what you’re really saying.’

‘I like fudge,’ Pajamae said. ‘With pecans.’

They arrived at the elementary school. Scott felt like the class loser at a high school reunion when he steered the little Jetta into the drop-off lane behind a long line of late-model Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs, Lexuses, Range Rovers, and just in front, a Ferrari ... a shiny red Ferrari ... a 360 Modena just like the one he used to drive ... he looked closely at the car ... that was the one he used to drive. He caught the driver’s face in the side mirror.

Sid Greenberg.

When he was a partner at Ford Stevens, Scott had hired Sid out of law school and taught him everything he knew about practicing law, but Sid now sat in Scott’s sixty-second-floor corner office, represented Scott’s rich real-estate client, and drove Scott’s $200,000 Italian sports car. The ungrateful bastard. Scott could still smell the Connolly leather interior and feel the four-hundred-horsepower engine rumbling behind him. The Ferrari’s passenger door swung open, and Sid’s young son got out — Hey, that’s cheating, letting your kid out before the official drop-off point! —  so Sid could avoid waiting in line like everyone else. Scott shook his head. Typical lawyer. But when Sid turned his head to check for oncoming cars before pulling out, he had a big smile on his face, as if laughing at Scott driving a Jetta.

You laugh, Sid, but I’m saving a lot of money on gas.

Sid Greenberg had made the same choice Scott had made at his age. Two years ago, Sid had decided to check his conscience at the door each day and now he was driving a Ferrari. Two years ago, Scott had rediscovered his conscience and now he was driving a Jetta. Funny how that worked for lawyers.

‘A. Scott, you need sex.’

He eyed Boo in the rearview. ‘What?’

‘You look stressed. Just then, you were frowning. Sex relieves stress.’

‘Where’d you hear that?’

‘From Meredith.’

‘Who’s Meredith?’

‘On the Today Show, this morning.’

‘You girls need to watch PBS in the morning.’

‘Sesame Street? I don’t think so. Anyway, Meredith said stress is a leading cause of heart attacks in men. So if you have sex you won’t have stress and thus you won’t have a heart attack ... like Sarah’s dad.’

Bill Barnes, a lawyer Scott knew, had died of a sudden heart attack earlier in the school year. Little Sarah Barnes would grow up without a father. The girls had always fretted over their only parent’s health — every blemish on Scott’s face could be skin cancer, every headache a stroke, every memory lapse a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s — their worries exacerbated by the relentless barrage of drug commercials on network television. Each new commercial brought a new medical worry for the girls. But since Sarah’s dad, a heart attack had been their constant worry. They had recommended he take Lipitor to lower his bad cholesterol, Trilipix to raise his good cholesterol, Plavix to prevent his platelets from forming blood clots, and Crestor to prevent plaque from building up in his arteries. Sex, though, marked a new and more agreeable course of therapy. Unfortunately, it required more than a doctor’s prescription.

‘Don’t worry, Boo, I’m not going to have a heart attack. I run every day, I still weigh one-eighty-five, my cholesterol’s low — ’

‘Besides, it’s embarrassing.’

‘What is?’

‘You’re tall, blond, handsome, you don’t have tattoos — you’re the hunk of Highland Park and you don’t have a girlfriend. The other kids think we have a loser for a father.’

‘I don’t think it’s because I don’t have a girlfriend.’

‘Mr Fenney, you need a woman.’

‘Like Ms Dawson,’ Boo said.

Up ahead, Ms Dawson, the fourth-grade teacher, was working carpool. Her jet black hair glistened in the morning sun. She couldn’t be older than twenty-eight, maybe twenty-nine. Scott had thought of asking her out, but it hadn’t even been two full years since Rebecca had left him. Still, Ms Dawson was very attractive in her form-fitting blouse that accentuated her narrow waist and her snug slacks that —

‘Ms Dawson would probably have sex with you.’

‘You really think so?’ He caught himself. ‘I mean, Boo.’

The girls giggled. They knew all about sex now. Fifth-grade health class. Which was a blessing; Scott didn’t have to have the talk with them. When he had turned thirteen, his mother had said to his father at dinner one night, ‘Butch, it’s time you had a father-son talk with Scotty. You know, about sex.’ Butch Fenney had turned to his son and said, ‘Don’t have sex. Pass the potatoes.’ But sex was more complicated these days and more dangerous. Sex can kill and eleven-year-old girls were having babies, so kids had to know the truth. Explaining the facts of life to girls was a mother’s job; but they had no mother so the job had fallen to their father. Just when Scott had bucked himself up to do it - he had even bought a book - the girls had come home armed with all the facts. Thank God. A major single-father hurdle had been cleared.

‘Ms Dawson has nice cheeks,’ Boo said.

‘Very nice.’

‘The ones on her face.’


‘She’s got a crush on you, A. Scott.’


‘Big time, Mr Fenney. During lunch, she’ll mosey on over and say, “Hi Boo, hi Pajamae”, you know, like she’s just visiting. Then she’ll get around to asking, “So how’s your father doing these days?” And I’ll say, “Oh, ’bout the same as yesterday, Ms Dawson”. Then she’ll blush like white girls do and say, “Well, tell him hi”. She’s got the hots for you, Mr Fenney.’

‘She does?’

‘A. Scott, we’re at that age - we need a mother. Ask her out. Please.’

‘Oh, I don’t know ...’

Pajamae let out an exasperated sigh. ‘Man up, Mr Fenney, and ask that woman out!’

Scott eased the Jetta up to the drop-off point. Ms Dawson opened the back door for the girls then leaned down. She said, ‘Hi, Boo, hi, Pajamae,’ but she looked at Scott. The girls leaned forward and kissed Scott on opposite cheeks and whispered in his ears -

‘Ask her!’


- then climbed out of the car and ran up the walkway to the entrance. Before she shut the door, Ms Dawson stuck her head in and said, ‘Scott, if I invited you over for dinner this summer, would you come?’

He wanted to say yes, but he said, ‘No.’

Her face sank.

‘Ms Dawson — ’

‘It’s Kim, Scott. It’s been Kim for two years.’

‘Kim. I’m sorry. I’ve got to work through some things first ... my ex-wife ...’

‘How long will she own you, Scott?’

‘I don’t know.’

She shut the door on him. Scott sighed and exited the school drive, cut over to Lovers Lane, and hit the Dallas North Tollway heading south toward downtown. He tried to put thoughts of Kim Dawson and Rebecca Fenney out of his mind and focus on a subject matter he knew more about than women: the law.

But he could not know that before the day was out his ex-wife would again assert ownership over his life.

Chapter 3

In a courtroom on the fifteenth floor of the Federal Building in downtown Dallas, A. Scott Fenney addressed a jury of twelve American citizens.

‘Forty-six years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated just a few blocks from where you now sit. The world’s press descended on this city and exposed the ugly side of Dallas: a police force that ran roughshod over black citizens ... a district attorney who won white votes in North Dallas by sending black men in South Dallas to prison ... a city known as the “Southwest hate capital of Dixie” ... a city run by rich white men who retired to East Texas on weekends to hunt and fish at the Koon Kreek Klub ... a city President Kennedy himself described as “nut country”. That was Dallas in nineteen sixty-three.’

Scott stood before the jury of nine whites, two Latinos, and one African-American. Dallas was now a minority-majority city, but money still ruled. Money makes the law and the law protects the money; and lawyers protect the people with money. But not this lawyer. Not any more. Scott was representing all residents of South Dallas in a class-action lawsuit against the City of Dallas. When he had left the Ford Stevens law firm — that is, when he had been fired two years before - Scott had gone to the other side, from representing corporations that pay to people who can’t — not what most lawyers would call a shrewd career move; from representing those whom the laws protected to representing those whom the laws oppressed - the ‘dissed’ of Dallas. The dispossessed, the disenfranchised, the disrespected.

And so it was that day.

‘That image of Dallas shocked the world — including the business world. And above all other things, Dallas was a city of business, by business, and for business. So the rich white businessmen who ran Dallas decided to polish up the city’s image.

‘Back then, seedy bars, strip clubs, and liquor stores lined the streets of downtown. Those businessmen wanted to close the liquor stores, but couldn’t; the stores were protected by the zoning ordinance. So they struck a deal with the liquor industry: if they moved out of downtown, they could have free reign in South Dallas. Not in North Dallas where white people lived, but in South Dallas where black people lived.

‘At the time, South Dallas was a thriving community of small businesses and families living in neat homes. Today, there are three hundred liquor stores in South Dallas — twenty-five stores per square mile - and South Dallas is a community of drunks, drug dealers, addicts, hookers, crack houses, and crime. And citizens are prisoners in their own homes, hiding behind burglar bars. There are no grocery stores, no shopping centers, no Starbucks in South Dallas. There is only liquor and hopelessness. That is the reality people in South Dallas live with every day. Those businessmen changed the image but not the reality of Dallas.

‘But you can. You can change that reality today. You can get rid of the liquor and give the people of South Dallas hope. Right here and right now, you have the power to change Dallas.

‘Those liquor stores are protected by the zoning ordinance, just as they were in downtown. The only way to get them out of South Dallas is to buy them out - at a cost of one hundred million dollars. The city leaders say they want to redevelop South Dallas, but they just can’t afford that price tag. It’s the economy, they say. Of course, the city can afford billions for a convention center hotel, for the basketball arena, for the Trinity River project, for everything North Dallas wants, but they can’t afford to get rid of liquor stores in South Dallas.

‘One million people live in Dallas. One hundred million dollars comes to one hundred dollars per person. That’s all. One hundred dollars per person gets rid of every liquor store in South Dallas. One hundred dollars gets rid of the drunks and dealers and addicts and hookers and crack houses and crime. One hundred dollars frees the citizens of South Dallas from their prisons, allows them to remove the burglar bars from their homes and to rebuild their community. One hundred dollars rights this wrong. One hundred dollars, ladies and gentlemen. And you have the power to make it happen.’

Scott spread his arms out to the courtroom like a televangelist at his podium.

‘This is where regular people like you have power. This is where people like you can change things. This is where real change in America happens, in courtrooms just like this all across the country, by juries just like you. Juries that stood up to the tobacco companies and the drug companies and Wall Street and even their own government. Juries that had the guts to do the right thing. Juries that changed America and made our lives better. Juries just like you.

‘This is your chance to change Dallas.’


They didn’t take the chance. An hour later — barely enough time for the jurors to go to the restroom, eat lunch, and take a single vote - the jury returned a nine-to-three verdict in favor of the City of Dallas. Nine whites versus three minorities. North Dallas versus South Dallas. Rich versus poor.

The story of Dallas.

Judge Buford dismissed the jury and motioned Scott back to his chambers then disappeared through a door behind the bench. Scott consoled the lead plaintiff, Mabel Johnson, a black woman who lived in South Dallas just east of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard. She was a single mother. Her three young daughters walked to school past a half dozen liquor stores every morning and home every afternoon. She fought back tears.

‘I’m sorry, Mr Fenney.’

‘No, I’m sorry, Mabel. I’m sorry I couldn’t make life better for you and your kids. For all the kids down there.’

‘Down there’, as if she lived in Mexico instead of just a mile south of where they now stood. She reached up and touched his cheek.

‘You’re still my hero, Mr Fenney.’

‘I lost.’

‘You tried.’

Mabel embraced him then walked out of the courtroom. Scott sat on the plaintiffs table and stared at his shoes. He no longer represented the trophy clients of Dallas, rich people who bestowed social status on their lawyers; the mere mention of his clients’ identities at bar association meetings typically evoked perplexed head-shaking or muffled laughter from other lawyers. He no longer worked the margins of ethics and the law, that gray area where a lawyer’s money is made; nor did he make much money. He no longer practiced law like he had played football. For one thing, he no longer viewed the law as sport; for another, he lost. A. Scott Fenney was not a man accustomed to defeat, either on the football field or in a courtroom. Two years before, in this very courtroom, he had experienced his greatest victory as a lawyer when the jury had returned a ‘not guilty’ verdict for Pajamae’s mother. But the last two years had brought defeat into his life.

He had tried to make a difference. He had failed.

Another pair of shoes now entered his field of vision — brown wingtips — and Scott knew whose feet were in them before he heard the familiar voice.

‘Hell of a closing argument, Scotty. Almost made me want to pay my hundred bucks. Almost.’

He raised his eyes to Dan Ford standing there. Dan was sixty-two, bald, and the senior partner at Ford Stevens, the two-hundred-fifty-lawyer Dallas firm that had previously employed A. Scott Fenney. Dan Ford was the man who had taught Scott everything he knew about practicing law, the man who had been Scott’s father-figure for eleven years, the man who had single-handedly destroyed Scott’s perfect life. He had come for closing arguments. A ten-lawyer team from Ford Stevens had represented the city. They had won. They would make millions. Which explained why Dan was smiling when he stuck his hand out to Scott. They shook, and Dan’s expression turned to one of profound empathy.

‘Scotty . . . you’re trying to make the world a better place when you should be making money. You’re wasting your talents, son. Come back to the firm. You can have your old office back.’

‘I have an office.’

‘Yeah, but your old office comes with a Ferrari, a Highland Park mansion, a country club membership, and a million-dollar paycheck.’

A million dollars. Funny, but Scott’s first thought wasn’t the Ferrari or the mansion and certainly not the country club where his wife had met the assistant golf pro. It was braces for Pajamae.

‘Sid’s driving my Ferrari and sitting in my office.’

‘He won’t be if you come back. Scotty, watching you today, it was like watching Secretariat in his prime pulling a tourist buggy. Made me sad, thinking of all the money you could be making. The hooker’s case made you famous, you could be working the biggest cases in Texas. Instead, you’re working for the little people, doing good instead of doing well. You take this case on a contingency?’

Lawyers his age at big firms like Ford Stevens billed $750 an hour — $12.50 every minute, almost twice the US minimum hourly wage — and they billed in minimum six-minute increments: thirty seconds reading a letter or a one-minute phone call would cost the client a minimum charge of $75. But not Scott’s clients. He no longer billed by the hour. He now worked on a contingency fee: one-third of whatever he won, if he won. Big-firm lawyers billed by the hour and won even when their clients lost. Scott Fenney won or lost with his clients. Today, they had both lost.

‘A third of nothing is nothing, Scotty. We’re going home with millions, you’re going home with a hug from your client. That make you happy?’

‘Why do you want me back? I lost.’

Dan dismissed that concern with a wave of his hand.

‘Jesus Christ couldn’t have won this case, not in Dallas. But you should’ve won. Come back to the firm and be a winner again.’

‘For corporations.’

‘Who pay.’

‘I’m doing okay.’

‘That’s not what I hear. You’re behind on your office rent, can’t pay your staff ... you deserve better than that.’

He once had better than that. At Ford Stevens, Scott had made $750,000 a year, with benefits. Now he made $100,000 — in a good year. And this was not such a year. He had gone through every penny in his savings. He was broke.

‘Look, Scotty, you can’t take on these lost causes the rest of your life. How are you gonna take care of your girls, pay for their college, weddings ...?’


‘You got life insurance?’


‘What if you die? Who’s gonna raise those girls?’

He had named Bobby Herrin and Karen Douglas, his married law partners, as the girls’ guardians in his will.

‘Will they be able to afford two more kids?’

Hardly. They were soon to have their first child.

‘You gonna send those two smart girls to UT? Don’t you want to give them a good education? Harvard, Yale, Wellesley — think how proud you’d be dropping your daughters off at Wellesley for college. With that kind of education, their futures would be unlimited. But that’ll cost a hundred thousand a year by the time they’re eighteen. Times two. That’s a lot of money, Scotty — you gonna ask Rebecca to pay for their college?’


‘You see that son of a bitch won another tournament? Trey?’

Trey Rawlins was the man Scott’s wife had run off with. Dan was shaking his head.

‘Two years ago, he’s trying to cure my slice, now he’s a star on tour and filthy rich. You could be too, Scotty — filthy rich. What’d you always tell our law student recruits? “You want odds, go to Vegas. You want a chance to get filthy rich by the time you’re forty, hire on with Ford Stevens”. You’re only thirty-eight. There’s still time to save your career. Except you won’t be hiring on with Ford Stevens.’

‘What do you mean?’

Dan Ford paused and took a deep breath, as if he were about to make a big announcement.

‘Ford Fenney.’

‘Ford Fenney?’

‘Your name will be on the door, next to mine, where it belongs. Where it’s always belonged. Scotty, you were always like a son to me.’

‘Until you fired me. What was that, tough love?’

Scott had said no to his father-figure only once - and had gotten fired for it.

‘That was a mistake. I’m man enough to admit it, I hope you’re man enough to forgive me.’ Dan shrugged. ‘Besides, Mack’s dead now, so there’s no conflict.’

US Senator Mack McCall had died a year before of prostate cancer. He had been a Ford Stevens client. The conflict of interest had arisen when Scott had been appointed by Judge Buford to represent Pajamae’s mother - a black prostitute named Shawanda Jones — who had been charged with murdering Clark McCall, the senator’s son, after he had picked her up one Saturday night. Dan Ford had told Scott to throw the case to preserve McCall’s presidential bid; Scott had said no. So Dan had fired him. And A. Scott Fenney’s ambitious years had come to an abrupt end.

‘Scotty, the firm’s business is booming — I’ve added fifty lawyers since you left. Come share in it.’

‘Booming? In this economy?’

‘Bankruptcies. Business bankruptcies are at an all-time high, and lawyers get paid first, before the creditors.’ Dan chuckled. ‘You can’t get rich without a lawyer and you can’t go broke without a lawyer. Is this a great country or what?’

Dan’s smile faded, and he put a father’s hand on his son’s shoulder.

‘Come back to the firm. Do well for yourself ... and your girls.’

‘Dan — ’

‘Just think about it, Scotty, okay? Think about what’s best for your girls.’


They shook hands again, and Dan walked off, his brown wingtips clacking on the wood floor down the center aisle and out the double doors until the sound faded away. Scott sat alone in the vast courtroom, alone in his defeat. Alone with his thoughts.

One million dollars. A year. Every year. College. Weddings. Mortgage. Vacations. Cable TV. iPhones. Braces. Everything the girls needed or wanted. Except a mother. All he had to do was go back over to the dark side. Work for corporations who could pay $750 an hour to lawyers who sold their talents to the highest bidder.

And why shouldn’t he?

If he had played pro football, he wouldn’t have played for a poor, losing team just to make the games fair. He would have sold his talents to the highest bidder. No one faulted A-Rod for making $25 million a year playing baseball for the Yankees, the richest winning team in baseball. Why should A. Scott play for poor, losing teams? Why shouldn’t he reap the rewards of his talents? Why shouldn’t he provide for the girls? Why shouldn’t he take them to the south of France for summer vacation — or at least to the north of America? Why shouldn’t they go to Wellesley with the best girls in America? Why shouldn’t Pajamae have teeth that look like pearls?

Why shouldn’t he be filthy rich like the man his wife had run off with?

Chapter 4

United States District Judge Samuel Buford was seventy-eight years old now. The black reading glasses seemed too big for his gaunt face. His white hair was no longer thick; it was only wisps. From the chemo. Everyone had always said Sam Buford would die on the bench. They were right.

‘You should’ve won,’ the judge said when Scott entered his chambers.

Scott shrugged. ‘Just another case lost.’

‘Another lost cause.’

‘Someone’s got to lose those cases, Judge, or they wouldn’t be lost causes.’

The judge gestured at a chair. Scott sat and gazed across the wide desk at the frail judge dwarfed by his leather chair and framed by tall bookcases filled with law books. Each time Scott saw the judge there seemed to be less to see; it was as if he were disappearing before Scott’s eyes. And the judge now had the look of death about him, the same look as Scott’s mother when the cancer had won out and she knew it. Judge Samuel Buford was a living legend in the law. But not for long.

‘Scott, you can’t make a difference if you can’t pay your bills. It’s okay to take on a few paying clients every now and then.’

‘Making rich people richer ... I can’t seem to generate any enthusiasm for that line of work anymore.’

The judge gave him a knowing nod. ‘Once you cross over, it’s hard to go back.’

They regarded each other, two of a kind now.

‘How are you holding up, Judge?’

‘Doctors say six months.’

Sam Buford had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. But he was determined to clear his docket before he died.

‘Why don’t you retire, spend your time at home?’

‘Doing what? Wife’s been dead ten years now, the kids and grandkids live out of state, I don’t play golf...’ He paused and half-smiled, as if recalling a favorite moment. ‘Scott, I ever tell you I almost retired two years ago, during that case?’

‘The McCall murder case?’

The judge nodded.

‘No, sir, you didn’t.’

‘Well, I would’ve, if you hadn’t come back that day, said you were ready to be that girl’s lawyer. You gave me hope.’

‘Hope for what?’

‘The law ... lawyers ... life. Glad you came back. Glad I didn’t retire.’ He tossed a thumb at the law books behind him. ‘The law’s been my life. Thirty-two years of judging, I made a difference.’

Sam Buford had wielded a gavel since Scott was in first grade. All the toughest cases in Dallas had come before him, but he would forever be remembered — and reviled by many — for ordering the desegregation of public schools so black children would receive the same education as white children.

‘Yes, sir, you did. You’re a fine federal judge.’

‘You could be too.’

‘I could be what?’

‘A fine federal judge.’

‘Me? A federal judge?’

‘Scott, my bench will be vacant soon. I could put your name forward.’

‘Judge, McCall’s gone but both US senators from Texas are still Republicans. They’re not going to put a lawyer who sues the same corporations that contribute to their campaigns on the federal bench. And the president won’t nominate me unless they approve.’

Under Article Two of the US Constitution, the Senate must confirm every federal judge nominated by the president. For nominations to the Supreme Court, Senate confirmations become bloody battles between special interest groups pursuing single issues - abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, the right to bear AK-47s - because they know that those nine justices — nine lawyers — will decide the most contentious issues of the day: a Supreme Court decision is the law of the land.

Appeals court nominations are only slightly less bloody, because those lawyers are justices-in-waiting. But district court judges — trial judges — must follow decisions of the appeals courts and the Supreme Court, so the special interest groups keep their powder dry on those nominations. Consequently, federal district judges are effectively nominated by the two senators from the state in which they will serve and confirmed by rubber stamp. It’s called ‘Senatorial courtesy’: you don’t object to my home-state judges, I won’t object to yours.

The judge gave him a sly smile. ‘Haven’t you heard, Scott? I’m a living legend in the law.’ He pointed a bony finger at his phone. ‘I can call the president and he’ll answer. He’d grant a dying legend his last wish. And our Republican senators need his signature on their pork-barrel legislation to get reelected — which is a hell of a lot more important to them than who sits on the federal bench here in Dallas.’

‘But I’m not sure I’m up to it, being a federal judge.’

‘You’re up to it — because you possess the singular qualification for a federal judge.’

‘And what is that?’

‘You care.’

‘But — ’

‘You’ll be my age one day, Scott, facing death and looking back on your life, as I am now, judging the life you’ve lived, wondering if it was worthwhile, if the world will even know you were here. That’s important to a man.’

The last two years, Scott had learned that a man sitting in judgment of his own life is a harsh judge indeed.

‘If you don’t take my bench, Scott, a politician will — a lawyer looking to move up in the world, a lawyer who won’t make the tough decisions a judge must make for fear of the political impact on his career. An ambitious judge is a dangerous animal.’

‘Judge, I — ’

‘Lifetime appointment, Scott, a lifetime of getting paid to help the ... what did you call your clients?’

‘The dissed.’

‘Yes, the dissed. You could give the dissed a fair shake in that courtroom ... you could make their lives a little fairer ... a little less unjust ... and you could make a good living — lifetime salary, pension, life and health insurance — ’


‘Of course. You could be proud of your life, Scott, and still take care of your girls.’

The judge sat back and exhaled as if he were exhausted. Or dying. Scott felt as if he were losing a family member. If Dan Ford had been his father-figure, Samuel Buford had been his wise old grandfather-figure - not that the judge would claim any kinship with Scott’s former senior partner.

‘I saw Dan Ford in the courtroom. He trying to lure you back to Ford Stevens?’

Scott nodded. ‘Ford Fenney. My name on the door and a million dollars.’

‘That’s a lot of money.’ The judge coughed. ‘Doing good or doing well — that’s a daily decision for a lawyer, like other folks deciding between oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. You’ll do well at Ford Fenney. You’ll do good as Judge Fenney.’

‘Is it a good life, Judge?’

‘It is.’

United States District Judge Atticus Scott Fenney. His mother would be proud.

‘Scott, I’d die a happy man knowing you’d be sitting at my bench. May I put your name forward?’

‘Yes, sir. And thank you.’

Scott stood and shook Sam Buford’s hand. He would never see the judge alive again.


For the first time in two years, A. Scott Fenney had options in life.

Option A, he could return to the downtown practice of law and a million-dollar salary — back to a professional life dedicated to making rich people richer and getting filthy rich himself in the process - and back to a personal life of Ferraris and Highland Park mansions and exclusive all-white country clubs. Maybe another trophy wife. The wife and life most lawyers dream of. Option A required only that he call Dan Ford and say yes to Ford Fenney.

Option B, he could embark on a new life as a federal judge and a $169,000 salary - a professional life of seeing justice done - and a personal life of financial security, life and health insurance — including dental — paid vacations, and a fully-funded pension. He could be proud of his life and provide for his daughters. It would be a good life. A perfect life for United States District Judge A. Scott Fenney. Option B, however, required the support of the two Republican US senators from Texas and Senate confirmation. Even with Judge Buford backing him, it was far from a sure thing.

Option C, he could continue his current life of losing lost causes and not making enough money to pay the mortgage, cover the office overhead, take the girls on vacation, save for college, or buy braces for Pajamae.

He crossed out Option C.

Scott had often driven around Dallas in the Ferrari whenever he needed to think things out. Funny, but he didn’t seem to think as well in a Jetta. He parked and walked into the law offices of Fenney Herrin Douglas, an old two-story Victorian house located just south of Highland Park, and found the firm’s entire staff gathered around the front desk. They looked like the cast from Lost: Bobby Herrin, thirty-eight, the short, chubby character with thinning hair and a pockmarked face, always handy with a witty remark ... Karen Douglas, Bobby’s whip-smart and very pretty love-interest character (and now spouse), ten years his junior and seven months’ pregnant with their first child ... Carlos Hernandez, twenty-eight, the Latino character oozing machismo from every pore of his tattooed brown skin, six feet tall and two hundred pounds of muscle, dressed in black leather pants and a black T-shirt tight around his torso, studying to be a paralegal and the firm’s Spanish translator ... and Louis Wright, thirty years old, the gentle giant black character with the gold-toothed smile, the firm’s driver and Fenney family bodyguard. Their expressions were somber, as if they had just been told they would never get off this island.

‘Hey, guys, it’s not the first case we lost.’

‘We lost?’

Scott sighed. ‘Yeah, Bobby, we lost.’

‘Guess we don’t get paid this month,’ Carlos said.

Louis shot Carlos a sharp look.

‘Don’t worry, Carlos, I’ll figure something out.’

No one said anything.


The others glanced at Bobby as if he had drawn the black bean, then abruptly turned and headed to their respective offices. Before disappearing around the corner, Louis said, ‘Mr Fenney, appreciate the new book.’

Pajamae would not call him Dad, and Louis would not call him Scott.

‘That Fitzgerald dude,’ Louis said. ‘He’s pretty good.’ He stood tall and recited like a Shakespearean actor: ‘“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”.’

F. Scott had been right: life seemed to beat A. Scott back into his past.

‘Very good, Louis.’

Louis seemed proud as he walked out of the room.

‘What’s this month’s book club selection?’ Bobby said.

Louis’s formal education had ended with ninth grade, but he yearned for knowledge. So Scott had introduced him to books. Louis had developed a real passion for reading. Each month, Scott gave him a new book. Last month it was The Great Gatsby. This month it was —

‘No Country for Old Men.’

‘Good book. Movie, too.’

Scott climbed the stairs to his office. Bobby followed, smacking the gum he had taken to chewing to quit smoking now that he was going to be a father.

‘Billy,’ he said.

Baby names. They were going to have a boy.

‘Billy Herrin,’ Scott said. ‘Sounds like a shortstop.’





Scott and Bobby had grown up together, two renters in Highland Park. Scott’s football heroics had opened the door to success in Dallas for him, at least for a while. Bobby hadn’t been a football star, so the door had been shut in his face. After SMU law school, Scott had gone on to a partnership at Ford Stevens, Bobby to a storefront in East Dallas. After eleven years on career paths heading in opposite directions, they had reconnected two years ago for the McCall murder case. They had practiced law together since. They now entered Scott’s office.

‘Uh, Scotty, on the news this morning — ’

‘Bobby, you’re not going to believe what Buford wants to do.’


‘Put me up for federal judge, to replace him.’

‘No shit? Wow, that’s, uh, that’s great, Scotty.’

Bobby had stopped smacking his gum. Scott saw the concern on his friend’s face. Bobby was about to become a father and the ‘Fenney’ in ‘Fenney Herrin Douglas’ might leave the firm. They were barely making it now; without their lead lawyer, they wouldn’t make it at all.

‘Bobby, a federal judge gets to hire his own staff attorneys, like you and Karen. And a paralegal like Carlos and a ... well, I’ll have to figure out a position for Louis.’

‘So we’d be federal employees?’

‘With benefits.’


‘I’m sure — it’s the federal government.’

‘I’ve never had a job with benefits. ’Course, I’ve never had a real job.’

‘Well, you will now.’

‘If you get confirmed.’

‘A minor obstacle.’

‘With two Republican senators? I won’t count my benefits just yet. What about our clients?’

‘Civil rights claims are federal cases tried before federal judges.’ Scott settled in behind his desk, leaned back in his chair, and kicked his feet up. Bobby sat across from him. They were quiet, both considering their legal futures. Scott gazed at the gleaming downtown skyline framed in the window like a portrait. Once again, downtown Dallas beckoned to A. Scott Fenney. But would he return to a corner office on the sixty-second floor or to a judge’s chambers in the federal courthouse? To $1 million or $169,000? To Ford Fenney or as Judge Fenney? To money or justice? Two years before, he had faced the same choice; he had chosen justice. Which decision had cost him everything he had once held dear, including his wife. Everything except his daughter. But it had given him another daughter and another life, if not another wife. He would make the same choice again. And he would make the same choice now.

‘You’ll be a good judge, Scotty.’

‘Thanks, Bobby. So what were you saying?’

‘Oh ... yeah.’

Bobby’s jaws worked the gum hard again. He exhaled heavily.

‘There was a murder down in Galveston and she’s been arrested and charged — ’

‘She who?’

Bobby opened his mouth to answer, but Scott’s phone rang. He held up a finger to Bobby then put the receiver to his ear and said, ‘Scott Fenney.’ He heard a heavy sigh, almost a cry, then a voice he hadn’t heard in twenty-two months and eight days.

‘Scott — it’s Rebecca. I need you.’

Chapter 5

They would spend their summer vacation on Galveston Island.

It was the following Monday morning, and Scott wasn’t thinking about Ford Fenney or Judge Fenney. He was thinking about Rebecca Fenney. His ex-wife was sitting in the Galveston County Jail, charged with the murder of Trey Rawlins. The man his wife had left him for was now dead.

Scott was driving the Jetta south on Interstate 45 through East Texas. Consuela was sitting in the passenger’s seat and quietly saying the rosary - she was deathly afraid of Texas highways - and Boo and Pajamae were watching a Hannah Montana DVD on their portable player in the back seat while little Maria sucked on a pink pacifier and slept peacefully in her car seat between them. In the rearview Scott saw Bobby and Karen in their blue Prius, and behind them, Carlos and Louis in Louis’s black Dodge Charger.

‘Good God Almighty, Mr Fenney, what the heck is that?’

Pajamae was pointing out the left side of the car at a six-story-tall white statue overlooking the interstate like a giant toll booth attendant.

‘Sam Houston. The father of Texas.’

‘Mr Fenney, did you know that Sam Houston and a bunch of white boys just stole Texas from the Mexicans?’

Fifth grade had studied Sam Houston and sex.

‘I heard something about that.’

‘Our teacher said now the Mexicans are taking the place back, all of them moving here.’

‘What’s that?’ Boo asked.


‘No — that.’

They were now in Huntsville, located seventy miles due north of Houston and notable for two structures: the Sam Houston statue and the state penitentiary. In the rearview, Scott saw Boo looking out the side window. He glanced that way and saw what she saw: bleak brick buildings behind tall chain-link fences topped with concertina wire and secured by armed guards in towers at each corner of the perimeter. The State of Texas incarcerated 155,000 inmates in those buildings behind those fences.

‘A prison,’ he said.

In the rearview, he saw Boo twist in her seat to stare at the prison until it was out of sight. She turned back. Her face was pale. Scott knew her thoughts had returned to her mother. The murder had made the network news Friday and Saturday evenings, and no doubt the cable coverage was nonstop; fortunately, the Fenney household did not have cable. He had told Boo about her mother, but he was able to shield her from the worst of the news.

‘Mother’s in a place like that?’

‘No. That’s a prison. She’s in jail.’

‘What’s the difference?’

‘I can get her out of jail.’

She had left him for another man, a younger man who had given her what she had needed because her husband had not. Scott Fenney had failed her. Now, two years later, she needed what only Scott Fenney could give her: a defense to a murder charge. This time, he wouldn’t fail her.

‘I didn’t kill him,’ she had pleaded on the phone. ‘I swear to God, I’m innocent.’

Rebecca Fenney was not a murderer. Or his wife. But she was still the mother of his child. What does a man owe the mother of his child?

She said she had no money to hire a criminal defense lawyer. If Scott didn’t defend her, a public defender would be appointed to represent her. Which was another way of saying, Rebecca Fenney would become Texas Inmate Number 155,001. She would spend the rest of her life in those bleak buildings behind those tall fences. Boo would visit her mother in prison.

She had left him, but she had not taken Boo from him. ‘You need her more than she needs me,’ she had said back then. That one act of kindness had saved Scott’s life and had indebted him to her for life. He owed her.

A. Scott Fenney would defend the mother of his child.

Chapter 6

Galveston is a sand barrier island situated fifty miles south of Houston and two miles off the Texas coast, a narrow spit of sand thirty miles long and less than three miles wide. The city sits at the east end of the island, protected by a seventeen-foot-tall concrete seawall constructed after the Great Storm of 1900. West of the seawall the island lies at the mercy of the sea. So, naturally, that is exactly where developers — flush with cash during the great credit boom of the early twenty-first century — built hotels, high-rise condos, and luxury beach homes. The homes sat atop ten-foot-tall stilts, but they weren’t tall enough to withstand a hurricane pushing a seventeen-foot storm surge. On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike washed away the West End of Galveston Island. Street after street was nothing but stilts, as if God had dropped a box of giant toothpicks that had fallen to earth and embedded in the sand. The few surviving houses held a lonely vigil on the desolate beach. In 1528, the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on Galveston Island and soon dubbed his new home the Isla de Malhado —  the Island of Misfortune. The title still fit.

Scott had rented one of those survivors for $2,000 a month, half the going price before Ike. It was out past the condos and hotels and fishing piers off San Luis Pass Road, a two-story house on stilts with six bedrooms and four baths right on the beach. He parked the Jetta in the shade of the house. It was just after three.

‘Look — the beach!’ Boo said.

Galveston Beach was not white sand and blue water with sleek cigarette boats cutting through the waves like in Florida. The sand was tan, the water brown, and the boats oil and cargo tankers heading to the Ship Channel and the Port of Houston. But it was still a beach, something not found in Dallas.

The girls bailed out and ran to the sand.


Bobby parked the Prius behind the Jetta. He had followed Scott Fenney since ninth grade, like a young boy follows an older brother. Even during the eleven-year gap when Scotty had left him for Ford Stevens and a Highland Park mansion, Bobby had followed him in the society pages and business section of the newspaper. Now he had followed him to Galveston to defend his ex-wife charged with murdering the man she had run off with. He had tried to get Scotty to think it through, but he had said he had no choice: she needed him. He was going to Galveston. Bobby couldn’t let him go alone. Bobby Herrin was either loyal to a fault or he had a serious worship thing going.


Scott shielded his eyes from the sun and watched the girls on the beach. He turned back when Bobby got out of the Prius and said, ‘Forty-seven miles to the gallon, Scotty — doing seventy.’

A born-again hybrid driver. Bobby helped Karen out of the car. Her belly seemed bigger than when they had left Dallas. She had a funny expression on her face.

‘Another accident?’ Bobby said.

She nodded. Bobby turned to Scott.

‘Every time she laughs or cries, she pees her pants. She wears adult diapers now.’

Karen was now the girls’ de facto mother. They — and Scott — relied on her for the motherly touch, even though she was still two months away from being a mother.

‘They’re really not that bad,’ she said. ‘Although they do crawl up — ’

The roar of a massive engine drowned out her voice and the image of her diaper crawling up from Scott’s mind. The black Dodge Charger screeched to a stop, windows down and music blaring. Louis was singing along like a rock band’s groupie, and Carlos was playing the drums with two pencils on the dashboard. Bobby shook his head.

‘Five hours in a car without air-conditioning - the heat got to them.’

Scott checked again on the girls. They were splashing through the surf He cupped his mouth and yelled, ‘Stay where I can see you!’

The concert abruptly ended. Louis climbed out of the Charger and headed to the beach with a book in hand. Duty called.

‘I got ’em,’ he said.

Next to the house was a concrete basketball court, apparently the neighborhood playground when there was still a neighborhood. Under the house was an open garage. Scott counted four stilts in, then reached up and found the house key right where the rental service had said it would be. They climbed stairs to a deck overlooking the beach with chairs and a table with an umbrella. A digital thermometer mounted on the frame of a sliding glass door read ‘88’ but the sea breeze made it seem cooler. Scott unlocked the door and entered the house. Inside was a spacious room with a kitchen at one end and a living area with a big-screen television at the other. Two bedrooms with private baths were on that floor, and four bedrooms that shared two baths were on the top floor. Karen and Consuela checked out the kitchen, Carlos the refrigerator, and Bobby the television. He pointed the remote at the TV like a gunman holding up a convenience store and commenced channel-surfing.

‘CNN, CMT, TNT, MTV, HBO ... We must have a hundred cable channels.’

The girls’ wish had come true, at least for the summer.

‘Consuela and I’ll go get groceries,’ Karen said. ‘After Maria and I change our diapers.’

Bobby had not turned from the television. ‘CNBC, MSNBC, Hallmark, Cartoon Channel, History Channel, Food Channel ... Hey, pick up some beer, okay?’

‘But not that light beer,’ Carlos said. ‘Man beer.’

Karen laughed. ‘Man beer? Is that on the label? You want man beer, Carlos, you come with us. You can drive.’

‘Yeah, okay. Mr Herrin, we get Telemundo?’

‘I’m not there yet. Bravo, Disney, Discovery, SciFi ... Yep, we got Telemundo.’

‘Oh, good. I won’t miss Doña Bárbara.’

‘Carlos, do you drink man beer while watching soap operas?’

‘No. Just baseball and Dancing with the Stars. That Julianne girl, she is hot.’

Scott felt as if he were starring in a reality show: Survivor-Galveston Island. A lawyer defends his ex-wife accused of murdering the star pro golfer she left himfor. Who in Hollywood could dream that up? Who would dare? And the case would surely make the TV and tabloids. Scott Fenney might well end up the butt of jokes on Letterman — The Top 10 Reasons a Lawyer Would Defend His Ex-Wife — or at the annual state bar convention’s gossip sessions. But if he didn’t represent her, Rebecca Fenney would surely end up a prison inmate. He would blame himself, and one day, Boo would also blame him. He could not allow that day to come.

‘Man,’ Bobby said, ‘we get all the sports channels - FSN, ESPN, Golf — ’

Scott was standing at the open glass doors and staring out at a solitary seagull struggling against the wind when he realized the room behind him had fallen silent. He turned back. Everyone now stood frozen in place and focused on the TV. On the screen was the image of Trey Rawlins, shirtless and sweating — the man who had had sex with Scott’s wife while she was still his wife — and who was now dead. He held up a glass of chocolate milk and in a smooth Texas drawl said, ‘Golfers are athletes too, even if you do ride in an electric cart. So after your round, you need a recovery drink — and the best recovery drink is all-natural chocolate milk, just like your mama used to give you after school.’ He gulped down the milk in one continuous drink and emerged with a brown upper lip and a big smile. ‘Got chocolate milk? Then get some.’

The screen cut to the announcer: ‘That was Trey’s final commercial.’

Behind the announcer was a view of a golf course; a byline read ‘Houston Classic’. The pro golf tour was in Houston that week.

The announcer: ‘Trey Rawlins was coming off a big win at the California Challenge the week before and was even odds to win the Open in New York next week. His murder has shocked the sports world and his fellow tour players.’

‘I’m stunned,’ a tanned golfer in a golf visor said. ‘Trey was like a brother to me.’

‘I can’t believe he’s dead,’ another golfer said. ‘I’m really gonna miss him.’

‘I wish I had his swing,’ a third golfer said.

The Trey Rawlins golf swing now filled the screen in slow-motion. It was a long, fluid, powerful swing — a thing of beauty. They were both things of beauty, Trey and his swing. Even if you didn’t follow golf, you knew of Trey Rawlins. His face was everywhere; he endorsed golf equipment, golf apparel, sports drinks, and chocolate milk. He was clean-cut and handsome, young and vital; his hair was blond, his face tan, and his eyes a brilliant blue. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist.

‘He had it all,’ the announcer said. ‘The swing, the putting stroke, the movie-star looks. Could he have been the next Tiger? Who knows? But in less than two years on tour, he had won four times, finished second seven times, and earned nine million dollars. His future was as bright as his smile. Trey Rawlins was the All-American boy.’

Video played of Trey signing autographs for kids, teaching kids at junior golf clinics, visiting sick kids at a hospital, and announcing the establishment of the Trey Rawlins Foundation for Kids while surrounded by kids. He looked like Robert Redford in that scene from The Natural.

The announcer: ‘Trey cared deeply about giving back to the community.’

That was followed by more testimonials, first from Trey’s sports agent: ‘He wasn’t just my client. He was my best friend.’

And from his equipment sponsor: ‘We were honored to have Trey endorse our golf products, which he honestly felt were the best on the market. I loved the guy.’

And finally from a tour official: ‘The fans have lost a great golfer and an even greater young man, and we have lost a brother, a member of the tour family.’

The screen lingered on the image of Trey Rawlins with the sick kids.

Scott had never paid much attention to Trey when he had worked at the Highland Park Country Club. Trey Rawlins had been one of the young assistant pros who came and went with the seasons; A. Scott Fenney had been a member in good standing at the most exclusive country club in Dallas. They had not occupied the same social stratum. But then Rebecca Fenney had fled Dallas with the assistant pro who soon became a star on the pro golf tour; and A. Scott Fenney had soon lost his membership, his mansion, and his Ferrari — as well as his wife. But he had never blamed Trey. He had taken Scott’s wife, but he couldn’t take someone who wasn’t there for the taking. So while Trey’s death had brought Scott’s wife back to him, it had brought him no solace.

When the broadcast resumed, the announcer said, ‘Trey is survived by his twin sister, Terri Rawlins. Funeral services will be held Thursday at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Galveston, where we now go live to Renee Ramirez for an update on the criminal investigation.’

The picture cut to a beautiful young Latina reporter standing in front of the Galveston County Jail. ‘Trey Rawlins, the fifth-ranked professional golfer in the world, was found brutally murdered in the bedroom of his multimillion-dollar Galveston beach house early Friday morning. He was only twenty-eight years old.’

A video showed workers wearing white jumpsuits with ‘Galveston County Medical Examiner’ printed on the back removing a body from a white beach house.

Back to the reporter: ‘Galveston County Police Detective Chuck Wilson gave a statement to the media Friday morning outside the murder scene.

A clip from the interview played. The detective was middle-aged and tall and stood before a dozen microphones clumped together on a podium in front of the white house. He wore sunglasses and looked like Dirty Harry.

‘At approximately three-fifty this morning police were called to the residence of Trey Rawlins, the professional golfer. Mr Rawlins was found in his bed, deceased. He had been stabbed. Police found Rebecca Fenney, age thirty-five, in the residence with his blood on her body and clothing. We questioned Ms Fenney, and at approximately eight this morning, we placed Ms Fenney under arrest for the murder of Trey Rawlins. She is currently being held at the county jail.’

An image of Rebecca and Trey in happier times appeared on the screen. The reporter said, ‘Rebecca Fenney was Trey Rawlins’ longtime companion on tour. She now stands accused of his murder. She’s being held without bail pending her indictment by the grand jury, but she has denied killing Trey. I’ve learned that her ex-husband, a Dallas lawyer, has notified police that he is representing her. He is expected to arrive in town today, so I’ve been waiting here hoping to get a word with him. Back to you, Hal.’

Hal, the announcer: ‘Her ex-husband is defending her? For murdering the man she ran off with? Can he do that? Isn’t that some kind of conjlict of interest? Or at least a conflicted interest?’ Hal shook his head. ‘Well, that proves he’s a better man than me.’

Back to the reporter: ‘No, Hal, that proves he’s a better lawyer than you. For enough money, a lawyer will represent anyone — even his wife who left him for the man she’s now accused of murdering.’

Scott sighed and said, ‘Ex-wife.’

Chapter 7

The Galveston County Jail stands at 57th and Broadway, the main drag on the Island. The peach-colored, 1,171-bed structure is surrounded by palm trees and gives the impression of a retirement community. For some of the inmates, it might be.

When Scott steered the Jetta into the parking lot, Renée Ramirez and her cameraman were still camped out on the front sidewalk. But she was expecting a Dallas lawyer — a guy wearing a suit and driving a luxury automobile, not a guy wearing shorts and sneakers and driving a Volkswagen - so Scott walked right past her without attracting more than a coy smile and a whiff of her sweet perfume. He entered the lobby and went over to the bail window but turned at the sound of chains dragging across concrete: a line of tattooed men wearing white GALVESTON COUNTY INMATE jumpsuits and shackles shuffled past and through a secure door under the close supervision of two guards packing pump shotguns, but not before one inmate said something in Spanish to a female guard and grabbed his crotch, which earned him a rifle butt rammed into his ribs.

‘Help you?’

Scott turned back to the window. A chubby young man who looked more like a mall cop than a certified Texas peace officer addressed him. He wore a khaki Galveston County Sheriff’s Department uniform and sat at a desk on the other side of the window. Behind him, more uniformed officers sat at desks scattered about the room.

‘I’m Scott Fenney from Dallas.’ He handed his business card to the officer, who looked at it and frowned as if it were written in French. ‘I’m representing Rebecca Fenney. I’m here to pick her up.’

The officer looked up from the card. ‘Pick her up? What, like a prom date?’ He shook his head. ‘Sorry, buddy, you don’t just pick up someone accused of murder. She’s staying right there in that cell till the grand jury indicts her.’

‘Oh. Okay. Then please give me a copy of the magistrate’s written finding of probable cause.’

‘Do what?’

‘My client was arrested at eight Friday morning without a warrant and charged with a felony, to-wit, murder under section nineteen of the Texas Penal Code. Section seventeen of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires that she be released within seventy-two hours after her arrest unless a magistrate determines that probable cause exists to believe she committed the crime. That time period expired at eight this morning. So you must either show me the magistrate’s determination of probable cause or release my client.’

The officer stared slack-jawed at Scott.

‘To-what?’ He held up a finger as if gauging the wind. ‘Uhh ... hold on a sec.’ He swiveled around in his chair and called out. ‘Sarge — we got a lawyer up here quoting the Penis Code. He’s from Dallas.’

A weary-looking older cop eating a donut at a desk along the back wall glanced up from his newspaper. He finished off the donut, removed his reading glasses, and pushed himself out of his chair. He hitched up his uniform trousers then walked to the window. When he arrived, the officer manning the window held up Scott’s business card. Sarge took it and held it at arm’s length trying to find a focus point without his reading glasses. He finally gave up and instead gave Scott a once-over.

‘You a lawyer?’

Scott nodded. ‘Scott Fenney from Dallas. I represent Rebecca Fenney.’

Sarge jabbed his head at the officer manning the window.

‘Junior here, he thinks he’s some kind of comedian, been saying “Penis Code” since he hired on a year ago. Problem is, he’s a one-joke comedian and it ain’t even a funny joke.’ Sarge sighed. ‘But then, you don’t get PhDs for jailers, do you, Junior?’

‘Nope, sure don’t, Sarge.’

Sarge eyed Junior a moment, then shook his head and turned back to Scott.

‘So what can I do you for?’

‘Release Rebecca Fenney.’

‘And why would I do that?’

‘Because the law requires you to.’

‘The law?’

As if Scott had said ‘the Pope’.

‘My client was arrested without a warrant ...’ Scott repeated his recitation of the law for Sarge then added, ‘And since my client has no assets, she must be released on her personal recognizance.’

‘Is that so?’

‘That is so, Sarge. So please give me either the magistrate’s written determination of probable cause or my client.’

Sarge grunted and scratched himself then pivoted and went back to his desk. He put on his reading glasses, picked up his phone, and dialed. He didn’t lower his voice.

‘Yeah, Rex, we got a lawyer over here, says he represents the Fenney woman ... No, he’s from Dallas’ — Sarge focused on Scott’s card through his reading glasses — ‘name’s A. Scott Fenney ... Hold on, I’ll ask.’ Sarge turned to Scott. ‘You the A. Scott Fenney?’

‘I’m the only one I know.’

Back to the phone. ‘He don’t know ... What? ... Hold on.’ Back to Scott. ‘You related to her?’

‘She’s my ex-wife.’

Sarge blinked hard. ‘You’re kidding?’ Sarge returned to the phone, a bit amused. ‘Says she’s his ex ... Yeah, I’d let mine rot in jail, too, that no-good ... Anywho, he says we gotta release her on PR ’cause she was arrested without a warrant and no one took her before a magistrate for a PC hearing and ... Really? ... I’ll be damned ... Okay, you’re the boss.’

Sarge hung up and walked back to the window. To Junior he said, ‘Cut her loose.’ To Scott he said, ‘The DA, he said you’re absolutely right ... and he said to come see him tomorrow morning.’ Sarge nodded at the front door behind Scott. ‘Down the street, in the courthouse.’

‘I’ll do that.’

Scott handed Junior the bag of clothes Karen had given him for Rebecca. Then he found a vacant chair among weary women and young children waiting for daddy to be bailed out of jail as if it were just part of their normal Monday routine and waited for his ex-wife to be processed out of jail.

He never had closure, as they say on TV. Never had a chance to say goodbye. Twenty-two months and eleven days ago she had left him. He hadn’t spoken to her or seen her since, except once on television. One Sunday, a few months after she had left, Scott had watched the final round of a golf tournament Trey Rawlins had won; after he had putted out for the victory, the camera caught her jumping into his arms and kissing him — on national TV. Scott had never watched another golf tournament.

How should he greet her now? Should he shake hands with her? Should he kiss her on the cheek like Leno greeting a female guest? Should he hug her? How is a man supposed to greet his ex-wife who’s accused of murdering the man she cheated with? How is a lawyer supposed to greet his new client who used to be his wife? What are the rules for this sort of thing?

He hadn’t come up with any answers when the secure door opened, and she was suddenly standing there. She was dressed in a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. She wore no makeup. Her red hair was ratty and cut shorter than before, but she seemed not to have aged a day in the two years. Her skin was still creamy with a hint of sunburn, and her body still remarkably lean and fit. Even at thirty-five - even after spending three days in jail - Rebecca Fenney’s beauty still stunned him.

Scott stood.

Her eyes darted around the crowded lobby like a lost child looking for her parents. She spotted him and almost ran to him. She was crying before she threw her arms around him.

‘Oh, Scott. Thank God you came.’

She clutched him tightly for a long moment, then he felt her slim body sag in his arms. She sobbed into his chest. After all that time, she was back in his arms. She felt good even if she didn’t smell so good. She finally wiped her face on his shirt and looked up at him.

‘I’m sorry, I must smell awful after three days.’

‘You didn’t shower?’

‘With those women? You wouldn’t believe how many prostitutes are in Galveston. I was so afraid.’

He released her. ‘Did they hurt you?’

‘The women?’

‘The police.’

‘They brought me here in handcuffs, they took my clothes, hosed me down ... Scott, they sprayed me for lice.’

‘Why didn’t you hire a lawyer to get you out of here?’

‘I don’t have any money.’

‘On TV, they said Trey earned millions.’

‘None of it’s mine.’

‘You could’ve put your house up to secure bond.’

‘It’s not mine either. Nothing is. The house, the cars, the yacht — everything belongs to ... Why would someone kill Trey? This is all like a bad dream.’

‘It’s real. But I’m here now, Rebecca. I’ll take care of you.’

She glanced around as if worried they had made a mistake and would throw her back in jail. ‘Can we leave now?’

‘Not out the front door. Reporter.’

Scott went back to the bail window, signed for her personal effects, and asked Sarge if Rebecca could leave out a back door. Sarge obliged. While he took her around back, Scott walked outside and past Renée Ramirez just as her cell phone rang. She answered and said, ‘What? He’s here? I didn’t see a lawyer go in.’ She hung up and hurried inside, trailed by her cameraman. Scott got into the Jetta and drove around back where he found Sarge with Rebecca. He opened the door for her like a hotel doorman.

‘Hope you enjoyed your stay, ma’am.’

Sarge shut the door and gave them a little salute. Scott drove around front just as Renée Ramirez and her cameraman came running back out.

‘Duck down.’

Rebecca ducked her head until they had exited the parking lot. When she came back up, she said, ‘What happened to the Ferrari?’

‘Repoed. I lost everything. Sold the house to avoid foreclosure when the bank called the note.’

Scott stopped at a red light at Broadway. They sat in silence until the light turned green. He stepped on the gas pedal, and she spoke in a soft voice.

‘Scott, they think I killed Trey. Why?’

‘I don’t know. But I’ll find out.’



Scott parked on Seawall Boulevard, fronting the Gulf of Mexico.

‘Let’s walk.’

They got out. Rebecca lifted her face to the sun and closed her eyes, inhaling the fresh sea air like a lifer pardoned after thirty years behind bars.

‘I’m free. Thank God. I thought I was going to die in there.’

Three days in county jail — she’d never make life in prison. They walked down the wide sidewalk. To their left were bars, restaurants, hotels, and condos across the boulevard; to their right was the beach, seventeen feet below. The air was warm and the blue sky free of clouds. The breeze blew strong and brought the smell of the sea to shore. Above them, white seagulls floated on the wind currents then suddenly dove down to the water and swooped back up with fish in their beaks. Down below on the beach, colorful umbrellas lined the narrow strip of sand. Sunbathers lay on towels, surfers rode the low waves, and tourists tiptoed through the tide. Waves crashed against the jetties or died out in the sand. To anyone who observed them, they were just another couple strolling the seawall on a fine summer day, not a lawyer and his ex-wife who stood accused of murdering her lover. A police cruiser with lights flashing and siren wailing sped past. Rebecca froze until it was out of sight.

‘Scott, I can’t go back to that jail.’

‘You won’t.’

That assurance and the fresh air seemed to relax her. A block further down, she pointed at two rows of pilings extending into the Gulf.

‘That’s all that’s left of the Balinese.’

From 1920 when the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibiting the manufacture, sale, transportation, and importation of intoxicating liquors in America took effect through 1957, sinners flocked to Galveston for booze, prostitution, and gambling. Galveston became known as ‘Sin City’. And no venue on the Island offered more sin than the Balinese Room, a swanky South Sea-themed speakeasy situated at the end of a wooden pier extending six hundred feet into the Gulf of Mexico. Two Sicilian-immigrant barbers-turned-bootleggers named Salvatore and Rosario Maceo brought sin and stars to Galveston. Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, and Groucho Marx played the Balinese, where a bartender concocted the first margarita. Proud locals dubbed their lawless island the ‘Free State of Galveston’ where sin reigned supreme until the Texas Rangers raided the Balinese Room and shut down vice on the Island. The Balinese’s glory days came to an end, but the red building on the 21st Street pier had remained a Galveston landmark until Hurricane Ike washed it out to sea.

‘Remember that spring break?’ Rebecca asked.

He did. They had come to Galveston with a group from SMU, he the former football star and she the reigning Miss SMU. They had partied at the Balinese Room and had sex on the beach. Every night.

‘I could never drive past the Balinese without thinking of that week,’ she said.

‘Why, Rebecca?’

‘Those nights on the beach — ’

‘No. Why’d you leave me?’

Twenty-two months and eleven days he had waited to ask her that question.

‘Scott, I ...’

‘I kept your letter. You said — ’

‘Don’t, Scott. I’m not that person anymore.’

‘Rebecca, what did you need from me that I didn’t give you?’

‘It wasn’t you, Scott. It was me.’

‘Was it because I lost everything?’

‘It was because I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. I was playing a role. All my life I had played a role. Little Miss Texas. Miss Dallas. Miss SMU. Miss Cheerleader. Mrs A. Scott Fenney of Highland Park. I felt like I was always onstage ... or in a cage. Like an animal in the zoo, everyone staring at me. When the cage door opened, I ran.’ She faced him. ‘I’m sorry, Scott. I know I hurt you ... both of you.’

They walked another block before Rebecca spoke again.

‘Can I see her? Boo.’

Chapter 8

‘And Scotty Junior was a girl named Boo,’ Rebecca said.

Scott had parked in the shade of the beach house, but they had not gotten out. They sat and watched Boo on the beach. She had changed into a white swimsuit and was building a sand castle with a little shovel and bucket.

‘Last time I saw her, she had her hair in cornrows.’

‘That lasted a while, then she went to the ponytail.’

‘She’s so tall.’

‘She’s eleven now.’

‘I sent her birthday presents.’

Boo had never opened them.

‘How is she?’

‘She’s good. Makes straight As. They both do.’

‘Both who?’

‘She and her sister.’

‘Sister? You remarried?’

‘I adopted.’

He pointed at Pajamae, who came running down the beach to Boo. Louis soon followed and stood watch nearby, holding a book as if reading to the girls below or the gulls above.

‘Shawanda’s daughter.’

‘That’s her? The little black girl you brought home?’

Scott nodded. ‘Her mother died. She’s mine now.’

‘She’s living with you in Highland Park?’


‘How’s that working?’

‘It has its moments.’

‘I read you got her mother off.’

‘She was innocent.’

‘So am I.’

They watched the girls a while longer, then Scott said, ‘She might act mad at first, so be prepared.’

Rebecca took a deep breath and opened her door. They got out and walked to the beach. Pajamae spotted them and waved. Boo looked their way then shielded her eyes from the sun. Her hand dropped, and she stood frozen, as if trying to choose between her anger or her mother. After a long moment, she broke into a big smile and ran to her mother. Rebecca dropped to her knees and held her arms out; Boo dove into her arms, and they fell to the sand. Their heads of red hair became one. Scott left them alone and walked over to Pajamae and Louis.


‘Boo’s real happy to see her mama,’ Pajamae said.

Louis looked up from his book. ‘I expect she is.’

Pajamae stood motionless, watching Boo and her mother and wondering if she would lose her sister to that woman.


Scott arrived and said, ‘Honey, let’s find some seashells.’

‘Soon as I finish this chapter, Mr Fenney,’ Louis said.

‘I meant Pajamae.’

‘Oh. Say, I like this Cormac dude. Writes like real folks talk.’ He snapped the book shut like a preacher who had just finished his sermon. ‘Reckon I’ll build us a fire ring. Mr Herrin, he says we gonna barbecue shrimp on the beach tonight.’


‘Shrimp on the barbie and man beer on the beach,’ Bobby said. ‘Doesn’t get any better than this.’

They were drinking bottled beer iced in a tin bucket stuck in the sand and eating char-broiled shrimp dipped in Louis’s homemade Cajun-style barbecue sauce. Louis had constructed a fire ring from rocks that would have made a brick mason proud. Inside the ring, the fire spit flames up through a black grill that made the shrimp sizzle. They were sitting around the campfire like cowboys on a cattle drive. And there among his friends and his children and his wife — ex-wife, but still — Scott Fenney felt whole again.

The air had cooled enough for the girls to need sweatshirts. Boo’s head lay in Rebecca’s lap and Pajamae’s in Boo’s lap. They were fighting sleep, afraid they might miss something grownup and interesting. Consuela held Maria in her arms; the baby was wrapped in a blanket like a papoose. The moon and fire provided the only light. The burning wood crackled and popped and spit sparks that floated up into the dark night sky and filled the air with a sweet aroma. Rebecca’s face glowed in the light of the fire. She had showered, and her red hair was now full and fluffy in the night breeze. She did not look like a murderer.

‘You’re in your eighth month?’ she said to Karen.

Karen was eating ice cream. ‘And enjoying every constipated moment of it.’

‘Louis’s barbecue sauce will take care of that,’ Bobby said.

‘Guaranteed cure for all that ails a body,’ Louis said.

Rebecca held her plate out to Louis again. She was eating as if she’d been a political prisoner on a starvation fast in jail; but the food had improved her mood. She had spent the rest of the day walking the beach with Boo. When Boo had gone inside to clean up, Rebecca had stood alone on the beach, staring out to sea, as if the answer to her prayers lay out there, somewhere. Scott had gone to her and stood by her. She had seemed depressed, but that was to be expected. She was the prime suspect in a murder case. Rebecca now turned to Karen.

‘Did you go to SMU?’


‘But you’re pretty enough to have gotten into SMU.’

‘I was smart enough to get into Rice.’

‘Oh. So how’d you hook up with these guys?’

‘I worked for Scott at Ford Stevens. Didn’t care for that life, so I left to help them with Shawanda’s case. Plus, I fell for a certain handsome lawyer.’

‘But she married me,’ Bobby said.

‘Don’t make me laugh, Bobby, I’ll pee in my pants again.’


‘You’ll be a great father, Bobby,’ Rebecca said. ‘Seems like yesterday we were all at SMU ... What happened to all that curly hair?’

‘Too much testosterone. Makes you go bald.’

‘Oh, that explains it,’ Karen said. ‘I’ve gained forty pounds and he still can’t keep his hands off me.’

‘I’ve only gained thirty,’ Bobby said.

They talked and laughed and ate shrimp and drank beer, as if they were on a family vacation. Scott wished they were. But they were there because the man who had taken his wife was dead.

‘We had a lot of good times back then,’ Rebecca said.

‘Last time we were down here, that spring break,’ Bobby said, ‘I almost got into a fight at the Balinese with some UT guys. Scotty saved me.’

‘A. Scott got into a fight at the Village,’ Boo said. She and Pajamae sat up. ‘Mother, it was so exciting!’

‘A fight?’ Rebecca said. ‘At a shopping center?’

‘He beat up a car with his nine-iron,’ Boo said.


‘Because I didn’t have a three-wood,’ Scott said.

‘Because the bad man followed me and Pajamae there,’ Boo said, ‘so I called A. Scott and he came and broke out the windows on the man’s car with his golf club, then the man drove off. It was great.’

‘What bad man?’

‘McCall’s goon,’ Scott said.

‘When was this?’

‘The day you left,’ Boo said.


There was an awkward moment of silence. Everyone stared at the sand. Scott stood. ‘Okay, time for bed.’

‘Can Mother stay here? She can sleep with us.’

‘She’s going home.’ To Rebecca: ‘Where is your home?’

She pointed west into the darkness. ‘About two miles down the beach. But I can’t go home.’

‘Why not?’

‘The police told me not to go back when they released me from jail, said it was still a crime scene, said I can’t even get my clothes.’

‘They’ve got to finish processing the house soon. Then you can go back.’

‘I don’t think so. A lawyer for Trey’s sister sent me a letter in jail, said I wouldn’t be allowed back in, that she was the administrator of his estate and the sole beneficiary. Said she owns the house now, that I have no legal right to enter.’

‘I need to see that letter.’

‘Scott, I’ll stay at a hotel ... if you’ll loan me the money.’

Scott had put the beach house on his credit card. Four thousand dollars for two months. Now a hotel room for Rebecca. Another expense he couldn’t afford.

‘Miz Fenney,’ Louis said, ‘you can have my room. Me and Carlos, we’ll bunk in.’

Carlos finished off his beer then said, ‘You snore?’

Louis shrugged. ‘How would I know?’

Boo jumped up and tugged on her mother until she stood. ‘Come on, we’ll have a sleepover. The three of us.’

Rebecca looked to Scott. He nodded. Rebecca Fenney would stay that night and every night until the verdict was read.

Chapter 9

Scott was running the beach at first light.

Knowing that after almost two years Rebecca was again sleeping in the same house — in a bed just on the other side of two Sheetrock panels thin enough that he could hear her every movement — had kept him tossing and turning all night ... and recalling memorable moments from their sex life. So when the sunlight hit the blinds of his room, he put on his shorts and running shoes and hit the sand.

He ran west, away from the rising sun. The wet sand glistened in the morning light and felt spongy beneath his shoes. The tide was out, and the beach sat wide, filled with a fresh assortment of seashells and sand crabs scurrying sideways and jellyfish stranded out of water. Seagulls picked over dead fish, and a pelican stood witness. The wind was down, the sea smooth, and the waves low swells instead of whitecaps. The air was fresh, and the beach was his.

He ran hard to burn up his desire for her. All that time without her, now they were suddenly living together again. He hadn’t bargained for that. But then, he wasn’t sure what he had bargained for when he agreed to defend her. It wasn’t a lawyerly decision; it was a manly decision. He needed to know how he had failed her as a man.

Scott Fenney did not have to confront his past during that morning’s run — because he was now living it.


Shortly after Rebecca had left him, a Dallas divorce lawyer who had suffered the same marital fate had shared with Scott his ‘seven stages of wife desertion’:1. disbelief — you’re numb with shock that your wife had actually left you for another man;

2. denial — you decide she must have a brain tumor, the only plausible explanation for such bizarre behavior;

3. anger — you lash out at her for betraying you;

4. remorse — you promise to change if she will only return so life can be the same again;

5. shame — you isolate yourself because you know that everywhere you go everyone knows;

6. blame - she left you and your child, but somehow you failed her. You blame yourself. It was your fault.


The first five stages, Scott had discovered, pass in due course. But the blame stage lasts ... forever? And only when he had escaped from the sixth stage would he embark on the final stage: (7) recovery.

Would he ever recover from Rebecca Fenney?


He saw her in the distance, a lone figure dressed in white standing on the beach before a stark white house rising in sharp relief against the blue morning sky. The sun’s rays highlighted her and the house and made them both glow. The sand rose up from the beach to a low manmade earthen dune, the developer’s apparent attempt to tame the sea. The front portion of the house sat atop the dune, the back half atop tall stilts. But this was not a beach bungalow rented out to tourists and college kids on spring break. It was a four-story multimillion-dollar residence with a second-story deck extending out toward the sea; stairs led from the deck down to the beach. Yellow crime scene tape stretched between police barricades set up around the perimeter of the house. He stopped running and walked to her. She felt his presence and turned to him. Tears ran down her face.

‘I dreamed last night that he was just at a tournament, and he came back. How can he be gone?’

She buried her face in his bare chest. Her tears felt cool on his hot skin, and she felt good in his arms. No matter what she had done to him, they still shared a child. When a man and a woman come together and create another human being, they forge a bond that is never broken. The marriage might break, but that bond does not. And so he now embraced that woman, the mother of his child, not the woman who had deserted him for another man. He held her and let her cry until she had cried out. Only then did he say, ‘Rebecca, what happened that night?’

‘I woke up and found him. Dead.’

‘Before that.’

She wiped her face. ‘We had dinner at Gaido’s.’

‘What time?’


‘Did you drink?’

‘We both did.’

‘Were you drunk?’

‘We were celebrating.’


She hesitated and turned away. ‘Trey asked me to marry him.’

‘After two years?’

She shrugged.

‘What did you say?’

‘I said yes.’

Two years and it still hurt.

‘Who saw you there?’

‘Other locals ... Ricardo, our regular waiter.’

‘Did you argue?’

‘With Ricardo?’

‘With Trey.’

‘No. We were happy. It was a special night.’

‘Did Ricardo hear Trey propose to you?’

‘I don’t think so. But we told him later.’

‘Then what happened?’

‘We came home.’

‘Who drove?’

‘Trey. He never let me drive the Bentley.’

‘He had a Bentley?’

‘Convertible. It’s in the garage.’

‘What time did you get home?’


‘Long dinner.’

‘Like I said, it was a special night.’

‘Then what?’

‘We took a walk on the beach. Right here. Then we went to bed.’

‘What time?’

‘Eleven. Trey was going to get up early, practice for the Open.’

‘Then you woke up?’

‘I was cold.’

Her eyes fixed on the deck above them. Her voice was dispassionate, as if she had been a third-party observer of the events that night.

‘The bedroom’s right there, just off the deck. We slept with the French doors open, to hear the waves. I got up to close the doors, but I came out onto the deck. It’s quiet out here, just the waves ... the sea spray hit me, I wiped my face ... but I still felt wet ... I looked down at myself, saw something dark all over me ... I ran back inside, turned the lights on ... blood was everywhere ... all over him ... all over me. I slept in his blood.’

She started crying again. He put an arm around her shoulders.

‘Rebecca — ’

He waited until she turned to him. He needed to look into her eyes when he asked the next question - and when she answered.

‘ — did you kill him?’

She did not avert her eyes.

‘No. I swear to God. Scott, I loved him.’

And Scott Fenney had loved her. Maybe he still did. He wasn’t sure. But he was sure about one thing: after eleven years of marriage — eleven years sharing the same bed — he knew her. Rebecca Fenney was not a murderer.


They walked back to the beach house and found Consuela and Louis cooking breakfast, Karen feeding Maria — the baby wasn’t taking to the broccoli any better that day - and Bobby, Carlos, and the girls watching TV. Boo jumped up and ran to him.

‘A. Scott, we’ve got cable!’

‘Just for the summer — and only the Disney Channel.’

She looked at him with an expression that said, as if, but she said, ‘Did you check your pulse?’


‘Do you feel faint or dizzy? Are you experiencing chest pain?’

‘Boo, I feel fine. Stop worrying.’

She frowned and turned to Rebecca. ‘Mother, you were gone when we woke up.’

‘I took a walk on the beach.’

‘I would’ve g