The pain in her neck and shoulders sharpened its grip on District Court Judge Rebecca Morgan as she left the courtroom. She headed for her office, welcoming the quiet in the corridor. Inside her sanctuary from the madness of this new trial, she shed her black robe and hung it up in the closet. Finally, the end of the day—the weekend was here and she could escape to the ranch. Two glorious days to spend with her brother and his family. She could forget for a short time the case before her—the murder of a businessman by a high-level member of the Russian mob.
With a sigh, she grabbed her purse and started for the door. The ranch was almost an hour away from San Antonio, and as it was, she would be in traffic for a while.
Before she could reach for the knob, the door swung open and her law clerk stood in the entrance. A frown etched deep lines in the forty-year-old woman’s face.
Rebecca stiffened. “What’s happened?”
“You got a delivery half an hour ago from a florist.”
“I did?” She couldn’t think of anyone who would send her flowers. It wasn’t her birthday or any other occasion for a celebration. Then Rebecca focused on the deepening scowl on Laura Melton’s face. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I’ll show you.” Laura turned into her office, which connected with Rebecca’s, and strode to her desk. Lifting the lid on a long white box with Blooms and Such stamped on its side, she tilted it toward Rebecca.
To reveal a dozen long-stem roses—all dead.
Rebecca gritted her teeth. “They are not going to succeed in ruining this trial the way they did the last one.” The first trial, under Judge Osborn, had been declared a mistrial when it was revealed there was jury tampering. “This new tactic will not be tolerated.” As she spoke, though, she tried to decide how she would handle this. “Is there a card with it? Anything to give to the police?”
“Just this box. It was sitting on my desk when I came back in here right before you ended the trial for the day. I called Detective Nelson. He’s on his way over here.”
Rebecca checked her watch. “I need to leave. My brother’s birthday party is in less than two hours. Can you handle it by yourself?”
Laura’s frown relaxed into a neutral expression. “Sure. Charlie has a special interest in this trial and wants to make sure justice is done here. And he isn’t too bad to look at either.”
Rebecca laughed. “Leave it up to you to turn this into checking a man out.”
“I could always give you tips if you’re interested.”
“I appreciate the offer, but I’ll pass.” Especially a cop. She’d been married to a policeman who had died in the line of duty three years ago. She wouldn’t go through that again. She made her way toward the door. “If Detective Nelson needs to talk to me, he can reach me on my cell. Otherwise, I don’t want to deal with any type of business until Monday morning, when jury selection continues.”
“Forget this place. I’ll make sure the detective doesn’t have any questions for you. I’ll use my womanly wiles on him.” Laura winked.
“You do that.” As Rebecca hurried toward the elevator, she realized how fortunate she was to have such a good law clerk and friend in Laura. She made her life so much easier, especially now, with this difficult trial. She would have to take Laura out to dinner next week as a thank-you.
When Texas Ranger Brody Calhoun let himself into his house, Dallas, his black Lab, greeted him at the door, wagging his tail and nosing Brody’s hand. He stopped and knelt to pet Dallas, knowing if he didn’t, his dog would hound him until he did it properly.
“Did you and Dad get along all right today?”
“So this was a good day, then?” Brody rubbed behind his ten-year-old dog’s ears.
“Of course we got along okay, Son. I told you he was growing on me.”
Brody looked toward the den, where his father was standing, instead of using his electric scooter. The deep lines on his face revealed a man who appeared to be ten years older than he really was. But three months ago, at sixty-eight, he’d had his second heart attack, and his recovery had been much slower than the last one six years before.
“Gone for the day.”
“I must have just missed him.”
“No, I told him to get out after lunch. I don’t need anybody watching me take a nap. A waste of good money.” His dad swept his arm down the length of his body. “See, I don’t need my scooter. I’m capable of getting around under my own steam. You can turn it back in.”
Brody rose slowly, using the time to suppress his anger. Why hadn’t Ted called him to let him know what his dad had done? He pulled out his cell and . . .
“Put that thing up. I told him he’d better not call you. He works for me, not you.”
A denial of that fact was on the tip of Brody’s tongue, but instead of saying anything and causing yet another argument, Brody gritted his teeth and stuck his cell back in his pocket. “Ted is here to keep you company, make sure everything goes all right.” To give me peace of mind. I almost lost you.
His father scowled. “As soon as the doc says, I want him gone. I don’t need a babysitter.”
Brody ignored his father’s usual complaints. “Ted is a nurse, not a babysitter.”
His dad’s eyebrows slanted down even more. “I’m no fool. I know exactly why Ted is here. I’ve been taking care of myself for more years than you’ve been alive.”
“Samantha is bringing dinner for you tonight.”
“Where are you going?”
“To Thomas Sinclair’s birthday party. It started out as a small affair, but it’s turning into a big deal now that Foster Sinclair is coming. Although I’m not officially on duty, I’ll be keeping an eye on the governor. Can’t have anything happen to Foster at the same party I attend.”
“There was a time when I would have been invited when Thomas’s dad was around. At least Tom wasn’t put out to pasture like I’ve been.”
“Dad, Thomas would love to see you. Do you want to go with me?”
“No,” his father quickly replied, “not until I’m back to being 100 percent.”
“That’s what I told Thomas when we talked about it.”
“No reason to leave, especially like this. And for your information I don’t have to have my granddaughter take over for Ted. I can put a dinner in the microwave.” His dad swung around and shuffled into the den.
Brody followed him. “We’ve been over this. Until the doctor thinks you can stay by yourself, you need someone checking up on you throughout the day. I have to work and sometimes get caught up in a case—”
His dad turned up the volume on the television set. Its blaring sound negated any possibility of having a reasonable conversation with the man. Brody stared at him, sitting in his lounge chair in front of the TV with some game show on. His dad had gone from being an invalid part of the time to thinking he could do anything he had done before his heart attack.
Brody headed to his bedroom to change his shirt. He had come back to his hometown of San Antonio to fill a ranger’s position in Company D because his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse six months ago. Then he’d had a heart attack and his dad had required a lot more care than Brody, checking with him every day, could give him. When his dad was released from the hospital, he came to live with Brody.
And to test my patience every day since then.
As Brody finished dressing, the doorbell rang, the sound competing with the TV. He quickened his pace and let his niece into the house. “Are you ready for duty?”
Samantha clicked her heels together and saluted. “Aye, aye, sir. How is he?”
“I’m just peachy.”
Samantha leaned around Brody and grinned at his dad. “Hi, Grandpa. Are ya ready for me to beat you at chess tonight?”
His old man snorted. “When the tropics freeze over.”
“I’ll leave y’all to hash out who’s the best chess player in the Calhoun family. I can’t be late for the governor.”
“Don’t worry about Grandpa, Uncle Brody.” Samantha stood on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “After I beat him at chess, I think a rousing game of dominos will be fun.”
“In your dreams, Samantha,” his father said with a chuckle.
Brody left, realizing his nineteen-year-old niece was just what his dad needed. Dad had a hard time resisting a pretty female. Maybe that was Brody’s mistake. Maybe he should have hired a woman to nurse his dad back to health, especially now that he could get into and out of bed by himself. His dad was also walking more and only used the scooter when he got tired. Maybe he should think about returning the scooter they’d rented. To his dad it was a symbol of his invalidism. He’d also call the agency tomorrow and check into requesting a female nurse. He had to have someone who wouldn’t let his father dictate what he did. Ted should have called him today and let him know that he had left hours before he should have.