By: Laura Spinella





Sasha nudges me. Not only am I to move my head—propped on ink-stained fingers—I’m to stand. Following her lead, I rise and squint at the judge, a dour-looking man cloaked in black. He moves with condemning authority. My hazy gaze registers pilgrim.

Burn the witch!

It reverberates across three hundred years and into this modern-day courtroom. A baritone voice announces Judge Nicholson. Gravity dominates and I begin a slow sink into the chair. Sasha grabs my arm. “No, no . . . no, Liv. Don’t sit.” I’ve never noticed the grating tone of Sasha’s voice—a woefully out-of-tune E string. Slapping my hands on the table, I thrust upward. Good thing the fingers are insured. I jerk my arm from Sasha’s grip. I need legal counsel, not corporeal support. I can stand on my own two feet. I’ve been doing so for forty-six years. The judge hammers his gavel like a blacksmith on steroids. Mercy would be a direct hit to the head.

“Could you please not do that?” I ask.

“Pardon?” His eyes match all his narrowness.

“The gavel—must you? I’m erect. What more do you want?”

“Miss Pease,” he says, addressing my best friend, who at the moment is dressed as my attorney. “The Starbucks your client frequents may not have opened yet, but even at this early hour she continues to test the law.” He glances at some papers. “Disturbing the peace, possession of a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property, and resisting arrest. It will pale compared to the charges she’s already facing, but if she likes, I have no issue holding her in contempt as well.”

“Absolutely not, Your Honor. Our apologies to the court. Mrs. Van Doren has had an incredibly upsetting night.”

“Pfft . . .” I breathe, stealing a backward glance at Rob, who is the lone spectator in the galley. “The only incredibly upsetting part is that I didn’t smash the taillights on his Porsche before the cops showed up.”

Sasha juts an elbow into my side. “Liv, shut up.” The remnants of a half-dozen gin martinis slosh about my stomach. I press the back of my hand to my mouth and nod; speaking isn’t an option.

“Mrs. Van Doren, are you going to be . . .” the judge asks. I nod more fervently. He points to the baritone bailiff. Like a knight in shining armor, he whisks a metal trash can from across the room to under my nose. The retching echoes as it would in any hollow castle. “Get her some water, please.”

A different courtroom worker delivers a water-filled paper cup. I sip a mouthful and grasp the bailiff’s arm as he attempts to retract the trash can. Rinsing, I spit into the receptacle. “What?” I say to the bailiff, who looks at me as though I’ve spit on Lady Justice. “Like it’s not already a trash can full of vomit?” He backs away. I turn toward Sasha and spin back to the bailiff. “Thank you.” I have manners, they just have so very little to do with my life.

“Miss Pease, can your client proceed in a civil manner? Or perhaps spending the remainder of the weekend in lockup would give her perspective.”

“No, Judge Nicholson. Again, our apologies.”

I lean into Sasha and whisper, “Is his name really Jack Nicholson?” Another jab comes via Sasha’s elbow. She’s so going to hear about that later. “Right. I’m good,” I volunteer. I want this over with. I take a cleansing breath and state my case: “Yes. I absolutely beat the shit out of my husband’s Porsche with a baseball bat.”

A looks could kill glare darts from me to Rob. One arm is slung over the chair beside him, his fingers tapping as a rhythmic unit. Fascinating—visible nerves from my cool-to-the-core husband.

“Liv,” Sasha repeats. “Just don’t say anything.” Her flawlessly aligned teeth are tightly gritted. I peer hard at the near ventriloquist feat. I should probably take a hint and be her cooperative puppet.

It’s not in me.

“I’m sorry,” I announce to her and Judge Nicholson. “I didn’t realize we were questioning the part about me bashing the Porsche with a Louisville Slugger.”

Honestly, by the time the cops showed up, I doubt a junkyard compactor could have done a better job. I’m nothing if not thorough.

The judge looks curiously from me to Sasha. “Were we, Miss Pease? Going to debate Mrs. Van Doren’s actions on the evening of September 8?”

Sasha sighs and closes her eyes. “No, but . . .” she continues, rallying the war cry that makes her a hell of a best friend, “there are extreme extenuating circumstances. Unbeknownst to Mrs. Van Doren, Mr. Van Doren used her family home in Wellesley, entrusted to her by her late father, for collateral. With the failure of Mr. Van Doren’s latest business venture, it means she’ll lose the home. And her mother—”

▶ Also By Laura Spinella

▶ Hot Read

▶ Last Updated

▶ Recommend

Top Books