Cover image for AfterImage
Title:
AfterImage
Author:
Brandon, Jay.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
352 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312865429
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

District Attorney Chris Sinclair has never really forgotten his first real love, Jean, a college girlfriend from the era of free love, a wild young woman who introduced him to a world of sex and drugs and alcohol drastically unlike is own. But she left his life in college and he's never seen her since, until a young woman is found buried in a shallow grave on the outskirts of San Antonio. Through forensic reconstruction of the decomposed skull, a face takes shape. A detail or two is different, but there's no doubt the face is Jean's, like an after image in his mind, he sees her face in the young girl's and he knows. What he doesn't know is why Jean wouldn't have reported her own daughter's disappearance; the body had been buried for months.


Author Notes

Jay Brandon is an attorney and author. He was born in Texas in 1953. Brandon received a master's degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University.

Brandon has served with the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Baxter County District Attorney's Office, and the San Antonio Court of Appeals during his legal career. He practices law in San Antonio, Texas.

Brandon's novel, Loose Among the Lambs, was a main selection of the Literary Guild. Another novel, Fade the Heat, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel of the Year. Booklist magazine gave his novel, Deadbolt, an Editor's Choice award. An article he wrote about the judicial races in San Antonio won a Gavel Award from the State Bar Association in 1994.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although Brandon's latest isn't quite up to the high standards of his Edgar-nominated Fade to Heat, it's still an engrossing legal thriller, dominated by three complex and original female characters. San Antonio District Attorney Chris Sinclair is understandably startled when he sees the head of a murder victim modeled by a forensic artist: it bears a striking resemblance to his wild college lover, Jean, who dumped him 16 years ago. But Jean would be 35, Sinclair's age, and the murdered girl found buried in a shallow roadside grave was just 14. Chris and his investigator quickly locate Jean, the mother not only of the dead girl, Kristen, but also of a 16-year-old, Clarissa, who is probably Sinclair's child. All three are somehow involved in the dangerous world of local businessman Raleigh Pentell, who sells drugs to teenagers; during Pentell's trial for Kirsten's murder, Jean's image changes from a caring mother supporting two children by working for an insurance company to a conniving drug dealer using her children for profit. Sinclair sometimes comes across as a bit too thick to have survived as either Jean's lover or a major urban prosecutor, but the dangerously ambiguous Jean, the deceptively fragile Clarissa and Chris's current love interest--Dr. Anne Greenwald, a psychiatrist determined to have a child--are strong enough characters to keep readers interested. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Afterimage 1 She was more beautiful than thy first love, But now lies under boards. --from "A Dream of Death," by W. B. Yeats One S ome days justice nods off. Certainly there are times when the Bexar County Justice Center hibernates. Sometimes one could set off a shrapnel grenade in a hallway and not injure anyone. On such days, usually late afternoons, judges are hard to find, prosecutors have drifted back to their offices or out of the building altogether, and lawyers who do happen to meet in the echoing corridors look at each other shamefacedly, as if to say, What are we doing here? It is a failure of sorts just to be in the building. The Justice Center had recently experienced a series of such days: Thanksgiving week, Christmas week, the dead end of the year. But now January had arrived, forcing the building unwillingly back to life. Jurors had been called, the courts resumed business, lawyers, defendants, and cops lined the halls. Still, justice hadn't entirely climbed back up to speed. The plea-bargaining between prosecutors and defense lawyers exhibited a desultory, let's-put-this-off-until-I-feel-more-up-to-it quality, and hardly any trials had actually got off the ground yet. So when the District Attorney of Bexar County appeared in a courtroom, people took notice. The District Attorney, Chris Sinclair, not only entered the courtroom, he walked straight to the front and took his place at the prosecution's table. A few minutes later when the judge ofthe court, Betty Willis, called a case name, Chris stood and announced, "The State is ready." At thirty-five, Christian Sinclair looked too young to be the District Attorney, but he had been for two years. He was of medium height, but looked taller standing at the front of the courtroom, where the lights caught his blond hair and strong forehead. His mouth, usually quick to twitch toward a smile, locked in a grim line as he gazed steadily across the space inside the bar, to where a defendant and his lawyer slowly made their way to the defense table. A reporter who had spotted the District Attorney in the hall and followed him into the courtroom frowned and hurried to the front of the spectator seats to get a look at the defendant and his lawyer. The reporter knew of no big cases going to trial during this half-speed week. But if the District Attorney himself was prosecuting, it must be a big one. However, the case didn't immediately demonstrate its largeness, and in a moment it became clear that it wouldn't even be going to trial today. "Ready on the motion to suppress," said the defendant's tall, distinguished-looking lawyer. Lowell Burke, the veteran defense lawyer, projected confidence, an appearance that sprang from his habitual air of detachment, as if he had more important business elsewhere. Some defense lawyers appear indistinguishable from their clients, huddling together as they plot a defense. Burke disdained that school of behavior. His steady gaze at the trial judge said that he had come here on a matter of law, and oh yes, that crook at his side? He was only an essential tool of the legal trade--not, certainly, a friend of Burke's. The reporter who had come forward to watch the action became more curious. Lowell Burke didn't take appointed cases and he didn't come cheap. This defendant obviously had money--or had had money before he'd walked into Burke's office. But he didn't look it. The reporter hadn't recognized the defendant's name when the judge called it: something Belasco. The defendant was a young man in his mid-twenties with very pale skin, ragged fingernails, and slicked-back hair. His dark suit fit him well and gave him elegant lines. Trust Lowell Burke tohave his client well turned out. The young defendant wore the expensive clothing as if accustomed to it, but there was still something relentlessly late-night about his appearance. He didn't look like old money and he didn't look like earned money. The reporter waited to hear what he'd been charged with. Judge Willis, in her mid-sixties, made a formidable impression on the bench, with her plump cheeks and bright lips. "Call your first witness," she said. Chris Sinclair demonstrated a Bexar County oddity by saying to the bailiff, "Officer Reynolds, please." This hearing sprang out of a motion to suppress evidence, which was a defense motion, so the defense bore the burden of proof, and should have gone first in putting on evidence. But in Bexar County the prosecution had an easier time producing police witnesses, through its liaisons with the police department, and so for years had assumed the responsibility of bringing police officers to such hearings. Somehow with that burden the prosecution had also assumed the right to go forward first with evidence. The young uniformed officer marched swiftly up the aisle of the courtroom, creaking with leather and authority, his chin lifted with all the confidence of twenty-four years of life and a year and a half of police experience. He responded with a clipped, "I do," to the judge's giving him the oath, and took his seat in the witness stand. He looked straight at the District Attorney as he'd been instructed to do. Holding his witness's gaze, Chris said, "State your name and occupation." "Josh Reynolds, police officer, Terrell Hills Police Department." After another couple of preliminary questions, Chris asked, "Officer, where were you on the evening of November 8 of last year?" "I was outside a home on Tuttle Road in Terrell Hills." "Were you on duty?" "I was on duty and in uniform, but in an unmarked car, parked several houses down the street from the house we were surveilling." Hearing the word "surveillance" used as a verb tended to make Chris Sinclair flinch, even as often as he'd heard cops do it. He let it pass, unsurprised at hearing young Officer Reynolds spout jargon. "Was anyone with you, Officer?" "Yes sir, there were a team of us, led by a detective from San Antonio PD Narcotics Unit." "Was this a narcotics operation?" "Yes sir, but they needed local support since the suspects had turned up in Terrell Hills. That's why I was there." Terrell Hills, a very small incorporated suburb completely surrounded by the city of San Antonio, had an average income level that rose much higher than San Antonio's did. The suburb also had a small police force with more experience at keeping the peace than at drug stings. Chris asked, "Why did you have this one particular house under surveillance, Officer?" "We had information that some suspects--" Lowell Burke stirred himself for the first time and rose to his feet with no appearance of haste. "Objection, Your Honor. This sounds like hearsay." "Sustained," Judge Willis ruled. In the courtroom Betty Willis displayed an absolutely blank demeanor. She strove so hard to appear impartial that she'd developed the habit of not looking at anyone. The judge stared off at the back wall of the courthouse, like Lady Justice unblindfolded but unseeing nevertheless. Young prosecutors had expressed the urge to jump up and wave their hands through her line of sight to see if she'd react. Chris continued unperturbed. "As you sat in your car with the narcotics detective and other officers, what were you waiting for?" "We were waiting for a signal from inside the house, sir. We had a man inside." In Officer Reynolds's recounting of the tale, the operation had become his. Chris continued, "How were you to receive a signal?" The officer answered with exaggerated care, as if the District Attorney were venturing onto dangerous ground. "The person inside was wearing a hidden mike, sir." "So you could hear conversation from inside the house?" "Bits and pieces, sir." "Did you ever receive a signal?" "Of sorts. Some time after eleven P.M., I very distinctly heard one of the guests inside the home say, 'What the hell is that?' And then our receiver went dead. We couldn't hear anything else." "What did you think?" The defense lawyer rose again. "Objection, Your Honor. What the officer thought is irrelevant." This time Chris responded. "It's very much relevant, Your Honor. Since Mr. Burke's motion to suppress evidence accuses the officers of acting illegally, their motivations are part of the probable cause analysis." From the heights of her detachment Judge Willis said, "Overruled." Quickly Chris asked again, "What did you think when you lost radio contact with your person inside, Officer Reynolds?" "I thought the person had been discovered and was in immediate danger." The officer grew more animated, as he had that night in November. "I jumped out of the car and said, 'Let's go,' and started running toward the house." "Did the other officers run with you?" "They were a few steps behind, sir." In fact, as the narcotics detective had told Chris Sinclair in the privacy of the DA's office, the detective had not only lagged behind, he had been yelling at the uniformed officer to wait. But Reynolds was not only younger than the detective, he was thinner and much faster. "He bolted like a rabbit with diarrhea," the detective had said disgustedly. In court, Chris let none of this knowledge leak into his voice. "What did you do when you reached the house, Officer?" "I glanced in the front window and saw several young men gathered in what appeared to be a living room. They seemed allto be looking at one man. I heard shouting. So I ran quickly to the front door, kicked it open, and yelled, 'Police! Everybody freeze!'" "Did you have your gun drawn?" "Definitely, sir. They wouldn't have much incentive to freeze otherwise." "What happened next?" "I edged forward into the room. The suspects seemed to be mostly teenaged boys. Maybe eight or ten of them. Two or three ran out a doorway on the other side of the room, but I couldn't do anything about that until my backup arrived. I quickly scanned the room for weapons but didn't see any. I also looked for someone hurt, down on the ground. I didn't see that either." "Did anyone in particular draw your attention?" "Yes sir," the policeman said, knowing his job as a witness. He pointed. "This man." "You're indicating the defendant, Peter Belasco?" "Yes sir, although I didn't know his name at the time." "What did he do to draw your attention?" "He was older than most of the others in the room. He was dressed about like he is now, in a suit, while the others were in jeans. So he looked like the man in charge. And he had a briefcase at his feet." "A briefcase?" Officer Reynolds frowned in concentration. "Yes sir, a very nice briefcase, large, with leather straps. Like a lawyer might carry in an old movie." The officer smiled to indicate a little joke. "You say it was beside Mr. Belasco's feet?" "Yes sir, as if he'd just dropped it. I was surveilling the whole room, but then I sensed movement and when I looked again the briefcase was farther from Mr. Belasco, as if he'd pushed it away from him. It was almost under a small end table." "So what did you do, Officer Reynolds?" "I told everyone to back away and I seized the briefcase." "Why?" The officer knew the proper answer to this question, too. A police officer is entitled to take steps to ensure his own safety. "I was afraid it might contain a weapon, sir." "Did you open the briefcase?" "No sir. By that time the other officers were inside, and I passed it on to the lead detective." "Thank you, Officer." Chris stood to draw the judge's attention. "Your Honor, I believe we have a stipulation, for the purposes of this hearing, about the contents of the briefcase." The defense lawyer nodded in unconcerned agreement. "We do, Your Honor--just for this hearing." Chris passed the judge a short written memorandum specifying the stipulation. The briefcase had been a portable pharmacy: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine--enough to keep the house party on Tuttle Road going for days. The briefcase offered enough evidence to send this defendant to prison for a long time--if Chris could get the evidence admitted. This hearing represented the real trial, because the primary issue in the case was the legal question of whether the drugs had been properly seized and could be linked to Peter Belasco. Chris knew how difficult that would be. In spite of the confidence of the young officer's testimony, the lawyers in the room, including Judge Willis, had heard the apparent problems. It had been a bad search and a bad arrest, which meant a bad day in court for a prosecutor. Chris could have called one of the more veteran officers on the scene as his witness at this hearing. They could have perhaps put a better legal spin on the facts. But Chris hoped young Josh Reynolds would make a better witness because of his obvious sincerity. He still didn't know that he'd done anything wrong. The drug sting had gone just as planned, as far as he knew. Also, only Officer Reynolds had been in position to see the defendant with the briefcase close to his feet. By the time the other officers had entered, the incriminating evidence had been almost under the end table, equally close to half a dozen of the suspects. Chris had one other, uncharitable reason for having called Officer Reynolds as a witness. He wanted to teach him a little lesson in criminal procedure. Chris let the lesson begin by sitting down and saying, "I pass the witness." The defense lawyer smiled--in anticipation, but it appeared a courtly smile of greeting. "Officer Reynolds, my name is Lowell Burke. I represent Peter Belasco here. I'm going to ask you some questions now. If the questions aren't clear, please ask me to repeat or rephrase. All right?" "Yes sir." The young officer's shoulders relaxed slightly, but he still watched the defense lawyer closely. Even Judge Willis had lowered her gaze to watch Burke. Burke frowned as if picturing the scene. "Officer Reynolds, when you burst into that living room, did anything besides the people draw your attention?" "What do you mean?" "Well, let's put it this way: what did the room look like? Did it look like a gang hangout? Graffiti on the walls? Broken-down furniture?" "Oh no, sir. It was a nice house. This was Terrell Hills," the officer amplified. "Nice heavy furniture. Lamps. The walls were unmarked." "Not one graffito?" Burke smiled. "No sir. I believe there was wallpaper." The young officer continued his description. "At one end of the room they had a big-screen TV." "Ah," Burke said, not having had to pull that tooth. "Was the TV on?" "Yes sir. It appeared to be showing a movie." "What was the volume like?" "Pretty loud, sir." "Could that have been the source of the shouting you said you heard from outside?" "Possibly." "Well, when you burst into the room, was any person in there shouting?" "No sir, not just then." Burke made a steeple with his index fingers, touched the peak to his lips, then lowered his hands an inch to say, "Let's go back to when you were in your car waiting for the signal from your operative inside the house. What were the words you heard?" "Someone said, 'What the hell is that?'" The officer quickly added, "I thought that meant someone had discovered the transmitter on our undercover agent inside the house." Again that blank outline had appeared in the proceedings: the informer inside the house. Both the defense lawyer and his client glanced at Chris Sinclair, who sat staring at his witness. Burke turned back toward the witness as well, looking unperturbed by the officer's conjecture about danger to the informant. "Well, that's rather a broad speculation, isn't it, Officer? The exclamation could have been someone referring to something appearing on the TV screen, couldn't it?" The officer obviously wanted to deny that, but couldn't do so without looking silly. "Yes sir, it could have been." "Or in fact, since the TV was producing the loudest sounds in the room, it could have been a character in the movie you heard saying, 'What the hell is that?' Couldn't it, Officer?" Officer Reynolds chewed his lip for a second but had to concede, "I suppose now it could have been, sir. But I had no way of knowing that sitting in the car outside." "Well, exactly. You didn't know what was going on inside the house, did you?" "Not precisely, no sir." "I believe you said the other thing that aroused your concern was that you stopped receiving transmissions from your broadcaster inside the house, yes? Officer, do you now know more about what caused that transmission failure?" For the first time since cross-examination began, Chris saw an opening to try to save his case. "Objection, Your Honor, I believe that would call for hearsay." Burke said smoothly, "I believe this witness knows this of his own knowledge, Your Honor. But if we need to waste the court's time by calling another witness--" With most judges, threats of wasting the judge's time hit home harder than legal arguments. Judge Willis was no exception. "The objection is overruled," she said quickly. "Officer?" Burke asked politely. "Had you lost the signal because your man inside had had his shirt ripped open and his transmitter smashed?" Officer Reynolds coughed. "No sir. Uh--it turned out our receiver had stopped working." "Equipment failure." "Yes sir, I'm afraid so." Burke switched gears, slowly gaining force and outrage as he said, "So if I'm inside my own home and police send some liar to worm his way into my home with a microphone, and then someone--anyone, including a character on television--asks what something is, and then the cops' poorly maintained equipment breaks down, in your opinion, Officer Reynolds, does that give you the right to smash your way into my house waving a gun?" Chris stood with a weary slump before the defense lawyer had half-finished this speech. Chris let Lowell Burke rise to his peak of indignation, then said, "Your Honor, that's a speech to a jury, not a question for this witness." Judge Willis looked at him and said, "Since there's no jury here to be swayed, Mr. Sinclair, I don't see the harm. Ask a question, Mr. Burke. Are we wrapping up?" From that brief speech, Chris knew that he had lost the judge. The presumption at the beginning of any hearing or trial is that the prosecution will win; no judge wants to face the voters with a record of having let criminals go free. But when Judge Willis told the defense lawyer to wind it up, meaning the defense had already put on enough evidence, Chris knew he no longer had that presumption of victory operating on his behalf. "Thank you, Your Honor," Burke said. "Officer, let's go back into that elegant living room. Was there anything in there that reinforced your sense of danger? Any guns in evidence? Anyone bleeding or down on the floor? Anyone even yelling at each other?" "As I said, I didn't see anyone hurt or bleeding. I didn't seeany guns, either. There were some beer cans on the coffee table, and drinks in glasses--" Burke said harshly, "I asked you about danger, Officer. Did the beer cans make you feel threatened?" Officer Reynolds sat for a moment with his jaw set, then said, "They made the situation more volatile, sir." The defense lawyer rolled his eyes. "All right, Officer. Your backups had arrived by this time, I suppose. Did they also have guns drawn?" "Yes sir." "So since you and the other police officers had the only apparent guns in the room, you were in charge of the situation, right?" "Yes sir, at that point. Apparently, as you say." "Did Mr. Belasco make any threats or gestures that aroused your alarm?" The young officer felt himself being ridiculed. "No sir," he said tightly. "Mr. Belasco didn't look like a thug, did he, Officer? You said he looked as he does today, like a businessman." "I don't know what kind of business he's in," Reynolds said, but Burke's question had been aimed at the judge, to induce her to notice the clean-cut appearance of the defendant. "At that point you had no evidence that any crime was going on, did you, Officer?" "Perhaps providing alcohol to minors," Reynolds said, with an attempt to regain his earlier assurance. Lowell Burke had been prepared for that response. "But some of the people in the room were twenty-one or older; you had no evidence of who had been drinking what, and you certainly had no evidence that Mr. Belasco had furnished the beer, did you?" Officer Reynolds tightened his lips and didn't answer. That was answer enough. "You had no evidence of a crime at that point, did you, Officer?" Burke insisted. "No sir, not right at that point." "So after the misunderstanding about your radio equipmentand your smashing in the door was cleared up, wouldn't it have been the proper thing at that point for you to apologize for the inconvenience and leave?" "We had an investigation to pursue, sir." "You had no probable cause to begin an investigation," Burke answered. "We had information from the confidential informant," Officer Reynolds said. He turned to Chris, his eyes asking for help. The District Attorney sat stoically. He felt other eyes on him as well, from the defense table. "We haven't heard any evidence of that person, Officer," Lowell Burke said softly. He waited a moment for a response, then went on, "So when you seized the briefcase you were looking for evidence, is that right, Officer?" Reynolds hadn't forgotten the right answer to that. "No sir, I seized the briefcase for my own safety, in case there were weapons inside." "But can you articulate for us a reason why you thought there might be weapons in the briefcase?" Reynolds hesitated. His eyes flickered as he obviously searched his mind and memory. He began slowly, "In that situation there's always a possibility ..." Burke interrupted. "You're talking generally, Officer. But was there anything specific about this situation and this briefcase that made you think there might be weapons inside?" Reynolds gave up. He glanced again at the District Attorney, obviously hoping Chris had more evidence. "No sir, not specifically." "And if you had simply left the briefcase where it was and departed the premises, you wouldn't have been in any danger, would you?" Reynolds shrugged. The defense lawyer let that answer suffice. Again, the question had been aimed at the judge. After a silence, Burke said with the sneer apparent in his voice, "I pass the witness." "No more questions," Chris Sinclair said quietly. "The State rests on the motion to suppress." Judge Willis looked surprised. "Rests?" she said, then regained her impartiality. "Does the defense have witnesses to present?" "I don't believe that's necessary, Your Honor," Lowell Burke said smoothly, rising to his feet. "No," the judge agreed. "I don't think I need to hear arguments, either. On the state of this evidence--" She turned to the District Attorney, and her voice had an undertone of imploring as she said, "Unless there's some evidence of what went on inside the house before the police officers entered--?" Again Chris felt himself observed from the defense table. He turned and looked back. Lowell Burke had a neutral, watchful expression. His client looked more obviously eager. There had been a confidential informant inside that room in Terrell Hills, one who had obviously made a deal with the police to inform on Peter Belasco. Who had it been? The defense knew Chris couldn't win this hearing without giving up that informant. That had probably been one reason Lowell Burke had filed his motion to suppress evidence in the first place. They waited for Chris to make his choice: give up the case or give up the unknown informant who had infiltrated the defendant's organization. Chris pushed back his chair as he began his argument. Standing, he said, "Your Honor, I'd like to raise one issue: standing." An observer who lacked a law school education might have thought Chris was describing the position from which he wanted to make his argument. The reporter listening closely from the spectator seats knew enough to make a note of the word: standing . Chris continued, "As the court is well aware, in order to challenge a search of a place, the defendant has to demonstrate that he has standing to complain of the search of that particular place. We haven't heard any evidence today that this defendant owned that home in Terrell Hills or was even an invited guest." Chris sat down again. He had raised a point that was an intrinsic part of every search issue, but seldom came up. Usually the prosecution let it be assumed that a defendant had a stake in the place searched. Still, if the prosecution raises the issue, the defense has the burden of proving standing. Police can break into a placeand rip it to pieces, but unless the person arrested there can show he had a right to be in the place, he can't legally complain. A small argument had broken out at the defense table. Lowell Burke sat staring down at his notes, thinking furiously, while his client whispered into his ear with equal ferocity. After a moment the defense lawyer began to shake his head. "Well, I'll testify," Belasco said, loudly enough to be heard by the judge and the District Attorney. He buttoned his jacket and started to rise. His attorney stopped him. Chris sat quietly at the State's table. The burden had shifted off his shoulders. Not just the burden of proof, but the burden of decision. The deed to the house in Terrell Hills showed the house owned by a man who had been dead for years. Every year a corporation paid the property taxes on the house. In spite of a diligent search, Chris hadn't been able to untangle who owned the corporation. But Peter Belasco knew. He'd come to the house in Terrell Hills by invitation. On assignment, even. Peter Belasco obviously knew the name of his employer. Apparently he was ready to say the name on the witness stand. His lawyer, however, wouldn't let him. Burke said a harsh sentence to his client in a quick undertone, then rose to his feet. He kept a hand on his client's shoulder for a long moment, making sure the young defendant stayed down. Belasco shot an angry glare at Chris Sinclair. "Your Honor," Burke said smoothly. "The evidence the court has already heard speaks for itself. Mr. Belasco was obviously on the premises by invitation. When the police burst in Mr. Belasco had apparently been inside the house for some time. Police hadn't seen him arrive, and they'd had the house staked out for hours. So Mr. Belasco was something much more than an intruder or fleeting solicitor. In fact, as he was the oldest person in the house, he was the one who'd done the inviting. Officer Reynolds even testified that Mr. Belasco looked as if he were in charge. The leader, he said. Quite obviously--" Judge Willis shook her head. "Appearance isn't enough, as you well know, Mr. Burke. The owner of that house could havebeen away on a long trip and this gang broke in to use it for the weekend. Without some evidence of ownership--" She gave the defense lawyer the same thoughtful pause she'd given the District Attorney a few moments earlier. Burke said nothing, and put his hand back on his client's shoulder. "--the defendant has not demonstrated standing to complain of the search," the judge concluded. "The motion to suppress is denied. The evidence will be admissible at trial." She rapped her gavel lightly, said, "Dismissed," and left the bench with a rustle of black robe and dress. Lowell Burke stood stunned, still thinking fast. His client began complaining loudly. Chris walked the couple of steps to their table, looked Lowell Burke in the eye, and said, "I believe you have a conflict of interest." That was all he said before turning and walking out the gate in the railing. The reporter stood close by. "Congratulations," he said to the District Attorney, obviously meaning the compliment as a prelude to a quick interview. Chris looked back at the defense table. He showed no triumph. "Not really," he said, and walked quickly out of the courtroom. The reporter stood with his hands on his hips, in the aftermath of a hearing that had left the victor obviously unhappy and the losers--the defendant and his lawyer--arguing in increasingly louder tones. "What the hell happened here?" the reporter asked.     Chris Sinclair walked up two flights of stairs to the top, the fifth floor of the Justice Center. A receptionist behind a window buzzed him through the locked front door of the District Attorney's Offices, and he made his way along the maze of corridors and small offices back to the corner, to his own office. Chris's private office was good-sized but not elaborate and certainly not ostentatious. A small sofa and a wingback chair, separated by a floor lamp, occupied the corner by the windows. Chris walked the other way, to his large dark wooden desk. Thedesk's top held only a legal pad and a file folder. Chris removed the few contents of the folder he'd carried into court and put them back in the larger file. This larger file, which stayed always on his desk lately, held the usual contents of a prosecution case file: police reports, a lab report, some notes on yellow pages from legal pads. There was only one thing odd about the file folder. It didn't have a name on it. Chris's first assistant, a tall, scholarly-looking man named Paul Benavides, stuck his head in the door and said, "I hear you won one." But he could see from his boss's expression that the outcome in court hadn't been what the District Attorney had hoped. Chris answered, "The whole point of the exercise was that they wanted my informant and I wanted to know who Peter Belasco works for. So neither of us got the big prize." "No new clue to Mr. Big?" Benavides grinned. Chris gave his first assistant a moment's study. "Gee, John, I've never known you to make jokes before." Chris didn't smile. "That's one of the things I like about you." Not chastened, Benavides withdrew. Chris returned to his study of the file folder on his desk. The folder that still didn't have a name.     Anne Greenwald ran. Panic hadn't set in, only concern. She glanced back over her shoulder. Eddie Garza, running beside and a little behind her, said, "You got nothing to worry about, Doc. My mama used to say if you could look back over your shoulder and not see your behind, you were still in good shape." "Eddie," Anne said between deep inhalations, "I hate to be the one to break this to you, but I'm not your mama." Eddie probably had a retort, but not the breath to deliver it. They ran under Interstate 10, on the edge of downtown, and started up the Commerce Street bridge, into the near west side. Crossing under the interstate seemed like crossing a border; the surroundings immediately grew shabbier and more Mexican. Aclosed cafe announced its name in Spanish. Little shops and houses and old cars looked dispirited. Even the telephone lines seemed to sag more as they traveled westward. Dr. Anne Greenwald noticed these details. But this hour she had declared a moratorium on liberal concern in order to concentrate on herself, for once. In her mid-thirties, Anne had no reason to fear aging--well, only one reason, maybe. But her skin remained smooth, her light brown hair still bounced, and her gray-green eyes sparkled daily, and on the same days grew sad and angry and thoughtful. Flexibility of emotion, that was one of the main signs of staying alive, and Anne had that flexibility in cartloads. At five and a half feet tall she was still slender, too--but not as slender as she'd been two months ago. She'd put on three or four pounds over the holidays--she didn't weigh herself, she just felt it--and hadn't had the time to exercise in a month. Hadn't taken the time, anyway. She didn't panic about the extra pounds, but had decided to do something about them. So at the end of this afternoon's shift at Santa Rosa Hospital, where Anne did psychiatric counseling, mostly with children, she'd grabbed nurse Eddie Garza and told him to put on his running shoes. Twenty-five-year-old Eddie was one of those disgusting men who didn't need exercise, who wolfed down enchiladas for lunch yet stayed skinnier than Anne, but running alone sucked, almost as badly as running at all, so Anne had dragged him along and Eddie didn't mind being dragged. After they crested the hill, from which they could see the Bexar County Jail a few blocks away, they stopped to pant. Eddie put his hands on his knees. Anne stopped for only a moment, then jogged in place, keeping her leg muscles loose. Eddie renewed the conversation from a few blocks back. "In fact, my mama would say you need to put on a few pounds instead of tightening yourself up all the time." He mimicked her jogging in place. "I don't think your mama lives by the U.S. Health Department guidelines. And you can tell her mirrors were made for checking on the condition of one's behind." "I'm telling you don't worry, Doc," Eddie said in a slightly more serious tone of voice. He reached over and gave her ass a friendly pat, and in fact grabbed a momentary handhold. "Spandex was made for you." Anne shook a mock-stern finger at him. "That's the kind of thing you think you can get away with because you swish around all day and let your wrist go loose. So you can breeze into women's dressing rooms carrying towels. I'm on to your act, Eddie. You've probably got a wife and four children at home." Eddie looked pained, and into the distance. "Don't wish ordinary on me, Doc. I escaped all that." He lightened up as they began running again. "Besides, people always let themselves go a little bit when they're in a good relationship. It's a sign of happiness." A little silence passed at the same time an old Buick did, bathing them in fumes. Eddie finally asked, "You do still have the boyfriend, don't you?" Anne grinned at him and picked up speed. "Last time I checked, yeah," she called back over her shoulder. "How about you?" "Touche," Eddie muttered. He caught up to her to find Anne still smiling. "We'd better turn around," she said. "I've got to get showered and changed. "For him?" "When did you get so curious? No, dear, not for him. I have more in my life than that. I've got a high school stud on the side." Eddie laughed. "Me too," he said. "In your dreams. And please don't describe them for me." They gave each other inquisitive glances--who was kidding whom?--and turned and ran back into town.     Showered, refreshed, skin glowing, full of energy even as twilight fell, Anne Greenwald drove her deep green Volvo to a southside high school, parked on a side street, and walked around the school to the gym. The school had shut down for the night, but there on the back side life persisted. The gym rocked.Anne made sure which side held which team's supporters, then climbed the rickety bleachers to a seat a fourth of the way up. Fans didn't fill the bleachers--the season was still young, the team not all that promising--but still the crowd appeared good-sized and energetic. High school students sat together in clusters, cheering and yelling and calling out the names of individual players. Adults in attendance kept generally quieter, except for the inevitable few moms who leaped to their feet and screamed their sons' names when something good, or nothing in particular, happened in the game. The players didn't acknowledge these fans, but an embarrassed smile would creep onto a player's face as he dribbled. Anne looked for a particular jersey number and found him on the sidelines, as she'd expected. She hunched down on her bleacher, folded her arms, and hoped. She had a hard time sustaining that hope as the half ended without an appearance on the hardwood floor by number 46, but Anne stood and cheered anyway. As she sat back down she saw someone who appeared more out of place than she did climbing the risers, a graceful man in a white dress shirt who looked as if it hadn't been all that long since he'd maneuvered on a basketball court himself. "My, what an attractive man," Anne muttered half-aloud, then as Chris Sinclair spotted her and stepped across people's legs to see her she said more loudly, "What the hell are you doing here?" "Lovely to see you, too." Chris sat beside her and gave the room a quick survey as if surprised to find that it was, indeed, a high school gymnasium. "I might ask you the same thing." "I'm a fan, man. Don't think you know everything about me. But how did you find me?" In a serious tone, Chris said, "I planted a bug in your car months ago, just in case of an eventuality like this." "Eddie told you." Chris nodded. "Eddie tries to stay on my good side. I half-suspect he's engaged in something illegal and wants to have a friend in the system." Anne put her arm through his. "You're so suspicious." "Yeah, it kind of comes with the job." She kept her arm in his, and her leg warmly beside his, but when the game resumed, Anne's attention returned to the floor of the gym. In the fourth quarter, with the home team comfortably ahead by nine points, but the players sagging a little, the coach looked along his bench, appeared a little surprised to see number 46 sitting there fresh as a squirrel in spring, and gave him a nod. The boy jumped to his feet, awkwardly pulled off his warmup pants, and moments later ran out onto the court. Anne stood, yelled, "Woooo! Go, Juan," and whistled as avidly as the craziest mother in the audience. The crowd, startled by her enthusiasm, added some cheers, so that Juan glanced up with a surprised look and almost tripped over his own shoes. Then someone passed him the ball and he dribbled down the court with the same embarrassed but happy smile his teammates displayed. Anne clapped loudly, hands over her head. When she finally sat again, Chris said, "Gee, which one's your patient?" Eyes on the game, Anne said, "You know I'd never reveal something like that." In fact Anne did keep her professional life strictly confidential. In the months they'd been seeing each other Chris hadn't been privy to a glance into her counseling work. He knew how much Anne's patients meant to her, but he'd never seen it demonstrated like this before. Usually he just saw what her work did to her emotionally, not the work itself. Anne could have said the same about him. Chris surveyed the crowd, many of whom were teenagers who had come not so much for the game as to be somewhere together, laughing and gossiping and acting surreptitious. "You know," he mused to Anne, "I think there are drug transactions going on here." She gently stuck her elbow into his side. "Be off duty," she said. "I am, I am. As long as the dealing doesn't reach the sidelines." Late in the game number 46 got the ball at the foul line and leaped high in the air, poised to shoot, which drew two defenders toward him and left a home team player free under the basket.The boy in the air spotted his teammate, shot the ball to him, and the boy under the basket made the easy layup. The crowd cheered as wildly as if it had been the decisive play, and stayed on their feet as the final whistle blew a minute later. Anne's cheer rose above the rest. Number 46 looked up at her from the court and beamed. Anne and Chris stayed where they were as the crowd slowly dispersed, shaking the bleachers. Anne became uncharacteristically confidential. "I wish he had someone to go home to and share this with. The sad part is that he's doing pretty well. I can't do all that much for him. He's adjusted about as well as you can to having no father and a mother who no one knows where she is most of the time." "Where does he live?" "A group home right now. We're trying to find a relative who'll take him in, but--" Painful sadness crossed Anne's face, moistening her eye. "He doesn't seem to have anybody who cares about him." "Yes he does." Chris put his arm around her. A few minutes later, the gym almost empty, Anne said, "I want to go say hi to him." So they made their way down to the cement corridor to the boys' locker room. Just outside the swinging door, Chris hesitated. "I'll wait out here." Anne cocked an eye at him. "Don't you think the man should go into the boys' locker room to make sure it's okay for the woman to follow, instead of the other way around?" "Ordinarily I'd say yes, but--" Chris looked around the tunnel and lifted his voice. "Sir?" A security guard nodded authoritatively, but Chris looked past him. "I'm sorry, not you, I meant him." A high school kid with a push broom looked up in surprise and hurried over. The boy must have been about fifteen, all arms and Adam's apple. Chris spoke to him seriously. "Would you do me a favor, please? Go in and make sure it's okay for a lady and the District Attorney to go in. You know what a District Attorney is?" "You put people in jail," the boy said, without apparent awe. "Yeah, that's pretty much it. Thank you, I'd appreciate it." The boy pushed through the swinging door, leaving Chris with his hands in his pockets and a rueful expression on his face. "Sometimes I make kids nervous. I don't want anybody to think I'm running a raid or something." Anne's mouth pursed, as if trying to contain a secret thought. "You know that boy had never been called 'sir' in his life," she finally said. Chris shrugged. "It takes a long time to get used to it, he might as well start now." Anne, trying not to beam, could no longer contain it. She put her arms around his neck and said, "God, I do love you." When the skinny boy swung the doors open and said, "It's okay," the sight of Juan's fan in passionate embrace with a man in suit pants and a white shirt brought a louder cheer from the team than they had received themselves all evening. Copyright (c) 2000 by Jay Brandon Excerpted from Afterimage by Jay Brandon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.