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Sheila Mary Taylor
Publisher: Taylor Street Books
Genre: Crime (Legal Crime Psychological Thriller)
Number of pages: 363
Word Count: 122,000
A lawyer, a murderer and a policeman - caught in a tangled web of love, loss, terror and intrigue.
When lawyer Julia Grant interviews Sam Smith who has been charged with an especially vicious murder, she feels a strange connection to him, as if she has met him before, as if he holds the key to something she has forgotten among the unbearable memories from her past she has determinedly blotted out.
He feels a connection too. "Julia, you are the only one who can help me," he pleads.
Is it the same connection? Does he know something she cannot recall?
When he is duly convicted despite her best efforts, he suddenly turns on her in the courtroom and threatens that one day he will make sure to wreak his revenge on her.
But why? What has she ever done to him?
And then, on his way to prison, he escapes ......
Strangeways Prison, Manchester, England (September 1994)
I’ve represented many murderers and am often surprised at how normal they appear. But this one is different. As he walks into the interview room he stops dead. His mouth drops open. His eyes bulge. His elbows clamp to his sides as though a knife has plunged into his back. And he looks straight at me unlike most who bow their heads till I say something to make them feel at ease, and who look past me when they tell me their stories. Not this one.
‘Please sit down,’ I say. His name is Smith. Sam Smith. This is what it says on his file cover. It’s what he called himself when he was interviewed by the police.
‘I know it seems stupid,’ I say, ‘but can I ask you to confirm your name. Your full name.’
I don’t know. I just don’t see him as a Sam Smith. Stupid name anyway. Nobody calls their kid that. Maybe I’ll know from the way he tells me. The name, when he says it himself, will either sound like it belongs or like he’s pretending.
‘Sam Smith,’ he says, and something in the timbre of his voice gels with the curve of his lips and the way his slightly protruding eyes follow mine …
And now he’s nodding his head. Or am I imagining it? And there’s an almost imperceptible smile on his face. That smile. And those eyes. I grip the desk. I can’t breathe. My skin turns cold, clammy. My fingers tingle. A fragment of long forgotten memory skitters through my head then vanishes …
There’s only one person I’ve ever known with eyes like those. And my darling twin brother died twenty-six years ago. Before my real life began.
But let’s get on with it and start the job - it’s going to be a long haul, and he’s got a lot to do to beat the charge. Murder. Horrible, cold-blooded, psychopathic, sexually motivated sadism.
And I think I know him.
Eight Months Later
- 1 -
The door to the jury room swung open. The seven men and five women filed in and took their seats. Julia Grant glanced at the dock. Perched behind the thick protective glass Sam Smith looked immaculate in a fresh white shirt, the blond beard newly trimmed, nothing moving except those marble-blue eyes.
She noticed that Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Moxon was already back with the small group of officers who had gathered, sitting opposite the jury benches and eyeballing the jurors throughout the trial. Old trick, hard to get the judges to move them away, to persuade them that they are engaging in deliberate psychological warfare for the jury’s votes. Paul smiled at her - a slow half smile and a slightly raised eyebrow, as if to say that for only one of them would today's verdict spell success.
She smiled back. Defence versus Prosecution. Part of the day's work. Only this time the stakes were higher than usual.
She looked towards the dock and saw that Sam Smith was also watching her. Their eyes met, but there was not a blink of recognition, his face so alien it was hard to imagine how the thoughts haunting her in the eight months she had been preparing his defence had ever entered her mind. Eight months studying his face across the narrow interview table for some tell-tale sign. But right now there was nothing in that face she could relate to. Nothing that even hinted at a link. Nothing that drew her to him. Good-looking men seldom delivered what their looks promised, she thought. Some unsuspecting female might be attracted until she looked into his eyes. Fish eyes. Cold and hard. Shut off from the rest of the world except for rare fleeting expressions of sadness when they seemed to drift into the past - and drag Julia with them.
The Clerk of the Court rose to his feet. ‘Court stand,’ he blurted in his usual offhand way.
The door opened. Mr Justice Dale strode to his red leather chair, scarlet and ermine robes flowing, wig well down his forehead. He nodded to the crowded court and sat down.
Julia pressed her shoulders against the back of the solicitors’ bench. Another five minutes and it would all be over. And what then?
He might be free, but would she ever be?
The Clerk of the Court cleared his throat. ‘Will the foreman of the jury please stand.’ He looked directly at the foreman. ‘To the charge of murder, have you reached a verdict upon which all of you are agreed?’
Something made her glance at Smith again as if he’d called her name out loud. Instead of looking at the foreman, who was the person about to pronounce on the rest of his life, his gaze was fixed on her, waiting for her to turn and look at him, knowing that she would. Oh, that stare. That look. He thinks he has some power over me, she thought. Some right of claim. Men always expect to have power over women. One way or another. Even Sam Smith.
Or whoever he really was.
‘Do you find the defendant guilty, or not guilty?’ the Clerk of the Court asked in his precise, clipped voice.
Even a hardened criminal like Smith must surely feel some trepidation now. But there was not even a flicker to show he registered one iota of emotion.
Julia sat back in her seat, determined not to look at Smith again.
The hushed court waited.
About the Author:
Sheila Mary Taylor was born in Cape Town beneath the towering slopes of Table Mountain. Her Scottish parents, both serious academics and writers, despaired of her, as the things that turned her on as a youngster seemed far removed from their serious world of academia.
And no wonder. Cape Town was a distracting paradise to grow up in: mountain climbing, surfing in the glistening waters of the Indian Ocean, roller-skating, riding, hunting – and parties galore. She did it all, although the thing she loved most was dancing, and until she was twenty-three when she met Colin, her husband-to-be, on a visit to the UK, she wanted to make ballet her career. But having been surrounded by wall-to-wall books from an early age, and listening to music almost non-stop as her father played his hi-fi classical records so loud it was like having an orchestra in the house, was bound to have a belated influence on her. Yet it was only much later that these two strong influences – combined with the clock-ticking heartbreak of her youngest son Andrew being diagnosed with teenage cancer – would change her life and kick-start her writing career.
Her plethora of unusual activities: jockey in amateur ladies’ races, exhibition roller skating in night-clubs, a spell of acting and directing, secretary to a diplomat, creator and editor of a dramatic society magazine, dancing in the Royal Albert Hall, and above all, living in exciting exotic places around the world with Colin, her mining engineer husband of almost sixty incredible years – have all enriched and inspired her writing.
LinkedIn: Sheila Belshaw