Excerpt: It Takes One

Excerpt: It Takes One

Book 1: Audrey Harte Series

“Would you kill for someone you love?”

Audrey Harte went still under the hot studio lights. Sweat licked her hair line with an icy, oily tongue. “Excuse me?”

Miranda Mason, host of “When Kids Kill” didn’t seem to notice her discomfort. The attractive blonde — whose heavy makeup was starting to cake in the lines around her eyes — leaned forward over her thin legs, which were so tightly crossed she could have wound her foot around the opposite calf. She wore pantyhose. Who wore pantyhose anymore? Especially in Los Angeles in late June? “It’s something most of us have said we’d do, isn’t it?”

“Sure,” Audrey replied, the word forcing its way out of her dry mouth. “I think we as humans like to believe that we’re capable of almost anything to protect our loved ones.” Did she sound defensive? She felt defensive.

A practiced coy smile tilted the blonde’s sharply defined red lips. “Only most of us are never faced with the decision.”

“No.” That chilly damp crept down Audrey’s neck. Don’t squirm. “Most of us are not.”

Miranda wore her ‘I’m a serious journalist, damn it’ expression. The crew called it her ‘Oprah face’. “But David Solomon was. He made his decision with terrible violence that left two boys dead and one severely wounded.”

It was almost as though the world, which had gone slightly askew, suddenly clicked into place. They were talking about a case — a rather famous and recent one that occurred in L.A. County. Her mentor Angeline had testified for the defense.

It’s not always about you, she reminded herself. “David Solomon believed his boyfriend’s life was in danger, as well as his own. The boys had been victims of constant, and often extreme, bullying at school. We know that Adam Sanchez had suffered broken ribs and a broken nose, and David himself had to be hospitalized after a similar attack.”

Miranda frowned compassionately — as much as anyone with a brow paralyzed by Botulism could. “Did the school take any sort of action against the students bullying the boys?”

Audrey shook her head. She was on the edge of her groove now. Talking about the kids — especially the ones driven to protect themselves when no one else would — was the one place she felt totally confident.

“A teacher suggested that the attacks would end if the boys refrained from provoking the bullies with their homosexuality.” Asshole. “The principal stated that there would hardly be any students left in the school if she suspended everyone who picked on someone else.” Cow.

“Why didn’t the boys leave the school?”

Why did people always ask those questions? Why didn’t they run? Why didn’t they tell someone? Why didn’t they just curl into a ball and die?

“These boys had been raised to believe that you didn’t run away from your problems. You faced them. You fought.”

“David Solomon did more than fight.”

Audrey stiffened at the vaguely patronizing, coy tone that seemed synonymous with all tabloid television. She hadn’t signed on to do the show just to sit there and let some Barbara Walters wannabe mock what these kids had been through.

Maybe she should thank Miranda for reminding her of why she’d dedicated so much of her life to earning the ‘doctor’ in front of her name.

“David Solomon felt he had been let down by his school, his community and the law.” Audrey kept her tone carefully neutral. “He believed he was the only one who would protect himself and Adam.” What she didn’t add was that David Solomon had been right. No one else in their community had stood up for them.

Miranda’s expression turned pained. She was about to deliver a line steeped in gravitas.”And now two boys are dead and David Solomon has been sentenced to twenty years in prison.”

“A sentence he says is worth it, knowing Adam is safe.” David Solomon wasn’t going to serve the full twenty. He’d be out before that, provided someone didn’t turn around and kill him in prison.

Miranda shot her an arch look for trying to steal the last word, then turned to the camera and began spouting her usual dramatic rabble that she used every show about senseless tragedies, good kids gone bad, and lives irreparably altered.

This was the tenth episode of the second season of “When Kids Kill” for which Audrey filmed segments. She was the resident Criminal Psychologist — only because she was friends with the producer’s sister and owed her a couple of favors. Big favors. Normally, Audrey avoided the spotlight, but the extra money from the show paid her credit card bills. And, it upped her professional profile, which helped sell her boss’s books and seminars.

She’d studied Criminal Psychology with the intention of helping kids. In between research and writing papers, she’d started assisting her mentor with work on criminal cases, which led to more research and more papers, and a fair amount of time talking to kids who, more often than not, didn’t want her help. She never gave up, which was odd, because she considered herself a champion giver-upper.

The ‘interview’ was over in another thirty minutes — Miranda had to do a couple of extra takes when she felt her questions “Lacked the proper gravity” which Audrey took to mean drama. She dragged her heels getting out of the chair. It was already late morning and she had to get to get going.

“Don’t you have a flight to catch?” Grant, the producer asked. He was a couple years older than her with long, hipster sideburns and rockabilly hair. His sister, Carrie, was Audrey’s best friend.

Only friend.

“Yeah,” she replied, pulling the black elastic from her wrist and wrapping it around her hair. She wrestled the hairspray-stiff strands into submission. “I’m going home for a few days.”

His brow lifted. “You don’t seem to happy about it.”

She slipped her purse over her shoulder with a shrug. “Family.”

Grant chuckled. “Say no more. Thanks for working around the schedule. Carrie’s been harping on me to be more social. Dinner when you get back?”

“Sounds good.” There was no more use in stalling. If she missed her flight, she’d only have to book another. There wasn’t any getting out of the trip. Audrey gathered up her luggage and wheeled the suitcase toward the exit.

“See you later, Miranda,” she said as she passed the older woman, who was looking at herself in the mirror of a compact, tissuing off some of the heavy makeup from her face. Audrey would take hers off at the airport. She hated falling asleep on planes and waking up with raccoon eyes.

“See ya, Audrey. Oh, hey-” she peered around the compact ” -you never answered my question.”

Audrey frowned. “I’m pretty sure I answered them all.”

Miranda smiled, blue eyes twinkling. “Would you kill for someone you love?”

“Of course not.” Huh. That came out smoother than it ought.

She looked contemplative, but then too much plastic surgery could do that, “I’d like to think I would, but I doubt I could.”

“Hopefully you’ll never have to find out. Have a good night, Miranda.”

The woman replied, but Audrey didn’t quite make out the words – she was too busy thinking about that question.

No, she wouldn’t kill for someone she loved.

Not again.