First degree

Acknowledgments

I would very much like to state that I had no help whatsoever in putting this book together, but too many people know better. So in no particular order, I grudgingly thank:

All the great people at Warner, including but certainly not limited to Jamie Raab, Bob Castillo, Elizabeth Hickmann, and Kristen Weber. Very special thanks go to Sara Ann Freed, who is the only editor I ever want to have, and Susan Richman, a wonderful publicist who somehow finds the time to deal with my inane requests. Every inexperienced novelist should be lucky enough to be paired with people like this.

My outstanding agents, Robin Rue on the book side and Sandy Weinberg on the film side. Besides being a pleasure to deal with, they put up with my nonsense and still manage to do absolutely everything right.

George Kentris of Findlay, Ohio, a terrific criminal attorney and friend, who fills in my legal blanks. And believe me, I have plenty of legal blanks.

Ed and Pat Thomas of Book Carnival in Orange, California, who have been amazingly helpful and supportive, generously offering their knowledge and advice.

All of those who read the book in its early drafts. They include, and I hope I haven't forgotten anyone, Debbie Myers, Mike, Sandi, Rick, Lynn, Ross, Heidi, Adam, Eden, Todd and Bree Rosenfelt, Betsy Frank, Art Strauss, Emily Kim, Greg Creed, George Kentris, Joe Cugini, Amanda, Sharon and Mitchell Baron, Jerry Esbin, Norman Trell, Al and Nancy Sarnoff, James Patricof, Nancy Carter, Holly Sillau, and the entire terrific Heller family.

Debbie Myers, whom I could spend the next 200 pages thanking, and it wouldn't be enough. The knowledge that I am going to spend the rest of my life with her brightens every day.

I'm very grateful to all of you who e-mailed me feedback on Open and Shut. Please do so again through my Web site:

www.davidrosenfelt.com

OPENING DAY.

Said separately, they're just two ordinary words.

"Opening" and "day." No big deal.

But put them together, liberally sprinkle some thirty-year-old memories, and they take on a meaning that can simultaneously bring a rush of excitement and a threat of tears. At least to me.

"Opening day." My mind's eye conjures up men in pinstripes racing onto a lush green field as the public address announcer booms, "Ladies and gentlemen, the New York Yankees!" That field is a clean spring slate; none of those players have yet made an error, or hit into a double play, or thrown a bat in disgust. Nor have they plans to.

The feeling I have on opening day is one I shared with my father and one he shared with his father before that. Today it takes on an added significance, because I'm going to continue that legacy. The experience won't be quite identical, but we in the Carpenter family are nothing if not adaptable.

I should mention the differences, subtle though they are. First of all, since I don't have any children, the offspring I am passing the sacred tradition on to is my golden retriever, Tara. Also, with the baseball season a good month away, we won't be going to Yankee Stadium, and we won't be seeing a baseball game. The particular opening that we are attending is that of Paterson, New Jersey's first-ever dog park.

I've never actually been to a dog park; I'm not even sure what one is. Tara hasn't been to one either, unless it was during the first two years of her life, before I knew her. If she has, I suspect the experience was less than thrilling, since I told her yesterday that we'd be going, and she was not awake all night in