Buried Evidence


By Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 1, 2002. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

As a dedicated district attorney, Lily Forrester presents the perfect image of a defender of justice. Only she knows the dark secret of what happened six years ago, when a desperate crisis drove her to step outside the law and exact a horrifying personal vengeance. Now her ex-husband, faced with serious criminal charges, threatens to expose her unless she compromises her most cherished beliefs to help him. A violent rapist she put behind bars is back on the streets and looking for her. Her beloved daughter seems to be the target of a dangerous madman. And Lily must call on her deepest strength to face her accusers and ensure that the values she holds most dear will triumph.

In this taunt new thriller, Nancy Taylor Rosenberg displays the brilliant legal expertise and dramatic flair that have made her books classics of suspense. This long-awaited novel, filled with her trademark intriguing, complex characters and explosive storylines is a surefire recipe for success. Both dedicated fans and first-time readers will be both thrilled and satisfied. This is Nancy Taylor Rosenberg at her nail-biting best. A selection of the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club.


Nancy Taylor Rosenberg



This book is for my new granddaughter and angel:


God, I want this maniac!” Lily Forrester said, her voice bouncing off the colorful tiled floors and decaying stucco walls. The Santa Barbara courthouse was a beautiful but ancient structure that would have served better as a museum than a processing house for justice.

“Why did you ask Judge Orso to meet with us this early?” Matt Kingsley asked his supervisor, a tall, lanky woman with freckles and curly red hair. Lily didn’t look old enough to have a daughter in her second year of college. One of the most impassioned prosecutors in the county, she whipped around the office with nonstop energy, putting the younger attorneys to shame. In many ways, such intensity was frightening. Of course, anyone would get excited about the crime they were presently handling. The victim was an eight-year-old girl. Her father, Henry Middleton, had been arrested the day before on charges of attempted murder.

The crime had occurred on Halloween. Betsy Louise Middleton, dressed in her pink satin ballerina costume, had consumed what easily could have amounted to a fatal dose of strychnine administered in a straw-shaped candy. The child’s parents appeared to be upstanding citizens. The father owned a chain of furniture stores and served as a deacon in the First Baptist Church, one of the reasons the police had not immediately identified the couple as suspects. Instead, every person Betsy had visited while trick or treating that fatal night had been put through the wringer.

The investigation had been time-consuming and exhaustive. Only four days before, the break the authorities had been waiting for had finally arrived. While working a convenience store robbery, a police officer had stumbled across a Spanish-speaking witness in Ventura, a neighboring city located approximately twenty miles south of Santa Barbara. The woman had positively identified Henry Middleton from a photo lineup, stating that she remembered him purchasing that particular brand of candy the day before Halloween while his wife and children waited outside in their red Ford Explorer. The witness recognized the defendant, as she had purchased a mattress from his furniture company.

“Didn’t you speak to Judge Orso yesterday?” Matt Kingsley’s voice cut through the morning calm. His eyes were a muted shade of hazel, his blond hair stylishly long. His look was that of a former surfer without the charred skin. To add to his appeal, he drove a bright yellow Ferrari and purchased his clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom.

“Yes,” Lily said crisply. “I caught him on the golf course, though. He probably doesn’t remember half of our conversation.”

Santa Barbara was a small judicial district, and due to the early hour, the courthouse had yet to come alive. A bedraggled attorney was leaning against the wall, sipping a cup of coffee out of a Styrofoam cup. Kingsley, with his Brooks Brothers suit and squeaky new shoes, smirked as he took in the other man’s morning stubble, wrinkled shirt, and dirty white sneakers. “Think this guy overestimated the travel time?” he said, spotting what looked like a garment bag on the floor next to the man’s briefcase.

Lily’s jaw dropped. For a few moments she just stared, unable to believe her eyes. She considered turning around, but there was no other way to reach their destination.

“Is something wrong?” Kingsley asked, noting how ashen her face had become.

She tilted her head so Kingsley would follow her instead of lingering. Once they were out of earshot, she stopped walking. “You’re not sharp enough to lick that man’s boots, let alone compete with him in the courtroom. You just walked past one of the finest legal minds in the state.”

“Fine, whatever,” Kingsley answered, straightening the knot on his tie. “Want to tell me why someone with one of the finest legal minds in the state is hanging around the courthouse like he lives here?”

Lily continued walking. “He doesn’t want to take a chance on being late.”

The young attorney snickered. “Hard to believe you’d worship this guy just because he always shows upon time.”

“That’s only one of his finer traits,” Lily told him, flicking a piece of lint off her green linen jacket. Young guns like Kingsley always chased after the big case. When their heads hit the pillow at night, they dreamed of dynamite arguments, surprise witnesses, killer pieces of evidence, complex legal analyses. Only with maturity did they learn the truth—that many times the seemingly insignificant traits were what put a person in a league with the legends.

Matt Kingsley pulled his collar away from his neck, a stream of perspiration dotting his forehead. Only 8:00 A.M., and already the courthouse was steaming. By noon the place would be as hot as a boiler room. The building was not air-conditioned. Age alone precluded any attempt at modernization, and the historical society wouldn’t allow them even window units. The only thing that made life tolerable was that everyone suffered: the judges, the prosecutors, the prisoners, even the jurors.

Once they reached Judge William Orso’s chambers, Lily tried the outer door and found it locked. “Damn,” she said, anxiously jiggling the handle, “don’t tell me he forgot about our conference this morning. Someone’s got to get this man to retire. I swear he’s so senile he has trouble remembering his own name.”

“How did Officer Stevens put this together?” Kingsley asked as they waited, reaching into his pocket for a package of chewing gum. He offered a stick to Lily, but she waved it away. “Certainly he didn’t carry a mug shot of the father around with him. This wasn’t even Ventura’s homicide. The way I heard it, Stevens was at the store to investigate an unrelated robbery.”

“I’ve known a lot of callous killers,” Lily said, ignoring his question. “I honestly believe Middleton is the worst piece of human garbage I’ve ever seen. He sat there and fed his own child strychnine for no other reason than greed.”

“Maybe it was a mercy killing,” he suggested. “The girl has a serious illness. Isn’t that how they explained the million-dollar life insurance policy? I mean, no one insures their kid for that kind of money unless they think there’s a chance they’re going to die.”

“Don’t you know anything about this case?” Lily asked, appalled that he wasn’t better informed. “Betsy suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Aicardi syndrome. She has a defect in the corpus callosum, the middle brain, which allows the right brain to communicate with the left brain. At the time Middleton had insured her, she hadn’t been officially diagnosed. Her parents might have suspected that she had the disorder, however, because someone in their family could have died from it years before.”

“Can’t we find out?”

“Probably not,” Lily told him. “These are the kinds of things families keep hidden, although they pass it along by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Aicardi syndrome was identified only in 1965. If one of the Middleton ancestors did die from complications from it, the correct cause of death was probably not listed.”

“Hey, I’m not a doctor,” Kingsley said. “I read something about right brain versus left brain when I was in college. That’s about as far as I go.”

“Just listen,” she continued. “Children who suffer from Aicardi syndrome have seizures, some more frequently than others. Betsy also has a hole in the retina of her left eye and a small lesion on her right.”

“Then she’s blind?”

“Not blind,” Lily corrected him. “Visually impaired.” Kingsley smacked his gum. “I thought she was retarded.”

“Developmentally disabled.”

“We’re just talking,” the young attorney said. “I wouldn’t use the word retarded in the courtroom.”

Lily gave him a look that would drop an elephant. “Then don’t use it now.”

Kingsley decided to shut his mouth.

“Okay,” she said a few moments later, “here’s how I see it. Middleton needed money. Because he had two normal children, he decided Betsy was expendable. Like a ripped sofa, you know. Except he didn’t just toss her out, he cashed her in like a lottery ticket. Can you imagine holding your child in your arms and listening to her scream in agony?”

Kingsley’s hand instinctively flew to his stomach. “Weren’t the other children insured as well?”

“Not until Betsy was born,” Lily said, chewing on a ragged fingernail. “To prove how diabolical Middleton is, we have to show the jury the years of preparation that went into this crime.”

The picture she had painted was so evil the hairs were prickling on the back of his neck. “How could a person plot his daughter’s death almost from the day she was born?” Kingsley asked. “You make it sound as if he was charting a long-term bailout plan for his company.”

“Precisely,” Lily said, her eyes expanding.

The young attorney could see the case unfolding on his supervisor’s face, almost as if he were watching film footage of the actual crime. And what Lily visualized in her mind was generally accurate. She had a gift, an ability to take all the minute and disconnected pieces and fit them together like a puzzle. Up until a few days ago, when the Ventura police had handed them the goods, most of the prosecutors and investigators in the Santa Barbara office had decided the crime had been the result of a random act and would never be solved. Lily’s conviction that Henry Middleton had poisoned his daughter had never wavered.

Lily fell deep in thought, her eyes trained on the floor. Suddenly she remembered something, jerking her head up. “You didn’t tell me what the hospital said this morning.”

“I told Mike Armstrong to call.”

Lily’s voice rose several octaves. “Did I tell you to have Armstrong check on Betsy’s condition?”

“No, but—”

“But, my ass,” she shouted. “What are we going to charge Middleton with?”

“Attempted murder, of course.” A few sheets of paper fluttered in Kingsley’s hands. “The complaint’s right here. You don’t have to go ballistic.”

Lily snatched the papers from him, then darted around the corner. She tried to reach Armstrong on her cell phone, but the investigator’s voice mail came on. Dropping down on a bench, she buried her head in her hands, asking herself why she had accepted another position as a prosecutor. Reviewing cases for the appellate court in Los Angeles might not have been as challenging, but the stress level was minimal. Since the events which had transpired in Ventura six years before, she had visited a shrink once a week. Therapy, however, was nothing more than a Band-Aid. Her sins were too serious to reveal to a priest, let alone a psychologist. Once she regained her composure, she returned to where Kingsley was waiting.

“You were right about that lawyer,” he said, staring down the hallway. “He disappeared, then came back looking good enough to go on national TV. I swear. He wasn’t gone longer than ten minutes max. He shaved, changed his clothes, combed his hair. The guy must carry everything he owns in that garment bag.”

“Doubtful,” Lily said, deciding to call the hospital herself. Each time she tried to punch in the numbers, though, her hands began shaking and she had to start over. How could she function when the only man she had ever loved was standing only a short distance away?

“You’re probably right,” Kingsley decided. “That’s a Valentino he’s wearing. I know, because I almost bought the same suit. What’s his name, by the way? I think I might have seen him on Rivera Live the other day.”

“Richard Fowler,” Lily said, tossing the words over her shoulder as she ducked into the rest room.


Lily splashed cold water on her face, then finally managed to get through to Dr. Logan at the hospital. After she explained that the Middleton girl’s father was about to be arraigned for attempted murder, the physician asked if he could speak to her in person. “I’m really on a tight schedule today,” she told him. “Can’t you give me an update of her condition over the phone?”

“Please, Ms. Forrester,” Logan said. “Betsy’s condition has deteriorated. We’ve been talking to her parents about removing her from life support.”

“I’ll be over as soon as possible,” Lily told him, deciding she would have to postpone the arraignment. As soon as she disconnected, her daughter called.

“You left a message on my machine.”

“Shana,” she said, “I can’t talk right now, sweetheart. Will you be home this afternoon?”

“Yeah,” the girl mumbled. “Dad forwards the calls to his cell phone, though, so you probably won’t be able to reach me. What’s going on?”

Shana was generally a positive, charismatic young lady. Most of their conversations were filled with gossip and laughter. Not only did she sound as if she were speaking through a pillow, there was something else that Lily couldn’t quite put her finger on. “Are you okay?”

“I was up until three o’clock last night.”


“Of course,” Shana said, sighing, “what else would I be doing on a Monday night? I certainly wasn’t out partying. I was sick last week. I missed three days of classes.”

“Did you see a doctor?”

“I’m fine, Mom,” she told her. “I must have had a touch of the flu. What do you want to talk to me about? The message you left on my answering machine made it sound like it was something important.”

Common sense told Lily to let it slide. She stared up at the overhead light fixture, a graveyard of dead flies. A public rest room wasn’t a place to conduct a serious conversation, and running into Richard Fowler had left her unnerved. Had he even seen her? “I’ll catch you later this evening.”

“Tell me now,” the girl insisted. “I won’t be able to concentrate on my school work. You can’t just dangle something in front of me, then make me wait. You know I’m curious by nature. You’re the same way, Mom.”

Lily poked her head out the door to the rest room. Kingsley was still standing in front of the judge’s chambers. Damn Orso, she thought. They’d be lucky if he showed up for the hearing. “Is your father home?”

“I think he went out to get something to eat,” Shana told her. “The car was gone when I woke up this morning.”

“I know you can’t transfer now,” Lily said, deciding to speak her mind while her ex-husband was out of the house, “but I’d like you to reconsider attending the university here in Santa Barbara.”

“Not this again,” her daughter whined. “The fall semester just started. Why would you even mention me switching schools? I thought you were happy for me, that you weren’t going to rag on me anymore.”

“I am happy for you,” Lily told her, leaning back against the sink. “Something’s come up, that’s all. If you were living in the dorm there wouldn’t be a problem. Even sharing an apartment with a couple of girls might be an option. The rent on the duplex is almost two thousand a month.”

“Why do you care?” Shana asked. “Dad pays for it.”

“Not anymore.”

“I don’t understand.”

“He called me yesterday,” Lily explained. “I promised I wouldn’t tell you—”

“Tell me what?”

“Your father’s behind on the rent. He claims he hasn’t sold a house in four months. I’m already paying for your tuition, food, clothing, even your car insurance.”

“You’re making this up,” Shana said. “Dad sold a house last week. He has all kinds of big deals in the fire.”

“I’m sorry, darling,” Lily said, her chest constricting. John always managed to make her the bearer of bad news. He knew she would refuse to foot the bill for the duplex. He’d had to give it a stab, though, just like a gambler had to toss his last chip down on the table. “You know your father doesn’t always tell the truth,” she continued. “Even if he closed a deal tomorrow, Shana, it could be up to three months before he received a commission check.”

“You’re just saying these things because you’re jealous,” the girl argued. “You’ve always been jealous over my relationship with Dad. That’s why you put him down all the time.”

Lily suspected there was some degree of truth in her daughter’s statement. She wouldn’t call it jealousy, however. All the checks she sent to Shana were cashed by her ex-husband. With the exception of the rent, she had been supporting them both for over a year. “Your father made it sound like he doesn’t anticipate being able to pay the rent for quite some time,” she went on. “I suggested he get a regular job, something that paid him an hourly wage. He hung upon me.”

“But my friends are here,” Shana cried. “I’ll have to start over if you make me change schools. And you know Santa Barbara isn’t ranked as high as UCLA. I want to go to a first-rate law school.”

With her free hand, Lily opened the door to the rest room. She could already taste defeat. Her daughter had an emotional stranglehold on her. If she continued the discussion, she would be sucked dry. “I’ll agree to allow you to continue at UCLA,” she said, “but you’ll have to move into the dorm by next semester. Otherwise, I might not be able to afford to send you to law school.”

“Now you’re threatening me!”

“I’m attempting to explain the facts of life to you,” Lily said. “I earn a modest living, Shana. The price of education is astronomical. I’ve been saving for your future since the day you were born. I’d work a second job if necessary. I simply cannot support your father.”

The line was silent.

“I love you,” Lily told her, wishing such a negative discussion hadn’t been necessary. “Everything will work out. It won’t be so bad living in the dorm. You’ll have fun, get to spend more time with your friends. Who knows? Maybe you won’t need the added expense of keeping a car.”

“Great,” Shana snapped. “Thanks a lot, Mom. This is just what I needed to start my day. First I have to move. Now I have to give up my car. Everyone has a car in L.A. How will I get around?”

“You’ll be living on campus.” Lily paused. She should have never mentioned the car. The car was a sore spot. “Your father doesn’t have a car, and he seems to be making out just fine.”

Shana knew she was busted. When her mother had tapped into her savings to buy her a brand-new Mustang convertible for a high school graduation gift, she had made her promise that she wouldn’t allow anyone else to drive it. “What am I supposed to do? Dad needs a car to sell real estate. Either he drives me where I want to go, or I catch a ride with one of my friends. What’s the big deal?”

Negotiate, Lily told herself, taking in a deep breath. Her daughter was a formidable young woman. Already she argued like an attorney. When given the chance, however, she could be as manipulative as her father. “I might be able to increase your allowance so you’ll have more money to spend on entertainment and clothes.”

A small voice said, “I have to go.”

“Family problems?” Kingsley asked, overhearing the tail end of Lily’s conversation.

She slipped her cell phone back into her purse, giving him a look that said he should mind his own business. No matter how attractive he was, the attorney annoyed her. Maybe he annoyed her because he was so good-looking. Just to prove her point, a couple walked by. The man glanced at Lily and immediately looked away. The woman smiled flirtatiously at Kingsley. He was used to women drooling over him. He loved it, encouraged it. “No sign of Orso yet?”


“As soon as he shows, ask him to postpone the arraignment until three o’clock this afternoon,” Lily told him, her face locked in a grimace. “I need to go to the hospital.”

The young prosecutor was bewildered. “Why can’t we go ahead with the arraignment at ten like we planned? I got here at six o’clock this morning to work on the complaint. I even had Brennan go over it with me last night to make certain everything was perfect.”

Lily struck her forehead with the back of her hand. “Think,” she shot out. “Attempted murder is not first-degree murder. We can plead special circumstances and ask for the death penalty if Betsy died during the night. Then Middleton might be looking at something far more frightening than a prison sentence.”


Lily steered her black Audi into the parking lot of Saint Francis Hospital. She was thankful that the hospital was only a five-minute drive from the courthouse. Part of the luxury of living in a small city like Santa Barbara was the fact that everything was close, and, in most instances, a person didn’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic. Weekends were occasionally a problem, but most of the traffic snarled on the 101 Freeway or on State Street, the city’s main drag. People from Los Angeles and the surrounding communities headed north during the summer months to escape the heat and enjoy the lovely beaches. When the mercury inched its way past eighty in Santa Barbara and people started perspiring and complaining, the temperature in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley generally rose over the hundred mark. On her drive to the office that morning, Lily had heard that it was supposed to hit 105 in downtown L.A.

“I’m here to see Dr. Logan,” she told an elderly volunteer working the front desk.

“Is he expecting you?”

“Yes,” Lily said, giving the woman her name.

When she stepped off the elevator onto the second floor, a handsome man in a white coat rushed over to greet her. “Christopher Logan,” he said, shaking her hand. “You could have waited for me in the lobby. Didn’t Mrs. McKinley tell you?”

“No,” Lily said, her face flushing. They had talked on the phone at least a dozen times. His voice was familiar, yet she had not anticipated him being so small. Wearing a blue shirt under his starched white jacket, Dr. Logan had neatly trimmed dark hair, perfectly shaped facial features, and he possessed the kind of squeaky-clean look that one would expect for a person in his profession. Lily found herself checking her fingernails, fearful there might be a speck of dirt under them. When the doctor gazed up at her, he blinked several times. She wasn’t the only one doing a double take. She doubted if the diminutive Dr. Logan had envisioned himself talking to a freckle-faced giraffe during their numerous phone conversations.

“Betsy isn’t here,” he told her. “She’s been moved to the transitional care unit.”

Middleton’s arraignment had been postponed until three o’clock that afternoon, but Lily had two additional court appearances to make, one at ten-thirty and another at one. Her watch read nine forty-five. Logan motioned toward an unoccupied waiting room a few feet away, then waited until Lily dropped down on the edge of a chair.


On Sale
Mar 1, 2002
Page Count
368 pages
Hachette Books

Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

About the Author

Nancy Taylor Rosenberg, a fourteen-year veteran of law enforcement, has worked for the Dallas Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the Ventura Police and the Ventura County Probation Department, where she was a superior court investigator. She has written six New York Times bestselling novels. She lives in Southern California. You can visit her website at http://www.nancytrosenberg.com.

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