An assassin's bullet shattered Joanna Brady's world, leaving herpoliceman husband to die in the Arizona desert. But the young widowfought back the only way she knew how: by bringing the killers tojustice...and winning herself a job as Cochise County Sheriff.
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July 29, 2003
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Excerpt from Shoot Don't Shoot by J.A. Jance
"You never should have gone out with him in the first place," Lael Weaver Gastone told her thirty-year-old daughter, Rhonda. "You should have figured out from the very beginning that a guy like that would be trouble, and you certainly shouldn't have married.him."
Holding her hands in her lap, Rhonda Norton examined her tender fingertips. She was so on edge that she had chewed the nails off all the way down to the quick. "How was I supposed to know that?" she asked, trying her best not to cry.
Lael looked up from the thumbnail sketch she was working on. The bar of pastel stopped scratching on the rough surface of the Sabertooth paper.
"Oh, for God's sake, Rhonda. How dumb can you be?" Lael demanded. "If a married professor starts dating an unmarried undergraduate, you can pretty well figure the man's a jackass. And so's the girl for that matter."
Rhonda Weaver Norton's cheeks reddened with anger. The tears retreated. "Thanks, Mom," she said. "I always know I can count on you for sympathy."
"You can always count on me for a straight answer," Lael corrected. "Now tell me, why exactly are you here?"
Rhonda looked around the spacious, well-lit studio her stepfather, Jean Paul Gastone, had built as a place for his lovely new wife to pursue her artistic endeavors. Rhonda interpreted that cluttered but isolated work space as an act of self-serving generosity on Jean Paul's part. Lael had always been messy. If nothing else, the physical separation of the studio from the main house would help keep most of that mess localized. That way the main house a breathtakingly cantilevered mountaintop mansion could continue to look picture-perfect, as if the photographers from House Beautiful or Architectural Digest were due at any moment.
The place where Lael and Jean Paul lived now was a far cry from the way Rhonda and her mother had lived when Rhonda was a child. She and the free-spirited, starving artist Lael Weaver had lived a nomadic existence that took them from place to place, from drafty furnished rooms to countless roach-infested apartments. This million-dollar-plus architectural wonder was perched on a steep hillside overlooking one of Sedona, Arizona's, most photographed red-rocked cliffs. The fourteen-foot floor-to-ceiling windows offered a clear and unobstructed view.
All the furnishings in both the house and studio had been tastefully chosen by someone with an eye for beauty. Rhonda didn't have to look at any of the labels to know that all the assembled pieces were name brand, as were the clothes on her mother's back. That was far different from the past as well. Rhonda had spent her school years living with the daily humiliation of wearing the secondhand clothing her mother had bought at thrift stores and rummage sales. She had endured the steady taunts from other children who somehow knew she ate the free lunches offered at school. And she recalled all too well how embarrassed she had been every time her mother sent her to the grocery store with a fistful of food stamps instead of money.
Lael's life had taken a definite turn for the better. In the last few years, her oddball pastels had finally started to sell. She had met Jean Paul Gastone at a gallery opening when he had stopped by to say how much he admired her work. Now they were married--seemingly happily--and living a gracious and beautiful life together. Rhonda couldn't help envying the idea of her mother living happily ever after. Too bad things hadn't worked out nearly that well for Lael's daughter.
In the course of a long, lingering silence, Lael returned to her sketch. With nothing more to say, Rhonda once more examined the room. She realized with a start that her mother's studio that one room, not counting either the private bath or the convenient kitchenette that had been built off to one side was larger than her entire studio apartment.