The Ninth R.A. Huber Novel
GUILTY OR NOT is Alice Zogg’s ninth mystery novel in her R. A. Huber series. In the first chapter Rachel Penrose is standing trial for the murder of her fiancé, Steven Moretti, a philanderer of colossal proportions. And in the last chapter, the trial continues and comes to a revealing end. The pages in between are the essence of the story. The evidence against Rachel and her motive for killing him are indisputable. Everyone is convinced of her guilt except her old friend Jonathan Lighthart, who believes in her innocence and hires R. A. Huber to find the real culprit. Huber accepts the challenge, which puts her and her young assistant, Andi, on a cruise to Alaska, and ultimately on a frantic race against time. Days before the trial, Huber gets a breakthrough, but the villain cannot risk having her testify and launches a brutal attack, landing her in the hospital in critical condition.
Guilty or Not is available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book format at
www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com
Publisher: Aventine Press (October 2013)
Hardcover ISBN number: 978-1-59330-837-7
Paperback ISBN number: 978-1-59330-836-0
eBook Edition ISBN number: 978-1-45662-025-7
List Price – Hardcover US$27.50
List Price – Paperback US$14.95
eBook Price – US$4.99
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Rachel Penrose’s trial for the murder of her fiancé, Steven Moretti, was in full swing on this fifth day of the court proceedings at the Pasadena Superior Court. Rachel sat at the defense table next to her legal counselor, oblivious to the drama unfolding around her. She caught bits and pieces of testimony, but most of it remained a blur to her. Her mind had long shut all emotion out, and she thought, let’s just get this over with.
Following the jury selection on Friday, August 10, the actual trial began on Monday, August 13, with opening statements from both the district attorney in charge of the prosecution and Rachel’s defense attorney, David Wachterman. There ensued testimony of a string of witnesses called by the prosecution, consisting of police officers, medical doctors and toxicology experts. The twelve jurors plus two alternates paid keen attention, although some of the experts’ monologues seemed beyond their comprehension. The authorities had found poisonous oleander mixed in with Steven Moretti’s loose leaf tea. Oleander is an evergreen perennial bush containing the toxic glycoside oleandrin, and as little as one leaf of the plant may be toxic enough to cause death in human beings.
Now the prosecution called Rufina Ramos, the housekeeper, as witness to be sworn in by the bailiff. She stated her name and position in the Steven Moretti household, and then the DA performed his direct examination.
Clearly uncomfortable in the limelight, dressed in her new suit, Rufina answered his questions about the tea brewing habits of her employer to the best of her knowledge. His query proceeded to what she saw on April 5 from an upstairs window looking down onto the backyard - - or more to the point, what she failed to see. On cross-examination, David Wachterman wanted to know the exact date of the last tea shipment arriving in the mail as well as its country of origin.
As the housekeeper’s testimony evolved, Rachel thought, what difference does it make? They found the damned oleander in the tea, regardless of where the tea was shipped from or how long it had been in the house!
The prosecutor called the next witness, and Jasmine Dewitt strutted up to the witness stand. No denying she looked great in her little black dress and four-inch heels. She had pulled up her blond hair into a demure bun, applied a minimum amount of makeup, and wore understated stud earrings for the occasion, but nothing demure showed in her body language. Obviously, the young woman enjoyed the spotlight.
Rachel tuned out and kept her stoic expression during Jasmine’s testimony. Why go through that horrible day once more? She had re-lived it in her dreams and most of her waking hours time and time again. Much easier to ignore it all and retreat into a world of her own. Toward the end of Jasmine’s statement, Rachel became aware of sudden silence in the courtroom, which made her come out of her reverie and focus on the proceedings playing out before her.
The prosecutor took a couple of steps closer to the witness stand, lowered his voice a notch, and asked, “Tell us, Ms. Dewitt, what was the defendant’s reaction when she walked in on you and Steven Moretti in the bedroom?”
Jasmine replied, “First she just stared, and then she lost her cool.”
“Do you remember her exact words?”
“Yes, I do. She pointed at Steven and shouted, ‘You disgusting bastard, I’ll kill you for this!’ and ran out the door.”
There were excited murmurs among people in the spectator seats, and the judge called for a lunch recess. Rachel thought, why is everyone surprised? The bimbo told the truth.