EXCERPT: 'The Eleventh Victim'

She made it up as she went along. She broke every cardinal rule of testimony on the stand, her story getting more and more elaborate.

"They're already sweet-talking the victims' families one by one, meeting in their homes and showing up with all the paperwork ready to be signed."

Receiver wedged between shoulder and ear, she pictured the usual clientless hacks roaming the courthouse halls, nursing Styrofoam cups of coffee, belts riding low to make room for girth.

If it were true, the suit against the Telegraph could easily pass the time while they waited for judges to hand out appointed cases to them. An appointed case was a fast three hundred bucks in exchange for a swift, easy, and unprepared guilty plea from inmates. Judges loved clearing their calendars and defense attorneys loved the three hundred dollars.

"But my God, they were hookers!" Christian exploded, as if that would get him out of a lawsuit.

"Yeah, if you can prove it," she followed up, "but imagine a jury when they see eight-by-tens of eleven murdered women, then listen to their families break down in tears on the stand one after the other, including their mothers, Christian. Can you imagine? Plaintiffs will have a field day, even though they normally can't try their way out of a paper bag. It's over, Christian, and it hasn't even started."

She knew Brown's head was spinning as he realized he'd shot his own foot for one day's circulation boost. Hookers in headlines always sold copy. He hadn't bargained on a lawsuit.

"Vultures, all of them, Christian," she went on. "Vultures. You should have heard them. A couple million in a settlement against you makes the good life possible for them. Watch out."

"I'll see what I can do," he told Hailey. Without the least bit of guilt over the huge lie she'd just told, Hailey placed the phone back in the cradle, then imme-diately picked it up again.

Rap sheets in hand, she dialed the number Leola Williams had given her. With a pang of hurt for the loss of Leola's first baby girl and no mention of LaSondra's extensive rap sheet, Hailey promised into the phone that Leola's daughter would not be mistreated by the press. Easier said than done, but she had to try.

"Thank you, Miss Hailey. You see that justice comes to the man who did this. You make sure he pays."

From THE ELEVENTH VICTIM by Nancy Grace. Copyright © 2009 Toto Holdings, LLC. To be published in August 2009 by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.

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