Steve Berry's The Amber Room
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A scintillating tale of intrigue, deception, art, and murder 
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First Chapter

 

Steve Berry's The Amber Room cover Atlanta, Georgia Tuesday, May 6, the present, 10:35 a.m.
mystery booksJudge Rachel Cutler glanced over the top of her tortoiseshell glasses. The lawyer had said it again, and this time she wasn't going to let the comment drop. "Excuse me, counselor."
mystery books"I said the defendant moves for a mistrial."
mystery books"No. Before that. What did you say?"
mystery books"I said, 'Yes, sir.' "
mystery books"If you haven't noticed, I'm not a sir."
mystery books"Quite correct, Your Honor. I apologize."
mystery books"You've done that four times this morning. I made a note each time."
mystery booksThe lawyer shrugged. "It seems such a trivial matter. Why would Your Honor take the time to note my simple slip of the tongue?"
mystery booksThe impertinent bastard even smiled. She sat erect in her chair and glared down at him. But she immediately realized what T. Marcus Nettles was doing. So she said nothing.
mystery books"My client is on trial for aggravated assault, Judge. Yet the court seems more concerned with how I address you than with the issue of police misconduct."
mystery booksShe glanced over at the jury, then at the other counsel table. The Fulton County assistant district attorney sat impassive, apparently pleased that her opponent was digging his own grave. Obviously, the young lawyer didn't grasp what Nettles was attempting. But she did. "You're absolutely right, counselor. It is a trivial matter. Proceed."
mystery booksShe sat back in her chair and noticed the momentary look of annoyance on Nettles's face. An expression that a hunter might give when his shot missed the mark.
mystery books"What of my motion for mistrial?" Nettles asked.
mystery books"Denied. Move on. Continue with your summation."
mystery booksRachel watched the jury foreman as he stood and pronounced a guilty verdict. Deliberations had taken only twenty minutes.
mystery books"Your Honor," Nettles said, coming to his feet. "I move for a presentence investigation prior to sentencing."
mystery books"Denied."
mystery books"I move that sentencing be delayed."
mystery books"Denied."
mystery booksNettles seemed to sense the mistake he'd made earlier. "I move for the court to recuse itself."
mystery books"On what grounds?"
mystery books"Bias."
mystery books"To whom or what?"
mystery books"To myself and my client."
mystery books"Explain."
mystery books"The court has shown prejudice."
mystery books"How?"
mystery books"With that display this morning about my inadvertent use of sir."
mystery books"As I recall, counselor, I admitted it was a trivial matter."
mystery books"Yes, you did. But our conversation occurred with the jury present, and the damage was done."
mystery books"I don't recall an objection or a motion for mistrial concerning the conversation."
mystery booksNettles said nothing. She looked over at the assistant DA. "What's the State's position?"
mystery books"The State opposes the motion. The court has been fair."
mystery booksShe almost smiled. At least the young lawyer knew the right answer.
mystery books"Motion to recuse denied." She stared at the defendant, a young white male with scraggly hair and a pockmarked face. "The defendant shall rise." He did. "Barry King, you've been found guilty of the crime of aggravated assault. This court hereby remands you to the Department of Corrections for a period of twenty years. The bailiff will take the defendant into custody."
mystery booksShe rose and stepped toward an oak-paneled door that led to her chambers. "Mr. Nettles, could I see you a moment?" The assistant DA headed toward her, too. "Alone."
mystery booksNettles left his client, who was being cuffed, and followed her into the office.
mystery books"Close the door, please." She unzipped her robe but did not remove it. She stepped behind her desk. "Nice try, counselor."
mystery books"Which one?"
mystery books"Earlier, when you thought that jab about sir and ma'am would set me off. You were getting your butt chapped with that half-cocked defense, so you thought me losing my temper would get you a mistrial."
mystery booksHe shrugged. "You gotta do what you gotta do."
mystery books"What you have to do is show respect for the court and not call a female judge sir. Yet you kept on. Deliberately."
mystery books"You just sentenced my guy to twenty years without the benefit of a presentence hearing. If that isn't prejudice, what is?"
mystery booksShe sat down and did not offer the lawyer a seat. "I didn't need a hearing. I sentenced King to aggravated battery two years ago. Six months in, six months' probation. I remember. This time he took a baseball bat and fractured a man's skull. He's used up what little patience I have."
mystery books"You should have recused yourself. All that information clouded your judgment."
mystery books"Really? That presentence investigation you're screaming for would have revealed all that, anyway. I simply saved you the trouble of waiting for the inevitable."
mystery books"You're a fucking bitch."
mystery books"That's going to cost you a hundred dollars. Payable now. Along with another hundred for the stunt in the courtroom."
mystery books"I'm entitled to a hearing before you find me in contempt."
mystery books"True. But you don't want that. It'll do nothing for that chauvinistic image you go out of your way to portra
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y."
mystery bookHe said nothing, and she could feel the fire building. Nettles was a heavyset, jowled man with a reputation for tenacity, surely unaccustomed to taking orders from a woman.
mystery book"And every time you show off that big ass of yours in my court, it's going to cost you a hundred dollars."
mystery bookHe stepped toward the desk and withdrew a wad of money, peeling off two one-hundred-dollar bills, crisp new ones with the swollen Ben Franklin. He slapped both on the desk, then unfolded three more.
mystery book"Fuck you."
mystery bookOne bill dropped.
mystery book"Fuck you."
mystery bookThe second bill fell.
mystery book"Fuck you."
mystery bookThe third Ben Franklin fluttered down.

 
Excerpted from The Amber Room by Steve Berry. Copyright 2003 by Steve Berry.
Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 
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