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Maggie Boylan sat in her place and glared at the judge as hard a glare as she dared to give. But her glare was nothing to him. He kept his eyes on the papers laid out on the bench and he nodded as the lawyers—her lawyer on one side and the prosecutor on the other—said those things that lawyers say when they’re deciding someone’s case. [End Page 10]

Finally, at a word from the judge, Maggie’s lawyer nodded to the prosecutor and the prosecutor nodded to the judge and the judge wrote something on the papers and the little circle of men broke up.

Her lawyer sat back down beside her. He shrugged. “We got as good a deal as we’re gonna get,” he whispered.

She whispered back, “Did you get me off?”

“Maggie, I pulled out everything I had, but God himself couldn’t have got you off this one.”

“I didn’t pay God to be my lawyer.”

“If it comes to that, you didn’t pay me either. The county pays my tab, for what it’s worth.”

“Well, what did the county get for its money?”

“The judge’ll tell us in just a minute.”

“Cooper, I swear I didn’t do it.”

“You can swear all you want. They had a witness.”

“And that witness lied.”

“But the judge believed her.”

“I told you we should of gone for a jury trial.”

“Maggie, there’s not twelve people in this county you haven’t pissed off.”

“I ain’t going back to prison.”

“There’s not twelve people in this county that haven’t caught you in a lie.”

“There’s nothing on earth gonna make me go back to Marysville.”

“I’ve caught you in a few lies myself.”

“I’ll hide out in the hills. I’ll live off of squirrel meat and raw grass.”

“Hush, Maggie.” He tapped her arm and pointed to the bench.

“I’m telling you, I ain’t going back to prison.”

“Maggie, hush.” [End Page 11]

She would have given him a hush-my-ass, but the bucket-blue eye of the judge stared her into silence. He glared at her so hard she felt she had been nailed to the back of her seat.

The bailiff called out, “The defendant will now rise.”

Cooper stood, but Maggie could not rise until the judge lowered his gaze and looked back down to his papers.

“Guilty as charged,” the judge said. Three years on the shelf. Treatment in lieu of incarceration.

“If you fail to meet these obligations, if you are found in association with any known drug dealers or users, if you are found to be positive for alcohol or any other drug as evidenced by urinalysis or breathalyzer, if you pick up any new charge, if you get so much as a parking ticket, you will serve your full sentence with no hope of parole.”

He set down the papers. “Do you understand me?”

“I got to go to a program?”

“And you will complete the program.”

“I ain’t going back to prison?”

“Not if you follow the rules of your probation.”

Maggie cut her eye toward her lawyer. Ain’t he the smug one, she thought.

The judge went on. “But if you fail to comply with these provisions, if you miss so much as a single meeting with your probation officer or with any counselor, therapist, or case manager recommended for you by your probation officer, I will see to it that you serve every minute of this suspended incarceration. Moreover, if you are caught so much as looking in the direction of a known user or seller of drugs, you will serve out the sentence that I have decided, this one time and against [End Page 12] my better judgment, to suspend. Do you understand me?”

Maggie understood; she nodded her head to let him know she understood.

“For the record, Maggie, do you understand what I just told you?”

“Yes.” She glanced toward Cooper. He nodded. “Yes, Your Honor,” she said. “I do.”

“So if I ever see you in this courtroom...


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