Fifteen Years Later
Casey Carter stepped forward once she heard the click, then heard the loud, familiar clank behind her. The clank was the sound of her cell doors. She’d heard them close every morning when she stepped out for breakfast, every night after dinner, and usually twice in between. Four times a day for fifteen years. Roughly 21,900 clanks, not including leap years.
But this particular sound was different from all the rest. Today, instead of her usual orange prison attire, she wore the black slacks and crisp white cotton shirt her mother had brought to the warden’s office yesterday—both a size too large. Today, when she walked out, her books and photographs would be leaving with her.
It was the very last time, God willing, that she’d hear that stifling metallic echo. After this, she was done. No parole. No restrictions. Once she stepped from this building, she would be completely free.
The building in question was the York Correctional Institution. When she’d first arrived here, she’d felt sorry for herself every morning and every night. The papers called her Crazy Casey. More like Cursed Casey. Over time, however, she trained herself to feel grateful for small blessings. Fried chicken on Wednesdays. A cellmate with a lovely singing voice and a fondness for the songs of Joni Mitchell. New books in the library. Over the years, Casey had earned the privilege of teaching art appreciation to a small group of fellow inmates.
York wasn’t a place where Casey had ever pictured herself, but York had been her home for a decade and a half.
As she walked the tiled halls—one guard in front of her, one behind—fellow inmates called out to her. “You go, Casey.” “Don’t forget about us.” “Show them what you can do!” She heard whistles and claps. She wouldn’t miss this place, but she would remember so many of these women and the lessons they had taught her.
She was excited to leave, but she hadn’t been this scared since she first arrived. She’d spent 21,900 clanks counting down her days. Now she had finally earned her freedom, and she was terrified.
As she heard an entirely new sound—the prison’s outside doors swinging open—she wondered, What will my life be like tomorrow?
A wave of relief washed over her when she saw her mother and cousin waiting outside. Her mother’s hair was gray now, and she was at least an inch shorter than when Casey began serving her sentence. But when her mother wrapped her arms around her, Casey felt like a small child again.
Her cousin Angela was as gorgeous as ever. She pulled Casey into a tight hug. Casey tried not to think about the absence of her father, or the fact that the prison hadn’t allowed her to attend his funeral three years earlier.
“Thank you so much for coming all the way up from the city,” Casey said to Angela. Most of Casey’s friends had stopped talking to her once she was arrested. The few that pretended to remain neutral during her trial disappeared from her life once she was convicted. The only support Casey had received beyond the prison walls was from her mother and Angela.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Angela said. “But I owe you an apology: I was so excited this morning that I left the city without the clothes your mom asked me to bring. But no worries. We can stop by the mall on the way home for some basics.”
“Leave it to you to find any excuse to go shopping,” Casey joked. Angela, a former model, was now the head of marketing for a women’s sportswear company called Ladyform.
Once they were in the car, Casey asked Angela how well she knew the Pierce family, which founded Ladyform.
“I’ve met the parents, but their daughter, Charlotte, runs the New York operations. She’s one of my best friends. Why do you ask?”
“The disappearance of Amanda Pierce, your friend’s younger sister, was featured on last month’s episode of a show called Under Suspicion. It re-investigates cold cases. Maybe Charlotte can help me get a meeting. I want them to find out who really killed Hunter.”
Casey’s mother sighed wearily. “Can’t you just enjoy one peaceful day before starting up with all this?”
“With all due respect, Mom, I’d say fifteen years is a long enough wait for the truth.”
The Sleeping Beauty Killer
Casey Carter was convicted of murdering her fiancé—famed philanthropist Hunter Raleigh III—fifteen years ago. And Casey claims—has always claimed—she’s innocent. Although she was charged and served out her sentence in prison, she is still living “under suspicion.” She hears whispers at the grocery store. She can’t get a job. Even her own mother treats her like she’s guilty. Her story attracts the attention of Laurie Moran and the Under Suspicion news team—it’s Casey’s last chance to finally clear her name, and Laurie pledges to exonerate her.
With Alex Buckley taking a break from the show—cooling his potential romance with Laurie—Under Suspicion introduces a new on-air host named Ryan Nichols, a young legal whiz with a Harvard Law degree, Supreme Court clerkship, experience as a federal prosecutor, and regular stints on the cable news circuit. He’s got a big reputation and the attitude to match it. Ryan has no problems with steering—and stealing—the show, and even tries to stop Laurie from taking on Casey’s case because he’s so certain she’s guilty.
An egomaniacal new co-host, a relentless gossip columnist who seems to have all the dirt (and a surprising informant), and Casey’s longstanding bad reputation: Laurie must face this and more to do what she believes is right, to once and for all prove Casey’s innocence—that is, if she’s innocent… The Sleeping Beauty Killer will keep you guessing until the very end.