A disturbed plea…

… for help from a distraught patient at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital propels attorney Steve Caputo into a dark world of murder and betrayal. A car crash has left Beverley with serious brain damage and all the paranoid young woman has for him is a series of disjointed, nonsensical phrases that seem to mean nothing. As events unfold, Steve must decipher the enigmatic clues to track down a psychopathic killer and to uncover Beverley’s dangerous secret. What he does not know is that a top secret governmental organization is dogging his every step to prevent the disclosure of the terrible deeds it has committed in the name of the war on terror.

He joined Lillian in the conference room. A paper plate had been set out for him and the chilled chicken and salsa had been laid out on it. She had also provided him with a cranberry Snapple.

“So does Mrs. Kelly get to keep the chihuahua?” she asked him as he sat down.

“Yes,” Steve answered as he picked up his white plastic fork.

“Thank god,” Lillian exclaimed. “She’s been on the phone to me all week. If we had lost that one my life would have become a nightmare.”

Steve laughed. Sometimes matrimonial law was like that. A person’s most important issues often seemed trivial to others. Mrs. Kelly was bad, but he had had a lot worse. The worse was when there was a custody battle. The little zings the parties liked to give each other often erupted into full blown brouhahas.

“And, as expected, we won the Fastco motion. Remind me to call the client after lunch. And the Delgado kid got three years.”

“That wasn’t unexpected,” she replied.

“No,” was all Steve said. He forked a quantity of chicken and spiced, chopped tomato into his mouth.

“Well, maybe the kid’ll learn something from it,” Lillian commented.

“Yeah,” Steve replied as he chewed his chicken. “He’ll probably learn a lot from those Essex County boys. He’s a big fellow and someone will pick him up. The next time we see him he’ll probably be looking at an armed robbery or an aggravated assault. His best hope is to commit it in Essex County and not here where they’ll throw the book at him.”

For a while, the pair ate in silence. Steve finished off his plate of chicken and pushed it away. “So, who else called,” he asked Lillian.

She was finished too, had finished before him. She was drinking a cup of black coffee, her addiction. She had the pile of messages beside her.

There were a few from attorneys on cases, some clients looking for updates. The accounting expert they used to evaluate businesses in matrimonial cases had returned his call. The report would be in by Monday. There were no salesman calls. Lillian handled them all herself.

“Then there’s this one from a lady at Greystone,” Lillian told him. Greystone was the state psychiatric hospital located in Morris County. It had a somewhat tarnished reputation from some recent disclosures of abuses and its facilities were as old as the hills.

“A patient or a staff member?” Steve asked.

“Definitely a patient. It was hard to understand her. The best I could do is Beverley Kaufman. She called this morning before I got here and left a message on voicemail. It was pretty garbled. Something about being held against her will. She called again around 11. I couldn’t get much more out of her. She sounded pretty crazy to me.”

“Half the patients there, or more, are being held against their will, at least technically,” Steve said. “What’s so special about her?”

“She sounded very desperate.”

“People with paranoid fantasies usually are.”

“I know. But there was something about her.”

“Did she sound young or old?”

“Definitely young.”

“How did she get our number?”

“I couldn’t get her to say.”

Steve mulled this over a bit. He took a gulp of his Snapple. “Do you think there’s any money in it?”

“Who can say?” Lillian answered. “I guess some of these people have money.”

“Yeah, but they also have guardians who are holding it.”


“What does she think I can do for her?”

“I don’t know, Steve,” Lillian replied, a little annoyed.  “I just give you the messages.”

“Did she leave a number I can use to get back to her?”


Steve finished off his Snapple and emitted a slight burp. “I’m going to go over to the juvenile detention center on Saturday. Maybe I’ll stop by Greystone and see if I can see her.”

“That’s up to you,” Lillian replied. “But don’t get all caught up in some pro bono work. You’ve got a bad habit of doing that when we’ve got plenty of paying work to do.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Steve returned. “It’s good for the soul. On judgment day nobody’s going to be asking how much money I made. And sometimes it brings in referrals too. Just last week that couple I represented on their dispute with the auto shop called and referred a municipal court case.”

“Yeah,” Lillian huffed. “And you charged them rock bottom rates. If that’s how you want to spend your nights, picking up chump change, that’s your gig. Just make sure we have enough to pay the bills.”

Steve held back a moment’s surge of resentment. He knew that Lillian was right. And she had earned the right to speak to him that way. She had saved his ass when the ship had taken two torpedoes and was sinking fast.

“I’ll just talk to her. That’s all,” he said.


Writing a novel has been a long time ambition for me. I wrote a little bit in college, mostly short stories and poetry, but nothing significant. This past year I finally decided that if I was ever going to do it, I should do it now. It took a lot of discipline and hard work. I had the plot well developed before I started and so it took me only three months to write the initial draft. After that, I took a few more months to do revisions. The story remained basically the same, but I needed to iron out plot inconsistencies, refine the prose, make a few other changes that were suggested by people to whom I gave the book to read.

I chose the thriller genre because it is popular and fit in well with some of the political issues I had been concerned with lately, such as the whole rendition program under the Bush Administration and the violence it did to our values. I chose a lawyer as the main character because I knew a lot about the law and had lived it. It made it easier to create a believable character.

My wife, Jill did the cover design and helped me with some of the editing. She suggested several changes that I incorporated into the book. She has a good, critical sense and when she told me that she liked it, I felt more comfortable that the book was good.

My Dad’s name was the same as mine. He died about five years ago. We had a little bit of a rough time when I was younger, but we resolved our problems as time went on. I dedicated the book to him because I loved him and miss him and would have been proud for him to learn about my achievement.

The plot came to me one day when I, in fact, received a telephone call from an inmate at Greystone complaining that she was being held there unjustly. I did a little investigating and found that she was already represented by the Public Advocate and that there was good reason for her involuntary commitment. I spoke to her guardian and satisfied myself that he had her interests at heart.

Afterwards, I thought, “What if she had actually been held wrongfully by some vast conspiracy?” The idea for the book took off from there and melded with my interest in the morality and legality of our rendition program. It seems to me, and is part of the theme of the book, that once you begin a course of conduct that is illegal and immoral in one part of national policy, it is easy to have it spread to other places. We learned that during the Vietnam War when the government began illegal surveillance of people and committed other civil rights violations, such as the Ellsberg break-in and leading right up to Watergate. The thing about the use of torture is that once it is accepted in one area, it can begin to be accepted in others. The taboo has been broken. For more information on the rendition program and American torture of those suspected of terrorist activities see the review of the February 2007 report of the International Committee of the Red Cross by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books, April 30, 2009, entitled The Red Cross Torture Report: What it Means, and his article, US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites on April 9, 2009.

I decided to self publish the book after getting a number of rejections from book agents. Few if any publishers will deal with authors directly. You have to go through a book agent. Because of the state of the publishing industry, it is very hard for new authors to break in. I sent samples of the book via what are called ‘queries’ to about 25 book agents, but was turned down by most of them. The rest didn’t respond. That was enough for me. The fact that it would take a very long time for a book to get into print the usual way was also discouraging. If an agent had agreed to take on the book, it still might not have been sold to a publisher. If a publisher accepted it, it would be a year or so before it got published due to the fact that publishers set their lists out well in advance of publication. I didn’t have the patience to wait.