<h2>Prologue</h2> <h2>A THIEF IN THE NIGHT</h2> <h2>One</h2> <p>SARAH WELLS STOOD on the roof of the carport and snaked her gloved hand through the hole she’d cut in the glass. Her pulse was thudding in her ears as she unlocked the double-hung window, opened the sash, and slid quietly into the darkened room. Once inside, she flattened herself against the wall and listened.</p> <p>Voices rose from the floor below, and she heard the clanking of silverware against china. <em>Good timing,</em> Sarah thought. <em>In fact, perfect.</em></p> <p>But timing and execution were two different things entirely.</p> <p>She switched on her miner’s headlamp and took a 180-degree illuminated tour of the bedroom. She noted the console table to her left, which was loaded with whatnots. She had to watch out for that table and the scatter rugs on the slick hardwood floors.</p> <p>The lithe young woman quickly crossed the space, shut the door between the bedroom and hallway, and headed to the open closet, which smelled faintly of perfume. Leaving the door open just a crack, Sarah played her light over racks of clothing. She parted a curtain of long, beaded gowns, and there it was: a safe in the closet wall.</p> <p>Sarah had bet on this. If Casey Dowling was like most socialites, she dressed for her dinner parties and wore her jewels. Chances were that she’d left her safe unlocked so she could put her jewels away later without having to punch in the combination again. Sarah tugged lightly on the safe’s handle—and the heavy door swung open.</p> <p><em>It was a go.</em></p> <p>But she had to work fast. Three minutes, no more.</p> <p>Sarah’s headlamp lit up the contents of the safe while leaving her hands free to frisk the jumble of satin envelopes and silk-covered boxes. Way in the back was a brocaded box the size of a small loaf of bread. She undid the latch and lifted the lid on the mother lode.</p> <p>Sarah gasped.</p> <p>She’d read stories about Casey Dowling for two months and seen dozens of photos of her at society events, glittering with jewels. But she hadn’t expected the sheer weight of diamonds and precious stones, the gleaming mounds of baroque pearls.</p> <p><em>It was cra-zzzy. Casey Dowling owned all of this.</em></p> <p>Well, not for long.</p> <p>Sarah plucked bracelets and earrings and rings out of the box and stowed them in one of her two small duffel bags, the straps of which crisscrossed her chest. She paused to study a particular ring in its own leather case, to marvel at the frickin’ wonder of it—when lights flashed on in the bedroom only yards from where she stood in the closet.</p> <p>Sarah snapped off her light and dropped to a crouch, her heart rate shooting into overdrive as she heard the living, booming voice of Marcus Dowling, superstar actor of theater and the silver screen, bickering with his wife as he came into the room.</p> <p>Sarah tucked all five feet eight of herself into a ball behind gowns and garment bags.</p> <p><em>God, she was stupid.</em></p> <p>While she’d been ogling the jewels, the Dowlings’ dinner party had ended, and now she was going to get caught and be imprisoned for grand larceny. Her. A high school English teacher. It would be a scandal—and that was the least of it.</p> <p>Sweat broke out under Sarah’s knit cap. Drops of it rolled from her underarms down the sides of her black turtleneck as she waited for the Dowlings to switch on the closet light and find her squatting there, a thief in the night.</p> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>The 9th Judgment</b> by <b>Patterson, James</b> Copyright © 2010 by Patterson, James. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.