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Rough Justiceby Lisa Scottoline
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One It started with a slip of the tongue. At first, Marta Richter thought she'd misunderstood him. She felt exhausted after the two-month murder trial and couldn't always hear her client through the thick bulletproof window. "You mean you struggled in his grasp," Marta corrected.
Elliot Steere didn't reply, but brushed ash from his chair on the defendant's side of the window. In his charcoal Brioni suit and a white shirt with a cutaway collar, Steere looked incongruous but not uncomfortable in the jailhouse setting. The businessman's cool was the stuff of tabloid legend. The tabs reported that on the night Steere had been arrested for murder, he'd demanded only one phone call. To his stockbroker. "That's what I said," Steere answered after a moment. "I struggled in his grasp."
"No, you said he struggled in your grasp. It was self-defense, not murder. You were struggling, not him."
A faint smile flickered across Steere's strong mouth. He had a finely boned nose, flat brown eyes, and suspiciously few crow's feet for a real estate developer. In magazine photos Steere looked attractive, but the fluorescent lights of the interview room hollowed his cheeks and dulled his sandy hair. "What's the point? The trial's over, the jury's out. It doesn't matter anymore who was struggling with who. Whom."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Marta asked. She didn't want him to play word games, she wanted him to praise her brilliant defense. It was the case of her career, and Steere's acquittal was in the bag. "Of course it matters."
"Why? What if it wasn't self-defense? What if I murdered him like the D.A. said? So what?"
Marta blinked, irritated. "But that's not the way it happened.He was trying to hijack your car. He attacked you with a knife. He threatened to kill you. You shot him in self-defense."
"In the back of the head?"
"There was a struggle. You had your gun and you fired." Without realizing it, Marta was repeating the words of her closing argument. The jury had adjourned to deliberate only minutes earlier. "You panicked, in fear of your life."
"You really bought that?" Steere crossed one long leg over the other and a triangle of tailored pant flopped over with a fine, pressed crease. "'In fear of my life?' I stole that line from a cop show, the one where everybody smokes. You know the show?"
Marta's mouth went dry. She didn't watch TV even when she was on, another television lawyer with wide-set blue eyes and chin-length hair highlighted blond. A hardness around her eyes and a softness under her chin told the viewers she wasn't thirty anymore. Still Marta looked good on the tube and knew how to handle herself; explain the defense in a sound bite and bicker with the prosecutor. Wrap it up with wit. Smile for the beauty shot. "What is this, a joke? What's TV have to do with anything?"
"Everything. My story, my defense, was fiction. Rich white guy carjacked by poor black guy. White guy has registered Glock for protection. Black guy has X-Acto knife. Not a good match." Steere eased back into his chair. "The jury bought it because it was what they expected, what they see on TV."
Marta's lips parted in disbelief. The news struck like an assault, stunning and violent. Her mind reeled. Her face felt hot. She braced her manicured fingers against the cold aluminum ledge and fought for her bearings. "What are you saying?"
"But he slashed your cheek with the knife," she said, uncomprehending.
"He was dead at the time. I held his hand, with the knife in it."
"They found fibers from your tux on his hands and clothes."
"There was a struggle. He put up a fight. Mostly begging, boohooing like a little girl."
Marta's stomach turned over. "Tell me the whole story. The truth."
"What's to tell? A bum came at me when I stopped at the red light. He was waving a knife, drunk, screaming I should give up the car. Like I would. A new SL600 convertible. Wet dream of a car." Steere shook his head in momentary admiration. "So I grabbed my gun, got out of the car, and shot him in the head. I called the cops from the cell phone."
Marta crossed her arms across her chest. You could call it a hug but that wasn't how she thought of it. She'd heard confessions like this from other clients, and though Steere didn't look like them, he sounded like them. They all had the urge to brag, to prove how smart they were and what they could get away with. Marta had known Steere was tough-minded; she hadn't guessed he was inhuman. "You're a murderer," she said.
"No, I'm a problem-solver. I saw some garbage and took it out. The man was a derelict, worthless. He didn't work, he didn't produce. He didn't own anything. Fuck, he didn't even live anywhere. This time he picked the wrong guy. End of story."
"Just like that?"
"Come on, Marta. The man was useless. He didn't even know how to handle thefucking knife." Steere chuckled. "You did it better during the demonstration, when you held it under your chin. Did you see the jury? The front row almost fainted."
A high-profile criminal defense attorney suddenly faces her worst nightmare, as her seemingly innocent client is about to get away with murder--literally. Now it's a race against time as she attempts to set things right, risking her career, her firm's reputation, and even her life, while her millionaire defendant is perfectly willing to kill again to ensure that freedom comes his way. Featured as a Mystery Guild main selection, a "People" magazine "Page Turner" and the premiere selection of "Cosmopolitan" magazine's "Cosmo Book Club".
What do you do when the man you've proven innocent of murder tells you he's guilty? It's every criminal lawyer's worst nightmare, and one that Philadelphia defense attorney Marta Richter is suddenly facing. Now it's a race against time as Richter attempts to set things right, risking her career, her firm's reputation, and even her life... while her millionaire client is perfectly willing to plot murder once again to ensure that freedom comes his way.
About the Author
Lisa Scottoline is the New York Timesbestselling author of twelve novels and a former trial lawyer and judicial law clerk. She won the Edgar®Award, the highest prize in crime fiction, and teaches Justice and Fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. Her books are published in more than twenty languages, and she remains a lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area.
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