By Lisa Scottoline
HarperCollins ISBN: 0-06-074290-9
Six months later, Cate sat in her high-backed chair atop the dais, waiting to start the day's session. The courtroom was packed, and she hid her anticipation behind a professional mask, which was turning out to be a job requirement. The jury trial had taken all last week, but today was the only day that counted, like the final two minutes in a basketball game.
Sixers-Hornets. It was on at the bar last night. Wonder who won.
Cate shifted behind the slippery wall of stacked pleadings in front of her. She hadn't slept well last night and was relying on her concealer, but was otherwise in full costume: synthetic black robes, dark blond hair in a judicial chignon, a swipe of pink gloss on her lips, and neutral makeup on largish, blue eyes. Finally the courtroom deputy flashed Cate a wink.
Showtime. Cate gestured to plaintiff's counsel. "Mr. Temin, let's begin. I assume that plaintiff continues his testimony this morning."
"Yes, Your Honor." Nathan Temin was a roly-poly lawyer with the paunch of a much older man and a dark suit that begged to be ironed, worn with equally unruly black hair. Still, Cate knew better than to judge a trial lawyer by his cover. She had dressed down for court many times. Prada didn't win jury verdicts.
"Excellent." Cate nodded. "Fire when ready."
"Thank you, Your Honor." Temin hustled to the podium with a Bic pen and a legal pad, then pressed down his suit with apudgy hand. He greeted the jury and turned to his client, already rising from counsel table. "Mr. Marz, please take the stand."
Richard Marz walked to the witness stand, and necks craned from the gallery. Reporters scribbled away, and sketch artists switched to their flesh-toned chalk. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania didn't allow cameras in the courtroom, for which Cate thanked God and Chief Judge Sherman.
"Good morning, Your Honor," Marz said in his soft-spoken way, sitting down after he was sworn in. He was barely thirty years old, and his baby-blue eyes showed litigation strain. He smiled tightly, his lips taut as a rubber band, and he ran a finger-rake through muddy-brown curls that sprouted from under a crocheted yarmulke. A dark suit jacket popped open over his white shirt, and his striped tie hung unevenly. Everybody knew that people looked like their dogs, but Cate thought they looked like their lawyers.
"Good morning, Mr. Marz." She smiled at Marz in a professional way, feeling subterranean sympathy for his position. He was claiming that a powerful TV producer had stolen his idea for a series about Philadelphia lawyers and developed it into the cable blockbuster Attorneys@Law. In this battle between David and Goliath, Marz held the slingshot.
At the lectern, Temin tugged the black bud of a microphone down to his height. "Now, Mr. Marz, you testified last week that you had two meetings with Mr. Simone, leading up to the critical meeting. Please remind the jury of what took place at the first meeting, on June 10."
"Objection, Your Honor," said George Hartford, defense counsel. Hartford had gray eyes behind slightly tinted bifocals and was prematurely bald. He had to be about fifty, and stood tall and fit in a slim Italian suit with a yellow silk tie. "Asked and answered. Plaintiff's counsel is wasting the jury's time."
Temin said, "Your Honor, it's appropriate to review this proof because the weekend intervened."
"Overruled." Cate shot both lawyers her sternest look. "Let's not let the objections get out of hand today, boys. Play nice."
"Thank you, Your Honor." Temin nodded, but a cranky Hartford eased back in his chair next to his client, producer Art Simone. Even seated, Simone looked tall and trim, in his prime at a prosperous forty-something. His reddish hair had been shorn fashionably close to his scalp, and his tortoiseshell glasses paired with a caramel-colored silk tie and tan houndstooth suit. If Marz and Temin were the mutts in this dogfight, Simone and Hartford were purebred afghans.
"Mr. Marz," Temin began again, "tell us briefly what happened at the June meeting with Mr. Simone."
"Well, my background is from the DA's office, handling cases concerning computer fraud and Internet crime. I always liked computers." Marz sounded almost apologetic. "But I wanted to be a writer, so I started writing a screenplay for a TV show about four lawyers and how they use computer skills to solve murders. I called it Hard Drive. It was my wife who said, 'Why don't you do something about it?'" Marz smiled at his wife in the front row of the gallery, a sweet-faced brunette wearing a long skirt and sensible shoes. "So I called Art-Mr. Simone-and told him what I was doing and asked if he would meet with me about it, and he agreed to fly out to Philly to take the meeting." Marz turned to the jury in an earnest way. "That's what they call it in L.A., 'taking a meeting.' When they say no, they call it 'taking a hard pass.' A 'soft pass' is a maybe. I thought a soft pass was about sex, but what do I know?"
The jurors chuckled with evident warmth. Nobody loved underdogs like Philly.
Temin asked, "Had you known Mr. Simone, prior?"
"Yes, I knew him from summer camp from when I was, like, ten years old. Camp Willowbark, Unit A. He was my senior counselor, and I looked up to him like a big brother. I heard he was doing TV in Hollywood, so I hoped he'd help me out."
"And what happened at the meeting, briefly?"
"We met at Le Bec Fin and I told him all the details about my idea and asked him would he consider it for his production company. The lead lawyer in my series is a former detective, an Italian guy from South Philly who dresses great and is, like, a tie freak-"
"You needn't repeat the details," Temin interjected, preempting Hartford's objection.
"Okay, right, sorry. All that's important is that the four lawyers I told Mr. Simone about ended up being exactly like the four lawyers on Attorneys@Law."
"Objection, opinion!" Hartford said, and Cate waved him off.
"Overruled. The jury knows it's his opinion....
Excerpted from Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline Excerpted by permission.
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