False Testimonyby Rose Connors
Charles Kendrick, the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts and a high-profile resident of Barnstable County, has been named a "person of interest" in connection with the disappearance of his twenty-five-year-old spokesperson, Michelle Forrester. A multistate manhunt is already under way, and District Attorney Geraldine Schilling is pressuring Kendrick for an interview, which his lawyer doesn't want to grant. His lawyer is Marty Nickerson, and the Senator laughs at her advice to keep quiet.
He isn't laughing three days later, when Geraldine informs him that parts of his story don't check out. It seems the Senator lied. Could he be hiding an extramarital affair with a young and beautiful staffer? Or something worse?
The Senator's troubles coincide with another trial that Marty and her law partner -- and lover -- Harry Madigan, have been preparing for. They are scheduled to defend ex-con Derrick Holliston against a felony murder charge. Holliston, a juvenile delinquent turned adult offender, stands accused of murdering a popular Chatham priest on Christmas Eve during a burglary. He admits the killing, but claims, in an improbable version of the night's events, that he acted in self-defense.
Michelle Forrester's body is found the day Derrick Holliston's trial begins, which means Marty and Harry face two mounting legal battles and two clients whose stories don't make sense.
What does a lawyer do when she discovers her client may be a liar, or worse? What are her legal and ethical obligations? And what happens when the client insists on representing himself in court? Marty Nickerson struggles with these morally ambiguous legal issues as she defends two men who are almost surely guilty...or are they?
Marty and Harry must confront the law in all its maddening complexity, battling for and against their own cagey clients in order to see justice served.
This fourth installment of the critically acclaimed series reinforces Rose Connors's reputation for stylish, page-turning legal drama at its very best.
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Read an Excerpt
A person of interest. That's what local authorities dubbed Charles Kendrick, the senior United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He wasn't a target of the investigation, they told him. He was merely an individual believed to have information relevant to the search.
And he did. Twenty-five-year-old Michelle Forrester was a member of his D.C. staff. He hired her more than three years ago, just after she graduated from the University of Virginia with dual degrees in government science and drama. An ambitious and disarmingly attractive young woman with obvious political aspirations of her own, she quickly became Senator Kendrick's preferred spokesperson. For the past year -- while rumors ran rampant about his planned bid for the Democratic nomination -- Michelle Forrester alone fielded questions at his frequent public appearances. She enabled the Senator to say his piece at each event and then make a dignified -- perhaps even presidential -- exit.
This past Thursday, Michelle handled the members of the media after the Senator addressed a standing-room-only crowd at Cape Cod Community College in Hyannis. The evening news featured a poised and charming Michelle entertaining endless inquiries from local reporters, joking and laughing with them easily and often. She stayed until their voracious journalists' appetites were satisfied, until the last of their detailed and often repetitive questions was answered. She extended Senator Kendrick's sincere thanks to all of them, for their attendance and their attention, before she left the auditorium.
And then Michelle Forrester vanished.
She was due at her parents' home in Stamford, Connecticut, the next day to help with preparations for a cocktail party to be held that evening in honor of her father's sixtieth birthday. She didn't show up -- not for the preparations and not for the party. She was expected back at work in D.C. first thing this morning, her office calendar jammed with appointments from eight o'clock on. She didn't show there, either. And though her worried parents had been calling both Massachusetts and Connecticut authorities all weekend, it wasn't until her no-show at work that the search began in earnest.
Postpone it. That's what I advised when Senator Kendrick called my office at ten A.M. He'd stayed on the Cape after Thursday's speech, intending to work by phone and fax through the holidays from his vacation home in North Chatham. The Barnstable County District Attorney's Office called his D.C. number first thing this morning and his executive secretary phoned him right away with the message. It was from Geraldine Schilling -- the District Attorney herself -- wanting to set up a time when she might ask him a few questions. Today, if at all possible.
Senator Kendrick made it clear to me from the outset that he wasn't seeking formal representation. He simply wanted to know if one of the lawyers in our office would be available by telephone later in the morning in case he needed a word of advice during his interview. He didn't anticipate a problem, he assured me more than once. He was calling only out of an abundance of caution.
Twenty-four hours, I told him. Of course you'll cooperate with the investigation, and of course you'll do it promptly; time is paramount in these matters. But you shouldn't speak to the DA -- or to any other representative of the Commonwealth, for that matter -- without an attorney at your side. He was quick to inform me that he is an attorney -- Harvard-trained, he added -- whereupon I recited my personal version of the old adage: Never mind the fool; the lawyer who represents himself has a certifiable moron for a client.
Answer questions tomorrow, I urged. Spend this afternoon in my office, preparing, and we'll go to the District Attorney together in the morning. That way, if her questioning takes a direction it shouldn't, I'll be the one to hit the brakes. You'll remain the willing witness, reluctantly accepting advice from your overly protective attorney.
Senator Kendrick's laughter took me by surprise. I wasn't trying to be funny. After a good chuckle, he thanked me for my time. And before I could answer, I was listening to a dial tone.
Copyright © 2005 by Rose Connors
Meet the Author
Rose Connors, whose debut novel, Absolute Certainty, won the Mary Higgins Clark Award, grew up in Philadelphia and received her law degree from Duke in 1984. A trial attorney for eighteen years, she's had experience from the prosecutorial and defense sides of the courtroom, and has exasperated any number of judges in both capacities. She is admitted to practice in both Washington State and Massachusetts and lives with her family on Cape Cod, where she is at work on the next Marty Nickerson novel.
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