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I edged forward on my pew in the gallery so I wouldn't miss a single word. My exlover's new girlfriend, Eve Eberlein, was about to be publicly humiliated by the Honorable Edward J. Thompson. I wanted to dance with joy right there in the courtroom. Hell hath no fury like a lawyer scorned.
"Let me remind you of something you have plainly forgotten, Ms. Eberlein," judge Thompson was saying between discreetly clenched teeth. A bald, gentlemanly judge, his legendary patience had been tested by Eve's attack on the elderly witness. "This is a court of law. There are rules of conduct. Civility, manners. One doesn't cheek common courtesy at the door of my courtroom."
"Your Honor, this witness is not being candid with the court," Eve said. Her spiky brunette cut bounced in defiance as she stood before the dais, in perfect makeup and a red knit suit that fit her curves like an Ace bandage. Not that I was jealous.
"Utter nonsense, Ms. Eberlein!" Judge Thompson scoffed, peering down through reading glasses that matched his robe. "I will not permit you to cast aspersions on the character of a witness. You have asked her the same question over and over, and she's told you she doesn't remember where the Cetor file is. She refired two years ago, if you recall. Move on to your next question, counsel."
"With all due respect, Your Honor, Mrs. Debs was the records custodian at Wellroth Chemical and she remembers perfectly well where the Cetor file is. I tell you, the witness is lying to the Court!" Eve pointed like a manicured Zola at Mrs. Debs, whose powdered skin flushed a deep pink.
"My goodness!" she exclaimed, hand fluttering tothe pearls at her chest. Mrs. Debs had a halo of fuzzy gray hair and a face as honest as Aunt Bea's. "I would never, ever lie to a court!" she said, and anybody with any sense could see she was telling the truth. "Heavens, I swore on a Bible!"
"Ms. Eberlein!" judge Thompson exploded. "You're out of order!" He grabbed his gavel and pounded it hard. Crak! Crak! Crak!
Meanwhile, Mark Biscardi, my exboyfriend and still-current law partner, was fake-reading exhibits at counsel table. He was downplaying the debacle for the jury's benefit, but was undoubtedly listening to every syllable. I hoped he remembered my prediction that Eve would crash and bum today, so I could say I told you so.
"I object, Your Honor!" shouted plaintiffs counsel, Gerry McIllvaine. "Ms. Eberlein's conduct toward this witness is an outrage! An outrage!" McIllvaine, a trial veteran, had been standing out of the crossfire, keeping his mouth shut until it was time to grandstand for the jury. All the courtroom's a stage, and all the men and women in it merely lawyers.
Then, suddenly, I began to focus on the jury box. Most of the jurors in the front row were scowling at Eve as Judge Thompson continued his lecture. Two jurors in the back, retirees like Mrs. Debs, bore a prim smile at Eve's comeuppance. Eve had alienated the lot, and it would taint their view of the defendant's case. Unfortunately, this was a high-stakes trial and the defendant was a major client of my law firm, Rosato & Biscardi, alias R & B.
Damn. I sat up straighter and looked worriedly at Mark, but he was stuck playing with the trial exhibits. He and I had started R & B seven years ago and watched it grow into one of the most successful litigation boutiques in Philadelphia. I cared about the firm so much I couldn't even enjoy watching Eve screw up something besides my love life. Something had to be done.
I stood up in the middle of the proceedings, calling attention to myself without a word because of my height, a full six feet. It's a great height for a trial lawyer, but as a teenager I stood by so many punchbowls I got sick from the fumes. I grew up to be taller, blonder, and stronger, so that now I looked like an Amazon with a law degree.
"Ouch!" said the lawyer sitting next to me, as I trounced solidly on his wingtip.
"Oh, excuse me," I yelped, almost as loudly as judge Thompson, still scolding Eve, with the jury's rapt attention.
"Shhh," said another lawyer.
"Sorry, so sorry," I chirped, struggling out of the crowded row like a boor going for Budweiser in the second inning. I noticed out of the comer of my eye that one of the jurors, the Hispanic man on the end, was being successfully distracted. "Oops! Sorry about that," I practically shouted.
Once out of the row, I strode past the bar of the court to counsel table, where my exbeloved was sweating armholes into his English pinstripes. As Mark turned to see what the commotion was, I leaned close to his dark, wavy hair and breathed in his expensive creme rinse. You're fucked, hombre," I whisper ed, with some pleasure.
"It's her first time out," he hissed bac k. "She made a mistake."
"No, you made a mistake. I told you she isn't a trial lawyer. She can't connect with people, she's too cold. Now hold up an exhibit so we can fight in peace."
Mark grabbed an exhibit and ducked behind it. "What's happening with the jury? This is killing us."I snuck a peek sideways. Most of the jurors were watching me and Mark by now. I wondered if any recognized me, infamous radical lawyer Bennie Rosato. I could only hope my hair looked less incendiary than usual... Legal Tender. Copyright © by Lisa Scottoline. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.