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Terry Scarborough is a legal scholar and provocateur who craves headline-making celebrity, but with his latest book he may have gone too far. In it he resurrects forgotten language in the U.S. Constitution?and hints at a missing letter of Thomas Jefferson's?that threatens to ...
Terry Scarborough is a legal scholar and provocateur who craves headline-making celebrity, but with his latest book he may have gone too far. In it he resurrects forgotten language in the U.S. Constitution—and hints at a missing letter of Thomas Jefferson's—that threatens to divide the nation. Then Scarborough is brutally murdered and a young man with dark connections is charged. What looks like an open-and-shut case to most people, doesn't to defense attorney Paul Madriani. He believes there is much more to the case, and that the defendant is a pawn caught in the middle, being scapegoated by circumstance.
As the trial spirals toward its conclusion, Madriani and his partner Harry Hinds race to find the missing Jefferson letter—and the secrets it holds about slavery and scandal at the time of our nation's founding and the very reason Scarborough was killed. Madriani's chase takes him from the tension-filled courtroom in California to the trail of a Supreme Court justice now suddenly in hiding and lays bare the soaring political stakes for a seat on the High Court, in a country divided, and under the shadow of power.
Bestseller Martini's entertaining ninth Paul Madriani legal thriller (after 2005's Double Tap) offers an improbable if intriguing premise. San Diego, Calif., attorney Madriani and Harry Hinds, his longtime partner, agree to represent Carl Arnsberg, a racist facing execution for the bludgeoning-by-hammer murder of author Terry Scarborough, whose nonfiction bestseller, Perpetual Slaves, has actually led to riots in the streets. Scarborough focused the U.S. public on the retention in the Constitution of offensive language defining African-Americans as three-fifths human, despite subsequent amendments overriding those statements. He intended to follow Perpetual Slaves with a sequel that would reveal the existence of a secret letter written by Thomas Jefferson whose contents Scarborough believed would prove even more incendiary. Madriani and his team race frantically to trace a copy of that letter, which disappeared from the victim's briefcase at about the time of his murder. Compelling courtroom scenes, which display a sophisticated knowledge of legal trench warfare, compensate for some less-than-credible plot twists. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
I open the envelope and start to paw through the photographs, the stuff sent to me in response to our discovery motion two weeks earlier. There are color glossies of the murder weapon, a common claw hammer with a fiberglass handle covered by a molded-rubber hand grip. In the photo it is lying on a tiled surface in a pool of blood. A small ruler lies on the tile next to the hammer for scale.
The next picture is a close-up of the claws themselves. A patch of bloody skin trailing several wisps of dark hair clings to the edge of one of the claws. The police photographer must have shot with a macro lens to get all the detail. No doubt they will want to use this one in front of the jury.
The next photo shows an elongated skid mark, apparently made by a shoe that slid in the blood and left a red comma coming to an end at the wall. The skid mark arcs out of the picture, making clear that its owner must have gone down when he hit the blood.
The fourth photo is a particular problem for us. I show it to Harry, who is seated next to me at the small metal table in the jail.
Harry Hinds and I have been law partners, "Madriani & Hinds," since our days back in Capital City years ago. We handle many kinds of cases, but predominantly we do criminal defense. Harry is more than a partner. For years he has been like an uncle to my daughter, Sarah, who is now away at college. I am widowed. My wife, Nikki, has been dead for almost fifteen years. To look at him, Harry hasn't seemed to have aged a day in the twenty years I've known him. He takes the evidence photo in his hand and looks at itclosely.
It shows a palm print in blood and three very distinct fingerprints: the first, second, and third fingers of the right hand superimposed in rusted red on the clear white tile of the entry hall's floor.
"And they're a match?" he asks.
"According to the cops," I tell him.
"How did this happen?" says Harry. "How did you get your fingerprints not only in the blood on the floor but on the murder weapon itself?" This, Harry puts to the young man sitting on the other side of the table across from us.
Carl Arnsberg is twenty-three. He has a light criminal record—one conviction for assault and battery, another for refusing to comply with the lawful orders of a police officer and obstruction of justice during a demonstration in L.A. two years ago.
He looks at Harry from under straight locks of dark hair parted on the left. The way it is combed and cut, long, it covers one eye. He snaps his head back and flips the hair out of his face, revealing high cheekbones and a kind of permanent pout. Then he rests his chin on the palm of his left hand, elbow on the table holding it up.
The pose is enough to piss Harry off.
There is a small swastika planted on the inside of Arnsberg's forearm, discreet and neat. It has all the sharp lines of something recent, none of the blurring that comes as flesh sags and stretches with age. His other arm is a piece of art. The words Our Race Is Our Nation wrap his right forearm. This is followed by a number of pagan symbols in ink.
Arnsberg's pale blue eyes project contempt for the system that placed him here. It is an expression sufficiently broad to embrace Harry and me. I'm sure Arnsberg sees both of us as part of the process that keeps him here, in the lockup of the county jail.
"I asked you a question," says Harry.
"I told you what happened. How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Until I'm satisfied that I've heard the truth," says Harry.
"You think I'm lying."
"Trust me, son, you don't want to know what I'm thinking right now."
"Fine! I brought him his lunch to the room," says Arnsberg.
"Thought you said it was breakfast?" says Harry.
"Maybe it was. Maybe he slept late. I don't know. What difference does it make?"
"Go on." Harry has his notebook open and is jotting a few items now and then.
"I knocked on the door. Like I told you before, and like I told the cops, the door opened when I hit it with my hand. Not all the way, just a crack. I didn't use a passkey. I guess whoever closed it last, it didn't catch. That would probably be your killer," he says. "That's who you should be looking for."
"You didn't see anybody pass you in the hall, between the elevator and the door?" I ask.
"No. Not that I remember."
"So when the door opened, I just leaned toward the crack a little and hollered 'Hello?'—like that. Nobody answered, so I pushed the door open a little more. I didn't look in, I just yelled again. Nothing. I knew I had the right room, the big Presidential Suite on the top floor. I'd been there plenty of times, delivering meals and picking up trays. So I sorta backed in, pushing the door with my back and shoulder. I yelled again. Nobody answered. At the same time, I started to undo the tablecloth with one hand, let it sorta drop down in front of me."
"Why did you do that?" I ask.
"You learn to do it so you can fling it out on the table and put the tray down on top. But I did it for another reason, too. To give myself some cover," he says. "You hear stories—waiters who barged into a room and found the guest, maybe a woman who didn't hear 'em knock, coming out of the shower in the buff. It's happened."Shadow of Power