When the bullet-ridden body of a Silicon Valley billionaire washes up on shore, assistant D.A. Dismas Hardy finds himself the prosecutor in San Francisco’s murder trial of the century. The suspect: a Japanese call girl with a long list of prominent clients. But when a bizarre series of events blows the case wide open, Hardy finds himself on the other side of the law—as a lawyer for the defense...
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About the Author
Hometown:El Macero, California
Date of Birth:January 14, 1948
Place of Birth:Houston, Texas
Education:B.A. in English with Honors, UC Berkeley, 1970
Read an Excerpt
By John Lescroart
A SIGNET BOOKCopyright © 1993 John T. Lescroart
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDismas Hardy walked hip-deep in green ice water, his rubber-gloved hands on the fins of a six-foot white shark.
Outside in the world, it was nearly two o'clock of an early summer morning, but here at the Steinhart there was no time. The overhead light reflected off the institutional green walls, clammy with distilled sea-sweat. Somewhere, out of the room, a motor throbbed dully.
The only noise in Hardy's world was the steady slush and suck of the water curling behind him as he walked around and around, alone in the circular pool.
Pico Morales had called around seven to ask if he felt like doing some walking. When Pico called, it meant that some fishing boat had landed a great white shark and had contacted the Aquarium. The sharks bred just off the Farallons, and the Steinhart-or Pico, its curator-wanted a live one badly. The problem was that the beasts became so traumatized, or wounded, or both, after they were caught, that none survived. Too exhausted to move on their own, they had to be walked through the water so that they could breathe.
It was Hardy's third and last hour-long shift tonight. He'd been spelled by a couple of other volunteers earlier, and Pico was due any minute, so Hardy just walked, unthinking, putting down one foot after another, dragging and pulling thehalf-dead monster along with him.
On his first break, he'd stripped off his wetsuit, changed and walked over to the Little Shamrock for a Guinness or two. Hardy's brother-in-law, Frannie's brother Moses McGuire, had been off. Lynne Leish was working her normal Sunday shift behind the rail, and Hardy had taken his drink to the back and sat, speaking to no one.
On his next break, he'd gone out and climbed a fence into the Japanese Tea Garden. Sitting on a footbridge, he listened to the orchestrated trickle of the artificial stream that flowed between the bonsais and pagodas. The fog had been in, and it hadn't made the evening any warmer. Hardy wasn't paying attention when Pico came in. Suddenly there he was at the side of the pool, his huge bulk straining his wetsuit to its limit. Pico had a large black drooping mustache that got wet every time he brought the steaming cup to his lips. "Hey, Diz."
Hardy, willing his legs forward, looked up and grunted.
"How's the baby?"
Hardy kept moving. "Don't know."
Pico rested his cup on the edge of the pool and slid in. He shivered as the cold water came under his suit. Next time Hardy came around, Pico grabbed the shark and goosed its belly. "Let it go," he said.
Hardy walked another two steps, then released the fins. The shark turned ninety degrees and took a nosedive into the tiles on the bottom of the tank.
Pico sighed. Hardy leaned his elbows up against the rim of the pool. "Lack of family structure," Pico said. "That's what does it."
"What does what?" Hardy was breathing hard.
"I don't think they have much will to live, these guys. You know, abandoned at birth, left to fend for themselves. Probably turn to drugs, run with a bad crowd, eat junk food. Time we get 'em, they're just plumb licked."
Hardy nodded. "Good theory."
Pico, in the bottoms of his wetsuit, his enormous stomach protruding like a tumor, sat on the lip of the tank, sipping coffee and brandy. Hardy was out of the pool. The shark hung still in the water, its nose on the bottom. Without saying anything, Pico handed his mug to Hardy.
"We're doing something wrong, Peek."
Pico nodded. "Follow that reasoning, Diz. You're onto something."
"They do keep dying, don't they?"
"I think this one OD'd. Probably mainlining." He grabbed the mug back. "Fucking shark drug addicts."
"Lack of family structure," Hardy said.
"Yeah." Pico plopped in and walked over to the shark. "Want to help hoist this sucker out and stroll through his guts? Further the cause of science?"
Hardy emptied Pico's coffee mug, sighed and brought the gurney over. Pico had tied a rope around the shark's tail and slung it over a pulley in the ceiling. Suddenly, the tail twitched and Pico jumped back as if stung. "Spasmodic crackhead shark rapists!"
"You sure it's just a spasm?" Hardy didn't want to cut the thing up if it wasn't dead yet.
"It isn't the cha-cha, Diz. Pull on that thing, will you?"
Hardy pulled and the shark came out of the water, slow and heavy. Hardy guided it onto the gurney. He waited while Pico hauled himself out of the pool.
"I am reminded of a poem," Hardy said. "Winter and spring, summer and fail, you look like a basketball."
Pico ignored him and reached for his coffee mug. "Need I take this abuse from someone who steals my coffee?"
"There was coffee in that?"
"And a little brandy. Cuts the aftertaste."
They flipped the shark on its back. Pico went into his office and came out a minute later with a scalpel. He traced a line up the shark's belly to its gills, laying open the stomach cavity. Slicing a strip of flesh, he held it up to Hardy. "Want some sushi?"
The tank gurgled. Hardy leaned over the gurney, careful not to block the light, while Pico cut. He reached into the stomach and began pulling things out-two or three small fish, a piece of driftwood, a rubber ball, a tin can.
"Junk food," Pico muttered.
"Leave out the food part," Hardy said.
Pico reached back in and brought out something that looked like a starfish. He pulled it up, looking at it quizzically.
"What's that?" Hardy asked.
"I don't know. It looks-" Then, as though he'd been bit, Pico screamed, jumping back, throwing the object to the floor.
Hardy walked over to look.
Partially digested and covered with slime, it was still recognizable for what it was-a human hand, severed at the wrist, the first finger missing, and on the pinkie, a sea-green jade ring.
Chapter TwoHardy expected that the guys in blue would be first on the scene. He would likely know them from the Shamrock, where the police dropped in frequently enough to keep the presence alive. Sometimes your Irish bar will get a little rowdy and it helped to have the heat appear casually to remind patrons that a certain minimum standard of decorous behavior would be maintained.
For the better part of nine years, Hardy had been the daytime bartender at the Little Shamrock. He'd only been back in the D.A.'s office for four months now, since Rebecca had been born and he and Frannie had gotten married.
Hardy and his onetime boss, current friend, partner and brother-in-law Moses McGuire were both reasonable hands with the shillelagh of Kentucky ash that hung behind the bar under the cash register. McGuire, Doctor of Philosophy, in his cups himself, had twice thrown people through the front window of the Shamrock. Most other times, the forced exit was, Old West fashion, through the swinging double doors. Neither Hardy nor Moses was quick on the 86-no good publican was-but both of them had needed assistance from the beat cops from time to time. The Shamrock wasn't a "cop bar," but the guys from Park Station had trouble paying for drinks if they stopped in during off hours.
Hardy stood just inside the front entrance to the Aquarium. The black and white pulled up, the searchlight on the car scanning the front of the building. From the street to the entrance was a twenty-yard expanse of open cement at 2:15 of a pitch-dark morning. Hardy didn't blame them for the caution. He stepped outside.
They walked back behind the tanks in the damp hallway. Bathed in a faint greenish overhead light, the two cops followed Hardy amid the burps and gurglings of the Aquarium. He did know them-Dan Soper and Bobby Varela, a fullback and a sprinter. Hardy thought the three of them made a parade: the give of leather, slap of holster, clomp of heavy shoes, jingle of cuffs and keys-beat cops weren't dressed for ambush. It reminded Hardy of his days on the force, walking a beat with Abe Glitsky.
He had been a different guy back then. Now he felt older, almost protective of these cops. The beat was the beginning.
They came into what Hardy called the walking room. Pico had changed into a turtleneck and sportcoat, though he still wore his swim trunks. He stared emptily straight ahead, sitting on the edge of the pool next to the gurney that held the shark.
"Find anything else?" Hardy asked.
Pico let himself off the pool's lip, withering Hardy with a look. After the introductions, Varela walked over to the hand, still lying where Pico had thrown it. "That what it looks like?"
"That's what it is," Hardy said.
"Where'd you get this shark?" Soper asked. "Hey, Bobby?" Varela was poking at the hand with a pencil. "Leave it, would you?"
Pico told Soper how the shark had come to the Steinhart. Soper wanted to know the fishing boat's name, captain, time of capture, all that. Hardy walked over to Varela, who was still hunched over, and stood over him.
"Pretty weird, huh?"
Varela looked back over his shoulder, straightening. "Naw, we get these three, four times a week."
"I wonder if the guy drowned?"
Varela couldn't seem to take his eyes off the thing. "You'd hope so, wouldn't you? How'd you like to have been alive instead?"
Soper had passed them, going into Pico's office to use the telephone. Pico came over. "He's getting some crime-lab people down here. No way am I putting my hand in that guy again."
Varela shivered. "I don't blame you." He walked back to the shark and gingerly lifted the incision along its stomach with his pencil. "Can't see much."
"There's more in there," Pico said. "We'd just started."
Varela stepped back. "Dan's right. I think we'll just wait."
Hardy stared down at the hand. "I wonder who it was," he said.
"Oh, we'll find out soon enough," Varela said.
Pico leaned back against the pool. "How can you be sure?" he said. "It could be anybody."
"Yeah, but we've got one major clue."
"What's that?" Pico asked.
Hardy turned. "Let me guess," he said. "Fingerprints."
Chapter ThreeHardy lifted his red-rimmed eyes from the folder he was studying. It was three-thirty in the afternoon, and last night had been a long one, ending around sunrise. He'd driven home from the Steinhart, changed into a new brown suit, looked in at Frannie curled up in their bed, at Rebecca sleeping in the new room he'd built onto the back of his house, and headed downtown where he now worked as an assistant district attorney on the third floor of the Hall of Justice on Seventh and Bryant.
The job wasn't going very well. The case he was laboring over now, like the others he was currently prosecuting, came from the lower rungs of the criminal ladder. This one involved a prostitute who'd been caught by an undercover cop posing as a tourist wandering around Union Square. The girl-Esme Aiella-was twenty-two, black, two priors. She was out on $500 bail and was, even now as Hardy read, probably out hustling.
Hardy was wondering what purpose this all served. Or the bust of a city employee, Derek Graham, who sold lids of marijuana on the side. Hardy had known guys like Derek in college, and very few of them went on to become ringleaders in, say, the Medellín cartel. Derek had three kids, lived in the Mission and was trying to make ends meet so his wife could stay home with the kids.
Still, this was Hardy's job now-nailing the petty malefactors, the lowlifes, the unlucky or the foolish. This wasn't the high drama of the passionate crime, the romance of big deals gone crooked, beautiful people desperately denying their libidos, their greed, their shallowness. No, this was down below the stage lights, where the denizens lived on the slimy border of the law, slipping over the line, not even seeing it, trying to get a little money, a little power, a little edge, maybe even some release, some fun in a life story that wasn't ever going to make it past the footlights. Mostly, Hardy thought, it was sad.
Hardy had thought, perhaps unrealistically, that coming back to work as an assistant district attorney he wouldn't have to deal with this level again. He was, after all, nearly forty now, and he'd done his apprenticeship with the D.A. ten years ago. Back when he started, he'd had to work through the issue of whether he could morally prosecute the so-called victimless crimes-hookers, casual dopers. Somewhere in his heart, he believed that these crimes weren't as real as the ones that hurt people. He tended to believe that if grown-ups wanted to get laid or get high or get dead by jumping off the Golden Gate bridge, society should let them. God knows, it had enough truly bad things to correct. Why waste the time on this pettiness?
But this, he knew, wasn't a good attitude. His job was to prosecute people who broke the law. Whether they had done anything he considered wrong was moot.
And he was a new hire, only brought on because he'd left with a few friends, like Chief Assistant D.A. Art Drysdale. Also, he suspected, although he didn't know for certain, that his ex-father-in-law, Superior Court Judge Andy Fowler, had put in a good word for him.
He hadn't actively practiced law in ten years. He'd been a bartender, was still part owner of the Shamrock, and he really couldn't expect guys who'd made a linear career of criminal law to step aside while the new guy got the hot cases.
Of course, even if he were doing murders-the fun stuff-the majority of them were NHI cases-"no humans involved." It was a pretty apt term. Lowlifes killing each other for reasons that would be laughable-they were laughable-if they weren't so tragic....
This morning, Hardy had run into Arnie Tiano and Elizabeth Pullios in the hallway, laughing so hard their sides hurt:
"... so this poor son of a bitch, the victim, Leon, he's trying to get some hubcaps back on this car in the middle of the day. It's his car. Red, you know, an old Ford. So the perp, Germaine, sees him, comes out and asks what he thinks he's doing messing with his, Germaine's, car, which in truth is parked around the corner. Looks a lot like Leon's car, I guess. Same model, red and all. But Germaine is so loaded he can't see that well, and Leon says fuck off, it's my car, which it is. So Germaine goes inside and comes out with a gun, and Leon says, 'What you gonna do, shoot me?' and Germaine says, 'Yeah,' and pumps four shots into him,"
Pullios howls. "Get out of here!"
"Swear to God, I mean, there's ten witnesses hanging around the curb and this guy just blows Leon away, walks back inside and takes a nap, which is what he's doing when we get there."
Both Arnie and Elizabeth laughing, laughing, laughing.
But it beat bartending.
Not that there was anything wrong with bartending. Working behind the rail was an uncomplicated and stress-free life. He'd taken pride in the way he mixed drinks, getting along with everybody, sleep-walking.
Excerpted from HARD EVIDENCE by John Lescroart Copyright © 1993 by John T. Lescroart . Excerpted by permission.
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