When Ben Kincaid gets an accused cop-killer off the hook, the police declare a vendetta
It is one of the most gruesome murders Oklahoma has ever seen. A horribly mutilated man is found chained to a statue in the middle of downtown Tulsa, secured so tightly that it takes the police hours to get him down. As the city’s workforce stares, the police realize something terrible: The victim is one of their own. They arrest the dead cop’s girlfriend, a nineteen-year-old stripper whose camera-ready appearance quickly turns the trial into a media circus. And when idealistic young defense attorney Ben Kincaid gets the dancer off on a technicality, the city erupts. Unable to try their suspect a second time, the Tulsa police build a case against Kincaid, arresting him after they stumble across the murder weapon in his office. Every instrument in the state’s justice system is turned against him, but Kincaid isn’t worried. He’s faced worse odds before.
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A Ben Kincaid Novel of Suspense (Book Ten)
By William Bernhardt
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 William Bernhardt
All rights reserved.
"So what're we gonna do about it?"
Barry Dodds didn't want to encourage him. "We're gonna play cards, Arlen—that's what we're gonna do. So play already."
A toothpick darting out from between his teeth, Arlen Matthews tossed out a few chips. "Seems to me this isn't something we should take lying down. Seems to me we ought to do something about it."
Mark Callery called. "Do something? Like what?"
Dodds pressed his hand against Callery's arm. They were about the same age, but Dodds was a captain, and he knew that because of his senior rank, Callery, unlike Matthews, respected his opinion. "Don't encourage him."
"I just wanted to know."
"And I'm saying, don't ask."
"What's the matter with you, Barry?" Matthews asked. "Don't we still have freedom of speech in this country? Let the boy talk."
"No good can come of this discussion." Dodds was a short man with the beer belly that almost seemed like a mandatory stage in almost every police officer's career. "You boys would be better off if you just forgot about it."
"Is that right?" Matthews obviously didn't agree. He addressed himself to the fourth member of the group. "What do you think, Frank?"
Frank didn't respond immediately. He was an extremely large man; down at headquarters, they called him The Hulk. Given his enormous size, his colleagues imagined that it took longer for thoughts to make the trip from his brain to his mouth, sort of like the larger dinosaurs. "Can't say, really."
"That's what I like about you, Frank. You always know exactly where you stand." Matthews obviously wasn't satisfied. "I tell you what I think. I think this was a travesty of justice and I think we ought to do something about it."
"Hasn't this mess caused you enough trouble already?" Dodds was the youngest of the four and the most senior in rank, a fact which he knew caused some trouble, even if it was never directly mentioned. "The courts have spoken. You can't take the law into your own hands. That's not how the system works."
Matthews was not pleased. "Don't lecture me on the system, college boy."
Dodds grimaced. In truth, many of the police officers, and all of the younger ones, had college degrees. But because he had a graduate degree in criminology, because he had been promoted rapidly and he spoke the Queen's English, to Matthews he was always the "college boy."
"I think we should just let it alone."
"You'd feel different if it had been you up there on the witness stand." Matthews threw down his cards—which was no great loss since he was holding a pair of twos. "You'd feel different if that attorney had made you look like a lyin' jackass."
Dodds, the last player still holding his cards, scooped in the pot. "He was just doing his job."
Matthews jumped up on his feet. "Just doing his job? Just doing his job?"
"I didn't say I liked it, okay?" Dodds had been trying to calm Matthews down all night, and frankly, he was getting sick of it. "I just said there's no point in acting like it was some big surprise. You know what's gonna happen when you take the stand. The defense attorney's going to try to make you look like one of the Three Stooges. There's nothing new about it."
"This is different."
"Like hell. This time it was one of our own. It was Joe. My partner. And if you had any loyalty to Joe—"
"Don't you dare lecture me about Joe." Dodds had had it, all he could take. "Joe and I went to school together, all right? I've known him longer than any of you. I would've died for him, understand? Died for him!" He stood up to Matthews and jabbed him in the chest. "So don't you lecture me about loyalty. Don't you dare!"
The room fell quiet. Matthews and Dodds glared at one another, like two jungle beasts waiting to see who would make the first move. No one did.
Eventually, Frank cleared his throat. "So are we gonna play cards here?"
Matthews kept his eyes trained on Dodds. "I'm sick of cards."
"But it was my turn to deal."
"There ain't gonna be any more cards, got it?" Matthews pounded the table. "It's sick. Our buddy is dead, the lyin' whore that killed him is running free, and we're sitting here like a bunch of pansy-assed queers playing cards!"
Callery's voice was quiet, and his eyes were trained on the table. "You know, Arlen, you weren't the only one who was up on the witness stand. I testified, too. I went first. You think I enjoyed it? I didn't. I didn't like that lawyer prying into every little thing. I didn't like him insinuating that we botched the investigation. But it's over now. We have to move on."
Matthews looked away. "It's different for you."
"It isn't, Arlen."
"It is. Goddamn it, can't you see? It is." To his companions' shock and horror, Matthews's small eyes began to well up. "It wasn't your fault, okay? I was the one who screwed up. I was the one who used Judge Bolen's crappy warrants. It's my fault that murdering bitch is still walking the streets."
Dodds gently placed his hand on his colleague's shoulder. "Give yourself a break, Arlen. You couldn't've known."
"I should've known, damn it. It's my job to know. I let Joe down. He was my partner. And I let him down." Tears began to stream down his face.
Even though it was obviously the last thing on earth he wanted to do, Frank broke his silence. "Arlen ... it's none of my business, but ... I think maybe you should get some help. Maybe some counseling. Central Division's got that woman who comes in twice a week—"
Matthews's face swelled up with rage. "I don't want counseling, you idiot! I want the fucking little cunt who killed Joe!"
Another silence followed, this one even longer than the one before. No one knew what to say next.
"It's this simple," Matthews said, his chest heaving. "Are you Joe's friend, or not? 'Cause there's no way any friend of Joe's would let what happened happen and just walk away without doing anything about it." He leaned across the table. "So what about it, Frank? Are you Joe's friend?"
Frank took his usual eternity to reply. "You know I am, Arlen."
"What about you, Mark?"
Callery frowned. "Joe was my first supervisor, my first day on the job. He taught me practically everything I know."
"I'll take that as a yes." He turned toward Dodds. "And what about you? You claim Joe was your oldest friend. You claim you'd of died for him. Was that just talk? Or does it actually mean something? "
Dodds glared back at him, not answering.
It was Callery who broke the silence. "What did you have in mind, Arlen?"
"We're cops, aren't we?"
"We're supposed to catch the bad guys, right?"
"So I say that's what we do."
"But, Arlen, the case is over. Double jeopardy has—"
"There are ways around that."
Dodds stared at Matthews, stunned. "Arlen, stop right there. I don't know what you're thinking, but whatever it is—"
"What's the matter? Haven't got the guts for it, college boy?"
Dodds fell silent, biting back his own anger.
"I want that cheap piece of ass that killed our friend. And I want that cheap lying whore of a lawyer who got her off and made us look like fools."
"We all do," Callery replied. "But how are you gonna do it? There's no way."
"There is a way." Calmly, almost in control of himself now, Matthews fell back into his chair. "I've got three words for you, boys: The Blue Squeeze."CHAPTER 2
Ben stood beside the reception table sampling Dean Belsky's canapés. There were a wide variety of them, but they all seemed to involve cucumbers. Ben hated cucumbers. Actually, it wasn't so much that he hated them as it was that he didn't understand their purpose. After all, they didn't taste like anything. They weren't especially good for you. They didn't quell your appetite. What was the point? And yet, there they were, as far as the eye could see, rows and rows of sliced, diced, warm and wilty cucumbers. All in all, it was about the most unappetizing display of appetizers he'd seen in his life.
"Paula, look! Cucumbers!" Jones, Ben's office manager, surged past him and bellied up to the table; his girlfriend, Paula, trailed in his wake. He slid his plate under half a dozen of the nearest selections. "I was starving." He glanced at Ben. "Aren't you having any?"
"I'd rather eat air. Actually, it's about the same."
"Nonsense. Cucumbers are great. So cool, so refreshing." He took a bite into one of them. The expression on his face rapidly changed. "Unless, of course, they've been out on the table a wee bit too long. When did this reception start?"
"Beats me. Seems like forever."
"Ah, don't be such a party pooper. This is a big day." Jones turned his attention to Paula. "Want some, sugar pie?"
"No thanks. I'll just savor the inside lining of my mouth."
Ben smiled. "A woman after my own heart." Paula was the head research librarian for the Tulsa City-County system. She and Jones had met on the Internet more than a year ago and been inseparable ever since. "Better watch out, Jones. I may steal her away from you."
"As if you stood a chance." He sniffed. "We're soul mates." He clasped her hand. "And hopefully we always will be."
"And I hope we always will be," she corrected. "'Hopefully' is an adverb meaning full of hope."
"That's my cute little librarian gal. You'll always be my sweet thing, won't you, punkin?"
"You know it, huggy bear."
They rubbed noses.
Ben didn't know whether to be enchanted or repulsed. "All right, you two, calm down. We're in a public place, remember?"
Jones pulled away from Paula's face. "I remember, Boss. But it's easy to forget when you're around my hot little love bug."
"Uh-huh. So when are you going to make an honest woman of her?"
A touch of frost settled amongst their little group.
Paula laughed, a bit too heartily, trying to smooth over the awkwardness. "Bad question, Ben. Jones is still in his twenty-first century sensitive male mode."
"And that means?"
She winked and mouthed the words: "Can't commit."
"Anybody seen Christina?" Jones asked. "We're here for her, after all."
"Haven't seen her," Ben answered. "Probably searching for a robe short enough to fit. Haven't seen Loving, either."
"That's odd. He said he would be—" Jones stopped. "Wait—oh, my God! There he is."
"What's the big—" Ben swiveled around.
"Hey ya, Skipper," Loving said, with typical exuberance. "Am I late?"
"No, no," Ben said, trying not to laugh. "You're fine. A good fifteen minutes till the ceremony starts." He turned away, unable to suppress his mirth.
"What?" Loving said. "What is it? Did I do somethin'?"
"No. N-not at all," Jones stammered out. He was doing a considerably less capable job of containing himself. "You certainly look ... dapper this morning."
"What is it? My clothes?" Loving, Ben's investigator, was about the size of a bear and built like a brick wall. But this morning, that admirable girth was encased in an ill-fitting tuxedo. With morning coat. "You told me this was a dress-up thing."
"Yes," Jones said. He was full-out laughing now. "Yes, I did ..."
"And I wanted Christina to know how important I think this is. Wanted to treat her special day with respect." He hooked a thumb under his lapel. "When she sees this, she'll know how much I care about her."
"That," Ben said, "or she'll think you just came from a royal wedding."
"What a bunch of boobs," Paula said. She took Loving's arm and sidled up next to him. "I think you look dashing."
"Really?" Loving beamed. "I wasn't sure, you know?" He lowered his voice a notch. "I haven't actually worn this thing since high school."
"Ah. That would explain the fit."
He twisted his neck in the direction of the voice and saw a familiar red-haired figure blazing a trail through the reception crowd. She was wearing a black gown and had a mortarboard tucked under her arm.
"Ben!" she said, bubbling. "You came! I'm so happy!"
"Well, of course I came," he said, standing there awkwardly. "I couldn't miss seeing my, um, you know, one's legal assistant graduating from law school."
Paula patted his arm. "Nice job, Ben. Very clinical." She gave Christina a hug. "We're so proud of you, Christina. All of us."
"Are you staying for the ceremony? "
Ben opened his mouth, but whatever he was planning to say, he never got the chance. "Of course we are," Paula said quickly. "All of us."
"That's wonderful!" Christina had always been on the exuberant side, but this morning, she was positively effervescent. "Can you believe I'm finally graduating?" She spun around, and the brick wall wearing a tuxedo caught her eye. "Loving, look at you! You look extraordinaire!"
Loving tugged on his bow tie. "Me? Nah ..."
"You do! Very scrummy! If you wear that thing much longer, you're going to have to beat the girls off with a stick."
"Shucks. I wasn't tryin' to look good. I just wanted you to know what a big deal we think today is. And how proud we are of you."
She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "You're very sweet." She turned back toward Ben. "Don't you think my gown has a certain je ne sais quoi? Don't you like it?"
"Better than most of your wardrobe."
"Wanna see what I have on under it?"
"No." Ben gave her a long look. "You do have something on under it, don't you?"
"Of course." She lifted the hem of the gown and gave him a fast flash of a pink poodle skirt lined with black fake fur, white socks, and saddle oxfords.
"You know," Ben said, "once you're a lawyer, you won't be able to dress so ... eccentrically."
"Which is why I dressed up today. I have the whole rest of my life to be boring." She saw that the other graduates were beginning to file out the rear. "I have to go get in line now." She paused, this time looking at Ben. "See you after the ceremony?"
"Wouldn't miss it."
And then she was gone, like a strawberry-blond poltergeist, three shakes and a cloud of dust.
It was well past time someone reinvented the graduation ceremony model, Ben mused, as he sat on one of the front rows of the First Baptist Church sanctuary, bored to tears. There were too many people crammed into too little space, none of them smiling. Even the graduates looked as if they might drop off at any moment. After "a few opening remarks" from the dean, it was time for the musical entertainment, which was neither.
And then, of course, the dreaded commencement address, delivered by a distinguished state senator. Why were these things so often delivered by politicians? Ben supposed it was because they were always ready to give a speech and didn't require an honorarium. This address went on for more than half an hour, and it seemed to Ben to have a lot more to do with getting the speaker reelected than offering words of wisdom to the graduates. As a part-time adjunct professor, Ben had tried to suggest a few innovative alterations to the dean—like skipping the whole ceremony. But for some strange reason, his proposal hadn't garnered much support.
At long last, it was time to award the diplomas.
"Here it is!" Loving said excitedly, jabbing Ben in the ribs. "It's almost time."
"Almost time? They're still in the A's. Christina is an M."
"She'll be up before ya know it," Loving said, and he was almost right, because Ben managed to take a little eyes-open nap, a trick he had taught himself during Western Oklahoma motion dockets. By the time he knew what was going on again, they were finishing up the L's.
"Steven Edward Lytton, PLA Vice President," the announcer said, and somewhere behind him, Ben heard a booming chorus of shouts and cheers.
"What boobs," Ben muttered, under his breath.
"They're not boobs," Loving said. "They're family. They're proud of him. It's what families do."
"Loving ... you aren't planning ..."
But there was no time. "Christina Ingrid McCall, National Moot Court, Law Review, Order of the Coif."
In the blink of an eye, Jones, Paula, and Loving were on their feet, whooping and hollering at the top of their lungs.
Ben wondered if the dean was watching. "Why are you doing this?" he growled under his breath.
"Don't you get it?" Loving hissed between hoots. "We're her family."
He was right, of course. Ben pushed to his feet and pounded his hands together. He even whooped a little.
After the ceremony, the group gathered at the office at Two Warren Place for a postceremony celebration. Jones had ordered champagne, chilled and ready when they arrived. Paula had made brownies and Loving picked up some exquisite bacon cheeseburgers from Goldie's.
"A toast," Jones said, hoisting his glass in the air.
"Another one?" Ben asked. By his count, they'd already had about three bottles of toasts, and they were all starting to wobble a bit.
Excerpted from Murder One by William Bernhardt. Copyright © 2001 William Bernhardt. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Blue Squeeze,
Part Two: The Strong Right Arm of Justice,
Part Three: Never Simple,
Author Essay: The Method and Madness of Murder One
The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. --Henry IV, Part 2You've heard it on television, you've seen it on T-shirts, but does anyone actually know what this quote means? Did Shakespeare have a bad-on for lawyers? Well, no -- just about the opposite, as it happens. This line in the play is spoken by a member of a group of anarchists who are hoping to take advantage of some momentary civil strife to bring down the government. He recognizes that in order to do so, however, he must eliminate the lawyers -- the people who enforce the law and make the government run as it should. Far from being a criticism, the line is actually a token of Shakespeare's understanding of the important and fundamental role lawyers play in civil government.
Which hasn't in the least prevented lawyers from being the cheap and easy target of the imitative, the poorly educated, and those desperately seeking a punchline. And criminal defense lawyers seem to get it worst of all. Although we all learned in eighth-grade civics that everyone is entitled to a fair defense, many people are outraged if a defense attorney has the audacity to be successful. Many people still assume that anyone prosecuted is guilty, despite DNA evidence that has proven that scores of innocent people are currently in prison -- even on death row. When defense attorneys make statements on television, often in response to the "law-and-order" declarations from the prosecution, they are often criticized by the hoi polloi for "just trying to promote themselves." (Presumably, prosecutors have no career ambitions). It's a classic no-win scenario for defense attorneys -- even if they win the case, they lose the war.
It's no accident that I made my series protagonist, Ben Kincaid, a defense attorney. I wanted a hero who really was a hero -- not because he has big muscles (Ben doesn't), not because he's flawlessly brilliant in the courtroom (no one is), but because he performs an important but virtually thankless job and does it well. I mean, half the time Ben doesn't even get paid decently. He never has "the inside track." Public opinion, not to mention the evidence, is usually stacked against him. But he keeps at it. He does what he believes is right, period. He doesn't shrink from the tough cases, and he doesn't quit until the job is done. To me, that's a hero.
Murder One is something of a landmark for me -- the tenth Ben Kincaid novel. Who'da thought? I can promise you that when I started the first one (Primary Justice), scribbling down scenes on the backs of legal pads when no one was looking, I never anticipated that I would be spending the next decade with this guy. But the audience for Ben's adventures has turned out to be larger than I imagined in my most optimistic dreams, and I like to think that it's in part because he's a flawed but fundamentally decent human being. One of the happier aspects of writing multiple books about a character is the opportunity it affords for painting on a larger canvas. In the context of this ten-book "meganovel," I've been able to show how Ben changes and matures (or doesn't) as he marches through his life. People ask me sometimes if Ben is based on me. Well, there are naturally a few superficial similarities, but I've never solved a murder, and I was much better in the courtroom than Ben, at least in his earliest books. Ben isn't me; but Ben is someone I could aspire to be. Quirks and all, he's what a lawyer should be.
Many of my books, in the grand Dickensian tradition, have involved various social issues that I thought needed discussing, such as the environment (Dark Justice) and racism (Perfect Justice). But Murder One isn't one of them. In this book, the focus is on people and personalities. It's a psychological thriller, with a sexy defendant (a 19-year old stripper) to whom Ben is undeniably attracted, and a crime so horrific it rivets the attention of the entire city. It also has several twists and turns between the first page and the final verdict that I can just about guarantee you won't see coming. The authors is typically a poor judge, but I think this may well be the best book in the series.
Will Ben triumph in the end? Will he get his client off? Sorry, but for those answers you have to read the book. I can guarantee one thing, though. Ben will work hard to give his client the best defense possible. Because that's what criminal defense attorneys do. And we should all be grateful. (William Bernhardt)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Exceptional Legal Thriller William Bernhardt has a smooth and enjoyable writing style. All the twists and turns in the plot and the cast of characters made for a sit on the edge of your seat thriller. This is one of the best legal thrillers I have read. If that is your genre, it is a must read.
This is the 2nd book I have read by this author which ends in a highly implausible manner - so much so that I now need to tell my wife that, contrary to what I had told her a few chapters back, I can no longer recommend that she read this book. The ending was just so contrived that it simply tainted what had been, up that point, a good read.
I always look forward to William Burnhart's books...and this one did not disappoint. A gruesome murder, many possible culprits, unexpected twists and turns and a bang-up ending. As always, Ben Kincaid picked a case that no lawyer could ever conceive of winning. In the course of trying to do so, he and his staff enountered tremendous obstacles and endured much more than their meager paychecks could justify. But, it was definitely a page turner that I couldn't put down.
When the body of veteran detective Joe McNaughton is found mutilated, hanging naked from a public fountain with the word FAITHLESS scrawled across his chest, in his own blood, the people of Tulsa, Ohlahoma want justice. The prime suspect is nineteen year-old stripper Keri Dalcanton. Keri was involved in a kinky relationship with the married detective, and the entire police force is convinced she is the killer. Attorney Ben Kincaid is NOT convinced Keri is the killer, although the evidence against her is overwhelming, Ben steps in to defend Kerri, and when he exposes a major police blunder, the case gets thrown out of court, setting her free. The police, outraged over what happened, put the 'blue squeeze' on Ben, and after a raid on his office uncovers the murder weapon, Ben the attorney becomes Ben the defendant. Ben, thrust in the middle of a legal battle where nothing is as it seems, will fight for himself, and for justice to prevail by bringing the real killer down. 'Murder One' is an action packed legal thriller-that actually thrills-from the first page right up until the last the suspense keeps mounting to an explosive climax. William Bernhardt has been writing great thrillers for many years, and his new novel is his best; it is totally un-putdownable, with twist after twist, to keep readers guessing all the way through. Fans of fast paced entertainment will enjoy this, and with any luck it will rocket up the bestseller list's, and propel Mr. Bernhardt among the ranks of Grisham, Baldacci, Lescroart, and Martini. A MUST read!!! Nick Gonnella
Nobody does edge-of-your seat, courtroom dynamics better than award-winning William Bernhardt. His hard-hitting series hero, quixotic defense attorney Ben Kincaid has a positive affinity for apparently lost causes at impossible odds, time and again snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. MURDER ONE provides Ben and his off-beat but devoted staff with the toughest challenge of his legal career to date: defending an accused murderess, stripper Keri Delcannon (on-trial for the appallingly brutal mutilation-murder of her policeman lover) not once, but twice after he, himself (subsequent to getting his unpopular client released on a technicality during the first trial) has been accused of complicity in that murder, framed, arrested and jailed by vindictive cops in a 'Blue Squeeze' manoeuver. When Keri's double jeopardy protection is invalidated on another technicality and the District Attorney starts playing hardball, Ben and his associates sift through a maze of false trails and double-dealing, searching for just one solid piece of evidence that will prove her innocence and once again set her free. The second trial finds Ben and his newly-graduated, former legal assistant (now partner), Christina McCall, going head-to-head with the DA in a series of increasingly dramatic courtroom confrontations that lead inevitably to an absolutely logical but emotionally shattering verdict. But it's 'not over 'til it's over', and, after the smoke of battle clears, Ben must face a shocking new truth that tests his convictions to the core, leaves the reader gasping and should make this must-read genre stunner the most talked about courtroom thriller of the year.
In Tulsa, Ben Kincaid defends stripper Keri Dalcarton against a charge of brutally killing police officer Joe McNaugton in a bestial manner left for public viewing. The trial goes badly as witness after witness provides testimony insures Keri¿s conviction. However, Ben notices that the two search warrants used to look inside Keri¿s car and home were illegal, forcing the judge to throw out the case on a technicality. The cops are outraged, as Keri is not only free, but also protected under the Double Jeopardy clause of the Constitution. Officer Arlen Matthews, who looked incompetent on the stand, persuades his cohorts to pull the ¿blue squeeze¿ on Kincaid. With a legal search warrant in hand, the police rummage through Kincaid¿s office to find the McNaugton murder weapon. Initially Ben is accused of obstructing justice, but then the charge is changed to MURDER ONE. Ben¿s legal assistant now a lawyer of two days serves as his defense attorney with more trouble awaiting Kincaid. The previous Kincaid legal thrillers were excellent novels, but the newest tale, MURDER ONE, is superior to even that high standard. William Bernhardt grips the audience with a thriller that never eases up until the final twist and turn. Kincaid and his crew remain fun to observe as they struggle with this too personal case and the potential second round in the Dalcarton defense in spite of the Double Jeopardy clause. Mr. Bernhardt has written a fabulous story that if justice were simple would lead to the top of the best seller lists. Harriet Klausner