And so begins an accelerating and dire chain of events. Freer, Motley's senior partner is found dead, and its brightest young associate is charged with murder. The firm needs a fall guy, and John Shepard, brilliant but arrogant--and recently passed over for partner--fills the role to perfection. Defending John Shepard in a Boston court is going to be a career buster. No one wants the job, and no one understands why Ed Mulcahy accepts the case, even if he is Shepard's friend--but they don't know that he's already in way too deep to walk away.
On a par with Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent, The Deal is the most exciting new legal thriller from a first-time author to be published in years. Written by a young partner with one of Boston's prestigious old firms, it is an utterly authentic view of the city's judicial system, from the ex-con informants, paid for their evidence, to the district attorney who needs a conviction for the sake of his political career. It is also the compelling story of two young lawyers--a defendant and his attorney--realizing too late that they are up against an old-guard establishment more powerful than they could ever imagined.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
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It is as though the news is corporeal, eager to brush past the old court officer unlatching the door and be off on its headlong flight from the jury room through the halls and the elevator banks of the annex, up and down the stairwells, into the offices and the sessions, along the third-floor corridor to the old building, penetrating every corner of the Suffolk County Court House.
They have a verdict.
The court officers fan out to summon the lawyers, finding Edward Mulcahy first, seated on a bench outside the courtroom. But the news has outstripped them, and suddenly is everywhere in the building. In the corner office on the sixth floor, a secretary is interrupting a meeting to tell the district attorney. Downstairs, the first assistant clerk replaces the telephone in its cradle, then steps from his office into the typing pool to tell a docket clerk, who passes it on to another. Two slip-and-fall lawyers stop their haggling in the hallway as a third brings them the word. At the back of a hearing under way in the Boston Municipal Court, a cop whispers it to a defense attorney. And in the first-floor lobby, the blind man behind the cash register in the tiny coffee shop smiles, his fingers sensing the jangling vibrations running through the old building.
On the eighth floor of the annex, elevators, stairwell doors, offices open and spill lawyers, assistant D.A.’s, reporters, court personnel, spectators; waves of people rolling toward 8b. They push through the session door, taking seats in the gallery, edging into the back of the room, filling the space around the white-haired woman who sits in the front row, her hands clasping her Bible, her eyes closed, her lips moving in silent prayer. Not far away—behind the session wall—a court officer is fumbling for his keys to open the lockup and tell the man sitting alone behind the wire mesh what he has already sensed.
It is time.
“All rise for the jury!”
The door beside the court officer’s seat opens, and the jurors emerge in single file, all eyes in the crowded gallery on them, their own fixed upon the floor or in indefinite space, their faces a mask as they pass within inches of the defense table.
“Be seated. Will the jurors and the defendant please remain standing.”
A rustling, a shifting, as seats are taken, and still, from the jury box—at which Ed Mulcahy dares not look—come no smiles, no frowns, nothing to betray their sympathies. As the room settles again and falls silent, Mulcahy remains standing at the defendant’s side, with his client, but alone, as together they wait for judgment. On the wall clock, the minute hand jumps. It is 1:58 in the afternoon, September 28, 1992.
“Madam Forelady, has the jury reached its verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor.”
“Will you pass the verdict slip to the court officer, please?”
The ritual proceeds. Now the eyes of the room follow the single slip of white paper as it makes its excruciating tour. It is handed to the court officer, passed from him to the clerk, inspected briefly, and then delivered up over the bench, where it comes to rest in the judge’s hand, the eyes of the entire room riveted on it. No facial muscle twitches as the judge peers through his eyeglasses. No reaction. Mulcahy feels a pull in his throat and a sickness at the pit of his stomach. Back comes the verdict slip to the clerk, who turns to face the jurors.
The case, the defense, the client, his own future: all are out of his power, all in the hands of these twelve lay priests. Perhaps their benediction, if benediction it be, will bring him relief: but there can be no celebration for Ed Mulcahy. If he can think of anything at all, it is only that no client, no profession, no discharge of a debt owed, is worth this moment.
The final reading begins. “Superior Court Department of the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, criminal matter ninety-two dash twenty-seven-fifty …”
The clerk marries the cadences of South Boston and Blackstone, his accent grating against the law’s ancient punctilio. Rapid though the delivery is, it is not rapid enough, because the exercise is now purely phonetic, with every ear in the room trained to hear one of two sounds from the woman who stands at the far end of the jury box: a palatal consonant or a nasal, a “G” or an “N.”
“Madam Forelady, what say you on indictment number four seven six six one, charging the defendant with murder in the first degree?”
A “G” or an “N”: That is all the ear will register.
“Is the defendant guilty, or not guilty?”
It is for the clerk to ask the question, and the forewoman to answer. But in a larger sense, the question of the defendant’s guilt has long been a question for Ed Mulcahy.
On the last day of March, dawn broke east of Boston, the sun peeking up over Spectacle Island, with a pale light tickling the steel-gray clouds over the rim of the Atlantic. A fishing boat headed up the harbor, so far away and gray in the half light as to appear motionless, as though it were fixed in place on the still waters. The morning sun just caught the pennants rimming the World Trade Center. Beyond it, the container ship cranes stood motionless.
As the first fingers of light poked into the office towers in the financial district, John Shepard sat alone in the Freer Room, the conference room which, as befitted its name, was the largest at Freer, Motley & Stone. His back was to the windows, and before him spread the vast conference table. On it were heaps of documents and cartons of congealing Chinese food.
Shepard sat with eyes closed, leaning back in his chair, although he was not asleep. His fingers worked slowly at his beard, stroking it. Before him on the table was a document with the words “Closing Agenda” typed at its head.
John Shepard was just a hair over six foot two, and his broad shoulders tapered to the same narrow waist he’d had at twenty. Even in a suit, and even with the first traces of salt flecking his curly sideburns, the man looked like an athlete. His face, like his torso, was long and lean: no fat on it, no sign of contentment in it. His mouth, usually cast in an ironic smile, at an instant could go wide with laughter in its brown-bearded thatch; but Shepard’s was an ironic laughter, a harsh laughter.
It was his eyes that most compelled you. It wasn’t that they were deep, or that they were fiery, or that they were merry, or that they could pierce your skull and seem to take note of whatever was behind it, and it wasn’t just the way the man had of leaning down into your face while his eyes were doing that, as much as it was all of those things. John Shepard’s eyes made you wonder whether your shoes were tied. His eyes could fix a man in mid-sentence and put him in mind of mouthwash. He had a body for work, a mouth for laughter, and a set of eyes for making people nervous.
At about 6:30, others began to arrive in the Freer Room. Clusters of lawyers began to form at different parts of the table. Most looked drawn and tired, their eyes red, the chins of the men unshaven. Among them were Timothy Ogle, a first-year associate, and Mike Mitts, a paralegal. They were the two most junior Freer, Motley people on the team: the proofreaders, the gofers, the all-night rewrite men. Shepard nodded and smiled as they walked in and parked at the far end of the table.
Behind his powerful eyeglasses, Timothy Ogle soaked up the room. He had a narrow face, with thin tight lips, and those lips formed a thin tight smile. God, the money, think of it! There wasn’t enough money in the whole world for Timothy Ogle, but a lot of it was going to flash in and out of this room today. He was so excited he couldn’t swallow coffee. His Adam’s apple rocketed up and down.
Ogle might have been the skinniest adult male in Boston. His belt end wrapped crazily, obscenely around his waist. The oversized lenses in the tortoiseshell frames perched on his nose, dominating his face. The powerful convexity of the lenses shaped the long narrow face into an egg timer, with too much forehead at one end and too-thin lips at the other. In the last eight days, he had been on the receiving end of what seemed to him like a thousand orders. “Ogle, you got that draft? Run a covenant change! Get me the schedule. No, the other schedule, goddammit!” And so on. Now it was almost over.
Ogle looked at Mitts with relief, reminding himself that there was someone in this deal junior to him.
A moment later, Ogle nudged Mitts. “Ms. Seven Fifty,” he whispered, nodding toward the woman who had just walked in, flanked by two of her associates. Ogle sighed under his breath. Seven fifty, and a knockout. Elizabeth Russell, who had recently made partner at Fletcher, Daye & Symmes, represented the buyer. She was the only person in the room who looked fresh. A striking woman, tall and slim, with thick dark hair pulled back in a ribbon and skin lightly tanned, she usually did. On this particular morning, she arrived perfectly coiffed, wearing a blue suit of fine wool. About her throat was an Hermès scarf. Her eyes were a riveting pale blue, wide and penetrating.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At 7:00 am in a Boston boardroom, there's a disaster in the making. High in an office tower in the heart of the financial district, lawyers and bankers are fighting a deadline to close an $840,000,000 leveraged buyout. Under the pressure of the crowded agenda, no one notices that a zero has been dropped from the mortgage document. The papers are signed, cheers and applause roar from the boardroom and the fuse of a time bomb is lit. When it explodes, there will be hell to pay. As the partners of Freer, Motley, the presiding law firm, will discover, they are collectively and personally liable to their client to make up the multimillion-dollar shortfall.And so begins an accelerating and dire chain of events. Freer, Motley's senior partner is found dead, and its brightest young associate is charged with murder. The firm needs a fall guy, and John Shepard, brilliant but arrogant and recently passed over for partner fills the role to perfection. Defending John Shepard in a Boston court is going to be a career buster. No one wants the job, and no one understands why Ed Mulcahy accepts the case, even if he is Shepard's friend but they don't know that he's already in way too deep to walk away.