An impossible case. A killer secret. And a lawyer who will not rest until she finds the truth…
When a young woman accuses college-football superstar Blaine Hastings of sexual assault, the DNA evidence against him is overwhelming. Yet the athlete swears his innocence and threatens both his lawyer and his accuser. When a second attack occurs, DNA findings once again point to Hastings. The only problem? Hastings was in prison when the crime was committed.
“The pacing is impeccable.” Booklist
Soon Hastings is granted a new trial and bail. Then his original lawyer disappearsand his law partner is found dead. Who is behind these crimesand who will be the next target? These are the questions that Robin Lockwood, a young lawyer and former MMA fighter, intends to answer. She is representing the victim of the first attack, who is convinced that Hastings is stalking her. Is he the one behind these acts of intimidation? Meanwhile, another one of Robin’s clients is up on a murder chargeone that should be dismissed as self-defense but is being brought to trial. Is there a link between these two cases? Now Robin must find a way to see that justice is served…and not end up a victim in the process.
“Packed with surprises all the way to the end.”Fresh Fiction
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About the Author
PHILLIP MARGOLIN has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases. Margolin lives in Portland, Oregon.
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:B.A. in Government, American University, 1965; New York University School of Law, 1970
Read an Excerpt
At five thirty on a rainy Monday morning in October, Robin Lockwood ran the five miles from her apartment to McGill's gym in Portland's Pearl District. For decades, the Pearl had been home to dusty, decaying warehouses. Then the developers moved in. Overnight, most of the grimy, run-down buildings were replaced by gleaming high-end condos, trendy restaurants, and chic boutiques. McGill's was on the ground floor of one of the few old, brick buildings that had escaped gentrification. It was dimly lit and filled with the rank odor you never found in modern, air-conditioned workout emporiums.
Barry McGill, the gym's owner, was taciturn, monosyllabic, and profane. Rumor had it that he had mob connections, but people with any amount of common sense were too wise to ask him about it. Salt-and-pepper stubble sprouted on McGill's fleshy jowls and whiskey-reddened cheeks. He'd fought as a middleweight in the 1980s and had the broken nose and scar tissue to prove it, but his days as a 165pounder were long past, and the weight he carried in his gut, butt, and thighs had elevated him to the heavyweight division.
"Lockwood," McGill called out when Robin walked in.
"See the kid slacking off at the heavy bag?"
A young man in his early twenties was hitting the bag with lackadaisical punches that barely made it move. Robin judged his weight at welter, around 147 pounds, slightly more than her 140, and she couldn't see an ounce of fat on him.
"That's Mitch Healy. He just won his first two MMA fights and his head is swelling. Want to take him down a peg?"
Robin was five feet eight inches, with a wiry build, blue eyes, high cheekbones, and short blond hair. She had earned some of her Yale Law School tuition fighting in mixed martial arts matches and had been ranked as high as ninth nationally. Her straight nose was a testament to her defensive skills as a cage fighter.
"In case you haven't noticed," Robin said, "that 'kid' is a man, and you just told me that he's in training."
"I never took Rockin' Robin for a pussy," McGill said, referring to Robin's ring nickname and the old rock-and-roll song Robin's fans would sing when she walked into the octagon.
"Fuck you, Barry," Robin snapped back.
"I wouldn't ask if I didn't think you could give him a hard time."
Robin gave McGill a hard stare. He raised an eyebrow. Robin sighed.
"Are you gonna cover my dental work?" she asked.
"Fuck no," McGill answered.
"You always were a cheap bastard."
Robin went to the locker room to change.
"Hey, Mitch!" McGill shouted when Robin returned.
"Come over here. I got you someone to spar with."
Healy looked around as he walked over. "Are they in the locker room?"
"Nah. She's right in front of you."
Healy looked at Robin. Then he laughed. "She's a girl, Barry."
"That's one brilliant deduction. You're a regular Sherlock Holmes."
"I'm not sparring with a girl."
"You see anyone else around? You been dancing with that bag for the past twenty minutes. Might as well dance with a flesh-and-blood female. Hell, maybe you can give her a few pointers."
Healy hesitated. Then he gave Robin the once-over and shrugged. "Okay, let's go."
Robin had stopped fighting professionally after suffering a brutal knockout on a pay-per-view card in Las Vegas in her first year in law school, but she was still in great shape. Robin could see that Healy had no respect for her, which meant he would underestimate her. When they got on the mat, Robin started moving like a beginner, flicking out slow, sloppy jabs. Healy looked bored and he pawed at her unenthusiastically. Robin moved a little closer. Healy threw another lazy jab. Robin slid past it, spun behind him, threw one arm through his crotch, and encircled his waist with her other arm. Then she grasped the encircling arm with the hand that was between Healy's legs and lifted him in the air. While Healy thrashed around, Robin aimed his head at the mat and drove him straight down. When he hit the mat, Robin wrapped her legs around him in a figure-four scissors and slapped on a choke hold. Healy struggled for a while, then tapped out.
Robin rolled off Healy and jumped to her feet. Healy sprang up. He looked furious. Robin circled and Healy charged. Robin counted on his anger clouding his judgment. She sidestepped the charge and landed a shot to Healy's jaw that would have unhinged it if she hadn't pulled the punch. Healy stumbled and Robin snapped a kick that landed on the side of Healy's head. She pulled the kick, too, but it still sent Healy sideways.
"Okay, that's enough!" McGill shouted.
Robin bounced out of range and Healy glared at her.
"I said, that's enough, Mitch. Now, why don't you start your workout again. And let's put some effort in this time."
McGill rarely complimented anyone, but he nodded at Robin. "Next month is a freebie," he said as she took off her headgear and walked to the weights.
"Who the fuck was that?" Healy asked.
"A girly girl who just kicked your ass," McGill answered.
Healy watched Robin for a second before turning back to McGill. "Is she single?"
* * *
Robin was still feeling pretty good an hour later, when she walked into the offices of Barrister, Berman & Lockwood. The firm took up one side of the tenth floor of a downtown high-rise, and the waiting room was decorated with glass coffee tables and comfortable sofas and armchairs.
After law school, Robin had gotten a clerkship with Stanley Cloud, the chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. When her clerkship ended, her boss had helped Robin get her dream job, a position as an associate with Regina Barrister, the queen of the Oregon criminal defense bar. Shortly after Robin was hired, Regina started showing signs of dementia while she was defending a complex death penalty case. When the case ended, Regina stopped practicing law and turned over her firm to Robin and Mark Berman, her other associate. Justice Cloud was Regina's lover, and he had retired from the supreme court so they could travel the world while Regina still had the capacity to enjoy the journey.
As soon as Robin walked in, Linda Garrett, the firm's receptionist, pointed at two women who were seated in the reception area. "They were waiting in the hall when I opened up," Linda said. "They don't have an appointment, but they want to see you."
Robin studied the women. The contrast between them was dramatic. The younger woman looked to be in her late teens or early twenties. She was slender — gaunt, actually — like someone with an eating disorder.
The older woman was so obese that she barely fit in her chair. Fat rolled over the top of her stretch pants, and her doughlike arms and face were rounded and undefined.
The contrast extended to their posture. The younger woman curled up in her chair, and she looked as if she'd rather be anywhere else. The older woman leaned forward aggressively, her anger energizing her to the point where stillness became impossible.
"Hi, I'm Robin Lockwood. I understand you'd like to see me."
The older woman struggled to her feet. "We most definitely do," she said.
"Why don't you come back to my office."
Robin walked slowly so the heavyset woman could keep up. She led the women down a long hall decorated with prints by Honoré Daumier that depicted lawyers and courts from the 1800s. On the way, they passed the office of Jeff Hodges, the firm's in-house investigator, and Mark Berman, Robin's partner.
Mark was thirty-two with long brown hair, brown eyes, and the rock-hard body he had developed while competing on the University of Washington's nationally ranked crew. Robin's partner was married, with a four-year-old daughter, and seemed immune to stress. When Regina retired to travel the world, he had graciously given Robin Regina's corner office, which had a spectacular view of the Willamette River, the foothills of the Cascade Range, and the snowcaps that crowned Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens.
"I'm Maxine Stark, and this is my daughter, Randi," the older woman said when they were seated with the door closed. "Randi's been raped, and we want you to help us set things right."
"When did this rape occur?" Robin asked.
"Three weeks ago. The cops already got the guy."
"What do you want me to do, Mrs. Stark?"
"We want you to make Blaine Hastings suffer the way he made my Randi suffer. He's an animal, and animals belong in cages."
"I can't help you there, Mrs. Stark. A district attorney will be prosecuting. That's the person who will try to send Mr. Hastings to prison."
"But you can take away the money that made him so high and mighty, can't you? You can sue for every penny he has."
"I can help you sue," Robin agreed.
"Good! That's why we're here."
Randi Stark's shoulders were hunched, and she seemed to be pulling into herself. Robin guessed that her mother's aggressive behavior was upsetting her.
"I'll need to talk to your daughter so I can find out the basis for her lawsuit."
"Go right ahead. She has nothing to hide."
"I assume you're aware of the attorney–client privilege that makes anything Randi says to me confidential."
"I watch a lot of lawyer shows on TV," Maxine assured her.
"Then you know that Randi will lose the privilege if a third party hears what she says to her lawyer."
A look of confusion clouded Maxine's features. "I'm her mother."
"Unfortunately, there is no mother–daughter privilege. So, I'm going to have to ask you to wait outside while we talk. My secretary can get you coffee or tea while you wait."
"Randi needs me," Maxine insisted.
"Of course, you're her mother. But you don't want to be the cause of losing her lawsuit, do you?"
"Well, no, but —"
"I knew you'd understand. And I'll call you back in as soon as we're done."
Maxine hesitated for a second, then slowly levered herself out of the chair. "I'll be outside if you need me, honey," she said before she waddled out of Robin's office.
Randi relaxed as soon as her mother left the room.
"This has to be a terrible ordeal for you," Robin said when her office door closed.
"She won't leave me alone," Randi answered, not realizing that Robin was talking about the rape. "All she wants is the money."
"And what do you want?"
For the first time since entering her lawyer's office, Randi came alive. She sat up and stared into Robin's eyes. "I want that bastard to pay. Money won't ever make up for what Blaine did to me. That's not why I'm here. But the Hastingses think they can get away with anything, and I want them to know that for once, they're not going to be Kings of the Universe."
Robin frowned. "Do you have a history with Blaine Hastings and his family?"
"We went to the same high school."
"Did you date?" she asked.
"Are you kidding? I don't live in a mansion, and I don't drive a fancy car or dress like the stuck-up princesses who gave him blow jobs at their sorority parties."
"You sound like you really hate Hastings. Did something specific happen to you before the rape?"
"There was a guy I was dating in high school, Ryan Tucker," Randi answered quietly. "Blaine baited him. Then he beat the hell out of him. But he didn't stop there. He called the cops and got his buddies to swear that Ryan started the fight.
"Mr. Hastings gives money to every politician's campaign. So, no charges for Mr. Perfect, and juvie for Ryan. I don't know what happened to him in there, but Ryan wasn't the same when he got out — and Blaine just kept moving toward silver spoon heaven."
Randi's outburst seemed to have exhausted her. Robin made some notes so Randi would have some quiet time to pull herself together.
"Are you still in contact with Ryan, in case we want to interview him?"
Randi choked up. "A month after he got out, he ... he killed himself."
"I'm so sorry."
"Yeah, well ..." Randi shrugged.
"Do you want some water?" Robin asked.
"No, I'm okay," Randi said, but she didn't sound okay.
"What does Blaine Hastings do now?" Robin asked when Randi had regained her composure. "Is he working or in school?" "Blaine is a big football star at Oregon. I hear he's probably gonna go pro."
"What year is he in?" "Senior."
"I take it you want me to sue Blaine Hastings for damages and pain and suffering because he raped you?" "Yes."
"If Hastings is a student, he won't have much money. We might sue him, but you might not get anything."
Randi looked embarrassed. "My mom did some research on the Hastingses. There was a trust fund he'd get when he turned twenty-one, and he just had his birthday."
Robin studied her client. Randi seemed convincing. She probably did want a measure of justice. But Robin thought that her mother was probably motivated by money.
"Why don't you tell me a little about yourself."
Randi shrugged. "Not much to tell. I'm twenty, I graduated high school, and I'm in community college, studying to be a nurse. Still living with my mother."
"Where's your home?"
"We used to live in a housing project, but Mom got this insurance settlement and she used some of it to buy a place in Northeast Portland."
"Is your mom married?"
"Divorced. He walked out on us when I was two, and we haven't seen him since. Good riddance, like Mom says."
"So, you two live alone?"
"Does your mom work?"
"She used to, but she was in a car crash and she's been on disability ever since. I work. School's part-time."
"What do you do?"
"I'm a waitress."
"Okay. Now, where did the rape occur?"
"At a frat party. Annie Roche, my girlfriend, found out about it. We weren't doing anything, so we went."
"Did Annie see what happened?"
"Not all of it, but some."
"Have the police interviewed Annie?"
"Is she going to be a witness for the State?"
Randi nodded again.
"You're going to be the star witness at Blaine Hastings's trial, and in your lawsuit, so I have to ask you some personal questions."
"I told the cops. I got probation for shoplifting once."
"Is there anything else Hastings's lawyer can dig up?"
"Not on me."
"Have you been sexually active?"
"I'm not a virgin, if that's what you mean."
"Exactly," Robin said as she flashed a kindly smile. "But let me ask you this. Hastings is going to say that you're making up the rape so you can get his money. Have you ever accused another boy of rape?"
"No. I wouldn't do that."
"Why don't you tell me what happened at the frat party."
"Annie and me went to the PSU–Oregon game. We knew some of the guys on both teams from high school. Annie found out that there was a party that night at one of the PSU frat houses, and we decided to go.
"When we got to the party, Blaine was in a group of people I knew. I started talking to someone. Then, at some point, Blaine started talking to me, and a little later, he asked me to dance."
"Why did you talk to him if you hated him because of what happened to Ryan?"
Randi flushed. "You're right. I should have walked away. But I'd been drinking more than I should have, and, well, I'm not proud of what I did, but, like I said, he didn't pay any attention to me in high school and he's a big football star, so I was flattered by the attention."
"Okay. What happened after you started talking?"
"There was this slow dance and he started touching me and I got a little hot. The lights were low and he kissed me just before the dance ended."
"Did you resist when he kissed you?"
Randi blushed. "No. I kissed him back. And that's when he whispered in my ear that we should go someplace private."
"What did you do?"
"He headed for a bedroom in the back of the house and I followed him."
"So, this was consensual?"
"Right then, yeah."
"You said that you'd been drinking at the party?"
"I had a few."
"Were you drunk when you followed Blaine to the bedroom?"
"I was tipsy, but I knew what I was doing."
"What about drugs?"
"No. The cops asked me the same thing at the hospital. They took some blood. The DA said the tests showed the booze but I was clean, no drugs."
"You went to the hospital after the incident?"
"Right away." Randi became animated again. "And they did a rape kit. The stupid fuck didn't use a condom, so they have some of his DNA — and the DA says it's what they need to put that prick away."
"In many of these cases, the man will say he had sex but it was consensual."
"Well, this wasn't. My guard was down because of the booze, and I did let Blaine make out. But I told him to stop when he started feeling between my legs."
"How clear were you?"
"Pretty fucking clear. First, I said no, but he kept jabbing his finger between my legs and telling me how much he liked me. I told him I wanted to stop and I tried to sit up, but he pushed me down."
"Did you fight him?"
Randi barked out a humorless laugh. "Miss Lockwood, Blaine is a linebacker at the U of O. He's a solid muscle. Look at me. He could bench-press me with one hand."
"So, you didn't resist?"
"I did. I tried to push him off. That's when he slapped me and told me to be a good girl if I didn't want to get hurt."
"What did you do?"
"I shut up and shut my eyes and he pulled up my skirt and ripped off my panties."
"Do you have the ripped panties?"
"I gave them to the cops."
"Okay, that's good. Now I need to know, did he enter you? Was there penetration? That's important in a rape case."
Randi choked up. "It hurt. I was dry, and he ..."
"Do you want to stop? Do you want some water?"
Randi shook her head.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Perfect Alibi"
Copyright © 2019 Phillip Margolin.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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 Greek God,
Part Two: The Henderson Case,
Part Three: DNA,
Part Four: Occam's Razor,
Part Five: Something Odd,
Part Six: The Alumni Association,
Also by Phillip Margolin,
About the Author,