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The Ex(7)
Alafair Burke

Another call came through before I’d even disconnected. I didn’t recognize the number on the screen but answered anyway. “This is Olivia.”

“Did you find my dad?”

“Yes,” I said neutrally. I didn’t want to upset Jack any further than necessary. “I’m working on that now.”

“Is he okay?”

“Just fine. I’ll know more soon. You found a place to wait?”

“Yeah, I’m at Charlotte’s. You know her, right?”

“Yes,” I said, “from a long time ago. I’ll call you back as soon as I know more. I promise.”

Jack looked up at me as I clicked off the call. “Another client in trouble?”

“Something like that.”

MY CELL PHONE RANG AGAIN within minutes. It was the office. “Einer, you’re a star. You found something already?”

It wasn’t Einer. I heard a familiar gravelly voice, heavy Brooklyn accent firmly in place. “Can you please tell me why I just saw Jack Harris’s name on Einer’s computer screen? Imagine my surprise when he tells me it’s for our new client. Something about a phone call earlier today?”

I signaled to Jack that I needed to step into the hallway outside the conference room. “Don, I was planning to tell you, but this was urgent.” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “He’s under arrest. It’s serious.”

“So tell the man to sit on his rights and call him a different lawyer. Why do you have Einer sifting through e-mails?”

“It’s a long story. But there’s a computer trail that could go a long way to clearing Jack.”

“Clearing him? You sound like Perry Mason. We don’t clear people. What is this, a DUI or something? There are other lawyers.”

I found myself chewing my lip. When I was fired—correction, when I was told I would not make partner—by Preston & Cartwright, Don was the one who gave me a job, even though I had never actually been in court and had never handled a criminal case. He took me in because he loved his niece Melissa, and I was Melissa’s best friend.

“I can tell you’re still there, Olivia. And don’t you dare try telling me you’re losing your signal. I’ve known you far too long to fall for that move.”

I had to tell him it wasn’t just a DUI. “Jack’s daughter called the office this morning. It’s about the shooting at the waterfront. One of the victims was Malcolm Neeley. And Jack has already admitted that he was nearby.”

“Ay yay yay.” That was Don’s way of saying “total cluster fuck.” “Have they booked him?”

I explained that Jack clearly wasn’t free to leave the precinct, but hadn’t been transported yet to MDC. “I asked the detective to get an ADA down here.”

“To talk to Jack, or to talk to you?”

It was an important distinction. If a client had something to offer, you got an ADA to work out a cooperation agreement pre-charge. But that’s not why I had bluffed Detective Boyle into calling ADA Scott Temple.

“To me.”

I’ve pulled some questionable stunts in the name of zealous representation, but I had never—not once—looked an ADA in the eye to vouch for a client’s innocence unless I knew to a certainty that the police had fucked up. So if ADA Scott Temple got a phone call from a homicide detective saying I insisted on speaking with him, the message would be clear. I was spending some hard-earned capital.

The fretting noises got louder. “Why would you do something so reckless?” Don sounded like he wanted to crawl through the phone line and wring my neck personally.

“Don, I have a feeling.”

“A feeling? Dear girl, you pick today of all days to suddenly have feelings?”

“Oh come on, I’ve heard you say a cop feels hinky. Or a new client feels like the real deal, truly innocent. This isn’t just me believing an old friend.” I heard Don scoff at the choice of the word “friend,” but I pressed on. “His side of the story is just too bizarre to be fabricated.”

“Are you listening to the words that are coming out of your mouth? You’re basically saying it sounds too much like a lie to be a lie. You need more than that kind of logic to vouch for a client.”

I could still hear Don’s words as I ended the call. Why would you do something so reckless?

I’d given him a bogus answer about a gut feeling, but I knew precisely why I was sticking my neck out for Jack. It was the look on his face when he mentioned Buckley. That was when his situation had become real. Neeley was dead. Jack was under arrest for murder. In just one instant, he had realized that life as he knew it would never be the same.

It reminded me of his expression when he’d walked into our apartment and realized we wouldn’t be getting married after all. And that changed everything in ways Don could not possibly understand.

Chapter 5

I HAD TO hand it to Boyle: the detective had a sense of humor. As I had hoped, he had called Scott Temple at the DA’s office, supposedly only “out of curiosity,” and now Temple was on his way to the precinct. The spot Boyle had selected for me to “cool my heels” was a bench outside the detective squad that already contained two occupants at either end. The gentleman on the left was a man who smelled like pee and bong hits. On the right was a guy telling me that the NSA could upload the thoughts in my brain to a secret satellite station in space. I decided to stand.

It wasn’t long before I heard labored footsteps from the stairwell, slow and heavy. Out stepped a winded Scott Temple. He used the palm of his hand to wipe off a drop of sweat from his cheek. His face looked flushed, though with his blond hair and fair skin, it could have been the fluorescent lighting. “Did you hear we may be sitting ourselves to death?” he said between breaths. “I eat like a baby bird—vegetables, steamed fish, freakin’ quinoa. But I sit in a chair all day. Some fatty stuffing his face with a maple bar just sprinted past me to the fourth floor. A maple bar! I mean, who eats like that?”

“Guys who don’t sit in chairs all day,” I offered. “Thanks for coming, Scott.”

“Been a long time since I got called out to a precinct. It’s usually to hammer out a cooperation agreement, but Boyle seemed to have another impression. You’re trying to stop a guy from being booked? On a triple homicide, Olivia? Come on. Not even you can pull that off.”

“You’re handling the case, though, right?”

He nodded. A shooting in a tourist-popular part of town. At least one powerful victim. Maybe others as well. It was as high profile as a case could get. I had been close to certain which ADA would be assigned. The one with the pretty face and surfer-boy hair, the one who ate like a supermodel to stay attractive for the jury.

And lucky for me, this particular ADA had a special reason to trust me. Seven years ago, Scott’s sister was arrested buying heroin from an undercover police officer in Long Island. Increasing dosages of prescription painkillers had eventually led to street drugs. Scott needed a lawyer who could steer her case through a first-time-offender probation program and make sure that no one ever made the connection between a drug-addicted Long Island housewife and the little brother who was making a meteoric rise through the Manhattan district attorney’s office. In the world of prosecution, a family member with a drug problem meant accusations of hypocrisy and claims of corruption. It was a career ender.

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