Violent crimes, p.1
Violent Crimes, page 1
For Randee Gerson, who left us way too soon,
and Amanda Margolin, my new daughter-in-law
About the Author
Also by Phillip Margolin
About the Publisher
Amanda Jaffe had no court appearances or client meetings scheduled for June 7, so she set aside the whole day to work on a brief that was due in the Oregon Court of Appeals, but something told her that she was going to have to put her plans on hold when she walked into the reception area of Jaffe, Katz, Lehane and Brindisi and saw Christine Larson sitting next to a worried-looking man she did not recognize.
Amanda was tall and athletic, with broad shoulders that were the end product of years of competitive swimming. She didn’t have the slender figure of a magazine model, but her grace, high cheekbones, and clear blue eyes attracted male attention whenever she entered a room. Since Amanda had not expected to meet anyone professionally, her long black hair was tied in a ponytail and she was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt.
Christine presented a sharp contrast to Amanda. She was five four, slightly overweight, wore her dirty blond hair short, and was dressed in a severe black Armani suit and white silk blouse. Christine practiced business and tax law at Masterson, Hamilton, Rickman and Thomas, a large firm in Portland, Oregon, and her no-nonsense, analytical personality fit her specialty.
The man sitting next to Christine looked uncomfortable in the suit he was wearing, which most likely came off the rack. He was a shade under six feet, with muscular shoulders and a narrow waist, and he wore his brown hair in a military cut. He was clasping and unclasping his hands nervously, and Amanda noticed dark circles under his tired brown eyes.
Christine stood up when Amanda walked in.
“Hi,” Amanda said. “Are you here to see me?”
“Yes. Do you have some time to meet with us?”
“Sure,” Amanda answered with a smile.
Christine didn’t return the smile, and Amanda could see that she was worried.
“Amanda, this is Tom Beatty. He’s a paralegal at my firm.”
The man stood up slowly. He seemed unsure of himself.
“Pleased to meet you,” Amanda said as she held out her hand. Beatty paused for a moment, then shook it. His palm was sweaty and he withdrew his hand quickly.
“Hold my calls,” Amanda told the receptionist as she led the way down the hall to a corner office with a view of the hills that towered over downtown Portland. The walls were decorated with her law school and college diplomas, certificates proving her admission to Oregon State and federal bars, two abstract paintings she’d purchased from an art gallery near her condo in the Pearl District, and a photograph of downtown Portland in the years just before World War I.
“So, what’s up?” Amanda asked when they were seated and the door was closed.
“Tom was arrested last night on an assault charge stemming from a fight in a bar,” Christine said. “I bailed him out this morning and suggested that he hire you to represent him.”
Amanda turned her attention to Beatty. He was staring at the floor and looked embarrassed. Amanda decided that they needed to have privacy if she was going to gain his confidence.
“Tom,” Amanda said, “I’m going to ask Christine to step outside while we talk.”
“I’d rather have her here,” Beatty said. He spoke so quietly that Amanda had to strain to hear him.
“I’ve known Christine since law school, and I trust her completely,” Amanda assured Beatty, “but I have to protect your attorney-client privilege. Christine is a lawyer, but she’s not representing you. If she’s present when we talk, she could be subpoenaed by the DA and forced to tell a jury everything we say in private.”
Christine stood up and touched Beatty on the shoulder.
“It’s okay. I’d do the same thing if Amanda brought you to my office and asked me to represent you. Amanda is an ace—she’ll take good care of you. I’ll be in the waiting room.”
Christine handed Amanda a copy of the complaint and left the room. Amanda studied it. Beatty was charged with causing a man named Harold Roux serious bodily harm by striking him with his fists and feet.
“Before we discuss the facts of your case, I want to go over the attorney-client privilege. Anything you tell me is confidential, with a few exceptions. That means I can’t be compelled to reveal anything you tell me, even if you confessed to being a serial killer. It also means you can be completely honest with me without having to worry that I’ll run to the DA the minute you leave.
“Now I need you to be honest with me because a lot of what I’ll do for you will depend on the facts of the case, but you need to be aware that in addition to being your attorney I’m also an officer of the court and I’m bound by the ethics of my profession. So I can’t condone perjury. If you’re charged with bank robbery and you tell me you robbed the bank, I can’t let you testify in court that you were in Idaho and don’t know anything about the crime. I wouldn’t tell on you, because we have the attorney-client privilege, but I would ask the judge to let me resign from your case and I will keep your retainer.”
Beatty looked Amanda in the eye, and the look was intense. “I do not lie and I did not start this fight,” he said forcefully.
“Okay. Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
“There’s a bar, the Lookout. I go there sometimes to watch a game—I don’t have a TV. I got to the tavern early, around five. The game had started already and it was the second inning. I got a beer just as the Yankees loaded the bases. There was one out and the Yankee batter hit into a double play. The guy on the stool next to me jumped up and jostled me and I spilled some beer on him. That’s all there was to it. But he had to . . .”
Beatty’s breathing accelerated, his face darkened, and his fists clenched.
“Are you okay?” Amanda asked.
“I shouldn’t have done it. I should have walked away.”
Her client was in so much distress that Amanda grew concerned.
“Do you want some water? Should I have Christine come back?”
Beatty squeezed his eyes together and took some deep breaths. His s
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“It’s okay. You’re under a lot of stress. I’m going to get you some water. That will give you a minute to pull yourself together.”
Amanda left her office and walked into the reception area. Christine stood up.
“Your friend just had a meltdown in my office. What gives?”
“Oh, shit,” Christine muttered to herself, then said to Amanda, “Tom’s got a background.”
“What kind of background?’
“He was in the military in combat. He won’t say what he did but I think it was bad. I’m guessing Delta Force, Navy SEAL stuff. He’s seeing a psychiatrist at the VA for post-traumatic stress disorder. I know that makes him sound dangerous but he’s really a decent person. And he’s a hard worker, very conscientious. When he got back to the States he put himself through community college and learned to be a paralegal. And he’s good. In fact, he’s probably brighter than half the attorneys in my firm. I’ve suggested that he go to law school but he doesn’t want to do it. He says it would be too stressful.”
“What do you think happened in the bar?”
“I think someone who had no idea what they were getting into picked on Tom. I can’t imagine he’d start a fight but someone with his training . . . He might have reacted on reflex.”
“Okay. I’m going back in, but you wait. I’ll probably want to talk to you after I’m done.”
Amanda went to the break room and filled a tall glass with cold water. When she reentered her office Beatty seemed calmer.
“I’m sorry,” he said when she handed him the glass.
“No need to apologize. People who have been charged with a crime are under a lot of pressure, especially if they’re not guilty. Now, why don’t you take a drink of that water, then take a deep breath and tell me what happened at the Lookout.”
Tom Beatty didn’t say a word during the walk from Amanda’s office, and Christine didn’t break the silence until they were ready to pass through the revolving doors that opened into the lobby of the forty-story, glass-and-steel building that housed the Masterson, Hamilton law offices.
“Look, I know you probably don’t want to do this, Tom, but I think we should tell Dale Masterson you were arrested.”
Beatty tensed, and Christine laid a comforting hand on his forearm.
“Amanda is going to have her investigator talk to the witnesses at the bar. If they back up your version of the facts, she thinks she’ll have a good chance of getting the DA to drop the case. In the worst-case scenario, she thinks she’ll have an excellent chance of winning at trial on a theory of self-defense. I’ll tell Dale what Amanda said.”
Beatty looked sick. “I really need this job, Christine. I feel very comfortable here.”
“If you hide the arrest and someone finds out it will look bad. You know the old saw about honesty being the best policy? I think you’ll be much better off if we tell Dale what happened.”
Fifteen minutes later, Christine and Tom were ushered into Dale Masterson’s large corner office, where floor-to-ceiling windows gave them a view of the river and the snow-covered slopes of Mount Hood. The firm’s founding partner was tall and patrician-looking, with a Roman nose, clear blue eyes, and styled gray hair.
“What’s up?” he asked Christine when she and Tom were seated in the client chairs across from his desk. Christine sat up straight, looking confident and poised. Tom’s shoulders hunched and he looked down at the desktop.
“Tom was arrested last night,” Christine said.
“I brought him to see Amanda Jaffe this morning,” Christine added quickly. “We just came from her office. Tom was watching a ball game in a neighborhood bar when one of the patrons started a fight with him. Amanda told me that there is a good chance the DA won’t bring charges if witnesses support Tom’s version of what happened. But he thought you should know about the arrest.”
Masterson nodded. “I’m glad you told me, Tom. I can see you’re worried, but you needn’t be. I’m not going to do a thing until your case is resolved.”
Masterson smiled. “The first thing they drummed into our heads in Criminal Procedure was the rule that every citizen who is arrested for a crime is presumed innocent. I’d be a pretty poor lawyer if I prejudged your case. So don’t worry.”
Tom exhaled and sat up straight. “Thank you, sir. I really appreciate this. My job means a lot to me.”
“Christine has had very good things to say about how you’re doing. Take care of this matter and fill me in when the case is over.”
“Thank you, sir,” Tom said again as he and Christine stood up.
“Christine, stay a minute. I have something I want you to do.”
Christine sat down as Tom left. When the door closed behind him, Masterson focused on his junior partner.
“What I’m going to tell you is extremely confidential. We can’t afford to let one word leak about it.”
“I understand,” Christine said, suddenly nervous.
“Global Mining is dissatisfied with its legal representation. A few weeks ago, we were approached by a representative of the company, and we are currently involved in secret discussions with them.”
Masterson paused to give Christine a moment to take in what he had just said. Global Mining was one of the largest coal mining enterprises in America, and the firm would earn millions in legal fees if it became the corporation’s legal representative.
“You are aware that we had a rough go of it a few years back when the recession hit, and Francis and Striker decided to drop our firm and go with in-house counsel?” Masterson continued.
Christine nodded. The high-tech company had been one of the firm’s largest clients, and Masterson, Hamilton had lost a large chunk of revenue when Francis and Striker walked away after a dispute over legal fees.
“Global has heard rumors about our financial situation, and these concerns are the only thing standing in the way of their hiring our firm. We’ve had an independent auditor go over our books and he’s written a report that accurately states our financial position. I’d like you to review the report and present the findings when we meet with Global’s people in a few weeks.”
“I appreciate your confidence, but why do you want me to give the report? Surely you or Mr. Hamilton could do that.”
Masterson smiled. “I’m glad you think so, but Mark and I are litigators and negotiators. We don’t have your knowledge of tax and financial matters.”
Christine sat up straighter. She was being let in on a major negotiation, and she knew that carrying out her task to the firm’s benefit would advance her career.
“Thanks for having confidence in me,” she said.
“You’ve earned our confidence. I’ll have the auditor’s report and anything else you need sent over to you. Oh, and you were right to bring Beatty to me. He’s got great legal counsel in Jaffe, and I’m sure she’ll ease him through his problems.”
As soon as Amanda had seen Christine and Tom Beatty out, she walked down the hall toward the office of Kate Ross, the firm’s in-house investigator. As she walked, she thought about what Tom Beatty was going through. Amanda was no stranger to post-traumatic stress disorder. Several years ago, she had been taken prisoner by “The Surgeon,” a serial killer. Amanda had escaped unharmed physically, but the trauma had left psychic scars. PTSD was terrible and crippling. For the most part, Amanda was okay now, but what she had endured at the hands of The Surgeon had lasted only a few minutes. She could not imagine what it would be like to face the horrors of war, over and over.
Kate Ross was five seven, and her dark complexion, large brown eyes, and curly black hair made her look vaguely Middle Eastern. Today, she was wearing tight jeans, a man-tailored white shirt, and a navy blue blazer. Kate had been a Portland cop before she had gone to work as a private investigator for Reed, Briggs, S
“We have a new client,” Amanda said as she took a seat.
“What’s the case?”
“A simple assault. Our guy goes into a bar . . .”
“This sounds like an old joke.”
“That’s a rabbi, a priest, and a Buddhist monk. And get serious.”
Kate held up her hands. “My bad. Continue, Bwana.”
“Tom Beatty—our client—was seated on a stool watching a baseball game at the Lookout . . .”
“I know where that is.”
“I figured you might. Anyway, Tom says that everyone was jammed together. There was a big play. Harold Roux, who was seated next to our client, jumped up and threw out his arms, knocking over Tom’s beer. Roux got sopping wet and blamed our client. Tom apologized, but that wasn’t enough for Mr. Roux and he threw a punch.”
“So our guy is saying it was self-defense?”
Amanda nodded. “But we may have a problem. Our client was a Navy SEAL and he saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. He won’t talk about what he did but I have the impression it was heavy-duty stuff. The problem for Harold Roux is that Mr. Beatty knows how to defend himself and, he grudgingly admitted, he’s very good at it.”
“What happened to Roux?”
“He’s in the hospital.”
“How bad are the injuries?” Kate asked.
“That’s for you to find out. Get the police reports and go to the Lookout and see if you can find someone who saw the fight.”
The Lookout was an old neighborhood hangout on the far corner of a three-block strip of quaint, trendy boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants running through a middle-class residential neighborhood in Southeast Portland. Kate walked into the dark interior at four, when she figured the bar would be less crowded. A trio of young men were sipping beers and eating burgers at a table. Near the back, a young couple snuggled in a booth, laughing and talking in the low tones used by new lovers. Two locals sat at the bar, eyes glued to a baseball game that was showing on a TV that hung from the ceiling.
by Phillip Margolin have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes