Lion Plays Rough (Leo Maxwell 2)

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In response she reached back for her purse and opened it on the console between us. I looked down and saw a snub-nosed automatic, nickel-plated. After a moment she closed the purse and returned it to the back. It wasn't that I'd never seen a gun. I'd had guns pointed at me on occasion, even fired in my presence.

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It hadn't all been desk work. But still, I let a few miles go by before I spoke again. But I'm also the kind of guy who owns a typewriter. It's just style, I guess, personal preference. A forty-five was the gun my brother always kept. I'm pretty confident that when I squeeze the trigger a bullet's gonna come. She looked like she was about to say yes, then shook her head, distaste showing in the set of her lips.

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So she was one of those who see criminal defense lawyers as little better than criminal accessories after the fact. Too bad.

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Then about two years ago one of his clients shot him in the head while we were eating lunch right across from Civic Center in San Francisco. She worked the gears, accelerating more aggressively into the curve, but otherwise showed no reaction. And so I ended up telling her more than I intended, about the months in the hospital, then the half year in the rehab clinic where Teddy'd had to relearn how to swallow his food, dress himself, speak coherently. Does this and that. A little research, sits in on client meetings. He had to give up his bar card. He can't practice.

For now we've got a place together, but I'm hoping that someday he'll be ready to live alone. That's what he wants, I know.

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We came out of the woods and into the sun. To our right, a green hillside sloped down toward the trees. As Ridgecrest Road climbs Mount Tamalpais, it offers some of the most glorious coastal views anywhere in California, sixteen hundred feet above the foaming sea. She didn't once turn her head. At Panoramic she headed toward Mill Valley. I didn't try to talk to her again. You don't chat about the weather after you've told someone about your brother catching a bullet and relearning to feed himself.

I would have liked to have gone on and told her how even now, two and a half years later, I still kept waiting for some flash of the old Teddy's formidable intelligence, how I suffered from the creeping illusion that he was faking it. Snap out of it, I kept wanting to tell him. Be yourself. Talk right. I directed her to the parking area off Highway 1 at Stinson Beach where I'd left my car, Teddy's old Rabbit, not dead yet. I'm not going to sue you, but a new wheel is going to set me back about two hundred bucks, and that story about me swerving in front of you is bullshit.

By eleven thirty I'd been home, showered, changed, and walked over to our offices at Grand. On weekdays I was usually at my desk before seven. Jeanie, who commuted from Walnut Creek, would arrive around eight, our assistant, Lynn, at nine, and Teddy by nine thirty or ten. Weekends I usually had the place to myself, unless we had a meeting with a client or a witness. I was the eager beaver, looking to make a name for myself, so that I'd be ready to strike out on my own when Jeanie finally said the hell with private practice and went back to the PD's office.

Along with being my boss she was my brother's ex-wife. My real legal education had begun with Teddy that summer before the shooting, and in the past three years she'd finished it. I had two dozen jury trials under my belt, half of them felonies — and I'd won most of them.

I was on a roll, brimming with self-confidence. From my desk I heard Teddy when he showed up around one. He'd been to his brain-injury rehab group and had taken the bus up Telegraph to Berkeley and back by himself.

Loudoun County Public Library - Lion plays rough : a Leo Maxwell mystery / Smith, Lachlan

Unmindful of social niceties even before the shooting, he didn't look in to say hi, but I heard him puttering around in the conference room. At one forty-five Jeanie bustled in, keys jangling, phone chirping its low-battery warning. As usual, her presence raised the office energy level twofold. She was my height, with fine brown hair and a broad face; her beauty was in the way she carried herself, in her intelligence, in how she looked at people.

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We couldn't see each other but we often held conversations from our desks, talking in raised voices through the doorways. He's gonna ask you to call the DA and find out if that shitty deal's still on the table. What are you going to say? Or are you going to do a number, convince him Leo Maxwell's the second coming of Clarence Darrow? Teddy had come out into the hallway and stood looking at her from the doorway of his little office, not seeming to register my presence, though I was directly in his line of sight over Jeanie's shoulder. Ever since the shooting he had eyes only for her, eyes haunted by waste.

That's why. But I was following her script. Two years ago when all this started her parents were talking divorce. So that's motive. Then there's the cops, the suggestive interviews We're not denying that. She just went and transferred the guilt outside the immediate family. Someone safer for her to accuse than her own uncle. By now she probably believes the story she's been telling. But that's not what wins child sex-abuse cases. Reasonable doubt is for running stop signs, for shoplifting.

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You can't push it too hard. Otherwise, she seems calculating, which is the one thing she surely is not. You can hit the interviews pretty hard. The DA wants the jurors to be afraid of a sex offender running loose, so you scare them with these so-called experts planting false accusations in the minds of sweet kids. Neutralize fear with fear.

What if it was your kid they'd gotten hold of, your name they were asking her about? So that's your lizard brain appeal. You get the uncle on the stand, rip his guts out. Then reason with them. Appeal to the mammal brain; make them see how the brother fits. It's a hit job, pure and simple. But there was no point calling her out. Scare the jurors then reason with them was Jeanie's basic trial strategy in all hot button cases.

The DA's case invariably tapped in to undercurrents of primitive anger, primitive fear. We couldn't win such cases by appealing to reason and evidence until we'd neutralized the DA's fearmongering by scaring the jurors with our own primal nightmares. I went out to the hall to meet him.

He was tall, in his late thirties, with thick, dark hair and a gray, pinched face. His palm was damp when we shook hands. He was on bail, but his wife had thrown him out. The last I'd heard, he was staying with a college friend. Weekly rates. His stressful living situation meant the trial would be even more draining. He would probably come across as that much more guilt- ridden to the jurors as they studied his demeanor, looking for any sign he'd done what the DA said.

I led him into our offices and back to the conference room. Car was supposed to join us later. For years he'd been Teddy's go-to investigator; now he was Jeanie's.