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Authors: Steve Martini

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Legal, #Trials (Murder), #California, #Madriani, #Paul (Fictitious Character), #Crime。

Prime Witness

BOOK: Prime Witness
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T
HE
N
OVELS OF

STEVE MARTINI

THE LIST

 

“ABSOLUTELY IRRESISTIBLE . . . [A] wild and wooly tale.”

—Kirkus Reviews

 

“INTRIGUING ANTAGONISTS: the man of action versus the woman of thought. Their dueling turns
The List
into a fast, and often funny, offering.”

—Chicago Tribune

 

“GREAT GOOD FUN . . . the final paragraph is worth the price of admission.”

—Cleveland Plain Dealer

 

“THE PLOT BARRELS RIGHT ALONG. Abby is a strong and sympathetic character, and the climax is nicely twisty. Along the way, Martini gets in some sharp asides on the nature of fame.”

—The Seattle Times

 

“AN EXCITING, SURPRISING ENDING . . . Martini deftly conceals the killer until the last flaming finale.”

—Booklist

 

“SWIFT PACING AND MULTIPLE PLOT TWISTS.”

—People

 

THE JUDGE

 

“RIVETING . . . a suspenseful tale, right up to the satisfying climax . . . legal thrillers don’t get much better than this.”

—Publishers Weekly

 

“A COMMANDING VOICE . . . the author answers just about every question you’ve ever had about the games lawyers play.”

—The New York Times Book Review

 

“MARTINI, a former trial attorney, is fascinating on legal strategy.”

—People

 

UNDUE INFLUENCE

 

“THE COURTROOM NOVEL OF THE YEAR . . . virtually nonstop courtroom pyrotechnics . . . a dazzling climax.”

—Kirkus Reviews

 

“A COMPLEX, RIVETING TALE and nitty-gritty courtroom drama.”

—Entertainment Weekly

 

“THE ACTION BUILDS TO A ROUSING CLIMAX through a brilliant series of trial scenes with several surprises.”

—Publishers Weekly

 

“FILLED WITH SURPRISES AND TWISTS . . . supremely readable.”

—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

 

“FANS OF COURTROOM DRAMA will love Martini’s protagonist . . . and this complex tale of intrigue and murder.”

—USA Today

 

COMPELLING EVIDENCE

 

“SUPERB . . . truly on a level with
Presumed Innocent.”

—F. Lee Bailey

 

“PACKS A WALLOP!”

—Publishers Weekly

 

“BY FAR THE BEST of the genre that I’ve ever seen . . . Absolutely thrilling.”

—Clifford Irving

 

“ALL THAT COURTROOM DRAMA SHOULD BE . . . seamless, suspenseful.”

—New York Daily News

 

“ENGROSSING!”

—Entertainment Weekly

 

“ONE OF THE BEST COURTROOM DRAMAS this reviewer has seen in years.”

—The Sacramento Bee

 

PRIME WITNESS

 

“RIVETING, YOU-ARE-THERE IMMEDIACY . . . ingenious . . . nail-biting . . . fascinating . . . first-rate . . . Prime is indeed the word for this involving read!”

—Publishers Weekly

 

“THE TRIAL BEGINS and Martini rolls up his sleeves to do what he does best . . . packs a satisfying punch.”

—Kirkus Reviews

 

THE SIMEON CHAMBER

 

“CHILLING . . . PROVOCATIVE . . . STUNNING.”

—Publishers Weekly

 

“A FINE FOOT-TO-THE-FLOOR THRILLER!”

—New York Daily News

 

“INTRIGUING TWISTS AND TURNS.”

—The Orlando Sentinel

 

“THRILLING . . . a winner . . . Martini demonstrates a confident and deft control of literary suspense . . . excellent, top-quality adventure.”

—The Sacramento Bee

 

Titles by Steve Martini

 

DOUBLE TAP

THE ARRAIGNMENT

THE JURY

THE ATTORNEY

CRITICAL MASS

THE LIST

THE JUDGE

UNDUE INFLUENCE

PRIME WITNESS

COMPELLING EVIDENCE

THE SIMEON CHAMBER

PRIME WITNESS

STEVE
MARTINI

JOVE BOOKS, NEW YORK

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,

South Africa

 

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

 

PRIME WITNESS

 

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

 

PRINTING HISTORY

G. P. Putnam’s Sons hardcover edition / July 1993

Jove mass-market edition / February 1994

Copyright © 1993 by SPM, Inc.

 

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

 

ISBN: 978-1-101-55026-7

 

Visit our website at www.penguin.com

 

JOVE®

Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

JOVE® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “J” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To the mothers, Rita and Betty, for their interest, care and love

 

Prologue

 

T
hey are the birds of darkness and noiseless flight, fierce and savage. On the dead fly the great horned owl can pick the eye from your head in the pitch black of a moonless night. On more than one occasion they are known to have attacked man.

It will take only three more nights to finish the job for which he’s been paid nearly a year’s salary. Though the risks are high, it is the easiest money he’s ever made.

As in the previous four nights he parks his car in the trees a half mile down the road. He takes Harvey from his cage, loosens the leather traces and removes the hood from the bird’s massive beaked head. He holds his arm straight, gloved fist elevated a bit, and sweeps it forward, the signal for the bird to take to the air. In a fluid motion a broad canopy of feathers opens overhead and the massive bird lifts skyward. It is a vision of flight, an analogy of animation perfect in its silence. He watches as Harvey disappears into the shadows of the trees and the half-moon-lit sky above.

Named for the six-foot fictional rabbit in a vintage Jimmy Stewart movie, Harvey is sheer stealth, six pounds of streaking death on the wing.

He listens, and after a few seconds, hears the telltale ruffle of folded wings, the only sound of flight Harvey ever makes. It is the sign that the bird has landed, ninety feet above, in the massive madrone on the makeshift perch. This place, high in the trees, will give the bird a better angle of attack.

He locks the car and checks to ensure that it is far enough off the main road so as not to be seen by some passing pain-in-the-ass motorist, or worse a county sheriff on patrol. But it is nearly a mile to the county highway, and nobody ever comes down the old abandoned gravel road, at least at night. He picked this place from an old plat map of the property gotten from the county recorder’s office. It was best not to ask the owner for too much help. The less he knew the better, for both of them.

He makes his way through the brush, across the shallow creek, to the base of the tree and begins his own ascent. This is made easier by the climbing gear erected on his first night, rappelling ropes and a harness called a leg-strap saddle. He sets the pin in the foot-cam that is fastened to his shoe and starts his climb.

Moving effortlessly through the branches of the blood-red madrone, ten feet up, twenty, the rope coils on the ground beneath him like some interminable serpent. For this he avoided the taller pines and stouter oaks, and picked the madrone. It has smooth bark, and no sap to foul the ropes.

In four minutes, hardly winded, he is up on the platform next to Harvey. The bird is perched on a limb a few feet away.

He checks his watch. It is nearly midnight. Moving swiftly, he frees himself from the entangling ropes and prepares to begin. At most there are five hours of darkness left.

Quickly he gives Harvey the scent, this from a small sack he carries on a tethered line from his belt, a little leather satchel marked by shiny metal studs. It contains blood, bits of flesh, pieces of vital organs from the previous night’s work. The body count now stands at four. With luck he will add to that tally tonight.

With Harvey the pattern of ritual is firmly established, first the scent, then the flight, then the kill. If he is true to form the bird will return in minutes, with blood on its talons.

With little ceremony he dispatches Harvey into the skies, then stands, stone silent and alert, facing the sheer basalt cliffs that rise a hundred feet from the valley floor to the west.

He is always uneasy when Harvey is on the wing. It is an anxiety born of the freedom of flight, the knowledge that after all, this is a creature that in the fickle flicker of a thought can disappear over the horizon never to be seen again. Like good fortune to the lucky, and the affections of a beautiful mistress to her lover, this bird of prey returns to its owner for a single reason—because it approves of the company. It is a chastening relationship, one which is always open to the question, who is master, and who is servant.

As his eyes strain for vision to the west in the dense night air, the bird issues from behind him an unearthly scream, high-pitched like a cornered cougar in agony. Though he knows this sound, it sends a chill down his spine.

Struggling for balance on the platform, he turns, his gaze cast down through the canopy of leaves to a spot two hundred feet below, across the winding creek. And for a fleeting instant his vision is fixed, the figures fused in his mind like the flash of a strobe in the moonlit night. Then Harvey is upon him, unwieldy wings, blood dripping from his talons, and in one claw the object of his frenzied flight.

BOOK: Prime Witness
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