The Reformers: A Matt Blake Novel (The Matt Blake legal thriller series Book 2)

BOOK: The Reformers: A Matt Blake Novel (The Matt Blake legal thriller series Book 2)
9.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Reformers

A Matt Blake Novel




Russell F. Moran

Coddington Press

The Reformers

A Matt Blake Novel


Copyright © 2016 by Russell F. Moran

Printed in the United States of America


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission from the publisher or the author, except where permitted by law. Contact the publisher for information on foreign rights.


ISBN: 978-0-9963466-5-8


Cover Design by Erin Kelly


This book is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, dialogue and plot are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.             



This book is dedicated to the to the lawyers of the country, people who take seriously the job of seeking justice, and the law enforcement community, including those in the FBI and state law enforcement. These are people who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe.


A writer does his work behind a closed door, but no work comes to daylight without the input from many people. As always, I thank my wife, Lynda, for her attentive reading and re-reading of my many drafts, and for laughing at my jokes. I also thank my eagle-eyed friend, John White, for his proofreading and editing.

My special thanks to Dennis Ciano, retired NYPD homicide detective. Dennis has worked extensively as a police procedures consultant to numerous TV shows, including
The Black List, Unforgettable,
as well as a major motion picture and an HBO original series.

Author’s Note

You will find a
Cast of Characters
after the last chapter of the book. It can be frustrating to come across a character on page 150, who you first met on page 20, especially if you’ve put the book down for a few days. I’ve seen this done in Russian literature, and I happily add a cast of characters to
The Reformers
, as well as my other novels.



Part One

A Life in the Law


"Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap - let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primmers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice." 

Abraham Lincoln


The Reformers


Chapter 1


I just met a lying scumbag. Not only is he a lying scumbag, but he’s a mass murderer, a lowlife piece of garbage.

Problem is, he’s my client. I saw him briefly this morning before his arraignment, where the judge read the charges against him. The accusations included 61 one counts of murder, for openers, along with 105 counts of attempt to commit murder, plus a lot of other assorted mayhem. Nice.

Did I mention he’s a scumbag?

Like a lot of people, I have a built-in prejudice that most accused criminals are just that, “criminals.” Of course I’ll never admit that to anybody because I’m a lawyer, and I’m not supposed to talk that way. Hell, I shouldn’t even
that way. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

I’m kind of young, only 37 years old, but I’m old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I believe that an oath is just that, an oath, a solemn promise. When I raised my hand to be sworn in as a lawyer a few years ago, I promised to defend my client to the best of my ability. That’s the way the system works. Do your best for your client, and let the other side worry about its case. But I honestly think that my client is a bad guy, the guy who committed the acts he’s accused of. That’s not supposed to stop me from vigorously defending him, but I still think the guy’s gutter trash.

I took this case without a fee. It’s called the
pro bono
program, a Latin phrase shortened from
pro bono publico
, or “for the public good.” It’s an admirable program, and an important one for the legal profession. Most large firms, including my own Blake & Randolph, participate. It’s a way for lawyers who make a boatload of money to appease their conscience by taking on clients who can’t afford to pay. Shit, there I go again with my cynical crap. I know a lot of lawyers who take
pro bono
work as a serious part of their career, and I shouldn’t think of them as guilt-ridden jerks. I just have a hard time dealing with criminal cases. Maybe I should take on landlord- tenant disputes. Hell, I’m a personal injury lawyer and know my way around litigation. Maybe I should volunteer for
litigation matters. Trial lawyers don’t take
pro bono
cases in personal injury matters, because the client never has to shell out money up front, and the lawyer is paid a contingency fee based on a judgment after a verdict or settlement. But some, like me, take an occasional criminal case. So I’m stuck defending a man who I don’t believe and don’t trust.

My father, the elder statesman and senior partner at Blake & Randolph, would puke if he heard me saying this. He takes his role as a defender of the downtrodden seriously, God bless him. He wouldn’t be happy to know his only son is a cynical dickhead.


My assigned client, Ali Yamani, is accused of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and a lot of other stuff the US Attorney threw at him. Lovely man, no? He earned a modest salary as a new high school English teacher, so modest he could never afford to pay normal legal fees. Like a lot of people in their mid-20s he lived from paycheck to paycheck, and kept little in savings. After his student loan payments and living expenses, he was broke. Hence, the court assigned counsel because he couldn’t afford his own attorney, and he wound up with me. It’s a federal criminal case, and there’s a lot on the line because in federal court a convicted defendant can be sentenced to death. So my first job is to keep this charming gentleman alive.

At his arraignment, where the judge formally accuses him of the crimes, I advised my client to plead “not guilty,” of course. “Not guilty” really means “prove it,” as the great criminal lawyer F. Lee Bailey once wrote. It’s a way for a defendant to say, “I’m not admitting to your accusations. You have to prove it.” The prosecution has to do just that, prove the allegations, and do so “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It’s my job, as his defense attorney, to convince a jury, not that he’s necessarily innocent, just that the prosecutor hasn’t proved that my client is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So when I counseled him to plead not guilty, I wasn’t telling him to say he was innocent and lie (there I go again), just that the prosecution would have to prove it.

And the case against Ali Yamani was so solid it was almost laughable.

The judge refused to set bail, given the horrible crimes my client’s accused of. So he sits in jail.

Chapter 2


The evening after the Yamani arraignment, I had dinner with my wife Diana. We tied the knot over three years ago, and even though we’ve been married for a while, I feel about her now as I did on the day we met. I’m still in crazy about her like a love-struck teenager. Dee occupies an intersection of three vectors of feminine attractiveness. She’s cute, pretty, and beautiful, and usually all three at the same time. She’s 36 years old, 5’9” with medium length auburn-brown hair. Dee has the most striking pale blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I don’t as much as look at them as fall into them. Her good looks are what attracted me at first, but she also has a few other qualities that knock me over. She’s the smartest person I’ve ever met. Dee’s a full professor of political science at Northwestern University, with a PhD from the University of Chicago. Although I’ll soon be a partner at Blake & Randolph, I think of Dee as my real partner, not just in marriage, but professionally. Besides her brains and beauty, she’s an enjoyable person to be with. There’s a solid core to her character that actually inspires me. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s true. I don’t just love her, I like her. She’s my best friend.

But there’s one thing about Dee I find extremely annoying: She refuses to listen to my bullshit.

“So tell me about the big arraignment, honey. This is your first criminal case in a long time.”

“Well, I’ll start with the bail. The judge refused to set bail in any amount.”

“Oh my God, what’s this man accused of?”

“He’s the guy who’s accused of blowing up a bomb at the Water Tower Place Mall. You read about it and saw the reports on TV. He’s been indicted for murder, terrorism, conspiracy to commit both, as well as a few pages of other counts of assorted nastiness, 18 pages in total. If they’d accept a plea for life in prison in exchange for a waiver of the death penalty, I’d let them lock up the scumbag right now.”

“Scumbag? Hey, Matt, this is your client you’re talking about. If you say that to me, I wonder what’s going on inside your head. Remember your job, counselor. It’s to vigorously defend your client with everything you’ve got. And you can start by not talking and thinking about the man as a ‘scumbag.’ ”

Did I mention that Dee refuses to listen to my bullshit?

“You’re right, baby, right as usual. I’m the last one who should prejudge a client, especially one who’s facing the death penalty. But let me tell you about the evidence that they already have—and we just finished the arraignment phase.”

“Matt, you always tell me that evidence is something you just have to deal with. So deal with it. Tell me about the evidence and don’t dare call Mr. Yamani a scumbag.”

“He’s accused of detonating a bomb at a mall. You and I already know all about that from the news. He killed 61 people and wounded 105.”

“Excuse me, Matt, I believe you mean that 61 people
were killed
and 105
were wounded
. You just said ‘
killed 61 people and wounded 105.’ You sound like you’ve already deliberated on the evidence and are about to announce a verdict—and you’re his fucking lawyer!”

God, she can be a pain in the ass. But she hadn’t heard anything yet.

“Listen to this, Dee. They found his thumbprint on the remote detonator, along with DNA from some blood, apparently from a small cut on his finger. The CSI people said the detonator was the one that set off the bomb, the detonator with his thumbprint and DNA. They also have a video, which I’ve seen. It shows Mr. Yamani standing next to a satchel, which was later determined to contain the bomb. A fucking video! If the outcome weren’t so gruesome, I’d expect to see jokes about this case on late night television.”

“It’s time for me to ask some questions, counselor.”

Dee often calls me “counselor” when I’m behaving like anything but.

“If you were a bomber, would you be so stupid as to leave a print on the detonator? Wouldn’t you have worn latex gloves, which would also have contained the blood from his cut? And speaking of the detonator, wouldn’t you have ditched it down a sewer grate or something as soon as you pressed the thing? And about the video, don’t you think the evidence is
good? I mean if you were a bomber, standing next to a bomb, wouldn’t you wear some kind of simple disguise? A shopping mall isn’t exactly private. People take selfies, snap pictures, and shoot videos all the time. Wouldn’t a bomber or his handlers be aware of that? Matt, do you think your client was setting himself up?”

I scribbled notes as fast as she spoke.

“I can’t believe you, Dee. You’re asking the questions that I should be asking. You embarrass me.”

“Hey, I’m just calling your attention to a few things you apparently overlooked. That’s why I’m your partner.”

She stood up, walked over and kissed me.

Dee loves to work on cases with me. Sometimes she shows a sharper legal mind than any lawyer in my firm. I could tell she was getting excited as she started to jot things under each of the major points she just made. Whenever she gets worked up she always likes to stretch her long legs. She extended her legs out under the table and rested her pretty little feet on the edge of my chair.

“Matt, this case ain’t over yet. Just stop thinking of your client as a scumbag. After what we’re talking about, you’ll have a great line of questions for your next visit to the jailhouse. Hey, honey, you seemed troubled about something. What is it?”

“I’m not troubled, Dee, I’m just having a hard time concentrating.”


“Because you keep tickling my crotch with your toes under the table.”

“Whoops, sorry. Later.”

BOOK: The Reformers: A Matt Blake Novel (The Matt Blake legal thriller series Book 2)
9.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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