Read Until the Final Verdict Online

Authors: Christine McGuire

Until the Final Verdict

BOOK: Until the Final Verdict
6.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

CRITICS HAIL THE LEGAL

THRILLERS OF

CHRISTINE McGUIRE

Until We Meet Again

“A great legal thriller . . . that allows readers to see [Kathryn] as a mom, a woman, and an attorney. . . . A fascinating and complex tale.”

—Barnesandnoble.com

Until the Bough Breaks

“A provocative story examining the ugly twists of domestic violence . . . sharp legal thriller.”

—
Publishers Weekly

Until Death Do Us Part

“A gripping drama. . . . Readers are treated to
threedimensional human beings filled with fears, doubts, and flaws.”

—Amazon.com

Until Justice Is Done

“What sets McGuire's novels apart from the pack is the level of realism she brings to the legal aspects of the story.”

—
The Sentinel
(Santa Cruz, CA)

Until Proven Guilty

“A tense, nerve-jangling thriller that should satisfy fans of
The Silence of the Lambs
.”

—Peter Blauner, bestselling author of

The Intruder
and
Slow Motion Riot

Books by Christine McGuire
Perfect Victim
Until Proven Guilty
Until Justice Is Done
Until Death Do Us Part
Until the Bough Breaks
Until We Meet Again
Until the Day They Die
Until the Final Verdict
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An
Original
Publication of POCKET BOOKS
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Copyright © 2002 by Christine McGuire
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce
this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue
of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
ISBN-10: 0-7434-2721-1
ISBN-13:
978-0-7434-2721-0
POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

For Nicole, Jimmy and Steven

Our heartfelt gratitude is extended to
our agents, Richard Pine and Sarah Piel
and to the fond memory of Arthur Pine
without whose encouragement and support
no Kathryn Mackay novels would be in print
and to
our editor Suzanne O'Neill
PROLOGUE

D
RIVEN BY AN
A
LASKAN COLD FRONT,
the first winter storm assaulted Santa Rita with thick sheets of horizontal rain. Whipped into a fury by heavy northwest winds, the cold water slashed through the dark and pummeled the County Courthouse.

Judge Jemima Tucker stared at herself in the bathroom mirror for a few seconds, then fastened her bra, buttoned her blouse, and smoothed her skirt. She switched off the lights, closed the door, and strode quickly down the cold, damp hall. She stopped at her chambers, inserted the key and swung the door open, but before she could flip the light switch, an arm clamped around her throat from behind.

“Do as I tell you, and you won't get hurt, Jemima. When I let go, walk over and sit behind your desk, and don't make a sound. Nod your head if you understand.”

When she nodded, his arm relaxed. By the faint glow of the night lights, she picked her way across the carpeted floor and dropped into her leather desk chair. In the dim light, she couldn't make out his facial expression, but there was no way to ignore the gun pointed at the middle of her chest.

He flipped the barrel tip at the green-glass-shaded antique brass lamp. “Turn on the lamp.”

When Tucker's eyes adjusted to the light, she exhaled slowly. “You!”

“Yes, it's me. Stand up.”

“Go to hell!”

He cocked the pistol. “Don't be stupid. This gun is small, but it'll kill you as dead as a big one, and I know how to use it. Now, stand up and take off your clothes.”

Tucker rose slowly and fumbled with the top button of her silk blouse. “I'll be damned if I'll . . .”

“If you'll what, let me fuck you? How will you stop me?”

Tucker slipped off her blouse, then removed her skirt, panties, and bra. Her flawless chocolate skin erupted in goose bumps, nipples contracting into small, hard, charcoal rocks.

“I must admit you look good for a . . .”

“For a black woman—a nigger?”

“That's such an ugly word. I was going to say ‘for a woman your age.' But it's true that I prefer my women to have fairer skin.”

“You son of a bitch, I'm not your woman.”

“That's what you think.”

He pointed at her judicial robe that hung on a rack behind her desk. “Put that on, then sit down.”

She dropped the robe over her head and sat.

He duct-taped her wrists behind her back, then pushed her down so her buttocks hung over the edge of the seat, taped her chest to the chair, pushed it away from the desk, and knelt in front of her.

“Spread your legs.”

When he finished, he taped her mouth, perched on the corner of her desk, pulled out latex gloves, and blew into them, forcing tiny talcum clouds to float into the air. Then he pulled a package from his pants pocket and removed a shiny stainless steel instrument.

Tucker's scream came out a muffled grunt.

He walked around behind her, stood for several moments, then grabbed her hair, yanked her head back, and stared into her terrified eyes.

“Bitch!” Then he slit Jemima Tucker's throat.

CHAPTER
1

“M
Y
G
OD
!”

Santa Rita County District Attorney Kathryn Mackay and Sheriff Dave Granz stood just outside the door to Judge Jemima Tucker's chambers. Mackay's dark, curly hair was wet and she was dressed in black Gap jeans, a gray FBI Academy sweatshirt, and black Nine West loafers.

Granz' black Harley-Davidson T-shirt flopped over the waist of his faded Levi's. He ran his fingers through his unruly blond hair and shook his head sadly, but didn't comment.

An older Asian man wearing bifocals, polyester trousers, and a Hawaiian print shirt was documenting the crime scene with an ancient tripod-mounted, manual Nikon. He glanced up when he heard Mackay.

“Hello, Charlie,” she said.

Sergeant Charles Yamamoto headed up the Crime Scene Investigation unit—CSI to law enforcement insiders. Short and gaunt, he was a criminalist before Mackay went to law school. His expertise was as well known as his stoicism.

“Awful, Ms. Mackay, terrible. A fine lady.”

Mackay had never before seen Yamamoto show emotion, but she knew he was fond of Judge Tucker, who, despite her fearsome reputation among lawyers, was revered by experts like Yamamoto for her respectful treatment when they testified.

“I know.”

Yamamoto went back to work while his investigators collected evidence. The lights had been turned off while one investigator passed a special ultraviolet light called a Woods Lamp over the surfaces of the crime scene to reveal stains or foreign materials invisible to the naked eye. A young black woman dusted the desk, file cabinets, and other smooth surfaces for fingerprints, while a third sucked up trace particles from the carpet with a battery-powered vacuum. Its contents would be analyzed by criminalists at DOJ, the Department of Justice, who could often identify a killer from microscopic bits of dirt, fibers, or hair.

“Crime scene's pretty clean,” Granz commented.

“Whoever did it might not have left anything.”

Mackay's eyes returned to Tucker's corpse, whose almost-severed head lolled back over the chair top, attached only by bone and a thick strand of skin. Her torso was upright, her robe hiked up above her waist.

Blood had gushed from severed jugulars, spilled into her lap, overflown onto the floor, and was coagulating in rust-red puddles.

“Who found the body?” Mackay asked.

“A janitor,” Granz answered. “Uniforms got here first, secured the scene, and called Jazzbo Miller. He was on call. Miller called me, then Yamamoto.”

“What time did County Comm log the call?”

“Ten-thirty.”

“What's a janitor doing here at ten-thirty on Saturday morning?”

“He cleans up every evening after the courts close. He was getting supplies out of a closet in the basement when someone grabbed him from behind, hooked an arm around his neck, and slapped a rag over his nose and mouth. Says it smelled like chloroform—he called it ‘ether.' Next thing he knows, he wakes up this morning wrapped in duct tape. Took a while to get free of the tape. When he came upstairs to use the phone, he spotted Tucker and called 911.”

“Did he get a look at his attacker?”

Granz shook his head. “Doesn't sound like it.”

“Any idea how the killer got in?”

“Not yet, but this'd be a hard building to break in to. Either the killer had a key or he came in before the courts closed and hid until everyone went home.”

“Robbery gone bad?”

He shook his head. “Doesn't look like anything's been taken. We'll check her calendar, files, appointment book, voice-mail messages, go through her desk.”

“How would he know she was working late?”

“You got me, but whoever it was came after Tucker.”

“Well, when you catch him, I hope they strap him to the lethal-injection table.”

“Just like that?”

She placed her hand on his arm. “No, not ‘just like that.' But in my opinion, death's the only appropriate punishment for a killing this gruesome.”

They moved aside to make way for two deputy coroners to enter the room, one of whom released the straps on the gurney and unfolded a heavy black plastic body bag, laid the bag out, and unzipped it.

Granz motioned with his thumb. “Let's step out into the hall.”

“Have you called Nelson?” Mackay referred to her close friend Doctor Morgan Nelson. Under California law the Sheriff is also Coroner, but since Sheriffs come from law enforcement rather than medical backgrounds, they hire forensic pathologists to perform autopsies.

“He's meeting my deputies at the morgue.”

“Keep me posted.”

“You be home?”

“I'll be gone most of the day.”

Once lovers, when Mackay found out about Granz' affair with a woman named Julia Soto, she ended the relationship. He had repeatedly attempted to revive it but each time they got close, she got scared and backed away. He hoped she was spending the day with her twelve-year-old daughter, Emma, rather than another man, but didn't ask.

“If anything comes up, page me, otherwise call after five o'clock.”

“Okay, Babe.”

“I—” Tempted to return the use of their old, familiar-term of endearment, she reconsidered. “I've got to go.”

BOOK: Until the Final Verdict
6.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Ghost Claws by Jonathan Moeller
Play Me by Tracy Wolff
Always and Forever by Lurlene McDaniel
The Wedding Agreement by Elizabeth Hayley
The Highwayman's Bride by Jane Beckenham
The Gypsy and the Widow by Juliet Chastain
An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges