Authors: Paul Levine
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Thrillers, #Crime, #Legal
PRAISE FOR PAUL LEVINE
TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD
“Move over Scott Turow.
To Speak for the Dead
is courtroom drama at its very best.” —
“Levine’s fiendish ability to create twenty patterns from the same set of clues will have you waiting impatiently for his next novel.” —
“Realistic, gritty, fun.” —
New York Times Book Review
“Take one part John Grisham, two parts Carl Hiaasen, throw in a dash of John D. MacDonald, and voila! You’ve got
originally published in hardcover as
“A thriller as fast as the wind. A bracing rush, as breathtaking as hitting the Gulf waters on a chill December morning.” —
FOOL ME TWICE
“You’ll like listening to Jake’s beguiling first-person tale-telling so much that you won’t mind being fooled thrice.” —
FLESH & BONES
“Lassiter is smart, tough, funny, and very human . . . one of the most entertaining series characters in contemporary crime fiction.” —Booklist
“Since Robert Parker is no longer with us, I’m nominating Levine for an award as best writer of dialogue in the grit-lit genre.” —
San Jose Mercury News
LAST CHANCE LASSITER
Cleverly plotted and well written. The dialogue and characterizations are first-rate.” —Bookreporter.com
STATE vs. LASSITER
“The best of the best. Just when I thought ‘Lassiter’ couldn't get any better.” —Goodreads 5-star review
SOLOMON vs. LORD
“A funny, fast-paced legal thriller. The barbed dialogue makes for some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Fans of Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry will enjoy this humorous Florida crime romp.” —
THE DEEP BLUE ALIBI
“A cross between
. . . courtroom drama has never been this much fun.” —
KILL ALL THE LAWYERS
“A clever, colorful thriller . . . with characters drawn with a fine hand, making them feel more like friends than figments of the author’s imagination. Levine ratchets up the tension with each development but never neglects the heart of the story—his characters.” —
“Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord are smart and funny and sexy in a way that Hollywood movies were before comedies became crass and teen-oriented.” —
Originally published in hardcover as
“A breakout book, highly readable and fun with an irresistible momentum, helped along by Levine’s knowledge of the Supreme Court and how it works.” —
in a missile silo. Terrific!” —
Stephen J. Cannell
“Levine is one of the few thriller authors who can craft a plot filled with suspense while still making the readers smile at the characters’ antics.” —
ALSO BY PAUL LEVINE
THE JAKE LASSITER SERIES
To Speak for the Dead
Fool Me Twice
Flesh & Bones
Last Chance Lassiter
State vs. Lassiter
THE SOLOMON & LORD SERIES
Solomon vs. Lord
The Deep Blue Alibi
Kill All the Lawyers
THE LASSITER, SOLOMON & LORD SERIES
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2015 Paul J. Levine
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Thomas & Mercer, Seattle
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Thomas & Mercer are trademarks of
, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Brian Zimmerman
For my grandchildren . . . Jonah, Lexi, Ruby, and Violet
Jake Lassiter. The Jakester! The mouthpiece who took the
and put the
—State Attorney Ray Pincher
he gunshot hit Nicolai Gorev squarely between the eyes. His head snapped back, then whipped forward, and he toppled face-first onto his desk.
There were two other people in the office of Club Anastasia.
Nadia Delova, the best Bar girl between Moscow and Miami, stared silently at Gorev as blood oozed from his ears. She had seen worse.
Steve Solomon, a South Beach lawyer with a shaky reputation, spoke over the echo still ringing off the walls. “I am in deep shit,” he said.
Nadia and the Feds
One week earlier. . .
Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida
In Re: Investigation of South Beach Champagne Clubs and one “John Doe”
File No. 2014-73-B
Statement of Nadia Delova
July 7, 2014
Q: My name is Deborah Scolino, assistant United States attorney. Please state your name.
A: Nadia Delova.
Q: How old are you?
Q: Where were you born?
A: Saint Petersburg. Russia. Not Florida.
Q: What is your occupation?
A: What do I look like? Nuclear physicist?
Q: Ms. Delova, please . . .
A: Bar girl. I am Bar girl.
Q: What does that entail?
A: Entails my tail. [Witness laughs] Is simple job. I get men to buy cheap champagne for expensive price.
Q: How do you do that?
A: We go to nice hotel. Fontainebleau or Delano. Me and Elena on hunting parties.
Q: Do you dress as you have today? For the record, a tight-banded mini in hot pink. I’m guessing Herve Leger.
A: Is knockoff. But shoes are real. Valentino slingbacks with four-inch heels. I dress good on hunting parties.
Q: And just what are you hunting for?
A: Tourists. Men with money. We look for expensive watches. Patek Philippe. Audemars Piguet. Rolex Submariner.
Q: So you approach the men?
A: At the hotel bar. We make small talk. “Oh, you are so handsome. Tell us about Nebraska.” We say we know a private club with good music.
Q: What club is that?
A: Anastasia. On South Beach.
Q: What happens when you get there?
Bartender serves free vodka shots, except ours—mine and Elena’s—are water. When the man is drunk, we order champagne. Nicolai buys it for twenty-five dollars at Walmart. Charges a
couple thousand a bottle, but the man is so drunk, he signs credit card because Elena has her tongue in his ear, or my hand is in his crotch. Or both.
Q: Just who is Nicolai?
A: Nicolai Gorev. Owner of Club Anastasia.
Q: Ms. Delova, we need you to help the government’s investigation of Nicolai Gorev.
Q: Ms. Delova . . .
A: I am not as stupid as you might think.
Your Lawyer or Your Lover
didn’t shoot the bastard,” Steve Solomon said.
“Tell me the truth, Steve.”
“Jeez, Vic, I am.” Sounding frustrated. Telling the story over and over. He spread his arms and held his palms upward, the gesture intended to show he wasn’t hiding anything.
Victoria studied him. She’d been studying Solomon for several years now. He was her law partner and lover. Solomon & Lord.
Victoria Lord. Princeton undergrad, Yale Law.
Steve Solomon. University of Miami undergrad. Key West School of Law.
Victoria graduated summa cum laude. Steve graduated summa cum luck.
She practiced law by the book. He burned the book. But in court . . . well in court, they were a powerful team.
Solomon & Lord.
Steve had street smarts and was a master of persuasion. Victoria knew the law, which helped with judges. Plus, she was likable, a necessity with juries. Steve also had one talent Victoria lacked: he could lie with a calm certainty no polygraph could ever discover.
She loved Steve. And hated him. Sometimes they argued over “good morning.” But life sizzled when they were together and fizzled when they were apart. Right now, one wrong move, and they could be apart forever.
“Tell me again,” she said. “Everything.”
“I want to see if you tell the same story two times in a row.”
“Aw, c’mon, Vic.”
They were sitting in a lawyers’ visitation room at the Miami-Dade County jail. The metal desk and two chairs were bolted to the concrete floor. Victoria hated the place. It smelled of sweat and disinfectant and something vaguely like cat piss. Her ankle-strap Gucci pumps had slipped on something wet—and yellow—when she had walked down the corridor. She always felt nauseous visiting a client here. Now that the accused was Steve, she also felt a throat-constricting fear.
To get into the jail, she had shown her Florida Bar card. To get out, Steve would need a very good lawyer. She had tried—and won—several murder trials. But with all the emotional baggage, she felt incapable of representing Steve. A surgeon didn’t operate on a loved one.
“If you didn’t kill Gorev, who did?” she asked.
“Like I said, Nadia Delova, our client.”
“Okay, you were at a hearing in Broward. Nadia was a walk-in. She had five thousand in cash and said she just needed me for a one-hour meeting.”
“Where’s the money?”
“In an envelope in my desk drawer.”
“When were you going to tell me about it?”
“That reminds me of a lawyer joke.”
“Not now, Steve.”
“A lawyer sends out a bill for five thousand dollars, and the client mistakenly sends him ten thousand dollars. What’s the ethical question?”
“Obviously, should he return the money?”
“No! Should he tell his partner?”
Steve laughed at his own joke. He had a habit of doing that. A lot of his old habits were starting to irritate her. Accepting new clients without her approval was one. Straddling the border between ethical and sleazy conduct was another. Getting charged with murder was a new one.
“Where’s Nadia now?”
“That’s what I need to find out. Or you do.”
“You understand your predicament?”
“The cops found me in a locked room with a dead man and a smoking gun. Yeah, I have a pretty good idea.”
“Tell me everything from the top.”
“Nadia was waiting when I unlocked the door to our office at about eight fifteen a.m. She said she was a Bar girl. Very up front about it.”
Steve ignored her sarcasm and plowed ahead. “She must have come straight from work, because she was all dolled up. Minidress. Heels. Jewelry. Gloves.”
“Gloves in Miami. In July.”
“Dressy black gloves. Up to the elbows. Like Holly Golightly in
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“Wasn’t Holly a prostitute?”
“Only in the book. In the movie, she was more like a fun date.”
Just outside the door, a baby wailed. It was a weirdly discordant sound in this dreadful place. The common visitation area, a dismal space with rows of benches for families, was adjacent to the lawyers’ room. The baby’s keening reached an impossibly high pitch, and Victoria felt a headache coming on.
“Physical description of this Nadia?” she asked.
“About your height. Nearly six feet. Without her heels.”
“She took off her shoes?”
“In the office. For a minute. She rubbed her feet. Is that important?”
“I don’t know. Had you ever met this Bar girl before?”
“Of course not.”
“But she felt comfortable enough to take off her shoes and rub her feet in your presence?”
“Is that a lawyer’s question or a girlfriend’s question?”
“Just keep going. What else besides her height and her tired feet?”
“Dark hair. Nearly jet-black. Pale skin and blue eyes. Unusual combination. Very . . .”
“Well . . .” He swallowed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. Victoria made a mental note that Steve—for all his bluster—might not hold up well under cross-examination.
“If you like that sort of thing,” he said finally. “I always preferred blondes. Like you.”
“Of course. What else about Nadia can you remember?”
“Her lips were very . . . What’s the word?”
“I don’t know, Steve. What is the word?”
“Pouty,” Victoria said. “Bee-stung?”
“Unlike my very average, very Waspy lips?”
C’mon, you have great lips. Anyway, she had a nice . . .” He made a
flowing motion with both hands, the male pantomime for a curvaceous woman. Victoria figured that men had been communicating this way since they first emerged from caves. Not that today’s men were that much different from those of the Paleolithic Era.
“Body?” she helped him out. “Curvy body?”
“Yeah, great body. I mean, no greater than yours, but . . .”
He nodded, as if saying it aloud might shatter her fragile ego.
Okay, so at eight fifteen a.m., this striking, long-legged, cantaloupe-breasted woman wearing gloves up to her elbows gives you five thousand in cash, and, like a puppy wagging its tail, you follow her to this South Beach club.”
“Actually, I drove us both.”
“And just why did she need a lawyer?”
“Her boss, Nicolai Gorev, was holding her passport. She wanted it back plus some money he owed her.”
“And how exactly were you going to help her do this?”
Steve let out a long, slow breath. “Well, that’s where it gets a little sticky.”
“Doesn’t it always?”
“I think it was maybe a language thing, her being Russian and all.”
“Damn it, Steve. What aren’t you telling me?”
He was quiet a moment, then gave her that twinkling smile. It was intended to distract her from whatever he needed to say but didn’t want to. He was a handsome man with black hair and deep-brown eyes.
, Victoria thought. Devilish eyes, her mother always said. She did not mean it as a compliment. He had an aquiline nose that reminded Victoria of George Washington, except that if Steve had chopped down a cherry tree, he would have lied about it.
At last, Steve said, “Well, you know how you always hated that TV commercial I did for the firm?”
“The blasphemous one? ‘If you want the best lawyers in Miami, hire the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of the Lord.’ ”
“Nope. The one where I was a cowboy with the pearl-handled pistols?”
“How could I forget?” Victoria said. “The cease-and-desist letter from the Florida Bar is on my desk.”
“Well, if you want to know exactly what happened . . .”
“I do! Word for word.”
So before Victoria could begin pulling out his fingernails with pliers, Steve told her.
“Do you have one gun
or two?” Nadia asks.
“What?” Steve answers. They are inside Club Anastasia, headed toward an office at the end of a corridor behind the bar. A heavyset woman in an apron is mopping the floor. Two thick-necked men in black suits are riffling through a stack of credit card receipts and using an old-fashioned, noisy adding machine with a paper scroll. The men glance at Nadia and return to their work.
“On the TV, you have two guns,” Nadia says.
“You talking about my commercial?”
“I told you. I got your name from the television.”
In the commercial, Steve was dressed in cowboy garb. Right down to the chaps, Stetson, and pair of six-shooters. He fired at a blowup doll—a man in a suit intended to resemble, well, The Man. The doll exploded, and Steve blew smoke from the gun barrel.
An actor’s baritone voice intoned: “If you need a lawyer, why not hire a gunslinger? Steve Solomon. Have briefcase. Will travel.”
On the screen, the logo of Solomon & Lord. And the phone number: 555-UBE-FREE.
“No guns,” he tells Nadia as they approach Gorev’s office. “I hate guns.”
“Then what can you do to frighten Nicolai?”
“What I always do. Threaten to sue.”
She exhales a little puff of displeasure, opens her purse, and shows Solomon what is inside. “Well, at least I have a gun,” she says.
“Don’t say it, Vic. I know I screwed up. That’s why I need you so much now. Have you filed your notice of appearance?”
She shook her head, felt her gold hoop earrings swinging. They had been a present from Steve after they’d won their first murder trial. “I can be your lawyer or your lover, Steve, but not both.”
“Jeez, Vic.” His eyes went wide with surprise. “We’re partners in everything.”
Victoria could feel his disappointment. Didn’t he realize you don’t put this sort of burden on the person you love?
“You won’t listen to me,” she said. “As soon as you’re indicted, you’ll try to take over.”
“No way. You’ll be the boss.”
“You’ll push me to go over the line. Like that stupid saying of yours.”
“ ‘When the law doesn’t work, you gotta work the law.’ It’s the truth, hon.”
“Not the way I practice.”
They were both quiet a moment. Somewhere inside this hellish place, a steel door clanged shut. Shouts of men could be heard on upper floors. The cat piss smell seemed to grow stronger.
“I need you, Vic.”
“I already retained Jake Lassiter.”
“Lassiter! I want a lawyer, not a linebacker.”
“He’s won some tough cases.”
“He’s a slab of meat. If you won’t represent me, I want Roy Black.”
“We can’t afford Roy.”
“Tell him it’s me.”
“And he didn’t offer a courtesy discount?”
“He doubled his fee.”
“What about Marcia Silvers? She’s won some big cases.”
“Marcia’s in Washington, prepping for a Supreme Court argument.”
“Damn! But why Lassiter?”
“Because he won’t put up with your bullshit. And if you’re innocent, he’ll tear apart the courthouse to prove it.”
“He promised me. He’ll be like Samson ripping down the pillars of the Temple of Dagon.”
“If I recall my Old Testament,” Steve said, with an air of resignation, “that’s what killed old Samson.”