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Authors: Lisa Scottoline

Tags: #Detective, #Fiction & related items, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Action & Adventure, #Fiction - Mystery, #Legal, #General, #Suspense, #Adventure, #Crime & Thriller, #Fiction, #Thriller

Dirty Blonde

BOOK: Dirty Blonde
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DIRTY BLONDE

by

LISA SCOTTOLINE

FOR LAURA

My girlfriends are the sisters I picked out for myself.

—Mary-Margaret Martinez

Justice is but truth in action.

—Justice Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court of the United States

Contents

EPIGRAPH

PROLOGUE

Cate Fante was the guest of honor at this celebration,…

CHAPTER 1

Six months later, Cate sat in her high-backed chair atop…

CHAPTER 2

Cate understood on sight why Detective Frank Russo could be…

CHAPTER 3

From the lectern, Hartford asked, “Mr. Simone, could you tell…

CHAPTER 4

“Honey, I’m home!” Cate called out, and from the kitchen…

CHAPTER 5

“Good morning, gentlemen.” Cate shook hands all around and gestured…

CHAPTER 6

Cate strode to the dais, her robes billowing theatrically, making…

CHAPTER 7

The door banged open against the bedroom wall, and Cate…

CHAPTER 8

Cate slammed on the gas, ignoring the cell phone. Probably…

CHAPTER 9

The next morning, Cate drove up Market Street in heavy…

CHAPTER 10

After their tour, Cate walked back to the chambers with…

CHAPTER 11

It’s Elvis, from last night.

CHAPTER 12

Cate hurried to the window and pushed the curtain aside…

CHAPTER 13

Cate pressed the on button on the remote, her fingers…

CHAPTER 14

Cate reached Gina after Warren had gone to bed. She…

CHAPTER 15

Cate checked her watch: 1:32 a.m. Argh. She was sitting…

CHAPTER 16

“Sorry, Judge,” Val said, rising at her desk as Cate…

CHAPTER 17

Cate had come across it last night, drafting her opinion.

CHAPTER 18

Cate hustled down the sidewalk under the cold sun, holding…

CHAPTER 19

“So, how did it come about, you following me?” Cate…

CHAPTER 20

Cate drove down Fifth Street in light traffic, heading back…

CHAPTER 21

An hour later, Cate was back in the car, driving…

CHAPTER 22

Cate walked into her office, stunned at the sight. Debris…

CHAPTER 23

Cate froze, standing in her ruined office, her phone at…

CHAPTER 24

Cate opened the door to her chambers, immediately taken aback…

CHAPTER 25

The sun was setting over the Schuylkill Expressway, its remaining…

CHAPTER 26

It was dark by the time Cate reached the development,…

CHAPTER 27

Cate stepped out into the bitter cold, and on contact,…

CHAPTER 28

It was Nesbitt. Cuffed and in custody, against the car.

CHAPTER 29

Cate put on a coat to grab the newspaper from…

CHAPTER 30

“Good job, Sam,” Cate said after they were finished. She…

CHAPTER 31

“What happened?” Val asked, from her computer. “You’re back early.”

CHAPTER 32

“Come in, Cate.” Chief Judge Sherman rose from behind his…

CHAPTER 33

Cate stormed into the unfamiliar chambers, ahead of a bewildered…

CHAPTER 34

Cate drove with the radio off, insulating herself from the…

CHAPTER 35

Cate’s was one of the few cars on Route 61,…

CHAPTER 36

Cate found herself sitting on a worn brown plaid couch…

CHAPTER 37

It was almost dark by the time Cate was back…

CHAPTER 38

Cate woke up to Nesbitt’s face in soft-focus fog. For…

CHAPTER 39

Cate left her heavy coat in the rental car, feeling…

CHAPTER 40

Cate turned up the heat on the well-behaved Acura and wound…

CHAPTER 41

Odd. Despite the cold, the front door with the stenciled…

CHAPTER 42

Cate could hardly wait for Micah to go before she…

CHAPTER 43

Cate eyed Russo as he slept, taking evil satisfaction in…

CHAPTER 44

“You’re throwing me out?” Cate asked, astounded, as Nesbitt hurried…

CHAPTER 45

Pistol Range in Rear, read the blue neon sign, and…

CHAPTER 46

“Please pick Micah up!” Cate begged Nesbitt, after she had…

CHAPTER 47

Even at the sight of her old enemy, Cate felt…

CHAPTER 48

“I’m in here, gentlemen,” Cate called from her office, examining…

CHAPTER 49

Suddenly Cate threw the brass bookend at Emily, hitting her…

CHAPTER 50

“Go away, people!” Cate and Nesbitt slammed the front door…

CHAPTER 51

Cate rode the judges’ elevator upwards, checking her reflection in…

CHAPTER 52

The August sun burned hazy and low, dipping by this…

AUTHOR’S NOTE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OTHER BOOKS BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

CREDITS

COVER

COPYRIGHT

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

PROLOGUE

Cate Fante was the guest of honor at this celebration, which was drawing to a liquefied close. She raised a final snifter of cognac, joining the judges toasting her appointment to the district court. Tomorrow would be a slow day on the bench. The wheels of justice weren’t lubricated by Remy Martin.

“To Judge Cate Fante, our new colleague!” Chief Judge Sherman shouted, and the judges clinked glasses with a costly chime. Wrinkled cheeks draped their tipsy smiles, and their bifocals reflected the flickering candlelight. Their average age was sixty-two, and an appointment to the federal bench was for life. At thirty-nine, Cate felt like she was joining the world’s most exclusive retirement village.

“Speech, speech!” the judges called out, their encouragement echoing in the private room. Golden light glowed from brass sconces, and coffee cooled next to scalloped half-moons of crème brûlée and bread pudding veined with cinnamon. “Speech, Judge Fante!”

“Order in the court, you crazy kids,” Cate called back, rising with her glass and only apparent bravado. She managed a smile that masked her panic about what to say. She couldn’t tell the truth: namely, that she was secretly intimidated by a job described in the Constitution of the United States. Or that she only looked the part, in a Chanel suit of butterscotch tweed, donned like overpriced armor.

“Keep it short, Cate.” Judge William Sasso formed a megaphone with his hands. “It’s past my bedtime.”

Judge Gloria Sullivan chuckled. “Give her a break, Bill. We listen to you, and God knows what a trial that can be.”

“No, he’s right.” Cate gathered her nerve. “Thank you for this lovely dinner, everyone. You said a lot of nice things about me tonight, and I just want you to know—I
deserve
every single word.”

“At last, an honest judge!” Chief Judge Sherman burst into laughter, as did the others. The young waiter smiled, hovering by the wall. The judges clapped, shouting, “Way to go!” “Well done!”

“Thank you and good night.” Cate mock-bowed and caught the waiter’s eye, then looked away. She accepted the congratulations and good-byes as the judges rose to leave, collecting their briefcases and bags. She grabbed her purse and they all walked to the door, filing out of the Four Seasons restaurant. On the way out, Cate felt a soft touch on her arm and turned to see Chief Judge Sherman, tall and stooped at her shoulder, his sterling silver hair slightly frizzy.

“Don’t look so happy, kiddo. You’re taking a major pay cut.”

Cate laughed. “Chief, you give fixed income a good name.”

Chief Judge Sherman laughed, as did Judge Jonathan Meriden, who fell into stride. Meriden was fifty-something, conventionally handsome, with sandy hair going to gray and a fit, if short, stature. Cate had legal history with Meriden. When they were both in practice, he’d tried a securities case against her and ended up losing the jury verdict and the client. Tonight he’d acted as if all was forgotten, so he’d sucked it up or warmed to her, with Glenlivet’s help. They walked out of the lobby into the humid summer night, and Cate played the good hostess, waiting, until everyone had dispersed, to grab the last cab.

Inside, she leaned against the black vinyl as the cab lurched into light traffic. Its tires rumbled on the gritty streets, wet from an earlier thunderstorm. The air conditioning blew only faintly, and Cate eyed the rain-slick buildings like a stranger to the city. She’d lived in Philadelphia since law school, but her heart wasn’t in the city. She’d grown up in the mountains, in a small town erased from the map. Cate still felt a twinge at the thought, even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to care about her hometown anymore. She was pretty sure the official cutoff was fourth grade.

Cate’s head began to ache. Today she’d presided over opening arguments in her first major trial, a construction contract case with damages of fifty million dollars. Fleets of pricey lawyers from New York had filed special appearances, and the witness lists contained more PhDs than most colleges. It was a bench trial, with no jury to make the decision, but at least it was a civil case. Cate had already sentenced four men to federal prison, which was four too many.

The cab was stifling, and Cate lowered the window. A breeze blew in, too sticky to offer any relief, and she unbuttoned the top of her silk blouse. She felt the weight of her pearls like a noose. The night sky was black and starless, and the full moon a spotlight. She leaned back against the seat but her chignon got in the way, so she loosened it with her fingers.

She looked idly out the window. Couples walked together, their arms wrapped around each other, their hips bumping. A handsome man in a white oxford shirt dashed across the street, his tie flying. The cab turned onto one of the skinny backstreets that scored Center City, no more than an alley with rusted blue Dumpsters lining the curb. Cate caught a whiff of the rotting smell. “The scenic route, huh?”

“It’s faster than South,” the driver said, and the cab slowed to a stop sign, waiting for someone to cross the street.

Cate eyed a rundown tavern on the corner. DEL & ROY’S flickered a failing neon sign, and graffiti blanketed its brick. Its side window was covered with plywood, though an amber glow emanated from yellow Plexiglas in the front door, which was the only indication the bar wasn’t abandoned.

It’s Miller time
, Cate thought. The line from an old TV commercial. Her mother used to drink Miller.
The champagne of bottled beer.

“I’ll get out here,” she said suddenly, digging in her purse for the fare.

“Here?” The driver twisted around on his side of the smudged plastic divider. “Lady, this ain’t the best block. I thought we were going to Society Hill.”

“Change of plans.” Cate slid a twenty from her wallet and handed it to him. Ten minutes later, she was perched on a wobbly bar stool behind a glass of Miller. Lipstick stained the rim of her glass, a sticky red kiss slashed with lines, like vanity’s own fingerprint. It wasn’t her color, but she drank anyway.

The bar reeked of stale draft and Marlboros, and dusty liquor bottles cluttered its back underneath a cardboard cutout of Donovan McNabb, set askew. The bar area doubled as a hallway to a closed dining room, its darkened doorway marked by an old-fashioned sign that read LADIES’ ENTRANCE. Cate looked away.

The bar was half-empty, and a man with dark hair hunched over a beer two seats from her, smoking a cigarette. He wore a white T-shirt that said C&C TOWING, stretching in block letters across a muscular back. Three men sat beyond him, silently watching the baseball game, the Phillies playing San Francisco, on a TV mounted above the bar. They watched with their heads tilted back, their bald spots an ellipsis.

BOOK: Dirty Blonde
6.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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