Silent Justice by William BernhardtSilent Justice by William Bernhardt

Silent Justice

byWilliam Bernhardt

Mass Market Paperback | February 27, 2001

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When a powerful corporation is charged with dumping toxic chemicals into a community's drinking water and killing innocent children, Ben Kincaid knows the class action suit is a suicide mission. Facing off against the small Kincaid staff is Tulsa's largest law firm. Challenging Ben in the courtroom is the firm's fabled top gun--not to mention a hot-headed judge with a notorious soft spot for big business. But as Ben prepares for legal battle, a sadistic killer strikes. With each gruesome murder, a terrifying connection is more deeply drawn between Ben's quest for justice and another man's relentless hunt for the spoils of his own private--and very dirty--war.
William Bernhardt is the author of thirteen books, including Primary Justice, Blind Justice, Deadly Justice, Perfect Justice, Double Jeopardy, Cruel Justice, and Naked Justice--which led Library Journal to dub the author "master of the courtroom drama." His newest novel is Murder One. He has twice won the Oklahoma Book Award for Best F...
Title:Silent JusticeFormat:Mass Market PaperbackProduct dimensions:480 pages, 6.95 × 4.2 × 1 inShipping dimensions:6.95 × 4.2 × 1 inPublished:February 27, 2001Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345428137

ISBN - 13:9780345428134

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Read from the Book

* Six Months Before *Who let him in here? Ben Kincaid wondered.He peered across the study quad at the scruffy-lookingolder man hovering near the front double doors to the Universityof Tulsa College of Law. Ben's attention was drawn bythe fact that the man was wearing a long overcoat; it was ill-fitting,wrinkled, and stained. The man's chin was coveredwith salt-and-pepper stubble. His eyes were red and ringed,as if he hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks. He waslooking for something, or someone.Ben couldn't imagine who or what that might be. The mandid not look as if he belonged here. Even the lawyers-to-bewith the most rudimentary grasp of personal hygiene did notrise to this level of dishevelment. Ben wondered if maybe theman had gotten lost on his way to . . .To what? The homeless shelter? Come to think of it, therewasn't anyone or anything anywhere on the TU campus thatwas likely to welcome this visitor. Ben wondered if he shouldask the man what he wanted. Or perhaps whisper a word intothe ear of Stanley Robinson, the security guard he'd just seenoutside the dean's office.Ben was distracted by a petite, attractive woman makingher way toward him. She had a creamy complexion perfectlyaccented by two tiny patches of freckles on either sideof her aquiline nose. Her engaging gait not only spoke of extremeself-confidence but, as an added bonus, did remarkablethings to the curly strawberry-blond hair dancing just aboveher shoulders. As she sidled up to Ben, he admired her crazy-quiltminiskirt, which had more colors than a jumbo box ofCrayolas.Ben arched an eyebrow. "Is that a dress or a cry for help?"Christina McCall didn't bridle. "It's ethnic chic. I'll haveyou know this pattern is all the rage in Mozambique.""Is that a fact?""It is.""I haven't kept up with Mozambiquii fashion trends theway I used to.""More's the pity." Christina tilted her head back, sending herhair bouncing behind her shoulders. "I hear you're teachingThe Tiger's class this afternoon.""True." Although Ben had been practicing law for years,only recently had he begun teaching classes at the local lawschool as an adjunct professor. As he had quickly learned,The Tiger was Professor Joseph Canino, a curmudgeonlyIchabod Crane who'd been teaching Civil Procedure since thedawn of time. "Apparently he was called away at the last moment.Some kind of emergency.""Probably heard of a law student somewhere he hadn'tpublicly humiliated and rushed off to remedy the omission.""Quite possible.""I don't know where such a student might be, though.Mozambique, perhaps."Ben smiled. Professor Canino was of the old school; heused the Socratic method like a dagger to slit the throats ofthe unwary or unwitting. "I gather you're in this class?"Christina had worked as Ben's legal assistant for as long ashe'd been in solo practice in Tulsa. Two years before, she'd decidedto expand her horizons and start law school. Since theyworked together and knew each other personally, they bothagreed it was best that she not be in any of Ben's regularclasses. But it looked like this morning they were going to bein the same classroom whether they liked it or not."I am," she replied. "So don't be cruel.""I'll try to restrain myself."Christina scampered off toward class, leaving Ben to admireonce again her seemingly inexhaustible high spirits. It hadbeen almost ten years since Ben finished law school, but ithadn't been so long that he'd forgotten how much he'd hatedit. Egomaniacal professors, arbitrary subjective grading, unrelentingpressure to succeed, unrestrained favoritism--a hideousgauntlet one was required to run in order to practice theworld's least respected profession. What a deal.As Ben crossed the study quad, he observed that mostof the students' sentiments were aligned with his own, notChristina's. The sweaty brows and twisted grimaces of thosepurporting to study told him that law school had not changedmuch over the past decade.In a carrel just off the main hallway, Ben spotted thegrizzled man in the overcoat he'd seen near the front doors.What was he doing? Certainly not studying; he wasn't evencarrying a book. His eyes were still roaming about. Who washe expecting to see?Or maybe he had it wrong, Ben reasoned. Maybe his firstimpression had been correct. Perhaps the man was homelessand he was just looking for a place to lie down where securityguards wouldn't hassle him. Ben considered recommendingone of the cushioned sofas in the library. It was quiet in there,and if he covered his face with his hands, the staff would takehim for another student who had fallen asleep while readingthe rapturous words of the distinguished Learned Hand."Which class did you draw this time?"Ben turned and saw Professor John Matthews, the leadingtort law expert in the state of Oklahoma. He'd writtentexts and hornbooks on the subject; he was the unquestionedauthority."I'm filling in for The Tiger."Matthews stroked his beard and smiled. "Ah. Lucky man.""How do you figure?""If those kids are expecting to see The Tiger walk throughthat door, they'll be virtually orgasmic when they see anyoneelse. Even you.""You sure know how to flatter a guy, John."Matthews laughed and headed down the corridor.Ben entered the classroom. All at once, the students fellsilent, shifted around, and turned their eyes front and center.What a marvelous ego trip, Ben thought, not for the firsttime. This must be how judges feel when they enter thecourtroom.The classroom was designed in the Greek theater style:three tiers of elevated seats and continuous tabletops formeda semicircle around the podium, which was on the lowestlevel. Ben took his place in the center, opened his teacher'sedition of the textbook, and started."My name's Ben Kincaid, and I'm filling in for ProfessorCanino this morning, as I expect most of you already know.So let's get to it. Who can tell me what a JNOV is?" Heglanced at his seating chart. "Mr. Brunner?"A middle-sized man in his early twenties pushed himselfunhappily to his feet. "Uh . . . what were those letters again?""JNOV," Ben repeated, enunciating clearly."JNOV," Brunner repeated thoughtfully. "Is that a rockband?"There was a tittering of laughter throughout the classroom.This would never happen if The Tiger were present, Benknew. Apparently Ben had a less imposing reputation. Hewondered what his nickname was. The Titmouse, perhaps."No, Mr. Brunner, you must be thinking of Run-DMC. Orperhaps, ELO, if you're as old as I am." He turned his attentionto the rest of the classroom. "Who can tell me what aJNOV is?"The first hand up rose above a very familiar head of redhair. Ben supposed he was obliged to call on her. Sheshouldn't be penalized for knowing the substitute prof. "Ms.McCall?"Christina bounced to her feet. "A JNOV is a judgmentnotwithstanding the verdict.""Excellent." Ben put a little check mark beneath her nameon the seating chart. He had no idea what, if anything, TheTiger planned to do with these check marks, but Christinahad certainly earned hers. "And what does that mean?""It means that after the jury delivers its verdict, the judgemay set it aside.""You're two for two, Ms. McCall. On what grounds maythe judge disregard the jury's verdict?""Well . . . it looks to me like the judge can do it on justabout any legal grounds he wants. Anything the judge believescalls the verdict into question.""That's exactly right." Ben's eyes swept across the threeraised tiers of seats. "There's a lesson to be learned here, futureadvocates--one you must never forget. In the courtroom,the judge is King of the Forest. So try not to cross him or her."He glanced down at his notes. "Ms. McCall, could you giveme the facts of Conrad versus Richmond Pharmaceuticals?"To his surprise, Ben saw that she was no longer looking athim. Her eyes had diverted toward the door.He glanced over his shoulder. It was that shabby man in theovercoat--the homeless man, or whatever he was. He waspeering through the glass in the door, the expression in hiseyes strange and intense.What was his problem? Ben wondered. He was definitelybeginning to regret not reporting the man to Security. Somethingabout the sight of him lurking outside the door wasunsettling.Ben turned back around and cleared his throat. "The case,Ms. McCall?""Oh. Right. Sorry." She glanced down at her textbook."Conrad was a woman who had been advised to use a newsedative manufactured by Richmond while she was pregnant.Turned out the drug had serious side effects, although that didnot become apparent for--"Ben heard the click of the door behind him. The man in theovercoat was entering the classroom."Can I help you?" Ben said, not doing a very good job ofmasking his irritation. Somehow he knew The Tiger wouldnever tolerate such an intrusion.The man kept walking until he was far too close to Ben forcomfort. His breath reeked; Ben detected traces of several diversemeals and perhaps some alcohol as well. His body wasnot much better; the smell rising from beneath that coat wasso pronounced Ben almost winced.The stranger spoke in a quiet, hushed voice. "You theprofessor?""I'm trying to be," Ben said, with an edge that could cutbutter. "What is it you want?""You know what I want." The man stepped even closer andwhispered in Ben's ear. "Is the merchandise secure?""What?""You heard me. Is it?""I'm afraid I must ask you to leave.""Not until you tell me what I want to know."Ben's irritation was augmented by the feeling that he waslosing control of the classroom. "Sir, once again, I must insistthat you leave.""Answer me!" The hush was gone; the man's voice swelled."Is the merchandise secure?""I don't know what you're talking about." Ben looked atChristina, then jerked his head toward the door. Intuitive asever, she received the message and started for help."Is it secure?" The man's breathing accelerated. Sweattrickled down the sides of his grimy face. "Is it?"Out of the corner of his eye, the man saw Christina makingher way toward the door. "Stop!" he shouted.Christina did not stop. On the contrary, she picked upthe pace.In the blink of an eye, the man reached beneath his wrinkledovercoat. Less than a blink later, he was holding a sawed-offshotgun in his hands, cocked and ready to fire. "I said, stop!"Christina froze in place, obviously unsure what to do next.Shrieks pealed out of the gallery. Some of the studentsrose; some of them ducked under the desks."He's got a gun!" someone cried."He's crazy!" shouted someone else. Frenzied confusionfollowed.Damn! Ben thought. Where had that shotgun come from?This man was crazier than he'd thought--and more dangerous,too.Ben took a hesitant step forward. "Now, look, let's staycalm."The man whipped the sawed-off around so it was pointedat Ben's face. "Stay back! Stay away from me!"Someone in the rear of the classroom screamed, a loud,ear-piercing cry that sent chills down Ben's spine. Thestranger faded back till he was pressed against the chalk-board.He panned back and forth with the weapon, assuringeveryone present that they were within his line of sight.Ben felt his knees beginning to tremble, but he tried toblock that out of his mind. He was in charge in here--intheory, anyway. If anyone had a chance of bringing this maniacaround, it was him.He took a cautious step toward the man. "Please stay calm.I'm sure we can find out whatever it is you want--""Stay back, I said!" The man pressed forward, his eyeswild and crazed. "Don't think I won't fire. I will! I gotnothing left to lose!"Behind him, Ben saw Christina quietly roll back into action.She was trying to take advantage of the momentary diversionof the stranger's attention to slip out the door.No! Ben tried to send her an unspoken message withhis eyes. But it was no use. Christina kept edging towardthe door."I warned you!" the man bellowed as he whirled aroundwith his shotgun--and fired.Ben's heart stopped at the report of the shotgun, like asonic boom in the small classroom. The shot hit the wall justabove Christina's head, spewing plaster and chalky dust allover her.Christina threw up her hands. "All right! I'm not moving!I'm not moving!"The intruder rushed toward her, gun still at the ready. Hegrabbed her by the hair, wrapped it around his fist, thenshoved her back against the wall, hard.More of the students shrieked as Christina's head slammedagainst the wall. Her eyes batted rapidly as she struggled tomaintain consciousness."Don't hurt her!" Ben shouted.The man with the gun stepped back, bringing Ben into hisline of sight. "I can hurt all of you. I will hurt all of you. If youdon't tell me what I want to know!"He fired the gun again, this time into the ceiling. Benducked behind the podium. This man was insane, Benthought grimly. He had to be. And he couldn't count on reasoningwith a man who had no reason. They were all indeadly danger."Fine," Ben said, choking on the plaster dust that filled theair. "Fine. I'll tell you anything. Anything. Just ask."The man's teeth were clenched tightly together. "I alreadydid! Is the merchandise secure?"Ben stretched out his hands. "I don't know what you'retalking about!"The man fired the gun again, this time near Ben's feet. "Isthe merchandise secure?""Yes!" Ben shouted. "Yes! It is! It's so secure--youwouldn't believe how secure it is."The man rushed toward him. He grabbed Ben's lapel andshook him. "You're lying to me!""I'm not! I don't know anything about your . . . merchandise!"There was a momentary flicker in the man's steely gaze, asif a new thought was being processed for the first time. "Isn'tthis your classroom?""Yes, but . . ." Ben's lips parted. "Do you think I'm ProfessorCanino? Because I'm not.""You're not? But you said--""I'm filling in for him. I'm a substitute teacher."The man stepped away from Ben, slowly and cautiously,keeping his wild eyes on the entire classroom, daring anyoneto move.His retreat was interrupted by the clattering of footstepsjust outside the door. Security, Ben saw through the window.Thank God. Stanley must've heard the shots.Three security officers started through the doors, includingStanley. As soon as Stanley saw the man holding the shot-gun,he drew his own weapon. Ben feared there would be ashoot-out--and then he realized it was going to be somethingelse, something far worse.The man with the shotgun grabbed the back of Christina'shead and shoved her forward, using her as a human shield."Stand back! I'll shoot her! I will!"The three security officers froze."Drop your guns!"Ben could well imagine what was going through Stanley'smind. Normally, cops were taught never to relinquish theirweapons. But Stanley wasn't a cop. What's more, the manwith the shotgun was acting crazy. They might be able to talkhim down, prevent him from doing anything brutal. But ifthey continued to threaten the man now, he would probablyexplode--and Christina would be caught in the fallout.With evident reluctance, Stanley laid his pistol on the floor.The other security officers did the same. The man with theshotgun rushed forward, pushing Christina ahead all the way,till he had recovered the weapons and shoved them into oneof his outer coat pockets. "Now, get out of here! Now!"Stanley tried to maintain a calm demeanor. "Couldn't Istay and talk? I know you don't really want to hurt anyone.Why don't we--"The gun exploded in Stanley's face. The shot struck justover and behind him, splattering the wall. Stanley ducked,horrified, clutching the side of his face. The shot had come soclose it had singed his cheek."Now get out of here!" the man screamed. "Now! Now!Now!"This time the security guards left, including Stanley. Afterthe door closed, the man with the shotgun whipped around.He shoved Christina down to the floor."Nobody moves! Nobody goes anywhere! We're all stayingright here until I get what I want!"Ben rushed to Christina's side. He took her hand andhelped her up. "How are you?"Christina shrugged. "I'm fine, damn it." She gazed at themaniac with the shotgun. "Wish I'd moved a little faster.""You and me both." Ben helped her to an empty seat in thefront row. He had a sinking feeling they were both going to behere for a good long while.

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