Taylor Lockwood spends her days working as a paralegal in one of New York’s preeminent Wall Street law firms and her nights playing jazz piano anyplace she can. But the rhythm of her life is disrupted when attorney Mitchell Reece requests her help in locating a stolen document that could cost him not only the multimillion-dollar case he’s defending but his career as well. Eager to get closer to this handsome, brilliant, and very private man, Taylor signs on . . . only to find that as she delves deeper and deeper into what goes on behind closed doors at Hubbard, White & Willis, she uncovers more than she wants to kno—including a plentitude of secrets damaging enough to smash careers and dangerous enough to push someone to commit murder. Yet who is capable of going to that extreme? With her life on the line, Taylor is about to learn the lethal answer. . . .
“The characters are well drawn, the plot is fast paced, and the writing avoids totally the usual trappings of blockbusterdom. . . . An intelligently written thriller.”—Booklist
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.15(w) x 6.84(h) x 0.75(d)|
About the Author
Date of Birth:May 6, 1950
Place of Birth:Chicago, Illinois
Education:B.A., University of Missouri; Juris Doctor, cum laude, Fordham University School of Law
Read an Excerpt
The drapery man had been warned that even though it was now well after midnight, Sunday morning of the Thanksgiving holiday, there would very likely be people in the firm here, attorneys and paralegals, still working.
And so he carried the weapon at his side, pointed downward.
It was a curious thingnot a knife exactly, more of an ice pick, but longer and made of a blackened, tempered metal.
He held it with the confidence of someone who was very familiar with the device. And who had used it before.
Dressed in gray coveralls bearing the stencil of a bogus drapery cleaning service and wearing a baseball cap, the big, sandy-haired man now paused and, hearing footsteps, slipped into an empty office. Then there was silence. And he continued on, through shadows, pausing for a long moment, frozen like a fox near a ground nest of skittish birds.
He consulted the diagram of the firm, turned along one corridor and continued, gripping the handle of the weapon tightly in his hand, which was as muscular as the rest of his body.
As he neared the office he sought, he reached up and pulled a paper face mask over his mouth. This was not so that he wouldn't be recognized but because he was concerned that he might lose a fleck of spit that could be retrieved as evidence and used in a DNA match.
The office, which belonged to Mitchell Reece, was at the end of the corridor, not far from the front door of the firm. Like all the offices here, the lights were left on, which meant that the drapery man wasn't sure that it was unoccupied. But he glanced in quickly, saw that the room was empty and stepped inside.
The office was very cluttered. Books, files, charts, thousands of sheets of papers. Still, the man found the filing cabinet easilythere was only one here with two locks on itand crouched, pulling on tight latex gloves and extracting his tool kit from his coverall pockets.
The drapery man set the weapon nearby and began to work on the locks.
Scarf, Mitchell Reece thought, drying his hands in the law firm's marble-and-oak rest room. He'd forgotten his wool scarf.
Well, he was surprised he'd managed to remember his coat and briefcase. The lanky thirty-three-year-old associate, having had only four hours' sleep, had arrived at the firm around 8 a.m. yesterday, Saturday, and had worked straight through until about an hour ago, when he'd fallen asleep at his desk.
A few moments before, something had startled him out of that sleep. He'd roused himself and decided to head home for a few hours of shut-eye the old-fashioned wayhorizontally. He'd grabbed his coat and briefcase and made this brief pit stop.
But he wasn't going outside without his scarf1010 WINS had just reported the temperature was 22 degrees and falling.
Reece stepped into the silent corridor.
Thinking about a law firm at night.
The place was shadowy but not dark, silent yet filled with a white noise of memory and power. A law firm wasn't like other places: banks or corporations or museums or concert halls; it seemed to remain alert even when its occupants were gone.
Here, down a wide wallpapered corridor, was a portrait of a man in stern sideburns, a man who left his partnership at the firm to become governor of the state of New York.
Here, in a small foyer decorated with fresh flowers, was an exquisite Fragonard oil painting, no alarm protecting it. In the hall beyond, two Keith Harings and a Chagall.
Here, in a conference room, were reams of papers containing the magic words required by the law to begin a corporate breach of contract suit for three hundred million dollars, and in a similar room down the hall sat roughly the same amount of paper, assembled in solemn blue binders, which would create a charitable trust to fund private AIDS research.
Here, in a locked safe-file room, rested the last will and testament of the world's third-richest manwhose name most people had never heard of.
Mitchell Reece put these philosophical meanderings down to sleep deprivation, told himself to mentally shut up and turned down the corridor that would lead to his office.
In a soldier's instant the drapery man was on his feet, the ice pick in one hand, his burglar tools in the other. He eased behind the door to Reece's office and quieted his breathing as best he could.
He'd been in this line of work for some years. He'd been hurt in fights and had inflicted a great deal of pain. He'd killed seven men and two women. But this history didn't dull his emotions. His heart now beat hard, his palms sweated and he fervently hoped he didn't have to hurt anyone tonight. Even people like him vastly preferred to avoid killing.
Which didn't mean he'd hesitate to if he were found out here.
The steps grew closer.
Mitchell Reece, walking unsteadily from exhaustion, moved down the corridor, his feet tapping on the marble floor, the sound occasionally muffled when he strode over the Turkish rugs carefully positioned throughout the firm (and carefully mounted on antiskid pads; law firms are extremely cognizant of slip-and-fall lawsuits).
In his mind was a daunting list of tasks to complete before the trial that was scheduled in two days. Reece had graduated from Harvard Law fourth in his class, largely thanks to listsmemorizing for his exams volumes of cases and rules of law and statutes. He was now the firm's most successful senior litigation associate for much the same reason. Every single aspect of the casethe civil trial of New Amsterdam Bank and Trust, Ltd. v. Hanover and Stiver, Inc.was contained in a complicated series of lists, which Reece was constantly reviewing and editing in his mind.
He supposed he'd been reviewing his lists when he'd neglected to pick up his scarf.
He now approached the doorway and stepped inside.
Ah, yes, there it was, the tan cashmere given to him by a former girlfriend. It sat just where he'd left it, next to the refrigerator in the coffee room across from his office. When he'd arrived that morningwell, make that yesterday morning at this pointhe'd stopped first in this canteen room to make a pot of coffee and had dropped the scarf on the table while getting the machine going.
He now wrapped it around his neck and stepped out into the corridor. He continued to the front door of the firm. He hit the electric lock button andhearing the satisfying click that he'd come to know so well, thanks to his thousands of late hours at the firmMitchell Reece stepped into the lobby, where he summoned the elevator.
As he waited it seemed to him that he heard a noise somewhere in the firmnearby. A faint whine of a door hinge maybe. Followed by the snick-snick of two metal objects faintly colliding.
But then the elevator arrived. Reece stepped in and began once again reciting his scrolls of lists silently to himself.
"I think we may have a misunderstanding," Taylor Lockwood said.
"Not really," returned the voice, also female though much older, from the phone.
Taylor dropped into her squeaky chair and rolled against the wall of her cubicle. Not really? What did that mean? She continued, "I'm the lead paralegal on the SCB closing. That's at four today."
It was 8:30 a.m., the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday, and she'd just arrived back here after a few hours' sleep at home, having spent most of the night at the firm, editing, assembling and stapling hundreds of documents for the closing this afternoon.
Ms. Strickland, on the other end of the line, said, "You've been reassigned. Something urgent."
This'd never happened that Taylor knew about. It was general knowledgeas solid as Newton's lawsthat a law firm partner was incapable of handling a business closing without the presence of the paralegal who'd worked on the deal. Law is manifest in the details, and a firm's paralegals are the gurus of minutiae.
The only reason for a last-minute reassignment was if a major screwup had occurred.
But Taylor Lockwood did not screw up and a cursory review of her ball-busting work on the case over the past weeks revealed no glitches the remedy for which would involve her summarily getting kicked off the deal.
"What're my options?" she asked the paralegal supervisor.
"Actually," the word stretching into far more syllables than it had, "there are no options."
Taylor spun her chair one way, then the other. A paper cut inflicted by a UCC security agreement last night had started to bleed again and she wrapped her finger in a napkin with a happy turkey printed on it, a remnant from a firm cocktail party the week before. "Why?"
"Mitchell Reece needs your help."
Reece? Taylor reflected. So I'll be playing with the big boys. . . . Good news, but still odd. "Why me? I've never worked for him."
"Apparently your reputation has preceded you." Ms. Strickland sounded wary, as if she hadn't known that Taylor had a reputation. "He said you and only you."
"Is this long-term? I'm taking a vacation next week. I'm scheduled to go skiing."
"You can negotiate with Mr. Reece. I mentioned your schedule to him."
"What was his reaction?"
"He didn't seem overly concerned."
"Why would he be? He's not the one going skiing." Blood seeping through the napkin had stained the turkey's smiling face. She pitched it out.
"Be in his office in an hour."
"What sort of project?"
A pause, while Ms. Strickland perhaps selected from among her quiver of delicate words. "He wasn't specific."