“Why did you come here?” Kala whispered, her shrieking over.

“I owed you and your client a face-to-face. You can show her the DVD when you think it’s time. She was an exceptional nurse. She actually cared about Audrey, which is more than I can say I did. Because of that, I want to give you this.” The skeletal hand reached into the inside pocket of his cashmere jacket and withdrew a folded set of papers. “My last will and testament. I’m leaving everything I own, which is substantial, beyond substantial actually, to Sophie Lee. I have appointed you, Ms. Aulani, as my personal representative to see that my will is carried out the way I want it to be.”

“You can’t inherit if you kill someone,” Jay said through clenched teeth.

“I didn’t inherit a single dime when she died. Almost immediately after we were married, she put everything in my name. She said it was a wedding gift. We were very much in love. We had our whole lives ahead of us. We were ‘as one,’ was how she put it. She trusted me to handle her fortune for the both of us. The Star fortune already belonged to me at her death and had for some time. Therefore, I can leave it to whomever I choose, and I choose to leave it to Sophie Lee to make up for what I’ve done. I know Audrey would approve.”

“Ryan Spenser?”

“I always suspected he knew I killed Audrey, but he was never able to prove it. On more than one occasion, he said the media would love the other-woman part of it, as they would never believe that Sophie and I were not having an affair. More meat, more fodder for the nightly news. He was right, and it was the trial of the century.

“Ryan Spenser became the golden boy. He rolled along, winning every case he tried after that one. I never saw him after the trial, but about six months ago I got a personal letter from him asking me if I would consider backing him in his run for governor next year. He, of course, didn’t know I was ill, and I’ve been housebound since. If what you’re asking me specifically is if he knew he was prosecuting an innocent woman, I would say yes. But that is just my opinion. He had the facts going for him. It was either her or me, and like I said, he couldn’t prove I did it. That left only Sophie Lee, and he convinced a jury of seven men and five women that she did it.”

This time the words did exhaust Adam Star. Before he closed his eyes, he pressed a button on his watch. Two male nurses barreled into the room, took one look at their patient, and scooped him up. They were out the door in thirty seconds, their patient in their arms, leaving behind three stupefied lawyers.

Kala was the first to speak, her eyes wide with wonder as she stared at the box on the top of her desk labeled SOPHIE LEE in permanent black marker. “My mind isn’t working right now, so will someone please tell me what day today is?”

“Your retirement day, Kala,” Linda said.

Jay knew exactly what Kala meant. His voice was pitched so low, Kala had to strain to hear the words. “It’s Tuesday, Kala.”

Kala lowered herself into the leather chair with the crack running down the middle. Gradually, she was able to focus. She reached for the stiff blue paper that covered Adam Star’s last will and testament. She had to clear her throat twice before she could get the words out past her tongue. “Set up the DVD. I want to see what’s on it. But first I want to read this will. If that bastard lied to us, I will kill him myself.”

It took no time for Kala to read through the short, simple will. Everything appeared to be in order. She sifted through the legalese. Two persons had signed, attesting to having witnessed Adam Star’s signature. It was in order and dated exactly one week prior. Everything Adam Star owned, compliments of his dead wife, Audrey Star, now belonged to Sophie Lee. Or would belong to Sophie Lee one moment after Adam Star’s passing. Everything he owned amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in stocks, bonds, real estate, and, of course, 51 percent of Star Enterprises, whatever that happened to be. Somewhere there was a yacht moored, a corporate Learjet parked somewhere else, a helicopter grounded on some helicopter pad God only knew where, two cigarette boats worth $100,000 each, berthed in Key Biscayne, Florida, and a fleet of high-end cars to the tune of $5 million. Among the listed real estate were the mansion Audrey Star had died in, a ski resort in Aspen, Colorado, and a mountaintop estate in Hawaii, overlooking the Pacific. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. The real-estate holdings ran to six pages and represented so many zeros, Kala felt light-headed.

The joke was feeble at best and didn’t even draw a smile from Kala, when Jay said, “Guess Sophie can pay our bill now if this is on the up-and-up.”

Kala shook her head. “We took the case pro bono, and that’s the way it stays. My God, how do we tell this to Sophie?”

“Well, I don’t think we should say anything at all to her until… until they shovel the last bit of dirt on that bastard’s coffin. I’m not sure I’m buying all of this,” Jay said.

“What part aren’t you buying, Jay?” Kala asked.

Jay threw his hands high in the air. “The whole damn thing. Guys like Adam Star don’t have a conscience. They take crap like this to their graves. The man didn’t give two shits that a young girl got sent to prison for life. For life, Kala! Now, because he’s dying, he wants to make nice. Be forgiven! Like Sophie is going to forgive him for taking ten years of her life, leaving her with no hope for a future? She has to hate his guts. How could she not hate that bastard? I don’t think the word forgiveness is in her vocabulary these days.”

Kala leaned back and steepled her fingers. “I think you’re wrong. Sophie’s bitch is going to be with Ryan Spenser, not with Adam Star. She knew just the way we knew that Adam was guilty. All three of us tried to convince Spenser of that, and he turned a deaf ear. Sophie will take the position that Adam tried to make it right in the end, mark my words. When Spenser finds out, if he doesn’t already know, he’s going to blow a gasket. And you can take that one to the bank. I think now that this has happened, it’s why he was planning on attending my retirement luncheon. To see if I knew about it.”

“Boy, what a shame that you’re leaving for that six-month retirement vacation tomorrow,” Jay said slyly as he winked at his wife. Linda did her best not to laugh out loud at Kala’s expression. “Okay, let’s view this cinematic masterpiece.” Jay pressed a button, and Adam Star’s face filled the screen.

No more than three minutes in length, the video was painful to watch. Everything Adam Star had said in the office was now verbalized, with a face to make it real. At the end, his lawyer, a man named Clayton Hughes, and two witnesses verified the date, the time, and the fact that they were in attendance when the DVD was made.

Jay turned the machine off, popped the DVD, and slipped it into a plastic sleeve. “I think this should go in the safe. I also think we should burn maybe, let’s say, three extra copies. Just for… whatever.”

Kala nodded in agreement. “And to think today is Tuesday!” she said. “You’re right, we’ll sit on this until… well, until Mr. Star goes to meet his maker. In the meantime, I’m canceling my reservations for tomorrow. Linda, do me a favor and call Ben and tell him I’ll meet him outside the courthouse in an hour.”

“It will be my pleasure, Kala. Are you sure we can’t let Sophie know?” Linda asked.

Before Kala could say anything, Jay piped up. “We’re sure.”

Again Kala nodded.

Chapter 2

NOW THAT SHE WAS ON THE COURTHOUSE STEPS, KALA ASKED herself why she had picked this destination to meet with her longtime significant other. “Because I’m in a state of shock and not thinking clearly, that’s why,” she muttered to no one in particular. She hoped Ben wouldn’t keep her waiting, because it was just too damn hot to be standing out in the boiling sun.

She saw him then, and he looked just the way a judge is supposed to look. Well, a retired judge. Ben Jefferson was tall, six foot two in his bare feet. He was lean and trim, with snow white hair and a deep tan. He had a killer smile that he was fond of saying was just for Kala. Oh, he could scowl with the best of them but never at Kala, the love of his life. He was smiling now as he waved from the bottom of the tier of steps. “Missed you at your going- away party, my dear. My car is full of exquisitely wrapped presents. Just for the record, no one believed even for a minute that you had a belly ache. You don’t, do you?” he asked, suddenly concerned.

Kala could never lie to this man; she loved him too much. “I didn’t at the time, but I do now. Let’s walk over to Snuffy’s. I need a drink. A big drink.”

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