Lisa Scottoline

Running From The Law

The third book in the Rosato and Associates series

For Kiki and Peter

with love


Any good poker player will tell you the secret to a winning bluff is believing it yourself. I know this, so by the time I cross-examined the last witness, I believed. I was in deep, albeit fraudulent, mourning. Now all I had to do was convince the jury.

“Would you examine this document for me, sir?” I said, my voice hoarse with fake grief. I did the bereavement shuffle to the witness stand and handed an exhibit to Frankie Costello, a lump of a plant manager with a pencil-thin mustache.

“You want I should read it?” Costello asked.

No, I want you should make a paper airplane. “Yes, read it, please.”

Costello bent over the document, and I snuck a glance at the jury through my imaginary black veil. A few returned my gaze with mounting sympathy. The trial had been postponed last week because of the death of counsel’s mother, but the jury wasn’t told which lawyer’s mother had died. It was defense counsel’s mother who’d just passed on, not mine, but don’t split hairs, okay? You hand me an ace, I’m gonna use it.

“I’m done,” Costello said, after the first page.

“Please examine the attachments, sir.”

“Attachments?” he asked, cranky as a student on the vocational track.

“Yes, sir.” I leaned heavily on the burled edge of the witness stand and looked down with a mournful sigh. I was wearing black all over: black suit, black pumps, black hair pulled back with a black grosgrain ribbon. My eyes were raccoony, too, but from weeks of lost sleep over this trial, which had been slipping through my manicured fingers until somebody choked on her last chicken bone.

“Give me a minute,” Costello said, tracing a graph with a stubby finger.

“Take all the time you need, sir.”

He labored over the chart as the courtroom fell silent. The only sound was the death rattle of an ancient air conditioner that proved no match for a Philadelphia summer. It strained to cool the large Victorian courtroom, one of the most ornate in City Hall. The courtroom was surrounded by rose marble wain-scotting and its high ceiling was painted robin’s-egg blue with gold crown molding. A mahogany rail contained the jury, and I stole another glance at them. The old woman and the pregnant mother in the front row were with me all the way. But I couldn’t read the grim-faced engineer who’d been peering at me all morning. Was he sympathetic or suspicious?

“I’m done,” Costello said, and thrust the exhibit at me in a Speedy Gonzales fit of pique. We don’t need no steenking badges.

“Thank you,” I said, meaning it. It was a mistake not to keep the exhibit. You’ll see why. “Mr. Costello, have you had an adequate opportunity to read Joint Exhibit 121?”


“This isn’t the first time you’ve seen these documents, is it, sir?” My voice echoed in the empty courtroom. There were no spectators in the pews, not even the homeless. The Free Library was cooler, and this trial was boring even me until today.

“Nah,” Costello said. “I seen it before.”

“You prepared the memorandum yourself, didn’t you?”

“Yeh.” Costello shifted in the direction of his lawyer, George W. Vandivoort IV, the stiff-necked fellow at the defense table. Vandivoort wore a pin-striped suit, horn-rimmed glasses, and a bright-eyed expression. He manifested none of the grief of a man who had buried his own mother only days ago, which was fine with me. I had rehearsed enough grief for both of us.

“Mr. Costello, did you send Exhibit 121 to Bob Brown, director of operations at Northfolk Paper, with a copy to Mr. Saltzman?”

Costello paused, at a loss without the memo in front of him. Who can remember what they just read? Nobody. Who would ask for the memo back? Everybody except an Italian male. “I think so,” he said slowly.

“And you sent Mr. Rizzo a blind copy, isn’t that correct, sir?”

He tried to remember. “Yeh.”

“Just so I’m clear on this, a blind copy is when you send a memo or letter to someone, but the memo doesn’t show that you did, isn’t that right?” A point with no legal significance, but juries hate blind copies.

“Yeh. It’s standard procedure to Mr. Rizzo, Mr. Dell’Orefice, and Mr. Facelli.”

Even better, it sounded like the Mafia. I glanced at one of the black jurors, who was frowning deeply. He lived in Southeast Philly on the ragged fringe of the Italian neighborhood, and had undoubtedly taken his share of abuse. His frown meant I had collected six jurors so far. But what about the engineer? I tried to look sadder.

Suddenly an authoritative cough issued from the direction of the judge’s paneled dais. “Ms. Morrone, I don’t appreciate what you’re doing,” snapped the Honorable Gordon H. Kroungold, a sharp Democrat who was elevated to the bench from an estates practice, where nobody would ever dream of exploiting someone’s death. At least not in open court. “I don’t appreciate what you’re doing at all.”

“I’m proceeding as quickly as I can, Your Honor,” I said, looking innocently up at the dais. It towered above my head, having been built in a time when we thought judges belonged on pedestals.

“That’s not what I meant, Ms. Morrone.” Judge Kroungold smoothed down a triangle of frizzy hair with an open hand. He wetted his hair down with water every morning, but after the second witness it would reattain its loft. “It’s your demeanor I’m having a problem with, counsel.”

Stay calm. Your mother’s not even cold, poor baby. “I’m afraid I don’t understand, Your Honor.”

Judge Kroungold’s dark eyes glowered. “Approach the bench, Ms. Morrone. You, too, Mr. Vandivoort.”

“Of course, Your Honor,” Vandivoort said, jumping up and hustling over. His mother’s death had put such a spring into his step that he almost beat me to the dais. An inheritance, no doubt.

“Ms. Morrone, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Judge Kroungold asked,

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