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Chapter 30

For the first time since I met Quentin Avery, his face is taut with anxiety. The lawyer is sitting across from me in the main room of his penthouse suite at the Eola, his artificial foot resting on the floor, the bare stump of his lower leg crossed over his left knee.

This is fast, Quentin ruminates, really fast. You say Shad hand-carried the indictment over to the circuit clerk?

Thats what Caitlin told me. I spoke to Caitlin by phone again on my way from my house to the Eola, and she filled me in on the most recent developments of the case. There are two circuit judges in this town. The system ensures randomness by simple rotation, assigning each judge every other case thats filed. The problem is, every lawyer in town knows that. If a lawyer wants a particular judge for a case, he carries three cases to the clerks office. The first case he files is a stalking horse. If that case is assigned to the judge he doesnt want, the lawyer immediately files the case he wants to steer, and it goes to the judge he does want. But if the stalking horse goes to the judge that the lawyer does want, he has to file all three cases to steer the one he cares about to the right judge.

The true bills returned by a grand jury are normally filed as a group, Quentin says. But thats more a matter of convenience than anything.

If Shad carried Drews indictment over personally, he carried two other cases with him. You can bet your good foot that hes already steered Drews case to Judge Arthel Minor.

Then you can bet your ass that Arthel will schedule Drews case in the docket for the current term. The only question is how soon will it be.

Four weeks or less, I reckon. And now that Mayor Jones has stepped down, I look for it sooner rather than later.

Any sooner than two weeks, says Quentin, and even the man in the street will know Drews trial has nothing to do with justice.

Im not sure Shads worried about that. You said it yourself, his concern is the special election. That means making good on his promise to make the system equal, i.e., to nail a rich white man. Thats what will get Shad a unified black vote. I expect Judge Minor to move as fast as legally possible.

Quentin nods slowly. Why is the white sheriff lined up with Shad and Judge Minor? Did Shad promise him the black vote in the next election?

I dont think Shad can guarantee that. Im not sure what Billy Byrd hopes to get out of this, but its something. You can bank on that.

We should try to find out. It might give us an advantage.

I will.

When will we know about the trial date?

Caitlin has reporters at the circuit clerks office and Judge Minors chambers. If Arthel sets a trial date today, well know about it.

A trace of a smile touches Quentins lips. Kind of handy having the publisher of the newspaper on your side, isnt it?

Its a two-edged sword.

He nods thoughtfully. What the hell is Shad thinking? I know he has a hard-on to indict Dr. Elliott, but its not enough for him to want it bad. Something happened today that persuaded the grand jury to indict.

The DNA must be back, I conclude. Thats the only explanation.

Quentins eyes narrow, and then he nods slowly. If you pay a hefty rush fee, a private lab with a good sample can do the analysis in seventy-two hours.

Youre right.

Would Shad pay for that?

Hell, yes. And the timing just works.

Thats it, then, says Quentin. One of the samples matched Dr. Elliott, and that convinced the grand jury to indict.

I think theres more. If Shad paid a private lab for a rush job, he would have had both samples analyzed, the vaginal and the rectal. I close my eyes and try not to focus on any particular line of reasoning. That means hes got the data on our mystery man as well. The vaginal sample.

What could Shad learn from that? Quentin asks. They couldnt ID that sperm without someone to compare it to. Do you think it matched the Sayers boy? Or the fishermen maybe?

A small epiphany sends a tingle along my forearms. I open my eyes. No. What Shad could learn from that second semen sample is that our mystery man wasnt black. Ergo, that semen was not deposited by Cyrus White.

Son of a bitch, Quentin breathes. Son of a bitch!

There goes your reasonable doubt. I take a sip of coffee from the room service tray on the table between us.

Quentin closes his eyes and rubs the stump of his ankle. Maybebut maybe not.

Quentin, yesterday you told me DNA was subtle science. I know juries can get bored with technical testimony. But if Im right, this science is pretty simple and compelling. A black man didnt rape Kate Townsend. Thats a message that black jury members will love to hear. And the location of the crime scene away from Brightside Manor already screwed your chance to paint a scenario in which Kate was murdered there by Cyrus.

Goddamn it, Quentin mutters. What do we have that links Kate Townsend to Cyrus?

I can testify that Sonny Cross told me he saw her visit Cyrus at Brightside Manor while he was conducting surveillance operations.

Thats hearsay, unless you have videotape.

We may have the actual surveillance tape in our possession, but Im not sure yet. I havent had time to go through the tapes.

Thats your first priority. Do we have anything else?

An image of Kates journal rises in my mind, but Im still not prepared to reveal its existence. Not at this time. I stand and walk over to the window. Given what weve deduced here, does the second semen sample still look like reasonable doubt to you?

Shads case is still circumstantial, Quentin says firmly. Even Dr. Elliotts semen in the girls rectum doesnt place him at the crime scene.

But his car parked in that vacant lot damn near does. Shads case may be circumstantial, but it just might be strong enough for a conviction. I would have gone to court with it in Houston.

Quentin takes a sip of coffee and makes a face. There are only two possibilities for disaster. One, the police find physical evidence that links Dr. Elliott to the crime scene. Two, they find out that Dr. Elliott had the victim scoring dope for his wife.

Which brings up an even thornier question. Do you plan to put Drew on the stand?

Quentin closes his eyes like a man experiencing deep internal pain.

If they tie him to that crime scene, and he hasnt admitted that he was there, the jury wont believe a thing he says after that.

Thats a chance Im going to have to take, says Quentin. Im not putting him on the stand to tell the jury he found that girl dead and didnt report it to anybody.

Have you discussed this with Drew?

We havent gotten that far.

Ill bet you any amount of money that Drew will demand to tell the jury his side of the story.

Quentin goes absolutely still. Tell me hes not that stupid.

If hes innocent, thats what hell do.

If the police somehow tie him to the murder scene, Shad will have to let us know that before the trial. He has to, according to the rules of discovery. If that happens, Ill still have time to put Drew on the stand and let him tell his story. At least thats a margin of safety.

Is it? You said yourself that Shad would break the rules.

If he withholds evidence, its grounds for a mistrial.

I mull this over. Youre forgetting that Sheriff Byrd is on Shads side. What if Byrd were to pretend that his men found such evidence during the trial, and you hadnt admitted Drew was at the scene? Youd be screwed. Quentin, youre going to have to tell the truth. Drew is an innocent man whose adultery made him too afraid to report a murder. Youve got to admit he was at the scene from the start.

Quentin gives me a hard look. Thats not the road I want to take.

Your client may not give you any choice.

The lawyer laughs bitterly. NowI see why you brought me into this case. You know what a knucklehead your friend is.

Im about to bring up another problem when my cell phone rings. Its Caitlin.

Whats up?

Judge Minor just set the trial date, she says. Next Wednesday.

My blood pressure plummets. Did he make any official statement to the media?

No. I got this from a guy in the circuit clerks office.

Did you have to flirt to get it?

A little. She laughs. This is bad for Drew, isnt it?

Not necessarily. Call me if you get anything else. I hang up and set my phone on the coffee table.

Quentin watches me expectantly.

Next Wednesday.

His mouth falls open. Youre shitting me.

Wednesday, baby.

Ill give Shad credit. That little son of a bitch plays hardball.

Im afraid weve got another problem. As soon as Drew was indicted by the grand jury, that put him into the state system. That means he has to be transferred from police custody to the sheriffs department. The county jail. My guess is, Sheriff Byrd will move him today. He hasnt yet, because Chief Logan promised to warn me about any problems. But we need to warn Drew.

Worst-case scenario, Quentin says.

Billy Byrd locks Drew into an interrogation room without either of us there and sweats him under the lights.

Drew doesnt strike me as the type who would crack under that kind of pressure.

He wont crack, but his desire to explain his innocence might cause him to make statements against his interest.

Quentin shakes his head. Do you really think hed talk to the sheriff at this point without me present?

In a word? Yes.

Goddamn it. Quentin reaches down and begins strapping on his artificial foot. I thought doctors were supposed to save lives, not put you in an early grave.

I appreciate you doing this, Quentin.

The old lawyer looks up at me, his eyes curious. Tell me this. Now that Doug Jones has stepped down, are you going to announce for mayor?

I cant help but laugh. My significant other is not in favor of the idea.

Quentin finishes with the limb and sits up. Who wears the pants in your family, man?

That depends on the issue.

Well, no matter what you do, Shad has to wait until the end of the trial to announce. Thats why hes rushing this circus, and why Ive got less than a week to prepare for trial.


Quentin grins. Aint politics something?

Do you still feel the same about Cyrus White?

What do you mean?

You want me not to find him?

Quentin folds his arms and fixes his eyes on me with unsettling intensity. Do you really think Drew is innocent?

I do.

Then Ill tell you what I want. He picks up his car keys and jabs them at me. I want you to find me that girls killer. Fast.

Chapter 29 | Turning Angel | Chapter 31