After Dark - 1995
Margolin's latest is part courtroom drama, part psychological thriller, part murder mystery, and part love story. But most of all, it's a whopping good read. Young lawyer Tracy Cavanaugh has just spent a year clerking for an Oregon Supreme Court justice and is ready for the big time. She has her pick of prestigious jobs, but she chooses to work for Matthew Reynolds, an eccentric, Abe Lincoln-type lawyer whose reputation is built on the fact that not one of his clients has ever received the death penalty. The first case Tracy works on with Matthew is a tragic one--Abbie Griffen, a brilliant prosecutor, is accused of killing her husband with a car bomb. Matthew, who has admired Abbie's skill in the courtroom for years, is convinced she's innocent. In fact, he thinks she's been framed by psycho Charlie Deems, a murderer Abbie put on death row years ago. Tracy is awed by Matthew's superb handling of the complex case, and she just knows he'll get Abbie off. But in the course of her background research, Tracy stumbles across information that could have shocking, maybe even lethal, consequences, and suddenly all that was right is horribly wrong as the case moves inexorably to an explosive climax that will leave readers breathless. Margolin hit the best-seller lists with Gone but Not Forgotten (1993), and he's sure to be back with this one. -- Emily Melton
From the Publisher
Gone, But Not Forgotten rocketed Phillip Margolin into the select company of million-selling novelists. Here he displays again the same genius for best-selling suspense in another intricate, breathtaking thriller of multiple murder in the legal community of the Pacific Northwest. Laura Rizzati, a law clerk for Oregon Supreme Court Justice Robert Griffen, is found slain late one night in the deserted courthouse. Her office is ransacked -- but nothing seems to be missing. There are no suspects and no clues. The following month Griffen himself is killed by a car bomb in the driveway of his Portland home. This time, though, there is a suspect: in a shocking turn of events, Abigail Griffen, star prosecutor in the Multnomah County District Attorney's office and estranged wife of Justice Griffen, is charged with first degree murder. With the same gripping suspense that drove Gone, But Not Forgotten onto the bestseller lists, this is a complex legal thriller with a truly startling ending.
A judge brutally murdered. A star prosecutor indicted. A dangerous obsession that emerges...
From New York Times-bestselling author Phillip Margolin comes a searing legal thriller that begins with two seemingly unrelated murders and ends in a chilling case of perverted justice.
The first woman ever hired by legendary defense lawyer Matthew Reynolds, Tracy Cavanaugh cuts her teeth on a horrifying crime: the car-bomb murder of Oregon Supreme Court Justice Robert Griffen. Reynolds's client--and the chief suspect--is none other than the icy but celebrated prosecutor Abigail Griffen, the Justice's estranged wife. Tracy's research plunges her into a web of betrayal and revenge, of secret deals and hidden passions. At the heart of the case lies a twisted truth--and when the verdict comes in, she will discover that nothing is as it seems...after dark.
Excerpt from After Dark:
The Multnomah County Courthouse occupied the entire block opposite Lownsdale Park. When it was completed in 1914, it had been the largest courthouse on the West Coast, as well as Portland, Oregon’s largest building. There were no Art Deco frills or spectacular walls of glass decorating its exterior. Those who were summoned to face their fate here entered a solemn, brutish building of riveted structural steel and forbidding gray concrete.
Tracy Cavanaugh was too excited to be intimidated by the somber exterior of the courthouse. Her job interview at the public defender’s office had ended at two-thirty, leaving her with a free afternoon. It would have been tempting to wander around Portland enjoying the balmy May weather, but Abigail Griffen was prosecuting a murder case and Tracy simply could not pass up an opportunity to watch one of the best trial lawyers in the state in action.
Potential employers had trouble taking Tracy seriously when they saw her for the first time. Today, for instance, she was wearing a lightweight navy-blue business suit that should have made her look like a young executive, but the suit highlighted a deep tan that conspired with Tracy’s lean, athletic figure, bright blue eyes and straight blond hair to make her look much more like a college cheerleader than a law clerk to an Oregon Supreme Court justice.
Tracy did not worry about those first impressions. It never took the interviewers long to conclude that they were dealing with a very smart cheerleader. Degrees with honors from Yale and Stanford Law, and the clerkship, made Tracy a prime candidate for any legal position and, at the conclusion of today’s interview, she had been offered a job. Now Tracy faced the pleasant predicament of deciding which of several excellent offers to accept.
When Tracy got out of the elevator on the fifth floor, the spectators were drifting back into the courtroom, where a young woman named Marie Harwood was being tried for murder. The courtroom was majestic with a high ceiling, marble Corinthian columns and ornate molding. Tracy found a seat seconds before the bailiff smacked down his gavel. A door opened at the side of the dais. Everyone in the courtroom stood. Judge Francine Dial, a slender woman with thick tortoiseshell glasses, took the bench. Most of the court watchers focused on her, but Tracy studied the deputy district attorney.
Abigail Griffen’s long legs, full figure and classic Mediterranean features made her stand out in the most elegant surroundings. In Judge Dial’s drab courtroom, her beauty was almost startling. The prosecutor was dressed in a black linen designer suit with a long, softly draped jacket and a straight skirt that stopped just below her knees. When Griffen turned toward the judge, her long black hair swept across olive-colored skin and her high cheekbones.
"Any more witnesses, Mr. Knapp?" Judge Dial asked Marie Harwood’s lawyer.
Carl Knapp uncoiled dramatically from his chair and cast a disdainful look at Griffen. Then he said, "We call the defendant, Miss Marie Harwood."
The slender waif seated beside Knapp at the defense table was barely over five feet tall. Her pale, freckled face and loose blond hair made her look childlike, and the ill-fitting dress made her look pathetic. She struck Tracy as being the type of person a jury would have a hard time convicting of murder. Harwood trembled when she took the witness stand, and Tracy could barely hear her name when Harwood stated it for the record. The judge urged the witness to use the microphone.
"Miss Harwood," Knapp asked, "how old are you?"
"How much do you weigh?"
"Ninety-eight pounds, Mr. Knapp."
"Now, the deceased, Vince Phillips, how much did he weigh?"
"Vince was big. Real big. I think around two seventy."
"Did he wrestle professionally at one time?"
"And how old was he?"
"Was Mr. Phillips a cocaine dealer?"
"When I was living with him, he always had a lot around."
Harwood paused and looked down at her lap.
"Would you like some water, Miss Harwood?" Knapp asked with fawning concern.
"No, sir. I’m okay now. It’s just . . . Well, it’s hard for me to talk about cocaine."
"Were you addicted to cocaine when you met Mr. Phillips?"
"Did you become addicted while you lived with Mr. Phillips?"
"Yeah. He hooked me."
"Real bad. Cocaine was all I thought about."
"Did you enjoy being an addict?"
Harwood looked up at Knapp wide-eyed. "Oh no, sir. I hated it. What it made me become and . . . and the things I had to do for Vince to get it."
Harwood shivered. "Sex things," she said quietly. "Did you ever try to resist Mr. Phillips’s sexual demands?"
"Yes, sir, I did. I didn’t want to do those things."
"What happened when you protested?"
"He . . ." She stopped, looked down again, then dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. This time, Harwood accepted a glass of water.
"Go ahead, Miss Harwood," Knapp said.
"He beat me up."
Harwood’s head hung down, her shoulders hunched and she folded her hands in her lap.
"He broke my ribs once, and he closed . . . closed my eye. Sometimes he beat me so hard I passed out."
Harwood’s voice was barely above a whisper.
"Did you go to the hospital after one of these beatings? Knapp asked.
"Yes, sir. That’s where I escaped."
"You ran away from the hospital?"
"They wouldn’t let him take me home. So I knew it was my only chance, ‘cause he kept me a prisoner when I was with him."
"Where did you go from the hospital?"
"Back to John John’s."
"Who is John John?"
"Now, Mr. LeVeque is also a drug dealer, is he not?"
"Why did you run to him?"
"Protection. He was who I was stayin’ with before I took up with Vince. He don’t . . . didn’t like Vince, and Vince was scared of John John."
"Did John John take you in?"
"Let’s move to the day that you killed Mr. Phillips. Can you tell the jury what happened around four-thirty in the afternoon?"
"Yes, sir. I’d been at John John’s for about two weeks and I guess I was starting to feel safe, so I went out for a walk. The next thing I knew, Vince’s car screeched up beside me and he jumped out and yanked me in it by my hair."
"Did you resist?"
Harwood shook her head slowly. She looked ashamed.
"It happened too quick. One second I was on the street, then I was on the floor of the car. Every time I tried to get up he’d pull my hair or hit me. Finally, I just stayed still."
"What happened when you got to his house?"
"He drug me into the bedroom."
"Please describe Mr. Phillips’s bedroom."
"It’s real big with this king-size water bed in the middle and mirrors on the ceiling. There’s a stereo and big-screen TV. And it’s weird. Vince painted it black and there are these black curtains around the bed."
"What happened in the bedroom?"
"He . . . He ripped off all my clothes. Just ripped them." Harwood started to cry. "I fought, but I couldn’t do nothin’. He was too big. After a while I just gave up. Then . . . then, he . . ."
"It’s okay Marie," Knapp said. "Just take your time."
Harwood took two deep breaths. Then, in a trembling voice, she said, "Vince made me get down on my
knees. Then he put cocaine on his . . . his thing. I begged him. I didn’t want to do it, but Vince just laughed. He grabbed me by the hair and made me. I . . . I had to suck it . . ."
Harwood broke down again. Her testimony was getting to Tracy and she wondered how the jurors were handling it. While the defendant regained her composure, Tracy glanced toward the jury box. The jurors were pale and tight-lipped. Tracy looked over at Abbie Griffen and was surprised to see the deputy district attorney sitting quietly, and apparently unconcerned, while Harwood stole her jury.
"What happened next?" Knapp asked when Harwood stopped crying.
"Vince raped me," she answered quietly. "He done it a couple of times. In between, he’d beat me. And . . .
and all the time he was screamin’ at me on how he was gonna kill me and cut me up."
"Did he tell you what he would use?"
"Yes, sir. He had a straight razor and he brung it out and held it to my face. I squeezed my eyes tight, ‘cause I didn’t want to see it, but he slapped me in the face till I opened them."
"After he raped you the last time, what happened?"
"Vince fell asleep."
"How did you finally escape?"
"It was the razor," Harwood said, shuddering. "He left it on the bed and forgot. And . . . and I took it, and I . . ."
Harwood’s eyes lost focus. She ran a hand along her cheek.
"I didn’t mean to kill him. I just didn’t want him to hurt me anymore." She turned pleading eyes toward the jury. "It was almost an accident. I didn’t even know the razor was there until I touched it. When I picked it up off of the bed Vince’s eyes opened and I was so scared, I just did it. Right under his chin is all I remember."
Harwood started to gulp air.
"Do you need a break, Miss Harwood?" Judge Dial asked, afraid Harwood might faint or hyperventilate.
The witness shook her head. Tears coursed down her cheeks.
"Marie," Knapp asked gently, "you’ve seen the autopsy photos. Mr. Phillips was cut many times on his body. Do you remember doing that?"
"No, sir. I just remember the first one, then it’s a blank. But . . . but I probably done that. I just can’t picture it."
"And why did you kill Mr. Phillips?"
"To get away. Just to get away, so he wouldn’t hurt me no more. And ... . and the cocaine. I didn’t want to be a slave to the cocaine no more. That’s all. But I didn’t mean to kill him."
Harwood buried her head in her hands and sobbed. Knapp looked at Griffen with contempt. In a tone that suggested a dare, he said, "Your witness, Counselor."
Just before Griffen rose to begin her cross-examination, the courtroom door opened. Tracy looked over her shoulder and saw Matthew Reynolds slip into a vacant seat in the rear of the court next to a prim gray-haired woman. As he sat down, the woman glanced toward him, then flushed and snapped her head back toward the front of the courtroom.
Tracy could understand the woman’s reaction, but it angered her. She supposed that Reynolds was used to those shocked first impressions and had conditioned himself to ignore them. Tracy’s own reaction to seeing Reynolds was not one of shock or disgust, but of awe. If she could pick any job in the country, it would be as Matthew Reynolds’s associate, but Reynolds had responded to her employment inquiry with a tersely worded letter that informed her that his firm was not hiring.
Reynolds was America’s most famous criminal defense attorney and his specialty was defending against death penalty prosecutions. He was a strange-looking man who had been battling the grim reaper in courtrooms across America for so long that he was starting to resemble his adversary. Six-five and gaunt to the point of caricature, Reynolds seemed always on the verge of collapsing from the weight he bore on his frail shoulders. Though he was only forty-five, his hair was ash gray and had receded well back from his high forehead. His paper-thin skin stretched taut across sunken cheeks and a narrow, aquiline nose. The skin was as pale as bleached bone, except for an area that was covered by a broad hemangioma, a wine-red birthmark that started at the hairline above Reynolds’s left eye, extended downward over his cheek and faded out above his upper lip. You would have thought that jurors would be put off by Reynolds’s odd looks, but by trial’s end they usually forgot them. His sincerity had been known to move jurors to tears. No one he represented had ever been executed.
Griffen started her cross-examination and Tracy turned back to the front of the courtroom.
"Do you feel up to continuing, Miss Harwood?" Griffen asked solicitously.
"I’m . . . I’m okay," Harwood answered softly. "Then let me start with some simple questions while you regain your composure. And anytime you want me to stop, just say so. Or if you don’t understand a question, just tell me, because I don’t want to trick you. Okay?"
"When you were living with Mr. Phillips, it wasn’t all bad times, was it?"
"I guess not. I mean, sometimes he could be sweet to me."
"When he was being sweet, what did you do together?"
"Drugs. We did a lot of drugs. We partied."
"Did you go out together?"
"Not a lot."
"When you did, what did you do?"
"Vince liked movies. We’d see lots of movies.
"What kind did Vince like?"
"Uh, karate movies. Action movies.
"Did you like them?"
"No, ma’am. I like comedy movies and romantic ones."
"You mentioned a stereo and a big-screen TV in the bedroom. Did you guys listen to music or watch TV?"
"You didn’t go to the police after you killed Mr. Phillips, did you?" Griffen asked, quickly shifting the subject.
"No, I was too scared."
"Where did you go?"
"I went back to John John."
"And that’s the gentleman you were staying with when we arrested you, a week and a half after you killed Mr. Phillips?"
"You were John John’s girlfriend before you took up with Mr. Phillips, weren’t you?"
"And he was a rival of Mr. Phillips in the drug trade?"
"When did you take the money, Miss Harwood?" Griffen asked without missing a beat.
"The thirty thousand dollars."
"What are you talking about?"
"Do you know Roy Saylor?"
"Sure. He was Vince’s friend."
"His crime associate."
"Roy’s going to testify that Vince was planning to buy two kilos of cocaine from his connection that evening for fifteen a kilo."
"He never mentioned that. He was too busy beating and raping me to mention business," Harwood answered bitterly.
"Roy will also testify that Vince went to the bank at four to take the money out of a safety-deposit box."
"That could be, too. I just never seen it."
"That’s fair. But if you took it, we’d understand. You’re terrified. He’s dead. You know you might have to run, so you take the money with you."
"Man, I wasn’t thinking about money. I just wanted out of there. If I wanted money, I’d’ve stayed. Vince was always generous with money. It just wasn’t worth it to me."
"He really scared you?"
"You bet he did."
"In fact, as I recall your testimony, Mr. Phillips abducted you, dragged you inside his house, stripped you right away and forced you to perform oral sex."
"Then he raped and beat you repeatedly and fell asleep?"
"This was one right after the other? He was either beating you or raping you?"
Harwood’s eyes were on the rail in front of her. Her nod was barely perceptible.
In her trial practice classes in law school, Tracy had been taught that you never gave an opposing witness a chance to repeat her testimony during cross-examination because it reinforced the story in the jurors’ minds. Tracy could not understand why Griffen had just repeated Harwood’s pathetic tale three times. She glanced over at Reynolds to catch his reaction. The defense attorney was leaning forward and his eyes were riveted on Griffen.
"There wasn’t a moment when you weren’t scared silly from the time he abducted you until you escaped, was there?" Griffen asked, giving Harwood yet another chance to tell her story.
"Either he was raping you or beating you or sleeping. How long do you figure this went on?"
"I don’t know. I wasn’t watching a clock."
"Well, there was a clock on the VCR on the big TV."
"Yeah, but I didn’t look at it."
"That’s a cable hookup Vince had, wasn’t it?"
"HBO, Pay-per-View, Showtime?"
Harwood looked uncomfortable. Tracy caught Reynolds out of the corner of her eye. He was frowning.
"You’ve watched that big TV with Vince, haven’t you?" Griffen asked.
"I told you he was beating me up."
"I’m sorry. I meant on other occasions."
"Yeah. He had all those movie channels."
"What’s your favorite movie, Miss Harwood?"
"Your Honor," Knapp said, playing to the jury, "I fail to see the relevance of this question."
"Miss Harwood does," Griffen answered.
Tracy studied the witness. Harwood looked upset. When Tracy looked over at Reynolds, he was smiling, as if he had just figured out an in joke that only he and Griffen understood.
"This is cross-examination, Mr. Knapp," Judge Dial said. "I’m going to give Ms. Griffen some latitude."
"Can you please answer the question?" Griffen asked the witness. "What is your favorite movie?"
"I . . . I don’t know."
The prosecutor took a letter-size sheet of paper out of a file.
"How about Honeymoon Beach? Have you seen that one?"
"Yeah," Harwood answered cautiously.
"Tell the jury what it’s about."
"Your Honor, this has gone too far," Knapp shouted as his client shifted nervously in the witness box.
"This is not the Siskel and Ebert show."
"I promise I will show relevance," Griffen told the judge, her eyes never leaving Marie Harwood.
"Overruled. You may continue, Ms. Griffen."
"Is Honeymoon Beach a comedy?" Griffen asked.
"About two honeymoon couples who swap mates at a resort?"
"Where did you see it, Miss Harwood?"
"In the movies."
Griffen walked over to Harwood. "Then you saw it twice," she said, handing the paper she was holding to the witness.
"What’s this?" Harwood asked.
"It’s a billing record of all the movies ordered on Pay-per-View from Vince Phillips’s phone. Honeymoon Beach showed from five-thirty to seven on the day you killed him. Someone ordered it at four-fifty using Mr. Phillips’s phone. Did you watch the movie before or after you slit his throat?"
"I didn’t watch any movie," Harwood insisted.
Reynolds stood up quietly and slipped out of the courtroom just as Griffen said, "Someone watched Honeymoon Beach, Ms. Harwood. According to your testimony, only you and Vince were in the house and the only Pay-per-View converter is in the bedroom. Did Vince order the movie while he was raping you or while he was beating you?"
"Never," Harwood shouted. "I told you we didn’t watch that movie."
"Or was it you who watched it while John John was torturing Mr. Phillips to find out where he hid the money.
Harwood glared at Griffen.
"Did you arrange to meet Vince after John John found out about the money? Did you get him in bed and slash his throat while he was watching Honeymoon Beach?"
"That’s a lie!" Harwood shouted, her face scarlet with rage. "I never watched no movie."
"Someone did, Marie, and someone ordered it by phone. Who do you think that was?"