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Reading guides are available for all four Molly Blume titles.
 

 

 

 

Speak No Evil

Chapter One

Back to Speak Main | Reviews |

The witness, a slim, waiflike woman dwarfed by her surroundings and by fear, sat rigid on the stand, her tightly locked hands resting on her lap like a paperweight that would keep her from floating away. Her tongue made darting, stealthy sweeps of her upper lip, and her eyes avoided the defense counsel table and the attorney who was about to cross-examine her.

The woman had every reason to be nervous, Debra Laslow thought with a surge of sympathy as she shifted on the hard, cushionless bench in the spectator's gallery. Being questioned by Madeleine Chase was like having Hannibal Lecter for a dinner guest. The attorney's hand was resting familiarly on her client's shoulder, and she was whispering in his ear, probably reminding him what Debra reminded her own clients:

"Look interested, but not worried. Don't react to anything the witness says. No anger, no scowls. Don't bite your nails. Don't fidget. Don't slump."

According to a reliable source, Madeleine had warned a client charged with rape that if he smirked at the witness or anyone on the jury, she'd castrate him herself.

"What did the client say?" Debra had asked the source.

"'Just get me off, bitch.'"

There were many stories about Madeleine.

The witness pushed a section of straight brown hair behind her ear--a sign of nervousness Debra thought must have pleased Madeleine, whose honey-blond hair, arranged in her trademark French twist, drew attention to her dramatic good looks.

Madeline rose. There was something sensual about the fluid movement of her limbs as she slid out of her chair; there was something artificial, too, as if she'd practiced the move to create just the right effect on the people filling the rows behind her, watching her. She closed the single button of a beautiful dove gray Donna Karan suit jacket that Debra had almost bought at Saks and passed the prosecution table. She detoured in front of the jury box and ran her hand along the railing, caressing the dark wood, then approached the podium and smiled at the twenty-seven-year-old woman whose credibility she was about to destroy.

"Miss Parnell, isn't it a fact....?"

A half hour later the judge declared a recess. Debra exited the courtroom and the adjoining small foyer and stood to the left of the wood-grain door. Several minutes later Madeleine emerged, swinging her charcoal gray alligator briefcase. She looked unruffled, unlike the witness she'd reduced to uncertainty and tears with a skill that had aroused in Debra admiration and a flash of uncomfortable envy.

Madeleine made her way down the low-ceilinged hall, followed by a Los Angeles Times crime reporter Debra recognized. She waited until he'd abandoned his prey; then, suppressing a flash of nervousness intensified by the perpetual gloominess of the hall's dim fluorescent lighting, she caught up with Madeleine. She was surprised, as always, to see that she and Madeleine were the same height--five feet five inches. From a distance Madeleine seemed taller, more imposing.

"Can I speak to you, Madeleine?" She kept her voice low, but it sounded unnaturally loud as it echoed off the brown ceramic-tiled walls. A handful of people were nearby--some standing, some sitting on the uncomfortable dark brown plastic benches that lined the walls; the Times reporter was hovering within earshot.

Madeleine stopped. "I was surprised to see you in the courtroom, Debra. So what did you think of my cross?" She smiled.

"Very effective." Debra returned the smile, resisting an impulse to smooth her shoulder-length, wavy dark brown hair which was never as sleek as Madeleine's. "I was filing a motion next door and knew you were here. I need to speak to you, in private. Can we go somewhere for a few minutes?"

"Sorry, I have an appointment." Another smile. "You can call me later. Unless you want to talk about it now?"

Was it Debra's imagination, or had the reporter inched closer? "When we had lunch two weeks ago, I mentioned I'd applied for the opening at your firm. I was turned down, and I wondered if you'd heard why."

The letter had arrived at home yesterday. Debra, anxious to leave her firm, had been sharply disappointed and stunned, because everything--the initial interview, the fancy dinner in the fancy restaurant with the partners, the subsequent conversation--had been so promising.

Madeleine sighed. "We're the top firm in the city because we're so selective. The fact is, Debra, when the partners asked me about you, I suggested they could do better. Sorry, but I assumed you'd want the truth." Her tone was matter of fact, her gray eyes cool, unblinking, but the pull of her lips betrayed triumph.

Debra stared at her. "You wished me good luck," she said softly. Her face stung with humiliation and anger--at Madeleine, for her duplicity and cruelty; at herself, for having been gulled by Madeleine's "Let's be friends" phone call into believing that after years of being ruthlessly competitive and nasty and confrontational, the woman had changed.

"I wish opposing counsel good luck, too. They need it." Her eyes traveled dismissively from Debra's face to her taupe suit, then back to her face. "James Brand is doing seven years, isn't he? Poor man. I'm sure you gave his case your very best." She shook her head.

Debra clenched her hands. "No one could have gotten Brand off. Not even you." Don't rise to her bait, she told herself.

Madeleine answered with another smile. "Face facts, Debra. You're a mediocre attorney with unrealistic expectations. You've been trying to compete with me since we were at UCLA Law. It was pathetic then. Now it's annoying."

"You really have a problem, don't you?" Debra turned to leave.

"I'm just being honest." Madeleline raised her voice. "Better lawyers than you are scrambling for jobs. Stay with the firm that hired you, and be grateful. By the way, do they know you're scouting around?"

Anxiety stabbed at Debra. Turning back, she said, "No wonder people dislike you, Madeleine. Aside from your parents, I can't imagine anyone putting up with you, and they didn't have a choice."

Madeleine flinched. Debra was sorry the minute she spoke the words, sorry even before she remembered that Madeleine had grown up in foster homes until the Chases had adopted her. Hot with embarrassment, she reached out a tentative hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean--"

"Being a rabbi's daughter hasn't taught you any values, has it? You're a mediocre person as well as a mediocre lawyer."

Anger or hurt--maybe both--had flooded Madeleine's face with color. She turned abruptly and walked away. Dbra watched her for a moment, waiting for the briefcase to resume its confident swing, but Madeleine was still clutching it against her side as she turned right toward the bank of elevators.

 

Speak No Evil, (ISBN: 0-446-40505-1), a Mysterious Press paperback, is out of print. You can look for it at abebooks or half.com. Or check the Deadly Directory at the Cluelass website for a list of bookstores that carry out-of-print and used books.

 

 

On sale October 25
($13.95)



In paperback

 

 

 


All Molly Blume titles available from Audiobookstand.com