|The Last Witness|
|Lou Mason Mystery |
|Joel Goldman (2002)|
|Tags:||Mystery, FICTION / Thrillers|
If you love the twists, turns and suspense of John Grisham's legal thrillers, you'll love The Last Witness!
"Fast, furious and thoroughly enjoyable, The Last Witness is classic and classy noir for our time, filled with great characters and sharp, stylish writing. "
--Jeffery Deaver, author of The Vanished Man and The Stone Monkey
"The Last Witness is an old fashioned, '40s, tough guy detective story set in modern times. There's a lot of action, loads of suspects, and plenty of snappy dialogue. It's a fun read from beginning to end."
--Phillip Margolin, author of The Associate and Wild Justice
Lou Mason is back and this time it's personal when his surrogate father, Homicide Detective Harry Ryman, arrests his best friend, Wilson "Blues" Bluestone, Jr., for murder. Mason unearths secrets someone will do anything to keep as he closes in on a desperate killer, setting himself up as the next target. Goldman goes Grisham one better!
"Joel Goldman has written another fast-paced legal thriller. Find a comfortable chair and plan to stay up late."
--Sheldon Siegel, Author of The Special Circumstances and Criminal Intent
"The Last Witness is a legal thriller written the way criminal law should be practiced: from the gut...one of the premier crime novels of the year."
--Jeremiah Healy, author of Turnabout and Spiral
Move over John Grisham! Joel Goldman is in the courthouse!
Don't miss the first book in the Lou Mason thriller series, Motion To Kill!
When two of his partners are killed, corruption, sex and murder fill trial lawyer Lou Mason's docket as he tracks the killer. Will Lou be the next victim? Found out in Motion To Kill, the action-packed,can't-put-it-down first book in the Lou Mason thriller series!
And grab Shakedown and The Dead Man, Joel Goldman's thrillers featuring FBI Special Agent Jack Davis!
When FBI Agent Jack Davis investigates a mass murder in Shakedown, a leak of crucial information and his imploding personal life throw him into the ultimate danger zone - where truth lies at the heart of betrayal.
When people in a study of the brain start to die exactly as they dreamed they would in The Dead Man, Jack Davis crosses paths with a serial killer, taking him onto both sides of the law and into the path of a murderer's terrifying rage.
Joel Goldman has written another fast-paced legal thriller. The plotting is tight, the dialogue is realistic and the characters are compelling. Find a comfortable chair and plan to stay up late. --Sheldon Siegel, Author of The Special Circumstances and Criminal Intent
Fast, furious and thoroughly enjoyable, The Last Witness is classic, and classy, noir for our time, filled with great characters and sharp, stylish writing. We better see more Lou Mason in the future. --Jeffery Deaver,author of The Vanished Man and The Stone Monkey
The Last Witness is an old fashioned, 40s, tough guy detective story set in modern times and starring a lawyer named Lou Mason instead of a private eye named Sam Spade. Theres a lot of action, loads of suspects, and plenty of snappy dialogue. Its a fun read from beginning to end. --Phillip Margolin, author of The Associate and Wild Justice
### About the Author
I'm in my fifth decade as a fourth generation Kansas Citian. I spent twenty-eight years as a trial lawyer and plan to spend at least as many as a writer. I started writing when one of my law partners complained about another and I suggested we write a murder mystery, kill the SOB off in the first chapter and spend the rest of the book figuring out who did it. So I did. Read the rest of the story on my website at www.joelgoldman.com.
THE LAST WITNESS
For Aaron, Danny, and Michele—the greatest kids ever.CHAPTER ONE
Jack Cullan’s maid found his body lying facedown on the floor of his study, his cheek glued to the carpet with his own frozen, congealed blood. When she turned the body over, fibers stuck to Cullan’s cheek like fungus that grows under a rock. His left eye was open, the shock of his death still registered in the wide aperture of his eyelid. His right eye was gone, pulverized by a .38-caliber bullet that had pierced his pupil and rattled around in his brain like loose change in the seconds before he died.
“Shit,” Harry Ryman said as he looked down on the body of the mayor’s personal lawyer. “Call the chief,” he told his partner, Carl Zimmerman.
Harry knew that Jack Cullan wasn’t just Mayor Billy Sunshine’s lawyer. He was a social lubricator, a lawyer who spent more time collecting IOUs than a leg-breaking bagman for the mob. For the last twenty years, getting elected in Kansas City had meant getting Cullan’s support. Anyone doing serious business with the city had hired him to get their deals done.
Harry guessed that Cullan was in his early sixties, dumpy from years spent avoiding physical exertion in favor of mental manipulation. Harry squatted down to examine Cullan’s hands. They were smooth, unlike the man’s reputation. Cullan had a Santa Claus build, but Harry knew the man couldn’t have played St. Nick without asking for more than he ever would have given.
Harry had been a homicide detective too long to remember ever having been anything else. He knew that the chances of solving a murder dropped like the wind chill after the first forty-eight hours. If time weren’t a powerful enough incentive, a politically heavy body like Jack Cullan’s would push his investigation into warp speed.
He gathered his topcoat around him, fighting off the cold that had invaded the study on the back side of Cullan’s house. The windows were open. The maid, Norma Hawkins, said she had found them that way when she arrived for work at eight o’clock that morning, Monday, December 10. The heat had also been turned off, the maid had added. An early winter blast had locked Kansas City down in a brutal snow-laced assault for the last week. Cullan’s house felt like ground zero.
“The chief says to meet him at the mayor’s office,” Zimmerman said, interrupting Harry’s silent survey of the murder scene.
“What for?” Harry asked, annoyed at anything that would slow down the investigation.
“I told the chief that somebody popped the mayor’s lawyer. He told me to sit tight, like I was going someplace, right? He calls back two minutes later and says meet him at the mayor’s office. You want to discuss it with the chief, you got his number.”
Carl Zimmerman had grown up fighting, sometimes over jabs about being a black man with a white man’s name, sometimes to find out who could take a punch. He and Harry had been partners for six years without becoming close friends. Harry was older, more experienced, and automatically assumed the lead in their investigations, a batting order he knew that Zimmerman resented. That was Zimmerman’s problem, Harry had decided. Zimmerman was a good cop, but Harry was a better one.
Harry wanted to get moving. He wanted to interview the maid, figure out how long Cullan had been dead before she found him, and backtrack Cullan’s activities in the hours before he was murdered. He wanted to talk to everyone Cullan had been with during that time. He wanted to search Cullan’s home, car, and office for anything that might lead him to the killer. The last thing he wanted to do was run downtown to promise the chief and the mayor that they would solve the crime before dinner. The next-to-last thing he wanted to do was deal with the chip on his partner’s shoulder.
“Here,” Harry said, tossing the keys to Zimmerman. “You can drive.”CHAPTER TWO
Lou Mason read about Jack Cullan’s murder in Wednesday morning’s
Kansas City Star
while the wind whipped past his office windows overlooking Broadway. In the spring, Mason would open the windows, letting the breeze wrap itself around him like a soft sweatshirt on a cool day. Wednesday morning’s wind was more like a garrote twisted around the city’s throat by Mother Nature turned Boston Strangler.
The story of Cullan’s murder was two days old but still front-page news. The reporter, Rachel Firestone, wrote that Cullan had been at the center of an investigation into the decision of the mayor and the Missouri Gaming Commission to approve a license for a riverboat casino called the Dream. The Dream had opened recently, docked on the Missouri River at the limestone landing where nineteenth-century fur traders had first thought to build the trading post that became Kansas City.
Cullan’s client, Edward Fiora, owned the Dream. Whispers that Cullan had secured the Dream’s license with well-orchestrated bribes of Mayor Sunshine and of Beth Harrell, the chair of the gaming commission, had circulated like tabloid vapor, titillating but unproved. The reporter had dubbed the brewing scandal the “Nightmare on Dream Street.”
Mason put the paper down to answer his phone. “Lou Mason,” he said. When he’d first gone into solo practice, he’d answered the phone by saying, “Law office,” until one of his clients had asked to speak to Mr. Office.
“I need you downstairs,” Blues said, and hung up.
Blues was Wilson Bluestone, Jr., Mason’s landlord, private investigator, and more often than Mason would like, the one person Mason counted on to watch his back. Blues owned the bar on the first floor, Blues on Broadway. He never admitted to needing anything, so Mason took his statement seriously.
Mason double-timed down the lavender-carpeted hallway, past the art deco light fixtures spaced evenly on the wall between the offices on the second floor. One office belonged to Blues, another to a PR flack, and a third to a CPA. They were all solo acts.
He bounded down the stairs at the end of the hall, bracing one hand on the wobbly rail, his feet just brushing the treads, making a final turn into the kitchen. The cold urgency in Blues’s voice propelled him past the grill almost too fast to catch the greasy scent of the Reuben sandwiches cooked there the night before. A sudden burst of broken glass mixed with the crack of overturned furniture and the thick thud of a big man put down.
“Goddammit, Bluestone!” Harry Ryman shouted. Harry hated bars and Blues too much to pay an early morning social call, especially on a day that would freeze your teeth.
Mason picked up his pace, shoved aside the swinging door between the kitchen and the bar, and plunged into a frozen tableau on the edge of disaster. Blues stood in the middle of the room surrounded by Harry Ryman and another detective Mason recognized as Harry’s partner, Carl Zimmerman, and a uniformed cop.
The beat cop and Zimmerman were aiming their service revolvers at Blues’s head. Another uniformed cop was on his knees next to a table lying on its side, surrounded by broken dishes, rubbing a growing welt on his cheek with one hand and holding a pair of handcuffs with the other.
Blues and Harry were squared off in front of each other, heavyweights waiting for the first bell. Harry’s dead-eyed cop glare matched Blues’s flat street stare. In a tale of the tape, it was hard to pick a favorite. Though half a foot shy of Blues’s six-four, Harry had a solid, barreled girth that was tough to rock. Blues was chiseled, lithe, and deadly. Harry carried the cop-worn look of the twenty years he had on Blues.
No one moved. Steam rose off the cops’ shoulders as the snow they had carried inside melted in the warmth of the bar. The wind beat against the front door, rattling its frame, like someone desperate to get inside. Blues was spring-loaded, never taking his eyes from Harry’s.
Mason spoke softly, as if the sound of his voice would detonate the room. “Harry?” Ryman didn’t answer.
The uniformed cop on his feet was a skinny kid with droopy eyes and a puckered mouth who’d probably never drawn his gun outside the shooting range and couldn’t control the tremor in his extended arms.
Carl Zimmerman was a compact middleweight who held his gun as if it were a natural extension of his hand, no hesitation in his trigger finger. His dark face was a calm pool.
The solidly built cop Blues had put on the floor had gotten to his feet, his block-cut face flush with embarrassment and anger, anxious for redemption and ready to take Blues on again. He took a step toward Blues, and Carl Zimmerman put a hand on his shoulder and held him back.
“You’re going down, Bluestone,” Harry said.
“I told your boy not to put his hands on me,” Blues answered.
“Officer Toland was doing his job and I’m doing mine. Don’t make this worse than it already is.”
“Harry?” Mason said again.
“This doesn’t concern you, Lou,” Harry answered, not taking his eyes off Blues.