In Her Defense
By Stephen Horn
Published by
Cliff Street Books/Harper Collins 
May 2000; 0-06-019440-5; 416 pages

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In Her Defense by Stephen HornCHAPTER ONE

I was thinking about destiny when Harry Gregg appeared in the doorway. It could have been a coincidence.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for an honest lawyer."

"Have you looked in Baltimore?"

"You'll do." Harry eased into the chair, set down his coffee, and laced his fingers across his vest. He was taking his usual moment to survey my desk when his gaze fell on the front page of the Post. "Been reading about the Ashley Bronson thing?" he asked. "Some story, huh? "

"You sound like that news anchor I heard this morning: 'Stay tuned for more on the Ashley Bronson case.'"

"So?"

"So, when Kennedy was killed, they didn't call it the 'Lee Harvey Oswald case."'

He blinked. "If I may paraphrase a former senator," he said, grinning, "Raymond Garvey was no Jack Kennedy."

"He was a former Secretary of Commerce, a leader of trade delegations, and served on a dozen boards. The man's not even cold and he's a footnote in the story of his own murder."

Harry snorted, then leaned over and stabbed the Post with his forefinger. "He didn't look like that," he said, "and she's better known."

I looked at the photograph. He had a point: nobody looked like that, even in handcuffs. She'd been the darling of the Post's "Style" section for years: parties, travels, romances real and rumored. A lot of people dreamed about her life, or just being part of it. But no one dreamed about the Secretary of Commerce.

"She's got the perfect name, too," I conceded. "A marquee name for a real-life melodrama. Do you think there could be a link between your name and your destiny?"

 

He shrugged. "I suppose."

"Think about it, Harry. Jonas Salk couldn't throw a spiral and there's no Johnny Unitas vaccine." He stared at me, creases forming across his forehead. "You don't know who Johnny Unitas was, do you?"

He spied the puck that doubled as a coaster. "A hockey player?"

"Never mind. What's up?" It was too early in the week for his big brother act, usually featured on Friday afternoons when he ambled into my office, propped his loafers on my government surplus desk, and launched into his continuing seminar on life, liberty, and the pursuit of wealth. After my wife left me for American Express I endured those sessions as penance, but eventually came to think of them as just part of the rent.

"Frank," he said, "you're not making any money."

"I've got the Giants next weekend plus three."

He laughed. "The partners here care about you, fella. Three years ago we leased you this office and threw in the facilities and our best wishes. The rent was modest. It wasn't an economic proposition for us, just an opportunity to help a deserving guy get ... get going."

"I appreciate that, Harry."

"We know you do." He set down his mug, taking a moment to align the handle with the edge of the desk. "Here's how we see it. The people here like you and respect your skills. From time to time, we've had occasion to send you some business and we've been glad to do it."

I didn't like the tense of his verbs.

"The firm is growing," he continued. "We need an experienced litigator to back up Marty and you've demonstrated the skills we're looking for. Besides,"-he winked-"you're already here. We can save the headhunter's fee." We smiled at each other and he became earnest. "The fit makes sense, Frank. All things considered, we can't offer you a partnership right now. We're thinking of an 'of counsel' position for a couple of years and then we'll all take stock."

"Of counsel, then take stock," I repeated.

"Right. Look, I know Marty's got a way about him but we think it can work." He picked up his mug again and peered at me over the rim.

Marty did indeed have a way about him: the way of the asshole. A few years ago I might've mentioned it, but I was maturing-that or just getting nervous about how I'd end up. "I'm flattered, Harry," I said, "and I'm grateful for everything. But I'm going to have to think about it to be sure it's the right fit-for all concerned." A mature response: I would weigh this option against the others-as soon as I figured out what they might be.

Harry took off his glasses and began to clean them with the end of his tie. "Frank, a couple of things," he said deliberately. "We need to do something soon. And to be completely candid,"-he examined his lenses-"some of the partners have grown a bit uncomfortable with your clients passing through the offices."

Two months before, after a series of thefts, the office manager called security when she saw a suspicious character in a black leather jacket, green pants, and sneakers pass by her desk. I was strolling in from lunch when I heard the confrontation in progress. One voice, something like the sound of squealing brakes, warned, "Don't touch me, motherfucker! I am here to see my lawyer!" Figuring he had trapped his prey, the security guard asked him who his lawyer was. The suspect surveyed the landscape over the guard's shoulder and shouted, "Him!" his long finger bisecting my chest. The crowd turned on me. "Save the conference room," I quipped, "we'll use my office." No one laughed. Harry himself had taken to shadowing my clients in the hallways.

I was still groping for a response to the warning when my secretary appeared. "The clerk's office called," she announced. "You've got a case." My bread and butter: a court appointment...

Copyright © 2000 Stephen Horn
Reprinted with permission.

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Synopsis

A lawyer with an appetite for risk.
A gorgeous socialite accused of murder.
It's the case of a lifetime--
if only she were innocent.

Following in the blockbuster tradition of Scott Turow and Richard North Patterson comes Stephen Horn and In Her Defense, an intense, riveting debut thriller with a twist.

Frank O'Connell's need to live on the edge cost him his family, his home, and a partnership in his father-in-law's prestigious Washington firm. Now he combs the cell blocks for clients and wonders if he's sunk too low ever to come back. His ex-wife wants to see less of him, his therapist wants to see more, and his last link to professional survival just gave him an ultimatum.

Then into his office walks Ashley Bronson. The murder of a former cabinet official has just propelled her from the society column to the front page, and, inexplicably, she wants Frank to defend her. She hands him her case, followed by her confession and some damning physical evidence. Frank thinks his biggest challenge is her guilt. He's got a lot to learn.

Ashley's admission proves just another detail in a defense in which ethics are bent and morals compromised. As the trial date looms closer, the government's case seems insurmountable. A desperate Frank hits upon an inspired strategy-and unwittingly becomes a threat to people in high places when he unravels a tangled web of events that began a generation ago.

Their personal lives in tatters and confronted by forces they don't understand, besieged lawyer and client have only each other -as the courtroom battle begins.

In this fast-paced legal thriller, former federal prosecutor Stephen Horn brings his knowledge of law and government to stunning life with this absorbing tale of love, betrayal, and murder that is sure to be one of the most entertaining and engrossing stories of the year.

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Author

Stephen Horn was born in the Bronx, New York, and received an engineering degree from Rutgers University. He commanded an infantry company of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. As a prosecutor in the justice Department's Civil Rights Division, he tried criminal cases and participated in some of the department's most famous investigations, including the killing of four Kent State students by the Ohio National Guard and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now in the private practice of law, he lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife and two children.

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