The interview room in the basement of the Roundhouse was rectangular and airless, a dingy bank of cubicles where attorneys met with clients. Grimy wood paneling covered the walls, which were plastered with curling notices in English and Spanish. The NO SMOKING sign bore a cigarette burn, the ceiling sagged around the brown water stain in the corner, and the blue-grey paint on the interview cubicles was covered with pen marks. Phone numbers tattooed its surface and the largest scrawling read GLORIA LOVES SMOKEY, TLF.
There were no other lawyers there except Mary and Judy, and they sat on one side of a smudgy sheet of bulletproof plastic while Jack Newlin was brought in on the other. He was so attractive that Mary felt herself straighten involuntarily when she saw him. Newlin was tall, broad-shouldered, and well built; comfortable with himself in an attractive way and handsome but for the anxiety straining his features. A furrowed brow hooded light blue eyes and crow's-feet wrinkled their corners, tugging his expression down into a frown. His full mouth was a flat line, and a shadow the color of driftwood marred his strong jaw. But Jack Newlin was a man who wore even stubble well. He reminded Mary of Kevin Costner, only smart.
'Thanks for coming, ladies,' Newlin said, sitting down. Handcuffs linked his wrists in front of him against a white paper jumpsuit. 'But you both really didn't have to bother. I only need one lawyer. Which of you answered the telephone?'
'We both talked to you,' Mary answered. She introduced herself, then Judy to her right. 'For a murder case, we work as a team.'
'I appreciate that, but I won't be needing a team. Who did I talk to first on the phone? Was that you, Mary?'
'Uh, yes.' Mary looked at Judy, who gave her a go-ahead nod. Still Mary didn't want to go ahead. 'But I can't handle this case alone, Mr Newlin. I don't have much experience with homicide cases, not as much as Bennie Rosato or lots of other lawyers in town.'
Newlin smiled easily. 'First, please call me Jack. Secondly, you answered my questions honestly on the phone, as you are now, and I don't need a lawyer with decades of experience. I want you to be my lawyer.'
Mary felt her neck flush at the praise. That it came from a total hunk gave her a charge she couldn't quite ignore. 'Mr Newlin, Jack -'
This will be a simple case. I won't need much firepower. I intend to plead guilty. The truth is, I killed my wife. I did it.'
Mary fell momentarily speechless. Had she heard him right? His words hung between them in the air. 'You did it?' she repeated, in shock.
'Yes. The police questioned me and I told them everything. I confessed.'
Mary met his gaze, and though she had never looked into the eyes of a murderer, she didn't expect them to be so gorgeous. Of course, Ted Bundy had gorgeous eyes, too. Maybe gorgeous eyes should be on the killer profile. 'Slow up a minute,' she said, trying to get her bearings. 'You spoke to the police? Why?'
'I was wrong, I guess. Disoriented. Thought I could answer a few questions and be done with it. I know it was stupid. I called them from the scene. Maybe it was the Scotch.'
'Scotch?' Mary would never have pegged him for a drinker.
'Maybe it's best if I tell you what happened, from the beginning?'
'Hold on, are you drunk now?'
'Were you drunk when you spoke to the police?'
'Not at all. I had only a few drinks.'
Two, I think. I feel fine. Does it matter, legally?'
Mary had no idea. 'Yes, it does. That's why I asked. Now, go on, tell us what you told them.' She fumbled for her briefcase and dug around for a ballpoint and a fresh legal pad. 'Let me just get it down,' she said, uncapping her pen as he started to talk. She recorded everything he said while Judy listened silently. When he was finished, Mary asked, 'Did you tell all of this to the police?'
'Yes, I told them everything.'
'Did they read you your Miranda warnings?'
'Yes. They gave me a waiver sheet, too. Two sheets, which I signed and answered.'
Mary glanced at Judy, who shook her head. Trouble. 'I think that means it's a valid confession. Did they take down what you said?'
'Yes, and they videotaped me.'
'What else did they do?' She knew only the TV basics of police procedure. The law according to Steven Bochco.
'Fingerprinted me. Took a hair and skin sample. They took pictures of me, in my suit, and of my hands. There's a cut on my hand from the knife. They took twelve pictures of it, I think. They took my clothes, because they had blood on them. They scraped samples of my wife's blood off my hands and clothes.'
Mary was appalled, but hid it. Even a short legal career had perfected her false face. 'You had your wife's blood on you?'
'Yes.' He glanced away, and Mary noticed that when he looked up, he didn't meet her eye. 'Also they wrote up a statement, but I didn't sign it.'
Mary's pen paused over the paper. 'I don't understand. You confessed, but you didn't sign the statement?'
'Yes, and I asked to call a lawyer.'
'Why confess, then call a lawyer?'
'I changed my mind. All of a sudden, I wasn't sure I should confess. I realized maybe I couldn't represent myself. I had thought I could handle it, being a lawyer myself, at Tribe.'
'You're a lawyer at Tribe?' she asked, shocked. Tribe amp; Wright was law-firm royalty, almost as pretentious as Stalling amp; Webb, where she and Judy used to work. Jack Newlin had to be very smart, so why had he acted so stupidly? And violently? It didn't square.
'Yes, I head the estates department. After I told the police what had happened, they started asking me questions and I realized I was out of my depth. I wanted to talk to a criminal lawyer before I signed the confession. I figured I could plead guilty, and with a criminal lawyer, I could get the best deal.'
'Why did you talk to the police at all? As a lawyer, you had to know not to.'
'I was emotional, I was all over the place, but I'm not expecting miracles from you. I don't expect you to get me off. As I said, I'm fully prepared to plead guilty.' His tone remained calm and even commanding, but his eyes seemed uneasy to Mary. His jaw clenched and unclenched, suggesting buried emotion.
'Mr Newlin, Jack, I see why you want to plea bargain. They'll have a ton of evidence against you. But it's kind of premature to talk about pleading anything now.'
Mary didn't know. It seemed like common sense. 'It's common sense. I'm not sure what kind of deal we can get you at this point. First, you confessed, and they have the videotape, so your bargaining power is already low. Secondly, you have a preliminary hearing coming up, which is where they have to prove they have enough evidence to hold you.' She was remembering from her bar review course. Had the Constitution been amended when she wasn't looking? 'Why should we try to bargain before then? In the meantime, we can do our own investigation.'
'We always do our own investigation for the defense.' At least they had on Steere and Connolly, Mary's universe of experience with murder cases.
'But I told you what happened.'
'We have to learn about the evidence against you.' For verification, Mary glanced at Judy, who smiled yes. 'We have to understand the prosecution's case against you with regard to degree and possible penalties. We need a colorable defense to threaten them with. We can't bargain from weakness.'
'Hear me, Mary. I want this over with now.' Jack's mouth set in a firm line, and Mary frowned in confusion.
'But it's not usually the defendant who benefits from a rush to judgment, it's the Commonwealth. Rushing hasn't helped you so far. If you had called us before you talked to the police, you wouldn't be in this predicament, We're talking about a possible death penalty, do you realize that?'
He seemed to gloss over the statement. 'I want it over with because I want my family affected as little as possible. I have a daughter, Paige, a sixteen-year-old who's a model. She's still got a career if this blows over quickly and quietly. She doesn't even know that her mother is dead. In fact, I'd like you to go to Paige's apartment and tell her. I don't want her to hear it from TV or the police.'
'Her apartment? She doesn't live at home?'
'No. Paige has her own place. Her condo is right in Society Hill, it's not far.' Jack rattled off an address that Mary jotted down. 'Please go after we're finished here. Can you imagine hearing the news from the police?'
Mary met his gaze again, and his eyes focused intently, suddenly lucid with concern. Could someone who had killed his wife worry this much about their daughter? It
was confounding. 'You want me to tell your daughter? I'm not sure what to say.'
'Tell her everything. Tell her the truth. Tell her what I told you tonight.'
'I can't do that. What you told us is privileged.'
'Not as against her. I waive the privilege as against her.'
'You can't.' Mary double-checked with Judy, who was already shaking her head no. 'It wouldn't be in your best interest. What if they called her as a witness at your trial?'
'What trial? I'm going to plead guilty.'
Damn. 'You can't be sure you'll plead guilty and we have to preserve your options. That's why I won't tell your daughter any more than necessary. I'll tell her that her mother is dead and that her father is being held by the police.'
'But I want Paige to know that I'm owning up to what I did. I want her to know that as awful as I am, at least I'm not so cowardly as to avoid responsibility for my crime.' His strong jaw set solidly, but Mary noticed that small muscle near his ear was clenching again. Eyes and jaws, what did it mean? Anything? Nothing?
'Fine, I'll tell her that you're considering a guilty plea, but that's it. The cops will probably leak that much by tomorrow morning. Agreed?'
'Agreed. Also, I have to ask you a personal favor, if I may.' Jack looked plainly uncomfortable, which disarmed Mary. A handsome, wealthy killer who acted like a nice guy. Confusing, to say the least.
'Paige will be very upset about this news. If she is, would you stay with her awhile? She doesn't have many friends.'
'Yes,' Mary answered, though it went without saying. But something didn't jibe. A pretty, rich girl, without friends? What was up with this family? 'What about her classmates? Where does she go to school?'
'Paige is not your typical sixteen-year-old. She looks adult, acts adult, and earns money like an adult. She's privately schooled around her work schedule. She left most of her peer group behind a long time ago, and her boyfriend, at least this latest one, isn't much help. Just stay with her until she feels better and see if she wants to come see me. I'd love to see her tonight and try to explain this to her.'
'I'll tell her that, too.' Mary couldn't imagine the daughter wanting to see her father in these circumstances. She stood up and packed her pad and pen away. 'I think we're finished here, for now. The next step for you is an arraignment, which is when they charge you formally and make a bail determination. I would guess they'll do that in the morning, but there's a chance that it could happen tonight.' She glanced at Judy, who nodded. 'Judy will stay at the Roundhouse until I get back, in case they do. Do you have any questions?' Mary stood up with her packed briefcase, and Jack smiled, which had the effect of making her feel like a grade school kid, her briefcase transformed into a school bag.
'No questions at all. You did pretty well,' he said, and she laughed, flushing, as she led Judy to the door.
'Beginner's luck. See you in the morning.'
Take care of Paige,' he said, and the slight crack in his voice made Mary pause.
'Don't worry,' she heard herself say, without understanding why.