The Case of the Very Dead Lawyer
Michael St. John never lost a criminal case. He wasn’t a nice guy. He cheated his clients, destroyed criminal evidence, paid off judges, and ran around on his wife. He was an albatross around the neck of the Richmond Police Department. The District Attorney’s office loathed him until they found his mutilated corpse – one lovely fall morning - after an unusual outburst in Court the day before. Little did they know that Attorney St. John’s body was key evidence in far more heinous crimes.
Other Books In This Series
The Case of Dr. Dude(Book 1)
The Case of The Dead Dowager(Book 2)
The Case of The Man Overboard(Book 3)
Coming Soon: The Case of The Missing Body Parts(Book 5)
Release date: October 23, 2018
Publisher: Bluestone Valley Publishing
Print pages: 294
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The Case of the Very Dead Lawyer
The road was slick and shiny. Headlights from vehicles obscured images. The traffic was heavy. Low-lying clouds decreased visibility and the rain poured. Michael St. John, criminal attorney extraordinaire, punched the button on his Sirius radio. I think I’d like to hear a little Jimmy Buffett on Margaritaville Radio. He’d had a full day in court, netted at least fifty-thousand dollars, and arranged for the freedom of a notorious Richmond crime boss. He smiled as he thought about the seventy-year-old bottle of scotch waiting for him on the bar in his new million-dollar West End home. For a moment, his feelings of elation abated when he remembered that Celeste, his second wife, had left him. Oh, wait a minute. It was Marion who’d just left. Wife number three. It’d been weeks and she hadn’t returned any of his calls. Screw her. She was getting fat anyway. He decided he’d call one of his buddies who owned a high-class escort service. He’d send someone over to make him forget he’d ever known the lovely Marion. He smiled and hummed a few bars. He knew it was gonna be a good, no, a great night and he’d sleep in tomorrow. He visualized the evening and gripped the steering wheel of his brand-new Maserati.
His day in Richmond Criminal Court had been incredible. He’d managed another inconceivable win with staggering ease. This win continued his three-year no-loss streak. Michael was so turned on by his victory and success, that he didn’t see the large, black Suburban cross over into his lane. He was too busy dreaming of Margaritaville, uninhibited sex, and singing with Jimmy Buffet.
He never saw the big, black Suburban. It hit him head on. The Maserati spun out of control and fishtailed on the wet asphalt before it crashed into the guardrail. Michael never knew what happened.
James River Rescue Squad Chief Anton Fishburn shook his head as he shined his high beam light into the crumpled Maserati. He peered through the broken glass and shook his head. He turned to his paramedic. “Heard anything from fire rescue? We’ll need the Jaws to get him out. “
“They’re two minutes out.” The paramedic looked in the car. “Dude, I can’t imagine anyone’s alive in there. The Suburban literally crushed him, not to mention the blow he received from the concrete rail.” He stared at man in the small, mangled, shiny blue car.
“Here, Chief Fishburn, can you get this airway in?” the other paramedic asked. “This looks like it’s the right size.”
The chief nodded his head. “Yeah. I think so. I’ll put the airway in, but I’m not sure any air is gonna go thru it. This guy is critical, mangled in fact.” Chief Fishburn’s voice sounded doubtful.
The paramedic nodded. “Yeah. Agreed. The Jaws guys should be here shortly and they’ll cut the body out. They’ll have to use a ram to break the windows. The spreader will pull this midget car apart in no time, and the cutters will pry open the door or cut through it like it is paper.” He paused for a moment, glanced over at the fire truck that slowly pulled over on the side of the road.
“Get the bus ready,” Fishburn ordered as he placed two fingers in front of the man’s airway. He thought he felt some air. If the guy lived, it’d be a miracle. He watched the firemen unload the Jaws of Life. They placed the cutters, spreaders, and rams next to the vehicle. The paramedics knew that within seconds, the powerful jaws of the machine would tear the vehicle apart as easily as cutting through a tin can. They watched as the firemen positioned the spreader. Fishburn doubted they’d need the cutter since the car was so mangled.
“Yeah, this will be a two-minute rescue,” the paramedic predicted as he examined the man’s head. “He’s got an open head injury, but he just opened his eyes.” The paramedic pulled out a penlight to check his pupils. He was surprised when they were equal and reactive to light. He turned to the fireman next to him. “He must be better than we thought. His pupils are equal and reactive. This is amazing!” He turned and offered a few words of comfort to Michael St. John.
“Wow, it was a nice car,” the fireman noted. “How fast do you think this guy was going? He had to be traveling over eighty miles per hour. Look at those skid marks.”
“Oh, he was definitely flying. No question. A better question is what happened to the guy that hit him? From what we heard from the police, the Suburban never stopped.” The paramedic looked angry.
“Humph. That’s cold,” Fire Chief Holland admitted. “I can’t believe he’s alive. Nobody with a car like this ever drives under eighty on the Interstate.” He turned to Chief Fishburn, “Y’all get him stable and we’ll get him out.”
“Well, I doubt he’ll drive again, short of a miracle, unless I’m mistaken,” Fishburn said as he checked the man’s pulse. His face registered surprise. “He’s got a pulse. It’s slow and irregular, but it’s there. Let’s put a large bore needle into his antecubital space and run some lactated ringers wide open.”
The fire chief stepped back and readjusted the light. The victim’s face was as pale as death. “He may have a pulse, but the whole right side of his head is caved in. His brain is torn up.”
Another fireman nodded. “Yeah. Looks like the guys are ready with the Jaws. Let’s get out of their way and get him out of this mangled heap of metal so we can see what we’ve got and load him in the bus.”
The rescue team stood aside as a short, powerfully built fireman with the bald head moved the life-saving equipment close to the mangled vehicle. They watched as he leaned over the victim and unhooked his seatbelt. No one noticed when he injected five fifty-ml syringes of fluid into the man’s gaping head wound. The fireman quickly adjusted his equipment and pulled the body out without any difficulty.
Twenty minutes later, the man arrived at Trauma Room 3 at the Medical College of Virginia’s Level I Emergency Department.
FIVE YEARS LATER
Michael St. John stood at his table in Room 5 in the Criminal Division of Richmond District Court. He had a huge criminal case today and he planned to win. He represented a gang of Hispanic-Americans who sold counterfeit clothing and Gucci purses to local clothing retailers. The five men had pocketed several million dollars in the past six months. Michael had never known counterfeit clothing, Gucci bags, and Givenchy purses could net you four or five million a year.
For a few moments, he considered investing in counterfeit clothing and fake leather. After all, it was very lucrative, and the Chinese were always happy to do business. Suddenly he felt anxious, and his hand trembled. He squeezed it tightly with his other hand to make it stop.
He looked across the aisle and grinned at the young female prosecutor, the lovely Claudia Claussen, who in his opinion, didn’t know her head from a hot rock. He winked at her. In return, she flashed him a dirty look and turned her brown hair and eyes in another direction. Law enforcement and defense attorneys considered Michael St. John the lowest of the low. He was a scumball lawyer who represented murderers, rapists, swindlers, white-collar criminals – anything. He also chased ambulances in his spare time.
Michael gave Claudia a cocky grin, “You gotcha notes together yet, Counselor? I hope so because I don’t intend to cut you any slack today. I want to move quickly to get my guys off.”
“Not gonna happen. This is a two-day trial, Michael. You’re not going anywhere early,” Claussen assured him as her brown eyes raked him with disgust.
St. John ignored her. “You see, I got me a tee-time at the Country Club at two thirty.” In truth, Michael had nothing else to do the entire day, but he liked to rattle the young attorneys, especially the women. He figured it was all part of the game.
Claudia gave him a cold stare and flipped her dark hair to one side of her face. “One of these days, Michael St. John, you’re going to reap what you’ve sown. Some bad guy, some monster that you’ve gotten off for murder, rape, assault or something is gonna come back and be your worst enemy.” Her voice was a hiss.
Michael chortled and uncrossed his legs. “Hey, I’m not too worried about that. After all, I came back from the dead two or three times when I had my car wreck. I don’t think I’m going anywhere, and I’m pretty sure no one’s coming for me.” He smirked at her. “Besides, all of my clients are happy! I always win… remember?” He finished with an evil wink.
“We’ll see,” Claudia said as she stood for the bailiff. “I think your luck’s gonna run out.” She tilted her head, “Besides, what about all those nice people who’ve been injured by the criminals you let walk? Don’t ‘cha think one of them may visit you for revenge?”
“Nah, not going to happen,” Michael whispered loudly. He gave her a conspiratorial look. “You see, I’m too good at what I do.” He swept his arm through the air in a grandiose manner. “After all, I’m the man. Best criminal guy on the East Coast. I never lose a case.”
Claudia didn’t respond. She ignored him as she stood respectfully for the judge and sat down when the judge noted.
The day was long, tedious, and mind-numbing. It was three o’clock in the afternoon when Claudia presented her final witness, a middle-aged Chinese woman from Washington, DC. She testified that she’d sold Michael’s clients several million dollars of counterfeit clothing while working undercover for the FBI.
Michael’s face paled. He was furious. He’d been duped. He rose to his feet and pounded his fists into his face repeatedly until his nose bled. Shock registered on everyone’s face. “You pigs, you nasty swine,” he yelled at the jury. “I’m going to kill all of you.” Michael jumped the rail, ran toward the jury box and began to berate them. He was a madman.
The judge tried to silence him and beat his hammer repeatedly to no avail. The bailiff came for him, and Michael started to shriek and howl. The bailiff grabbed him and started to take him out of the courtroom. No one could understand him. All he could do was babble. Then he bit the bailiff on the arm and cursed him. The bailiff and a policeman tussled with him and got him on the floor. The bailiff handcuffed Michael as his arm streamed blood from the bite.
The courtroom was silent as the ravings of a maniac diminished.
Michaela’s brain exploded with possibilities as she raced her silver Mercedes south on Interstate 95 just outside of Richmond, Virginia. She’d just returned from Northern Virginia, and the news wasn’t good. In fact, it was even worse than she’d expected. She’d hoped her preliminary information was rumor and speculation, but it wasn’t. It looked as though her sources were correct. She shook her head as her gut constricted and anger and fear tingled her spine. All the work they’d done, and the nut case was once again practicing medicine. Dottie would be furious, but eventually cooperative, and they’d gather evidence once again. She shook her head as anger surged through her. She knew they’d figure a way to put a stop to it.
The afternoon sun blinded her as she attacked the road with reckless abandon in rush hour traffic. In her twenty-five years as a police officer and homicide detective, she’d never felt the frustration she felt this evening. The years of painstaking wisdom and patience she’d amassed as a detective had deserted her today when she’d learned the notorious psychiatrist had once again won his medicine license back, this time to move to another small, rural Virginia community and commit his heinous crimes.
She reached over and patted Angel, her retired canine partner, who watched her carefully from his harness in the passenger seat. Angel whimpered as he always did when he recognized his mistress was in distress. Mic reached over and massaged his ears as she spoke to him slowly. She removed her hand from the dog and hit the brakes as the traffic jammed up in front of her.
It was after six o’clock by the time Michaela pulled up into the Countess Dorothy Borghase’s circular driveway. The countess lived in an imposing mansion on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Dottie’s house was more than impressive. It was the most palatial and grandest home on Richmond’s historic avenue. Mic gazed up at the massive brick home, always awed by the immensely extraordinary brick fortress and the wealth, power, and position it represented. It was far, far different than the Irish waterfront neighborhood she’d grown up in back in Dublin.
Mic leaned over, unharnessed Angel and the two of them quickly moved to the door. She rapped sharply with the enormous brass knocker which triggered an amazing set of doorbell chimes that played varied classical overtures. Tonight, the bells played Vivaldi’s “Spring.” Several minutes later Cookie, the countess’s aging housekeeper, answered. Her face broke out in a broad smile when she saw Mic and Angel on the front porch.
“Oh, Michaela, Angel, how wonderful to see you,” Cookie smiled broadly and nodded graciously. Mic hugged Cookie and was pleased she looked so well. Dealing with querulous, moody, and often ill-tempered Dottie could be fatiguing and contentious at the very least. Cookie bent down to meet Angel’s eyes. She scratched his ears and said, “I’ve got just the thing for you, Angel. You can come back in the kitchen with me.” Angel’s ears perked up, and he gave Cookie his best doggie smile. Angel loved to come to Dottie’s house because Cookie always had the best treats in the world for him.
“Is the countess home?” Mic asked as she smiled warmly at Cookie. “I told her I’d stop by this evening.”
“That she is,” Cookie responded as she rolled her eyes and nodded her head. Her silver hair was lovely in the waning sun. “But, Michaela, I’m glad you’re here. There’s something bothering her… And it’s bothering her a lot. She’s been crabby most of the day.”
It was Michaela’s turn to roll her eyes. “Oh, great. Thanks for the heads up,” she said with a heavy sigh as she headed through the massive foyer back toward the library study where Dottie spent the cocktail hour every day. Angel followed her, and Cookie walked quickly to keep up. “It’s probably because she’s had to wait for me to get here.” Mic winked at Cookie who smiled in return.
“Is it okay if I take Angel into the kitchen? I have something he might want to chew on,” Cookie asked with a smile.
“Absolutely,” Mic said grandly. “You’re his best friend, Cookie.”
Cookie smiled and called Angel. The German Shepherd looked up at Mic who nodded. Angel turned and walked toward Cookie. Mic smiled as she watched two of her favorite people in the world head for the kitchen. Michaela was fond of Cookie and Henry, her husband. Without them, she doubted the eighty-two-year-old Italian countess would be able to maintain her ginormous house or lifestyle. Cookie and Henry had been with Dottie for the last twenty years. They lived on the third floor of the mansion. Cookie mainly prepared meals and shopped while Henry, whose “official” job was chauffeur, spent most of his time keeping the gardens up. Dottie would never let him drive her, much to everyone’s distress. Instead, she preferred to terrorize the city when she took her white Cadillac out of the garage and went for a spin around town.
Mic reached the library and knocked softly on the door. Dottie looked up at her. “It’s about time you got here, Michaela. Where in the world have you been? What did you find out?”
Mic brushed her short black curls away from her face and said, “Good evening to you too, Countess. You know exactly where I’ve been. I was caught in a traffic pileup on the interstate, not to mention rush hour traffic in Northern Virginia. That’s why I’m late.”
“Oh, okay,” Dottie said, a grudge in her voice. “Would you like a glass of white wine?”
Mic nodded. “I’ll go get it in the kitchen. Cookie took Angel back to give him some treats.”
Dottie gave her an impatient look and waved her hand. “Hang on. Tell me. Tell me if the rumors about Dr. Nut Case are true. Will he practice medicine again?”
Michaela sighed deeply. “Yep, I’m afraid the rumors are true. He’s moving to the Shenandoah Valley and plans to set up shop there.” Mic’s voice was tinged with anger. “I suppose he will continue his notorious practice of medicine.”
Dottie’s face flushed with anger. “So, all the work we did meant nothing? That’s just crap.” She shook her head and reached for her bottle of sherry to refill her glass.
Mic shook her head. “No. The work is part of the file on him. Our investigation was good… is good. We’ll just have to continue to collect evidence. He’ll screw up again. People like him always do.”
Dottie picked up her refilled glass of cream sherry, nodded absently at Mic and pointed towards the kitchen. “Get your wine.” Her phone rang as Mic left the room.
A few minutes later, she returned with Cookie who carried a tray of cheese and crackers. Dottie sat in her recliner, her feet up. She held the phone receiver in her hand. Her face was pale.
Cookie noticed immediately. “Countess, are you all right? What happened?” Cookie was by Dottie’s side in an instant. She grabbed her wrist and started counting her pulse.
Dottie snatched her arm back and snapped, “I’m fine. I’m fine. That was my friend Evelyn. She said her nephew died, rather mysteriously.”
Mic sat in the chair next to Dottie, “You seem okay, Dottie. You’re your old mean self again. You know how much we worry about you although I don’t know why. You’re such a pain in everyone’s butt.”
Dottie waved away Mic’s concern and criticism. “We’ve gotta look into this, Mic. Evelyn’s great-nephew was a young man, the last male survivor in her family.” Dottie paused and studied her expertly manicured, brightly polished nails. “I suppose that’ll be the end of the St. John name.”
Mic’s vivid green eyes narrowed, “Are you talking about Michael St. John? The criminal attorney? How in the world did he die?” Mic was stunned, and her heartbeat quickened. Michael St. John was a gaping black hole of social justice in Richmond. A criminal attorney who represented the lowest of the low.
Dottie shrugged her shoulders, picked up her glass of cream sherry, and frowned. “Yes, Michael St. John. I don’t really know how he died. Evelyn just said he was dead and then she lost it, so to speak, and hung up.”
Mic eyes opened wide. “This is big news, huge news, Dottie. Michael St. John is barely forty years old. He’s defended some of the worst criminals in the history of Richmond. He’s been in cahoots with organized crime and defended some of the most wanted men on the East Coast. His death is big news.” Mic paused for a moment, “Where’s your remote? Maybe we can catch it on the news.”
Dottie reached into the corner of her recliner and passed the remote over to Mic. Seconds later Mic, Cookie, and Dottie were watching Channel 6 news. They announced that “well-known criminal attorney Michael St. John had been found dead in his home and that police were investigating.”
“How come they can’t tell what killed him?” Dottie asked, her voice irritated, as she stared at Mic with her intense blue eyes that had turned dark with impatience.
Mic shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I guess his cause of death wasn’t obvious. Doesn’t sound like there were gunshots. Or perhaps they’re holding back something because the killer did some weird stuff. There could be a bunch of reasons,” she said as she carefully considered how Michael St. John could have died.
Dottie shifted her position in her lounge chair and reached for the sherry bottle. “Well, we have to know if we’re gonna solve the case,” she groaned, her voice petulant.
“We’ll find out. I guess he didn’t appear to be choked or strangled. Perhaps he died of natural causes,” she speculated.
Dottie gaped at her. “What kind of natural causes? The guy was thirty-eight years old and a former athlete. I doubt he died from natural causes,” she said exasperatedly as she glared at Michaela.
Mic doubted it was natural causes as well, but they had nothing to go on. “We’ll just have to wait and see. They’ll do an autopsy, and then we’ll know how he died. By the way, where did they say they found him?”
Dottie squinted as she tried to remember. “At home. He was in his house in the West End. That new monstrosity he built last year for the new wife.”
“Perhaps we should make up some food for Evelyn. If she’s Michael’s only relative, I’m sure people will be going over there to offer their condolences,” Cookie suggested.
Dottie nodded, “Yes, of course, but you don’t need to cook all that stuff up, Cookie. Just call Sally Bells Bakery and get a ham and whatever from Martin’s. Henry can deliver it in the morning.”
Cookie smiled. “Will do, Countess. Let me go make a list,” she said as she thought about how generous Dottie was. She could be a real pain to get along with, but when push came to shove, she was the kindest woman Cookie had ever known. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”
Michaela picked up her glass of wine and took a sip. It was good. Chilled to perfection and a tad sweet on the finish. She glanced over at Dottie, “This wine is good. Where did you get it and what is it?”
Dottie gave Mic a triumphant grin. “Ah ha! I finally picked a wine you like. Now, that’s a switch. Usually, you whine about my wine.”
Mic nodded. “Yep, I do, but this one is good. Where’d you get it?”
Dottie reached for the bottle and removed it from the chiller. She pointed to the label. “Oh, I ordered it from Barboursville Vineyards. I’ve been getting their sparkling wine for a couple of weeks now. It’s good. All of their wines are good.”
Michaela took another sip and nodded. “I’ll agree with that,” she said. “This is one of the best Virginia sparkling wines I’ve ever had.”
Cookie rapped on the doorframe. “I made a few more snacks for you ladies,” she announced as she came into the library with the tray of smoked salmon and capers.
Mic’s stomach rumbled with hunger. She hadn’t realized she was so hungry. “Oh, yum, Cookie. Thanks so much,” she said as she helped herself.
“I put your name in the pot for dinner, Mic. We’re just having Seafood Newburg, a salad, and a vegetable. Nothing big.”
“Wow, that sounds good to me, I barely stopped for lunch today,” she admitted. ”It was a pretty hectic day.”
Cookie smiled. “Then you need a good dinner, Michaela. You must take care of yourself. Henry’s making biscuits, and I know how much you love those.”
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