"If you're a fan of John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Brad Meltzer, then you will be a fan of Steve Cavanagh's The Defense." Nelson DeMille, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Radiant Angel
Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turns out the two jobs aren’t all that different. . .
He vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again after a case gone disastrously wrong. But today Eddie doesn’t have a choice. Because this time, it’s personal.
The head of the Russian mob in New York City, on trial for murder, has kidnapped Eddie’s beloved ten-year-old daughter. Now Eddie has exactly forty-eight hours to draw upon his razor-sharp instincts and use every con, bluff, grift, and trick in the book to defend an impossible trial and save his daughteror die trying. . .
“a rush of double-crosses, switched detonators, mob maneuvering,
and some savvy lawyering. Cavanagh keeps things hopping.”
Dallas Morning News
“Everything a reader could ask for in a thrillernail-biting suspense, a Russian nesting doll of a plot, and an original and compelling lead.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
This edition of the book is the deluxe, tall rack mass market paperback.
About the Author
STEVE CAVANAGH was born and raised in Belfast before studying law in Dublin. He practices civil rights law and has been involved in several high profile cases; in 2010 Steve represented a factory worker who won the largest award of damages for race discrimination in Northern Ireland's legal history. Steve is married with two young children. The Defense is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
By Steve Cavanagh
Flatiron BooksCopyright © 2016 Steve Cavanagh
All rights reserved.
I'd grown sloppy. That's what happens when you go straight.
"Do exactly as I tell you or I'll put a bullet in your spine."
The accent was male and Eastern European. I detected no tremors or hints of anxiety in his voice. The tone sounded even and measured. This wasn't a threat; it was a statement of fact. If I didn't cooperate, I would be shot.
I felt the unmistakable electric pressure from a handgun pressed into the small of my back. My first instinct was to lean in to the barrel and spin sharply to my left, turning the shot away from my body. The guy was probably right-handed, which meant he was naturally exposed on his left side. I could throw an elbow through that gap into the guy's face as I turned, giving me enough time to break his wrist and bury the weapon in his forehead. Old instincts, but the guy who could do all of those things wasn't around anymore. I'd buried him along with my past.
Without pressure on the faucet, the patter of water falling on porcelain faded. I felt my fingers shaking as I raised my wet hands in surrender.
"No need for that, Mr. Flynn."
He knew my name. Gripping the sink, I raised my head and looked in the mirror. Never saw this guy before. Tall and slim, he wore a brown overcoat over a charcoal suit. He sported a shaved head, and a facial scar ran vertically from below his left eye to the jawline. Pushing the gun hard into my back, he said, "I'll follow you out of the bathroom. You'll put on your coat. You'll pay for breakfast, and we'll leave together. We're going to talk. If you do as I tell you, you'll be fine. If you don't — you're dead."
Good eye contact. No blushing of the face or neck, no involuntary movement, no tells at all. I knew a hustler when I saw one. I knew the look. I'd worn it long enough. This guy was no hustler. He was a killer. But he was not the first killer to threaten me, and I remembered I got clear last time by thinking, not panicking.
"Let's go," he said.
He stepped back a pace and held up the gun, letting me see it in the mirror. It looked real: a snub-nosed, silver revolver. I knew from the first second the threat was genuine, but seeing the short, evil weapon in the mirror set my skin alive with fear. My chest began to tighten as my heart stepped on the gas. I'd been out of the game too long. I would have to make do with thinking and panicking. The revolver disappeared into his coat pocket and he gestured toward the door. The conversation appeared to be over.
"Okay," I said.
Two years of law school, two and a half years clerking for a judge, and almost nine years as a practicing attorney, and all I managed to say was okay. I wiped my soapy hands on the back of my pants and ran my fingers through my dirty-blond hair. He followed me out of the bathroom and across the floor of the now-empty diner, where I lifted my coat, put it on, slid five bucks under my coffee cup, and made for the door. The scarred man followed me at a short distance.
Ted's Diner was my favorite place to think. I don't know how many trial strategies I had worked through in those booths, covering the tables with medical records, gunshot wound photos, and coffee-stained legal briefs. In the old days, I wouldn't have eaten breakfast at the same place every day. Way too risky. In my new life, I enjoyed the routine of breakfast at Ted's. I'd relaxed and stopped looking over my shoulder. Too bad. I could've used being on edge that morning: I might have seen him coming.
Walking out of the diner into the heart of the city felt like stepping into a safe place. The sidewalk bustled with the Monday-morning commute, and the pavement felt reassuring under my feet. This guy wasn't going to shoot me in New York City, on Chambers Street, at eight fifteen in the morning in front of thirty witnesses. I stood to the left of the diner, outside an abandoned hardware store. I felt my face reddening with the pinch that November brings to the wind as I wondered what the man wanted. Had I lost a case for him years ago? I certainly couldn't remember him. The scarred man joined me at the boarded-up window of the old store. He stood close so we couldn't be separated by passersby. His face cracked into a long grin, bending the scar that bisected his cheek.
"Open your coat and look inside, Mr. Flynn."
My hands felt awkward and clumsy as I searched my pockets and found nothing. I opened the coat fully. On the inside I saw what looked like a rip, as if the silk lining was coming away from the stitching. It wasn't a rip. It took me a few moments to realize there was a thin black jacket inside my coat, like another layer of lining. I hadn't seen it before. This guy must have slipped the jacket sleeves into my coat when I was in the bathroom. Slipping my hands across my back, I found a Velcro seam for a pocket that sat low down, just above my waist. Pulling it around so I could get a look at it, I tore open the seam, put my hand inside, and felt a loose thread.
I pulled the thread from the hidden pocket. But it wasn't a thread.
It was a wire.
A red wire.
My hands followed it to what felt like a thin plastic box and more wiring, and then to two slim, rectangular bulges in the jacket that sat on either side of my back.
I couldn't breathe.
I was wearing a bomb.
He wasn't going to shoot me on Chambers Street in front of thirty witnesses. He was going to blow me up along with God knew how many victims.
"Don't run, or I detonate the device. Don't try to take it off. Don't attract attention. My name is Arturas." He pronounced it Ar-toras through his continuing smile.
I took in a sharp gulp of metallic air and forced myself to breathe it out slowly.
"Take it easy," said Arturas.
"What do you want?" I said.
"My employer hired your firm to represent him. We have unfinished business."
My fear subsided a little: This wasn't about me. It was about my old law firm, and I thought I could palm this guy off on Jack Halloran. "Sorry, pal. It's not my firm anymore. You're talking to the wrong guy. Who do you work for, exactly?"
"I think you know the name. Mr. Volchek."
Oh shit. He was right. I did know the name. Olek Volchek was head of the Russian mob. My former partner, Jack Halloran, had agreed to represent Volchek a month before Jack and I split. When Jack took on the case, Volchek awaited trial for murder — a gangland hit. I never got to look at the papers in the case or even meet Volchek. I'd devoted that entire month to defending Ted Berkley, a stockbroker, on an alleged attempted kidnapping charge — the case that broke me, completely. After the fallout from that case, I'd lost my family and then lost myself in a whiskey bottle. I got out of the law almost a year ago with what was left of my soul, and Jack had been only too happy to take my law firm. I hadn't set foot in a courtroom since the jury delivered their verdict in the Berkley case, and I hadn't planned on returning to the law anytime soon.
Jack was a different story. He had gambling problems. I'd heard recently he planned to sell the firm and leave town. He probably split and took Volchek's retainer with him. If the Russian mob couldn't find Jack, they would come looking for me — for a refund. Cue the strong-arm routine. With a bomb on my back, what does it matter that I'm bankrupt? I'll get him the damn money. It was going to be okay. I could pay this guy. He wasn't a terrorist. He was a mobster. Mobsters don't blow people up who owe them money. They just get paid.
"Look, you need Jack Halloran. I've never met Mr. Volchek. Jack and I are no longer partners. But it's okay; if you want your retainer refunded, I'll gladly write you a check right now."
Whether or not the check would cash was another issue. I had just over six hundred dollars in my account, my rent was overdue, and I had rehab bills I couldn't pay and no income. The rehab fees were the main problem, but with the amount of whiskey I was putting away, I would've died if I hadn't checked myself into a clinic and gotten help. In counseling, I'd realized that there was no amount of Jack Daniel's that could've burned away the memory of what happened in the Berkley case. In the end, I'd gotten clean of booze and I was two weeks away from securing a final agreement with my creditors. Two weeks away from starting all over again. If the Russian wanted more than a few hundred bucks, I was screwed — big-time.
"Mr. Volchek does not want his money. You can keep it. After all, you'll earn it," said Arturas.
"What do you mean earn it? Look, I'm not in practice anymore. I haven't practiced law for almost a year. I can't help you. I'll refund Mr. Volchek's retainer. Please just let me take this off," I said, gripping the jacket, ready to heave it off.
"No," he said. "You don't understand, lawyer. Mr. Volchek wants you to do something for him. You will be his lawyer and he will pay you. You'll do it. Or you will do no more in this life."
My throat tightened in panic as I tried to speak. This didn't make any sense. I felt sure that Jack would've told Volchek that I'd quit, that I couldn't hack it anymore. A white stretch limousine pulled up at the curb. The shining wax finish carried my distorted reflection. The rear passenger door opened from the inside, sweeping away my image. Arturas stood beside the open door and nodded at me to get in. I tried to settle myself; I deepened my breathing, slowed my heart, and tried desperately not to puke. The limo's heavily tinted windows spread an intense darkness over the interior, as if it were brimming with black water.
For a moment everything became remarkably still — it was just me and that open door. If I ran, I wouldn't get far — not an option. If I got into the car and stayed close to Arturas, I knew he couldn't detonate the device. At that moment, I cursed myself for not keeping my skills sharp. The same skills that had kept me alive on the streets for all those years, the same skills that helped me to con million-dollar-salary defense attorneys before I'd even been to law school, the same skills that would have spotted this guy before he got within ten feet of me.
I made my decision and climbed into the rabbit hole.CHAPTER 2
I felt the bomb pressing into my flesh as soon as I sat down.
There were four men in the back of the limo, including Arturas, who followed me inside, closed the door behind him, and sat on my left, still wearing that disconcerting smile. I could hear the engine purring, but we remained parked. The smell of cigar smoke and new leather filled my nose. More tinted glass separated the luxurious rear of the vehicle from the driver.
A white leather gym bag sat on the floor.
To my right, two men in dark overcoats filled a seat built for six people. They were freakishly large, like characters from a fairy tale. One had long blond hair tied up in a ponytail. The other had short brown hair and looked truly enormous. His head was the size of a basketball, and he easily dwarfed the big blond guy next to him, but it was his expression that frightened me the most. His face appeared to be bereft of all emotion, of all feeling, the cold, dreaded look of a half-dead soul. As a hustler, you rely on being able to spot a "tell." You rely on your ability to manipulate emotions and natural human responses, but there's one class of individual who's immune to the usual moves, and every hustler can spot them and knows to stay the hell away from them — psychopaths. The giant with the brown hair looked like a textbook psycho.
The guy opposite me was Olek Volchek. He wore a black suit over a white shirt, which lay open at the neck. Graying stubble covered his face, and the same coloring ran into his hair. He might've looked handsome if it weren't for a simmering malevolence in his eyes that seemed to temper his good looks. I recognized him from newspapers and TV; he was a mob boss, a killer, a drug dealer.
But he sure as hell wasn't going to be my client.
I'd dealt with people like Volchek my whole life, as friends, enemies, and even as clients. Didn't matter if they were from the Bronx, Compton, Miami, or Little Odessa. Men like this respected only one thing — strength. As shit scared as I was, I couldn't let him see it or I was a dead man.
"I don't work for people who threaten me," I said.
"You don't have choice, Mr. Flynn. I'm your new client," said Volchek. He spoke with a thick Russian accent in slightly broken English.
"Sometimes, as you Americans say, shit happens. You can blame Jack Halloran if you like," said Volchek.
"I blame him for most things these days. Why isn't he representing you? Where is he?"
Volchek glanced at Arturas, and for a second he mirrored Arturas's indelible smile before he looked back at me and said, "When Jack Halloran took on my case, he said it was impossible to defend. I knew this already. I had four different law firms look at the case before Jack. Still, Jack could do things other lawyers could not. So I paid him and I gave Jack a job. Unfortunately, Jack couldn't hold up his end of the bargain."
"Too bad. Nothing to do with me," I said, struggling to keep the nerves from my voice.
"That's where you're wrong," said Volchek. From a gold case beside him, he removed a small chocolate-colored cigar, bit it, lit it, and said, "Two years ago I ordered a hit on a man named Mario Geraldo. I asked Little Benny to do it for me. Benny did his job. Then he got caught and he talked to FBI. Benny will give evidence at my trial that I ordered the hit. All the lawyers I spoke to said that Benny would be the prosecution's star witness. His evidence will convict me. No doubt about it."
My jaw was clenched so tight it began to ache.
"Benny is in FBI custody. He's well protected and well hidden. Even my contacts can't find him. You're the only one who can get close to him because you are my lawyer."
He lowered his voice and said, "Before you cross-examine Benny, you will take off your jacket and, when the court is empty, we will tape the bomb underneath the chair in the witness box. Benny takes his seat, and we detonate the device. No more Benny, no more case, no more problem. You are the bomber, Mr. Flynn. You'll go to prison. The prosecutor won't have enough evidence for a retrial, and I will go free."
"You're one crazy son of a bitch," I said.
Volchek didn't react at first. He didn't fly into a rage or threaten me. He just sat there for a moment before tilting his head as if he were considering his options. There was no sound, other than my heart jackknifing in my chest, and I wondered if I'd just earned myself a bullet. I couldn't take my eyes from Volchek, but I could feel the others staring at me, almost quizzically, like I was a guy who'd just put his hand into a snake pit.
"Have a look at this before you decide," said Volchek, nodding to Arturas.
Arturas picked up the white gym bag and opened it.
Jack's head was inside.
My stomach cramped. My mouth filled with saliva. I retched, covered my mouth, and coughed. I spat and fought to hold on to my senses and gripped the seat beneath me until I could feel my fingernails scraping the leather. All traces of a calm facade left me completely.
"We thought Jack could do it. We were wrong. But we take no chances with you, Mr. Flynn," said Volchek, leaning forward. "We have your daughter."
Time, breath, blood, motion — everything stopped.
"If you so much as touch her ..."
He took a cell phone from his pants pocket and flipped it around so that I could see the screen. Amy stood on a dark street corner in front of a newsstand. My little girl. She was only ten years old. I saw her standing somewhere in New York, hugging herself against the cold and staring warily at the camera. Behind her, the news banner carried the headline on the cargo ship that sank on the Hudson on Saturday night.
I hadn't realized how much I was sweating; my shirt was soaked, along with my face and hair, but I was no longer afraid. I no longer cared about the bomb, the gun, or the pair of mute giants staring at me with their dead eyes.
"Give her back to me and I'll let you live," I said.
This produced laughter from Volchek and his crew. They knew me as Eddie Flynn, the lawyer; they didn't know the old Eddie Flynn: the hustler, the backstreet fighter, the con artist. In truth, I'd almost forgotten him myself.
Excerpted from The Defense by Steve Cavanagh. Copyright © 2016 Steve Cavanagh. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
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