Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult


  I didn't really believe that someone who had fallen in love with Luke Warren would ever even look twice at a guy like me. It's not that I'm a hideous beast or anything, but I am certainly not the kind of fellow who'd be a dead ringer for the bare-chested heroes sculpted onto romance novel covers. I have a little bald spot that I try to ignore, and at five six, I'm a half inch shorter than Georgie. But she didn't seem to care.

  I have to admit, every night before I go to bed I wing a little prayer to Luke Warren. Because if he hadn't been such an asshole, I might never have looked so good to Georgie by comparison.

  Something is bugging the crap out of me.

  Even though Georgie manages to hold it together through dinner, I know she's thinking about Edward. She begs off reading the twins One Fish Two Fish and instead says she has a headache. She goes up to our bedroom, but even with the door closed, I can hear her crying.

  After the kids are tucked in, I knock on Cara's door. The lights are out, but I can hear music playing. When I come in I find her sitting on the bed with her laptop open. She immediately clams it shut. "What?" she asks, challenging.

  I shake my head. There's a very fine ethical line I'm skating here, as Edward's attorney, even if he happens to be related to my stepdaughter. Technically I shouldn't be here, much less asking her about the circumstances that led to Edward's arrest.

  "Just wanted to make sure you're feeling okay," I say. "The shoulder doesn't hurt?"

  She shrugs. "I'm tough."

  This I know. I had to work hard to break through her defenses when Georgie and I were first a couple. She was convinced that I was after the money I had won in the divorce settlement for Georgie. It was because of Cara that I actually drew up a prenuptial agreement--not to protect her mother from me but to reassure the daughter that I was in this for the right reasons.

  "You know I can't talk to you about what happened at the hospital, Cara. But if you volunteer the information, that's a different story." I hesitate. "You might actually be able to save your brother."

  Her eyes shutter, suddenly dark and unreadable. "I have no idea why Danny Boyle decided to pick Edward for a witch hunt," Cara says.

  I hesitate, my hand on the doorknob. "Maybe I'll go over his head to Lynch," I muse out loud.

  "Who?"

  I look at her and shake my head. "Nobody."

  But as I pull the door shut again, I think how incredibly normal it would be for a modern teenage girl to have no idea that John Lynch is the governor of New Hampshire.

  Which makes it even more odd that, without me mentioning it first, she referred to the county attorney by his given name.

  That night I place a phone call to Danny Boyle and arrange to meet with him first thing in the morning.

  It's only 7:30, and since it is Saturday, Boyle's secretary isn't in the office. He meets me with his hair still wet and a faint odor of chlorine clinging to his skin. "Whatever you have to say, Joe," he tells me, leading me back to his office, "you can say in front of the judge."

  He gestures to a seat, but I stand. I pick up one of the framed photos on his desk. A girl about Cara's age smiles back at me, her cheeks flushed with sun. "You got kids?" I ask.

  "No," he says, rolling his eyes. "I keep pictures of random young girls on my desk just for the hell of it. Come on, Joe. I don't really have time to shoot the breeze right now, and neither should you."

  "I have twins. And two stepkids, too," I say, as if he hasn't spoken. "And the thing is, this whole nightmare is just eating away at my family. My wife's practically torn in two, and I don't know what to say to her. I don't know how to make this right, without hurting someone else." I look up at him. "I'm appealing to you not as a lawyer, but as a father and a husband. I need my discovery before this arraignment happens."

  "The grand jury was sitting yesterday," Boyle says. "I'll get you the transcript as soon as I can."

  "You could give me the recording of the proceedings now," I reply.

  The county attorney looks at me for a long moment, and then reaches into his desk drawer and passes over a CD. "Family's everything," he says. "That's why I'm giving this to you." I grab the disc and head out of his office. "And Joe?" he calls after me. "That's also why this charge is gonna stick."

  I hurry out to my car and listen to the CD on the stereo system. There's some discussion with the grand jury; and Danny's voice, asking the witness his first question.

  And then, clear as a bell, I hear Cara answer.

  It goes without saying that the security guards running the metal detector at the entrance to the jail do a double take when they see me, a forty-six-year-old lawyer, carrying a briefcase in one hand and a toy Sing-A-Long Karaoke player in the other. I can't exactly carry a car stereo into the building, and the CD drive on my computer is broken, and I need Edward to hear this. I was weighing the location of the nearest Best Buy and the cost of a crappy boom box when I spied the toy we got Elizabeth for Christmas, sitting in the backseat. You pop in the karaoke CD, and the kid grabs the attached microphone and starts to sing along to Yo Gabba Gabba! or the Wiggles.

  I feel like a moron, but it works. I put the brightly colored, chunky plastic toy on the conveyor belt and empty my pockets of change and electronics. The security guard who waves me through snickers. "Now, Luther," I say genially. "I know for a fact that I'm not the only closet Hannah Montana fan."

  Edward has already been brought to a client-attorney meeting room. When I walk inside, I do a quick assessment: I know Georgie will ask me how he's fared overnight.

  His eyes are bloodshot, which isn't extraordinary--I wouldn't imagine he'd sleep well in jail. But he's clearly jittery, on edge. "Joe," he says, the minute we are alone, "you have to get me out. I can't stay in there. My cellmate is the poster child for the Aryan Brotherhood."

  "I'm going to do my best," I promise. "There's something you need to hear."

  I set the CD player on the table between us and hit the Play button. Edward cocks his head closer to the speaker. "What is this?"

  "The grand jury proceedings." I hesitate. "The witness is Cara."

  Edward pushes the Pause button. "My sister sold me out?"

  "I don't know how she got to the county attorney. Or why he decided to listen to her. But yes, it seems that she's the connection."

  "When I get out of here, I'm going to kill her," Edward mutters.

  Immediately I grab his arm. "If you say anything like that again, I can pretty much promise you that you'll be shacking up with Hitler Junior for a long time. This isn't a joke, Edward. The cops say so during the arrest: Everything you say can and will be used against you. And something you said in that hospital room, even if you didn't mean it, must have been enough for the county attorney to think he could convict you."

  I hit the Pause button again, and the CD starts. Edward's mouth twitches; he's angry, but he's managing to control himself. Which is a damn good lesson to learn before he steps into the courtroom.

  Cara's voice sounds younger than it does in person. I yelled at them to stop, she says. To not kill my father--and everyone backed away. Everyone except my brother, anyway. He bent down, pretending like he was catching his breath, and he yanked the plug of the ventilator out of the wall. She hesitates. He yelled, Die, you bastard!

  Edward jumps up from his seat. "That's a lie! I never said that! I told you what happened, and that wasn't it. Ask anyone else who was in the room!"

  I intend to. But even if Cara lied under oath, the real question is whether Boyle knew she was lying.

  To say it is a tense weekend at the Ng household would be an understatement. Georgie is on edge, thinking of her son rotting in a jail cell--even though I have assured her he'll survive. Cara has locked herself in her room, unwilling to face her mother's wrath. Even the twins are cranky and out of sorts, picking up on the tension in the air. Me, I've made the decision to not tell Georgie--or Cara--that I know Cara was the one to testify against her brother. Part of this is because my allegiance is to my clie
nt, Edward. And part of this is because I have a strong self-preservation instinct and don't want the shit to hit the fan until Edward's arraignment is done.

  For all these reasons, I've never been so happy for Monday to roll around. I'm parked in the superior courthouse lot before they even open the building for business. The first tip I have that this is no ordinary criminal arraignment is that the courtroom is crowded. Usually, the only people who show up for arraignments are the defendants and their lawyers, and occasionally, a stringer for a local paper who has to cover the courtroom beat and list the names of those who were accused of beating their wives or stealing televisions or breaking into cars. Today, however, there are cameras rolling in the back, and I have a sinking feeling they're here for Edward. And that it was Danny Boyle, who needs media attention the way plants need sunlight, who has tipped them off.

  Our case is the third arraignment of the day. "State of New Hampshire versus Edward Warren," the clerk calls, and Edward is brought up from the underground maze of the courthouse. He looks like he hasn't slept in a week. He sits next to me, his foot jiggling nervously. At the table beside us is Danny Boyle, who has changed into a suit with a shirt so starched the collar and cuffs could probably cut through steak. He sits almost sideways, so that the cameras will catch his profile and not the back of his head.

  He smiles at me. "Always good to see you, Joe," he says, although prior to our Saturday morning discussion, I had only met him once at a bar association dinner.

  "Same," I reply. "And let me commend you on your choice of tie. I hear red looks great on camera."

  I don't do many criminal arraignments. Let's face it, New Hampshire isn't a bastion of depravity; my cases tend toward civil suits or custody battles, not attempted murder. So I have to admit that even if I'm not showing it visibly like Edward is, I'm just as nervous.

  The judge is a small man with a runner's build and a handlebar mustache. "Mr. Warren, please rise," he says. "I have before me indictment 558 from the grand jury that charges you with one count of attempted murder on Luke Warren. What say you to this indictment?"

  Edward clears his throat. "I'm not guilty."

  "I see your attorney has already entered an appearance on your behalf. I'd like to hear the parties. Mr. Boyle, what's your position on bail?"

  The county attorney stands up and frowns gravely. "Your Honor, this is a very serious case," he says. "There are strong elements of premeditation, of expressed intent, of malice. This was a plan devised by someone with intense animosity toward Luke Warren, who is fighting for his life in a hospital and unable to defend himself right now.

  We fear that Mr. Warren's estranged son will attempt this again, and furthermore, we feel that his presence in the community presents a danger. He's been gone for the past six years and has had no contact with his family, Judge. There's nothing to keep him from leaving the country before trial."

  The judge scratches his cheek. "Mr. Ng, what do you have to say?"

  "Your Honor," I begin, "my client came home immediately when he found out about his father's tragic accident. If he really harbored any ill will toward his father, would he have jumped on a plane? Would he have spent the past week at his father's bedside?"

  I am pretty sure I hear Danny Boyle comment under his breath, "Waiting to make his move . . ."

  "Edward Warren came here because of the love and concern he has for his father's well-being. He has no animosity toward his father; he only wishes to carry out his father's wishes--as he was asked by Luke Warren to do. There's no motive, there's no financial gain for Edward if his father dies. If Mr. Boyle is concerned about Edward being a flight risk, we are happy to surrender his passport, and we have no objection to him reporting weekly for probation, or to any other conditions the court might set."

  "Your Honor," Boyle says, "we'd ask that the court take into consideration that there are those who need to be protected against Edward Warren's rages--most notably Luke Warren and his daughter, Cara."

  The judge looks at me, and then at Boyle. "I'm releasing the defendant on fifty thousand dollars surety, with the conditions that he surrender his passport, have a psychiatric evaluation and no contact with his father or sister. He'll report to the probation department every Thursday. Next?"

  As the clerk calls the next set of attorneys in front of the judge, I stand up. "Sorry you didn't get what you want, Danny," I say. "Especially considering you brought your audience with you."

  He snaps shut his briefcase and shrugs. "See you in court, Joe," he replies.

  Fifteen minutes later, I've signed all the paperwork necessary to have Edward released. He has buried himself in his father's buffalo plaid jacket and keeps zipping and unzipping it like it's some kind of relaxation technique. "So where do we go now?"

  "We don't go anywhere. I go," I say, as we turn the corner.

  Danny Boyle is standing in the lobby, holding court with six or seven television reporters. "It's not up to us to decide what kind of life is worth living," he says, grandstanding. "You think Helen Keller's parents felt her existence wasn't worth the trouble? Or how about Stephen Hawking's family? Life is precious, period. And you can go all the way back to the Bible to know that taking the life of another before his time is an injustice and an abomination. Thou shalt not kill," Boyle quotes. "Can't get any clearer than that."

  Edward stares for a moment. "So it's okay to let doctors help people who shouldn't live, live," he calls out, "but not to help people who should be dead die?"

  The reporters pivot, the heavy heads of the cameras swiveling to catch Edward. "Shut up," I say, grabbing his arm.

  But he's bigger and stronger, and shakes me off. "How many of you have taken an old, sick pet to the vet to be put down, because you don't want them to suffer? You think that's murder, too?"

  "Edward, stop talking," I yell. I pull him with all my might in the other direction, away from Danny Boyle, who is grinning from ear to ear.

  And why shouldn't he be; Edward's just compared his father to a dog.

  Although I am tempted to lock Edward in a closet so that he cannot dig himself a deeper hole, I settle for a blistering lecture the whole way back to his father's house, and a promise that I will duct-tape his mouth the next time we're in public if I have to. Then I drive to the hospital, calling Georgie to let her know that Edward's out on bail and safe, for the time being.

  Dr. Saint-Clare is in surgery, I'm told when I go to his office. So I get a cup of coffee and park myself in front of the ICU nurses' desk. "Hi there," I say, grinning at a woman with curves as broad as the Great Wall of China. "You look like a woman who's in charge."

  She glances up over her computer screen. "And you look like a pharmaceutical rep. You can leave samples in the closet."

  "Actually, I'm a lawyer," I say.

  "My condolences."

  "I'm trying to find the nurse who was involved in Thursday's . . . incident? There's a chance she could wind up with some monetary compensation in a settlement--"

  "Figures. Maureen gets all the luck. I'm stuck with the chronic vomiter in 22B while she gets bumped into and cries whiplash." The nurse points down the hall to another woman wearing scrubs, and stuffing soiled linens into a hamper. "That's her."

  I walk down the hall until I reach her. "Maureen?" I say. "My name's Joe Ng. I'm an attorney."

  "Oh, for the love of Pete," she sighs. "I suppose my brother sent you?"

  Her brother probably heard what happened and saw dollar signs. It's guys like that who make my living possible.

  "Yes," I lie.

  "I really shouldn't be talking to you. The hospital's sure it's going to be slammed with a lawsuit," Maureen says, shaking her head. "But that poor man. He's only here for six days, and the son makes the decision to terminate life support?"

  "From what I understand, Mr. Warren's prognosis isn't very good . . ."

  "Miracles happen," Maureen says. "I see it every day."

  "What exactly went on in there?"

  "The
son signed the papers for organ donation, and the harvest was scheduled. We all thought he'd gotten consent from his sister.

  She's a minor, so technically, she doesn't get a legal vote, but the policy is to get the whole family on board before terminating life-sustaining measures. When the hospital lawyer realized that wasn't the case, they went to talk to her."

  "Where were you during all this?"

  "Sitting in front of the ventilator," she says, lifting her chin. "I don't necessarily agree with the decisions some families make, but it's still my job to do what I'm told."

  "What was Mr. Warren's son doing?"

  "Waiting," she says. "With the rest of us. He wasn't talking. It was a difficult moment for him, as you can imagine."

  "And then?"

  "The girl came in like a bat out of you-know-where. And before I knew what was going on, the son pushed past me and yanked the plug out of the wall."

  "What did he say?"

  "Nothing." Maureen shrugs. "It happened very fast."

  "You never heard him say 'Die, you bastard'?"

  She snorts. "I think I'd remember something like that."

  "Are you sure you didn't miss what he said because he pushed you out of the way?"

  "He bruised my hip, not my ears," she says. "Look, I have to get back to work. And anyway, I told my brother all of this last week."

  "Your brother?"

  "Yes." She rolls her eyes. "Danny Boyle? The one who sent you here?"

  Danny Boyle, I am told, is taking a deposition and cannot meet me without an appointment. "Oh, he wants to see me," I insist, and I walk past the secretary, opening doors until I find the one that is a conference room. Boyle is sitting across from an attorney and a client, and when he notices me, he looks like he's going to burst into flame.

  "I'm a little busy right now," he says, his voice serrated.

  By now the secretary has caught up to me. "I tried to tell him, but--"

  I smile beatifically. "I think it's really in Attorney Boyle's best interests to hear what I have to say," I announce. "Considering my next stop is the press."

  Boyle flattens his mouth into a two-dimensional smile. "Excuse me a moment?" he says to his client, and he leads the way toward his office. Dismissing his secretary, he closes the door behind us. "This better be fucking important, Ng, because I swear I will have the bar slap you with misconduct if you--"

 
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