Damaged(Rosato & DiNunzio #4) - Lisa Scottoline Page 0,1

him in conference room C with fresh coffee and muffins.”

“Thank you so much.” Mary breathed a relieved sigh.

“I chatted with him briefly. He found you from our website, you know. He’s an older man, maybe in his seventies. He seems very nice. Quiet.”

“Good. I don’t even know what the case is about. He didn’t want to talk about it over the phone.”

Marshall lifted an eyebrow. “Then you don’t know who your opposing counsel is?”

“No, who?” Mary was just about to leave the desk, but stopped.

“Nick Machiavelli.”

“Machiavelli! The Dark Prince of South Philly.” Mary felt her competitive juices flowing. “I always wanted a case against him.”

“Machiavelli can’t be his real name, can it? That has to be fake.”

“Yes, it’s his real name, I know him from high school. His family claims to be direct descendants of the real Machiavelli. That’s the part that’s fake. His father owns a body shop.” Mary thought back. “I went to Goretti, a girl’s school, and he went to Neumann, our brother school. We didn’t have classes with the boys, but I remember him from the dances. He was so slick, a BS artist, even then.”

“Is he a good lawyer?” Marshall handed Mary a few phone messages and a stack of morning mail.

“Honestly, yes.” Mary had watched Machiavelli build a booming practice the same way she had, drawing from South Philly. The stories about his legal prowess were legendary, though they were exaggerated by his public relations firm. In high school, he had been voted Class President, Prom King, and Most Likely to Succeed because he was cunning, handsome, and basically, Machiavellian.

“Good luck.”

“Thanks.” Mary took off down the hallway, with one stop to make before her office. Her gut churned, but it could have been the dumplings. The real Niccolo Machiavelli had thought it was better to be feared than loved, and his alleged descendant followed suit. Nick Machiavelli was feared, not loved, and on the other hand, Mary was loved, but not feared. She always knew that one day they would meet in a battle, and that when they did, it would be a fight between good and evil, with billable hours.

Mary reached her best friend Judy’s office, where she ducked inside and set down a foam container of leftover dumplings amid the happy clutter on the desk. Judy Carrier was one of those people who could eat constantly and never gain weight, like a mythical beast or maybe a girl unicorn.

“Good morning!” Judy looked up from her laptop with a broad grin. She had a space between her two front teeth that she made look adorable. Her cheery face was as round as the sun, framed by punky blonde hair, with large blue eyes and a turned-up nose. Judy was the firm’s legal genius, though she dressed artsy, like today she had on a boxy hot pink T-shirt with yellow shorts and orange Crocs covered by stuck-on multicolored daisies.

“Please tell me that you’re not going to court dressed like that.”

“I’m not, but I think I look cute.” Judy reached for the container. “What did you bring me? Spring rolls? Spanakopita?”

“Guess what, I have a new case—against Nick Machiavelli.”

“Ha! That name cracks me up every time I hear it. What a fraud.”

Judy’s blue eyes lit up as she opened the lid of the container. “Yummy.”

“I’m finally going up against him.”

“You’ll kick his ass.” Judy opened the drawer that contained her secret stash of plastic forks.

“Don’t underestimate him.”

“I’m not, but you’re better.” Judy got a fork and shut the drawer. “What kind of case is it?”

“I don’t know yet. The client’s in the conference room.”

“Meanwhile, I thought you were going vegetarian.” Judy frowned at the dumplings. “This smells like crabmeat. Crabmeat isn’t vegetarian.”

“It’s vegetarian enough,” Mary said on her way out. “I gotta go.”

“There’s no such thing as vegetarian enough!”

Mary hurried to her office, dumped her purse, mail, and messenger bag inside, grabbed her laptop, and hustled to conference room C.

CHAPTER TWO

“Good morning, I’m Mary DiNunzio.” Mary closed the door as O’Brien tucked his napkin in the pocket of his worn khakis, which he had on with a boxy navy sports jacket that hung on his long, bony frame. His blue-striped tie lay against his chest, and Mary noticed as she approached him that his oxford shirt had a fraying collar. Edward’s hooded eyes were an aged hazel green behind wire-rimmed glasses, with visible bifocal windows. His face was long and lined, and his crow’s-feet deep. Folds bracketed his mouth, and age-spots dotted his temples and