Write to Die - Charles Rosenberg Page 0,1

LAPD insignia stitched above the pockets. Suddenly, yellow crime scene tape was everywhere.

Rory heard the studio guard on his walkie-talkie, telling the front gate, “Don’t let any media in here . . . No, nobody, even if they’ve got a pass . . . They’ll be coming soon; they’ve probably already heard about it on the police scanner. And post somebody on the walk-in gate on the back lot.”

A Detective Johnson, according to his nameplate, a big African American guy who was actually taller than Rory’s own six foot five, and maybe heavier, too, emerged from Joe’s office wearing white bootees and latex gloves. He peeled the gloves off and took out a small notebook. “You the guy who found him?”

“Yeah.”

“The other detectives will want to talk to you later. I’ll get the basics from you now.”

It didn’t take long. Rory answered that he didn’t know if Joe had any enemies, in part because he didn’t know the victim very well.

“Any idea why he wanted to meet with you?”

Rory shrugged. “I’m an outside entertainment lawyer representing the studio in a big case. There’s a court hearing going on about it right now. Maybe he wanted to talk about that. But he didn’t say. Just said he wanted to see me today.”

“I see.”

“So, Detective,” Rory said, “is there any way he could have . . . choked himself, somehow? Is that possible?”

“Not unless you can strangle yourself and make the rope disappear afterward.”

“No sign of it?”

He shook his head. “It was good you didn’t go in there. A lot of people would have. How did you have the smarts not to?”

“A long time ago, I was a deputy DA. You learn stuff in that job.”

“And now you’re—what did you say? An entertainment lawyer?” Without waiting for Rory to confirm, he rolled on: “Hey, have you heard this one?”

Here we go, Rory thought. Even in the middle of a gruesome crime scene.

“What’s the difference between a dead lawyer and a dead armadillo in the road, Counselor?”

“I don’t know. What?”

“No skid marks in front of the lawyer.” He guffawed at his own joke.

Rory had been thinking up good responses to lawyer jokes for years. Maybe this wasn’t the time to try one out, but then again, maybe it was.

“That’s funny, Detective, but what about this one? How many clients does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”

“Uh, I dunno.”

“Well, no one knows, because clients always call their lawyers to come over and help.”

“Huh?”

“It’s a client joke.”

“I gotta think about that one.”

“Yes. Do that. May I go now?”

“Yes.”

“You have my card. If any of the other detectives need to talk to me, please tell ’em to give me a call.”

“I expect they will.” He paused. “Say, do lawyers often tell each other client jokes?”

“Nope, but they should.”

Rory left Detective Johnson, walked back to his car in the parking lot and opened the door. Then he turned around and threw up on the asphalt, getting some on his pants. When he felt like it wasn’t going to happen again, he drove home, cleaned up and tried to eat something. But he wasn’t hungry. Then he tried to sleep but found it hard. He finally got up, rummaged in his medicine cabinet and found a bottle of Valium that an old girlfriend had left behind. He took one and fell into a troubled sleep.

Chapter 2

MONDAY MORNING

FEDERAL COURT—CIVIL DOCKET

Broom v. TheSun/TheMoon/TheStars

Xavier X. Cabraal, the oldest federal district court judge in Los Angeles, perched in his chair beneath the Great Seal of the United States. Well-liked and already into the late stages of avuncularity, he cast his rheumy eyes down upon attorney Kathryn Thistle, who was sitting at the plaintiff’s table. Kathryn was thin, somewhere in that not-yet-middle-aged place between thirty-five and forty, with a pageboy haircut bleached to a bright platinum.

“Ms. Thistle, I’ve read your very well-written motion papers, listened to your eloquent arguments and carefully considered what you have had to say on behalf of your client. But, although I haven’t fully made up my mind as yet, I’m strongly inclined to deny your motion to enjoin the defendant studio, TheSun/TheMoon/TheStars, from distributing its new movie, Extorted.”

Scrunched uncomfortably into his much-too-small chair at the defense table, Rory was surprised Judge Cabraal had decided to move directly into his views on the case. He’d half expected him to begin the hearing by mentioning the death of Joe Stanton and offering his condolences to the studio and Joe’s friends and colleagues. After all, Joe had been in