About the Book
For fans of THE SECRET HISTORY and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER comes an exciting new voice in suspense fiction.
Ten years working as a prosecutor has left Meredith Delay jaded and unsure of what she wants out of life. She’s good at her job, but it haunts her. Her boyfriend wants her to commit, but she keeps him at arm’s length. When she gets assigned to a high-profile prosecution involving the violent murder of a fallen hockey star, it appears at first to be just another case to work. But when her estranged law school friend, Julian, gets accused of the murder, it takes on a whole new dimension.
Meredith, Julian, Jonathan, and Lily were a tight-knit group in law school. But now, Jonathan’s defending Julian, and Lily’s loyalties aren’t clear. And when Julian invokes a rare—and risky—defense, Meredith is forced to confront their past.
Has something they played at as students finally been brought to death?
It was Laura who called to tell me the news.
“Meredith?” Her voice echoed down the bad connection, repeating itself like a rock skipping across the water. “It’s about Julian…”
I gripped the phone tightly as his name echoed through the receiver. Julian. Julian. Julian.
“Have you seen Lily?” I said through the lump in my throat.
“No. She’s not seeing anyone. Not even Jonathan.”
My heart constricted again as this second name bounced across the world to me.
“When are you coming home?”
“I don’t know. I might not be.”
“It’s on Friday…”
I could hear the reproach in her voice and her sorrow shaking down the line.
“Thank you for letting me know.”
I hung up the phone gently, and opened the door to the porch overlooking the ocean. I sat in the solitary deck chair I’d purchased soon after my arrival, holding the mug of now cold tea I abandoned to answer the phone. I watched the waves crash in a spray of white foam against the rocks and sand, the world’s lungs breathing in and out slowly.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when your life becomes unmanageable…
Six months ago I had a successful career in Montreal. Now I was nearly a fugitive, living anonymously in a beach town on the other side of the world.
I wasn’t happy before. My job was stressful. I slept badly. I weighed less than I should. I pushed away those who tried to get close to me.
But at least I was living.
Now, I’m in stasis. I sleep, but I wake early. I eat, but it’s out of habit. I run along the shore at dawn, but I can’t see the beauty that surrounds me.
I know I need to go back. To my life. But also to the beginning. So I can know. So I can understand.
How I got here. What we did. Why we did it.
But really, what I most need to know is: Were we innocent?
Were we guilty?
You tell me…
June 11, 2007
I woke shivering from the cold night air that had seeped in through the open window. Chris lay next to me, snoring softly with the covers tucked up under his chin. I looked at the clock. It was a quarter to seven. And though my alarm wasn’t supposed to go off for another twenty minutes, I already felt as if I was late. I’d been feeling like that more and more often lately, waking before my alarm, sometimes with my heart pounding like it does when you dream about falling, and sometimes simply with a feeling of dread.
As I kicked off the covers, my mind wandered to the opaque pill bottle that sat in my medicine cabinet. The pills inside might lift this shadow and let in some sunlight. But, despite the fact that I desperately needed it, I hadn’t yet cracked the seal. Instead, I was feeling out the space I was in, making sure it really was the bottom, that there was nowhere left to fall, before I grabbed onto anything. If I was going to fall any farther, I didn’t want to be left without a safety net, a rope, or a map out.
I padded across the floor to the bathroom and ran water into the sink, waiting for it to warm up. I washed my face and brushed my hair, reminding myself that I needed to get it cut. I applied mascara, eye shadow, and lip gloss. I put on my standard black suit and cream blouse. I did all this automatically, without really looking at myself, without really noticing if I’d managed to cover up the tiredness. Or the panic.
“You’re up early again,” Chris muttered as I readied myself to leave.
“It’s okay.” He ran his hand through his sandy hair, rubbing the sleep from his big, brown eyes like a child. “It’s amazing how many more hours I’ve put in at the office since we’ve been together.”
“What a recommendation.”
“It is. You want to do something tonight?”
“Not sure yet. I’ll call you later, okay?”
From the expression on his face, I knew Chris wanted me to kiss him good-bye, have him wish me a good day like we were some ordinary couple, living our ordinary lives. And how hard would that have been, really, to show him some affection, a little normalcy? But it was hard, too hard for me to do. I knew if I gave in to him, I’d crawl back into bed and never come out again. And I needed to leave, because even as I stood there, my body was itching to get to the pile of files and victims that were waiting for my attention at the office.
Chris resigned himself to the fact that today wasn’t going to be different than every other morning. “Okay. Call me later.”
I exited my apartment a few minutes later, my briefcase in hand. It was a bright, clear day that promised to be warm, but was still in the process of shaking off the night. I made the short walk along de Maisonneuve to the Atwater Metro, descending the stairs into the gloomy lighting. As I passed the newsstand by the ticket window, I averted my eyes from the black headlines that called out for attention. I didn’t want to know if someone new had died. I had enough deaths to deal with.
I could tell, though, by the buzz that emanated from the clutch of people standing around the newsstand that something big had happened. It was in the timbre of the talk, the way that people who were usually wrapped up in their silent anticipation of the day were discussing whatever it was with the strangers beside them.
Trying to remain ignorant for as long as possible, I slumped down into the plastic, molded seat of the Metro car and turned up the volume on my iPod. The plaintive voice of Glen Hansard kept me company until my stop.
I took the escalator up three flights and emerged into the brighter, hotter day. I walked on Saint Antoine to the Palais de justice, each step both making me more and less anxious. Inside, I waved to Gilles, the security guard, sitting in his round station. I waited for the creaky elevator to clack open and take me to the right floor. I was early enough to be the only one on it, and I enjoyed my last moments of solitude.
I unlocked the front door of the Crown Prosecutor’s Office and walked past the empty receptionist’s desk. I flipped on the lights in my office to illuminate the chaos that was my private domain.
I had seven murders assigned to me at that time. Witness statements, photographs, autopsy and police reports were strewn across every surface that would hold them. Only the space directly in front of my desk chair was free. I made a point to clear it every night before I left.
With my heart making the uneven beat I’d grown used to, I sat down and turned on my computer. While my e-mail and Internet started up, I opened the first file that needed my attention and began working.
The Blais case involved the rape and murder of a young girl, and the trial was set to start in a few days. The victim was Mr. Blais’s babysitter. He’d been seen near where her body was found curled up under a park bench. He was professing his innocence, and his wife was standing by him. Without any DNA or fiber evidence linking him to the crime, I was going to have my work cut out to convince the jury to convict on a purely circumstantial case.
I spent the next two hours preparing an outline of my questions for the two principal witnesses: the girl’s mother, who thought there was an inappropriate relationship between her daughter and Mr. Blais, and the late-night jogger who had ID’d him. I worked against the distant din of the other prosecutors and assistants arriving for the day.
A year or two ago, some of them would have come into my office, said hello, struck up a conversation. But no one stopped by any more unless they absolutely had to. I hadn’t wanted to push my colleagues away. In fact, the isolation was adding to my depression. Yet, I couldn’t seem to find a way back to the person who used to joke, and sleep at night, and have a few really close friends at the office. Hence the pill bottle standing sentry in my medicine cabinet, ready to greet me each morning.
The only person I still interacted with regularly was my assistant, Claudia. She was a kindly woman in her fifties who was assigned to me when I became a prosecutor. I didn’t know how I’d manage without her.
She popped into my office around ten, wearing one of her typically vibrant outfits—a purple pencil skirt and a bright-green T-shirt.
“Hi, Claudia. What’s up?”
“I wanted to bring you the new file. Charles wants you to look at it as soon as possible.”
I could feel my blood pressure start to rise. “What new file?”
She looked surprised. Even though she knew I didn’t read the paper or watch the news, clearly this murder was big enough that even I should’ve heard about it.
“Nick Allan. He was murdered.”
It took a moment for the news to sink in. Nick Allan was the son of Norman Allan, a Hall-of-Famer who played for the Canadiens in the 1960s. Nick also played for the Canadiens for a few years in the 1980s before his love of cocaine and hookers drove him from the league. He’d been in the news recently when it was revealed that he was the long-term sexual abuser of a young boy. The case received a lot of media attention, but because the boy was underage, a publication ban kept the general public from knowing the worst of it: the victim was his own son.
I’d been the prosecutor on the case, and Allan was found guilty. He’d appealed his conviction, and everyone in the office was disgusted when a judge granted Allan’s bail request three months ago. His attorney convinced the court that Allan would be in danger in jail since he was a celebrity and a convicted juvenile sex offender, both labels sufficient to put him at the very bottom of the prison hierarchy.
“Somebody murdered Nick Allan?”
“Looks that way.”
“And they’ve arrested someone?”
“Yes. But it’s really weird; the guy they arrested—Julian McCarthy I think his name is—called the police himself.”
My heart gave an extra-strong, uneven beat. “Julian McCarthy?”
She opened the file. “Yeah, that’s right. You know him?”
I was having difficultly breathing. “We went to law school together.”
“Why would he kill Nick Allan?”
I shook my head. “When’s the arraignment?”
“Tomorrow. I put it in your agenda.”
She left, closing the door behind her. The minute she was gone, I read the terse police report. A 9-1-1 call was placed early that morning at 3:29 a.m. from Allan’s residence. A male caller identified himself as Julian McCarthy, said he was in someone’s house, had blood on his hands and that there was a person who seemed dead with him. He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know the name of the dead man. He sounded upset and asked the police to come right away.
When the police arrived, they found the front door unlocked but not forced, and McCarthy sitting in the living room staring at his blood-soaked hands. The victim was found in his bed, with multiple stab wounds to the chest. The murder weapon, a kitchen knife, lay on the floor. There were no signs of a struggle.
McCarthy submitted to preliminary questioning. He claimed to have no idea how he ended up in Allan’s residence, or even whose residence it was. His last memory was of falling asleep after taking a sleeping pill. When he awoke, he was standing over Allan’s bed with a knife in his hands. He called the police and waited for them to arrive. He told the officers he had a serious sleeping disorder, that he often had bad bouts of sleepwalking where he’d perform complicated tasks while unconscious, of which he’d remember nothing the next day.
After forty-five minutes of questioning, McCarthy asked to speak to his lawyer. He was allowed to place a call, and refused to answer any more questions until his lawyer arrived. After they spoke privately for a few minutes, McCarthy repeated the same facts with his lawyer present. His lawyer then put an end to the questioning. McCarthy was arrested and charged with murder.
I read through the report twice with my hands shaking. None of it made any sense, and yet, I knew exactly what I’d read before I read it. I knew what Julian would say to the police, how many details he’d give them, the things he’d withhold. I knew the name of the lawyer he’d call before I read it on the page. I knew there was a third person who’d have a part to play soon.
I knew the part I was supposed to play.
The stage was all set.