Black Monday is set in Dallas during the savings and loan crisis of the late 80s and features legal sleuth, Stan Turner and his partner, Paula Waters. While Paula defends a man accused of murdering the chairman of a failed thrift, Stan searches for the killer of an old lady whose estate includes art treasures stolen by an American army officer during World War II.
Black Monday (Lean Press, Trade Paperback, Summer 2005) one of Stan's clients, a widow, is found murdered in her home along with eleven of her twelve dogs that were living with her. When Stan reviews the old woman's will, he discovers she has appointed him executor of her estate and that her beneficiary is the SPCA. He could kick himself for agreeing to be executor of Lottie West's estate and has no desire to act in that capacity since he's already in the middle of a high profile murder case, but there is nobody else to do it so he accepts the job and starts to dig into her affairs. Although she is living like a pauper, Stan finds an ice chest full of gold and silver coins under her house. This piques his interest in this mysterious woman and he set out to find out who she is and why she was murdered.
In the course of the investigation, Stan discovers that the woman's dead husband was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II who apparently stole priceless art treasures that were entrusted to his care during the Allied occupation of Germany at the end of the war. Further investigation reveals that the stolen art is the famous Ludinburg Collection, a collection that includes a 9th century version of the Four Gospels, the Reliquary, and other gifts from kings and emperors who ruled numerous German states in the 9th and 10th century. With this knowledge, Stan is determined not only to bring the woman's killer to justice but to find the famous Ludinburg collection that has been missing for over 40 years.
Stan teams up with Detective Bingo Besch of the Dallas Police Department to search for clues as to Lottie's murderer and the whereabouts of the famous art collection. While interviewing legitimate art dealers in Dallas, Stan finds an entry into the art underworld where he learns two pieces in the collections have already been sold. But the dealers involved claim most of the collection remains in tact and is hidden somewhere in North Texas. As Stan continues to search for the Ludinburg collection, so does Lottie's murderer and it's only a matter of time until their paths cross.
While Stan is chasing down Lottie West's killer and looking for the Ludinburg Collection, he and his partner Paula Waters are also in the midst of the defending Jimmy Bennett accused of the murder of his father-in-law, the Chairman of Metroplex Savings and Loan. To further complicate matters Stan is drawn into a turf fight between the FBI and CIA involving the Iran-Contra Scandal and digs up information that could get him killed.
After Stan and I successfully defended Dusty Thomas, we were the talk of the town and I was quickly inundated with work. Unfortunately most of the cases coming in were routine DWI's, possession charges, and domestic violence cases—nothing very challenging. That's why I was so excited about the Baker murder. That was the kind of case I wanted and since Stan had a connection to the prime suspect through Tex, why not go after it.
My plan worked like a charm. Around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday I got a call from Jimmy Bennett's brother, John Bennett. He told me Jimmy had been arrested and that he wanted me and Stan to represent him.
On the news the previous night I had learned that Jimmy Bennett was the construction superintendent for Baker Construction Company and had pretty much run the company since Don Baker bought Metroplex Savings and Loan several years earlier. The two men had been very close since Jimmy married Don's daughter, Betty. None of the TV stations knew what the argument was about, but they all agreed Don had threatened to fire Jimmy.
The double murder had gone nationwide due to the fact that a CEO of a major thrift was involved. I asked John if he knew of his brother's whereabouts on the night of the murder. He indicated he didn't have a clue.
The Dallas County Courthouse was surrounded by media trucks when I arrived. I avoided them by parking underground and entering the building from the underground tunnel. When I got out of the elevator, several reporters spotted me and rushed over.
"Miss Waters. What are you doing here? Have you been retained by Mr. Bennett?" the first reporter asked.
"Yes, I have. That's why I'm here," I replied.
"Why do you think he killed them?" another reporter asked.
"I'm sorry. I have no comment at this time. I haven't even met with him yet," I said as I pushed my way past the reporters and into the small waiting room. I approached the deputy at the desk who I knew very well from my days working for the DA's office.
"Hey, Joe," I said.
"Hi, Paula. Who are you here to see?"
Joe raised his eyebrows. "Well, I can't let you see him quite yet. He's still being processed."
"Listen, Joe. I've been retained by the Bennett family to represent him and I want to see him now. I don't want anyone interviewing him without me being present."
"I'm sorry, Paula, but I was given strict instructions—no visitors until after 10:30 a.m."
"How long have you had him in here?" I asked.
"He checked in about 8:45 a.m."
"Then you've had enough time to book him and process him into the jail. Who's been assigned the case?"
The name sent a chill down my spine. Although I had never met him, he had a reputation as being a male chauvinist and a first class asshole. I had heard stories about him often demeaning and berating the female assistant DA's that he was forced to work with, so I could just image how he was going to treat me, his adversary.
"Call him and tell him I'm here and I'm pissed off. I want to see my client now!"
"Okay, don't get your panties in a wad. I'll call him."
"Thanks," I said forcing a cheery smile.
Fifteen minutes later Joe informed me that Jimmy Bennett was in booth number three. I found it, opened the heavy door, and took a seat. Jimmy sat across from me separated by a thick glass window. He was a tall, slim man of about thirty-five years. He had dark hair, blue eyes, and a handsome face. We communicated via a telephone and, even though we were less than two feet apart, the connection was terrible.
I said, "Jimmy. I'm Paula Waters. Your brother hired me to represent you."
"They say you killed your father-in-law and his girlfriend Amanda Black."
"Amanda's dead too?"
Jimmy sank back in his chair and rubbed his forehead. He looked genuinely shocked. "I can't believe it. Jesus," he said.
"You obviously didn't do it, then?" I said.
"No. Of course not. I may have been pissed off at Don but I wouldn't kill him. And I liked Amanda. She was a good friend." His voice broke. "I had no reason to kill her."
"Good. Where were you last night between ten and daybreak?"
He took a deep breath trying to regain his composure. "Out driving."
"Driving? . . . Alone?"
"Yes, alone. I didn't feel much like company. When I'm upset I usually just take off and drive. The open road calms me down."
"Did you see anybody or talk to anybody during the night?"
"No, I stopped at a convenience store in Gainesville. The clerk might remember me. I bought a cup of coffee and some cigarettes. . . . You don't have a cigarette, do you?"
"No, sorry. . . . Did you use a credit card?"
"Too bad," I said. "Do you know the clerk's name?"
"No, but she was there alone so you can find out her name from the owner of the store. She was from India or Pakistan—a young girl—not a day over 25."
"I'll check it out."
"Good. If I had known Don was gonna get his throat slashed, I'd of made sure I had an alibi," Jimmy said with a grim face.
"Right. Has anyone interrogated you yet?"
"Yes Detective John Perkins did about an hour ago. What a prick."
I nodded. "What did you tell him?"
"Pretty much what I told you—I just got in my car and headed for Oklahoma City."
"Why Oklahoma City?"
"No reason. When I take off, I just start driving and end up wherever I end up."
"Where were you arrested?"
"At my house. The police were waiting for me when I drove in the driveway."
"Well, at least they didn't get you on your way out of the state. That could have made it difficult for you to get bond."
Jimmy shrugged. "I didn't do anything, so I had no reason to run. When I saw the police, I got scared. I thought something had happened to Betty."
"They must have some other evidence. They wouldn't arrest you unless they did. Are you sure you didn't go by the condo last night?"
He glared at me. "Yes, I told you I went to Oklahoma City."
"Okay. Do you have any idea who might have killed Don and Amanda?"
He shrugged. "Don, sure—Amanda, no. I'm sure she was killed simply because she was there and would have been a witness."
"So, who do you think did it?"
"Oh, God. It would take a week to compile a list."
"Right. Well, I'll need you to do that just as soon as you get out of here."
"Sure, no problem. Just get me out of here and bring some damn cigarettes when you come next time. I'm dying in here."
"I'll do that. . . . Okay, then. Your arraignment is at 11:00 a.m. Hopefully the judge won't set your bond too high. Don't talk to anybody from now on, okay?"
"Your brother is doing the paperwork for your bond right now, so we should be able to get you out of here pretty quick."
"Good. This isn't a very healthy place to hang out."
"Yes, I know. Just be patient. It won't be long now."
The deputy told me Judge Wingate had been assigned to the case. He was a large man with a wide curly mustache. Some of the attorney's called him "the Walrus" which he resembled when he walked. The Walrus was known for his generally calm, deliberate disposition, and everybody I knew liked him. But he occasionally got mad and when that happened everyone just prayed they weren't the subject of his displeasure.
I called John Bennett and told him to meet me in the courtroom at 10:30 a.m. with the bondsman and character witnesses we had lined up. I assumed the bond would be ready with the exception of filling in the amount. By eleven o'clock the courtroom was packed with spectators and the press.
Rob Wilkerson and his assistant were at the prosecution table. It was the first time I had seen Wilkerson, so I gave him a hard look. He was medium height, had dark hair, and was impeccably dressed. If I hadn't known him by reputation, I'd have probably thought he was an attractive man. I figured that was how the jury was going to see him. He would be a formidable adversary. At two minutes past eleven the bailiff brought in Jimmy. When Judge Wingate entered everyone rose.
"Be seated," he said and then began sorting through a stack of files. Finally he looked up. "Okay, Mr. Wilkerson, what do you have for me?"
"Well, Your Honor. We have Jimmy Roger Bennett accused of two counts of first degree murder. The victims were his father-in-law, Don Thompson Baker, and a lady friend Amanda Black. The victims were asleep when their throats were slashed."
The judge nodded and then looked at me. "Miss Waters. How does your client plead?"
"Your Honor. Mr. Bennett pleads not guilty and we respectfully request a reasonable bond. We have several witnesses ready to testify that Mr. Bennett is a respected member of the community, a family man, property owner, and that there is absolutely no flight risk."
"Absolutely no flight risk?" the judge said. "There's always a flight risk Miss Waters—particularly in a murder case. I'll set bond at $250,000 and Mr. Bennett will need to surrender his passport."
"Thank you, Your Honor," Wilkerson said. He looked over at me and grinned. I forced a smile and turned to Jimmy.
"Okay, we've got the bond arranged. We'll be over in a few minutes to get you out. Jimmy nodded and the bailiff took him away.
Thirty minutes later we escorted Jimmy out of the jail and drove him back to our office to talk strategy. Stan and Jimmy's wife Betty joined us in the conference room. Jodie got everybody coffee or a cold drink before we got started.
I began, "I know it's been a difficult day but we need to take care of a few formalities right away and work up a game plan for the future. These types of cases move pretty fast so we don't have any time to waste."
Stan went over the firm's fee agreement and asked for a $50,000 retainer. Betty opened her purse and pulled out a checkbook. She wrote the check, gave it to Stan, and then everyone signed the agreement. With that out of the way we discussed strategy.
I said, "Obviously, our task for the next few months is to try to find out who killed Don and Amanda. We do that and Jimmy is off the hook. Have you had a chance to work on that list of persons who you think might have wanted to see Don dead?"
"No, not yet."
"I'm going to need it soon."
"Okay, I'll get it to you."
I continued. "If we can't prove someone else killed them, then we at least have to create reasonable doubt. I think you are all probably familiar with that concept if you watch much television or go to the movies."
Betty nodded and said, "What do you think Jimmy's chances are?"
I shrugged and said, "We can't give you odds. There are too many variables and I don't have enough information yet."
Stan added, "If he's innocent and doesn't have to lie about anything, then his chances should be pretty good. Our system of justice isn't perfect but it usually works pretty well."
I said, "What Stan and I are going to have to do over the next few months is to thoroughly investigate Don Baker, Amanda Black, Baker Construction, and Metroplex Savings and Loan. In order to do that we'll need to talk to each of you in depth and interview all your employees, friends, and business associates. It's going to be a tremendous undertaking and will be extremely time consuming and tedious. Before you leave, Jodie will schedule an appointment for each of you with Stan or me over the next two weeks."
Jimmy said, "What about the funeral? Can I go with Betty?"
I looked at Stan. He replied, "Sure, you're presumed innocent until proven guilty, so you have every right to be at Don's funeral. Some family members may not like it, but that's too bad."
"We'll all be at the funeral," I said. "The killer will most likely be there too, so I want everyone to be very observant and report any strangers you might see, all right?"
"Then that's all for now unless anyone has a question," I said.
Betty lifted her hand and said, "What about the press?"
Stan said, "Keep your mouth shut for now. No interviews and do not discuss the case with anyone."
I added, "Especially you, Jimmy. Don't discuss the case with anybody because whatever you say, even in private, may be used against you in court."
He nodded. "Right."
After the meeting Stan and I got a cup of coffee and went back into the conference room to map out our investigation plan. We both knew it was going to be very difficult to defend Jimmy since he had an obvious motive to kill Don and no alibi.
Stan said, "Well, are you happy with your new case?"
I smiled and nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I'm really looking forward to digging into it."
"I wish I felt that way. I feel like someone just strapped a giant boulder on my back."
I shook my head. "Stan, come on. You're an old pro at this."
Stan laughed. "Right. . . . So, do you really think Jimmy is innocent?"
"Yes, I do. He seems very honest and straightforward about everything."
"Well, I hope you're right."
"Me too. I'd hate to lose."
"So, are we going to hire a private investigator or investigate this ourselves."
"Let's just do it ourselves for now," I replied. "Later on we might need some help, but for now I'd like to personally talk to each witness."
"Okay," Stan said. "Why don't you let me handle Metroplex Savings and the Bakers and you can concentrate on Baker Construction and the Bennett family."
"That's fine," I said."We can compare notes every few days."
When we were done brainstorming about Jimmy Bennett, Stan briefed me on his meeting with Robert Huntington. He told me he'd been referred by his CIA friend Mo and that Huntington had been very secretive about his company Continental Exporters. Stan was fearful that Continental Exporters might be involved in something unlawful.
"Well, he has a right to hire an attorney to represent him before the IRS. As long as you don't know of any continuing illegal activity you should be okay."
"I don't know squat. That's what's bothering me."
"Just do your job and don't ask questions. I have to do that all the time when I represent some of my lowlife criminal clients."
"I know. It just bothers me being someone's pawn."
I shrugged. "So, did you call the Revenue Officer?"
"Yes, I did, but he hasn't called me back. You know how hard it is to make contact with them. He could be on vacation or off somewhere on temporary assignment. I only have a couple days to get the garnishment released or Luther gets will be arrested or maybe even murdered."
"So what are you going to do?" I asked.
"If I don't get a call back soon, I'll have to talk to his supervisor, but he's not going to be familiar with the case at all. If I only had more time."
"Can you file something in federal court?" I asked.
"Sure, but it would take weeks to get a case filed and get a hearing."
"Hmm. I don't know what to tell you, Stan. I guess you'll just have to keep trying to get in touch with the agent."
"I guess so."
Attorney Stan Turner hates Mondays because his clients have a weekend to think. However, this Monday, October 19, 1987, is worst than usual as the markets have nose dived from the opening bell and his clients are panicking like everyone else’s customers accelerating the drop.
Stan faces a more horrendous BLACK MONDAY than most lawyers. Someone murdered client Lottie West, who named Stan as her executor and the SPCA as her beneficiary of an estate that includes the renowned Ludinburg Collection of art treasures allegedly stolen by a GI during World War II. As the stock market collapses and the Federal Reserve fails to react, Stan is caught up with hostile fire between the CIA and the FBI on an overseas matter he works involving the other espionage group the IRS. Finally his partner Paula Waters informs him she plans to defend Jimmy Bennett accused of killing his father-in-law, the CEO of Metroplex Savings and Loan. As Stan reflects on a law banning Mondays, he investigates Lottie’s murder with Dallas Police Detective Besch, struggles with Federal entanglements that tie Central America to Iran, assists Paula, and waits for Tuesday while someone wants him dead, but for which case he does not know.
Stan’s the man as he does his best whether his clients are dead, government or that of his partner. The tongue in cheek story line feels like a historical Noir as Stan cynically pontificates on various 1980s events; for instance he blames the market collapse on President Reagan’s tax cuts promised as part of his 1984 reelection debate. Legal thriller fans will appreciate 1987 as seen through the eyes of Stan unless President Regan is part of your pantheon of the Gods. 5 Stars
Reader Reviews for "Black Monday, A Stan Turner Mystery Vol 6"
Reviewed by Walker Jackson
Halleluiah another senstional review. You continue to amaze me. Where do you find the ime to do all that you do? Someday I'm going to stop writing, editing and read some of the Autor's work. I know you enjoy reviewing his work and that's sufficient recommendation for me.
With his invariably astute adroitness, writer William Manchee has once more crafted one of his greatly enjoyable Stan Turner mysteries. Stan is again embroiled in scenario and subplot as Manchee intertwines the diversified elements of the tale with his usual dash and skill. Fully drawn characters are well fleshed, filled with imperfection and foibles and often given to perplexing artifice.
Read full review AD: mj hollingshead as article Black Monday .... Molly's Reviews