Barnes & Noble.com
Maureen Meehan Aplin
When Michael O'Connor, the co-founder of a pharmaceutical giant, is indicted for the murder of his business partner, he hires Mary MacIntosh to defend him in what Michael claims to be a skiing accident on the slopes of Jackson Hole.
“What was the last thing you said to Preston before he died?” I asked Michael O’Connor, our firm’s newest client. Michael looked away and started rocking back and forth in his mother’s rocking chair; his sandy blond hair was getting wavier each time he swept his right hand through it. “Your arraignment hearing is the day after tomorrow,” I reminded him, trying to push the words out of his mouth.
“Answer her,” Michael’s mother ordered, as if he were still her little boy, despite the fact that he was thirty-nine years old. Michael looked at his mother sheepishly with his sky blue eyes, and then lowered his gaze back to the shag carpet that covered the hardwood floors of his childhood home in Jackson, Wyoming.
“I don’t remember my exact words,” Michael said, almost defiantly. Harry, the senior partner of our law firm, stood and reached for his coat. Michael obviously got the message. “We were arguing about business, all right? But it was no big deal. We argued about business all the time.”
“Let me explain this to you,” Harry said, setting his gray pinstriped Massimo Bizzocchi suit jacket back down. “The grand jury must have had enough evidence to indict you for Preston’s murder, so now’s the time for you to come clean. The grand jury’s final report of its finding and recommendations to the presiding judge detail plenty of evidence of motive and opportunity. There’s even an affidavit from a confidential source that you hired a hit man to kill Preston. Let’s start by where you were, what was said and how, and who said it.” After forty years practicing law, Harry always dispensed with the small talk. He’d moved to Jackson Hole about twenty years ago. Formerly a partner in a large law firm with offices all over the world, Harry had practiced out of both the New York and San Francisco offices, jet-setting the coast regularly. On a skiing vacation one winter, he fell in love with Jackson Hole. Not longer after, he cashed in on his partnership, convinced his wife, Jane, of the benefits of living in fresh air, and hung his shingle in Jackson. A former full academic-scholarship Stanford football star, his outgoing nature helped him establish his practice in Jackson. His taste for expensive British apparel made him stand out. He was famous in court as a relentless questioner.
“Like I told the police,” Michael stammered, “We all went up the tram together and I told Preston that I wanted to take an advanced ski run back down the hill and -”
“Who’s ‘we all’?” Harry interrupted.
“My mom, Kelly, Preston, and I went skiing together that day.” Michael’s mom nodded in agreement.
“Preston was your business partner and Kelly was his wife, right?”
“Yes. Actually, Kelly was my friend before she was Preston’s wife.”
“I see. Go on.”
“When I told everyone that I wanted to ski Granite Canyon, Preston insisted on tagging along. I tried to talk him out of it, but no one could talk Preston out of anything he’d decided to do. He followed me to Granite Canyon, which is out of bounds. When we got to the first chute, I again tried to tell him not to try it, but he kept on following me. As we made our way to the second chute, he was trying to convince me that he was doing the right thing in Asia for our business. I adamantly disagreed -”
“So you wanted to take an expert ski run and Preston wanted to follow you to talk business?”
“He wanted to convince me that he was right. But he wasn’t. Preston was selling Geyser drugs in Asia for the wrong reasons, and we both knew it.” Michael suddenly stopped rocking, but his right eye began to twitch and he put his index finger over his eyelid to stop the reflex. “He told me he was going to do the deal in Asia with or without my consent. I guess my exact words were something like, ‘Over my dead body.’”
“Is that what happened? A dead body? Only it wasn’t yours – it was his.”