Jason Robinson attends his 20th high school reunion where he connects with his old girlfriend. The next day she is dead and he is charged with her murder. He asks attorney Mike Zorich to represent him. Mike feels that the case against Jason is week, even though Jason has given inconsistent statements and some emails emerge that give him a motive to commit murder.
Meanwhile, Mike is trying to cope with his own problem with alcohol. After his friends confront him, he enters rehabilitation and then begins his own investigation into what really happened at the reunion, exposing dirty secrets that leave families and lives ruined with their disclosure.
Praise for Fatal Reunion:
“I was hooked from the first paragraph of “Fatal Reunion” and my interest never wavered for a moment! I loved the creative and strong characters and plots that continued to build and shock and surprise, and I thought Zorich was a great lead, flawed and resourceful and passionate. Just when you think you know what’s happening, something comes along to throw a wrench in it. This is good because I HATE books that are super predictable. And this one isn’t. Although there are some familiar themes and tropes at play, the author brings a unique voice and makes it all his own. I appreciated the brisk pace and the vivid, descriptive details and strong word choice that really brought the story to life – accurate world building and authentic character development is absolutely crucial in selling a convincing story and it is done quite nicely here. Will be interested in seeing where this series and our leads go. Recommend for anyone who enjoy a well-written, original legal thriller with unexpected twists.(5 stars)” Laura Clarke– Barnes & Noble Reviewer.
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The phone rang at the suburban home of attorney Mike Zorich around one- thirty on a Sunday afternoon in October. Mike put down the crossword puzzle and hit the mute button on his remote. He could still watch the San Francisco 49er football game as the players ran around silently on the screen.
He wondered who would be calling him at this hour.
“Mr. Zorich, how are you? This is Detective Tom Kirkland, Sacramento
“Detective Kirkland, it’s been some time since we spoke.”
“I understand you spent last night talking to the reunion party at the
“I did, but how would you know that?”
“I have one of the alums here at the station and he told me all about it. In fact, he would like to talk to you. His name is Jason Robinson. We have him on an open homicide investigation. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure. Put him on.”
There was a pause and a couple of clicks on the other end of the line.
“Mr. Zorich, I need some help. Can you help me? My name is Jason
Robinson. I was at the reunion dinner last night. They have me down here and they say that I am a suspect in a murder. But I didn’t do it. Can you come down here and get me out of here? I don’t have a lot of money but I will pay you. I promise. I heard you speak last night at our reunion dinner. You have
to help me.”
“Where exactly are you now? Is there anyone near you?”
“I’m at the police station in a small room. I’m by myself. They won’t say what is going to happen to me.”
“Okay. Who was murdered? Do you know?”
“Yes, it’s Lori McDonald. She’s a former classmate of mine. She was at the dinner last night too.”
“Has Kirkland talked to you yet?”
“Yeah, but just for a few minutes. I was hoping to clear it all up and maybe they would let me go. Now I’m not too sure about that.”
“All right. Sit tight. I will be right down. Just don’t talk any more. Tell them you talked to me and I said that you were not allowed to talk to anyone. Got that? Blame me. Tell them that the lawyer said you can’t talk to anyone.”
“Yeah, I’ve got that.”
“Do you have relatives or friends nearby?”
“My parents live in Carmichael and my wife and I live in Los Altos. Down in the Bay Area. That’s where we live.”
“Okay. Have you called her yet?”
“No, I just got the one phone call. They said I could call a lawyer and I don’t know any lawyers. I just remembered you from last night so I asked to call you.”
“Okay. I will be right there. Just don’t talk with anyone until I get there. Got that?”
“I mean no one.”
Mike was soon speeding west on Highway 50 and then south on Highway
99, on his way to the Headquarters of the Sacramento Police Department. There he met with Detective Kirkland who ran down the situation for him. Kirkland and Mike were acquaintances from some previous cases. Mike had cross-examined him on more than one occasion and Kirkland was not the kind of guy to forget those experiences. But Mike hoped that Kirkland respected him. More than one detective had told Mike that he was a straight- shooter. In the police code of separating the good guys from the bad guys, being a straight-shooter criminal defense lawyer was about the best that one could achieve, on the good side of the ledger.
It took about thirty minutes before Mike presented himself at the green, glass-enclosed window on the first floor. In a couple of minutes the door to the side swung open and Kirkland invited Mike to follow him inside. As they walked, Kirkland told him that he had spoken to Jason for a few minutes at the Sheraton before transporting him to the police station. Kirkland also told Mike that they were still investigating and evaluating the other evidence that they had accumulated. At this point, unless some other evidence was found, it was likely that they would cut Jason loose from jail in an hour or so.
Kirkland took Mike to meet Jason in the same room where Kirkland had interviewed him. Kirkland assured Mike that he would have privacy in the room, notwithstanding the camera, because it had been turned off. Mike nodded and closed the door. Jason was sitting at the plain desk, looking up with red eyes. Mike introduced himself and immediately told Jason that this was not the place to discuss the case. Mike told Jason that, based on what Kirkland had just told him, he was probably not going to be arrested right then.
“Is there any way I can get out of here right now?”
“I don’t control that, Jason. It’s up to the police. I can’t make it happen any quicker. They have a right to hold you for a reasonable period of time while they conduct their investigation and gather their evidence. ”
“I didn’t do it, Mr. Zorich, you have to believe me. There can’t be any evidence against me.”
“Let’s just wait and see what they come up with,” Mike said. “I think Detective Kirkland only wants to keep you for a while. If all goes well, he’ll release you pretty soon.”
“So, I just sit here while they figure it all out?”
“Yes. I’m afraid so. The most important thing I can tell you is not to talk to anyone. Just like I told you on the phone, tell them that I told you that you can’t talk to them. They’ll understand.”
“I don’t get it,” Jason said. “I didn’t do it.”
“Now, what about your family? Do you want me to give your wife a call and explain the situation? Or, I’m sure they will allow you make a call on your own. Depends on you.”
“I had better talk to her.”
“All right. I will get a telephone call for you and you tell her that you have been detained. But don’t discuss anything to do with Lori McDonald. If and when they cut you loose, it would be best if you could spend the night here and come see me tomorrow. Does that work for you?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
They talked for a while longer, Mike asked questions and took down basic information about Jason. But mainly he spent the time reassuring Jason that it would all work out. In about ten minutes, Mike walked down a hallway in search of Detective Kirkland. Kirkland looked up from his computer as Mike approached.
“So, counselor, is your man ready to talk some more? We were doing just fine when I stopped because he wanted a lawyer. Sure like to clear this whole thing up today. Wouldn’t you like to do the same?”
Kirkland gave him a wink. Mike smiled back. “I would, detective, I would. I always want my clients to cooperate with the authorities. But as you might guess, I can’t have him talking right now. I have to learn more about this whole deal first. What I would like, however, is for my client to call his wife. Can you make that happen?”
“Yeah, I will take care of that.”
“So, what have you got,” Mike asked. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“I would. Look, this guy is pretty scared right now. He’s not going anywhere. He doesn’t look like the criminal type, you can see that. No record, right?”
“Oh, you can see that by just looking at him? That’s rich. Never met a defense lawyer who didn’t tell me the same thing. All true believers, all of you. Yeah, he doesn’t have a record.”
“And I’ll bet you don’t have much connecting him to the murder, right?”
“Okay, I’ll play ball with you. We have a statement from someone from
food service. He says that he heard some loud voices around midnight in
Lori McDonald’s room. He was walking the hallways, some kind of security check I guess. He’s positive that it was her room. But your guy says there was no arguing. So, right away, we know he may be lying. Then he told me that he was just in the room, not in the bathroom. But we found quite a few prints, some in the bathroom. He says they were just talking but there was a bottle of champagne and two glasses. So, I think there was more going on than that. Plus, there was a lamp on the floor. Could have been used in the murder. We might have prints on the lamp, not sure right now. He told us that they didn’t have sex. But it wouldn’t surprise me that he might hook up with someone else, especially at a reunion. Right now we are just waiting for the results from the lab. The autopsy won’t be done for a few days, maybe longer. We will know more then, like her level of alcohol or drugs, if any, and whether or not she had sex recently. We might even get a blood type or some DNA. If he did have sex with her, he lied to us.”
“Sounds pretty thin to me, detective. I think you’re fishing. There have to be lot of other possibilities. Who else are you looking at?”
“Nobody for right now. As I said, we’re waiting for fingerprints. I had hoped for something by now but I haven’t heard. We are talking to other possible witnesses. Also, we will need the other lab reports. Shouldn’t take long. A week or so, I figure.”
“Anyone else at the reunion that caught your attention?” “No, not yet, at least.”
“She’s married, right?” “Yes, she was married.”
“Are you checking her husband out? You know what they say, that it’s always the husband.”
“Listen, we are doing our job. You do your job and we will let you know what we find, okay?”
“Sure. You still okay with cutting him loose now?”
“Yeah, we have to check out a few more notes from some other people. We would need to get a blood sample and hair samples, before we would let him go. Check his blood type and stuff like that. And we would not want him leaving the Bay Area. Also, we would want an extradition waiver signed now,
in case he leaves the state. And we would want him to turn his passport over to you. You have any problem with any of that?”
“No, no problem at all. I will tell Jason to cooperate with you on all of this stuff. What are you thinking, another hour or so?”
“Yeah, that should be more than enough.” “Thanks, detective.”
Mike knew the case was weak. The detective was trying to make the case, although Mike couldn’t be sure Kirkland really thought that Jason had killed Lori. Mike’s job was to ensure that they looked at other people and didn’t just focus on Jason. He had seen too many times where the cops jumped on the first likely suspect and forgot about everyone else.
“Oh, I’ve got one for you, counselor. Bet you haven’t heard it. What’s the difference between a lawyer and a herd of buffalo?”
“I haven’t got a clue, detective.” “A lawyer charges more.”
Kirkland followed the punchline with his distinctive laugh. The joke was one that Mike remembered as soon as he heard it.
“But you’re wrong. I have heard it. More than once.”
“Honest to God, Zorich. I just can’t understand how you guys do your job. I know. We need lawyers to make the system work. We need lawyers to give everyone their due. I get all that. But, good God, you defense lawyers are really hard to understand. Always trying to get people off. I just don’t get it.” In thirty years of practice, Mike had heard all of the lawyer jokes. And he
had tried many times to answer the inevitable question that would emerge at a cocktail party, usually after three or four scotches. “How can you defend a guilty person?”
There was never a good answer, at least not one that satisfied whoever was asking. Mike would usually say “Even the guilty get a lawyer,” or “Everyone deserves a defense.” His answers only led to more questions. But lately, he had heard a new refrain. “There are just too many lawyers.” And Mike had to agree at least that it was hard to find a law job these days. Therefore, there must be too many lawyers. But then Mike would remind his friends that poor people still needed lawyers and, for that matter, the middle class also needed lawyers. Mike was not in the mood to get into an argument with Detective Kirkland today.
“Oh, I think you get it, detective. I think you do.”
Mike checked back in with Jason, who was still sitting in the same inter- view room, and told him what he and Kirkland had discussed. They made plans to meet the next day and Mike asked Jason to give him a call when he got to a hotel. Jason was scared. That was pretty obvious.