Kill All the Lawyers
“A bitingly funny whodunit. ” — Maclean’s
Arthur P. Besterman, criminal lawyer and reformed alcoholic, was the first to go. Counsel to Vancouver’s assorted shifters and grifters, Besterman almost always lost his cases. But a recent victory defending a low-life client ... Read more
“A bitingly funny whodunit. ” — Maclean’s
Arthur P. Besterman, criminal lawyer and reformed alcoholic, was the first to go. Counsel to Vancouver’s assorted shifters and grifters, Besterman almost always lost his cases. But a recent victory defending a low-life client might be a clue as to why he was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. Then when someone takes a pot shot at philandering lawyer Brian Pomeroy after he successfully defended a group of controversial eco- terrorists, people start to take notice. All of a sudden, lawyers whose clients are less than savoury start second- guessing the ethics of their profession, and going to court becomes a possible bloodsport.
After careers as a journalist, criminal lawyer, and political activist, William Deverell turned to fiction and on his first effort won the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award. Since then, he has earned multiple prizes for his 20 published novels, including the Dashiell Hammett Prize for literary excellence in crime writing in North America, two Crime Writers of Canada Awards (formerly the Arthur Ellis Award)for best Canadian novel, and two runners-up for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. He holds two honorary Doctor of Letters degrees. He lives in Pender Island, B.C.
On the second Tuesday of February, Wentworth Chance arrived at the office ashen-faced and out of breath.
"John Brovak just snapped in Court 54," he announced.
The firm convened an emergency meeting in the library, where Wentworth delivered a breathless summary of Brovak's last moments before being taken to the cells. When he finished, Max Macarthur and Augustina Sage sat looking at each other in silent wonder.
"Cocaine psychosis," said Max grimly.
"Cerebral meltdown," Augustina said softly. "The Monster finally did him in. "
Regina versus Watson and Twenty Others—more commonly referred to as the Monster—was a case Brovak had been fighting for half his career. Mistrials, retrials and appeals, the case sputtering, stalling, reviving itself, wheezing forward—for six years.
Over that span, attrition had reduced the ranks of the lawyers from an original high of twelve to a current low of four. Brovak, who had started with two clients, had inherited seven more from lawyers who had dropped out to preserve their marriages or their sanity.
When the Appeal Court ordered yet another new trial last year, the Justice Department, wearying of the battle, had wanted to halt proceedings. But Staff-Sergeant Everit Cudlipp of the RCMP insisted on one last go-round: he had smashed the West Coast's biggest cocaine ring, and he wanted satisfaction. So the Monster had commenced in September and had been plodding along before a jury at the Vancouver courthouse for the last five months.
Appointed to direct this latest rerun—it was as if a macabre joke had been played on Brovak—was Mr. Justice Leroy Lukey, newly elevated to the bench despite his failed efforts to prosecute O. D. Milsom for four serial murders. He and Brovak had been mauling each other from opening bell. Today was day eighty-eight of this sweaty match. The Hunk Meets the Hulk.
"From the top," said Max.
He and Augustina sat in morbid silence as their articling student related his story once more. Wentworth, who had been junioring His Satanic Majesty, was nervous and flustered in the telling. The mirthless expressions on his bosses' faces did little for his equanimity.
"So John was cross-examining this cop, and at some point the judge turned his back to him and said, 'You've asked that question five times. ' And John said, 'Are you speaking to me or to the wall?' And then everything kind of went still. The judge just said, 'You heard me, you've asked that question five times. ' And John said something like, 'I got five different answers, and at least four of them are lies. '
"And when the judge said he thought the witness was doing his best, John accused him of coddling all the cops like they were his personal troop of Girl Guides. Then he kind of muttered, 'Asshole flogs his meat at the sight of a uniform. '"
Augustina's dark eyes widened in alarm as she snubbed out one cigarette and lit another.
"The judge heard all the laughter and asked, 'What did you say?' and then Mr. Boynton, the prosecutor, stood up and said . .. 'My lord, counsel made a remark in the most execrable taste. ' And John turned to the prosecutor and, I don't know, it's like John just blew up, and that's when he called Mr. Boynton . .." Wentworth looked through his notes. '"A dicksucking little pansy fink. '"
The judge, he recounted, leaned forward and almost screamed at Brovak. "You are in contempt!"
"And John said, ah, okay, he'll withdraw the word dicksucking because it's only hearsay. "
"And then?" said Max, looking very bleak and worn.
"Well, Mr. Justice Lukey kind of half stood up, grabbed his ledger, and slammed it down on the desk, and told John to leave court. He said, and this is a quote, 'I want to see the goddamn end of you, Brovak!'" Wentworth looked up from his notes, and shrugged. "And that's when John turned around, raised his robe, and pulled down his pants. " He paused and added, "Full harvest moon. "