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Authors: Carsen Taite

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery, #Crime, #Lgbt, #Romance, #Thriller

Reasonable Doubt (23 page)

BOOK: Reasonable Doubt
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Heat flooded her at the memory of Ellery’s lips on hers and she made a snap decision. She picked up her phone and dialed. Trip’s outgoing voice mail greeting played after the first ring and she was forced to leave a message. “Trip, it’s Sarah. Call me. Today. It’s important.”

She hung up the phone, decidedly unsatisfied. Her plan consisted of getting Trip to share what he could, giving Ellery enough information so she could make an informed decision, and then bowing out of the work side of the equation. She might not be able to see Ellery while the case was pending, but she didn’t have to be in the position of prosecuting her. Unwilling to wait for Trip’s callback to move forward, she dialed Danny’s number.

“Hey, we were just talking about you.”

“All good things, I hope.”

“Just wondering how your meeting went after the show Friday night.”

Friday night seemed so long ago. Sarah remembered she’d mentioned to Danny and Ellen that she was meeting with Ellery after the show in response to their request to take her out for a drink. “Didn’t happen. Besides, it was all about business, you know, if it was even going to happen.”

“Shame. The two of you would make a striking couple.”

“Lay off, Soto. You know better.”

“I get it. Dating a potential witness is oh so taboo.”

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh. Danny had met her wife Ellen during their investigation of a serial murder case the year before. Ellen had been not only a witness, but for a short period of time, a potential suspect. “This is different, pal.”

“Why don’t you come over for dinner this week and explain it to us?”

“I’ll do you one better. I need access to a file from your office. How about I swing by this afternoon? Are you in trial this week?”

“We’re picking a jury this morning, but we’re not starting evidence until tomorrow. Come by anytime after three. And I was serious about dinner. Ellen thinks you’re lonely.”

Damn. Ellen was perceptive, but Sarah wasn’t sure her loneliness would be fixed by watching Danny and her wife act all lovey-dovey. The very prospect made her feel lonelier still. For a second, she let herself imagine a double date with Danny and Ellen, but the only person she wanted to round out the foursome was the one woman she definitely could not have. She spent a moment reliving the achingly tender, way-too-short, but way-longer-than-it-should’ve-been kiss, and her knees went weak from the memory. But crazy high levels of attraction weren’t enough to erase all the things standing between them. No, she was going to have to find a way to fix her loneliness without the likes of Ellery Durant.

An hour later, she strolled into the office, doing her best to act as if this was just a normal day. As far as everyone else knew, everyone on their team was back to working regular cases since HSI had scooped up any files related to the bombing.

“Hi Sarah, what did you do this weekend?” Beverly asked as she passed by her desk.

She pulled up short at the question, completely unprepared to respond to the casual remark. She’d gone to Ellery’s show, gotten stood up after. Had brunch with Liz who spilled secrets, and run into Ellery. And the kiss, the kiss she hadn’t been able to forget for a single second since she’d left Ellery’s house the day before. Everything led back to Ellery.

As she fumbled for a response that didn’t include any detail about what she’d actually done over the weekend, she heard Liz call out, “Sarah, can you come help me real quick?” She looked across the room and saw Liz waving at her from the door of the conference room. She mouthed “sorry” to Beverly and rushed over.

Liz ushered her in and shut the door. “She’s sweet, but you have to watch out because she’s a bit of a gossip,” Liz whispered.

“Who, Beverly?” Sarah didn’t try to hide the incredulous tone in her voice.

“Yes, Beverly. She’s stealthy about it, so you’d never know, but most of the rumors around the office? All her.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Seems like something you could’ve told me before.”

“Takes me a while to trust someone. Don’t judge. We all have our issues.”

“Fair enough. So, you trust me now?”

“No one’s shown up on my doorstep trying to question my daughter.”

“And no one will if I have anything to do with it. She didn’t do anything wrong. She seems like a pretty good kid.”

“As far as teenagers go, I suppose she is. I wake up thankful every day that she isn’t pregnant or in rehab.”

“High standards.”

“I’m kidding,” Liz said. “Mostly. She is a good kid. I wish I saw her more, but it’s easier to miss her than to have her hate me for dragging her away from the life she’s always known.”

Sarah thought about her own mother who’d found it easier to ditch her family than stick around and make things work. Sacrifice had never been a word in her mother’s vocabulary.

“So, what do we do now?” Liz asked.

“Sorry, what?”

“You’re obviously going rogue on this. You know, showing up on my doorstep over the weekend, questioning my daughter.”

“Takes one to know one. You still have all of those records at your place?”

“Let’s just say I’m not big on trusting agents outside the Bureau to do my work. Mason’s an easy boss, but when it comes to drawing a line in the sand, he has no sense of territory. He’d just as soon give everything over to HSI than be responsible if something goes south. Besides, I heard you asked for the scanned copies of the documents. I’m willing to bet you have a copy at your house right now. Am I right?”

Sarah offered a grudging smile. “Let me guess, Beverly?”

“One and the same.”

“Okay then, I have a question.”

“Shoot.”

Sarah considered carefully. Her gut told her to trust Liz with the information her question would convey, but if she was wrong, she could wind up causing even more trouble for Ellery. She decided to go with her gut. “Why doesn’t the scanned copy contain any of the records that have Ellery Durant’s name on them? The search warrant references a couple of documents, but I haven’t seen them in any of the papers we had.”

“I don’t know. The IRS form was in the box I gave to HSI, but it was only a page or two. Could be that part of the form just jammed up in the scanner and didn’t go through. Wait a minute, how do you have a copy of the search warrant? Do you have an inside connection with HSI?”

Sarah could hear Trip’s voice in her head, telling her to keep quiet, but again her gut told her to trust Liz. If she wanted to get any information, she was going to have to give some. “BAU has been asked to assess Ellery Durant, and since I’m the only agent in the area with their particular training, they asked me to see what I could find out. They gave me a copy of the warrant Friday. Needless to say this is all on the down low.”

“Got it. Have to say I was surprised to see her name come up. She’s an aggressive son of a bitch in the courtroom, but she’s always been very professional when we’ve met before. I figured her for a straight and narrow type when it came to her own affairs.”

Sarah couldn’t help but be pleased to find Liz had essentially the same impression of Ellery she did. Well, except for the aggressive part. To her, Ellery seemed pretty unassuming. Well, unless she counted that kiss and how could she not count the kiss since the memory of it had lingered in her conscience the entire night and was the reason for what she had to do now. “I’m finishing that project up today and then I’ll be available for the most boring assignment you can muster up.”

“Wait a minute, you have a perfect in to work on the bombing case and you’d rather review files?”

Sarah nodded. “There are good people on the case. I know that for a fact. I just don’t need to be one of them.” She spoke the words as if she meant them, hoping if she just kept thinking that way, the tinge of doubt telling her she was going to miss out on something exciting would subside.

The only really exciting thing that had happened to her lately had been Ellery’s kiss. She might not be able to have more of that, but it was time to quit putting her life on hold for her job.

*

Ellery got out of her truck and looked around until she spotted the dark sedan parked near the end of the street. She waved at the car. If the federal agents watching Amir’s house were taking pictures, she wanted them to have a good shot for their files.

She had taken a chance coming here, but she’d called his office and they said he was home. She rang the doorbell and waited, hoping Amir would let her in. He was probably busy trying to console his family after the invasion of privacy he’d suffered on Friday and she only hoped he didn’t attribute any of his misfortune to her. Yet.

The door swung open and Amir’s wife, Fara Khan stood in the foyer. “Ellery Durant. I couldn’t believe it when I saw you through the peephole.”

“Mrs. Khan, I’m sorry to just drop by, but—”

“But you weren’t sure you’d be welcome otherwise, right?”

“That’s about the size of it. Is Amir in?”

“He is. Come with me.”

Ellery followed Fara through a large living room into a study.

“Have a seat. I’ll go get him for you.”

While she waited, she looked around the room, which was apparently Amir’s home office. A large computer monitor sat on the desk, but the shelves were practically empty.

“They took almost all of my papers. Those shelves were full of binders. A lot of them old and worthless information, but they just kept grabbing and grabbing.”

Ellery stood and reached out a hand. Amir looked at her outstretched hand for a moment before he shook it. “Same thing happened to me, Amir.”

He nodded. “Sit, sit. Do you want some coffee? Fara makes the best coffee.”

Ellery hesitated before deciding that sharing coffee would be a good way to make this visit as friendly as possible. “That would be great.”

While Amir asked Fara to make them drinks, she took in the rest of the room. One wall was a photo gallery, featuring some local celebrities who had worked with the WHI to raise money. She imagined every one of the people featured in these photos wished they could go back in time and make a different choice rather than be associated with someone accused of terrorism. Then she realized Amir might not know he was being accused of terrorism since he wouldn’t have access to the search warrant affidavit. Should she share that with him? That hadn’t been part of her plan when she came here, but it might be the out she needed.

The coffee was wonderful, dark and delicious, but no matter how hard she tried to forget, she wasn’t here for a friendly visit. “We need to talk.”

“My lawyer says I shouldn’t talk to you, but then again I only met him a couple of days ago. Certainly not long enough for me to know if I should trust him.”

The words “my lawyer” sounded weird coming from Amir, especially since she realized he wasn’t talking about her or her former firm. “Who did you hire?”

“Robert Novak. As I said, I don’t really know him, but he was recommended by a friend.”

Ellery wondered if the friend was Sadeem Jafari. It would probably be in Jafari’s best interest to arrange for Amir’s representation so he could have inside knowledge about anything he said to law enforcement. “In the abstract, he’s probably giving you very good advice, but in reality things are more complicated.”

“I have known you and your father for a very long time. You have always done right by my family, but it seems we are both under a microscope right now, although I do not know why. I would never turn you away from my home, but you probably should not have come here.”

Ellery set her coffee cup down and contemplated her next move. She could get up and walk out, choosing not to consult with Amir before she made a decision about whether or not to give the feds what she knew. Or she could give him a chance to explain. Technically, what he had done didn’t fall into the realm of attorney client privilege, at least not as to her. He’d used her name on documents that implicated them both in potential federal crimes. The fraud released her of her duty to him.

But it wasn’t that easy, especially since it was highly likely her father had been the impetus behind Amir’s action. As frustrating as her father was, was she willing to implicate him as well? And she felt she owed it to Amir to tell him exactly what he was facing since neither he nor his new lawyer would have any way of knowing the full detail until the warrant was unsealed.

Not for the first time she considered the balance between her duty as a lawyer and what she owed strangers who might be harmed by the secrets she kept. She’d never violated a client’s confidence and she’d take many awful secrets to her grave, but she’d never had her own liberty at stake. Was it selfish to think she should break the rules to save herself or was it merely practical? She decided to start by seeing if he would even admit what he had done. “The government thinks your charity is a front, a way to funnel money to terrorist groups.”

“It isn’t true.” He straightened in his chair and slapped the arm to emphasize his point.

“They say they have money trails to prove it.”

“They can’t because it isn’t true.”

“Who is Sadeem Jafari?”

“He is family, my cousin. Why?”

Ellery watched him carefully, but he didn’t show any visible surprise that she’d asked about Jafari. “His foundation, Global Enterprise Alliance. What do you know about it?”

“I know we have many of the same interests. We have worked together many times.”

“And you give WHI money to his foundation?”

“Yes. It’s part of our outreach. We work together.”

“I’ve read both of your mission statements and they are essentially identical, which makes me wonder why Sadeem even bothered to start his own foundation. Why didn’t he just use his resources to bolster WHI?”

“He’s very independent, younger, with new ideas. We are a more conservative organization. I think he fancies himself the modern Muslim. He felt he could reach a different donor base than that of WHI.”

Yeah, the radical extremist Muslims
. She took another sip of coffee and considered Amir’s measured reactions to her questions. He seemed genuinely puzzled at any suggestion he or his cousin, Sadeem, might be doing something wrong, but she’d lost count of the amount of times she’d had a client lie to her face. As well as she knew him, she wasn’t confident she would be able to tell if he was dissembling or not.

BOOK: Reasonable Doubt
12.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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