"Rosato & Associates," Mary DiNunzio said into the receiver,
then kicked herself for answering the phone. The caller was
Premenstrual Tom, a man who wanted to sue the Philadelphia Police
Department, the United States Congress, and a local cantaloupe.
He'd been calling the office at all hours, and Mary felt sorry for
him. He was obviously off his meds and had reached one of the few
lawyers in the city who wouldn't sue fruit.
"This is Mr. Thomas Cott!" he shouted. "Who's this?"
"I'm Mary DiNunzio. We spoke yesterday -- "
"Get me Ms. Benedetta Rosato!"
"Ms. Rosato is gone for the day, sir." Mary checked her watch.
10:16 P.M. Everyone had gone home hours ago, and
until now, the offices had been blessedly quiet. "The office is
"Then what are you doing there, Ms. Mary DiNunzio?"
Good question, Mr. Thomas Cott. Mary was working late again,
reading until her brown eyes turned red and her contacts dried to
the crispness of breakfast cereal. Documents blanketed the
conference table like a legal snowstorm, and her compact figure had
been curled into the swivel chair for so long she felt like a
meatball. "Mr. Cott, I'll take a message and tell Bennie -- "
"I refuse to leave any more messages! Get Ms. Benedetta Rosato on
the line! I demand to know why she won't represent me! She
specializes in constitutional rights, it says so on the
"In the library! The website, your website! It says it right
there! That's false advertising! What about my
constitutional rights? They don't matter? I don't matter?"
"Mr. Cott, no lawyer can take every case," Mary answered, then
hesitated. Bennie had told the associates not to engage
Premenstrual Tom, but if she could explain it to him, maybe he'd
stop calling. "I think Bennie told you she didn't think your case
could prevail in court. She's practiced constitutional law for a
long time and has excellent judgment, so -- "
"All those judges are in on it! All of them are crooked, every
single one of them! City Hall is a pit of conspiracy and
corruption! They're all in the mayor's pocket!"
"Mr. Cott, the judges in City Hall aren't crooked, and your case
would be in federal court anyway -- "
"You're not fooling me, either of you! Put Ms. Benedetta Rosato on
the telephone right now! I know she's there! She must be, she's not
Mary blinked. "How do you know she's -- "
"I went to her house! I knocked on her door, I waited for her to
answer! The windows were dark!"
Mary stiffened. "How did you get her address?"
"It's in the phone book, I looked it up! What do you think I am,
incapable? I may not have a fancy law degree, but I am not
incapable, MS. MARY DiNUNZIO!"
Mary suddenly stopped feeling sorry for him. He was shouting louder
now, almost screaming.
"I SAID, get MS. BENEDETTA ROSATO on this telephone RIGHT NOW! I
KNOW she's right there with you!"
"Mr. Cott, if you'll just -- "
"DON'T LIE TO ME! Don't you DARE LIE TO ME!"
"Mr. Cott, I'm not -- "
"I'll come down there, you LYING WHORE! I'll come down there and
SHOOT -- "
Mary hung up, shaken. The conference room fell abruptly silent. The
air felt charged. It took her a moment to process what had just
happened. Okay, Premenstrual Tom had morphed into Psychotic Tom,
and it wasn't funny anymore. Bennie was at an ACLU dinner, but it
would be ending soon. She could be going home. Mary had to warn
her. She reached for the phone to call the boss's cell.
Rring, rrriiinng! The phone rang underneath Mary's hand,
jarring her. Rrrriiinng! She gritted her teeth and let it
ring twice more so voicemail would pick up. She should never have
engaged Premenstrual Tom. When would she learn? Her goodgirl
reflexes -- Help Out, Be Nice, Tell the Truth -- sucked in the
practice of law.
Mary pushed the button for her direct phone line and called Bennie,
but there was no answer. She left a detailed message, then hung up,
uneasy. She'd call her back in five minutes to make sure the boss
had gotten the message.
Mary eased back in her swivel chair, wishing suddenly that she
weren't alone in the office. She eyed the doorway to the conference
room, surprised to find the threshold dark. Who turned out the
lights in the reception area? Maybe the cleaning people, when
I'll come down there and shoot
Mary eyed the phone, daring it to ring again. She didn't leave it
off the hook because the drill was to record threatening messages
for evidence, in case the office had to go for a restraining order,
like with Premenstrual Fred. Mary wondered fleetingly if she could
find a career that didn't attract garden variety homicidal rage or
bad television commercials.
She told herself to get over it. Premenstrual Tom had been blowing
off steam, and there was a security desk in the lobby of the
building. The guard wouldn't let anybody upstairs without calling
her first, especially after business hours, and nowadays you
couldn't get past the desk without a driver's license and a
She got back to work, tucking a dark blonde tendril into its loose
French twist, and picking up the document she'd been reading. It
was a letter dated December 17, 1941, from the provost marshal
general's office, a federal agency that no longer existed. Its type
was grainy because it was a Xerox copy of a photocopy of a carbon
copy, and on another night, Mary would have gotten a charge out of
its vintage. Everybody in the office called her case the History
Channel, but she loved the History Channel. Mary loved mostly
everything on cable except The Actor's Studio, which she wouldn't
watch at gunpoint. But she didn't want to think about gunpoint
right now ...
Excerpted from KILLER SMILE © Copyright 2004 by Lisa
Scottoline. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved.