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Murder One

"Sergeant Callery, would you please describe the condition of
the body when you found it?"
Callery swallowed hard before answering. "Are you sure you want
me to?"
would be the focal point, Ben Kincaid realized, for the entire
trial- all that came before and all that followed. Every murder
trial had one-an indelible moment in which sympathies were
polarized and the full gravity of the crime struck the jury like a
ball peen hammer to the head. Even though he knew there was not a
soul in the courtroom who did not already know the answer to this
question in gruesome and graphic detail, this would be the moment
when everything changed, and not for the better.
sure," Assistant District Attorney Nick Dexter said. He obviously
didn't mind the delay. A little suspense preceding the big moment
could only increase the jury's attention level. "Please tell us
what you saw."
Sergeant Callery licked his lips. His eyes drifted toward the
floor. His hesitation was not just for dramatic effect. He was not
anxious to proceed.
Ben didn't blame him. Describing a crime scene was always
difficult. But when it was a cop talking about the murder of
another cop-one he knew per-sonally and had worked with on many
occasions-it bordered on the unbearable.
"When I arrived, I discovered that Sergeant McNaughton's body
had been stripped of clothing. He was chained naked to the base of
the main fountain in Bartlett Square-right in the center of the
downtown plaza. He'd been hog-tied; his arms and legs were pulled
back to such an extent that some of his bones were actually broken.
He'd been stabbed repeatedly, twenty or thirty times. A word had
been smeared across his chest-written in his own blood."
what was the word?"
was hard to tell at first, given the condition of the body. But
when we finally got him down and put him on a stretcher, it looked
to me like it said 'faithless.'"
there anything else . . . noteworthy about the body?"
witness nodded. The spectators in the courtroom gallery
collectively held their breath. They knew what was
penis had been severed. Cut off-and stuck in his mouth."
Ben, it was an almost surreal moment, as if they were all actors in
a play. After all, everyone knew what questions would be asked, as
well as what answers would be given. There were no surprises; they
were just going through their prescribed motions. And yet, the
singular horror of the crime had an impact that left no one in the
courtroom unmoved.
case had been high drama from the outset. Everyone knew about this
ghastly crime. How could they not? The body had been on display for
almost an hour before the police managed to get it down. Workers
going downtown that cold Thursday morning couldn't help but see the
macabre, almost sacrificial tableau.
location had been well chosen. Downtown Tulsa was a place where
people worked, but almost no one went there for any other reason.
From the time the workday ended until sunup, it was virtually
deserted. Even the police rarely patrolled; the inner downtown
streets were inaccessible by car and there was simply no
justification for mounted patrols at that time of night, when no
one was present. And so the killer was able to create a grisly
spectacle that had been etched into the city's collective
consciousness during the seven months since the crime
are they spending so much time describing the body?" a voice beside
Ben whispered. "How is that relevant to who committed the
question came from the defendant-Ben's client, Keri Dalcanton. She
was a petite woman, barely five foot two. She had rich platinum
blond hair and skin the color of milk. She was wearing no makeup
today-on Ben's advice. She was a natural beauty, with perhaps the
most perfectly proportioned body Ben had observed in his entire
life. And he'd had a lot of time to observe it, during the months
they'd spent preparing for this trial.
in the courtroom, Ben was struck by how Keri exuded youth and
energy. But that was not surprising. She was only
isn't relevant," Ben whispered back. "But Dexter knows the

details will appall most jurors and make them more inclined to
convict. That's why we're spending so much time here."
it isn't fair," Keri said, her eyes wide and troubled. "I didn't

those things. I couldn't-"
know." Ben patted her hand sympathetically. He wanted to take care
of his client, but at the moment it was more important that he pay
attention to the testimony. If Dexter thought Ben wasn't listening,
all kinds of objection-able questions would follow.
Dexter continued. "Did you check the body for vital
course. When I first arrived. But it wasn't necessary. He was dead.
As anyone could see at a glance." A tremor passed through Callery's
shoulders. "No one could have lived in that condition."
did it take so long to free the body?"
weren't allowed to alter the position of the body until the
forensic teams had been out to make a video record and to search
for trace evidence. Even after that was done-Sergeant McNaughton's
body had been double-chained to the fountain and the lock was
buried. We couldn't get him loose. We eventually had to bring out a
team of welders. Even then, progress was slow."
during this entire time, the decedent's naked mutilated body was on
public display?"
"There wasn't much we could do. We couldn't cover the body and
work at the same time. And there's no way to block off Bartlett
"Were you and your men finally able to get the body
"Eventually. Even then, though"-his head fell-"nothing happened
the way it should. His right arm had been pulled back to such an
extreme degree that when we released the chains-it snapped off. And
the second we moved McNaughton's body, his-member-spilled out onto
the ground." The man's jaw was tight, even as he spoke. "It
would've been horrible, even if I hadn't known Sergeant McNaughton
so well and trained under him. I've been on the force six years,
but this was the worst, most horrible . . . goddamnedest thing I've
seen in my career. Or ever will see."
knew Judge Hart didn't like swearing in her courtroom, but he had a
hunch she would excuse it this time.
media representatives in the gallery-and there were a lot of them-
were furiously taking notes. The McNaughton murder had dominated
the papers and the airwaves for at least a month after the crime
occurred, and the onset of the trial had refueled the obsessive
coverage. Ben had never had so many microphones shoved in his face
against his will; he'd never seen so many people insist that he had
some sort of constitutional duty to give them an inter-view.
 His office manager, Jones, had even found a reporter hiding
in the office broom closet, just hoping he might overhear some
tasty tidbit of information.  His legal assistant, Christina
McCall, had the office swept for listening device.  A

of reporters awaited them every time they left the office;

greeted them as soon as they arrived at the courthouse. It was like
living under siege.

Dexter was asking routine predicate questions to get his

admitted. It was an obvious preliminary to passing the
"Psst. Planning to cross?"Ben
glanced over his shoulder. It was Christina. For years, she'd been
indispensable to him as a legal assistant. And now she was on the
verge of graduating from law school.

"I don't see much point," he whispered back to her. "Nothing he
said was in dispute."
Christina nodded. "But I'm not sure this business with the body
was handled properly. I think the police bungled it six ways to
"Granted. But why? Because they were so traumatized by the
hideous death of their colleague, a fact we don't particularly want
to emphasize. And what difference does it make? None of the
evidence found at the crime scene directly incriminates
may be right. But I still think any cross is better than none.
Whether he actually says it or not, Dexter is implying that Keri

responsible for these atrocities. We shouldn't take that lying
frowned. He didn't want to cross, but he had learned to trust
Christina's instincts. "Got any suggestions?"
considered a moment. "I'd go with physical strength." "It's a
Dexter had returned to his table. Judge Sarah Hart, a sturdy
woman in her midfifties, was addressing defense counsel.
Kincaid, do you wish to cross?"
course." Ben rose and strode to the podium. "Sergeant Callery, it
sounds as if you and your men had a fair amount of trouble cutting
that body free. Right?"
change in Callery's demeanor and body language when Ben became his
inquisitor was unmistakable. He drew back in his chair, receding
from the microphone. "It took a while, yeah."
"Sounds to me like it was hard and required a great deal of
if it was hard to get the body down, it must've been even more
difficult to get the body up." He paused, letting the wheels turn
in the jurors' minds. "The individual who chained Sergeant
McNaughton up there must've been one seriously strong person,
wouldn't you agree?"
Callery had obviously been expecting this. "Not necessarily,
no. The killer could've-"
didn't give him a chance to recite whatever explanation he

Dexter had cooked up ahead of time. "How much did Sergeant
McNaughton's body weigh?"
couldn't say exactly."
must have some idea."
would just be a guess."
were there, weren't you, officer?"
"Ye-ess . . .""You
were, I assume, paying some degree of attention when your men were
cutting the body loose?"
Callery tucked in his chin. "Yes-""So
how much did McNaughton's body weigh?"
Callery frowned. "I'd guess about two ten, two twenty
hundred and twenty pounds. And of course, he was dead,
think everyone in the courtroom is aware of that fact,
like a game of cat and mouse, Ben marveled, not for the first time.
Two diametrically opposed archenemies pretending to be civil.
"Would it be fair to say that it's harder to move a dead body than
a live one?"
Callery nodded. "Much.""So
we're talking about two hundred and twenty pounds of pure
dead-weight, right?"
"About that, yeah.""But
someone somehow managed to carry the body to Bartlett Square-
without the use of a car-to elevate it, hog-tie it, and wrap it
around the central fountain."
"That's about the size of it.""Sergeant Callery, you were pretty good at estimating your
deceased colleague's weight. Would you care to guess what my
client, Ms. Dalcanton, weighs?"
grinned faintly. "I would never be so indelicate."
"Then I'll tell you. A hundred and three pounds. Wearing
shoes." He

paused. "So you're saying that these feats of tremendous strength,
which frankly I doubt you and I could manage working together, were
accomplished by this tiny woman? How?"
bad question, as it turned out. "We believe she drove the body
there. We found faint traces of tire tracks on Fifth, parallel to
the fountain. Someone drove onto the pedestrian walkway beside
Bartlett Square. We believe she wrapped the chains around the
body's hands and feet while it was still in the car, then dragged
him to the fountain. As the coroner can confirm, the body had any
number of scrapes and abrasions that could be the result of being
dragged over the pavement in this manner. Once she had the chain
around the fountain, we believe she was able to improvise a
rudimentary pulley system to haul the body up."
silently cursed himself. This was a classic case of asking

question too many. "It still sounds to me as if it would require a
good deal of strength."
"Maybe. But if I've learned anything in my years on the force,
it's that size is no indicator of strength. Sometimes the most
potent medicine comes in small bottles."
"That's quaint, officer, but are you seriously
"Besides," Callery said, rushing his words in edgewise,
"whoever said Keri Dalcanton wasn't strong?" A small smile played
on his lips. "I hear she gets lots of exercise. All that
high-octane dancing must build up some stamina."
There was an audible response from the gallery. Callery was
referring to the fact that Ben's client worked-at least until she
became a permanent resi-dent of the Tulsa County Jail seven months
ago-at a "gentleman's club" at Thirty-first and Lewis. In other
words, she was a stripper. Another dramatic- and damning-fact that
everyone in the courtroom already knew all too well. The press
wouldn't let them forget. No article overlooked the salacious side
of the story. The headlines began STRIPPER SUSPECTED and continued
"Sergeant Callery, it took three men to lower McNaughton's body
to the ground. Are you seriously suggesting-"
"Hey, I saw that picture in the paper. You know, the one with
her in nothing but a bright red G-string thingie? Looked to me like
she had lots of muscles."
"Your honor, I object!" Ben knew what Callery was talking
about, though. The day Keri Dalcanton was arrested, a morning
paper, in an unaccountable lapse of taste, had run a picture of her
taken on the job. Something a reporter swiped from a backstage
bulletin board, apparently. Tasseled pasties on her ample breasts;
bright red G-string on her rock-'n'-roll hips. The paper apologized
the next day, explaining that it was the only photo of Ms.
Dalcanton they could locate, as she had covered her face when
arrested. One of the lamest excuses for tabloid coverage by
purportedly "legitimate" journalists Ben had heard yet.
approached the bench. "Your honor, I object to any discussion or
sly references to my client's former occupation."
Judge Hart lowered her eyeglasses and gave Ben the no-nonsense
look he knew all too well. "On what grounds?"
will work extreme prejudice against Ms. Dalcanton."
"Probably. But she should have thought of that before she took
the job. Overruled."
your honor-"
"I've ruled, Mr. Kincaid.""Then I'll object on a different basis." She arched an eyebrow.

that would be ...?"
object because . . . because the photo in question has not

admitted into evidence."
you want it to be?"
"Hmm. Good point."Ben
returned to the defense table knowing that his cross had been a
bust. He hadn't put a dent in the prosecution's case, and given
what few arrows he had in his quiver, he was unlikely to do so at
any time in the future. He could see the determination in the eyes
of the prosecution and police officers, and he could see the
revulsion in the eyes of the jury. Even Judge Hart, normally a
sympathetic, fair judge, was cutting him no slack. This time, the
stakes were too high. The crime was too appalling, and too well
had to face facts. Barring some kind of miracle, Keri Dalcanton was
going to be convicted.

Excerpted from MURDER ONE by (c) Copyright 2001 by William
Bernhardt. Reprinted with permission from Fawcett, a division of
Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may
be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the

Murder One
by by William Bernhardt

  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • ISBN-10: 0345428153
  • ISBN-13: 9780345428158