Nothing Lasts Forever Page 0,1

summer and winter, was a white suit, with an old-fashioned stiff-collar shirt.

Paige Taylor's attorney, Alan Penn, was Venable's opposite, a compact, energetic shark, who had built a reputation for racking up acquittals for his clients.

The two men had faced each other before, and their relationship was one of grudging respect and total mistrust. To Venable's surprise, Alan Penn had come to see him the week before the trial was to begin.

"I came here to do you a favor, Gus."

Beware of defense attorneys bearing gifts. "What did you have in mind, Alan?"

"Now understand - I haven't discussed this with my client yet, but suppose - just suppose - I could persuade her to plead guilty to a reduced charge and save the State the cost of a trial?"

"Are you asking me to plea-bargain?"

"Yes."

Gus Venable reached down to his desk, searching for something. "I can't find my damn calendar. Do you know what the date is?"

"June first. Why?"

"For a minute there, I thought it must be Christmas already, or you wouldn't be asking for a present like that."

"Gus ..."

Venable leaned forward in his chair. "You know, Alan, ordinarily, I'd be inclined to go along with you. Tell you the truth, I'd like to be in Alaska fishing right now. But the answer is no. You're defending a coldblooded killer who murdered a helpless patient for his money. I'm demanding the death penalty."

"I think she's innocent, and I - "

Venable gave a short, explosive laugh. "No, you don't. And neither does anyone else. It's an open-and-shut case. Your client is as guilty as Cain."

"Not until the jury says so, Gus."

"They will." He paused. "They will."

After Alan Penn left, Gus Venable sat there thinking about their conversation. Penn's coming to him was a sign of weakness. Penn knew there was no chance he could win the trial. Gus Venable thought about the irrefutable evidence he had, and the witnesses he was going to call, and he was satisfied.

There was no question about it. Dr. Paige Taylor was going to the gas chamber.

It had not been easy to impanel a jury. The case had occupied the headlines for months. The cold-bloodedness of the murder had created a tidal wave of anger.

The presiding judge was Vanessa Young, a tough, brilliant black jurist rumored to be the next nominee for the United States Supreme Court. She was not known for being patient with lawyers, and she had a quick temper. There was an adage among San Francisco trial lawyers: If your client is guilty, and you're looking for mercy, stay away from Judge Young's courtroom.

The day before the start of the trial, Judge Young had summoned the two attorneys to her chambers.

"We're going to set some ground rules, gentlemen. Because of the serious nature of this trial, I'm willing to make certain allowances to make sure that the defendant gets a fair trial. But I'm warning both of you not to try to take advantage of that. Is that clear?"

"Yes, your honor."

"Yes, your honor."

Gus Venable was finishing his opening statement. "And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the State will prove - yes, prove beyond a reasonable doubt - that Dr. Paige Taylor killed her patient, John Cronin. And not only did she commit murder, she did it for money ... a lot of money. She killed John Cronin for one million dollars."

"Believe me, after you've heard all the evidence, you will have no trouble in finding Dr. Paige Taylor guilty of murder in the first degree. Thank you."

The jury sat in silence, unmoved but expectant.

Gus Venable turned to the judge. "If it please your honor,