Lightning strikes twice.
Two people have died in Lake Tahoe in shocking accidents. In a nearly empty parking lot, a hit-and-run driver kills probation officer Anna Meade Hallowell. High up on a jagged mountain, wife abuser Ray de Beers gets what he deserves: he's struck by lightning. Attorney Nina Reilly, hiking on a rare day off from her one-woman law practice, sees him die. So does her date, Tahoe deputy DA Collier Hallowell. Still shaken from his wife's violent death, Hallowell is hit hard by the accident. It's a bad end to a first date... and the start of a case that will test Nina's ethics and her heart.
Nina is certain de Beers's death is an act of God. But his aging father wants to exhume the body to rule out foul play. De Beers's frantic wife and teenage twins hire Nina to stop the disinterment. What gets unearthed are secrets that raise new questions about Anna Hallowell's death, an indictment against one twin for murder, and a damning piece of evidence that can convict the boy . . . unless Nina obstructs justice by hiding it. No good lawyer will take that kind of risk. But a brilliant lawyer, one with a passion for truth, just might . . . .
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June 07, 1998
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Excerpt from Obstruction of Justice by Perri O'Shaughnessy
She and Collier Hallowell, the deputy D.A. in whom she'd developed a personal interest, were no longer alone on Mt. Tallac. Voices from the trail told Nina that they weren't alone any longer. A group of hikers came straggling up to their lookout one by one, led by a strong-looking bald man with a set, hard expression on his face, wearing a heavy aluminum-frame pack and olive-colored golf hat. Behind him came a boy and girl in their late teens, both astonishingly tall and attractive, look-alikes with their fair hair and sunglasses and long legs in hiking shorts. The girl wore a black T-shirt that said WHATEVER. The girl and the man, who appeared to be her father, were arguing, the girl's voice protesting, the man's caustic and commanding. The boy, who must have been her brother, lagged behind as if reluctant to get involved.
A few moments later they were joined by a woman in shorts with a tennis visor over her curly black hair, stumbling and breathless, and another man, grim-faced and weathered, wearing a blue and green bandanna around his neck.
Nina and Collier stood aside to let the group pass and take in the best view, but though they walked over to the standpoint, the hikers weren't interested in the scenery. The tension between the girl and the man occupied them completely. Only the woman in the visor bothered to nod; to the others, Nina and Collier might as well have been rocks.
We better hustle," Collier said as they moved back onto the trail. "Those clouds make me nervous."
The trail led past another small lake on a flat, just before a steep two-hundred-foot slope that led to smooth rock where fresh, cold water ran down. They followed it upstream, glad to be on a level stretch, looking up every once in a while toward the cumulus clouds massing like mushrooms in the east.
Not far behind them they could see the small figures of the other hikers. "Not... a...happy...group," Nina said between breaths.
"It's a hard climb," Collier said. "The guy in front with the big backpack--the father, is my guess--sounds like the domestic-tyrant type to me. Maybe he's the only one who wanted to come, but it's hard to say no to a man like that."
"What about the second man?" Nina said. "He didn't look like one of the family."
"Hard to say," Collier said. "How are you doing?"
"Sweating more," Nina said. "Is it my imagination, or is it getting a lot more humid?" They both paused and looked up again. The drifting clouds were now clumping rapidly into ominous thunderheads.
"Shit," Collier said. "The summit's dangerous in a summer storm. Almost guaranteed to pick up a lightning strike, since Tallac is the tallest mountain around. I don't know what to do. We're only about four hundred vertical feet from the top."
"Oh, let's keep going," Nina said. "If we don't go on now, we'll miss the whole experience, the night on the mountain, the shooting stars, all because it might have rained. If anything happens, we can always dive into a ditch. We're supposed to be having an adventure."
"I don't think we should assume there'll be a ditch handy just because we need one."
They had stopped again on the narrow crest trail. A thunderhead had settled weightily above, poised to dump directly on their heads. Turning to look behind them, they could see the group they had run into before making the same ascent, coming up toward them.
Still at the front of the group, his shirt sticking to his body in the warm moist air, the bald man flicked angrily at the insects swarming around his face. He was sweating copiously. He said in a challenging voice to Collier, "Giving up?" His mouth moved into a cold smile.
"Considering it," Collier said.
The man tilted his head back, examining the sky. He rubbed his cheek with his hand. "It's looking real bad," he concluded, and his voice held a gloom that suggested he meant more than the clouds above. "Goddamn ugly." He drew the words out, nodding to the group standing behind him, who tensed at the profanity, silent and alert to his every move, as if they were waiting for something else from him, something worse.
He said in a slow, deliberate drawl to Collier, "You wouldn't want to get your hairdo all wet." He had the belligerent look of someone who enjoys insulting strangers. The rest of the group seemed to hang back, as if to say, he's not with us.
Collier straightened up, stared back. The air between the two of them bristled.
Nina said quickly, "Are you going on?"
"Of course we are. We're almost there. A little rain never hurt anybody." He gave Collier another long, aggressive stare, but the woman in the visor sat down suddenly on the trail and let out a sigh of exhaustion, and his hostile attention turned to her. "Quit malingering, Sarah. I'll get you in shape yet."