The law office of Johnson Sloan Pruitt occupied three floors in an elegant steel and glasstemple on G Street in the center of the District of Columbia. The sleek décor and furnishingswere modern to the point of minimalist, allowing the astonishing view from the massive fanwindows speak for itself. A postcard-perfect view of the White House reminded clients—asif they needed reminding—of the firm’s literal and metaphorical proximity to power. As oldas the Constitution itself, with alumni attorneys who had gone on to the Supreme Court, theAttorney General’s office, and various other outposts of power, Johnson Sloan Pruitt wasamong the most prestigious and best-connected white-shoe law firms in the District of Columbia.The young, attractive associates who populated the hushed and storied hallways werescions of America’s ruling dynasties, endowed with rich family legacies, six-figureeducations, and important social connections that guaranteed an effortless rise to the top of whatever field they ultimately chose, whether it was law or something more interesting andinevitable, like politics.In contrast to her coworkers, Fallon Hughes grew up on a horse ranch in Shelby,Montana and earned her law degree from Pepperdine, an institution her peers thought wasroughly equivalent to a second-rate community college. Unlike the other associates who hadbeen selected for their bluest of blue blood, Fallon’s family was nouveau riche.Ranchers and oilmen could not impress the posturing-and-maneuvering snobs at JohnsonSloan Pruitt or the senior partners who ignored her from their massive corner offices, andthey never let her forget it.She blended in like baby powder in oil.Knowing she was never going to win over her detractors, Fallon rarely discussed herself atwork and tried to stay out of office politics entirely. Instead, she attempted to earn therespect of her bosses by producing excellent work. Currently she was tethered to her deskninety hours a week trying to defend a multi-billionaire hedge fund manager who had beenindicted on forty counts of fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction. The Department of Justicealleged that Robert Chandler was operating a ponzi scheme, defrauding wealthy widows tofund his lavish lifestyle, which included a fleet of twenty Ferraris, a yacht the size of afootball field, and a French chateau featuring a bubbling fountain of Cristal champagne thatflowed twenty-four hours a day, whether he was in residence or not. When he was indicted,he finally shut the spigot on the champers and sought the services of Johnson Sloan Pruitt,desperately attempting to save himself from a life sentence in federal prison.Though Fallon had only a miniscule aspect of the case, it was a plumy assignment, highprofile, with lots of opportunity to impress the partners. Certainly all those billable hoursmade for happy management committees, especially during bonus season. So with her careerin the balance, Fallon swallowed her certainty that her client was
guilty, guilty, guilty
andwent about defending him with zeal that was almost religious. For weeks now, Fallon hadignored the grinding fatigue that infiltrated her body like a virus and kept up the pace, livingon coffee and grit.As she deleted two inelegant sentences from the motion she was working on, the phoneon her desk warbled discreetly. She shifted her gaze just long enough to see the wordUNKNOWN flash on the caller ID.“Fallon Hughes,” she answered distractedly, her concentration already returning to themotion.“Hello?” a husky, unfamiliar male voice rasped.