Skip to main content

Excerpt - DEAD MAN'S RULE by Rick Acker

Dead Man's Rule
by
Rick Acker


The Dead Man’s Rule—a law that bars one party of an oral contract from testifying about the agreement if the other party is dead.

Ben Corbin, a young, up-and-coming lawyer, takes on a seemingly straightforward case dealing with the legal ownership of a safe-deposit box. But he soon discovers the case is not as clear-cut as it first appeared.

Not only is his client, Dr. Mikhail Ivanovsky, an eccentric Russian scientist with a questionable past, but Ben also suspects that Ivanovsky is hiding something important.

It isn’t until the other party suddenly dies and the opposing attorney invokes the Dead Man’s Rule, that Ivanovsky discloses the whole terrifying truth, and why Ben must win. But the old law leaves Ben without his key witness, and—barring a miracle—without any chance of winning.

Excerpt of chapter one:

The New Client

This doesn’t look promising, Ben Corbin thought as he eyed the potential new client sitting in his lobby. The short, wiry man looked like he was about seventy, and the suit he wore was at least twenty years old. A thick shock of unruly gray hair crowned his overly large head, and the man’s thin hands, spotted with age, clutched a dilapidated and overstuffed briefcase in his lap.

Ben didn’t need more clients, he needed more paying clients. In the six months since he’d opened his own law practice, he hadn’t had any trouble keeping busy. The world, he had discovered, was full of people who wanted to hire a lawyer, but only a fraction of those people had both the desire and the ability to pay their legal bills in a timely fashion. That hadn’t been a problem at Beale & Ripley, the thousand-lawyer firm where Ben had spent the first seven years of his career. Every morning he’d gone up to his office on fortieth floor, worked hard for ten or twelve hours a day, and cashed a fat paycheck twice a month.

Ben was a litigator and a good one. At five feet, ten inches he was a little short to be the imposing courtroom lawyer, but his strong jaw, good looks, and muscular build helped make up for that. He had also worked hard at developing a relaxed, confident demeanor that made him very effective in front of a jury. All but five of his cases had been resolved before trial, but he’d won all five of those—including one that the lead partner had called “a dead bang loser,” given to Ben solely for experience.

Ben had enjoyed his work at Beale & Ripley, but it wasn’t very fulfilling. Most of his clients were big corporations that used his services simply as leverage to advance their business strategies. Even his big courtroom victories had little real meaning. “My job is to redistribute wealth,” he often joked, “from the rich to the rich.”

So when the time had come to make a run for partner, Ben had faced a hard decision: Would he now spend even more hours in the office, trying to build his book of business? Or would he give up the security and comfort of a big firm for the challenge and uncertainty of own practice? Ben and his wife, Noelle, had spent a lot of long nights trying to answer those questions. Noelle was an accountant working for a bank headquartered in Chicago, and for the last couple of years she’d also been chafing to get out on her own. She and Ben planned to start trying for children in two years (when she turned thirty-two), and she wanted to run a part-time practice from home once the kids came. In the meantime, spending all her time reconciling telecom expenses for a Fortune 100 company left her feeling slack and uninspired.

Ben and Noelle eventually decided that they’d rent offices together. Noelle would work part time, doing accounting and office managing for Ben’s law practice, and spend the rest of her time consulting for her former employer and soliciting other clients to build her practice.

The Law Offices of Benjamin Corbin had opened six months ago last week, and the past half year had been a mixed bag. Ben had won two trials but had been paid for only one of them. Noelle was doing a good job running the practice and had picked up a couple of small-business clients. But she wasn’t getting as much consulting work as she had hoped, and their expenses were, of course, higher than they had projected. Not a lot, but enough to make their finances uncomfortably tight.

Ben knew he was probably too busy to take the old man’s case, even if he could and would pay. In fact, Ben knew he really should be preparing for a court hearing he had in less than an hour. The hearing wasn’t particularly important, but the case was. Ben represented a small company called Circuit Dynamics whose trade secret software had been stolen—or so Ben hoped to prove—by several car-part manufacturers. If Ben won, the damages would be at least $50 million, and Ben would get 10 percent of that under a partial contingent fee agreement he had with his client.

He glanced at his watch. The old man had been referred by Cathy Pugo, one of Ben’s more reliable clients, so he at least had to talk to him. He swallowed his doubts and strode across the lobby, a smile on his face and his hand reaching out. “Hello, I’m Ben Corbin,” he said, shaking the man’s hand warmly.

“Mikhail Ivanovsky,” the man said with a sharp nod. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Corbin.”

“Likewise,” replied Ben. “Please come with me.” He led his guest into the firm’s conference room. It was small, but the table and chairs were beautifully finished solid oak. Ben also took pride in the paintings on the walls, both originals, though they’d come from the Starving Artists gallery south of the Loop. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“Tea with sugar,” said Ivanovsky in clear but thickly accented English.

Ben picked up the phone and dialed. “Susan, could you bring in tea and sugar for Mr. Ivanovsky? Thanks.” He stole a glance at his watch again as he sat down at the table. ”I have twenty minutes before I need to leave for court. What can I do for you, Mr. Ivanovsky?”

The old man reached down into his battered briefcase and pulled out a stack of papers. “I need you to get some things that are in a safe deposit box. The things in the box I bought, but they will not give them to me,” he explained.

“Who won’t give them to you?” asked Ben.

“The bank which this box is in. American Union Bank.” He riffled through the sheaf of papers and handed several to Ben. “Box number 4613 in the LaSalle Street American Union Bank building.”

Ben glanced at the papers. They consisted of a map of downtown Chicago with the location of the bank marked by a red X, some handwritten Russian notes, and a letter from the bank refusing Mr. “Ivansky” access to the box. “They say their records show that the box belongs to a man named Nikolai Zinoviev,” Ben observed.

“This lies!” Ivanovsky insisted hotly, pointing to the letter. “This Zinoviev, he sold it to me for $5,000 last week.”

Ben noticed that Ivanovsky hadn’t handed him a contract for the sale of the box. “Did he sign any papers showing that he sold it to you?”

Ivanovsky hesitated. “Not yet.”

“Have you asked him to?”

“Yes.”

“What did he say?”

“He said he would sign papers from the bank to show that this box is mine, but then he did not do it. Now he will not sign. I think he discovered someone who will pay more.”

“I see,” said Ben. Now they were getting somewhere. “Were there any witnesses to the conversation in which Mr. Zinoviev agreed to sell it to you?”

“No, we were alone.”

“Did you actually give him the money?”

“Yes, yes,” said Ivanovsky, shuffling through his papers, happy to be able to prove something again. “Here is the receipts, here is the bank statement showing my account before, and here is another statement showing my account is much lower now.”

Ben’s secretary, Susan, came in with a mug of tea and a sugar bowl for Ivanovsky. He thanked her and dumped four heaping spoonfuls of sugar into his mug. Ben’s teeth hurt as he watched his guest drink. “By the way, what’s in the box?” Ben asked.

“Jewelries.”

“What kind of jewelry?”

Ivanovsky put down his mug. “Okay, here is what happened. I was at St. Vladimir Church two Sundays ago and I talked to this man, and he told me about a man who died in 1985 and maybe he put some jewelries in this box at American Union Bank on LaSalle Street. This man who died, his brother lives in Chicago now, so I telephoned the brother and asked if it is true. This brother is Nikolai Zinoviev, who is called Nicki.

“I said to Nicki Zinoviev, ‘A man told me that when your brother died, maybe he left jewelries in a safe deposit box at a bank. I maybe would like to buy these jewelries.’ He knew nothing of this box and was very surprised. He said, ‘You are a very lucky man, Ivanovsky, because I must pay some money to a man today and my bank is closed so I cannot get my money. Because of this, I will sell whatever things are in this box to you for $5,000, but you must pay in the next two hours.’

“American Union Bank is also closed, but I think maybe these jewelries are very valuable, so I take this risk and say yes. I gave him five thousand dollars, and he said we will go to the bank the next day and fill out necessary forms and show the bank papers so we can take the things in the box. But now he says no.”

Ivanovsky’s monologue seemed oddly pre-planned to Ben, and he had a vague feeling that there was more going on here than this man was telling him. But did Ben really need to get to the bottom everything? Or, more accurately, did he need to do it now? Not really, he decided. After all, he hadn’t even taken the case, and he probably wouldn’t. He decided to let it slide, at least for the time being. He glanced at his watch again; he had eight minutes. “Okay, I think I have a basic grasp of what your case is about,” he said. “The real problem I see is money. This isn’t a very large dispute, and litigation is expensive. No matter who you hire, you’ll almost certainly spend more than five thousand dollars on lawyers. Are you really sure you want to file suit over this?”

Ivanovsky didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

Ben shrugged. “O-kaaay,” he said. “And you don’t just want your money back. You want the jewelry, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that will mean not just filing a complaint, but also moving for an immediate temporary restraining order, or TRO, to keep Mr. . . .,” he checked his notes, “Mr. Zinoviev and the bank from giving it to someone else. TROs only last ten days, so whether you win or lose the TRO motion, you’ll need to file a motion for a preliminary injunction that will prevent them from doing anything with whatever is in the box. The trial on the preliminary injunction may come within ten days, but what usually happens is that the parties agree to extend the TRO—if it’s granted—and hold the preliminary injunction trial a little later. That way they can do some discovery before jumping straight into a trial. Still, the trial will probably come within a month, which is about two years sooner than in a regular case.

“My old boss used to describe this type of case as ‘litigating with your hair on fire,’ and that’s what it feels like. You’ll be constantly running from the moment you start until the end of the trial. You’ll also be spending lots of money, because your lawyer will be working for you pretty much full time for the whole month.” Ben did some quick calculations in his head. “It would probably cost you at least $20,000 to get through the preliminary injunction trial. The case won’t end then, but the work and the bills will probably drop off.”

Ivanovsky went a little pale. “I . . . I do not have so much,” he mumbled, searching through his bag. “I have only $5,000 with me.” He pulled out a stack of traveler’s checks and, with a downcast look on his face, showed them to Ben. “I have some money saved, and I can get the rest from my pension and from selling some things, but not right away. But next week I will pay. Is this okay?”

Ben was slightly stunned and felt a little sorry for the old man. He was clearly burning through his retirement nest egg to get whatever was in that box. “Uh . . . yeah, sure. I would only need five thousand up front. Just bring me a bank statement showing me that the rest is there.”

Ivanovsky started to countersign the checks. “No, no. Wait,” Ben said quickly. “I’m not sure I can take your case. Remember how I said you’ll need a lawyer who can work on this full time for a month? I’ve already got a busy month ahead of me. I wouldn’t want to take your case and then not have the time to represent you as well as you deserve.”

“But you must!” Ivanovsky said with sudden fierceness. “This is a very, very important case. When I told Mrs. Pugo I needed a very good lawyer, she said, ‘Call Ben Corbin, here is his number. He is a good lawyer, Mikhail, the best that you can afford.’ So you must take this case.” He paused. “I need you.”

Ben knew he was running late without looking at his watch. “I have to leave for a hearing now— I apologize for running out so quickly—but I’ll take a close look at my calendar, and I’ll call you tonight to let you know whether I can take the case.” Ben was already thinking about the Circuit Dynamics case by the time he closed the door behind Ivanovsky.


Excerpted from Dead Man's Rule by Rick Acker, Copyright © 2005, published by Kregel Publications.


Buy from Christianbook.com
Buy from Amazon.com

Comments

  1. Thanks, Camy! DEAD MAN'S RULE was fun to write, but it's the one novel where knowing that I'd gotten my research right was not a comforting feeling.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing the excerpt. This has me intrigued and I want to know what is in that box!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually, knowing what's in the box (and that it's probably real) is what makes me uncomfortable about this book. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Rick, you are such a teaser! Now everyone is going to need to read this book!
    Camy

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 2: Berserker is now on sale!

For seven days, from January 30th until February 5th, book 2 in the Lady Wynwood’s Spies series is only 99 cents. If you haven’t gotten it yet, be sure to snatch it up while it’s at this sale price. Here’s the back cover description: A Christian Historical Adventure set in Regency England with romance and a supernatural twist Part two in an epic-length serial novel A dire situation Mr. Solomon Drydale and his team are reeling. After only a single act of mayhem by underworld lord Apothecary Jack, one of their group is down and another is missing. An urgent plea Desperate, Sol acts on his forbidden knowledge of an agent for the Crown who is known only to the highest levels of government— le petit prince , master of disguises. He defies his superiors and asks the Prince for help. A hazardous hunt Now, the team must learn to work with a new member to save one of their own. But time is running out before Jack finds him and breaks him—and puts all of their lives at risk.

Just another day at youth group

My Christian contemporary romance, Single Sashimi , includes some of the wilder tales from my and my husband’s stints as youth staff workers at our church. The Steven character in the book is actually the same Steven who’s the associate pastor and youth group leader at our church now, since I wrote Single Sashimi when he was still in youth group. :) He’s a young man in his late twenties (maybe early thirties?), and he’s full of great ideas and lots of energy. On one particular Saturday, my husband and I were at youth group as usual. Steven had bought a tug of war rope—the really long, thick kind that looks like it belongs on a sea trawler. The opening game for the kids was, of course, tug of war. Then we came indoors for a three-song worship set. After worship, we usually split up into Junior High and High School for lessons, but this time Steven had an idea: “Okay guys, we’re going to have a tug of war--staff versus kids. If you guys win, we’ll ditch the lesson and go out t

Year of the Dog serial novel

About Year of the Dog : A month or two ago, I remembered an old manuscript I had completed but which hadn’t sold. It was a contemporary romance meant for Zondervan, titled Year of the Dog . The book had gone into the pipeline and I even got another title ( Bad Dog ) and a cover for it, but eventually my editor at the time decided she didn’t want to publish it, for various reasons. She instead requested a romantic suspense, and so I cannibalized some of the characters from Year of the Dog and thrust them into the next book I wrote, which was Protection for Hire . Honestly, I didn’t take a lot from Year of the Dog to put in Protection for Hire , aside from character names and a few relationship ties. I was originally thinking I’d post Year of the Dog as-is on my blog as a free read, but then it occurred to me that I could revamp it into a romantic suspense and change the setting to Hawaii. It would work out perfectly as (yet another) prequel to the Warubozu series and introduce

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 9

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series. Year of the Dog serial novel by Camy Tang Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year. While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier. Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Aunt Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Chri

Grace Livingston Hill romances free to read online

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

A new tier in my Patreon

I started my Patreon for my fans and for people who didn’t want to buy my books on Kindle. My patrons get each new ebook 2-3 weeks early for only $3 (which is usually the newsletter-only price), and they only get charged when I release a book, not every month. At the moment, I’m releasing my Christian historical romantic suspense series, Lady Wynwood’s Spies. But after I finish that series, I’ll be releasing my Christian contemporary romantic suspense series, the Warubozu Spa Chronicles, and those in my Patreon will be able to get those books early, too. I just added a new $1.00 tier for fans who would prefer to read my books in Kindle Unlimited or buy the Kindle ebook, but just want to support me. Click here to read more about my Patreon. Thank you so much for reading my books!

Tabi socks, part deux

Captain's Log, Stardate 07.25.2008 (If you're on Ravelry, friend me! I'm camytang.) I made tabi socks again! (At the bottom of the pattern is the calculation for the toe split if you're not using the same weight yarn that I did for this pattern (fingering). I also give an example from when I used worsted weight yarn with this pattern.) I used Opal yarn, Petticoat colorway. It’s a finer yarn than my last pair of tabi socks, so I altered the pattern a bit. Okay, so here’s my first foray into giving a knitting pattern. Camy’s top-down Tabi Socks I’m assuming you already know the basics of knitting socks. If you’re a beginner, here are some great tutorials: Socks 101 How to Knit Socks The Sock Knitter’s Companion A video of turning the heel Sock Knitting Tips Yarn: I have used both fingering weight and worsted weight yarn with this pattern. You just change the number of cast on stitches according to your gauge and the circumference of your ankle. Th

ひとり寿司第28章パート2

「ひとり寿司」をブログに連載します! ひとり寿司 寿司シリーズの第一作 キャミー・タング 西島美幸 訳 スポーツ狂のレックス・坂井 —— いとこのマリコが数ヶ月後に結婚することにより、「いとこの中で一番年上の独身女性」という内輪の肩書を「勝ち取る」ことについては、あまり気にしていない。コントロールフリークの祖母を無視するのは容易だ —— しかし、祖母は最終通告を出した —— マリコの結婚式までにデート相手を見つけなければ、無慈悲な祖母は、レックスがコーチをしている女子バレーボールチームへの資金供給を切ると言う。 ダグアウトにいる選手全員とデートに出かけるほど絶望的なわけではない。レックスは、バイブルスタディで読んだ「エペソの手紙」をもとに「最高の男性」の条件の厳しいリストを作った。バレーボールではいつも勝つ —— ゲームを有利に進めれば、必ず成功するはずだ。 そのとき兄は、クリスチャンではなく、アスリートでもなく、一見何の魅力もないエイデンを彼女に引き合わせる。 エイデンは、クリスチャンではないという理由で離れていったトリッシュという女の子から受けた痛手から立ち直ろうとしている。そして、レックスが(1)彼に全く興味がないこと、(2)クリスチャンであること、(3)トリッシュのいとこであることを知る。あの狂った家族とまた付き合うのはごめんだ。まして、偽善的なクリスチャンの女の子など、お断り。彼はマゾヒストじゃない。 レックスは時間がなくなってきた。いくら頑張っても、いい人は現れない。それに、どこへ行ってもエイデンに遭遇する。あのリストはどんどん長くなっていくばかり —— 過去に掲載済みのストーリーのリンクはこちらです。 *** キッチンテーブルの上にごちゃごちゃと置かれている食べ物を見つけた。フルーツが入ったお皿は、すでに子供たちがめちゃくちゃにしていたが、新鮮なマグロの刺身は、巻き寿司の隣にきれいに並んでいた。天ぷら鍋から取り出したばかりのもち粉チキンは、まだ湯気が立っていて、祖母の自家製たくあんが、その隣の小皿に置かれている。 「わあ、叔母さんか誰かが、エビの天ぷら作ったんだわ」トリッシュはエビの天ぷらを紙皿に取った。 レックスはお皿をつかんだ。ここに来た唯一の理由。祖母ですら、美味しい日本食を食べていると

A List of my Free Blog Reads

Curious about what my writing is like? Here’s a list of all my free books and the free short stories, novellas, and novels that you can read here on my blog. I’ll update this post as I add more free reads. Christian Humorous Romantic Suspense: Year of the Dog (Warubozu Spa Chronicles series, Prequel novel) (Currently being posted monthly on my blog as a serial novel) Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, finally has a chance to buy a facility for her business, but her world is upended when she must move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate. When she stumbles upon a three-year-old missing persons case, security expert Ashwin Keitou, whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier, is tasked with protecting her. However, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows? Christian Romantic Suspense: Necessary Proof (Sonoma series #4.1, n