Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

the effort to find the real killers - Sweet Justice (Mike Zorich #4) by Ken Malovos

"This is Malovos's fourth novel, all featuring trial attorney Mike Zorich. Like each of his novels, it is a combination of legal mystery and thriller, with riveting trial scenes, certainly due in part to Malovos's decades of trial experience. I love all four novels, but his third (One Night In Amboise) and this one are his best to date in my opinion." Jerry, Goodreads


Published: November 6th, 2019

Judge Robert Tilson is a retired judge now working exclusively as a private mediator and arbitrator. One night he is murdered.

The police focus on criminal defendants who appeared before him and past clients. They also are interested in litigants who have appeared before him when he was serving as an arbitrator. But progress is slow and the judge’s daughter, Kathy Lamb, decides to investigate on her own. She makes friends with David Powell, who is quite upset with Judge Tilson for an intended arbitration award that favors his siblings in the division of their parents’ estate. David is acquitted through the efforts of Mike Zorich, trial lawyer. But Kathy finds out that her father had been carrying on an affair with his court clerk for many years and she suspects the clerk’s husband is the one who killed Judge Tilson. She is right.

Meanwhile, Judge Jim Hansen is still dealing with the ordeal of being accused, arrested and charged with murder in the first degree of Alicia Obregon, a woman who had been blackmailing him over an incident in Amboise, France, 30 years ago, when he was accused of raping a fellow student. The jury could not make up their mind and eventually the prosecution decides not to retry him but to dismiss the charges. The other judges in the courthouse shun him. He seeks help with a counselor. He has not been truthful at his trial or with his wife. Further, he threw a case before he became a judge, when he was a deputy district attorney because of the fear of blackmail from Alicia Obregon. Anthony Obregon, Alicia’s husband is then tried for her murder but he is acquitted. It turns out that the husband of the woman who made the charge of rape against Judge Hansen 30 years ago is responsible for Alicia’s murder. 

Mike Zorich is in the center of the effort to find the real killers, who are eventually arrested, tried and convicted. Anthony Obregon is the connection between the two cases as he was accused of killing his own wife and he was asked to kill Judge Tilson, but refused to do so. His information and the efforts of Kathy Lamb and Mike Zorich lead to the righteous killers. 


 Chapter One
October, 2014
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” she said, as she crossed herself. She hadn’t been to church in ages, but some things you never forget, like the nuns’ teachings and the look of violent death. The door swung inward to the office, the same office she had cleaned five nights a week for the past four years. As soon as she turned the lights on, she saw the man on the floor, lying face down. His face was turned sideways and it rested on a glistening dark stain on the carpet. It was the judge. His arms were splayed over his head. Isabel put her hand to her mouth and looked around. Her heart was beating very fast. Who could have done this? Is the killer still here?
It was quiet. She listened very intently but didn’t hear a thing. Was she having a heart attack? She sat down on a chair and tried not to look at the body but she couldn’t help herself. It was the judge. She was certain. Then she knelt and felt for a pulse on his neck. Maybe she felt something, she wasn’t sure. Such a nice man. She made a sign of the cross and said a prayer.
It was a Tuesday evening in early October and Isabel Romero was working her usual shift on the second floor of the two-story office building on University Avenue in Sacramento. Most of the offices were law or accounting firms, although there was the occasional advertising or consulting firm, plus a couple of psychologists. They were all the same as far as she was concerned. There were waste baskets to empty, carpets to be vacuumed and desktops to be dusted.
Isabel was about mid-forties, a bit on the heavy side, married with two children. She wore khaki slacks and a blue uniform shirt with the name “C&M Janitorial” on the upper left front. Her black hair was held together with a silver clip on each side. She had pushed her cart filled with cleaning supplies and inserted her key into the lock. The sign on the wall outside of the door read “Judge Robert L. Tilson (ret.), Arbitrator and Mediator.” She had seen him often when he worked late. Nice man. She always called him “Judge.” He would always smile and ask how she was doing. He worked in an office in the rear of the suite.
After a minute or two, she stood up and left the office. She walked down the corridor looking up and down for her fellow night janitors. Could the killer still be here? She was very quiet as she walked. But she didn’t see any of her co-workers. Where were they?
“Help, help,” she yelled. “Delores. Johnny. Help.”
Nobody responded. It was very quiet. Then she heard the door to the women’s restroom open behind her. Isabel turned in that direction and saw Delores, who was taller than Isabel and a bit younger.
“There is a man in the office,” Isabel said. “It’s the judge. I think he’s dead. Come with me. Quick.”
Delores walked quickly in her direction. Johnny heard them as he left his assigned office on the other end of the floor. He yelled at them from a good thirty yards away.
“What’s up? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know. But I think the judge is dead,” Isabel said.
Johnny was not a big man but he was fast. Thin, with dark hair, and twenty-eight years of age, he ran down the hall. He wore the same blue uniform shirt and jeans. Isabel and Delores were ahead of him. They converged on the office and Isabel slowly opened the door. She held her hand to her head, mumbling something indistinct. Johnny walked around the body, looking for signs of life. He got down on his knees and put his ear close to the man’s mouth, careful not to touch the liquid on the carpet. Then he put his fingers on the man’s neck.
“I think he’s dead, I’m not feeling anything.”
The man on the floor was an older man, with rumpled white hair, dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt with a tie, sleeves rolled up and no jacket. The adjoining conference rooms and office were dark. His feet were closer to the door and his head was next to a chair on the other end of the reception area.
“It’s the judge,” Isabel said. “I’ve talked to him before. This is his office.”
Delores stepped into the suite. She had been looking down the hallway to see if anyone else was present. She saw nothing. Then she looked back at Johnny and the grisly scene.
“Shouldn’t we give him CPR, or something?”
“It won’t make any difference,” Johnny said. “He’s dead. No question about it. See, no pulse.”
He held his fingers to the man’s neck again. Delores and Isabel did not move.
“My heart is racing,” Isabel said. “Maybe I’m having a heart attack. I’m not feeling good.”
“Sit down,” Johnny said. “Take some deep breaths.”
“I’ll call the police,” Delores said.
“Yes,” Isabel said. “Call the police.” She was shaking.
Delores looked around the office for a phone.
“I don’t think we should touch anything here,” Johnny said. ”The police may look for fingerprints or evidence or something.”
Delores went to the next office down the hall, unlocked the door and dialed 911. She explained who she was and what she had seen.
“Are you in any danger, ma’am?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t know. We just got to the office.”
“Okay, stay put. Don’t go anywhere. If you can lock yourself in a room, that would be best. What is your address?”
Delores gave the address and the suite number where the body was found.
“The police are on their way, ma’am. Meanwhile, don’t touch anything and just sit tight. The police will find you. Whoever did this might still be in the building.”
“Yes, we will just stay here.”
Delores hung up and walked back to the judge’s office. She could feel the wetness under her arms. She closed and locked the door behind her and put her hands to her hair.
“They said the police are on the way. We should just stay here.”
Isabel was sitting on a chair and crying softly. She clutched a couple of tissues and dabbed her eyes.
“Are you feeling better, Isabel?”
“I can’t believe it’s him,” Isabel said. “He was such a nice man. I would always tell him that I would just take a few minutes but he would tell me to take my time. One time he gave me a box of See’s Candies and told me to share them with you. Remember that?”
“I do,” Delores said. “They were nuts and chews.”
“That must have been before I started here,” Johnny said.
Delores stood next to Isabel and put her arm around Isabel’s shoulders as she looked around the suite, which consisted of a large office with a desk and three conference rooms, one larger than the other two. The body was lying in the nicely-decorated reception area which contained four chairs and a desk. Color photographs of several people hung on the walls as well as various certificates. The same man was in all of the photographs, probably the judge, she thought. He was always smiling and holding some award. A large certificate said “Judge of the Year,” and another said “Twenty Years of Judicial Service.” A statue of a blindfolded woman dressed in a long flowing robe and holding the scales of justice rested comfortably on a brown table. The sign on the bottom said “Lady Justice.” There was a small lamp on another table which also had magazines on it. Delores was careful not to disturb anything. Johnny sat down in a nearby chair, just staring at the man.
“I can’t believe this,” Delores said. “I’ve never seen a dead body before.”
“Me neither,” Johnny said.
Isabel didn’t say a thing. She was staring at the wall and was still crying as she sat in another chair.
“I think you are going to be okay, Isabel,” Delores said. “You probably had a panic attack. You look a lot better now then you did a few minutes ago. I can see you are getting your color back.”
“You do look better,” Johnny said. “Is your heart still racing?”
“It’s not as bad,” Isabel said. “I’m feeling a little bit better.”
It took the police about fifteen minutes to get there. It felt longer to the three janitors. They mostly spent the time in silence, but Delores and Johnny each ventured out, taking turns looking down the hallway from the doorway of the office. Johnny spotted them first. The officers came down the hallway with guns drawn. He waived.
“Here, here,” he yelled. “Down here.”
The officers entered the suite and looked around. One of them put his gun in his holster and checked the body, looking for a pulse. In a few seconds he looked at his partner and shook his head. He got up from the floor and went into each room of the office. The other one asked the three to come into the corridor with him.
“You didn’t see or hear anyone, anything out of the ordinary?”
“No, sir,” Delores said. The others shook their heads.
“Do you know this man?”
“Yes,” Isabel said. “He’s the judge. This is his office.”
She nodded in the direction of the sign with Judge Tilson’s name on the wall next to the door.
“Can you open up these other offices?”
“Sure, we have a master key that works on all of the offices,” Johnny said.
“Good, go into that office over there, lock the door and wait for us to come back. We are going to search the building for suspects. Is there anyone else in any of these offices that you know of?”
“No,” Johnny said. “All my offices were empty.”
Delores and Isabel shook their heads.
“Okay, so, we shouldn’t expect to find anyone?”
“Right,” Johnny said. “But we haven’t cleaned all of the rooms yet, so there still could be someone in one of the offices, working late.”
“Okay, thanks. Now just stay put.”
This particular building was one of about six or seven in the business part of University Avenue. They were all two-story wooden structures and were separated by parking lots, green grass and the occasional water pond. The other part of the tree-line street hugged the American River and mostly contained apartment houses for the students who attended California State University at Sacramento, usually referred to as “Sac State.”
They didn’t wait long. “All clear,” one of the officers shouted.
“All clear on this end too.”
One of the officers knocked on the door to the office, where the three janitors had stayed, and escorted them to the first floor. They sat down and huddled together on the lone couch in the tiled lobby. The other officer said they did not find any suspects or any weapons. He walked toward the three who were looking up at the officers.
“You sure that none of you have seen anything out of the ordinary tonight? Anyone acting unusual?”
“Not me,” Johnny said. The others shook their heads.
“Let me ask you this. Did you touch anything inside the suite? We are going to dust for fingerprints and we just need to know.”
“We were pretty careful,” Delores said. “Isabel opened the door to go in and clean and she yelled for us. Johnny checked his body. I called you from another office. We were pretty much in the same place when you got there. We did sit in the chairs.”
“Yeah, I sat in a chair,” Johnny said. “But I didn’t touch anything else.”
Each of them gave their separate statements, but there really wasn’t much to say. By then another patrol car had arrived with two more officers. It wasn’t long before the newspaper and television reporters and a free-lance photographer arrived. More officers pulled their marked vehicles with flashing red lights into the area directly in front of the building and next to a large parking lot. The scene was cordoned off.
The janitorial service supervisor arrived and he spoke to a couple of other janitors from a nearby building before he approached the building that was illuminated by all of the flashing police lights. He was about fifty, with dark hair and a mustache and black-framed glasses. He was wearing an untucked shirt with the janitorial service name and a blue windbreaker.
He walked directly towards the two officers who were standing nearby. He introduced himself and gave each of them his card. “You may want to talk to the janitors from the other building as well. They are standing over by those cars.” He nodded in their direction. “They said they saw someone outside getting into a pickup and leaving. They were out taking a break.”
One of the officers immediately headed in the direction of the three janitors from the other building. The three were standing in front of the main door. One was smoking and the other two were staring at the officers. They all wore the same uniform shirts.
The supervisor then spoke to the three janitors who were now sitting on the short brick wall along the entrance way outside of the building. There was a slight chill in the air.
“I know this is very disturbing to each of you,” the supervisor said. “Please cooperate completely with law enforcement. Answer all of their questions.”
“Right,” Isabel said. “We already gave our statements.”
“When you are through with the officers, you can go home. I will put away all of your cleaning stuff and will be in touch with you for tomorrow. And, thank you for your efforts tonight. You were all exemplary and I appreciate it.  I know this was not easy for you.”

After a short while, the officers told Isabel, Delores and Johnny that they were free to go home.


About the author:
Ken Malovos has been practicing law in Sacramento for over forty years. He spent twelve years with the Public Defender’s Office and twenty-five years as a business litigator. He now serves full-time as a mediator and arbitrator. He has written three previous Mike Zorich novels and has been recognized by Chanticleer Book Reviews as a First Prize Category Winner in the legal genre of the Mystery and Mayhem competition and as a finalist in the Thriller and Suspense competition. 

You can visit Ken’s 

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