Today's Reading

You cannot judge a criminal until you have come to recognize that you are just as much a criminal as the one standing before you.
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov


A perfect May night in Chicago, warm but not quite balmy. A soft breeze coming in off the lake, carrying with it the faint murmurings of traffic from Michigan Avenue twenty floors below. Juliana was sitting alone on one end of a couch on the Peninsula's rooftop terrace, still wearing her conference lanyard, still wired from the speech she had given two hours earlier. She'd delivered a talk on the rules of evidence in front of five hundred people, and it had gone really well. She tended to be self-critical, but she also knew when she'd hit a home run. "Rules of evidence" wasn't exactly a sexy topic, but she had her own take on it, and people seemed to respond.

She'd just had a drink with six fellow attendees, all judges from Indiana, and she was talked out. Mostly she'd been the center of attention, which was flattering for a while, and then exhausting. For now, she wanted to sit by herself—not in her room, with CNN keeping her company, but out here on the terrace in the refreshing breeze off Lake Michigan. Be in her own head. She dropped her lanyard on the glass-topped coffee table and scanned an array of magazines fanned out in front of her. One caught her eye—a travel magazine with a cover story about Spain—and she started leafing through it, keeping one eye out for a server.

But she was still wired. Another drink? She almost never did that. One drink, that was her limit.

Her mother, Rosalind, had been a drinker. Rosalind never drank at work, but at night and particularly on the weekends she drank too much. When Juliana was twelve, Rosalind had taught her how to make a "pitcher of martinis," she called it, as if martinis were discrete entities with a shape and form, like eggs, and you could count how many were in the pitcher if you looked really hard.

So Juliana generally did what her mother couldn't: stopped at just one drink. But tonight she was keyed up and thought: What the hell. She waved over a server and was about to order another Sancerre when she changed her mind once again and ordered a Pellegrino and lime. She went back to her magazine—"The Unknown Mallorca," the piece promised. She felt someone's eyes on her, and she glanced up; when she saw nobody looking her way, she felt a little silly. Too much time in the spotlight, she told herself with a laugh. Having delusions of grandeur. Black Robe disease.

Juliana Brody was in her early forties, but as her mother liked to say immodestly, she had good genes. She looked younger. Rosalind had been beautiful. Juliana had long ago accepted the fact that she hadn't inherited her mother's looks, but she had her cheekbones and jawline, and the gray-blue eyes. And the russet hair—actually, L'Oréal called it "red brown." And then there was all the time Rosalind used to spend tending to her appearance, while Juliana couldn't be bothered.

Again she felt that strange sensation of being watched. She noticed a man in a charcoal suit making his way in her direction. He was tall, early thirties, with an olive complexion and wavy dark-blond hair that fell below his collar. She didn't recognize him. Maybe he was attending the legal conference too.

"Is this seat taken?" he asked. "Or am I interrupting?"

She gestured noncommittally to the chair by the couch. Her gaze could sometimes be stern and intimidating. "I'm not here for much longer, but help yourself."

Something about him gave off a slightly melancholy air, but he was a good-looking guy.

"Long day?" he asked.

She nodded. "And for you? Are you here with the law conference?"

"Venture capital. I think there are three conferences going on here this weekend." He paused, took in the magazine. "Planning a visit to Spain?"

"Looking at rentals in Costa Brava. In my dreams, mostly." She drained the last few drops of her seltzer.

"You should go for real."

"Oh, Spain is my favorite place on earth."

"I just got back from Mallorca a couple days ago."

She tipped her head. "Nice vacation."

"On business, but still nice."

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