“That’s all I’m asking of you today: to hear the truth. To let the truth in. Nothing will bring back Andrew Jakes, Piers Henley, Didier Anjou and Miles Baring. But the truth may finally allow them to rest in peace.”
Ellen Watts sat down to a silence so heavy you could almost hear it. Some of the jury members clearly disapproved of what she’d said. Others looked puzzled by it. But unlike William Boyce, Ellen Watts took her seat knowing that she at least had their full attention.
Judge Federico Muñoz turned to the other defense attorney. “Mr. Dubray. If you’d care to address the court…”
Alvin Dubray stood up, wheezing and waddling his way to the same spot in front of the jury that Ellen Watts had just vacated. He looked more than usually disheveled this morning, with his wiry gray hair sticking up wildly on one side of his head and his half-moon reading glasses comically askew. After a mumbled “very good, Your Honor,” he turned to the jury.
“Ladies and gentlemen. I’ll keep it brief. I admire Ms. Watts’s respect for the truth. Indeed, I heartily endorse it. Unfortunately for Ms. Watts, however, the truth does nothing to exonerate her client. It is Sofia Basta who was the cynical manipulator. She, not Mr. Mancini, entrapped four innocent men and led them to their deaths. And let us not forget that these were successful, highly intelligent men of the world. If Ms. Basta was able to bamboozle these men, not to mention senior police officers around the globe and even one of her victims’ children”—he glanced at the broken figure of Matt Daley, slumped in his wheelchair in the front row—“how easy must it have been for her to control my client, a clinically certified schizophrenic with a lifelong history of emotional and psychological problems. The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that Ms. Basta is the cold-blooded killer here, not Mr. Mancini. Thank you.”
Alvin Dubray shuffled back to his seat. Danny McGuire watched him go. Danny noticed that at no time during his address had Alvin Dubray looked at his client or invited the jury to do so. Probably because the guy looks so fucking evil, and she still looks like a little lamb, lost in the woods. Danny remembered both Sofia and Frankie from their prior incarnations as Angela Jakes and Lyle Renalto. Today, as he watched them in court, his impressions of the two were remarkably similar to what they had been all those years ago. She still seemed innocent and gentle. He still projected arrogance and deceit. Alvin Dubray had been right on the money in one regard. Sofia Basta had “bamboozled” him. In fact, the word bamboozle barely scratched the surface of what she had done. As Angela Jakes, she had bewitched the former detective. And in a way, she was bewitching him still.
Judge Muñoz called for a twenty-minute recess before the defense teams started summoning witnesses to take the stand. Outside in the corridor, Danny McGuire approached Matt Daley.
Danny still felt guilty for having suspected Matt of being the Azrael killer that fateful night in Mumbai. As he looked at him now, so weak and broken, not just physically but emotionally, the idea that he might have killed those men seemed ludicrous. Matt Daley couldn’t hurt a fly. Danny’s one consolation was that Matt himself never knew of his suspicions. Since the Azrael arrests, the two men had become friends again. Danny and Céline had even stayed with Matt’s sister, Claire, and her husband, Doug, when they vacationed in L.A., and the McGuire and Daley families had grown close.
“I’m fine. I’m worried about her, though.”
“Lisa, of course.” Even now, a full year after India, Matt Daley still referred to Sofia Basta as “Lisa” and still spoke about her with love and affection. As far as the trial was concerned, Matt Daley was in Ellen Watts’s camp all the way. Mancini was the bad guy, “Lisa” his confused, misguided victim. “Dubray’s a cold bastard. He’ll do her more damage than that wet fish Boyce for the prosecution. How can he stand up there and say those things?”
“He’s doing his job,” Danny McGuire said mildly. “None of us knows the truth yet. We won’t till we hear the witnesses’ testimony.”
Matt looked at him uncomprehendingly. “I know the truth,” he said simply. Then he turned and wheeled himself away.
DAVID ISHAG LOOKED IMPATIENTLY AT HIS half-million-dollar Richard Mille watch. The trial so far had been torture. Sitting just feet away from the woman he’d once believed was going to be by his side forever, he’d not only had to listen to the crushing weight of evidence against her, but had contributed to that evidence himself, testifying to the court how he too was conned into marriage and to changing his will by this most deadly temptress.
Not once in all that time had Sarah Jane, as David still thought of her, made eye contact with him. Not once had she sought, with a look or a gesture, to explain herself. But now at last, David Ishag would hear her speak. He was ashamed to admit it, but there was a part of him that still longed for her to open her mouth and prove her innocence. To take what he knew to be the truth and disprove it. To make this nightmare go away and to return home at his side. Of course, rationally he was aware that that way madness lay. Only a fine line divided him from poor Matt Daley, and it was a line David Ishag hadn’t the slightest intention of crossing. Even so, the prospect of Ellen Watts calling Sofia Basta as her first witness, as she was widely expected to do, had brought him to an almost unbearable pitch of anxiety.
“The defense calls Rose Darcy.”
David Ishag’s horror was echoed by a general murmur of disappointment in room 306. The spectators had waited weeks to hear the beautiful woman in one of the defendants’ chairs speak for herself about her terrible crimes. Instead, a stooped, frail old woman ascended the witness box, helped by a courtroom clerk. Rose Darcy walked with a wooden cane almost as tall as she was, but despite her age and seeming decrepitude, she gave off an air of determination. Her spun-silver hair was tied neatly and firmly in a bun, and her blue eyes still sparkled brightly in her ruined, wrinkled face.
The court was not to be entirely disappointed, however. For the first time since the trial began, Sofia Basta appeared to be overcome with emotion. Letting out a stifled sob, she clutched the edge of the defendants’ table.
“Mrs. Darcy, can you confirm your name for the court?”
“Rose Frances Darcy.” The old woman’s voice was strong and clear. “And it’s ‘miss.’ I never married.”
“I’m sorry. Ms. Darcy, are you acquainted with either of the defendants in this case?”
“I am. With the young lady.”
The old woman looked across the room at the accused, her eyes welling up with tears of affection.
“I see,” said Ellen Watts. “And when did you first meet Sofia Basta?”
“I never met Sofia Basta.”
The jury members exchanged puzzled frowns. For a moment Ellen Watts looked equally perplexed. It would be just her luck to discover that her first witness had lost her marbles.
“Ms. Darcy, you just told the court that you know the female defendant. But now you’re saying that you never met her?”
“No,” the old woman said testily. “I never said that. I’ve known her”—she pointed at the defendants’ table—“since the day she was born. What I said was, I never met Sofia Basta.”
“But, Ms. Darcy…”
“That’s not Sofia Basta.” Rose Darcy finally lost her patience. “Sofia Basta doesn’t exist.”
IT TOOK JUDGE MUÑOZ A MOMENT to bring the court to order. Once the gasps had died down, the old woman continued.
“Her real name is Sophie. Sophie Smith. I don’t know where this ‘Basta’ baloney came from, but it wasn’t the name she was born with.”
Ellen Watts said, “You said you knew Sofia—Sophie—since birth. You knew her mother?”
“No, ma’am. I’m a social worker. Her mother abandoned her at birth at a maternity clinic in Harlem. I happened to be working at the clinic that night, so I saw her soon after she was born. Tiny little thing she was, but a fighter even then. She spent the first three weeks of her life withdrawing from heroin. Mom must have been using throughout the pregnancy. She was lucky to survive. It was the workers at the clinic who named her Sophie.” She turned and looked at the stricken figure at the defendants’ table. “She’ll always be Sophie to me.”
“What contact did you have with Sophie after that night?”
Rose Darcy smiled sadly. “Not as much as I would have liked. Although I probably had more contact with her over the course of her childhood than anyone else. She was a sweet little girl, very loving, very sensitive. But she was troubled from the beginning.”