Daphne du Maurier Award nominee for best suspense novel
“A hard-charging, high-concept thriller… Mesmerized will keep you just that.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Engrossing… Every twist and turn brings new surprises.” — The Los Angeles Times
Gayle Lynds delivers a modern-day spy story of passion and treachery, packed with authentic detail, politics, history, and romance. From the corridors of the FBI’s Hoover building to the dangerous streets of the new Moscow, MESMERIZED will take you on the roller-coaster ride of a lifetime, climaxing in a great showdown at the home American democracy itself.
After a heart transplant saves brilliant Washington attorney Beth Convey, she inexplicably acquires new tastes and abilities, and finds herself haunted by strange dreams – or are they memories? Her search for answers leads Beth to former FBI agent turned reporter Jeff Hammond. Together they hunt down the truth and discover top-secret information that could re-ignite the Cold War.
She was a star.
Queen of the Cosmos.
She was Beth Convey, killing machine with compassion.
She was in room 311 of Superior Court for the District of Columbia. The air was stale, stagnant in fact, but that was to be expected. Any courtroom where a high-profile trial was drawing to a close meant too many days with the doors closed, too many hours of body heat, too much anger, disgust, and sublimated violence for the air to be fresh. The overhead fluorescent lights gave off a relentless glare, and there were no windows that offered the relief of the outdoors; today was a blustery March afternoon. This third-floor room in the thirty-year-old courthouse was a ventilation-challenged, claustrophobic, wood-lined sarcophagus.
Still, the packed audience gave no indication they were unhappy with, or even noticed, the conditions. They sat silent, riveted, because hundreds of millions of dollars were riding on Beth Convey’s cross-examination in this headline-making divorce trial, and no one—particularly the press—wanted to miss a word.
Beth turned to the judge. “Permission to approach the witness, Your Honor.” She was known for her ice-cold calm, which she felt she had probably inherited. After all, she was the daughter of Jack-the-Knife Convey, Los Angeles’s top criminal defense attorney. Annoyed, she realized she was sweating.
Judge Eric Schultz was a large man with a gravelly voice and thick eyebrows. He gave her a sharp look. Beth had kept the witness on the stand all day, and there was an edge to the judge’s voice as he said, “Very well. But move your questioning along, Ms. Convey.”
She marched forward, her pumps soundless on the carpeting. Behind her she could feel the worried gaze of her client, Michelle Philmalee, while before her sat the object of her cross-examination: Michelle’s husband, industrialist Joel Mabbit Philmalee. A red flush showed above his starched white shirt collar, and anger flickered in his eyes.
Pretrial, his lawyers had made what they called a “sensible” settlement offer of $50 million, a fraction of the value of his privately held corporation. It was insultingly low, and Michelle had refused it. Which had forced Beth into a tactic that could easily fail: She must make Joel Philmalee’s violent temper betray him in open trial, which was why she had kept him on the stand so long.
She had thought she had left all this behind. Although she had begun practice as a family-law attorney, she now specialized in international law. With her knowledge of Russian and Eastern European politics, her ability to speak a useful amount of Russian and Polish, and her hard-nosed business sense, she had done so well negotiating and cutting red tape in former Communist countries on behalf of Michelle Philmalee that Michelle insisted Beth represent her in the divorce, too.
Inwardly, Beth sighed. She would have passed the divorce case on to one of the firm’s other lawyers except that the managing partner had weighed in on the situation with an emphatic “absolutely not.” The firm—Edwards & Bonnett—was determined to keep Michelle’s business, which meant keeping her happy. If Michelle wanted Beth, she would have her, and if Beth were a really good girl and won a healthy settlement package for Michelle, her reward would be a leap onto the fast track to partnership. No fool, Beth had gone to trial.
She stopped five feet from Joel Philmalee. A strong scent of expensive cologne wafted from him as he adjusted himself and glowered. His rage was building. She repressed a smile—and felt a rush of nausea.
She inhaled, forcing the nausea away. She made her voice flat, harsh. “Isn’t it true you gave the hotel chain to Mrs. Philmalee to manage in the beginning because you considered it a minor investment, and you thought she’d fail? Yes or no.”
He looked straight into her eyes. “I assumed—“
She tapped her foot. ”Yes or no?”
He shot a look of hatred across the courtroom to Michelle. “No!”
“Isn’t it true you tried to fire her, but she convinced you to wait for the fourth- quarter report, which confirmed the success of her expansion strategy? Yes or no.”
“I suppose you could say—“
”Yes or no?”
“Never! Is that good enough? No! Never!”
Beth knew he was lying, but she could not force him to change his testimony here. What was important was that the judge had heard her raise the questions and that she was making Joel Philmalee furious at her. To him she had become yet another pushy, insolent, aggravating female, just like his wife.
Beth had presented testimony, minutes of meetings, and financial analyses that showed Michelle had often played the deciding role in the Group’s growth. Now she hoped to add a convincer without ever saying it outright: Joel was a wife-beater. There were rumors about it, and Beth knew they were true. The problem was Michelle wanted no official confirmation that she had been the victim of domestic violence, not even for a half billion dollars in assets. The battlefields of commerce had taught her it was far better their war over a financial agreement look like a contest between two titans of industry. In business, Michelle believed, she must never look weak.
Beth agreed, and although the strategy had made her job far harder, it was their only hope. Unlike community-property states, the District of Columbia made no assumption there would be a fifty-fifty split in divorce, which was what Michelle wanted. Instead, its laws allowed judges broad discretion.
Beth fought back another wave of nausea and plunged ahead. “Mr. Philmalee, isn’t it true that your wife bought and sold, sat on boards of directors, traveled extensively to evaluate properties, and created Philmalee International completely on her own? Yes or no.”
He leaned forward. “No! She did everything under my orders. I’m Philmalee Group!”
“Please confine yourself to yes or no, Mr. Philmalee.” She could not seem to catch her breath. Her heart was racing again. Last week, her internist had diagnosed stress as the cause of her periodic breathlessness and told her she must slow down. Only thirty-two years old and already she had to ease back on her work? Nonsense. This trial was too important.
Joel Philmalee turned angrily to the judge. “Do I have to put up with this, Your Honor?”
Judge Schultz shook his head. “You were given ample opportunity to settle.”
“But my ingrate wife wants half my goddamn company!” He shot Michelle a look of scorching rage.
Michelle tightened her lips, her face grim. She was a tiny woman, compact and fashionable in a quilted Chanel suit and red-rimmed Armani eyeglasses. She gave no evidence of the turmoil and loneliness of which Beth had caught glimpses. Michelle’s isolation was something Beth understood. She and Michelle had made their work the centers of their lives. Beth had never regretted it, and from what she had observed, neither had Michelle.
Beth forged on: “The operative word for you is our, sir. Yours and Mrs. Philmalee’s. ‘Our company.’ The Group. You both worked—” She stifled a gasp. A dull pain gripped her chest, and sweat slid hot and sticky beneath her suit. No. She could not be sick now. She was so close to winning—
Joel’s hands knotted. “My wife didn’t do jack shit!”
The judge spoke up, “Mr. Philmalee, I’ve warned you about your language. Control yourself. Next time I’ll hold you in contempt.”
With an effort, Beth forced her voice to remain calm. “She did everything. Isn’t it true that without her you’d have nothing? She gave you the money to start. You took credit for her ideas—”
“Objection, Your Honor!” thundered Joel’s attorney.
“Overruled,” the judge said firmly. “Continue, Counselor.”
Beth pressed on. “She planned tactics and told you how to implement them. Take the Wheelwright transaction. Oak Tree Plaza. Philmalee Gardens—”
“No! No! No!” Joel Philmalee jumped up. The flush that had been hovering just beneath his ears spread in a red tide across his leathery cheeks.
The judge hammered his gavel.
“Even Philmalee International—” Beth persisted, herself risking being held in contempt.
At which point Joel Philmalee had had enough. “You bitch!” He leaped over the rail straight at Beth.
Beth’s heart seemed to explode in pain. It felt as if her rib cage would shatter. The pain was black and ragged and sent jolts of electricity to her brain. She tried to take a breath, to stay on her feet, to remain conscious. She had been an achiever all her life. Michelle deserved half of the Philmalee Group. Beth needed to go on fighting—
Instead, she collapsed to the carpet.
Joel Philmalee did not notice. He bolted past her toward his wife.
Her little face twisted in terror, Michelle whirled so quickly to escape that her glasses flew off. Screams and shouts erupted from the audience. Cursing, Joel grabbed Michelle from behind.
Just as his hands closed around her throat, a dozen journalists in the audience seemed to come alive. They cascaded down the aisle. Within seconds, two had pulled him off Michelle.
Courthouse security rushed into the room, and as order began to reassert itself and Joel Philmalee was handcuffed and forced through a side door, someone noticed Beth Convey was still lying where she had fallen.
“Did she get hurt?” the judge asked, alarmed. “Check her, Kaeli!”
The bailiff sprinted to the unconscious woman, dropped to his haunches, and felt for her pulse. Frantically, he adjusted his fingers. “Nothing, sir.”
As the courtroom fell into a stunned hush, he leaned lower, his cheek an inch from her mouth, waiting for a breath. He stayed there a long time.
At last, he looked up at the judge. His eyes were large with shock. “She’s dead. I’m sorry, Judge. I don’t see how, but Ms. Convey’s dead.”