Point Source (The First Mack Stedman Story)
Mack Stedman is a journeyman lawyer, pushed and prodded into representing a young latina, seeking environmental justice from the sloppy trucking company that has poisoned her and her North Denver neighborhood. The challenge of the law suit is more than enough, but Stedman finds himself the target of an unscrupulous U.S. Attorney, and an angry plant manager. Can Mack beat the odds? More
Point Source is a suspense novel about a cautious lawyer who takes on the cause of a young girl, Zoe Hernandez, sickened mysteriously, poisoned it seems by chemicals exposure, and not only pursues the source of her illness, but the essence of something righteous in himself. Urged to take the case by his old law school friend, Tom Lewing, who operates an environmental justice center, attorney Mack Stedman is drawn into a world of high stakes litigation.
While the partners at his white shoe law firm, discharge him after he refuses to quit the case, Mack builds a team, and a case for Zoe, pursuing the theory on which the case hinges, that she has been poisoned by industrial pollutants handled by a Smith-Robinson, company which has a trucking yard, in Zoe’s poor, north Denver neighborhood. Stedman is matched against the preeminent law firm in the city, Hargrove and McLean, well financed, well connected, and bent on making sure the case never gets to trial, while the company’s namesake, Roger Smith, the last vestige of company’s founder, and an old fashioned teamster, has more primitive ideas about how to discourage Stedman.
Stedman’s search for expert witnesses willing to help him build the case for causation between the chemicals Smith-Robinson hauls in its trucks, and the dire condition of his young client, brings him the help of a young, college science professor from Texas, Sam Turk, and an able treating physician, Dr. Samantha Sari. Turk and Mack’s relentless investigation first reveals that the neighborhood is full of sick children, and a revelation leads the young Texan to finally discover the connection between them all and the pesticides in the trucks.
But as Stedman’s team is on the verge of making enough progress to keep Mack in the courtroom, he faces mounting struggles to hold onto his disappearing witnesses, and becomes the target of a politically motivated US Attorney, Frank Howard, who is tying up a criminal case against Smith-Robinson in front of a federal grand jury. Mack begins to see more clearly that the case has implications outside the courtroom. When Stedman himself is threatened with an indictment for obstruction of justice, Mack has to decide whether he can trust an EPA investigator, Mike Kelly, who needs help to get past the U.S. Attorney, or should surrender to his own doubts about the case and his ability to finish what he started. Mack must decide between self-preservation, and what is best for his client.
To make matters worse, Stedman finds little solace at home, as his detached and alcoholic wife adds misery and eventually total estrangement, to his list of troubles. Mack increasingly feels that he has no one else to rely on except himself, and must make serious choices for his own future, his client’s tenuous future, his reputation, and his self-respect. But Stedman has little time for reflection as the challenges of preparing the case, and the pressure from the U.S. Attorney to drop it, is aggravated by being stalked by Roger Smith, who seems immune from any intervention from law enforcement.
Something has to give, and Kelly convinces Mack to try and accomplish a legal coup by testifying before the same Grand Jury Howard has threatened to use to indict Stedman, and convince them to take matters into their own hands. Stedman realizes he has no other real choice, and takes advantage of his one chance to convince the Grand Jury to do what he realizes he will never accomplish for his client: obtain justice. And while Mack takes the witness chair in the federal court house, Zoe’s estranged father, the street tough Jose’, who has been watching Stedman, Turk, and the menacing Smith from a distance, intervenes in his own way to dispense a different kind of justice on the sidewalk outside.
Shaken, his case in shambles, but his client’s needs served, Stedman endures, and emerges a changed man.
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