It is 1994 in Lynwood, Louisiana, and flaming crosses light up the night and terrorize the southern town. The resurgent Klan wants a new race war, and the Klansmen will start it here. For Nettie Wynn, a victim of the cross burnings and lifelong resident of the town’s segregated neighborhood, the hate crimes summon frightful memories of her youth, when she witnessed white townspeople lynch a black man.
When federal civil rights prosecutor Adrien Rush arrives from DC to investigate the crimes with Lee Mercer, a seasoned local FBI special agent, their partnership is tested as they clash over how far to go to catch the racists before the violence escalates. Rush’s role in the case becomes even more complicated after he falls for Nicole DuBose, a successful New York City journalist who returns to Lynwood to care for her grandmother, Nettie.
When crucial evidence becomes compromised—threatening to upend what should be a celebrated conviction—the lines between right and wrong, black and white, collide with deadly consequences.
A smart legal thriller inspired by real events, including McAuliffe’s time in Louisiana investigating violent extremists and corrupt cops, No Truth Left to Tell offers the ultimate insider’s take on chasing violent racists in the Deep South.
July 1920 Lynwood, Louisiana
The following excerpt is reprinted from No Truth Left to Tell by Mi-chael McAuliffe, released on March 3, 2020. Reprinted with permis-sion of Greenleaf Book Group. Copyright © 2020 Michael McAuliffe.
Nettie glided along the sidewalk in her best dress, her mother’s creation that would soon be too small. That Saturday, however, the colorful outfit still fit and perfectly complemented her wide smile and earnest stride. The dress was spring blue with flower patterns bursting open into full blossoms, quite like Nettie herself.
She stayed out of the way of the white pedestrians inspecting her with what appeared to be a mixture of curiosity and irritation. “What’s that one doin’ here?” one woman asked as she passed by. So Nettie hugged the buildings as she moved, trying to disappear against the facades. There was something big going on in the square, but Nettie couldn’t see over or through the gath-ering, since she was just seven years old.
She had pleaded with her parents to go with her father from their home in Mooretown, Lynwood’s section for blacks, to a nearby town while he deliv-ered a meal to a close friend who was gravely ill. At the last minute, Nettie’s mother had wanted one more item added to the delivery from a store on Lynwood’s downtown square—an establishment that served them only from the back door off an alley. Nettie was supposed to wait in the car, but de-spite her father’s admonishments, the strange and festive noises drew her out into the nearby crowd where she was protected only by her look of youthful wonder.
Lynwood’s civic core was comprised of an expanse of lawn with a massive oak reigning over the surroundings. Four perpendicular streets framed the lawn, and they had been closed for several hours so people could mingle without regard to sputtering cars. The attendees had obliged the gesture by swarming the entire area by midmorning. The day’s activities appeared to originate across the street nearer the tree, allowing the spectators along the periphery to wander about with more freedom. From where Nettie was she could see the crown of the tree, and she moved in that direction as if pulled by some invisible force.
The day was hot and humid. High clouds had gathered through the morning and darkened the midday sky, but the music played on and people chatted in small groups as if they were at an annual parish fair.
After several minutes of distant rumbling a sprinkle started, and it soon de-veloped into cascading water pouring from invisible pots in the sky. The drenching dispersed the crowd into stores and under awnings. Deserted chairs and soda bottles lay across the lawn.
The scattering of the masses created large openings around the square. What was an impenetrable wall of people became a flat, open field of vision. The oak, of course, remained right where it had begun decades before as a sapling.
Nettie couldn’t run into any of the stores like the others caught out in the street during the rainstorm. So, like the oak, she remained standing, alt-hough now she had a clear view of the square. Her dress—dripping and heavy with water—would have distracted her in any other setting, but unan-swered curiosity kept her searching the square for clues about the day’s fes-tivities.
The oak tree had long, thick branches, like the heavy arms of a giant. A braided rope was slung over one of these arms, out about ten feet from the
trunk. The rope was wrapped once about the branch and secured to a large stake in the ground. The other end of the rope was fashioned into a noose, and suspended from it was the still body of a black man. The man’s neck was grotesquely angled, and the feet were bare. His hands were bound be-hind his back.
Nettie leaned forward like she was about to rush toward the oak. But she neither ran away nor went to it. She stared up at what had been until mo-ments before a living, breathing person. She was frozen in place and time—alone in the moment when her world changed forever.
Her father came running from behind and snatched her up with such force that the dress ripped along a side seam. He covered her with his protective embrace and spirited her away to the car that waited in the alley. They headed straight home using back streets and little-known shortcuts, the car not speeding despite the urgency of the situation. The trip to deliver the meal basket was abandoned as her father kept swearing that he’d never go to the square again.
Nettie didn’t look outside the car. She kept her head down and stared at one of the dress’s printed blossoms, the flower part of the pattern ending at the hemline to reveal her trembling knees.
Thank you, Michael McAuliffe and FSB Associates
About the author
Michael McAuliffe has been a practicing lawyer for thirty years. He was a federal prosecutor serving both as a supervisory assistant US attorney in the Southern District of Florida and a trial attorney in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
In 2008, Michael was elected and served as the state attorney for Palm Beach County, leading an office of approximately 125 prosecutors. He was known for leading the ethics reform movement in county that resulted in the creation of a permanent inspector general, an ethics commission, and new ethics code.
He also has been a partner at a major law firm, a global company general counsel, a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University’s School of Law, and an adjunct professor at William & Mary’s School of Law. Early in his career, Mr. McAuliffe was a Civic Education Project fellow and visiting professor of law in the Czech Republic.
Aside from the law, Mr. McAuliffe is an alpine mountaineer, having climbed and reached the summits of Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro (with his daughter), Island Peak in the Himalayas, and many other mountains.
He received his JD from the College of William & Mary’s Law School and his BBA from the Business Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin. Michael and his wife Robin Rosenberg, a US district judge, have three children, and live in Florida and Massachusetts.
Amazon US :