It started with a run-of-the-mill carjacking. An inner-city kid with no priors and no experience with a gun fumbled the ball, and the driver ended up dead.
A teenage girl witnessed the whole thing, and now a target has been placed on her back. The carjacker’s father, a notorious crime boss, is willing to move heaven and earth to prevent her from testifying, even if that means having a hitman kill her.
Richard “Rico” Sanders, the best in the business, was his first choice for the job. But there was a problem. He was a “killer with a conscience” and a killer with a conscience doesn’t murder teenagers. The crime boss reluctantly turns to someone who has no such qualms, John D’Angelo. There was bad blood between him and Rico, so knowing that Rico had passed on the job, he eagerly accepted it.
Rico forms an uneasy alliance with the girls lawyer, Paul Elliott, to try and protect her from the hitman. As the long-simmering feud between Rico and John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession… and old scores will be settled.
Paul Elliott stretched and tumbled out of bed, shaved and showered, had a quick bowl of cereal, and was off to work inside forty-five minutes. Thirty minutes later he was behind his desk in his office digging through an avalanche of mail in his in-box when his phone rang. It was the judge’s bailiff. The muscles in Paul’s stomach tightened. The jury had reached a verdict. He looked at his watch: 9:20 a.m. This was some kind of record. The jury had just gotten the case at 3:30 p.m. the day before, an hour before retiring for the day. As his large law firm’s first black partner, he was still a little self-conscious about the need to maintain his excellent won/lost record. Deep inside he knew that this feeling was entirely self-imposed, but that did little to banish it from his psyche.
Paul was at the courthouse in fifteen minutes. Waiting for the elevator, he spied Benjamin Yanders, a neighbor from his apartment building, and followed him into the elevator behind a throng of other people. Yanders was looking down at his shoes and inside the packed elevator Paul couldn’t make eye contact with him. Before he knew it, the elevator had reached his floor and Paul was getting out. He glanced over his shoulder and when he saw his neighbor exiting with a few other people, he stopped and waited for him.
Yanders was tall and thin and an old lower back injury caused him to stoop forward a little when he stood for a while or walked long distances. He had a full head of dark, closely cropped hair that was peppered with gray and he had crowded, bushy eyebrows. His dark brown face was more lined and haggard than Paul remembered from the last time he saw him only a few days earlier.
“You practicing law now, Ben?” Paul joked as Yanders approached.
He was looking right past Paul and hadn’t recognized him, so the sound of his name startled him a little. “Oh, Paul . . . Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
“No problem,” Paul said. “What’s up?”
“Sandy got a subpoena. I’m down here to see the assistant State’s Attorney,” Yanders said, more than a little dejected.
For the first time Paul noticed Yanders’s daughter Sandra. He hadn’t seen her when she got on the elevator or when she got off. Now she was standing a few feet behind her father. Studious and shy, she was a cute sixteen-year-old. As an only child, she looked upon Paul as an older brother and he treated her like a younger sister. He wondered what the State’s Attorney’s interest was in her and why Yanders hadn’t mentioned the subpoena before now. “Hi, Sandy. How are you?” he said.
“Hi, Paul. I’m okay, I guess,” she said, glancing at him when she answered and then looking away.
Paul checked his watch. “The State’s Attorney’s office is around the corner. I’m going that way. I’ll walk with you.”
Yanders didn’t respond, but the three of them started down the hallway together. After a few paces Paul said, “So, Ben, you want to tell me what’s going on?”
Yanders stopped. He had the look of a man who had just come from the funeral of his best friend. “Sandy witnessed a shooting. The guy died,” he said morosely. “They want her to testify against the killer.”
Paul didn’t try to mask his shock. “My goodness. That’s horrible.” He looked over at Sandy. She was out of earshot and still looking away. “How is she?”
“I think she’s holding up better than I am.”
Yanders took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I know you’re wondering why I didn’t call you, but I didn’t want to impose and—”
“Ben, you know me better than that.”
“Yeah, I know. With everything that’s been going on with Danielle and me, I guess I’ve been a little overwhelmed – haven’t been thinking straight. I’m glad I bumped into you.” He was nervous. He paused and took in another lungful of air and let it out.
Paul wanted to hear what had happened, but he had to get to the courtroom soon. “So, fill me in, Ben. What happened?”
“There was a carjacking. This young kid shot the driver. Maybe the guy resisted or maybe the kid panicked. Maybe it was cold blood. I don’t know. Sandy was coming around the corner and the kid must not have seen her, but she got a good look at him – unfortunately. He pushed the guy out of the car and drove off like a bat out of hell. She used her cell to call 911. She was with some of her friends, but since she was way ahead of everyone else, she was the only one who saw it.”
“I think I read something about that in the paper,” Paul said. “Hell of a shame, all the way around.”
Paul turned to Sandy. “Are you holding up okay?”
She returned his gaze and didn’t look away this time. “I’m all right. A little scared, though.”
“I would be, too,” Paul said. “But just a little, like you. Listen, everything’s going to be fine, okay?”
She nodded timidly. Paul smiled at her and extended his fist. She extended hers and they did a fist bump. He then turned his attention to Ben, whose face continued to wear the same worried look. “Ben, what’s the State’s Attorney’s name?”
“Mitchell Tolliver. Do you know him?”
“I do,” Paul said. “I’ll call him and see what I can find out. Then I’ll stop by this afternoon – if that’s okay.”
“Okay? That would be great,” Yanders beamed, smiling for the first time since his daughter told him about witnessing the hijacking. They shook hands and Paul went into the courtroom.
About the Author:
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the third installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red series. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/
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