Dying for Justice

Read the first few chapters below.

Prologue

The sun veiled behind a bleak gray cloud, bounces shards of light through the morning sky. British summer weather, sun and cloud, nothing new.

They hurry, swallowing up the worn dirt path with long, anticipatory strides, impatient to reach their predetermined spot. Heavy rifles, harnessed on broad shoulders, swing in time to their steps.

Backpacks, thrown roughly on the ground, puff life into green foliage and small animals scurry to safety. Leaves wave in unison with the soft breeze, and the smell of fresh vegetation and clean air fills their lungs. They inhale deep breaths, savoring the taste of the woodland, the air stroking their skin like a brush meeting its canvas for the first time.

They load rifles, check scopes, and scan the meadow for innocent prey.

A blast penetrates the air, short but deafening, sending flurries of angry Blackbirds squawking skyward.

A man crumples to the ground, his legs sprawled, his arms limp, his eyes wide open. The other stares, first confused, then shocked, and then sickened as blood courses from his friend’s brow, staining his eyes, nose and mouth.

No life.

He drops to his knees, disbelieving. A sound of running feet cause him to lift his head. The tramping sound comes closer and grows louder. Then stops abruptly.

His teenage son.

Rifle in hand.

London Lawyer

At a quarter to nine, the cabbie dropped Julia at the offices of McKenzie, Kent, and Ainsworth – Law Firm. Pocketing the hefty tip, the cabbie winked and shouted, “Have a good one, luv,” as his multi-colored cab screeched away from the curb. Her eyes followed him along the Strand and into Fleet Street. Beyond that, she could see the dome of Saint Paul’s Cathedral booming upwards, dominating the skyline with its cold gray stone.

She closed her eyes and inhaled with the full force of her lungs. She could smell London. The heady aroma of car fumes mixed with morning pastries, burning brakes, hot rubber, newspaper stands, railings, flowers, and money.

Her assistant, Michelle, greeted her with a huge, bright smile as Julia strode past her desk.

“Good morning, Miss. Ainsworth, how are you today?”

“Fine, thank you.” Julia kept walking toward her office but stopped for a fleeting moment to admire the name-plate fastened to the solid oak door. It still made her tingle with delight to see it there. At twenty-five, she was the youngest lawyer the firm had ever had.

Michelle walked behind, fussing over her notes. “Your e-mail’s awfully full,” she said apologetically, as though it were somehow her fault. “And I’ve put several papers on your desk that need signing. Your first appointment is at 10 a.m. with your father to discuss the Bradley case…” Julia’s shoulders relaxed, and she took a deep soothing breath. The thought of being with her father brought a broad smile to her face. Because of his political engagements, he was only in the office for two or three days a month, and she relished any time with him, talking and listening to his sage advice. She knew she needed him today more than ever.

Although her father was a successful and well-respected lawyer — now turned politician — it was her late mother, Elizabeth, who’d inspired her to study law. Curiously enough, Nigerian born Elizabeth, hadn’t been a lawyer, but a painter, and not a very good one at that. But she was a passionate painter who loved her art, and from an early age Julia could remember her mother carrying an easel, several canvasses and an array of paints wherever she went.

Michelle was still babbling on, “Your appointment with Detective Sergeant Crane is at 2 p.m., after which you’ll be meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Bradley at their house. Then at 5 p.m., Michael will be ready for you to interview at the police station.”

“Thank you,” Julia said, her back turned to the door, her arm waving dismissively. She was looking at the magnificent stone edifice in front of her — the Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts. The building housed the High Court and the Court of Appeal, and its architectural details in Victorian Gothic style boasted of a time and age now long forgotten.

A muscle twitched in Julia’s neck. Normally, she felt brave and confident, but she could already feel a knot in her stomach as she thought about her hectic meeting schedule. She knew these first few days after the killing were critical.

She slid into her black-leather office chair and swiveled to face the desk. Turning on her computer, she clicked a tab, and opened The Guardian, but when she saw the headline, her body froze in horror.

“Teenager Kills Politician in Hunting Accident.”

She read the article, furrowing her brows and tightening her lips into a thin line, feeling sick to her stomach.

One day. One day! Couldn’t they wait any longer than that?

She stood up and reached for the coffee pot that Michelle had prepared for her, poured herself a cup and closed her eyes. The only type of coffee she drank was made using medium-roasted beans from either Costa Rica or Panama. No sugar, no milk, no cream — just pure bouquet — like a good red wine.

At 9:50 a.m., she left her office and walked to the fourth floor to meet her father. The door wasn’t open when she arrived, but she knocked and sauntered in without waiting for a reply. He was sitting at his deep-red mahogany desk talking on the phone. When he saw her, he waved her in and said hurriedly, “I’ll have to call you back later.” Then he hung up, a red color flushing his neck.

When her mother died, Jack Ainsworth hadn’t recoiled into himself or thrown himself into his work as others might have done. Instead, he’d taken the time to be with Julia and to help her through her heartache; although he’d surely suffered from his own. Those first few months after her mother’s death solidified Julia’s relationship with her father in a way that nothing else could have done.

Her mother died of a rare disease contracted during one of her many art trips to Africa, and her body still lay buried there. The disease was so rare that the British Government had refused to allow the body to return to England. Julia was fifteen at the time.

Jack stood up and smiled, brushed his thick black mustache that partially covered his top lip, and raised his bushy eyebrows. Julia smiled back as she thought, once again, that he looked like a happy walrus.

“Hello darling, how are you today?” He hugged her and motioned to the maroon leather sofa by the wall.

“Fine, thanks, Pops, and you?” She sat next to him, pecking his cheek as she did so.

“Oh good, good. You know, busy, but good.” They continued to catch up for a few more minutes and then Jack smiled. “Thank you for taking the Bradley case. I understand you’ve got a hectic day today?”

“Yes.” She pursed her lips. “I’m meeting the detective at the crime scene, then visiting the parents, and then Michael after that.”

“Excellent, honey. I wasn’t able to view the crime scene yesterday, so I’m very glad you’ll have a chance today.” He rested his elbows on his too-many-beers-stomach and formed a steeple with his hands. “And how are things looking for the boy?”

She shook her head. “Not good. Of course, he’s only sixteen so the police are treating him as a juvenile. As you know, they’ve charged him on suspicion of murder, and if he’s convicted, he’ll go down for a minimum of twelve years. I’m meeting with the Crime Prosecution Service on Friday morning. I wanted to ask you what you think he might get if they reduce it to a manslaughter charge?”

“Difficult to tell at this stage,” he began. “With a not-guilty plea I think he’d get four to six years, but with a guilty plea, probably two to four. After he’s served half the sentence, there would be the possibility of parole. What do you think?”

“Yes, I was thinking something along those lines. Pops, do you think he meant to kill Thornton?”

Jack leaned back and stroked his mustache again. He sighed. “The evidence certainly points toward it. What makes you ask that?”

“Oh, nothing really…” she hesitated. “Just a couple of things in the police report that… well… I don’t know how to explain it.”

His eyebrows furrowed. “It all seems quite clear to me, love. You don’t have a problem taking the case, do you?”

She sighed and then threw him a huge smile. “No. No, it’ll be fine.”

“Good. Did you get a chance to read through the notes from my visit to the police station yesterday?”

“Yes, of course. Several times, actually.” She tapped the laptop resting on her knees. “I have them right here.”

“So, what can I do to help, love?” he asked, his smiling blue eyes catching hers.

She flicked her long, chestnut-colored hair away from her face and popped open the laptop lid. “I have a few questions I want to discuss with you about your notes. I hope now is a good time?”

“Absolutely, fire away.”

Meadow Murder

Tom and Nicole Bradley lived on an estate in Esher, Surrey, about forty-five minutes from London, with no traffic. That could mean anything up to two hours with traffic. From her flat, Julia went straight to the private underground parking, opened the door of her red BMW convertible and slid into the luscious ivory-white leather seats. Julia knew the car was a bit over the top for the British weather. Well, she admitted to herself, it was a lot over the top really, but she’d bought it because of three things. It turned heads, it could park itself, and she loved the vermilion red color.  She was easy to please, she thought wryly.

The traffic was heavy through the city but eased up considerably as she passed Richmond Park. She continued driving for another forty minutes then turned off from the main road into a small, winding lane flanked by trees on either side. Their heavy tops formed a lush tunnel of emerald green that blanketed her on both sides of the road, making her feel as though she’d suddenly left the world of London, law offices, and murder cases involving teenagers, and was now entering some older, more straightforward, and affable world.

Julia was accustomed to wealth and luxury, so opulence rarely daunted her. But she gasped as she swung into the private lane leading to the Bradley’s dwelling and caught her first glimpse of the house. House wasn’t the correct term for it — it was a mansion of colossal size. She should have expected as much, considering the killing had taken place on their own private hunting grounds.

As she cruised past immaculately manicured gardens and onto the cobbled circular driveway, her eyes were drawn toward the main courtyard of the house. Four massive stone pillars stood proud and erect, supporting a huge triangular roof in true Grecian style. The pillars and the front facade were a cool cream color, while the rest of the house, extending far to the left and to the right, was deep red brick.

Before she had parked her car, the main entrance door was opening, and she felt her chest tighten. Even as she quickly walked up the marble steps, the tension didn’t lessen.

The maid smiled and took her coat. Julia looked around and marvelled at what she saw. Black wrought-iron banisters on both sides of the entrance hallway curved up to a landing on the first floor. The diagonal tile flooring was cream and black marble, and straight ahead, under the stairs, was an archway leading through to a dining area. The long dark table would comfortably seat eighteen, and the chairs appeared to be Chippendales, with their famous ball-and-claw feet, unmistakable even from a distance. Under the arch to the right, was a beautiful grandfather clock, and to the left, appearing to stand guard, a knight in full shining armor.

The maid showed her into the drawing room where a woman rose and stretched out her hand. “Hello Julia. So nice to meet you.”

Julia shook her hand, then responded to the man who had risen and was holding out his hand with a smile.

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Bradley-”

“Please, call us Nicole and Tom, dear,” Mrs. Bradley interrupted. “We feel as though we already know you. Your father is always talking about you.” She was smiling, but her eyes were oddly blank.

Julia was aware that Tom and Nicole knew her father. They were old friends, all active members of the Conservative Party, and were supporting him in his run for the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer this year.

Julia faked embarrassment. “I keep asking him not to, but you know my father.”

Nicole half smiled.

Tom was in his early forties, short and round with a large bulbous nose. He had wheat-colored hair, combed over from his right ear all the way to his left and a shining red complexion.

Nicole was taller and darker than her husband and Julia thought she might have some Mediterranean blood in her — perhaps Italian or Greek. She seemed to be around the same age as Tom, but with fewer wrinkles and a full head of long black hair, she had aged considerably better.

“Have you met Detective Sergeant Crane?” Nicole turned and introduced a short, plump woman in her early sixties, wearing a dowdy brown skirt and jacket. She had on thick manly shoes, and her face was dark and tired looking.

“No, not yet. Hello Detective.” Julia put forward her hand and Crane shook it.

“Ma’am.”

“Please. Call me Julia.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The maid came in with a large silver tray bursting with tea, coffee, biscuits, cucumber sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

“Tea or coffee, Julia?” Nicole paused. “The beans are from Costa Rica.”

Julia’s eyes opened wide. “Coffee please, but how did you-”

“Your father told us,” interrupted Nicole. “And for you Detective?”

“Cuppa’ tea would be right lovely ma’am. Milk and two sugars if you please.”  Julia recognized the distinctive accent and guessed that the detective was from the north of England, probably from around the Yorkshire area.

Nicole nodded at the maid to pour the drinks. “Thank you, Sheila. You may pour.”

Crane grabbed a handful of biscuits from the tray, dunked them in her tea with her fat little fingers, and gleefully stuffed them into her mouth. Julia winced. The rest of them picked at the afternoon tea, until Julia finally said, “Would you mind if the Detective and I go to the meadow now?”

Tom answered, “Not at all. Do you want us to come with you?”

Detective Sergeant Crane headed for the door, stuffing one last biscuit into her mouth. “No, thank you, sir, we’ll be right fine alone.”

***

Julia and Crane stood in a large green meadow surrounded by a thick forest of birch and oak on all sides. The constable standing by the yellow tape lifted it to shoulder height to allow them to enter. He wrote Julia’s full name in a notebook and asked them to stay on the taped path leading to where the deceased had been found.

He tipped his helmet as Crane passed by, and they exchanged a few remarks. Julia heard the constable mention the detective’s retirement in three months and declared his envy with a loud raucous laugh. Crane snorted and told the young man to mind his own business.

Forensics and the pathologist had already been at the crime scene, which covered the entire area from where the shot originated to where the body had lain. Although the body had been moved to the lab, the police were keeping the area strictly out of bounds in case any other checks or details should be needed. The area would be policed for five more days — the budget couldn’t run to much more than that.

“That is where the deceased was found,” Crane said, pointing to an area twenty feet away. “We can’t get any closer ‘til the boys clear the site, but this gives us a fair idea to see what might’ve happened. I’ve already spoken to Mr. and Mrs. Bradley, and I understand you’re talking with them later today?”

“Yes, as soon as we’re finished here.” Julia looked around, straining to see the exact area where the body had lain.

Crane pulled out a stack of photographs from her backpack and handed them to Julia. “You’re welcome to keep these, I had copies made for you and for the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Julia leafed through the photographs, noting the angle of the body and the man’s bleeding forehead. Several photos of the surrounding area, the ground, the trees, the meadow, and the area the shot had come from were included; but nothing in particular stood out to her. She wondered if the CPS had noticed anything special and made a mental note to ask them, next time they met.

“What did the pathologist say about the distance and direction of the bullet?” she asked.

“Seems to be consistent with the kid’s story.” Crane yawned and stretched her neck. “He was about a hundred yards away, at the top of that hill.” Julia followed the trajectory of Crane’s chubby index finger to a hill in the distance.

“That’s quite a shot.”

“Yeah,” was all Crane had to say.

“And Michael saw a deer… where exactly?”

Crane blew out a breath. “Said he saw a deer. About thirty feet that way. Just inside of the trees. Never found no tracks though. Doesn’t look good for the kid if you ask me.”

Julia wasn’t asking her.

“Could something have hidden or destroyed the animal tracks — foliage, or the weather perhaps?”

Crane rolled her eyes. “We’re good at what we do ma’am. Weren’t no tracks there. If there was we would’ve found ‘em.”

Julia spent the next twenty minutes taking pictures and asking Crane for more details about the incident. The detective answered in short, curt sentences, and it was obvious that she was plodding her way through her last few months of service. Julia knew she wouldn’t be able to rely on her for any help at all.

***

Back at the house, and sitting on the sofa opposite the Bradleys in the drawing room, Julia asked, “Do you mind if I video our conversation?”

“Not at all,” Tom answered, although his eyes tightened, and his back seemed to arch a little.

Julia took out her laptop, placed it strategically on the table and tapped on the Movie Recording App. “I know this must be very hard for you both, but I may have to ask you some difficult questions. I hope you understand?”

Nicole and Tom exchanged anxious glances; he reached for his wife’s hand. “We understand, and we have full confidence in you, Julia. We want to help in any way we can.”

“Thank you. I think we should begin with the day of the accident. Could you please tell me what you remember?”

Tom blinked hard, breathed a heavy sigh, and began.

Intriguing Interviews

At 9 p.m., Julia lay on the dark red sofa in her living room, her laptop perched on her knees, a pen and pad, and a hot cup of coffee on the small table beside her. Earlier, she had transferred the video recordings into the Stress Detector Analysis Program that Danny had obtained for her. It had cost three months’ salary but was worth every penny.

She didn’t enjoy the subterfuge but not all her clients told the whole truth. In fact, she doubted if even one of them had ever done so. The program was able to identify various types of stress levels, cognitive processes and emotional reactions. It did this through monitoring minute changes in facial expression, skin color, pupil dilation and voice tone. Several reports were available in the program, but the ones Julia used most were the stress line-graph, and the percentage-indicator — which showed a split between low, medium and high stress. She put her headphones on and tapped the play button for the first recording — the conversation with Nicole and Tom. She heard her own voice and then watched as Tom began his explanation of the day of the accident.

“Nicole left the house around ten-thirty to go shopping, and then she had lunch with a friend. That’s right isn’t it, honey?” He looked anxiously at his wife who nodded back at him. “I’d gone to my office to work…” he hesitated, “on a new project.”

A sign of stress showed on the monitor.

Was he lying?

Julia wrote in her notes, recording the exact time of the spike on the screen.

Tom continued, “John… John Thornton, arrived around eleven, I think. We had a cup of tea and talked for about fifteen minutes or so, then we went to the meadow.” He pulled his shoulders back and smiled. “Did your father tell you we have our own hunting grounds?”

“Yes, he did.” She heard herself say and remembered forcing a smile but shuddering internally.

“After about five minutes, we came to the place where I normally base from and put our bags and equipment on the ground. Minutes later, I heard a gunshot in the air although I had no idea where it came from. I was totally astonished. In fact, at first, I thought two shots had been fired, but they were so close together I knew it must have been an echo. Suddenly, John crumpled to the ground next to me. I honestly didn’t realize what had happened at first, but then I saw the blood…” he stared at the floor, shaking his head as he did so, “blood pouring from his forehead.”

He paused for a long time. Julia counted the seconds, marking the length of time in her notes.

Tom looked up again, his eyes red, his cheeks wet with tears. “I knelt on the ground beside him and checked his pulse and breathing, but I couldn’t feel anything. I think the bullet must have killed him instantly.” He turned and looked at Nicole. “That’s when I saw Mikey. He was running through the trees toward us. He… he had one of my rifles in his hand.”

The monitor spiked again.

Understandable. 

Tom looked at Julia again. “He came closer and saw me kneeling over John. I looked up at him and said something stupid like, “What have you done, Mikey?” I regret that now…” He seemed lost in thought for a few moments and then continued, “I’m not sure what happened next.” He leaned over and took a swig of a light brown fluid from a glass on the table beside him.

“I understand,” she’d said, “Just tell me what you can remember, Tom.”

“Well, I remember Mikey kneeling beside me and asking if John was dead. I said I thought he was. Then he asked me what we should do. I think it was then I rang the police. It’s all a bit of a blur I’m afraid…” He paused again, his eyes flicking from left to right, trying to remember. “It seemed like an eternity, but it was probably only about fifteen minutes later when the police arrived and sealed off the area.” His eyes glazed over. “Then they took Mikey to the station. I went with him, of course. I rang Nicole and told her briefly what had happened, and she met us at the police station. She rang your father as soon as she and I hung up, and he was at the station about an hour-and-a-half after that. I presume you know the rest?” He was wringing his hands and breathing heavily.

She’d let him regain his composure. “Yes, I read my father’s notes about the interviews you had with the police and their decision to charge Michael on suspicion of murder and to keep him in the holding cell, pending bail. I’ll be visiting Michael later today.” They both nodded, and Tom took another swig from his glass. Julia noticed Nicole’s disapproving glare at her husband.

She remembered looking around the spacious drawing room and heard her voice on the recording. “Where do you keep the rifles, Tom?”

Nicole answered for her husband, “They’re in a locked gun cabinet in the library, dear. We keep the keys for the cabinet in the safe.” She pointed toward a large bookshelf on the left wall.

“And the bullets?”

“We keep them in a cupboard in the cellar,” she answered.

“And did Michael have access to either of them?”

“Well, not the guns, dear, he doesn’t know the code to the safe. But he knows where we keep the ammunition, and the cupboard downstairs is never locked.”

The monitor spiked at once.

Julia paused the recording and noted the number of clusters causing a spike in the program.

“Tom,” Julia continued, “Michael left earlier in the morning, so I was just wondering if you noticed any rifles missing when you took the ones for you and John?”

“No, I didn’t.” His eyebrows furrowed, and he was silent for a minute. “But, let me see, I only opened the left door of the cabinet. The right was locked, and if something was missing from the right side, I wouldn’t have seen it. We have two keys for the cabinet, one for the left door and one for the right, I picked up the first one I found in the safe and opened the door.”

“The left-hand side?”

“Yes.”

She’d noticed he was left-handed when he’d been drinking his tea, and whatever was in the glass beside him. “I notice from my father’s notes that Michael was an avid hunter?” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Yes.” Tom turned to his wife and looked soulfully at her as if for understanding, perhaps for forgiveness. “He’s been hunting with me since he was twelve.” Then as though he were talking to himself, he shook his head and said, “I can’t imagine why he went out that day…”

Julia stopped the recording again and took a sip of her coffee, which had now gone cold. She stretched and rubbed the back of her neck with one hand remembering when her father had taken her on their first deer hunt at the age of ten. She’d been looking forward to being with him and his friends, and all the excitement of the coming hunt. But when she saw a deer killed for the first time, she was shocked to the core. She remembered the image vividly; the bullet exploding into the deer’s side, the impact causing its head to jerk wildly and its legs to buckle. She could still see the deer crashing to the ground with unbelievable force and remembered how she stared at it for several minutes; waiting for it to rise and be beautiful again. Agile. Alive. But it just lay there. Motionless. Dead.

It was the first time she’d ever wondered if her father wasn’t perfect, and she never went hunting again.

Tapping on the play button, she continued watching the recording.

“Can you tell me about John Thornton? How do you know him?”

“Well, John is… oh, was… in the same political party as Nicole and I. As is your father.” His chest thrust out slightly. “We’re all Conservatives you know. We met John and his wife for the first time about four years ago-”

“Five, darling,” Nicole interrupted, patting his knee.

“Oh, yes. Five.” He cleared his throat. “We were at a Conservative Party conference in Birmingham and John was one of the main speakers.” He reached out his hand, lifted the glass to his lips and gulped back the remaining contents in one go. “At the evening dinner, we sat at the same table, and hit it off right away. We’ve been friends ever since then. I can’t believe he’s… gone.” He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. “Poor Eileen.”

“Eileen?” Julia had asked.

“His wife. He was married with three children — two teenagers and a boy of seven. How am I ever going to look her in the eyes again?” He refilled his glass from a crystal decanter on the table beside him and took another slug. Julia saw Nicole’s perfectly manicured nails dig into his thigh.

The monitor was spiking again. She stopped the video and spent a few minutes finishing her coffee.

He certainly is uncomfortable about all of this. But I guess I would be too. It is his son after all. 

She skipped the rest of the recording and moved on to the next one — the one with Michael in the holding cell. He was a tall skinny lad, with braces on his teeth, and shoulder-length red hair.

“Can you tell me about the day of the accident please, Michael?”

His eyes were empty. “What you want to know?”

“Well, just tell me what you remember.”

“Okay. Um… I got up and had breakfast. Mum made pancakes because the maid was off.” He smirked. “It’s pretty much the only thing she can make. Then we chatted for a while. After that I decided to go hunting.”

“What time did you get up?”

He shrugged. “Ten, I guess.”

“And why did you decide to go hunting?”

He looked away, trying to remember. “Um… oh yeah. My mum and I had been talking about some of the great hunts we’d been on. I guess it just made me wanna’ go.”

“Right. And how did you get the gun and the ammunition?”

He looked away, his cheeks reddening. “Well, the ammo’s in the cellar, but the guns are in the library. I went there and got one.”

“Was the cabinet locked?”

“No.”

The monitor was level.

He shrugged. “Sometimes they forget to lock it.”

She thought of something Tom had said. “Were both sides unlocked, Michael?”

“No, just the right side. I remember trying both.”

“So, the left side was locked?”

“Guess so.”

“And do you normally go hunting alone?”

He avoided her eyes and looked at his lap, twiddling with his fingers. “Sometimes, but I’m not really supposed to.”

She waited, but he didn’t elaborate. “It’s okay, Michael. Tell me what happened next.”

“Well, when I got to the top of the left side of the hill, I got into position on the ground, and-”

“Why did you go there — to the left side of the hill I mean?”

“That’s where I always go. My mum taught me ages ago that it’s a good place to get an overall view of things.”

“I see. Go on.”

“After a while, I saw a deer in the forest. It was behind the first clump of trees on the other side of the meadow. Well… what I thought was a deer.” He looked down again, his hands twisting nervously in his lap. “But, you know, it wasn’t.” He looked straight into her eyes. “But I didn’t know that — I swear.”

The monitor spiked. Julia made several notes on her pad.

“What happened then?” she heard herself say.

He looked at her, his eyes unsure. “So, I took the shot. I wasn’t sure I’d killed it, so I ran toward where I thought the deer was. But when I was nearly there I saw my dad kneeling on the ground. As I got closer, I saw that he was kneeling next to a man… and the man’s head was bleeding. My dad looked at my rifle, then at me and said, “What have you done?” That’s when I realized I’d shot the man.”

The monitor spiked.

Poor boy. 

She remembered leaning forward and asking as gently as she could, “Did you mean to shoot him, Michael?”

His jaw hardened. “No.”

The monitor was steady.

Julia took another break and looked through her notes. Her stomach rumbled, and she realized she was famished — she hadn’t eaten since lunchtime. She went to the kitchen and prepared a large cheese and vegetable omelet. While it was cooking, she picked up her phone and pressed quick-dial-one.

A cheery male voice answered, “Hey, Jules.”

“Hi, Danny. Listen, I need your help, I feel like I’m in over my head.”

“No problem, what sort of help do you need?”

“The sort we can’t talk about on the phone…”

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