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13

Davis hit the STOP button to end the videotape of Newlin's confession and eyed his boss. Bill Masterson, the District Attorney of Philadelphia. Masterson sulked in his sunny office, behind a mahogany desk littered with gold-plated awards, commemorative paperweights, and signed photos. The clutter of photos included Masterson with the mayor, various ward leaders, Bozo the Clown, the city council, and Elmo from Sesame Street, in town to open a new Target store. The D.A.s always joked that one-hour photo developing was invented for Bill Masterson.

Davis was concerned. They had viewed the video three times, and Masterson had said nothing except 'play it again' at the end. He hadn't reacted at all to Davis 's theory of premeditation. At the moment, Masterson was frowning, emphasizing jowls like an English bulldog's. He was a large man, a tall power forward out of LaSalle, big-boned and still fit. Ruddy skin provided the backdrop for round eyes of a ferocious blue, which fought with his large nose to dominate his face. 'So what do you think, Chief?' Davis asked.

'I'm not happy.'

'You're never happy.'

'This we know.' Masterson glowered under a thatch of grey-blond hair.

'So what's the problem?'

Masterson gazed out a window in a wall covered with citations, more photos, and framed newspaper articles. MASTERSON WINS AGAIN read one of the headlines, from under glass. The morning sun in a solid square streamed through the window, past the plaudits, and onto the desk, suffusing his crystal paperweights with light. Davis couldn't tell if Masterson was gazing out the window or reading his own press.

'Chief, I know it's early in the game, but I made up my mind. I've only asked twice before, in Hammer and in Bertel, and you know I was right on both counts. They're dead and they both deserved it. So does Newlin.'

Masterson squinted out the window or at his headlines. The tan phone on his desk rang loudly, and he reached over and pushed the intercom button to signal Annette to pick up. Davis, still at the VCR, pressed REWIND for something to do. He was expert in handling Masterson and knew to take it easy.

'You remember, Chief. The public, the papers, they went for it. They agreed. It gave them confidence in this office and in you. I don't have to remind you about Bertel, do I?' Davis had the facts, he didn't have to shout. Leon Bertel had murdered a popular pharmacist in Tacony, and his execution, which took place a month before the last election, had clinched Masterson's win. 'I say no deals with Newlin. I want your okay before the other side asks me. I got it? Chief?'

Masterson finally looked away from the wall and down at his desk. 'It's dirty,' he said finally.

'It's murder. All the more reason to crucify this asshole. He whacks the wife and weasels out of it. He's out in no time with his cash, livin' large again. I want to tell the press, too. Right out, from day one. No deals in the Newlin case. We're taking him down. Bringing him to justice.'

Masterson began fiddling with a slim gold Cross pen, rolling it across his blotter, back and forth. Sun glinted on the gold pen as it moved. The phone rang again, and the pen stopped rolling while Masterson pressed the intercom button wordlessly.

'I don't see the problem, Chief. This is a no-brainer. We got him cold-cock, blood on his hands. Think down the line. Say Newlin does his time or even makes parole. He'll have a decent case for it, the model prisoner, he'll keep his nose clean. You want him out and walking around? You think the people are gonna like that? The rich getting away with murder, with our, read Bill Masterson's, assist?'

The Cross pen rolled back and forth, so Davis took a cushioned chair across the desk and remained patient. He was one of the few assistants who got this much face time with the Chief. The word count was usually fifteen before the Chief's attention span evaporated, the mayor called, or the game started. Big Five basketball mattered. Masterson had priorities.

'You know he's lying, don't you?' Davis asked.

'Course.' Masterson waved the air with a large, fleshy palm. 'They all do.'

'Then what?'

'Newlin's at Tribe.'

'Yeah, so?'

'You know how much Tribe gave the campaign last year?'

Davis blinked. He never thought the Chief would say it out loud. 'He did it, Chief. He killed her.'

'Understood, but you gotta have your ducks in a row on this one.' Masterson didn't look at his subordinate, but watched the pen as if someone else were manipulating it. 'You can't go up against Tribe and be wrong.'

'I'm not wrong. You know that. You know me.'

The Cross pen came to a sudden stop. The phone started ringing, and Masterson looked over. This time instead of pressing the intercom button, he picked up the call, covering the receiver as he glanced at Davis. 'Get me more,' he barked. 'Talk to me after you do.'

'You're tellin' me no? That it's conditional?'

'Go!' Masterson said. He swiveled his chair to the side.

Davis rose nimbly, brushed his pant legs down, and took it on the chin. He hadn't expected the Chief to say no, but he wouldn't lie down. On the contrary, he accepted the challenge. It would make winning that much sweeter, and in a strange way, he would enjoy the delay of gratification. After all, he wasn't a sprinter, he was a marathoner. He had the stuff to go the distance. This was just a chance to let it shine, shine, shine.

So Davis hurried from the District Attorney's office to begin his search for the evidence that would convict, and kill. Jack Newlin.


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