Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Wednesday, February 10, 12:45 a.m.
Boone dragged himself into the 'Round the Clock restaurant, still stuffed from dinner. It warmed him to see Fritz Zappolo looking every bit as frazzled as he. The lawyer wore a steel-gray suit with all the trimmings: patent leather shoes, tasteful jewelry, a silver collar stickpin, an iridescent tie, manicured fingernails, and coif slicked back just so. But the bags under his eyes lay in dark circles, and if Boone hadn't known better, he would have said the man's pupils were fixed and dilated.
Usually courtly and deferential, Zappolo made no attempt to stand. He just nodded wearily as Boone and Jack joined him in a secluded booth.
“You look like I feel, Drake,” he said.
“You stole my line.”
“So we're both shot, and the old man here looks better than either of us. Does that mean we can get on with this and keep it short?”
Fritz ordered a massive breakfast that made Boone wonder how he stayed trim. “So sue me,” Zappolo said. “I haven't eaten all day.”
“Before we get into this,” Jack said, “I've got to tell you something. You're going to give me all the bull about how you're an officer of the court and that your whole life is about keeping confidencesâ”
“It is,” Fritz said.
“Well, you're about to hear stuff unlike you've ever heard before, and it involves a dirty cop. If it gets out before we can stop him, lives are in danger, soâ”
“Jack, listen to me,” Fritz said. “I know we pull each other's chains all the time, and maybe we do come at the law from fundamentally different perspectives. But you need to know that I take this stuff seriously. You don't have to worry about me breaking confidences, especially if lives are on the line.Â Okay?”
“I appreciate it,” Jack said.
Somehow Zappolo ate every bite of the colossal breakfast, never taking his eyes off Boone as he rehearsed everything he had learned. Jack leaned away from the table, and Boone heard him letting Margaret know they would have a guest and that she shouldn't wait up.
When Boone's recitation ended, Zappolo slid his empty plate to the middle of the table. “I think you just saved my career.”
“Were you seriously worried?” Jack said.
“You bet I was. You know what I'm doing for this guy?”
“Harboring a fugitive, the way I hear it.”
“Keep your voice down. It appears now that I am merely being a champion of justice. One can't, by definition, harbor an innocent party. I'm merely protecting her from false arrest.”
“Did you just use the word
?” Boone said.
“Guilty. I mean, yes, innocent. I won't lecture you anymore. She's not just ânot guilty.' She's innocent.”
“I'd love to hear you say that just one more time.”
“In your dreams. I don't grovel.”
“Just thank the kid,” Jack said. “He saved your bacon.”
“Kudos,” Zappolo said. “And I mean that, Drake. I seriously thought the best I was going to be able to do was to keep the little boy's name out of the record. Now it appears I'll keep even her out of court.”
“I never worried about her being convicted.”
“You should have. This was hardly a slam dunk. In fact, I wouldn't have bet against the other side. Now I'm licking my chops over the potential wrongful arrest suit.”
Boone rubbed his eyes and yawned, the deep ache in his shoulder telling him it was time for more meds. But he didn't want Jack to have to carry him into his and Margaret's apartment. “So, all that blather about your not caring whether Haeley was guiltyâ”
“Was just that. You knew it. On one level, it's true. I've defended a lot of guilty people. I have a job to do and I do it the best I know how.”
“Tell me about it,” Jack said. “I don't know how you sleep.”
“Like a baby, and don't go for the old joke, Jack. So what're you going to do about your real problem?”
“Still trying to process Wade,” Keller said.
“You may not have much time.”
“No! You're a cop now too? Just keep all this privileged, will you?”
“No! You're a lawyer now too? Just let me get to bed, will you?”
Wednesday, February 10, 2:00 a.m.
Boone timed his meds so he was still ambulatory by the time he and Jack reached Jack's apartment. But just barely.
“Margaret's got you in her reading room.”
“Concrete floor would work for me.”
“Then you'll be thrilled.”
Boone was. The tiny room at the other end of the apartment from Jack and Margaret's bedroom was cozy with a firm bed. She had laid out some clothes for him, and a bathroom sat next door. There he found a drape of plastic sheeting and adhesive tape, no doubt Jack's idea.
Boone slowly undressed and collapsed into the bed, but just before he turned off the bedside lamp, he was distracted by Margaret's bookshelves. Images were swimming, but he was certain he saw some Christian books, authors whose names he recognized, even a few Bibles in various translations.
He didn't want to be judgmental, but Margaret was Jack's live-in girlfriend, and he thought she had as many former husbands as Jack had former wives. Could she be interested in spiritual things?
Boone reached for the lamp and found it too far. He would have to wrench himself up and over. But that could wait while he mustered the strength and energy. Several seconds later he forced his eyes open, only to find that the lamp seemed even farther away now.
Give me another minute,
he told himself. But soon he was drifting, drifting.
Boone had to quit living like this. He had gotten a full night's sleep the night before, but now he had ruined it by going a hundred miles an hour all day and half the night. How long could he sleep in? Neither Jack nor Margaret would wake him, but he and Jack had planning to do. Whatever happened, he didn't want to spook Pete Wade. Everything had to look normal.
Boone woke a couple of minutes before 9 a.m., the lamp still on but the shade and curtains pulled tight against the sun. He also smelled breakfastâMargaret seemed to think of everything. Jack had told him more than once that she was the smartest and kindest woman he had ever been involved with. She sure seemed good for Jack.
Boone had become more proficient at managing his showering, shaving, and dressing with one hand. It still took longer than normal, of course, but certainly not twice the time, as it had in the beginning. When he was ready to go, Boone felt surprisingly perky.
Somehow Margaret looked her usual outdoorsy self even first thing in the morning. Jack always looked the same, as if he had already worked out and was ready to go. Which was true.
Jack suggested they eat quickly and get going. “We've got a lot of talking to do on the way, and I don't think it should look like we came together. You go in and I'll find some reason to call in late.”
“Oh, Jack, let the boy take his time and eat.”
“You know I can't tell you what's going on, Margaret, but trust me, we don't have time to dawdle.”
“Well, then, eat.”
Boone was intrigued to see Margaret bow her head briefly before she picked up her fork. He squinted at her. “I don't want to embarrass you, ma'am, butâ”
“You embarrass me by calling me ma'am.”
“Well, you just called me a boy.”
“Compared to us, you are a boy, Boone. But I'm sorry. I won't call you boy if you don't call me ma'am. That
“Anyway, were you just praying there?”
“That okay with y'all?”
“'Course. I justÂ .Â .Â . I mean, I didn'tâ”
“You didn't know I was raised like you? Church and Sunday school, VBS in the summers, Bible camp, the whole thing.”
“You're wondering what happened?”
“I didn't say that.”
“But you're surprised?”
Boone shrugged and nodded.
“We don't have time for this right now,” Jack said.
Margaret raised an eyebrow. “So how is it you told me all about Boone being a born-againer and you didn't tell him about me?”
“That's your business. Let us get past our case and you two can have a prayer meeting or whatever it is you types do.”
“Don't you love it, Boone?” she said. “Now we're typed.”
Boone didn't want to get in the middle of it, but he was shocked.
“You're wondering how a Christian girl grows up to live in sin.”
“Margaret, listen,” Boone said, “I know how life can invade. When I lost my familyâ”
“You had a crisis of faith, Boone. You didn't turn to the dark side. C'mon, you're curious.”
“Don't assume I'm going to tell you how you should live.”
“Well, I want to talk about it. But I'm gettin' the evil eye from my man here, so another time.”
Boone realized he must have looked embarrassed.
“Don't worry about us,” Margaret said. “The ol' man adores me.”
Wednesday, February 10, 11:30 a.m.
By the time Jack wheeled into the parking garage downtown at Chicago Police headquarters, Boone had texted Pete Wade. He had first bounced off Jack the idea of just informing Pete that they needed to talk.
“That could spook him, Boones. You have to make him think he's gotten to you, not make him worry about what you've found.”
So Boone texted,
Pete, I'm going to be in the office later today
Open for lunch? Crow is on the menu for me.
“Perfect,” Jack said. “I'm going to make myself scarce so he doesn't see us together. Keep me posted.”
“I feel as nervous as when we were transferring PC,” Boone said. “This shouldn't be dangerous.”
“Of course it will. This'll be as important and dicey a conversation as you've ever had. You blow this and he gets the drift that you're onto him, well, you know what that means for Pascual and his family.”
“Thanks for nothing.”
“It's not my job to make you feel better, Boones. You
be nervous. Use that edge. Fletch asked you how good an actor you were.”
Boone just sat nodding, wishing he could put this off. Maybe even till after Monday's surgery. Dealing with the pain and the meds and worrying about the operationânot to mention the memory of the gunshotâhad left him few resources.
Boone hoped he could somehow soldier through this and do what needed to be done. If he and Jack and anyone else involved could succeed at taking down Wade and Fox and protect PC and his familyâand Booneâin the process, there would be plenty of time for sleep later.
He could go into his open-shoulder surgery with a sense of accomplishment, and Haeley would be free and able to be there for him.
As long as he had to have his body repaired, this could be the best of all possible worlds. Put bad cops away. Protect a witness and his family. Preserve his own future. Pursue a life with Haeley and Max. And turn down the Chicago Police Department's lucrative early-retirement offer and take the chief's job in the new Major Case Squad.
As Boone made his way through the frigid, echoing parking garage toward the elevators to the Organized Crime Division, he forced himself to focus. He had one job: convince Pete Wade that he had pulled the wool over Boone's eyes. That was the only way to buy time.
For the sting to be effective, Boone had to get Pete to drag it out of him. He couldn't appear too eager. If he barged in, pushing Wade to have lunch so he could admit he'd been wrong and Wade right about Haeley, he could look obvious. The key was to make Wade come to him.
Haeley's replacement looked surprised to see Boone. “Thought you were out until after your surgery, sir.”
“Technically I am. Just putzing around in my office.”
“And if someone calls for you?”
“I have a short list of who I will talk to. And they have my cell number.”
“So you're not here?”
“Officially, that's right.”
“That our hero?” a voice called from down the hall.
“Hey, Pete,” Boone said as flatly as he could manage.
Wade wandered out, smiling. “Got your text. Lunch works for me. The Barrel sound all right?”
Boone worked at looking distracted, somber. “Yeah,” he whispered.
Pete followed Boone into his office. “Do we need to talk right now?”
“Nah, it'll wait. Just need a little counsel is all. You know, just wondering where I go from here.”
Pete looked concerned. “Sure. I understand. Shall we say twelve thirty?”
As Pete returned to his own office, Boone stepped out and said to the new woman, just loud enough for Pete to hear, “I won't take any calls from Ms. Lamonica or her lawyer.”
“And that is?”
Boone closed his door, sat in a corner, and called Haeley.
“I was so hoping you'd call,” she said, sounding weary.
“Haeley, I need to talk with you sometime about Margaret.”
“Jack's Margaret? What about her?”
“It'll keep, but I think she's searching. Spiritually.”
“Who'd have guessed?”
“Not me. I've always wondered how to get through to Jack. He'd be such a great believer. Maybe she's the key.”
“You have an unusual mind, Boone. All we're going through right now, and you're thinking about Jack's soul.”
“Guess that is kinda crazy.”
“I'd say it's progress, love. You've been preoccupied for a long time, first about you.”
“And now about you.”
“And I appreciate it. By the way, I talked with Max and my mother this morning. Your mother got on the line.”
“No, she was great. I'll let her tell you why. I persuaded her to wait for your call. Do call her.”
Boone looked at his watch. “Guess I can call her now. You're not going to tell me what it's about?”
“Nope. I'm waiting to hear from Zappolo.”
“Yeah, listen, about thatâhe has more than enough to keep you out of MCC and even get you back on the job, butâ”
“He'd better, Boone.”
“He even wants to go for the big settlement, but he can't breathe a word of the evidence until we get a few things accomplished on our end. If it gets out, it scotches our whole plan.”
“Jack and me. We've got all the ammunition we need, but we can't fire until the time is right, or it all goes up in smoke. Let me ask you something. I know this is presumptuous, but if you could choose to be a stay-at-home mom, would you?”
“Sorry. And it's none of my business.”
“Well, I hope it's your business, Boone. Or am I totally misreading what's going on between us?”
“I want to be in your future, if that's what you mean.”
“So what you just asked is totally your business. Have I not made it clear to you how hard it is for me to leave Max every day? I hate it. I hate myself for it. It's my own fault, and I live with the guilt.”
Boone strolled to his door, peeking out to be sure no one was in the area. “I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to be more thanâ”
“A mom? You and I have a lot of getting acquainted to do. I love my job, and it's where I met you, so I can't complain. Sure, someday I'd like to be in the workforce just by my own choice. But not till Max is in school, and even then only when he's gone from the house.”
“Then maybe you ought to start getting your head around the settlement Fritz has been talking about. You were falsely arrested, falsely imprisonedâ”
“Would I have to testify about what happened to me at Cook County? Because I wouldn't.”
“Not even if it meant enough money so that you would never have to work again unless you wanted to?”
“Who's going to pay that? The department? The city? This wasn't their fault. This is on Pete, and he's not going to pay.”
“The CPD, the cityâthey're insured against suits like this.”
“It doesn't feel right.”
“You don't have to decide right now.”
“Thanks. I do have a few other things on my mind. Meanwhile, call your mom, will you?”
“Too late. She's calling me.”
“Call me later, Boone. Bye.”
Boone switched calls. “Hi, Mom. I sure appreciate yourâ”
“Oh, honey, listen. Mrs. Lamonica was so tired by the time they got here that I helped her get Max down and then insisted she sleep all she wanted. She took me up on it and I'm so glad she did. Max isÂ .Â .Â . well, what can I say? He loves me! He got up early and came padding out and took to me like I don't know what! He sits on my lap, gives me hugs, and smiles and everything.”
“Yes, imagine. I haven't had this much attention from a child since you and your brothers were little. You're going to have a time pulling this tiny guy away from me. You going to make me his grandma someday?”
“Well, all right, so he reflects well on his mother. Whatever you think of me, you don't think I'm blind, do you? I can see what's happening between you and Haeley.” His mother began whispering. “Her mom is watching Max now, but it's obvious Haeley is a different person now than she was whenÂ .Â .Â . you knowâ”
“She made a mistake.”
“Exactly. And your father is enamored of this boy too.”
“You don't say.”
“And his other grandma is delightful.”
“Okay, I'm ahead of myself. But unless you're asleep at the wheel, you need to see what you have in that girl.”
“You don't have to tell me.”
“Now how long do we get to keep Max?”
“Not sure. But maybe when things settle down up here, Haeley and I will come down there.”
“We'd love that!”
Boone spent the rest of the time before his lunch date riffling through his in-box and checking his computer. Little could keep him occupied, however, as he agonized over the ruse he had to pull on Pete. It would be no small chore, fooling a man who had made a career of reading people.
Boone's fondest wish was to get to the end of this ordeal in time to go into his operation with a clear mind. Maybe Brigita Velna was right. The stress had to catch up to him at some point. Like now. He had to do his best police work ever, when his reservoir of resources was close to an all-time low.