Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Tags: #FICTION / Christian / General, #FICTION / Religious
Boone heard Fritz Zappolo on his own cell tracking down Haeley's location and disposition while Jack Keller was bleating at Boone on his.
“Do I have to spell this out for you?” Jack said. “Every gangbanger in the city, in or out of jail, wants your head. You were safe where you were.”
“So if it was you, Jack, what would you do? You're a target, you're wounded, you're in a cozy hospital, and Margaret is in trouble.” It wasn't often Boone found Jack Keller stumped. “Puts a different spin on things, doesn't it? I'm listening, boss. IÂ need my mentor, my champion, to tell me what I ought to do.”
“You should've sat tight,” Keller muttered, plainly with zero conviction.
“That's what you would have done? Margaret's missing. Or kidnapped. Or, wait, how about she's in the worst holding pen known to man, charged with something so unlikely it doesn't even make sense. Still relaxing?”
“But County, Boones? You go there and you're going to give Pete the ammunition he needsâ”
“We've been through this, Jack. I'm not allowed to visit my girlfriend because it might look like we're colluding? On what? Getting me killed?”
“Just let this play out, will you? If she's innocent it will come out, and you won't be bollixing up the works.”
“Did you just say
, Jack? I ought to hang up on you, insubordination or not.”
“Speaking of insubordination, you do still report to me, and I'm telling you I want youâ”
“Pete Wade works for you too, and you're not giving him orders. Don't do this, Jack. You're not going to keep me from Haeley any more than anyone could keep you from Margaret.”
Keller swore. Boone had won this round.
“I'm not on speaker, am I, Boones?”
“You know he's the best.”
Keller paused. “Yeah, butÂ .Â .Â .”
“You're surprised the Mob hasn't engaged him?”
“I know he doesn't stoop that low. But he's defended guys you and I have caught red-handed.”
“And did a good job for them.”
“Imagine how he'll do with a client who's innocent,” Boone said.
“How you gonna pay him, anyway?”
“None of your business.”
“Fair enough. Listen, as long as you're out running around, you want to see Candelario?”
“I'd sure feel better if we put you out there too. Talk about safe. That place isâ”
“I'm not staying there.”
Keller sighed. “You don't mind costing the city thousands to keep an eye on your place?”
“I didn't ask for any of that.”
“What's the option, Boones? What're you gonna do, sit in your window with an M4, defending yourself one-handed?”
“The guy who shot me is dead and everybody else who wants me is locked up.”
Zappolo motioned to Boone to get off the phone.
“The naivetÃ© of youth,” Keller said. “You think we arrested tens of thousands? Every junior gangbanger sees this as his opportunity to rise in the ranks. Any one of them would take you out without blinking.”
“I gotta go, Jack.”
“Get back to me and I'll run you out toÂ .Â .Â . you know, where you can see PC.”
Zappolo's driver pulled into the Cook County Jail parking facility, and the two clambered out.
“Boss giving you a hard time?” the lawyer said.
“Nothing I can't handle.”
“You should've asked him if he wanted to talk with your attorney.”
attorney now too?”
“Whatever you need.”
“I hope I don't need a lawyer to communicate with my own boss.”
“Never know. Without counsel, you may be bound by protocol to obey his every order.”
“I'll keep that in mind.”
“Don't get me wrong, Drake. Keller's a good egg. Lot of respect for him, though I doubt that goes both ways. I'm just saying that I wouldn't stand for his getting between you and doing the right thing for Ms. Lamonica. Now, the people downtown tell me she's to be arraigned tomorrow morningâ”
Zappolo held up a hand. “Hang on. That's why we're here. I've already called in some favors. No way we're letting her stay here another night. If I'm successful, she can be arraigned in a nearby precinct station house with a gaggle of hookers and drunks. It's our best chance of getting her out on bond immediately. You don't want her in there another night. Anyway, we wait till tomorrow and it's done downtown, the press will be all over it. Nobody will expect this.”
Zappolo never seemed to announce when he was finished talking. He just moved on, striding toward the entrance, and Boone had to rush to keep up. He'd almost forgotten how exhausted and tender he was. It was all he could do to manage the door and hurry along, trying to keep his coat draped over his bad wing.
“What happens now?” he called out, hoping to slow Zappolo.
Fritz turned and looked surprised at how far behind Boone was, but he never broke stride. “You're going to see her. IÂ don't need to. I need to talk to the brass about being sure she makes the next squadrol so she doesn't miss this arraignment. There's not another until tomorrow, and we don't want that.”
Boone had been to Cook County Jail before, of course, but it never failed to overwhelm him. Covering ninety-six acres on Chicago's west side, it was the largest single-site jail in the United States. As he and Zappolo moved past DivisionÂ 5âReceivingâhe saw a long line of cuffed prisoners waiting to be processed.
“More'n three hundred new detainees a day,” Zappolo said as they entered. “Don't know where they put them all.”
Boone recoiled from the stench and was surprised anew at the sheer din. He wondered how long it would have taken him to get in, had it not been for Fritz. The lawyer seemed to know everyone and was directed further and further up the chain of command until he finally motioned Boone to join him. A supervisor summoned a corrections officer, who checked Boone's ID, wanded him, confiscated all contraband, including his cell phone, and walked him through a metal detector. He affixed a security tag to Boone's shirt and escorted him through several checkpoints, finally delivering him to a long line of others waiting to visit inmates.
The officer whispered, “She's been informed she has a visitor, and when you show your pass up thereâ” he pointedâ“they'll tell you which booth to go to, and she'll be on the other side of the glass. You talk to her by phone.”
Boone kept glancing at his watch. More important than even seeing Haeley nowâwhile he could hardly stand the waitâwas her making the local arraignment and getting bailed out as soon as possible. He didn't want to be responsible for her missing that opportunity.
The line crept as the clock sped, and the pain in Boone's shoulder reminded him he had missed his last dose of meds. And these were not pills one took on an empty stomach.
To keep his mind off the pain, Boone filled his mind with images of Haeley. Since the day he met her he had never seen her other than impeccably dressed. Even after hoursâonce when she had called him to change a tire for herâit was plain she had touched up anticipating his arrival.
At work she never wore anything but smart business suits that flattered her. And off the job she clearly never just threw on something comfortable. The woman knew how to dress, for church, for dates, even for playing in the park with Max.
Boone knew she would need encouragement, given that she would be sitting across from him in a county-issue orange jumpsuit. Maybe he could muster a joke, something lighthearted. As early in the conversation as possible, he wanted to give her the good newsâthat if Zappolo was successful and she was able to make the arraignment, she would be out before she knew it.
When it was finally Boone's turn, he showed his badge to what appeared a terminally bored civil servant and was pointed around the corner to booth nine. “If she's not there,” he was told, “she will be in a few seconds.”
Any inkling of banter disappeared when Boone approached and saw the squinting woman sitting across from him. He would not have recognized her.
Haeley's long dark hairânormally flowingâwas greasy and flat and had been pulled into a ponytail. She wore no makeup or jewelry, and the jumper was a couple of sizes too big, making her look like a child.
She sat, eyes dark and darting, face pale. Haeley covered her mouth with one fluttering hand and tears came.
Boone picked up the receiver and forced a smile. “Expecting someone else?”
She nodded and mouthed, “My mother.”
He pointed to her phone and she picked up.
“I don't know,” she said, voice quavery. “I figured she'd come see me before taking over Max from Florence. I don't even know if Florence got hold of her.”
Haeley laid the phone on the counter and buried her face in her hands. She shook her head and sobbed.
Boone knocked on the window and pointed at the phone. “Don't, Haeley! I have good news.”
She peeked up at him, looking miserable. He read her lips. “You've got to get me out of here.”
He nodded and pointed to his watch, mouthing, “I got you a lawyer.”
She finally picked up again. “I already have a lawyer, some public defender who talks to me like I'm a number. Some kind of hearing downtown tomorrow and he wants to know how much money I have. When I told him, he said I should expect to be in here a few more weeks. Boone, I'll kill myself before I do that.”
“Don't say that. Too many people need you and love you. Think of Max.”
“You don't understand. I don't belong hereâ”
“âand that's obvious to everybody who does belong here. If I have to stay here overnight againÂ .Â .Â .”
“You won't.” Boone told her about Zappolo and the local arraignment.
For the first time he saw a flicker of hope in her eyes. “Now? Today?”
“This afternoon,” Boone said. “Zappolo will meet you there.”
“And you'll be there?”
“Oh, Boone! I prayed and prayed that you would do something.”
“Did you even imagine I wouldn't?”
“I didn't know. For all I knew, they had you drugged for a reason and wouldn't even let you know where I was! Boone, why is Pete doing this? He has to know I would neverâ”
Boone shushed her. “All in due time,” he said. “I'm going to put the phone down for a second so I can put my hand on the glass.”
Haeley winced and pressed her hand up to his. “Grimy,” she mouthed.
He shrugged and picked up the phone. “I can't wait to touch you for real.”
Haeley flinched at footsteps behind her. A female officer handed her a manila envelope and a plastic bag and reached for the phone.
“Sir,” the officer said, “this missy has a squadrol waitin', and it leaves at four, so you got to let her go.”
Boone hung up and pressed two fingers to his lips. Haeley followed the officer out. When Boone returned to Receiving and retrieved his cell phone, he found a text from Zappolo.
Thursday, February 4, 4:30 p.m.
Boone couldn't stand the pain anymore and downed his pills, then slipped into a back bench in the dank, crowded underbelly of a local police station and waited for themâand the nauseaâto kick in.
Haeley was the only detainee in line awaiting arraignment wearing county orange. The rest were ladies of the evening and drunk-and-disorderlies who had apparently spent their nights in local lockups.
The judge, a swarthy, sweating man whose double chin covered his collar, was apparently used to dealing with repeat neighborhood offenders represented by public defenders. He seemed to rouse when the nattily dressed Friedrich Zappolo rose and announced he represented Haeley Lamonica.
The judge studied the charge sheet, then looked over the top of his glasses. “What's a case like this doing in my court? Your client also a hooker?”
“Your Honor would be advised not to verge on slandering an upstanding Chicago civil servant, a mother, and a woman with not even a hint of a record.”
The judge leveled his gaze at Zappolo. “And counsel would be advised not to lecture the court. This may not be Mahogany Row, but the same rules apply.”
“Begging Your Honor's pardon, may I suggest that my client be released on her own recognizance until this misunderstanding can be sorted out? She poses no flight risk and is eager to be reunited with her young son.”
“Maybe she should have thought of that before sheâ” the judge pursed his lips as he again perused the charge sheetâ“violated the public trust and her oath ofâ”
“As I say, Your Honor, a misunderstanding. I pledge personal responsibility for the custody of Ms. Lamonica andâ”
“Oh, come now, counsel. I'm not going to just let you walk out of here with a fugitive. Your client may well be innocent of these charges, but if she's not, she's at least indirectly responsible for a Chicago Police Department hero being gravely wounded in the line of duty. This man was almost single-handedly responsible for ridding our streets of the worst sort ofâ”
“Would it aid the court to know that the very victim you speak of is present in support of the defendant, clearly persuaded that she bears no responsibility?”
Boone had just started to feel better, the anesthetic beginning to dull his pain. Now he wanted to hide. He knew Zappolo would make up for his minuscule fee by riding the publicity, but did Fritz have to use him in the process? Jack Keller would be spitting bullets.
The announcement of Boone's presence seemed to catch the attention of every lowlife in the room. The judge asked that Boone rise and introduce himself, and when he hesitated, Zappolo whirled and glared at him.
The judge said, “Where is our phantom hero, counselor?”
Boone stood. “Detective Boone Drake, sir. Gang Enforcement Section, Organized Crime Division, Chicago PD.”
Over a smattering of applause the judge said, “Allow me to thank you on behalf of a grateful city.”
“May I speak, Your Honor?”
Zappolo shook his head, but the judge said, “The court would be honored to hear from you.”
“It happens that Ms. Lamonica and I care deeply for each other, and so it makes no sense that she would have had anything to do with endangering my life.”
“Thank you, sir,” the judge said. “Bail is set at one hundred thousand dollars, which I assume counsel has in his wallet.”
Zappolo sprung to his feet. “A hundred thousand?”
“Sit down, counselor. Can't a judge have a little fun? You realize how long it's been since I've set
bond, let alone six figures? Make it ten grand, final offer.”
Twenty minutes later, when Haeley emerged from the women's locker room, she looked like a different woman. Her suit was wrinkled, and while she had done nothing more with her hair, she had apparently found her makeup. She still looked exhausted and pale, but nothing like at Cook County.
She laid her head gently on Boone's good shoulder and sighed.
In the back of the Town Car she thanked Zappolo profusely and said she wanted to be driven to her car so she could rush to her son. “That's fine,” the lawyer said, “as long as you know I am going to need a chunk of your time tomorrow.”
It was after seven when Boone retrieved his own car and followed Haeley to her apartmentâhis department escorts not far behind. They waited out front.
Max hugged his mother like he'd never let go and sat in her lap as Florence brought her up to date. “He's not been happy,” the woman said. “Naturally. I love him, but I'm no substitute for the real thing. I just got off the phone with your mama, Haeley. She can't leave until tomorrow morning.”
Haeley immediately called her. “Yes, I still need you. IÂ don't want to drag Max downtown to lawyer meetings, and Florence has used up her days off.Â .Â .Â . I'll tell you all about it later.Â .Â .Â . Of course it's not true. I'll talk to you when you get here.”
“Back to work tomorrow,” Florence said. “I was kinda liking the break.”
“This couldn't have been much of a break,” Haeley said. “How will I ever thank you?”
“Hush. It was a privilege.” As Florence retrieved her coat, she said, “He didn't sleep much last night and there was no nap today. Lord knows I tried.”
“I woulda been the same way, his age,” she said as Boone and Haeley walked her to the door. “He was just scared and wanted you.”
Max, cheek pressed against his mother's shoulder, peered at Boone. The boy's eyes looked heavy and he blinked slowly. “You could probably put him down, Haeley. He's about to go.”
“I will. In about a year.” She settled on the couch, arms wrapped around her son, whose breathing was soon even and deep. “Boone, what in the world is going on?”
“I wish I knew. And I will as soon as I can get after it. So now Wade thinks it's an inside job? He's going to have me turning everything inside out until I know the truth. Anyway, how bad was County?”
Haeley looked away and shook her head.
“Did the noise ever die down? I can't imagine how anybody sleeps in there.”
“I don't want to talk about it.”
“Never, Boone. Please.”
“You sure it won't help?”
She shook her head.
“Did somebody try something? Hurt you? Threaten you?”
“You're not going to leave this alone, even when I'm begging you?”
Boone rose and paced. “Haeley, if someoneâ”
“Listen to me. You know that most of the women in there are the worst of the worst, right?”
“Of course,” he said.
“They target the weak, pick on the newbies. Even the younger gangbangers have no chance. Fortunately for me, most of the women are mothers. In fact, most of the ones I talked to had two or three kids. When they found out I was a mother, they told me who to stay away from and what to do or say if one of the leaders tried anything.”
Boone sat and leaned forward. “Good. So you had some protection.”
“Just a little moral support.”
“And so did anyone try anyâ”
“Do you believe me when I talk to you?”
“Sure! What do you mean?”
“You're on the edge, Boone. Now I've already said way more than I intended to, and I'm finished. I'm not going to say another word about it, and if you ask you'll regret it. Do I need to be clearer?”
Boone shook his head. “That was clear enough. I'm sure glad you're out.”
Haeley's voice grew thick. “You and me both. Would you mind staying with Max while I take a shower, and then till I fall asleep?”
“You know you don't have to ask twice.”
But she seemed in no hurry, and for nearly the next hour they chatted, and he filled her in on how hard it had been for him to get any information on where she was. She seemed impressed by his idea to hire Zappolo.
Finally she laid Max on the couch next to Boone, then took a long shower. When she returned in a floor-length terry robe, she was in tears again.
“Imagine my mother having to hear all this. She said she was prepared to stay with Max as long as I needed, even if I had to go back in. Can you believe it?”
“She loves you.”
“She works, and time off counts against her.”
“Like you wouldn't do the same for Max.”
Haeley nodded. “I've got to go to bed.”
She carried Max into her bedroom and lay next to him, the door cracked an inch. “I should be asleep within twenty minutes.”
“Don't rush on my account.”
For the first time that day he saw a hint of a smile.
Boone sat in the living room, whispering on his cell phone, arranging where he and Keller would meet. “And can you tell the coppers at the 11th that you'll take over watching me?”
“They're still going to need to know when you leave me and head home, Boones.”
“No, they aren't. Come on.”
“Don't be naive. I wouldn't want it any other way. Unless you want to stay at the safe house with PC and his mom, let these guys do their jobs.”
Boone and Jack agreed to meet at the 11th at 10 p.m. The tail squad would pass off responsibility to Jack, and Boone would leave his car there while riding with Keller to the safe house.
“You sure you're up to this?” Jack said. “It's got to be way past your bedtime. You're supposed to still be in the hospital. And rest is the best thing forâ”
“Thanks, Mom, but I can handle my own energy level from here. Okay?”
“Hang a guy for tryin'. Just get to the 11th, will you?”
Boone tiptoed to the bedroom and pushed the door a couple of inches further open. Haeley lay cradling Max, and both were clearly gone. He was tempted to kiss her on the cheek, but he didn't want to wake herâor worse, scare her. He pulled the door shut, killed all the lights in the living room, and quietly made his way down to the street.
The squad sat idling as his protectors drank coffee. The driver rolled down his window when Boone approached.
“Got the call from 11,” Ferguson said from the passenger seat. “Once you're in Deputy Chief Keller's car, we're out of your hair.”