Uncertain Justice
Chapter 3

Copyright© 2012 by Longhorn__07

"In spite of heavy rains forecast for South Texas tonight, President Martin Warren is in town as the keynote speaker at a fund raising dinner for a local banker and entrepreneur. Quincy Ortiz formally announced last week he will be a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in next year's election. Opponents of the President's stance on his Middle East policy and the lack of progress in the War On Terror will be demonstrating in front of the location where the fund raiser is to be held."

The male co-anchor paused and smirked.

"Gosh, Paula, I sure hope all this, uh, precipitation doesn't rain on the President's parade." He waited for her to respond to the humor, but Paula was too tired to pretend she was amused. The producer cut away to a commercial before the highly paid anchor could further embarrass himself.

KSAA Channel Nine
San Antonio Texas
"Evening News"
February 16

By chance one evening, he'd caught sight of Brady leaving the courthouse after one particularly acrimonious court session. Miles had discretely shadowed the prosecutor's car all the way through the city to a residence on the north side of the city. He was going to get an answer for why the District Attorney's office was prosecuting him so zealously.

Fortunately, he'd cooled off before he'd made that particular blunder. It wouldn't have been a very smart move, even he could see that, and he never followed up on the urge to confront the prosecutor. His attorney would have had a fit and the judge would surely have revoked his bail. Additional charges would have been filed.

But ... the rules were different now. It didn't really matter if he angered the authorities a little more. Pulling the wheel hard left, Miles steered across the empty lanes and up a slight grade onto the wide boulevard.

It was just a mile or so up the road to the ornate formal entry into the exclusive little gated community. It was unguarded tonight; the little security post was empty and the gate wide open.

Miles remembered the path Brady had taken through the neighborhood, so it was only a few minutes before he slowed and stopped in front of the Bexar County District Attorney's home. It was as impressive a residence as Miles recalled. The district attorney did very well for himself.

The big, two-story home sat well off the street, straddling two of the multiple-acre sized lots that seemed to be standard here. His eyes were drawn to a triangle of three closely planted pine trees to the left rear of the house. A wide driveway swept around the right end of the home to a three-car garage behind and to the right of the main house. On both sides, tall privacy fences separated the house from his neighbors. The expansive front yard was meticulously groomed and very lush.

Through several windows, Miles could see shadows of a male figure moving around the front rooms of the house but he couldn't tell what the man was doing. After five minutes of watching, Miles still hadn't seen anyone else inside.

He put the transmission in first gear and slowly let out the clutch to move on without creating unnecessary noise. Sitting in the middle of the street staring at an expensive residence like this was asking for unwanted attention and he needed to be less conspicuous, not more. What he did need was some out-of-the-way place where he could park the truck while he had a conversation with Mister Carl Brady.

He couldn't find a good hiding place at first. He wandered around for a while before coming upon the perfect spot ... on the next street north of Brady's house. One of the palatial homes there was being renovated but the process was a long way from being finished. The front lawn was strewn with building materials and dumpsters full of debris. He pulled the pickup to the curb and stopped to look around.

There was a house down the street with lights glowing behind drawn curtains. If he could see the windows, it was reasonable to assume anyone looking out of them could see him as well.

The night was a thoroughly miserable one though. There was little reason for anyone to peer out rain-streaked windows to look for unknown people in old pickup trucks. With the headlights turned off, there actually was little chance his pickup would be seen at this distance.

Three other homes were closer and had a better view of the reconstruction site, but the interiors of those houses were dark with only a few outside security lights burning. The occupants were either gone or had sensibly decided to go to bed early on the wild, stormy night. After a long moment of debate with himself, he decided to take the risk of being seen sneaking onto the unoccupied property.

He pulled past what would be a driveway again someday. Tonight, it was no more than a long gravel pit marked by wooden supports along the sides. It wasn't concrete or asphalt, but driving on gravel was a lot better than mud on a rainy night.

Reversing, he backed the pickup up the curving strip of gravel between tall stacks of lumber and mounds of roofing shingles into one side of a gaping hole in the front of the house. When he stopped, he was seventy-five or eighty feet from the street and deep in the shadows of the unfinished garage. His dark green truck was almost impossible to see in the night. He killed the engine and sat quietly.

The anger that had flared so hot down at the highway intersection had faded during the search for a hiding place and he wasn't sure he wanted to do this any longer. Until now, he hadn't done anything that couldn't be explained away with some imagination and a little luck.

Once he barged into Mr. Brady's house, all that changed.

Logically speaking, there wasn't much good that could come from what he was about to do. It really didn't matter why he was being prosecuted for something he didn't do. In a sense, the only relevant item was that he was being hounded into prison.

There was a small voice at the back of his mind that demanded to be heard. The voice kept saying he at deserved to hear the motives of the district attorney--and directly from that worthy person too.

In the end, the voice in his head--perhaps it was no more than pure stubbornness--prevailed. He'd play this out and see what happened.

The decision made, he watched the storm a moment longer. A strengthening wind toyed with a loose end of a sheet of canvas covering heavy rolls of roofing shingles near the outside wall of the garage. In a few minutes, the loose end was flapping in the wind, making loud popping noises as it whipped around.

He pulled the key from the ignition, stuffed it in his right front pocket, and made ready to leave the safety of the truck. Twisting around on the seat, he grabbed the poncho from the hook behind him and pulled the olive drab raingear over his head, draping it about his body as best he could in the confined space. Turning the shotgun upside down, he loaded four express double-aught buck cartridges into the tube magazine. Turning it over, he worked the slide to move one of the thick, three-inch shells into the chamber. Reaching under the receiver, he thumbed one more into the magazine. The weapon was fully loaded and cocked. He checked the safety to make sure it was on.

Miles took a deep breath and opened the driver's side door. The glare from the dome light revealed piles of plumbing fixtures, lumber, and everything else for yards around. That included the big pickup and its driver. He yanked the door back shut.

The glow from his mini-flashlight showed him there was no quick release for the lens cover on the light's mounting frame. The screws holding it tight would have to be removed before he could get to the bulb. It wasn't impossible to do; he had a toolbox in the truck bed with several screwdrivers inside, but it was hidden back there somewhere under the tarp. It was too much trouble and he was in a hurry.

Turning away and pulling the hood of the poncho over his eyes for protection, he gave the fixture a quick, hard tap with the shotgun muzzle. The fragile plastic lens and light bulb shattered instantly, sending shards flying across the seat and floorboard. He snapped off the flash and dropped it in a jacket pocket. When he opened the pickup's door this time, the darkness was unbroken.

While his eyes adjusted to the night, he stumbled forward to the heap of shingles. Working mainly by touch, he tucked the loose end of the canvas under a corner of the bottom bundle. The aggravating noise stopped.

He slogged through discarded building materials and deep grass to the back corner of the house and tried to orient himself. As best he could determine, he needed to bear off to his right at about a forty-five degree angle. He set off through a back yard that was as much an obstacle course as the front, threading his way through demolished flower gardens, piles of building materials, dumpsters, and overgrown landscaping. The forbidding pit off to his left had probably been a swimming pool in better days.

Many of the boards in the back fence were marked for replacement and several were already missing. He stopped and bent low to peer through one of the gaps, wondering if his navigation had been correct. A prolonged flash of lightning spread spider webs of raw electrical energy from one cloud to another. There was enough light to see a big house with an isolated garage to his left and a trio of close-set pines off to the right. Brady's had been the only house on that street with a detached garage ... and those trees growing so close together cinched it. This was it.

He turned sideways to slide through a space where two boards had been and moved forward onto the wet grass of Brady's lawn. He jogged up a slight incline toward the house before stopping. He knelt in the shadow of an elaborate fountain. Water spouted from the mouth of a concrete elf in spite of the heavy rain.

The back of Brady's home was directly in front of him and the garage off to his left. He couldn't detect any movement around either of the structures. High fences on both sides of the attorney's property blocked the view into Brady's backyard. He felt better, less vulnerable. Holding the shotgun under the poncho, he rose to prowl around the back of the residence, trying to find a way inside.

The electric power failed every few minutes, only to come back on a moment later as relays reset themselves in the city's power grid. He flinched every time the neighborhood's outdoor lighting glared brightly again but the lights were never accompanied by raised voices. He was reasonably sure he hadn't been seen.

Every door and window on the back of the house was tightly locked. He couldn't see any way to get inside short of breaking a window. The best choice for that looked like one of the decorative panes in the back door. One of them had felt encouragingly loose in its mounting when he poked at it. The sound of breaking glass was distinctive though, easily heard, and it would instantly alarm anyone inside the residence. Realistically, he couldn't expect to break a window, scramble inside, and overpower an occupant quickly enough to stop a 911 call.

At the back of his mind, he had a plan in reserve that he didn't really like. It had the advantage of simplicity but it was more dangerous than slipping in through an unguarded back door.

It would work though. He knew it would. When he was sure there was nothing else, he admitted to himself he was going around the house and knock on the front door. Whoever answered the door, either Brady or a housekeeper, would surely be docile with a shotgun muzzle staring them in the face. Sighing softly to himself in resignation, he trudged along the south side of the house--the side away from the garage and expanse of driveway where he would be out in the open for anyone to see.

He slowly opened a massive wooden gate leading to the front yard, afraid the soaked metal hinges would scream a protest. Perhaps his care was successful; perhaps the gate never made any noise. In any event, the gate opened ponderously and silently.

Leaving it slightly ajar, he moved forward cautiously, pausing behind a waist-high shrub at the front corner of the house to watch for a while. The concealing backyard fences had ended at the gate and he was exposed for anyone watching from across the street or next door. Kneeling to reduce his silhouette, he looked at the two houses across the street. There was no one visible over there. He turned to inspect this side of the road and the house behind him. There was no one there either.

Satisfied he hadn't yet been seen, he stood to walk to the elaborate double doors that provided entrance into District Attorney Carl Brady's home. He hadn't fully risen from a crouch when a set of brilliant headlights of a car lit the scene with frightening intensity. The lights were from a vehicle turning the corner from a street to his right rear. The headlights painted his shadow on the light-colored bricks of Brady's house, exposing him for everyone to see.

Stunned, Miles couldn't react at first. Forcing himself into action, he dove back behind the shrubbery and sank to one knee while he waited for the car to pass. It didn't. Instead, the vehicle slowed and turned into Brady's driveway.

Once stopped, the driver must have leaned on the horn because it sent a deep, braying clamor reverberating through the neighborhood. Miles' heart pounded. In spite of the rain, his mouth was dry and he couldn't swallow. He did not need this.

The porch light over Brady's door came on, spilling a bright swath of light across the lawn. Miles pulled the poncho's hood low over his eyes. The front door opened and the prosecutor stepped out to wave at what a flash of lightning revealed to be a long, dark-colored limousine.

The electricity went off again and Miles used the opportunity created by the sudden darkness to drop flat behind a bush. He was out of sight from anyone on the street but not nearly as well concealed from a viewpoint near the open door. The porch light would destroy Brady's night vision while it was on though, and the blinding effect would last for quite a while after the light went off.

The district attorney shouldn't be able to see Miles as he lay half under the shrub then, but Miles was completely exposed to anyone on the neighbor's porch behind him. If anyone next door stepped outside to see what the commotion was ... he started to sweat inside the confining poncho.

"God damn it!" Miles winced at the curse from Brady. The cold lump in Miles' stomach froze solid. His pulse was so loud in his ears he was amazed Brady didn't look toward Miles to find the source of the noise.

The lights flickered and came back on. Miles waited, his muscles tensed to struggle to his feet and run, but there was no outcry. No one pointed an accusing finger at him.

Actually--Miles checked everyone he could see to make sure--no one was even looking his way. He even threw a glance behind him at the neighbor's house. There was no one there, no one raising a pointing forefinger at the intruder on Brady's property.

It helped to know he was still unseen, but his heart still threatened to lodge permanently in his throat. He squirmed as far under the bushes as he could.

He had a good view of the porch area even through the branches, and could see the attorney using a finger to prod a keyboard on the wall just inside the front door. It was apparently the control panel for a security system ... an uncooperative one, judging by Brady's reactions.

The lawyer entered another code on the number pad, and this time the unit squealed shrilly at him. He hit what must have been a canceling key and cursed again. The lights all over the neighborhood died again.

"God damn this sorry son of a bitching system! Fucking thing only works half the damned time anyway, and now..."

Miles' eyes widened in shock. The slight, almost diminutive lead attorney for the prosecution cursed like a drunken sailor. Who knew? It helped steady Miles' nerves; he was a little less inclined to scramble up and run for the pickup.

"Carl, leave it, dammit. Lock it up and forget it. No one's going to get in!" The deep male voice from the limo's open window was easily heard over the storm.

"Hell, we'll only be gone a couple of hours." Miles liked the mocking note in the man's voice. Apparently, Miles wasn't the only one who didn't like the district attorney all that much.

"Besides," the voice continued, "no self-respecting burglar would be out on a night like this." The man chuckled at his own joke.

Soaked by a wind-driven rain that was finding its way past the folds of the poncho, Miles couldn't argue with those words. He'd been wishing for a while now that he wasn't out in the open tonight.

"Come on, Carl," the unknown man demanded, "the President has a tight schedule and he wants to get out of town before the airport gets closed down. He wants to talk to you right after dinner and he's not a man who likes to wait."

The rebuke motivated Brady to pull the front door closed, slamming it viciously to punish the alarm system for being so stubborn. He bent forward to find the lock by the flashes of several nearly simultaneous streaks of lightning and finally succeeded in getting a key inserted. He turned the key and energetically jerked on the doorknob, checking to see that the lock was, in fact, locked. Petulantly, he kicked the bottom of the door one final time.

Keys still clutched tightly in his hand, the slightly built attorney opened an umbrella over his head and scampered down the flooded sidewalk to the waiting car. He slid in the back seat beside the man who'd called out to him, hastily yanking the skirt of his overcoat inside before the chauffer could close the rear door on it.

The driver stepped back to his own door and jumped into the front seat. A barely perceptible pause and the vehicle was in motion, reversing out of the driveway, turning, and then accelerating around the corner and out of sight.

In a moment, the sound of the car's engine could no longer be heard. Tranquility, broken only by the sounds of the storm, settled over the neighborhood once more.

Miles shook his head to clear his thoughts. The suddenness of the interruption just before going up to Brady's door had thrown him badly off balance. The noise, the lights, and the harsh voices had broken his concentration on what he had been about to do. The quick departure was almost as disconcerting as the unannounced intrusion had been. It was a long time before the sensation of being completely exposed faded and he again felt comfortably cloaked by the darkness.

He twisted around to look at the few houses he could see along the street, wondering if all the noise had excited any interest. While he watched, he thought about what he should do. The voice had said Brady wouldn't be back for a couple of hours, which was discouraging.

Miles had thought he could walk in the front door, confront Brady, and then get back on the road out of town. That wasn't going to happen now.

There were two options.

He could get back in his pickup and put as many miles behind him as he could under the cover of darkness and weather, or he could wait for the district attorney's return and have that little talk with Brady he'd planned. Waiting would delay him badly; he'd be lucky to get back on the road by midnight.

Torn between the two options, Miles lay quietly and watched the drenched world from beneath the shrubs and tried to decide what to do.

Finally convinced no one was going to raise an alarm, he rolled away from the bushes and got his feet under him. Staying low, he made his way back through the fence gate and along the side of the house.

Tired of skulking around, he wished he wasn't in the position of having to sneak around all the time. He stumbled over an unseen obstruction--something hard and heavy--stubbing the big toe on his right foot. Even inside his heavy hiking boots, it hurt.

The anger came flooding back. He wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for the prosecutor. The decision crystallized; he was staying.

He walked directly to the back door and tried the doorknob again. The door didn't open. He'd have been surprised if it had, but he had to try. Pulling the shotgun from under the poncho, he waited for the next streak of lightning.

When the thunderclap rolled over the neighborhood, he used the muzzle of the weapon to punch a hole in the small pane of glass nearest the door handle. The sound of breaking glass was lost in the background noise. Before the booming thunder ended, he held the shotgun's barrel against the frame and moved it around all four sides to knock out the remaining glass. He reached in to unlock the door.

It swung open easily on well-oiled hinges. He stepped inside and pushed the door closed behind him in the same motion. As the sustained crash of sustained thunder subsided, he stood quietly just inside the door and waited for his senses to adjust to the sounds and dim light of the house. Water streamed from the poncho onto the polished floor.

Debris from the shattered window crunched under his feet when he shifted his weight and he used his boots to sweep it away from the entryway. There was a chance he would be moving fast if he had to use this door for an escape and he didn't want a wet, slippery floor made worse with broken glass.

Pushing the poncho hood back off his head, he made his way deeper into the house. He held the shotgun at the ready. The safety was off and his forefinger pointed down the length of the receiver. Walking gingerly through the kitchen, he stopped to the side of a doorway. Beyond, there was a long, dark hallway that seemed to lead toward the front of the house.

He reminded himself that Brady had locked the front door after struggling and failing to arm the security system. Brady probably wouldn't have tried so hard to make the system work if there was anyone else home. On the other hand, there was no sense in taking unnecessary chances and he had lots of time before Brady got back. He would check the entire house to make sure he was alone.

Taking out the miniature flashlight he'd brought from the pickup, he adjusted its beam of light until it was as diffuse as possible. It was still too bright. He changed his hold on the flashlight, covering most of the lens so that only a weak glow could be seen between the gaps between his fingers. He pointed it behind him to look into the corners of the kitchen but saw nothing of interest--nothing threatening.

He walked on as quietly as he could in wet boots and dripping poncho, exploring the house of the man who was determined to put him in prison. The shotgun hung muzzle down from his right hand with his fingers wrapped around the grip. He could drop the light and have the barrel up and on target in a split second.

Just before the hall emptied into the living room at the front of the house, he found a short corridor leading off to the right. Walking to the end of the passage, he found a large room set up as a home office. Pausing at the doorway, he saw a small half bath through an open door on his immediate right. He could see by the glow of a nightlight plugged into a wall socket there was no one inside the restroom.

Beyond the door to the bathroom, a big painting--some kind of modern art--hung in the precise middle of the wall. On the far side of the artwork, there was a door standing slightly ajar. Miles advanced with the shotgun held ready and carefully looked inside to find a storeroom full of office supplies. He closed the door firmly and set his back to it while he surveyed the rest of the room.

A massive wooden desk stood at the far end of the room facing into the interior. A large bay window at the front of the house would be behind anyone seated at the desk. A printer and what appeared to be a fax machine were on a credenza against the wall to the left of one seated at the desk. A flat screen computer monitor was ensconced on the right side of the desk. A long bank of file cabinets were set against a long wall to the left of the user of the desk.

Retracing his steps down the corridor, Miles went into the living room and located a stairway leading to the second floor. He went up, but found only bedrooms and baths, none of them occupied.

Back on the first floor, he glanced through an archway into a formal dining room but didn't go inside. His tour returned him to the hall leading to Brady's office. It was official; there was no one at home.

The shotgun parked comfortably on his shoulder, he walked back into the study. It was as good a place as any to wait for the attorney's return. Miles sauntered over to the desk and sat in the well-padded executive chair behind it. The chair rolled smoothly on a thick plastic sheet laying over the thick carpet.

To his right, between two sections of tall bookshelves, he was surprised to see a fireplace built flush into the wall that divided the living room and study. The floor-to-ceiling bookcases on either side hid it from view until an observer was nearly in front of it.

He bent low and peered through the grating. The fireplace was shared by the living room and study; in the light of lightning flashes, he could see furniture on the other side of the wall. Propping the shotgun against the desk, he turned to survey the rest of the room.

To his left was the row of tall, heavy-duty file cabinets set against the outside wall. To his right, the dual-use fireplace was flanked by bookshelves filled with expensively bound volumes. At the far end of the room, between the bathroom and supply closet, was the painting. He went around the study, checking to see that the blinds were closed and the drapes pulled tight.

The streetlights flickered outside, stayed off for a time, and then came on again. Miles could hear the sounds of appliances throughout the house coming back on. Machines on a credenza to his right rear began startup routines.

Red, amber, and green buttons lit up briefly and mechanical noises continued until the printer and fax machine were ready. No lamps or ceiling lights came on in the house that Miles could see; certainly none in the study or living room were on. He pulled off the wet poncho and draped it over the overstuffed chair in front of Brady's desk.

The drawers in the first file cabinet didn't have their combination locks engaged. The second drawer from the top was even open a few inches. Curious and needing something to fill in the time, he pulled the partially open drawer out to find a number of folders with unfamiliar names on them. He slid the drawer shut. In the glare of the flashlight, he saw the top drawer was labeled "Active Cases," and his interest was rekindled. He found a divider with his name on the label but there were no folders or loose documents in that section at all.

Closing the drawer, Miles moved the circle of light from his flash around the room, searching for the missing file. A neat stack of documents at the precise center of Brady's desk looked promising. Sorting through them, he found a folder with his name on it and pulled it from the pile. Moving back behind the desk to the comfortable executive chair, he sat and began to read.

Miles closed the file and lifted his eyes to stare without seeing at the far wall. He'd maintained a detached control while he read the documents but now the fury exploded.

He leaped to his feet. His chair hammered the outside wall and rebounded to hit the back of his knees. Ignoring the blow, he stalked to the side of the desk, but there he stopped. Snarling his frustration, he fought for control.

All ancient peoples had known what he was feeling now, but only the Old Norse term survives. They called it berserker. In the frenzied rage, berserk warriors wouldn't feel even mortal injuries. Badly wounded, they kept fighting, living only to close with an enemy to slash and kill him.

The urge to rip out the bookshelves in front of him with his bare hands and tear each book to shreds was almost overwhelming. The expensive chandelier he'd seen on the living room's ceiling fairly begged for destruction with clubs made from demolished furniture. He could already hear the fine smashing noises the computer and its attached peripherals would make when thrown from the second floor landing. He stood trembling...

... And did none of it.

Slowly, ruthlessly, he drove the red-hot fury back into a corner of his mind so he could think. He had to think, to decide what to do, now that he knew what Brady was hiding.

Replacing the chair on its wheels and patting its arms in apology for the violence committed upon it, he squatted to pick up the fallen flashlight with exaggerated care. He refocused the beam on the desktop. Opening the folder, he leafed through the contents again.

It was all there. A printed list of every person Miles could remember, and many he could not, from that night's party was stapled to the inside cover of the folder for easy reference. Among a sheaf of sworn statements, he saw a big group of affidavits from people who were standing near him at the party.

Without exception, the documents corroborated Miles' story that the girl hadn't been referring to Miles when she whispered something about "he hurt me." Other statements asserted Miles didn't appear to know the woman at all ... that he hadn't even talked to her that night before she began acting strangely.

There were copies of police records, the relevant sections carefully marked with a yellow highlighter, showing Carol Delmont, the young woman's companion at the party, was a known madam. Both she and the dead girl had a number of convictions for solicitation and prostitution. Even worse, Delmont's record showed two prison sentences for blackmailing older men who got involved with young call girls in her employ. Though she was only seventeen, Virginia Rogers had worked for Delmont for more than two years at the time of her death, according to the records.

Near the bottom of the file was an autopsy report Miles, and his attorney, had never seen. They didn't know it even existed.

It indicated the dead girl was the victim of a botched and very recent abortion. At seventeen, she couldn't have received a legal one in Texas without her parents' permission. Evidently, consent had not been forthcoming or she'd never told them about the pregnancy.

The instrument used to abort the baby had punctured or severely strained the wall of the peritoneum, the report said, and it had finally given way, causing a massive hemorrhage that couldn't be stopped. There was no indication of rape, it said. Besides, the bleeding had washed away any DNA that might have been present initially. Miles was familiar with all the documents admitted at the trial. This wasn't one of them.

It was clear the entire prosecution was a sham. Every scrap of evidence that might support Miles' claim of innocence had been suppressed and favorable witnesses ignored ... even threatened to keep them from testifying. He knew what was happening now, though, and there had to be ways to get all this out in the open.

Moving quickly, Miles got ready to leave. This changed everything. With all the information in the folder--though some probably couldn't be used in court--there was enough to make an acquittal all but certain.

It meant he could resume the quiet life of a retired Army veteran. He was nearly broke, but a few years of employment in the civilian market place would restore his savings to a reasonable figure. He'd had offers from contractors doing work for the Army before the trouble started, for instance. He could, for all practical purposes, go back to the same job he'd held while wearing a uniform, but at three times the salary of an Army Senior NCO. He thrust the issue aside to deal with later.

His anger was quickly transforming itself into something more lighthearted. The bad times would soon be over. He couldn't wait to get out of the prosecutor's house and go home. He stopped suddenly, appalled by a sudden memory. His front door was unlocked, for Pete's sake! What in the world had he been thinking?

He got busy rubbing down all the furniture where he might have left fingerprints with a rag he found inside a desk drawer. The back door's broken windowpane and the missing documents would show someone had been in the house, but it wouldn't matter if they couldn't prove it had been him. He didn't think Brady was going to make an official complaint about the theft of the folder anyway. Miles' own conscience didn't hurt any longer than it took to recall what Brady was trying to do to him.

He wiped off the file cabinet he knew he'd touched and the one next to it to be sure he hadn't inadvertently put a hand on that one too. That reminded him to clean all the folders on the desk. Finishing the executive chair and desk, he started to go up the staircase to the second floor.

He couldn't recall if he'd ever touched the banister or not, so he had to wipe it off. While he was upstairs, he cleaned all the doorknobs up there too. The back door was the last thing on his list. He knew he hadn't touched anything in the rest of the house. His hands had been full with the flashlight and shotgun. He hurried down the stairs, anxious to get the cleanup finished.

He was startled when a set of car lights showed through the open window shades in the living room, making fleeting patterns on the walls as a vehicle came closer. It pulled into the driveway, and stopped. A door opened; he could hear several muffled voices but couldn't distinguish the words. Seconds later, the car door closed and the driver backed out to the street. Miles hadn't realized so much time had passed. Brady, it seemed, had returned.

Miles was caught in limbo--halfway down the hall to the kitchen without the folder and the gear he'd brought with him into the house. Running back to the study, Miles grabbed his shotgun and his poncho and headed for the rear of the house. Remembering, he reversed course at the door and dashed back into the study to grab the folder full of documents from the desktop.

Gathering the documents, poncho and weapon in his arms, he was jogging toward the study's doorway when a key was inserted into the front door lock and the tumblers quickly turned. Soaked hinges squeaked a small protest as the door swung open.

Miles stopped and stood still for a long moment, his mind racing as he weighed his chances. His shoulders fell. There was no way he could race through the corridor to the entry to the living room, make the ninety degree turn left, down the hallway toward the kitchen, and run all the way to the back door without Brady getting a good look at him.

There was an alternative of course. He could hide in a dark doorway and knock Brady over the head with the shotgun as he came near. Brady would never know what hit him.

Cracking people's skulls was risky though. A blow in the wrong place, or one applied with just a tiny bit too much enthusiasm, and there would be a dead man lying on the floor.

The information Miles had would clear him of the original charges, but if he were seen and recognized, new ones of breaking and entering would replace the old ones. Ten seconds ... no, five. He could have been safely out of the house with just five more seconds' grace ... five seconds he didn't have.

Dejected, Miles turned to toss the rag on the credenza with the printer and fax machine. The cloth hit the side of the printer and rebounded softly to land on the carpet.

Absent-mindedly, Miles put the folder of legal papers back on Brady's desk and pulled the poncho over his head as the front door closed. Thumps and rustling noises continued out in the foyer but Miles paid no attention. He walked softly to the rear of the study and sat down behind Brady's desk, using the sounds of movement in the living room to mask his steps.

If Brady came in the study, Miles would have a discussion with him about ethical conduct. If Brady didn't come in here ... well, maybe there was still a chance Miles could make his way outside somehow. He sat down and pushed the chair back, deeper into the shadows.

Carl Brady was more than pleased with himself. The meeting with his old Harvard classmate had gone very well. His friend had cunningly used wealth inherited from his father's real estate empire as seed money for even greater wealth. He'd gradually parlayed indifferent influence into real political power and prominence in his home state of Massachusetts and then beyond its borders.

The President of the United States ... Brady's stomach fluttered at the memory of his proximity to a person with such unimaginable power. Best of all, the President wasn't forgetting about old friends.

"Attorney General of the United States!" Brady mouthed the words, whispering to himself as he watched Warren's aide drive off. Well, that wasn't exactly the position Brady had been offered. He'd have to spend some time as the Deputy Attorney General, but soon--perhaps no more than a year or two--the top office in the Department Of Justice would be his. If he had any talent, he would have been singing. Everything he'd hungered for was actually going to come true.

Closing the door, Brady fumbled with the security system panel beside the light switch and was reminded there were some things that weren't going quite as well as his career. Every time he touched a key, the whole thing went crazy. He could not get the damned thing to work right. Once he almost had it but the sensor on the kitchen door at the back of the house wouldn't reset no matter what he tried. He finally conceded defeat. It was probably the lightning and stuff. He wondered if they had storms like this in Washington.

Sloughing off the heavy overcoat, he put it on a hanger inside the hall closet and pitched his black umbrella into a corner out of the way. Closing the door, he checked his watch by the overhead light in the entryway. He could still get in a couple hours' work before calling it a night. Why not? He wouldn't be able to sleep anyway; he was much too excited.

The house was chilly ... but if he turned on the central heating, the upstairs would get too hot. He liked it cool in the bedroom when he went to sleep so he could huddle snugly under a pile of comforters and blankets.

Brady bent to light the fire already laid in the fireplace for him by his part-time housekeeper. A fire would warm up only the living room and his den on the other side of the wall. As he watched, the shavings flared and began to burn, as did the larger kindling seconds later. One of the logs caught and the fire began to build steadily.

Brady shook off the mesmerizing effect of the flames and turned to go to his study. He had many things to go over. With everything else going on, he needed to rethink his decision to personally manage the prosecution of that Army guy on the rape and manslaughter charges.

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