J Rain: Dark horse

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J Rain Dark horse
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    Dark horse
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    Полицейский детектив / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Dark horse: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Dark horse

J.R. Rain


1.

Charles Brown, the defense attorney, was a small man with a round head. He was wearing a brown and orange zigzagged power tie. I secretly wondered if he went by Charlie as a kid and had a dog named Snoopy and a crush on the little red-headed girl.

We were sitting in my office on a warm spring day. Charlie was here to give me a job if I wanted it, and I wanted it. I hadn’t worked in two weeks and was beginning to like it, which made me nervous.

“I think the kid’s innocent,” he was saying.

“Of course you do, Charlie. You’re a defense attorney. You would find cause to think Jack the Ripper was simply a misunderstood artist before his time.”

He looked at me with what was supposed to be a stern face.

“The name’s Charles,” he said.

“If you say so.”

“I do.”

“Glad that’s cleared up.”

“I heard you could be difficult,” he said. “Is this you being difficult? If so, then I’m disappointed.”

I smiled. “Maybe you have me confused with my father.”

Charlie sat back in my client chair and smiled. His domed head was perfectly buffed and polished, cleanly reflecting the halogen lighting above. His skin appeared wet and viscous, as if his sweat glands were ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

“Your father has quite a reputation in L.A. I gave his office a call before coming here. Of course, he’s quite busy and could not take on an extra case.”

“So you settled on the next best thing.”

“If you want to call it that,” he said. “I’ve heard that you’ve performed adequately with similar cases, and so I’ve decided to give you a shot, although my expectations are not very high, and I have another P.I. waiting in the wings.”

“How reassuring,” I said.

“Yeah, well, he’s established. You’re not.”

“But can he pick up a blind side blitz?”

Charlie smiled and splayed his stubby fingers flat on my desk and looked around my office, which was adorned with newspaper clippings and photographs of yours truly. Most of the photographs depict me in a Bruin uniform, sporting the number 45. In most I’m carrying the football, and in others I’m blowing open the hole for the tailback. Or at least I like to think I’m blowing open the hole. The newspapers are yellowing now, taped or tacked to the wood paneling. Maybe someday I’ll take them down. But not yet.

“You beat SC a few years back. I can never forgive you for that. Two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone.”

“Three,” I said. “But who’s counting?”

He rubbed his chin. “Destroyed your leg, if I recall, in the last game of the season. Broken in seven different places.”

“Nine, but who’s counting?”

“Must have been hard to deal with. You were on your way to the pros. Would have made a hell of a fullback.”

That had been hard to deal with, and I didn’t feel like talking about it now to Charlie Brown. “Why do you believe in your client’s innocence?” I asked.

He looked at me. “I see. You don’t want to talk about it. Sorry I brought it up.” He crossed his legs. He didn’t seem sorry at all. He looked smugly down at his shoes, which had polish on the polish. “Because I believe Derrick’s story. I believe he loved his girlfriend and would never kill her.”

“People have been killed for love before. Nothing new.”

On my computer screen before me I had brought up an article from the Orange County Register. The article showed a black teen being led away into a police car. He was looking down, his head partially covered by his jacket. He was being led away from a local high school. A very upscale high school, if I recalled. The story was dated three weeks ago, and I recalled reading it back then.

I tapped the computer monitor. “The police say there’s some indication that his girlfriend was seeing someone else, and that jealousy might have been a factor.”

“Yes,” said the attorney. “And we think this someone else framed our client.”

“I take it you want me to find this man.”

“Or person.”

“Ah, equality,” I said.

“We want you to find evidence of our client’s innocence, whether or not you find the true murderer.”

“Anything else I should know?”

“We feel race might be a factor here. He was the only black student in school, and in the neighborhood.”

“I believe the preferred term is African-American.”

“I’m aware of public sentiment in this regards. I don’t need you to lecture me.”

“Just trying to live up to my difficult name.”

“Yeah, well, cool it,” he said. “Now, no one’s talking at the school. My client says he was working out late in the school gym, yet no one saw him, not even the janitors.”

“Then maybe he wasn’t there.”

“He was there,” said Charlie simply, as if his word was enough. “So do you want the job?”

“Sure.”

We discussed a retainer fee and then he wrote me a check. When he left, waddling out of the office, I could almost hear Schroeder playing on his little piano in the background.

2.

“He was found with the murder weapon,” said Detective Hanson. “It was in the backseat of his car. That’s damning evidence.”

“That,” I said, “and he’s black.”

“And he’s black,” said Hanson.

“In an all white school,” I said.

“Yep.”

“Were his prints on the knife?”

“No.”

We were sitting in an outdoor cafe facing the beach. It was spring, and in southern California that’s as good as summer. Many underdressed women were roller-blading, jogging or walking their dogs on the narrow beach path. There were also some men, all finely chiseled, but they were not as interesting.

Detective Hanson was a big man, but not as big as me. He had neat brown hair parted down the middle. His thick mustache screamed cop. He wore slacks and a white shirt. He was sweating through his shirt. I was dressed in khaki shorts, a surfing T-shirt and white Vans. Coupled with my amazing tan and disarming smile, I was surprised I wasn’t more often confused with Jimmy Buffet. If Jimmy Buffet stood six foot four and weighed two hundred and twenty.

“You guys have anything else on the kid?” I asked.

“You know I can’t divulge that. Trial hasn’t even started. The info about the knife made it to the press long ago, so that’s a freebie for you. I can tell you this: the body was found at one a.m., although the ME places the time of death around seven p.m. the previous night.”

“Who found the body?”

“A neighbor.”

“Where were the victim’s parents?”

“Dinner and dancing. It was a Friday night.”

“Of course,” I said. “Who doesn’t go out and dance on a Friday night?”

“I don’t,” said Hanson.

“Me neither,” I said. “Does Derrick have an alibi?”

“This will cost you a tunacoda.”

“You drive a hard bargain.”

I called the waitress over and put in our lunch orders.

“No alibi,” Hanson said when she had left, “but…” He let his voice trail off.

“But you believe the kid?”

He shrugged. “Yeah. He seems like a good kid. Says he was working out at the school gym at the time.”

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