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Remote Control Excerpt

     The police were cordial to her at first.
     But everything changed when each cop in turn discovered that Lauren had asked to speak with a lawyer.  Malloy had warned her it would.  She knew it would.
     Her friends in the department could no longer be overtly friendly.
     Her enemies could now be openly gleeful.
     You ask for a lawyer, you are guilty. Rule of thumb in the detective bureau. "There are exceptions," Sam Purdy had told her once. "They only prove the rule."
     She hadn't bothered to disagree with him. She was a prosecutor back then, not an arrestee. Not an offender.
     The blizzard outside felt warmer to her than the chill she experienced when they arrived at the police department.

     After asking three different times, Lauren was finally given permission to phone her husband, Alan Gregory. She placed the call from a gray flannel cubicle in the detective bureau. She had already surrendered her watch and wondered what time it was.
     Alan knew the time. When the phone rang, the clock on the microwave in their kitchen in Spanish Hills, east of Boulder, read 8:54.
     He, too, had been late getting home. Expecting Lauren to follow him at any moment, he had showered, fed the dog, and started dinner. When Lauren didn't arrive, he grew more anxious. He stared down the lane searching for her car and tried, unsuccessfully, to raise her on her pager and her cell phone, dialing each number twice.
     Out loud, he asked the dog if she knew why Lauren was so late. Emily, a big Bouvier des Flandres, looked at him curiously, wondering if he was offering a walk. He tried to lay the blame for his wife's tardiness on the blizzard. But given the events of the last couple of days, the storm was not a comforting culprit and he was worried.
     A big pot of water for pasta had been simmering for thirty minutes already, and needed to be refreshed. 
     "Hello, it's me," she said breathlessly.
     The somber tone of Lauren's greeting alerted Alan that something was wrong. "Hi," he replied, attempting to mask his nerves. "You're real late, what's up? You having some problems with the snow?"
     "Alan—oh God—I'm in trouble. Maybe serious trouble. But it's not the snow. I need you to come to town okay?"
     He placed his wineglass too close to the edge of the kitchen counter, then reached back to move it farther away. "Are you all right? What happened?"
     "No, no, I'm not... all right, that is. But I haven't been hurt...You need to pay attention, okay? Stay with me here. They won't give me much time to talk with you."
     "Of course. Who won't give you much time? What the hell's going—"
     "Before you leave to come down here, you have to track down Casey Sparrow for me. I think you'll find her phone number in—"
     Any remaining calm Alan possessed disappeared. "I know her phone number. Jesus, why do you need to talk with Casey?" Alan was a clinical psychologist and Casey Sparrow had served as guardian ad litem for one of his young patients.
     "I may have some legal problems. It's real important you find her and talk with her."
     "What kind of legal problems? Is this about work? Why do you need Casey?"
     But he was already thinking he knew what it was about. Why does anybody need a criminal defense attorney?
     "I'm at the police department, I'm being held for questioning a shooting. You're my first phone call since they took me into custody and it's beginning to look like I'm going to need some help getting out of this. I want Casey. The cops are being pretty hard-ass with me, playing it strictly by the book. The whole situation is a little complicated right now, to say the least."
     A shooting? Struggling to stem a tornado of panic, Alan didn't know  what to say. The chaotic events of the last few days spun in rewind and replayed in his mind. This whole mess had started with a shooting and now, it seemed, it was going to end with one.
     The moment of silence lingered into seconds, the poignancy ripe, Alan's mind consumed by static.
     "Have you been arrested?"
     "Technically, yes."
     It struck him that his usually precise wife was vague. He reminded himself to listen, to use his professional skills. Calm, Alan, calm. Hear her out. She'll tell you what you need to know.
     "What happened, Lauren?"
     "This isn't the best time, for me to tell you that. Maybe we'll be able to talk later."
     "You think someone is listening to you right now?"
     "It's possible, yes."
     "I can't believe this."
     She said, "The police are saying that I shot a man. So things are an absolute disaster for me, legally."
     Alan guessed the fact about the shooting was not in dispute with whomever she feared might be listening.
     "They think you shot somebody?"
     "Did you?"
     "You don't even have a gun, Lauren."
     More silence.
     "Do you?"
     "Later sweets."
     He thought about lightning striking twice. "You can't tell me what's going on, can you?"
     "Is the man dead?"
     "Not yet. But apparently he's critical. They say it doesn't look good for him. I don't know whether or not to believe them."
     Alan swallowed. This was his DA wife wondering if she could trust the police? Jesus.
     "Did this guy attack you? What was he going to do to you?"
     What a night this was turning out to be. What the hell were you doing with a gun?
     "No. It's not like that. He never got that close to me.  It's not like that at all.  He was almost half a block away from me when he fell."
     To Alan, it sounded as though Lauren were admitting the basic facts. "Where did you get the gun?  Why did you shoot it? What on earth is this all about?"
     She exhaled audibly before she said, "You know," her voice barely a whisper. 
     Yes, he did.
     "Your friend?"
     Emma. Damn.
     The level of complication jumped by the tenth power. He had been praying that this Emma mess might just go away.
     "Jesus. Is she hurt?"
     "I don't know. I don't think so. I haven't seen her since this morning. You know that she missed that motions hearing this afternoon? So I don't really know how she is. I was hoping you knew something. That would help me know what to do."
     He did. But her caution was contagious and he didn't want to talk about Emma on the phone.
     He asked, "Is Sam there? At the police department?"
     "I haven't seen him. But they're mostly keeping me in an interview room by myself. Everybody's come down here to be part of this. To the police department, I mean. The chief is here, the commander, the legal counsel, half the detective bureau. I'm not sure they really know what to do with me, given that I'm a DA and everything. Most of these people like me, Alan. They seem truly upset that I've asked to speak to an attorney. They want me to tell them something to make this go away."
   "But you can't?"
   "You know better than anyone what's at stake. Her vulnerability right now..."
   "Does Roy know that you've been arrested?" Royal Peterson was the elected DA, Lauren's boss.
   "Maybe, probably. I haven't spoken with him yet, but I'm sure someone has tried to find him and let him know what happened."
   "If the case isn't Sam's, whose is it?"
   "Scott Malloy picked it up. But I'm guessing that the detective sergeants will run the show on something like this. God, I hope I get lucky on that." Malloy was someone Alan had met but didn't know well. The detective who was not there, Sam Purdy, was a good friend.
     Alan thought, it's a little late for lucky. "What do you mean, 'get lucky'?"
     "It's a chain-of-command thing. There are two detective sergeants in the general investigation division. One of them is the man I had that trouble with on the ride-along, back when I was a baby DA. Remember? I'm just praying that he's not the sergeant who supervises this."
     Alan did recall the story about the fateful ride-along. Lauren had caused the man a passel of trouble by supporting a brutality complaint a citizen had lodged against him.
     "Is Malloy cutting you any slack?"
     "None. He's been... businesslike. Respectful. Everyone's polite and apologetic but they seem to want to make sure that they're not doing anything that will let them be accused of giving me special treatment." Her voice softened, finally, reassuring Alan that she really understood the gravity of what she was facing.
     "I'm so sorry, sweets. Who caught this in your office? Has anybody been by?"
     "Elliot." Elliot Bellhaven was one of Lauren's favorite colleagues in the district attorney's office.
     "That's good, right?" He tried to make his voice sound encouraging, but it felt trivial and silly.
     "He stopped in and said hello. He was nice, but it won't make any difference. This will go upstairs immediately and then to a special prosecutor as soon as Roy can arrange to get one appointed. The commander of the detective bureau came by already, too, and he said he would permit me another call after this one. I'll use it to call Roy."
     Alan exhaled through pursed lips. "You're sure this isn't just going to go away?" Alan wanted to hear that it was all a big mistake.
     "No, not tonight it isn't."
     "I need my medicine. And my syringes, too. You know where everything is? Don't forget the alcohol wipes."
     "Of course. I'll call Casey first and then I'll be right down. I love you, Lauren."
     "Yes," she said. "Alan, there's something else—"
     "My eyes," she whispered.
     She stayed silent. This was a secret, too, from whomever might be listening.
     Oh shit. She'd woken that morning with some intermittent pain when she moved her right eye. "More pain?"
     "Worse than that."
     Only one thing worse.
     "You're losing your vision again?"
     "Yes." Her voice was firm but he heard a crack in it.
     "One eye or both?"
     "Much worse in one than the other. But both now."
     "In one. A big hole in the center of the other."
     "You'll need steroids, honey. Right away. You know Arbuthnot is going to want to get started immediately, while the inflammation is fresh." Alan knew how aggressive her neurologist was about visual exacerbations. He also knew how much his wife despised IV steroids.
     "Right now what I need is Casey Sparrow. The IV can wait. Please hurry. And bring the checkbook from my brokerage account. Casey may want a retainer for this."
     "Casey will wait for her money."
     "Bring it."
     "Where is it?"
     "Top right-hand drawer of my desk. It's the one with the gray cover."
     The line went dead.
     He said, "I love you."


Remote Control (USA)

Signet Paperback, ISBN: 0451191692

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