Mike Calvert is an aging cop whose career was going nowhere until the day Charlotte Johnson was murdered. The likely suspect is Charlotte's husband, a car dealer in Austin, Texas, who is losing money with the electronic transfer of funds into an undisclosed offshore account by a 19-year old computer hacker. The husband moves from suspect to corpse in a scheme that involves greed and corruption in a high-profile law firm that stands to make millions in a central Texas real estate scam. A power-hungry, real estate broker is behind the Johnson murders as he attempts to finesse the gubernatorial bid of an impotent politician through extortion and greed. This plot is carefully orchestrated around the political machinations of state government and regulatory agencies charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the public interest.
A parallel plot involves Mike's girlfriend and female protagonist, Kim Barker, who is a computer information specialist for a large Austin health care corporation. Kim is a Princeton graduate in biomedical engineering and is on the verge of developing a technology that allows for rapid transmission of imaging data for hospitals and managed care companies. Her work is sidetracked by a crazed ex-surgeon who is hell bent to bring managed care to its knees. As the story unfolds a sniper is taking head shots at CEOs in Los Angeles and Austin.
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Lightness descended on Lieutenant Calvert as he lay in a drunken stupor, devoid of any recollection of the night's events. He remembered booking a prostitute at ten p.m., but little thereafter. He reached into his right trouser pocket to retrieve his keys but found only hairy flesh where his pocket should have been. His head spun and his tongue felt like a razor had cut it. Slowly, he lifted himself out of bed to take the familiar anti-acid, balm for a burning stomach. The booze had taken a toll on Mike.
He buckled under in pain and chased the Gaviscon with ice-cold water. His doctor had told him to quit the booze at his last physical exam, but Mike had no use for doctors. Besides he always felt he would die soon enough. His job in homicide made him fatalistic, where he became cynical about the low-lifes and dregs of humanity, scumbags.
Mike Calvert was not always an out-of-shape, middle-aged cop. He remembered happier times with a wife and children. He had divorced three years ago after years of bitter fighting over his drinking. The kids had seen too much violence and too many mood swings. His wife finally left after another bruised face, never to return. His only contact with his family now was a return receipt for his child support checks. Now his life had been one of running after leads, questioning witnesses, booking druggies and hookers and answering domestic violence that had an all too familiar ring.
Today was Tuesday, and he was to meet his partner, Frank Murphy, to wrap up the Johnson murder. Arraignment was set for today, and his paperwork was incomplete. Mike was already two hours late for a ten a.m. appointment with Frank at Kelly's bakery on fifth street in East Austin, an area inhabited by Hispanics who were hard-working and too tired to take care of their families. Mike threw on a new set of Dockers and open sport shirt as the humidity and temperatures were hitting another record-setting temperature for March. His movements become more fluid and assured as the Gaviscon and Tylenol began to do their wonders on a forty-eight year old, tired body. He swung open the door of his '94 Camaro and shifted into fourth gear, leaving south Austin and approaching I-35 north for a quick ride to Kelly's bakery.
"Frank, you got the paperwork," Mike said as the screen door slammed behind him.
Frank was already on his third cup of coffee by the time Mike arrived.
"Hey, Slick, where you been? I've been here since ten o'clock waitin' on your sorry ass." Frank was well aware of Mike's drinking problems, as they had worked together for ten years on homicide. Mike was in no mood to bullshit. He was hungry and wanted a turkey sandwich on whole wheat to ease the pain in his GI tract.
"Mike, the court arraignment is at two p.m., and that slime bucket of a defense attorney for Johnson wants to have the charge of murder one dropped for lack of evidence. We found the guy's fingerprints all over the 9-mm Beretta and the DNA matches the blood found on his wife's throat." She died instantly after the bullet ripped through her right carotid artery. Photos revealed a pool of blood surrounding her head in a neat concentric circle on a floor now defined by yellow chalk.
Steve Johnson had been the biggest car dealer in Austin and was on TV more than the six o'clock anchor with his usual pitch of saving you money. He had migrated to Austin in the sixties after a stint in Detroit and was a well-known philanthropist for community charities and fund-raisers. The murder had been big news in an otherwise uneventful February. Everyone had a theory as to motive. His wife was old money Austinite having owned the land that was now Barton Springs, and her real-estate father moved west to acquire every parcel of land west of Town Lake from Dripping Springs to Burnet, Texas. Their house angled towards the Austin skyline overlooking the Colorado River forty yards vertically from the street below. It was a spacious five-bedroom with game room and target range behind the house where Steve honed his pistol skills for state and national competitions. He was not a hunter and allegedly had never fired at anything other than a paper target at twenty-five yards. But the evidence suggested otherwise, and the clear motive was his raging jealousy over his wife's latest affair.
Missus Johnson had always been interested in young men. Her latest paramour had been her paralegal assistant, recently graduated from Austin Community College. He was twenty-four, handsome, and muscular. The attraction was purely physical, and her early afternoon appointments in the office were well known to her partners at Albright, Sage, and Lerner. Every piece of dark burgundy, mahogany office furniture had been used as a prop for their afternoon "fuck breaks." She liked her sex fast and hard, and her legal assistant was only too willing to oblige her. Her husband also knew about her affairs. He had had prostate surgery three years ago which had left him impotent with a catheter and urinary bag attached to the inside of his leg. Sex was only a memory for him but was a necessity for a wife hell-bent to turn back the clock. Now she lay in a permanent state of regression, six feet under Austin soil.
"Hey, Frank, pass the salt and pepper. You got the ballistics and DNA reports? It's open and shut as far as I'm concerned and good riddance to the bastard. I hope he sleeps in Huntsville tonight." Huntsville was the largest state holding facility for felons, and Texas was well known for their body counts from lethal injection.
"Mike, you expect me to carry your ass one more time? I'm tired of this shit paperwork and trying to second-guess some dick-head attorney. You know that Evans is the best that money can buy, and Johnson has plenty of it to spread around."
"Yeah, I guess he took lessons from his wife, Frank." They had two hours before they were due in Judge Simmon's courtroom.
James McDaniels was the lead prosecutor on the case and Mike and Frank had no respect for the man. McDaniels had built his reputation kissing ass to run for State Attorney General and had no interest in trial law. His courtroom skills had been too informal and general to follow evidentiary rules of procedure. He had spent more time at political fund-raisers than standing in front of a jury and his demeanor evidenced this fact.
"You know Frank we've got to hold McDaniel's dick for him or he will fuck up this case like he did the Peterson case." John Peterson was a serial rapist in West Austin who had been let go on a technicality because of an illegal search warrant, and the community wanted McDaniels canned. Peterson was eventually indicted for a prior rape and successfully put away in Huntsville but only after another city prosecutor was brought in on the case.
The sun shone through the partially separated mini blinds as the ceiling fan feebly attempted to stir the hot, dusty air. The smell of bacon grease left over from breakfast filtered through the room, and the odor was beginning to tear at Mike's gut as he reached for another Tums tablet.
"I think we got this fuck-stick nailed, and I personally want to see his ass sent to Huntsville while he awaits trial. As far as I'm concerned they can take his catheter and shove it up his ass. Maybe a douche would do the bastard good. He just might get his only erection in three years."
Little did Mike know that Huntsville would be the last place for Steve Johnson.