Table of Contents
Also by Michael McGarrity
The Judas Judge
Under the Color of Law
The Big Gamble
Nothing but Trouble
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Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, January 2009
Copyright Â© 2009 by Michael McGarrity
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eISBN : 978-1-440-65803-7
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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For Flynn Raven McGarrity
Thanks go to Chief Rick Sinclair and Officer Mitch Sutton of the Springer Police Department; Officer Christopher Blake of the New Mexico State Police; Adriane DeSavorgnani of the United States Embassy, London; and Colonel Anita M. Domingo, United States Army attachÃ© at the United States Embassy, London, who provided me with invaluable help during the research phase for the book.
A very special thanks to Ms. Angela Gill of Kent, England, a dear friend who served brilliantly as my research assistant during my fact-finding trip to London.
Craig Larson stood in the middle of the crowded Bernalillo County Detention Center recreation yard and listened in disbelief as a dumb-ass guard told him he was going to be transported immediately to a minimum security prison outside his hometown of Springer, New Mexico. As it sunk in, Larson wondered if he was just about to become one of the luckiest jailbirds in the whole frigging world. Speechless, he stood rooted to the ground, looking at the guard with his mouth open.
“Come on,” the guard said. “Get moving.”
Larson nodded agreeably and followed alongside the guard, who explained that he would be processed out and turned over to a Department of Corrections officer for the trip to Springer.
“Got any personal stuff in your cell?” the guard asked.
Larson shook his head. Convicted but not yet sentenced, Larson knew there was no way in hell he was supposed to be going to the minimum security facility. All he could figure was that some dip-shit jail employee or retarded court clerk had screwed up. If that was the case, maybe lady luck was smiling.
Larson had jumped bail on the day of his sentencing hearing just over a year ago, after being convicted of embezzling over two million dollars from the estate of an elderly art dealer he'd once worked for. He'd been a fugitive from justice until last month, when cops busted him in an apartment two blocks from the beach in Venice, California, where he'd been shacking up with a divorced, thirty-something schoolteacher with thick ankles and a willing disposition to please.
Extradited back to New Mexico and booked into the county lockup, Larson had cooled his heels for two days before his attorney, Terry Foster, showed up. When Larson told Foster he didn't like being in jail at all and asked if there was any way in hell he could make bail, the mouthpiece choked back a laugh.
Without attempting to hide his disdain, he told Larson that he faced additional counts for unlawful flight, and because of that the judge would most likely sentence him to the maximum time for his embezzlement conviction. With a touch of glee, Foster also noted that Larson's fugitive status for more than a year would probably put him in the super-max prison outside of Santa Fe with the hard-core, badass cons. Foster concluded the meeting by telling Larson to find another attorney.
Larson figured Foster was pissed at him because he'd never been paid. But he also believed Foster had given him the straight scoop, because it jibed with what the old jailbirds in the county lockup had been telling him.
Until the guard said he was being transferred to Springer, Larson had contemplated faking alcohol addiction and a suicide attempt to see if he could get sent to a rehab program rather than prison. He knew he wasn't the type to thrive in an iron-pumping, career-criminal, alpha-male penal institution.
Larson didn't think of himself as overly aggressive or cruel. As he saw it, using guile, charm, and smarts was a much better way to commit crimes than violence. He resorted to that only when absolutely necessary.
The embezzlement conviction was nothing more than a one-time misstep on his part. Fortunately, the investigators on the case had been as dumb as most cops. Otherwise he would probably be looking at life without parole on death row.
In the processing area, Larson saw enough of the paperwork in front of a bleary-eyed guard to learn that he had been mistaken for another inmate with the same name who was slated to do eighteen months at Springer for a hit-and-run DWI accident.
The guard looked like he'd been held over to work a second shift. He barely glanced at Larson as he processed him out. The state correctional officer cuffed Larson's hands behind his back and marched him to the sally port where an empty Department of Corrections van waited.
“Am I your only passenger today, Officer?” he asked as the guard pushed him into the passenger compartment behind the steel cage that protected the driver. The name tag on his uniform shirt read “D. Trujillo.”
“You're it,” Trujillo replied gruffly.
Larson immediately started thinking that a breakaway might be possible. How to make it happen was the question. “Could you handcuff me at the front rather than behind my back?” he asked. “My arms and wrists really start to hurt when I'm cuffed this way.”
Trujillo thought about it. Larson was a middle-aged white guy with no priors who'd been convicted of nonviolent crimes. “Okay, step out of the vehicle.”
Trujillo made the switch, put Larson back in the van, locked his feet to leg shackles bolted to the floorboards, closed the side door, and got behind the wheel.
The sally port door opened and sunlight poured into the dimly lit space. Larson did some mental calculating as Trujillo drove outside into the glare of a hot, cloudless July day. Springer was a good two hundred miles up the interstate from Albuquerque. The drive gave him about three hours to figure out how to persuade Trujillo to stop, unshackle him, and let him out of the van. Even then, how would he get away?
Trujillo packed a semiautomatic sidearm and had a shotgun in a rack attached to the dashboard within easy reach. Both weapons were formidable obstacles to any escape attempt.
Larson listened as Trujillo advised a radio dispatcher that he was under way, transporting one prisoner. He held his breath, half-expecting to hear Trujillo ordered back to the jail, but the radio remained silent. In a few minutes, they were beyond the perimeter of the jail grounds, cruising toward the interstate, and Larson started breathing easier.
“I get really, really car sick sitting in the back,” he said.
“You can shit your pants and throw up all over yourself back there. Makes no matter to me,” Trujillo replied. “I'll just crank up the air conditioner to get rid of the smell and hose down the inside of the vehicle after we get to Springer. I don't stop until we get there.”
“You'd do that rather than let me puke outside?”
“Yeah,” Trujillo said with a slight smile. “And if you puke on yourself, you'll get hosed down too.”
“Wonderful,” Larson replied. “I thought Springer was a boys' school for juvenile delinquents.”
“It was, up until a couple of years ago,” Trujillo answered as he drove the van onto the northbound I-25 onramp.
Trujillo looked like he was in his mid-fifties, which made him ten to twelve years older than Larson. He had a round head, cauliflower ears, pudgy cheeks, and didn't resemble any of the Trujillos that Larson had known in his youth. But he'd been away from his hometown for almost twenty-five years and how people looked back then was pretty much a dim memory.
Larson decided to probe. “Are you from Springer, Officer Trujillo?”
Trujillo shot him a hard glance in the rearview mirror. “I don't need you trying to make small talk with me.”
Larson shrugged, smiled pleasantly, and looked out the window. In a few minutes, they would be on the outskirts of Albuquerque heading north. Assuming the identity mix-up at the jail stayed undiscovered, what could he do to get free?