Authors: Jared Paul
A Thriller By
OTHER BOOKS BY JARED PAUL
Marked Man III
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There were some variations on the dream but they all felt the same.
For instance, sometimes Detective Leslie Bollier was driving an El Camino, sometimes her father’s old Buick, sometimes the Taurus. Sometimes it wasn’t Bollier who was driving but her friend Special Agent Clemons, or Jordan Ross in a combat suit, or improbably Shannon, who hated riding in cars let alone steering one. Always they were riding over a bridge. Sometimes it was the Williamsburg Bridge, which had to be the inspiration for the recurring nightmare, or sometimes the London Bridge, or the Golden Gate Bridge, but usually it was the Williamsburg. Bollier could recognize it by the steel lattices flying by in her peripheral vision.
The worst variation by far were the ones where Bollier was driving alone. No company in the car, no conspirators, no mercurial girlfriend. The feel of the bridge moving beneath
the tires was unsteady when she was alone, like it might collapse at any moment, but it never did.
Sometimes the journey started out from different places, like a rural country house that Bollier only vaguely remembered from her childhood, or from her loft on 8th avenue, but always the road seemed to bring her to this bridge. The better dreams sometimes started out riding through a dirt road next to a corn field, or a meadow of grain and flowers. Then there would be some sort of transition. Bollier or Jordan Ross whoever would drive through a tunnel or turn at a fork in the road and they would magically end up in midtown heading east at dusk.
When they got to the bridge Bollier would get nervous and light a cigarette. If she was riding in the car with Shannon she would cluck disapprovingly. Clemons would invariably make a remark about cancer statistics. Jordan Ross would just shrug and roll his own window down. She liked him for this, this non-confrontational, non-judgmental answer, and she treated him better when she was awake as a result. If she was driving alone the recriminations would come from her own mind in the voice of her late mother Estelle.
When she dropped the cigarette is when things started going wrong in the dreams. Sometimes it was lit and Bollier felt a burn in her thigh as the cherry smoldered through her nylons. Sometimes she dropped the cigarette before she could light it and had to dig around down by the gears to find it. This caused a stir no matter who was in the car with her. Agent Clemons would shriek “LOOK OUT” and grip hard on the dash. Shannon made a snide snicker. Jordan Ross offered only a mellow “be careful.”
Before Bollier could get to the cigarette and throw it out the window she felt a buckling at the back end of the vehicle. The weight of a rear end collision. Jumping up straight in her seat, Bollier would look into the rear view mirror and see a freight train, or an armored tank riding the back bumper. Sometimes it was dune buggies driven by futuristic pirates waving cutlasses and tankards of rum.
Sometimes instead of a car it was an animal. These were far more frightening variations. Either a pack of hungry wolves would be nipping at the car’s heels, or a herd of giant buffalo that could crush the car with one ill-timed, lumbering sideswipe.
The afternoon that Bollier fell asleep in court during Vladimir Shirokov’s conspiracy trial it was bears. Grizzly bears maybe, or brown bears. Bollier did not know anything about bears except that they couldn’t have been polar bears based on the color. Sometimes Jordan or Agent Clemons grabbed an inexplicable hunting rifle from the backseat and shot at the charging bears but they never managed to land a shot. Sometimes Bollier herself drew a side arm and shot at the fierce, shaggy heads but always missed somehow. Whether it was just a function of the dream thwarting her or if it said something about her feelings towards wildlife Bollier could not have guessed. Either way the bears filled her with a terror that the other animals did not come close to matching. All of the freight trains and the armored tanks in the world did not inspire the same awe and fear of the bears.
Bollier was in the passenger’s seat that time, fitting cartridges into a shotgun while Jordan Ross drove. She loathed not to be at the wheel, not in control. This scenario with the bears and not driving was among the worst. She barked instructions at Jordan to drive faster or to keep the wheel still so she could get a better shot but he never seemed to listen. Bollier screamed at the biggest bear and fired a blast into his side but the buckshot just bounced off harmlessly like its hide was made of titanium.
Eventually the bears would surround the vehicle, somehow keeping pace no matter how far down Jordan pushed the accelerator with his foot. The bears closed in and smashed the windows. They bit and slashed inside and Bollier curled up into a ball on the floor and one of the Bears would swipe the wheel and they’d veer off course and go flying off of the bridge.
Suspended in midair Bollier always marveled at how long she had to think about it. The whole scene played out in slow motion; the car frozen in free fall over the water. Sometimes the water was cold and dirty like the East River should be, sometimes it was surprisingly warm and dotted by lily pads. Sometimes instead of plunging into a deep body of water it was a short splash and a thud into a stinking marshland. But whether the water was clean or dirty or mild or freezing had no impact on the results.
Always whoever was riding in the car with Bollier was killed. If it was Agent Clemons she wept and beat at his lifeless features until she allowed herself to be drowned by the encroaching swirl. If it was Shannon she tried to drag the body out and swim up to the surface so that she could have a proper burial but Bollier never quite made it. Her lungs gave in just a few kicks from the surface and Bollier would wake up gasping and not go back to bed at all. If it was Jordan Ross who died in the fall Bollier hugged the corpse and let herself float up to sea level. Once she was there Bollier would find herself alone and surrounded by enemies. Sometimes it was crocodiles in a swamp, tails lashing and frothing the water as they converged. Sometimes it was great white sharks with impassive black eyes. Sometimes an entire school of piranhas with comically large teeth jutting from mouths with overbites. Regardless, the creatures always attacked all at once and Bollier could never fend them all off. Usually she woke up before she was killed. Sometimes not.
That afternoon in court Bollier was rescued by her friend Detective Grycek, who pulled her out of the dream just before an alligator could take her head off with one vicious snap of the jaws.
Bollier shook awake, breathing fast. She glanced left and right, still expecting to see carnivorous demons approaching from every direction. The only carnivores present however were the lawyers.
“You’ll want to see this.”
Detective Grycek pointed over to the defense table. Vladimir Shirokov had assembled a murderer’s row of defense attorneys. Solomon, Barcley, Grayson and Pollard. The hourly billing must have been incalculable, but whatever it was Shirokov didn’t look the least bit concerned. He had already paid three million for bail and he could probably expect to spend at least that much more if the trial went on much longer. But Shirokov just lounged back in his chair as if he had all the money and the time in the world.
Bollier hoped that wasn’t true, but knew better than to trust it. One of Bollier’s friends was a real estate agent who’d received word through the rumor mill that Shirokov’s gothic mansion on Long Island was on the market. If Shirokov even got close to his asking price for the property he could afford to not only keep his defense team on retainer but bronze and mount them on his wall.
Jonas Solomon was the star on that defense team. Just before the trial commenced some of the tabloids speculated that if John Gotti had Solomon on his side he may never have seen the inside of a jail cell. He rose from his seat and approached the bench to speak. Lawyers in general turned Bollier’s stomach, but she had to respect Solomon as he worked his craft.
“Your honor. Before we adjourn today I would like to take a moment to address the jury.”
Ever graciously, Solomon thanked the judge and walked over to the jury box. The suit he wore was a perfect choice to compliment his features. Not a crease in the slacks or a speck of lint on the jacket. The gray virgin wool matched his wingtips. The cufflinks matched his tie clip. Everything was in its place, everything accounted for. Solomon began.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…”
His voice sounded like it belonged in a Methodist congregation, maybe in the choir or leading a chant from the pulpit.
“... I would like to say just a few short words before we are concluded for the evening. I know it’s hot here in this court room and you’d like nothing better to rush home to your air conditioning and crack open an ice cold Budweiser… heck I know I sure am…”
This bit got a trifle of laughter from the gallery of spectators who knew Solomon and his work well. The man was a teetotaler, and even if he had an occasion to drink Budweiser it would have to be the last thing in his fridge. Bollier tried to smirk knowingly but it came out as a malicious kind of sneer. She could not hide her distaste for Solomon, knowing what his client was capable of.
Bollier thought she spied Shirokov glance her way out of the corner of her eye but she ignored it and focused her attention on the attorney, who was sweeping his arms in a theatrical gesture.
“... heck I don’t know how we survive summer in New York. My father was fond of saying that fire and brimstone were nigh and he never once had to make it through June here!”
Finally the jury broke out laughing. Solomon had scored his point and would proceed to kick in another with an open goal.
“... we sure appreciate the hard work you folks have put in for this trial this summer. I just wanted you to know that. It’s ALMOST over. It’s been a long slog these last couple of months. But tomorrow we move in to the most pivotal, the most important, and the ABSOLUTE MOST VITAL portion of this trial…”
Solomon’s voice rose and fell in pitch and tempo to match the peaks and valleys of his speech.
“... ladies and gentlemen tomorrow you will hear testimony from a man named Uri Grigoryevich. The prosecution will tell you that this man is a reputable source of information but he IS NOT. HE IS NOT…”
The prosecution broke into object but the judge overruled it. Bollier furrowed her eyebrows and asked Grycek what in the hell was going on but all he could muster was a shrug and an I-dunno.
“.. He is not a reputable source of information. Uri Grigoryevich is an addict and a thief and MOST importantly a liar. And the prosecution has based its case almost ENTIRELY on what this addict, this filth, this degenerate has to say about my client. He has made slanderous accusations about my client in order to avoid incarceration for his own salacious behavior. Ladies and gentlemen, another thing my father used to do was quote scripture. He was fond of quoting Matthew chapter seven verse 17, which says that every good tree bears good fruit and every bad tree bears bad fruit. Ladies and gentlemen, consider the source. Tomorrow when you hear Uri Grigoryevich up here on this witness stand you just keep in mind that NOTHING good can be borne from a bad tree. Thank you.”
Solomon returned to his seat at the defense table where he was greeted by a round of back slapping and congratulations. Shirokov himself leaned over and planted a kiss on the side of Solomon’s head, which clearly made the lawyer uncomfortable but he did his best to suppress any reaction.
The judge banged his gavel and told those assembled that the trial would continue at nine o’clock sharp the following morning.
Feeling sluggish and grouchy from the bad dream and the court dramatics, Bollier huffed out through the crowd and made her way to the street. A wave of humid air hit her when she reached the great outdoors on Broadway. Bollier got into her car, cursed, and abruptly got out. She rolled down the windows and let the engine run while she dialed a number.
Agent Clemons picked up after two rings.
“Hey Les. What’s up? How was court?”
“Unbelievably awful. If our guy tried half the shit that Solomon gets away with in that court room the judge would find him in contempt. How’s Uri?”
“Oh you know Uri. He’s a regular ray of sunshine.”
“Is he safe at least?”
“He’s fine. I’ve got three of my best guys guarding him around the clock. Don’t worry about it. You worry too much Les.”