Yusif Habib looked around the empty office. It was stripped bare. Nothing was on the walls. The only thing on the desk was a closed portable computer. And, taped to the back of chair behind the desk was the front page of the latest Mountain Democrat. The two inch high headline said it all.
Underneath it, in Brad's unmistakeable scrawl was one word.
Madeline Mullins sat at the kitchen table at her house looking at the medium sized rock on her left hand. Every romance novel she'd ever read told her that her heart should be about to burst from joy. And yet, the best she was able to come up with so far was ambivalence.
Sure, Yusif was a good guy. Heck, he was probably the best guy she could hope to catch unless she moved to Roanoke or Knoxville or some other city. Still, if he hadn't sprung it on her at the stroke of midnight New Year's Eve – the very moment he officially became the commonwealth attorney - she wasn't sure she would have accepted.
What was further troubling, she suspected that Yusif knew it. She found herself questioning whether he knew she would waver and manipulated her so that she couldn't refuse without looking like an ass. Or maybe he was just trying to be romantic and made the moment as special as he could. All she was certain about was that she really didn't feel like she had any choice when she accepted.
Well, she had months before any viable wedding date. She'd probably go through with it. Maybe.
Robert “Bo” Ross stood in the courtroom as Judge Isom swore him and his deputies in. The room only had about half the usual number of deputies. Greg Harvey and a number of other deputies had retired or found other jobs between the election and now. Bo had refused to rehire several more. He was still uncertain about a few of the remaining deputies, but he couldn't fire everybody. Actually, he could, but then he and his chief deputy would have to patrol the entire county twenty-four hours a day until new ones could be hired. And, besides that, some of these guys deserved a chance to prove themselves.
Next to Bo stood Patrick Mahan, now wearing the gold oak leafs of a major. He was the new chief deputy and Bo was happy to have him. Bo knew that Pat had left his job in Boston after he got in trouble for being too honest in his testimony during a major trial. As far as Bo was concerned that spoke volumes for Pat's character. He could do worse than having a chief deputy who was too honest.
As soon as all the formalities were done, the two of them were going to get down to the business of making the Bartlette County Sheriff's Department the best department this side of Roanoke. And then they would make it even better.
Father Jerome Tolton drove toward his next job for Bishop Mannion. He'd thought the Bishop would return him to the monasteries he'd been working with before he'd been sent to Bartlette, but that was already being handled by another and Jerome was being sent to Winchester instead.
The local church was thriving and well run so there wouldn't be the usual problems Jerome dealt with. However, the local prosecutor had just indicted the son of a parishioner on a capital murder charge. An overly clever defense attorney who saw how things turned out in Bartlette asked the Bishop if the Church could help there too. Bishop Mannion had been all too happy to assign Jerome to the task. Now Jerome was on his way to be one of the attorneys representing Kyle Bialik.
He heard a chuckle from behind him in the pickup truck's half-seat. “Murder and moral ambiguities. Your God seems to be abandoning you to my keeping. We're going to have fun, Father. Lots and lots of fun.”
Gill Pinsky sat at his desk enjoying a bagel for the first time in weeks. The biggest problem with going out to the stix was the lack of good, civilized food. The second biggest was all the stuff that piled up in his office. So, he was killing two birds with one stone.
He skimmed over a request by a judge that he take a capital murder case in Lee County. It was over a week old so he was certain someone had undertaken the defense by now. Still, he would call the judge later today and politely decline. His last foray to the wilderness would satisfy him for quite a while. The end had never actually been in question, but dealing with the rubes got under his skin after a while. He was going to be certain that all his cases were in the civilized parts of Virginia for the foreseeable future.
He picked up the next sheet of paper and shoved all thoughts of backward counties in the middle of nowhere from his mind.
Brad Dollerby sat in his new office reading the secret agent novel his mother-in-law had bought him for Christmas. The hero was some sort of generic mix between Jason Bourne and James Bond and there was nothing particularly original in it. He knew the reason Abby had bought it for him. The whole story revolved around someone setting off a suitcase nuke in Haysi, Virginia which was about forty minutes north of Bartlette County. So far, the book hadn't explained why anyone would nuke a town of five-hundred people. It just had secret agents chasing each other around the world stalking and shooting at each other. Normally, he would have thrown away a book this bad after a couple chapters, but he knew Abby would ask him about it and he didn't want to lie to her. Besides, he didn't have anything else to do at the moment. Reading the book kept him from dwelling on the disasters of the last few months.
He had appointments scheduled for this afternoon, but this morning he was just sitting there in the hopes that someone would come in and plop down a hefty retainer to sue his neighbor because the jerk built a fence three inches over the property line or some other vitally important issue which people were willing to squabble about until the end of eternity.
He was in the middle of reading a portion of the book where the bad-girl villainess was revealed to be a misguided eco-warrior who bombed Haysi because . . . when Maggs yelled through the open door at him.
“You've got a phone call on line one.”
“Tell them to make an appointment like everybody else.”
“Sure, Nickel, I'll tell the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia that he should get his butt in a car and drive down from Richmond so that he can have an audience with your majesty.”
On second thought, Brad reflected as he reached for the phone, maybe I ought to take this call.