WARNING: Mature Content
The limo hit a pothole and pitched Andre Pierce into his fiancé Catherine McQueen. Andre shifted her back into an upright position and then reached out a hand to brush a strand of hair off her forehead. Her slight movement to the right did not escape him. She had been subtly resisting his touch for weeks. It was starting to get on his nerves.
“I thought we were going to the museum?” she asked.
“Plans changed. I don’t think it’s a good idea to expose myself to the public right now. At least, not until we get those responsible for these attacks.”
“What are you talking about, Andre?”
Andre realized his mistake almost immediately, but not soon enough to prevent the words.
“I didn’t want to worry you, but we’ve had a few . . . incidents.”
“What kind of incidents?” Catherine asked, the rise in her voice’s pitch indicated concern. She turned to him and rested a knee on the seat between them so that she could face him fully.
“It’s nothing for you to worry about. There’ve been some threats. But,” Andre interrupted before Catherine could protest. “But, I’ve taken care of it. That’s why Big John is with us.” Andre finished, pointing to the man seated next to the chauffeur.
“Well, do you know who’s behind it? What do the police say?”
“The police are looking into it but they have nothing so far.”
Andre opened his mouth to add more but was distracted by the sound of a revved up motor approaching at a fast clip. He turned his head in time to see a car speeding towards them. Before he could react and warn the others, he felt the impact and everything around him slowed to a crawl. The sound of grinding metal against metal was deafening. The driver’s side e of the car was lifted up into the air. Andre and Catherine were thrown against the opposite side window. The car seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before the tires hit the ground again with a sickening thud.
Andre listened to the slowing tick-tick-tick of the engine. Dust filled the interior and for a moment, he could not recall what happened. He heard an audible “thump” against the front of the car and then screeching tires fading away. He was called back to their present danger.
Andre reached for Catherine. She slumped against the passenger side window. He smothered a rising panic when he saw the blood spilling across her forehead. He reached out a gentle finger to her face and nearly cried out in his relief to feel her ragged breath against his palm. He pulled her in close to him.
“Caty? Honey, you okay?”
He cradled her gently and then looked towards the front of the car. James was on the phone. From his side of the conversation, Andre knew he was talking to a 9-1-1 dispatcher. Big John labored out of the front passenger seat and then leaned against the hood of the car. Andre could see blood soaking through the front of the big man’s shirt through the window.
Andre heard the sharp snap of James’ phone and then the chauffeur looked over his shoulder to the back seat.
“You all right back there, boss?”
Andre nodded his head but then indicated Catherine. “I’m not sure about her though. How long before the ambulance arrives?”
“It shouldn’t be long. Let me get you out of here.”
Andre watched him push and then shove against the driver’s side door with his shoulder. There was minimal give. James lay back on the seat and with his feet, kicked on the door out until it separated from the body with a loud, metallic shriek. James pulled himself from the car and then stumbled towards the back door where Andre waited with Catherine.
Andre laid Catherine out until she was stretched out fully on the back seat. She was still unresponsive, but it seemed to Andre that her breathing was more even. He stepped out of the car and assessed the damage.
“It’s a wonder someone wasn’t killed.” James sighed as he surveyed the enclave that had been the driver’s side of the car.
The three of them walked around the car. Big John pointed to an object resting against the windshield. He reached for the small bundled package and began to unwrap it.
“Careful.” Andre warned. John looked down at the object in his hands as if just realizing the risk. He squared his shoulders and continued unwrapping, albeit slowly and with more care than before.
With the final piece of cellophane removed, he carefully folded back the edges and the three of them contemplated the interior in silence.
Inside the coarse white paper was a plastic baby doll. The doll had been defaced with splashes of red paint that marred most of the body. Underneath, written in neatly printed box text, the word “Murderer!” screamed up at them.
Damn it. Andre nearly screamed the words out loud. He surveyed the message from his nemesis. The House of Peace? The first time he heard that name, he thought it was a joke. He wasn’t laughing now.
“Andre, calm down. Come on over here and take a seat.” When his son complied, the judge continued. “Now tell me, slowly this time, exactly what happened?”
Andre took a deep, calming breath and described that afternoon’s accident. When he finished, the judge asked, “Was there anyone hurt?”
“No, dad,” Andre mentally apologized to Catherine. “James and John are fine. John banged his head a bit but the ER stitched him up and sent him home.
“Could you see who was driving? What about the car? Did you get a good look at it?”
“No,” Andre snapped, trying to keep his temper at bay. “I told you already. The car just came out of the blue. There was no time to do or see anything.”
“And yet you assume the act was deliberate. Why would someone try to run you down?”
Was he trying to be obtuse? Andre fumed. They’d already been over that. Willie Pierce had already heard about the hate mail and emails he’d been receiving over the past few months. He saw with his own eyes the eggs that had been thrown at Andre’s door and he’d listened to the vile and vicious voice mails that had been threatening his life. Of course, the act was deliberate.
“This is the first time they actually made physical contact, but there is no doubt in my mind these are the same people, dad. The House of Peace is responsible for trying to kill me today.”
“Dad, the police have not been able to pin a thing on them. They’ve been very careful up to now. But we’ve got to stop them before they succeed. You know everything about what’s going on in this city. Is there any way you can get in contact with the leader and tell them to back off?”
“Son, I seriously doubt The House of Peace has anything to do with this. They are a peace-loving, Christian organization. Have you considered that someone else might be at the center of your troubles? You know as well as I the . . . uh, element you’ve been representing in recent years.”
Andre swallowed the automatic denial. There could be some truth to his father’s words but it didn’t feel right. The people Andre dealt with were professionals. Their problem-solving M.O was direct and left no room for chance or error. If one of them were behind this, Andre would already have a bullet in the back of his head.
“I seriously doubt this group had anything to do with you.” The judge continued. “and I strongly encourage you to step away from them.”
“Okay, look dad. Maybe the larger organization isn’t responsible. Maybe Reverend Reynolds is an up and up guy. But what if a splinter group has broken off and who is taking Christian doctrine, an eye for an eye, quite literally? Your fingers are in a lot of pies. You could pull a couple strings for me. Get me something, anything I could use that would get them to back off.”
“Son, there is nothing I can do. I’ve warned you. You can’t keep shitting all over people and ignoring the consequences of your actions, particularly now that you’re seeking public office.”
Andre felt a familiar resentment burning in his gut. Judge Willie Pierce. Perfect man. Perfect politician. Shit-ass father.
“Dad, how can you possibly justify their actions?”
“I’m not son, I’m just saying,” The judge broke off with a heavy sigh. He looked down at his hands for a moment without speaking. He lifted his head again and seemed to make up his mind. He looked directly into his son’s eye. “Look, I’ll make a couple phone calls and see what I can find out. I’ll ask around about Calvin Reynolds. Maybe I’ll try to contact him and see if he knows anything about these attacks on you.”
“That’s great, dad.” Andre stood up and patted his dad on the back in appreciation.
The wattage of Andre’s smile dimmed at bit when the judge’s wife, Eula entered the room. Both men stood up at her entrance. She paused mid-stride when she caught sight of him.
“Hi, Andre, I hadn’t realized you’d stopped by.”
“Eula.” Andre acknowledged. She looked beautiful. She was casually dressed in a flowing floor length sundress. Her face was carefully made up, as usual. He caught a hint of her signature fragrance from across the room. He broke eye contact quickly, conscious of his father sitting beside him.
“I just came by to speak with dad about a matter.”
She approached the two of them and watched his face closely. “Are you okay?” He watched the muscle flex along her jawline. Before he could react, she reached up to touch a tender spot on the side of his head.
Andre moved his head before her hands made contact and then stepped away from her. He conjured up a forced chuckle.
“Oh that. No, I’m fine. I had a little accident this afternoon, but I’m fine. I guess I need to watch where I’m going in the future, eh?”
It didn’t escape him that no one laughed at his attempt at humor. The judge sat quietly eyeing his wife. Eula kept an intense focus on Andre. Andre wished that she would pull herself together.
“Did you need me for anything, my dear?” The judge’s quiet question succeeded in redirecting Eula’s attention.
“Yes, of course, Willie darling. Samantha’s Catering is on the line in my office. We need your expertise in deciding the hors d’œuvres for our little dinner party next week. Would you please come and speak with them. I’m no good at that sort of thing.”
“Of course.” He turned to Andre. “I’ll be right back.”
The Judge placed a guiding hand on her lower back and led Eula from the room. She tossed one last concerned look over her shoulder as she disappeared from sight. He would have to caution Eula to be more careful. It wouldn’t do to raise the judge’s suspicions about the true nature of their relationship.
Andre stood in the middle of the room. He tried to decide if he would wait for his father’s return or leave. He glanced down at his watch. He lifted his head and his eyes were drawn to the computer on his father’s desk. The screen saver rotated in and out across the screen. The computer was booted up.
Without fully knowing why, Andre slipped behind the judge’s desk and clicked the mouse to wake the screen. The judge was, as with most things, meticulous about record keeping. Andre could not decide what he could possibly be looking for that would be worth the risk of getting caught. There wouldn’t be any case files there, or anything related to work.
Andre was about to give up his search when he noticed the Microsoft Outlook icon in the corner. He clicked the icon expelled whistled breath as he observed the number of contacts in the program. He scrolled through the alphabet and took note of the private phone numbers for politicians, a couple well known Hollywood movie producers, as well as other prominent people both locally and nationwide.
Andre returned to the A’s and randomly clicked on the various entries. When he reached the R’s, he sees an entry he missed during his first pass. Andre was sure that there was some type of mistake and he clicks on the contact. When the page opened, he saw a home address, personal, work and cell phone number for Pastor Calvin Reynolds of The House of Peace.
Why would dad say that he didn’t know the man? The entry included the names of Reverend Reynolds’ wife, his children and their birthdays; all indicators that the Judge knows Reynolds well and knows him personally.
Andre was about to click out of the file when an entry in the “Comments” section popped out at him. He’d seen similar entries in other files, religious leaders, the mayor, members of Senate and the police director, among others. But Andre thought nothing of it. Until now. Now he wondered.
The word “Genesis” had been noted in several contact files throughout the Outlook program. Andre was unaware of its meaning or significance. Andre didn’t think about the implications. He grabbed a notepad from the judge’s cubby and jotted down a list of twenty names of prominent businessmen, city leaders and politicians. Each of their contact pages carried the notation Genesis.
Andre heard footsteps coming down the hall. He shut the computer down, ripped the first page from the notepad and then slipped the paper in his pocket, just as his father re-entered the room.
“Dad, I appreciate whatever information you can get for me. Thanks for trying, okay? I’m going to take off now. I’ve got to run a couple errands before it gets too late.”
Judge Willie smiled at him and then reached out and hugged him tightly.
Andre turned and left the house.
Judge Pierce resumed his seat at his desk after his son left. He shook the mouse to activate the screen but it remained dark. He glanced behind him at the power outlet but the computer was still firmly attached. He glanced back at the computer and realized the indicator light was dark.
The computer had been shut down.
He was sure the computer had been in sleep mode when he left the room. Maybe Andre was looking at something. But he dismissed the ideas as foolish. It was more likely that he just forgotten that he’d turned the computer off himself.
His hands drifted to the notepad on his desk. It was out of place. That pad was always left in the cubby next to the computer. He was orderly and kept a placement for every item in his office. Not even the housekeeper or Eula would dare touch anything in here.
So, what did Andrew want with the pad? He looked back and forth between the pad and his dark computer and felt the first inklings of dread. He powered up the computer. While he waited for it to go through the start up cycle, he looked closely at the pad. There was an imprint.
Judge Willie held the pad to the lamp and saw clearly what had been written there. He recognized the names on the list and felt the bottom of his stomach drop. He picked up the phone and placed the call he thought he’d never have to make.
Andre left his father’s house and finally made his way to Catherine’s hospital room. The EMTs assessed her at the scene of the accident. She had a concussion and would be held overnight at the hospital for observation.
Catherine lie facing away from the door when he entered the room. He pulled up a chair next to the bed and decided to wait until she awakened.
A nurse entered the room. “I’m sorry sir, but visiting hours are over. I’m going to have to ask you to leave now.”
Andre noticed how pretty she was and the shy sweet way she tried to avoid looking at him.
“Nurse,” he hesitated, looking towards her breast at the ID badge posted there. “Emily.” Andre gave her his most charming smiles. “Couldn’t you bend the rules for me just this once? She is my fiancé and I wouldn’t feel right leaving her here overnight alone. I’m the only family she has here.”
The nurse hesitated. “You’re Andre Pierce, aren’t you?”
“Do I know you?” Andre asked, his smile growing even broader.
“No,” she giggled. “I recognize you from tv. You’re running for criminal court judge, right? I’ve also followed a couple of your more famous private cases. I’m in law school at night.”
“Well, thank you, yes, I am running for office. I would appreciate your vote.”
“I’ve admired you and studied your career. You’re a great man. But of course you can stay, just try not to disturb her too much. But I know she’s going to be really happy to see you and have you near.
She tossed another look over her shoulder then giggled one last time before exiting the room. He turned back to the bed to find Catherine watching him closely.
“Oh, good, you’re awake.” He smiled and leaned over to kiss her forehead.
“You just can’t help yourself, can you Dre?”
“What are you talking about honey?” He touched her arm and rubbed the fine hairs there. He hoped he would be able to distract her from this familiar track.
“Every woman is another opportunity to you.”
“No, of course not, she’s a constituent. I’m trying to get a vote. “
“Okay Dre, whatever. What are you doing here?”
“Where else would I be? You are hurt and you were hurt because of me. My place is right here at your side.”
Catherine turned away from him but he heard her clearly. “I wondered. The accident was hours ago. You didn’t come with me in the ambulance. Where have you been?”
“I got here as quickly as I could. I had to stay to speak with the police after the ambulance took you away. Then I went to see dad, to let him know what happened and that we were okay. “
“We?” Her head quickly whipped back to face him. “So you told the Judge about our engagement?”
“Well, no, no. This was not the appropriate time. You were in the hospital. I figure when we make the announcement, I would have you by my side. I just know the judge is going to love you as much as I do.”
Her disappointment was palpable but Andre had other things, more important things to worry about than her concerns about a wedding.
“Catherine? What was the name of that private detective that you hired last year? The one that conducted those background checks for you.”
“What do you need a private eye for?”
“Well, I thought could hire someone to look into these incidents, privately, you know? Someone who could get the evidence the police are not able to. Do you remember his name and contact info?”
“Well, not right off the top of my head. It’s at my office. His name was Wesley, I think.” He could hear the fatigue in her voice. “They’re supposed to release me tomorrow and I’ll get it for you then.”
“Don’t you worry about that right now.” He got off the chair and stretched out next to her on the narrow hospital bed. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close to him. “You just close your eyes and rest. I’ll take care of everything right now. You can get me that information in the morning.”