Dallas lawyer Casey Jordan takes on illegal immigrants and abuse of power in this legal thriller written by Tim Green.
It begins when a U.S. senator from Texas shoots an undocumented worker and fakes the death as a hunting accident. Casey, who practices law from an abandoned gas station, takes the widow's case.
Read an excerpt from "Above the Law" below and head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
HEADLIGHTS CREPT UP THE WALL BEFORE JETTING ACROSS the ceiling and blinking out. Elijandro stiffened at the familiar purr of the engine and clatter of rocks off the undercarriage as the white Range Rover descended the hillside lane. He left the sagging bed and the warmth of his young wife's body, skirted past the crib, and eased open the front door, letting himself out into the dark of predawn.
Elijandro clutched himself and stepped gingerly across the dirt yard until he stood shivering beside the Range Rover. The hills and the thick clouds above glowed in the orange flare from some distant lightning. Damp ozone floated on the small breeze. The new leaves on the lone willow tree shifted restlessly and the window hummed down, muffled now by the rumble of the approaching front. White teeth shone out at Elijandro, but the spade-cut smile and the familiar face of not the wife, but her husband and his boss, staggered him.
"You come good to the call," his boss said, grinning like a mask.
"The call?" Elijandro said.
"Like a tom turkey," the boss said, grinning, then clucking like a hen with a puck, puck, puck. "The sound of this Range Rover. The sound of my wife."
Elijandro stuttered until the boss interrupted.
"Screw her. Get your camo on, Ellie," he said. "Kurt said you put a flock to bed in the oaks out on Jessup's Knob and there was a big bird in with them. That right?"
Elijandro nodded eagerly and could see now that the boss wore camouflage from the neck down.
"Then let's go get his ass," the boss said. From the passenger seat he raised a bottle of Jack Daniel's and took a good slug before smacking the cork home with the palm of his hand.
Elijandro peered at the western sky. "Rain coming."
"So we'll get wet," the boss said. "Bird'll come to the call rain or shine. Lightning gets 'em excited. Go on."
Elijandro turned for the tenant house, scratching the stubble on his head, hopping barefoot through the stones, picking his way until he reached the porch.
The house had been built along with two dozen other shacks for migrant workers some sixty years ago. Like them, it sagged wearily under its rumpled tin roof, propped up off the dirt and more or less leveled on four cinder-block stacks. Being drenched in weather and heat for all those years had rendered each of the houses gray and had shrunken the slat-board siding like an old man's bones. Unlike the others, theirs squatted in the lowland by the Trinity River, where cattle inevitably got bogged down in the muck and had from time to time to be roped and dragged free with a mule. The boss's father was the one who had this shack sledged away from the company of its brethren by a team back in '67. By tradition, the place went to the top Mexican, a worker trusted enough to quickly shepherd the livestock free from the muck as soon as they began to bray and before they could do harm to themselves.
With a trembling hand, Ellie scrawled a note to his wife saying he'd be back from the hunt by breakfast. Quickly, he removed his camo gear from its nail, slipping it on before he scooped up his shotgun and grabbed the turkey vest, which clattered to the fl oor, lumpy and awkward from pockets filled by turkey calls and shotgun shells. He bent for it, and when he rose up he saw comets of light in the corners of his vision. His heart hadn't stopped pounding since he saw the boss's face.
Ellie jogged out to the Range Rover, climbing into the passenger seat and smelling the familiar scent of its fi ne leather and somewhere the hint of her favorite perfume. His boss reversed the SUV out to the main track and headed up the hill, then ran the ridge before dipping down into the river's wash, across a steel bridge, and up the other bank, talking all the while about his wife being a dirty slut who didn't deserve a Range Rover and slurring his words until the SUV came to rest at the bottom of a field plowed for corn. His boss killed the engine and the two of them sat listening to it tick down to nothing while the boss turned a shotgun shell end over end with his manicured fingers.
Ellie watched and waited until he could stand it no more. He pointed up the fi eld toward the wooded ridge and said, "Them birds are up on top."
His boss smiled funny at him and got out. They eased the Range Rover's doors closed. Elijandro let the silence of predawn settle on them for a moment before he cleared his throat, cupped a hand to his mouth, and let fly the low sonorous call of a barred owl. Nothing came back at them but the echo of his call as it bounced away between the low hills.
Elijandro eyed the eastern sky. A line, pale yellow and fl ush with the horizon, had begun to melt away the ink of night to a navy blue promising day. The storm would come from the other side of the knob, where the flicker of lightning continued to illuminate the oncoming clouds.
Elijandro cleared his throat, then tried again.
Halfway through the call, the big tom erupted from the top of the knob with a gobble that sent a surge of blood through Elijandro's heart. He grinned at his boss and in the dark saw his boss's teeth. His boss raised his shotgun in one hand as though victory were already theirs, and together they pulled camo masks down over their faces.
"Let's go kill him," his boss said.
Elijandro set off into the woods, keeping just inside the trees and following the edge of the fi eld up toward the top. By the time they were fifty yards from the far end of the field Elijandro could hear his boss's labored breathing. He directed his boss to the base of a big oak close enough to the edge of the woods for a good clean shot and slipped out into the field, the newly turned dirt damp and sucking at his boots. He set the decoys, crouched, spun, and darted across the soft ridges of dirt toward the spot where he'd left his boss. He found an old stump in a clump of bracken not twenty feet from where his boss sat, but closer to the decoys so that his call would better match their location. He settled in, resting the lower part of his back against the trunk, and glanced over his shoulder at his boss, who gave him a thumbs-up.
Elijandro popped the diaphragm call into his mouth and began turning it over with his tongue to soften it, then settled into the silence, absorbing it and the grand expanse of the brightening sky. He took deep breaths of the crisp air, his mind clearing itself of the people he worked for, his responsibilities on the ranch and to his own little family. He loved to guide turkey hunts, not for the kill but in order to participate in the birth of a new day.
The horizon below glowed golden now and the smaller stars began to blink out. A breeze stirred and overhead the dark roiling clouds at the edge of the storm front crept toward the coming dawn as if racing the sun to its rise. Thunder rumbled. A song sparrow peeped nearby and fl uttered past Elijandro's head, finding a high spot on the stalk of bramble to clear its throat and offer up the fi rst song of the morning. After that, the other birds woke, too. First slowly, like an orchestra tuning its instruments, but growing in number and volume until they produced a crescendo of chirping and trilling and whistling that ignored the coming storm entirely.
The time had come. Elijandro cupped his hand to his mouth and uttered a sharp hen cluck, then a staccato of high-pitched clucks as he twisted his hip and slapped his hand in a flutter against his rump: the sound of the first hen flying down from the roost. He heard the answering cluck from a real hen awakening on the ridge, then he called to the tom, a raspy, longing sound that rose and fell. The gobble of the big bird was so immediate and so close that Elijandro started and grinned and couldn't help but glance back to see if his boss was ready. The birds weren't on the top of the ridge, but much closer, immediately inside the woods at the end of the field.
His boss had been on enough hunts to know what it all meant and he fumbled with his shotgun, raising it and resting it across his knees, ready to shoot. Elijandro called again, and again the dawn exploded with the vibrant gobble of the trophy bird. The clouds began to spit fat drops of rain and the current of air became a steady breeze. Thunder clapped and the turkey gobbled angrily back at that. Two real hens fl apped, clucked, fl uttered, and then fl oated down from the high oaks toward the decoys, gliding in and milling among them, calling now themselves. The tom went crazy, gobbling at his hens and warning the storm clouds to stay away. Elijandro brimmed with glee and excitement. He bit his tongue to keep himself from bursting into laughter as the big bird barked and pounded his wings against the air and drifted from the sky like a dirigible coming to land among his fl ock. Puffi ng out his feathers in full strut, clicking and drumming and fanning his tail, he appeared to be fi ve times the size of his mates. More hens poured down from the trees like a pack of hussies.
The tom, an enormous ball of feathers no more than twenty yards from the edge of the field, slowly turned away and Elijandro knew his boss had the perfect chance to raise his gun and aim, then wait for the naked head and neck to reappear since the thick feathers of a turkey were better than a Kevlar vest. Thunder rumbled again and lightning flashed. As the tom rotated back and his head came into view Elijandro held his breath, anticipating the gunshot.
It came, but in an odd way. Elijandro felt the roar of the gun. Something flew out and away from above him, a dark chunk of bark, but then he realized there was no tree trunk above him and he reached for the top of his head as he felt himself tilting sideways and spilling toward the ground. The spit of rain became a faucet, water spilling down his face as if he were directly under the spigot. It didn't hurt, but as his fingers came to rest on the spot above his brow, he realized the firm fruit he felt protruding from a jagged capsule was his own broken skull and brains.
The liquid streaming down his face was a torrent of blood. His body rested against the ground and it annoyed him that he couldn't remove his hand from the mess that had been the top of his head. His eyes focused in and out, like a quick zoom, then fixed on the flock of birds struggling up into the air, away from the danger, frantic for the safety of the woods. Elijandro saw the big Tom among them, dragging his long beard as he disappeared into the trees all in an instant. It was the same instant that the day was born.
The sun appeared bright in Elijandro's eyes, blinding him and washing over him until all was lost.