Over the course of his legal career, Andy Carpenter has lost a few cases. But that doesn't mean he forgets his clients. Andy has always been convinced that Joey Desimone, a man convicted of murder nine years ago, was innocent and believes that Joey's family's connections to organized crime played a pivotal role in his conviction. While there isn't much Andy can do for him while he serves out his prison sentence, Joey suggests that he check up on Joey's elderly uncle. He'd rather not, but as a favor to Joey, Andy agrees to take his dog, Tara, on a few visits.
The old man's memory is going, but when Andy tries to explain why he's there, it jogs something in the man's mind, and his comments leave Andy wondering if Uncle Nick is confused, or if he just might hold the key to Joey's freedom after all this time.
Andy grabs on to this thread of possibility and follows it into a world where the oath of silence is stronger than blood ties, and where people will do anything to make sure their secrets are kept.
Riveting, suspenseful, and highly entertaining, Leader of the Pack is bestseller David Rosenfelt's latest entry in his much-beloved Andy Carpenter series.
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July 17, 2012
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Excerpt from Leader of the Pack by David Rosenfelt
By the time Peyton Manning threw the pass, Richard Solarno was dead.
When Richard got up to answer the doorbell, Manning was directing the Colts in the no-huddle offense. Consistent with his style of play, Manning surveyed the defense while at the line of scrimmage, calling audibles based on what he saw before him.
As was often the case, Manning could do this for at least twenty-five or thirty seconds, until the play clock was about to run out.
Since Solarno had bet a lot of money on the Colts, and they were down by four on the Patriots' eighteen-yard line with thirty seconds to play, he wasn't happy about leaving the television at all. Chances are it was just a deliveryman, and he could deal with it and be back without missing a play. At least that's what he hoped.
That's not how it worked out. He opened the door, and managed to get out the words "what are you" before the bullet hit him in the chest, sending him falling backward.
There was a silencer on the gun, so the killer knew that no neighbors were calling 911. Solarno was technically still alive when he hit the floor, but likely dead by the time Manning threw the interception, effectively costing the Colts the game. But that was no longer Solarno's problem; he wouldn't be paying bookmakers ever again.
The killer heard a noise from the top of the stairs, so he entered the house, closing the door behind him. He then headed straight up the stairs, and within three minutes ended the life of Richard's wife, Karen, as well.
That had not been part of the plan, but it had to be done.
"So, what's on tap for today?"
Laurie's question, while seemingly innocuous, represents something of a problem, because my "tap" for today is not something she is likely to approve of.
"Well, I'm going to take Tara for a walk. Then I'm going to run over to the market for some beer, be back here by noon for the NFL pregame shows. I'll call my bookie, Jimmy Rollins, at twelve thirty to bet the games; then I'll order a pizza. At one I'll watch the Giants-Redskins game, switching to other games during time-outs.
"Then, at four, it'll be mostly San Diego against the Jets, again switching where necessary. That takes me to seven, when I'm hoping you'll have dinner ready. From eight thirty to eleven thirty tonight is Dallas-Philadelphia on NBC; then, if I'm lucky, you'll be in the mood for some sexual frolicking from eleven thirty until midnight."
That is what I would say if I had any semblance of courage or honesty, but since I don't, I opt for, "I haven't really done a tap check for today yet, but I'm sure I'll come up with something productive. Every day is a chance for a new adventure."
"Then let me guess," she says. "You're going to take Tara for a walk, get some beer, place some bets, order a pizza, and watch football all day."
"You make it sound really appealing," I say. "How did you come up with all that?"
"It's exactly what you did yesterday."
I snap my fingers. "I knew it sounded familiar. But yesterday was college football, today is pro. Apples and oranges."
"Actually, I'm partially corrigible. I'm not watching football tomorrow at all during the day."
"What about Monday-night football?"
"That's not during the day; it's at night. Hence the name. Oh, and I'm making the prison rounds Tuesday and Wednesday." Laurie knows what that means; I visit former clients of mine who were found guilty at trial and are in prison. I don't want them to think they've been forgotten.
"So what do you have on tap for today?" I ask, trying to pull the old switcheroo.
"I'm going running, then a spinning class, then Pilates, and then this afternoon I'm volunteering at the hospital."
"You know, I can't decide which of those things sounds the most awful."
"I've got an idea, Andy."
Uh, oh. Laurie's ideas often involve my expending energy by actually doing things, and today I really just want to plant myself in front of the large-screen TV in the den. I'm so looking forward to total relaxation that I bought a bag of already-popped popcorn so I don't have to deal with the microwave.
"I hope it's a long-range, down-the-road, futuristic kind of idea, because we're talking Giants-Redskins," I say.
"Well, it might be a way for you to really do something productive, something that you would also enjoy." She quickly adds, "But definitely not today; I understand we're talking Giants-Redskins."
My name, Andy Carpenter, is listed under "Attorneys" in the phone book, assuming phone books still exist. But since my desire to work is really low, and my bank account is really high, I haven't taken on any clients in almost six months, so I'm a little leery about what Laurie might be driving at.
"As long as what you're going to suggest doesn't include judges, courthouses, depositions, or briefs, and if I can bring Tara, I'm all ears," I say.
"It doesn't include any of those things, and Tara's actually the key to it."
I relax the cringe I've been doing since the conversation began. Tara is my best friend, right up there with Laurie. She is also a golden retriever, the greatest one on Earth. My interest is officially piqued.
She continues, "I think you should take Tara to the hospital as a therapy dog."
This could be worse, but it ain't great. I know a little bit about the therapy dog process, and while I think it's a great thing to do, it's especially great for other people to do, with other people's dogs.
I can't speak, or bark, for Tara, but I'm not anxious to start spending time in hospitals.
"Doesn't Tara need some special training for that?" I ask.
She shakes her head. "Not this one; I've checked it out. All they require is a mellow disposition and friendliness on the part of the dog, plus human compassion. Tara is mellow and friendly, and she has enough of the human compassion part for both of you."
"Sounds great. But there must be a huge waiting list for something like that. I don't want to cut in line."
Laurie shakes her head. "Nope."
"And I suppose you've already talked about it with Tara?"
She nods. "She was quite enthusiastic about it."
I look over at Tara, who does in fact seem fine with everything, and doesn't appear surprised. This has all the earmarks of a setup.
I'm not going to win this, so I might as well try to make it pay off. "How is this going to impact my life sexually?" I ask.
Laurie smiles. "I find the prospect of you doing this to be very erotic."
I return the smile. "My cup of human compassion runneth over."
If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it.
I've been in the hospital room occupied by the very frail Mrs. Harriet Marshall for thirty-five minutes. When I got here, she seemed barely awake, and her mumbling speech was impossible to understand.
I told her who I was, and she showed no reaction whatsoever. I could have told her the room was on fire and I wouldn't have gotten a response. She was depressed, numbed, and mostly lifeless, sort of how I felt after the Redskins beat the Giants yesterday.
She had absolutely no interest in me, had nothing to say to me, and barely acknowledged my existence. In terms of dealing with females, it felt like I was back in high school.
Then Tara walked over to her, and everything changed. It took three or four minutes, during which Tara sniffed her and put her nose against her arm.
Harriet resisted, until Tara pulled out the big move ... the combination "lean-against nuzzle, with a slight lick and an adoring glance." In dog-land the move has a degree of difficulty of nine point seven, and as far as I know, there is no known defense against it.