The 9th Judgment Page 2


CASEY’S EYES FLEW open in the dark.

Something had crashed. The table by the window! She felt a breeze on her face. The window was open. They never opened that window.

Someone was inside the house.

Casey sat up. “Who’s there?” She clutched the blankets to her chin and screamed, “Marc! Someone is in the room.”

Her husband groaned, “You’re dreaming. Go back to sleep.”

“Wake up! Someone is here,” she hissed.

Casey fumbled with the table lamp, knocked her glasses onto the floor, found the switch, and turned on the light. There. The console table was turned over, everything broken, curtains blowing in the breeze.

“Do something, Marc. Do something.”

Marcus Dowling worked out every day. He could still bench-press two hundred pounds, and he knew how to use a gun. He told his wife to be quiet, then opened his nightstand drawer and removed the .44 he kept fully loaded in a soft leather bag. He shucked the sack and gripped the gun.

Casey grabbed the bedside phone and pressed the numbers 9-1-1 with a shaking hand. She misdialed, then tried again as Marc, still half drunk, bellowed, “Who’s there?” Even when he was serious, he sounded scripted. “Show yourself.”

Marcus looked in the bathroom and the hallway, then said, “There’s no one here, Casey. Just what I said.”

Casey dropped the phone back into its cradle, shoved at the bedcovers, and went to the closet for her robe—and screamed.

“What is it now?”

White-faced, naked, Casey turned to her husband and said, “Oh my God, Marc, my jewelry is gone. The safe is almost empty.”

A look came over Marc’s face that was hard for Casey to read. It was as if he’d had an idea, and the idea was catching fire. Did he know who robbed them?

“Marc? What is it? What are you thinking?”

“Ah, I was thinking, You can’t take it with you.”

“What kind of bullshit is that? What do you mean?”

Dowling extended his right arm and aimed the gun at a mole between his wife’s breasts. He pulled the trigger. Boom.

“That’s what I mean,” he said.

Casey Dowling opened her mouth, sucked in air, and exhaled as she looked down at her chest, at the blood pumping and bubbling out of the wound. She clasped her hands to her chest. She looked at her husband and gasped, “Help me.”

He shot her again.

Then her knees buckled and she went down.

Part One


Chapter 1

PETER GORDON FOLLOWED the young mom out of Macy’s and into the street outside the Stonestown Galleria. Mom was about thirty, her brown hair in a messy ponytail, wearing a lot of red: not just shorts but red sneakers and a red purse. Shopping bags hung from the handles of her baby’s stroller.

Pete was behind the woman when she crossed Winston Drive, still almost on her heels as she entered the parking garage, talking to the infant as if he could understand her, asking him if he remembered where Mommy parked the car and what Daddy was making for dinner, chattering away, the whole running baby-talk commentary like a fuse lit by the woman’s mouth, terminating at the charge inside Petey’s brain.

But Petey stayed focused on his target. He listened and watched, kept his head down, hands in his pockets, and saw the woman unlock the hatch of her RAV4 and jam her shopping bags inside. He was only yards away from her when she hoisted the baby out of the stroller and folded the carriage into the back, too.

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