Cynical Justice Preview

A Robin Lane Legal Thriller

About the book

A secret that hides in bloody walls. A dark truth that threatens to unleash.

Robin Lane has had enough of impossible cases and stubborn clients. Wishing to escape her own mistakes, her return to her hometown takes a turn when she must defend an innocent woman accused of a brutal murder. For Robin is having a hard time believing that her high school friend plunged a knife twenty-seven times in a man's chest.

As the case unfolds, dark confessions come to the surface. Her client knows too much, but says too little. More witnesses come to light, but it all seems hopeless against the biggest coverup the state has ever seen. Because two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

Chapter One


Where is that damn thing?

I’m at LAX, waiting by the baggage carousel for my single piece of luggage, a bag I weighed myself and confirmed to come in at just under forty pounds. Somehow, the damn thing gained three pounds in the course of traveling from my former apartment in downtown Chicago to the airport. Which meant I had to check it. When I protested to the unsmiling lady at the counter, she didn’t even deign to argue with me. She just blinked, kept not smiling, kept chewing her gum slowly, with a simmering hatred for me and everything I represented. I couldn’t blame her. She probably had to put up with dozens of people like me each day. Privileged, wealthy white women in nice pantsuits who think they know better than everybody else. No, I couldn’t blame her, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to punch her in her stupid, gum-chewing face.

Sorry. A little tense today. Also, hungover.

How did I spend my last night in Chicago? Reminiscing on my time working there are as the attorney for some of the city’s most influential politicians? Writing in my diary about how much I’ve grown and changed since booking my one-way flight to the Windy City just over seven years ago? Getting in touch with old friends back home over social media and telling them I was returning to Dover? Nursing a single glass of wine over the course of the evening?

Yeah...not exactly. Try six dirty martinis with Ryan Crestler, an attorney from a rival firm. Throw in a slew of increasingly questionable decisions, cold 3 a.m. pizza scarfed down standing up in Ryan’s kitchen while he slept like a log in the next room. Picture me, standing there in one of Ryan’s old t-shirts, shoving pizza into my face-hole, staring blankly ahead, into the future, or maybe I was staring into my past. Either way, the view was the same: bleak as an empty strip mall parking lot on a cloudy winter day.

After the pizza, I gathered up my things, hoping not to wake Ryan, but not really caring if I did. He means nothing to me and hooking up with him last night was as much a symbolic act as it was anything else: sleeping with the enemy, a final ‘fuck you’ to my firm. After that: into an Uber, back to my empty apartment to retrieve my single suitcase, back into the same Uber, and straight to the airport. Standing in front of the gum-chewer, I could still taste the gin, and I felt my hangover starting to sink its nasty little pincers into my brain.

Symbolic acts are always disappointing, and last night was no exception. Ryan was too drunk to...rise to the occasion, shall we say? He did a lot of heavy breathing and clumsy groping and I sort of floated above the scene, watching myself, vaguely wondering why I’m such a mess. So no, not the best hook-up.

Hook up? Ha. I sound like a teenager, which I most certainly am not. I’m almost forty. I see my age when I look in the mirror. Subtle crow’s feet frame my clear blue eyes. I’ve never liked my high cheekbones, and now that I’m older, they strike me as bonier than ever. I’ve been told my whole life how striking they are, how I could be a model. Blah, blah, blah. Funny, how the feature other people seem to admire most—the one they’d kill to have—is usually the one that you like least about yourself.

I come back into myself, into the present moment, here at the airport. The ambient sounds of conversation, shuffling feet, and moving bodies wash over me like a gentle wave. I realize I’m clenching my jaw and consciously force myself to relax. I close my eyes and exhale. When I open them, a piece of luggage is pushing through the rubber flaps.

Not mine.

I shift my weight and fold my arms across my chest, suddenly self-conscious, the back of my neck tingling with that distinct sensation of being watched. But I don’t look around at the other slack-faced people waiting for their bags. I don’t want to give my hypothetical watcher the satisfaction of knowing his or her gaze has put me on edge. There’s a little bit of sweat gathering on my forehead—some of last night’s gin making an escape, no doubt. Man, I’m in rough shape. I think about just leaving, saying to hell with the suitcase, it’s not like there’s anything irreplaceable in there. And my stomach is really starting to growl; a greasy McDonald’s breakfast would really hit the spot right about now. I wonder if they’re still serving breakfast.

Leaving the suitcase wouldn’t be so crazy. After all, I already sold off all my other possessions a few weeks ago in a frenzied use of Craigslist. I kept just a few changes of clothes, toiletries, and a few other essentials. It all fit into one suitcase, the suitcase I continue to wait for, a Louis Vuitton roller that a few of the guys at my firm got me as a sarcastic parting gift, a very expensive way of saying ‘good riddance.’ I’m a good lawyer, but not everyone at my firm liked the way I did my job, and it turns out a small group was happy to chip in a few hundred bucks to send me packing in style.

I’m keeping it. Sarcastic or not, a gift’s a gift.

And yet...McDonald’s is calling my name. And speaking of symbolic acts, what better way to begin my new life back in Dover than to get rid of my last few possessions? Free as a bird, light as a feather! Burdened by neither designer luggage nor memories of corrupt dealings with corrupt men in dimly lit rooms, stale with cigar smoke and sweat and sin.

Lightheaded with hunger, lightheaded at the thought of walking away from this infernal merry-go-round, for a brief moment, I feel like I might pass out. My legs are shaky. My breathing is shallow. Suddenly I’m all too aware of the concentrated points of contact between my high heels and the airport tiles, and I can feel my legs starting to give out. I sit down as gracefully as I can on the edge of the carousel, just in time.

I put my head in my hands and press on my throbbing temples with the flat of my palms. The pressure is soothing.

My phone buzzes in my pack pocket.

Someone from the new firm where I’ll be working come Monday?  

My older brother, Kit?

My younger brother, Landis?

One of my clients back in Chicago? I can picture the message all too clearly: all-caps, legions of exclamation points.

I don’t bother finding out who it is. For a few seconds, I want to be nothing. No one. I certainly don’t want to be Robin Lane, win-at-all-costs attorney, who went straight from the sunny campus of Stanford Law School to the dimly lit, grimy underbelly of Chicago politics. I’m tired of being her. She made a lot of people angry. And she might have made them even angrier by fleeing. No, I’m not going to use that word. I left. That’s all. I moved. I’m not running. No one’s chasing me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make yourself believe something just by thinking it?

“Ma’am?”

I look up at the voice that interrupted my musings. A young guy, early twenties. Wearing a college hoodie and jeans. I rankle at his use of ‘ma’am.’

I don’t say anything. I regard him with what feels like a look of tired indifference. With an annoyingly apologetic smile, he gestures toward a suitcase coming toward us with both of his thumbs.

“I-I don’t mean to bother you, I just noticed that there aren’t many folks still waiting, and I thought maybe that was your bag...it’s real nice, and it’d be a shame if someone else made off with it. That kind of thing happens...so I hear.”

He sounds like he just wandered off a ranch: a good ol’ boy coming to the big city for the first time, chivalrously coming to the aid of a damsel in distress.

“It’s not my bag, but it is nice,” I say.

I’m lying; it is my bag. Either that or someone else’s four-thousand-dollar piece of luggage.

I stand up, woozy and dry-mouthed, and grab the suitcase, pulling it off the carousel with a grunt. I can see the good ol’ boy watching me. I suppress a smirk and walk away on wobbly legs, leaving him to grapple with his moral dilemma.


Chapter Two


“Robin?”

“That’s me,” I say. The guy is leaning across to the passenger side of his red Honda Civic, ducking down to make his face visible. He looks like his photo in the app. Pointy chin beard. Light brown skin. Mid-thirties to mid-forties—not a great judge of age. A friendly smile. “You’re Abdi,” I say. It’s not a question.

His smile grows larger. “Yes!” It’s as if I’ve correctly answered the million-dollar question in a game show. A split second later, he’s out of the sedan. The trunk is popped. I bring my suitcase over. He reaches out for it.

“It’s fine,” I say, “I can —”

Too late. Abdi is quick. He’s hoisting it into the trunk.

I sigh away my annoyance and get into the backseat.

I really should’ve gotten that McDonald’s. My head and stomach have figured out a way to alternate their respective aches, to ensure that I’m always in some kind of pain. This is going to be a long ride.

I let my head fall back onto the cool leather of Abdi’s backseat. Close my eyes. The driver’s side door slams shut and makes me realize I was on the verge of falling asleep. I close my eyes again, hoping Abdi isn’t a talker—

“How was your flight?”

I open my eyes. “Oh, uh...fine. It was fine.”

“OK, OK,” Abdi says, a good chunk of his focus on merging with the syrupy-slow flow of cars. That’s LA for you—traffic hits you as soon as you leave the airport. “You are from . . .” He looks at this GPS device. “. . . Dover?” he pronounces it Dahver, which I prefer.

“Yep,” I say. “Regrettably.”

Abdi laughs heartily. “Don’t say that!”

I shrug and force a weak smile. Look out the window. I can practically hear Abdi’s wheels turning as he decides on his next conversational gambit. I close my eyes for one second, two seconds, three sec—

 “You were on vacation?”

I open my eyes. Clear my throat. “No, I—I haven’t been home for quite some time actually.” I’m not sure why I phrased it that way. But Abdi seems to have understood me because the next thing he says is, “Ahh,” like everything is clicking into place for him now. It pisses me off.

“What?” I say, a little brisk. My phone buzzes for maybe the twentieth time since I switched off airplane mode less than an hour ago. I haven’t let myself—haven’t forced myself to check my notifications. It’s become a kind of game. Not the fun kind though, but the kind that makes your stomach churn with queasy terror. Every time my phone buzzes, it’s a reminder: They’re not going to let me just run off. Not without giving me a firm-talking-to. At least I’ll have to go through an entire song and dance just so they can feel like they’re in charge of me. That they have power over me. Men and their egos. Gets exhausting.

“Nothing, nothing,” Abdi says, his voice pitched high, defensive with innocence. “You are happy to come home?”

I clear my throat. My phone buzzes. “Hold on,” I tell Abdi before reaching back and getting my phone out of my pocket. I can see Abdi furtively glancing at me in his rearview mirror.

“Hello,” I say, my voice stronger and more assertive than I was expecting it to be.

The man on the other end of the line isn’t angry. Or, rather, he is, but pretending not to be. Remaining civil. Speaking through clenched teeth. Treading lightly. He works for a man who was one of my clients, an important man with a reputation to maintain—although at this point, ‘maintenance’ means preventing it from crumbling altogether. The man on the phone knows I know things that even he doesn’t know. Eventually, he asks me where I am.

“California,” I tell him.

There’s a pause.

Then a click.

Abdi in the rearview mirror, his brow knitted with concern. “Everything OK?”

I swallow and nod. My stomach isn’t so much churning at this point as it is melting. The car feels small and hot. I put my phone back in my pocket. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Yeah, right, if only.

“Are you sure?” Abdi says, his eyes taking me in.

This really pisses me off, being asked if I’m sure. I know he’s just being nice. That he can probably tell by the way all the blood drained from my face that everything is not OK. Not even remotely so. But still. I’m in a bad mood. I’m hungover. And I know too much.

I close my eyes and know that I’ll likely snap at anything else Abdi chooses to ask me. Luckily—for both our sakes—he gets the hint.

Soon I drift off into a half-sleep as he pushes into thick LA traffic.

I sink deeper into the sleep, forgetting where I am. Who I am. It’s lovely.

An hour later, I wake up and find that we’re well outside of LA, the racket of the city an abstract memory from a different world. It’s different out here, in the sunbaked scrubland of my youth—mountains in the distance, towering and majestic. Everything else feeble by comparison: scrappy, dried out, struggling to live. The people included. Even the well-off ones. There’s something about this place that drains you of your vital juices. The heat. The big open desert sky. Makes you feel like an insect, small and worthless, scurrying around just to survive, never to thrive.

The outer edge of the town of Dover dots the side of the freeway a mile or so in the distance, familiar gas station and fast food restaurant signs beckoning to the weary traveler. The same ones that were there when I left. Home sweet home.

***

I spent an uneventful weekend at the Holiday Inn on the edge of town. Lean Cuisines. Hotel coffee. Ignoring my phone. Thinking about it all the time—all those missed calls piling up like dead bodies. My clients back in Chicago, sweating bullets, wondering why the hell I’d gone AWOL. Was I going to the cops? The press?

Two weeks ago, I told them I was out. Done. I was clear about it, too. I was tired of cleaning up their messes. They told me to relax. Slow down. Try not to make any rash decisions. They told me I just needed a break, that was all. A couple weeks in the Bahamas, they’d foot the bill, of course, and bada bing, bada boom, I’d be right as rain. They offered to pay for one of those all-inclusive packages. Drink some Pina coladas. Get a massage. Pass out on the beach with a romance novel resting on my sunburned chest. That was their brilliant plan about how to go about recuperating my soul what was left of it, at least after seven long years as their lawyer.

I had told them I was done, but I didn’t tell them I was leaving Chicago. That was never discussed. When you’re stuck in a burning house, you don’t discuss getting the hell out of there. By now, they all must know that I skipped town. Word travels fast. So all weekend long, I kept expecting a knock at the door, two men who ‘just wanna talk.’ And maybe they’d be telling the truth, maybe one simple conversation is all it would take to assuage their worries. One conversation and I could get on with my new, boring, uneventful life. I could even turn on the waterworks, tell the men through my tears that I just wanted to turn over a new leaf, start fresh. That I wasn’t a liability. I wasn’t going to be telling anyone my dirty secrets. There was no book deal forthcoming. In short, there was no need to ‘whack’ me.

But the knock never came. Nobody whacked me, and Monday arrived.

I spent Sunday night tossing and turning, snippets of conversations and pop songs taking turns ricocheting around my brain. I waited for my alarm, and when it went off at 5:30, I was ready for it. My hand shot out to the bedside table and clumsily grabbed the hard metal brick of my cell phone. I pressed snooze and lay there for a few minutes exhausted, but slowly filling up with adrenaline, like a room in a spy thriller filling up with water while the protagonists panic, desperately looking for a way out.

Nice metaphor. That is my body as a room in which I find myself, unfortunately, irreversibly stuck. Stuck in myself. If I ever write a memoir, that’ll be the title: Stuck in Myself: My Life as a Law-Abiding Lawyer. The subtitle would, of course, be blatantly ironic, and on the cover, I’d be perched on an expensive mahogany desk, my legs crossed, a little knowing smile on my thin lips, my blue eyes fixed fiercely on the camera, my brown hair scraped back in its customary bun, not a single strand loose.

The maddening jingle of my alarm sounded once more and, with a sigh, I got up. Predictably, after a near-sleepless night of compulsive worrying, I spent all morning sleepwalking through my routine. Brushing my teeth and staring with dead eyes at my reflection. Sitting on the toilet with my head in my hands, staring at my toenails, unpedicured and pink against the white bathroom floor. Standing under the shower, motionless, thinking but not thinking, alive but only just. A flattened soul. It took some serious effort to get out of that shower, to not just stand there until my body disappeared by a natural process of erosion. But I did get out, got myself dressed, called an Uber, and thus began my brand-new life. Hooray.

Now I’m at work, my new firm, a two-bit operation with just a handful of attorneys, about half from Dover, half from elsewhere. A short guy with a crew cut and the wholesome energy of a jock has just given me ‘the tour.’ He’s young, early thirties is my guess. I can tell his suit is cheap. When you rub elbows with Chicago’s big-wigs for seven years, you learn some things, like what a nice suit looks like, or how to properly smoke a cigar.

“Any questions so far?” he asks me, steepling his fingers, his expression earnest, searching.

I avoid eye contact. I don’t have any questions except: What is that sinister smell rising up out of the carpet?

“No,” I say, my voice scratchy, barely louder than a whisper.

“Alright, in that case, let me show you your new office. We saved the corner one for you.”

I flick my eyebrows unenthusiastically in response. Follow my colleague down the smelly hall, past a water fountain that looks like it would trickle out brown sludge, and into an office with a desk, a couple of old metal filing cabinets, and two missing ceiling tiles. I look around and say nothing, but my heart is sinking. So this is it, my new life.

The lighting in the office has a strange, dull yellow quality, like butter left out at room temperature. It’s a clear, sunny day, but none of that sunlight seems to be making it through the room’s only two windows in the corner, behind the desk; the panes are glazed in decades of grime, and when I walk over to look out at the parking lot behind our building, it’s like gazing upon an impressionist painting.

“I know it’s not much, but . . .”

I turn around to face my tour guide. “But what?” I say. I don’t like when people trail off, fail to say what they intend on saying.

“Oh, I—I…” He’s taken aback, flustered. After a beat: “It was Harvey’s office.”

“Great,” I say. Harvey was the Tillman in Freeman, Bachmeier, and Tillman. He retired a few years ago, a fact I caught wind of during a rare phone call with one of my brothers “How is Harvey?” I ask when I realize that some more conversation is expected of me.

“He’s dead,” the man says, tilting his head and furrowing his brow, apparently surprised I didn’t know this.

“Well, then,” I say, “he won’t mind if I move his desk.”

Chapter Three


“As I live and breathe,” says a man’s voice about ten feet to my left, “if it isn’t Robin Lane, in the flesh…”

It’s still Monday, and I’m at the water fountain, filling up my Nalgene (with water, not brown sludge, thankfully). When I don’t turn to address my greeter, he continues.

“…gracing us with her presence, all the way from the big city…”

I hold my Nalgene under the feeble flow of water for another few seconds, filling it to the brim. Apparently, the guy whom I’ve yet to glance at hasn’t run out of clichés; his tone is a sickening sing-song, the voice of a man who perpetually tries too hard.

“…jaded and disillusioned by the cut-throat world of politics, eager to start a new life in sleepy little Dover, where the air is clean and the, uh…city council doesn’t misuse funds?”

Finally, I stand up straight and face the guy talking at me. A tall, thin man in his early forties by the looks of it, with a messy thatch of black hair, greying at the temples, a keen face, nervous but friendly, and the sort of hands that seem intent on flying away, and must thus be kept firmly jammed in pockets when they’re not being put to some other use.

“I don’t know about all that,” I say, screwing on the plastic cap of my water bottle. “Who are you?”

The man smiles, bounces on the balls of his feet. I hear change jiggling in the pockets of his slacks. He’s grinning. Why’s he grinning? I shoot him a bewildered look. “Is something funny?”

His smile disappears. He stops bouncing. The change stops jiggling. I hold his stare, my expression saying: Welllll…?

He snorts. “What, you really don’t remember me?”

Someone from my past. Great. I fight the urge to exhale with exasperation.

“No,” I say. “Sorry. Who are you?”

Instead of answering, he starts dancing, doing a little shimmy, and singing in a bad falsetto: “My saddle’s waiting, come and . . .” He does something with his hips that makes me lose my appetite. “. . . jump on it.”

“Why are you dancing? What is happening?”

He shakes his head in disbelief and to my relief, stops dancing. Theatrically, he slaps his cheeks with his hands and opens his mouth. “I’m wounded. I really am. I know it’s been a while, but...but we had a moment.”

I widen my eyes at him, wondering if maybe this guy is off his rocker, freshly escaped from the loony bin a town over.

“Come on,” the madman exclaims, “freshman year—well, your freshman year, anyway—Sadie Hawkins dance...you and me...the dance floor...a swirl of hormones—”

“Alright, settle down. Spare me the details. I remember.”

His smile returns. “You do?”

I nod as I make my way past him in the direction of my office. He quickly catches up to me, like a pathetic dog nipping at his master’s heels. His breath wafts over to me: coffee and something else, peppery and not exactly pleasant.

“Yes,” I say, looking straight ahead, “you’re Steve...something. I forgot your last name. It’s something stupid-sounding.”

“Bumanglag.”

“Ah, yes. Bumanglag. How could I forget?”

I see Steve shrug in my peripheral vision. We pause outside the door to my office.

“So,” Steve says, “settling in, OK?”

I inhale through my nose, a controlled breath. “OK enough.”

“Good, good, good,” Steve says nervously, bouncing again, jiggling his loose change. “Oh—I almost forgot to mention—I ran into your brother.”

“Which one?”

“Kit. At the hardware store. I told him how excited we all are about you joining the firm. With your reputation, we might actually see some action. Maybe a felony or two.”

I give him a tight smile, a smile that’s supposed to clearly indicate my lack of desire to continue this conversation. It seems the message got lost in translation though, because Steve’s mouth is moving again, and words are coming out:

“But seriously, welcome aboard. I followed your career. I shamelessly stalked you online. I gotta say, I think you kick ass. Ethics schmethics, that’s what I say. We’re lawyers, right? We don’t do ‘right and wrong,’ we do ‘win and lose.’ Am I right?”

“Did you want something?” I say rather curtly. I can’t help it. His coffee breath, the burst capillaries around his nostrils—it’s all too much. He is too much. The only reason I asked him to that stupid dance more than two decades ago was simple: I wanted to make another guy jealous, a guy I was too chicken shit to ask. Even then, at the tender age of fifteen, my ways were twisted, dishonest, unnecessarily complicated. Needless to say, it didn’t work; the guy I liked ignored me and Steve the whole night, which didn’t surprise me much. Back then, I was tall, flat-chested, and ungainly. A taciturn tomboy who had the smarts to be the teacher’s pet but not the attitude. My high school teachers generally hated me because I thought I knew better than they did. I didn’t start wearing make-up till college, where I learned how to soften my hard edges with alcohol, and to approach sex as a vigorous activity, a distraction, exercise.

Steve looks wounded, but he smiles anyway. “No, no, I just wanted to say welcome to the team. Oh, and don’t drink the coffee in the breakroom. It’s bad.”

So that explains your breath. “I promise you, I won’t,” I say.

Steve smiles again, which involves the corners of his mouth twitching quickly into his cheeks. More of a nervous tic than a genuine expression of mirth. “Great,” he says.

I turn to enter my office, but Steve stops me.

“S-sorry,” he stammers. “One more thing . . .”

I cross my arms, begrudgingly inviting him to continue. He does.

“Not that it’s any of my business, but when I brought you up to Kit, he...he seemed surprised, Robin. Like he didn’t know you were moving back.” Steve pauses and looks at me with concern welling in his brown eyes. “Did you not tell him?”

“No,” I say flatly, but inwardly irritated at not getting the chance to tell Kit myself.

“Oh,” Steve says, clearly surprised. He doesn’t know what to say.

“Good chat,” I say before promptly retreating into my office and closing the door.

***

I’m vaping outside, staring across a scraggly patch of undeveloped land behind the stucco office block where I now work. Some trash skitters across the sandy lot before getting caught in a low shrub. I exhale a thick plume of sickly-sweet smoke. It’s not the same as a cigarette; I miss the burn, the heat, the weight of real smoke.

It’s a cool day, and the sky looks washed out, more white than blue. The sun is a runny yolk, shedding rays and warmth halfheartedly onto the world below. Large bird caws in the distance. Maybe it’s a vulture, circling something dead.

“You smoke now?”

I turn around, my heart in my throat.

“Jesus,” I mutter. “You again.”

“You sure are good at disguising your elation,” Steve says as he ambles toward me, his grey suit jacket caught in a sudden gust of wind.

I roll my eyes, take a deep drag on my pen. “I’m vaping, not smoking.”

Steve pulls out a pack of Marlboro Menthols. Shakes one loose. “Apparently, that’s even worse for you,” he says, joining me in staring out at the depressing vista.

“Good.”

Steve chuckles. “You’re the same, Robin.”

He really wants a response to that, so I give him nothing.

“So I noticed you looked a little, uh...bored during the meeting earlier. I guess after . . .” He cuts off, looking for the right words. He doesn’t find them. He winces and turns to me, holding his cigarette at this side; the sharp smell of tobacco gives me a pang of craving. “Look,” he says, “I get it. You probably find all these soft-tissue cases excruciatingly dull—I mean, how could you not? It’s not like I get out of bed in the morning with a burning desire to get to the bottom of the latest contract dispute or traffic ticket. But . . .” He trails off. Then laughs abruptly. “I guess I don’t really have a point. I just saw you out here and you looked lonely.”

A flash of rage. “I looked lonely? What the fuck does that even mean? Seriously, man, we’re co-workers. Don’t say weird shit like that to me. Ever.”

“OK, OK,” Steve says, putting up his palms in surrender. Under his breath: “Geez.”

I clench my teeth against the uncomfortable silence that ensues. I want to go inside, but I don’t want to give Steve the satisfaction of thinking he drove me away. He’s almost done with his cigarette. Now he’s shifting his weight. I can sense that there’s something he wants to say. I look him in the eye for the first time since he came out here. He’s not bad looking. Not good looking either. He looks unhappy; it’s there, right below the surface, under the taut expression of eager-to-please, some deep well of discontent, longing, pain. I wonder faintly what’s happened to him in life. Only faintly, though.

Steve is making up his mind about something. Biting his lip, frowning.

“What is it?” I say with thinly veiled annoyance.

Steve exhales heavily, filling his cheeks with air. Then he looks away, out at the horizon and the dull brown shapes of mountains looming in the distance. There aren’t any tall buildings in Dover to block the view. A flat town, clinging to the surface of the Earth like some strong wind could come and blow it away at any moment.

“Nothing, Robin. I just hope you can be happy here.”

“Happiness is overrated,” I say, not really believing it, cringing at how clichéd I sound: the embittered lawyer who focuses obsessively on work, so she doesn’t have to face...herself. Give me a break.

“Maybe,” Steve says, wistful. And again, but more quietly: “Maybe.”

Just then, my phone chirps.

I fish it from my back pocket and my stomach drops when I see a long text from an unfamiliar number. I quickly shove my phone back into my pocket, but not before catching the first few words of the message:

Hi, Robin. You don’t know me but I know about—

“You good?” Steve asks.

“Peachy,” I say, wishing I had an actual cigarette to fling onto the ground and put out with my high heels. It would help me convey toughness, indifference. It would help me hide the fear that has seized my heart and won’t let go.

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  • is that the entire book? I want to be able to download this to my Kindle. Of course I want to read this book !!!!!!

  • I realize you mention this book goes “live” on Amazon next week but there are two errors that you might want to correct, if at all possible. The are as follows: In Chapter One, paragraph 4, line 2, “…as the attorney…” vice “…are as the attorney…” and Chapter Three, paragraph 12 (after ***), line 3, “…cigarette at his side…” vice “…cigarette at this side…” Other than those two things, I can hardly wait to read the rest of this amazing story. I was quite captivated by the story even though it was just a little bit. It certainly whetted my appetite for much, much more of this character and plot. Thank you for letting us into her mind.

  • Well, Freya has done it again. Another fascinating heroine, full of problems, heavy with baggage. A hint of “underworld” involvement. Another hint of family problems. A move from a big city to a small town. Why? And we have to wait until the 23rd for more? How cruel!

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