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It was two days before Christmas and Louis Weaver's only friend was dying in a dollar-a-night room at the Hotel Cordova. Louis stepped into a doorway to rest. It was hard to breathe the icy air and the whirling snow had made him half blind. He wiped his nose and took a drink of cheap whiskey from the flask that he had jammed into his raincoat pocket before leaving the hotel.
Willie told Louis that he was going to die when they were in Salt Lake City. He made Louis promise that he would take him home to Portsmouth. There was something Willie had to do in Portsmouth so that his immortal soul would be saved. They had stolen aboard a freight train and Louis had spent the hours on a hay pallet in the corner of a boxcar watching his friend decline.
Willie had been talking about heaven and hell a lot lately and Louis could tell that there was something terrible on his mind. Louis could not help but think that Willie's tribulation was all the fault of the preacher in Fort Worth who had given Willie religion, because he never used to be so troubled. Louis wished he could help his friend, but Willie only talked about the thing that was bothering him when he was real drunk or delirious and then it would come out in mumbles and groans and Louis could never get the drift. All he knew was that it had something to do with a girl and had happened long ago.
Louis sighed and returned the bottle to his pocket. He was so tired and cold, but he was almost there. The courthouse was only two blocks away. It would be warm there. Louis wished he was back at the hotel. He had spent his last few bucks on their room, but he sure wasn't getting any use out of it.
A blast of cold wind whipped a sheet of snow across Louis's face and he was immediately sorry for having thought about the room and being gypped out of his money. Soon Willie would be cold like this for eternity and Willie was his only friend.
The radio alarm switched on and Albert Caproni tried to deny its existence with his whole being. Logic demanded that he stay under the nice warm covers, nestled next to his nice warm wife.
"Honey," a voice purred. He felt soft lips kissing his ear lobe. He half wished that they would go away.
"Honey, you have to get up now," the voice said.
"Go away," he mumbled, burrowing deeper under the covers.
"You have to get up," the voice repeated in its sexiest tone and he felt a warm hand snaking through the fly of his flannel pajama bottoms and soft fingers curling around his penis.
"Please, Mary," he begged. "I want to sleep."
Even though he had not opened his eyes, had not seen the snow or felt the wind, he knew that it was going to be a miserable day. One much better spent in a cozy bed.
He felt Mary move her large, curvy body so that her entire weight rested on him. Then he heard her running her dampened tongue across her lips to make them as wet as possible. Finally, he felt her lips as they covered his face with damp, slobbery kisses. Enough was enough. He conceded defeat and opened his eyes.
"I hate you," he groaned, shifting so that he could hold his wife.
"I love you," she said. She moved her weight off him and they cuddled together. He kissed her gently and began to stroke her backside and leg.
"None of that," she said. "And you are going to be late if you don't get dressed right now."
"Not even a fast one?" Albert asked playfully. He felt sexy, the way he always did when he held Mary close. After all these years of marriage, she still aroused him.
"I knew I shouldn't have married a frigid girl."
"Tough," Mary said, giving him a peck on the cheek and rolling out of bed. "You knew what you were getting when you married me. Now scoot or you'll be late and Commissioner Hadley won't give you the salary for those extra attorneys you want."
"Hadley. Shit. To think I'm giving up this warm bed and the best piece of tail this side of the Rockies for that old fart. Next time I run for office you make sure that the public knows about the sacrifices I make."
"They know already."
"Listen, make it two eggs this morning. I'll need the extra energy.
"What about your diet?" she asked as she left the room.
"For one day I can skip my diet."
Caproni stretched and walked sleepy-eyed to the window. The snowstorm outside obliterated any trace of the beautiful landscape that he usually saw upon rising. He yawned and scratched. Despite the ugliness of the day, he was happy. In fact, he could not remember a day in the past few years when he had not been basically happy. True, there had been minor disappointments, but he had a wife he was crazy about, two beautiful kids and, at thirty-five, he was the youngest person ever elected to the office of Portsmouth district attorney, a job he loved almost as much as he loved Mary.
Al was a career district attorney in an office that was traditionally staffed by bright new law school graduates who stayed the two years it took to gain trial experience and make contacts and then moved on to practice corporate law.Heartstone. Copyright © by Phillip Margolin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.