When former cop Phil Broker's naïve ex-wife, Caren, blows the whistle on her feckless second husband, Keith Angland, a St. Paul cop making a cool $2 million moonlighting for the Chicago mob, she unwittingly signs her own death warrant. Unwisely for Caren, she not only shared her troubles with Broker, she also told Tom James, a reporter with fantasies of pulling off the perfect crime. Inspired by the $2 million payoff she entrusted to his safekeeping, Tom kills Caren in a brilliant frame-up that leaves her crooked cop-husband to take the fall.
Covering all the angles, Tom runs to the FBI -- "the Big Law" -- and wangles a new life in the Witness Protection Program. But Tom's perfect plan doesn't count on Broker. Hard-edged and relentless, Broker smells a rat and is determined to set things right. But to succeed, he's got to locate Tom -- a clever man with a new identity, a suitcase full of cash, and the Big Law on his side.
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About the Author
Chuck Logan is the author of eight novels, including After the Rain, Vapor Trail, Absolute Zero, and The Big Law. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War who lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.
Read an Excerpt
Big Law, The
December 11; 11:33 a.m.
The box came in the UPS morning delivery at the rear entrance of the Warren E. Burger Federal Building at the corner of Kellogg and Robert, in downtown St. Paul. It measured eighteen inches by sixteen inches, and was six inches deep. It weighed about twelve pounds. A red label slapped diagonal to the address announced:
CONTENTS REFRIGERATED. A retired cop in a security company blazer manned the guard station. He placed the box on the X-ray machine belt.
First, the label caught his attention.
Then the quilt of mismatched stamps. And the address: "For FBI Special Agent Lorn Garrison"like real personal. And the office number of a federal and local joint task force investigating narcotics traffic in the county; it was an office number not given out to the public. Very alert now, he ran the box and focused on his video monitor.
He was trained to look for five objects inside packages: detonators, power sources, switches, chemicals, and wires that connected them.
He saw shapes in the monitor screen that could be all five. He stopped the conveyor, picked up his phone, and alerted the main security office. In a calm forceful voice, he ordered everyone in the immediate area to exit the building.
People spilled into the intersection of Jackson and Fourth Streets, among them a supervisor in the IRS offices. He'd heard someone at the guard station say the word bomb. So he called his office on his cell phone and said, "I think there's a bomb." Other office workers lined up to use his cell phone and notify their offices.
In sixty seconds the stairwells thundered with people whose imaginations thundered with visions of Oklahoma City. There was still no official order to evacuate. Hundreds of federal employees were now out stamping in the cold on Jackson, Fourth, and Robert Streets and on Kellogg Boulevard.
A photographer for the St. Paul paper, returning from an assignment, drove down Fourth Street, got stuck in a crowd of people milling in the intersection of Fourth and Robert, and asked what was going on.
"There's a bomb scare."
The photographer called his photo desk and omitted the word scare. Then he left his car in the middle of the street and jockeyed for a good shooting position. He conjured an image of the building perfectly captured at the precise moment it collapsed. He saw it in his mind's eye and also on the covers of Time and Newsweek. With equal clarity, he saw his photo credit. Only one thing bothered him. The cruddy overcast day had wet cement for light. He loved to light and pose everything just so. How do you pose a building?
All over downtown, phones and pagers buzzed. Fire trucks rolled. Police barricades went up.
At 11:40 the FBI office at the building formally requested the St. Paul Police Department's bomb squad to investigate a suspicious package. They checked the switchboard and the mail room. There had been no bomb threats. They held back on the order to evacuate.
The city did not have a dedicated bomb unit, but in fifteen minutes, two pickup squad members arrived in the white "ice cream truck" with their bomb disposal wagon in tow. At twelve noon they took control of the site. After confirming that everyone was out of the rear entry area, one cop remotely toggled a wheeled robot down the truck ramp. The other cop Velcroed on ninety pounds of Kevlar navy blue armor, inserted a thick steel chest plate in the suit's breast pocket, pulled on a sloped visored helmet, activated the internal cooling system, struggled into a pair of cumbersome mittens, and clanked through the door.
If this was the big one, the suit would maybe allow the coroner to have an intact corpse to poke. The guy wearing the suit knew this.
He approached the X-ray machine and made a visual inspection. Two shadows on the video screen caught his attention. The detonator cap was inert, missing a portion, and the connecting wires were, in the lingo of his dark trade, "shunted," meaning crossed. Not an open circuit.
In case the bomb squad was having a bad day, the creator of the apparatus had stuck thin lead foil strips on the "explosive" bundle to painstakingly spell out:
SMILE IF YOU EAT SHIT.
"Bomb hoax," the bomb tech radioed his partner.
But, following procedure, and just in case, they remotely disrupted the package. The man in the suit used a sixteen-foot pole with a pincer to move it off the X-ray machine and place it on the floor. Then they toggled in the robot and blew the box apart using a twelve-gauge water cannon on the robot's arm.
After the robot's video camera inspected the debris, the man in the suit went in again, made a visual sweep, and issued an official all clear. He paused in the doorway and removed his helmet. A knot of fast-moving men left the police cordon and approached him.
Perusing the stern faces and spit-shined wing tips, the bomb cop queried, "You FBI?" The agents nodded. "Who's Lorn Garrison?" he asked.
"I'm Garrison," said a tall, saturnine senior guy. Maybe fifty-five.
The bomb cop handed Garrison a sopping wet portion of cardboard with the address on it. Expressionless, he said, "You've got mail."
Garrison peered through the door at the scattered box. A white cloud seeped from some of the debris.
Garrison sniffed. "Is that smoke?"
The bomb cop shook his head. "Vapor. It's safephysically. I don't know about psychologically."
The agents exchanged glances. Going in, Garrison tapped his finger on the typed return address on the crumpled wet cardboard that bore a St. Paul postmark, dated yesterday:
3173 Harriet Place