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By Don Brown
ZondervanCopyright © 2007 Don Brown
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Chapter OneL'office de droit de Jean-Claude la Trec 56, rue Charles de Gaulle Paris
The door exploded in a shower of glass.
Three black-masked bandits rushed in from the night.
Slinging their Uzis across his desk, they jammed steel gun barrels into his cheek, grinding his lips into his teeth. Jets of pain shot through his jaw. Violent shaking took possession of his body. Liquid soaked his pants - perhaps spilled pinot noir dripping from the desktop - or a bladder rendered useless by fear. He could not tell.
Jean-Claude la Trec, the great avocat of France, the man whose golden voice enraptured the media and earned him the title "the most magnificent lawyer in all of Europe," cried out in a pitiful, helpless whine.
"M'aider Dieu." God, help me.
"What is this?" A jarring punch bloodied his lip. "The great Jean-Claude la Trec, a self-avowed atheist, cries to God for help? Allah has nothing to do with this." A sharp backhand bashed into his cheek. "We had a deal!"
"Who are you?"
"Does thirty million dollars say who we are?"
"You demanded thirty million U.S. dollars to defend these pilots. You promised victoire, and one of them cuts a deal with the U.S. Navy!"
"That was not my idea -"
"Shut up!" A gun stock smashed his jaw. Sharp pain pounded the back of his skull.
"What information was compromised?"
"None. Iassure you."
"Liar!" The accents blended. French and Arabic.
"S'il vous plâit." A slight burst of energy. "Nothing was compromised. S'il vous plâit." Fighting for his life, his great advocacy skills flickered, then flamed. "They murdered one pilot before the trial ended. The other did not receive the death penalty." His voice gained strength. "S'il vous plâit."
"You promised victory!" a third voice cried.
"We did everything!"
"But the great Wells Levinson lost to Brewer. You never busted into his office with machine guns."
"Silence!" A fist from the dark crushed his lower front teeth. Blood gushed. The overhead chandelier whirled, and he crashed to the floor. "We paid Levinson half what we paid you ..."
A high-pitched band saw hummed in his ears. Voices faded in and out. He reached in his pants pocket, feeling for the number trois on his cell phone. The phone slipped out of his pocket and dropped onto the floor.
"... and at least Levinson's clients were executed." He referred to a U.S. Navy court-martial that had taken place in San Diego, involving the trial of three navy chaplains for treason. The three had been prosecuted by LCDR Zack Brewer, the famous Navy JAG officer, and defended by Wells Levinson, regarded as America's preeminent defense attorney. All three were convicted and executed by the U.S. military.
* * *
Jeanette stood just outside the front of the old stone office building on rue Charles de Gaulle, hailing a taxi, when an electronically synthesized rendition of "La Marseilles" chirped from inside her purse.
Jean-Claude's final overture for the evening.
She smiled at the thought, then waved off a slowing cab and reached for her cellular. The caller ID flashed a picture of her handsome, silver-haired employer.
"Bonsoir," she said in a soft voice.
"Of course they were executed!" An angry voice boomed through her cell phone. "Levinson's clients can no longer talk. But your client is in the hands of the Americans. Ready to betray our organization."
Jeanette looked over her shoulder at the light coming from the second-floor office window. From this angle on the street, she could see no one.
"This was not my idea." Jean-Claude's voice trembled. "I urged him not to talk. He was your recruit. Perhaps you should have been more selective when you recruited him."
"Shut up!" The sound of shattering glass pierced her eardrums. "Produce the file, and tell us where we can find the witch lawyer."
"Please!" The thud of a punch and more shattering glass. "Lower left drawer ... The file ..."
The sound of rustling papers.
"Where's the witch, L'Enfant?"
A sharp thud was followed by a tortuous grunt. "Where is the traitor to Islam and to France who orchestrated this so-called plea bargain?"
Run, her mind commanded. But her legs froze.
"S'il vous plâit. She is not here. She is not in France."
"Liar!" She heard a thud, fist against flesh. This was followed by a moan, then heavy, desperate breathing. "We saw her enter the building."
"She's gone." Jean-Claude wheezed heavily as if short of air. "Please."
"The file, Ramon! I have it!"
"You have the file. Please," Jean-Claude pleaded.
"Pierre." An Arab-accented voice spoke in French. "Please express the official gratitude of the French government and the Council of Ishmael for Monsieur la Trec's performance in the Quasay court-martial."
"Avec plaisir, monsieur."
The burst of machine-gun fire rattled her eardrums. She yanked the phone away.
Dear Jesus. This was her first prayer in years. Her heart hammered. She craned her neck, gazing up at the window. She brought the phone back to her ear. Cars whizzed by just a few meters away.
Non. S'il vous plâit.
"Take the file. Find L'Enfant!"
"What is it?"
"His cell phone!"
The connection dropped.
"Look! Down on the street. It is her!"
Jeannette quickly slipped off her high heels and sprinted down the sidewalk alongside rue Charles De Gaulle, toward the Arc de Triomphe. She ducked into the first dark alleyway and kept running.
Excerpted from Defiance by Don Brown Copyright © 2007 by Don Brown. Excerpted by permission.
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