When his popular hip-hop artist client is blackmailed, Crang stumbles on a porn operation and an unexpected case of murder.
Crang is a smart-talking criminal lawyer who doesn’t mind chasing down unorthodox cases. That makes him just the guy to represent a famous hip-hop performer who’s on the wrong end of a blackmail scheme. It doesn’t strike Crang as a confounding case, but in no time, he finds himself confronting an organized gang that deals in porn, stock swindles, and murder. Things get so messy that Crang decides he’ll have to bend the law to make things right. It’s a dilemma that would cause other lawyers to back away, but not Crang, the nervy attorney with the fast mouth.
About the Author
Jack Batten, after a brief and unhappy career as a lawyer, has been a very happy writer for many years. The author of forty books, Batten has also reviewed jazz for the Globe and Mail and, for twenty-five years, movies on CBC Radio. He currently writes the bi-weekly "Whodunit" column in the Toronto Star. He lives in Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
The man on the other end of the phone was saying in a brisk voice that I shouldn’t leave my office in the next fifteen minutes. He wasn’t asking me. He was telling me.
“Aren’t you the pushy one,” I said to the man, speaking on my brand new iPhone.
“You’re the right guy?” the man said. “By the name of Crang?”
“The very same,” I said.
“I’m calling for Roger Carnale,” he said. I could hear traffic sounds in the background of wherever the guy was calling from. “Mr. Carnale’s on his way to your office. Right now, I’m talking about. I need to guarantee him you’ll keep yourself available.”
“Guarantee to your heart’s content,” I said. “Do I assume your Roger is in the market for my sharp criminal representation?”
“No way,” the man said, brisk as ever but giving his best to add an acerbic tone. “Mr. Roger Carnale is executive director of the Flame Group. He’s going to talk to you about something big that has to do with Flame. This is serious for Mr. Carnale. You don’t have to know anything else.”
He hung up.
I got out of my chair and walked over to inspect the view from my window. A couple of weeks earlier, I’d changed offices, moving down two flights in the same building to a space on the third floor. This office had a better view. Upstairs, the angle I had on mid-town Toronto and the world beyond had been limited, nothing past the south side of the condo next door. My new window gave me a prospect looking east across Spadina Avenue, which was all abustle. That was Spadina’s permanent state. On the far side, two pretty girls sat on a grassy hillock in the little park at the corner where Spadina met Bloor Street. Matt Cohen Park it was called a tribute to a deceased novelist who once lived in the neighbourhood. Both girls were wearing baggy tan shorts. One completed her outfit with a pink T-shirt, the other with a halter top. Closer inspection from a distance told me both had superb legs.
The brisk guy on the phone had said “Flame” in a manner that made me think it referred to a person. Who was he? Or maybe she? I had no idea.
I went back to the iPhone sitting on my desk, and punched up Annie’s number.
“You heard of anybody possibly by the name of Flame?” I said when Annie came on the line. Annie B. Cooke was my go-to person for information on a far-flung variety of topics. She was also my live-in sweetie.
“Canadian rap singer with a tilt to mainstream,” Annie said. “And how are you this fine September noon, old sport?”
“The better for hearing your voice,” I said. “Are you speaking of Flame along the lines of the other rap guy from around here? Drake?”
“Similar careers up to a point,” Annie said. “The major difference, compared to Drake or practically any other rapper, Flame projects profundity, relatively speaking. The thinking fan’s idol. It’s earning him oodles of cash.”
“He’s new on the scene?”
“Been at it awhile, but gotten big only the past three, four years. I’m speaking of filling the Air Canada Centre. That kind of big.”
“I don’t recall you mentioning the guy before.”
“Good heavens, Crang, I’ve never listened to Flame’s records or watched his videos or anything else fan-like.”
“Your record-collecting days ended with late Marvin Gaye if I remember?”
“Actually, I’ve always been a Stevie Wonder girl.”
“Wait a minute, if you’ve never heard or seen Flame, shouldn’t you have added an ‘apparently’ to what you just told me about profundity?”
“Not really. I get the inside dope from impeccable sources.”
“Maybe you could just divulge the sources? Let me weigh the impeccability?”
“The magazines in Loblaw’s checkout line,” Annie said. “Waiting to pay for groceries is when I study up on my pop culture.”
“I’m more a Vanity Fair browser.”
‘He’s a handsome-looking devil, Flame. Judging from photographs.”
“What’s your frame of reference?” I said. “Evaluating handsomeness?”
“Compared to you, sweetie,” Annie said, “I have to admit Flame comes up short.”
“You think I was angling for a compliment?”
Annie moved past my question and got back to Flame.
“The magazines,” she said, “treat him with something like reverence.”
“Should I be impressed?”
“Probably depends on why you’re asking about such an unlikely person,” Annie said. “Unlikely for you, I mean.”
“His executive director is going to walk through my door any minute now.”
“That’s odd.” Annie said. “My sources don’t suggest there’s a whiff of scandal attached to Flame.”
“Solid as your sources are.”
“Flame’s reputation, the point I’m trying to make, he’s a spotless guy. No scandals, no sexual harrassment, not even tats.”
“And he earns oodles, you say?”
“So my sources report.”
“I’ll let you know at dinner how much of the oodles he might care to share with me.”
“And why,” Annie said.