A shtikel mazel iz vert merer vi a ton gold – a Yiddish proverb that means “a little bit of luck is better than a ton of gold”. But when you find a dead man wrapped in plastic in the trunk of you Cadillac, you need more than a little luck. Much more
Avery Fish is charged with mail fraud, but he didn’t commit murder. In fact, he has absolutely no clue how a decapitated, plastic wrapped body ended up in the trunk of his caddy. Sexy, brilliant attorney Lou Mason has known Fish for years. Hell, they went to the same synagogue. Fish may be a gonif, a Yiddish term meaning thief, but he was no murderer.
The victim, already looking like an extra in a bad zombie movie, is identified as a defendant in a sexually charged lawsuit. Mason has to team up with a sharply intelligent federal agent from his past – a stunner with a hidden agenda who may be playing some serious head games of her own.
Final Judgment delivers Mason at his wise-cracking, brilliant best.
Get your copy of Final Judgment today for a thrill ride that just won’t quit!
This action-packed story will consume your imagination and keep you riveted with white-knuckle intensity right to the shocking end. In this fifth Lou Mason Thriller novel, I crafted a serious tale of murder, fraud, betrayal, and, yes, sexually charged prose.
If you like to romp through the pages of authors like Turow, Kellerman, Fairstein, and Childs, you won’t want to miss Final Judgment.
Don’t miss the other 4 books in the Lou Mason Thriller Series: Motion to Kill, The Last Witness, Cold Truth, and Deadlocked.
Final Judgment - Chapter One
There was a dead body in the trunk of Avery Fish’s Fleetwood Cadillac. Not that he didn’t have enough problems already. He was late for a meeting with his lawyer, Lou Mason, and the assistant U.S. attorney, Pete Samuelson.
They were negotiating a deal for Fish’s body and soul like they were haggling over a used car, both sides selling him “as is.”
Fish knew how it would go. Mason had briefed him the day before, telling him he’d better be on time.
“Why not just strip me down to my shorts and check my teeth like I was a horse being sold by the pound?” Fish asked.
“Because you’re too old and ugly,” Mason answered, grinning. “The feds wouldn’t buy and I’d be stuck with you.”
Fish waved his hand at Mason’s joke. “So what kind of deal am I going to get?”
“You’re charged with mail fraud. I’ll offer twelve months suspended with probation, which is a downward deviation from federal sentencing guidelines, and a hundred thousand dollars in restitution for the people the overnment says you swindled.”
“Like I’ve got that kind of money.”
He didn’t deny his guilt. He just wanted to know what he owed, figuring he was negotiating with his lawyer as well as the Justice Department. Mason ignored Fish’s complaint, knowing that Fish had the money or could get it, just as he had gotten the money to pay Mason’s fee.
“This is your first conviction. You’re not a young man. Samuelson will want eighteen months of real time and more money, maybe two hundred and fifty grand, plus a fine. Probably the same amount, maybe a little less.”
“What are the chances I’ll get probation?”
“Not good unless you’ve got something else to offer besides money and remorse.”
“Someone you could give to them. Someone who has bigger problems than mail fraud.”
“You mean inform on someone? I’d rather go to jail,” Fish said.
“The government calls it cooperation. Judges are very impressed by it and nobody would rather go to jail.”
“Such a future.” Fish rubbed the top of his bulging stomach. His heartburn could eat through sheet metal. He appreciated Mason’s precise explanation. First conviction. Not first indictment. He shouldn’t complain. Not at his age. But he couldn’t help it. “Spending my golden years as a bankrupt federal snitch. Acch! What a life.”
“Beats the hell out of stripping to your shorts and having your teeth checked by some Aryan Brotherhood inmate who thinks you remind him of the uncle that molested him when he was a kid,” Mason had told him.
Now this, Fish thought to himself, as he stood in the parking lot of his synagogue in south Kansas City, the weekday morning service just finished. The air was damp and cold, the day raw and typical for February. The pavement and the sky were the same flat gray, just like the body in the trunk.
He should have gone to Scottsdale for the winter like everybody else.
The dead man was naked and wrapped in a sheet of clear plastic that made him look like a prehistoric hunter left frozen in ice a thousand years ago. The limbs were tight against the torso, their skin unblemished by any visible wounds.
Fish’s briefcase was in the trunk. He didn’t need it for the meeting with the lawyers. In fact, there was nothing in it besides the latest issue of Fast Company with an article he wanted to read, especially now, titled “How to Make Your Own Luck.” But, carrying the briefcase gave him a more substantial look. Like he was a businessman, not some gonif caught with his nuts in the wringer.
Which he was. Gonif, Yiddish for thief, was a word that defined itself as much by its pronunciation as its meaning.
He liked the guttural way it rolled off his tongue, straight from the back of his mouth like he was throwing it at someone.
His briefcase was tucked underneath the dead man. Fish worried that the poor bastard had bled onto it even though the body was wrapped in plastic. He didn’t want to walk into the meeting with the U.S. attorney carrying a briefcase with a bloodstain painted on it like a bull’s-eye. He left it where it was and closed the trunk.
He was seventy-three years old. He had a wife who referred to herself as his ex-wife on the slight technicality that they’d been divorced for twenty-five years. Like that mattered. He had two daughters who didn’t talk to him unless they had to and four grandchildren who never stopped.
He was thirty-five pounds overweight. He had plantar fascitis in both feet and chronic pain in both hips. He had a lumbar disc at the base of his spine that bulged like a teenage boy’s dick at his first skin flick and chest pain that woke him at night like the devil was slipping a blade between his ribs. But he didn’t complain. That was life. The odds favored a man like him having problems like these. But a dead body in the trunk of his car on the day he was to bargain his life away in a comfortable conference room at the Federal Courthouse—that didn’t defy the odds. It beat the living daylights out of them.
Fish didn’t realize he was sweating until he slid into his car. And he was sweating and breathing as hard as a racehorse on the backstretch. Certain of what he’d seen, he still didn’t want to believe it. It was too awful to be true, but it was. In spite of the cold, he turned on the air-conditioning, gripping the leather-wrapped steering wheel until he cooled down and could breathe normally.
What are the odds? A dead body in his trunk. Blinking the sweat from his eyes, he squinted, remembering when he’d last opened the trunk. It was the night before when he’d gotten home from meeting with Mason. The briefcase had been on the front seat of the car, the magazine already in it.
His dry cleaning had been in the trunk. He’d taken the laundry out and left the briefcase in its place. He’d stayed home the rest of the night. Gone to bed early. Slept all night except for the three times he’d gotten up to go to the bathroom. His car had been parked in front of his house, the garage crammed full of junk he’d been meaning to throw away since his divorce.
Had to have been during the night. He lived on a quiet street. Hell, it was a historic district! That’s how quiet it was. Most of the neighbors were old like him, the houses even older. No young kids coming home late to interrupt some killer who had turned Fish’s car into a drive-by drop-off for dead bodies. If the killer had bothered to ask, Fish would have told him that there was a twenty-four-hour Goodwill drop-off a mile away.
During the night was a better bet than while he was in the synagogue, even if there were only a handful of cars in the parking lot belonging to the ten people who showed up for the morning service. It was still dark when he arrived a few minutes before seven that morning. The service lasted forty-five minutes. The rabbi had buttonholed him for another fifteen minutes afterwards, making him late for his meeting with the attorneys, asking him how things were going with his case. His legal problems weren’t a secret. The media and a city full of gossips had taken care of that.
He set aside the odds against a dead body showing up in the trunk of his car. It had happened. The odds had gone from astronomical against to one hundred percent in favor. Fish’s next bet was on when it happened. The odds favoured last night while Fish slept. He didn’t have time to figure the odds on the harder questions. Who was the dead man? Who killed him? Why did the killer pick the trunk of his car?
Fish didn’t want to know the answers to any of these questions, certain that he was better off not knowing. It had nothing to do with him anyway. The body in the trunk was his bad luck. That’s all.
He had to be downtown in fifteen minutes and he was thirty minutes away. He couldn’t leave his car in the parking lot without arousing suspicions at the synagogue. He couldn’t leave his car at home and take the bus downtown because he didn’t know where to catch the bus or even which bus to take if he did.
As he considered his options, the idea of parking his car with its decaying cargo at the Federal Courthouse wasn’t as bad as he first thought. The parking lot was across the street from the courthouse. It was secure, regularly patrolled by the
U.S. Marshals’ deputies who were responsible for courthouse security. No one was going to break into a car in that lot. It was cold enough and the corpse was fresh enough that the body hadn’t started to smell.
Mason had told him that the meeting with the U.S. attorney shouldn’t take too long, though he could expect some fireworks as the attorneys postured for one another, doing their peacock dance. Fish hoped the meeting was more a formality than anything else.
Good, he thought to himself. Things work out if you give them a chance and work the right angles. That had always been his philosophy. He took a deep breath, put the Cadillac in gear, and tried not to think about the body in the trunk.
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