Excerpt from The Prophet by Michael Koryta, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Prophet

By Michael Koryta

The Prophet

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"Sure thing," Dan said. "Win, lose, or draw, we're doing that dinner at season's end."

But there are no draws, Dan, Kent thought. Not in the playoffs. It's win or lose.

They were in the parking lot when they passed Rachel Bond, who caught Kent's eye and smiled, lifting a hand. He nodded and tipped two fingers off the bill of his cap. She was a prize. A convict for a father and an alcoholic for a mother and she'd risen above it all. It was unbelievable how much some of these children had to bear, so young.

But life? It didn't card you before it sold you some pain. Kent had been given the most personal of examples in that lesson. It was why he devoted so much of himself to a game. Sometimes a game was what you needed—mind, body, and soul. That much he'd known for years.

3

THERE WAS A TIME when Chambers County had produced more steel by itself than forty-six states. It had been home to mills for five major companies that exported worldwide, and the steel industry had employed more than half of the county's workforce.

That time was a whispered recollection now.

The steel industry was gone, and a decade since the last plant closed and two decades since the writing on the wall had been clear, nothing had been found to replace it. Chambers had boasted one of the highest unemployment rates in the state for years, and most of those who could leave did. The population had dropped by twenty-five percent since 1950, one of the few places in an always-growing country that had experienced such a thing. A manufacturing town that found itself without anything to manufacture.

While the census reported a declining population, the county jail reported a rising one. It had been remodeled and expanded twice. The core of the town's troubles—economic woes and absence of jobs—also provided the core of Adam's business. Only two things were flourishing in Chambers of late: high school football and bail bonds.

Because he was busy, he had to determine focus areas. Nature of the beast, simple as that. A skip with a $10,000 bond was a priority. A girl with a hundred bucks and a missing father was not. April Harper got one call, and one call only, from Adam on the morning after her visit. She didn't answer her cell phone, so he left a message informing her that there was only one Ruzich in town who might own a rental property. Her first name was Eleanor, and she owned two homes: one that was assessed at three hundred thousand, pricey for Chambers, and another well outside of town, a place on a small private lake that looked like a seasonal property. If she was renting out a place with a leaking roof and a failing furnace, he told her, it was probably 7330 Shadow Wood Lane, the lake cottage.

He told her to call with questions and then hesitated for just a moment, tempted to remind her again that if her ex-con father wanted communication to be a one-way street, she might be well advised to agree. Then he remembered that the hundred dollars in his pocket had been paid for an address, not advice, and he disconnected the call. He hadn't allowed himself to look up Jason Harper's criminal record, because he knew what he'd think if he did, knew what he'd be tempted to tell his client: Your father is toxic, and you need to stay the hell away from him. Unlike his brother, he wasn't in the pro bono therapy business.

The average person—hell, the average client—viewed Adam as part of the criminal defense system. You needed an attorney to beat your charges, but you needed a bondsman to pop the locks on that cell while the attorneys played their games. In that part of the role, and only in that part, did Adam live up to the standard perception: he helped secure temporary release.

Emphasis on temporary. Adam did not view himself as any part of the criminal defense side of the spectrum. He viewed himself as a free-world jailer. Convictions might not yet have been made in the cases, but charges had been. After the good felons of Chambers County scraped together enough money to secure a surety bond, they walked back into the free world, entering a process of trial delays and plea bargains designed to keep them out. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn't. But during that process? During that process, they belonged to Adam. They weren't free, they were his. In nineteen years, more than three hundred of his clients had jumped bail. He'd found all but four. It wasn't a bad winning percentage. Those four, though? There were days he'd catch himself grinding his teeth over them.

Excerpted from The Prophet by Michael Koryta. Copyright © 2012 by Michael Koryta. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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