Robideaux pulled him to a sitting position, let him sag against the wall. Wayne Harper was a big soft man, his cheeks sprouting the tawny stubble of early morning, his close-cropped hair thinning on top. His face was empty of expression, his eyes a pale, vacant blue. Robideaux felt a familiar disappointment. Eighteen years he'd been on the force, working his way up, making his share of arrests. Tracking down the predators. Just once he'd have liked to have them spit at him in defiance, cry out that they would never be taken alive. Or at least resist. Many times, at the end of an investigation, steeped in the crime, he'd hoped for a little resistance at the collar. But no. The drunks on the street resisted, unable to calculate consequences. But the ones he came for with a warrant had time to think it through, to act innocent and surprised. Too many cop shows.
"Do you understand these rights as I have read them to you?" Robideaux repeated.
Campbell stepped into the room, holstering his pistol. "That him, Ray?"
"Ugly son of a bitch, ain't he? He ask for a lawyer?"
Ray shook his head. On the bed, Wayne Harper frowned, his lips moving. He looked toward the two officers. "A what?" he said.
Mayfield, Texas, 5:30 a.m.
Janette Guzman was getting blisters. The work boots she was
wearing had been on sale, but they weren't quite the right size, and they were
men's and they pinched her feet in some places and let them slide in others as
she patrolled the perimeter of the Hubble factory. She hadn't wanted to be a
fencewalker in the first place. It was lonely work, with bad hours and
occasional danger, but there weren't a lot of opportunities for a girl with a
GED and no job training. There were tech dollars in Austin, there was oil cash
in Midland, but none of that was coming her way. At least not yet. Things might
be different with a junior college degree or vocational schooling. But that took
money, and money in Mayfield was mostly locked into the operations of Hubble
Chemical. Which was why she was pacing the grounds of the main factory with a
burning sensation growing on the outside of her right heel.
The factory was a gray concrete block, featureless but for infrequent windows. It was the tallest structure in Mayfield, save the water tower, but wide enough to look squat. In the daylight it seemed to have dropped from the sky, flattening on impact. Now it was just a dark bulk looming in Janette's peripheral vision. Her flashlight's beam played across the fence, up to the razor wire, down to the hard-baked dust. Some feet beyond, an incurious armadillo trundled by. She took a deep breath of the cold night air, looking up to the vastness of the spangled sky, then raised the radio to her lips. "West four," she said. "All clear." Then she bent down to pull on her sock, and that was how she missed the first shy flames showing through the factory windows. She saw what followed, though.
With a deep roar, a blast swelled up through the building. The windows burst in a glistening rain of glass, and thick black smoke followed. For a few moments Janette watched, stunned, as backlit figures struggled from the plant, turned strange pirouettes, dropped to the ground. "Marty," she said into the radio. "Something's happened. There's been an explosion. There's a fire."
The reply crackled back. "What? Say again."
"You'd better send someone. There's a big fire. There are people running out of the plant." She paused, watching the figures against the glow. Another explosion shook the building. "They're dancing. I don't know. They're falling down. They're sort of twitching." She stumbled and realized that she had backed up into the fence, its chain links pressing against her body. The firelight dimmed, obscured by smoke, then reasserted itself. She turned and through the fence saw jackrabbits bounding away, the armadillo lumbering awkwardly, its scales a fading gleam. A thought flashed irrelevantly through her mind, a rhyme learned from a library book: Something wicked this way comes. "Marty, the gate's locked."
Excerpt from In the Shadow of the Law by Kermit Roosevelt. Copyright © 2005 by Kermit Roosevelt. Published in June, 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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