Excerpt from Close Case by Alafair Burke, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Close Case

by Alafair Burke

Close Case
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2005, 351 pages
    May 2006, 368 pages

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At last count, the bureau had arrested 212 protesters for various counts of criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, vandalism, and disorderly conduct. Clashes among and between opposing political groups and police officers continued until 2 A.M. And, on Monday morning, extra available bodies in the District Attorney's Office -- including mine -- had been summoned to misdemeanor intake for the overload.

So that's why I was at intake when I found out that hotshot reporter Percy Crenshaw had been killed.

"This is a shitty way to spend my thirty-second birthday," I said, this time not to myself but to Jessica Walters. Jessica was the head of the District Attorney's Gang Unit. She had just walked in, forty minutes behind me, grande mocha latte in hand, trademark pencil tucked between her pearl-studded ear and her sporty frost-tipped haircut.

"Could be worse, Kincaid. I got ten years on you, it's not even my birthday, and I'm stuck drinking decaf because of this little fucker." She gestured with her Starbucks cup at the swollen belly hidden beneath her black maternity pantsuit. Leave it to Jessica to find a way to drop the f-bomb as a maternal term of endearment. "I guess intake is Duncan's idea of a reward for coming in early."

The boss of all the bosses, District Attorney Duncan Griffith, had left an office-wide voice mail for all of his deputies that morning. The gist: Intake needed help issuing custodies from Sunday night. The rule: The first deputy to arrive in each unit was to report to misdemeanor intake immediately to help, unless the lawyer had a trial scheduled to go out.

It takes a lot to make me yearn for a trial, but that did the trick. Doing someone else's work is bad enough, but this was mundane stupid busywork. Not to mention the fact that the intake unit was located in the Justice Center, two blocks from the courthouse, so in this case doing someone else's work had started with a walk back out into the rain.

"I guess the early birds really do get the worms," I said, handing her a misdemeanor intake file. "When I got the boss's message, I was tempted to hightail it out of the courthouse. Let someone else take the bullet."

I left Jessica with the misleading impression that my conscience had gotten the best of me. In truth, it was my paranoia, combined with my ignorance of technology. For all I knew, Griffith could be keeping track of who had logged in to voice mail and in what order. I didn't need to furnish him yet another opportunity to accuse me of not being a team player. Or, better still, to unleash my very favorite motivational phrase: 'There is no 'i' in team."

Maybe not, I say, but there is a me, and that "me" had little interest in churning out another misdemeanor complaint. Jessica Walters, on the other hand, had little sympathy. "Cut your whining. If I can pull this duty, you can suck it up for one morning."

Known in some circles as Nail-'Em-to-the-Wall Walters, Jessica was a career prosecutor, a fixture in the office for nearly twenty years. Before her promotion to supervise the Gang Unit, she'd preceded me as the only female lawyer in the Major Crimes Unit, handling some of the toughest capital murder prosecutions in the state. She was right. It had been only six months since my promotion into MCU. If she wasn't too good for intake, I guess I wasn't either.

I counted another four files from the large stack we were facing, handed them to her, and then plucked out five more for myself. "Want to race to make it interesting? Winner on each set of five cases buys a drink?"

From Close Case by Alafair Burke, Chapter 1, pages 3-17 of the hardcover edition. Copyright © 2005 Alafair Burke.

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