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Authors: Jennifer Harlow

Justice

BOOK: Justice
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JUSTICE

 

Book One of The Galilee Falls Trilogy

 

Chronicled by Jennifer Harlow

COPYRIGHT

 

Devil on the Left Books

Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Dowis

All Rights Reserved.

First edition.

 

ISBN-10: 0989394409

ISBN-13: 978-0-9893944-0-6

Devil on the Left Books, Manassas VA

 

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

No part of this book may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the express written permission of the author.

If you did not purchase this book, please return it and purchase one of your own. Respect the hard work of the author.

DEDICATION

 

 

Dedicated to anyone who saw injustice and had the strength to say,

Not on my watch.

ALSO BY JENNIFER HARLOW

 

Mind Over Monsters: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Series 1

To Catch a Vampire: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Series 2

What’s A Witch To Do? A Midnight Magic Mystery 1

Death Takes A Holiday: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Series 3
(8/13)

Werewolf Sings The Blues: A Midnight Magic Mystery 2
(3/14)

PRAISE FOR THE WORKS OF JENNIFER HARLOW

 


Chills and laughter share equal time in Harlow’s fresh and funny debut.

– The Library Journal

 


Funny, scary, and creepy, ridiculous amounts of fun!

–Kat Richardson
The Greywalker Series

 


Monstrously fun! Monstrously suspenseful! Monstrously good!


Victoria Laurie,
NYT Best Selling Author

 


If Donald Westlake had ever gotten around to writing a paranormal mystery, it would have sounded like this.

– Kirkus

 


‘Can you be so cruel?’

‘Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters.’

-Paramount Picture’s The Heiress (1949)

PROLOGUE

 

 

The wolves are at the gate.

I count thirty police officers on my security monitors, including SWAT, all armed to the gills led by
him.
I always knew this day would come. It has been almost twenty years in the making, but now it’s here…this must have been how Nero felt as he played that fiddle. My Rome is burning. Soon my freedom will be gone and yet I could still manage a tune. First things first.

Waverly, one of my loyal employees these two years, runs into the study. His fear does not inspire confidence.

Sir, what are we supposed to do? The police and—


Stop sniveling for one,

I say, taking a sip of my Scotch. I will miss this.


Did Grace—

The bullet I put between his eyes stops the rest of that sentence. I don’t have time to answer a million questions. Company’s coming. I down the rest of my drink as I run the electromagnet over my computer. Cleaner than the day I bought it. Must leave things tidy. I’ve already set the timers in the file cabinets. Thirty more seconds before, like Nero, all that remains of my empire is ashes.

The bombs detonate as I walk down the hall, no louder than gunshots but still rocking the walls sprinkling dust on my paintings. I wonder what will happen to my art. Probably sold for victim reparations. The Degas alone will cover the cost of the library we destroyed today. Smith and Rees are waiting in what is left of my living room. Just looking at it, especially what’s left of Bradley under that bloody sheet, I feel embarrassed for myself. I never lose control like that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I suppose I’m paying the price now.


Sir, where do you want us?

Smith, a five year veteran of my service, asks.

I turn over the couch with a sigh.

Gentlemen, I want to thank you both for your loyal service through the years. You have both been invaluable. I wish things could have gone a different way. I apologize.

I fire a single shot into Smith’s forehead. Poor Rees is too shocked to even draw on me before he meets the same ending. The loose ends are no more. The rest is in the hands of the fates.

The last of my security doors fall, the sound of steel hitting marble echoing through the room. I cross my leg, wipe the speckles of dust off my costume, and put a smile on my face. The bane of my existence, the man I hate, who has consumed my life for years, super-speeds into my living room as if he owns it. And the press calls me arrogant.


Alkaline,

he says beneath that dark mask.


Justice,

I say with a nod. We stare at each other for a few seconds, even now locked in battle.

Grace?


She’s safe. You can’t hurt her or anyone else ever again.

He pauses for dramatic effect, or to savor his victory.

Will this be easy or hard?

For a moment, I consider an attack. It always gives me almost orgasmic pleasure when my fist hits his body and he cries out in pain. One last taste for the road? No, I quell this urge. My body has not completely healed from our fight a few hours ago and quite frankly, I need a break. Being the scourge of the city is exhausting.

You may take me to jail now.

As I’m led out past the frightened police and gawking bystanders, I keep that smile on my face. Not because I’m arrogant, not to save face, because…I may have lost this battle, but the war has just begun.

Then Rome will truly burn.

CHAPTER ONE

Perfection

Three Years Later…

 

Why did she have to be so perfect?

Glossy red hair, curves in all the right places, dimples when she smiles—which is all the time—and soulful green eyes. Even a perfect sparking personality. The woman spends all day saving sick children, then goes home to her equally perfect daughter to be Supermom. How the hell can I compete with that?

They are a sight to see, with him more breathtaking than her. Blonde hair, lean body, bright blue eyes, strong jaw, and cleft chin just ripe for caressing. The soon-to-be first Lord and Lady of Galilee Falls. In a month, I’ll lose him to the most perfect woman who ever walked the earth. Perfect.

Dobbs, Justin’s butler, pours me another flute of champagne, which I down with one gulp. It’ll take about five more of these before this evening becomes manageable. I don’t even know why I’m here. Like I want to meet Rebecca’s mother. She’s a brown haired version of her daughter, probably in her late fifties and nary a gray hair. Sure she has a few wrinkles near her eyes and laugh lines, but the age fairy has pretty much passed her by. If Mom’s any indication, perfect Rebecca will probably be fucking perfect even in the grave. So unfair.

They sit on the eighteenth century blue French silk couch that once belonged to Marie Antoinette, royalty in their own right. They ignore the champagne in their hands, instead grinning as Rebecca’s three-year-old daughter Daisy draws a duck or malformed tree or something. From the looks on the adults’ faces, you’d think the kid was painting the Sistine Chapel.

We’ve gathered tonight to welcome Marnie, Rebecca’s mother who will be staying until the wedding in a month. For the third time tonight I ask myself why I’m here. I can’t come up with an answer. I’ve been up since two in the morning after working a triple homicide in Diablo’s Ward. Half the time was in the field interviewing the usual pillars of the community like the junkie clients of the deceased, and the other half was in a cramped room grilling the dead dealer’s supplier. My partner Cam and I finally broke him, but it took twice as long as I thought it would.

I considered flaking out but promised I’d be part of the welcoming committee. I try to be a woman of my word. Apparently Rebecca’s been telling her mother
all
about me, and Marnie was just
dying
to meet me. The bride-to-be is under the impression that since I’m Justin’s best friend, then I must be hers too. She even joked that they had a fight over if I would be the best man or the maid of honor. I didn’t believe it for a second. They’re too perfect to fight.


Is that a duck?

Justin asks in that baritone voice that commands attention.


Yep,

Daisy answers.

It’s Super-Duck!


Really? What are its superpowers?

Rebecca asks.


It quacks!

Daisy answers.


That is a very good power,

Marnie says with a smile. She looks at me, and I plaster a fake smile that fools them every time. Lots of practice, thank you very much. Marnie saunters toward me.

So, you’re a detective?


Youngest ever to work the Priority Homicide Squad,

Justin says with pride.


That must be difficult. All those dead bodies. I can’t even imagine it,

Marnie says.


I have a strong stomach.


And you two met as children?


Twenty years,

Justin says.


Jesus, that long?

I say with a fake sneer.


How did you two meet?

Marnie asks.

I swig the once again full champagne.

I was trying to kill myself on his bridge, and he stopped me.

Marine’s face falls.

Oh. I’m sorry I—


Oh, don’t worry. I got over it.


Jo…

Justin says reproachfully.


Well, we all go through our rough times,

Marnie says, patting my hand.

What matters is you made it through it. And much stronger I bet. You were so young, though.


Twelve, but I’ve always been precocious.


Do you mind if I ask why?


Mom,

Rebecca warns.


It’s okay. My father had just been murdered. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I smile at Justin, who smiles back.

And I got a best friend out of it, so there you go.


They’ve been inseparable ever since,

Rebecca adds.

The fake smile resurfaces. They’ve known each other all of a year, and she’s talking like we’ve been the Three Musketeers forever. Was she there when he swam out too far and almost drowned? Was she there when he was accused of cheating in Algebra and was suspended? Was she there when Pendergast Industries was sued for tax fraud and almost went under? No, she wasn’t. I was. I called the ambulance, I ditched school those three days and played video games with him, and I listened to hours of boring financial crap while he tried to figure out what happened.
Me
. I’d point this out, but I’d sound bratty. God, I need more booze.

I’m out of the hot seat as the three adults begin talking about the wedding, and I tune out, slowly inching myself to the back wall and hopefully out of their attention. I really want another drink, but three glasses is my limit when I have to drive home. I could go to town and crash in one of the seven guest rooms, but I’m sure they’re staying here tonight and I can only take so much perfection before my head explodes.

I didn’t give Rebecca much thought when he introduced us twelve months ago. Sure she was gorgeous and a talented doctor, but Justin always dated the talented gorgeous. He’d done the billionaire playboy thing since he was seventeen, with the usual models and actresses or a lawyer or businesswoman thrown in for good measure. I’d met a lot of them, so I just assumed he’d keep his MO of three months, just enough time for them to fall in love before he’d give them the polite boot. The jerk even complained about how hard it was having all those women fall head over heels for him. If only he knew. It took all my strength not to sock him in the jaw.

Then they passed the three month mark. The fourth. We didn’t see each other for weeks at a time, and when we did she’d be there. At the shooting range. At dinner. Instead of sailing, we’d meet at a playground and watch Daisy swing. No more bars, only restaurants with mechanical mice singing. No more jetting off to see a football game on a moment’s notice. Then she called me. And called again, insisting we meet for lunch. Shopping. Facials. The best and only advice my mother gave me years before rang in my ears.


Never make him choose. Remember, he’s a man and he’s fucking
her
. Who do you think he’ll pick?

It was important to Justin,
she
was important to Justin, so I agreed. Even attended Daisy’s ballet recital with them.

I could feel it coming, and I did my best to prepare for it. The engagement. But when he called me to the house, and they were both grinning like mental patients, not so subtly pointing to the diamond on her finger, I had no idea my reaction would be so severe. I saw that ring, and it was as if all the joy and peace I ever had or ever would feel was sucked out of every one of my cells.

I have no idea how I got through the following ten minutes of congratulations and champagne, but I managed to smile and hold off the tears until I got off the property. Then I got drunk.
Very
drunk. It was a miracle I didn’t end up in the hospital with charcoal in my stomach. That miracle came in the form of my boss Harry, who the bartender at Neptune’s called and then saw me home. Another man saving me from myself.

I know I’m a horrible friend, I
know
this. When your best friend finds the love of his life, and is blissfully happy, and you’re trying to figure out the best way to frame his bride for drug possession, this becomes abundantly clear. Mind you, I do get some points for not actually doing it, but just the thought makes me feel better. It’s me. It’s all me. I am the asshole in this situation, I am fully aware of that. If I gave her half a chance I’m sure I’d love her just like everyone else on planet earth. The green-eyed monster who lives inside me just won’t allow it. And I don’t have the energy or strength to kill the fucker.

Not that they’d ever guess my ire. A combination of that ecstasy bubble, and my stellar lying skills, have shielded me from any awkward questions or situations. Except in the case of Justin’s Aunt Lucy. She cornered me in the hall one day and threatened to have me killed if I did anything to ruin the wedding. I very politely told her where to shove her threat. We’ve never been best friends.

Lucy sits on the other side of the room, her nose in a book.
She’s
allowed to be anti-social. The first moment I saw her on that bridge I was reminded of a strict nun who wouldn’t hesitate to smack me with a ruler for sneezing during prayer. She’s in her late fifties with short salt and pepper hair, face stretched across sharp cheekbones and pointed nose, and gaunt body always in chic black. She hasn’t changed much in twenty years. Still just tolerates me. She’s not even trying tonight.


Isn’t that right, Joanna?

Rebecca asks, pulling me out of my head.


I’m sorry. What?


You’ve met Justice, haven’t you?


I’ve had an encounter or two,

I say, not hiding my distaste.


He helped you on the Corona case, right?

Rebecca asks.


How frightening,

Marnie says.

I can’t imagine having to be near, let alone chasing after a super. It must be so dangerous.


It happens less often than the press would have you believe,

I say.

Most of the time I deal with the usual. Gangs, domestic violence, drugs. When supers fight, it’s usually just with other supers. We, sadly, just handle the collateral damage.


Isn’t Galilee one of the only cities that passed a law giving some supers latitude in pursuing criminals?

Marnie asks.


Yes. It allows certain supers the ability to be deputized as a Marshal to catch other supers,

Justin says.


And how great that’s been,

I say sarcastically.

We have the biggest concentration of superheroes in the country, and with them comes the biggest number of villains. We also have the highest property insurance and taxes in the world because of all the buildings these people destroy. Not to mention several times a year I have to tell some poor kid their idiot father put some suction cups all over his body and tried to fight crime but instead was shot to death in Diablo’s Ward.


Joanna, your prejudice is showing,

Justin chides.


I’m not prejudiced. People with powers have been around forever, and it’s not like they can help being born like they are. Just because you can run really fast or move a car with your mind doesn’t mean you should put on a costume and beat people up. I’ve just seen the reality and all the lives messed up because people take the law into their own hands instead of leaving it to the trained professionals. It’s gotten worse over the years with the media coverage and fandemonium. Vigilantism is illegal for a reason, and these people just ignore that fact.


You’d rather they squander their god-given gift?

Justin asks.


I’d rather they leave the hero business to those of us trained to do it.

Justin and Rebecca share an uncomfortable glance, but quickly recover their smiles.

You make some good points,

Rebecca says,

but I personally feel safer knowing there are men like Justice who have the ability to stop others like Stinger. It evens the playing field.


Forget it darling,

Justin says,

I’ve been trying to convince her for twenty years that supers aren’t all bad. Even after Justice saved her from Corona she didn’t change her tune.


He didn’t save me,

I say,

he just pushed me out of the way when Corona shot out an energy blast. I would have
arrested
him if Justice hadn’t sped in.

It was a good bust, the one that got me my spot in Priority. Reginald Fairweather, AKA Corona, was the latest baddie to hit the scene, using his solar flares to burn through buildings. He caught our attention when he used this skill to burn through the mayor’s mansion. After that a task force, which I happened to worm my way onto, went about trying to locate him. Through some of my lowlife connections, and I have quite a few growing up where I did, I tracked down a henchman who led me straight to Corona. SWAT and I stormed in, and I was about to slap the cuffs on him, when Justice super-sped in, distracting me. Corona used that and almost blasted me to hell. After Justice subdued the villain, he handed him over to me. I was arresting officer of record and Justice made sure to let everyone know, including the brass and Mayor. Still don’t like him.

BOOK: Justice
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