Sudden Death


Okay… okay… so I didn’t do this alone. The point is, I could have… I just chose not to. So, a grudging thank you to those who may have provided some slight, unnecessary, almost imperceptible help.

Robin Rue and Sandy Weinberg, agents for life.

Jamie Raab, Les Pockell, Kristen Weber, Susan Richman, Martha Otis, Beth de Guzman, Bob Castillo, and everyone else at Warner. They have been extraordinary partners.

My team of experts, including George Kentris, Kristen Paxos Mecionis, and Susan Brace. They fill in the gaps of my knowledge in the legal and psychological worlds, which is like saying the Atlantic Ocean fills in the gap between Europe and North America.

Those who read early drafts and/or contributed their thoughts and suggestions, including Ross, Heidi, Rick, Lynn, Mike and Sandi Rosenfelt, Sharon, Mitchell, and Amanda Baron, Emily Kim, Al and Nancy Sarnoff, Stacy Alesi, Norman Trell, June Peralta, Stephanie Allen, Scott Ryder, David Devine, and Carol and John Antonaccio.

Debbie Myers, who brightens and informs my life and my work by just being Debbie Myers.

I continue to be grateful to the many people who have e-mailed me feedback on Open and Shut, First Degree, and Bury the Lead. Please do so again at [email protected]. Thank you.

I STEP OFF THE PLANE, and for the first time in my life, I’m in Los Angeles. I’m not sure why I’ve never been here before. I certainly haven’t had any preconceived notions about the place, other than the fact that the people here are insincere, draft-dodging, drug-taking, money-grubbing, breast-implanting, out-of-touch, pâté-eating, pom-pous, Lakers-loving, let’s-do-lunching, elitist scumbags.

But here I am, open-minded as always.

Walking next to me is Willie Miller, whose own mind is so wide-open that anything at all is completely free to go in and out, and often does. I’m not sure how thoughts actually enter his mind, but the point of exit is definitely his mouth. “This place ain’t so cool,” says Willie.

“Willie, it’s only the airport.” I look over at him and am surprised to see that he is wearing sunglasses. They seem to have appeared in the last few seconds, as if he has grown them. While he doesn’t consider the airport “cool,” he apparently fears that it might be sunny.

Willie has become a good friend these last couple of years. He’s twenty-eight, ten years my junior, and we met when I successfully defended him on an appeal of a murder charge for which he had been wrongly convicted. Willie spent seven long years on death row, and his story is the reason we’re out here. That and the fact that I had nothing better to do.

We take the escalator down to baggage claim, where a tall blond man wearing a black suit and sunglasses just like Willie’s holds up a sign that says “Carpenter.” Since my name is Andy Carpenter, I pick up on this almost immediately. “That’s us,” I say to the man, who is obviously our driver.

“How was your flight?” he asks, an opening conversational gambit I suspect he’s used before. I say that it was fine, and then we move smoothly into a chat about the weather while we wait for the bags to come down. I learn that it’s sunny today, has been sunny this month, last month, and will be sunny next month and the month after that. It’s early June, and there is no chance of rain until December. However, I sense that the driver is a little nervous, because for tomorrow they’re predicting a forty percent chance of clouds.

I have just one small suitcase, which I wouldn’t have bothered to check had not Willie brought two enormous ones.