Kevin Egan Midnight

ISBN 13: 9780765335265

Midnight

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9780765335265: Midnight
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Midnight is a compulsively readable legal thriller by Kevin Egan that keeps tightening the screws with every page.

How long can you hide a death?

The New York County Courthouse, in Lower Manhattan, has its own rules and traditions. When a judge dies, the members of his staff keep their jobs until the end of that calendar year. So when Judge Alvin Canter quietly expires in his chambers on December 31st, his loyal clerk and secretary find themselves in a difficult situation. Their jobs will vanish at closing time―unless they can conceal the judge's death until after midnight.

Neither Tom Carroway nor Carol Scilingo can afford to be out of work. Tom is deeply in debt to an impatient loan shark, while Carol is a struggling single mom whose young son and aging mother depend heavily on her. And both Tom and Carol have secrets they're desperate to keep hidden.

Their plan seems simple enough: make it look like the judge died at home on New Year's Day. But that's before other people get involved: a crooked union boss, a brutal mob enforcer, and Carol's suspicious ex-boyfriend. . . .

Pretty soon, Tom and Carol find themselves over their heads in an increasingly dangerous conspiracy. And if they're not very careful, more than one body may be discovered in the new year.

"Alfred Hitchcock would have loved Midnight's twisty, original plot."―Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of Sleight of Hand

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About the Author:

KEVIN EGAN, a self-described nonpracticing attorney, has spent his entire legal career working in the New York State Court system, including lengthy stints as law clerk to two State Supreme Court Justices. He now works in the iconic New York County Courthouse, which serves as the setting and inspiration for Midnight. Egan's short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Rosebud, and The Westchester Review.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1
 
 
Halfway up the steps the judge stopped to grab the handrail. It was a silver metal handrail, stainless steel and so cold that if there had been any moisture on his skin it would have bound him immediately. But he had no moisture, not on his skin or even in his mouth. He felt dry, but not merely the midwinter dry from low humidity and blasting steam pipes. He felt desiccated, as if he could collapse into dust and blow away.

He took a deep breath, worked his free hand under his topcoat and between the two flaps of his scarf. His heart gave one more of those crazy thumps, then steadied. He slid his other hand up the rail, gripped tight, and pulled himself up and out of the subway station.

The sky over Foley Square was flat gray, brightening to yellow only where the sun hung in the notch between the two federal courthouses. The wind blew hard, tumbling flattened coffee cups and grimy newspaper pages across his path. Up ahead, a man stood with one foot raised on the edge of the fountain and his hands shoved into the pockets of his peacoat. He wore a floppy black cap, faded jeans tight to his stubby legs. The judge thought he had seen the man before, but whether he was a litigant, a juror, or a punk he might have put away when he sat in criminal court long ago, he could not say.

The man suddenly turned as if sensing the force of the judge’s stare. The judge realized then, in the millisecond before he lowered his eyes, that the man was a complete stranger to him.

The judge crossed Centre Street, passed the coffee cart at the bottom of the wide steps that were so popular in movie shoots and fashion ads, and began his climb directly up between the two brass rails in case the thumps returned and he needed to grab hold. At the top, a court officer stood between the two center columns, arms akimbo, breathing smoke in the frigid air. The officer said good morning as the judge reached the top. The judge, trying to conceal his heavy breathing, simply nodded.

In a few hours he’ll hate me, the judge thought as he reached the revolving door.

*   *   *

“So what good is a frigging hour off in the middle of the day, huh?”

Jerry Elliott, his uniform already day’s-end sloppy, sat at a small desk at the edge of the rotunda. Pale sunlight reflecting off the Federal Building across Foley Square filtered in through the windowpanes over the main entrance, silhouetting Foxx in a wintry glow. Foxx only half-listened to Elliott, which was all the attention Elliott’s carping usually deserved, while a backpack slid through the X-ray machine on a conveyor belt. The backpack belonged to a messenger who waited between the metal stanchions that ran the length of the sloping promenade from the lobby down to the rotunda.

“You’re not even listening to me, are ya, Foxx?” said Elliott. He was a big guy who gave the impression of having been bigger, as if a sudden deflation left lines in his face and a sag behind his belt buckle.

“Sure I am,” said Foxx, sweeping the messenger with a wand. “You’re bitching about comp time.”

Elliott sighed as the messenger grabbed his backpack and hustled to the elevators. He almost wished Foxx had not been listening, which would have given him something else to complain about.

“So tell me what the hell it’s good for.”

“Self-improvement,” said Foxx.

“The only self-improvement I need is right here.” Elliott slapped the wallet in his pants pocket.

“That’s where you lack imagination,” said Foxx. He was as trim and athletic as Elliott was big and dumpy, with a sway-back posture and well-oiled joints that lent grace to every movement. “Think of what you can do. You can exercise, go to a library, take up yoga.”

“I can’t waste my time with that crap,” said Elliott. “I got responsibilities.”

“So do I.”

“What are they? You got no wife, no kids.”

“Responsibilities to myself, and to the greater good.” Foxx smiled puckishly. “Besides, this was no surprise. OCA’s been threatening to cut out overtime for years.”

“Yeah, well this is the year those bastards at OCA actually did it.”

“Because Werkman blew the contract negotiations.”

“He’ll get it back.”

“With that lawsuit?” asked Foxx.

“The lawsuit isn’t our only chance,” said Elliott.

“What else is there?”

“I don’t know, but Bobby will think of something.”

“Bobby is it?” said Foxx. “Are you two buddies?”

“I worked with him in Westchester Supreme.”

“And I worked with him in Bronx Supreme. He was thrown out of every courthouse he ever worked. He had no choice but to become union president.”

“Maybe that was his plan. Work everywhere, get to know everyone so they’d vote for him.”

“Then he better come up with another plan pretty damn fast,” said Foxx. He snapped the band of his latex glove against his wrist. “Next election, he’ll be out on his ass.”

“Don’t be too sure. Bobby’s done a lot of good for a lot of people.”

“I don’t care what he’s done. Overtime trumps everything.”

Much as Elliott hated to admit it, Foxx was right. Overtime did trump everything, and the prospect of losing it was doing a number on his nerves. He checked his watch. It was seven fifteen, which left one hour and forty-five minutes in his last overtime shift of the year. Maybe forever, if his confidence in Bobby Werkman turned out to be misplaced. Overtime pay was precious to court officers. Other than moonlighting, it was the only way to supplement a civil service wage that did not go very far in a city like New York. But once the clock struck midnight tonight, all overtime pay would cease. Officers might still work an extra hour or two, but instead of double time pay Office of Court Administration regulations now decreed they would receive compensatory time. Or, as Elliott described it, a frigging hour off in the middle of the day.

“Hey, there he is,” said Elliott. “The man who holds our fate in his hands.”

Foxx followed Elliott’s eyes to the front entrance, where Judge Alvin Canter had just pushed in through the revolving door. The judge was bean-pole thin, a long coat hanging on his longer body. He scraped the black schapska off his head, and even at a distance Foxx could see the strands of his comb-over flying apart with static electricity.

“Overtime equals fate?” said Foxx. “Isn’t that overly dramatic, Jerry?”

“Not to me it ain’t.”

The judge unbuttoned his coat, shook the lapels loose, and headed past the coffee shop toward the judges elevator in the south wing of the lobby.

“Think today’s the day?” said Elliott.

“For what?”

“The ruling on Bobby’s case. What else?”

“How the hell would I know?” said Foxx.

“Didn’t you have something going with Canter’s secretary?” asked Elliott.

“Who told you that?”

“I don’t know. No one. I thought…”

“Keep thinking, Jerry. Think all you want. Just keep your thoughts to yourself.” Foxx peeled the latex gloves off his hands. “Excuse me.”

He squeezed between two stanchions and glided smoothly up the promenade to an alcove where two banks of phone booths once had stood. He opened his cell phone and pressed in all ten digits of the number. Unlike most people, he did not rely on stored contact information. He refused to upgrade to a smart phone. To him, people who outsourced their brain functions to devices were in for an unpleasant surprise someday.

“What’s up?” asked Bev.

“What’s up? No hello? No Happy New Year?”

She sighed. “Hello, Foxx. Happy New Year, Foxx. Now what’s up?”

“Canter just walked in.”

“This early? You think today’s the day?”

Did she need to use Elliott’s exact words? thought Foxx.

“New Year’s Eve,” he said. “Most of the judges will be no-shows. The ones who are here have something important they need to get done. Yeah, I think today’s the day.”

“Keep an eye. I don’t trust either side.”

“Don’t you work for the administration?”

“Aren’t you a member of the union?”

“Touché,” said Foxx, and cut the call.

*   *   *

Viewed schematically from above, the New York County Courthouse resembled a hardware bolt: a hexagon of courtrooms and back offices surrounding a central rotunda. The first four floors were designed with mezzanine levels constructed around two-story courtrooms whose original magnificence had deteriorated over time into a stately decay. The judges’ chambers were located on the fifth and sixth floors. Depending on the interior architecture and the position along the hexagonal outer face, chambers consisted of either a two- or three-room suite. But regardless of size or shape, all chambers shared a common attribute: They were completely private, utterly self-contained worlds.

The judge reached his door, unwedged the two copies of the New York Law Journal from the mail slot, and slipped the key into the lock. His chambers were one of the three-room varieties, with a large outer office that Tom and Carol shared, a narrow middle room filled with file cabinets and thick with potted...

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