Vicki Allegretti always wondered what it would feel like to look into the barrel of a loaded gun, and now she knew. The gun was a black Glock, nine millimeter, and it was aimed at her right eye. Vicki observed the scene out-of-body, as if it were happening to a girl with a better sense of humor. Wonder if black guns make you look thinner, she thought.
Holding her point-blank was an African-American teenager with cornrows, who looked as terrified as she was. He looked about fourteen years old, showing just a shadow of a mustache, and his brown eyes were jittery with fear. He kept shifting his weight in his big Iversons, standing tall in baggy jeans and a red satin Sixers jacket. He'd frozen in place when he'd come downstairs and found Vicki standing there, his shocked expression suggesting that he hadn't shot many lawyers. At least not his share.
"You don't want to do this, pal," she said, only apparently calmly. The kid's long fingers trembled on the gun's crosshatched grip, and his other hand cradled a bulge underneath his jacket, as if he were hiding something. She had evidently interrupted a burglary by a rookie. Unfortunately, the Glock was an all-star. "I'm an assistant U.S. Attorney."
"Wha?" The teenager swallowed hard, his eyes flickering with confusion.
"I work for the Justice Department. Killing me is like killing a cop." Okay, it wasn't technically true, but it should have been. "If you shoot me, they'll try you as an adult. They'll go for the death penalty."
"Get your hands up!" The teenager's eyes flared, and he wet his lips with a large, dry tongue.
"Okay, sure. Relax." Vicki raised her hands slowly, fighting the instinct to run. He'd shoot her in the back if she did; the living room was so small, she'd never make it to the front door. Maybe she could talk her way out of it. "Listen, you don't want to upgrade a burglary charge to murder. The stuff that's under your jacket is yours now. Take it and run."
So Vicki did, holding her hands up, her thoughts racing ahead. None of this was supposed to be happening. She had come to the row house tonight to meet a confidential informant in a minor straw purchase case. The meeting was to be so routine that Bob Morton, an ATF case agent, was finishing his cigarette outside by the car. Could she stall until Morty got here? And where was her CI now?
"Jay-Boy!" the kid yelled up the stairwell, panicky. "Jay!"
Vicki noted the nickname. She could identify every zit on the kid's face. She wasn't getting out of this alive. She couldn't wait for Morty. She had to do something.
"Jay! Where you at?" the teenager shouted, half turning away, and Vicki seized her only chance. She grabbed the barrel of the Glock and twisted it upward. At the same instant, Morty walked through the screen door and the whole world exploded.
"Morty, watch out!" Vicki shouted. The Glock fired, jerking convulsively. The barrel seared her palms. The shot split her eardrums. The teenager wrenched the gun back, yanking her off her feet. Simultaneously, another shot rang out. Not from the Glock. Too close to be from Morty's gun. Vicki's throat caught and she looked past the teenager. A man in a goatee and a black coat was shooting at Morty from the stairs.
"No!" Vicki screamed, grappling for the Glock. She glimpsed Morty as he fell backward, grimacing with pain. His arms flew open like a marionette's, throwing the gun from his hand.
"NO!" Vicki screamed louder, as the shooter on the stairs kept firing. A second gunshot, then a third and fourth burst into Morty's chest, exploding the blue ripstop of his down jacket, jerking his fallen body on impact.
Vicki's heart hiccupped with fear and she yanked harder on the gun. The teenager punched her in the stomach, and she doubled over, gasping for breath. She released the Glock and hit back. She connected with his Sixers jacket and held on for dear life.
"Let go!" the teenager shouted, punching Vicki again and again. She flailed and after a solid body blow, crumpled to the floor, the wind sucked out of her. As she fell, she heard the faraway scream of a police siren and the kid shouting, scared, "Jay, we gotta go! Jay!"
Vicki lay doubled over on her side, her body paralyzed with pain. Tears blurred her vision. She couldn't collect her thoughts. She heard footsteps and panting, then a chamber being ratcheted back. She opened wet eyes into the two bottomless black wells of a sawed-off gun. Hot smoke curled from the barrels, filling her nose with a burning smell. Aiming the weapon was the shooter with the goatee.
My God, no. Vicki rolled over in a last effort to save herself.
"Don't do it, Jay, she's a cop!" the teenager screamed. Then, "No! Get it! Hurry!" Suddenly they were scrambling to pick things up off the floor. Whatever they'd stolen must have fallen out of the Sixers coat.
"Leave it go, Teeg! We gotta go!" The shooter was already sprinting away, his hands full. The teenager bolted after him, jumping over Morty and out the front door, leaving the row house suddenly quiet.
Morty. Vicki rolled back over and struggled to her feet, stumbling across the living room to him.
"Morty!" she called, anguished, when she reached his side. He was lying on his back, his arms still flung wide, his blue eyes fluttering. "Morty, can you hear me? Morty?"
He didn't answer, his gaze barely focused. His neat features had gone slack and a sheen of perspiration coated his forehead and wet his sandy hair ...
Excerpted from DEVIL'S CORNER © Copyright 2005 by Lisa Scottoline. Reprinted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.