bum rap

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“Law is a contact sport. Buckle your chinstrap.”

Bum Rap brings together hard-boiled lawyer Jake Lassiter with mismatched law partners Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. Let the fireworks and shenanigans begin!

 Lassiter, our favorite linebacker-turned-lawyer, has had it with sleazy clients, shifty prosecutors, and a justice system out of whack.  He’s ready to call it quits when he gets a call from Victoria Lord. Her law partner and lover, Steve Solomon, has been charged with murder and needs the hardest-hitting lawyer in Miami to defend him.  Lassiter finds himself teamed up with Victoria – and more dangerously – attracted to her, too.

Bum Rap and all of Levine’s legal thrillers are FREE for Kindle Unlimited members here.

“Jake Lassiter.  The Jakester!  The mouthpiece who took the shy out of shyster and put the fog into pettifogger.” –State Attorney Ray Pincher in “Bum Rap”

For the two alpha male lawyers – Lassiter and Solomon – the chemistry is immediate.  They hate each other.  There’s chemistry, too, between Victoria and Lassiter…and their mutual attraction creates an ethical dilemma that could torpedo the defense.

The tale begins on South Beach when Solomon accompanies a new client – a stunning Bar girl named Nadia Delova – to Club Anastasia, where her job is to get men drunk and run up huge charges on their credit cards.  Solomon and Nadia confront club owner Nicolai Gorev, demanding Nadia’s back pay.  They argue; Gorev is shot dead; Nadia disappears; and the murder weapon is in Solomon’s hand.

To win the case, Jake and Victoria must find Nadia, who’s fled town one step ahead of the feds and the Russian mob.  Luckily, Lassiter remembers the advice from his college football coach: “Buckle your chinstrap and hit somebody!”


“The pages fly by and the laughs keep coming in this irresistible South Florida crime romp. A delicious mix of thriller and comic crime novel.” – Booklist (starred review)

“Levine effectively blends a puzzling crime, intelligent sleuthing, adroit courtroom maneuvering, and a surprising attraction between Victoria and Jake in this welcome-addition to both series.” – Publishers Weekly

“Ebulliently seamless melding of Levine’s two legal-eagles series.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A highly entertaining look at the law, South Florida style…exactly what the summer needs. Levine deftly blends the characters from his two series into a seamless plot with plenty of twists. Jake, Steve, and Victoria make a formidable and amusing trio.” – Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Take some Russian mobsters, a mysterious jeweler, a murder, the disappearance of a bar girl and add a hilarious romp through Miami and this is really one to take to the beach.” – Amazon 5-star review

Bum Rap is one of those rarities: a thriller that is fun but still ever-so-gently makes you care about the characters. Welcome back, Mr. Levine, and thanks for bringing such an excellent book with you.” – Bookreporter.com

Bum Rap is Jake Lassiter’s greatest adventure as the tough-guy lawyer defends a murder trial with a fibbing client, a missing bar-girl and the Russian Mafia, all set in glitzy South Beach.” – Harlan Coben





The gunshot hit Nicolai Gorev squarely between the eyes. His head snapped back, then whipped forward, and he toppled face-first onto his desk.

There were two other people in the office of Club Anastasia.

Nadia Delova, the best Bar girl between Moscow and Miami, stared silently at Gorev as blood oozed from his ears. She had seen worse.

Steve Solomon, a South Beach lawyer with a shaky reputation, spoke over the echo still ringing off the walls. “I am in deep shit,” he said.








Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida

In Re: Investigation of South Beach Champagne Clubs and one “John Doe”

File No. 2014-73-B

Statement of Nadia Delova

July 7, 2014



Q: My name is Deborah Scolino, assistant United States attorney. Please state your name.

A:Nadia Delova.

Q:How old are you?


Q:Where were you born?

A:Saint Petersburg. Russia. Not Florida.

Q:What is your occupation?

A:What do I look like? Nuclear physicist?

Q:Ms. Delova, please . . .

A:Bar girl. I am Bar girl.

Q:What does that entail?

A:Entails my tail. [Witness laughs]. Is simple job. I get men to buy cheap champagne for expensive price.

Q:How do you do that?

A:We go to nice hotel. Fontainebleau or Delano. Me and Elena on hunting parties.

Q:Do you dress as you have today? For the record, a tight-banded mini in hot pink. I’m guessing Herve Leger.

A:Is knockoff. But shoes are real. Valentino slingbacks with four-inch heels. I dress good on hunting parties.

Q:And just what are you hunting for?

A:Tourists. Men with money. We look for expensive watches. Patek Philippe. Audemars Piguet. Rolex Submariner.

Q:So you approach the men?

A:At the hotel bar. We make small talk. “Oh, you are so handsome. Tell us about Nebraska.” We say we know a private club with good music.

Q:What club is that?

A:Anastasia. On South Beach.

Q:What happens when you get there?

A:Bartender serves free vodka shots, except ours—mine and Elena’s—are water. When the man is drunk, we order champagne. Nicolai buys it for twenty-five dollars at Walmart. Charges a couple thousand a bottle, but the man is so drunk, he signs credit card because Elena has her tongue in his ear, or my hand is in his crotch. Or both.

Q:Just who is Nicolai?

A:Nicolai Gorev. Owner of Club Anastasia.

Q:Ms. Delova, we need you to help the government’s investigation of Nicolai Gorev.


Q:Ms. Delova . . .

A:I am not as stupid as you might think.





“I didn’t shoot the bastard,” Steve Solomon said.

“Tell me the truth, Steve.”

“Jeez, Vic, I am.” Sounding frustrated. Telling the story over and over. He spread his arms and held his palms upward, the gesture intended to show he wasn’t hiding anything.

Victoria studied him. She’d been studying Solomon for several years now. He was her law partner and lover. Solomon & Lord.

Victoria Lord. Princeton undergrad, Yale Law.

Steve Solomon. University of Miami undergrad. Key West School of Law.

Victoria graduated summa cum laude. Steve graduated summa cum luck.

She practiced law by the book. He burned the book. But in court . . . well in court, they were a powerful team.

Solomon & Lord.

Steve had street smarts and was a master of persuasion. Victoria knew the law, which helped with judges. Plus, she was likable, a necessity with juries. Steve also had one talent Victoria lacked: he could lie with a calm certainty no polygraph could ever discover.

She loved Steve. And hated him. Sometimes they argued over “good morning.” But life sizzled when they were together and fizzled when they were apart. Right now, one wrong move, and they could be apart forever.

“Tell me again,” she said. “Everything.”


“I want to see if you tell the same story two times in a row.”

“Aw, c’mon, Vic.”

They were sitting in a lawyers’ visitation room at the Miami-Dade County jail. The metal desk and two chairs were bolted to the concrete floor. Victoria hated the place. It smelled of sweat and disinfectant and something vaguely like cat piss. Her ankle-strap Gucci pumps had slipped on something wet—and yellow—when she had walked down the corridor. She always felt nauseous visiting a client here. Now that the accused was Steve, she also felt a throat-constricting fear.

To get into the jail, she had shown her Florida Bar card. To get out, Steve would need a very good lawyer. She had tried—and won—several murder trials. But with all the emotional baggage, she felt incapable of representing Steve. A surgeon didn’t operate on a loved one.

“If you didn’t kill Gorev, who did?” she asked.

“Like I said, Nadia Delova, our client.”

“Our client?”

“Okay, you were at a hearing in Broward. Nadia was a walk-in. She had five thousand in cash and said she just needed me for a one-hour meeting.”

“Where’s the money?”

“In an envelope in my desk drawer.”

“When were you going to tell me about it?”

“That reminds me of a lawyer joke.”

“Not now, Steve.”

“A lawyer sends out a bill for five thousand dollars, and the client mistakenly sends him ten thousand dollars. What’s the ethical question?”

“Obviously, should he return the money?”

“No! Should he tell his partner?”

Steve laughed at his own joke. He had a habit of doing that. A lot of his old habits were starting to irritate her. Accepting new clients without her approval was one. Straddling the border between ethical and sleazy conduct was another. Getting charged with murder was a new one.

“Where’s Nadia now?”

“That’s what I need to find out. Or you do.”

“You understand your predicament?”

“The cops found me in a locked room with a dead man and a smoking gun. Yeah, I have a pretty good idea.”

“Tell me everything from the top.”

“Nadia was waiting when I unlocked the door to our office at about eight fifteen a.m. She said she was a Bar girl. Very up front about it.”

“How admirable.”

Steve ignored her sarcasm and plowed ahead. “She must have come straight from work, because she was all dolled up. Minidress. Heels. Jewelry. Gloves.”

“Gloves in Miami. In July.”

“Dressy black gloves. Up to the elbows. Like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“Wasn’t Holly a prostitute?”

“Only in the book. In the movie, she was more like a fun date.”

Just outside the door, a baby wailed. It was a weirdly discordant sound in this dreadful place. The common visitation area, a dismal space with rows of benches for families, was adjacent to the lawyers’ room. The baby’s keening reached an impossibly high pitch, and Victoria felt a headache coming on.

“Physical description of this Nadia?” she asked.

“About your height. Nearly six feet. Without her heels.”

“She took off her shoes?”

“In the office. For a minute. She rubbed her feet. Is that important?”

“I don’t know. Had you ever met this Bar girl before?”

“Of course not.”

“But she felt comfortable enough to take off her shoes and rub her feet in your presence?”

“Is that a lawyer’s question or a girlfriend’s question?”

“Just keep going. What else besides her height and her tired feet?”

“Dark hair. Nearly jet-black. Pale skin and blue eyes. Unusual combination. Very . . .”


“Well . . .” He swallowed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed. Victoria made a mental note that Steve—for all his bluster—might not hold up well under cross-examination.

“If you like that sort of thing,” he said finally. “I always preferred blondes. Like you.”

“Of course. What else about Nadia can you remember?”

“Her lips were very . . . What’s the word?”

“I don’t know, Steve. What is the word?”


“Pouty,” Victoria said. “Bee-stung?”

“Yeah. Exactly.”

“Unlike my very average, very WASPy lips?”

“C’mon, you have great lips. Anyway, she had a nice . . .” He made a flowing motion with both hands, the male pantomime for a curvaceous woman. Victoria figured that men had been communicating this way since they first emerged from caves. Not that today’s men were that much different from those of the Paleolithic Era.

“Body?” she helped him out. “Curvy body?”

“Yeah, great body. I mean, no greater than yours, but . . .”

“Bigger boobs?”

He nodded, as if saying it aloud might shatter her fragile ego.

“Okay, so at eight fifteen a.m., this striking, long-legged, cantaloupe-breasted woman wearing gloves up to her elbows gives you five thousand in cash, and, like a puppy wagging its tail, you follow her to this South Beach club.”

“Actually, I drove us both.”

“And just why did she need a lawyer?”

“Her boss, Nicolai Gorev, was holding her passport. She wanted it back plus some money he owed her.”

“And how exactly were you going to help her do this?”

Steve let out a long, slow breath. “Well, that’s where it gets a little sticky.”

“Doesn’t it always?”

“I think it was maybe a language thing, her being Russian and all.”

“Damn it, Steve. What aren’t you telling me?”

He was quiet a moment, then gave her that twinkling smile. It was intended to distract her from whatever he needed to say but didn’t want to. He was a handsome man with black hair and deep-brown eyes. Mischievous eyes, Victoria thought. Devilish eyes, her mother always said. She did not mean it as a compliment. He had an aquiline nose that reminded Victoria of George Washington, except that if Steve had chopped down a cherry tree, he would have lied about it.

At last, Steve said, “Well, you know how you always hated that TV commercial I did for the firm?”

“The blasphemous one? ‘If you want the best lawyers in Miami, hire the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of the Lord.’”

“Nope. The one where I was a cowboy with the pearl-handled pistols?”

“How could I forget?” Victoria said. “The cease-and-desist letter from the Florida Bar is on my desk.”

“Well, if you want to know exactly what happened . . .”

“I do! Word for word.”

So before Victoria could begin pulling out his fingernails with pliers, Steve told her.


“Do you have one gun or two?” Nadia asks.

“What?” Steve answers. They are inside Club Anastasia, headed toward an office at the end of a corridor behind the bar. A heavyset woman in an apron is mopping the floor. Two thick-necked men in black suits are riffling through a stack of credit card receipts and using an old-fashioned, noisy adding machine with a paper scroll. The men glance at Nadia and return to their work.

“On the TV, you have two guns,” Nadia says.

“You talking about my commercial?”

“I told you. I got your name from the television.”

In the commercial, Steve was dressed in cowboy garb. Right down to the chaps, Stetson, and pair of six-shooters. He fired at a blowup doll—a man in a suit intended to resemble, well, The Man. The doll exploded, and Steve blew smoke from the gun barrel.

An actor’s baritone voice intoned: “If you need a lawyer, why not hire a gunslinger? Steve Solomon. Have briefcase. Will travel.”

On the screen, the logo of Solomon & Lord. And the phone number: 555-UBE-FREE.

“No guns,” he tells Nadia as they approach Gorev’s office. “I hate guns.”

“Then what can you do to frighten Nicolai?”

“What I always do. Threaten to sue.”

She exhales a little puff of displeasure, opens her purse, and shows Solomon what is inside. “Well, at least I have a gun,” she says.


“Don’t say it, Vic. I know I screwed up. That’s why I need you so much now. Have you filed your notice of appearance?”

She shook her head, felt her gold hoop earrings swinging. They had been a present from Steve after they’d won their first murder trial. “I can be your lawyer or your lover, Steve, but not both.”

“Jeez, Vic.” His eyes went wide with surprise. “We’re partners in everything.”

Victoria could feel his disappointment. Didn’t he realize you don’t put this sort of burden on the person you love?

“You won’t listen to me,” she said. “As soon as you’re indicted, you’ll try to take over.”

“No way. You’ll be the boss.”

“You’ll push me to go over the line. Like that stupid saying of yours.”

“‘When the law doesn’t work, you gotta work the law.’ It’s the truth, hon.”

“Not the way I practice.”

They were both quiet a moment. Somewhere inside this hellish place, a steel door clanged shut. Shouts of men could be heard on upper floors. The cat piss smell seemed to grow stronger.

“I need you, Vic.”

“I already retained Jake Lassiter.”

“Lassiter! I want a lawyer, not a linebacker.”

“He’s won some tough cases.”

“He’s a slab of meat. If you won’t represent me, I want Roy Black.”

“We can’t afford Roy.”

“Tell him it’s me.”

“Already did.”

“And he didn’t offer a courtesy discount?”

“He doubled his fee.”

“What about Marcia Silvers? She’s won some big cases.”

“Marcia’s in Washington, prepping for a Supreme Court argument.”

“Damn! But why Lassiter?”

“Because he won’t put up with your bullshit. And if you’re innocent, he’ll tear apart the courthouse to prove it.”

“Says who?”

“He promised me. He’ll be like Samson ripping down the pillars of the Temple of Dagon.”

“If I recall my Old Testament,” Steve said, with an air of resignation, “that’s what killed old Samson.”





I want an innocent client.

I need an innocent client.

I don’t mean not guilty because the state can’t meet its burden of proof. But innocent. “Factually innocent,” as we mouthpieces call it.

I’ve been trying cases for twenty years after a short, unspectacular career as a second-string linebacker with the Miami Dolphins. I made a few memorable hits on the suicide squads—the kickoff and punt teams—but mostly I sat so far down Shula’s bench, my ass was in Ocala. I went to night law school in the off-season, graduated in the top half of the bottom third of my class, and passed the bar exam on my fourth try. I’ve been bouncing from courtroom to courtroom in the so-called justice system ever since.

My name is Jake Lassiter, and I’m a grinder. I am not called to speak at fancy conventions in five-star hotels. The governor has not offered me black robes and elevated me to the bench. I am not interviewed by CNN to comment on the latest trial of the century. And I am not rich.

Here’s what I do. Burglary. Robbery. Assault and battery. Con games. Stolen cars. Embezzlement. Drug possession. And, of course, murder. For whatever reason, I’m particularly good at murder. Maybe because the stakes are so high, my engine revs to the red line. Not that a murder trial is a sprint. It’s a marathon where everyone along the road throws rocks at you as you chug along. You have to be able to take a hit.

It’s a lot like the kickoff team in football. The fastest man is not necessarily the one who makes the tackle. More likely, the flier will be picked off by one of the blockers. The player who’s not particularly fast but senses the blocker’s angle can knock the bastard aside, keep rumbling along, and make the hit. That’s what kept me on the Dolphins for three years, and it’s my theory of trying a murder case. Play within yourself. Predict your opponent’s move before it happens, and beat him to the punch. If you’re not particularly swift or shifty—meaning if you’re me—a forearm blast to the throat will do.

On the field or in the courtroom, try not to get knocked on your ass, but if you do, never let them see your pain. Bounce to your feet and head for the ball.

Here’s what I won’t do as a lawyer. I won’t represent a man accused of violence against women or children because my granny taught me that such scum do not deserve my time or effort. Otherwise, it’s pretty much anything goes.

I take a lot of cases other lawyers turn down. Either the money is short or the odds of winning are long. That’s earned me the name “Last Chance Lassiter.”

I pick up cases here and there. Sometimes I just stand by the elevator on the fourth floor of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building. Someone who’s headed for an arraignment naked—without a lawyer—will spot me. I’m a big guy in a suit with a briefcase, and I don’t look lost. Maybe they like my broken nose or my decent haircut, or maybe they’re just scared.

“You a lawyer, dude?”

“Best one you can afford . . . dude.”

Money is always a problem. My first question to a potential customer—yeah, I sometimes call them that—is not “Did you do it?” It’s “How much money do you have?” And, yes, I take credit cards. But not a mortgage on a customer’s house. Not because I’d feel lousy about foreclosing. Because I once got burned when the IRS leapfrogged the mortgage I was holding with a lien for unpaid taxes, leaving my client without a house and me without a fee.

Sometimes former customers refer their pals. This puzzles me, because those ex-customers are nearly always in prison. I guess they don’t blame me for losing. After all, they were guilty, and they watched me work my ass off on their behalf.

That’s a fact of the business. Most of my customers are guilty as hell. I only win when the state can’t prove its case or otherwise screws the pooch. I’m a damn good cross-examiner, and I’ve won cases by catching cops in lies. That doesn’t mean my customer wasn’t technically guilty. But if I can eviscerate the state’s witnesses and then work my magic in closing argument, I can get my customer off.

How else can I win? Sometimes the cops will conduct an unconstitutional search, or the prosecutors will fail to turn over exculpatory evidence, or the trial judge will err. On the occasions I win, I receive little gratitude. No Christmas cards or baskets of fruit. Maybe a grumbling complaint about the size of my fee.

The customer sees the stage play, not the work behind it. Writing the script, building the sets, painting the props, and learning the lines. The ingrate couldn’t care less. I’ll never hear from the victorious client again . . . until he’s arrested for something else.

Mostly I lose. Or plead my guy guilty. It’s a dirty little secret, but that’s the deal with most criminal defense lawyers, even the big names who pontificate on the tube. If anyone knew our real winning percentage, they’d cop a quick plea or flee the jurisdiction.

We all want to be heroes to our paying customers. John D. MacDonald, my favorite Florida writer—yeah, I read a bit—once began a book: “There are no hundred percent heroes.” If you ask my customers, they’d probably give me 51 percent. MacDonald also wrote, “If the cards are stacked against you, reshuffle the deck.” Well, I’m tired of holding a pair of deuces or a busted flush. Tired of the grind. Tired of losing. Which is why on this sweaty July day with a sky as gray as an angry ocean, I needed an innocent client.

I was juggling these thoughts while driving north on Dixie Highway toward I-95 on my way to the jail. Victoria Lord had called this morning while I was slicing mangoes for my nephew Kip’s smoothie. Victoria’s law partner and live-in lover, Steve Solomon, had managed to get himself arrested in the shooting death of some Russian club owner on South Beach.

“I don’t like Solomon,” I told her on the phone.

I know. I know. My marketing skills could use work.

“Do you like most of your clients?” she asked.

“Practically none.”

“But you bust your hump and break down doors to win.”

“I hate losing more than I hate the clients.”

“That’s why I’m hiring you. Plus you have street smarts and won’t fall for any of Steve’s bullshit.”

“Has he agreed to this?”

“Not yet.”

“Tell him I’ve punched out clients who lied to me.”

“You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to smack him.”

In front of me, a landscaper’s overloaded Ford pickup was dropping palm fronds and dead ferns all over the highway. I goosed the gas pedal and pulled my ancient Eldorado convertible into the passing lane. “Victoria, do you ever get tired of representing guilty people?”

“Steve swears he’s innocent.”

“And the law presumes he is. But I’m not talking about him. Does it ever get you down? That nearly everyone is guilty.”

She was silent on the phone a moment. Maybe wondering if she’d called the wrong guy. Then she said, “It comes with the territory, Jake. We force the state to meet its burden of proof. If they do it, we haven’t really lost. The system has won.”

“So you really believe the stuff they teach in law school?”

“If I didn’t, how could I go on?”

Exactly, I thought. She hadn’t practiced long enough to lose her religion, the belief in the holiness of the justice system. I didn’t want to be a prick, so I didn’t say, “Give it ten more years, Victoria; then get back to me.”

Instead, I said, “See you and your presumably innocent partner in an hour.”

I knew them both a bit. They lived together on Kumquat, and I’m on Poinciana in Coconut Grove, so we’re practically neighbors. I’d recently seen Solomon tooling around the neighborhood in a jazzy new Corvette with a paint job they call “torch red.” Not my style. I’m also too big to fit comfortably in the driver’s seat. His personalized license plate was “I-OBJECT,” a pretty good summation of his temperament.

Solomon was a herky-jerky guy, always in motion, always gabbing. About six feet tall with dark hair that usually needed trimming. He weighed about as much as one of my buttocks, but he had that wiry strength. I’d seen him jogging down Old Cutler Road, and he kept up an impressive pace. In court, he badgered witnesses, pestered lawyers, and interrupted judges. His files were always a mess, and, basically, he was a pain in the ass. Showy and over the top by my standards, and I’m not exactly the shy and retiring type.

One day, in the Justice Building cafeteria, I joined Solomon at a luncheon table with several other lawyers. He was spouting off about “Solomon’s Laws,” rules he makes up that flout the system.

“If the facts don’t fit the law, bend the facts,” Solomon said, stuffing his face with eggplant Parmesan.

Everybody laughed. Except me. When I was a young lawyer, I represented an old musician named Cadillac Johnson whose song had been stolen by a hot young hip-hop artist. The copyright claim was murky and documents had been destroyed, but I knew in my gut that my guy had written the song several decades earlier.

“It’s a tough case, maybe impossible,” Cadillac told me.

“If your cause is just, no case is impossible,” I said.

Ever since, I’ve tried to live by those words. Problem is, just causes are hard to come by. And, oh yeah, I won a pile of cash for Cadillac’s retirement without bending the facts, though I did punch a guy out.

The first time I saw Victoria Lord, she was in court, and what I noticed was her posture. A tall, slender blonde who stood very straight and spoke with quiet confidence and authority. Tailored business suits and patrician good looks. Her table was neatly arranged with color-coded files that I’m sure were alphabetized and cross-indexed. Highly organized. A real pro at a young age. Maybe overly earnest for my taste. I could be wrong, but she seemed to be one of those anti-gluten, pro-yoga, organic wine bar, Generation-Y echo boomers. A Gwyneth Paltrow type who would name her first daughter Persimmon or whatever.

They’re really different, Solomon and Lord, but as people say, opposites attract. For whatever reason—maybe because they each bring different strengths to the courtroom—they’ve become a damn good trial team.

Traffic slowed to a halt between Seventeenth Avenue and the entrance to I-95. A mattress lay in the middle lane. Typical. At least it wasn’t on fire. I was stuck behind a muddy old Chevy that belched oily smoke. The tag was expired, and I’d bet a hundred bucks the driver had neither a license nor insurance. I squeezed my oversize Eldo into the left lane, cutting off a young guy in a white Porsche. He banged his horn, and through the rearview, I saw him shoot me the bird.

Aw, screw you, Porsche Boy. And your designer sunglasses, too.

I’m tired of Miami. For a long time, I’ve felt out of place, a brew-and-burger guy in a pâté-and-chardonnay world.

I got a call a few weeks ago from Clarence Washington, an old Dolphins teammate. After retirement, he picked up a master’s degree and then a doctorate in education. And this from a kid who grew up in the projects. I have a lot of respect for Clarence. Now, he’s headmaster at a boy’s prep school in the green hills of Vermont. And to think I knew him when he tossed a beer keg off a seventh-story balcony into a hotel swimming pool. With a Dolphins cheerleader riding that keg all the way down.

Anyway, Clarence said he needed a new football coach. The guy who had the job had retired after like a hundred years. Apparently, there’s very little pressure coaching a bunch of pampered skinny white boys who play against others of their ilk. It doesn’t really matter if you win, as long as the uniforms don’t get too dirty and the parents’ cocktails are chilled. And you get to wear a sweat suit to work with the crest of the school on the chest.

So Vermont was on my mind as I drove to the stinkhole county jail, stuck in traffic, horns blaring, and the thermometer closing in on ninety-six degrees.

Steve Solomon, you may not know it, but you’re the tipping point. If you’re a lying scumbag murderer, I’m hanging up my shingle and heading north.

Green hills. Autumn leaves. Ben & Jerry’s.

Half an hour later, I pulled off the Dolphin Expressway onto Twelfth Avenue and parked my thirty-year-old convertible, canvas top up, in an open lot.

I walked to the jail, a hot rain falling, as it did practically every day in the summer. But as the fat drops pelted me, I could smell the dewy grass of a manicured playing field on a cool September morning.


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