Tim Rackley is a dangerous man of honor, a deputy U.S. marshal who is very good at his job–until everything he believes in is shattered by the brutal murder of his own daughter. Betrayed by an imperfect judicial system, Rackley watches helplessly as the killer walks free. Bent on vengeance, he is forced to explore his own deadly options, a quest that leads him into the shadowy no man’s land between justice and the law …and into the welcoming fold of “The Commission,” a relentless vigilante group.
But as he’s dragged deeper into a deadly morass of hidden agendas and murderous justice, his secret new life starts coming unwound and he’s suddenly caught in the most terrifying struggle he has ever faced–a desperate battle to save his marriage, his career, his life, his soul, and everything left that’s worth fighting for.
When Bear came to tell him that Ginny’s body had been found raped and dismembered in a creek six miles from his house, that her remains had required three biohazard bags to depart the scene, that they were currently sprawled on a pathologist’s slab awaiting further probing, Tim’s ﬁrst reaction was not what he would have expected of himself. He went ice cold. There was no grief—grief, he’d learn, takes perspective, recollection, time to unfurl. There was just the news slapping him, dense and jarring like face pain. And, inexplicably, there was em barrassment, though for whom or what, he was not sure. The heel of his hand lowered, searching out the butt of his Smith & Wesson, which of course he wasn’t wearing at home at 6:37 in the evening.
To his right Dray fell to her knees, one hand clutching the door frame, ﬁngers curling between the jamb and hinges as if seeking pain. Beneath the razor edge of blond hair, sweat sparkled on the band of her neck.
For an instant everything was frozen. Rain-heavy Febru ary air. The draft guttering the seven candles on the pink-and-white-frosted birthday cake that Judy Hartley held poised for revelation in the living room. Bear’s boots, dis tressingly carrying the crime-scene mud, blotting the ag gregate porch, the pebbles of which Tim had meticulously smoothed on his hands and knees last fall with a square trowel.
Bear said, “Maybe you want to sit down.” His eyes held the same guilt and attempted empathy Tim himself had used in countless situations, and Tim hated him unjustly for it. The anger dissolved quickly, leaving behind a dizzy ing emptiness.
The small gathering in the living room, mirroring the dread emanating from the hushed doorway conversation, gave off a breath-held tension. One of the little girls re sumed recounting Harry Potter Quidditch rules and was hushed violently. A mother leaned over and blew out the candles Dray had lit in eager anticipation after the knock on the front door.
“I thought you were her,” Dray said. “I just ﬁnished frosting her . . .” Her voice wavered hard.
Hearing her, Tim registered an aching remorse that he’d pressed Bear so hard for details right here at the door. His only way to grasp the information had been to try to contain it in questions and facts, to muscle it into pieces small enough for him to digest. Now that he’d taken it in, he had too much of it. But he’d knocked on enough doors himself—as had Dray—to know that it would have been only a matter of time until they’d known it all anyway. Better to wade in fast and steady and brace against the cold, because the chill wasn’t going to leave their bones anytime soon, or maybe ever.
“Andrea,” he said. His trembling hand felt the air, searching for her shoulder and not ﬁnding it. He couldn’t move, couldn’t so much as turn his head.
Dray bent her head and started to weep. The sound was one Tim had never heard. Inside, one of Ginny’s school mates matched her crying—confused, instinctive mimicry.
Bear crouched, both knees cracking, his form broad but huddled on the porch, his nylon raid jacket sweeping low like a cape. The yellow lettering, pale and faded, announced u.s. deputy marshal in case someone cared. “Darlin’, hold on there,” he said. “Hold on.”
His immense hands encircled her biceps—no small feat—and drew her in so her face pressed against his chest. Her hands clawed the air, as if afraid to set down on some thing for fear of what they might do.
He raised his head sheepishly. “We’re gonna need you to…”
Tim reached down, stroked his wife’s head. “I’ll go.”
The three-foot tires of Bear’s chipped-silver Dodge Ram hiccupped over seams on the roadway, shifting the broken-glass dread in Tim’s gut.
Composed of twelve square miles of houses and tree-lined streets about ﬁfty miles northwest of downtown L.A., Moorpark was renowned for little more than the fact that it housed the state’s largest concentration of law-enforcement residents. It was a low-rent country club for the straight ar rows, a post-shift refuge from the streets of the off-kilter city they probed and fought for most of their waking hours. Moorpark radiated an artiﬁcial ﬁfties-TV-show feel—no tattoo parlors, no homeless people, no drive-bys. A Secret Service agent, two FBI families, and a postal inspector lived on Tim and Dray’s cul-de-sac. Burglary, in Moor-park, was a zero-growth industry.
Bear stared dead ahead at the yellow reﬂectors lining the center of the road, each one materializing, then ﬂoating downward in the darkness. He’d forgone his usual slouch, driving attentively, seeming grateful for something to do.
Tim sifted through the mound of remaining questions and tried to ﬁnd one to serve as a starting point. “Why did you…why were you there? Not exactly a federal case.”
“Sheriff’s department took prints from her hand….” From her hand. A separate entity. Not from her. Through his sickening horror, Tim wondered which of the three
bags had carried away her hand, her arm, her torso. One of Bear’s knuckles was smudged with dried mud.
“. . . the face was tough, I guess. Jesus, Rack, I’m sorry.” Bear heaved a sigh that bounced off the dash and came back at Tim in the passenger seat. “Anyways, Bill Fowler was in the handling unit. He ﬁrmed the ID—” He stopped, catching himself, then reworded. “He recognized Ginny. Put in a call to me, since he knows how I am with you and Dray.”
“Why didn’t he do the advise next of kin? He was Dray’s ﬁrst partner out of the academy. He just ate barbe cue at our house last month.” Tim’s voice rose, grew ac cusatory. In its heightened pitch he recognized his desperate need to lay blame.
“Some people aren’t cut out for telling parents that—” Bear laid off the rest of the sentence, evidently ﬁnding it as displeasing as Tim did.
The truck exited and hammered over bumps in the off-ramp, making them bounce in their seats.
Tim exhaled hard, trying to rid himself of the blackness that had ﬁlled his body, cruelly and methodically, some where between the porch and now. “I’m glad it was you that came.” His voice sounded far away. It betrayed little of the chaos he was ﬁghting to control, to categorize. “Leads?”
“Distinctive tire imprints heading out of the creek’s slope. It was pretty muddy. The deputies are on it. I didn’t really… that’s not really where my head was at.” Bear’s stubble glimmered with dried sweat. His kind, too-wide features looked hopelessly weary.
Tim ﬂashed on him setting Ginny up on his shoulders at Disneyland last June, hoisting her ﬁfty-three pounds like a bag of feathers. Bear was orphaned young, never married.
The Rackleys were, for all intents and purposes, his surro gate family.
Tim had investigated warrants with Bear for three years on the Escape Team out of the district ofﬁce downtown, ever since Tim’s eleven-year stint in the Army Rangers. They also served together on the Arrest Response Team, the Marshals’ SWAT-like tactical strike force that kicked doors and hooked and hauled as many of the twenty-ﬁve hundred federal fugitives hidden in the sprawling L.A. me tropolis as they could get cuffs on.
Though still ﬁfteen years from the mandatory retirement age of ﬁfty-seven, Bear had recently begun referring to the date grudgingly, as if it were imminent. To ensure he’d have some conﬂict in his life after retirement, Bear had completed night law school at the SouthWest Los Angeles Legal Training Academy and, after failing the bar twice, had ﬁnally wrung a pass out of it last July. He’d had Chance Andrews—a judge he used to work court duty for regularly—swear him in at Federal downtown, and he, Dray, and Tim had celebrated in the lobby afterward, drinking Cook’s out of Dixie cups. Bear’s license sat in the bottom drawer of his ofﬁce ﬁle cabinet, gathering dust, preventive medicine for future tedium. He had nine years on Tim, currently apparent in the lines etching his face. Tim, who’d gone enlisted at the age of nineteen, had had the beneﬁt of opposing stress with youthfulness when learning to operate; he’d emerged from the Rangers sea soned but not weathered.
“Tire tracks,” Tim said. “If the guy’s that disorganized, something’ll break.”
“Yeah,” Bear said. “Yeah, it will.”
He slowed and pulled into a parking lot, easing past the squat sign reading Ventura County morgue. He parked in a handicap spot up front, threw his marshal’s placard on the dash. They sat in silence. Tim pressed his hands to gether, ﬂat-palmed, and crushed them between his knees.
Bear reached across to the glove box and tugged out a pint of Wild Turkey. He took two gulps, sending air gur gling up through the bottle, then offered it to Tim. Tim took a half mouthful, feeling it wash smoky and burning down his throat before losing itself in the morass of his stomach. He screwed on the lid, then untwisted it and took another pull. He set it down on the dash, kicked open his door a little harder than necessary, and faced Bear across the uninterrupted stretch of the vinyl front seat.
Now—just now—grief was beginning to set in. Bear’s eyelids were puffy and red-rimmed, and it occurred to Tim that he may have pulled over on his way to their house, sat in his rig, and cried a bit.
For a moment Tim thought he might come apart alto gether, start screaming and never stop. He thought of the task before him—what awaited him behind the double glass doors—and wrestled a piece of strength from a place he didn’t know he had inside him. His stomach roiled audi bly, and he fought his lips still.
“You ready?” Bear asked.
Tim got out and Bear followed.
The ﬂuorescent lighting was otherworldly harsh, shin ing off the polished ﬂoor tile and the stainless-steel ca daver drawers set into the walls. A broken lump lay inert beneath a hospital-blue sheet on the center embalming table, awaiting them.
The coroner, a short man with a horseshoe of hair and a stereotype-reinforcing pair of round spectacles, fussed ner vously with the mask that dangled around his neck. Tim swayed on his feet, his eyes on the blue sheet. The draped form was distressingly small and unnaturally propor tioned. The smell reached him quickly, something rank and earthy beneath the sharp tang of metal and disinfec tant. The whiskey leapt and jumped in his stomach, as if trying to get out.
The coroner rubbed his hands like a solicitous and slightly apprehensive waiter. “Timothy Rackley, father of Virginia Rackley?”
“If you’d like, ah, you could go into the adjoining room and I could roll the table over before the window so you could, ah, ID her.”
“I’d like to be alone with the body.”
“Well, there’s still, ah, forensic considerations, so I can’t really—”
Tim ﬂipped open his wallet and let his ﬁve-point marshal’s star dangle. The coroner nodded weightily and left the room. Mourning, like most things, gets more deference with a little authority behind it.
Tim turned to Bear. “Okay, pal.”
Bear studied Tim a few moments, eyes darting back and forth across his face. He must have trusted something he saw, because he backed up and exited, easing the door closed discreetly so the latch bolt made only the slightest click.
Tim studied the form on the embalming table before drawing near. He wasn’t sure which end of the sheet to peel back; he was accustomed to body bags. He didn’t want to turn aside the wrong edge and see more than he ab solutely had to. In his line of work he’d learned that some memories were impossible to purge.
He ventured that the coroner would have left Ginny with her head facing the door, and he pressed gently on the edge of the lump, discerning the bump of her nose, the sockets of her eyes. He wasn’t sure if they’d cleaned up her face, nor was he sure he would prefer that, or whether he’d rather see it as it was left so he could feel closer to the hor ror she’d lived in her ﬁnal moments.
He ﬂipped back the sheet. His breath left him in a gut-punch gasp, but he didn’t bend over, didn’t ﬂinch, didn’t turn away. Anguish raged inside him, sharp-edged and bent on destruction; he watched her bloodless, broken face until it died down.
With a trembling hand he removed a pen from his pocket and used it to pull a wisp of Ginny’s hair—the same straight blond as Dray’s—from the corner of her mouth. This one thing he wanted to set straight, despite all the damage and violation stamped on her face. Even if he’d wanted to, he wouldn’t have touched her. She was evidence now.
He found a single ray of thankfulness, that Dray wouldn’t have to carry the memory of this sight with her.
He pulled the sheet tenderly back over Ginny’s face and walked out. Bear sprang up from the row of cheap, puke-green waiting chairs, and the coroner scurried over, sipping from a paper cone ﬁlled with water from the cooler.
Tim started to speak but had to stop. When he found his voice, he said, “That’s her.”
They headed back to Dray in silence, the bottle sliding empty on the dash. Tim wiped his mouth, then wiped it again.
“She was supposed to be just around the corner at Tess’s. You know, the redhead—pigtails? Two blocks away from school, right on Ginny’s way home. Dray told her to go there after school, so we’d have a chance, you know, her other friends, the presents. To surprise her.”
A sob swelled in his throat, and he swallowed it, swal lowed it hard.
“Tess goes to private school. We have an arrangement, us and her mom. The kids can stop by for play dates unan nounced. There was no one expecting Ginny, no one to miss her. This is Moorpark, Bear.” His voice cracked. “It’s Moorpark. You’re not supposed to know your kid’s not okay when she’s four hundred yards away.” Tim faded off into a space between agonizing thoughts, a momentary respite from the distinct pain of having failed—as a father, as a deputy U.S. marshal, as a man—to protect his sole child’s existence.
Bear drove on and didn’t talk, and Tim appreciated him greatly for it.
Bear’s cell phone rang. He picked it up and spoke into it, a string of words and numbers that Tim barely registered. Bear ﬂipped the unit shut and pulled to the curb. Tim didn’t notice for several minutes that they were stopped, that Bear was studying him. When he looked over, Bear’s eyes were startlingly severe.
Tim spoke through the sluggishness of his exhaustion. “What?”
“That was Fowler. They caught him.”
Tim felt a rush of emotions, dark and hateful and inter twined. “Where?”
“Off Grimes Canyon. About a half mile from here.”
“Ain’t gonna be nothing to see but yellow tape and after math. We don’t want to contaminate the arrest, fuck up the crime scene. I thought I’d take you to Dray—”
Bear picked up the empty bottle, jiggled it, then set it back on the dash. “I know.”
The foregoing is excerpted from The Kill Clause by Gregg Hurwitz. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
“The Kill Clause is a buzzsaw spiral into the darkness of lawless men hiding within the law and the damage they do in the name of justice. Gregg Hurwitz perfectly realizes the gritty, hair-trigger world of the U.S. Marshal’s elite Arrest Response Team with some of the most intense action scenes I have ever read, counter-pointed beautifully by the heart-wrenching story of a father’s horrifying loss. This book is the real deal.”
“Hurwitz’s deft descriptions…and his fast-paced plotting will keep readers riveted. Tim is a promising series hero, with his multitude of skills and conflicted loyalties, and Hurwitz is off to a fine start with this first installment.”
“The Kill Clause is like a literary Law & Order, without the commercials. [A] killer read.”
“…Few writers can so tightly structure a book…Hurwitz is already past the stage where he might patronizingly be compared with other masters of the genre. The Kill Clause demonstrates that it’s not too soon to start using him as a comparative touchstone.”
“A tough, engaging, and morally complex work that grabs you early and never lets you go. Hurwitz knows a cop’s world inside and out. Every page bristles with authenticity. I highly recommend it.”
“A white knuckle thriller of the first order. Smart, with a little twist of the wicked.”
JOE R. LANSDALE
“A bullet-fast ride through a landscape of high tension and sudden death—but it’s also a moving story of real human beings negotiating the gray areas of the world. Hurwitz draws you into the mind of a top-flight U.S. marshal and then shows you how and why such a good man might cross the line. It’s strong stuff, exciting on every page.”
Adventures In Research
Try finding research on the U.S. Marshals Service. There isn’t much. I managed to find only four books that even dealt with the Service, three of them out of print. The first thing I did was to go back and review the entire history of the Service, starting with Stuart Lake’s biography of Wyatt Earp (1931) recounted to him in Earp’s own words. I got my hands on a few documentaries, and delved heavily into the Service’s role in the civil rights movement, most significantly during James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss — a second Civil War for this country about which very few people are knowledgeable. While this didn’t directly impact my story, it gave me a great background and understanding of the Service. I called a buddy of mine (the former agent whose brain I picked for Ed Pinkerton’s character in Do No Harm) and asked him if he ever overlapped with any deputy US marshals he could put me in touch with. I talked to his good friend, a deputy out of East St. Louis, and we got along great. He was coming to LA on some business, and promised to set a few meetings for me in the California Central District office (there are 94 districts, and 94 appointed U.S. Marshals, one corresponding to each judicial district). So he flew in, we grabbed breakfast and headed over.
I figured I’d meet a deputy or two and get shown a couple of cubicles. Awaiting us was (the legend himself) U.S. Marshal Tony Perez, his Deputy U.S. Marshal Supervisor, the Supervisory Deputy for the Arrest Response Team and the Explosive Detection Canine Team, as well as a few other key lieutenants. The Marshal had them all waiting to answer any questions I might have, and promised me a tour later of the facilities. He even offered to suit up his men and run through tactical scenarios for me. When I asked Marshal Perez whether it was fact or legend that he’d once allowed his beloved dog, Gus, to execute an arrest (long story), I knew I’d won him over. He called off his lunch and took me for Cuban food. I was completely blown away by the reception I received. It turned out that Marshal Perez was trying to expand the public awareness of the Service, and so I was benefiting from precisely the shortcoming of information that had proven such a research obstacle to begin with. I was in on the ground floor, able to ask questions and get answers at the highest level, a privilege I benefit from as I work on my Tim Rackley sequel. From there, I needed a few more guys on my contact list, so I kindled a friendship with a brilliant Los Angeles Public Defender, and struck up a relationship with a dynamo of a DA. I’d have one guy holding while I was on the line with the other, playing their legal arguments off each other as I clicked back and forth. A lot of lunches and dinners and bar tabs helped me fill in the blanks about their views of the law and its frustrations.
The locksmiths, believe it or not, were the toughest contacts to make open up. They were incredibly tight-lipped. I went and followed a few guys around, asking questions, but they refused to answer most of them. I watched them burn keys. I read pamphlets and called lock companies. I tore through the Yellow Pages, calling up random locksmiths and asking questions about lock picking. When they got too suspicious, I hung up. They wouldn’t give me information on lock picking as a novelist, because they were worried it would get out in the public and crooks could read my book and pick up new techniques. So I posed as a reporter, a customer, a victim of a home robbery. I usually altered one piece of info, or left out a key fact, so robbers couldn’t pick up technique from the book. It took a while, but I finally managed to piece together a convincing worldview of a forensic locksmith. I needed to get the feel of a .357 down, as it would be Tim Rackley’s prize weapon. Fortunately, one of my Navy SEAL buddies was in town, teaching an explosives course to California SWAT teams. He’s one of the leading demolitions experts in the world, having come up on the SEALs counterterrorist group, and he’s had more trigger time than whole platoons put together. He’s also built like a brick shithouse — huge comic book lats, barrel chest, and a Fu-Man-Chu mustache. I’ve been out with him places where he’s shot his patented don’t-fuck-with-me look and gotten whole groups of guys to leave a bar. He had a bevy of handguns in tow, so we headed up to a range he used on occasion. He told me not to ask any questions or say anything at the guard booth. He bullshitted us through (I had no clearance, which I didn’t realize was required until I was being eyeballed by the deputy on duty) and got us to the range. I practiced with a Beretta, a Colt .45, and the .357 (a wheel gun from Smith & Wesson), so I could compare their operational differences. At one point, I was grouping high and right on the paper targets. My friend asked to borrow my gun to make sure the sites were appropriately lined. He turned and fired, not in a Weaver firing stance, not bothering to site correctly or even hold the weapon with both hands. He hit the dead center of the critical mass — and I mean dead center. Five bullets, one hole. I couldn’t believe it. It was like something from an old-school Western. He returned the .357 to me, wisely surmising that there was no problem with the gun and that I was merely anticipating recoil. He then hunkered down with the .45. Each time he fired, the muscles in his back contracted, bulging out through his T-shirt. Watching him, I thought, this is probably the last guy in the whole world I’d ever want to piss off. Which got me to thinking about The Kill Clause. The only thing I could imagine more intimidating than my buddy was two of him. And so I created the Mastersons — twin brothers, built to crush skulls.
I wanted to put Rackley and the Commission up against some of the worst offenders in order to drive home the imperative for vigilante action. For these horrific crimes and for the assassinations of the criminals, I had to proceed with a shadier group of contacts. I asked some of my darker off-the-record boys about the worst things they’ve ever seen, and I was told a few stories and shown a few video clips that kept me up nights. These trickled down from my memory onto the pages, finding expression in the refrigerator scene and Lane’s dispatchment.
The most dangerous research move I pulled for this book (or any) I didn’t even end up using. I was debating having a small plane figure in the ending of The Kill Clause so I talked to a friend of a friend who flew a lot. I met him at the Santa Monica airport to ask some questions, but he threw me a parachute and told me to put it on. I was belted in before he informed me he was a stunt pilot. Now, I’m not the best flier as is (and here, I’m referring to subdued Friendly Skies kind of flying), so being up in the great blue open doing barrel rolls and flips was not my idea of a relaxing Sunday. But I landed in one piece, went home, and wrote down many of the sensations I’d experienced. But the damn plane scene never found its way into the book. I kept trying to hammer it in one place or the other. I didn’t want to believe I’d gone through all that for nothing. Killing your babies, as writers call editing out material, is hard enough normally. When you’ve paid for the scene by losing all the blood to your head for an hour, it makes it next to impossible. But, if it doesn’t serve the plot, it doesn’t serve the plot. Tim gets up to a lot of trouble in The Kill Clause but he doesn’t get stuck on a stunt plane. That we left to his idiotic creator.
The following is also based on an interview Gregg gave in 2003:
The Issues Behind The Kill Clause
When I wrote The Kill Clause, I was very interested in exploring the nuances and weaknesses of the law. The ways in which our courts necessarily function do not address justice—only the law. I wrote about an upstanding deputy US marshal, Tim Rackley, whose daughter is violently murdered and her killer set free due to a procedural loophole. An option outside the law is presented to him—not your basic Charles Bronson street justice plan, but an actual, viable, intelligent option that addresses the law and the role of violence in society—and he takes it.
The day I sold the novel, James Wolcott wrote a brilliant essay in Vanity Fair, talking about the need for new vigilante cinema. Why has this suddenly become relevant?
Now more than ever, Americans are confronted with weighing our securities against our freedoms. 9/11 changed the way many Americans viewed our freedoms. It brought to us the costs with full impact, making us acknowledge them in a way we hadn’t been called to before. Everything from wire tapping laws to racial profiling was examined from a fresh perspective. The dogma—both liberal and conservative—went out the window when many of us watched the towers smoking. And we started asking new questions. I was raised in a liberal family that never updated its view of the military and intelligence communities from opinions gleaned during Watergate and Vietnam. 9/11 forced all of us to ask—at what price do we enjoy our freedoms? How many of these freedoms would we be willing to sacrifice for greater security? The see-saw is tilting, John Ashcroft is casting a mighty long shadow, and the question remains—how much can we allow our government to invade our civil liberties for the sake of security before we’re sacrificing the very principles we’re protecting? It’s an issue worthy of fiction. But of what kind of fiction?
Thrillers and mysteries in this country are not afforded the same respect they receive in Europe. Here, we draw a large distinction between “literary” and “commercial” fiction. It’s hardly a fresh point I’m making, but it seems to me the essential distinction should be between good and bad writing. These terms don’t even make sense. What is literary? What is commercial? Tom Wolfe doesn’t need an adjunct professorship to support himself. And probably ninety five percent of so-called commercial writers can’t support themselves. Take a spin through a mystery convention sometime. The guys writing cat detective books aren’t exactly living high on the hog.
Of course, to be clean, I’m also responding defensively. I don’t like being dismissed because I’ve chosen to address issues in a medium that’s suspenseful and plot-oriented. John le Carré and Thomas Harris, sentence for sentence, display a proficiency with language at the highest level. Check out the Signet and Penguin Faulkner paperbacks from the 50′s—”Tales of crime, guilt, and love by… author of Sanctuary and other Million Copy Bestsellers”—the cover art makes them look like bodice-rippers. When Faulkner permits a rape trial to be interrupted by the entrance of a stained corn cob, he pretty much puts David E. Kelly to shame in the “That’s Entertainment” department.
The essential debate over where to draw the line between security and freedom needs to be sussed out where it most often is—in vigorous debate, in media inquiry, and in our cinema and literature. We shouldn’t be picky about what voices are chiming in to join the chorus. One can learn as much about American attitudes surrounding Vietnam by reading First Blood as The Things They Carried. Because O’Brien is a more critically acclaimed writer doesn’t necessarily make his stories more important, or more thought provoking. We need a multitude of stories right now. We’re not living in an age where we can eschew alternate perspectives.
The Kill Clause addresses precisely the points I was discussing above. It’s not about 9/11′s aftermath, but about how these same issues play out in our court system every day. How long will we permit procedural irregularities—expired warrants, Miranda violations, tainted chain of custody—to override the merits? If we know someone is guilty and they are turned free due to a botched knock-and-notice, at what cost do we countenance that? If they kill again? If they kill your daughter? If they hop a plane and ram it into the White House? My protagonist seeks to answer some of these questions on his own, outside the “system.” And while he certainly doesn’t like what he finds, at least he had the courage to go looking.