Two weeks after Philip d'Autremont is acquitted of his wife's murder, it's time for him and his partner and lawyer, Charles Barnett, to start building their life together. But it turns out that not everyone in Atlanta is as ready to leave the trial in the past as Charles and Philip, and a surprise attack leaves Charles in the hospital and Philip's arm in a sling.
With thoughts of their own mortality fresh in their minds, Charles and Philip make a decision that will change their lives forever. Future plans and home renovations take their minds off the attacks, but the danger isn't over yet: the people behind the attacks are still at large, and they weren't acting alone.
It was Friday morning, and Charles and I had just started our morning run. For late January, the temperature was bearable, and we were running shirtless. We’d just reached the northern end of the park close to a wooded area when I heard a loud crack and Charles let out a yelp of pain and dropped to the ground. I stopped to see what was wrong, and there was another loud crack and something hit me in the right arm with enough force that it spun me around, and I collapsed almost on top of Charles.
I noticed that he was moaning quietly, obviously in pain, probably going into shock, and holding one of his legs. Then the pain hit me, and it dawned on me that we’d both been shot. Lance was beside Charles, nuzzling and licking his face. I crawled over to Lance and got hold of his leash with my left hand.
Just then, two runners, a youngish man and a woman, trotted up and stopped. I looked up at them and said, “Do you have a cell phone? We’ve both been shot.”
The man nodded, produced a phone out of a fanny pack, and called 911. When he’d finished, I said, “Please call this number for me,” and gave him Richard’s landline number. “I need to have our roommate come and get the dog.”
The guy punched the numbers in and held the phone to my ear. I heard ringing. “Please, Richard, pick up the phone,” I said aloud. After what seemed an interminable time, I heard Richard’s sleepy voice.
“I don’t know who this is, but you’d better have a damn good reason for calling at this hour.”
“Richard, shut up and listen. This is Philip. Charles and I are at the north end of the park near the trees by the driving club. We’ve both been shot. Help is on the way, but you need to get here stat and take charge of Lance.”
He started to ask questions, but I cut him off, saying, “Richard, just do it now. I’m going to hand this phone back to its owner, and he’ll direct you to us.”
Charles wasn’t talking and was just lying there moaning softly, so I turned my attention to my fallen partner and held his hand with my left hand -- the right one had gone all useless on me -- and listened to one end of the conversation as the guy said to Richard, “It looks like one of them has been shot in the leg and the other one in the arm. ... There doesn’t seem to be much bleeding, but that’s all I can tell from here. My girlfriend and I will keep the dog with us until you get here. ... Okay, bye.”
I looked up at him and said, “He’s less than ten blocks away, between Piedmont and Juniper. Thanks for your help.”
* * * *
I said, “Richard Greene, the guy we just spoke to, is thirty-one, about five eleven, blond, and very hairy. He’ll be in a red Mustang GT, but I don’t know how close he can get to where we are in the car.”
“No problem, man. This really sucks, doesn’t it?”
“It hurts like hell too.”
We heard sirens approaching, and in short order Charles and I were surrounded by EMT personnel and police, all of whom seemed to want to talk at once. Finally, someone with a little more rank than the others yelled, “Shut the fuck up so we can find out what’s going on here,” and things got quiet.
Mr. Authority looked at me and said, “Sir, can you tell us what happened?”
I said, “We were out for our usual early morning run with the dog when I heard a shot and my friend went down, and as I stopped to look at him, a second shot hit me in the arm. The force of it spun me around, and I almost fell on top of him.” Charles was being hovered over by two of the EMT personnel and was moaning softly. I hurt like hell too, but the adrenaline was still flowing, and that tended to block the pain somewhat.
Mr. Authority asked a few more stupid questions; then one of the cops said in a loud voice, “Somebody get this mutt out of the way.”
I looked over at him and said, “Look, asshole, he’s not a mutt, he’s a pedigreed Irish setter, and someone is coming to take care of him.”
The cop shot back, “I’ve got a gun that can take care of him.”
That really pissed me off, so I struggled to my feet and got in his face. “Get this through your thick head, Officer Numbskull. Last week I filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Atlanta Police Department in general and several of its personnel in particular. You hurt that dog, and you can count on your name being added to the list of defendants for another few million in a heartbeat.”