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122 Rules(4)

By:Deek Rhew

Jon shook his head. “I can see your law classes are paying off, but what you’ve learned out there doesn’t apply here. As I told you, we are above the law. I’m afraid you’re going to miss a few more lessons before this is done. A process has been started, and there are no shortcuts, no quick paths through it. Please, just relax and let me guide you.”

“I don’t need guidance. What I need are answers. Who were those guys? Who are you, for that matter? You haven’t exactly explained that. Tell me, Jon, who exactly do you work for and what do you want?”

He shook his head again. “It doesn’t work like that. I’m asking the questions. If you cooperate, maybe I’ll answer what I can. If you don’t,” he paused, “we will be here a very long time.” The underlying threat hung in the air.

Good Cop seemed to have left on a bus for parts unknown. And Bad Cop’s mood had gone sour. Dread returned in all its syrupy thickness.

“Okay, now that we’ve cleared that up, are you sure I can’t get you something?” Good Cop suddenly returned with a sarcastic smile.

She shook her head.

“Fine.” He closed the file with the damning pictures in it, folded his hands on the desk and looked at her. “Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to explain everything that went down this afternoon. Start at the beginning and do not leave anything out. Do I make myself clear?”

For a moment Monica held herself tall, but soon she slouched in her chair like an amateur boxer who had just gone three rounds with the champ...and lost. Badly. She nodded.

“Good. Whenever you are ready.”

Monica took a deep breath and began. “I went to the library because I have a huge Criminal Law midterm coming up...”


Earlier that day

Monica sat in one of a thousand seats in an auditorium NYU Law called a classroom. The instructor, his gloomy voice amplified by the microphone headset he wore, looked no bigger than a Ken doll from this distance. He had somehow turned the required Criminal Law class—a subject Monica had always found interesting—into a depressing saga of oppression and despair. Among the students and faculty, the graying, squat teacher had been given the nickname Professor Doom because he tended to deliver his lectures as if they foretold the end of the world.

Whatever. She didn’t have to like her instructors, just needed to get through their classes.

Just when she thought her brain would implode from boredom, Professor Doom wrapped up the monologue by reminding them about the midterm next week. “And remember,” he said, holding up a finger to emphasize his point, “it’s worth a full third of your final grade.” A collective groan went up from the audience.

Not seeing the point of attending when she could read the material online, Monica hadn’t been to class in almost two weeks. But Dr. Doom liked to throw in a few lecture-only, exam-worthy tidbits during his dreary pontifications, so she made it a habit of attending the class right before a test. Her next shift at the coffee shop wasn’t until tomorrow, and since she had no more classes that day, she could use the free time to study.

Her full-ride scholarship didn’t include living expenses or books, and her job only just covered her meager expenses. She’d managed to sweet-talk Tom Phillips, a fellow first-year with too much money and too many raging hormones, for use of the spare room in his apartment. But if she went there, she’d never be able to concentrate. He almost always had at least half a dozen friends over, drinking and talking too loudly. She couldn’t complain though, since the lack of rent fit perfectly into her tiny budget.

On occasion, she would let Tom lure her into his bed, but only to keep her sexual frustration at bay and the rust off her lady parts. Though she suspected he wanted more, Monica had her entire life for the whole relationship thing, so she kept him at arm’s length most of the time.

The school’s library had little to do with academia and more about friends getting together to catch up on the latest gossip—far, far more interesting than understanding the finer points of blameworthiness as a precondition for criminal liability. So Monica loaded her backpack and hiked almost two miles to the huge New York Public Library where she could get lost in the anonymity.

The walk seeped the tension from her shoulders and cleared her mind. Compared to her little Southern California hometown of Alabaster Cove, New York had a lot more texture and gritty layer upon gritty layer of big-city flavor. The crisp air put a tangy chill in her cheeks. The gray skies drizzled a thin November mist, and by the time she passed the huge, concrete lion sentries guarding the front steps of the library, her mind had cleared.