Although the evidence was overwhelming, something in O'Brien's gut told him there was more to the story than surfaced in court, more than what was found at the murder scene. But caseloads mount and time has a way of blurring the lines of desperation in a man's face until something surfaces. For O'Brien, it happens when he receives a call from Father Callahan.
The priest hears the confession of a frightened prison inmate, and he learns that a man facing lethal injection in 84 hours is innocent. The lead investigator on the high-profile case was his old his friend Sean O'Brien. And now O'Brien has a chance to right a horrible wrong. But he has less than 84 hours to uncover clues to a crime that sent an innocent man to death row.
Appeals have expired and the man will be executed in 84 hours unless O'Brien can find evidence that points to the real killer. The 24th letter in the Greek alphabet-Omega-may provide the key to uncovering the killer's identity.
Evidence may not lie, but evil does, and when the original killer comes out of his lair, O'Brien is in a race to save two lives - the man on death row and his own.
About the Author
Tom Lowe is an award-winning documentary writer/director whose films air nationwide on PBS. As he writes his novels, Tom draws from his travels around the world and his background as a print and broadcast journalist. He worked fifteen years in television news and did freelance stories for CNN. Tom is a sailor and SCUBA diver. He lives in Florida.
Read an Excerpt
One U.S. Marshal Deputy Bill Fisher had never done it before, and after that morning he swore to God he’d never do it again. Never had he let a prisoner have a cigarette before entering a courthouse to testify, but Sam Spelling had been cooperative and polite on the long ride from Florida State Prison to the U.S. district court in Orlando. And they were early. The news media were on the other side of the building, out front. Maybe, thought Deputy Fisher, it wouldn’t hurt if Spelling smoked half a cigarette.
Spelling was to be the star witness in the government’s case against a bank robber turned cocaine trafficker. Since Spelling was helping the government, at a possible risk to himself, what harm could a quick cigarette do? Might calm the boy down, help his testimony. Marshal Fisher and a second marshal escorted Spelling up the worn steps leading to the courthouse’s back entrance.
At the top of the steps, Spelling looked around, eyes searching the adjacent alley, the delivery trucks and sheriff’s cars parked along the perimeter. His dark hair was gelled and combed straight back. Two white scars ran jagged above his left eyebrow like lightning bolts—leftovers from a diet of violence. He had a haggard, birdlike face, beak nose with feral eyes, red-rimmed and irises the shade of blue turquoise. He squinted in the morning sun and said, “I’d really appreciate that smoke, sir. Just a quick one to relax my nerves. I gotta go in there and say things that are gonna send Larry to where I am for a helluva long time. State’s promised me he’ll go to some other prison. If he don’t, it’ll only be a matter of time before he shanks me, or has somebody do it. Right now a smoke would make my time in the witness stand a whole lot easier.”
THE RIFLE’S CROSSHAIRS swept up Sam Spelling’s back as he reached the top step. The sniper looked through the scope and waited for the right second. He knew the .303 would make an entrance hole no larger than the width of a child’s pencil on the back of Spelling’s head. The exit wound would plaster Spelling’s face into mortar supporting the century-old granite blocks.
He didn’t anticipate Spelling turning around at the rear entrance to the courthouse. Even better, now he could put one between the eyes. Through the powerful scope, he saw the flame of a cigarette lighter. Magnified, it looked like a tiny fire in the marshal’s hand. He watched as Spelling used both his cuffed hands to hold the cigarette, bluish white smoke drifting in the crosshairs. Spelling took a deep drag off the cigarette as the sniper started to squeeze the trigger.
Then Spelling nodded and coughed, turning his head and stepping backward.
He lowered the crosshairs to Spelling’s chest and pulled the trigger.
Sam Spelling fell like a disjointed string puppet. The gunshot sprayed tissue, bits of lung and muscle against the courthouse wall. Blood trickled in a finger pattern down the white granite, leaving a crimson trail that glistened in the morning sun.
Excerpted from The 24th Letter by .
Copyright © 2010 by Tom Lowe.
Published in March 2010 by A Thomas Dunne Book.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.