get you home, pal,” Blair said sympathetically, starting the ignition. “You need some rest. Are Karen and Allie home yet?” he asked, referring to Danny’s wife and teenage daughter, who had been visiting relatives in California during the trial.
“Not yet,” Danny replied. “They get home this afternoon.”
Throughout their conversation, Blair had been struggling with his own anguish. He was trying to play the role, trying to act as if he knew nothing. That’s what he had promised Sam and Kimberly he would do. However, his resolve was wavering as he witnessed the damage that course of action was inflicting upon his friend. And that damage and pain would only get worse over time. Danny could go to jail. He would almost certainly be sued. He would be publicly disgraced, and perhaps worst of all, he’d have to live with guilt he didn’t deserve. And this was Danny Moran, his best friend, who had done so much for him. But just when Blair thought it was a role he couldn’t play, when he was within seconds of revealing the truth, Danny had made it easy. “I’m responsible,” Danny had said. “It’s my fault.” And Danny truly believed that. It was just too easy to let him continue believing it.
D etective Victor Slazak sat in the leather recliner in his living room, intently watching the baseball game on his new big-screen TV. The room was hot and stuffy, but he didn’t mind. It felt like the old days, before central air-conditioning had become commonplace, and that’s how baseball should be watched on a Sunday afternoon during June in Chicago.
The house was a 1950s-era bungalow in Mount Greenwood, a working-class neighborhood on the southwestern outskirts of the city. Like many of his neighbors, Slazak had grown up in Mount Greenwood and had never found any reason to leave. Most of the residents were policemen, firemen, or other city workers, drawn there by the availability of affordable housing within the city limits.
The yellow brick bungalow was small, but that didn’t bother Slazak; he lived alone and liked it that way. He had tried marriage twice, and each marriage had lasted less than a year. Now forty-four years old, he was content with his station in life and felt no need for companionship, either at home or on the job. He wasn’t good at relationships, he told himself. They were messy and complicated. They required tact and diplomacy, which meant holding your tongue and dancing around the truth. They required flexibility and compromise. He wasn’t good at any of those things and had no desire to be.
On the job, he was brutally honest and direct with his colleagues. He said what was on his mind, without apologies and without making any effort to be politically correct or considerate of the feelings of others. Not surprisingly, he had alienated more partners than he could count, but the department tolerated him and allowed him to work alone, for one simple reason: he was unquestionably the best detective on the force. What he lacked in diplomacy, he made up for with uncanny intuition, street smarts, a tireless work ethic, and a relentless drive to find the truth. He was a perfectionist who got results. And his job was his passion.
His other passion was baseball. It was his only real interest outside of the job. His father had raised him to be a White Sox fan from the time he could talk, and he had started traveling to Comiskey Park on his own at the age of eight. A true “South-Sider,” he despised the cross-town rival Cubs. He would tell anyone who asked that he had two favorite baseball teams, the White Sox being one, and whoever happened to be playing the Cubs, the other. He took great pride in the fact that he had never set foot in Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs on the city’s north side, and never would.
Today was Slazak’s idea of the perfect day for baseball. The White Sox were playing the Cubs as part of their annual interleague series, and he was relishing the