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Fixer Joe DeMarco is Holding Out for a Hero(ine) in the Latest Mike Lawson Thriller

Accused of murdering the House Majority Whip, Joe DeMarco must call upon Emma, a friend and former agent, to prove his innocence.

As a political "fixer" in Washington, D.C., Joe DeMarco cleans up any mess that threatens the reputation of his boss, Speaker of the House John Mahoney. Of course, his problem-solving methods aren't always above board—just as his missions are rarely straightforward. Thankfully, DeMarco has the ruthlessness, courage, and ingenuity to derail terroristic plots, unmask presidential assassins, or accomplish whatever dangerous task Mahoney has assigned him.

But in the latest installment in Mike Lawson's thriller series, House Arrest, DeMarco finds himself facing a problem he can't fix. At least not on his own.

Someone has infiltrated the Capitol Building to shoot House Majority Whip Lyle Canton at his desk. An anonymous tipper indicates Joe DeMarco is to blame—he was, after all, near the scene of the crime at the time of the murder. Faster than the bullet that killed Canton, the FBI takes DeMarco into custody, ships him off to a Virginia jail...and possibly to a lifetime inside a cell.

But DeMarco has one useful card to play, and her name is Emma. A friend and former agent for the Defense Intelligence Agency, she agrees to dig into the incident and uncover evidence that will prove DeMarco's innocence. Her search takes her straight into the lion's den of another powerful man: billionaire Sebastian Spear, of Spear Industries. As it turns out, both Spear and Canton had plenty of bad blood between them: Their longtime rivalry dates back to their teenage years, when the late Canton swept Spear's high school sweetheart, Jean, right out of his arms. Even after the couple married, Spear considered Jean his one and only love—and it seems the feeling may have been mutual. In fact, Jean was en route to Spear's home when she died in a drunk driving accident, a tragedy Spear thought too perfectly timed to be mere coincidence. Is it possible that he murdered Canton as payback, believing he'd orchestrated his wife's death?

It's up to Emma to get to the bottom of the mystery, though the attempts on her and DeMarco's lives mean she must find answers before they, like Canton, wind up dead. Keep reading for an excerpt of the first chapter of House Arrest—another "suspenseful" entry in the Joe DeMarco saga you don't want to miss (Publishers Weekly).

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House Arrest

By Mike Lawson

House Arrest

By Mike Lawson

The killer knew the location of every surveillance camera in the Capitol. He was dressed in a dark blue uniform: a blue baseball cap, a dark blue short-sleeved shirt, and matching pants with cargo pockets. An equipment belt held a holstered .40-caliber Glock, zip ties that could be used as handcuffs, an extendable metal baton, and a canister of pepper spray. On his feet were black combat boots. On his hands were thin, black leather gloves. 

The rotunda was dimly lit because of the hour, and as the killer walked he followed a route he’d practiced many times, staying against the walls, taking advantage of shadows. Nonetheless, three cameras captured his image, but as he passed into camera range he would turn his head, placing his big hands over his face, the bill of the baseball cap further obscuring his features. The cameras, however, did record a blue-and-white insignia patch on his right sleeve. 

He ascended a marble staircase, and on the third floor he again kept his head lowered, so the bill of the cap and his hands blocked his face from a hallway camera. Once he was past the camera, he quickened his pace until he reached the main door to the politician’s suite of offices. Before he opened the door, he unholstered the Glock, pulled a silencer from a pocket, and screwed the silencer into the barrel of the weapon.

The door was not locked. The politician most likely locked it when he left for the day, but there was no reason to lock it when he was there. What did he have to fear? He was in one of the most well-protected buildings in the United States. 

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The killer walked into the suite, holding the gun down at the side of his leg. He passed several small offices and desks in open areas where secretaries, aides, and interns usually sat. Because of the hour, he’d been hoping the politician’s staff had left for the day; most of them usually left by seven or eight, unless there was something extraordinary going on. If any of them hadn’t left, he’d have been forced to kill them too, which he really didn’t want to do. The politician he’d come to kill was seated behind the desk in his office. There were a Virginia state flag and an American flag in floor stands behind the desk, photographs of party leaders on the wall, and on his desk, a photo of his late wife. A smiling portrait of the fool who was now president was prominently displayed.

The politician wore a white shirt, the sleeves rolled up, and a blue-and-red-striped tie loosened at the collar. He was holding a phone to his right ear, and the killer heard him say, “Kathy, if you don’t get on board with this—”

 At that moment the politician saw the killer standing in the doorway but didn’t see the gun he was holding next to one leg. He was puzzled by the appearance of the killer, wondering why he had come to his office, but he wasn’t concerned or alarmed. Why would he be concerned? The U.S. Capitol Police were there to protect him. 

He said into the phone, “Kathy, hang on a minute.” Cupping his hand over the phone, he said, “Can I help you, Officer?” 

The killer raised his weapon, pointed it at the man’s chest, and whispered, “Tell her you’ll have to call her back.”

“What?”

“You heard me. Do it, or I’ll shoot you.”

Eyes expanding with fear, the politician said into the phone, “Kathy, I’ll have to call you back,” and disconnected the call—and the killer shot him in the heart. 

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  • Photo Credit: Jomar / Unsplash

The politician slumped back in his chair, dropping the phone on the carpeted floor, and the killer shot him a second time, in the forehead. Blood splattered the wall behind the desk, creating an interesting Rorschach pattern. The politician fell forward after the second shot and ended up, still seated, with his head resting on the blotter on his desk. The blotter slowly turned from green to dark red as the pooling blood from the forehead wound formed a halo around the dead man’s head. 

The killer didn’t bother to pick up the two shell casings ejected from the Glock. He could have, but he didn’t. He wasn’t worried about leaving evidence behind. He removed the silencer from the gun, put it back in his pocket, and holstered the Glock. He then made his way back through the maze of staff offices, and when he left the suite, he locked the door behind him. If anyone came to see the politician tonight— though it was unlikely, considering the hour—they’d think that he had gone home for the day. His body shouldn’t be discovered until the next morning, when his secretary, who was always the first to arrive, came to work. In fact, given that this was a Friday night, it might not be discovered until Monday.

The killer walked down the stairs to the rotunda level, again always mindful of the cameras, then took another staircase to reach the subbasement of the Capitol. In the subbasement, he unlocked a door marked with the letter E and a series of numbers. The room he entered was a small closet, and inside it was a gray metal cabinet containing electrical equipment. On the floor of the closet was a gym bag he’d placed there hours ago. 

Now he would wait an hour and hope that was enough time. 

The waiting didn’t bother the killer; he’d spent a lifetime standing around waiting.

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The hour passed, and he took out his cell phone and made a call. He let the phone he was calling ring five times but hung up before an answering machine could pick up. 

He left the electrical equipment closet, taking the gym bag with him, and walked down the hall to an office that had the words Counsel Pro Tem for Liaison Affairs written in flaking gold paint on the frosted-glass window of the mahogany-stained door. The phone the killer had called before he left the closet belonged to the man who occupied the office, and he’d called to verify that the man was no longer there. 

He unlocked the door with a key he’d had made a month ago. The office was small and practically barren. There was an old and battered wooden desk, a wooden chair behind the desk that could swivel and tilt backward, and another, plain wooden chair—a visitor’s chair—in front of the desk. On the desk was a phone connected to an answering machine and a laptop computer. The only other items in the room were a four-drawer gray metal file cabinet and a coatrack near the door. Hanging on the coatrack were a tan London Fog trench coat and a battered L. L. Bean Scottish-tweed rain hat.

The killer didn’t turn on the lights in the office. Moving quickly, he removed his equipment belt and stripped down to his underwear; he didn’t remove the gloves he was wearing or the ball cap. He took his cell phone out of a pocket and placed it in the gym bag. He left the silencer in the pocket of the pants he’d been wearing. Now, attired in only his ball cap, his underwear, black socks, and thin black gloves, he removed a flashlight from the gym bag, one small enough to hold between his teeth. He also removed a screwdriver.

The waiting didn’t bother the killer; he’d spent a lifetime standing around waiting.

The killer took the visitor’s chair and placed it beneath a ventilation grille in the ceiling. He unscrewed the four screws holding the grille in place, set the grille on the floor, and put the pants, shirt, boots, and equipment belt holding the Glock he’d used inside the ventilation duct. Before he placed the boots in the duct, he removed inserts that had made him an inch taller. He didn’t, however, put in the ball cap he was wearing. He left the cap on his head. 

Next, he removed the black leather gloves and put them on the desk, and from the gym bag he took latex gloves, the kind surgeons wear. He donned the latex gloves and pulled from the gym bag a baseball cap identical to the one he was wearing. He made sure the two long, dark hairs he’d placed inside the cap were still there, and then put the ball cap and the leather gloves inside the ventilation duct and screwed the grille back into place. After he finished inserting the screws, he used the screwdriver to scratch the ventilation grille, making bright white marks in the metal, as if the screwdriver had slipped several times while he was threading in the fasteners.

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He put the visitor’s chair back where it had been originally and placed the screwdriver inside the center drawer of the desk. He removed his own clothes and boots from the gym bag next—clothes that appeared to be identical to those he’d been wearing—and got dressed. He also put on an equipment belt that was in the gym bag; the belt too appeared to be identical to the one he’d placed in the ventilation duct and included a holstered .40-caliber Glock. After he was dressed, he stood without moving for about sixty seconds, mentally reviewing everything he’d done, trying to think of anything he’d forgotten. He decided he was good; the entire operation had gone precisely as planned. He was pleased—and frankly somewhat surprised—that he was so calm. 

The killer had never killed before.

He opened the office door and peeked down the hall. It was empty, as he’d expected at eleven thirty at night. He walked back to the electrical closet, holding the now mostly empty gym bag, and stepped back inside. Then he realized he had forgotten something and laughed out loud. He took off his cap, removed the wig from his bald head, and placed the wig in the gym bag. That would have been a hell of a mistake, if someone had spotted him with a full head of hair.

Now he had hours to wait, but that was okay. It’d give him plenty of time to think of the things he could do with the money he’d earned.

...

The dead politician was discovered by his secretary at seven o’clock the following morning. 

The politician’s name was Lyle Canton. He was the House majority whip. 

His killer was arrested thirty-eight hours later.

Want to keep reading? Download House Arrest today.

House Arrest

By Mike Lawson

This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for Murder & Mayhem to continue publishing the mystery stories you love.

Published on 24 Jan 2019

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