The Dead Man's Wife
CHAPTER ONE, Excerpt One
On Friday, December 4, 2009, the Criminal Justice Center was abuzz with activity. Prospective jurors were herded through metal detectors. Defendants were brought in from prisons. Cops waited to testify in cases they barely remembered, and public defenders spoke poorly for the impoverished.
The whole thing moved like a carefully orchestrated dance, with each step perfectly choreographed and the outcome always the same. But upstairs in Courtroom 3B, Andrea Wilson argued passionately for her client, because Andrea danced to her own drumbeat.
Like a veteran actress whose theater was the courtroom, she carefully studied the set. She saw floors that were covered with cheap carpeting and hard wooden spectator benches. The judge was nestled between the flag of Philadelphia, and America’s stars and stripes. The defendant was a poor man whose struggles she knew, because drugs had killed people she loved. That’s why she was so concerned about her client. He looked like a man who’d already been convicted.
Three days into his trial, Tim Green sat at the defense table in his orange prison jumpsuit, as if he were waiting to go back to his cell. In truth, Tim was right to be pessimistic. He had almost no chance of acquittal. That didn’t stop Andrea from fighting, though, and from using her every attribute to do so.
With raven black hair and honey-colored eyes, Andrea was a well-preserved forty-three. Some thought of her as half black. Others said she was half Italian, but everyone was certain that Andrea was all-woman.
Her lithe physique was accented by taut calves peering out from a fitted skirt, and as she paced the floor in a plunging silk blouse that fluttered when she moved, she was energy itself, beautiful and powerful at the same time.
“So let’s go over this again,” Andrea said, a smirk playing on her lips as she questioned the witness. “Is it your contention that Officer Harris was shot by a masked gunman about twenty feet from where you were standing?”
“That’s right,” said the witness, a Dominican woman who was thirty-five and trying desperately not to look it. “He was as far away from me then as he is right now when he shot him the first time,” she added while glaring at the young man at the defense table. “He was much closer when he shot him again.”
“So you can identify the defendant as the shooter despite the fact that he was wearing a mask?”
The witness sighed impatiently. “The mask only covered the top half of his face. He’d been in the bar before so he was pretty easy to recognize.”
“What were you doing in the bar?” Andrea asked. “Were you drinking?”
“No, I was the bar maid. I was serving drinks and taking orders from the customers.”
“Taking orders,” Andrea repeated with a glance at the witness’s skimpy outfit. “What exactly could they order you to do?”
“Objection!” the prosecutor shouted. “She’s harassing the witness.”
“Your honor, I’m simply trying to establish the bar’s atmosphere and the conditions under which Ms. Reyes worked. That goes to her ability to see what was going on in the bar.”
“Rephrase the question,” the judge said.
“Ms. Reyes, what exactly were you serving at the bar?”
“Drinks and buffalo wings,” the witness said, her eyes flashing angrily. “That’s all. There wasn’t anything else on the menu.”
“Coulda fooled me,” Andrea mumbled.
We're so proud of prolific PW alum Solomon Jones, we could just burst—but not before reading his 10th book and eighth novel, the Philadelphia-based crime noir "The Dead Man's Wife," which was released Tuesday.
As Coletti watched, he remembered a time long ago when Andrea was a young vice cop and he was a rising star in homicide. Back then, he was willing to do anything to have her, but now Andrea belonged to someone else, and there was nothing he could do to change that.
Newshounds-turned-novelists Solomon Jones and Karen Quinones Miller encompass the light and darkness of life in the city. Days before their joint book-signing and reading at the Free Library on Nov. 1, Miller and Jones sat down to talk to each other about their lives, their books and the amazing journeys that shaped two of Philadelphia’s most distinctive storytelling voices.
Gabriel García Márquez, 1927-2014