BY: ROB SILVERMAN
A bomb rocks West Hollywood. And with that, LA joins the brotherhood of American cities hammered by the harsh fist of terrorism. A dozen murdered and numerous injured, including Frank Grace, a cop with a checkered past who once again is at the wrong place at the wrong time.
While recuperating, Detective Grace is handpicked by the police chief to do whatever necessary, legal or not, to swiftly apprehend the perpetrators. Chief Kent refuses to stand by while his city burns and his legacy is tarnished amidst the growing rage and prejudicial violence spreading across Los Angeles.
Along with his principled partner, Michelle Santana, Frank begins to unravel a perilous network of deceit, dishonesty, and distrust. A fellow officer with a shady history, a judge with a dubious past, and a high-class prostitute are abducted. A homeless man is murdered. All are seemingly unrelated to the terrorist attack. Or are they? Frank Grace doesn’t think so.
With the feds breathing down his neck, the chief pressuring him, the knowledge that even longtime allies can’t be trusted, and another attack looming, Frank realizes time is running out. Exposing the truth may further damage his already-tainted reputation, end his career, and cost him his life. Is he just a pawn in someone else’s game?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Sacrificing the Pawn by Rob Silverman, Frank Grace is a LAPD homicide detective, unjustly disgraced for his handling of a restaurant hostage situation four years ago. Now he just tries to get through day without drawing attention. Unfortunately, that is not to be. He and his partner Michelle Santana are at ground zero when a terrorist bomb goes off in Hollywood. Already in trouble again for “harassing” a couple of low lifes, at least according to the men’s lawyer, Frank is surprised when the chief of police calls him personally and asks him to take the terrorist case. Frank and Michelle are also working on a rash of kidnappings and murder, which Frank fears may be related somehow to the terrorist attack, but he has no proof. Now Frank’s family is being threatened and his career is on the line. He needs to find the perpetrators and fast.
The story is a well-written, fast-paced, police procedural mystery/thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. A great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Sacrificing the Pawn, A Frank Grace Mystery by Rob Silverman is the story of a homicide detective in LA who has a penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Frank Grace is still hounded by the press for his “mishandling” of a hostage situation in a restaurant four years ago, which resulted in a blood bath. Now Frank and his partner, Michelle Santana, are questioning a couple of thugs in West Hollywood when a terrorist bomb goes off, practically in their laps. Frank believes the two losers he was questioning have something to do with the bomb, as well as a series of abductions and murders. A female cop, a judge, and a high-priced hooker have been kidnapped, a successful business executive and a homeless man murdered. The FBI has been called in, so Frank is stunned when the police chief tasks him to solve the case, “whatever it takes.” As Frank closes in on the truth, he and his family are threatened, along with his partner, making him even more determined to solve the case and put an end to it all.
Sacrificing the Pawn is a gritty, down-to-earth, mystery-thriller, giving us a glimpse of the hard, unrelenting, and often unfair, job of a big city cop and the scum they have to deal with. A hard-hitting, poignant, and thought-provoking story, with plenty of twists and turns, this one is hard to put down.
Abby Grace retreated from the corpse and stared at her blood-soaked hands.
She evaluated the situation, scrutinizing the crushed expressions and million-mile stares of her defeated colleagues. Forlornly, they looked at the individual who would make the call.
From her vantage point, the one in charge appeared detached, hesitant. And dangerously young. Without raising his head, his vacant eyes swept the room, seeking affirmation, seeking guidance, seeking something. What he received were empty glares. This was completely on him.
Abby bowed her head, glimpsed the crimson patches dotting her scrubs like strawberries sprouting in a field. The lone sound reverberating within the frosty operating room was the incessant droning of a steady beep. She’d heard it plenty, yet never became accustomed to it.
One of her coworkers, a grandmotherly type affectionately dubbed NeeNee, stepped right, flipped the switch on the heart monitor, and thrust the room into tomblike stillness. “Doctor?”
He shifted his glance from his nursing team and anesthesiologist to the silent machines and stagnant devices that now taunted him. His staff was stock-still, awaiting his next directive. UCLA, M-CATS, a three year clinical rotation, three more specializing in cardiovascular surgery and a fellowship back east at New York-Presbyterian didn’t mean a thing. Cardiothoracic surgeon Cody Ladd was well trained, well educated, and damn well talented. Still, he was unable to speak three words.
Abby noticed a young nurse roll her eyes and begin tapping the floor with the heel of her hospital-issued booties while impatiently eying the wall-mounted clock.
Dr. Ladd yanked the surgical mask away from his face. A deep inhalation and through quivering lips he grumbled, “One-seventeen,” followed by three words: “Time of death.”
His best efforts thwarted, Ladd indignantly stormed from the OR. Before the door closed behind him, the toe-tapper remarked, “One seventeen already? No wonder my stomach’s growling. What’s for lunch?”
A handful of RN’s began debating the pros and cons of the cafeteria versus eateries within walking distance of St. Bartholomew. Taking the lead, NeeNee dabbed the pallid lifeless face with a baby wipe and began prepping the patient for transport. “Call the boys in the basement. Let ’em know we’ve got one.”
“Right away,” replied an overly eager pre-med student.
Abby stood beside the inert form while a colleague withdrew the now unnecessary endotracheal tube from the decedent’s mouth. “Sweetie,” NeeNee said from across the table. “My back’s killin’ me somethin’ fierce. If you wouldn’t mind, unlock the wheels for me.”
Abby dutifully nodded but did not immediately react. Instead, she sympathetically held the being’s shoulder with one hand, closed her eyes, and, while clutching the crucifix draped from her neck, prayed for his soul.
Minutes later, Abby trailed her colleagues from the enervated room. To her right, three nurses bounced their way toward the lunchroom, discussing BLT’s and Tuna Melts. To her left, two others headed for the smoking patio.
Cody Ladd stood alone. Shoulders slouched, he leaned, deflated, against the wall.
“Dr. Ladd?” Abby murmured. He’d been on staff almost one year but conversations between them were sparse.
It took the gifted surgeon a beat to return from his contemplative state. Upon raising his head, Abby was surprised to see reddened eyes.
Ladd was a good-looking fellow with fetching bone structure who carried himself with the confidence of his own handsomeness. Abby found him to be somewhat arrogant, bordering on conceit at times. But she knew swagger was a job requirement for professionals who played God.
“I’ve never been good at telling the family.”
Fearful of sounding trite, Abby replied, “Sometimes it’s out of our hands, Doctor.” As soon as she finished, she realized her words came off…well, trite.
Ladd pulled on his chin and noticed Abby’s crucifix. “Out of our hands,” he mirrored. His eyes travelled from Abby’s unblemished skin and supple neck to a stunning face, high cheekbones, and penetrating cobalt eyes. He felt less manly, displaying emotion in the presence of such beauty. “Thanks,” he sighed meekly, gazing at the endless corridor that led to other ORs, radiology, recovery, and a bank of express elevators to ICU. And the waiting room. “Will you come with me?”
“Where, Dr. Ladd?”
“Cody, please.” He cocked his head. “To inform the family. I’ve never…felt comfortable doing that.”
Abby’s throat tightened and she shot a look at the foreboding hallway, hesitated.
His eyes were weak, his voice pleading. When she felt his soft hand clasping her forearm, she swallowed.
“Your husband’s a police officer, right?” Ladd said.
Abby furrowed a brow, wondering where this was going. “Homicide detective, yes.”
“I’m sure you’re more familiar with this, with…you know, dealing with death, than I am.”
Abby smirked. Ladd was doing a piss-poor job of persuading her. “It’s not like Frank brings home victims and stretches them across the kitchen table during dinner.”
Ladd laughed, louder than necessary. “I’d truly appreciate your support.”
Abby exhaled. “Give me a moment to change. I don’t want the family seeing his blood.”
Dr. Ladd was first through the airtight doors, Abby at his heels. They were met by dozens of concerned eyes laced with fear and uncertainty, hope and terror.
Ladd turned to Abby who scanned the crowd searching for a familiar face. “Mendelheim family,” she called questioningly.
From the center of the room an elderly female was assisted to her feet by a young couple, the twenty-something woman clutching a newborn. The aged lady creaked to an upright position–as upright as she could manage. Her back was humped by the weight of her years. Relying on a cane, she threaded her way between strangers and inched nearer to Abby and Dr. Ladd, her ashen expression obvious as she tottered closer.
“I’m Sara Mendelheim,” the frail woman declared in a surprisingly firm tone. “This is my son, David, his wife Katie, and my granddaughter, Chaya.”
Ladd stalled. “Chaya?”
“Yes.” She beamed proudly. “Chaya is Hebrew for life.”
Life. He gulped, delayed another moment, then stated, “I’m Dr. Ladd. This is my assistant, Abigail Grace.”
Sara angled her head and looked down the hallway behind them. “Can I see my Lenny now?”
Lenny. Lenny Mendelheim. The patient had a name.
Ladd opened his mouth, closed it. Opened it again but no words came out. He peeked at the newborn, drew his eyes away, stole a glance at Abby for help.
“Is Dad okay?” David asked apprehensively.
Ladd swallowed. “Mrs. Mendelheim.”
A pause, this one longer. “Mrs. Leonard Mendelheim?”
The woman chuckled nervously. “Yes, nu?”
Abby noticed that David seized his mother’s elbow, as the family instinctively huddled closer. As if on cue, the infant began crying. Then Abby frowned when Dr. Ladd unexpectedly pulled his phone from his pocket and pretended to read a text that wasn’t there. The phone was off. “I’m very sorry, but I need to take this call,” he said. “Nurse Grace, would you mind?”
Before Abby could react, Ladd scurried away to an area off-limits to family. Wide-eyed and abandoned, she pivoted and was greeted with inquisitive countenances.
“Miss,” Sara Mendelheim said. “I’d like to see my husband now. St. Bart’s is one of the finest hospitals in Los Angeles. But I want Lenny to come home. He needs to finish working on our tomato garden.”
Abby reached out for the frail woman’s papery hands. “I’m very sorry.”
“Bastard!” Abby yelled while pacing. “That chicken-shit little bastard!”
“Take a breath, relax.”
“Relax?” she clipped. “Amita, he left me there. It was his patient, his surgery. And he just walks away and leaves me to tell the family? That…that…”
“Bastard?” Amita smiled, took a drag on her Marlboro.
Unsure if she wanted to laugh or scream, Abby looked longingly at Amita’s hand. Forty years old but, for the first time since adolescence, she craved nicotine. She needed to hit something, be it a cigarette vending machine, a bottle of whiskey, or better yet, Dr. Ladd.
“Ladd’s a pompous ass,” Amita pointed out unnecessarily.” Everyone knows that.”
“I agree,” Abby countered in a quieter tone. “But so what? Just ’cause he doesn’t like giving bad news, he shouldn’t dump it on me. It wasn’t my operation.”
“You going to answer that?”
Amita indicated Abby’s pocket.
Only now hearing her chirping phone, Abby checked the display but didn’t recognize the number. She returned the phone to her scrubs. “Do you think I should go to the head of nursing or the chief surgeon on staff? Ladd’s actions are just…inexcusable.”
“Not to mention unprofessional.”
“Yes, unprofessional and inexcusable.”
“Bastard,” Amita said and winked.
Abby smiled, her rage temporarily dissipating.
“Just be careful.”
Her friend hesitated before continuing. “You’re good. You’ve been a good nurse for almost ten years. But…” Her words trailed off.
“You and I? We’re just nurses. When push comes to shove, we’re easily replaceable. Cardiothoracic surgeons are not.”
Abby began to respond but instead cried, “What?” She jerked her cell from the pouch of her scrubs and answered in a clipped tone. “Hello?”
Amita took an extended drag, flicked the butt toward the ashcan, missed, and watched the color drain from Abby’s face.
“Yes…Hi, Lieutenant Gallardo.” With the phone pressed against her ear, she looked at Amita with helpless frightened eyes.
Amita said a silent Hosanna, grateful she’d ended it with that cop she’d been dating. He was great with her kids, mature, funny, and freaky between the sheets. But she wasn’t the type to live in fear of receiving a dreaded call.
“Wha–what do you mean?” Abby stammered. “How? Where?” She recalled Sara Mendelheim’s innocuous comment. My husband needs to finish working on our tomato garden. Now she made her own. “I didn’t say good bye to him this morning.”
Her husband’s commanding officer somberly uttered three words. “I’m very sorry.”
© 2017 by Rob Silverman