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“Thank you for taking this meeting, Father,” the lawyer said as they sat. “I hope I haven’t greatly inconvenienced you, what with the pressures of the season.”

“Not at all,” Ray said. “As it happens, I was in town to visit my family for Christmas.” The lawyer nodded minutely. Ray got the distinct impression that Teitelbaum had already known it. “But what could a parish priest from Onteora possibly do for you?”

“Quite a lot, actually.” Teitelbaum slid a large glossy photo across the table. “You’ve heard of Del Nevins, of course?”

Of course. “The fellow condemned for the mass murder at the convenience store?”

Teitelbaum nodded again. “I was his attorney.” He scowled fleetingly. “I still am. The court won’t let me withdraw.”

“Why do you need to withdraw?” Have you exhausted his money?

A spasm of distaste flew across the lawyer’s face. “He’s run out of appeals. His petition to the Supreme Court was denied a week ago yesterday.”

“Doesn’t that automatically free you from further obligation to him?”

“Not in a death penalty case.” The lawyer looked as if he’d bitten into a ball of tin foil. “A condemned man is considered entitled to legal counsel right to the instant of his execution. The possibilities to save him might be dwindling, but given his destiny, the law holds that he must have an outside representative to work on his behalf, right to the end. But that’s not really germane to why I’ve asked to speak with you, Father. Del’s execution warrant was issued yesterday.”

“So soon after his petition was turned down?”

Teitelbaum nodded. “He asked for it to be expedited.”

Ray’s suspicions swelled. He kept silent.

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