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After several years of zealous
investigative reporting on the East Coast, reporter Enzo Lee is enjoying his
new, quiet life in San Francisco, churning out light, fluffy features for the
local paper. Lee adores his North Beach apartment and days filled with running,
tai chi, great food, and women. Life is good.
So when Lee’s boss orders him to
cover the mysterious deaths of a local judge and prosecutor, he is flushed out
of his comfort zone and thrust into a story that is both exhilarating and
With help from the judge’s
attractive niece Sarah Armstrong, Lee begins to uncover a bioterrorism scandal.
The perpetrators will kill to conceal and Lee and Sarah soon become their prime
targets. Will the pair evade their hunters and piece together the story before
time runs out?
Or will the government agents and
Silicon Valley titans who are the masterminds behind the scandal stop the pair
and add them to the list of victims?
From Pulitzer Prize-winning author,
Robert B Lowe.
Kirkus Reviews describes Project
Moses as “a thriller with an ideal fusion of wile and wit”. Click
on the image below to read the full review from Kirkus Reviews.
B. Lowe is a Pulitzer-prize winning author whose fiction is based in San
Francisco, his adopted home. His past experiences – a 12-year career in
investigative journalism and a Harvard Law School degree – enable him to write
gripping mystery thrillers in both the legal and journalistic fields. Lowe
draws his inspiration from John Grisham, Dick Francis and Lee Childs and adds
his own San Francisco twist. Readers will enjoy his references to the city’s
landmarks such as Chinatown, North Beach and Pacific Heights and the Bay area’s
foodie culture. When Lowe isn’t writing he enjoys a day at the golf course and
spending time with his wife and daughters.
the LORD said unto Moses, Yet will I bring one plague more upon Pharaoh, and
upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go hence…”
TALL AND SLENDER with well-coiffed silver hair
that touched her shoulders, Judge Miriam Gilbert was a handsome woman with
sparkling blue eyes who still attracted admiring looks from men, even if the
looks were somewhat less carnal than in the past.
At the age of 52, after a decade as a San Francisco Municipal Court
Judge, Miriam Gilbert had long ago developed the most important quality
required for a jurist charged with resolving the petty crimes and minor civil
disputes that filled her courtroom – infinite patience.
But, she was struggling today to remain stoic behind the particle board
and formica bench at the front of the courtroom. She watched the middle-aged
juror twist her fat hands until the knuckles were red and swollen. The woman
shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she scanned the people sitting around her
in the jury box.
The juror was about Judge Gilbert’s age but the resemblance ended
there. She wore a blue, vaguely nautical dress at least two sizes and 15 years
too young for her. Her face was loose and malleable, shifting back and forth
between fear and disdain as she looked at her fellow jurors.
Raising her hand like a child in class, the woman fought her sobs as
she spoke through lips painted blood red.
“I am not crazy!” she said. She took two deep breaths. “They kept
yelling and yelling at me. And I am not going to change my mind.”
“He is innocent! That one did not prove his case.” Her
face trembling, the juror jabbed a lethal-looking fingernail at the prosecutor
just beyond the jury box.
Orson Adams stared back at his accuser, removed his tortoise
shell-rimmed glasses and frowned.
The muscles around Judge Gilbert’s left eye twitched slightly. She
didn’t mind so much that the hung jury was going to waste four days of trial
time devoted to a minor case. That was par for the course. What bothered her
was a headache that had started about the time the bailiff knocked on the door
to Judge Gilbert’s chambers and said: “They want to come out. I think they’ve
run out of names to call each other.”
The judge cleared her throat, a signal that the histrionics and
squabbling that had emanated from the jury box for the past ten minutes were
over. She stared at the empty notepad in front of her for a few seconds before
“It is apparent to me that this jury will not reach a unanimous
verdict,” she said. “They have deliberated for two days - as much time as it
took for the state and the defense to present their cases. Therefore, I declare
“The prosecution will inform the Court within one week whether the
state intends to retry this case. I thank the jury for its efforts. I know it
has taken much of your time to be here and that the last two days have not been
easy.” Judge Gilbert made it a point to nod in the jury’s direction.
Then, she looked over at the defendant, an almost emaciated young man
with dirty blond hair tied in a ponytail. He sat beside his attorney, a
corpulent man wearing dark-blue pinstripes, pink tie and a forced smile that
looked more like a snarl.
“Mr. Warrington will remain free on bond,” she said.
An hour later, the lawyers, jurors and courthouse staff had joined the
evening traffic jam. With her black robe now hanging in the closet of her
chambers, Judge Gilbert wore a long-sleeved white blouse and a pleated beige
skirt as she settled behind her large desk stained yellow to bring out the wood
grain through the heavily polished sheen. Behind her were volumes of California
cases, bound in blue leather. A cup of Misty Mint tea sat on her right, hot and
steaming. Next to it lay two capsules of Darvon painkiller. The headache was
worse. It now seemed to fan outward from the center of her brain to her scalp.
Judge Gilbert looked over the assorted papers laying on her desk. She
picked up a large envelope that she had opened in the morning. It was teal blue
and embossed with a logo in darker blue along the left side that she had never
seen before. It was a rising spiral with flowers and bunches of grapes hanging
Judge Gilbert reached into the envelope and pulled out a yellow rose
that had been pressed flat. She held it to her nose, inhaled and was rewarded
with the aroma of cinnamon. She was reminded of hot apple cider and sweet
She set the rose on the desk and grabbed her letter opener, a gift from
a former law clerk. She inserted it under the flap of another envelope and tore
it open with a satisfying rip. She skimmed the letter inside. Then, Judge
Gilbert turned to the next envelope sitting in the tray on the corner of her
The next morning the body of Judge Miriam Gilbert was still at her desk
when her law clerk went into her chambers. Her head lay on the desktop, eyes
staring at a blank wall. Her silver hair was stained brown where it lay in a
puddle of cold tea.
ORSON ADAMS WAS more than a little miffed when he was assigned the
Warrington case. After three years of prosecuting crime, he had enough seniority
to avoid the dog shit cases. Here was a burglary with nothing actually taken,
just forced entry with intent to steal. The fact that the case had ended in a
hung jury that afternoon was the capper. What a colossal waste of his time.
Adams hadn’t handled a case in Municipal Court for a year. Being back
there the past four days made him wonder if he was spinning his wheels as a
prosecutor. He had progressed rapidly through the District Attorney’s office.
Being one of a handful of black prosecutors in the office didn’t hurt. Still,
maybe it was time to get out on his own. Spread his wings and go private. He
could defend the scumbags he had been putting behind bars, pocket the big fees
and buy a house in Tiburon.
Adams rounded the elevated indoor track at the Run N Racquet Club for
the 33rd time. He was in excellent shape at 30 and, with his tailored suits,
Adams cut a dashing figure in the DA’s office. He frowned again at the memory
of the matronly juror who had blown the whole goddamn trial and blamed him…HIM
for failing to prove the case.
“Bleeding heart hag,” he muttered to himself.
He should have guessed that the middle-aged juror might take a
maternal, boys-will-be-boys attitude toward Warrington. The ages were right.
During jury selection, Adams hadn’t even tried to inquire into whether the
juror had any children. Adams had found that older women usually make great
jurors for the prosecution. He wasn’t accustomed to worrying about them being
on the jury unless they wore peace medallions or were former Berkeley radicals.
Adams finished his 44th and final lap and slowed to walk two more, just
to warm down and keep the lactic acid from pooling in his legs. He stopped for
a moment at the railing overlooking the racquetball courts.
Down below on Court One, surrounded by glass on two sides, a pair of
attractive blonds wearing headbands and Spandex tights and tops in purples and
pinks were grunting enthusiastically as they pounded a blue ball around the
The smaller woman was named Diana. She had a gorgeous body, buxom yet
athletic. She was a fixture at the club and invariably attracted a crowd of
male spectators as she and her playing partners sweated through their skintight
Adams made his way downstairs to the men’s locker room. He showered and
stuffed his running clothes back into a Nike gym bag. He put his tie in his
coat pocket and flung the jacket over his shoulder.
Adams walked in the breeze across the four lanes of Folsom Street. It
was balmier than usual and the wind carried the faintest smell of the ocean.
The scent made him hungry and his mind shifted to restaurants. Last night they
had eaten Thai. Maybe Diana would like the new South of Market restaurant, the
one that specialized in seafood cooked on a gigantic rotisserie imported from
Naples or somewhere. How did they cook fish on that thing, anyway? Wire
When he heard the engine gunning behind him, Adams barely
had time to turn his head before the black pickup slammed into him.
ENZO LEE STARED at the blank computer screen in front of him, focusing
on the blinking cursor, a dash of amber that seemed to be whispering at him,
“Come on…Come on…Come on…Come on…” He had been watching it for 20 minutes,
through two tall cups of oily cafe au cafeteria, waiting for the words to flow
into his fingertips, or at least materialize somewhere in his cerebral cortex
where he could dredge them out. Nothing. A total blank.
He had lost it at some point in the past two days. It had been there
when he covered the story about the unfortunate casket mix up involving the
mayor’s deceased mother and a dead Saint Bernard: (“San Franciscans long
convinced that the city is run by a son of a bitch got further confirmation
yesterday…”) The words had been flowing for the article about the boxer who
fought back from insect-borne Lyme disease: (“Welterweight Marvin Grossman
took a tickin’ but kept on lickin’…”) And, Lee knew damn well he still had
the touch when he wrote the piece about the mysterious sheep mutilations: (“Picture
Lambchop costarring in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and you have some idea
what’s been happening in Solano County…”)
In the two years since 1992 when he moved from New York to San
Francisco and joined the News, Lee had successfully revived his journalism
career, staking out his turf here as the undisputed King of Fluff. His
specialty was the light feature - spitting out pithy one-liners, bad puns and
witty opening paragraphs of dubious taste. Like most journalists, Lee had a
love-hate relationship with his editors. But, his was a little more
complicated. He knew the editors loved his light, well-read feature stories
they often outlined in a box and featured on the front page. But, the “story
lite” reputation came with a dollop of derision. They questioned whether he had
the chops to tackle a tough news story. Lee had no misgivings about that. But,
he was happy to skirt controversy and leave any worries behind after he filed
his daily feature and exited the downtown News building.
So, Lee was worried. After all, he had spent the previous day
interviewing the man who held the unofficial San Francisco record for pierced
body parts (72 unnatural holes) and watching the winner of the Egg Producers’
Cool Hand Luke Contest consume 59 hard-boiled eggs. This was a bad time for the
creative juices to run dry.
“Hey, Enzo!” yelled City Editor Ray Pilmann from across the room.
“Yeah. What?” replied Lee.
“Come here, willya?”
Lee traversed the newsroom, threading his way through the mismatched
desks and the oddly placed aluminum poles carrying computer cables to the
ceiling. He dodged the frayed seams in the ash-colored indoor-outdoor carpeting
and the mounds of brittle, yellowed newspapers some of his coworkers kept
stacked in the newsroom. He finally arrived at the small office with a window
onto the newsroom from which Pilmann directed the News’ reporting staff.
“Look, Enzo,” said Pilmann. He was waving a square piece of newsprint
in the air. “I need you to cover this.”
Lee was uncomfortable in Pilmann’s office. The city editor was a big
man with a bad temper who flapped around the newsroom like a penguin in heat.
The modest size of Pilmann’s office left little room to maneuver. When Pilmann
jumped to his feet and started waving his arms around – which was his wont in
meeting with Lee - the reporter found himself pinned against the flimsy office
wall. The four-foot saguaro cactus in the corner – a keepsake from Pilmann’s
early editing days in Arizona – just heightened his discomfort.
Lee snatched the paper from the editor’s fingers. It was a story that
had appeared that morning in the rival Chronicle about the death the previous
night of a prosecutor named Orson Adams in a hit-and-run incident.
It looked suspiciously like a breaking news story and that bothered
Lee. He’d worked hard to develop his feature specialty. It had become a
comfortable niche in the newsroom, a nest cushioned with daily fluff he could
usually churn out at will. One hard news story tends to beget another. Before
you know it you’re covering the courts, city hall or, worst of all, education.
God, it was depressing just to think about it.
“Jesus, Ray,” said Lee, raising a dubious eyebrow in Pilmann’s
direction. “This looks like news. I mean real hard news. I don’t
know about this. Not my usual thing, you know.”
“You’re a reporter goddamit! Duffy’s out covering a brush fire in San
Rafael! What else you got coming?”
Lee thought for a moment. At the rate he had been writing, he’d be
lucky to finish the feature stories by the weekend, much less by the first
deadline. What the hell.
“Okay, boss. You got it. Let me at ‘em. Where do I go? What do I do? Is
there an undercover angle here?”
“Christ, Enzo,” said Pilmann. “All ya gotta do is call the fucking
police department. Call McGuire and see if there’s anything new for Christ sake!”
“Oh.” As he walked back to his desk, Lee pulled off
his wire-rimmed glasses and polished the clear lenses with a handkerchief. He
was grinning. It was great pulling Pilmann’s chain once in a while, instead of