The First Rule - Robert Crais

Robert Crais - The First Rule

FRANK MEYER CLOSED HIS COMPUTER as the early winter darkness fell over his home in Westwood, California, not far from the UCLA campus. Westwood was an affluent area on the Westside of Los Angeles, resting between Beverly Hills and Brentwood in a twine of gracious residential streets and comfortable, well-to-do homes. Frank Meyer-more surprised about it than anyone else, considering his background-lived in such a home.

Work finished, Frank settled back in his home office, listening to his sons crash through the far side of the house like baby rhinos. They made him happy, and so did the rich scent of braising beef that promised stew or boeuf bourguignon, which he never pronounced correctly but loved to eat. Voices came from the family room, too far away to make out the program, but almost certainly the sound of a game show on television. Cindy hated the nightly news.

Frank smiled because Cindy didn’t much care for game shows, either, but she liked the background sound of the TV when she cooked. Cindy had her ways, that was for sure, and her ways had changed his life. Here he was with a lovely home, a growing business, and a wonderful family-all of it owed to his wife.

Frank teared up, thinking how much he owed that woman. Frank was like that, sentimental and emotional, and had always been that way. As Cindy liked to say, Frank Meyer was just a big softy, which is why she fell in love with him.

Frank worked hard to live up to her expectations, and considered it a privilege-beginning eleven years ago when he realized he loved her and committed to reinventing himself. He was now a successful importer of garments from Asia and Africa, which he resold to wholesale chains throughout the United States. He was forty-three years old, still fit and strong, though not so much as in the old days. Okay, well-he was getting fat, but between his business and the kids, Frank hadn’t touched the weights in years, and rarely used the treadmill. When he did, his efforts lacked the zeal that had burned fever-hot in his earlier life.

Frank didn’t miss that life, never once, and if he sometimes missed the men with whom he had shared it, he kept those feelings to himself and did not begrudge his wife. He had re-created himself, and, by a miracle, his efforts had paid off. Cindy. The kids. The home they had made. Frank was still thinking about these changes when Cindy appeared at the door, giving him a lopsided, sexy grin.

“Hey, bud. You hungry?”

“Just finishing up. What am I smelling? It’s fabulous.”

Pounding footsteps, then Little Frank, ten years old and showing the square, chunky build of his father, caught the doorjamb beside his mother to stop himself, stopping so fast his younger brother, Joey, six and just as square, crashed into Little Frank’s back.

Little Frank shouted, “Meat!”

Joey screamed, “Ketchup!”

Cindy said, “Meat and ketchup. What could be better?”

Frank pushed back his chair, and stood.

“Nothing. I’m dying for meat and ketchup.”

She rolled her eyes and turned back toward the kitchen.

“You’ve got five, big guy. I’ll hose off these monsters. Wash up and join us.”

The boys made exaggerated screams as they raced away, passing Ana, who appeared behind Cindy. Ana was their nanny, a nice girl who had been with them almost six months. She had bright blue eyes, high cheekbones, and was a fantastic help with the kids. Another perk of Frank’s increasing success.

Ana said, “I’m going to feed the baby now, Cindy. You need anything?”

“We’ve got it under control. You go ahead.”

Ana looked in at Frank.

“Frank? Anything I can do?”

“I’m good, hon. Thanks. I’ll be along in a minute.”

Frank finished putting away his paperwork, then pulled the shades before joining his family for dinner. His office, with its window facing the nighttime street, was now closed against the darkness. Frank Meyer had no reason to suspect that something unspeakable was about to happen.

AS FRANK ENJOYED DINNER with his family, a black-on-black Cadillac Escalade slow-rolled onto his street from Wilshire Boulevard, the Escalade boosted earlier that day from a shopping center in Long Beach, Moon Williams swapping the plates with an identical black Escalade they found outside a gentlemen’s club in Torrance. This was their third time around the block, clocking the street for pedestrians, witnesses, and civilians in parked cars.

This time around, the rear windows drooped like sleepy eyes, and street lights died one by one, Jamal shooting them out with a.22-caliber pellet