Cory's Flight: Facing the Music
A couple of bad decisions...
...and he was the perfect one to frame for murder.
But who is out to get Cory?
It was true, his ex-manager, back in his pop music days, had stolen from him, and it made him mad. Words were exchanged and maybe a threat or two, but for Cory it was all bluster. He never thought it would come back to haunt him.
Now, he sat in a cell.
The evidence against might be enough to convict.
What was his next move?
Barney Tower, at age 50, was a high-priced lawyer and had a reputation for winning. People said he would do anything to get the job done. He knew it to be true. Barney was just the sort of guy Cory needed on his side. There's just one thing he didn't know.
His lawyer might be playing a different game.
Could Barney be trusted?
Should Cory run?
You'll love this suspenseful thriller, because this frame job may be watertight and if Cory is going to prove he's innocent, he just might have to change the rules.
Get it now.
Release date: February 18, 2021
Print pages: 304
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Cory's Flight: Facing the Music
Lew Stein trudged up the steps of his brownstone near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. He was coming home from a bar where he’d watched the Knicks beat the spread. Stein couldn’t remember if they’d won or lost, just that they’d beaten the spread. He had bet they wouldn’t. Big. Stein shook his head; he’d make it back tomorrow. From his rooftop he had a good view of Lower Manhattan. He decided to head up there with a brew and roll around the next day’s games.
He put the key in his front door, and the thick, hundred-year-old door swung smoothly on its well-oiled hinges. As he tossed his keys on the foyer settee, a bag went over his head, and he was pinned against the wall. As the bag tightened around his neck, Stein struggled to claw at it. The killer pressed his forearms across Stein’s shoulders, blocking his attempt. Stein sucked in the last remaining air as the killer wrestled him to the floor, putting both knees on Stein’s back.
Stein turned his head, eyeing his prized recliner with the built-in cooler, when his vision went white. He couldn’t make anything out. The white light that people remembered when they came back from near-death was usually their vision going from low blood pressure. But Stein wasn’t having a near-death experience. He had just crashed through its door.
The killer took the bag off Stein’s head, putting it back with the collection under the sink. He rummaged through the rest of the kitchen, disgusted the compulsive gambler hadn’t stashed any cash.
The killer stepped over Stein, cracking open the heavy door. Coast clear, he slipped away.
A yellow cab beeped its horn as Cory dodged traffic on Madison Avenue. He waved, believing the driver recognized him, but the cabbie gave him the finger.
Life was different now, but he didn’t miss the celebrity or the money.
Cory was more grateful. He’d almost self-destructed but had held on during the ride up and during the fall from grace. Surviving felt good, but he knew there was still one thing to conquer as he weaved through the crowded sidewalk.
Cory walked into Mt. Sinai fingering the vial in his pocket. He needed a lift.
Jane Santo, the hospital’s PR woman, met him in the lobby. The pair headed to the children’s wing, walking down a balloon-filled corridor that smelled of flowers.
Santo said, “We’re thrilled you agreed to do this.”
“Anything for the kids. I would’ve done it sooner, but uh, life got in the way.”
“You’re here now, and they’re excited beyond belief.”
“Let’s hope I don’t disappoint them.”
“They love you. I saw you teaching them at Cornell.”
Cory smiled. “That was fun. I wish I could’ve gotten guitars for everyone, but . . .”
“No problem. A donor came through.”
“Good for them. Did you get the numbers on transplants?”
“I was surprised with the numbers on pediatric transplants. The most common are liver and kidney, and we performed twenty last year.”
“That’s super low.”
“We’re having a difficult time with the donor pool.”
“What about waiting times?”
“After three years on the list, about forty percent of patients receive a liver.”
“That’s worse than the national average. What about kidneys?”
“I’m afraid the numbers are lower. After a three-year wait, it’s sixteen percent.”
“That’s terrible. We got to do a lot better than that for our kids.”
“We’re working on it.” Santo pointed to a door. “We’re in here.”
Cory peered in the door’s window. The room was full of kids. In front, children in wheelchairs were chatting, and behind them it looked like a playground. He slipped out of the backpack holding his guitar and handed it to Santo. “I’m going to hit the boy’s room.”
“I’ll hand out the guitars.”
He locked the bathroom door, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror. It felt good seeing the kids so animated.
Cory patted the vial and shook his head. Should he go without it? He took the vial out and stared at it. He opened it, considering a quick hit.
He wagged his head, poured the powder down the sink, and threw away the container.
The volume in the room rose when Cory stepped in. “Hey everybody. How we doing today?”
The room erupted. “Super. Who wants to learn to play the guitar?”
A cacophony of we dos sounded as guitars were handed out.
“Fantastic. Now, remember, everyone is going to get a chance today. Some of you I’ll bring up here as an example, but don’t worry, I’ll walk around and help everyone.”
Cory slipped the strap over his shoulder, attaching his Martin. “For the righties in the room, put your left hand on the skinny part. It’s called the neck—”
The door to the room burst open, and four New York City cops rushed in. “Mr. Lupinski, you’re under arrest for murder. Put the guitar down.”
“Me? I didn’t kill anybody.”
An officer unhooked the strap and the other slapped a cuff on his wrist.
“Hey, what are you doing? There’s been a mistake. I didn’t do anything!”
As a cop read him his rights, Santo tried to calm the children.
* * *
“Linda, they arrested me.”
“For what? Don’t tell me it’s for drugs.”
“Lew Stein? Your old manager?”
“Did . . . did you?”
“Of course not.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“Me either. I need a lawyer, fast.”
“Who we gonna use?”
“I don’t know. Call the label, see if they can help. No, call Tracy instead.”
“Tracy? She used you—”
“She’s got a lot of contacts. The label didn’t give two shits about me when I was on top, now they’ll give me some corporate hack.”
“Okay. When are you getting out?”
“I don’t know. I got to be arraigned and hopefully get out on bail.”
“Where are you?”
“Manhattan Detention Center, downtown, on White Street.”
“Oh, Cory. I’m scared.”
“It’s going to be all right.”
“What do I tell the kids?”
“Tell them the truth. I didn’t do anything, it’s some kind of mistake.”
“I don’t understand how—”
“They’re telling me I gotta go.”
“Be careful, Cory. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
Cory had one arm chained to the steel table. He put his free hand in front of his mouth. The smell of his breath was enough to quell his hunger. As Cory yawned, the door opened.
Worth used the sleeve of his jacket to move the chair out and sat.
Cory shook his head. “Terrible. The place is filled with lunatics. They never stop shouting. It’s worse than in the movies.”
“Let’s see if we can get you out of here.”
“If? I gotta get out, today.”
“We’ll do our best, but ultimately it’s up to the judge.”
“But I’ll get out, right?”
Worth kept his hands in his lap. “I’ve had a discussion with the assistant district attorney handling the case. We debated the bail issue.”
“How much do they want?”
“It’s complicated . . .”
“What’s so difficult? They let crooks out with nothing these days, and I didn’t do anything.”
“You’ve touched upon one of the factors. New York revised its rules, and most accused are released without posting bail. However, many of those released don’t appear in court as promised, and many commit crimes while released.”
“What’s all this got to do with me?”
“There is a lot of pushback from law enforcement and citizen groups over the change, and as a result, they’re being especially hard on violent crimes.”
“I didn’t kill him or anyone.”
“Whether you did or not is not material—”
“Not material? How can that be?”
“This is a bail hearing, not a trial. The proceedings are limited to the threat you pose to the community and the likelihood you would flee.”
“This is crazy. I’m not a threat to anybody.”
“You have to keep in mind the court doesn’t know you or anything about this case. However, you do have a history with the victim.”
“That was long ago. The degenerate gambler ripped me off, stole all my money.”
“We’ll have to discuss that incident in detail.”
“It has nothing to do with anything. How can they say I killed him? I haven’t seen him since then.”
“The DA has witnesses who claims you were at the victim’s house and—”
“That’s bullshit! I wasn’t there.”
Worth threw a palm up. “We’ll have plenty of time during discovery to examine any witness or evidence they have. But at this time, we must concentrate our resources on the bail hearing.”
Cory exhaled. “Okay, okay. What can we do?”
“The DA is recommending a five-million-dollar bail.”
“Five million? That’s crazy. I don’t have that kind of money.”
“We could work with a bail bondsman. They’d post a bond guaranteeing the court the money in full.”
“How much do they want?”
“They usually demand collateral. Maybe a lien on your home or other assets.”
“I don’t have other assets.”
“You do receive royalties from your recordings, correct?”
“Yeah, but I give most of it to a children’s charity to fight cancer.”
“I’ve been made aware of that. It’s a very commendable thing to do, but we’re going to need to access those funds if you’re going to make bail.”
“How can I do that? It’s in a trust.”
“You’re the trustee, I assume.”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“We can enter into a loan agreement with the trust.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’ll borrow the money from the trust and pledge the revenue stream to a bail bondsman. You’ll have to supplement it with other liens, say on your home and any savings if the stream comes up short.”
“Okay, that sounds good, but do the kids still get the money to fight cancer?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“I can’t do that. It’s too important to them and me.”
“If you don’t have the cash or have enough assets to pledge, I don’t see another way to make bail.”
“Can’t we ask the judge? I mean, it’s for the kids. They need it.”
“We can present this unusual effort to achieve bail and perhaps the judge may reduce the amount, but given the environment, I’m not hopeful.”
“How much do you think it could be lowered?”
“A million-dollar reduction would be on the high side.”
“Isn’t there any other way to get me out?”
“Unless the charges are dropped, this is your only opportunity. I recommend you take advantage of it while it’s available.”
“I want out of here, but I’d just hate it if even one kid had to suffer because of it.”
“If you get this behind you, you can resume your philanthropic efforts. Also, mounting a defense will be easier if you’re released.”
“Okay, okay. Get it done. How soon can I get out?”
“These things take time.”
“I can’t stay in here. You gotta get me out.”
“I’ll have the documents drafted and ask the DA to expedite the hearing.”
Linda threw open the door. “Daddy’s home!”
The apartment was quiet. Cory asked, “Where is everybody?”
“Mrs. Baker is watching Tommy.”
They went into the family room. Their daughter was sitting in front of the TV.
She didn’t move her head. “Hi.”
“Get up, Ava. You haven’t seen your father for five days.”
Cory said, “It’s okay, honey. I’m going to jump in the shower.”
“No, it’s not okay. Say hello to your father.”
Eyes rolling, Ava got on her feet. “How was jail, Dad?”
“Go to your room!”
“It’s okay. Listen, honey, this is all one big mistake. I didn’t hurt that man.”
“That man was your manager.”
“Yes, a long time ago. But that has nothing to do with anything.”
Another eye roll. “The news said you stabbed him a couple of years ago.”
“That’s true. It was wrong to do that, and I’m not making excuses, but believe me, I had nothing to do with whatever happened to him.”
“Then why were you arrested?”
“I really don’t know, but I’m sure the incident you mentioned played a part in it. I kind of get it, but it’s a big mistake, and we’re gonna straighten it out.”
“It’s so embarrassing. I can’t go anywhere without somebody saying something.”
“I’m sorry, honey, I really am. But I’m gonna get it taken care of.”
Ava walked away. “If you say so.”
“What did you say?”
“Forget it, Linda, let her go.”
“You have no idea how difficult Ava’s been.”
“It’s hard on her, plus she’s a teenager. I have to take a shower, or I’ll be late.”
* * *
Cory buttoned his jacket as he emerged from the Lexington Avenue subway station. Leaves and papers swirling, Cory put his head down and walked into the wind.
It’d taken his lawyer too long to get him out of jail, but Stephen Worth seemed like a pro. Cory was pissed he had to tap the trust set up for kids with cancer, but the lawyer had come up with the idea and he was free, for now.
Cory stepped off the elevator into the wood-paneled lobby of the Worth and Colby Law Firm. It was stuffy and conservative, but Cory had had his fill of slick entertainment lawyers. This lawyer wasn’t cheap, but Cory joked to himself, maybe Worth was worth it.
Shown into his attorney’s office, Cory was concerned that Worth was seated wearing his suit jacket. This guy was a stiff. How would this guy believe him if he couldn’t connect with him?
Worth rose, buttoning his jacket. “Mr. Lupinski, how are you?”
“I heard the release went as planned.”
“I thought you would be there.”
“My associates are very capable. Sit. Can we get you anything?”
“No. I’m good.”
“We’ll get started then.”
“I can’t wait to straighten this out. It’s some kind of a misunderstanding.”
“The DA views it otherwise.”
“But we’ll explain I had nothing to do with it. They need evidence, don’t they?”
“Yes. The burden of proof lies with the state; however, I must advise you that the allegations are supported by two witnesses that place you at the scene of—”
“How can that be? I wasn’t near his house. Who said they saw me?”
“Yes, we examined their sworn statements, and they’re ironclad.”
“How can that be?”
“We’ll take a further look at the witnesses, but—”
“Who are these guys?”
“Their names are Thomas Rizer and Robert Ford. Both men work in the area. We’re looking into them, and we’ll write up their biographical profiles.”
“This is all one big misunderstanding or something. How long is this going to take to clear this up?”
“It’s difficult to predict the nature of a case. If a plea can be negotiated, it would dramatically shorten the process.”
“What kind of deal?”
“You’re charged with the first-degree murder of Mr. Stein, meaning it was premeditated.”
“That’s frigging ridiculous.”
“That may be. However, your prior, uh, encounter and business relationship with the victim support the charge.”
“Just because I confronted the bastard about the money he stole from me, I’m the guy they think killed him?”
“I should add that the DA mentioned a blood sample that was collected at the crime scene and which did not match the victim’s.”
“That’s super! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“They’re running DNA testing and will compare the sample taken when you were processed, to the blood collected at the crime scene.”
“Go for it, man! That’s it. They’re gonna drop the charges.”
“What do you mean?”
“A nonmatch would be good news, but in and of itself, it’s not proof you’re innocent.”
“But whoever’s blood it is, he’s the killer.”
“Well, then whose is it?”
“It serves no purpose to speculate. Why don’t we firm up your whereabouts during the time the murder took place?”
“Okay. What do you want to know?”
“Where you were during the day of October 9th?”
“I got up around seven, and you know, we have two kids. I made Tommy, he’s six, breakfast and we played a little. Then I worked on a new song. I had to go to Quad Recording Studio, on Seventh Avenue. They hired me to lay down a track on a Willow Man tune. I thought the other player sounded good, but I was glad to get the gig.”
“What time was that?”
“I got out of there about one.”
“Where did you go?”
“I headed back to Brooklyn to teach. I give lessons seven days a week and have quite a few students. It helps pay the bills.”
“I’ll need their names and addresses.”
“Where in Brooklyn do you teach?”
“All over. I go to their houses. Most of them are kids, but I have five or six adults I teach.”
“What parts of Brooklyn were the lessons on the nineteenth?”
“Um, I started out in Bay Ridge, and you know, then went to Bensonhurst. This kid Billy is going to be something, and um, yeah, I went to Fort Hamilton and, uh, then finished up downtown.”
“What time was this?”
“About four p.m.”
“Near Brooklyn Heights?”
“Uh, I guess so.”
“I’m sure you know Mr. Stein lived there, right off the Promenade, and the time of death was established between the hours of three and five p.m.”
Cory came into the apartment. “Hey, guys.”
Linda was playing Trouble with Tommy at the kitchen table.
Cory kissed the top of his son’s head. “Hi, little man.”
Pushing the game’s bubble, Linda saw her husband’s face. “What’s the matter?”
“Tommy, I need to talk to your father. Can we finish this later?”
“Okay.” The kid picked up his iPad and went into the living room.
“What did the lawyer say?”
“I don’t know about this guy.”
“You said he was good, that you liked him.”
“I know, but it’s like he sees the bad in everything.”
“That’s what lawyers do. What did he say?”
“He said they have two witnesses. Somebody said I was by Stein’s house.”
“But you weren’t, you can prove that.”
“But I was close by. That kid Freddo I teach, he lives on Remsen Street by Borough Hall. Stein is on Hicks Street, a couple of blocks away.”
“But that’s okay. Don’t worry. You didn’t go there, right?”
“No, I didn’t. You believe me, don’t you?”
Linda grabbed Cory’s hand. “Of course, I do. We’ll get through this. What else did he say?”
“That they found blood at the crime scene and it wasn’t Stein’s.”
“It’s got to be the killer’s!”
“That’s what I said, but Worth said it wouldn’t prove anything.”
“How can that be?”
“He’s got a negative vibe. It’s like if the blood matches my DNA, it’s a problem, but if it doesn’t, it don’t mean anything.”
“You don’t have any cuts, right?”
“Are you sure?”
Cory jumped off the couch and rolled the sleeves of his sweater up. “No! See?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Nobody believes me.”
Linda put her arms around Cory. “I believe you. I know you’d never do anything like that.”
Cory shrugged. “I can’t believe this is happening.”
“I know. By the way, how was Stein killed?”
“He was suffocated.”
“Oh my God.”
“He got what he had coming to him.”
“Cory, don’t say that. The poor man is dead.”
“He screwed me when he was alive, and now the bastard is haunting me from the grave.”
Cory opened the door to a cabinet and Linda said, “Cory, please don’t start.”
“I’m just gonna have one.”
“You’re doing so good, and it’s only four o’clock.”
“I’m too wound up to think straight.”
“Promise me you’ll only have one.”
“I am. You’re under a ton of pressure, and you can’t go back to hiding behind a bottle.”
Cory poured a glass of bourbon. “I’m okay.”
“Why don’t you get some help, at least until all this blows over.”
“I don’t need it.”
“Maybe some group therapy.”
“I’m not going to some AA thing. I can handle it on my own.”
“I didn’t mean AA. Just that everybody needs help.”
Cory sat down with his drink. “I’m not everybody.”
“Come on, Cory, an attitude like that is going to get you in trouble.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t be in any deeper shit than what I’m in.”
Linda sat beside her husband. “I know you’re upset. We all are. Just don’t make things worse than they are, okay? Can you promise me?”
“Okay, okay already.”
“Why don’t you call Donny? It’d be good for you.”
“Yeah, he left me a couple of messages.”
Cory took out his phone, and as he was dialing, a call came in. “Hello?”
“It’s Mish from Rolling Stone. How you doing, man?”
“What do you want?”
“We’d love to talk to you, get your side of the charges against you.”
“Look, I didn’t do anything, it’s one big mix-up.”
“Are you saying you didn’t kill Lew Stein?”
“Of course, I had nothing to do with it.”
“Our sources tell us that witnesses, maybe two, put you at the scene.”
“Is it true that you had to dip into the assets of the Reach for the Stars Trust to make bail?”
“I had no choice; the bail was set too high.”
“That’s because you’re charged with murder.”
“And I’ll be exonerated.”
“Will you claim it was in self-defense?”
“No, I didn’t kill Lew Stein. I had nothing to do with it.”
“We’ve heard rumors that your record label, Dream Weavers, is going to drop you.”
“That’s ridiculous. I haven’t done anything wrong. Just wait till this gets cleared up, you’ll see.”
“We’d love to do a long-format interview. It’ll give you an opportunity to get your side of the story out. What do you say?”
“Look, I got to go, but I have your number. I’ll think about it.”
Cory tossed his phone on the table. “That was Rolling Stone, they said Dream Weaver is gonna dump me.”
“How could they?”
“Oh no. Is this going to screw up my bail thing?”
“You think so?”
Cory reached for his phone. “I have no clue. I gotta call Baffa.”
“He’d know what to do.” A loud sound came from the other side of the apartment. “Call him, I gotta check on Tommy.”
Linda came in holding her son’s hand as Cory finished the call with his manager. Cory hung up, saying, “Hey, little man. What did you do in there”
“I tried to get a book, but it fell over.”
“He stepped on the shelf and it tipped over.”
“Me and Mommy cleaned it up.”
“What did Baffa say?”
“He said there’s a clause in the contract, some morality thing, and they can drop me.”
“That’s so unfair. Did he hear from them?”
“Not yet.” Cory reached for his phone. “It’s Worth.”
“Hello . . . Yes, I’m free, what’s going on? . . . What? That can’t be.”
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