Eriq La Salle may be be most renowned for his role as Dr. Peter Benton on the acclaimed television series "ER," but the actor and director became a novelist with the publishing of his 2012 thriller "Laws of Depravity." In this gritty follow-up, "Laws of Wrath," La Salle further cements his status as an author to watch with a hard-hitting story, set in motion by the murder of NYPD detective Phee Freeman's brother. Here's an excerpt.
Phee lifted the pile of his brother’s mail that was sprawled on the dining room table and thumbed through it. The name on the envelopes read A.J. Delarosa. Delarosa was his mother Dolicia’s maiden name. A.J. stopped using his father’s last name the day Clay kicked him out of the house at 16. As Phee placed the mail back on the table he thought about how the history of their rejection cut both ways.
He wasn’t sure if he would actually find anything that would shed new light on the investigation but it was his duty and instinct to look nonetheless. On a purely personal level he just felt a need to be in his brother’s space. To get some sense of how he lived. The apartment was a five-flight walk up in a rent controlled building not far from the theater district. The building definitely could have used some repairs and upgrading but once inside, A.J.’s space was neat and welcoming. It was a two bedroom with a pull out sofa. As Phee sat on the arm of the couch and looked around, he thought about A.J.’s ex-roommate Shay ShayDeVane, who had been killed only a few weeks ago. They arrested the john a week later after a group of resourceful trannies tracked him down to an investment firm on Wall Street. That case was unconnected to A.J.’s murder but much more in line with how Phee had often suspected his brother would die. There were many times that Phee viewed his brother as a tragic blurb waiting to be written. The irony was that until his death, A.J. was for the most part an uncomfortable afterthought, a disembodied name with old ties to Phee and their father. Even when Phee spied on him from distant corners he did so with a detachment and assumed indifference. It took A.J.’s death to bring him here. It was only after he had been violently taken away that Phee started thinking of him simply being human and not just something garish and embarrassing. Death had reminded him that they were brothers and not callous strangers. It took A.J.’s murder for Phee to realize that no matter their differences,his older brother was always there with him, connected and a part of his soul.
Phee looked in the fridge, peeked in the closet and opened drawers to cabinets and dressers. He was looking for things that told him more about his brother. He found a signed portfolio of fashion sketches that A.J. had evidently designed; everything from women’s evening gowns to elegant men’s suits and blazers. Phee was by no means an expert of couture, but in his opinion the sketches were pretty impressive. He discovered a scrapbook that was filled with famous quotes and inspirational musings, some he had read before and some that he had never heard of. He found an old family photo album in the living room credenza. He sat at the kitchen table and looked through it. The first few pictures were all baby photos of A.J. He was a beautiful baby, chubby and expressive. One was taken the day he was born, being held by both his father and mother. It was strange but Phee noticed that unlike Dolicia, not only was his father not smiling but there was also something sad in his eyes.
He saw a photo of his two year old brother being assisted by Clay as they both held Phee at the hospital on his first day in the world. Unlike A.J.’s first photo, all were beaming with joy. There were two pages of the album dedicated to A.J. and Phee’s childhood years. They were constantly hugging and hamming it up for the camera. Phee did what he hadn’t done much of in the last two days, he laughed. He laughed at shared moments with his brother that he had long forgotten. He laughed at the memories of their dated clothes, skinny legs with ashy knees. He thought back fondly of the trouble they got in and the lies they told. He smiled back at the photos of the two inseparable boys with mischievous grins.
As the album narrated A.J.’s teenage years, Phee was aware of two things that were glaringly absent, himself and his brother’s smile. The last ten pages of photos were of A.J.and friendships he had made as an adult. He seemed happy again surrounded by people that accepted and loved him for who he really was. Just as Phee had done with Quincy, A.J.replaced his flesh and blood with adopted family. When he got to the end of the photo album, Phee flipped back to the very first page of Clay holding A.J. He couldn’t help but wonder why his father looked so sad on the day A.J. was born. As he continued looking at the photo he saw in his father’s eyes a hollow look of remorse. Phee closed the book and thought of his own regrets and how twenty-something years ago he violently betrayed his brother.
Excerpted from "Laws of Wrath" copyright (c) 2014 by Eriq La Salle. Used with permission by 4 Clay Productions Inc. All rights reserved.