"What’s on your mind, A.J.?"
"I’m having trouble with this."
"This deal with Sidorov. I’ve been chewing on it all night, only the more I chew the tougher it gets. It kills me to know she’s going to walk." And pocket a hefty payoff on her way out the door. "The woman practically confessed to cold-blooded murder, Jack."
"And that crack about turning over a new leaf? Rubbing our noses in it."
"She’s a professional killer, probably a sociopath. Conscience isn’t part of the job description."
"Yeah. I’ve been trying to remember how she got that way. Some people never catch a break. How much of who we are is shaped by our circumstances? Tanya—or whatever her real name is—popped out of the birth canal with two strikes against her. Maybe I would have turned out the same way, if I had started life in a whorehouse in Eastern Europe."
"Maybe. But life gets off to a lousy start for millions of people. Or turns sour along the way. Disease, poverty, abuse. Most folks still manage to stay in the right. Besides, catching the breaks doesn’t always earn you a halo. Look at Conover. He had it all—money, privilege, great education. You can debate nature versus nurture until you’re hoarse, but the truth is, we’ve all got it in us to go either way. Maybe the real question is, why does one go bad when the next guy doesn’t?"
"There but for the grace of God?"
"As good an explanation as any, I guess. But luck of the draw or no, there’s right and there’s wrong, and unless you’re completely psychotic, you damned well know the difference, no matter where you started. We all share that, too. That awareness."
"Yeah. That’s where I keep ending up."
Good always triumphs over evil in the end, yes? She had asked the question mockingly, like the answer was so obvious only an idiot with a Don Quixote complex could miss it. Good almost never triumphs. Ninety-nine percent of the time nice guys really do finish last. The man on the street would probably agree that was the way the world seemed to work more often than not. Que sera, sera, right? Well, I couldn’t accept that.
"You know," I murmured, "as much as it embarrasses me to admit it, in my heart of hearts I believe justice always wins out in the long run."
"Oh. An idealist."
"Nope, a pragmatist. The way I figure it, if right didn’t eventually even the score, mankind would have self-destructed centuries ago. Granted, the comeuppances can be a long time coming, and we don’t always hear about them, but I’ve always figured justice was your basic irresistible force."
"What goes around comes around? You reap what you sow?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
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