Read this exclusive extract from John Grisham’s explosive new thriller, The Reckoning
Reverend Dexter Bell had been in Clanton for five years and knew it was only a matter of time before he was called to move on. Unfortunately, the call did not arrive in time. He was sitting at his desk in his office, in an annexe behind the handsome sanctuary, alone as usual on Wednesday morning. The church secretary worked only three afternoons each week. The reverend had finished his morning prayers, had his study Bible open on his desk, along with two reference books, and was contemplating his next sermon when someone knocked on his door. Before he could answer, the door swung open, and Pete Banning walked in, frowning and filled with purpose. Surprised at the intrusion, Bell said: ‘Well, good morning, Pete.’ He was about to stand when Pete whipped out a pistol with a long barrel and said: ‘You know why I’m here.’ Bell froze and gawked in horror at the weapon and barely managed to say: ‘Pete, what are you doing?’ ‘I’ve killed a lot of men, Preacher, all brave soldiers on the field. You’re the first coward.’ ‘Pete, no, no!’ Dexter said, raising his hands and falling back into his chair, eyes wide and mouth open. ‘If it’s about Liza, I can explain. No, Pete!’ Pete took a step closer, aimed down at Dexter, and squeezed the trigger. He had been trained as a marksman with all firearms, and had used them in battle to kill more men than he cared to remember, and he had spent his life in the woods hunting animals large and small. The first shot went through Dexter’s heart, as did the second. The third entered his skull just above the nose. Within the walls of a small office, the shots boomed like cannon fire, but only two people heard them. Dexter’s wife, Jackie, was alone in the parsonage on the other side of the church, cleaning the kitchen when she heard the noise. She later described it as the muffled sounds of someone clapping hands three times, and, at the moment, had no idea it was gunfire. She couldn’t possibly have known her husband had just been murdered. Hop Purdue had been cleaning the church for 20 years. He was in the annexe when he heard the shots that seemed to shake the building. He was standing in the hallway outside the pastor’s study when the door opened and Pete walked out, still holding the pistol. He raised it, aimed it at Hop’s face, and seemed ready to fire. Hop fell to his knees and pleaded: ‘Please, Mista Banning. I ain’t done nothin’. I got kids, Mista Banning.’ Pete lowered the gun and said: ‘You’re a good man, Hop. Go tell the sheriff.’
The Reckoning is published by Hodder & Stoughton, €22.99.