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the innocent hour 150x224Vietnam veteran Charlie Alderfer, the irrepressible protagonist in Hughes murder-mystery novel, The Dying Hour, finds one more battle to fight. Or rather, it finds him. Having defied the odds and regained his health in the VA’s hospice, he goes home to resume a peaceful retirement. Or that was the plan. Six-year-old Jonathan and his young mother Jade, whom readers met in The Dying Hour, now reside in Charlie’s in-law apartment, the little blended family enjoying the camaraderie.

Charlie hires Ben, an 18-year-old high school senior, to help with heavier chores. The shy, impoverished kid is a hard-working athlete whom teachers, coaches, classmates and their parents adore. The arrangement is perfect.

Until—Ben’s adoptive parents accuse him of assaulting their ten-year-old bio-daughter. The police and DA, pressured to close 90% of their cases without a trial, lie and terrorize Ben into plead guilty to something. In return, they’d make the charges go away. Otherwise, he’d go to a super-max prison where he’ll be brutalized as a sexual predator. Frightened, Ben believes them, and makes something up about his early childhood.

Charlie is shocked to read the guilty plea in the newspaper and extracts the story from Ben. The young man has no idea why his parents and the police would do this to him. Outraged, Charlie takes Ben to the leading polygraph expert who verifies what Charlie knows of his character—that Ben is innocent. But his family, the police and DA refuse to back down. And the polygraph test isn’t admissible in court.

Charlie hires a criminal lawyer who withdraws the guilty plea. But Ben’s only defense is his word against a sweet little girl’s, which no jury would buy. Outraged by the impending miscarriage of justice, Charlie digs into the case, researching the players, their motives, and holes in the prosecution’s case. He’s appalled that everyone lies—except Ben. Charlie could not anticipate that his digging would expose them to mortal danger from a much larger criminal enterprise in progress.

Charlie battles to exonerate his fine young man whose life, liberty, and education are in peril from a gross miscarriage of justice. As a veteran with strong moral convictions, Charlie exemplifies the military motto: “freedom isn't free," for his beloved nation or one homeless kid.

…to be continued on e- and print format

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