TOPLESS GOSPEL CHOIR — An eBook about murder in Baltimore

Wednesday, October 17th 2018 @ 11:30 PM


The Topless Gospel Choir, by Hal Riedl, is currently available on Amazon for $2.99.  Click here to purchase.

The Topless Gospel Choir, by Hal Riedl, is currently available on Amazon for $2.99. Click here to purchase on Kindle


Written by Hal Riedl, an ex-Dept. of Corrections
case management specialist and book reviewer
for The Sunday Sun, it’s available from Amazon
for $2.99  Click here to purchase on Kindle

When the wife of the State Parole Commission Chairman comes home from an early-morning run, she finds her husband dead on the front sidewalk, having been dispatched by a professional assassin with two bullets at the top of his spine.

A senior prosecutor and a detective are assigned to represent the City — which is never named, but based on Baltimore — on a task force assembled by State Patrol. The Governor is said to assign the highest priority to the apprehension and prosecution of the killers.

An excerpt from Riedl’s The Topless Gospel Choir follows below, with more available on Amazon (click here) along with purchase information.

This is the city primeval.
The murmuring Bloods and the Dreadlocks
Meet to package their poison.
Their guns and their phones are stood down,
Their mules and their mouthpieces gather.
A shipment of untold proportions
Bids fair to make them all rich

Leo’s epic poem, his way to kill time in court until the judge comes out.

The cellphone dings. A text reads, “Get your ass outside and call me. Lulu.”

Leo knows he has time until the judge appears. Nothing’s going on in chambers, but Vance never comes out before 10. It’s a matter of principle, of lordship, with him. Let the teeming marketplace of the criminal docket seethe and fret, a judge has his dignity and his blood pressure.

The crowd in the long dim echoing corridor is thick. Baby mothers with small children; grandmothers, defendants on bail, defense counsel on cellphones; cops in their civilian best, their ID badges on lanyards round their necks; a few folks looking lost and frightened — witnesses, most likely. The karma in this place, Leo thinks, is horrid. If these walls could talk, they would scream.

He finds the unoccupied end of a corridor bench and calls Lulu. That would be Louise. Where does she get off texting him like this? She thinks intimidation works, but it only browns him off. Still, he might as well get it over with. She won’t let up until she hears from him. He punches in her number for a live conversation.

“Lulu? This is your Leo, your dreamboat.”

“In your dreams, Leo.” She thinks he finds her attractive. He doesn’t, but he wants her to think it. “No time for that Tracy-Hepburn repartee. What do you want for Derek Gibson?”

“Murder Two, thirty years.”

“All plea and no bargain.”

“Your man went clubbing and shot a girl dead in front of 22 witnesses, eight of them willing and eager to testify.”

“The cops didn’t read him Miranda until they took him into custody.”

“So what? They didn’t ask him any questions until they got him back to Homicide and took a formal statement.”

“He’s got only three priors, no felonies.”

“Yeah, a drug sale bargained down to simple possession, another domestic assault, a trespass at a car lot where he was hoping to borrow some wheels, shall we say. And 19 other arrests that didn’t go anywhere.”

“Not his fault if you persecutors can’t make a case.”

“His fault if he gets to the witnesses and persuades them not to testify.”

“That’s just speculation to cover your own laziness and incompetence.”

“Lulu, aren’t you trying to get something out of me? This is not persuasive.”

“Okay, okay. Come down to 15, suspend 15, five years probation after release.”

“No sale. And 10 years consecutive without parole for the handgun.”

“What! Forty years out of a man’s life, for a moment of stupid anger and thoughtlessness?”

“I want him off the street for a minimum 25, before the Parole Board gets to hold his hand and restore him in love to the community. He had a teachable moment, as they say. Maybe he’ll learn that some moments have consequences.”

“Spare me the sermon, I’ve heard it all before. Another black man sent to the Belly of the Beast, more kids growing up visiting their daddy in prison.”

“Spare me the sermon, I’ve heard it all before.”

“Drop dead. You know, I’ll bet your own mother didn’t like you.”

“As a matter of fact, she didn’t. I was weaned on a pickle.”

“And now you’re sucking shit.”

“Such endearments! Lulu, do you eat with that mouth?”

“Okay, Spencer, enough. This is Katherine. We’ll go to trial and make you prove your case.”

“I look forward to it.”

“I happen to know you don’t do trials any more. Not since your last attack. They’ll give the case to some kid I’ll eat up in court.”

“We’re happy to let the facts speak for themselves. You know, there are actually some juries who think that, just because a man is on trial, doesn’t mean he’s innocent?”

“I won’t end this conversation impolitely, since I’m the one who started it. But I’m ending this conversation.” ……..
[To read more of this excerpt on Amazon’s website, and/or to purchase the eBook, go to]
HAL RIEDL came to Baltimore in 1975 from Massachusetts seven years after graduating from Yale and was lay assistant to the pastor of the long-defunct Third English Lutheran Church in a city neighborhood that had recently been blockbusted by the Goldseker Real Estate Company. He later worked as a research technician at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was a circulation department supervisor at the university’s Eisenhower Library before being employed by the Maryland Department of Corrections as a correctional case management specialist.

Most recently he worked as an investigative paralegal for former Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein and has been contributing op-eds to The Baltimore Sun since 1981.

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