Yesterday's Fatal

Yesterday's Fatal

5.0 5
by Jan Brogan
     
 

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Praise for A Confidential Source

"[Brogan] takes the reader with her on a hair-raising ride."
--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Brogan does a good job of creating a bristling plot and likable characters, while dosing the whole novel with elements of humor and satire that are original, accurate, and unexpected."
--PublishersSee more details below

Overview


Praise for A Confidential Source

"[Brogan] takes the reader with her on a hair-raising ride."
--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Brogan does a good job of creating a bristling plot and likable characters, while dosing the whole novel with elements of humor and satire that are original, accurate, and unexpected."
--Publishers Weekly
"Hallie Ahern is a journalist scraping the bottom of the media barrel in Jan Brogan's inventive and touching new mystery."
--Chicago Tribune
"Brogan's brooding analysis of the gambling itch that leaves so many decent people rubbed raw is especially persuasive in a narrator like Hallie."
--The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In Brogan's solid third Hallie Ahern mystery (after 2005's A Confidential Source), the Providence, R.I., newspaper reporter homes in on an insurance scam after happening on a late-night auto accident. Hallie tries to rescue the victim from a car about to go up in flames, but the woman is already dead after crashing into a tree—"twice," according to the elderly woman who witnessed the accident. At the funeral for the victim—Lizzette Gorda, a 33-year-old mother of three boys—her husband, Manuel, says that the witness reported another car speeding away from the scene (a fishy change of tune), and Hallie notices mobster Tito Manaforte hulking among the mourners. Hallie smells an insurance scam that her addictive personality compels her to pursue. On the romantic front, a suave attorney distracts Hallie from her upstanding but undemonstrative new boyfriend, prosecutor Matt Cavanaugh. Intelligent but with her fair share of imperfections, Hallie makes a credible heroine. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Providence Morning Chronicle reporter Hallie Ahern (A Confidential Source, 2005, etc.) is once again witness to murder. Hallie thinks she's witnessed a terrible accident when Lizette Gorda, a Dominican bookkeeper working part-time for attorney Dane Piedmont, slams her car into a tree not once but twice. Uncertain how that could be, Hallie queries the other eyewitness, an old lady who changes her story after a few days and a visit from the widower and insists there was another driver who left the scene. Practically before Hallie can shout, "Stop the presses!," she's involved with a crime ring that stages accidents to bilk Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies. Hallie's 12-step sponsor thinks she's after the story for the adrenaline rush; she needs to keep her sources from her boyfriend Matt in the Attorney General's office or he can subpoena her; and her editor is preoccupied with the Chronicle's new owners and isn't much interested in Hallie's hunches. Still, when Lizette's sister connects the car scam to mobster Tito Manaforte and personal-injury lawyer Joe D'Anzana, Hallie goes into scoop mode, falling out with Matt, falling in with Dane (oh, no!) and setting up both another murder and a short ride down a lonely road for herself and one of the bad guys. Brogan would do better to drop the romance folderol, but she's in firm command when delineating addictive behavior and newsroom jockeying for front-page stories. Agent: Dan Mandel/Sanford J. Greenburger Associates
From the Publisher
Praise for A Confidential Source

"A winner . . . Brogan keeps the suspense mounting. . . . She is a surefire mystery writer at the top of her form."

Providence Journal

"[Brogan] takes the reader with her on a hair-raising ride."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Brogan does a good job of creating a bristling plot and likable characters, while dosing the whole novel with elements of humor and satire that are original, accurate, and unexpected."

Publishers Weekly

"Hallie Ahern is a journalist scraping the bottom of the media barrel in Jan Brogan's inventive and touching new mystery."

Chicago Tribune

"Brogan's brooding analysis of the gambling itch that leaves so many decent people rubbed raw is especially persuasive in a narrator like Hallie."

The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429979627
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
05/01/2007
Series:
Hallie Ahern Mysteries , #2
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
659,675
File size:
0 MB

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One
It's not that fatals are beneath me.
It's just that these days, no newspaper reporter jumps into her car and rips off to an actual car accident scene. We settle for getting the facts from the cops over the phone. Partly, this is because we're so understaffed, but partly it's a sad fact that fatals are rarely front-page news anymore, just an exploitation of all-too-frequent tragedy, the ultimate senselessness of blood and gore.
I never would have even been on that road, that late, alone--except that I had to pee.
I was coming back from another assignment, a god-awful political banquet in Connecticut, and I'd taken an exit off the highway hoping to find an open service station. At the end of the ramp, I found a Mobil. But it was closed. It was raining and much too damp to squat outside. I'd run a 10K race in this area a month ago, and thought I'd remembered a Wendy's or some sort of fast-food place nearby. I headed left out of the driveway.
The road narrowed, and the trees grew fuller to form a canopy that blocked out the sky. The only source of illumination came from the weak headlights of my Honda, and I knew that the Wendy's I'd remembered was nothing more than a wishful thought, a bladder mirage. I had just about decided to turn around when I saw streetlights ahead at what looked like an intersection.
On my left, there was an old farmhouse, set back, but with a falling-down garage close to the road. As I passed, the porch lights flashed on, and I saw a woman standing in the doorway. She was in silhouette, but I could still tell she was an old lady. What was it, I wondered, the narrow shoulders? The posture? And then, before I could decide, I saw it, a weird sputter of light ahead, just beyond the intersection, in what looked like woods. A car, taillights out, was crashed into the tree. A flicker rose from the hood.
I was pretty sure that I was still in West Bay, which meant it was the bureau reporter's job to get this accident from the cops in the morning. I admit it--that was my first thought. But then I realized the cops might not even know about this accident yet. That there might be a human being trapped inside.
I crossed the intersection onto what had become a dirt road, pulled up behind the car, and jumped out. Wet, grassy air mixed with a bitter petroleum smell. My nose twitched, and I wanted to jump back into my car and seal the doors. But by now, a shot of adrenaline had boosted the caffeine in my bloodstream.
The car was a Ford Taurus, the front end crumpled with the kind of violence that makes you stop and swallow, and I could taste the smoke that rose from the gap where the hood was hinged. I ran to the driver's-side door and found it ajar, which should have alerted me that something was weird.
But by this time, I was fairly distracted. There was enough light from the interior light and my high beams to make out the form inside, a female body thrown sideways, across the console from the driver's side so that her head was on the passenger seat. The windshield was cracked at the centerline and the driver's-side airbag was deflated.
"Are you all right?" I shouted through the window. Clearly she wasn't all right. She hadn't been wearing a seat belt, and her hair was bloodied. Her head must have hit the windshield.
"You've got to wake up," I shouted at the woman. "Get out of the car." The woman did not move.
The flame at the hood sputtered. It was still small, but the clouds of smoke had grown thicker. I grabbed the cell phone out of my pocket and fumbled, trying to turn it on. Nothing. It was completely out of charge.
Think, Hallie, think. On the floor on the passenger side, the contents of the woman's purse had spilled out. I leaned into the car, trying to see if there was a cell phone anywhere. Wallet, makeup bag, date book, crumpled store receipts, a gold and black pen, and a can of Mace.
A city girl, I thought. What was she doing way out here? But at the moment, my main concern was communications.
You weren't supposed to move anyone who was injured unless you knew what you were doing. And I sure as hell didn't know what I was doing. I could feel the heat of the flame. How long before the entire engine compartment went up? Before this whole car blew?
I stepped away from the car, and my shoes sank into the wet grit of the road. I needed to get help. I ran back toward the farmhouse. Just as I got to the intersection, I spotted a flashlight making its way toward me. Behind the flashlight was the old woman, wearing a nightgown, bathrobe, and one of those clear plastic rain scarves that fold up into a bag. She was probably seventy-five years old. Underneath the rain scarf, I saw long, dark hair that couldn't possibly be real.
The woman stared at me. "Looked like that car had it out for that tree."
"What?"
"Hit it twice. I seen it from my porch."
"Did you call the police?" I asked.
She shook her head.
"Go back and call 911. There's a woman in there, badly injured!"
She turned and headed back toward her house, moving at old-age speed. "Run!" I shouted after her. "Run as fast as you can!"
Adrenaline took over, making me forget about my bladder. I raced back to the car. The flames were now blazing in the damp air.
In the backseat, I could see a soccer ball, a crumpled McDonald's bag, and a couple of Disney figurines that looked like they came from a Happy Meal. This woman might have a child. Maybe more than one.
I made one last assessment. I'm slight, barely five feet four, and not exceptionally strong, but this woman looked even smaller than me. The smoke was getting thick and my eyes burned. If I was going to do this, I should do it now.
I reached into the car. As I crouched over to lift her, I could see that she was about my own age, midthirties. She looked Hispanic, with light mocha skin and dark auburn hair spattered with blood. There was a stillness about her I didn't like, and her lipstick had dried on bluish lips. Around her neck, she wore a silver cross with a tiny diamond chip in it. I slipped my arm under her back. "I hope I don't totally mess you up," I said.
But just then, I heard the siren, and looking behind me, bright lights flashed. A cop jumped out of a police cruiser with a fire extinguisher, pulled me away from the car, and headed to the hood, where he doused the flame. Behind the cruiser were a fire truck and an ambulance. Two firefighters and an EMT rushed out, following the cop to the car. Within minutes, they'd extracted the woman from the car and secured her on a backboard.
"Is she going to be all right?" I asked.
No one answered.
As the ambulance pulled away, the cop, extinguisher still in hand, guided me back to my own car. He was a tall, stocky man in his midthirties, whose eyes looked swollen, either from exhaustion, or maybe the fumes.
He asked me a laundry list of questions, about what time I'd gotten there and if I'd seen any other cars. Then he asked for my driver's license and registration, which I handed over.
"You live on the East Side, huh?" He squinted at the address on my license. "What you doing in West Kent at this hour?"
I explained about the assignment in Connecticut and how I was looking for a rest room. "I work for the Chronicle."
His groan suggested that he wasn't pleased with this development.
"I'm going to need to get her name. And your best guess as to what happened," I said.
"You're gonna have to call the station in the morning. The captain has to clear any release to the press."
Given the hour, this seemed reasonable. It was past deadline anyway, and with the adrenaline subsiding, the pressure in my bladder was back. I wanted to get the hell out of there and find some place to pee. I may have forgotten to tell the cop about the driver's door being open, but I did suggest that he go up to the farmhouse and talk to the old lady.
He denied it later, of course.
Copyright © 2007 by Jan Brogan. All rights reserved.

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