Matt Royal is going back to the courtroom. He has agreed to defend his good friend and wife of Longboat Key’s Police Chief. Abby Lester has been charged with the murder of Nate Bannister, an unlikeable, shady character. He was found shot to death in his downtown Sarasota condo and the evidence points to Abby as the killer.
Matt cannot refuse Abby’s pleas for help, despite having retired from the practice of law several years earlier. Now, he must face a hotshot prosecuting attorney with a record of twenty-two wins and zero losses in murder trials. As he begins to investigate, Matt finds that nothing is what it seems. Police, politicians, academics, real estate moguls and other powerful forces are tied together in a cauldron of issues that Matt must untangle to get at the truth. Can he rekindle his legal skills and outwit the prosecution pitted against him? Matt knows he must, as the life of his friend hangs in the balance.
About the Author
H. Terrell Griffin is the award winning author of ten Matt Royal mysteries set on Florida's Suncoast. Prior to succumbing to his lifelong yen to write, he earned degrees in history and law from Mercer University and was a board certified civil trial lawyer based in Orlando for thirty-eight years. In his youth, Terry served three years in the U.S. Army, much of it as a medic in an Armored Cavalry regiment on the East German border.
Read an Excerpt
A Matt Royal Mystery
By H. Terrell Griffin
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2015 H. Terrell Griffin
All rights reserved.
Detective Jennifer Diane Duncan looked around the large room in which she was standing. Opulent, she thought, and a bit ostentatious. She looked at the nude body lying at her feet and wondered if the woman had been some rich man's trophy.
The dead woman appeared to be in her late thirties, about the detective's age. She had a lot of blond hair, now matted with blood. Her face was classically beautiful, perhaps too perfect. Her breasts had obviously been surgically enhanced, so maybe her face had too. She wore makeup that had been applied with care and expertise to accentuate her features. Her skin was the bronze of the Florida sun-worshiper, and she had apparently done her worshiping in the nude. Her dark pubic hair had been trimmed into a heart shape. The detective smiled, wondering whether that had been done for her lover or just on a lark, a bit of whimsy perhaps.
There was no sign of trauma, other than the small pool of blood under her head and in her hair. The deathblow must have been to the back of her head. But then, she would have fallen forward and would be lying facedown. Somebody had moved the body, turned her over onto her back. Not Steve Carey, the first officer to arrive. He would have known not to disturb the crime scene.
The room's ceilings were at least fifteen feet high. Expensive hardwood floors were covered at intervals by Oriental carpets, each of which probably cost more than her car. The furniture was large, a scale to fit the room. Tall French doors opened onto a patio that contained an infinity pool, and off to the right a summer kitchen. On the left, a wall rose along the periphery of the patio, providing an area screened from the beach. An oversized hot tub, more like a small pool, took up a corner, and three lounge chairs sat in the shade on a tiled floor. Later in the day, the area would be flooded with sunshine. An open door led to a dressing room.
Beyond the patio and the white sand beach, the tranquil Gulf of Mexico gleamed under the morning sun, its turquoise placidity at odds with the violence that had been done on its shore. Carey, the uniformed Longboat Key cop who had been the first to arrive at the scene, stood near the front door.
"Do you know anything, Steve?" she asked.
"Nothing. The maid found the body when she came to work this morning. Says it's the lady of the house, Jim Favereaux's wife, Linda."
"Where's the maid?"
"I asked her to stay out on the patio. Didn't want her to have to sit looking at the body."
"Did you know the people who live here?"
"Not really. I worked a burglary here about two years ago, before you came to the island. I met them then. He's a lot older than she is. Was."
"Is he here?"
"They must have a lot of money. Do you know anything about that?"
"What was taken in the burglary you worked?"
"Nothing much. It looked like some kids came up from the beach and broke into the back of the house. The only things the maid could find missing were a couple of bottles of hooch. Bourbon, I think."
The detective left Officer Carey and walked around the oversized living room, into the kitchen and dining room, upstairs to the bedrooms, looking for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. Nothing. She went out to the pool dressing room. A towel hung from a hook. No sign of struggle.
The crime scene people arrived and began their search for evidence, moving about the rooms with determined patience. The house seemed sterile, as if it were a showplace where nobody lived, where people came to admire the décor and the furnishings and the view of the Gulf. She got no feeling of people living there, eating, sleeping, loving, arguing, the ordinary things that take place in any family home.
The detective shivered in the air conditioning. Somebody had cranked it down to the point that it felt frigid inside the house. It was the first day of April, April Fools Day, she thought grimly. Not your typical Monday morning on Longboat Key. The weather outside was unseasonably warm, but the temperature inside made her wish she'd worn a jacket. It had certainly skewed the time of death calculation for the medical examiner's assistant. He had taken the body's temperature when he arrived shortly after eight o'clock and told her that his best estimate was that she had been dead for six or more hours. "Could've been ten or twelve," he'd said. "Maybe Doc Hawkins can be a little more precise when he does the autopsy. Sorry."
The medical examiner's people were ready to transport the body. "Can you turn her on her side so I can see the back of her head?" the detective asked.
"Sure." The ME's assistant placed one hand on the dead woman's shoulder and another on her flank. He rolled her onto her left side. The back of her head was bloody and blond hair was matted into a depression. Somebody had bashed in her head.
The detective moved back and watched the two young men lift the body onto a gurney. They placed a sheet over it and wheeled the gurney toward the front door. Duncan went to one of the crime scene techs whom she knew. "Gavin," she said, "have you found anything that might be the weapon that killed her?"
"Not yet. I looked at that gash on the back of her head though and got some pictures. We'll keep looking, but there's nothing obvious in this room."
"Thanks," said Duncan. "Let me know if you come up with anything."
* * *
A small woman with brown skin and black hair cropped short sat on a divan on the patio, tears running down her face. She appeared to be in her twenties, early thirties, maybe. She wore a black dress with a white collar and belt, sheer hose, and sensible white shoes. A maid's uniform.
Duncan walked out to the patio and sat next to the maid. "Do you speak English?" she asked.
The maid nodded. "I grew up here. In Bradenton."
"I'm Detective Duncan, Longboat Key Police. People call me J.D. What's your name?"
"Officer Carey tells me that you found the body and called the police."
"About seven-thirty. I'm supposed to be at work by eight, but the only bus drops me off up the block at seven-fifteen. The next one wouldn't get me here until eight-fifteen. I don't want to be late."
"Did you move the body, touch it in any way?"
"Was she face-up when you found her?"
"Yes. I didn't touch anything. I used my cell phone to call 911."
"Have you worked here long?"
Two years in February.
"What can you tell me about the people you work for?"
"They're real nice," Selena said.
"What's their name?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Favereaux."
"Do you know their first names?"
"James and Linda."
"Do you work every day?"
"Monday through Friday. I'm off Saturday and Sunday."
"This is a pretty big place to keep clean," J.D. said.
"This house has almost twelve thousand square feet, but the Favereauxes only live in a couple of bedrooms and not much of the downstairs."
"They didn't share a bedroom?"
"Do you know any reason for that?"
"How old is Mr. Favereaux?"
"I don't know."
"What's your best guess?"
"Probably about sixty. Maybe a little older."
"And Mrs. Favereaux?"
"Thirty-nine. She had a birthday last week."
"Do you know how long they've lived here?"
"I think they hired me as soon as they moved in. So, just a little over two years."
"Selena, I'm embarrassed to ask you this question, but I need to know for my investigation. I'm not with customs or the Border Patrol, and I assure you, your answer will go no further. Are you in the United States legally?"
Selena smiled, ruefully. "I get that question a lot," she said. "I was born here. My parents were illegal but they were given amnesty back in the eighties and now have green cards. I'm as much American as you are, Detective."
"I didn't mean to offend you."
"You didn't. I know you had to ask."
"Do you know where Mr. Favereaux is?"
"Was he here on Friday?"
"He was here when I left work on Friday afternoon."
"Okay, Selena. That's all I have for now. I'm going to need your contact information, address, phone number, that sort of thing. Where do you live?"
"I'll get an officer to drive you home."
"Thanks, but I'll take the bus. I don't want my neighbors seeing me getting out of a police car."CHAPTER 2
"Good morning, Matt"
"Ah, Longboat Key's best detective."
"And the only one."
"And the most beautiful."
"I'd normally love to hear your sweet nothings, but I caught a murder case this morning."
"I told you it would have been better had you stayed at my place last night."
"Yeah, but I needed some sleep. You tend to keep me awake."
"I thought you liked it."
The voice coming through my phone was that of Jennifer Diane Duncan, known as J.D., the police detective whom I loved. "Where are you?" I asked.
"I'm standing in front of that huge new house on the beach, the one they built a couple of years back when they tore down that little hotel just south of Pattigeorge's Restaurant. Somebody murdered the lady of the house last night."
"Who's the victim?"
"Linda Favereaux. You know her?"
"I met her once at Pattigeorge's. Sammy introduced me to her and her husband. I never saw them again. Any idea who killed her?"
"Not yet. The husband seems to be away. We'll see."
"I guess that means we're not going to Egmont today."
"Afraid not. I'll see you tonight."
"Yes. I'll bring my earplugs." She hung up.
This was supposed to be a day off for J.D. We'd planned to make a picnic lunch and take my boat to Egmont Key and sit on the beach all day. Egmont is a state park accessible only by boat. It's about a ten mile run from my house, and with the gorgeous weather we were having, it would have been a salubrious day.
My name is Matt Royal. I'm a lawyer and mostly retired. Other than handling the occasional legal matter for a friend who couldn't afford a lawyer, I stay away from the courts and the practice of law. I was once a soldier, went to war and then to law school. I'd been a trial lawyer in Orlando, and when I grew tired of the rat race, I sold all my possessions and moved to Longboat Key. I'm young for retirement, but if I'm careful, the money I have will last the rest of my life.
My home is a cottage on the bayside of a wonderful little island about ten miles long and a half-a-mile wide at its broadest point. Longboat Key lies off the southwest coast of Florida, south of Tampa Bay, about halfway down the peninsula, bordered on the east by Sarasota Bay and on the west by the Gulf of Mexico. I live in Longbeach Village, the oldest inhabited part of the island, if you don't count the Indians who lived there hundreds of years ago. The village sits on the north end of Longboat Key, and is populated by the best people on earth. Most of us spend our time in a sort of modified stupor, enjoying our days on the beach or fishing or boating. Our evenings are spent in restaurants and bars with our friends and neighbors. Some of the village people still work for a living and we have an eclectic group ranging from industry moguls to carpenters and commercial fishermen. Everybody fits in.
J.D. Duncan had come into my life about a year and a half before, when she was hired as Longboat Key's only detective. She'd worked for the Miami-Dade Police Department for fifteen years and risen to assistant homicide commander. Her mother had lived on Longboat Key, and when she died and left her condo to J.D., the detective decided to give up life in the fast lane that was Miami and move permanently to Longboat Key. My buddy Bill Lester, the chief of police on the island, had jumped at the chance to hire her.
J.D. and I had become friends and, more recently, lovers. She had changed my world and made living on an island paradise even better than I had thought possible. But she was a cop, and sometimes that meant that she had to take on ugly jobs.
I spend most of my days working at being a beach bum. It isn't hard. Our island is full of people who have adapted to life on the key and spend their days lying on the beach, fishing, boating, and drinking in the bars. When I first moved to the key, I thought I might eventually be able to ease out of the fast lane and work my way into that island lifestyle. It took me all of two days to do so, and I became a confirmed beach bum. This life is a lot simpler than that of a trial lawyer. I was happy and satisfied and surrounded by friends. J.D. was the icing on the cake.
I called my buddy Logan Hamilton, and we loaded a cooler with ice and beer, stowed rods and reels aboard my boat, Recess, a twenty-eight foot Grady-White, and headed for the fishing grounds. I'd once read a t-shirt that said, "Longboat Key is an island of drinkers who have a fishing problem." I always thought that pretty much caught the essence of our key. As the Bard said, "Truth will out."CHAPTER 3
Officer Steve Carey looked agitated as he walked across the living room toward J.D. "Robin Hartill is outside."
"Crap. What does she want?"
"What do you think? She wants to talk to you. She's got her notebook and camera."
"Okay. Tell her I'll be there in a couple of minutes."
Robin and J.D. were friends, and often had a beer together at Tiny's, a small bar on the north end of the key. But Robin was a reporter on the local weekly newspaper, the Longboat Observer, and J.D. had hoped to keep the press at bay for at least a few hours.
She went to the front door. "Hey, Robin. You sure got here quick. I was hoping to keep this under wraps for a bit. How did you find me out?"
Robin laughed. "The island telegraph. Gwen Mooney was on her way to work at Doc Klauber's when she saw your car and a couple of cruisers parked out front. She called and told me something was up. What's up?"
"Can we talk off the record for right now?"
"Will I get anything out of you that I can use today for our Internet edition?"
"Sure," J.D. said, "just not now. I need a few hours before this gets out. I'll call you this afternoon and cut you loose before the local TV stations go on air for their six o'clock news."
"Sounds fair. What's going on?"
"The woman who lives here, Linda Favereaux, is dead. It looks like murder. Did you know her?"
"No, but Gwen did. Said she was an asshole, excuse my language"
J.D. smiled. If Gwen didn't like someone, then he or she joined the list of assholes that Gwen maintained in her head. The list was fairly long. "Do you know why Gwen thought that?"
"No" said Robin, "but you know it doesn't take a whole lot to get on that list."
"That's for sure. I've got to get back to work. I'll call you this afternoon."
The morning dragged on. The forensic people were going through the large house with great deliberation. The body had been taken to the medical examiner's morgue. The autopsy would get underway quickly, as it always did when the victim came from the high dollar precincts. There was no sign of the husband. J.D. searched his bedroom for any indication of where he might have gone. She found nothing. A laptop computer sat on a desk in the corner of the room, but it was password protected. J.D. called the police department geek and asked him to come over and pick it up. See if he could get past the security.
It was nearing noon when J.D. left the crime scene. She needed to get back and start the paperwork. Her phone rang just as she was turning into the station at mid-key.
"Detective, this is Dan Murphy at the ME's office. We ran the fingerprints on Mrs. Favereaux. There's a problem."
"Uh, oh. What?"
"The prints don't belong to Mrs. Favereaux. They came back as those of a woman named Darlene Pelletier. She was arrested twenty years ago for shoplifting in New Orleans. That's the reason she's in the system."
"Maybe Pelletier was Linda Favereaux's maiden name," said J.D. "Maybe Darlene is a first name and Linda is her middle name."
"Could be. I thought you'd like to know."
"I do, Dan. Have y'all finished with the autopsy yet?"
"Doctor Hawkins is working on that now."
"Thanks for the call. I'll see what I can find on Darlene Pelletier."
J.D. parked in front of the station and was getting out of her car when her phone rang again. "Good morning, J.D. This is Harry Robson."
Excerpted from Chasing Justice by H. Terrell Griffin. Copyright © 2015 H. Terrell Griffin. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've read all the Matt Royal books and this is the best so far. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop readibg---literally! I especially liked the courtroom drama. Can't wait for the next installment of the Matt Royal series.
Great - you will not be able to put this down
Great book. It held my atention through 2 days.
4 STARS I like Matt Royal. Chasing Justice has Matt going back to defend his good friend Police chief Bill Lester's wife Abby Lester from a murder charge. It reminds me of the Longboat Blues. Where is more a legal mystery case. I loved the trial part of the book. I wanted to be there and watch him work and cheer him on. Wanted to boo the prosecutor too. The suspense was good. Did not know who to trust till revealed. Matt tried to prove Abby innocent and try and figure out who the real murder was. Was Abby and Bill cheating on each other like some people believe. J.D. also had a murder case working as a police detective. J.D. is a strong female character and has a good sense of humor. She hear Some of the police and lawyers I found sad. There was also ones that I admired. Like any organization some good and others bad. As other Matt Royal books there is lots of drinking and lots of bars that everyone goes to. There is a lot of murder and attempted murder. There are some good twists to the plot most came as a surprise and some you could guess were coming. I read it in one setting because I did not want to stop reading till I was down. I will continue to look for more H. Terrell Griffin novels in the future. I was given this ebook to read from Net Galley and Oceanview Publishing. In return I agreed to give a honest review of Chasing Justice.