Miami is the beat for a Pulitzer Prize-winning police reporter in Edna Buchanan's new series launch. Blonde, green-eyed and game, Cuban-American Britt Montero knows the city's sleaze like her own backyard.
But now she's stonewalled. How did D. Wayne Hudson, a well-respected black, die? Did the cops do it?
Her editor wants to play it down, but Montero is onto a story about excessive police violence. When it breaks, so does the fragile truce that holds the city together. Montero finds her very life is at stake.
"Edna Buchanan is outrageous and unrivaled. Wonderful and unforgettable!" --Patricia D. Cornwell
About the Author
Edna Buchanan knows firsthand that underneath Miami's glistening facade lies a city torn by violence and muddied by corruption, where every moment a crime is waiting to happen. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning crime reporter, Buchanan has exposed the seamier sides of this sun-drenched paradise, then used her more than twenty years of experience to create a dynamic and deadly Miami that vividly comes alive in each of her novels. Especially when the city is seen through the fiercely intense eyes of a tough newspaperwoman named Britt Montero. The author of eleven books, Buchanan has spent time behind bars with two serial killers. She lives in Miami, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
I Stopped to listen. So did a detective and several patrolmen, frozen in motion. One cocked his head and held his walkie up to his ear. The morning had started out as a slow news day, but that could change in a heartbeat. It was happening now.
A radio in the heavy leather belt of a patrolman at the front desk had spit out a rush of static as I walked through the lobby at headquarters after reading a stack of routine police reports from the night before. A high-pitched emergency signal had followed, then the clear-as-a-bell disembodied voice of a dispatcher giving the location, Suwannee Park Elementary School. An armed abduction. Possible machine gun involved.
Children and guns: The combination raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
The victim was a woman, the dispatcher announced, abducted at gunpoint after dropping her children off at school. A domestic, I thought, maybe an irate estranged husband or boyfriend. I had covered countless stories about women murdered by men who "loved" them.
The address hung on the air-precisely enunciated by the coolly impassive dispatcher. The cop grounded by desk duty looked wistful as I quickly pushed through the heavy glass door into the sun-blasted parking lot, already eighty-five degrees at 8 A.M. The cloudless sky was a cruel and brilliant blue. Carloads of commuters swooped by on the elevated Metro Rail tracks across the street as I scrambled onto the front seat, hit the key on my dashboard scanner, and peeled out of the parking lot. The dispatcher was reporting that the suspect had forced the victim to drive him away in her own small, white, American-made car.
Thecrime scene was on the move out there somewhere, rolling through Monday morning rush hour traffic. I tried not to think about what had to be going on in the woman's mind. An all points was out on her car, but nobody knew the exact make or tag number yet. Suwannee Park Elementary was the place to start. I drove, scanning oncoming traffic for a small white car with a terrified woman at the wheel.
A Miami patrol car passed me like a heat-seeking missile, siren wailing, lights flashing. I hit the gas and stayed on its tail, accelerating past startled motorists who pulled to the side. I love it when the cops and I are bound for the same destination. There is no risk I'll be stopped for speeding; their goal is to answer a call for help. As a reporter on the police beat, mine is to write about what happened, how they handled it. Or didn't.
I swung in to the curb behind him, across the street from the school. A child was crying, and I feared at first that students were hurt. But the piercing sounds came from one of two small girls who stood on the sidewalk. About six and eight years old, they clung to one another, half-surrounded by several men in uniform, a disheveled civilian, his white shirt torn open at the front, and a taller man, probably the prin cipal, sweating in a suit and tie. I recognized Officer Ted Ferrell, tall, thin, and wiry, hunkered down in front of the girls. The little one wailed, while the other, wide-eyed and solemn, tried to answer the policeman's questions.
Ted got to his feet and passed me on the way to his patrol car.
"Thought you worked midnights," I called out.
"Hi Britt. I did, until today. Rotation."
I had forgotten this was the first Monday of the month. Shift change. Officers transferring from one shift to another work both. Ted, I knew, had worked midnights and was now doubling back onto days.
"What happened?" I asked him.
"This is a crazy one, Britt. Woman drops her kids at school and stops to talk to a teacher. He's standing at her car when this guy charges up with what looks like a machine gun, grabs the teacher by the shirt, yanks him away from the car, jumps in the backseat, threatens to blow off the woman's head, and orders her to drive away."
I looked up from my notebook. "Her kids see it?"
"The whole thing."
"Somebody they know?"
"Nope." He reached for his radio mike. "Total stranger. "
Ted reported that the eight-year-old said her mother's car was a Chevrolet, a Nova. He asked dispatch to send a patrolman to the family home in search of a relative or a neighbor who knew how to reach the woman's husband at work, then he turned back to me. The gunman appeared to be the same man who had run amok a few blocks away. He had tried a robbery, Ted said, but his victim ran. The wouldbe robber confronted several strangers on the street, but they stampeded away also. Then he tried to force his way into a house. "People started calling us. He evaded the first units by running through backyards to the school here, where our victim was sitting in her car. Looks like she just happened to be there when he needed a ride."
"Did the teacher give you a good car description, or the tag number?" I asked.
"He was so scared that he fell down and tore his pants trying to get away. I feel sorry for the girls. I've got one her age." He pointed to the smaller child.
"Mommmeee!" Twin cries rose from the sidewalk. A white car, a Chevy Nova, had turned the comer, a woman at the wheel. The two little girls broke and ran. They attached themselves to her before she emerged from the car.
I joined the circle that quickly formed around her. She was about thirty-five and pudgy, with short dark hair, and wore a slightly rumpled flowered housedress. "I was scared to death," she said, eyes watery. She held her youngest girl tightly in her arms, while the other clung to her skirt. "But I tried to stay cool. That man is crazy ... when I told him my gas tank was on empty, he said I was his hostage, and if the engine died, so did 1. He made me take him to N. W. Third Street and Twenty-seventh Avenue. That's where he got out and told me to keep driving. I came right back here, to my girls."
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