A year has passed since Pete Fernandez’s latest, closest brush with death. After months of recovery, the newly sober Pete has managed to rebuild his life, contentedly running a small Miami bookstore and steering clear of the dangers of private eye work. So when an aging Cuban mobster asks Pete to find out who killed his drug-addicted, jazz pianist son and to locate his missing daughter-in-law, Pete balks. Until another victim suggests that the murder of the gangster’s son may be connected to the people that nearly ended Pete’s life, while revealing an unexpected, dangerous truth about the death of the Miami PI's own mother.
Pulled back into the darkness and chaos he'd desperately tried to avoid, Pete finds his life derailed once more as he's forced to investigate a murder that should have never gone cold while dodging assassins' bullets and his own demons. Can Pete make peace with his complicated, haunted past to save himself and those he loves? Or will his luck finally run out? From one of the very best crime writers working today, Alex Segura crafts an epic novel of mystery, humanity, and suspense while bringing to a stunning conclusion the acclaimed series that reinvented the private eye novel for a new generation.
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"What are you working on now?" she asked, her tone relaxed, peaceful. "A new case?"
"I told you, I'm retired. I'm out of that game. For good this time."
Pete Fernandez squirmed on the long, leather couch as he faced his therapist, Allie Kaplan. Her posture was confident, present. Her demeanor was polished but casual — mid-forties, dark black hair and well built with smooth features — as she sat across from Pete. She looked comfortable and relaxed, two things Pete hadn't experienced in what felt like centuries. His body was in shambles. His left shin ached if the temperature dipped below seventy degrees — from where the mafia captain Vincent Salerno slammed his heel, before he left Pete for dead. Pete's jaw clicked if he yawned or laughed too hard — residual damage from too many punches to the chin. The pale white skin of his of his chest looked like it had been splattered with dark purple paint, a cornucopia of bruises and cuts, healing at different intervals. That was the superficial stuff. Some nights, before sleep, Pete would feel the jolt — the first push from the first shot that entered his body. His back would tighten and his legs would spasm, as if bracing for another. Another shot that would never come.
Pete knew he was lucky to be alive. To have come back to life. For a minute or two, he'd been gone — the bullet holes in his chest had done him in, the bruises and cuts and broken bones combined with blood loss to write the final lines in Pete's story. But somehow, that wasn't enough. An FBI agent named Dave Sternbergh, sitting in his unmarked car, waiting for word from his partner, Amanda Chopp, to return, had seen a suspicious figure walk into Pete's then-Spring Valley, NY office, following his partner and Pete inside. Sternbergh pursued slowly. Faster, once he heard the gunshots. Even faster, when he saw his partner of seven years dead on the floor and Pete Fernandez bleeding out a few feet away.
It'd been close. Pete would never fully recover. Months of physical therapy helped fix the physical problems. Well, fix them enough so he could live. But the flies and insects buzzing around in his head were another matter. And that's why he was here, in a small office hidden in a nondescript building off Coral Way, sitting with Allie, sharing his deepest-darkest with a therapist who didn't really seem to buy Pete's stump speech: that he was fine. He was happy to be alive. He was retired. He was doing great.
Because it wasn't true.
"You keep saying that," she said. "But what does that mean to you?"
"It means, well, I'm out of the game," Pete said.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you've done things that say you are out of the game," she said, looking at her hands for a moment. "But then you've done other things that say the opposite, I think."
"Like what?" Pete asked. "I mean, I'm barely a private investigator anymore — I don't even carry my gun. So, what?"
"The training," she said. "Self-defense."
"I think my ... my life experience has shown me it'd be good to know how to defend myself."
"I think that's valid."
"I was dead, clinically dead," Pete said, running a hand through his hair. "I survived. Then the physical therapy brought me back to normal. I had to figure out how to ... how to never be in that situation again. How to never find myself just relying on pure luck and my wits to survive."
"How do you feel now?"
"I feel stronger," Pete said. "I'm not scared. The aikido and gym time has been a good release, I guess. A good way to get my mind off of things."
"But wouldn't you think, and I'm just raising the question — that training in this way suggests you might find yourself in dangerous situations in the future? Are you preparing for something?"
"No, not at all," Pete said. "I'm just working at the store. I own a bookstore, and that gets me enough to live. It's not the most exciting thing, but —"
"But it's enough?" she asked. "Would you say that?"
"Yes," Pete said. "It's enough. It's peaceful. I've survived enough. I saw ... I was —"
"When you got shot?" she asked. "What did you see?"
"Nothing," Pete said. "I saw a blackness. A void. An endless nothing.... then I was back, like I'd been jarred awake from a deep, dark dream that was spreading out in all directions, like some kind of fast-moving oil spill. Then I was back, and there were faces around me and I was ... it hurt so much. I was hurting everywhere, like I'd never felt ..."
"But you've made so much progress," she said, leaning forward. "I mean, look at you. I wouldn't be able to tell —"
Pete winced. He knew she was lying. He had a thick beard now, to hide the scrapes and bruising on his face, as best he could. If he walked too fast, he limped slightly. He had trouble lifting his arms above his head. And he would never be able to try out for the Dolphins. But, yes. He was alive. He had to remind himself of that.
"You don't have to tell me," Pete said. "I'm grateful to be alive."
"It's okay if you're not."
Pete looked up at Allie. Her expression was blank, waiting.
"It's okay to resent being alive, is what I'm saying. Maybe part of you wanted to die that day."
Pete shook his head.
"Is it?" she said. "Your life — at least the last five years — has involved people gunning for you, friends dying, extreme physical and mental trauma and lots of tragedy and infamy. You've done a lot of good, but I imagine that was as exhausting as life can get, right? To what end? You're working at a bookstore, your body is a mess, you're single and you have no real family or friends to speak of."
"Wow, doc," Pete said, a dry laugh escaping his mouth. "And here I thought therapy was supposed to make me feel better."
"It is, eventually. But first, we need to look at things as they are, not just pretend it's great. And I think you're doing the latter. Pretending. Resigning yourself. But I think, and look, you can tell me to go to hell if you want, but I think you must have learned something over the last few years, right? Realized you were good at some part of what was going on?"
"So?" Pete asked. "That little flicker of hope should keep me on the same track?"
"No," Allie said. "But it's something. It's more than just being stuck in a self-inflicted purgatory. You seemed to — on some level — like what you were doing. But for whatever reason, you chose not to fully embrace it — you just bumbled through it, barely surviving. It had consequences. But now it feels like you're preparing for something, while also denying that anything's coming."
Pete crossed his arms and looked away, not responding.
Allie pressed on.
"Pete, you're a good man, a good person. I know that much from just sitting here and talking to you every week for the last few months," she said. "You've made mistakes. Who hasn't? Maybe the answer to the pain, the plan moving forward, isn't to shelter yourself from the stuff that's gone wrong, but to push forward with a clearer idea of what you want? Does that make sense? You're acting out of fear — and that's understandable, you almost died. But maybe the answer is to embrace who you are, to get better at that, rather than run from it, you know?"
Pete stood up abruptly.
"I think I have to go," he said.
"Pete, listen," Kaplan said.
"Can you just bill my card?"
"Pete," she said, grabbing his arm – — the contact feeling electric and out of place, like a priest reaching across the confessional. "I know you're processing a lot. It's fine if you walk out. Just know I'm around if you need anything, okay? It's fine."
Pete nodded and moved toward the door, not waiting for Kaplan to continue.
* * *
Pete mouthed a silent prayer as he stepped into the restaurant's foyer. Le Chic, a cozy eatery in the trendy Wynwood area, specialized in gussied-up comfort food. He could already feel the vibrations from the music blasting inside — Black Eyed Peas' obnoxious earworm, "Let's Get It Started" — as he reached for the door.
Just make an appearance.
The place was ,packed and the small dance floor spilled out into the restaurant's main dining area. They'd cleared the tables for the event, but the extra space was barely noticeable. It felt like the party was building to some unknown crescendo, Pete thought. The restaurant was dimly lit, with most of the light coming from around the long, oak bar at the far end of the place and the multiple TVs perched above the crowd playing the local news. This might be easier than he first anticipated. He might just be able to pop in, say hi, and slither out. He felt a tug at his arm.
"Thought you were gonna ghost this thing."
Pete turned around to see Robert Harras, ex-FBI spook with at least half a heart. They'd been through the fire together a few times. Pete considered him a friend. One of the few he still had, it seemed.
"I told Kathy I'd be here," Pete said, a weary smile creeping onto his face. "Good to see you."
"Good to see you, too," the older man said. "You're looking like you're almost back to normal."
Pete nodded. He'd found that was easier than actually trying to respond to the comment. Pete was far from "back to normal" — whatever that meant. Less than a year ago, he was being pushed into a New York emergency room on a gurney, his life signs flat and his blood loss heavy. It'd capped off a flurry of events that had left Pete destroyed — literally and figuratively. He'd just returned to New York, his makeshift home at the time, to collect his life and head back to Miami, energized and reinvigorated and, most importantly, eager to carve out a new place for himself in his hometown, surrounded by friends like his investigative partner Kathy Bentley and Harras. Instead, he died. For a few seconds, at least.
"How's business?" Harras said, cutting through the silence between them. The DJ had taken a break, allowing the revelers to migrate toward the bar and reload their glasses.
Pete scanned the crowd. He caught a glimpse of Kathy, near a makeshift stage. She was smiling, her face pink and gleaming, likely from dancing and drinking. Behind her was a banner with blocky, neon letters: "Congratulations Marco and Kathy!"
"Bookstore is fine," Pete said, not looking at Harras. "Quiet."
"Nice change of pace, eh?" Harras said. "Enjoying retirement?"
Pete shrugged. He looked at his watch.
"Bored already? Can't remember the last time I saw you. You're not hiding out again, are you?"
You're not isolating and drinking again, are you?
You're not avoiding your friends, are you?
That's what Harras meant, whether he knew it or not. Pete was an alcoholic. Always would be. But at the moment, for today, he was sober. Had been for a few years now. It had not been an easy road, and it was the kind of thing that required constant upkeep: meetings, prayer, and conversations with other alcoholics, just to make it through the day. But the upside was impossible to quantify. It meant Pete had a chance to live a life. The meaning of that was something he hadn't even fully realized until recently, as he stared into Salerno's gun, already ragged and worn down from explosions, dead friends, and murderous cults.
"I've been busy," Pete said, meeting his friend's stare. Pete knew what he looked like — weary, sad, worn out.
You've lost weight.
Are you doing okay?
You should come out more.
What was it like?
Did you see a light?
He knew he'd touched death. That his life had ended, for a brief moment. Yet, now, months later — Pete could not recall a time he'd ever felt more alive or aware. Electric shock running through him. Every moment charged with expectation and feeling. A clarity he'd only dreamt of. But it was coated with a sadness he'd had trouble even beginning to shake. There was a sense of dread and finality that he couldn't figure out or remove. He shook his head with a slight jerk, as if to shake off the feeling and touch the real world, the real things in front of him now. Like Harras. Like this party, and the reason he was here.
"You know," Pete said. "I'm working a lot ... Trying to keep the bookstore open and my business going takes up most of my time. But I'm glad to see you. You're right — it's been too long."
Harras started to respond, but Pete felt himself being pushed forward, an arm wrapping around his shoulder.
"Well, look who decided to show their face?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Pete said, leaning into her, welcoming the embrace. She was glowing — her smile natural and warm, her flowing sundress almost radiating with its own light. Kathy's movements seemed sludgy but content — she was working a good buzz, no doubt, Pete thought.
She pulled back, leaning toward the restaurant's jammed dance floor, her hand tugging at Pete.
"Well, come on then," she said, her voice rising to be heard over the DJ's latest song — Taylor Swift's "Gorgeous." "You owe me at least one dance before you disappear without saying goodbye."
He looked at Harras, who responded with a noncommittal smirk. Pete let her drag him into the crowd, bodies moving and sliding over each other, the temperature jumping up at least five degrees. The restaurant seemed to sway with each rhythmic change of the song, as Swift's ode to a perfect, unattainable lover hit its chorus crescendo. They reached the center of the dance floor and Kathy leaned into him, her breath tinged with the smell of red wine and something minty, her cheek warm against his.
"Where have you been, Pete?"
"I'm here," he said, his body close to hers, their posture stiff but electric, one hand on her lower back, his other hand gripping hers.
"You're late," the words poured out, like a pout, but Pete knew it was frustration. She wanted him to be happy about this. If he could be happy about one thing, it should be this.
"I'm sorry," he said. "But I'm here. I know it was important for you."
He knew the words were wrong when he finished the sentence, even if the sentiment was genuine. She pulled back, her face in front of his, her eyes clear and probing.
"It should be important for you to be here, period," she said, her tone sharp, but not fully combative, perhaps lulled a bit by the drink and celebratory evening.
Still, a warning to tread carefully. Kathy was his partner when it came to his now-paused investigative work, when she wasn't working full-time for a local culture site, The New Tropic. She was also his closest friend. But both of those relationships lived under a cloud of something else — a spark between them that was more than friendship and certainly more than professional. A spark that had brought them together in ways he was still trying to untangle. If you'd asked Pete almost a year ago what was most important to him, as he boarded a plane to New York to gather his belongings and return to Miami, he wouldn't have hesitated. Kathy. She was it. His last, best hope at something. But after looking into a void he could have never imagined, he'd come out of the whole ordeal with a fearless hunger to do and move. By the time he'd recovered and scraped some kind of life together, Kathy had moved on.
Moved on wasn't exactly true. She'd been clear with Pete, even before he boarded that fateful flight, that their prospects were dim. She valued his friendship over any kind of romance — a road she'd been down already and found wanting. From the moment they'd wheeled him into Spring Valley General, she'd been there. Waiting for him to wake up. Holding his hand through physical therapy, cheering him on. Pete vowed this would be the last time. He was done with danger. Done with drug gangs and explosions and murder. Kathy took him at his word. Helped him get situated with the bookstore and applauded his other efforts, too. They'd become closer than ever, Pete thought. But at the same time, she'd met Marco Lopez, a Miami real estate developer she'd interviewed for a piece on the burgeoning market as a freelance assignment for The New Tropic. Marco ended the interview with the offer of dinner. Kathy passed, but he persisted. Six months later, they were celebrating their engagement and Pete was just a guest who showed up late. Story of his life.
"You're right," Pete said, as they moved to the music, her cheek on his. "I'm happy for you. This is great."
"That's better," she said. "Even if you don't really mean it."
She draped her arms over his shoulders as the song shifted from T-Swift to a Mariah Carey ballad.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Miami Midnight"
Copyright © 2019 Alex Segura.
Excerpted by permission of Polis Books, LLC.
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.
Phenomenal praise for Alex Segura’s Pete Fernandez series
"Expertly weaving the past and present, Alex Segura masterfully cranks the tension while revealing the demons that both haunt P.I. Pete Fernandez and drive him forward. BLACKOUT will hook you on Fernandez and Alex Segura. Let's have more, and soon."
―Robert Crais, New York Times bestselling author of The Wanted
“A hot summer read!” ―The Boston Globe on Blackout
“BLACKOUT is cool, vivid―and poignant. In Alex Segura’s capable hands, Florida becomes a haunted landscape where hope can’t quite be eradicated. We’re with Pete Fernandez every step of the way.” ―Meg Gardiner, Edgar Award winning author of Unsub and Into the Black Nowhere
“Alex Segura one of the writers who reminds me why I fell in love with PI fiction and wanted to write it.” ―Laura Lippman, New York Times bestselling author of Sunburn
“With its smart dialogue and vivid settings, this series concentrates equally on the trajectory of Pete Fernandez’s life and the mysteries he tries to solve. From both perspectives, it’s fine crime fiction.” ―Booklist
"Segura’s latest offers a mind-spinning mix of dark and darker elements – not to mention multiple literal head-blowing moments, and, part-way through, a super-shocking surprise." ―Seattle Review of Books
"Segura captures the spirit of modern Miami with its complicated past and conflicted present. Pete Fernandez is the perfect hero to walk the mean streets of both worlds."
―Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn and The Innocents
"Alex Segura honors the private detective tradition, but also expands it. With a rich setting and an engagingly complex main character, DANGEROUS ENDS is a tense, gripping exploration of what happens when a bloody past collides with a dangerous present.”
―Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone
"Segura guides DANGEROUS ENDS with surprising, and believable, twists, putting his work firmly among the best of South Florida crime fiction.” ―Oline Cogdill, Sun Sentinel
"A confirmation that noir hasn’t run out of tricks and just might be the ideal vehicle to explore our current moment.” ―Los Angeles Review of Books on Dangerous Ends
"Like Elmore Leonard before him, Segura drags the darkness out into the hot sunlight. There's a lot of heart in these broken souls."
―Brian Azzarello, author of 100 Bullets, Moonshine and Batman
"Segura (has) an edgy storytelling style, snappy dialogue, and a cast of salty characters. A really fine crime story."
"(Segura) has created the next great hard-boiled protagonist in Pete Fernandez...DOWN THE DARKEST STREET marks the emergence not just of the next great crime fiction series, but of a writer on the rise."
"At once a harrowing crime novel and a deeply human tale of struggle and redemption, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET latest will keep you guessing―and gasping―until you’ve turned the final page."
―Chris Holm, bestselling author of THE KILLING KIND
"Segura’s DOWN THE DARKEST STREET is pitch perfect in the key of hard-boiled. A sublime blend of flawed protagonist, hot house setting, and gritty narrative."
―Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of WHERE IT HURTS and ROBERT B. PARKER'S BLIND SPOT
"Down the Darkest Street is a compelling page turner. It’s a smartly written book that offers an insider’s view of Miami and weaves a fascinating mystery that we only hope Pete can get to the bottom of."
―The Huffington Post