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Rough Draft
 


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Rough Draft


  OUTSTANDING ACCLAIM FOR

  JAMES W. HALL

  ROUGH DRAFT

  “Lots of action, some of it gruesome, and an intriguing plot.”

  —Chicago Tribune

  “ROUGH DRAFT is good, old-fashioned, hideously violent fun … Remarkably original … The creepy hitman Hal is one of Hall’s best psychos.”

  —Miami Herald

  “Hall has a knack for exposing Florida’s mesmerizing, train-wreck-of-the-day weirdness … A fast ride in a fun car.”

  —Denver Post

  “As good as it gets … The beauty of ROUGH DRAFT lies in Hall’s ability to mix well-rounded characters with artful, poetic language that makes him a truly great writer in any genre.”

  —Providence Journal-Bulletin

  “Connoisseurs of villainy will appreciate the latest additions to the most memorable gallery of criminal grotesques since the glory days of Dick Tracy.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  “Veteran thriller master Hall exhibits a new dimension … Solid suspense … An expert creator of grotesque villains and fast action, former poet Hall raises the crossbar with his sensitive insights into the human condition.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Hall’s latest clever thriller will grab new fans and please old ones … Hall is a master at duping the reader into believing something that inevitably proves to be jaw-droppingly false.”

  —Library Journal

  BODY LANGUAGE

  “James Hall is a writer I have learned from over the years. His people and places have more brush strokes than a Van Gogh. He delivers taut and muscular stories about a place where evil always lurks beneath the surface. They are gripping stories and BODY LANGUAGE is no different.”

  —Michael Connelly, author of Void Moon

  “BODY LANGUAGE seduces you, then it grabs you, and it never lets you go. This is a first-rate thriller by a masterful writer.”

  —James Patterson

  “Alexandra Rafferty is a fabulous addition to the ranks of law enforcement. She is smart, competent, the consummate professional, and her job as a Miami P.D. photographic specialist places her at the heart of the crime scene, with a cold eye for detail and a passionate commitment to justice.”

  —Sue Grafton

  “BODY LANGUAGE is a sizzling tale of sex, blood, and obsession.”

  —Stephen Coonts

  “This Florida-based thriller gives mystery readers a new heroine—a methodical, nurturing and tenacious Alexandra Rafferty. She is one character with whom you will be pleased to become acquainted.”

  —The Oakland Press

  “A well-plotted mystery … Past hurts and current passions come into play in a riveting way that simply won’t allow you to put the book down.”

  —The Tampa Tribune Times

  “A strangely exhilarating delicacy… It’s almost a disappointment to get to the end of the book.”

  —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

  “In his latest southern Florida thriller, we’re introduced to some of Hall’s best creations.”

  —Rocky Mountain News

  “Hall fans will be more than reimbursed by his poetic imagery in the landscapes and love scenes. Alex is a heroine with enough endearing attributes to sustain yet another long-running character series.”

  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  “A double-barreled actioner set apart from the pack by Hall’s virtuoso control of tone, which can shift you from giggles to gasps with a single well-trimmed phrase.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  “Suspense and forensic detail with a near-flawless grasp of character.”

  —Booklist

  “Hall is back in top form … A high-priority purchase for thriller fans.”

  —Library Journal

  ALSO BY JAMES W.HALL

  OFF THE CHART (2003)

  BLACKWATER SOUND (2001)

  HOT DAMN! (2001)

  BODY LANGUAGE (1998)

  RED SKY AT NIGHT (1997)

  BUZZ CUT (1996)

  GONE WILD (1995)

  MEAN HIGH TIDE (1994)

  HARD AGROUND (1993)

  BONES OF CORAL (1992)

  TROPICAL FREEZE (1990)

  UNDER COVER OF DAYLIGHT (1987)

  ROUGH

  DRAFT

  JAMES W. HALL

  NOTE: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

  ROUGH DRAFT

  Copyright © 2000 by James W. Hall.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-055532

  ISBN: 0-312-97492-2

  EAN: 80312-97492-3

  Printed in the United States of America

  St. Martin’s Press hardcover edition / January 2000

  St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / January 2001

  St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3

  In memory of my father, J. Noble Hall Jr.,

  my best reader, my biggest fan.

  You were something else, Daddy-O.

  Acknowledgments

  My deepest thanks to a host of helpers on this one: Carol Cope, Steve Murray, Joe Wallace, Toby Berk, and Steven Seehafer, who all provided invaluable information and assistance. And to Evelyn and Richard and Les, for reading and rereading and being there when it counted. And thanks to Rita Thievon Mullin, whose fine book Who’s For Dinner? (Crown) formed the basis for much of Hal Bonner’s musings.

  “Pray look better, sir … those things yonder are no giants, but windmills”

  —MIGUEL DE CERVANTES

  ROUGH

  DRAFT

  PROLOGUE

  “He changed his story,” Hannah Keller said, looking back toward the TV cameras. “Now Mr. Marquez is claiming he was not insane at the time he threw his daughter out the third-story window.”

  There was the usual clamor of questions. Hannah waited till they’d died out and responded to the one she was prepared to answer.

  “Mr. Marquez has now told our investigators that his daughter was crying constantly for three days and three nights and he believed she was possessed by the devil and that’s why he tossed her out of his apartment window.”

  “The devil?” The Herald reporter in the front row smiled thinly. “So is Mr. Marquez claiming he murdered his daughter as a form of exorcism?”

  It got a snicker from a few of the other reporters, but the remark wouldn’t make the evening news. Too cynical even for Miami. Anyway, this wasn’t going to be a lead story. Child killing wasn’t the grabber it once was, too common, an urban cliché. In the Herald the Marquez girl would get less than a paragraph. It probably wouldn’t even make TV.

  Hannah Keller glanced at her watch, straightened her papers on the podium. She was tall and wide-shouldered, blond, green-eyed, with strong cheekbones. She was under no illusions about why the brass had offered her a two-step pay increase to leave homicide and stand before the cameras every day. They wanted an appealing face to divert the TV viewing public from the latest criminal outrage. Though she’d loved homicide, the raise was too large to ignore. So late last year, the bright boys upstairs got their prominent cheekbones, and Hannah started taking home five hundred more a month.

  Tom Berry, the Herald guy, had his hand up again. Hannah scann
ed the group of reporters, pretended she didn’t see him.

  “So if there’s nothing else,” she said.

  Berry stood up. He raked his hand through his shaggy hair.

  “Got anything new on J. J. Fielding?”

  Hannah closed her eyes, summoning her patience.

  “Okay, okay,” Berry said. “So you’re pissed off at me. Hey, I’m sorry, Hannah, I was just doing my job.”

  Hannah looked out toward the video cameras at the rear of the room. She never knew which snippet they were going to use. This sentence, that one. Whatever suited their purpose. She had to assume that anything she said might wind up on the evening news, the official word of the Miami Police Department. Holding her tongue had become her major professional skill.

  “Mr. Fielding is now a fugitive from justice. As you know, last Friday U.S. federal marshals attempted to serve Fielding with an indictment on fourteen counts of money laundering, but because someone in the U.S. Attorney’s office chose to leak the news to our friend here, Mr. Berry, and Mr. Berry and his editors decided to run the story without consulting the U.S. Attorney’s office, Mr. J. J. Fielding managed to drop out of sight before the marshals could serve their warrants.”

  “And that’s all?” Berry was still on his feet. “Nothing new?”

  “Well, there is one thing,” Hannah said.

  Some of the reporters were flipping their notebooks closed, checking their beepers.

  “Before Mr. Fielding disappeared, he managed to divert a sizable sum from a couple of accounts of Nation’s Trust.”

  “How sizable?” Berry said.

  The TV guys were shutting down their cameras, a couple of on-screen reporters were on their cell phones already, checking their next assignment. Nobody cared about money laundering, some banker who’d been playing footsie with the cocaine cartel. A decade or two earlier it was hot stuff, but it wasn’t fashionable anymore, didn’t have the lapel-grabbing power these guys needed.

  Hannah shuffled her papers.

  “How sizable, Hannah?”

  She kept her voice deadpan, a little understatement for this heard-it-all group.

  “I believe the amount is somewhere in the neighborhood of four hundred and sixty-three million dollars, which would make J. J. Fielding’s embezzlement the largest in U.S. history.”

  Berry stared up at her, his mouth sagging.

  Hannah said, “As a result of their investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office has frozen several accounts that Fielding was managing, small offshore companies apparently fronts for the drug cartel.”

  “Frozen for how long?” a TV woman asked from the rear of the room. Everyone perked up now.

  “Indefinitely,” Hannah said.

  “Neat trick,” said Berry. “Your dad seizes their assets, so now the only way the cartel can get their money back is to go after Fielding. Track him down, do the government’s job for them.”

  Hannah looked at him for a long moment. Then lifted her eyes and gazed out at the others.

  “So, if there’s nothing else,” she said, “I’ll see you all again tomorrow.”

  Hannah was walking back to her office when Tom Berry trotted up beside her.

  “Hey, that was cute, Hannah. Like an afterthought, dropping that bombshell.”

  “Glad you liked it.”

  Tom was shorter than Hannah by almost half a foot and had to trot to stay up with her stride.

  “So, I was wondering, Hannah, maybe you’d be willing to put a word in for me, help me get a chance to speak to your father?”

  She halted abruptly and swung around.

  “Jesus, I don’t believe you. You actually think I’m going to arrange an interview with my dad? Man, you don’t get it, do you?”

  “I know, I know. You’re pissed off at me, your dad is pissed off. Hey, everybody I know is pissed off at me. I’m used to it. All I want to do is ask Assistant U.S. Attorney Keller a few questions, try to get the complete story on this. It’s going to be national now, Hannah. The largest embezzlement in U.S. history. Man, we’re talking major news event here.”

  “What you mean is, you think this could be your ticket to the big time. The Post, the Times.”

  “Well, yeah, sure, it’s got big-time potential. But the point is, your father, he’s going to be the key guy on this. And he won’t return my calls.”

  “You’re amazing, Tom. Dad spent an entire year digging up the evidence he needed to put Fielding away, and you, in one stupid, greedy, me-first story, shoot the whole thing down. And now you expect him to talk to you, give you an inside track?”

  “If you asked him, he would. Come on, Hannah. I know you’re mad at me at the moment, but, hey, we’re on the same side. I want to see Fielding captured, your dad wants to see him captured. If I can do this story right, it might help.”

  “Bullshit, Tom. Bullshit. I’m not doing it. You want to talk to my dad, you’ll have to find some other way.”

  She headed on down the corridor. Tom called out, a last pleading. But she kept on going.

  Back at her office, Gisela Ortega was sitting in her chair, grinning at her as she entered the room.

  “What?”

  “What do you mean, what?” Gisela said.

  “That grin. What happened, somebody ask you to get married?”

  Gisela was wearing a pale yellow dress with small roses printed on it. One of the quietest outfits she owned. She had short black hair and bright green eyes. She’d been working as Public Information Officer for six years, an old-timer by Miami PD standards. Showed Hannah the ropes two years ago when she transferred in from homicide.

  “Nobody asked for my hand,” Gisela said. “I’m grinning about you, not me.”

  “Oh, you heard about my little show downstairs?”

  She shook her head. Grinning wider.

  “Okay, so what is it, Gisela? Tell me. Don’t do this. I hate guessing games.”

  “You got a phone call.”

  “Yeah?”

  “Some guy, he was very nice. He sounded young. Very hip.”

  “He saw me on TV and wanted a date.”

  She shook her head. Really pleased with herself.

  “He said he had good news for you, and I told him you were busy and I was your best friend so it was okay to tell me. I am your best friend, aren’t I, Hannah?”

  “You won’t be much longer if you keep doing this.”

  “The guy’s name was Max Chonin. Does that ring a bell?“

  Hannah looked at the far wall. A photo of her mom and dad on a cruise they’d taken last summer. Both of them wrapped in sheets for some goofy shipboard toga party.

  Hannah shook her head.

  “Never heard of him.”

  “Literary agent. New York City.”

  Hannah smiled.

  “Oh, that guy,” she said, feeling her pulse jump. “What? He wants to represent my book?”

  “No,” Gisela said. “Guess again.”

  “Gisela, stop it. Just tell me.”

  “He sold your book.”

  “What?”

  “He sold your book, First Light”.

  “He couldn’t have. I just sent it to the guy two weeks ago. He was going to look at it, tell me what he thought.”

  “He got it, gave it to some hotshot publisher he knows, and the guy wants to buy it. That is, of course, if you’re interested.”

  “Really!”

  Gisela kept on grinning. “Really,” she said. “Really, really, really.”

  “My God. I don’t believe it.”

  “And that’s not even the best part,” Gisela said.

  Hannah stepped over to the visitor’s chair and sat down. Her knees were mush. She’d sold her goddamn book. Her novel about a female police officer who does secret after-hours crime fighting. A year of writing it in the early morning before Randall got up and went to school and she headed off to work. Using her police stories, the droll talk, some of the macabre events that were the daily reality around this c
ity.

  “Okay,” Hannah said. “I’m ready, I’m sitting down. What’s the best part?”

  “Well, he didn’t tell me the exact figure, but he said he didn’t think you were going to need to keep taking shit from reporters anymore unless you really wanted to.”

  Hannah was stopped at a light on Bayshore. Dialing her mother for the fourth time and for the fourth time getting no answer. She’d already called her father’s office and was told he hadn’t come to work that morning.

  It was noon and the traffic was light through Coconut Grove.

  She went back to her driving, heading up the steep hill into the heart of the Grove, then down the long shady avenue past the big stone churches and private schools and Mediterranean villas.

  Ed Keller had probably decided to take the day off, still reeling from Berry’s article and disgusted by the information leak in his office that had cost him a year’s work. He and Randall would no doubt be snook-fishing on the bay. For the last month since school let out, her six-year-old son had been spending his days with his grandparents while Hannah was at work. “Club Granddad” is what Ed Keller called it. He was happy as hell to take charge of the boy, spoil him any way he and Martha could dream up. They’d been covering Hannah’s day-care needs since her marriage broke up six years ago. Her Prince Charming turned out to be a child molester. First year of marriage, the son of a bitch was caught in the backseat of a car raping a fifteen-year-old high school girl. So much for Hannah’s good judgment in men.

  She pulled into the driveway of her parents’ Gables-by-the-Sea ranch style and parked. Her father’s Buick was still at the curb. Her mother’s fifteen-year-old Mercedes was in the garage, the door up.

  Hannah was shivering. Her hands were cold even though it had to be near ninety degrees. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been so excited. Maybe when Randall was born, holding him that first time. But that was the only time even close.

  She hadn’t called the agent back yet to get the details. She wanted to save that, do it in front of her parents. They’d be whooping with excitement. That’s who they were. They rooted for her at every step. Her biggest fans. And both of them were book lovers. Big-time readers. It’s where she’d caught the fever, a kid growing up in this very house. Bedtime stories were her earliest memories, Jack and the Beanstalk, her father playing the parts, doing voices. Her mother’s quiet melodious voice reading Black Beauty. When she told them the news, Ed would drive off to the liquor store, buy the most expensive bottle of champagne they had, and the family would sit around on the deck all afternoon howling over Hannah’s triumph. Middle of the day, it didn’t matter. That’s who they were, parents of a daughter who could do no wrong. And boy did they love to celebrate.

 
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