In this latest enthralling mystery from #1 bestselling author Bruce Robert Coffin, Detective Sergeant John Byron faces the greatest challenge of his career.
When a popular high school senior is shot by police following a late night robbery, chaos ensues. The actions of the officer are immediately called into question. Amid community protests, political grandstanding, department leaks, and reluctant witnesses, Byron and his team must work quickly to find the missing pieces.
And when an attempt is made on the officer’s life, Byron shifts into overdrive, putting everything on the line. Was the attack merely retribution or something more sinister? The search for the truth may come at a price not even Byron can afford.
Veteran Portland police officer Sean Haggerty trudged across the deserted parking lot beneath the bright sodium arc lights of the 7-Eleven. His breath condensed into small white clouds before drifting away on the frigid night air. The thin layer of ice and snow covering the pavement crunched under his highly polished jump-boots as he approached the idling black and white. Only two more hours until the end of his overtime. After four months in his new assignment as School Resource Officer for Portland High School, it felt good to be back in a patrol car, even if it was only one shift. Balancing a large styrofoam coffee cup atop his clipboard, he was reaching for the cruiser keys on his belt when static crackled from his radio mic.
“Any unit in the area of Washington Avenue near the Bubble Up Laundromat please respond,” the dispatcher said.
The Bubble Up was in Haggerty’s assigned area, less than a half mile up the street, but Dispatch still listed him as busy taking a shoplifting report. Someone had snatched a twelve pack of beer.
Haggerty unlocked the door to the cruiser then keyed the mic.
“402, I’m clear the 10-92 at 27 Washington. I can cover that.”
“Ten four, 402,” the dispatcher said. “Standby. 401.”
Haggerty knew whatever this was, it was a priority. Dispatch did not send two line units and a supervisor for just any call.
“402, 401, and 421, all three units respond to the Bubble Up Laundry at 214 Washington Avenue for an armed 10-90 that just occurred.”
As Haggerty scrambled into the cruiser, the styrofoam cup tumbled to the pavement, spilling its contents. The coffee froze almost instantly.
“Dammit,” Haggerty said.
He tossed his clipboard onto the passenger seat, then climbed in. Allowing for the possibility of a quick exit, he ignored the seat-belt requirement and threw the shift lever into Drive. He powered down his portable radio and reached for the microphone clipped to the dashboard. “402, en route.”
“421 and 401 responding from the west end,” the sergeant said, acknowledging the call for both backup units.
Haggerty pulled out of the lot onto Washington Avenue, and headed outbound toward Tukey’s Bridge. He drove without lights or siren, in hopes of catching the suspects by surprise.
“402,” Haggerty said, his eyes scanning the dark sidewalks and alleys. “Any description or direction of travel?”
“Ten four, 402. We have the victim on the phone. Suspects are described as two masked males. Suspect number one was wearing a black hoodie and blue jeans, carrying a dark colored backpack. Suspect two was dressed in dark pants and a red hoodie, with some kind of emblem on it. Unknown direction of travel.”
“Is the victim injured?” Haggerty asked, trying to decide whether to go directly to the scene, securing the laundromat, or take a quick spin around the area first to try and locate the suspects.
“Negative, 402,” the dispatcher said. “Just shaken up.”
“What was the weapon used?”
Haggerty caught a flash of red up ahead in the beam of the cruiser’s headlights as two figures darted from his right across Washington Avenue down Madison Street. He accelerated, flicked on the emergency lights and siren, and keyed the dash mic again.
“402, I have a visual on the two suspects near Washington and Madison. They just rabbited into Kennedy Park.”
“Ten four. 401 and 421, copy?” the dispatcher said.
Braking hard, Haggerty spun the steering wheel left, making the turn onto Madison. He knew if he didn’t stay right on them that he would lose them among the project’s many apartments and row houses. The hooded figures sprinting down the hill were already several hundred feet ahead. He punched the gas and the cruiser shot after them. He was beginning to close the gap when they cut left in front of an oncoming car onto Greenleaf Street.
“Greenleaf toward East Oxford,” he shouted into the mic, trying to be heard above the wail of his cruiser’s siren as he raced through the built-up residential neighborhood.
The Ford skidded wide as he turned onto Greenleaf. Haggerty fought the urge to over-steer, waiting until the cruiser’s front tires found purchase on a bare patch of pavement and it straightened out.
The two figures were clearer now, about fifty feet ahead. He was nearly on top of them when they turned again, west, running between rows of apartment buildings.
“They just cut over toward Monroe Court,” Haggerty said.
“Ten four,” the dispatcher said. “421 and 401, copy?”
“Copy,” 421 acknowledged.
Haggerty accelerated past the alley the suspects had taken, hoping to cut them off by circling the block and coming out ahead of them on East Oxford Street. He turned right onto Oxford just in time to see them run across the road and duck between yet another set of row houses.
He rode the brake, and the pulse of the anti-lock mechanism pushed back against his foot. The black and white felt as if it were speeding up. Ice. Shit. The rear end started to swing to the right toward a line of parked cars. He eased off the brake and the Ford straightened out but was now headed directly toward a snowbank in front of the alley—an ice bank, really. Still traveling about five miles per hour, the black and white smashed into it with a crunch. Haggerty jumped from the car and gave chase, the door still open, the siren still blaring. He would have to answer for a mangled squad car later, but there was no time to think of that now. The snow piled against the apartment building walls seemed to dance in the flickering blue light of his cruiser’s strobes, making the alley look like a disco.
Haggerty could just make out the two hooded figures in the bobbing beam of his mini MagLite as he ran.
“Police! Stop!” he yelled. They didn’t.
He was gaining on them when his boot struck something buried beneath the snow, and he sprawled headfirst to the ground. Scrambling to regain his feet, he stood and quickly scanned the area for his flashlight, but it was gone. He turned and hurried down the dark alley, keying his shoulder mic as he went.
“402, 10-50,” he said, referring to his cruiser accident. “I’m now in foot pursuit of the 10-90 suspects. Toward Cumberland from East Oxford.”
“Ten-four, 402,” the female dispatcher acknowledged. “1 and 21, copy.”
Haggerty heard the distorted transmissions as both units responded simultaneously, causing the radio to squeal in protest. He rounded the rear corner of a three-story unit just in time to see the suspect wearing the red hoodie stuck near the top of a six-foot chain-link fence. The other figure had already made it over and stopped to assist.
“Freeze,” Haggerty yelled as he drew his weapon.
Neither suspect heeded his warning. Haggerty was at full stride, gun at the low ready position, about fifteen feet from the fence, when the first suspect finally pulled the second one loose. Up and over they went leaving Haggerty on the wrong side of the barrier.
Damn! Haggerty holstered his Glock, then backed far enough away from the fence to give himself a running start. He hit the fence, left foot out in front, reaching for the top with his gloved hands, and then vaulted up and over it with ease. The suspect in the dark-colored hoodie turned and looked back, giving Haggerty a glimpse of what seemed to be a ski mask made to look like a skull. Thirty feet now. He was closing the distance again.
If they don’t split up I’ll have a chance, he thought. He heard a dog barking frantically nearby, and the distant wail of approaching sirens. The combination of the cold air into his lungs and the adrenaline surge were beginning to take their toll, sapping his strength. His arms and legs were slowing, despite his efforts.
“What’s your twenty, 402?” the dispatcher asked. His location.
“Fuck if I know,” he said out loud and breathless. He keyed the mic on his shoulder. “Back yards. Headed west. Toward Anderson.”
“Ten-four.” The dispatcher said. “Units copy?”
“21, I copy,” the sergeant said. “The call came in as an armed 10-90. What was the weapon?”
Haggerty lost them again as they rounded another building. He slowed to a jog and drew his sidearm again. The alley was pitch back and he didn’t want to risk running into an ambush.
“Units be advised, the original caller was a customer who walked in on the robbery. I have the victim on the phone now. He says the male in the dark-colored hoodie displayed a silver colored 10-32 handgun.”
“21, give us a signal,” the sergeant said.
“10-4,” the dispatcher said. The familiar high-pitched tone sounded twice over the radio before the dispatcher spoke again. “All units, a signal one thousand is now in effect. Hold all air traffic or switch to channel 2. 401, 402, and 421 have priority.”
Haggerty stepped forward carefully, not wanting to trip again. His lungs were burning. He attempted to slow his breathing while waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He froze in place as he heard a banging sound, as if someone were striking a solid object with a bat. The sound was followed by shouting, but he couldn’t make out what was being said.
Peeking quickly around the corner of the building, he saw the figure in the red hoodie kicking at the stuck gate of a wooden stockade fence, while the other had scrambled onto the roof of a junk car and was attempting to climb over the barrier.
“Freeze,” Haggerty yelled, aiming his Glock at the dark hooded figure standing atop the car. Red Hoodie stopped kicking, but didn’t turn back toward Haggerty. The suspect on the car, also facing away from him, didn’t move. Haggerty approached the fence cautiously, making sure of his footing as he planted one foot in front of the other. His eyes shifted between the two figures, but he kept his gun trained on the suspect who was reportedly armed. “Let me see your hands. Both of you.”
Red hoodie raised his hands high above his head.
The dark figure on top of the car began to turn. His hands were hidden from sight.
“I said freeze.” Haggerty sidestepped to his left looking to regain some cover. “Goddammit, freeze!”
The dark figure spun toward him, bringing his right arm up in a pointing gesture.
Haggerty saw a familiar flash of light an instant before he pulled the trigger on his Glock.
Excerpt from Beyond the Truth by Bruce Robert Coffin. Copyright © 2018 by Bruce Robert Coffin. Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. All rights reserved.
Bruce Robert Coffin is a former detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine’s largest city. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Bruce spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, earning the Director’s Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive. His first two books, Among the Shadows and Beneath the Depths, were both Maine Sunday Telegram #1 bestsellers.