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A Shot in the Dark

A Shot in the Dark

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A Shot in the Dark

Longueur:
314 pages
5 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Aug 24, 2011
ISBN:
9781466054981
Format:
Livre

Description

With the unpredictability of her work as a freelance photographer, Kady Swann knows what it’s like to struggle to survive. Just as she finds herself down to the wire on her rent and fending off the overzealous reconciliation attempts of an alcoholic ex-boyfriend, an unexpected discovery through the lens of her camera makes every mundane, day-to-day struggle in her life seem trivial. When the criminal she catches in the act turns his head in her direction and sees her taking his picture, she finds herself drawn into a secret world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred and those with the best intentions have to lie, cheat and steal just to survive. She soon discovers that the most ruthless kind of evil is one of us, and that the truest form of humanity is found in a man whose only purpose is to break the law.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Aug 24, 2011
ISBN:
9781466054981
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Jayleigh Cape lives with her son and adopted shelter dog Vai on a small island off the coast of Virginia. As a professional graphic designer, she has an eye for visual detail, but her heart has always been in the written word. While "A Shot in the Dark" is her first venture into publication, it is not the first novel she has written. In fact, it's her fourth. She has been writing most of her life. While publishing her work has always been her goal, it is only now, after so many years devoted to fine-tuning her written voice and finding the writing methods that work best for her, that she has decided to move forward with publication. "A Shot in the Dark" is the first installment in a series that will come to be known as the Cortesi Chronicles. Jayleigh is currently beginning work on the second book.

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A Shot in the Dark - Jayleigh Cape

A Shot in the Dark

Jayleigh Cape

Published by Brentbriar Publishing/Jayleigh Cape at Smashwords

Copyright 2011 Jayleigh Cape

All rights reserved.

FORWARD/DEDICATIONS

Dedications. That word disrupted my world for about a week. Most authors slap a name or two at the beginning of their books to immortalize those who helped make possible the story upon which their readers are about to embark. Their Dedications can be heartfelt, and usually are, or they can be nothing more than an obligatory, last minute addition to the manuscript. I didn’t want mine to be obligatory, so I agonized over it. For a week. Did I mention that?

I ran the gamut of people I know who had been inspirational to me in some form or another. All the traditional folks fell into line: My son, my parents, my siblings, both my ex-husbands, my friends, an old high-school English teacher, my college professor aunt. I even had a moment when I landed on the names of my three dogs: Vai, Nuno and Satch. It seemed to me that those three pups sacrificed the most for my craft. With their unconditional, unwavering devotion to me, regardless of the fact that they had to endure my repeated obliviousness to their presence while I wrote this book, they certainly deserved a proper dedication. There were many in the running, but I knew the truth, and it wasn’t just a name or two. In the end, I chose to write this Forward-slash-Dedication because this book, and my writing as a whole, was not inspired by any one or two individuals.

Let me explain, since that’s why I chose to drag this part out. The main characters found in this novel were dreamed up, and the first chapter was written, in the mid-1990s and then, after playing around with it for a while and finding myself unable to pinpoint a true direction for it, I tossed it into the slush-pile of full manuscripts that I had never submitted, short-stories that never went anywhere, pages upon pages of poetry that charted my life, and a large collection of conceptual, undirected paragraphs and orphaned first chapters. There it stayed, and like the fate of everything else that stagnated in the cold murkiness of the slush, it was eventually forgotten.

When I began to write again after a long hiatus, I started with a story that had been itching through my head. With it, I was certain that I was on to something. For a month or so I wrote with passion, and then the inevitable happened. I finished the first chapter of that sure-fire story and once again I hit the wall. Blocked. Another first chapter found its way into the slush-pile.

Frustrated with myself, I waded back into the depths of the slush in an attempt to understand my block and it was there that I rediscovered the long-forgotten first chapter of the book that is now before you. Unfinished, raw and directionless as it was, I read through it and found with pleasant surprise, more than fifteen years after I had written it, that it still held weight. The characters were strong, but the chapter itself needed some intense tweaking. Kady’s camera had originally been written as a traditional 35mm, and I had to bring it into the digital age. Cell phones, while present at the time, weren’t prevalent as they are now. Texting was unheard of. I had to bring today’s technology in and, once I did, the story began to unfold.

Future scenes I had yet to write waylayed me before I had even finished with the rewrites on the first chapter. Inevitable conflicts emerged in my mind and the ultimate end of the book came charging in to make itself known to me. Suddenly I saw the complete picture. I knew these characters; I had known them for more than fifteen years. But now I knew their story. This same first chapter with which I had been at a loss so many years ago had wallowed in the slush for so long that it had defiantly developed legs, and when I woke it from its slumber, it took off into a full-out run.

I think what had shut me down back when I had first written it was the absence of the time between—the life experiences that I had yet to wade through and the voice that I had yet to develop in my writing style. I now realize that there’s no way I could have written this book fifteen years ago. It took a little more living, a little more understanding of the nuances of people and what drives them, and a little more sideline observation before I could see the whole picture and do these characters justice.

That being said (because I’m a writer and I like to explain things) here is my Dedication-slash-Forward: This book was inspired by every individual who crossed my path between that long-ago time and now. Within these covers is every anonymous person with whom I struck up a conversation in line at the grocery store or the gas station, or who sat next to me at the bar as we bought each other beers. It’s the people with whom I developed relationships, with whom I continued relationships, and with whom I lost relationships. It’s the people I know only in passing and those I know intimately. It’s the people like the nameless woman who, while I was recently serving on jury duty, bummed a cigarette from me outside the courthouse and then sat down next to me and cried while we smoked and she told me her troubles. She just needed to tell someone, and maybe she saw in me an honest desire to listen to what she had to say, to know her, and to understand what was going on in her life that had brought her to the courthouse.

This book is dedicated to everyone out there who has suffered harsh judgment from others for actions that he or she took, or decisions that he or she made, that were only a means of survival. Sometimes we have to break the rules just to survive. Life often boils down to simple self-preservation. The concept of the world as a variety of greys instead of black-and-white is not a new one, but it’s one that is often forgotten when the transgressions belong to others. When the transgressions are our own, we can clearly see the grey. As observed by Kady Swann later in this book, those actions or decisions may never be viewed as right, but when they are made for the mere purpose of self-preservation, of survival, it is then that they become forgivable.

CHAPTER ONE

Three Years Ago

Careful not to open the door more than halfway, and to keep her hand firmly fixed to the doorknob, Lorie Destro smoothed her platinum bangs to the side and peered out at the man on her doorstep. As had been her habit for years, she quickly gave him a scrutinous once-over, memorizing the details of his appearance in the event that the information would be needed later. He was blonde and tanned, looked a bit disheveled, and wore faded blue jeans and a brown leather jacket to protect him against the cool morning air of early autumn. Outwardly he seemed harmless enough, but Lorie knew that outward appearances had no bearing on his threat level.

Only ten minutes before the man rang their doorbell, her husband had left the house on business. He had taught her long ago to be wary of strangers on their doorstep. His work, he had explained, was highly sensitive, and he would never tell her more than that about how he earned his six-figure income. He had even made a point just after their honeymoon twenty-one years before to show her the pistol stashed in the drawer of the foyer’s console table, and then he had promptly arranged for her to take lessons at the local shooting range so she wouldn’t be afraid to use it.

In the early years of their marriage, when simple curiosity had moved her to ask what exactly he did, he would come back at her with a nonchalant it’s nothing you need to worry your pretty little head about. He would then promptly change the subject with an offer to buy her a new piece of jewelry, or take her to the premier of a play downtown. Though she held a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, earned only a year before she had met him, she soon realized that her pretty little head was wholly content with worrying about nothing more crucial than what to wear for her lunch date with friends, or whether the spa could fit her in for an entire afternoon of pampering.

Over the years, she rarely regretted her decision to leave behind her goal of becoming the smart, independent executive who didn’t need a man to keep her in favor of simply being the beautiful prize on his arm at prestigious functions. As a result, she had learned to keep her nose out of his business and ignore his occasional affairs while he kept his nose out of her shopping bags and pretended not to notice her frequent excursions with men who gave her the affection that he rarely had the time or desire to give her. It was a tidy arrangement that had been in place for just over two decades, and it satisfied them both.

As she continued to study the man standing on her threshold, the mid-morning sun marched out from behind a gathering of clouds to glare at her through the open doorway. She shaded her eyes against it while she finished examining every aspect of him. His height and build were as average as his clothing, and his disheveled appearance made him look as though he had just come off a hard day on the farm, but he had a pleasant, easy smile that was undeniably genuine. It was the smile that kept her from closing the door with a terse, We don’t want any.

Can I help you? she hesitantly asked.

I really hope so, the man answered as his eyes briefly skimmed over her figure. She was immaculately dressed in snug black jeans and a white form-fitting blouse that defined breasts suspiciously larger than were typical for a woman with her slender frame. You’re Mrs. Destro?

Right away, she recognized his accent and began to relax. It was southern, East Texan to be exact, and was identical to that of her husband’s late friend Jack Cortesi, as well as that of Jack’s son who was currently staying with them. She was now certain that the man before her was no threat.

I am, she told him.

Confirming her suspicion that he knew Jack and his son, he asked for their houseguest by name. I’m looking for Silas Cortesi, ma’am. Is he here by any chance?

Yes, he is, she replied, and swung the door open wide enough for him to enter. He’s been staying with us since he lost his father a couple of months ago. He works for my husband. His dad did, too. Until he passed away, that is.

With a nod of understanding, the man moved through the doorway into the large foyer and turned toward her while she closed the door.

How’s he doing? he asked.

The concern in his voice was sincere and Lorie dropped the last remnants of the guard she had established when she had first opened the door.

A grimace breezed across her attractive face, touching everything but her Botoxed forehead. Hm, not great, she told him. He hasn’t been any trouble at all, but I don’t think that’s such a good thing. I think he’s taking it pretty hard. Working through the grief, I guess. Are you a friend of his?

The man extended his arm toward her. Rik Strohm, he introduced himself as they shook hands. Silas and I grew up together. Been friends since we were six years old.

Leading him through the foyer and deeper into the sprawling 5,000-square-foot ranch home, she said over her shoulder: Maybe seeing you will do him some good then. You have to be a good friend if you came all the way up here just to check on him. That’s a thousand mile trip, isn’t it?

Something like that, Rik told her as he followed behind her. I haven’t been able to reach him since I found out about his dad’s passing. His cell phone seems like it’s still active, but he doesn’t answer it and he hasn’t returned any of my calls. He never blows me off like this. It’s not like him.

Doesn’t surprise me, she replied. He’s been mostly keeping to himself. I hardly see him. Sometimes I even forget he’s here. My husband seems to think he’ll be fine, that he’ll snap out of it, but I really don’t know. Frankly, I’ve been worried about him, but my husband’s given me firm instructions to leave him alone. She shrugged as she glanced at him over her shoulder. So that’s what I do.

As she led him through several lavishly decorated rooms, Rik was reminded of the flawless rooms in his own wife’s decorating magazines, the ones he called her Wish Books. He would often catch her daydreaming over the expensive furniture and decor and he would feel compelled to remind her that people didn’t really live like that. Those were just showrooms in studios, he would tell her, more to make himself feel better about his inability to give her that lifestyle than to convince her of anything. Now he found himself walking through a real home that proved him wrong and he was glad she wasn’t with him to point it out.

As he glanced down at the toes of his scuffed boots moving across the highly glossed wood floors, he felt awkward and underdressed and painfully aware that it had been a while since he had cleaned the dirt from the sleeves of his jacket. Running a horse ranch kept him so busy that paying attention to his appearance was normally something he let his wife handle for him, and she was usually busy with their three sons and keeping the house in order. The dirt on his jacket was rarely a priority for either of them.

Before long, the primped and polished woman leading him to his best friend stopped at the end of a long hallway and pointed down it. Second door on the right, she said. He’s probably still sleeping. That’s what he seems to do most of the time.

Giving her a pleasant smile, Rik thanked her and carefully moved down the hall as she turned and headed off in the opposite direction.

At the door, he softly tapped and waited a moment as he put his ear against it, closely listening for the quiet answer of someone who had just been pulled from sleep. When no response came, he turned the knob and cracked the door open enough to peek into the bedroom beyond.

Despite the mid-morning sun that tried to hammer its way through the two windows flanking the bed, the fully drawn shades on each of them kept the room in a cocoon-like darkness. Rik pushed the door open all the way, allowing the light from the hallway to spill in, and his focus landed on the form buried beneath a sheet and comforter in the center of the king-sized bed.

As he approached, he could tell Silas was sound asleep, sprawled out on his back with one arm folded over his eyes and the other extended out to his side across the bed. Despite the dim light, Rik’s gaze immediately fell on the decoration of telltale red spots marring the crook of his friend’s arm along the vein, and then followed the arm as if it were an accusatory arrow that directed him to the nightstand beside the bed. On it sat the tools responsible for the marks: a syringe, a spoon, a lighter, and a vial of white powder. He looked back at Silas and noticed the length of rubber ribbon sticking out from beneath his upper arm, its end coiled near the pillow like a snake patiently awaiting its prey.

Firmly setting his jaw, Rik reached down and snagged the ribbon. It snapped as he roughly yanked it out from beneath Silas’ arm and pitched it to the floor. When the action failed to wake his friend, he spun around and stalked back to the door in search of the light switch. Locating it easily, his hand landed on it and angrily flipped it up, drowning the room and his friend in a searing incandescent light.

Silas, he sternly called out. Once. Twice. By the third time, he had returned to the side of the bed with still no response.

He reached down and roughly pushed his friend’s arm away from his face and then slapped his cheek. Much to his relief, Silas finally began to stir.

Get up, Rik commanded in a deep voice that rivaled that of the angriest father. "We’re getting you the hell out of here. Now."

Present

With at least a dozen police officers standing around, Kady Swann assumed she would feel safe as she sat on the curb and waited for something to happen. Instead, her thoughts still skimmed over her recent breakup with her boyfriend Greg. Though the purple-black bruise that had sprung to life like a grotesque tattoo beneath her left eye had considerably faded since the previous week, her cheekbone was still tender to the touch. That was the first and last time he had hit her, but once was enough to make her call it quits on him the very moment she had been able to shake the resulting dizziness.

Their date had begun innocently enough with a trip to the grocery store so she could make dinner for them back at her apartment. They had planned to spend the rest of the evening curled up on the sofa watching a movie. It was in her kitchen, as she drained the pasta and he drained the last of a bottle of Zinfandel, that he had received a call on his cell phone and then had promptly informed her that he had to leave after dinner to meet up with some friends.

At first she had asked if something was wrong, certain that there must be some emergency that would make him skip out in the middle of their date. When he had told her everything was fine and that he just wanted to hang with his buddies, the argument had begun and then had rapidly escalated until his anger at what he deemed as her telling him what to do had finally exploded. He had sent a right cross slamming into her cheekbone and then had immediately proceeded to beg her forgiveness, swearing that it would never happen again. She had told him in no uncertain terms to fuck off.

True to his recent nature, he had dismissed those instructions and had twice since paid an uninvited visit to her apartment, both times reeking of alcohol. Both times he had insisted that she quit her nonsense and take him back, and both times he had walked that thin line between just a little dose of simmering anger and another frightening boil-over into violence. Luckily he hadn’t made it through her door on either occasion.

The first time, she had been able to get rid of him by the unexpected arrival of her friend Julie. Then, just two days ago, he had confronted her on the sidewalk in front of her apartment building and the heated screaming match that had ensued had caused one of her neighbors to threaten him with a 911 call. He had promptly left, but not without a promise to return.

Greg’s battle with alcohol hadn’t come as a surprise to her. When they had begun to date four months before, he had told her outright that he was a recovering alcoholic, but he had never informed her of what the alcohol would do to him if he ever went back to it. They had spent a couple of good months together before it had happened; he had treated her well at first. Then six weeks ago two of his old drinking buddies had turned up and without blinking an eye he was drinking heavier by the day and becoming increasingly moody. Their dates had gotten shorter and the time between them longer. By the time she had kicked him out of her apartment the night he had hit her, he was no longer the same man with whom she had shared those first couple of good months.

Now she sat on the curb across the street from a nice little protective force of police officers and still did not feel safe. She found her eyes scanning the gathered crowd for Greg’s face not because she missed him, but because if he was lurking about she hoped to see him before he saw her so she could make a quick get-away.

Across the downtown street from her sat a squat little ethnic grocery store, heavily lit against the night with portable spotlights perfectly positioned by the officers. Inside the store were a gunman and his two hostages: the elderly grocery store owner and his teenaged granddaughter. Kady had picked up the call on the police scanner she kept on her kitchen counter next to the coffee pot. As a freelance photographer, the black radio served her well to catch situations as they happened so she could capture shots that she would then offer to sell to the newspapers and television stations. A hostage situation like this one was definitely newsworthy, and the media that had yet to show up on the scene would be scrambling for photos.

Kady glanced at the other two photographers who had positioned themselves next to her, their cameras clutched at the ready and their black bags resting at their feet. As usual, she hadn’t been the only freelancer who had been eavesdropping on the police. The hostage situation had been at a standstill for the past half-hour, so the three of them had taken up a spot on the curb to wait for the excitement, but Kady knew that the longer the delay the better the chance that the local media would get a crew onto the scene. If that happened, the only way the freelancers would sell any of their photos was if there was an exceptional one in the batch.

In her boredom, she leaned back on her elbows and let her head fall backward to gaze upside down at the three-story building behind her. She read the sign by the door and noted that Graeter & Porter, a law firm that frequently advertised during the afternoon court shows on television, occupied the building. At nearly ten o’clock in the evening, all the windows were dark. Her eye for visual detail scanned over the unique architecture framing each of them and saw the beauty of the shapes on the century-old structure.

It was as she studied the architecture surrounding one of the second floor windows, composing in her mind an interesting black and white still, that she saw a brief but bright flash of crimson light from within the black depths behind it. Had she not been staring directly at the window when it appeared, she never would have noticed it.

She frowned and waited to see if it would happen again. When it didn’t, she raised her head and looked back toward the grocery store, assuming that what she had seen must have been the reflection of a light from that direction. After scanning the entire area, she decided it had to have come from within the offices of the law building. Other than the lights on the police cars, which were too low to have caused the phenomenon in a second story window, there were no other red lights anywhere within the surrounding area.

Positioning herself exactly as she had been when she’d first seen the flash, she looked back up at the window with a frown. If she was wrong and one of the cruisers’ lights had somehow caused it, she would still see the reflection and there was nothing there. The flash had happened only once and now it was gone.

Her attention was pulled away from her study of the window by a voice speaking to her from her side. How about some coffee, Kady?

She raised her head to see Franklin Burkes, an overly friendly police officer who had latched onto her only minutes after her arrival on the scene, standing before her with his hands on his hips.

No thanks, she answered with a quick, obligatory smile.

She had first met Franklin a year before when their paths had crossed on the scene of a fatal bus accident she had been covering. Since then, they occasionally bumped into one another when she was responding to something she had heard on her police scanner. Each time he had asked if she would like to get dinner and each time she had come up with some excuse to put him off.

Franklin was a nice enough guy and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she simply wasn’t attracted to him. His husky build and round, cherub-like face gave the initial impression that he was young, but his thinning and graying black hair gave away his increasing years. It wasn’t just that she had no physical attraction to him. The way he had of clinging to her whenever she was around and his inability to understand the concept of personal space made him seem overly eager and needy. Though she was certain he would make some woman happy with his highly focused attentiveness, she was too independent to view that particular trait as a positive one.

When she saw him here just after she had arrived, Kady had taken the opportunity of his interest in her to gather information from him about the scene, but over the past fifteen minutes he had become his usual overly attentive self. She knew it was only a matter of time before the dinner invitation was offered again and she dreaded it.

To keep him from broaching the subject now, she peered around

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