Read Fatal Distraction Online

Authors: Diane Capri

Tags: #thriller, #mystery, #Jess Kimball

Fatal Distraction

Praise for

Bestselling Author

Diane Capri

“Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too. Kim Otto is a great, great character. I love her.”

- Lee Child,

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Jack Reacher Thrillers

“[A] welcome surprise....[W]orks from the first page to ‘The End'.”

- Larry King

“Swift pacing and ongoing suspense are always present...[L]ikable protagonist who uses her political connections for a good cause...Readers should eagerly anticipate the next [book].”

- Top Pick, Romantic Times

“...offers tense legal drama with courtroom overtones, twisty plot, and loads of Florida atmosphere. Recommended.”

- Library Journal

“[A] fast-paced legal thriller...energetic prose...an appealing heroine...clever and capable supporting cast...[that will] keep readers waiting for the next [book].”

- Publishers Weekly

“Expertise shines on every page.”

- Margaret Maron,

Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Award Winning MWA Past President

Also by DIANE CAPRI

Jess Kimball Series:

Fatal Distraction

Fatal Enemy
(short story)

Hunt for Reacher Series:

Don't Know Jack

Jack in a Box
(short story)

Jack and Kill
(short story)

Justice Series:

Due Justice

Twisted Justice

Secret Justice

Wasted Justice

Raw Justice

Mistaken Justice
(short story)

Fatal Distraction
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

© Copyright 2012 Diane Capri, LLC

All Rights Reserved

License Notes:

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Publisher's Note:

The publisher and author do not have any control over and do not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without express written permission from the publisher. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Published by: AugustBooks

www.AugustBooks.com

Visit the author website:

www.DianeCapri.com

eISBN: 978-0-9837298-3-9

Original cover design by:
jeroentenberge.com

For Robert

CAST OF PRIMARY CHARACTERS

Governor Helen Sullivan

Oliver Sullivan

Eric Sullivan

Special Agent Frank Temple

Sheriff MacKenzie Green

Ben Fleming

Milton Jones

Ryan Jones

Investigative Journalist Jess Kimball

Peter Kimball

News Photographer Mike Caldwell

David Manson

Party Chairman Ralph Hayes

Arnold Ward

Vivian Ward

Matthew Crawford

Marilyn Crawford

Matthew ‘Mattie' Crawford, Jr.

and

Tommy Taylor

The future is not in the hands of fate, but in ours.

- Jules Jusserano

Prologue

Thornberry, Florida

Monday 2:00 p.m.

EVEN AS HUMID JULY heat strangled the small central Florida country church, its sanctuary overflowed with bodies drawn by scandal's stench like vultures to carrion. Whether they were genuine mourners or nakedly curious, Governor Helen Sullivan had lured them with her only son's open burial service, hoping to unmask her son's killer, for only then could Eric rest in peace.

Since the death of her son and his best friend Ryan Jones three weeks ago, media of every stripe had branded sixteen-year-old Eric a drunk driver, spoiled by indulgent parents, ruined by wealth and privilege. “Governor's Son Kills Best Friend in Early Morning Crash,” read the worst of the headlines, though none granted Eric any presumption of innocence as they fueled the scandal.

Publicly, Helen had not contested the lies; instead she implemented today's desperate plan.

While lines of strangers filed past her husband and Helen, Special Agent Frank Temple of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement stood close by, hands within easy reach of his weapon, scanning the church, seeking anything unusual or out of place. Valencia County Sheriff MacKenzie Green's deputies stayed in constant visual and electronic contact with Temple's security detail.

After filing past Eric Sullivan's reconstructed body, the spectators approached his parents. “I'm so sorry,” they said. Or, “He's in a better place.” A few dared to pat Oliver's shoulder or caress the governor's arm.

“Thank you,” Helen responded each time, accepting full blame with every false condolence.

Be strong,
she thought, standing rigid behind her black veil, braced against waves of grief renewed by those few offering sincere compassion. Helen had lived her entire life in Thornberry, the small town in Valencia County some forty minutes northeast of Tampa, not far from Lakeland. In this thin slice of old Florida, threatened by the ambitions of politicians and developers and largely populated by residents holding fast to their simpler way of life, people chose to think the best of their neighbors. To these friends and colleagues, Helen could not trust herself to speak with composure, so only nodded and endured.

But most spectators came from more remote locales and for ignoble reasons. She studied each stranger in turn, divining whether they paid only mock respect, committing features to ineradicable memory using all six senses. She noted and analyzed their features, the dark perspiration circles under arms and on shirtfronts, makeup melted and congealed in creviced faces. Body odors mixed with deodorants and perfumes thickened the heavy air and forced short, rapid breaths, leaving her asthmatic lungs starved for air and her balance unsteady. She paused her mission only to raise her inhaler to her mouth or wipe her palms on her husband's soaked linen handkerchief.

During a brief pause between attendees, Oliver put his hand on her shoulder and directed her attention to Ryan's grandparents, who sat in a pew with a tall, sandy-haired man Helen didn't know.

“I don't see Milton,” Oliver whispered.

Milton Jones, Ryan's father, was consumed with misdirected grief that pierced Helen's heart all the more because of their long shared history. She'd spent the better part of four years helping Milton while his wife Ruby died of cancer. His sorrow had been endless then, and seemed bottomless now.

Helen looked around the church. “Over there,” she gestured by inclining her head, noticing that Milton's wrinkled suit barely touched his scrawny limbs. He looked as fragile as an incompetent scarecrow amid the murder of crowing reporters.

Milton had already granted several interviews to the tabloid press and scandal shows. They'd flattered him seeking to learn what Helen refused to reveal. He'd used each as an opportunity to blame Eric and Helen for Ryan's death, vicious accusations that remained without rebuttal.

Neither Milton nor the public knew that the crash was not Eric's fault—that he had not ignored or missed the stop sign. Within the first forty-eight hours investigators found an inexpensive but sophisticated tracking device on the bottom of Eric's vehicle, purchased with cash and therefore untraceable. A partial fingerprint on it matched none in law enforcement databases.

Shortly after that, Helen's friend, Sheriff Mac Green, found the killer's video camera mounted at the crash site. Helen flinched each time she watched the monstrous semi mash the CRV's passenger side and wrap the smaller vehicle around its bumper in a deadly embrace, knowing a few seconds more and the CRV would have crossed State Route 50 safely, and Eric and Ryan would be alive. The sick bastard had recorded Eric's murder in sharp hues and high-fidelity sound, every second of the fatal crash meant to torture his parents with vivid images they could never escape.

Two things became crystal clear from the discovery of the video:

First, the perpetrator had deliberately removed the stop sign, pulling it out of the ground before the crash and putting it back again after. The tracking device must have been used to signal the precise timing required to make the governor's son's crash most likely to occur.

Second, the man who'd murdered Eric and Ryan was cunning and dangerous.

She only hoped he wasn't clever enough.

Oliver had begged her to release the truth, but Helen thought otherwise: By keeping the nature of the crash secret, she sought to inflate the killer's hubris, enticing him to come closer and gloat, to reveal himself here at the funeral today.

As a mourner murmured, “Eric looks so good,” Helen let herself glance at her son in his casket, his smooth, childish jaw and curly brown hair so like her own, as unruly in death as in life. Each glimpse of Eric's innocent face fueled her rage, her determination, and held despair at bay.

It did not, however, keep her from worrying about Oliver. Eric's death had crushed his spirit; maintaining his silence when every instinct Oliver possessed urged him to defend his son weighed especially heavy.

Only two years older than she, Oliver seemed to have aged a decade in the three weeks since their son died. His suit, too, hung loosely on his frame. Weary lines furrowed his brow and fatigue seeped from every pore. His plain gold wedding band glinted in the light when he raked broad, flat fingers through his sun-bleached hair.

Still, Oliver touched each mourner in turn, kindly offering comfort and accepting rote sympathy from strangers. “Thank you for coming,” he said, meaning the words. Or, “Helen and I appreciate your support.”

Helen looked away from the coffin and extended her hand to the next mourner before realizing who it was. Startled, she tasted something warm and salty flood her tongue. She lifted the damp handkerchief to her lips, her gaze firmly focused on Ryan's father.

Milton Jones swayed on his feet, the scent of poorly metabolized alcohol emitted from his skin. Patches of stubble had escaped his razor along the knob of his Adam's apple. The well-dressed, sandy-haired stranger she'd seen earlier with Ryan's grandparents now stood by Milton's side.

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