National bestselling author Jonathon King continues his Edgar Award–winning series that follows a tormented ex-cop from Philadelphia to South Florida on a quest to earn redemption from his dark past. “Whether taking us to the dark corners of the Everglades or the hard streets of Philadelphia, King’s writing is gritty, vivid, and suspenseful” (Harlan Coben).
A Killing Night: After three young female bartenders are murdered in Miami, and another goes missing in Philadelphia, private investigator Max Freeman is hired—by his ex-girlfriend Sherry—to look into the deaths. He accepts the job grudgingly, especially since Sherry is convinced the killer is a retired police officer who once saved Freeman’s life back in Philly.
“Compelling from start to finish.” —The Miami Herald
Acts of Nature: Max and Sherry’s vacation in the Everglades ends abruptly when Hurricane Simone slams into the Sunshine State, leaving them stranded in the swamp and forced to contend with opportunistic crooks looking to benefit from the disaster and hired muscle from a powerful oil company hoping to protect a lethal secret—regardless of who stands in the way.
“An action-packed glide through the Glades.” —South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Midnight Guardians: Freeman takes on a case involving a conspiracy to defraud Medicare—but he quickly discovers there’s more to it than a simple scam. Soon the former Philadelphia cop is calling upon his old street instincts when an ex-drug kingpin known as the Brown Man turns up—and Freeman’s girlfriend, Det. Sherry Richards, is put in harm’s way.
“Captivating.” —Publishers Weekly
Don’t Lose Her: When a pregnant judge is abducted while presiding over the extradition hearing of a notorious Columbian drug lord, Freeman follows her trail into the Everglades to save her and her unborn child before it’s too late.
“This book moves with relentless abandon.” —Michael Connelly
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I was sitting in a low-slung beach chair, my legs stretched out and bare heels dug comfortably into dry sand. My fingers were wrapped around a perspiring bottle of Rolling Rock beer. It was early evening and I was drinking and thinking and carefully watching the light.
It is no new phenomenon. I am sure oceanside peoples have watched the same drift and loss and meld of color for thousands of years from their own shorelines. But for an inner city kid from South Philly who rarely saw a sunset that was not spiked with the corners and spires of buildings, the cables of bridges and the curved necks of light poles, it was a performance. I took another sip from the green bottle and watched a couple of beach walkers pass by, their feet in the run-up of surf, their bent heads silhouetted by the pale blueness still in the sky behind them. I sat long enough to watch the blue color leach away from the Atlantic and at the same time slowly leave the sky. If you watched long enough, and with patience, you could see the two sets of the world, water and air, lose their color together and blend at the line of the horizon, miles out to sea. Eventually even that border lost its distinction and gave in to darkness.
Both as a child and later as a street cop in Philadelphia I took lessons from the night. I never heard my father beat my mother in daylight. I never shot a murderer, or an innocent tagalong kid, before nightfall. I never met a woman who didn't wait until dark to break my heart. Now I was in South Florida, spending hours in the evening, almost with a need, to watch the darkness come, an event I called the "disappearing blue."
I felt the vibration on my hip and reached down to where my beeper was wedged between my waistband and the stretched canvas of the chair. I turned it off and did not bother to look at the display. It had to be Billy. No one else had the number. I spent several more minutes looking out into the now black water, watching the small winking lights of fishing boats and far-off freighters become the new demarcation of where the water met the sky. The surf made a hissing noise each time it brushed up on the sand and I let it fill my ears until I gathered the fortitude to answer the page and find out what civilization had mucked up for me tomorrow.
Billy Manchester is my friend, my lawyer, and nowadays, my employer. He is one of the most talented and quietly connected businessmen attorneys in this end of the state and is easily the smartest man I know. His heart bleeds for the downtrodden and he works the financial markets to make buckets of money and in so doing proves that the two are not mutually exclusive. He knows the ins and outs of the legal system, the players, the politics, the rules and the law. But you will never see his name in an advertisement, a who's who column, or see him in front of a jury or a news camera. The law is his passion and capitalism is his bible. We have an odd history together. We both grew up in Philadelphia, street kids on streets in the same city, but from different planets.
I was the son of a son of a cop in South Philly, a neighborhood that was white and ethnic and Catholic and often blue-collar raw. Billy lived in the black ghettos of North Philadelphia. He broke all of his stereotypes and went to Temple University Law School, top of his class. I went to the police academy, middle of my class. He went on to get an MBA from Wharton. I went on to arrest druggies on South Street, catch homicide investigations as a young detective and catch hell from supervisors for not playing the game the way it was set up. Because of an unlikely and clandestine relationship between our mothers, we finally met, as men, in South Florida and now I work as Billy's private investigator.
I walked up through the soft sand carrying my chair, my small cooler clinking with empty green bottles, and climbed the bulkhead stairs. The beach crowd had long abandoned the place after sunset. I set my things down and stood under the stairway-side shower and rinsed off the sand and salt and left wet footprints on the slate walkway to the bungalow where I was staying. It was a small, one- bedroom efficiency and a concession to Billy that had actually grown on me. I considered my home in South Florida to be the stilted research shack on a pristine river that ran along the edge of the Everglades. It was there that I'd first isolated myself after taking a disability buyout from my job as a cop up north. It had been, and still was, the perfect place to keep my head together. But as I began to do more and more investigative work for Billy and his clients, he made a convincing argument that the two-plus hours it took me to canoe off the wilderness river and drive to his office in West Palm Beach was often illogical. I agreed, even though I also knew my friend was worried that the shack had also become a hideout for me. It was time I came back into the world, even a small step back. I didn't fight it.
The Royal Flamingo Villas was yet another of Billy's finds. It was an anomaly in South Florida. For more than one hundred years the property close to the sand with a view of the ocean drew people and money. In the 1920s and '30s there were small bungalows, pink stucco Spanish-looking estates of the rich, and the low-slung motels for driving tourists. Then came the four-story hotels, the quaint pine Kester Cottages for early residents and the modern concrete mansions of the '50s and '60s.
But by the 1980s you couldn't buy a private home with an ocean view unless you were a millionaire, and even those were being squeezed by twenty-story condos set cornerstone to parking lot and blocking any glimpse of the water for anyone living even a street away from the beach. Highway A1A had become a concrete corridor for a new century, broken only by a fortuitous state park or a city beach where planners had been smart enough not to kill their future tourist business by banning development on the sand and keeping a modicum of open beach to lure more sun money.
But the owners of the Royal Flamingo Villas had been even more forward-thinking. The Flamingo had remained a group of small stucco cottages that flanked A1A in the city of Hillsboro Beach. Each place stood unconnected but for the stone footpaths that led through the property. Though they were bunched together like some close-knit village hunkered down for protection, the grounds were filled with banana leaf palms and sea grape and crepe myrtle trees that shrouded the place in green privacy. Most of the cottages were individually owned by investors who made up a small, collaborative association. It was brilliant. The only way a hotel chain or high-rise condo group could buy their oceanfront land was to convince the entire group to agree, first on selling, then on price. Billy was one of those owners. He had accepted the title to one of the cottages from a client for whom he had negotiated a deal with the feds to keep the sixty-year-old securities broker out of lockup. When it came time for Billy's fee, he took the investment of land on the beach. There were only five cottages with unobstructed views of the ocean. One was Billy's.
I propped the beach chair against the patio wall and draped my towel over the still unused gas grill and went inside. The floors were old-style polished terrazzo. The walls were painted some pale shade of foam green. A counter separated the kitchen from the living area. The furniture was wicker, and the cushions, drapes and the framed print on one wall were all done in some tropical-flower motif. The only similarity with my shack on the river was the quiet. Ever since I'd left the constant background noise of the city I had developed a deep appreciation of quiet. I went to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee in the drip coffeemaker — a blessed upgrade from my tin pot on the wood-burning stove on the river. Once it was started I sat on the wooden stool at the counter and finally dug the beeper out of my pocket to see which of Billy's numbers I needed to call. I stared at the digits for several seconds, not recognizing them at first, and then letting my memory work. It brought a scent of careful perfume, a flash of blond hair, eyes a shade of green, no, gray. I had not seen Detective Sherry Richards in several months. The number in front of me was to her cell phone. The last time we had spoken it had been on that phone and I distinctly remembered it had been late at night and it had been dark.
"Yes. This is Max Freeman. Uh, returning Detective Richards's page. I will be available, uh, well, I'll be up most of the night if she needs me, uh, if this is an urgent matter."
Shit, I thought, and then left the number of the new cell phone Billy had given me on the answering machine.
Richards and I had a history. Hell, the woman had saved my life when she pulled the trigger on a calculating asshole who had me at the business end of a 9mm during a case Billy had put me into. The guy had miscalculated that time, believing that a woman cop wouldn't drop the hammer on him. Sherry Richards was not the kind of woman afraid to drop the hammer.
We'd had a relationship. But I had slept with her in a bed left empty by a punk kid who shot her cop husband while he was still shaking his head in disbelief at the child's age. My own short marriage to a Philadelphia officer had ended when she had, well, moved on to other challenges. Even though Richards and I had carefully eased into something good, I'd opened a bit of myself to her and was dumbfounded when her heart seemed to clack shut like a vault. She didn't like the endings either of us had witnessed. They scared her, so she left the show early. I had not seen her in several months.
Now it was past midnight and I was sitting out on my porch reading a new biography Billy had loaned me on John Adams. The old fart was fascinating, innovative, maybe damn brilliant, but he was also ambitious and I am not a fan of ambitious. I'd moved a free- standing lamp with an old yellowed shade outside and run the cord through one of the jalousie windows. In between pages I was staring out at the black ocean. A night breeze had come up and the brush of waves on the sand had turned to a harder, ripping sound, like fine cloth being torn. The sharp scent of decay that came with low tide was in each breath and it created an odd mixture with the aroma of my fourth cup of coffee. My eyes were closed when the chirp of my cell phone snapped them open. I punched it on with my thumb.
"Yeah?" she said. "Well, your phone etiquette hasn't changed, Freeman."
"What can I say? Evolution is a creeping process."
"Let me guess. You're reading with your feet up on that old gouged-up table and you're still working on the last pot of coffee for the night."
"You're a psychic," I said.
"You're a dinosaur."
Her voice was warm and light. I was relieved, but a little set back by her ability to call after months and be so damned giddy.
"Actually, I'm not out at the shack. I'm in town on the beach."
"Sort of. It's a little oceanfront place he keeps to hide clients when they're trying to avoid subpoenas and officers of the court."
"Sounds perfect for you, Max," she said, and we both let that sit for a quiet beat.
"So, you're close by. How busy are you?" she said, her voice shifting up into a tighter, business mode. OK, it was not a social call.
"Busier than I have a right to be, but just finishing up a job with Billy. What's up?"
"I've got a case I'm working on, Max," she started. "The disappearance of some women bartenders here in Broward."
"You're working missing persons?"
I hadn't meant the question to sound like she'd been demoted.
"Not just missing," she said. "Gone. Like off the face of the earth missing. Not runaways, or gone on a lark, or start over somewhere else missing."
"OK," I said. Her tone made me think she'd already heard one too many skeptics on this.
"Similar circumstances? Hours? Physical appearances?" I asked, turning my former cop process on, giving her the professional courtesy she deserved.
"Yes. Thank you," she said. "Enough of a pattern for somebody to take them seriously."
OK, I thought. There's enough sarcasm there to know she's been butting heads with command.
"So, how can I help, Sherry?"
"You know a guy named Colin O'Shea? Former Philadelphia cop. Might have worked patrol during your time?"
It didn't take long for me to come up with the face. Colin O'Shea. Kid from the neighborhood. St. Marie's High School. Touch of the Irish. Good- looking guy. I'd run into him on the corners and after some football games when we were coming up. I got to know him a little better when we both became cops. He was a third- generation cop, like me. After a few at McLaughlin's, when the others were half bagged and horseplaying, we'd talked. He gave off the hint that he wasn't convinced that the blue tradition was his true calling, either.
But he was also a manipulative son of a bitch. Angry. The two traits had come together one night in the streets and O'Shea had, in a way, saved my ass.
"Yeah," I said. "I knew him from back then. Haven't seen him for years. He helping you somehow on this?"
"Not exactly," she answered. "He's my suspect."CHAPTER 2
The manager at Hammermills let her close down the bar early. It had been slow since the Monday Night Football game had ended in a blowout of the home team. The regulars had lasted through the hopeful first quarter and the suspicious second. At halftime the place was still upbeat and she'd been busting her ass. It was mostly a beer crowd with an occasional round of party shots. On this particular night one of the distributors had put a premium on bottled beer, two for one, so she'd been juggling them all night and carried a big chrome opener which she stuck in the back pocket of her tight jeans, and she knew the guys kept an eye on it when she walked from one end of the twenty-foot mahogany bar top to the other. The opener was like a thing with her. A girlfriend back home had given it to her for her very first bartending gig and confused her when she said it would make a difference. Now the girlfriend was long gone but she'd been working bars long enough to know there was always a bit of performance going on and always a subtle scent of sex. God knows why else she would wear these tight hip-huggers and the cotton shirt that rose above her navel and dipped low enough up top to show what cleavage she could manage to bunch together. Her boyfriend didn't like it, except for when it was just for him, but to her it was a harmless part of the bartending business.
She'd gathered some good tips from the halftime crowd, and then when her regulars started cashing out their tabs in the third quarter she looked up and saw the home team was down by seventeen and registered why the place had gone from festive to grumbling sarcasm. By one o'clock she was restocking the coolers and draining the wash sinks. By two she'd totaled out the register. She'd made four hundred dollars in tips for the shift.
"I'm heading out, Mitch," she called to the manager, who was still in his tiny office next to the kitchen. She heard his swivel chair creak and waited until he stuck his balding head around the corner.
"You got a ride, right?"
"Yeah, I do. A safe one," she said and nothing more. She wasn't the kind to share her personal life with coworkers, and for some reason she especially liked leaving Mitch out of the loop.
She stepped outside and listened for the door to snick shut and the lock to engage behind her. It was a warm night and the air was humid and thick with the smell of stale beer and discarded Styrofoam meals in the alley. There was a half moon high in the western sky, turned on its side like a white china cup. She made the corner and saw his car parked under a street lamp and she smiled. She opened the passenger door herself and climbed in.
"Hi, sweetie," she said, and his own sincere smile greeted her. "Thanks for waiting."
"You know I like to. I should take you home every night," he said, and she knew he meant that, too. He leaned over, his leather creaking, and kissed her softly on the mouth and lingered there. She opened her mouth slightly and took in his warm breath and there it was, that little flutter in her chest like a small bird's wings and she knew this was different, had convinced herself of it. God, he could be so gentle and the kisses were like, well, like some kind of chemistry between them. It had been that way from the first time and that part had never changed. Yeah, she'd seen his temper in the four months they'd been together. He'd get that macho thing going and sometimes lose it, snap at her for "telling him what to do" or condescend to her like she was some bimbo. But after their fights he was so remorseful. Those damned puppy eyes of his and they'd get tears just in the bottom wells and he'd say he was sorry over and over and tell her how much she meant to him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Max Freeman Mysteries Volume Two"
Copyright © 2018 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
A KILLING NIGHT,
ACTS OF NATURE,
DON'T LOSE HER,
A Biography of Jonathon King,