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Hard News

Jeffery Deaver

  "Deaver combines academic malfeasance, small-town police department politics, and family melodrama with all the requisite mystery and suspense for a double dose of pleasure."

  --Kirkus Reviews

  mistress of justice

  "Excellent entertainment, with a resilient, astute paralegal as a likable heroine."

  --St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  "An intelligently written thriller ... The characters are well-drawn [and] the plot is fast-paced."


  "Fresh and funky; I loved it."

  --Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

  "A solid achievement ... the ending packs a nice wallop."

  --Mystery News

  "Loaded with characters and action and a very devious plot ... a top-notch legal thriller."

  --Mystery Lovers Bookshop News

  Praise for other riveting novels by Jeffery Deaver

  manhattan is my beat

  "Highly original and very entertaining."

  --Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

  "Deaver writes with clarity, compassion, and intelligence, and with a decidedly human and contemporary slant."

  --Publishers Weekly

  death of a blue movie star

  "Innovative and entertaining ... truly an original."

  --The Drood Review of Mystery

  "The author creates a great sense of atmosphere, enhanced with vivid imagery and well-defined characters."


  the lesson of her death

  --Publishers Weekly

  "Chilling ... Jeffery Deaver has written a strong, compelling novel forcing the reader to the edge.

  A commitment worth making."

  --Mostly Murder

  "A terrific book which can be enjoyed on many different levels."

  --Mystery Lovers Bookshop News

  By the author of

















  *Available from Bantam Books

  For Irene Miranker

  Journalism without a moral position

  is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist....

  She cannot do her work without

  judging what she sees.


  chapter 1


  He didn't know for sure how many. But that didn't matter; all he thought was: Please, don't let them have a knife. He didn't want to get cut. Swing the baseball bat, swing the pipe, drop the cinder block on his hands ... but not a knife please.

  He was walking down the corridor from the prison dining hall to the library, the gray corridor that had a smell he'd never been able to place. Sour, rotten ... And behind him: the footsteps growing closer.

  The thin man, who'd eaten hardly any of the fried meat and bread and green beans ladled on his tray, walked more quickly.

  He was sixty feet from a guard station and none of the Department of Corrections officers at the far end of the corridor were looking his way.

  Footsteps. Whispering.

  Oh, Lord, the man thought. I can take one out maybe. I'm strong and I can move fast. But if they have a knife there's no way....

  Randy Boggs glanced back.

  Three men were close behind him.

  Not a knife. Please....

  He started to run.

  "Where you goin', boy?" the Latino voice called as they broke into a trot after him.

  Ascipio. It was Ascipio. And that meant Boggs was going to die.

  "Yo, Boggs, ain' no use. Ain' no use at all, you runnin'."

  But keep running he did. Foot after foot, head down. Now only forty feet from the guard station.

  I can make it. I'll be there just before they get me.

  Please let them have a club or use their fists.

  But no knife.

  No sliced flesh.

  Of course word'd get out immediately in general population how Boggs had run to the guards. And then everybody, even the guards themselves, would taunt him every chance they got. Because if your nerve breaks there's no hope for you Inside. It means you're going to die and it's just a question of how long it takes to strip away your body from your cowardly soul.

  "Shit, man," another voice called, breathing hard from the effort of running. "Get him."

  "You got the glass?" one of them called to another.

  It was a whisper but Boggs heard it. Glass. Ascipio's friend would mean a glass knife, which was the most popular weapon in prison because you could wrap it in tape, hide it in you, pass through the metal detector and shit it out into your hand and none of the guards would ever know.

  "Give it up, man. We gonna cut you one way or th'other. Give us you blood...."

  Boggs, thin but not in good shape, ran like a track star but he realized that he wasn't going to make it. The guards were in station seven--a room separating the communal facilities from the cells. The windows were an inch and a half thick and someone could stand directly in front of the window and pound with his bleeding bare hands on the glass and if the guard inside didn't happen to look up at the slashed prisoner he'd never know a thing and continue to enjoy his New York Post and pizza slice and coffee. He'd never know a man was bleeding to death two feet behind him.

  Boggs saw the guards inside the fortress. They were concentrating on an important episode of St. Elsewhere on a small TV.

  Boggs sprinted as fast as he could, calling, "Help me, help me!"

  Go, go, go!

  Okay, he'd turn, he'd face Ascipio and his buddies. Butt his long head into the closest one. Break his nose, try to grab the knife. Maybe the guards would notice by then.

  A commercial on the TV. The guards were pointing at it and laughing. A big basketball player was saying something. Boggs raced directly toward him.

  Wondering: Why were Ascipio and his buddies doing this? Why? Just because he was white? Because he wasn't a bodybuilder? Because he hadn't picked up a whittled broomstick along with the ten other inmates and stepped up to kill Rano the snitch?

  Ten feet to the guard station....

  A hand grabbed his collar from behind.

  "No!" Randy Boggs cried.

  And he felt himself start to tumble to the concrete floor under the tackle.

  He saw: the characters on the hospital show on TV looking gravely at a body on the operating table.

  He saw: the gray concrete rising up to slam him in the head.

  He saw: a sparkle of the glass in the hand of a young Latino man. Ascipio whispered, "Do it."

  The young man stepped forward with the glass knife.

  But then Boggs saw another motion. A shadow coming out of a deeper shadow. A huge shadow.

  A hand reached down and gripped the wrist of the man holding the knife.


  The attacker screamed as his wrist turned sideways in the shadow's huge hand. The glass fell to the concrete floor and broke.

  "Bless you," the shadow said in a slow, reverent voice. "You know not what you do." Then the voice snapped, "Now get the fuck outta here. Try this again and you be dead."

  Ascipio and the third of the trio helped the wounded attacker to his feet. They hurried down the corridor.

  The huge shadow, whose name was Severn Washington, fifteen to twenty-five for a murde
r committed before he had accepted Allah into his heart, helped Boggs to his feet. The thin man closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Then together they silently started to the library. Boggs, hands shaking desperately, glanced into the guard station, inside of which the guards nodded and smiled as the body on the operating table on the TV screen was miraculously revived and the previews for next week's show came on.

  FOUR HOURS LATER RANDY BOGGS SAT ON HIS BUNK, LIS-tening to his cellmate, Wilker, James, eight years for receiving, second felony offense.

  "Hear they moved on you, man, that Ascipio, man, he one mean fucker. What he want to do that for? I can't figure it, not like you have anything on him, man."

  Wilker, James kept talking, like he always did, on and on and goddamn on but Randy Boggs wasn't listening. He sat hunched over a People magazine on his bunk. He wasn't reading the periodical, though. He was using it as a lap desk, on top of which was a piece of cheap, wide-lined writing paper.

  "You gotta understand me, man," Wilker, James said. "I'm not saying anything about the Hispanic race. I mean, you know, the problem is they just don't see things the way normal people do. I mean, like, life isn't ..."

  Boggs ignored the man's crazy rambling and finally touched pen to paper. In the upper left-hand corner of the paper he wrote, "Harrison Men's Correctional Facility." He wrote the date. Then he wrote:

  Dear to who it may concern:

  You have to help me. Please.

  After this careful beginning Randy Boggs paused, thought for a long moment and started to write once more.

  chapter 2


  She sat in a deserted corner of the Network's newsroom, a huge open space, twenty feet high, three thousand square feet, divided up by movable partitions, head-high and covered with gray cloth. The on-camera sets were bright and immaculate; the rest of the walls and floors were scuffed and chipped and streaked with old dirt. To get from one side of the studio to the other, you had to dance over a million wires and around monitors and cameras and computers and desks. A huge control booth, like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, looked out over the room. A dozen people stood in clusters around desks or monitors. Others carried sheets of paper and blue cardboard cups of coffee and videocassettes. Some sat at computers, typing or editing news stories.

  Everyone wore casual clothing but no one behaved casually.

  Rune was hunched over the Sony 3/4-inch tape player and small color TV that served as a monitor.

  A tinny voice came out of the small speaker. "I told them back then just what I'm telling you now: I didn't do it."

  The man on the screen was a gaunt thirty-something, with high cheekbones and sideburns. His hair was slicked back and crowned with a Kewpie-doll curl above his forehead. His face was very pale. When Rune had first cued up the tape and started it running, ten minutes before, she'd thought, This dude is a total nerd.

  He wore a tight gray jumpsuit, which under other circumstances--say on West Broadway in SoHo--might have been chic. Except that the name of the designer on the label wasn't Giorgio Armani or Calvin Klein but the New York State Department of Correctional Services.

  Rune paused the tape and looked at the letter once again, read the man's unsteady handwriting. Turned back to the TV screen and heard the interviewer ask him, "You'll be up for parole, when?"

  "Parole? Maybe a few years. But hell..." The thin man looked at the camera quickly, then away. "A man's innocent, he shouldn't be out on parole, he should just be out."

  Rune watched the rest of the tape, listened to him tell about how bad life in prison was, how nobody in the warden's office or the court would listen to him, how incompetent his lawyer had been. She was surprised, though, that he didn't sound bitter. He was more baffled--like somebody who can't understand the justice behind a plane crash or car wreck. She liked that about him; if anybody had a right to be obnoxious or sarcastic it was an innocent man who was in prison. But he just talked calmly and wistfully, occasionally lifting a finger to touch a glistening sideburn. He seemed scared of the camera. Or modest or embarrassed.

  She paused the tape and turned to the letter that had ended up on her desk that morning. She had no clue how she'd happened to receive it--other than her being your typical low-level-person-of-indeterminate-job-description at a major television network. Which meant she often got bizarre letters dumped on her desk--anything from Publishers Clearing House award notices to fan mail for Captain Kangaroo and Edward R. Murrow, written by wackos.

  It was this letter that had motivated her to go into the archives and dig up these old interview tapes.

  She read it again.

  Dear to who it may concern:

  You have to help me. Please.

  It sounded so desperate, pathetic. But the tone wasn't what affected her as much as the third paragraph of the letter. She read it again.

  And what it was was that the Police which I have nothing against normally, didn't talk to all the Witnesses, or ask the ones they DID talk to the questions they should of asked. If they had done that, then I feel, in my opinion, they would have found that I was innocent of the Charges but they didn't do this.

  Rune looked at the image freeze-framed on the screen. A tight close-up of Randy Boggs just after his trial several years ago.

  Where was he born? she wondered. What was his history? In high school, had he been a--what did her mother call them?--a hood? A greaser? Did he have family? A wife somewhere? Maybe children? How would it be to have to visit your husband once a month? Was she faithful to him? Did she bake him cookies and send them to prison?

  Rune started the tape again and watched the dull-colored grain on the screen.

  "You want to hear what it's like to be in here?" Now, at last, bitterness was creeping into the thin man's voice. "Let me tell you 'bout the start of my day. Do you want to hear about that?"

  "Tell me whatever you want," the invisible interviewer asked.

  "You wake up at six and the first thing you think is Hell, I'm still here...."

  A voice from across the room: "Rune, where are you? Come on, let's go. We've got an overturned something on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway."

  The Model was standing up from his desk, pulling on a tan London Fog trench coat that would keep him ten degrees warmer than he needed to be on this April afternoon (but that would be okay because it was a reporter's coat). He was an up-and-comer--one of the hotshots covering metro news for the local O&O, the Network's owned-and-operated New York TV station, Rune's present employer as well. Twenty-seven, a round face, Midwest handsome (the word "sandy" seemed to apply to him in a vague way). He spent a lot of time in front of mirrors. Nobody shaved like the Model.

  Rune worked as a cameraman for him occasionally and when she'd first been assigned to him he hadn't been quite sure what to make of this auburn-ponytailed young woman who looked a bit like Audrey Hepburn and was just a little over five feet, a couple ounces over a hundred pounds. The Model probably would have preferred a pickled, chain-smoking technician who'd worked the city desk from the days when they used sixteen-millimeter Bolex cameras. But she shot damn good footage and there was nobody better than Rune when it came to blustering her way through police barricades and past backstage security guards.

  "What've you got there?" he asked, nodding at the monitor.

  "I found this letter on my desk. From this guy in prison."

  "You know him?" the Model asked absently. He carefully made sure the belt wasn't twisted then fitted it through the plastic buckle.

  "Nope. It was addressed to the Network. Just showed up here."

  "Maybe he wrote it a while ago." Nodding toward the screen, where Randy Boggs was freeze-framed. "Looks like you could carbon-date him nineteen sixty-five."

  "Nope." She tapped the paper. "It's dated two days ago."

  The Model read it quickly. "Sounds like the guy's having a shitty time of it. The prison in Harrison, huh? Better than Attica but
it's still no country club. So, suit up. Let's go."

  The first thing you think is, Hell, I'm still here....

  The Model took a call. He nodded. Looked at Rune. "This is great! It's an overturned ammonia tanker on the BQE. Boy, that is gonna screw up rush hour real nice. Ammonia. Are we lucky or are we lucky?"

  Rune shut the monitor off and joined the Model at his cluttered desk. "I think I want to see her."

  "Her? Who?"

  "You know who I mean."

  The Model's face broke into a wrinkleless smile. "Not Her, capital H?"


  The Model laughed. "Why?"

  Rune had learned one thing about TV news: Keep your back covered and your ideas to yourself--unless the station pays you to come up with ideas, which in her case they didn't. So she said, "Career development."

  The Model was at the door. "You miss this assignment, you won't have any career to develop. It's ammonia. You understand what I'm saying?"

  "Ammonia," Rune repeated. She wound a paisley elastic silkie around her ponytail then pulled on a black leather jacket. The rest of her outfit was a black T-shirt, yellow stretch pants and cowboy boots. "Just give me ten minutes with capital H Her."

  He took her by the arm, aimed her toward the door. "You think you're just going to walk into Piper Sutton's office?"

  "I'd knock first."

  "Uh-uh. Let's go, sweetheart. Double time. You can visit the lion's den after we get back and wrap the edits."

  A figure stepped out of the corridor, a young man in jeans and an expensive black shirt. He wore his hair long and floppy. Bradford Simpson was an intern, a Journalism School senior at Columbia, who'd started out in the mailroom his freshman year and was by now doing slightly more glamorous jobs around the station--like fetching coffee, handling deliveries of tapes and occasionally actually assisting a cameraman or sound crew. He was one of those madly ambitious sorts--Rune could identify with that part of him--but his ambition was to get his degree, don a Brooks Brothers suit and plunge into the ranks of corporate journalism. Sincere and well liked around the O&O and the Network, Bradford ("Don't really care for 'Brad' ") was also cute as hell--in a preppy, Connecticut way. Rune had been shocked when he'd actually asked her out a few days ago.