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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

☀ Among the Shadows: Detective Byron [1] - Bruce Robert Coffin

Thank you for joining us on the Release Celebrations for  Among the Shadows, a Mystery Thrillers by (, Witness Impulse, 400 pages).

This is the first book in the Detective Byron series.

Don't miss our interview with author Bruce Robert Coffin.

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and excerpt below.

Author Bruce Robert Coffin will be awarding a digital copy of Among The Shadows to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.   Please do take part: comment on our post and follow the tour where you will be able to read other excerpts (☀), interviews (ℚ), reviews (✍) and guest blog posts (✉).


Synopsis | Teaser | Author Q&A | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Synopsis

"A first-rate novel. Suspenseful and highly entertaining." -- New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds

Fall in Portland, Maine usually arrives as a welcome respite from summer s sweltering temperatures and, with the tourists gone, a return to normal life usually. But when a retired cop is murdered, things heat up quickly, setting the city on edge.

Detective Sergeant John Byron, a second-generation cop, is tasked with investigating the case at the very moment his life is unraveling. On the outs with his department s upper echelon, separated from his wife, and feeling the strong pull of the bottle, Byron remains all business as he tries to solve the murder of one of their own. And when another ex-Portland PD officer dies under suspicious circumstances, he quickly realizes there s much more to these cases than meets the eye. The closer Byron gets to the truth, the greater the danger for him and his fellow detectives.

This taut, atmospheric thriller will appeal to fans of Michael Connelly and John Sandford.

Teaser: Excerpt

from Chapter One


     [...]
      “You know this guy?” she asked.
      “Retired Portland cop,” he said, returning the license. “What’s the nurse got to say?”
      She referred to her notes. “Nurse Rebecca St. John says she left here yesterday evening around six-­thirty, after changing his bedding and giving him his meds for the night. She returned this morning and found him like this.”
      Byron looked at the IV. “Was he being fed?”
      “Still feeding himself. Hospice care.”
      “And the IV?”
      “Pain dope. Keeping him comfortable and waiting for the cancer to do the rest.”
      “If he was under a doctor’s care, why are we here?”
      “Nobody’s been able to locate the doctor. Sounds like he’s away on vacation.”
      Of course he is, Byron thought.
      “St. John said this was expected, just not so soon.”
      Byron remembered the lieutenant as a chain-­smoker. “You said cancer. Lung?”
      “And bone,” she said. “Pretty shitty way to go out.”
      “How about the M.E.?”
      “I spoke with Dr. Ellis,” Pelligrosso said. “Said he’d have the attending physician sign off if we don’t find anything.”
      “I was gonna take care of notifying the next of kin,” she said. “Unless you’d like to?”
      Byron considered her question. He couldn’t imagine anything more enjoyable than breaking the news of death to a loved one, especially on a sweltering day in the middle of Indian summer while still in the grips of one bitch of a hangover. It would be the high point of his day. But it was the right thing to do. “Got a number?”
      Diane handed him the scrap of paper the nurse had provided.Written in the same flowery script was the name Susan Atherton along with an out-­of-­state telephone number. Byron recognized the given name, Jimmy O’s daughter, as well as the Florida area code. The surname must be her married name. He wondered why Susie was still in Florida and not here with her dying father. “I’ll take care of it,” he said.
      Adding to Byron’s discomfort, his sweat-­soaked dress shirt clung to his back. He retreated from the home’s stuffy interior to the quiet air-­conditioned comfort of the rookie’s black-­and-­white. While the AC in his own car was nonexistent, the air coming from the vents in O’Donnell’s cruiser was icy and soothing. Byron noticed a City of Portland Street Guide, standard issue for all new officers, sitting atop the dash. He thought back to his first day on the job, when he was issued one of his own. Having grown up on the peninsula, he’d biked or walked every inch of Portland’s in town and hadn’t needed a street guide, at least not until he was assigned to patrol a beat in the Deering section of the city. Bordering the towns of Westbrook and Falmouth, Deering had been as foreign to him as another world.
      He despised making death notifications, all the officers did. And yet it came with the territory. If asked, he wouldn’t have dared guess how many he’d made over the years. The short answer was too many. He preferred making the notifications the way he’d been taught, in person.Death was personal and news of it should always be delivered face-­to-­face. However, in cases where the recipient of the bad news wasn’t nearby, he’d occasionally sought help from the local authorities. This notification was different, as he knew Susie personally. As bad as the news of a loved one’s death by phone was, he knew it would be far better coming from him than some stranger in uniform. A stranger who likely wouldn’t have the best delivery.
      He lowered the volume on the cruiser’s base radio, then pulled out his cell and dialed Atherton’s number.
      A woman’s voice answered in mid-­ring. “Hello.”
      “I’m looking for Susan Atherton.”
      “This is she. And whatever you’re selling I’m not—­”
      “Susie, it’s John Byron.”
      There was a brief pause at the other end of the line. “Johnny? Oh my God. How are you?”
      He couldn’t remember anyone having called him Johnny since high school. “I’m well. It’s good to hear your voice.”
      “I was about to say the same. It must be, what, thirty years?”
      “Listen, Susie, this isn’t a social call, and I apologize for dropping this on you. I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
      Another pause. “Is my father dead?”
      “He is.”
      “Good riddance.”
      Byron thought he’d experienced every conceivable emotion associated with hearing the news of a loved one’s death. Some ­people fainted, some got angry, some blubbered, some punched things, but he honestly couldn’t recall anyone ever telling him they were happy about it.
      “Susie, I’m very sorry—­”
      “Don’t be.”
      He wasn’t sure how to proceed. She clearly didn’t want his pity. He understood her feelings of resentment toward her father. They were feelings with which he was all too familiar. “Susie, I’m not sure if—­”
      “We hadn’t spoken in years.”
      “Mind if I ask why?”
      “Because he was a son of a bitch, John. A no good, lying, cheating, boozing piece of shit. What I wanted, needed, was a father, and my mother needed a husband. What we got instead was a drunken asshole.”
      The conversation turned awkward and they both quickly ran out of things to say. Byron thought he heard her voice cracking as she said goodbye.
      He was startled by a knock at the window. Haggerty. Byron opened the door and stepped out.
      “Hey, Sarge, didn’t mean to interrupt, but they’re asking for you inside.” Haggerty’s pained expression suggested whatever they’d found wasn’t good. Byron sincerely hoped the phone call he’d just made hadn’t been as premature as it now felt. His headache, which had begun to fade, was threatening to return.
      “Where’s the nurse?”
      Haggerty pointed to the side lawn. “Calling her boss.”
      “Make sure she stays here,” Byron said as he slammed the car door and walked back to the house.
      They were waiting on him as he returned to the bedroom. “What’s up?”
      “Think we’ve got a problem,” Pelligrosso said. Wearing white latex gloves he peeled back O’Halloran’s lips. “See the purple discoloration?”
      Byron saw it and it wasn’t the first time. “Bruising?”
      “That’s what it looks like,” Diane said.
      “Could it be something else?”
      “Maybe,” Pelligrosso said. “But I’m certainly not qualified to make that call. And here’s another thing.” He pulled down the bottom right eyelid. “Petechial hemorrhaging.”
      Hemorrhaging of the small capillaries around the eyes often appear as dark-­colored dots called petechia. Any number of things can cause these vessels to rupture: violent coughing, vomiting, crying, and certain medications. God only knew what medications had been administered to O’Halloran. And, as they were all well aware, petechial hemorrhaging can also be indicative of asphyxiation.
      In his twenty years on the job, Byron had only seen two confirmed mercy killings, but this had all the makings of a third.
      He phoned Dr. Ellis, deputy medical examiner for the state of Maine.Ellis lived a short distance from the Casco Bay Bridge, in South Portland.With any luck, he hadn’t yet left for Augusta.
      “John Byron,” Ellis said as he picked up on the second ring. “I was just thinking about you. Got something for me?”
      “Not sure, Doc. You still in town?”
      “On the interstate almost to Falmouth, but I can turn around and be there in fifteen.”
      “You need the address?”
      “Bartley Street, right? I’ll look for the one with all the police cars in front.”
      “We’ll be waiting.”
      Ellis was something of a throwback. He wore his dark hair slicked back with Elvis-­style sideburns. As medical examiners go, he was as thorough as they came, only a bit eccentric. The more peculiar the case, the better Ellis liked it. More than once he’d left his wife sitting alone at a restaurant so he could check out a “weird one.”
      He arrived wearing shorts, running sneakers, and a black AC/DC T-­shirt, which stretched unflatteringly over his ample belly.
      “Thanks for coming, Doc,” Byron said.
      “Morning, John.” He set his worn black medical bag down and turned to address the others. “Lady and gentleman. What do we have for Dr. E?”
      Diane spoke up. “James O’Halloran, seventy-­two, advanced stages of lung and bone cancer. He was found this morning by the agency nurse.”
      “Uh-­huh,” Ellis said as he pulled on a pair of blue surgical gloves.“And when was Mr. O last seen alive?”
      “Nurse said she left here last night around six-­thirty,” Pelligrosso said.
      Ellis lifted one of O’Halloran’s arms, attempting to bend it. “Not in full rigor yet, but he’s getting there. Best guesstimate, he died some time between eight and midnight. Am I correct in assuming this was in-­home hospice care?”
      “You are,” Byron said. “We’ve still got the nurse outside.”
      Ellis opened the eyes and confirmed the presence of petechia. “You saw this?”
      “We did,” Pelligrosso said. “Along with what looks like bruising inside his lips.”
      Ellis pulled O’Halloran’s lips back. “Correct, my boy. Did you check the body for any signs of trauma?”
      “Not yet,” Pelligrosso said. “Once we found those things, we stopped to wait for you.”
      Ellis turned to Byron and grinned. “Wish my ­people were as efficient as yours. Wouldn’t consider a trade, would you?”
      Byron shook his head. “Think I’ll keep what I’ve got.”
      Ellis forced the jaw open. It made an unpleasant grinding sound.Diane winced. The doc illuminated the cavity with his penlight. “Uh-­huh.”
      “You find something?” Pelligrosso asked.
      Ellis looked back. “Patience, my boy, patience.” Reaching into his black leather bag, he removed a long thin pair of stainless-­steel tweezers.Carefully, he probed deep inside the victim’s oral cavity. “Here we are,” he said as he retracted the instrument and held it up for all to see.
      “What’s that?” Diane asked.
      “That, Detective, is goose down.”
      “The pillow?” Byron asked.
      “That’s what it looks like. Most likely inhaled during suffocation. I’ll need to perform a full post on Mr. Bones and his pillow to be sure.”
      Byron looked at Pelligrosso. “The pillow goes to Augusta with us.”
      Ellis continued his exam, cutting off O’Halloran’s pajama bottoms and top. The old man was wearing a soiled adult diaper. There were no obvious signs of trauma on either the torso or legs. Ellis waited for Pelligrosso to snap a ­couple of photos before proceeding. He looked at Diane, who was still wearing gloves. “Give me a hand rolling him over.”
      Her face squinted up in disgust. Pelligrosso smiled. O’Halloran’s body was stiff enough to make it more like flipping a mattress. Again, Ellis checked his upper torso and legs. Lividity, pooling of the blood, was exactly where it should have been on the victim’s back and lower extremities, confirming he’d died lying face up.
      “So we know the body hasn’t been moved.” Ellis said to himself as much as to anyone in the room. “No other obvious signs of trauma,” he said, turning to face Byron.
      “How soon can you post?”
      “How soon can you get him on my table?”
      “Sarge, I still gotta dust everything in this room for prints,” Pelligrosso said.
      “We’ll lock down the house and post a uniform outside,” Byron said.“You can come back this afternoon after the autopsy. Also, I want elimination prints from everyone who came in here. Anyone who may have touched something, paramedics, cops, nurses, everyone.”
      “I’ll take care of it.”
      Byron turned to Diane. “Let’s get Nurse St. John down to 109. I’ve got a few questions for her.”

Among the Shadows
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About the Author

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 terror 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.

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