Deadly Assets (A Badge of Honor Novel)

 
9781410471178: Deadly Assets (A Badge of Honor Novel)

Tensions between the Philadelphia Police Department and the city's Citizens Oversight Committee reach a boiling point during an investigation into shootings by young Homicide Sergeant Matt Payne, who looks into the murders of a reporter and his family. (action & adventure). Simultaneous.

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About the Author:

W. E. B. Griffin is the author of six bestselling series.
William E. Butterworth IV has worked closely with his father for more than a decade, and is the coauthor of many books with him, most recently "The Last Witness "and "Hazardous Duty."

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

(and William E. Butterworth IV)

I

Broad Street and Erie Avenue, North Philadelphia

Monday, December 17, 8:45 P.M.

Matt Payne impatiently squeezed past the small groups of passengers that had just gotten off the subway train cars of the Broad Street Line, and moved with purpose down the tiled concourse toward the exit.

The muscular twenty-seven-year-old was six feet tall and a solid one-seventy-five. His chiseled face had a two-day scrub of beard. Behind black sunglasses, dark circles hung under sleep-deprived eyes.

He wore a Philadelphia Eagles ball cap and a gray hooded sweatshirt with the red TEMPLE UNIVERSITY logotype. Concealed inside the waistband of his blue jeans, at the small of his back, was an Officer’s Model Colt .45 ACP semiautomatic pistol. And in his back pocket, in a black leather bifold holder, were his badge and the Philadelphia Police Department–issued card identifying him as a sergeant of the Homicide Unit.

Taking the subway, which Payne had boarded at the City Hall station after paying the $2.25 fare, hadn’t been his first—or his second—choice. But considering his options at the time, it had seemed the fastest.

And with leads in the killings all but dried up, he had no time to waste.

After exiting the concourse, he took the steps, two at a time, up to street level, then started across the deep gray slush of snow and melted ice that covered the sidewalk.

At the newsstand shack on the southeast corner of Erie and Broad, he quickly tugged a newspaper from a stack topped with a chunk of red brick, stuffing it beneath his left arm, then peeling from his money clip a pair of dollar bills. He handed the cash to the attendant—a heavily clothed elderly black man with leathery hands and a deeply wrinkled face and thin beard—and gestured for him to keep the change.

Payne turned and glanced around the busy intersection.

The storefronts were a blend of bars and fast-food chain restaurants, banks and pharmacies, barbershops and convenience stores. Payne thought that the facades of the aged buildings, as well as the streets and sidewalks, looked much like he felt—tired, worn out.

On Erie, halfway down the block, Payne saw the coffee shop he was looking for—tall stenciled lettering in black and red on its front window read THE DAILY GRIND—then grunted.

On the second floor, above the diner, was a small, locally owned bookstore that had signage advertising WE SHIP TO PRISONS. Directly across the street, a new billboard on a rooftop had in bold lettering REPORT CRIME TIPS! LEX TALIONIS PAYS CASH REWARDS UP TO $20,000—800-LEX-TALN, and, in a strip along the billboard’s bottom, the wording MAKE A DIFFERENCE—BECOME A PHILADELPHIA POLICE OFFICER next to a photograph of the smiling faces of attractive young women and men attending the police academy.

Payne walked quickly to The Daily Grind.

As he pulled on the stainless steel handle of the diner’s glass door, then started to step inside, he almost collided with a grim-faced heavyset Latina in her twenties carrying three waxed paper to-go coffee cups. He made a thin smile, stepped back, made a grand sweep with his free arm for her to pass through the doorway first, then went inside.

It was a small space, permeated by the smell of fried grease and coffee. The only seating was at a stainless steel countertop at the back that overlooked the open kitchen. Elsewhere, customers could stand at the nine round high-top tables and at the worn wooden counter that ran at chest height along the side walls and the front windows.

There were just two customers now, both older men who were seated at opposite ends of the back counter and busy with their meals. An enormous coal-black man in his forties, wearing a grease-stained white apron tied over jeans and a sweaty white T-shirt, stood stooped at the gas-fired grill, his large biceps bulging as he methodically worked a long-handled wire brush back and forth. Flames flared up with each pass.

The cook stopped, looked over his shoulder, saw Payne, called out, “Hey, man, he’ll be right with you,” then turned back to scrubbing the grill.

At the far right end of the counter, under a sign reading ORDER HERE/PAY HERE that hung from the ceiling tiles by dust-coated chains, was the cash register. And just beyond it was a faded emerald green wooden door with TOILET FOR PAYING CUST ONLY!! that appeared to have been handwritten in haste with a fat-tipped black ink permanent marker.

The bathroom door began to swing open, and a brown-skinned male in his late teens stepped out, drying his hands on a paper towel.

Daquan Williams was five-foot-eight, extremely thin, and, under a ball cap with THE DAILY GRIND in stenciled letters across its front, his shoulder-length wavy reddish-brown hair was tied back with a rubber band. He wore black jeans and a tan T-shirt that was emblazoned with a coarse drawing of the Liberty Bell, its crack exaggerated, and the wording PHILLY—NOBODY LIKES US & WE DON’T CARE.

The teenager made eye contact with Payne, nodded just perceptibly, then looked away as he went to the rack of coffeepots. He pulled a heavy china mug from a pyramid-shaped stack, filled it with coffee, then carried it to Payne, who now stood by a window in the front corner of the shop, opposite the door, watching the sidewalk traffic over the top edge of the newspaper as he casually flipped its pages.

The teenager placed the steaming mug on the wooden counter beside a wire rack containing packets of cream and sugar.

“Thanks, Daquan,” Payne said, then yawned widely as he reached for the coffee. “I really need this.”

He held out a five-dollar bill.

Daquan didn’t take it. He nodded toward the enormous cook cleaning the grill.

“Boss man say you don’t pay,” he said, keeping his voice low so as not to be overheard.

“I appreciate that, but I like to pay my way.”

Payne put the money on the counter, then sipped the coffee.

Daquan nodded. He took the bill.

Payne glanced at Daquan’s left ear. What looked like a new diamond stud sparkled in the lobe. Payne considered mentioning it, but instead gently rattled the newspaper cover page.

“So,” Payne said quietly, “what do you know on this hit?”

Daquan’s eyes shifted to the front page of the newspaper, and his facial expression changed to one of frustration.

The photograph showed, behind yellow tape imprinted with POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS, two members of the medical examiner’s office standing at the rear of a white panel van. They were in the process of lifting through the van’s back doors a gurney holding a full body bag. Splashed across the image was the headline: #360. ANOTHER MURDER, ANOTHER RECORD.

The teenager, head down, quickly turned on his heel and marched to the cash register. He punched in the coffee, made change, then carefully closed the cash drawer as he scanned the front door and windows. Then, from beneath the register, he pulled out the busboy cart and rolled it to the front of the diner.

“Your change,” he said in a normal voice, holding the money out to Payne.

“That’s your tip. Keep it.”

“Thanks.”

Daquan stuffed it in the front pocket of his jeans as he immediately turned his back to Payne. He busied himself clearing the small plates and cups from the nearest high-top table.

“What about the drive-by?” Payne pursued, again speaking quietly as he flipped pages.

“I really can’t say,” Daquan replied, almost in a whisper, without turning around.

“Can’t?” Payne said. “Or won’t?”

Daquan shrugged.

“Peeps talk, they get capped. That’s what happened to Pookie. Law of the street. That’s why I texted you now, after they came—”

“Who did it?”

“Capped Pookie?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s just it—I don’t know,” he said, then looked over his shoulder at Payne. “Matt, I didn’t even know the dude. They’re threatening me over something I don’t know.”

“Any guess who did do it?”

Daquan turned back to busing the table and shrugged again.

“I heard word that King Two-One-Five knows,” he said.

Payne thought: Tyrone Hooks knows—or ordered it done?

He pulled his cell phone from the back pocket of his jeans, rapidly thumb-typed and sent a short text message, then tucked the phone back.

“When’s the last time you saw your parole officer, Daquan?” he said, picking the newspaper back up.

“Few days ago.”

“It go okay?”

“I guess.”

“How’s school coming?”

“Hard, man. Just real hard.”

“One day at a time. You’ll get that GED.”

Daquan then pulled a hand towel and a spray bottle of cleaner from the cart and began wiping the tabletop.

Payne said, “Nice diamond stud. Is it real?”

Daquan stopped wiping.

“Uh-huh. S’posed to be, anyway,” he said, made two more slow circles, and added, “Got my momma something nice for Christmas, and this earring, it was part of the deal.”

“Really?”

Daquan grunted.

“Really,” he said, then moved to the next table. “You know, I’m trying to get my life straight, staying away from the street. You think I like busing tables? Only gig I could find.”

“I know. Remember?”

Daquan sighed.

“Yeah, of course I remember. You know I appreciate the help, man.”

“Keep your nose clean, make it through the probation period, and we’ll work on getting your record cleared. Have the charge expunged. Then we’ll find you something else. Right now, this is good, honest work.”

“I know.”

“You should be proud. Your mother told me she is. Especially now, after Dante’s death . . .”

At the mention of his cousin, Daquan looked over his shoulder at Payne.

Payne saw deep sadness in his eyes. They glistened, and it was obvious that he was fighting back tears.

“I can’t get past that, Matt. We were real close, you know, going way back. Now he’s gone, and I’m here.” He looked down and rubbed his eyes. “But I’m really not here. I’m just a shell walking around.”

Daquan lifted his head, looked at Payne—then his eyes immediately looked past Payne, out the window.

Payne saw the sadness in Daquan’s face suddenly replaced with fear.

“Shit!” Daquan said. “They’re back!”

He grabbed the busboy cart and started pushing it quickly to the back of the diner.

Just then, as Payne turned and looked out the window, the glass front door swung open.

Two teenaged black males wearing thick dark parkas marched in, the first one, tall and burly, raising a black semiautomatic pistol in his right fist.

Payne dropped the newspaper and quickly reached behind his back to pull his .45 out from under his sweatshirt.

Daquan shoved the busboy cart at the pair and then jumped behind the back counter as the tall, burly teenager fired three shots.

The sound of gunfire in the small diner was deafening.

Payne leveled his pistol at the shooter as he shouted, “Stop! Police! Don’t move!”

The ringing in Payne’s ears caused his words to sound odd.

The tall, burly teenager turned and tried to aim at Payne.

Payne instinctively responded by squeezing off two rounds in rapid succession.

The heavy 230-grain bullets of the specially loaded .45 ACP cartridges left the muzzle at a velocity of 1,300 feet per second, and almost instantly hit the shooter square in the chest. Upon impact and penetration, the copper-jacketed lead hollow points, as designed, mushroomed and then fragmented, the pieces ripping through the teen’s upper torso.

The shooter staggered backward to the wall, dropping the gun when he struck the wooden counter there.

The second teenager, who had frozen in place at the firing of the first shots, immediately turned and bolted back out the glass door.

The shooter slid to the floor.

As Payne rushed for the door, he kicked the shooter’s gun toward the back counter. The two customers there were lying on the floor in front of it. The one to the left was curled up in the corner with his back to Payne and, almost comically, shielding his head by holding a white plate over it. The one on the right was facedown and still. Blood soaked the back of his shirt.

The enormous cook, who had ducked below the counter, now peered wide-eyed over its top.

Payne shouted, “Call nine-one-one!” then threw open the door and ran out.

Daquan, blood on his right hand as he gripped his left upper arm, crawled out from beneath the cash register.

Daquan hesitated a moment before moving toward the shooter, who was motionless. He picked up the small-frame semiautomatic pistol from the floor.

The cook stood and shouted, “Daquan, don’t!”

Daquan went out the door.

He turned right and took off down the sidewalk, following Payne.

The storefronts along Erie Avenue gave way to a decaying neighborhood of older row houses. Daquan Williams watched the teenager dart into traffic and dodge vehicles as he ran across Erie, headed in the direction of a series of three or four overgrown vacant lots where row houses had once stood.

He saw that Matt Payne, arms and legs pumping as he picked up speed, was beginning to close the distance between them.

“Police! Stop!” Payne yelled again.

The teenager made it to the first lot off Thirteenth Street, then disappeared into an overgrowth of bushes at the back of it.

Payne, moments later, reached the bushes, cautiously pushed aside limbs, swept the space with his pistol, and then entered.

Daquan started to cross Erie but heard a squeal of brakes and then a truck horn begin blaring. He slid to a stop, narrowly missing being hit by a delivery box truck. It roared past, its huge tires splashing his pants and shoes with road slush from a huge pothole. A car and a small pickup closely following the truck honked as they splashed past.

Daquan finally found a gap in traffic and made his way across.

He ran to the bushes, then went quickly into them, limbs wet with snow slapping at him. One knocked his cap off. The dim light made it hard to see. After a long moment, he came out the other side, to another open lot. He saw Payne, who had run across another street, just as he disappeared into another clump of overgrowth at the back of another vacant lot between row houses.

While Daquan ran across that street to follow, a dirty-brown four-door Ford Taurus pulled to the curb in front of the row house bordering the lot. Daquan dodged the sedan, running behind it, then started across the lot.

Ahead, from somewhere in the overgrowth, he heard Matt Payne once again shouting, “Stop! Police!”

This time, though, was different.

Almost immediately there came a rapid series of shots—the first three sounding not quite as loud as the final two.

Daquan ...

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Griffin, W.E.B., Butterworth IV, William
Published by Thorndike Press (2015)
ISBN 10: 1410471179 ISBN 13: 9781410471178
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Book Description Thorndike Press, 2015. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111410471179

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