Pete Fernandez is a mess. He's on the brink of being fired from his middle-management newspaper job. His fiancée has up and left him. Now, after the sudden death of his father, he's back in his hometown of Miami, slowly drinking himself into oblivion. But when a co-worker he barely knows asks Pete to locate a missing daughter, Pete finds himself dragged into a tale of murder, drugs, double-crosses and memories bursting from the black heart of the Miami underworld - and, shockingly, his father's past.
Making it up as he goes and stumbling as often as he succeeds, Pete's surreptitious quest becomes the wake-up call he's never wanted but has always needed - but one with deadly consequences. Welcome to Silent City, a story of redemption, broken friendships, lost loves and one man's efforts to make peace with a long-buried past to save the lives of the few friends he has left. SILENT CITY is a gritty, heartfelt debut novel that harkens back to classic P.I. tales, but infused with the Miami that only Alex Segura knows.
Praise for SILENT CITY:
"Murder, mayhem, Miami...and every character has their own great taste in music. Silent City knows that every city has its own dark and twisted personality. And so do its inhabitants. Take a chance and step inside."
-Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE INNER CIRCLE
"In Silent City, Segura shines a light on a Miami not often seen, one in which neon and glitz are supplanted by the hardscrabble grit of folks just trying to get by. Silent City is a coiled snake, twist after twist bringing you ever closer to its final, stinging bite." -Chris Holm, author of THE KILLING KIND
"Miami glows hot in this debut - Alex Segura is a name to watch." -Jeff Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of DOWNFALL
"Segura's command of tight plotting and realistic characters keeps this energetic debut on track." -The Miami Herald
The microwave beep — announcing that her popcorn was done — startled Kathy Bentley for a second. The noise was also enough to jolt her small gray cat, Nigel, from her lap and tip over the little bit of white wine still residing in her glass. Kathy sighed and plopped the glass on the table separating her couch from the television. She paused her well-worn DVD of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and sauntered into the kitchen, where Nigel sat waiting, eyes wide, wondering if whatever was coming out of the microwave could be for him.
“This is Mommy’s,” Kathy said as she carefully pulled the hot bag of instant popcorn from the microwave. “None for you.”
The cat gave out a cry as he saw that the food was, in fact, not for him. Kathy laughed. It was close to midnight and she had been home less than 20 minutes. After a 12-hour shift at The Miami Times, where she worked as oneof the paper’s dwindling group of investigative reporters, it took very littleto amuse — or annoy — Kathy tonight.
Today had been cluttered with meetings geared toward redirecting the paper’s goals and, more importantly, increasing the paper’s profits. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that print was dying. With news, opinion, classifieds and pretty much anything of interest available on the Web for free, why shell out any money for something that would get your hands covered in ink? The state of panic there was something Kathy would drown with a few glasses of Chardonnay. Kathy didn’t feel productive or fulfilled by her work. As she walked back to her spot on the couch, she glanced at the clock hanging over her too-expensive entertainment center. Javier Reyes, supposedly her boyfriend, hadn’t called in over a day. Not totally foreign behavior for him, as he tended to pout after they fought, but troubling nonetheless. Kathy shrugged to herself. She was certain that they’d be texting each other at some point during the wee hours, either to extend the argument — about money, unsurprisingly — or to make the evening more interesting. Javier frustrated her — he was cagey, cheap and she’d caught him in a few blatant lies. Most of the time, these things would be grounds for a break up with Kathy. But for some reason Javier lingered. She couldn’t deny there was something that kept pulling her back to him. Maybe the old saying was true — the less they seem to want you, the more you want them. Javier had definitely mastered the art of seeming disinterested. Whether they were fighting or fucking, it was always passionate — dramatic. Feelings that reminded her of being a teenager. Feelings she knew weren’t genuine, but whatever. She wanted them to be.
Kathy refilled her wine glass and gulped down a portion of it. Nigel curled up in his usual spot on Kathy’s lap.
She put the movie back on with a quick flick of the remote, but found her mind wandering. She was entering her sixth year at the Times and felt like little had changed. She was a crime reporter tasked with writing “enterprise” stories — the kind that require more than a few hours’ investigation — at a paper that had no budget or interest in them. The days when she could spend a month chasing a few sources and putting together a 10,000-word series spotlighting corruption in the Miami City Council were long gone, if they were ever there. She was still ostracized, considered an unqualified hire by the veterans on staff, many of whom believed she had snagged the job because her father, with whom she barely spoke, was a long-time columnist for the
paper’s local news section. Because of the dwindling page count, the number of actual stories she was expected to produce each week had dwindled to where she would not be surprised if she were one of the staffers let go in the next round of layoffs.
But what then? Kathy had never considered a career outside of journalism, much less outside of the comfortable confines of a newsroom. She had little family — a brother in California she never spoke to, a mother and a father she would disown if she
could. Javier, a former drug dealer with anger management issues, wasn’t exactly a beacon of hope. And the few friends she did have had drifted off the longer she stayed with him. She took a long sip from her glass and stroked Nigel. She wasn’t cut out for daily reporting, she thought. The one thing of value she’d been working on — a lengthy, detailed investigative piece dealing with Miami’s Cuban drug underworld — wasn’t going to be enough to secure her job. And anyway, it wasn’t ready, as usual. She still felt the piece needed at least a few more months’ work.
She felt she was getting somewhere with the story, though, especially when it came to “the Silent Death,” the nickname given to an unnamed enforcer for the Cubans. The killer, who’d left over a dozen bodies in less than a decade, had become something of an urban legend. Some doubted it was even one man. Kathy wasn’t so sure. But she wasn’t getting much help from the shitty Miami police or her bosses, which meant the story wasn’t developing as quickly as she’d like. Still, if she could nail who “the Silent Death” was — so named for his penchant for silencers and a clingy black mask, of all things, over the bottom half of his face — she’d definitely have a job, even if it was one she couldn’t stand. But she was getting ahead of herself. She needed to finish the story first, and all she had were a few clues and one theory that was based more on her reporter’s instinct than on actual, hard facts. As her editor friend Amy Matheson had reminded her numerous times, “If you want to solve one of the biggest mysteries this town has seen in years, you need more than a gut feeling.”
Nigel dug his claws into her thighs as he leaped off toward the kitchen. It was unlike him to just give up on a petting session. Kathy mumbled to herself and returned her attention to “Eternal Sunshine” when she heard a noise. She couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from, but the grating sound put her on edge.
Her one-bedroom apartment, nestled in downtown Miami in the nebulous area between “Little Haiti” and what eventually would become Miami Shores, was not prime real estate. Still, it was close to work and equally close to the beach, two places the tan-and-blond Kathy frequented, only one by choice. She was cautious. She’d been burglarized before. She turned off the television and tried to listen. She was just getting paranoid.
Then it started again. Metal scraping on metal. This time it was clear it was coming from her door —her doorknob, to be specific. What a time for Javier not to be here, she thought. She tightened the robe she was wearing around her T-shirt and shorts and headed toward the door, hoping that the sound of someone inside would startle whoever was trying to get into her apartment. The scraping stopped in the seconds it took Kathy to get to her door. She had no way of seeing if there was someone out there.
“Hello?” she snapped. “Who’s there? If you don’t leave I’ll call the p—”
Before she could finish, the door flung open, pushing her back and onto the floor. As she struggled to stand, a man busted in. He was large, muscular, and bearded — a grizzled, Hispanic man with a collection of gold jewelry around his neck and a scar down the whole left side of his face. She got to her feet. The large man grabbed her shoulders and shoved her to the couch, knocking the wind out of her.
The burly man was holding a small pistol. The sight of the gun made Kathy’s heart jump. He looked around.
“Hey Kathy. How’s it goin’ tonight?”
“Wh-who are you? How did you get in here?” Kathy felt separated from her body, wondered how she could even get the words out. He was very close to her now. She could feel his hot breath on her face, cheap rum and Spanish food in her nostrils. His left hand wrapped around her neck. She tried leaning further into the couch, but he wouldn’t let up.
“No te preocupes. I got in through the front door, remember?”
Don’t worry, he’d said. Kathy could glean that much with her bad Spanish. She tried to look around, but his grip tightened, forcing her eyes to meet his. “Gotta get you a better lock. This one here was too easy for me to pick.”
Kathy’s eyes darted around, looking for something, anything that could get her out of this. What did he want? Her money? There wasn’t any. Her stuff? Possibly. Her body? Likely. The burly man seemed to read her thoughts in the inch of air between them.
He raised his other hand and wagged his index finger in her face. No. You’re not going anywhere. She began to shake. She felt warm tears collecting in her eyes and choked on desperate sobs.
“Don’t go doing anything stupid, ok? No one knows I’m here.” He was whispering now. Her neck, still being held in place by a firm grip, was starting to hurt. “I’ve just got a few things to ask you, is all. Simple enough, no?”
Kathy tried to speak. Nothing came out. She nodded.
“Now, where does a smart reporter like you keep her notes, eh?” He said “reporter” with a sneer, dragging out the last syllable, English clearly not his preferred language. She could barely breathe through the heat of his body.
This is it, Kathy thought. This is how I die. Someone must have tipped him off about her article, but why? She’d spoken to only a handful of people. And they’d all been trusted sources she’d built up over time. What had she done to lead the burly man here?
“M-m-my notes aren’t here,” Kathy stammered. “My story’s done. I’ve already turned it in to my editor. Lots of people have read it.”
Kathy was interrupted by a slap. The sharp pain took an extra sting through the tears coating her face. The burly man was no longer whispering. His breath slammed against her as he yelled, “You had better be lying.” Kathy felt herself being lifted, his grip closing off her throat. “Because if you’re not, this is not going to end well for you.”
Kathy began to speak, but felt a knee slam into her midsection. She couldn’t breathe. She heard her ribs crack. His grip loosened as Kathy fell to the tiles, her knees crashing hard, followed by her body and then her head.
She ran her hands over her face and body, trying to will them to work, when she saw the man take aim and slam his boot across her face. She couldn’t make out what he was saying. Everything had gone dark. For a second or two, it felt like the ground was moving. Then the tile was scraping against her skin. Something was yanking at her hair, no, pulling. She wasn’t sure if she was still crying. She thought she heard Nigel.