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Named one of the Best Crime Novels of the Year
by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
John Brighton is an ordinary young schoolteacher still hung up on his ex, Michelle. Suspecting her new boyfriend is cheating on her, John decides to follow Frank's Lexus and find out the truth once and for all. Turns out John's in for a major surprise. Frank isn't heading for some sack time with another girl. Instead he drags John into the middle of a shootout on the banks of the Hudson River, and before John knows what's happening, he's knee-deep in bodies.
Before the corpses can even cool, Frank disappears and John finds himself wanted for five murders. With no way to prove his innocence, John goes on the run—not only from the police, but a vicious assassin as well. And when Michelle is kidnapped, John’s worst-case scenario comes true. Though his head tells him to stay in hiding, his heart says otherwise. He has to save the woman he loves or die trying.
As John begins to uncover the truth surrounding the events that have turned his life upside down, he learns it isn’t just Michelle he must rescue. Thousands of other innocent lives are in jeopardy too.
A heart-pounding, heart-stopping, heart-breaking thriller from two-time Shamus Award nominated author, Dave White. For fans of Harlan Coben, Thomas Perry and Jeff Abbott.
Praise for Witness to Death
"Dave White has always been able to build stories with the right balance of suspense and contemplative character study. He builds a character that is like us. Regular, normal. A guy with real fears." --The Hungry Detective
"A terrific thriller." --The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Read an excerpt from Witness To Death:
“Since knowledge is but sorrow's spy, it is not safe to know.”
PART ONE - Jersey City
What would his shrink say?
John Brighton knew the answer to that. He was supposed to get his mind off Ashley. He should be at a pub with one of his buddies, drinking the night away, getting in a bar fight, bitching her out, something. Instead, he was circling the side streets, looking for Frank’s Lexus.
He could see his shrink now, sitting in the thick easy chair, legs crossed with a yellow notepad on her lap. Her elbows would be balanced on the armrests, her fingers steepled and pressed to her nose. She’d gaze at him over the top of her fingers and wait. Until the point when he’d just start guessing what she was thinking about his current mental state. He wondered if his students felt the same way once he’d decided to use that tactic on them.
John felt like he was driving in a fog, the narrowing of his peripheral vision. His chest was tight, and when he breathed deep, the air didn’t seem to fill his lungs.
He made a left turn and saw the black Lexus in the driveway. The house was dark inside, with only a light on in the second floor window. John cursed himself for searching out the Lexus.
John parked on the corner, sat back and watched the front door. He was sure Frank would peek his head out at some point. Michelle had told him Frank was going to be out tonight, but she didn’t know where. Some sort of work thing. But John doubted that was the truth. Not after he saw Frank talking to the girl in the hat at Starbucks a few weeks ago.
Frank came out of the house, skipped down the front steps and got into the car. Here we go. The Lexus backed out and pulled right past John’s Corolla. John waited a second, started the car, and U-turned to follow.
He tried to keep his distance, but Frank drove fast and John needed to keep up. He wondered why they were going toward Jersey City. And again, he wondered why he was doing this. What was he trying to prove? No matter what he found out, it wasn’t going to be something that would make Michelle happy.
Did he want her to break up with Frank?
John spent the next twenty minutes following the Lexus along Route Three to Kennedy Boulevard. When they parked, John realized he hadn’t thought about Ashley once in that time.
The Lexus was backed into a spot looking at the light rail. John passed, then parked his Corolla on the corner, where he hoped he was out of sight.
This is stupid. This is stupid. This is stupid.
Frank had never done anything bad to him. He should just back out, go home, and drink. But he’d been wondering for too long about Frank. John needed to know, if only to distract him from his own problems. Whether or not he’d tell Michelle would depend on what he found out. So he sat, the motor running and the heat blowing on a frigid February night.
The train pulled into the station. John had never been in this neighborhood. He was surprised to see the number of bars and restaurants. It appeared Jersey City was undergoing some sort of revival. His image of the city was a ghetto filled with gangs, murders, and terrorist sleeper cells. That was what the news publicized, anyway. But it seemed the news missed a lot.
The train took off heading toward Hoboken or Bayonne or wherever. He turned his attention back toward the Lexus, only to see Frank getting out. John looked toward the station again and saw a group of five or six men—most of them wearing black trenchcoats—heading toward the Hudson River.
John put his hand on the key. Put the car in drive and go home. That was the smartest option.
Frank glanced over his shoulder in John’s direction. Then kept walking. John had to know where he was going. Where was the girl? She probably lived in one of the condos down the river walk. He zipped his coat, got out of the car, and followed.
The wind off the water tore at his ears as he got closer to the buildings. Frank had turned one more time as they walked. John hoped he hadn’t been spotted. That would be embarrassing.
He stepped through the corridor between the two buildings, squinting against the wind. He stopped and stared at the water. His stomach clenched, and his feet were glued to the asphalt. Sweat formed at the nape of his neck. He closed his eyes and listened to the waves slap against the concrete barrier.
This has nothing to do with why you’re here. Find out where Frank is going. You’ll be fine.
Digging his nails into his palms, John took a deep breath and stepped forward.
Reaching the edge of the building—still ten feet from the edge of the river—John turned right. As he did, he saw the group of men had stopped and were looking at Frank Carnathan, who was slowly walking toward them. One of the men, an Arabic one without a trench, yelled, “That’s Peter!”
After he spoke, he stopped walking. The trenchcoats kept coming.
Frank stopped, dropped his hands at his sides. Then he turned back toward John and broke out into a sprint.
Behind Frank, the five men in trenchcoats pointed guns at him.
John didn’t even see Frank pull his gun. Then John was behind a wall, as the sound of firecrackers popped around the corner.
Frank backed up to join him, firing a round from his gun in the direction of the trenchcoats. John tried to inch toward him, toward the safety of someone who seemed to know what he was doing, but Frank pushed him back.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Frank asked between shots.
John couldn’t concentrate enough to answer. Something hit the corner of the building, sending concrete shards toward his face. He covered his eyes and backed further away.
John’s knees shook as he tried to take another step toward Frank. His throat was cold as he inhaled, trying to catch his breath. Call the police. John reached into his pocket for his cell phone.
“I got three of them. We have to get out of here,” Frank said.
Frank took him by the shoulder. The phone flew from John’s hand. They ran. John felt himself lumbering, nearly losing his balance with each step, waiting for the ground to rush up to his face. And then what? Would Frank double back to help? John was already fifteen feet behind Frank and losing ground with every passing second.
Still running, John looked over his shoulder. One of the trenchcoats came around the corner, dropped onto one knee, and aimed his gun. John froze. He felt his mouth drop open, his eyes widen. The breath he took tasted like sugar water, as if his body knew it would be his last and wanted to enjoy it. A breeze whisked past his ear, then the gunman’s head exploded into a cloud of red particles. And John snapped back to reality.
He turned and ran again, seeing Frank holding open the door of the Light Rail with one hand and shooting over John’s shoulder with the other.
“Come on! Pick it up!” Frank yelled.
John stumbled ahead, trying to speed up. He tumbled through the doors of the Light Rail. Frank fired two more times and let the doors close. Three people were curled up in balls near their seats.
Frank turned his gun toward the conductor, who immediately raised his hands over his head.
“Go,” Frank said. Then to John, “Got four. One left.”
The train started to roll. The conductor’s hands shook, and he was whispering into the CB.
“He’s talking to the police,” John said.
Frank didn’t appear to be fazed. His eyes were scanning the train.
“Frank,” John said. “Frank. He’s calling the—“
“Of course he’s talking to the police. What would you do? Now shut up.”
“What the hell is going on?” John asked.
“I said, shut up.”
This was ridiculous. John was sitting on a train bench gasping for breath after being shot at. Shot at. He could have been killed.
John closed his eyes. Electricity started in his stomach, balled inside him, and forked into his arms and legs. It charged through his brain and he started to shake. Uncontrollable fits and tremors. He couldn’t catch his breath.
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.” The words tumbled from John’s mouth, sending spittle flying as they did.
Frank took a step toward him. “John. Okay John, you need to—”
The train erupted in gunfire. Frank twisted and fell onto his back, aiming his gun in front of him. The last trenchcoat came through the door that led between train cars, firing blindly. Two men on the train hit the deck. A woman covered her ears and screamed.
Frank fired once and shot the gun out of the trenchcoat’s hand. Took one of the trenchcoat’s fingers with it.
The train screeched as someone hit the emergency brake. Frank dropped his gun, and his assailant toppled on to him. Frank hit the guy with a right cross and then kicked him backwards. Both Frank and the trenchcoat got to their feet.
John backed into a corner.
He had once read how stoners on PCP could get so hyped up from the drug, they could withstand all sorts of punishment. The guy in the trenchcoat reminded John of that. His hand was spurting blood, and yet he was still on his feet, hands in a boxing position, ready to fight.
Frank approached him without hesitating. Trenchcoat took a swing, but Frank leaned back and dodged it. He then hit the guy with three quick punches in the stomach. The guy doubled over, gasping for air. Frank hit him in the back of the neck with an elbow. The attacker went down again.
John pushed himself to his knees and crawled further away from the two of them, not wanting a better look.
Frank was on top of the guy, his hands wrapped around the guy’s neck. The trenchcoat was flapping his arms against Frank’s head, but Frank didn’t flinch. He gritted his teeth and leaned closer to the guy, then slammed his forehead into the guy’s nose. Blood burst from his nostrils, spattering the ridged rubber floor. Trenchcoat’s legs splayed out and kicked against the ground, trying to gain traction. But they kept sliding against the ridges.
Once. Twice. Then nothing. Both arms hit the ground. Frank pulled the guy up by his neck and slammed his head into the ground. He turned to the conductor.
“Get this goddamn train started.”
“I can’t. It takes twenty minutes to charge everything up again after the emergency brakes are engaged.”
Frank stood up, breathing heavily, blood smeared across his face. He took two steps and stared the conductor down.
“Get it started as quickly as you can,” Frank said.
The conductor nodded and started to pull switches and press buttons. John heard a whoosh in his ears as the blood flowed to his brain and his vision clouded. He tried to breathe, but instead threw up all over the train floor.
He spit the bile from his mouth and wiped his mouth with his hands. Frank was staring at him, his lips tilted at the edges.
“Please tell me what’s going on,” John said.