Read Rough Draft Online

Authors: James W. Hall

Rough Draft




“Lots of action, some of it gruesome, and an intriguing plot.”

Chicago Tribune

“ROUGH DRAFT is good, old-fashioned, hideously violent fun … Remarkably original … The creepy hitman Hal is one of Hall's best psychos.”

Miami Herald

“Hall has a knack for exposing Florida's mesmerizing, train-wreck-of-the-day weirdness … A fast ride in a fun car.”

Denver Post

“As good as it gets … The beauty of ROUGH DRAFT lies in Hall's ability to mix well-rounded characters with artful, poetic language that makes him a truly great writer in any genre.”

Providence Journal-Bulletin

“Connoisseurs of villainy will appreciate the latest additions to the most memorable gallery of criminal grotesques since the glory days of Dick Tracy.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Veteran thriller master Hall exhibits a new dimension … Solid suspense … An expert creator of grotesque villains and fast action, former poet Hall raises the crossbar with his sensitive insights into the human condition.”

Publishers Weekly

“Hall's latest clever thriller will grab new fans and please old ones … Hall is a master at duping the reader into believing something that inevitably proves to be jaw-droppingly false.”

Library Journal


“James Hall is a writer I have learned from over the years. His people and places have more brush strokes than a Van Gogh. He delivers taut and muscular stories about a place where evil always lurks beneath the surface. They are gripping stories and BODY LANGUAGE is no different.”

—Michael Connelly, author of
Void Moon

“BODY LANGUAGE seduces you, then it grabs you, and it never lets you go. This is a first-rate thriller by a masterful writer.”

—James Patterson

“Alexandra Rafferty is a fabulous addition to the ranks of law enforcement. She is smart, competent, the consummate professional, and her job as a Miami P.D. photographic specialist places her at the heart of the crime scene, with a cold eye for detail and a passionate commitment to justice.”

—Sue Grafton

“BODY LANGUAGE is a sizzling tale of sex, blood, and obsession.”

—Stephen Coonts

“This Florida-based thriller gives mystery readers a new heroine—a methodical, nurturing and tenacious Alexandra Rafferty. She is one character with whom you will be pleased to become acquainted.”

The Oakland Press

“A well-plotted mystery … Past hurts and current passions come into play in a riveting way that simply won't allow you to put the book down.”

The Tampa Tribune Times

“A strangely exhilarating delicacy… It's almost a disappointment to get to the end of the book.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“In his latest southern Florida thriller, we're introduced to some of Hall's best creations.”

Rocky Mountain News

“Hall fans will be more than reimbursed by his poetic imagery in the landscapes and love scenes. Alex is a heroine with enough endearing attributes to sustain yet another long-running character series.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

“A double-barreled actioner set apart from the pack by Hall's virtuoso control of tone, which can shift you from giggles to gasps with a single well-trimmed phrase.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Suspense and forensic detail with a near-flawless grasp of character.”


“Hall is back in top form … A high-priority purchase for thriller fans.”

Library Journal








HOT DAMN! (2001)



BUZZ CUT (1996)

GONE WILD (1995)








If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”







Copyright © 2000 by James W. Hall.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 99-055532

ISBN: 0-312-97492-2
EAN: 80312-97492-3

Printed in the United States of America

St. Martin's Press hardcover edition / January 2000
St. Martin's Paperbacks edition / January 2001

St. Martin's Paperbacks are published by St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3




In memory of my father, J. Noble Hall Jr.,
my best reader, my biggest fan.
You were something else, Daddy-O.


My deepest thanks to a host of helpers on this one: Carol Cope, Steve Murray, Joe Wallace, Toby Berk, and Steven Seehafer, who all provided invaluable information and assistance. And to Evelyn and Richard and Les, for reading and rereading and being there when it counted. And thanks to Rita Thievon Mullin, whose fine book
Who's For Dinner?
(Crown) formed the basis for much of Hal Bonner's musings.




“Pray look better, sir … those things yonder are no giants, but windmills”







“He changed his story,” Hannah Keller said, looking back toward the TV cameras. “Now Mr. Marquez is claiming he was not insane at the time he threw his daughter out the third-story window.”

There was the usual clamor of questions. Hannah waited till they'd died out and responded to the one she was prepared to answer.

“Mr. Marquez has now told our investigators that his daughter was crying constantly for three days and three nights and he believed she was possessed by the devil and that's why he tossed her out of his apartment window.”

“The devil?” The
reporter in the front row smiled thinly. “So is Mr. Marquez claiming he murdered his daughter as a form of exorcism?”

It got a snicker from a few of the other reporters, but the remark wouldn't make the evening news. Too cynical even for Miami. Anyway, this wasn't going to be a lead story. Child killing wasn't the grabber it once was, too common, an urban cliché. In the
the Marquez girl would get less than a paragraph. It probably wouldn't even make TV.

Hannah Keller glanced at her watch, straightened her papers on the podium. She was tall and wide-shouldered, blond, green-eyed, with strong cheekbones. She was under no illusions about why the brass had offered her a two-step pay increase to leave homicide and stand before the cameras every day. They wanted an appealing face to divert the TV viewing public from the latest criminal outrage. Though she'd loved homicide, the raise was too large to ignore. So
late last year, the bright boys upstairs got their prominent cheekbones, and Hannah started taking home five hundred more a month.

Tom Berry, the
guy, had his hand up again. Hannah scanned the group of reporters, pretended she didn't see him.

“So if there's nothing else,” she said.

Berry stood up. He raked his hand through his shaggy hair.

“Got anything new on J. J. Fielding?”

Hannah closed her eyes, summoning her patience.

“Okay, okay,” Berry said. “So you're pissed off at me. Hey, I'm sorry, Hannah, I was just doing my job.”

Hannah looked out toward the video cameras at the rear of the room. She never knew which snippet they were going to use. This sentence, that one. Whatever suited their purpose. She had to assume that anything she said might wind up on the evening news, the official word of the Miami Police Department. Holding her tongue had become her major professional skill.

“Mr. Fielding is now a fugitive from justice. As you know, last Friday U.S. federal marshals attempted to serve Fielding with an indictment on fourteen counts of money laundering, but because someone in the U.S. Attorney's office chose to leak the news to our friend here, Mr. Berry, and Mr. Berry and his editors decided to run the story without consulting the U.S. Attorney's office, Mr. J. J. Fielding managed to drop out of sight before the marshals could serve their warrants.”

“And that's all?” Berry was still on his feet. “Nothing new?”

“Well, there is one thing,” Hannah said.

Some of the reporters were flipping their notebooks closed, checking their beepers.

“Before Mr. Fielding disappeared, he managed to divert a sizable sum from a couple of accounts of Nation's Trust.”

“How sizable?” Berry said.

The TV guys were shutting down their cameras, a couple
of on-screen reporters were on their cell phones already, checking their next assignment. Nobody cared about money laundering, some banker who'd been playing footsie with the cocaine cartel. A decade or two earlier it was hot stuff, but it wasn't fashionable anymore, didn't have the lapel-grabbing power these guys needed.

Hannah shuffled her papers.

“How sizable, Hannah?”

She kept her voice deadpan, a little understatement for this heard-it-all group.

“I believe the amount is somewhere in the neighborhood of four hundred and sixty-three million dollars, which would make J. J. Fielding's embezzlement the largest in U.S. history.”

Berry stared up at her, his mouth sagging.

Hannah said, “As a result of their investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office has frozen several accounts that Fielding was managing, small offshore companies apparently fronts for the drug cartel.”

“Frozen for how long?” a TV woman asked from the rear of the room. Everyone perked up now.

“Indefinitely,” Hannah said.

“Neat trick,” said Berry. “Your dad seizes their assets, so now the only way the cartel can get their money back is to go after Fielding. Track him down, do the government's job for them.”

Hannah looked at him for a long moment. Then lifted her eyes and gazed out at the others.

“So, if there's nothing else,” she said, “I'll see you all again tomorrow.”

Hannah was walking back to her office when Tom Berry trotted up beside her.

“Hey, that was cute, Hannah. Like an afterthought, dropping that bombshell.”

“Glad you liked it.”

Tom was shorter than Hannah by almost half a foot and had to trot to stay up with her stride.

“So, I was wondering, Hannah, maybe you'd be willing to put a word in for me, help me get a chance to speak to your father?”

She halted abruptly and swung around.

“Jesus, I don't believe you. You actually think I'm going to arrange an interview with my dad? Man, you don't get it, do you?”

“I know, I know. You're pissed off at me, your dad is pissed off. Hey, everybody I know is pissed off at me. I'm used to it. All I want to do is ask Assistant U.S. Attorney Keller a few questions, try to get the complete story on this. It's going to be national now, Hannah. The largest embezzlement in U.S. history. Man, we're talking major news event here.”

Other books

Inferno by Niven, Larry, Pournelle, Jerry
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
The Empty Ones by Robert Brockway
Eve Vaughn by The Zoo
A Death Displaced by Andrew Butcher
13 by Jason Robert Brown
Slimer by Harry Adam Knight