The Runaway Reporter (A Police Procedural Mystery Series of Crime and Suspense, Hyder Ali #3)

BOOK: The Runaway Reporter (A Police Procedural Mystery Series of Crime and Suspense, Hyder Ali #3)
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THE RUNAWAY REPORTER

 

BY

 

THOMAS FINCHAM

 

 

THE RUNAWAY REPORTER © Thomas Fincham 2014

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

Visit the author’s website:

www.finchambooks.com

 

Contact:

[email protected]

 

OTHER WORKS

 

The Blue Hornet

The October Five

The Paperboys Club

Killing Them Gently

The Silent Reporter (Hyder Ali #1)

The Rogue Reporter (Hyder Ali #2)

The Runaway Reporter (Hyder Ali #3)

 

ONE

 

Her heart pounded. Her breath came out in gasps. Her palms sweated as she tightly gripped the steering wheel.

She pressed harder on the accelerator and the Acura roared well over the speed limit. She wasn’t concerned about getting pulled over.  Her only concern was getting to her destination as fast she could.

She tried to replay the call in her mind.  At first, she couldn’t believe what she had heard. But she could tell something was wrong.

The evening had started like any other.  She had returned from work and was looking forward to a long bath and then some time in front of the television.  It was supposed to be quiet and peaceful.

Then the telephone had rung, and when she answered it, seven words shattered her peace of mind.


I need your help… I’ve been shot ...

The words had shaken her to her very core.  Now she struggled to control herself as she neared her destination.  She was a professional who had been trained to deal with difficult situations.  She had to think straight, to focus on the task at hand.

Right now, she was forgetting everything she had learned, because someone she had come to care about was fighting for his life.

Initially, the emotional part of her mind told her it was a joke—a cruel one at that, but the rational part quickly told her it was not. There was nothing funny about the call that she had received. But why did he say “
Come alone
”? And why did he call her first when she was at the other end of the city?  Calling 9-1-1 should have been his first response.

Maybe he wasn’t thinking straight.  Maybe he was under too much duress.  She wanted to make the call and have an ambulance get there before her, but he had said, “
Don’t tell anyone.
” 
Why? What is going on?
She thought.

The only way to find out was to get there and see for herself.

She made her Acura roar down the highway, only slowed down slightly once her exit loomed, and blew through stop signs as she navigated residential streets until she reached her destination.  A small house with a Dodge Charger parked out front.

She parked behind the Charger, leaped out of her car, and ran up the front steps.

The door was slightly ajar, but first she took a deep breath to compose herself. Whatever waited inside for her, she wanted to be prepared for it.

She entered slowly.  The hallway was dark, but the light in the living room was on.  She peeked in and found the interior in disarray.  Things were not in their original location.  The coffee table had been moved, and the magazines on it were scattered everywhere.  The side table lamp was on the floor, but it was still lit.              

This isn’t right
, she thought, her heart leaping into her throat.

She moved further in and gasped.

Behind the sofa was a thick puddle of crimson blood.  She quickly noticed it streaked into the next room.

She tried to say something, but her voice was stuck in her throat.  She wanted to yell.  She wanted to scream.

“Tom!” She finally cried out.

“I’m… over… here,” a weak voice replied.

She rushed into the next room.

Slumped on the ground, next to the sink cabinet, was Tom Nolan.

He had what looked like a dishcloth over his stomach.  The cloth was bright red, as was his hands.

Marina Lopez rushed to him.

“What… what happened?” she asked.

Nolan was pale and breathing heavily.  Sweat covered his face and brow. His eyes were distant and glazed, and it took him a second to recognize her.

He gave her a weak but quick grin. “Thanks for coming.”

“Tom, who did this?” she asked.

He looked away and tried to close his eyes.

“Who did this to you, Tom?” she asked again, this time more forcefully.

“Don’t… tell anyone,” he said, struggling with his words.  “But… you have to… find him.”

“Find who, Tom?”

“You… have to… help him,” he said. She saw that he was drifting away.  Tears rolled down her cheeks.  “Help who, Tom? Please talk to me,” she said, hoping to keep him conscious.

“Find him, Marina… and help him.”


Who shot you, Tom?!
” she finally yelled.

He looked her in the eyes. He swallowed.

“It was… it was… Hyder.”

 

TWO

 

(
Two weeks before
)

 

It was a warm summer day and the house brimmed with people. The house was located in a neighborhood that consisted mostly of low income housing. This meant it was common to see black, white, Hispanic, Middle Eastern—people from all backgrounds—coming together in one place.

Hyder Ali wiped the sweat off the bridge of his nose and adjusted his browline glasses.  He had bought the pair in honor of his hero, Malcolm X, who wore similar glasses.  When Hyder was young, he had seen a movie about Malcolm X, which had an impact on him.  He subsequently devoured books by Malcolm X as well as other books about him.  While Hyder never cared for Malcolm X’s initial stance on using force to achieve his goals, he admired him for who he later became, a man who wanted a better life for his people and a man who had come to know the true meaning of his faith.

Hyder was still learning about his faith, but the more he explored it, the more he came to appreciate it.

Hyder was in his mid-twenties, with a brown complexion, and he stood almost five feet ten inches.

There was a table filled with all sorts of delectable goodies.  Hyder couldn’t help but stare at them.  He spotted pastries, cookies, apple pies, banana breads, sandwiches (veggie and non-veggie), cream tarts, and other delectable dishes.  His mouth watered at the sight and smell of the treats.  But what caught his attention the most was a jug of ice cold lemonade.

He moved his hand through his shaggy hair.  It was wet and sticky.

The heat and humidity inside the house made him feel dehydrated.  The lonely air conditioner sticking out from the window was running full blast, but with all the bodies in the house, it was barely making a difference.  Nevertheless, Hyder could not resist moving over to it and planting himself in front of the cold breeze it made.  It felt good and refreshing.

The month of Ramadan had begun, and this time it was right in the middle of a blistering hot summer.

Hyder had started fasting ever since he was a teenager, so it wasn’t something he was not prepared for. In fact, he looked forward to the Holy month.

Ramadan came on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which meant each year it came ten days earlier than the year before. Growing up, Hyder had fasted during the winter months, where the days were shorter, so the fasts were shorter, too.  But in the summer, the sun was up longer, which resulted in the fast lasting almost sixteen hours on some days.

Fasting for every adult Muslim was obligatory, unless someone was unable to do so for health reasons.  The fast started at dawn and closed at sunset, and during this period, Muslims avoided eating foods, liquids, smoking, and even participating in sexual activities.

The purpose of the fast was not to starve oneself but become a better person via devotion to the worship of God.  During the Holy month, followers were reminded to perform their
Salat
(prayers
) regularly and to read the Holy Quran regularly as well.  The month taught the followers to become self-disciplined, gain self-control, and learn to sacrifice.  By not being able to eat or drink, they were able to feel more empathy for those who were not as fortunate as them. This in turn helped them to encourage generosity and charity.

With all the benefits of Ramadan, Hyder still could not avoid the pangs of hunger or the dryness in his throat.  The feast he stood near did not help his peace of mind, either.

A middle-aged couple approached him. “Are you Hyder Ali?” The husband asked.

“Yes,” Hyder replied, grateful for the distraction.

The man smiled, held out a copy of the latest edition of the
Daily Times
.  “Can I have your autograph?” He asked.  He had folded the paper so Hyder’s latest column was visible.

Hyder complied while the man’s wife gushed over how they always read his column
.
Hyder smiled and thanked them as he signed his name below his byline.  Hyder was a reluctant celebrity and tried hard to always stay humble.
A stroke to my ego once in a whole isn’t a bad thing
, he thought as the couple rejoined the party. 
It is good for self-esteem
.

A woman came over, wheeling a younger girl in front of her who had tubes going into her nostrils which were connected to an oxygen tank.

Hyder smiled.  “How are you feeling?” he asked.

“I’m doing well,” Jazmin Price replied, smiling brightly.

Jazmin had passed her sixteenth birthday, but she looked much younger than her age.

Jazmin had been born with weak lungs.  As she grew older, her condition became worse.  Over the last couple of years she could barely get out of bed.  It was so bad that the doctors had given her less than six months to live.

Jazmin’s father had left her mother right after Jazmin was born.  He couldn’t be bothered with raising a child that needed extra care.  It was left to Jazmin’s mother to raise her and her older brother, DeShawn.  With her mother juggling several jobs to raise them, DeShawn fell into the wrong crowd. He was currently doing three years in the state penitentiary for breaking and entering.

Jazmin’s mother didn’t have a steady job, and the jobs that she did have didn’t provide insurance to cover medical expenses.

When Hyder heard of her story, he made it his mission to help her.  He wrote about her situation in the
Daily Times
, under his column,
The Hyder Reports,
which generated a massive response from his readers. He was not only able to raise funds; he was also able to find donors and even a hospital willing to perform the surgery at substantially lower costs.

The doctors now believed Jazmin would live a long and healthy life.

“This morning I was able to walk a whole block without the oxygen tank,” Jazmin told him.

“Wow that’s awesome,” Hyder said, feeling happy for her.  “Before you know it, you’ll be running down that block.”’

The smile on Jazmin’s face became even wider than before.

Suddenly, her eyes became moist. She raised her arms and Hyder bent down and hugged her.

“Thank you so much,” she said, crying.  “You saved my life.”

Hyder was too choked up to say anything.  He cleared his throat.  “I didn’t do anything; you’re the one who did everything.”

Jazmin wiped her eyes.  Her mother smiled and whispered “Thank you.”

Hyder nodded in reply.

Another woman came over and said, “We’re going to cut the cake.  Let’s go.”

The party was for Jazmin’s return from the hospital. Hyder wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but he couldn’t see himself spending another minute in the hot and stuffy house.  The dehydration was starting to give him a headache.  On top of that, the cake would set his taste buds on overdrive.

“I have to go,” he said politely.  “I’ve got a lot of stuff to catch up on.”

“Thank you for coming,” Jazmin’s mother said.

He gave Jazmin another hug and left the house.

Outside, even with the sun beating down hard, the air was much cooler.  He paused when he spotted a white SUV across from the house.  Some men were inside the vehicle and they were staring directly at him.

BOOK: The Runaway Reporter (A Police Procedural Mystery Series of Crime and Suspense, Hyder Ali #3)
9.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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