SYNOPSIS: Jason Franco is an aspiring novelist stuck in a dead-end job working for a newspaper in a small town where nothing exciting happens until someone rapes and murders a young woman only eighteen years old. All evidence points to the woman's boyfriend who confesses to the crime. Jason is assigned to write a follow-up story for the paper and soon suspects that the local police are covering up for one of their own. Jason enlists the help from a high school classmate who works at the state crime and the two soon fall in love. Jason and his girlfriend, Tina, follow the leads, and Jason finds himself a target for the rapist turned murderer. An attempt on Jason's life puts him in the hospital as the alleged rapist commits suicide. An unexpected turn of events put Jason back in the cross hairs of a different killer.
Torrington Police Department Press Release
A few hours later, the TPD sent an e-mail to the Star with a press release on the accident. Zac printed the e-mail and handed it to Jason. Jason read the press release aloud for everyone to hear.
Title: A single car accident kills local resident
Author: Torrington Police Department
Contact: Chief Cruse
Single Car Accident Kills Paulo McAdams
This morning the Torrington Police Department responded to a report of an automobile fire on US Highway 85 between Lingle and Torrington. When responders and fire truck arrived, they found a single automobile off the road and on fire. After the fire was extinguished, the police found the body of Mr. Paulo McAdams inside the car. The Medical Examiner determined he died of injuries received in the accident and from flame inhalation. Police determined that he drove off the road and down the embankment at high speed. The car caught fire, and he was unable to exit the automobile due to his injuries.
After Jason read the press release, he immediately protested to Sean. Sean called Mary and Zac into his office and closed the door. “Okay, whatever is said stays in this office. Understood? Okay, Jason. Tell us what you’re thinking.”
“All right. You all heard the press release from the police about Paulo’s accident. This is total bull shit. Sorry, Mary, but it’s true. It’s a cover up by the police. I saw the car. It wasn't going at high speed. It wasn't going fast enough to cause any injury to the driver and certainly not fast enough to catch fire. The air bag didn't activate.”
“It doesn’t take much for a car to catch fire,” said Zac.
Sean held up a hand. “Shut up and listen for a change, Zac. Go ahead, Jason”
“This can’t be coincidence. This is murder, pure and simple. This press release is just part of the cover up. We can’t publish this. It’s a pack of lies.”
The room was silent for a minute. Sean spoke first, “So far all you have is a theory. We need facts; proof. You don't see the big picture here.”
“Enlighten me,” said Jason, somewhat frustrated.
“Whoever killed Littlefield has most likely killed Paulo. Paulo’s death may have been an act of revenge. We can’t trust anyone outside of this office: not the sheriff’s office, not the police and not the highway patrol. Not yet, at least. We need more information.”
Jason protested, “But what?”
“We can start with Paulo’s accident,” said Sean “Prove that it was no accident.”
“Sylvester’s a classmate of mine who works at the garage that towed the car. He’s the one who tipped me off. I can interview him and maybe take pictures.”
“That’s a start. Here’s my point. Whoever killed Littlefield and Paulo must know that you are after them. They have attacked you once. They could try and kill you next.”
Sean’s remark struck Jason like a thunderbolt. It never occurred to him that he might be a target.
“Holy crap! What’ll I do?”
Sean glanced at Mary who sat with her arms folded. “Jason, it’s up to you. Just say the word and we’ll drop this investigation. We won’t run the story.”
Jason liked the sound of the word we. “No. we can’t stop now.”
“I was hoping you’d say that, but our first priority has to be your safety and the safety of everyone in this room. Mary, you and Zac take a vacation until this is resolved.”
“No way! I’m in. I can help,” said Zac,
Sean shook his head and looked at Zac. “And pray tell how can you help?”
“I can set up security systems around the building. It’ll tell us if anyone tries to blow us up or burn down the building. I can also wire up Jason so if anyone talks to him, we’ll have a copy.”
“Good. Good. But do it for all of us. We could all be in danger.” Sean looked at Mary. “What about you?”
“Me too,” protested Mary. “Who’s going to look after you three idiots? Without me, this whole paper would fold. You need me here. I can watch the security cameras that Zac sets up.”
“Good. Okay. We’re in this together. No one goes anywhere without telling someone. Don’t talk to anyone about this. We’ll be okay. Jason, keep investigating and gather evidence. Tell Zac what help you need. Zac, you do your thing. Don’t worry about the cost. Charge it to the paper.”
“What about this press release?” ask Jason.
“We’ll run it as is; word for word. Don’t change a word.”
Jason started to protest. “But none of it’s true. That’s not how it happened.”
“I know that. We’ll run a retraction later, but for now run it as is. If you print the truth, you’re a dead man.”
The room was silent. Jason broke the silence. “Okay. We’ll do as you say. We’ll run it as is.”
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