Truth Be Told

Paperback Spotlight: Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi RyanOnce a month, we’re spotlighting a Tor book that’s about to become available in paperback. Today, we’re featuring Truth Be Told, by Hank Phillippi Ryan, publishing September 1.

Truth Be Told begins with tragedy: a middle-class family evicted from their suburban home. In digging up the facts on this heartbreaking story-and on other foreclosures- reporter Ryland soon learns the truth behind a big-bucks scheme and the surprising players who will stop at nothing, including murder, to keep their goal a secret. Turns out, there’s more than one way to rob a bank. We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

Chapter 1

“I know it’s legal. But it’s terrible.” Jane Ryland winced as the Sandovals’ wooden bed frame hit the tall grass in the overgrown front yard and shattered into three jagged pieces. “The cops throwing someone’s stuff out the window. Might as well be Dickens, you know? Eviction? There’s got to be a better way.”

Terrible facts. Great pictures. A perfect newspaper story. She turned to TJ. “You getting this?”

TJ didn’t take his eye from the viewfinder. “Rolling and recording,” he said.

A blue-shirted Suffolk County sheriff’s deputy—sleeves rolled up, buzz cut—appeared at the open window, took a swig from a plastic bottle. He shaded his eyes with one hand.

“First floor, all clear,” he called. Two uniforms comparing paperwork on the gravel driveway gave him a thumbs-up. The Boston cops were detailed in, they’d explained to Jane, in case there were protesters. But no pickets or housing activists had appeared. Not even a curious neighbor. The deputy twisted the cap on the bottle, tossed away the empty with a flip of his gloved hand. The clear plastic bounced on top of a brittle hedge, then disappeared into the browning grass.

“Oops,” he said. “I’m headed for the back.”

“That’s harsh,” TJ muttered.

“You got it, though, right?” Jane knew it was a “moment” for her story, revealing the deputy’s cavalier behavior while the Sandovals—she looked around, making sure the family hadn’t shown up—were off searching for a new place to live. The feds kept reporting the housing crisis was over. Tell that to the now-homeless Sandovals, crammed—temporarily, they hoped—into a relative’s spare bedroom. Their modest ranch home in this cookie-cutter neighborhood was now an REO—“real estate owned” by Atlantic & Anchor Bank. The metal sign on the scrabby lawn said FORECLOSED in yellow block letters. Under the provisions of the Massachusetts Housing Court, the deputies were now in charge.

“Hey! Television! You can’t shoot here. It’s private property.”

Jane felt a hand clamp onto her bare arm. She twisted away, annoyed. Of course they could shoot.

“Excuse me?” She eyed the guy’s three-piece pinstripe suit, ridiculous on a day like today. He must be melting. Still, being hot didn’t give him the right to be wrong. “We’re on the public sidewalk. We can shoot whatever we can see and hear.”

Jane stashed her notebook into her tote bag, then held out a hand, conciliatory. Maybe he knew something. “And not television. Newspaper. The new online edition. I’m Jane Ryland, from the Register.

She paused. Lawyer, banker, bean counter, she predicted. For A&A Bank? Or the Sandovals? The Sandovals had already told her, on camera, how Elliot Sandoval had lost his construction job, and they were struggling on pregnant MaryLou’s day care salary. Struggling and failing.

“I don’t care who you are.” The man crossed his arms over his chest, a chunky watch glinting, tortoiseshell sunglasses hiding his expression. “This is none of your business. You don’t tell your friend to shut off that camera, I’m telling the cops to stop you.”

You kidding me? “Feel free, Mr.—?” Jane took her hand away. Felt a trickle of sweat down her back. Boston was baking in the throes of an unexpected May heat wave. Everyone was cranky. It was almost too hot to argue. “You’ll find we’re within our rights.”

The guy pulled out a phone. All she needed. And stupid, because the cops were right there. TJ kept shooting, good for him. Brand new at the Boston Register, videographer TJ Foy was hire number one in the paper’s fledgling online video news department. Jane was the first—and so far, only—reporter assigned.

“It’s a chance to show off your years of TV experience,” the Register’s new city editor had explained. Pretending Jane had a choice. “Make it work.”

Pleasing the new boss was never a bad thing, and truth be told, Jane could use a little employment security. She still suffered pangs from her unfair firing from Channel 11 last year, but at least it didn’t haunt her every day. This was her new normal, especially now that newspapering was more like TV. “Multimedia,” her new editor called it.

“We’re doing a story on the housing crisis.” Jane smiled, trying again. “Remember the teenager who got killed last week on Springvale Street? Emily-Sue Ordway? Fell from a window, trying to get back into her parents’ foreclosed home? We’re trying to show—it’s not about the houses so much as it is the people.”

“‘The people’ should pay their mortgage.” The man pointed to the clapboard two-story with his cell phone. “Then ‘the cops’ wouldn’t have to ‘remove’ their possessions.”

Okay, so not a lawyer for the Sandovals. But at least this jerk wasn’t dialing.

“Are you with A&A? With the bank?” Might as well be direct.

“That’s not any of—”

“Vitucci! Callum!” The deputy appeared in the open front door, one hand on each side of the doorjamb as if to keep himself upright. He held the screen door open with his foot. His smirk had vanished. The two cops on the driveway alerted, inquiring.

“Huh? What’s up?” one asked.

“You getting this?” Jane whispered. She didn’t want to ruin TJ’s audio with her voice, but something was happening. Something the eviction squad hadn’t expected.

“Second floor.” The deputy pulled a radio from his belt pouch. Looked at it. Looked back at the cops. His shoulders sagged. “Better get in here.”

Copyright © 2014 by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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