DEAD WRONG sneak peek!

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Dead Wrong Jack Patterson

*** Here's a sneak peek of the latest installment in the Cal Murphy Thriller series, "DEAD WRONG", slated to be released on May 19th. You can pre-order from Amazon or Apple by clicking on the links ... or at the end.

Enjoy!

~ Jack ***

DEAD WRONG: CHAPTER 1

KELVIN JAMESON WONDERED if a jury of his peers would convict him if he murdered Hank Bingham. The city would probably throw me a parade. Jameson smiled at the idea before letting his mind drift away for a moment about how to plan the perfect murder. Then Bingham’s voice snapped him back to reality.

“If I had a nickel for every time Jameson passed up a shot, I wouldn’t have a nickel,” Bingham said. Hutch White, the former Washington Redskins star tight end, roared with laughter.

Easily the Beltway’s biggest on-air radio personality, Bingham espoused his opinions about athletes as if they were trees or concrete or any other inanimate object. As Bingham’s voice droned through the speakers in his Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG, Jameson imagined the moment when the verdict was read.

“If I were Nikolay Gavin, I would release Jameson now,” Bingham continued. “Who cares about the salary cap hit? Get this relic out of D.C. We don’t need Albatross any longer.”

Albatross? What a couple of losers.

Jameson wanted to slam his fist on the steering wheel and curse the two men who’d made it their life mission to destroy him. But he stopped short of hitting or saying anything when he heard a soft voice from the backseat.

“Dad, are you gonna win tonight?” asked Jameson’s son, Kelvin Jameson Jr.

Jameson adjusted his mirror and smiled as he looked at the eight-year-old. KJ—the name Jameson’s wife bestowed upon him since she refused to call him Junior—looked up at his father through a pair of doe eyes. It was apparent he wanted an answer, one that was sincere.

“Why, of course, son,” Jameson said. “I never expect to lose.”

KJ didn’t wait to respond. “You say that every time, Dad. And sometimes you lose.”

“But not tonight.”

“And why are you so convinced tonight that you’re going to win? You know we’re playing the Spurs.”

Jameson flashed his winning smile as he glanced at KJ in the rearview mirror and chuckled at his son’s tenacious line of questioning. “I don’t know how to explain it, son, but it’s just a feeling.”

“You said the same thing last week when we played Celtics. And I don’t think I need to tell you that the Spurs are a lot better than the Celtics.”

“No, I’m well aware of how much better the Spurs are. But it’s just something I know. We’re going to win.”

“And what if you don’t?”

“I’ll buy you ice cream after the game.”

“But, Dad—you always buy me ice cream after the game.”

“Well, then I guess I’ll make it a double for you if we lose. Sound like a deal?”

KJ nodded. “Deal.”

Jameson rolled into the underground parking garage beneath the Wizards’ arena and whipped the car into an open space. He cut off the engine and turned around to help KJ out of his seat. But his son was gone.

He bent down and looked under the seat, even though he knew his son couldn’t fit there. He leaned into the front and looked at the foot of the passenger’s seat.

“KJ! Where are you?”

Jameson stood up and scanned the garage area. He started to hyperventilate.

“KJ!”

Then his son tapped him on the back.

Jameson spun around to see KJ standing there. He stared mouth agape for a few moments, trying to figure out how his son escaped the car so stealthily.

“Don’t ever do that to me again, son. You scared me half to death.”

KJ laughed. “Aww, come on, Dad. I was just messin’ with you.”

Jameson held out as long as he could with the evil eye for KJ before caving. He smiled and tousled his hair. “Just don’t do it again,” he warned.

The buzz of his cell phone cut Jameson’s evil eye short. He glanced at the screen. It was his agent, Scott Perry.

Jameson rolled his eyes and sent the call to voice mail. He wasn’t in the mood to talk.

***

TWENTY MINUTES BEFORE TIP OFF, Jameson gathered with the rest of the Wizards’ players in the locker room for one final diatribe from head coach Walt Ryman. At age 68, Ryman was on his way out of coaching. Jameson knew the old man still possessed the coaching acumen to succeed at the sport’s highest level—he just wasn’t sure how committed Ryman was. If he wasn’t griping about NBA officials calling every hand-checking foul, Ryman was warning players about how too much social media would ruin them both personally and financially. But tonight something was different.

Ryman rubbed his forehead and then slid his hand down the right side of his face. He sighed and grunted while staring at the floor. After a few moments of awkward silence, he looked up and scanned the players.

“Let’s just win tonight, okay?” he said. “Do it because it’ll make an old man happy.” He paused. “It might make some young ones happy too.”

The team exited the room in near silence. Jameson couldn’t remember a time in his 16-year career when he’d been in such a quiet locker room before a game. He’d been in plenty of locker rooms with disappointed players following a loss. But never like this, beforehand. It was eerie and unusual.

As Jameson crossed the threshold into the walkway leading to the arena floor, he felt a tug on his shirt. He stopped and looked back to see Ryman yanking on him with one hand and motioning him to come back with the other. Jameson didn’t hesitate to comply. He slipped through the onslaught of players exiting the room and in a matter of seconds was left standing alone in front of his coach.

“Did you want to see me?” Jameson asked.

Ryman nodded but said nothing.

“What’s all this about?” Jameson asked again.

Ryman drew a deep breath and eyed Jameson cautiously. “We need you tonight in the worst way.”

“You know I do my best every night,” Jameson shot back.

“I need you to do better than your recent best.”

Jameson cocked his head and furrowed his brow. “What exactly do you mean?”

“I mean, I need you to play like the Kelvin Jameson we all fell in love with the first few years you were in the league—you know, the one who won the Rookie of the Year Award. I don’t need washed-up Kelvin Jameson bleeding this club out for a ton of money. I want you to find yourself again on the floor in this game—and prove to us all that we weren’t crazy to believe in you.”

Jameson nodded. “I get it. We’re both two aging dinosaurs in a young man’s game—and you hope that if I can rekindle that old magic that maybe we have a shot in the playoffs.”

“I’m tired of finishing second to somebody—everybody, every year—I want to win one more title before I retire.”

Jameson bobbed his head up and down. His eyebrows shot upward. “I’m with you, Coach. I think it’s high time we go out and show the fans what we’re really made of.”

Jameson turned to go before he felt another tug on his jersey. He stopped and looked back at Ryman holding a fistful of his shirt.

“This is it for me. One way or another at the end of this season, I’m gone. I know that. But I put my neck on the line for you when we signed you. I said you’d bring us a championship. Don’t make a liar out of me.”

“I’m gonna make you a prophet—don’t you worry.”

****

WITH TWO MINUTES REMAINING in the game, the Wizards watched their 20-point lead vanish and soon found themselves trailing by two points. On the next several possessions, each team struggled to score. Jameson could feel the anxiety heighten to an almost palpable level. The fans, the coaches, the players—he sensed everyone was wondering if another Wizards meltdown was about to happen. It had been the story of the last six weeks for a team with more than just playoff aspirations. Many pundits picked the Wizards to advance to the NBA Finals in November. But as the season neared the middle of February, Jameson hoped they could still qualify for a playoff spot. The odds seemed to dim with each gut-wrenching loss.

With forty seconds left in the game, Jameson took the ball on the right wing, made a nice move to the basket to slip the defender and tied the game with a dunk. The crowd roared with delight as the decibel level in the arena soared.

Jameson looked over at his son seated four rows behind the Wizards’ bench with his mom. KJ was cheering and waving a white towel. Jameson pointed at him and smiled as he backpedaled down the court.

On the other end, the Wizards’ point guard Eric Ford stripped the ball from one of the Spurs players to set up a final shot to win the game.

Ryman called time out and diagramed a play.

“I want the ball in Jameson’s hands. If they double-team you and you can’t get a shot off, Ford’s going to be open right here,” Ryman said as he sketched. “Either way, somebody is gonna get a good look at the basket and hopefully one of you can knock it down.”

The Wizards returned to the court and inbounded the ball. The seconds ticked off the clock:

12, 11, 10, 9, 8…

Ford finally put the play in action and delivered a bullet pass to Jameson. However, the Spurs converged on him, leaving Jameson with very few options. Yet with three seconds remaining, one of the Spurs’ players slipped and created a window for Jameson to pass the ball back to a wide-open Ford. Instead, Jameson saw the reduction from a triple team to a double team as his opportunity to fire up a shot.

3, 2, 1. Buzzzzzz.

Jameson launched the ball a fraction of a second before the buzzer signaled the end of the game. The crowd fell silent as everyone awaited the final destination of the shot—made or missed. He shared their anticipation but he knew the moment he shot it where it was going.

Clank.

The ball bounded off the front of the rim and fell onto the court.

Overtime.

In the huddle, Ford glared at Jameson. “What was that?” he asked.

“What was what?”

“That shot? I was wide open.”

Jameson waved him off. “You didn’t have a chance, man. I saw how far you were from the basket.”

“I was wide open.”

“I got a good look.”

Ford shook his head. “For a blind man.”

Ryman ignored the banter and drew up a few more plays. “We can’t worry about what just happened. We have to focus on what we have to do right now to win this one. We need it bad, so let’s go get it.”

The players returned to the court for an extra five minutes—or more if the teams couldn’t break the deadlock in the first overtime.

Jameson wiped away the sweat beading up on his forehead. He tried to ignore all the insults hurled at him by angry Wizards fans. He thought it was strange how they all sounded like Hank Bingham to him. Instead of dwelling on all the negative energy directed at him, Jameson went on a mental retreat as he zeroed in on KJ

His son’s face appeared forlorn. With arms crossed and a protruding bottom lip, KJ stared at the ground. When he looked up, Jameson caught his eyes. He mouthed, “I love you, son,” and smiled. The corners of KJ’s mouth curled upward; a twinkle returned to his eyes. Then another message. “We’re going to win.”

KJ flashed a thumbs-up sign to his dad and returned to screaming for the Wizards.

Overtime followed the same script as the waning minutes of the game—minus a few made shots. Neither team seemed poised to snatch the victory. But when the Wizards fell behind by two points with fifteen seconds left to play, defeat grew more imminent with each tick of the clock.

Without any timeouts remaining, the Wizards inbounded the ball and charged down the court to set up a last gasp play. Ryman encouraged Ford to drive the lane and go for the tie. It was an idea that collapsed as quickly as the Spurs’ defenders filled the lane and forced Ford back outside.

Five seconds remaining.

Three defenders surrounded him, but somehow Ford squeezed the ball through them with a quick pass to Jameson. He scooped up the loose ball.

3, 2, 1, buzzzzzzzz.

Jameson had enough time to square up and hoist a high-arcing, three-point shot toward the basket before the game ended—and this time with different results.

The ball tickled the net as it went through the hoop, setting off a chaotic celebration in the stands and on the floor.

Jameson reveled being swarmed upon by his younger teammates. It reminded him of what it was like when he was a young rising star in the league. All the adrenaline. All the passion. All the dreams of a championship. As he looked up at the arena lights beaming brightly onto the floor, he felt all of those things were still there—and still within his reach. It wouldn’t be easy, but hope dangled in front of him and served as a reminder that he was still very much alive—and that he belonged in the league no matter what Hank Bingham said.

After Jameson escaped the mob and conducted several interviews with local radio and TV outlets, he returned to a locker room full of high spirits.

Except for one.

Eric Ford sat slumped in his locker, towel draped over his head. Several teammates approached him and he stuck out his knuckles for a half-hearted fist bump.

Jameson wasn’t going to let Ford’s self-imposed alienation create a situation in the locker room. The Wizards’ championship aspirations were on life-support at the moment, but they were still alive. One hot streak and the team might find itself with a three or four seed in the talent-dilapidated Eastern Conference. Either way, once the Wizards got into the playoffs, who knew what could happen. At least, that was Jameson’s take on the situation. And he wasn’t about to let one player’s ego create a toxic environment for everyone.

“Get up,” Jameson said as he yanked on Ford’s arm.

Ford withdrew forcefully, ripping his own arm away from Jameson’s grasp before folding his arms and tucking his feet up near his chest.

“I ain’t playin’ with you,” Jameson said again as he reached for Ford’s arm. “Get up.”

“Leave me alone, Albatross.”

Jameson’s eyes narrowed. “What did you call me?”

Ford stood up. “You heard me,” he said as he poked Jameson’s chest with his index finger. “Al-ba-tross,” he said, reinforcing every syllable with a poke.

“Don’t ever do that again, fool,” Jameson said.

A sly grin spread across Ford’s face. “Do what? This?” he said as he jammed his finger into Jameson’s chest again.

Jameson didn’t hesitate to act. He grabbed Ford’s fingers and then his hand and spun him around. Ford let out a yelp in pain and grimaced as Jameson gained a positional advantage. Ford had no leverage and no way to escape Jameson’s grip.

“Any of this,” Jameson answered. “No sulking, no poking, no accusing, no isolation. And never call me an Albatross.” He crept closer to Ford’s ear and whispered. “Remember that we’re a team. You got that?”

Ford withdrew and turned around to face Jameson. “Is that what you call this? It’s more like Jameson and his cast of supporting actors—many of whom deserve a lead role far more than the man who gets top billing. You may have hit the game-winning shot tonight, but anybody with a basketball IQ of four would know that you nearly cost us the game in regulation and got lucky in overtime. I’m happy we won, but sad that it masks just how much of a detriment you really are to this team.”

Ford pushed his way past Jameson and headed for the showers.

Jameson spun around to see the entire team staring at him. It was yet another moment when Ford undermined his leadership on the team. Jameson felt the blood racing to his face. He needed to get out of there to cool down before he did something he regretted.

***

AN HOUR LATER, Jameson sat across from KJ, who managed to wrangle two extra scoops out of his dad for a triple-decker ice cream treat.

“That was just amazing, Dad,” KJ said. He paused only to lick around the edges of the cone or take another bite. “You’re going to make ESPN’s top ten plays tonight—I just know it.”

Jameson forced a smile as his altercation with Ford still weighed heavily on him. “You never know.”

“I know for sure,” KJ said. “Just like you knew you were going to win tonight.”

“Nothing’s certain in life, son, but we can’t do anything but put ourselves in the best position to succeed.”

“You’re too humble, Dad,” KJ said as he waved off his father. “You knew you were going to win the whole time, didn’t you?”

Nodding, Jameson stared at his son. KJ delved into what his next day at school would entail with all the guys talking about his dad’s awesome shot, but Jameson drifted off. He gave occasional cues to his son that he was listening, but he was thinking about how much he loved his son—and how he was the only reason he and Tonya were still together. His wife of ten years, Jameson couldn’t believed she’d stuck around that long. But KJ forged a bond that seemed virtually unbreakable, though Jameson knew the moment he walked out the door to be on his own, he’d likely never see Tonya again.

KJ continued to rave about his father’s prowess on the court but Jameson struggled to engage. He looked at a tabloid lying on the table next to them with an article on the front page about Tonya and DJ O.T.U.S., the most successful hip-hop artist to come out of D.C. since DJ Kool. Jameson cringed as he snatched the paper and flipped it over. He didn’t want his son to know that his mother had a reputation for hanging out with other men behind his back. It wasn’t like she cared though. She liked to get her picture in the tabloids, especially with people whose fame wasn’t on the decline.

He knew when he married her that she was a fame hound, trying to score more than fifteen minutes by hitching herself to a superstar athlete. Everyone warned him, but he didn’t listen. And here he was, stuck in a loveless marriage. Stuck only because he held deep convictions about marriage and divorce. He wasn’t about to abandon his morals like many of his peers just because he could get any woman he wanted. Heaven knows plenty of women had thrown themselves at him, though he held fast to his principles. He wasn’t interested in taking the easy way out with divorce, even though not a soul would’ve blamed since he was married to a woman like Tonya. But he was stuck for another reason—KJ He’d watched firsthand what so many of his friends experienced when they went through divorce. And he wasn’t about to relegate the most formative years of his son’s life to weekend visits during the offseason.

KJ crunched on the last piece of the waffle cone and grinned as chocolate ice cream leaked from both corners of his mouth.

Jameson stood up. “We better get going before your Mom gives me an earful about keeping you out so late and feeding you ice cream before bedtime.”

KJ laughed and then hugged him. “Thanks. You’re the best dad ever.”

****

JAMESON KNEW HIS WIFE all too well. The moment KJ slipped into his room to get ready for bed, Tonya became unhinged toward her husband. With arms flailing and fingers wagging, she explained to him what a delinquent father he was for staying out so late with KJ

“He’s got school tomorrow,” she said. “Couldn’t you have waited another day to celebrate over ice cream? He’s got a big test tomorrow and I doubt he’s going to do all that well on it now. He’ll be tired and cranky. And you don’t have to deal with him in the morning like I do.” She sighed and put her hands on her hips. “I just can’t believe how incredibly selfish you are sometimes.”

She followed it up with a string of expletives. Then she turned and disappeared down the hall.

He couldn’t believe what a hypocrite she was. He glanced toward the corner of the room where their regular babysitter sat. She gave him a half-hearted wave. Jameson knew the reason she was there: Tonya was going out tonight, too—again. She could’ve put him in bed herself or taken him home early, but she was out partying with her friends. And she wasn’t done for the night apparently.

Jameson meandered back to KJ’s room and found him climbing into bed. He knelt down beside the bed and joined him for good-night prayers. Then Jameson kissed him and tucked him in before heading for the door.

“Dad?”

“Yes, Son.”

“Are the Wizards gonna win a championship this year?”

“Now, that’s a question I can’t answer.”

“Why not? You were right about tonight.”

“Who knows what can happen between now and then, Son. If we do our best, who knows. Maybe we just might do it.”

“I hope so. You’re the best. You deserve to win one.”

Jameson smiled again. “Thanks, Son. Sweet dreams.” He flipped off the light switch and left the room.

***

LESS THAN AN HOUR LATER, Jameson handed over his keys to a valet in the parking lot of Torque, the most popular—and elite—nightclub in the nation’s capital. His phone buzzed and he glanced down at the screen. It was Tonya with a text message wanting to know where he was.

Anywhere you aren’t.

He ignored the message and slid his phone back into his pocket.

He didn’t go out often after games, but hitting the game-winning shot motivated him to get dressed to the nines and soak in some adulation from the forgiving public. He won over the fans’ hearts three years ago when he made a shot over the Celtic’s Kevin Garnett in the deciding game of a playoff series. But since then? He might as well be the scourge of D.C. And given the fact that the city teemed with politicians and lobbyists, to sink to the dregs meant he had to fail almost daily.

But not tonight. He’d be toasted at the bar, slapped on the back, and fans would reminisce over some of his biggest moments from that night’s game—and his career. And he needed some praise, any praise. He needed to get out and breathe and escape his wretched sham of a marriage, even if it was only for a night.

As predicted, Jameson received a warm welcome by the club’s upscale patrons. In less than an hour, no less than half-a-dozen people had bought him shots. He’d also received two propositions, from a blonde and a brunette. And he signed at least ten napkins and posed for twice as many pictures.

Tired from all the glad-handing, he slid onto a barstool and hunched over as he nursed his latest glass of scotch.

“Rough night?” the man next to him asked.

Jameson looked up at the man and furrowed his brow. Everyone knew who he was. Everyone. But this man was pretending to not know or was a D.C. sports illiterate, an oddity but not completely uncommon. Jameson relished the opportunity to have a normal conversation with someone that didn’t involve discussing all his dirty laundry, which had been aired through the tabloids, or his latest stat line. Just two men talking about life.

Jameson nodded and looked back down at his glass. “Professionally, I had a great night. Personally, it was mixed.”

The man ordered two more drinks and shoved one of them in front of Jameson, despite Jameson’s initial refusal.

“I insist, Mr.—”

“Jameson.”

The man stopped. “Mr. Kelvin Jameson? The basketball player?”

Jameson rubbed his face with his hands. Then he shook his head and forced a smile. “That’s me.”

“My kid’s a big fan of yours,” the man said. “Up until this past summer, he had a poster of you shooting over Kevin Garnett in the playoffs.”

Jameson laughed. “So, what happened to it?”

“He took it down. He’s into soccer now. I can’t even pronounce the name of the guy on the poster tacked to his wall now.”

“Fame is fleeting.” Jameson started to cough and pounded his chest to get down the alcohol.

“Are you okay?” the man asked.

Jameson closed his eyes and glanced around the room, which felt like it was spinning. “I don’t know. I feel weird all of a sudden.”

The man stood up and grabbed Jameson’s arm and put it around him. “Let me help you. I’m a doctor.”

Jameson forced a smile and looked at the man as they shuffled toward the door. “Good thing I met you when I did.”

Despite feeling dizzy and weak, Jameson felt as if he was in control of his mental faculties, a fact he recognized when the man tried to steer him toward a back alley exit. “Why are we going this way?”

With quick glances over his shoulder, the man hobbled fast as he helped Jameson. “You don’t want all your adoring fans to see you this way, do you? You wouldn’t want a video to leak onto social media of Kelvin Jameson, superstar basketball player stumbling drunk out of Torque, now would you?”

Jameson shook his head. The man’s reasoning made sense to him, even if the sudden onset of his condition didn’t. The last thing he wanted was to be perceived as a fool—or a drunk.

The door to the alley swung open and a stark white van was parked outside running. Another man opened the door and helped get Jameson inside.

“Wait? Where are we going?” Jameson asked.

The man slid into the seat next to Jameson and proceeded to pat him on his knee. “We’re going to cure what ails you.”

***

JAMESON SQUINTED AT THE LIGHT flooding his eyes. He glanced around the room, hoping his eyes adjusted quickly. As everything came into focus, the details of the last hour grew blurrier.

Where am I? Who are these girls next to me? What happened?

Then a pause.

Why do I feel like my heart’s about to explode?

It was the last thing Jameson ever thought—or felt.

***

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