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Live to Tape

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Series: Ethan Benson Thrillers #2
Published by: Page Publishing, Inc.
Release Date: May 25, 2019
Pages: 434
ISBN13: 978-1635686210

  

Synopsis

Ethan Benson has no idea his life is about to change when he walks through the door of The Weekly Reporter where he's starting a new job as a senior producer, charged with managing the show's mercurial anchorman, Peter Sampson. As he settles in on his first day, he's summoned by the show's executive producer and assigned to a story about a rich and famous heart surgeon, Rufus Wellington, who's confessed to the murder of a young runaway he picked up on the gritty streets of south Boston's notorious combat zone. On the surface, the story appears to be a random sex crime—the case two years old, the investigation long wrapped and mothballed, the killer convicted and locked behind bars, refusing to talk about his victim or the murder. But as Ethan launches his production, exploring the facts and meeting the principal characters, he begins to unravel a sinister conspiracy by the law enforcement officials charged with investigating the crime and a pervasive cover-up by the killer's inner circle that's driven by money, greed, and fear.

With all the classic elements of a good murder mystery, Live to Tape is steeped in the nuances of television production. The story is structured around Ethan's skills as an award-winning producer, unfolding as he builds his team of researchers, associate producers, camera crews, lighting directors, and digital editors, and then taking the reader through the various steps of production as he searches for clues, travels to the murder site, meets with confidential sources, and discovers a host of dangerous villains as he searches for the truth. Running parallel to the crime story is the human story of our hero—the man, the husband, the father—with all his flaws and foibles. Poignant, sensitive, and heartbreaking, Ethan hides his fears and battles his inner demons in a bottle of Scotch.

A murder mystery in the classic sense of the genre, Live to Tape brings the reader into the world of television news with all its infighting and backstabbing, the author using his forty years of experience as a producer and a reporter to create a host of unforgettable characters and a hero who is driven by inner turmoil to unravel the story behind the story.


Praise

"Live to Tape, the next Ethan Benson psychological murder mystery unfolds through the investigative journalism process. Utilizing a crack staff at The Weekly Reporter, Jeff Diamond's character, Ethan Benson, uncovers the diabolical mind of a murderer through the on camera interview. The attention to detail and the crafting of the story kept me in suspense with many revelations along the way. Unanswered questions, conspiracies, lowlife characters, corruption, and payoffs all come together to weave a page turning novel. Highly recommended."
-Michael Pulitzer, Jr., retired Broadcast Executive, Hearst Argyle Television

"Jeff Diamond's Live to Tape details the efforts of a dogged television journalist who investigates a lurid crime, discovers a widespread cover-up, and, in the process, puts his career, marriage, and life at risk. Jeff creates, through his forty year career in network television news, a compelling 'I can't put this down' crime novel. The conclusion will leave you breathless."
-William Lord, former ABC News Executive Producer & Vice President

"The suspense sucks you in on the very first page. Ethan Benson—an award-winning TV news producer and crime-fighting sleuth—is assigned to a frightening but engrossing murder mystery. We hold our breath as we watch him unravel the dark secret of a terrifying killer, all the while fighting his own personal demons. Ethan may be flawed, stubborn, and irascible, but damn he's good. I couldn't put Live to Tape down until that explosive end."
-Bill Ritter, Anchor, Eyewitness News, WABC-TV

"Jeff Diamond has created a character to rival Hannibal Lechter and a book both chilling and touching. He draws on his extraordinary television experience to give real veracity to every scene and character. As one who has traveled in this world, I am in awe of the research, depth, and detail he brings to his work. A riveting fast-paced thriller with an unexpectedly poignant and powerful twist, this is what they mean by thriller."
-Karen Burnes, former Correspondent ABC News, CBS News

"Only those who have met evil up close and in person can understand how seemingly normal, successful people can sink to shocking levels of depravity. Author Jeffrey L. Diamond, in his decades of work as a journalist, has looked into evil's eyes in the real world, listened to calculated words, and used those memories to create one of the most terrifying killers in fiction, Dr. Rufus Wellington. Live to Tape is a rapid-fire thriller with news producer, Ethan Benson, fighting his own personal demons while digging into what on the surface is the murder of a young girl, but which he eventually comes to realize is much more terrifying. This behind-the-scenes look at the world of television news and its outsized egos is coupled with a smart detective story that will keep you up many a night."
-Don Dahler, Novelist and Correspondent CBS This Morning


Excerpt

PROLOGUE

The night was warm and still, a full moon shimmering brightly in the crystal clear waters of the Quabbin Reservoir as the doctor dragged a fraying garbage bag through the dense forest, bumping the contents over jagged rocks and prickly beds of pine needles. Soaked in sweat, his white shirt stuck to his chest, his khaki pants rode uncomfortably up his calves like an extra layer of skin. He was covered in blood, his hands and face smeared with the congealing liquid, his clothes soaked in a sticky brown paste. Out of breath, he hurried down a narrow footpath and entered a small clearing overgrown with ferns and wild flowers.

He stopped and listened. The melancholy calls of tree frogs echoed in the distance. A swarm of mosquitoes buzzed around his head. He turned and looked back down the trail. Nobody could have followed him here.

Wiping his face with the sleeve of his shirt, he slipped off his heavy canvas backpack and pulled out a shovel, a pickaxe, and a selection of tools he thought might be useful, lining them up meticulously, by size, in a neat row. Then he started digging, his mind firing in a kaleidoscope of lustful memories. She was a young girl he'd met trolling a red light district in south Boston. He'd seen her standing there on a sleazy street corner, barely dressed, in her see through blouse, tight short jeans, her thighs showing, her breasts beckoning, and that's when it started—his hunt, his pursuit, his obsession. Stalking her for days, he watched her hook up with one john after another, before finally getting up the nerve and approaching her for a date. Soon he was seeing her every week, then every day, then every night—wining and dining her at all the best restaurants, showering her with fine diamonds and furs, and sweeping her off in his chauffeured limousine for romantic weekends at his country estate. He began to twitch, his eyes fluttering wildly, as he tried to remember just when he'd fallen in love with her—picturing her silky skin, her sweet-smelling hair, and the delicate features of her face.

He'd longed to spend his life with her.

To cherish her.

To possess her.

"Why had she said, no?" The words bounced back and forth in his mind like an exploding cannon ball. "Why didn't she want me? Why wouldn't she marry me? Why did she make me feel so insignificant like a speck of dust floating in the wind? I loved her. Loved her. LOVED HER!" he wailed, crestfallen, tears streaming down his cheeks, soaking his collar. He wiped his forehead and continued digging, remembering how she'd sneered contemptuously, and how she'd laughed at him. All he'd wanted was to crawl under a rock and make the pain go away.

But that's not what happened.

No.

That's not what he did.

He stopped digging and howled in pain, his tongue darting in and out of his mouth moistening his dry lips as he obsessed about everything he'd just done to her—the images vivid in his mind—tracking her around his bedroom, naked and screaming, kicking her with his feet, pummeling her with his fists, blackening her eyes, smashing her nose, ruining her beautiful face. She'd crumpled to the floor—blood gushing from her chin and onto her voluptuous breasts—begging, begging him to stop, begging him to forgive her. But she never admitted, not once, that she desired him as much as he desired her. That she wanted to be with him forever. That she wanted to live as man and wife. "So I couldn't forgive her," he wailed. "Never. Never. NEVER! I had to make her pay for not loving me.”

He stopped digging, trying to calm down, his mind a jumble of discordant thoughts as he pictured her crawling on her hands and knees, trying to get away from him—her face bloody with bruises and abrasions. Then he'd kicked her again and again, in her stomach, in her side, between her legs, watching her head seesaw like a pendulum as her eyes rolled back behind her eyelids and she passed into darkness. God had ordained it. She had to disappear before the pain would go away.

He laughed, in a frenzy, as he always did when he was out of control and remembered what he'd done to her next. He'd yanked her out of his bedroom, across the long twisting hallways, and down the back staircase, her head bumping each step—thump, thump, thump—as he dragged her through the living room, the sitting room, the dining room, the kitchen, and down there to his special place, to his secret place, to the place that made him whole, to the place where he became who he was. That's when she'd awakened for the last time, shrieking, promising not to tell anyone about the horrible things he'd just done to her, pleading for her life.

But he didn't listen.

No. No.

Too late for that.

That's where he'd murdered her.

Alone now in the meadow, clouds floating across the sky, blocking the moonlight and casting ominous shadows over the landscape, he finished digging and climbed out of her grave. "Why did you have to mock me?" he whimpered like a child. "I loved you. Cherished you. Worshipped you with all of my heart. Why did you forsake me?" Then he carefully peeled away the plastic bag and placed her body in a grotesque tableau. Here was that beautiful young woman. Never to smile again. Never to laugh again. Never to bring joy to him or anyone else. His face stiffened into a sneer as he stepped back and admired his handiwork, before quickly filling in the grave, stomping on the loose earth until it was hard, and scattering a layer of leaves and tree branches over it. Satisfied, he collected his tools and started back to his house.

He didn't get far.

At the edge of the clearing, a light beam fell on him—and then another. A half dozen policemen were racing up the narrow footpath toward him—weapons drawn. They stopped abruptly, startled, when they recognized him. "Dr. Wellington," said the sheriff, Eugene McKenzie, a mountain of a man with bulging muscles and a long, thick neck that strained his neatly pressed shirt collar. "We got a 911 call from your neighbor who heard screaming coming from your house. The dispatcher back at the station sent out a code red, but nobody was home when we knocked at the door, so we searched the yard then decided to canvass the rest of your property. Everything okay, Dr. Wellington?" he said suspiciously.

"Everything's just fine, Sheriff," the doctor said truculently.

"What are you doin' all alone out here in the woods in the middle of the night?" the sheriff said, shining his flashlight up and down the doctor's disheveled clothing. "You're covered in mud. You been diggin' somethin'?”

The doctor looked down at his soiled clothes, his body reeking of sweat. "Guess I couldn't sleep. So I went for a long walk in the fresh air and got rid of some garbage from the house," he said. "Now I should ask you the same question, Sheriff. What are you doing trespassing on my property? I suggest you and your men get off my land. Before I call my lawyer.”

"Can't do that, Dr. Wellington," McKenzie said adamantly. "There's blood on your back porch and a trail leading down to the clearing." The sheriff took two steps closer, raising his gun. "Where'd all the blood come from? Did you hurt yourself? Did you hurt somebody else?”

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Dr. Wellington said indignantly. "I live alone, and you and your men all know that. In fact, everybody knows everybody else's business—including mine—here at the Quabbin." His eyes followed the sheriff's deputies fanning out across the meadow, continuing to search, waving their flashlights in small arcs in front of them, inching closer to the makeshift gravesite. "It's time for you to go, Eugene. Get off of my land.”

“Nope. Not yet," the sheriff said, still pointing his gun. "You still got some explaining to do. See, you're covered in blood too. It's all over your hands and face and on your clothes. How'd it get there?”

The doctor reached up and touched his cheek.

A speck of blood caked under his fingernail.

"Over here," one of the deputies shouted from across the clearing. "I think I found something," he said, shining his flashlight over the fresh mound of earth. "It may be a grave. What do you want us to do?”

“Sift through it carefully," McKenzie said dubiously, "and for Christ sake, be careful. Step away and wait for forensics if you find anything." The sheriff glared at the doctor. "Turn around and put your hands behind your back." He snapped on handcuffs. "Now let's go see what's hiding in that hole over there." He grabbed the doctor roughly by his shirt collar and pushed him toward the deputy who was crawling on his hands and knees, gingerly removing loose debris. "What are we gonna find, Dr. Wellington?" he said. "Did you use those tools you're carrying to bury somebody?”

The doctor didn't answer.

"Oh, Lord Jesus, I found something," the deputy said, turning and retching up his dinner.

The sheriff leaned over and stared aghast, then bellowed across the meadow. "Cordon off the entire area and don't touch anything else. Call the coroner and get the crime lab down here. We got ourselves a murder, and we got ourselves a prime suspect." He turned to the doctor. "Now lay down and don't move a muscle, or so help me God, I'll blow your fucking head off.”

The doctor began to cackle, the sound of madness echoing across the meadow as he fell to his knees and collapsed on the ground. After all those years of meticulous execution, he'd finally made a mistake. Now there was no escaping his past. No escaping the truth. A sinister smile broke out on Dr. Rufus Wellington's face as he looked up at the sheriff with hatred in his eyes.

Then his body went limp.

And his mind devolved into a cauldron of chaos.