Fatal Decree A Matt Royal Mystery - By H. Terrell Griffin


Some say that writing is a lonely business. I haven’t found it so. I have too many friends involved in the process of writing and publishing to ever get lonely. I cannot thank them all, but there are a few who were particularly helpful in the project that became this book. To each of you, I send my deep gratitude for your advice, support, and friendship.

Bob and Pat Gussin, publishers who really care about their authors as people, not just profit centers. It is because of your vision and hard work that Oceanview Publishing has become a leader in its field. And to Susan Hayes, my proficient and invaluable editor.

Lieutenant James Forrest of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, a dedicated public servant, outstanding mystery writer, friend, and collaborator. I loved your jail.

Peggy Kendall and David Beals who have been patient and supportive in reading this book as it was written, and offering invaluable advice and editing. Peggy’s gentle harping and butt kicking when I got lazy and slacked off writing impelled me to the finish. I hope she’s happy with the product.

The ghosts of Miles Leavitt and John Allred, who hover closely when the story is building. The memories of their wit and good humor, their friendship, and their support serve as my muses.

My readers. I know that your time is valuable, and the knowledge that you spend part of it with my stories humbles me and makes me strive to never let you down. I love hearing from you. Your thoughts, ideas, and kind words sustain me.

The people of that earthly paradise known as Longboat Key, Florida, for sharing their stories and being my friends.

The baristas at the Starbucks in Maitland, Florida, who graciously juiced me with caffeine and smiles during the many months that I sat in a corner of their shop and keystroked this story into existence. Every establishment should have such friendly employees.

Finally, and foremost, Jean Higgins, the girl from Macon, Georgia, who became Jean Griffin when, despite all warnings, she married me while I was still a college student. She is a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, the family rock who supports us all with her eternal optimism. She is my closest buddy, the friend who understands me completely, and overlooks most of it. She edits my books, provides me with ideas for plot and character development, and listens as I run off at the mouth with story ideas that she says, with a grin, leak regularly from my sick mind. She makes even sunless days shine brightly.



The corpse was floating at the edge of the channel that runs between Sister Key and its larger neighbor, Longboat Key. Only the back was visible above the surface, the body bent over as if tying a shoe, the head and feet submerged. It was moving north, its pace languid, matching that of the outgoing tidal current.

Carl Motes was out early that Saturday morning, cruising at first light toward the Coast Guard station in Cortez. He was commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla based on Longboat Key, a small island off the southwest coast of Florida. He planned to meet his crew, have breakfast in the station mess, and head out for a safety patrol on Sarasota Bay.

It was the first Saturday of fall, as it was measured in the temperate climes of Southwest Florida. Every year, between mid-October and early November, people wake up one morning and realize the humidity has dropped to the point that they don’t break into a sweat simply by walking outside. Autumn has finally come to the peninsula, several weeks after the calendar suggested that summer had ended. The temperature will drop some more in the coming weeks, into the sixties and seventies. Occasionally, the cold fronts will move down from Canada and bring a chill to the subtropical air. But for the most part, the weather will be mild until the middle of May, when the humidity rises to levels that chase the less hardy back north.

Motes knew that the local boaters would be out in force on such a Saturday, rafting up on the sandbar just inside Longboat Pass or nosed onto Beer Can Island or fishing the offshore reefs in twenty feet of water or the back bay flats or tanking up at one of the local bars that provided docks for their boats. It was Motes’s job to keep them safe, remind them to wear their life jackets, and not drink too much. It was