In Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, a terrible secret is about to be uncovered by a woman whose daughter vanished seven years ago without a trace...
And now a new clue has surfaced...a doll that is the spitting image of Claire Doucett's missing child, right down to the tiny birthmark on the girl's left arm. A chance sighting of the eerily lifelike doll in a French Quarter collectibles shop leaves Claire shaken to her core...and more determined than ever to find out what happened to her beloved Ruby.
When the doll is snatched and the store's owner turns up dead, Claire knows the only person she can turn to is ex-husband Dave Creasy, a former cop who has spent the past seven years imprisoned by his own guilt and despair. He let Claire down once when she needed him the most. Can she make him believe the doll really exists? She'll have to if they're to survive an encounter with a brutal psychopath--the dollmaker--who stole their future to feed an obsession that will never die.
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March 01, 2007
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Excerpt from The Dollmaker by Amanda Stevens
Twilight always fell anxiously over the Big Easy, es-pecially when it rained. That's when the ghosts came out. A wisp of steam rising from the wet pavement. The murmur of voices from a hidden courtyard. Something dark and stealthy moving in the shadows, and sud-denly you were reminded of a past that wouldn't stay buried.
New Orleans was like that. A city of memories, Dave Creasy always called it. A city of secrets and whispers and the kind of regret that could eat a man up inside. Like the wrong woman, she'd get in a man's blood, destroy his soul, make him feel alive and dead at the same time. And on a hot, rainy night--when the ghosts came out--it could be the loneliest place on earth.
Welcome back, a voice whispered in Dave's head as he lifted his face, eyes closed, and listened to the rus-tle of rain through the white oleanders that drooped over a crumbling brick wall along St. Peters.
It was strange how the city could still seduce him.
He'd been born and raised in New Orleans, and like everyone else he knew, there'd been a time when he couldn't wait to get out. Now he couldn't seem to stay away. The ghosts wouldn't let him.
A car slowed on the street in front of him, and a child stared out at him from a rain-streaked window. She looked a little like Ruby, and Dave watched her until the car was out of sight, the pain in his chest as familiar now as his heartbeat. Then he started walking.
Around the next corner, a neon half-moon sputtered in the gathering darkness. He wanted to think of the light as a beacon, but he knew better. The Crescent City Bar could never in a million years be considered a haven. Not for him, at least.
As he entered the room, an infinitesimal chill slid over him. Welcome back, that taunting voice whispered again.
The bar was nearly empty. A handful of zombielike patrons sat with heads bowed over drinks, the only ac-knowledgment of their coexistence a mingling of ciga-rette smoke that drifted up from the tables. The old wood blades of the ceiling fans rotated overhead, barely stir-ring warm air that reeked of sweat, booze and despair.
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. Dave took a seat at the end of the bar, where he could watch the door. He hadn't been a cop for nearly seven years, but old habits died hard.
From the other end, the hulk of a bartender watched him with open suspicion. He was tall and tough, with skin the texture of leather. Jubal Roach had to be at least sixty, but the forearms underneath his rolled-up shirtsleeves bulged with muscle, and his sullen expres-sion reflected, as Dave knew only too well, a still-mur-derous disposition.
Dave's old partner had once warned him about Jubal's temper. They'd stopped in for a beer after their watch one night and the surly bartender had copped an attitude from the get-go. Back in the day, Dave hadn't been one to turn the other cheek.
"Man, let it go," Titus had said in a nervous whis-per. "You don't want to tangle with that S.O.B. Once he start in whaling on you, he like a big 'ol loggerhead. He ain't gonna let you go till it thunders. Or till you dead."
It was good advice. Too bad Dave hadn't had the sense to heed it.
He and Jubal played the staring game for several more seconds, then, with a hardening of his features, the older man ambled down to Dave's end of the bar.
"Jubal." Dave greeted him warily, mindful of the nightstick and brass knuckles the bartender kept under the counter. "How's it going?"
"Dave Creasy. Been a while since I saw your ugly mug in here. Kinda thought you might be dead."
Kinda hoped was the inference. "I bought a place in St. Mary Parish awhile back."
"Same difference, you ask me." Jubal got down a glass and a bottle of whiskey. "The usual?"
"Nah, I'm on the wagon these days."
Eight months, four days, nine hours and counting.
"Since the last time I got thrown in jail for disorderly conduct."