Dig up the past. Pay the price.
With one phone call from a man he barely recalls meeting years ago, South Florida detective Louis Kincaid heads to the Michigan town of his college days to reopen a disturbing cold case -- and finds himself confronting his own painful past secrets...secrets that risk his future with the woman he loves, detective Joe Frye.
Ann Arbor police detective Jake Shockey wants Kincaid's help in the case of Jean Brandt, who went missing nine years ago -- and whose husband, Owen, has since been paroled. Now, Owen Brandt's girlfriend appears to be at risk, and Shockey is desperate to get involved. Kincaid soon unearths the deeply personal reasons why...and with Joe Frye assisting, Kincaid links yesterday's jealousies with today's potentially lethal vengeance. It's only a matter of time before one will win out over the other -- and before Kincaid's own shattering revelations will be forced out into the light of day.
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July 27, 2008
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Excerpt from South of Hell by P. J. Parrish
It was just south of Hell. But if you missed the road leading in, you ended up down in Bliss. And then there was nothing to do but go back to Hell and start over again.
That's what the kid pumping gas at the Texaco had told her, at least. Since she had not been here for such a very long time, she had to trust him, because she had no memory of the place anymore.
A rain was threatening. She had been watching the gray clouds gather over the cornfields for the past half-hour.
"You sure you know where you're going, little lady?"
She looked over at the driver of the truck. He was an old man, with tufts of gray hair sprouting from his head and ears.
Back at the Texaco, she had watched all the big trucks racing past on the highway, too afraid to stop one of them for a ride. When the old man had pulled in, she had gotten into his truck only because the truck was small and he seemed so old and harmless. Still, she clutched the backpack tighter as she felt his eyes on her.
"Yes," she said. "Lethe Creek Road. It should be right up here somewhere."
The old man's red-rimmed eyes stayed with her for a moment, then he looked back at the road. She didn't look at him, because she didn't want to talk to him. She just wanted to get where she needed to go.
The backpack was heavy on her lap, and she shifted her thighs under its weight. It had been hard lugging it all this way, but she had no idea when she set out what she was going to need, or for how long, so she had put everything in it she could carry: cans of tuna fish and stewed tomatoes, tins of sardines, a half-empty box of Hershey's cocoa, and a carton of Premium saltines. Anything she could find in the house that would last. She had even thought to take an empty plastic milk carton to hold water. At the last minute, she had gone down into the cellar and taken the last four jars of plum preserves.
No one would know they were gone. No one would know she was gone.
"This the road?"
She glanced at the old man, then looked out the window. The fields were empty, still covered with their blankets of winter straw. She nodded, and they drove on.
A dull roll of thunder came from the gray sky over the fields.
"Looks like we got more rain coming," the old man said.
She closed her eyes. A different sound in her ears, a different storm in her head, a flashing memory of green curtains twisting in the wind.
Run! Run! Run!
Bursting through the green curtain. Feeling the corn stalks tearing at her bare legs. Kneeling in dirt, hands over her ears so she wouldn't hear.
The image made her go cold. It was new. It had never been there before. Or that voice, either. Others, yes, but not this one.
She felt a jolt as the truck left the blacktop for gravel, and she opened her eyes.
"Huh, look at that. I didn't even know there was a house down this road."
She didn't look at the old man. Her eyes were on the old house. It had always been so small in her memory because she had never really believed it existed. But now here it was, growing larger and larger and larger.
The truck stopped in front of a fence. She didn't move. She couldn't stop looking at the house.
She didn't hear the old man.
"Little lady? You sure this is the place you're looking for?"
She found her voice. "Yes." But she didn't take her eyes off the house, because she was sure if she did, it would slip away, just like it always did as she awoke from her fevered sleep. It was a while before the ticking of the truck's old engine drew her back. The house hadn't vanished.
She gathered the backpack to her chest and looked over at the old man. "Thank you for the ride," she said.
His mouth was a hard slash, but his eyes were gentle. "You shouldn't be takin' rides from strangers. Not right for a young girl to be hitchin'."
"Looks deserted. You got kin here?"
He looked toward the house with doubt but then reached across her and opened the door. She jumped out, hoisting the backpack up onto one shoulder. The old man gave her a final look, thrust the truck in reverse, and was gone.
She looked around. The farm's other buildings registered in her consciousness -- three small gray plank ones almost hidden in the tall weeds and, beyond, the barn, a looming hulk against the dark sky. She looked back at the old farmhouse.
It had always been there in her head, like a blurry picture, but now the details were coming into focus: red brick, green roof, long slits of windows. Everything angles, crags, points, and hard lines, like there was not a corner of comfort to be found anywhere inside.
It started to rain. It was so quiet the pop-pop-pop of the drops falling on the oak leaves overhead was the only sound she could hear. Even the voices were quiet, like they were all holding their breath, waiting.