Saturday Excerpt: The Longest Silence by Debra Webb
Are you ready for the weekend? Time to put your sleuthing skills to work as we bring you a look at Debra Webb’s latest thriller!
About The Longest Silence:
A killer stole her voice. Now she’s ready to take it back. Don’t miss the chilling Shades of Death series from USA TODAY bestselling author Debra Webb.
Joanna Guthrie was free. She had been for eighteen years—or so she needed everyone to believe. What really happened during the longest fourteen days of her life, when she and two other women were held captive by a dangerous serial killer, wasn’t something she could talk about. Not with him watching. Not unless she wanted to end up like the ones who didn’t make it out.
But when more women go missing in an eerily similar manner, Jo knows her prolonged silence will only seal their fates. She’s finally ready to talk; she just needs someone to listen. FBI special agent Tony LeDoux can’t deny he finds Jo compelling—he’s just not sure he believes her story. But with the clock ticking, Jo will do anything to convince him, even if it means unearthing long-buried secrets that will land them squarely in the crosshairs of the killer…
Friday, March 4, 8:30 a.m.
Ellen Schrader only wanted a gallon of milk.
How was she supposed to feed her children breakfast with- out milk? Now her son was late for school. All because she’d needed that damned milk. What she got instead was rear-ended by an old man who couldn’t see his hand in front of his face and suddenly somehow it was all her fault. No one had said as much but why else would that young officer be sending her so many suspicious glances? He and the old man had been huddled together talking for far too long.
Probably whispering about her.
Ellen braced her hip against the police cruiser. The officer had told her to wait right here next to his cruiser. All those f lashing lights from not one but two police cruisers as well as the ambulance were making her head swim. She’d already told the paramedic that she wasn’t hurt. She was fine. Perfectly fine. Now he, too, was in deep conversation with the officer. For Pete’s sake, you would think she was some sort of criminal. This was what she got for attempting to obey the speed limit. Everyone else, including the old fart who’d hit her, wanted to fly like they were in a race against time.
The officer peered suspiciously in her direction once more. This was ridiculous! Her hair was damp from the rain that continued to sprinkle just enough to be ignored by every single person except her standing on the side of this godforsaken road. On top of that she was freezing and no one appeared to care. The officers who were so kind at first now appeared too busy taking the old bastard’s statement and shooting those wary looks in her direction. He sure as hell had no right to cry whiplash. He was the one who hit her for God’s sake!
Neither of the cops had offered to have her wait in one of the police cruisers or in her car. She groaned as she considered the ugly way the tailgate of her Mercedes was crushed. That old pickup had done a number on her SUV.
Where the hell was Art? The officer who’d taken her report had called him. Her husband would be livid. The Mercedes was barely a year old. God, this was all she needed. Ellen closed her eyes and tried to keep her body from swaying. The spinning eased a bit and she hugged her arms around herself to try and control the shivering. The rain made the cool morning air feel even colder.
Reluctantly she opened her eyes, grateful for the vehicle at her back since the whole world seemed to have joined the spinning in her head. “What now, Officer…?” She frowned. What was his name? She blinked to clear her vision and stared at his chest. The two blurry name tags finally blended to become one. “Officer Edwards?”
“I’m afraid I’ll need you to take a Breathalyzer test, ma’am.” His words hit her square in the stomach, making her sway again.
“Are you suggesting I’ve been drinking?” She made a scoffing sound. “It’s not even nine o’clock on a school day. Please.”
For some unexplainable reason her knees began to shake. “Ma’am,” he said a bit more firmly, “you have the right to refuse, but then I’ll have no choice but to arrest you.”
The rain was coming down harder now. Ellen hugged herself more tightly. This could not be happening. Thank God Art’s minivan pulled up behind the cruiser. As if the officer had only then realized they were all standing in the rain, he asked, “Mrs. Schrader, would you like to sit in the squad car?”
What difference did it make now? She was soaking wet already. Before she could say as much, Art shouted, “Ellen! Jesus Christ, are you all right?”
She tried her best to summon a smile for her husband but somehow her lips wouldn’t make the transition. There was something she should remember but whatever it was her mind refused to cooperate. Her head automatically moved up and down in a nod that she was okay. Her knees tried to buckle. The officer—Officer Edwards—steadied her.
What was wrong with her?
Before she could explain to her husband that she really was perfectly fine except for the fact that the careless old man hunkered under his little umbrella with its one broken rib had ruined her car, Officer Edwards pulled him aside. Art would be very upset that Alton was late for school and that their daughter hadn’t had her breakfast yet. It didn’t help that Ellen wasn’t feeling so well. She swayed again. She really needed to sit down.
Art looked from the officer to Ellen, fear or dismay claim- ing his handsome face. As if he’d only just realized that his wife could have been seriously injured in the accident, he rushed over to her and took her by the shoulders. Rather than pull her into his arms to comfort her, he shook her hard and for the first time in their ten years of marriage Ellen felt afraid. “Where are the children?” he demanded, his voice an icy roar.
Ellen frowned. What did he mean where were the children? The two officers were back at her SUV, searching around inside. This made no sense.
Art shook her again. “Ellen, where are the children?”
“I…” She licked her lips. Her mouth felt so dry. “They’re at home, of course. I wouldn’t take them to the store with me when…” The rest of what she needed to say eluded her. Why hadn’t she brought the children with her?
“Who’s watching them?” he shouted.
“Art, please.” She pulled free of his punishing grip and bumped against the cruiser. “The children are fine. I just had to run to the store for milk. I would have been home already if not for—”
He didn’t wait for her to finish.