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 the worst kind of serial killer, wasn’t something she could talk about. Not after what they had to do to survive.
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…
“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.
Her husband rushed back to his minivan and drove away, tires squealing. One of the officers followed in the second cruiser.
Officer Edwards took Ellen by the arm, his grasp firm. “Why don’t we take that test now, and then we can drive to your home and make sure the children are okay?”
At this point the entire situation felt surreal, like a very bad dream. This couldn’t be happening. She didn’t understand all the fuss. Of course the children were okay. She would never allow them to ride with her when—when she’d been drinking.
Drinking. That was the thing she’d forgotten. She’d been drinking all morning. Something she’d seen on the news had upset her but she couldn’t remember what it was. Ellen shook off the idea; she didn’t want to think about that or the vodka she’d chugged as if her life depended on it.
Disappointment and hurt twisted inside her. Art would be so angry with her. The children would be upset she’d left them for so long. The accident wasn’t supposed to happen. She was only going five miles to the store and then right back home.
Resigned to her fate, Ellen took the silly Breathalyzer test. Officer Edwards stared at her funny, and then he announced that she was under arrest. Focused on preventing herself from vomiting, she scarcely paid attention to the rights he read her. The spinning was completely out of control now.
This whole shitty morning had been blown way out of proportion. She hadn’t done anything wrong. The entire ridiculous episode was the old man’s fault. As the officer closed the cruiser door, imprisoning her in the backseat, she watched through the window as the asshole old man drove away free as a bird. The milk she’d bought was spoiling in her SUV and Alton was late for school. How many times could a child be late for kindergarten and still be promoted to first grade?
This was silly. They were all worried for nothing. The children were fine. Ellen loved her children more than anything else in this world. She would never, ever put them in danger. She was a good mother. Always careful. Like this morning, to ensure they were fine until she returned with the milk she had blockaded them in the coat closet before leaving the house. She’d made a game of it by telling them to stay hidden while Mommy went in search of the breakfast fairy. There was no reason for all this fuss or for Art to panic.
Fear knotted in her belly. Then again, she’d never expected to be gone so long.
How long had it been? Minutes? Hours? She tried to focus on the digital clock on the dash of the cruiser. Her vision wouldn’t clear enough to read the blurry numbers. Didn’t matter. When they got to her house everyone would see. The entire episode was nothing more than a series of unfortunate events. The children were fine.
Except the children weren’t fine.
Ellen saw the flames the moment the cruiser turned onto her street. Her heart launched into her throat. People were crowded into the street—her street—watching the burning house—her house.
In time she would learn that the children had gotten out of the closet. Hours, instead of minutes, had passed since their mother left them and they were hungry. Fearless and protective, five-year-old Alton had tried to scramble eggs for his little sister.
The fire had started in the kitchen. The smoke alarms didn’t send an alert to the monitoring service since Ellen had forgotten to pay the bills the past three months. Though her little boy had successfully wiggled the chair out of the way to open the closet door to freedom, he wasn’t big enough or strong enough to get past the doors she had locked to keep them in the house.
About the Author
DEBRA WEBB is the award winning, USA Today bestselling author of more than 130 novels, including reader favorites the Faces of Evil, the Colby Agency, and the Shades of Death series. With more than four million books sold in numerous languages and countries, Debra’s love of storytelling goes back to her childhood on a farm in Alabama.