Today, we have an excerpt from A.L. Gaylin‘s latest novel, If I Die Tonight, provided by the author’s UK publisher, Arrow. First, though, here’s the synopsis:
There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying…
But it’s as though every day, every minute even, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re becoming men — men she’s not sure she recognises, men she’s not sure she can trust.
So when one of her son’s classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions.
Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister?
Now Jackie must separate the truth from the lies.
How did that boy end up on the road?
And where was her son that night?
Now. On with the excerpt!
IF I DIE TONIGHT
by A.L. Gaylin
Pearl’s hands were heavy on the wheel as she drove Amy Nathanson home. She hadn’t slept in eighteen hours and she was exhausted, emotionally and physically, Amy Nathanson the reason, Amy Nathanson the last person in the world Pearl wanted in the back of her cruiser. But it couldn’t be avoided. Nathanson’s car was still missing: an emerald-green 1973 Jaguar ‘in perfect condition,’ referred to by Amy as ‘her baby,’ and indeed, she’d described it with all the loving care one would use in describing a missing child. She’d asked to be driven home and the sergeant, star-struck as he seemed to be, had volunteered Pearl, explaining, ‘Amy told me she’d be more comfortable with a woman behind the wheel.’
Pearl sighed. As the only female police officer on the Havenkill force, she had a locker room big enough for eight people all to herself, complete with a shower of her own. But she also had to drive Amy Nathanson all the way to Woodstock – a forty-fiveminute ride with a has-been pop singer from the eighties, who insisted on playing the role of victim as though she were pulling for an Oscar. You win some; you lose some.
‘You don’t know,’ Amy was saying now. ‘You just don’t understand what a violation it was.’
Pearl kept a box of Kleenex in the front seat, which she’d given to Amy at the beginning of the ride. Amy yanked what had to be one of the last few tissues out of the box and blew her nose with it. She’d been crying solidly for the past twelve hours and she had said the word ‘violation’ so often it could have spawned a drinking game. ‘I understand, ma’am,’ Pearl said.
‘I tried to talk to him. The other boy. The one who tried to get my baby back. I checked his pulse and he was alive, but he wouldn’t speak to me. Wouldn’t open his eyes. His back might be broken.’
‘I didn’t have my phone. It was in the Jaguar. I shouted and screamed but no one came so I had to walk. I had to leave him.
‘He’ll be okay, won’t he?’
‘I don’t know.
‘That . . . that monster drove off with my baby. He was all in black. Black hoodie. Black pants. He was so big and threw me to the ground. He took my purse. My phone. He got in my car. My beautiful leather seats. I had to walk. In the pouring rain. All the way to the station.’
‘You said that, ma’am. You said all of that, in your report. I took it all down, remember?’
‘I remember. I’m just telling you it was –’
‘Yes,’ Amy said. ‘So do you think you’ll be able to find her?’
‘We’ve put out an APB on the car, but stolen cars can be hard to track down, especially if the plates have been changed.’
‘So what do we do?’
‘We hope for the best,’ Pearl said pointedly. ‘Just like we’re hoping for the best for Liam Miller’s recovery.’
Pearl waited for Amy to say more, but she didn’t. Pearl took a long, deep breath, relieved at the silence in the car. She was over the bridge now, just about twenty minutes from Woodstock. The sky was cloudless – that crisp, true blue that you only see in the fall after a big rain. There was something hopeful in that type of sky. Washed clean, if only for a few hours.
She kept an eye on Amy Nathanson: the vintage raincoat of shiny red vinyl, the rainbow-striped hair. The mascara, like the blood on Lady Macbeth’s hands, still staining her face, no matter how much she’d tried to scrub it off in the station bathroom. Some things, Pearl supposed, washed clean easier than others.