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Dying to Tell

By:Rita Herron

ath his boots, the acrid odors growing stronger as he climbed.

And so did the sounds. The woman’s cries.

Sucking in a sharp breath, he paused at the threshold of the bedroom door and peered inside the room, alert for an attacker.

He had seen death before. Death from natural causes—his grandparents, God rest their souls. Other bodies twisted and mangled from car accidents—a teenager. A mother of four. Two truckers on Highway 9. A drunk.

But nothing had prepared him for the sight of the old man’s body slumped on the floor beside the four-poster bed. Dammit. Walter’s blood and brains were splattered all over the dingy whitewashed walls and the faded chenille spread.

Walter, Sadie’s grandfather. Sadie, the girl he’d once wanted with a vengeance. The girl who’d run away from Slaughter Creek and left him when he’d needed her most. The girl with the twin who was so crazy she’d been in and out of a mental hospital half her life.

And judging from the bloodbath and the sight of Amelia crouched in the corner, clutching a sawed-off shotgun, the woman would be going back.

Knowing there was nothing he could do for Walter now, he lifted a warning hand to calm Amelia and slowly walked toward her, stepping over shoe boxes and more bins that held God knew what.

But Amelia didn’t seem to notice that he’d arrived.

Then a scream pierced the air, and Jake turned to see that Ms. Lettie hadn’t obeyed him and stayed in the car.

She had run into the room and was staring at the bloodbath.

And at Amelia, the girl who looked just like Sadie.

Except Amelia was covered in blood, with a gun in her hands.

San Francisco

“Your sister shot Papaw, Sadie...He’s dead.”

Sadie collapsed into the chair in her studio apartment, Ms. Lettie’s words vibrating through her skull. Her hands were shaking so badly she had to prop her elbows on her knees to keep from dropping the handset.

Memories crashed back, one piling on top of the other. Her granddaddy stoop-shouldered and leaning on his horsehead cane as he’d been the last time she’d seen him. Sitting on his knee when she was four as he bounced her up and down.

Memories of him holding her while she cried at her grandmother’s funeral when she was eight.

Memories of him pacing the floor when she was fifteen and Amelia was out of control. He’d tried everything, he’d said. The preacher at church. An exorcism. Doctors. Pills. Amelia had been institutionalized when she was twelve, then fourteen.

Nothing seemed to work.

When her grandmother was alive, she’d worried that Amelia’s illness stemmed from the fact that their parents had been killed in a car crash when the girls were three.

She and Amelia had been in the car when it had happened and had luckily survived. Amelia couldn’t possibly remember it...but doctors suggested that the impact of the crash might have somehow caused internal injuries to her brain that they hadn’t detected on a CAT scan.

Gran thought it was the trauma of losing her parents so young. That trauma had manifested itself in a splitting of Amelia’s personality—she’d adopted new personas to protect herself from the memory, inventing Bessie to play with her when she was three.

Of course, Skid had been surly and had a bad attitude, but he hadn’t been violent.

Not until that night.

The night after prom.

The awful night Sadie and Amelia’s lives had changed. Sadie could still hear the scrape of the shovel against rock and dirt, see the bulging eyes of the dead man staring up at her as she and her grandfather covered him with dirt...

Ms. Lettie’s sniffle jerked Sadie out of her reverie.

“After you called, I got hold of Sheriff Blackwood—you remember Jake,” Ms. Lettie said, “he went to school with you—well, he’s sheriff now. He found your papaw’s body on the floor in his bedroom, and poor Amelia was holding his sawed-off shotgun.” Ms. Lettie broke down and started weeping. “Sheriff’s with her now.”

No...Amelia wouldn’t kill their granddaddy. Not Papaw...

But other memories hacked at her consciousness, memories she’d tried so hard to banish.

Memories of meeting the others...

Amelia might not be capable of murder. But her alter Skid was.

“Did you hear me?” Ms. Lettie asked.

Sadie realized she’d zoned out while Ms. Lettie continued her rant.

“I said Jake is gonna put your sister in handcuffs and take her to jail.” Tears clogged her voice. “She’ll never survive there, Sadie. One of them will kill her, sure enough.”

Ms. Lettie was right. Her sister was...sensitive. Delicate.

Sick.

Sadie had to drop everything and go home.

This was what she did—she interviewed traumatized victims for a living. She could handle this.

She’d talk to Amelia. Pretend she was just another patient. Use art therapy and interview techniques to access the alters.

Then she’d find out which one of the people inside Amelia’s head had pulled the trigger.

That damn Sadie thought she knew everything. Everything about her sister and the alters.

But she didn’t know about him.

No one did.

He lived inside Amelia’s head. He had for years. And he ruled whatever she and the others did.

But they had served their purpose. And now it was time for all of them to go bye-bye.

Yes. One by one, they had to die.

And if Sadie got in the way, she’d have to die, too.

Chapter 2

Slaughter Creek

Jake’s cop training kicked in. Even though he knew Amelia and Walter personally, he had a job to do, and this was a crime scene now. All personal feelings notwithstanding.

He had to assess the situation. Determine if Amelia was an immediate threat. Secure and process the scene. Take photographs. Call the coroner.

Notify the family.

No, Ms. Lettie was doing that now.

His gut tightened. He actually understood why Sadie had jumped at the scholarship offer she’d gotten for art school, a chance to leave this insanity. That was one reason he hadn’t chased after her y

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