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Dying to Tell

By:Rita Herron

ears ago. That and the fact that he’d been trying to find out what had happened to his father.

He hated to drag Sadie back into her family mess now.

Although there was no other choice.

But first he had to get the gun out of Amelia’s bloody hands.

He narrowed his eyes and inched closer, watching for a reaction. “Amelia,” he said quietly. “Can you hear me?”

No response. Just a flicker of her eyelashes and a trembling of her hands around the weapon. Her face was ashen, splattered with blood, her pupils wide, fixed on her grandfather’s shattered skull and the insides of his brain splattered on the covers of the bed.

Good grief. He wished she didn’t look so much like Sadie.

Another step forward and he became hyperaware of every sound in the house. The floor creaked. The wind screamed through the eaves of the old house. The furnace rumbled. Something—a cat or a tree branch?—scratched a windowpane downstairs.

Amelia suddenly startled. Her head jerked sideways as if she heard the sound.

Was he wrong about Amelia being the only one here? Could someone else have been in the house and fired the shotgun?

A siren wailed in the distance. His deputy on the way. Another sound—maybe the screen slapping in the wind? Or someone running out the back door?

Dammit, what should he do? He couldn’t leave Amelia here with a weapon.

A mewling sound rent the air, and he saw Amelia’s chest heaving for air. A swipe of her fingers across her cheek was meant to push the mop of hair from her face. Instead it plastered the strands down like glue, leaving a trail of bloody fingerprints across her cheek.

“Amelia, please put down the gun,” he said in a soothing tone. “It’s over now.”

She didn’t acknowledge that he’d spoken, simply heaved another breath as if it exhausted her just to live. He inched closer and slowly reached toward her. “Just give it to me, and Ms. Lettie can come back in here with you. She’s calling Sadie now.”

Her fingers were wrapped around the butt of the gun, but slowly she lowered it to her lap. He reached in his pocket, yanked out his handkerchief, and removed the shotgun.

She remained motionless as if someone had literally drained her of life. She looked so pitiful he wanted to wrap his arms around her and assure her everything would be all right.

But the stench of death in the air made him hold his tongue.

Nothing was going to be all right. Amelia was going to jail—or back to the mental hospital. Sadie would be tormented by the publicity, the funeral, and dealing with her sister.

And he would have to do his job.

Find the truth. Get justice for Sadie’s grandfather. Lock Amelia up.

Outside, the siren squealed louder. Tires screeched as his deputy’s car ground to a stop, tires slinging gravel.

Amelia’s keening continued, low and rhythmic, and she stared listlessly into space, as if she were looking at some unknown monster in the room.

As if she had no idea she was the monster who’d killed her grandfather.

As the rental car ate the miles between the airport and the mountains where she’d grown up, Sadie’s head reeled with the tasks she faced. Planning a funeral, burying Papaw, digging through his house and clothes.

Seeing her sister again...

For the past two years, Ms. Lettie and Papaw said Amelia had been stable. That the new medication coupled with therapy had kept her alters at bay. But something must have upset her enough to make her violent.

Would she be the hollow shell she’d been the last time Sadie had seen her? The night Sadie knew she had to run away?

The night she’d been sworn to silence.

She passed Whistler’s Mountain, her grandmother’s adage about the winds of change echoing in her mind. A weather vane stood at the top of the ridge, and Gran had sworn that when the wind changed directions, it was a sign of bad things to come.

The wind was shouting now, the weather vane fighting as it swiveled and bobbed back and forth violently, as if it couldn’t decide which way to go.

Hulking pines and hardwood trees flanked the curvy road, throwing shadows across the black asphalt. Wet red, yellow, orange, and brown leaves lay in clumps on the road like a sodden blanket, adding to the dismal milieu, a reminder that winter would soon bring more death. Shades of gray streaked the sky, giving it the ominous look of another thunderstorm on the way.

A coyote howled in the distance, another sign that danger lurked in these rolling hills.

Dangers that she had met before. Some animal. Some human.

A shiver rippled through her, memories threatening. But she was well trained in denial and pushed them to the back of her mind.

A pickup truck pulled out in front of her, and she averted her face, hoping she wouldn’t be recognized. At least not yet.

She wasn’t ready for the gossip, the stares, the rumors.

Damn, the woods were suffocating. She missed the tranquility of the ocean, the bustling excitement of living in a big city.

The anonymity of walking among a sea of strangers, where no one knew her name.

Here in Slaughter Creek most everyone knew Sadie Nettleton and her crazy sister. Everyone pitied her, even as they whispered behind her back. Their words echoed in her head. They were identical twins, shared the same DNA. Would she turn out like Amelia?

She too wondered, though in her research she’d learned that DID often resulted from severe childhood trauma. Maybe the accident was the cause.

Still, just keeping her family’s sordid secrets shamed her. If they spilled out, she’d lose any hope of keeping her sanity.

And her freedom.

The sign welcoming her to Slaughter Creek mocked her. “Slaughter Creek—where the great battle between the Cherokees and the Creeks was fought. Where people now live in peace and harmony.”

Laughter bubbled in her throat at the irony.

Her instinct was to turn the car around and head back to the West Coast, far away from the lies she’d guarded for so long.

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