I can see them now. My son Luke and my boyfriend Aiden are a hundred yards ahead, resting in the shade of a thin stand of pine trees. We’re on a high mountain trail in Montana’s Glacier National Park. I’ve been trying to catch up with them for hours. My legs feel so heavy I can barely lift them, my rucksack is warm against my back and a heavy summer sun is making me thirsty. I’m losing patience with the man I love. Luke is only four years old so he can be forgiven but I don’t understand why Aiden won’t wait for me.
The alarm clock I’ve set on my cellphone wakes me from my dream.
The hotel room is pitch dark and full of unfamiliar smells ― carpeting, cleaning fluid and something I can only describe as salami, which is troubling. The sheets are so crisp they pin me down to the bed like an envelope. The hotel is one of many dotted along Route 89 that cater to tourists in the summer and unlucky souls like myself in the winter. It is bitterly cold outside. The curtains are cracked open a fraction. I can just make out the hotel’s vacancy sign.
It feels like I’ve been living in hotels forever, but it has only been a week since I kissed my son and boyfriend goodbye. Wilmington Creek, the town I now call home, seems a lifetime away. I’m heading north into the heart of the Black Feet Indian Reservation where I’m hoping to get information on the whereabouts of a Native American girl who’s gone missing whilst hitchhiking the rural roads that lace the northern part of the state. She is one of many, but I don’t know that yet.
My cellphone rings again. I try to paw it into silence with my hand, but it isn’t the alarm so it doesn’t stop. Someone is calling me. I clear my throat but still croak.
“Special Investigator Macy Greeley, Montana Department of Justice,” I say. “How can I help?”
“You can cut the formalities for a start,” says Ryan.
I am now wide-awake. Ryan is a senior forensics investigator and one of my best friends. We’ve been working cases together for more than a dozen years. Hearing from him is a mixed blessing. It’s usually bad news.
“We’ve found a body – young, female and in all probability your missing person’s case. I’ve just emailed my preliminary findings. We’ve put in a request for dental records. Should know for sure if it’s Tamara Creek by the end of the day.”
I switch on the bedside lamp and reach for my laptop. It’s 6am and this is how I’m starting my day.
“Crap,” I say. “When she sent those text messages to her mother a couple of days ago I was feeling hopeful.”
“It wasn’t her. She’s been dead at least a week.”
“A week? Are you absolutely sure?”
“So, some sick fuck has been making her friends and family believe she’s been alive all this time?”
“Looks that way. The hotel manager here called it in. No one was supposed to be in the room so he had no idea she’s been lying dead here all week. The guests that checked in late last night had a nasty shock. How soon can you get down to Great Falls?”
“An hour tops. Cause of death?”
I have the file Ryan sent me open on my computer but I can’t focus once I’ve read that the victim had a tattoo of a humming bird on her shoulder. I’ll have to wait for dental confirmation before informing the family, but I already know it’s Tamara, a 14 year old high school student from Missoula whose mother refused to accept that her daughter was a runaway. It was only by chance that a security camera had caught her being forced into a dark colored SUV.
“We’re not sure at this point but I’m guessing strangulation. There’s evidence of rape.”
I close my laptop and slip out from under the covers.
“I’m on my way,” I say.
I put on the coffee maker and throw on my clothes. Ten minutes later I’m on the road. The rest of the day goes by in a blur of interviews, heartache and takeaway food. I will drink 5 cups of coffee and 3 Diet Cokes. A Snickers Bar will see me through an afternoon lull. I will drive more than 400 miles but I never tire of the views and how they unfold. Montana’s snow covered mountains, valleys and rivers shimmer under an endless blue sky.
I end my day back home in Wilmington Creek. The house is quiet when I park my state issue four-by-four in the garage. Our Springer Spaniels come find me in the kitchen where I’m pouring myself a strong drink. The whiskey burns but in a good way. Luke has left a few drawings out on the dining table for me to see. Stick figures of Aiden, Luke and me stand in front of our small house. Against all odds we are now a family.
Aiden wanders in a few minutes later. His face is thick with sleep. His hair is pressed to the side of his head. I’d called him earlier so he already knows how difficult my day has been. It is only when he takes me in his arms and holds me tight that I finally allow myself to cry.
You can read more about Macy in Silent Rain, the fourth book in the “Macy Greeley” mystery series.
Grace Adams has spent three years trying to move on―mentally, physically, emotionally―from the traumatizing events of her past. But it’s not easy when the world is morbidly curious about the crimes that shaped her childhood, when despite her changed name, people still track her down for the sensational details. Now in college in Bolton, Montana, the one person Grace has trusted with the truth about her past has betrayed her. The bestselling novelist Peter Granger wants to use Grace’s story in his next book, regardless of how desperate Grace is to keep the details to herself. And then, on Halloween night, Peter Granger’s house burns to the ground and his and his wife’s bodies are found inside.
Montana state detective Macy Greeley is sent to Bolton to handle the investigation into the fire and deaths. . .which soon appear to be arson and murder. It doesn’t take Macy long to realize that Grace isn’t the only one whom Peter Granger has betrayed, and there are no shortage of others in town who took issue with him and his wife. What at first looked like a straightforward investigation is poised to expose some of Bolton’s darkest secrets, and the fallout may put more than one life in danger.
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About the author
Karin Salvalaggio received an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck at the University of London. Born in West Virginia and raised in an Air Force family, she grew up on a number of military bases around the United States. She now lives in London with her two children.
All comments are welcomed.