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Linda Castillo

Her Last Breath

Linda Castillo Her Last Breath A Kate Burkholder Novel
$11.97 New
 
Out of stock rare item. We will try to get it for you.

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Series:

Kate Burkholder

Excerpt from book:

CHAPTER 1
 

When it rains, it pours. Those words were one of my mamm’s favorite maxims when I was growing up. As a child, I didn’t understand its true meaning, and I didn’t spend much time trying to figure it out. In the eyes of the Amish girl I’d been, more was almost always a good thing. The world around me was a swiftly moving river, chock-full of white-water rapids and deep holes filled with secrets I couldn’t fathom. I was ravenous to raft that river, anxious to dive into all of those dark crevices and unravel their closely guarded secrets. It wasn’t until I entered my twenties that I realized there were times when that river overflowed its banks and a killing flood ensued.
My mamm is gone now and I haven’t been Amish for fifteen years, but I often find myself using that old adage, particularly when it comes to police work and, oftentimes, my life.
I’ve been on duty since 3:00 P.M. and my police radio has been eerily quiet for a Friday, not only in Painters Mill proper, but the entirety of Holmes County. I made one stop and issued a speeding citation, mainly because it was a repeat offense and the eighteen-year-old driver is going to end up killing someone if he doesn’t slow down. I’ve spent the last hour cruising the backstreets, trying not to dwell on anything too serious, namely a state law enforcement agent by the name of John Tomasetti and a relationship that’s become a lot more complicated than I ever intended.
We met during the Slaughterhouse Murders investigation almost two years ago. It was a horrific case: A serial killer had staked his claim in Painters Mill, leaving a score of dead in his wake. Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation, was sent here to assist. The situation was made worse by my personal involvement in the case. They were the worst circumstances imaginable, especially for the start of a relationship, professional or otherwise. Somehow, what could have become a debacle of biblical proportion, grew into something fresh and good and completely unexpected. We’re still trying to figure out how to define this bond we’ve created between us. I think he’s doing a better job of it than I am.
That’s the thing about relationships; no matter how hard you try to keep things simple, all of those gnarly complexities have a way of seeping into the mix. Tomasetti and I have arrived at a crossroads of sorts, and I sense change on the wind. Of course, change isn’t always a negative. But it’s rarely easy. The indecision can eat at you, especially when you’ve arrived at an important junction and you’re not sure which way to go—and you know in your heart that each path will take you in a vastly different direction.
I’m not doing a very good job of keeping my troubles at bay, and I find myself falling back into another old habit I acquired from my days on patrol: wishing for a little chaos. A bar fight would do. Or maybe a domestic dispute. Sans serious injury, of course. I don’t know what it says about me that I’d rather face off with a couple of pissed-off drunks than look too hard at the things going on in my own life.
I’ve just pulled into the parking lot of LaDonna’s Diner for a BLT and a cup of dark roast to go when the voice of my second shift dispatcher cracks over the radio.
“Six two three.”
I pick up my mike. “What do you have, Jodie?”
“Chief, I just took a nine one one from Andy Welbaum. He says there’s a bad wreck on Delisle Road at CR 14.”
“Anyone hurt?” Dinner forgotten, I glance in my rearview mirror and make a U-turn in the gravel lot.
“There’s a buggy involved. He says it’s bad.”
“Get an ambulance out there. Notify Holmes County.” Cursing, I make a left on Main, hit my emergency lights and siren. The engine groans as I crank the speedometer up to fifty. “I’m ten seventy-six.”
I’m doing sixty by the time I leave the corporation limit of Painters Mill. Within seconds, the radio lights up as the call goes out to the Holmes County sheriff’s office. I make a left on Delisle Road, a twisty stretch of asphalt that cuts through thick woods. It’s a scenic drive during the day, but treacherous as hell at night, especially with so many deer in the area.
County Road 14 intersects a mile down the road. The Explorer’s engine groans as I crank the speedometer to seventy. Mailboxes and the black trunks of trees fly by outside my window. I crest a hill and spot the headlights of a single vehicle ahead. No ambulance or sheriff’s cruiser yet; I’m first on scene.
I’m twenty yards from the intersection when I recognize Andy Welbaum’s pickup truck. He lives a few miles from here. Probably coming home from work at the plant in Millersburg. The truck is parked at a haphazard angle on the shoulder, as if he came to an abrupt and unexpected stop. The headlights are trained on what looks like the shattered remains of a four-wheeled buggy. There’s no horse in sight; either it ran home or it’s down. Judging from the condition of the buggy, I’m betting on the latter.
“Shit.” I brake hard. My tires skid on the gravel shoulder. Leaving my emergency lights flashing, I hit my high beams for light and jam the Explorer into park. Quickly, I grab a couple of flares from the back, snatch up my Maglite, and then I’m out of the vehicle. Snapping open the flares, I scatter them on the road to alert oncoming traffic. Then I start toward the buggy.
My senses go into hyperalert as I approach, several details striking me at once. A sorrel horse lies on its side on the southwest corner of the intersection, still harnessed but unmoving. Thirty feet away, a badly damaged buggy has been flipped onto its side. It’s been broken in half, but it’s not a clean break. I see splintered wood, two missing wheels, and a ten-yard-wide swath of debris—pieces of fiberglass and wood scattered about. I take in other details, too. A child’s shoe. A flat-brimmed hat lying amid brown grass and dried leaves …
My mind registers all of this in a fraction of a second, and I know it’s going to be bad. Worse than bad. It will be a miracle if anyone survived.
I’m midway to the buggy when I spot the first casualty. It’s a child, I realize, and everything grinds to a halt, as if someone threw a switch inside my head and the world winds down into slow motion.
“Fuck. Fuck.” I rush to the victim, drop to my knees. It’s a little girl. Six or seven years old. She’s wearing a blue dress. Her kapp is askew and soaked with blood and I think: head injury.
“Sweetheart.” The word comes out as a strangled whisper.
The child lies in a supine position with her arms splayed. Her pudgy hands are open and relaxed. Her face is so serene she might have been sleeping. But her skin is gray. Blue lips are open, revealing tiny baby teeth. Already her eyes are cloudy and unfocused. I see bare feet and I realize the force of the impact tore off her shoes.
Working on autopilot, I hit my lapel mike, put out the call for a 10-50F. A fatality accident. I stand, aware that my legs are shaking. My stomach seesaws, and I swallow something that tastes like vinegar. Around me, the night is so quiet I hear the ticking of the truck’s engine a few yards away. Even the crickets and night birds have gone silent as if in reverence to the violence that transpired here scant minutes before.
Insects fly in the beams of the hea

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