“Oregon is beautiful, Mom.” Andrea ignored the confused look the Uber driver shot her as they crossed over the Chesapeake Bay. She turned her head, indicating this was a private phone call. “I think I’m going to like it here.”
“Well, that’s something,” Laura said. Water shushed into the sink. She was making dinner for Gordon back on Belle Isle. “It’s been so long since I was there. I remember the trees.”
“The Douglas fir is the state tree. The state flower is the Oregon grape. But it’s not like grape-grapes. The fruit is more like a berry.” Andrea’s thumb scrolled through the Oregon Wikipedia page on her work phone. “Did you know it’s the ninth largest state?”
“I did not.”
“And—” Andrea looked for something that didn’t sound like she was reading a statistic. “There’s a rainforest in the northwestern part called Valley of the Giants. That’s cool, right?”
“Is it cold there? I told you to pack your jacket.”
“It’s fine.” She pulled up weather.com. “Sixty-four degrees.” “It’s still early in the day,” Laura said, though Oregon was
only three hours behind. “The temperature will drop with the sun. You should buy a jacket there. It’ll be cheaper than me Fedexing yours. Summer weather is mercurial in the Pacific Northwest. You never know what to expect.”
“I’ll be okay, Mom.” Andrea looked out the window as she listened to her mother describe the exact type of jacket she should buy for weather that was happening nearly three thousand miles away.
“Zippers that seal are very important,” Laura said.
around the cuffs because the wind will cut straight up your arm.” Andrea’s eyes closed against the early afternoon sun. Her internal compass was spinning too fast. Jasper hadn’t just put an unseemly thumb on the scale. He had knocked the whole damn thing over. Andrea was supposed to get two weeks off before starting her first assignment. Thanks to her estranged uncle, she was just over twenty-four hours out from graduation and already working two different cases. One was babysitting a judge who’d gotten some death threats and been mailed a dead rat, the other was to keep her father behind bars by somehow finding proof that he was guilty of murdering a young girl who had been long forgotten.
As with every other decision Andrea had made in the last two years, she wasn’t sure why she had taken Jasper up on his offer. Her first inclination had been to walk out of the room. But then she had allowed herself to do the one thing she had resisted over the last two years: think back to the moment her life had exploded.
Instead of rising to the occasion, Andrea had spun around like a wind-up monkey clanging together a pair of broken cymbals. There was nothing about that time she was proud of. She hadn’t planned anything. She hadn’t considered the implications. She had aimlessly driven thousands of miles trying to solve the mystery of her parents and uncover the truth about all of their crimes. For her impetuousness, she had nearly lost her life and almost gotten Laura killed in the process. And that didn’t even include what Andrea had done to Mike. He’d tried to save her multiple times and she had literally and figuratively kicked him in the balls for his trouble.
So maybe that was why Andrea had said yes. It was as good an explanation as any.
How exactly she was going to solve a forty-year-old murder was anyone’s guess. Her first twenty-four hours as a United States Marshal had seen a less than auspicious start. Yesterday afternoon, she’d driven five hours in a rental car to reach the Atlanta airport in time for her 9:50 flight to Baltimore, but then bad weather had delayed her flight for two and a half hours, then more bad weather had diverted her plane to Washington DC, which meant she hadn’t landed until two this morning. From Dulles, she’d taken a twenty-minute taxi ride to a cheap motel in Arlington, Virginia, where she’d slept for four hours, then slept another hour and a half on the train to USMS district headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.
No one had been prepared for her arrival. All of the senior officers were at a conference in DC. An agent named Leeta Frazier who normally worked civil asset forfeitures had stuck Andrea in a conference room to sign a bunch of paperwork, given her a pamphlet on how not to sexually harass anybody, handed over her government-issued Glock 17 9mm along with her Silver Star, then told Andrea she’d have to come back later to meet her boss and the rest of the team.
To make matters worse, Leeta was unable to requisition a car, which was how Andrea had ended up in the world’s most expensive Uber to Longbill Beach. The day already felt like an extended version of the most boring day in the history of the known world. Only now, at nearly two in the afternoon, was Andrea finally passing through coastal Maryland on her way to Delaware where she was supposedly—hopefully—going to meet her new partner.
“Send me a picture when you get it,” Laura said.
Andrea had to rewind the conversation to understand that her mother was talking about the phantom jacket Andrea was supposed to buy for weather she was not experiencing. “I’ll try to remember.”
“And you promised you’d call me twice a day.” “I did not.”
“Text me, I mean.” “Nope.”
“Andrea,” Laura said, but then Gordon started to speak so she muffled the phone.
Andrea clicked off the screen on her work phone, wondering if she had already managed to violate agency policy by googling Oregon trivia. She still couldn’t believe they had given her a gun and badge. She was a plain ol’ dewsum—a deputy US Marshal. She could arrest people. She could deputize her Uber driver if she wanted to. Maybe she could make him keep his beady eyes on the road, because the minute he’d clocked she was law enforcement, he’d started looking at her like she was a turd that had been dropped in his back seat.
She was reminded of a sentence one of her instructors had written on the whiteboard:
If you want people to love you, don’t join law enforcement.
“All right.” Laura was back on the line. “It’s not required, but I would very much appreciate an occasional text from you, my darling, so that I know you’re still alive.”
“Okay,” Andrea relented, though she had no idea whether she would comply. “I need to go, Mom. I think I see a western meadowlark.”
“Oh, send me a pic—”
Andrea ended the call. She watched a sandpiper float along the breeze, doing that weird thing where it was moving forward but looked like it was treading air.
She closed her eyes for a moment and let out a long breath, hoping to release her exhaustion. She felt her body yearning to go to sleep, but if her previous attempts at rest had proven anything, it was that her mind was perfectly willing to race between trying to figure out her uncle’s true motives, wondering if her father would find out what she was doing and try to blow everything up, and rehashing her conversation with Mike to see which felt better: telling him she had made a terrible mistake or telling him to fuck off.
Andrea couldn’t play that same game for another two hours. At least not in the back of an Uber that smelled of Armor All and mountain pine air freshener. To keep herself from spiraling, she reached into her backpack and pulled out the Emily Vaughn file.
Her eye caught the worn, typewritten label. She wondered how Jasper had gotten copies of the police investigation. As a United States senator, she assumed he had a lot of access to all kinds of information. Also, he was shitifyingly wealthy, so anywhere his power didn’t work, a large briefcase full of cash certainly would. Not that any of Jasper’s machinations mattered. Andrea’s alternate investigation had only one purpose, and it wasn’t to ingratiate herself with her rich uncle. She really, really wanted to keep her father locked up—not only for Laura’s safety, but because a man who was capable of turning a handful of vulnerable people into a cult bent on destruction should not be out of prison. If that meant solving a forty-year-old murder, then Andrea would somehow have to solve a forty-year-old murder. And if she couldn’t prove her father did it, or if she proved that someone else did . . . She would fall off that cliff when she got to it.
A small town hides a big secret…
Who killed Emily Vaughn?
A girl with a secret…
Longbill Beach, 1982. Emily Vaughn gets ready for the prom. For an athlete, who is smart, pretty and well-liked, this night should be the highlight of her high school career. But Emily has a secret. And by the end of the evening, that secret will be silenced forever.
An unsolved murder…
Forty years later, Emily’s murder remains a mystery. Her tight-knit group of friends closed ranks; her respected, wealthy family retreated inwards; the small town moved on from her grisly attack. But all that’s about to change.
One final chance to uncover a killer…
US Marshal Andrea Oliver arrives in Longbill Beach on her first assignment: to protect a judge receiving death threats. But, in reality, Andrea is there to find justice for Emily. The killer is still out there—and Andrea must discover the truth before she gets silenced, too…
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