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Echoes of the Past Book 3
BY RACHEL TRAUTMILLER
In a moment everything can change…
Teenage girls are going missing in broad daylight. No witnesses. No struggle. Having been tipped off from the last person anyone should trust—a prison inmate who wreaked havoc in Charlotte—FBI Agent Baker Jackson Robinson knows following this clue is beyond risky. Convincing Detective Amanda Nettles to put her life and career on the line when both could be destroyed is even riskier. But what choice does he have?
With a new string of crime on the horizon, Detective Amanda Nettles is excessively busy. No time to think about an unfinished wedding to her favorite FBI agent. The almost family that wasn’t. Nor the thorough Internal Affairs investigation that left her—and her coworkers—questioning everything inside the precinct. Instead, she throws herself into working hard and toeing the line, hoping her talent and work ethic might restore her once-good name.
When a fellow cop is brutally attacked and left for dead, the journal of a young girl is the only thing linking his whereabouts to their current case. This teen’s diary could be the missing puzzle piece they need for a breakthrough. Or it could lead them on a wild goose chase sending them down a narrow rabbit hole.
Amanda’s at a crossroads. With the pages of the missing teen’s diary eerily like another woman’s, she’ll have to decide if coming face-to-face with unspeakable evil will yield lifesaving answers or eradicate what remains of the already shaky foundation of her life. One critical decision will determine the aftermath of countless lives.
A MOUTHFUL OF coffee punched beyond Amanda’s lips. It hit the floor with a splat. The force of it sent droplets sailing onto her ankles. A clammy hand met her mouth. Swiped a dreg of the substance from her lips.
The news had single-handedly outed Jonas while announcing the imminent death of the state’s largest menace to date. And she’d received the news with calm? What was that?
Robinson was still on his phone, his face the picture of stone. Pissed off granite with TNT stuck inside. Lilly’s lips were pressed together, her eyes fixed on the newscasters.
A large hand squeezed Amanda’s chest and stomach in rapid succession. Only a stupid person would believe Beth’s death would end the agony. And this little report wouldn’t mean an onslaught of press aimed in their direction. Specifically, her. Maybe Lilly.
Singleton states Mrs. Markel asked only for a piece of paper and a pen. The newscaster stacked her reports. Flashed a smile.
Dread slithered up Amanda’s spine. Did she rush to Robinson’s side and turn off the TV? Destroy the remote so none of them would have to listen to another word about the past?
So that she could write a letter to her sister.
No. Freaking. Way.
The sound of breaking glass hit her ears. Her mug wasn’t in her grasp anymore, but at her feet in chunks and shards, scattered toward the island and the couch. The news continued. Amanda couldn’t hear anything beyond the whoosh of blood in her ears.
She’d heard wrong. No way Beth would write her a letter.
Both brother and sister watched her, mirrored images of shock. As if Amanda had known this all along and not clued in either party.
When was the last time she’d checked the mail? Last week? She spun around. A shard of something sharp cut through her heel, the pain dull in comparison to everything.
What had she done with them? She spotted them on the hook by the door.
Amanda swiped them and disarmed Addie. Then she pulled the door open and exited, waited until it closed. The empty hallway loomed in front of her. The mailboxes at the end beckoned. It might not be in her box yet. She’d set up mail forwarding services so that she didn’t have to give out her address.
If there was a letter, did she open it?
Shaky legs carried her in that direction. The key fit into the lock with little effort. Letters filled the inside. An advertisement flier rolled around a stack of mail in the middle.
She pulled all of it out. Didn’t dare to breathe. Flicked through credit card offers, automobile rate reduction promises and bills.
One by one, they fluttered to the floor. Until there was nothing left. Nothing, but the lone, white envelope still resting inside the compartment, wedged in the back. As if it had hidden itself in hopes of never being found.
The whoosh in her ears turned to a solid pounding. She grabbed the crumpled letter. Her full name flowed across the front in the same bold handwriting as Jonas’ letter. The NCCIW’s address was at the top.
What if she burned it? Never opened the thing and forgot it existed?
From the corner of her eye, she noted Robinson’s approach. His face was a mixture of concern and something far more visceral. One warm hand found her back, a quick touch that lent a millisecond of peace. The other grabbed the letter. Then he tore through the white envelope and pulled out the contents. Together, they scanned sentences confirming what the news was saying.
By the time you read this letter, I’m sure you will have all the information I’m about to give you. I am not afraid of dying. It seems fitting given the circumstances. The Warden and my attorney served my death warrant today.
The Warden has informed me that two members from every family impacted by my actions will have the opportunity to attend what will be the end of my life.
The prison might want to consider expanding their facility to accommodate the volume of people that might flock to such an event. Eye for an eye, right? I suppose I cannot say that I don’t understand the allure. Punishment for someone or something who has reaped havoc on such a multitude.
It’s only human nature to place blame and exact consequences. To make sure they are fulfilled. So the other person understands that their behavior was inappropriate.
Some might say there is no learning in death. Once the barbiturates hit my system, I won’t know the difference between living and dying. Love and hate. Success and failure.
And this will make a lot of people happy. One less prisoner to feed, guard or rehabilitate.
I do not expect a response from you. I do not want one. I simply wish to ponder your future actions, because like myself, you are complex.
I suspect that even if you have moved on, there are times you stand in the middle of a crossroads. I imagine life is rushing past you, in hyper-speed, and you, with no clear direction. But you move forward, anyway, somehow managing to push back when life gets too close.
This might afford you freedom. Or it might be your prison, one I understand all too well.
So, I wonder. Which side will you choose?
The pounding of Amanda’s heart, combined with the gathering saliva in her mouth, made her want to find the nearest bathroom and expel every last drop of liquid in her stomach.
Was she supposed to dance for joy? Give in to the anger churning in her gut? Drive to Raleigh and face the biggest nightmare she’d ever lived through? Because Beth was right about a few things. She was at a crossroads. One she’d never left.
One woman had destroyed innumerable lives. The reminder was right in front of her. Sharing her living room. Trying to move forward, but stuck in an inescapable rut.
Every day Amanda strived to save lives. Watching one end wasn’t her thing. From either side. She wouldn’t step foot in that prison on May fifteenth.
Not even if her life depended on it.
“Rachel Trautmiller Brings Amanda and Robinson
from AFTERMATH to IC Today!”
By Rachel Trautmiller
Rachel Trautmiller is the author of the Echoes of the Past series and the Guardian Time Travel series. She’s a military wife with a huge heart for heroes in unlikely forms. She loves writing, football, her country, God, and her family. When she’s not creating a world her readers can escape into, she can be found taking on too many home improvement projects, crafts, and soaking up the sunshine with her husband, daughter, and two crazy dogs.
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