Authors: Carlene Thompson
|If She Should Die|
Three years have passed since Dara Prince disappeared from Winston,
West Virginia, leaving behind a note saying she'd run away. Now a body
has been found in the creek. A body, Christine Ireland suspects, that
could very well belong to her adopted sister, Dara. Deputy Sheriff
Michael Winter certainly seems to think so. But if Dara's dead, who's
been sending Ames Prince the letters he cherishes: always with a
different postmark and always signed with his missing daughter's initial
When Dara's diary turns up unexpectedly, Christine is plunged into
her lost sister's dark and mysterious world. Clearly, in the days before
her disappearance, Dara was certain somebody was stalking her. As the
past melds hauntingly with the present, people who knew Dara are meeting
tragic fates. Now, someone is watching Christine's every move, perhaps
just the way they once watched Dara, right before she died. If, indeed,
she really did die...
PRAISE FOR CARLENE THOMPSON
BLACK FOR REMEMBRANCE
“Loaded with mystery and suspense . . . Mary Higgins Clark fans take note.”
“Gripped me from the first page and held on through its completely unexpected climax. Lock your doors, make sure there’s no one behind you, and pick up
Black for Remembrance
—William Katz, author of
“Bizarre, terrifying . . . an inventive and forceful psychological thriller.”
“Thompson’s style is richly bleak, her sense of morality complex . . . Thompson is a mistress of the thriller parvenu.”
SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE
“This story will keep readers up well into the night.”
DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES
Don’t Close Your Eyes
has all the gothic sensibilities of a Victoria Holt novel, combined with the riveting modern suspense of Sharyn McCrumb’s
The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
. Don’t close your eyes—and don’t miss this one.”
—Meagan McKinney, author of
In the Dark
“An exciting romantic suspense novel that will thrill readers with the subplots of a who-done-it and a legendary resident ghost seen only by children. These themes cleverly tie back to the main story line centering on the relationships between Natalie and Nick, and Natalie and the killer. Carlene Thompson fools the audience into thinking they know the murderer early on in the book. The reviewer suggests finishing this terrific tale in one sitting to ascertain how accurate are the reader’s deductive skills in pinpointing the true villain.”
—Midwest Book Review
IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH
“[A] blood-chilling . . . tale of vengeance, madness, and murder.”
THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT
“Thompson . . . has crafted a lively, entertaining read . . . skillfully ratchet[ing] up the tension with each successive chapter.”
—The Charleston Daily Mail
ST. MARTIN’S PAPERBACKS TITLES
BY CARLENE THOMPSON
Black for Remembrance
Since You’ve Been Gone
Don’t Close Your Eyes
In the Event of My Death
Tonight You’re Mine
The Way You Look Tonight
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
IF SHE SHOULD DIE
Copyright © 2004 by Carlene Thompson.
All Fall Down
copyright © 1993 by Carlene Thompson.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Printed in the United States of America
St. Martin’s Paperbacks edition / January 2004
St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Pamela Gray Ahearn
For years of guidance and encouragement
Thanks to Russell Crump, Kelsey Thaler Brown,
Jennifer Weis, and Keith Biggs.
And thanks to Rhiannon, who sat on the back of my
chair as I wrote every word
Her name was Dara. Her mother, Eve, had claimed when she looked into the baby’s eyes two minutes after birth, she’d known this child was
. The baby’s father had wanted to name her Angelina, but Eve knew the girl was no angel and Eve’s will had prevailed.
Now Dara Prince sat on the rail of the rotting wooden bridge crossing Crescent Creek and looked up at the Black Moon. In one of her rare spells of patience she’d tried to explain to her “inherited” brother, Jeremy, that according to the teachings of Wicca, any time new moons occur during a single month, the second new moon is referred to as the Black Moon and is considered the strongest.
In spite of his nodding and smiling, though, she didn’t think Jeremy had really understood. At seventeen, he had an IQ of around 70. People told her he had the emotional and intellectual development of a child of eleven or twelve, although the age assignment was arbitrary. In many ways, he was not like a regular kid of that age. Dara didn’t fully understand his handicap and she had little interest in it beyond the fact that he wasn’t normal.
She sat on the old dirty bridge rail, sipping vodka from a small flask she’d brought along and desperately wishing
her father had not become the legal guardian of Jeremy and his older sister, Christine, when their parents died in a small plane crash four years ago. Jeremy deeply embarrassed Dara. She always feared people would think he was her natural brother. At least he didn’t have Down Syndrome. Those people often had strange-shaped heads and mouths that hung open. He did possess the saving grace of extraordinary good looks, sort of like Brad Pitt, only taller and more muscular. Dara often thought of what a joke God must have had making Jeremy tall, handsome, nice, strong, and dumb. God could be such a jerk sometimes, she mused. A real funny guy. Only the jokes were all on humans.
Jeremy’s older sister, Christine, wasn’t such a joke, though. She was twenty-one and although certainly not prettier than Dara, she was smarter, at least when it came to intellectual matters. People also admired her mature air, poise, and sense of responsibility. Teachers loved her. Dara thought with disgust that Christine had probably never made anything except an A+ in her entire school career.
“Of course I never gave a
about grades!” a slightly drunk Dara announced with aplomb to her small black cat, Rhiannon, who sat on her lap. “You get some teacher who likes you, they put down an ‘A’ instead of a ‘D’ on your grade sheet, and everybody loses their minds with joy. Hell, you could have copied someone’s paper and gotten the A.”
She took another sip of vodka and leaned her head back and stared at the moon. While she loved studying her mirrored image in sunlight, night was her favorite time. Night was soft, caressing, beguiling, and magical. Tonight she’d enjoyed the quiet for a while, staring at the stars and the Black Moon and listening to the spring peepers. Rhiannon leaned against her, and she ran her
hand over the black cat, feeling her back arch in response. Then Dara stood and retrieved her boom box. After all, the bridge over Crescent Creek was far enough from houses that she could play loud music without disturbing anyone. Not that she cared about disturbing people. She just didn’t want to get caught in her secret place at 11:00
. when she was supposed to be studying for an English lit course she was about to flunk.
Dara put in a compact disc and the song “Rhiannon,” by Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, cut through the warm, quiet night. She’d chosen the newer version with the lilting piano introduction. It was Dara’s favorite song, with its haunting melody and lyrics, and she played it endlessly.
The darkness and the warmth of vodka temporarily soothed her. She stood and swayed seductively beneath the moon, her hair flowing, her hips rotating, her eyes closed in pleasure. Unsupervised, Rhiannon ran up a tree, perched on a branch, covered her front paws with her tail, and watched the scene with huge golden eyes.
Dara danced on in complete abandonment, running her hands through the silk of her hair and lifting her face to the moon. Nowhere else did she have such freedom. That’s why she loved this place. She believed the area was mystical, because it was once the home of ancient Indians. A peninsula of land lay on the other side of Crescent Creek. For over a century, parts of the land had been used for farming. Equipment was brought across the bridge until several years earlier, when both the land and the bridge had been abandoned after the land had become fallow and the bridge was deemed a danger not worth fixing. After this desertion, an archaeologist had managed to get a grant and with his team excavate a promising piece of the peninsula.
She hated every history course she’d ever endured, but
for some reason she’d never fathomed, Dara had become fascinated when the archaeologists discovered and excavated an ancient village built by the Indians known as the Mound Builders. She vividly remembered creeping over to the site every morning. No one had sent her home. Most of the workers were amused by the beautiful twelve-year-old girl enchanted by the dirty artifacts, always careful never to touch anything or walk where she shouldn’t, ever willing to fetch cups of water for sweating diggers, often offering misshapen chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies she’d baked.
And then had come the most spectacular time of her life—the week they’d entered a burial mound and found eight skeletons, six adults and two children, all lying on their left sides facing west in accordance with their burial rituals. Dara had stayed at the site until after sundown, too mesmerized to care about her worried and work-obsessed father, who had no idea where she’d been spending her days.
Afterward, when he’d discovered what she’d been up to, he’d banned her trips to the creek and the peninsula. The old bridge wasn’t safe, he said. Vagrants wandered the area. Copperhead snakes lived in the weeds. Groups of skunks carrying rabies roamed around. Dara had burst into uncontrollable giggles at the last objection, claiming she’d never heard of a gang skunk attack, and to her surprise, her usually doting father had almost slapped her.