FALLEN from SIGHT
On the heels of AT THE RIVER’S EDGE and BUTCHER ROAD, my next fast-paced murder mystery set in the Blue Ridge Mountains will be FALLEN FROM SIGHT. I hope to have this book ready to release in early 2020.
Below is a draft of the opening for FALLEN FROM SIGHT. Let me know what you think!
Click HERE to learn more about books in the Mountain Mystery Series.
– Day 1-
FLORESCENT LIGHTS burned bright in the cramped, windowless interrogation room.
Like a hawk standing over a field mouse, Detective John Phillips peered down his angular nose at the young suspect seated across the metal table. The white-haired veteran of the Parsons Creek Police Department (PCPD) wore a wrinkled dress shirt with the top button undone, his narrow dark tie pulled loose. Sergeant Mitch Williams was seated as his side in a snug khaki uniform with a gold badge stuck to his barrel chest.
“Tell us again. Where and when did you last see Ms. Campbell?”
Ryan Nelson rubbed his face and took a deep breath, his weary eyes showing anger and frustration. The two-hour interview was taking its toll.
“I’ve already told you. We watched a movie at my place Friday night. I gave her a kiss on the front porch and waved goodbye around midnight as she drove away.”
“And that was the last time you saw her?”
“That’s right. She wanted to go hiking the next morning, but I had to work.”
“Did she say if she had plans to go with anyone else?” Phillips asked.
“No. We usually go alone. Sometimes she brings Patches.”
“Yeah, a springer spaniel. I found him at her house after she didn’t call or come by on Saturday night. He’s at my house now.”
“How would you describe your relationship with Ms. Campbell? Any recent disagreements or arguments?”
Ryan’s jaw clenched as he raked his hand over his short dark hair.
“We’ve dated more than a year, and we rarely argue about anything.”
“Rarely?” Phillips asked, leaning forward.
“Do you ever have disagreements with your wife, detective?” Nelson shot back.
“My wife isn’t missing!” Phillips shouted.
Ryan exhaled and leaned back.
“Listen, I want to find Sarah more than anyone. You keep asking the same questions, over and over. I have no reason to hide anything from you or anyone else.”
“You were the last one to see Ms. Campbell, and we have very little else to go on. You claim to have driven to Boone on Saturday, but you have no one to verify your whereabouts.”
“Stop with the bullshit!” Ryan shouted, twisting in his chair. “I told you that I picked up building supplies and then drove straight back to a job site. It only took a couple hours. You act like I’m some drifter passing through town. I’m the one who reported her missing Saturday night for crying out loud!”
“Okay. Just relax,” Phillips said. “We’re trying to make sure we don’t overlook anything.”
The detective paused, giving the twenty-eight-year-old boyfriend of the missing woman a chance to cool down.
“A hiker found Sarah’s grey scarf on the cliff’s edge at Jefferson Peak yesterday,” Phillips said. “It was clinging to a bush just below the lookout point. What do make of this?”
“You’re the detective,” Nelson replied. “She must’ve dropped it, or it could have blown off in the wind. Her car was at the base of the trail, so she probably walked to the top. It’s a hike we make several times a month.”
“Do you ever climb that cliff?”
“We’d never climb Jefferson Peak. It’s five hundred feet of slick granite. Besides, she wouldn’t go climbing alone.”
“Was Ms. Campbell depressed, or are you aware of anyone who’d want her harmed?”
Ryan grimaced, shaking his head. “Everyone likes Sarah. You won’t find a more upbeat, kindhearted person in Parsons Creek.”
“Didn’t she move here from Charlotte a couple years ago?”
“That’s right. Her real estate company relocated her to sell retirement property up on Jakes Mill Road. I met her while working on the condos up there.”
“Did she ever mention any controversy from her past? What about from her current job?”
“No, and if you knew her, you’d realize how ridiculous you sound,” Nelson replied, standing. “Now, unless you plan to arrest me, I need to get home.”
Detective Phillips and Sergeant Williams exchanged glances. Williams shook his head, indicating he had nothing to add.
“That’s all for now,” Phillips said. “We’ll stay in touch.”
“I’m sure you will,” Nelson said, turning and stepping from the room.
As the door closed, Sergeant Williams turned to Detective Phillips. “What do you think?” he asked.
“Husbands and boyfriends are the most likely suspects, but I think the kid is clean.”
so sure,” Williams replied, frowning. “He seems a bit cocky to me.”
– 1.1 –
THE FALL SKY turned a brilliant orange against the grey-smoked mountains to the west as Ryan turned into his driveway. He barely noticed.
The past two days had been the most stressful of his young life. He feared the worst, but held out hope. Initial searches at Jefferson Peak and at the base of the cliff by Parsons Creek Police and park rangers had produced nothing. They were to begin again at daylight tomorrow.
Patches barked wildly inside as Ryan cracked open the garage door into the house. The eager spaniel ran to him and circled his legs several times before plopping sphinxlike at his feet and staring upward. It was two hours past the dog’s normal feeding.
Ryan scooped a cupful of dry food from a forty-pound bag into Patches’ bowl as his cellphone chirped in his pocket. He pulled it out to see a familiar number. It was Sarah’s twin sister, Beth.
“Any news?” she asked.
“Nothing. I just came from city hall. Detective Phillips and that bulldog-faced police sergeant spent a couple hours questioning me.”
“They think you’re responsible?”
“They’re just grasping at straws. Like all of us,” Ryan said.
“I’ve got a bit of good news,” Beth said. “I’ve rounded up about twenty volunteers to search the base of the cliff tomorrow. Most of them are hiking and climbing friends from Charlotte and a few from my law office.”
“They’ll need to be experienced hikers. It’s rough terrain around there,” Ryan replied.
“I’m afraid of what we’ll find,” Beth said. “But I have to know where she is.”
“I walked the trail to the top this morning, but didn’t have time to do much more. I found nothing.”
“Do you think she fell from the peak?” Beth asked.
“The winds can be fierce up there, but I doubt she fell. Not by accident, anyway,” Ryan replied.
“I can’t believe anyone would harm her,” Beth said.
“There are crazies everywhere. Even up here in the mountains,” Ryan replied, staring down at Patches finishing his meal.
“You don’t have to tell me about crazies. As a paralegal in a criminal law office, I see plenty of them” she said.
“Then you know what I mean.”
“I’m glad Mom and Dad are not here,” Beth said, her voice cracking. “This would rip them apart.”
“There’s still a good chance she’s okay,” Ryan encouraged. “Maybe she sprained an ankle and is too hurt to hike back to her car. There’s no cell service on that side of Jefferson Peak, so she’d have no way to contact us.”
“I try to think of good outcomes, but it’s not like Sarah to disappear like this,” Beth said, pacing the floor of her uptown condo. “She and I have talked every night for as long as I can remember. We finish each other’s thoughts and sentences. She has to be okay. Losing her would be like losing half of me.”
“We’ll find her,” Ryan said. “She’s an experienced hiker and knows these woods and trails as well as anyone.”
“Me and the others are caravanning from Charlotte tomorrow morning, and if all goes as planned, we should arrive around nine. Where should we meet?” Beth asked.
“Stay clear of downtown Parsons Creek. The news crews are arriving, and you’ll attract unwanted attention.”
“There’s a ranger station inside Jefferson Park about six miles off Route 321 on Murdock Road. We can spread out and walk toward the base of the peak from there.”
“Okay. See you then,” Beth replied. “Oh. I almost forgot.”
“One of the guys coming tomorrow is Guy Fletcher. He’s an old flame of Sarah’s. They dated her first two years at App State. He insisted on helping.”
“She actually dated someone named Guy?” he mocked.
“Sarah hasn’t seen or talked to him in more than six years. I would know.”
“What does he do now?
“He’s a musician. Plays gigs mainly in Charlotte and the Carolina coastal towns. He seemed concerned and was able to get several of his friends to join the search. I hope you’re okay with him coming. I’m sure he’s well-intended.”
“I’m fine with it,” he lied. “We all just want to find Sarah. See you in the morning.”