Exclusive Excerpt: Even If It Kills Her by Kate White

Even If It Kills Her

We love Kate White's Bailey Weggins mysteries and are so excited to check out this seventh installment, Even If It Kills Her, available now! Bailey’s live-in boyfriend, Beau, has begun to seriously worry about Bailey’s job as a true crime writer and the amount of danger she often ends up in. Let's check out an excerpt to whet our appetites …

Two days later, Jillian Lowe and I were tucked into the front seat of my Jeep Cherokee, pointed toward the Berkshire mountain region of Massachusetts. We’d hit the road later than I would have liked, but at least we’d arrive before dinnertime.

Jillian’s original plan for her part of the trip had been to spend, max, forty-eight hours in the Berkshires. That would allow time for the meeting with the DA and also give her a chance to have dinner at the home of a high school friend whom she’d stayed in periodic touch with. Then she was going to beat a fast retreat out of town.

And yet as much as it was going to pain Jillian to be in the area again, I needed her there for longer—to provide info and answer questions in real time. So I pressed her to make her stay at least three days. Her one restriction: she couldn’t stay in Dory itself, which I completely understood. I booked us into an inn about twenty-five minutes southwest of Dory, figuring that we’d be able to keep a low profile there, which was key. We didn’t need the media finding out Jillian was back—and we certainly didn’t want the killer learning that, either.

The killer. As I’d relayed to Jillian, there was a decent chance he wasn’t around any longer. Unless he was a total and complete nut job, it would have been troubling for him to stay so close to the crime scene. If, however, he’d had serious ties to the area, it would have been tricky for him to leave.

Of course, no matter where he was at this point, he probably kept tabs on things. The new DNA finding had to be his worst nightmare come true.

My goal over the next few days? Find as many old threads about the case as possible so I could follow them and discover hints about who that killer really was.

“I think we need to look at everything we can get our hands on,” I told Jillian as I drove. “Is there any paperwork leftover from that time—like bills, calendars, letters?”

“Um, yeah, maybe,” she said after a couple of moments. “There’s a storage unit in the area—Uncle Jack’s, it’s called— where some stuff is stored. There are boxes that a friend of my mother filled with odds and ends that were found lying around. I never went through any of it myself.”

But she had the key to the unit on her keychain, she said, and the passcode for entering the gate to the facility. I suggested that if it was okay with her, I’d make a trip to Uncle Jack’s myself after we arrived in the Berkshires.

***

It was after eight by the time I finally left for Uncle Jack’s and I cursed out loud as the twilight seemed to fade before my eyes. It would mean tackling the task ahead after dark. The last thing I was angling for right now was some Silence of the Lambs-ien experience that involved me, a creepy storage unit, and a flashlight clamped between my teeth.

Still, despite my misgivings, I decided to stick with the plan. Surely the place would be well lit, perhaps even guarded.

By the time I entered the parking lot, the sky was dark and stars had begun to pop into view. There was a small brick administrative building in front, closed at this hour, needless to say, and a shiny black wrought-iron gate just to the right of it.

I nosed my car up to the gate, stepped out, and peered through the metal bars. From where I stood, the place seemed to go on forever. I punched in the code Jillian had provided, and the gate slid slowly open.

After jumping back into the driver’s seat, I eased the Jeep through and began following the signs toward unit number 407. There were endless rows of attached units, their fronts featuring rolling aluminum shutters. I hadn’t expected the place to be booming at this hour, but I’d assumed someone might be around, maybe a girl pissed as hell at her live-in boyfriend and busy hauling a lumpy old mattress out of storage. But Uncle Jack’s was absolutely empty.

I pulled the car up to 407, killed the engine and emerged into the summer night. I was at the edge of the facility, and just beyond the metal fence there was a field with hundreds of fireflies, blinking on and off in a magical performance.

Things on my side of the fence weren’t nearly as enchanting, however. I glanced around, taking in my surroundings. The facility, I suddenly realized, had the feel of one of those towns you see in postapocalyptic horror movies—the kind four or five survivors stumble upon as they travel cross-country, desperate to learn whether anyone else besides themselves is still alive. At first all the buildings appear abandoned, but five minutes later, hordes of zombies hurl themselves out of hiding and start tearing the survivors’ faces off with their teeth.

Just put your ass in gear and get out of here, I told myself. I wasn’t overly timid about snooping around places, but spending half the day with Jillian and talking so much about the murders had left me vaguely unnerved.

To my relief, gaining access to the individual unit was easy enough. The padlock didn’t fight me, and the shutter rolled up without a hitch. After a few seconds of fumbling, I located the light switch and everything burst into sight. Along the right wall was a stack of large plastic storage tubs, most likely the boxes I was looking for.

I stepped toward the stack. The words Claire and Carl, Jillian’s parents, had been scrawled in indelible marker across the lid of the top one. After wiggling the edge of the lid, I managed to pop it open. I peered inside. It was just as Jillian had thought: random paperwork, things found lying on counters or stuffed into drawers and dumped into the best that Rubbermaid had to offer.

I secured the lid back on and eased the top tub toward me enough to see what was written on the one beneath: Julia, Jillian’s dead sister. I figured the tub at the bottom probably held her brother Danny’s stuff.

Though I hadn’t asked Jillian for permission, I decided to load the three tubs into the car and lug them back to the inn. I set down the flashlight I’d brought and loaded the first tub into the back, then did the same with Julia’s. The tub at the bottom was indeed marked with Jillian’s brother Danny’s name. Though I was anxious to split, something made me pry off the lid and look inside. It was brimming with books, a box of Magic cards, Marvel comic books, and a spiral notebook. Written in ballpoint pen on the front, in handwriting that could only have belonged to a twelve-year-old boy, were the words My Summer.

It felt as if someone had pinched my heart.

I replaced the cover and was about to press it back into a locked position when I heard what I thought were footsteps, the scuff of shoes on gravel. I cocked my head toward the side-stall, trying to listen. Was someone out there?

And then, from behind me, another sound, this one a mix of roar and rattle. I spun around and watched the metal shutter come rolling downward.

Seconds later, it hit the ground with an angry clang.

What the hell had just happened? Had the shutter rolled down on its own, dragged by gravity?

Or had someone yanked it down on purpose?

Even If It Kills Her is available in digital and print now. Digital copies start at $10.99, grab yours here: Amazon | B&N | Google Play | iBooks | Kobo. And if more mysterious reads is what you crave, be sure to stop by our Everything Mystery page.

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