Love Mystery and Suspense? Love to stay up all night looking over your shoulder and turning pages? Don’t miss
Tangled Webs by Susan Tuttle
Lia Willett, daughter of a serial killer, left her small hometown under a cloud of suspicion and animosity, leaving behind a dead classmate and unanswered questions. Seventeen years later bizarre circumstances bring her back to Mercerville, where the hatred directed toward her in the past now slowly escalates into ever-more lethal vandalism and threats. Wanting only to live a quiet life, Lia finds herself stalked and menaced by the town, and plagued by nightmares of a frightening past she only half-remembers. As events spiral out of control, to save both her sanity and her life Lia must unearth the terrifying, long-buried memories of what happened before she left Mercerville. And in the process she must answer the most important question of all:
Is Lia Willett, like her father, a murderer?
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Trade Paperback: $18.99 487 pages. ISBN #1-4196-0497-X
Cover art by Aaron Kondziela
Tangled Webs is available on Amazon.com (to find it easiest, search by author name), directly from the publisher, booksurgepublishing.com, or ask your local bookstore to order it for you through Baker & Taylor.
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The perfect place, Lia thought, looking at the fine old mansion peeking through rustling chestnut trees beyond the wrought iron fence. She can lie here and stare forever at the house she both coveted and resented, the people she both envied and hated. What could be better?
She looked back down at the five-month-old grave, the earth half-settled with shy wisps of grass already poking out of the rich, dark soil, and read again the new inscription carved in an obviously old stone; a six-foot-deep rectangle of land bought years before with an eye to location. So typical.
Disappointed in life, in family, in love
She never had a chance
Dorothea Willett. Her mother.
Lia stood immobile, not even breathing, staring at the inscription and waiting to feel something, anything. For so many years she’d wondered how she’d feel when this day finally came: anger, grief, relief, loss, spite, glee, indifference? She’d never once imagined she’d feel nothing, but that was what she felt. Nothing, not one thing, not even an infinitesimal flicker. Nothing. It could have been a stranger lying beneath her feet. No, not even that, for a stranger would have engendered a vague sense of curiosity: how did she die, who was she, what kind of life had she had to leave an epitaph like that? But Lia stood filled with a blank unfeeling void as she gazed on her mother’s grave. For ten minutes she stood, waiting for the dam to break, the other shoe to drop, the train to broadside her. Nothing happened.
Raising her brows she turned away with a sigh, made her way back down the hill, and turned right when she reached the main road, away from where she’d parked her car. She had just over an hour before the meeting with the lawyer where she would sign whatever needed signing and then get the hell out of there. She had no intention of staying one second longer than necessary, but as long as she was here she might as well sightsee. She certainly didn’t want to hang around in the town.
I don’t understand why I had to be here in person, she thought as she weaved her way between the tombstones, stopping to read one here and there, names echoing at her from the distant past. There are notaries in Chicago, why couldn’t he have just sent me what needed signing?
She stopped abruptly at a reddish stone marker etched with a torch balanced on an open book and felt a sympathetic sinking in her breastbone as she read the inscription. John Lampland, the town librarian, had died four years ago. She remembered him fondly, he’d been so nice to her, one of the only ones who ever were. He’d seemed so old even back then that everyone said he’d probably live forever. Lia did the math and smiled to discover he’d reached ninety-seven just three days before his death. Knowing him, he was probably still shelving books when the Angels came to call.
Looking around, Lia realized she was headed toward the stand of pines she remembered from so many years ago, another landmark she’d hoped never to see again. For a few seconds she considered heading back to the car, then she squared her shoulders and continued on her way. If she didn’t go see it, she was afraid it would haunt her after she’d left. Since I’m this close, I might as well head the ghosts off at the pass, she told herself.
Not until she stood in the lee of the pines, the marker before her half-hidden by age, overgrowth and shadow, words on the soft stone almost illegible now, and felt her heart thud – once, twice – did she realize that deep inside she had hoped it wouldn’t be here, that somehow someone would have moved it, moved him. Idiot, she said to herself, and then her eyes filled with tears of anger and self-pity. She felt the familiar, futile litany start: Why me? What did I ever do to deserve him for a father?
Dabney Willett, said the chiseled words on the small, almost shapeless, dirty white tombstone. Born in 1941, died – in a prison fight, two years into a life sentence for rape, torture and murder – in 1982. Lived just long enough to make my life hell, Lia thought, grinding the heels of her hands into her eyes to stop the tears. Though she knew it was hopeless, she couldn’t stop herself from doing the math. He’d been 41 when a prison shiv pierced his heart. If he’d died at 30, there’d have been no rapes, no torture, no murders. Not so good for her, since she had to live with him, with them, but better for those young women who had died at his hands. If he’d died at 29, there would have been no Lia; definitely the solution she thought was best. Too bad old Dabney hadn’t been nice enough to oblige her, and die before she’d been conceived. It would have made her life a whole lot easier.
I hate math, Lia thought as she turned away, then had to laugh at herself and her math degree. From a correspondence school, to be sure, but still a math degree. At least the fancy ‘diploma’ they’d sent said so, though she’d yet to find mathematical employment. So far she’d used her degree to subtract figures from her dwindling bank account, draft more quilt patterns than she could ever use, and figure out ages from tombstones. It amazed her that she was so good at something she hated. She laughed again to herself; sometimes life’s little ironies just tickled her funny bone.
She stood a moment by the side of the road, soaking up the sun’s warmth, breathing in the heady scent of clover and new-mown grass. Bees droned past on endless errands; birds twittered and sang in the hushed stillness. She glanced at her watch; still forty long minutes to kill. Time sure flies when you’re having fun, she thought, rolling her eyes, then turned her reluctant steps toward the pond. She’d known this visit was inevitable ever since she’d read the attorney’s letter and realized she’d have to tread where she’d sworn she never would again.
I should have studied ghost busting, she thought, shuddering as she spotted the grave, guarded now by an elaborate stone memorial featuring a slender young woman in stone shorts and halter top, half-recumbent in the bow of a small boat. Sweet longing graced the statue’s lovely face; granite eyes gazed with fathomless emotion at the softly rippling water of the picturesque, kidney shaped pond where ducks and swans floated a zigzag course among reeds and lily pads, looking for handouts.
The statue headstone hadn’t been there the last – the only – time Lia’d been to the grave. She was amazed at how much it looked like Cerise. The sculptor must have had pictures to work from. It was so lifelike, Lia almost expected it to come alive, to step out of the boat and down from the pedestal and drive her into the ground with mocking laughter just like Cerise used to do. The vision suddenly was too real; Lia couldn’t breathe. Blinking, she jerked back a couple of steps and fought air into her lungs as she wrested her gaze from the frozen face. By the time her heartbeat had slowed down and she could breathe normally again, she found herself staring at the words cut deep into the base of the monument.
March 11, 1969 – September 21, 1987
Lost to the seas she loved so much
Lia had no need to do any math; these statistics were burned into her brain years ago. Cerise had been seventeen when she’d fallen off her boat, hit her head and drowned. Fresh from a wild party and then a fight with her father and alone on a stormy lake in the wee hours of the morning in a boat with a dead engine, an engine that showed signs of having been tampered with. Though nothing could ever be proven, suspicion had settled on the most obvious suspect, the one with a murderer’s blood in her veins. Like father, like daughter, they all whispered, and suspicion hardened into conviction. But though her memories of that time were still fragmented, Lia knew one thing for certain. She’d had nothing to do with Cerise’s untimely death.
“What really happened that night, Cerise?” she whispered, unable to tear her gaze from the death date chiseled into the stone. “Who did this to you?”
She stood caught in a nightmare past, a place of vague shadow and dark confusion, unbearable pain and formless terror. It stalked her, a clinging ebony miasma that threatened to devour her, to drown her in untold agony –
A crow screeched overhead and Lia jumped, pulled abruptly from the dark past. Blinking, she shook her head to clear the fog and cobwebs, then wrapped her arms around her shivering body. Her watch glinted in the sunlight, and when she checked the dial she realized it was time to start for the lawyer’s office.
“Goodbye, Cerise,” she said, giving the statue one last uneasy glimpse before she turned back to retrace her steps to her car. The flint-hard eyes kept their gaze on the sun-dappled water. The stone lips still held their tiny, cruel curve.
Oh yeah, that’s Cerise, all right, Lia thought as she walked down the cemetery’s main road. Beautiful, cold and cruel. More than ever, she couldn’t wait to leave this town, and its unwanted memories, far behind her once again.No comments