Read an Excerpt from Carlene Thompson’s SUCH A WINTER’S DAY
by Severn House on 26 November 2021
Chilling secrets. An ice-cold killer.
Juliet Reid wasn’t able to save her murdered brother almost ten years ago. Can she stop an ice-cold killer in their tracks a decade later?
Here’s a sneak preview from the Prologue of Such a Winter’s Day.
Nine and a half years ago
‘Juliet, your brother should have been home over an hour ago. Dinner is almost ready.’
Fifteen-year-old Juliet Reid looked up from the Kindle she was reading at the kitchen table. ‘He’s probably at play rehearsal.’
‘He’s usually not this late,’ her mother, Sera, said.
‘Have you called him?’
‘Twice. Went to voicemail both times. I’m sure he forgot to turn on his phone again after rehearsal. Most likely he’s on his way home. Will you go and hurry him along?’
Juliet sighed. If she came home over an hour late, she’d be in trouble. Because it was Fin, her mother merely looked annoyed. ‘Can’t Alec do it?’
‘I sent Alec to the grocery store for brown sugar and it’s taking him forever. I don’t know what can be keeping him.’ Nineteen-year-old Alec Wainwright had lived with the Reids since he was sixteen. His family had been killed in a car wreck and he had no other living relatives. Now he attended Ohio State University and had come back for Christmas break.
Sera, her long blonde-and-silver hair pulled back into a neat French braid, looked at Juliet with patient, slightly amused blue eyes. ‘Please, honey. Surely you can tear yourself away from your reading for twenty minutes. You know Fin – he has no sense of time.’
‘He has a watch,’ Juliet groused. ‘It’s snowing.’
‘It’s just beginning. Hurry and you’ll catch him before the snow really starts.’
Juliet took her puffer coat down from the rack in the kitchen, went out the front door, and started north on Evening Star Lane. The houses were fairly large and each set on nearly an acre of land that sloped down to a patch of woods surrounding a narrow stream called Argent Creek. Some people questioned how her father could afford such a large house on a deputy policeman’s salary, but her mother had once explained to her that they were able to live in such a nice neighborhood because she’d inherited money from her father, who had been a physician. ‘My mother died when I was your age. Dad died five years later and I was his only heir. When I married your father, I was able to buy us a pretty home.’
Juliet loved the spacious neighborhood and most of the neighbors except for the Booth family, who lived six houses away from the Reids. Micah Booth was a foreman at Tresswell Metal Fabrications, which was owned by Fin’s friend Jon’s family. Mr Booth stood on his front lawn giving Juliet a hard look. Juliet ignored him. She had more on her mind than a man who didn’t like her parents.
Juliet thought about Fin. Her parents said he’d first started trying to play the guitar when he was three and he’d shown enormous musical talent – both with instruments and vocally – ever since. Now her eighteen-year-old brother had not only written but was starring in the school Christmas musical and he’d been acting like a movie star who didn’t have to abide by any household rules. Neither her father nor mother ever got really mad at him. At least it seemed that way to Juliet. They rarely had a harsh word for her, either, but then she always did as expected. She kept her bedroom neat, made good grades, and practiced the piano endlessly. Also, at fifteen she was a good cook like her mother. Still, she wasn’t the spectacular presence that was Finian Reid.
Now Juliet plunged her hands in her pockets and looked at the surrounding mountains turning dusky blue in the evening. She’d been born here and loved the hills and the nearby wide Ohio River that formed the eastern border between Ohio and West Virginia. She thought the land was beautiful and she couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than the city of Parrish, Ohio. On this December evening, though, the snow was growing heavier and she felt an unaccustomed loneliness descending with the coming twilight. The hills seemed higher, pressing closer, and darkness was falling faster than usual. Juliet wasn’t a timid girl – her parents often said she wasn’t as cautious as she should be – but a strange uneasiness crept over her. She pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and called Fin. He still didn’t answer. Damn! He was really being so inconsiderate lately. Oh well, maybe she couldn’t blame him. Fin was handsome, wrote music, played lead guitar and keyboards, had a strong, fantastic voice, and at six feet with his wavy golden blond hair, vibrant blue eyes, and electric personality, was nearly every girl’s dream. Juliet had always adored and admired her big brother and forgave him for his recent inflated ego. If she’d been in his place, she’d probably be even worse, she admitted to herself.
She phoned him again but still with no luck. She jammed her cellphone back in her pocket. Now snow fell steadily. She pulled her hood over her long dark blonde hair and wiped snowflakes off the lashes curling above her blue eyes. Ahead was the tree-covered knoll she and Fin always used as a shortcut to the high school. She crossed the intersecting street and started up the incline, following the path that wound between shedding maple trees. She scuffed through fallen leaves and jumped when a chattering gray squirrel ran in front of her. ‘Hey, don’t you know you’re supposed to be in your den watching TV?’ she called. The squirrel raced up a tree and disappeared. I wish I were home watching TV, Juliet thought and in a burst of frustration, yelled, ‘Finian Reid, where are you?’
As the path continued, the woods grew denser. Juliet trudged on, thinking that if Fin missed dinner, their mother would be really unhappy. She was fixing pork roast with twice-baked potatoes and carrots in brown sugar sauce, Fin’s favorite meal. This was so bad of him, she fumed inwardly. He knew their mother was preparing something special for him and Juliet didn’t like to see her disappointed.
She heard a soft ‘whooo’ and looked up to see a small, long-eared owl sitting on a bare branch. ‘Are you searching for dinner or sightseeing?’ she asked. ‘You haven’t seen my brother, have you? Blond hair, big ego?’
The owl hooted again, apparently unfazed by her presence as it gazed steadily at her with golden eyes.
Juliet walked on, her head down as she got madder and madder at Fin. Her mother called. ‘Haven’t you found him yet?’
‘No. I’m afraid he’s still at school.’
‘Oh, he couldn’t be so forgetful,’ Sera fretted. Yes, he could, Juliet thought. Or he’s hanging around with his girlfriend Carole Tresswell. ‘Dinner will be ruined!’
‘Don’t wait on him, Mom. Having overcooked food will serve Fin right.’
‘But you don’t deserve it.’
‘Oh, well, never mind me,’ Juliet said with the right amount of weary forbearance in her voice to spark her mother’s pity. Fin wasn’t the only actor in the family, she told herself. ‘Besides, the chocolate pound cake I made will be good with warm chocolate sauce.’
‘Yes, it will. You did a really good job with it.’
‘Keep looking for another ten minutes. If you don’t find him, come home. I don’t want you to miss dinner.’
Juliet put her phone back in her pocket again, took a deep breath and continued along the path. A mouse darted from under a moss-covered log, then quickly ran beneath it again. Darkness had almost fallen and angry at the thought of missing dinner, Juliet kicked a pinecone and sent it soaring. It landed about fifteen feet ahead and rolled a couple of times. When it came to rest, Juliet looked at it then raised her head and froze. She felt as if all the air gusted out of her body. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t make a sound. She couldn’t breathe.
All she could do was stare at the body of her brother sitting on the ground, legs splayed, a rope tied around his upper body and holding it to the base of a pine tree. His head was bowed and bright red blood drenched the front of his white wool sweater.