Excerpt from Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Her Last Breath

A Kate Burkholder Novel

by Linda Castillo

Her Last Breath
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2014, 320 pages

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CHAPTER 1

When it rains, it pours. Those words were one of my mamm's favorite maxims when I was growing up. As a child, I didn't understand its true meaning, and I didn't spend much time trying to figure it out. In the eyes of the Amish girl I'd been, more was almost always a good thing. The world around me was a swiftly moving river, chock-full of white-water rapids and deep holes filled with secrets I couldn't fathom. I was ravenous to raft that river, anxious to dive into all of those dark crevices and unravel their closely guarded secrets. It wasn't until I entered my twenties that I realized there were times when that river overflowed its banks and a killing flood ensued.

My mamm is gone now and I haven't been Amish for fifteen years, but I often find myself using that old adage, particularly when it comes to police work and, oftentimes, my life.

I've been on duty since 3:00 P.M. and my police radio has been eerily quiet for a Friday, not only in Painters Mill proper, but the entirety of Holmes County. I made one stop and issued a speeding citation, mainly because it was a repeat offense and the eighteen-year-old driver is going to end up killing someone if he doesn't slow down. I've spent the last hour cruising the backstreets, trying not to dwell on anything too serious, namely a state law enforcement agent by the name of John Tomasetti and a relationship that's become a lot more complicated than I ever intended.

We met during the Slaughterhouse Murders investigation almost two years ago. It was a horrific case: A serial killer had staked his claim in Painters Mill, leaving a score of dead in his wake. Tomasetti, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation, was sent here to assist. The situation was made worse by my personal involvement in the case. They were the worst circumstances imaginable, especially for the start of a relationship, professional or otherwise. Somehow, what could have become a debacle of biblical proportion, grew into something fresh and good and completely unexpected. We're still trying to figure out how to define this bond we've created between us. I think he's doing a better job of it than I am.

That's the thing about relationships; no matter how hard you try to keep things simple, all of those gnarly complexities have a way of seeping into the mix. Tomasetti and I have arrived at a crossroads of sorts, and I sense change on the wind. Of course, change isn't always a negative. But it's rarely easy. The indecision can eat at you, especially when you've arrived at an important junction and you're not sure which way to go—and you know in your heart that each path will take you in a vastly different direction.

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping my troubles at bay, and I find myself falling back into another old habit I acquired from my days on patrol: wishing for a little chaos. A bar fight would do. Or maybe a domestic dispute. Sans serious injury, of course. I don't know what it says about me that I'd rather face off with a couple of pissed-off drunks than look too hard at the things going on in my own life.

I've just pulled into the parking lot of LaDonna's Diner for a BLT and a cup of dark roast to go when the voice of my second shift dispatcher cracks over the radio.

"Six two three."

I pick up my mike. "What do you have, Jodie?"

"Chief, I just took a nine one one from Andy Welbaum. He says there's a bad wreck on Delisle Road at CR 14."

"Anyone hurt?" Dinner forgotten, I glance in my rearview mirror and make a U-turn in the gravel lot.

"There's a buggy involved. He says it's bad."

"Get an ambulance out there. Notify Holmes County." Cursing, I make a left on Main, hit my emergency lights and siren. The engine groans as I crank the speedometer up to fifty. "I'm ten seventy-six."

Copyright© 2013 by Linda Castillo

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