In celebration of Halloween, my second favorite holiday, Dandi Daley Mackall wrote a creepy guest post and shared an excerpt from her latest book!
The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall
Published October 11, 2011
Seventeen-year-old Hope Long's life revolves around her brother Jeremy. So when Jeremy is accused of killing the town's beloved baseball coach, Hope's world begins to unravel. Everyone is convinced Jeremy did it, and since he hasn't spoken a word in 9 years, he's unable to defend himself. Their lawyer instructs Hope to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane, but all her life Hope has known that Jeremy's just different than other people—better, even. As she works to prove his innocence—joined by her best friend T.J. and the sheriff's son, Chase—Hope uncovers secrets about the murder, the townspeople, her family, and herself. She knows her brother isn't the murderer. But as she comes closer to the truth, she's terrified to find out who is.
I have to confess that I used to dread Halloween. Don’t get me wrong - I loved the candy, popcorn balls, parading around in a spooky costume. But I grew up in a small town in Missouri, where there weren’t a lot of “tricks” kids could pull without getting caught. So nearly every year, a couple of guys in my class used to let our horses out of the pasture, or the barn. I’m not sure why they thought that was fun or funny. My sister, my dad, and I spent far too many Halloween nights trying to find our horses and put them back into the pasture. Boo to that!
I have no trouble coming up with the scariest thing that ever happened to me. A number of years ago, I started seeing a white pickup truck everywhere I went. It parked on my street in the middle of the night. It followed me. It showed up in the parking lot of the grocery store, parked next to my car. Then the driver of that pickup began to show up everywhere too. I started getting creepy phone calls I’d hang up on.
It all came together one night when I was home alone. A pounding on the door woke me, and that pickup-truck guy was shouting crazy things, screaming that he was going to get even with me for locking him out, that I was supposed to “belong” to him. In the end, I dialed 911. The police came and carted the guy away. I never knew why he’d targeted me, but he was a real, live stalker. I’ve told the long, scary version of the white pickup truck story when I’ve done school visits and author conferences across the U.S. Students would always ask me if I’d ever written about that pickup-truck guy, and I’d have to answer no. Only now, I have! In The Silence of Murder, I recreated the white pickup truck and its frightening driver.
When I go inside, my arms and shoulders cry out for a long, hot bubble bath. I start the water, then remember to close the shades and curtains. I’m struggling with the living room curtains when I catch sight of something white across the street. It’s the white pickup truck.
How long has it been there? Was someone watching me while I mowed? I shiver, thinking about it, picturing it. What if they were waiting for Rita to leave?
Fast as I can, I lock the doors. Then I edge toward the window and peer out.
No cars drive by.
If the pickup is still there, I can’t see it. But I didn’t imagine that truck.
I hear the bathtub water running and dash in to shut it off before it overflows.
911. I need to dial 911. I race through the living room looking for my cell. I don’t know what I did with it. I don’t have time to look.
Heart pounding, I run to the house phone. I reach for it, and the phone rings. I jump back.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
I watch as my arm stretches down and my fingers wrap around the receiver. I lift it to my ear, but I don’t speak. I don’t breathe.
Someone’s there. There’s a rustling noise. I think I hear an engine, a car. Then he-or she-says, “I’m watching you.” The voice is calm, firm, as sexless as it is faceless.
"Quit poking around where you don’t belong. Leave...it...alone." The line goes dead.
I stand there, receiver to my ear, until it buzzes. I drop the phone back onto the holder.
Almost instantly, it rings again. I stare at it.
Ring, ring, ring. It won’t stop.
I jerk the phone off its hook. "Stop it! Stop calling here! You leave me alone!"
"Hope? What’s wrong? Did they call again?"
It’s Chase. I burst into tears.
"Hope, is Rita there with you?"
I shake my head. "No."
"Hang on. I’ll be right over." There’s a click of the phone, then nothing but the roar of the dial tone.
* * * * * * * * * *
I curl up on the couch, pulling the Afghan blanket around me. And I wait. Pipes creak. The fridge roars. Branches scratch the roof. Each noise is louder than the one before.
Outside, I hear a car drive up. A car door slam. Footsteps running up the walk. A knock. A banging at the door. It gets louder and louder.
"Hope! It’s me! Open up!"
I fling the blanket to the floor and rush to the door. The lock won’t turn. My hands are shaking. Finally, I yank the door open and throw myself into Chase’s arms.
Without a word, he picks me up and carries me to the couch. He has to go back to the door and lock it.
"Chase?" I call.
"I’m here." He kneels beside the couch and wraps me in the blanket. "You’re shivering." He rubs the blanket, warming my arms and legs. "Tell me what happened."
"The truck was outside." I start to sit up. "It might still be there!"
He eases me back down. "It’s okay. I didn’t see it out there. Go on."
"The phone...rang. They said to stop poking around, or something like that." I can’t finish because that scratchy, breathless voice is in my head, telling me to let it go or leave it alone.
Chase sits on the couch and takes my head in his lap. He strokes my hair, and I wonder if this is what children feel like when their parents take care of them when they’re sick or frightened. I think it might be.
"Hope?" His voice is as soothing as his fingers on my hairline. "Talk to me. Tell me again what the caller said."
I tell him. It’s easier now. I’m safe.
When I finish, Chase lets out a breath, like he’s been holding it during my account. "Did the person on the phone sound like a man?"
"Yes. At least, I think so. I guess it could have been a woman. It doesn’t even sound human. But I thought it was a man."
"It’s got to be the same person who’s stalking you," Chase says, "the guy in that pickup. I wish I’d seen him."
I hope everyone has an awesome & scary Halloween night!