Baggage by S.G. Redling
ISBN: 9781503950603 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781511324052 (audio CD)
ASIN: B00ZINSL00 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Over the years, terrible things keep happening to Anna Ray on February 17. First, there was the childhood trauma she’s never been able to speak about. Then, to her horror, her husband killed himself on that date.
A year later and a thousand miles away, Anna tries to find solace in the fresh start of a new job in a new place. She takes comfort in her outspoken cousin Jeannie, the confidant and best friend who’s there whenever she needs help. On the day of the dreaded anniversary, Anna and Jeannie hit the town, planning to ease the pain with an alcohol-induced stupor and then sleep…
When Anna awakes the next morning, she thinks she can put one more February 17 behind her, but fate is about to intervene in the form of two gruesome murders with eerie similarities to her violent past. This time, however, she won’t be an abandoned daughter or a grieving widow. This time, she’ll be a suspect.
Read an excerpt:
I would already be home if I would stop turning around to stare. Cold drizzle soaks through my jeans and my ponytail has taken on so much water it whips like a sprinkler when I turn my head but I keep turning to look. I’ve seen it nearly every day for six months and I still try to take it all in. After all, the world ends tomorrow. Again.
I’m standing on a hunk of slate that juts out over the culvert on the hairpin turn on Everly Road. From here I can see most of the campus—the glassed-in wing of the library, the dome of the student center, and through the bare branches of the oaks and sycamores that line the wide green, I see the Jenkins Building where I work.
When I took the job in September, this vista exploded with reds and yellows. My boss said my walk home would get a lot less interesting come winter. Well, it’s February 16 and I can’t think of a thing I’d rather stare at or anywhere I’d rather be. I’m in no hurry at all to get back to my dark apartment and rental furniture. I’m certainly in no hurry to get home to my neighbors.
Mostly I’m not in a hurry to see what’s waiting for me.
Messages on my answering machine. Letters in my mailbox. No matter where I go, they find me. No matter how often they find me, I won’t hear or read any of them.
Unfortunately, I can’t stand here forever and I continue my trek home. When I cut across the road to Everly Place, the ugly, sprawling complex cuts off my view of the town below. Here it’s just a parking lot and dumpsters surrounding the squat two-story collection of inexpensive college housing.
My mailbox fights me again, like it does every day. I’m tempted to not struggle with the sticky lock, to leave the envelopes and flyers to build up until the mailman has no choice but refuse to deliver any more. Would they do that? Would that work? If you ignore your mail long enough, does it stop coming? Tempting, but I don’t put a lot of faith in that plan. The thing about messages you don’t want is that they are stunningly persistent. I don’t read the writing on the envelopes I pull out. I’m not careful and a few of them catch and tear on the inside lip of the box.
I climb the outside stairs to the second floor, my ears peeled as always for signs that my nightmare neighbors are home. At the landing, I pause. Silence. Thank God. At least I’ll be lucky for a little while. At least I’ll be able to face today’s messages with a little less aggravation. Purse down, shoes off, mail tossed onto the coffee table. I head to the kitchen and see the message light flashing on my answering machine. Maybe it’s just telemarketers. I bargain with myself: If it’s just telemarketers, well have a salad and hot tea. We’ll treat ourselves to something healthy and spend the rest of the evening in soft pajamas with one of those good books we’ve been meaning to read. I push the button and listen.
“You are receiving a call from an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. Press one to continue this—”
I hit delete and reach for the corkscrew.
There’s no point in putting it off now. I flop down on the couch, trying not to think about how much I hate this furniture. Seriously, I need to get a new couch. Just because I’m broke and this is a rental doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a couch that doesn’t feel like burlap and smell like a German shepherd. Let’s not even discuss the hard wooden arms, covered in drink rings and cigarette burns from the fabric to the uncomfortably sharp edges. The good news is the couch matches the scuffed and scarred coffee table that completes my living room suite. I have no easy chair, and there’s a TV in the corner I’ve never turned on. My “dining room” consists of a faux-brick breakfast bar and two stools. The only window at this end of the apartment sits over the sink, and it does little to illuminate the space. A mercy, considering the space.
The wine surprises me. I didn’t look at the label—it’s the second of the six bottles I picked up at Kroger over the weekend. Buying six bottles at a time gets me a discount and, more importantly, saves me a couple trips. Some part of me argues that it should save me a lot more trips than it does, but the rest of me shuts that little bitch down. The monsters trolling my brain today squash any fear of alcoholism like the ninety-eight-pound weakling it is.
Another sip of the wine—Merlot? Pinot? Who knows. Alone, I don’t have to pretend I can distinguish them. Hell, another glass and I won’t even be tasting it, but I let myself toy with the idea of getting up to read the label. Kidding myself, of course. I don’t care what kind of wine it is; I probably wouldn’t remember on my next trip to town anyway. The only reason to get the bottle would be to keep it beside me to make pouring easier. And to put off looking at the mail.
Just do it. It’s not like you’re going to read it.
Meet the author: