After two years, the days immediately following Brenna’s disappearance are a blur to me. My parents showed up in the early morning hours that Monday. I was awake… we all were. I don’t think any of us slept the first forty-eight hours. The press maintained their vigil outside, and her picture was spread on all of the networks and cable channels. Her case had all of the sensational elements that the media sucks on: a young pretty white girl missing from an affluent family just outside the nation’s capitol; the mystery of the crushed phone and abandoned car. The phone rang off the hook all day Monday, and Lori stationed herself next to the house phone to screen calls for us.
By Monday morning, the police presence was mostly gone from the house—the FBI, State and Fairfax County Police had moved their headquarters for the search to the FBI field office in Arlington.
It was late Tuesday afternoon when Lori called me to the phone. I’d slept briefly and fitfully the night before, and by this time I was running on empty. Cole was asleep, sprawled on the couch, exhaustion on his face.
“Erin? It’s Agent Wilcox.”
I flew to the phone, panic rising to my throat.. “Agent Wilcox? Did you hear something?”
He sighed. “No, ma’am. Nothing yet. I was actually calling because you’ll certainly hear on the news soon, Chase was released by the Fairfax County Police.”
“What?” I cried. “Why?”
“At this point, we don’t have any reason to suspect him. He voluntarily consented to searches of his apartment and his vehicle. His story checks out. We found nothing to indicate any involvement in hurting your daughter.”
I wanted to scream. I wanted to throw something. I scrunched up my forehead, trying to push back the headache that was blooming behind my left temple.
Cole stirred and looked up at me. Concern spread on his face. “Erin?”
I couldn’t speak. I gasped and felt tears run down my face for the five hundredth time that day. “They’ve let Chase go.”
Cole’s face went cold, his lips pressed together tightly, eyes narrowed. If I’d known then what he had already decided to do, would I have stopped him?
I honestly don’t know.
Note: This is an unedited preview of my upcoming novel Winter Flower, releasing June 22, 2019. Pre-orders are available at all major retailers.