I lost my dog, gang. It broke my heart right in half so I went to my happiest place and Aiden and Mr. Lavender helped me heal. In the dark, I found the light. I also found the love, because it is Lake Cliff and this has become home. I know many of my readers love these characters and feel at home here too, so it makes me so happy to welcome you back. We’ve been waiting for you!
Here’s the whole first chapter:
Authorities struggle to explain 27 hanging corpses in the Rhode Island woods.
“Whoa,” Aiden said as his eyes scanned the news article from 1986. He flipped to the police report from earlier in the year. “Eleven more since the 80’s?” He checked the math again and his brows jumped. “How am I just hearing about this?”
“Hey! I’m leaving. Are you coming with me?” Lane asked as he leaned into the study and Aiden’s lips pulled tight as his eyes darted between Lane and the email on his desk. “Bring it with you. You’re not interested in football or the Chicago Bears,” Lane pointed out and Aiden nodded quickly as he sent the email and the attached files to his phone. He grabbed his hoodie as he slid out of his chair and followed Lane.
“Is that conference with the governor next week?” Aiden asked distractedly then made sure he didn’t miss the step while Lane locked the front door behind them. His thumb slid across his screen and his head fell as he squinted at a close up of a noose. “I’ve seen this somewhere…”
“Next week. We’re still getting everything ready and I’ve got to meet with the D.A. on Thursday about the Barker trial,” Lane said as they got into the car.
“That’s too bad,” Aiden murmured. He pulled his eyes from his phone long enough to buckle his belt then rested his ankle on his knee. His attention caught on a black and white photo. A woman in a sundress hung from a massive oak tree.
“Tell me about it. It’s bad enough that I’ve got to deal with Matt Bowden, but I’ve got to babysit the governor next week,” Lane said as he reversed out of the driveway. Aiden hummed along but he was reading the newspaper article. “Oh! While I’m thinking about it, don’t mention Matt’s brother, if you see him. He’s still not talking about that,” Lane warned.
“I won’t,” Aiden replied then sighed impatiently as Lane pulled into Sage and Lavender’s driveway. He shut the file and unbuckled his belt then got out.
“Did you remember to add coffee to the grocery list?” Lane asked as they walked up the porch steps.
“No. I don’t drink coffee,” Aiden replied and hugged his arms as the wind picked up then leaned to look into the window. He saw Sage and nodded.
“I do,” Lane said and he sounded a bit testy. Aiden raised a brow back at him.
“You should probably put it on the list, then,” he said and Lane’s eyes widened.
“That’s why I… Never mind,” he sighed as the door opened.
“Hey! The game’s just getting started!” Sage said as he waved them in.
“I put apple juice on the list. I tried some of Robin’s and I like it now,” Aiden told Lane.
“Aiden!” Robin cried as he ran to him then wrapped around his knees.
“Hello,” Aiden said and ruffled Robin’s curls. They were soft and Aiden liked the way Robin hugged his legs then moved on to Lane.
“Are you a foot taller than yesterday?” Lane asked as he swept Robin into his arms. Robin giggled as Lane raised him over his head. Robin stretched his arms out in front of him and made a plane sound as Lane steered him into the living room.
“Can I get you something to drink?” Sage asked as they followed but Aiden waved him off.
“I’ll get it. Go watch the game,” he said then pulled his phone out and wandered into the kitchen. Aiden went back to the black and white picture of the woman in the sundress.
“What’s that?” Lavender asked as he peeked over Aiden’s shoulder.
“Where did you…? I think it’s a case,” Aiden said then stepped out of the way as Robin darted between them. Aiden chuckled as Rose trotted after him then opened the fridge and grabbed a Sprite.
“Show me how to do the trick!” Robin cheered as he hopped up and down and Lavender winced as he looked toward the living room.
“I suppose I could with the cutting board…” He murmured as his neck stretched and Aiden’s eyes flicked toward the living room. He didn’t know what Lavender and Robin were up to but it would probably get one of them in trouble. Aiden shrugged as he stepped back and rested his shoulder against the fridge and crossed his ankles. “If we’re very quiet,” Lavender whispered as he pulled a knife from the block then waved for Robin to come to him. He lowered onto his knee then held out two fingers and balanced the blade on its side. “The center of this knife is right here,” he said quietly as his fingers bounced. The knife remained steady and Robin’s eyes followed it as Lavender flipped it into the air and caught it by the handle. “Next, you want to…”
“Do not teach him to throw knives!” Sage cried as he hurried into the kitchen. Aiden ducked and shook his head as he stepped away from the fridge so Sage could open it.
“That’s obviously a very inappropriate thing to teach a child,” Aiden agreed then held up his hand when Lavender glared at him.
“You’ve seen the state of schools these days. It might not be a bad idea for him to learn how to throw a knife,” Lavender argued. Sage opened his mouth then shut it. He was frozen for a moment then shook his head.
“You can teach him how to react and defend himself but he’s too young for knife throwing. And not in the kitchen,” Sage added then shook his head as he pulled out two bottles of beer and a tray of raw vegetables and dips. Aiden decided that wasn’t as exciting as knife throwing lessons and slid his phone back out of his hoodie pocket and went back to the case.
“I’m going to read with Rose,” Robin grumbled and Lavender sighed as Rose followed her boy up the stairs.
“I’ll join you in a little bit,” Lavender called after them then nodded at Aiden’s phone. “What’s this case?”
“Hangings,” Aiden replied then went to the door so he could lean into the living room. “I’d like to go to Rhode Island,” he announced and Lane frowned but he waited until the players on the television fell into a pile before he looked away.
“Sure… I can look at the calendar and see when I can take some leave,” he said but Aiden shook his head.
“I need to go tomorrow. Thirty-eight people have been hanged and the F.B.I. has asked me to look into it,” he explained.
“Oh.” Lane’s head pulled back.
“Christ!” Sage gasped and his face twisted. “I guess you’d better go,” he said. Lane groaned as he scrubbed the back of his neck.
“You should but I can’t get away for the next two weeks,” he worried.
“I don’t have anything going on and I enjoy a good hanging just as much as the next guy,” Lavender offered. Sage and Lane each held up a finger. Lane decided to let Sage handle it.
“No. Nobody enjoys hangings, Jeremy,” he said then gave him a hard look. Lavender’s eyes rolled as he nodded.
“Yes, yes… It’s just an expression,” he said dismissively and Aiden frowned.
“Is it?” He asked. Lane shook his head.
“No. It’s not. No one says that.”
“Don’t they?” Lavender asked then shrugged. “Regardless, I’d love to go to Rhode Island with Aiden and help him investigate,” he said and Aiden thought that was an excellent idea.
“I could use your help! You know a lot about hangings and psychopaths!” He agreed as he pointed at Lavender. Sage swore under his breath and glared at the television as he hugged his beer bottle. Lavender shushed Aiden then offered Sage a gentle smile.
“Let’s not forget Aiden’s tendency to attract psychopaths. We wouldn’t want to risk this following him back to Lake Cliff. I’ll give him a hand with the investigation and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble,” he promised soothingly. Sage shrugged and relaxed but Lane’s eye twitched before he took a long sip of his beer.
“I guess I’ll just stay here. Again,” he added and Aiden flinched then hissed apologetically.
“Are you upset because you had to sit things out with Stedman and you missed everything in London?” He asked. Lavender cleared his throat and shook his head faintly as he rubbed his nose with his knuckle.
“Shhhhh…” Lavender whispered softly then flashed Lane a brilliant smile. “It looks pretty dry and it’s probably not worth your time. I’ll be nothing more than a glorified errand boy; just fetching chicken nuggets and apple slices,” he said dismissively and Aiden frowned.
“Actually, it looks like it might be…” Aiden grunted when Lavender’s elbow jabbed his ribs. Aiden’s eyes flicked to the ceiling and he asked himself why Lavender wouldn’t want to be contradicted. He looked at Lane and Aiden hummed when he finally caught up. “It’s probably not worth your time and I just need him to fetch my nuggets and apple slices,” he said then smiled like Lavender. Lane cringed as he leaned back.
“Too much,” Lavender said under his breath and Aiden’s face blanked.
“Shouldn’t be a big deal,” Aiden added.
“Whatever. We’ll talk about it after the game. Go in the kitchen and plan your little adventure,” Lane grumbled as he crossed his arms over his chest and scowled at the television too. Sage was still hugging his beer and he didn’t look pleased but he cocked his head at the kitchen before he turned his attention back to the game.
“Very smooth,” Lavender said and Aiden smiled.
“Really?” He asked as he turned.
“No,” Lavender replied as he pushed Aiden into the kitchen.
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