You won’t want to miss this fast-paced psychological thriller from New York Times bestselling author Tawni O’Dell! One of Us, out this month in trade paperback, features Dr. Sheridan “Danny” Doyle, a successful forensic psychologist who returns to his small hometown only to discover the community is being terrorized by a serial killer. If you liked Gone Girl, this masterfully told story is for you!
When I reach the stone wall surrounding the old jail the same human instinct that makes us all slow down and gape at car wrecks makes me slow to a jog and glance inside the entrance at the cracked walls covered in graffiti, the muddy ice patches, the disintegrating brick jailhouse, and the black specter of the gallows standing in the middle of it all.
The structure looms, sinister in its simplicity and inexplicable permanence. The platform sits on top of a twelve-foot-high scaffold now black with age. One of the trapdoors dangles open. Two are missing altogether. Most of the steps are rotted through. A perverse bird has built a nest on one of the crossbars and no one has dared to remove it.
With the advent of ghost town Internet sites and TV shows about the paranormal, the amount of tourists has increased sharply, but I think these particular visitors are often disappointed in what they find.
Searchers of terror are a type of thrill seeker who crave the excitement of the discovery, the scare, the escape, and Lost Creek offers none of this. The horror here is real but it’s out in the open, in the light, and can’t be left behind once confronted. The gallows are terrifying not because they’re haunted by the dead but because they were conceived by the living.
The prison and the courtyard are cared for by the long-suffering members of the Nellie O’Neill Society, aka the NONS, a rebel offshoot of the local historical society that has always vigorously asserted the executed miners’ innocence. They conduct guided tours on weekends, maintain a museum in Nora Daley’s attic, provide the hoods and nooses for the annual memorial service along with the baked goods, and have been trying to raise funds for a commemorative statue for as long as I can remember.
They also employ an unpaid groundskeeper named Parker Hopkins, who works for beer and the sheer joy of riding a tractor mower. This time of year he spends most of his time in Kelly’s Kwik Shop across the road drinking instant hot chocolate laced with peppermint schnapps, lamenting the lack of money in the budget for a snowblower.
But no one is here in the middle of a cold January weekday.
I’m about to turn and leave when I notice something lying on the ground near the gallows. I think I know what it is but it can’t be. I have to check it out.
I have my phone with me and instinctively think of calling Rafe. I have his number but lose my nerve. I don’t know what I’d say after all this time. I dial 911 instead and tell the dispatcher I’ve found a body.