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PRAY FOR

SILENCE

ALSO BY LINDA CASTILLO

Sworn to Silence

PRAY FOR

SILENCE

LINDA CASTILLO

MINOTAUR BOOKS NEW YORK

PRAY FOR SILENCE Copyright © 2010 by Linda Castillo. All rights reserved.

For my husband, Ernest.

Always.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The creative side of writing a novel is only part of what it takes to get a book published. I have many publishing professionals to thank for bringing this one to fruition. First and foremost, I wish to thank my agent, Nancy Yost, who has a brilliant creative mind and unparalleled business savvy, not to mention a wicked sense of humor. All are very much appreciated. Thank you to my New York editor, Charles Spicer, whose razor-sharp instincts and editorial genius always make the book better. To my UK editor, Julie Crisp, whose insights, sharp eye for all the details I miss, and undying passion for a good, scary, thriller shine through all the way across the pond. To Allison Caplin, for bringing your own editorial expertise to the book and helping to keep me on track (a full-time job in itself!). Thank you to Andy Martin, for the whirlwind trip to four Ohio cities during the pre-launch tour for Sworn to Silence. It was great fun, and the wine was fabulous. To Matthew Shear and Jennifer Enderlin, for taking time out of your busy schedules to have a drink with me in Washington D.C. and chat about the books—thank you.

I’d also like to extend a big thank-you to all the fine folks at Roasters Coffee and Tea Company in Amarillo; you guys have the best COD in the state of Texas and absolutely no idea how much I appreciate it.

To fellow authors and sisters-in-crime Catherine Spangler and Jennifer Miller; thank you for always being there when I need you most.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank my intrepid critique group: Jennifer Archer, April Redmon, Marcy McKay, and Anita Howard, for making Wednesday nights at Jenny’s both productive and fun as hell. You gals are the best!

Three may keep a secret,

if two of them are dead.

—Benjamin Franklin

CHAPTER 1

Officer Chuck “Skid” Skidmore wished he hadn’t indulged in that last cup of coffee. If it wasn’t for the new waitress at the diner, he would have stopped at just one. But damn she was cute. So he’d sat at the counter the entirety of his dinner break and sucked down caffeine like a ten-year-old gorging on Kool-Aid. Brandy obliged by keeping his mug full, and entertaining him with her twenty-something chitchat and a full two inches of jiggling cleavage.

He’d been eating at LaDonna’s Diner every night for two months now, since the chief assigned him the graveyard shift. He hated working nights. He respected the chief, but he was going to have to have a talk with her about getting back on days.

Skid turned his cruiser onto Hogpath Road, a desolate stretch of asphalt bounded by Miller’s Woods to the north and a cornfield on the south side. The cruiser’s tires crunched over gravel as he pulled onto the shoulder. He was reaching for the pack of Marlboro Lights in the glove box when his radio crackled.

“Three-two-four. Are you 10-8?”

Mona was the third-shift dispatcher and his sole source of entertainment—after the diner closed, anyway. She’d kept him from dying of boredom many a night. “Roger that, Dispatch.”

“So did you talk to her?”

“That’s affirm.”

“You ask her out?”

Throwing open his door to keep the smell of smoke out of the cruiser, Skid lit the Marlboro. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.”

“You’re the one who’s been talking about her for the last two months.”

“She’s too young for me.”

“Since when does that make a difference?”

“You’re tying up the radio.”

Mona laughed. “You’re chicken.”

Wishing he’d never told her about his crush on Brandy, he drew on the cigarette. “Whatever.”

“Are you smoking?”

He mouthed the word shit.

“You said you were going to quit.”

“I said I was going to either quit drinking or smoking. I sure as hell ain’t going to do both in the same week.” He sucked in a mouthful of smoke. “Especially when I’m stuck working nights.”

“Maybe the chief’s still pissed about that old lady you roughed up.”

“I didn’t rough her up. That old goat was drunk out of her mind.”

“She was sixty-two years old—”

“And naked as a jaybird.”

Mona giggled. “You get all the good calls.”

“Don’t remind me. The sight of her wrinkled ass has damaged me for life.” He sighed, his bladder reminding him why he’d stopped in the first place. “I gotta take a piss.”

“Like I need to know that.” She disconnected.

Grinning, Skid got out of the cruiser. The crickets went silent as he walked around to the bar ditch. Dry cornstalks crackled in a light breeze. Beyond, a harvest moon cast yellow light onto the tall grain silo and barn roof

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