Olivia Sinclair is back in Terry Lynn Thomas’s new gripping psychological thriller The Witness. Read on for a sneak peek of the mystery that is at the core of the book…
Elodie met Ebby at the door, where she stared at him before letting him in. “You’ve had another one, haven’t you?”
He slid onto the leather booth in the kitchen area while Elodie put on the kettle. Once they were both seated with hot mugs of tea, Ebby explained what had happened at the restaurant. “I saw someone stab my mother. There was so much blood. I was covered in it. I passed out and woke up on the floor.”
“Oh, Ebby, you poor thing,” Elodie said.
“It was really vivid.” He watched his beloved aunt and noticed the flicker of worry in her eyes. “Are you sure you found me in the rain that night, Elodie? Because that’s not what I seem to be remembering.”
“Of course,” Elodie said abruptly. “I found you outside, under the office window, curled up in the rain. You were soaked clear through. I was afraid you would catch pneumonia, so we managed to get you into a warm tub. You aren’t remembering anything, Ebby; these are just . . . visions, or hallucinations.”
I don’t believe her, Ebby thought. And there lay the proverbial rub. Ebby was sure his aunt wasn’t telling him the entire story. Although he had no doubt her motivations were well intended, she was keeping something from him, something that related to his mother’s murder, and – just maybe – his involvement in it.
Elodie scooted toward Ebby and put her arm around him. “You witnessed something, Ebby, something traumatizing – that’s why you lost your memory. But these flashbacks, or whatever it is that you are experiencing, they aren’t real. Surely you understand that.”
Ebby ran his hands through his hair. He met Elodie’s gaze, looking for any sign of deception as he spoke. “I know I saw something that night. I know what happened is completely different from the story you’ve told me all these years. I’ve been to the police, but they won’t let me look at the files. Not that I blame them. I get it; I’m a civilian. Either that or I was a suspect.”
“You were not—”
“Wait, please, Elodie. Just let me finish. What I’m remembering about the night – that night – isn’t in keeping with what you’ve told me over the years. There’s blood – so much blood . . . I don’t know what to think.” Ebby swallowed the thick lump that had formed in the back of this throat. “Did I kill her?”
“Ebby!” Elodie cried out and once again tried to interrupt.
“I had motive, didn’t I? She wanted to send me away to boarding school. She killed my dog and lied about it. That was the end of the world for me,” Ebby said, remembering all of a sudden the infuriating pain when he’d discovered the truth about Lucy and the murderous rage he felt toward his mother.
She’d lied to him, told him his dog had been hit by a car, that she had to be put to sleep. “The poor thing was suffering. It would have been cruel to let her live.” Later that night, he’d overheard Elodie and Cynthia arguing about the dog.
“The little bitch growled at me when I gave Ebby a spanking,” Cynthia had said. “She was vicious and unsafe.”
“You’re the one who’s vicious and unsafe,” Elodie had responded. Ebby had never heard his aunt raise her voice to anyone. “Do you ever think that you spank your son too frequently?”
“This isn’t any of your concern, Elodie.”
“But it is. Ebby is my nephew. You clearly prefer Mark. Do you think Ebby, the son you so obviously don’t like, doesn’t see that?”
Ebby had peeked around the corner just in time to see his mother focus her attention on one of the papers stacked up on her desk. “Go away, Elodie. You bore me.”
Ebby had stepped back into the alcove near his mother’s study – what he liked to call his hidey hole – as Elodie stormed out of his mother’s office, tears streaming down her cheeks. It wasn’t until later that evening, when he was tucked into bed and Elodie – not his mother – came to say goodnight, that he’d realized his mother didn’t love him.
The memories of the past faded as he turned to Elodie and said, “I can remember you and my mom fighting after Lucy died, as clearly as if it were yesterday.”
“You were very loved, Ebby. Your mother had her rough moments, but at other times she loved you,” Elodie said.
“I know,” Ebby said. “But there’s something in my brain that’s coming to the surface. I can feel it. It’s dangerous. I can’t sit by and not try to figure it out.”
“You need to go back to the doctor,” Elodie said. “We can find you a good psychiatrist—”
“No,” Ebby said. “No doctors. No more tests. No more therapy. No more – and I mean this with all my heart – no more psychiatric interventions. I need some facts. I need the truth. Elodie, I love you, really I do. But I think you’re keeping something from me about that night – you and Aunt Fiona both. I want to know what.”
“That’s nonsense. No one’s keeping anything from you. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is protect you.” Elodie’s expression softened. She reached out and touched Ebby’s face. “You’re a grown man, Ebby. You own a successful restaurant and you are doing well in life. You suffered a tragedy as a child. You lost your mother. It’s a heartbreaking truth. Maybe you’re just going through a rough patch. But you have to agree that you were doing much better when you were under the care of a psychiatrist.”
“The drugs they gave me were nothing short of poison,” Ebby said.
“Then what about regular talk therapy? Just to get you through this rough patch.”
“No. This is more than a rough patch. My memory is coming back. I need to let that happen. And before you interrupt, I want to find out what happened that night on my own. I don’t want to be told the story, secondhand, by family members.” Ebby rubbed his eyes, thinking of the question that threatened to drive him to madness: Did he murder his own mother? Did he stab her? “Tell me, Elodie, what should I do? Because if I don’t do something, I swear, I’ll go mad.”
“Very well,” Elodie said. “I’ve got an idea.”