To mark the reissue of Todd Ritter’s second book featuring Perry Hollow police chief Kat Campbell, I am pleased to be hosting an exclusive extract. Death Falls (previously published as Bad Moon) takes us back to the historic moon walk by Neil Armstrong, the same night as nine-year-old Charlie Olmstead jumped on his bike to see if he could get a better look. It was the last anyone ever saw of him. After Perry Hollow Police Chief Jim Campbell found Charlie’s bike caught up above a waterfall, he assumed the worse, and so did everyone else except Charlie’s mother. 40 years later, Eric Olmstead – and famous author and Charlie’s brother – has come back to bury his mother and fulfil her last request: find his brother. To do so he goes to the current police chief and his former sweetheart Kat Campbell, and it isn’t long before they discover that finding Charlie was his mother’s secret obsession, and while she never found him she uncovered clues suggesting that he wasn’t the only victim…
“I’m going to wake Charlie.”
Ruth trailed her to the stairs. “Maggie, wait!”
Maggie didn’t stop, continuing up the stairs with rushed purpose. At the top, her bare feet made slapping sounds on the hardwood floor as she moved down the hall to Charlie’s bedroom. Ruth remained downstairs, calling up to her.
“Please come back! Charlie’s not there!”
Maggie stopped, hand against the closed bedroom door. “What do you mean?”
“Come back downstairs,” Ruth said. “I’ll explain.”
She did the opposite, pushing into the room instead. The streetlight outside the window cast a rectangle of light that stretched across the floor. Just like in the nursery, she didn’t need it. She knew every inch of the bedroom, from the telescope in the corner to the model rockets lined up on the bookshelf.
The window was open, letting in a rainy breeze that dampened the curtains. Beneath it was Charlie’s bed, draped in a comforter dotted with moons, stars and planets. Holding the baby with one hand, Maggie used the other to lift the comforter and whip it away.
The bed, much like the baby’s crib earlier, was empty.
“Please come downstairs.” Ruth now stood in the doorway, breath heavy, face pinched.
“Where is he? Did Ken take him somewhere?”
Ruth moved into the room and tried to clasp her free hand. Maggie yanked it away. “Answer me, Ruth. Where is my son?”
“I don’t understand.”
But Maggie did. She understood quite well as she shuffled backwards and plopped onto the empty bed. The bed that should have contained Charlie. Her boy. Whose whereabouts were now unknown.
“Is that where Ken went? To look for him?”
“He called the police,” Ruth said. “Then he woke me and Mort.”
Mort was Ruth’s husband. Maggie presumed he was also looking for Charlie, along with the police and God knows who else. Apparently everyone but her knew her son was gone.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Ken didn’t think you’d wake up. And if you did, he knew you’d be worried.”
Damn right she was worried. Her body might have been motionless on her son’s bed, but her mind was a whirling dervish of fears and bad thoughts. Where was Charlie? How long had he been gone? Was it too late to find him? When Maggie’s brain settled down, her body started up again. She rose from the bed and stomped past Ruth into the hallway.
“I have to look for him,” she said. “I have to find him.”
Again, Ruth tried to stop her. “I’ll take the baby.”
Maggie tightened her arms around the infant. One of her children was missing. She wasn’t going to let the other out of her sight until he was found…
Death Falls is published by Avon and is available on Kindle now at Amazon.co.uk
Todd Ritter was born in rural Pennsylvania to a bank teller mother and a father who dabbled in taxidermy. He grew up among “Bambi”-esque forests and wide-open fields straight out of the cropduster scene from “North by Northwest.” Appropriately, his two biggest influences are Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. He lives in suburban New Jersey. Visit his website here