Thanks to PICT Book Tours for another exclusive first look into A Mother's Lie by Jo Crow!
Dense red clay was pushing between the teeth. Pond mist drifted across the manicured lawns, wisping through the dark eye sockets. Parts of the cranium were shaded a vile yellow-brown where the decomposing leaves clung to its surface like bile expressed from a liver. The jawbone was separated from the skull, its curved row of teeth pointing skyward to greet the rising sun.
Two feet away, closer to the oak tree, other bones were piled haphazardly: a pelvis, high iliac crests and subpubic angle. A femur, caked with dirt, jammed into his empty skull. Sunlight decorated the brittle bones in long, lazy strips and darkened hairline fractures till they blended with the shed behind them.
It was peaceful here, mostly. The pond no longer bubbled, its aerator decayed by time; weed-clogged flowerbeds no longer bloomed- hands that once worked the land long ago dismissed. For blanketed the area, as if drawn by silence. Once, a started shriek woke the morning doves and set them all into flight.
It was the first time in ten years the mammoth magnificence of the Blue Ridge Mountains had scrutinized these bones; the first song in a decade that morning doves chorused to them from their high perch.
A clatter split apart the dawn; the skull toppled over as it was struck with another bone.
In a clearing, tucked safely behind the McNair estate, someone was whistling as they worked at the earth. The notes were disjointed and haphazard, like they were an afterthought. The pierced the stillness and, overhead, one of the morning doves spooked and took flight, rusling leaves as it rose through the mist.
A shovel struck the wet ground, digging up clay and mulch, tossing it onto the growing mound to their left. The whistling stopped, mid note, and a contemplative hum to its place.
Light glinted on the silvery band in the exposed clay- the digger pocketed it- the shovel struck the ground again, this time, it clinked as it hit something solid.
A hand dusted off decayed vegetative matter and wrested the bone from its tomb. Launching it into the air, it flew in a smooth arc, and crashed into the skull like a bowling pin, scattering the remains across the grass. With a grunt of satisfaction, the digger rose and started to refill the hole from the clay mound.
When it was filled and smoothed, and the sod was replaced over the disrupted ground, the digger lifted a shovel and strolled into the woods, one hand tucked in a pocket as they whistled a cheery tune lost to the morning fog.
For two days the bones rested on the grass by the shed, until they were placed carefully into forensic evidence bags in a flurry of urgent activity: flashing police cameras, and gawking, small-town rookie officers who'd never seen their like before.
Silence blanketed the McNair estate once more, and the looking, distant mountains stood watch over a town that had seen too little so long ago, and now knew too much.
I also have chapter two of A Mother's Lie if anyone would like to read it, shoot me a message and I'll send it your way!