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The Good Daughter
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 17, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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“The Good Daughter is like Law and Order meets The Good Wife.” –theSkimm
The stunning new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Pieces of Her– a searing, spellbinding blend of cold-case thriller and psychological suspense.
Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind…
Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.
Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever…
Packed with twists and turns, brimming with emotion and heart, The Good Daughter is fiction at its most thrilling.
Thursday, March 16, 1989
WHAT HAPPENED TO SAMANTHA
Samantha Quinn felt the stinging of a thousand hornets inside her legs as she ran down the long, forlorn driveway toward the farmhouse. The sound of her sneakers slapping bare earth bongoed along with the rapid thumps of her heart. Sweat had turned her ponytail into a thick rope that whipped at her shoulders. The twigs of delicate bones inside her ankles felt ready to snap.
She ran harder, choking down the dry air, sprinting into the pain.
Up ahead, Charlotte stood in their mother's shadow. They all stood in their mother's shadow. Gamma Quinn was a towering figure: quick blue eyes, short dark hair, skin as pale as an envelope, and with a sharp tongue just as prone to inflicting tiny, painful cuts in inconvenient places. Even from a distance, Samantha could see the thin line of Gamma's disapproving lips as she studied the stopwatch in her hand.
The ticking seconds echoed inside Samantha's head. She pushed herself to run faster. The tendons cording through her legs sent out a high-pitched wail. The hornets moved into her lungs. The plastic baton felt slippery in her hand.
Twenty yards. Fifteen. Ten.
Charlotte locked into position, turning her body away from Samantha, looking straight ahead, then started to run. She blindly stretched her right arm back behind her, waiting for the snap of the baton into the palm of her hand so that she could run the next relay.
This was the blind pass. The handoff took trust and coordination, and just like every single time for the last hour, neither one of them was up to the challenge. Charlotte hesitated, glancing back. Samantha lurched forward. The plastic baton skidded up Charlotte's wrist, following the red track of broken skin the same as it had twenty times before.
Charlotte screamed. Samantha stumbled. The baton dropped. Gamma let out a loud curse.
"That's it for me." Gamma tucked the stopwatch into the bib pocket of her overalls. She stomped toward the house, the soles of her bare feet red from the barren yard.
Charlotte rubbed her wrist. "Asshole."
"Idiot." Samantha tried to force air into her shaking lungs. "You're not supposed to look back."
"You're not supposed to rip open my arm."
"It's called a blind pass, not a freak-out pass."
The kitchen door slammed shut. They both looked up at the hundred-year-old farmhouse, which was a sprawling, higgledy-piggledy monument to the days before licensed architects and building permits. The setting sun did nothing to soften the awkward angles. Not much more than an obligatory slap of white paint had been applied over the years. Tired lace curtains hung in the streaked windows. The front door was bleached a driftwoody gray from over a century of North Georgia sunrises. There was a sag in the roofline, a physical manifestation of the weight that the house had to carry now that the Quinns had moved in.
Two years and a lifetime of discord separated Samantha from her thirteen-year-old little sister, but she knew in this moment at least that they were thinking the same thing: I want to go home.
Home was a red-brick ranch closer to town. Home was their childhood bedrooms that they had decorated with posters and stickers and, in Charlotte's case, green Magic Marker. Home had a tidy square of grass for a front yard, not a barren, chicken-scratched patch of dirt with a driveway that was seventy-five yards long so that you could see who was coming.
None of them had seen who was coming at the red-brick house.
Only eight days had passed since their lives had been destroyed, but it felt like forever ago. That night, Gamma, Samantha, and Charlotte had walked up to the school for a track meet. Their father was at work because Rusty was always at work.
Later, a neighbor recalled an unfamiliar black car driving slowly up the street, but no one had seen the Molotov cocktail fly through the bay window of the red-brick house. No one had seen the smoke billowing out of the eaves or the flames licking at the roof. By the time an alarm was raised, the red-brick house was a smoldering black pit.
Clothes. Posters. Diaries. Stuffed animals. Homework. Books. Two goldfish. Lost baby teeth. Birthday money. Purloined lipsticks. Secreted cigarettes. Wedding photos. Baby photos. A boy's leather jacket. A love letter from that same boy. Mix tapes. CDs and a computer and a television and home.
"Charlie!" Gamma stood on the stoop outside the kitchen doorway. Her hands were on her hips. "Come set the table."
Charlotte turned to Samantha and said, "Last word!" before she jogged toward the house.
"Dipshit," Samantha muttered. You didn't get the last word on something just by saying the words "last word."
She moved more slowly toward the house on rubbery legs, because she wasn't the moron who couldn't reach back and wait for a baton to be slapped into her hand. She did not understand why Charlotte could not learn the simple handoff.
Samantha left her shoes and socks beside Charlotte's on the kitchen stoop. The air inside the house was dank and still. Unloved, was the first adjective that popped into Samantha's head when she walked through the door. The previous occupant, a ninety-six-year-old bachelor, had died in the downstairs bedroom last year. A friend of their father was letting them live in the farmhouse until things were worked out with the insurance company. If things could be worked out. Apparently, there was a disagreement as to whether or not their father's actions had invited arson.
A verdict had already been rendered in the court of public opinion, which is likely why the owner of the motel they'd been staying at for the last week had asked them to find other accommodations.
Samantha slammed the kitchen door because that was the only way to make sure it closed. A pot of water sat idle on the olive-green stove. A box of spaghetti lay unopened on the brown laminate counter. The kitchen felt stuffy and humid, the most unloved space in the house. Not one item in the room lived in harmony with the others. The old-timey refrigerator farted every time you opened the door. A bucket under the sink shivered of its own accord. There was an embarrassment of mismatched chairs around the trembly chipboard table. The bowed plaster walls were spotted white where old photos had once hung.
Charlotte stuck out her tongue as she tossed paper plates onto the table. Samantha picked up one of the plastic forks and flipped it into her sister's face.
Charlotte gasped, but not from indignation. "Holy crap, that was amazing!" The fork had gracefully somersaulted through the air and wedged itself between the crease of her lips. She grabbed the fork and offered it to Samantha. "I'll wash the dishes if you can do that twice in a row."
Samantha countered, "You toss it into my mouth once, and I'll wash dishes for a week."
Charlotte squinted one eye and took aim. Samantha was trying not to dwell on how stupid it was to invite her little sister to throw a fork in her face when Gamma walked in carrying a large cardboard box.
"Charlie, don't throw utensils at your sister. Sam, help me look for that frying pan I bought the other day." Gamma dropped the box onto the table. The outside was marked EVERYTHING $1 EA. There were dozens of partially unpacked boxes scattered through the house. They created a labyrinth through the rooms and hallways, all filled with thrift store donations that Gamma had bought for pennies on the dollar.
"Think of the money we're saving," Gamma had proclaimed, holding up a faded purple Church Lady T-shirt that read "Well, Isn't That SPE-CIAL?"
At least that's what Samantha thought the shirt said. She was too busy hiding in the corner with Charlotte, mortified that their mother expected them to wear other people's clothes. Other people's socks. Even other people's underwear until thank God their father had put his foot down.
"For Chrissakes," Rusty had yelled at Gamma. "Why not just sew us all up in sackcloth and be done with it?"
To which Gamma had seethed, "Now you want me to learn how to sew?"
Her parents argued about new things now because there were no longer any old things to argue about. Rusty's pipe collection. His hats. His dusty law books splayed all over the house. Gamma's journals and research papers with red lines and circles and notations. Her Keds kicked off by the front door. Charlotte's kites. Samantha's hair clips. Rusty's mother's frying pan was gone. The green crockpot Gamma and Rusty had gotten for a wedding present was gone. The burnt-smelling toaster oven was gone. The owl kitchen clock with the eyes that went back and forth. The hooks where they left their jackets. The wall that the hooks were mounted to. Gamma's station wagon, which stood like a dinosaur fossil in the blackened cavern that had once been the garage.
The farmhouse contained five rickety chairs that had not been sold in the bachelor farmer's estate sale, an old kitchen table that was too cheap to be called an antique and a large chifforobe wedged into a small closet that their mother said they'd have to pay Tom Robinson a nickel to bust up.
Nothing hung in the chifforobe. Nothing was folded into the keeping room drawers or placed on high shelves in the pantry.
They had moved into the farmhouse two days ago, but hardly any boxes had been unpacked. The hallway off the kitchen was a maze of mislabeled containers and stained brown paper bags that could not be emptied until the cabinets were cleaned, and the cabinets would not be cleaned until Gamma forced them to do it. The mattresses upstairs rested on bare floors. Overturned crates held cracked lamps to read by and the books that they read were not treasured possessions but on loan from the Pikeville public library.
Every night, Samantha and Charlotte hand-washed their running shorts and sports bras and ankle socks and Lady Rebels Track & Field T-shirts because these were among their few, precious possessions that had escaped the flames.
"Sam." Gamma pointed to the air conditioner in the window. "Turn that thing on so we can get some air moving in here."
Samantha studied the large, metal box before finding the ON button. Motors churned. Cold air with a tinge of wet fried chicken hissed through the vent. Samantha stared out the window at the side yard. A rusted tractor was near the dilapidated barn. Some unknown farming implement was half-buried in the ground beside it. Her father's Chevette was caked in dirt, but at least it wasn't melted to the garage floor like her mother's station wagon.
She asked Gamma, "What time are we supposed to pick up Daddy from work?"
"He'll get a ride from somebody at the courthouse." Gamma glanced at Charlotte, who was happily whistling to herself as she tried to fold a paper plate into an airplane. "He has that case."
The words bounced around inside Samantha's head. Her father always had a case, and there were always people who hated him for it. There was not one low-life alleged criminal in Pikeville, Georgia, that Rusty Quinn would not represent. Drug dealers. Rapists. Murderers. Burglars. Car jackers. Pedophiles. Kidnappers. Bank robbers. Their case files read like pulp novels that always ended the same, bad way. Folks in town called Rusty the Attorney for the Damned, which was also what people had called Clarence Darrow, though to Samantha's knowledge, no one had ever firebombed Clarence Darrow's house for freeing a murderer from death row.
That was what the fire had been about.
Ezekiel Whitaker, a black man wrongly convicted of murdering a white woman, had walked out of prison the same day that a burning bottle of kerosene had been thrown through the Quinns' bay window. In case the message wasn't clear enough, the arsonist had also spray-painted the words NIGGER LOVER on the mouth of the driveway.
And now, Rusty was defending a man who'd been accused of kidnapping and raping a nineteen-year-old girl. White man, white girl, but still, tempers were running high because he was a white man from a trashy family and she was a white girl from a good one. Rusty and Gamma never openly discussed the case, but the details of the crime were so lurid that whispers around town had seeped in under the front door, mingled through the air vents, buzzed into their ears at night when they were trying to sleep.
Penetration with a foreign object.
Crimes against nature.
There were photographs in Rusty's files that even nosy Charlotte knew better than to seek out, because some of the photos were of the girl hanging in the barn outside her family's house because what the man had done to her was too horrible to live with, so she had taken her own life.
Samantha went to school with the dead girl's brother. He was two years older than Samantha, but like everyone else, he knew who her father was, and walking down the locker-lined hallway was like walking through the red-brick house while the flames stripped away her skin.
The fire hadn't only taken her bedroom and her clothes and her purloined lipsticks. Samantha had lost the boy to whom the leather jacket had belonged, the friends who used to invite her to parties and movies and sleepovers. Even her beloved track coach who'd trained Samantha since sixth grade had started making excuses about not having enough time to work with her anymore.
Gamma had told the principal that she was keeping the girls out of school and track practice so that they could help unpack, but Samantha knew that it was because Charlotte had come home crying every day since the fire.
"Well, shit." Gamma closed the cardboard box, giving up on the frying pan. "I hope you girls don't mind being vegetarian tonight."
Neither of them minded because it didn't really matter. Gamma was an aggressively terrible cook. She resented recipes. She was openly hostile toward spices. Like a feral cat, she instinctively bristled against any domestication.
Harriet Quinn wasn't called Gamma out of a precocious child's inability to pronounce the word "Mama," but because she held two doctorates, one in physics and one in something equally brainy that Samantha could never remember but, if she had to guess, had to do with gamma rays. Her mother had worked for NASA, then moved to Chicago to work at Fermilab before returning to Pikeville to take care of her dying parents. If there was a romantic story about how Gamma had given up her promising scientific career to marry a small-town lawyer, Samantha had never heard it.
"Mom." Charlotte plopped down at the table, head in her hands. "My stomach hurts."
Gamma asked, "Don't you have homework?"
"Chemistry." Charlotte looked up. "Can you help me?"
"It's not rocket science." Gamma dumped the spaghetti noodles into the pot of cold water on the stove. She twisted the knob to turn on the gas.
Charlotte crossed her arms low on her waist. "Do you mean, it's not rocket science, so I should be able to figure it out on my own, or do you mean, it's not rocket science, and that is the only science that you know how to perform, and so therefore you cannot help me?"
"There were too many conjunctions in that sentence." Gamma used a match to light the gas. A sudden whoosh singed the air. "Go wash your hands."
"I believe I had a valid question."
Charlotte groaned dramatically as she stood from the table and loped down the long hallway. Samantha heard a door open, then close, then another open, then close.
"Fudge!" Charlotte bellowed.
There were five doors off the long hallway, none of them laid out in any way that made sense. One door led to the creepy basement. One led to the chifforobe. One of the middle doors inexplicably led to the tiny downstairs bedroom where the bachelor had died. Another led to the pantry. The remaining door led to the bathroom, and even after two days, none of them could quite retain the location in their long-term memory.
"Found it!" Charlotte called, as if they had all been breathlessly waiting.
Gamma said, "Grammar aside, she's going to be a fine lawyer one day. I hope. If that girl doesn't get paid to argue, she's not going to get paid at all."
Samantha smiled at the thought of her sloppy, disorganized sister wearing a blazer and carrying a briefcase. "What am I going to be?"
"Anything you want, my girl, just don't do it here."
This theme was coming up more often lately: Gamma's desire for Samantha to move out, to get away, to do anything but whatever it was that women did here.
Gamma had never fit in with the Pikeville mothers, even before Rusty's work had turned them into pariahs. Neighbors, teachers, people in the street, all had an opinion about Gamma Quinn, and it was seldom a positive one. She was too smart for her own good. She was a difficult woman. She didn't know when to keep her mouth shut. She refused to fit in.
When Samantha was little, Gamma had taken up running. As with everything else, she had been athletic before it was popular, running marathons on the weekends, doing her Jane Fonda tapes in front of the television. It wasn't just her athletic prowess that people found off-putting. You could not beat her at chess or Trivial Pursuit or even Monopoly. She knew all the questions on Jeopardy. She knew when to use who or whom. She could not abide misinformation. She disdained organized religion. In social situations, she had the strange habit of spouting obscure facts.
Did you know that pandas have enlarged wrist bones?
Did you know that scallops have rows of eyes along their mantles?
Did you know that the granite inside New York's Grand Central Terminal gives off more radiation than what's deemed acceptable at a nuclear power plant?
If Gamma was happy, if she enjoyed her life, if she was pleased with her children, if she loved her husband, were stray, unmatched pieces of information in the thousand-piece puzzle that was their mother.
"What's taking your sister so long?"
Samantha leaned back in the chair and looked down the hall. All five doors were still closed. "Maybe she flushed herself down the toilet."
"There's a plunger in one of those boxes."
The phone rang, a distinct jangling of a bell inside the old-fashioned rotary telephone on the wall. They'd had a cordless phone in the red-brick house, and an answering machine to screen all the calls that came in. The first time Samantha had ever heard the word fuck was on the answering machine. She was with her friend Gail from across the street. The phone was ringing as they walked through the front door, but Samantha had been too late to answer, so the machine had done the honors.
"Rusty Quinn, I will fuck you up, son. Do you hear me? I will fucking kill you, and rape your wife, and skin your daughters like I'm dressing a fucking deer, you fucking bleeding heart piece of shit."
The phone rang a fourth time. Then a fifth.
"Sam." Gamma's tone was stern. "Don't let Charlie answer that."
Samantha stood from the table, leaving unsaid the "what about me?" She picked up the receiver and pressed it to her ear. Automatically, her chin tucked in, her jaw set, waiting for a punch. "Hello?"
"Hey there, Sammy-Sam. Lemme speak to your mama."
"Daddy." Samantha sighed out his name. And then she saw Gamma give a tight shake of her head. "She just went upstairs to take a bath." Samantha realized too late that this was the same excuse she had given hours ago. "Do you want me to have her call you?"
Rusty said, "I feel our Gamma has been overly attentive to hygiene lately."
"You mean since the house burned down?" The words slipped out before Samantha could catch them. The insurance agent at Pikeville Fire and Casualty wasn't the only person who blamed Rusty Quinn for the fire.
Rusty chuckled. "Well, I appreciate you holding that back as long as you did." His lighter clicked into the phone. Apparently, her father had forgotten about swearing on a stack of Bibles that he would quit smoking. "Now, listen, hon, tell Gamma when she gets out of the tub that I'm gonna have the sheriff send a car over."
"The sheriff?" Samantha tried to convey her panic to Gamma, but her mother kept her back turned. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, sugar. It's just that they never caught that bad old fella who burned down the house, and today, another innocent man has gone free, and some people don't like that, either."
"You mean the man who raped that girl who killed herself?"
"The only people who know what happened to that girl are her, whoever committed the crime, and the Lord God in heaven. I don't presume to be any of these people and I don't opine that you should, either."
Samantha hated when her father put on his country-lawyer-making-a-closing-argument voice. "Daddy, she hanged herself in a barn. That's a proven fact."
"Why is my life riddled with contrary females?" Rusty put his hand over the phone and spoke to someone else. Samantha could hear a woman's husky laugh. Lenore, her father's secretary. Gamma had never liked her.
"All right now." Rusty was back on the line. "You still there, honey?"
"Where else would I be?"
Gamma said, "Hang up the phone."
"Baby." Rusty blew out some smoke. "Tell me what you need me to do to make this better and I will do it immediately."
An old lawyer's trick; make the other person solve the problem. "Daddy, I—"
Gamma slammed her fingers down on the hook, ending the call.
"Mama, we were talking."
Gamma's fingers stayed hooked on the phone. Instead of explaining herself, she said, "Consider the etymology of the phrase 'hang up the phone.' " She pulled the receiver from Samantha's hand and hung it on the hook. "So, 'pick up the phone,' even 'off the hook,' starts to make sense. And of course you know the hook is a lever that, when depressed, opens up the circuit, indicating a call can be received."
"The sheriff's sending a car," Samantha said. "Or, I mean, Daddy's going to ask him to."
Gamma looked skeptical. The sheriff was no fan of the Quinns. "You need to wash your hands for dinner."
Samantha knew that there was no sense in trying to force further conversation. Not unless she wanted her mother to find a screwdriver and open the phone to explain the circuitry, which had happened with countless small appliances in the past. Gamma was the only mother on the block who changed the oil in her own car.
Not that they lived on a block anymore.
Samantha tripped on a box in the hallway. She grabbed her toes, holding on to them like she could squeeze out the pain. She had to limp the rest of the way to the bathroom. She passed her sister in the hallway. Charlotte punched her in the arm because that was the kind of thing Charlotte did.
The brat had closed the door, so Samantha had a false start before she found the bathroom. The toilet was low to the ground, installed back when people were shorter than they were now. The shower was a plastic corner unit with black mold growing inside the seams. A ball-peen hammer rested inside the sink. Black cast iron showed where the hammer had been repeatedly dropped into the bowl. Gamma had been the one to figure out why. The faucet was so old and rusted that you had to whack the tap handle to keep it from dripping.
"I'll fix that this weekend," Gamma had said, setting a reward for herself at the end of what would clearly be a difficult week.
As usual, Charlotte had left a mess in the tiny bathroom. Water pooled on the floor and flecked the mirror. Even the toilet seat was wet. Samantha reached for the roll of paper towels hanging on the wall, then changed her mind. From the beginning, the house had felt temporary, but now that her father had pretty much said he was sending the sheriff because it might get firebombed like the last one, cleaning seemed like a waste of time.
"Dinner!" Gamma called from the kitchen.
Samantha splashed water on her face. Her hair felt gritty. Streaks of red coated her calves and arms where clay had mixed in with her sweat. She wanted to soak in a hot bath, but there was only one bathtub in the house, claw-footed with a dark rust-colored ring around the lip from where the previous occupant had for decades sloughed the earth from his skin. Even Charlotte wouldn't get in the tub, and Charlotte was a pig.
"It feels too sad in here," her sister had said, slowly backing out of the upstairs bathroom.
The tub was not the only thing that Charlotte found unsettling. The spooky, damp basement. The creepy, bat-filled attic. The creaky closet doors. The bedroom where the bachelor farmer had died.
There was a photo of the bachelor farmer in the bottom drawer of the chifforobe. They had found it this morning on the pretense of cleaning. Neither dared to touch it. They had stared down at the lonesome, round face of the bachelor farmer and felt overwhelmed by something sinister, though the photo was just a typical depression-era farm scene with a tractor and a mule. Samantha felt haunted by the sight of the farmer's yellow teeth, though how something could look yellow in a black-and-white photo was a mystery.
"Sam?" Gamma stood in the bathroom doorway, looking at their reflections in the mirror.
No one had ever mistaken them for sisters, but they were clearly mother and child. They shared the same strong jawline and high cheekbones, the same arch to their eyebrows that most people took for aloofness. Gamma wasn't beautiful, but she was striking, with dark, almost black hair and light blue eyes that sparkled with delight when she found something particularly funny or ridiculous. Samantha was old enough to remember a time when her mother took life a lot less seriously.
Gamma said, "You're wasting water."
Samantha tapped the faucet closed with the small hammer and dropped it back into the sink. She heard a car pulling up the driveway. The sheriff's man, which was surprising because Rusty rarely followed through on his promises.
Gamma stood behind her. "Are you still sad about Peter?"
The boy whose leather jacket had burned in the fire. The boy who had written Samantha a love letter, but would no longer look her in the eye when they passed each other in the school hallway.
Gamma said, "You're pretty. Do you know that?"
- On Sale
- Apr 17, 2018
- Page Count
- 656 pages
- Hachette Book Group