Today on my blog I have an extract from Jessica Treadway’s recently released How Will I Know You? – my thanks to Tiffany Sanchez of
Grand Central Publishing for asking me to be involved with spreading the word!!
A page-turner about the murder of a teenage girl, from the author of Lacy Eye.
On a cold December day in northern upstate New York, the body of high school senior Joy Enright is discovered in the woods at the edge of a pond. She had been presumed drowned, but an autopsy shows that she was, in fact, strangled. As the investigation unfolds, four characters tell the story from widely divergent perspectives: Susanne, Joy’s mother and a professor at the local art college; Martin, a black graduate student suspected of the murder; Harper, Joy’s best friend and a potential eyewitness; and Tom, a rescue diver and son-in-law of the town’s police chief. As a web of small-town secrets comes to light, a dramatic conclusion reveals the truth about Joy’s death.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Treadway is the author of Lacy Eye and Give You Peace, plus two story collections, Absent Without Leave and Other Stories as well as Please Come Back to Me, which received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. A professor at Emerson College in Boston, she lives with her husband in Lexington, Massachusetts.
How Will I Know You? – Extract
Truth, that lasting joy, fills in all that is missing. —Auguste Rodin
Two days after a snowshoeing couple literally stumbled across Joy’s body in the woods at the edge of the pond, the police came to ask Harper questions. It was the first Sunday in December, and her father had gone to work as he often did on the weekends—“to catch up,” he always told them, but Harper believed it was just an excuse to get himself out of the house. There was nothing to catch up on. He supervised production at a jigsaw puzzle plant.
The officers rang the doorbell just before noon. “Get that, will you?” her mother called from her bedroom. “I’m in the middle of a thought.” Harper waited for her brother to go to the door, because he was closer, but he muttered “You do it” and she knew he was afraid to leave his game, so she went to answer the bell herself. When she called back upstairs that it was the police, her mother said to wait a minute, then came down in jeans and a misbuttoned cardigan, her face streaked with makeup she’d obviously rubbed on without looking.
“I’m not sure I want you to talk to my daughter when my husband isn’t here,” she told the interim chief, who had been on the news so often in the past month, since the night they’d conducted the first dive to search for Joy under the ice at Elbow Pond.
“She’s not in trouble, Mrs. Grove.” The chief was standing closer to Harper than to her mother, and his eyes were so blue that Harper thought he must have worn tinted contacts. Armstrong, Harper remembered his name was. The eyes made her just as nervous today as they had the first time, when he came to interview her about Joy’s disappearance. “We’re just trying to piece together what happened that day.”
“I thought you already talked to her about that.”
“Some new information has come to light,” said the other officer, whom Harper remembered from the day they came to arrest Zach Tully at school. He was even older than the chief, and he offered her a lemon drop as he took one out for himself.
Harper declined the candy and told her mother it was fine, she wanted to help, and she sat down on one end of the couch, gesturing for the men and her mother to take seats, too. She could tell that Truman was listening from the dining room—he slapped the cards down on the table more softly than usual— and she could tell that the officers noticed the condition of the tree in the corner, which had been up since before Thanksgiving. Their mother always got what she called an early dose of the Christmas spirit, and every year she managed to persuade Harper’s father to find a tree lot that would sell to them before it officially opened. She spent the whole afternoon decorating, and by the next morning she seemed to have forgotten all about it. The tree was always ready to go out the door in the middle of December, but they kept it around until after New Year’s, when her mother would finally allow the rest of them to undecorate, and her father and Truman carried it to the curb.
Before the questioning could begin, a sudden, random piano chord made them all turn toward the sound in the corner across from the tree, where an old upright sat against the wall. Her mother sucked her breath in and put a hand to her heart. “Get off,” Harper said sharply to the cat, who’d caused the disturbance by jumping onto the keys. Chip leapt down and scrabbled out of the room.
In some ways Harper was sorry the cat cooperated; she would have liked to stall further, if she could. The chief began asking Harper the questions she remembered from the day after Joy disappeared. She grew confused, unsure as to why he wanted her to repeat what she’d told him then. The familiar flush of embarrassment— from not knowing the right thing to say, or from saying the right thing the wrong way—began at her temples, spread down her cheeks to her neck and beyond, to the point that she imagined her lungs and legs bloomed as hot and red as her face. It made her look as if she were lying, she knew. Or at least holding something back.
They asked what she’d seen. She pulled her favorite afghan around herself and watched another needle fall from the dark and dying tree. “I already told you.” Saying this gave her an unfamiliar thrill of defiance and she waited for a rebuke, but the chief only shifted in his seat. Harper elaborated, “Kids skating, mothers standing around.”
They weren’t writing anything down, as Armstrong had the first time. “We’re talking about what you saw at the shack,” the officer sucking the lemon drop said, and though she sensed he was trying to hide his impatience, she heard it come out in a little cluck of his tongue.
She wanted to say Why are you treating me this way? But instead she just blushed some more and said she was sorry.
Armstrong waved at his partner to shut up. He leaned closer to Harper on the couch, and in a tone they all recognized as self-consciously casual, he asked if she had noticed a man with a mask.
“A mask?” All she could think of was Eric Feinbloom trying to pull off the Joker costume at the Halloween party. He’d tried so hard it made Harper’s heart hurt.
“You know, a ski mask. Black, maybe?”
She hesitated. “Black mask or black man?”
He hesitated back. “Both.”
Why that moment before he answered? she wondered. Were they trying to trick her somehow?
But then she saw Lemon Drop touch the gun at his hip (was it a habit, or did he really think he might need to use it, here in their living room?) and pull back in his seat a little. A meek signal to his superior, she thought—they’re not supposed to feed people clues. She had watched enough police shows to understand that.
“There was a black man,” she said.
“Was it this guy?” The chief reached into his pocket and pulled out a photograph.
“Yes,” she answered. “That’s him.”
Armstrong asked, “Where was he?” and she saw that they were both trying not to act too excited, which caused the confusion to swell around her like a steadily rising sound. “In the crook? Where we found her?” Everyone who’d grown up around there would know what he was talking about—the crook of the elbow that gave the pond its name.
“No. He was outside the shack, in his car.”
“Just sitting there?”
“And he had a mask on?”
She sensed her mother’s eyes on her, fresh with a focus Harper hadn’t felt in a long time. She nodded again, understanding that she’d just crossed a line she had not seen coming. Before now she’d never known how good recklessness could feel.
“What did the mask look like?”
Harper’s mother leaned forward and said, “You already said it was a ski mask. Is this really necessary?”
The chief ignored her, not even turning her way. “Did he stay there?” he asked Harper. “Or did he drive off?”
“Drove off.” She felt relieved to say it; this part was true.
In a louder voice Harper’s mother said, “Are you almost finished? She just found out her best friend was murdered. Hasn’t she been through enough?”
Again the little electric thrill to Harper’s heart. And again Armstrong persisting as if he hadn’t heard her. “We understand there was an argument,” he said to Harper. “Before you went up to the shack to use the pay phone. Can you tell us what it was about?”
She shook her head. “No,” she said in the small voice she hated but couldn’t seem to grow. This was where she would fail them, she knew. This was where they would get mad. She knew the answer all too well—the argument she remembered better than she wished to—but something (loyalty to Joy? Did it matter if you were disloyal to someone who was dead?) kept her from telling them what she’d seen and heard.
“Really? Why not?” It was a new line of questioning. The first day, when he believed along with everyone else that Joy had drowned, the chief had asked just a few things, acting as if Harper’s answers weren’t important. Now that they knew she’d been murdered, he paid more attention. “Was it about drugs?”
When she looked down at her lap and shook her head again, he sighed. “We were hoping you might do your best to come up with something to help us. If you don’t mind my saying, you don’t seem all that sad about this. I thought she was your best friend.”
Was. Was your best friend. Of course he used the past tense because she was dead, but he didn’t know that the past tense had begun before that.
“Did anyone threaten her? Maybe one of the other girls?”
In her memory, Harper heard Try again, you’ll be sorry. “No. Not threaten.”
Her mother told the officers, “I think that’s enough now.”
They stood and said thank you. In the dining room, Harper heard the familiar sound of Truman scooping up his cards in frustration, because he’d lost again. She watched the officers from the window, grateful that they’d come in a regular car— “unmarked” was the word, she knew from TV. She hadn’t helped at all, she was sure, except that they’d seemed to like it when she agreed with them that she’d seen the black man wearing a mask outside the shack that day.
“Do you want to go somewhere?” she said to her mother. “Maybe Christmas shopping?” Since you’re awake, and dressed, and upright? She knew better, but asked anyway.
“Maybe later.” Her mother gestured toward her bedroom. “I was just trying out a new idea. I should get back to it.” It, Harper knew, was the notebook she kept on her nightstand, which she filled with scribbles before transferring them onto her laptop. In November she’d joined an online group of people who all wanted to write a novel in a month, and except for the night Joy disappeared, she spent most of her time working on what she called a literary thriller, only to throw the notebook away a few days after Thanksgiving and send Truman out for a new one.
“I think I might be on to something this time,” her mother added, heading up the stairs. Truman had dealt himself another game. Alone in the living room, Harper began to straighten the star at the top of the tree, then gave up and let it droop back to its original crooked position. If no one else cared, why should she?
Oooooooh! One for the TBR, perhaps? If the above extract has piqued your interest, just click on the link below!
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