The walk back to the Pritchett House took Martha along Tobias Avenue, a residential street lined with massive live oaks. Their limbs laced together like fingers over the center of the street, creating the effect of a sun-dappled tunnel. The air smelled of marsh.
She had made it through the first day. Everything had gone fine, except for that brief dizzy spell—that nightmarish vision, the thing in the squirming sack. Other than that . . .
She had even started transcribing the first tape. It was an elderly woman speaking in a thick patois. The woman spoke of the use of certain charms to ward off evil spirits.
“What are the charms made of?” the interviewer asked.
“Haiah,” the woman said, voice crackling like an old limb breaking in two. “Haiah, from duh cloze.”
Hair from the clothes, Martha typed, after rewinding and listening several times. The woman’s ancient, musical voice mesmerized her. She tinkered with the transcript, took out the unnecessary pauses, picked away the verbal flotsam, decided where to insert the paragraph breaks, until the whole interview began to flow. She looked forward to returning to the project the next morning. Working with words was a sublime pleasure she could still claim, something the illness had been unable to touch.
She turned onto the gravel driveway of the Pritchett House and walked along a row of moss-draped trees. There was a buzz of cicadas in the grass. Beyond the two-story clapboard she could see a glint of river in the waning sunlight.
As she entered the front door she could smell Rice-A-Roni. She heard a clatter from the kitchen.
“Who is it?” Eileen Pritchett’s voice sounded muffled in the kitchen, and vaguely annoyed.
“It’s Martha. Just saying hi.” She heard Eileen mutter something indecipherable.
Martha stopped in the hallway, took out her cellphone, flipped it open. No service.
“Okay if I use the phone?” she asked through the swinging door.
The door opened a crack and her landlady peered out, eyes magnified by thick glasses. “How’s that?”
“I need to make a phone call.”
“Yes. I have a calling card.”
Eileen pursed her lips. “Go ahead, but remember the rules. No more than ten minutes.”
“I’ll make it short.”
When Vince answered, he sounded distracted.
“Martha! How are you? How are you doing?” Martha heard other voices in the background, a clink of dishes.
“I’m at the rooming house. I just got back from my first day on the job.”
“How did it go?”
“It went well, I think. The people who work there seem nice.”
“Terrific. I want to hear more, but I’m actually at a restaurant right now. It’s a dinner for the university trustees. Can you call me in the morning? We’ll talk longer. Let me know how things are going, okay?”
Martha spindled the phone cord around her fingers, wondered if she should mention the vision—the squirming thing. “Vince?”
“Are you all right?”
“You can do this, Martha.”
“I have faith in you. Don’t forget to take your meds. I want you to call me tomorrow, okay?”
About the Book
Author: R.K. Jackson
Perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Tana French, R. K. Jackson’s lyrical, twisty psychological thriller debut follows an aspiring journalist as she uncovers dark truths in a seaswept Southern town—aided by a mysterious outcast and pursued by a ruthless killer.
When Martha Covington moves to Amberleen, Georgia, after her release from a psychiatric ward, she thinks her breakdown is behind her. A small town with a rich history, Amberleen feels like a fresh start. Taking a summer internship with the local historical society, Martha is tasked with gathering the stories of the Geechee residents of nearby Shell Heap Island, the descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.
As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect. Without a soul to vouch for her innocence or her sanity, Martha disappears into the wilderness, battling the pull of madness and struggling to piece together a supernatural puzzle of age-old resentments, broken promises, and cold-blooded murder. She finds an unexpected ally in a handsome young man fighting his own battles. With his help, Martha journeys through a terrifying labyrinth—to find the truth and clear her name, if she can survive to tell the tale.
R.K. Jackson is an award-winning science writer and editor at NASA, and previously worked as a senior editor at CNN, where he helped launch the network’s Internet presence. He has attended the Advanced Novel Writing Workshop at UCLA as well as the Squaw Valley Community of Writers Workshop.
Jackson’s debut novel, THE GIRL IN THE MAZE (available 9/8 from Random House Alibi), has been praised as “A twisty Southern gothic thriller with echoes of Tana French” (L.A. Times bestselling author Dianne Emley), “A terrific mystery” (The Book Lover’s Friend), and “A fast-paced psychological thriller that keeps you engaged from beginning to end” (Reading Femme).
Two of his plays have been staged professionally, and his short story, “All the Devils,” was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock-themed issue of Penumbra Magazine. He is currently consulting with Disney’s Imagineers on the forthcoming “Spaceship of the Imagination” attraction at EPCOT.
A Georgia native with roots in the state’s coastal low country, he now lives with his family in California’s Los Padres National Forest and is at work on a second Martha Covington thriller, THE KISS OF THE SUN.