Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh

1


            My mother vanished without a trace ten years ago.

            So did a quarter of a million dollars in cash from my father’s safe.

            The police came.

            The neighbors whispered that she was a thief.

            My father called her a bitch.

            “She’ll turn up, and when she does, I’ll have her in handcuffs!”

            That’s what he said. That’s what he screamed.

            He was right.

            It took ten years, but she has turned up.

            The police found her car in the dense bush of the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park four hours ago. She was inside. Well, her bones were anyway. Those bones were clothed in the remnants of the red silk shirt she was wearing that night.

            The night I heard her scream.





2


            I’d just spent two hours staring at my unfinished manuscript when the police came to the door of my father’s subtly upscale residence of glass and polished wood. Designer enough to make it clear he was no ordinary man, but understated enough to blend in to the dark green landscape that surrounded it.

            I’d come “home” to live after my hospital discharge a month ago. Doctors’ orders.

            “You can’t be on your own,” Dr. Binchy had said, hazel eyes unblinking behind square black spectacle frames. “Not yet.”

            I didn’t know why I hadn’t just hired a nurse instead of returning to this unhappy place thick with ugly memories. Before adding, then deleting, a thousand pointless words on my next book, I’d started to look up nursing agencies. Then the police came. The middle-aged man in plain clothes, the twenty-something woman in full uniform, cap included.

            Recognition flashed in her eyes when I opened the door.

            The man, solid and stolid with a square jaw and watery blue eyes, flashed his ID. “We’d like to speak to Mr. Ishaan Rai.”

            “Sure.” Turning on my crutches, I saw that my father was already coming down the hall, a well-dressed CEO on top of the world, his graying black hair perfectly styled and his shirt a crisp blue.

            He wasn’t a tall man, nor was he short. Average height, with average features. He should’ve looked ordinary, even bland, but my father has a presence, a dignity to him that I’ve always found a grand irony.

            “What’s this about?” he demanded, because that’s what Ishaan Rai does. Demand. It’s served him well except for when it comes to his son, who is his disappointment.

            “Mr. Rai,” the man began, raising his ID. “If we could speak in private.”

            “Oh, for God’s sake, just spit it out. What complaint is it now? The plant is built to the highest specifications—it isn’t breaching any environmental restrictions.” He’s so used to ordering people about that it doesn’t seem to occur to him that a senior officer wouldn’t knock on his door at eight in the morning for a complaint about emissions or discarded chemicals.

            The male officer’s expression stilled, and right then, I saw an intelligence I hadn’t previously spotted. Solid and stolid could also mean dogged and relentless. “I’m Detective Senior Sergeant Oliver Regan and this is my colleague Constable Sefina Neri. We regret to inform you that the body of a deceased female was discovered early this morning in the Waitākere Ranges Regional Park. Her identity has yet to be officially verified, and normally, we wouldn’t inform you at this stage—but, given the likely publicity and attendant conjecture, the decision was made to alert you. She had her driver’s license and credit cards with her. All in the name of Nina Rai.”

            Time stopped, filled with the sound of a sharp, pained scream.

            Even my father seemed stunned into silence, but that never lasts long with him. “Where’s she been all this time?” he barked. “Living it up on my money I’m guessing.”

            Constable Neri’s eyes were a deep, intense brown and she locked them unblinkingly on my father, but let her senior officer do the talking. Her job, I understood, was to watch and make note of any and all reactions.

            The intensity of her, it reminded me of Paige.