Read Drawn Into Darkness Online

Authors: Nancy Springer

Drawn Into Darkness

Praise for
Dark Lie

“A page-turner of a thriller with a truly unique and fascinating heroine.”

—Alison Gaylin, national bestselling author of
And She Was

“Nancy Springer's first foray into suspense is a darkly riveting read. . . . The pages swiftly fall away, along with layers of secrets and lies, to reveal the pulsing heart of this compelling thriller: the primal bonds between parent and child, between man and woman—and the fine line between love and hate.”

—Wendy Corsi Staub, national bestselling author of

“A fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will have you reading late into the night.”

—Heather Gudenkauf,
New York Times
bestselling author of
The Weight of Silence
These Things Hidden

“If you're looking for something very different and gripping in a noir thriller, you won't go wrong with
Dark Lie


“[Springer] captures the fear of the women and the sickness of their captor with precision and the resolution of the kidnapping with unforeseen irony.”

RT Book Reviews
(Top Pick)

“A page-turner that is gripping, scary, and filled with twists and turns . . . one you don't want to miss.”

—Fiction Addict

“A compulsive page-turner that will have readers cheering on the decidedly unglamorous heroine, this thriller gets points for making the suburban mom type the one who saves the day.”

Kirkus Reviews


Dark Lie





New American Library

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014

USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China

A Penguin Random House Company

First published by New American Library,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Copyright © Nancy Springer, 2013

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.



Springer, Nancy.

Drawn into darkness/Nancy Springer.

pages cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-62653-5

I. Title.

PS3569.P685D73 2013

813'.54—dc23 2013020023


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.




Title page

Copyright page
































About the Author


Excerpt from

To Ellen Edwards and Jennifer Weltz


am one of those women with a high IQ, a good education, scads of arcane data in my brain, yet I seem to have no common sense when it comes to making personal decisions. I aced my college courses, with a double major, no less—but in philosophy and world literature, subjects so broad I came out with no practical knowledge except that I could never know anything for certain. Hello? Who would hire me? It didn't matter, because, being me, I dropped out of college three months shy of graduation to marry Georg with no
. Maybe God the mother of us all remembers why it seemed so urgent to get married; I don't. In hindsight, I think I did it to hurt my parents, fulfilling their low expectations of me, blowing all the money they had spent on my tuition while smugly letting them think I was knocked up.

Pregnant? Ha. I was
not pregnant, and after marriage it became apparent that I was going to have to work hard to get that way. Georg lacked a lot of normal attributes besides an
, as I found out over the next two and a half decades. Perversely, he turned out to be so much like Mom and Dad that they took him to their bosoms, giving him their unconditional approval even when he dealt with midlife by dumping me.

Divorce did nothing to improve my judgment. I dyed my hair ridiculously red. I thrust cherished possessions into the Goodwill bin. Pausing only to retain a lawyer, cutting off all communications with Georg, I moved far away in search of long ago, to a place where I had been happy visiting my grandparents as a child, a place Georg would have loathed, short on culture but long on snakes and alligators: the Alabama border hinterlands of the Florida Panhandle.

All this against the advice of the friends I left behind along with anything else familiar and comforting except my dog.

“Schweitzer,” I told the dog a week after we had moved into a rented shack wreathed with mimosa trees, “Grandma and Grandpa are so not here anymore, and this is not even their house, just something in the general vicinity, and I am so not a butterfly-chasing child anymore. I'm almost fifty. You'd think by now I would have a clue.”

Schweitzer, an animal shelter graduate with a double major in dachshund and something else, kept gnawing on his teddy bear's nose. Schweitzer scorned all designated dog toys, preferring stuffed animals.

“But trust me to screw up. I go and move south at the beginning of summer, never mind global warming,” I continued, “to the Bible Belt, where there's nothing but church open on Sunday, and ‘church' does not include Universalist Unitarian.”

Already I regretted my impulsive and idealistic retreat to my childhood Eden. Sure, I still loved the mimosas, the live oaks furred with ivy, ferns, and Spanish moss, the flocks of white ibis flying, and the wildflowers everywhere—but those reminders of childhood happiness made my heart ache. I was an adult now, and in the mood for extensive retail therapy, thanks to all the weight I'd lost. There's no diet as effective as divorce. I was a hot mama with my new red hair, but a lot of good it would do me here in Maypop, Florida, where the nearest shopping mall was up in Alabama, eighty miles away. Ten miles from my shack, Maypop had a Piggly Wiggly but not much else, and Maypop County was mostly a wilderness.

Schweitzer started sucking on his teddy bear's nose rather than gnawing it. I refrained from sucking my thumb. In every corner of my small house stood stacks of cardboard boxes I had not yet unpacked, but I felt too bummed to work. This was, of course, on a God-it's-a-hundred-'n'-three-degrees-in-the-shade Sunday as I sat in front of the huge old window air conditioner while my personal ghosts floated in its blast. I had tried shopping online, but this was slow-modem country, where the Internet was like Chinese water torture. The only thing I succeeded in purchasing was a set of bug-proof storage containers for the kitchen, not very satisfying emotionally.

I had called both of my sons, twentysomethings busy in the Big Apple or vicinity thereof, probably at a Yankees game. I had left Hi-this-is-Mom messages on their voice mails requesting that they call back, but I knew that neither of them would. While unlikely to admit it, they were both traumatized by the divorce, and running away from it just as I was.

“I didn't want to be a clinging vine,” I told Schweitzer, “so now I'm rootless.”

This was punny. My parents, Deborah and Gerald Clymer, had named me Liana Clymer because they thought it was clever—subtle enough that only smart people would get it, and sweetly feminine. Our relationship had gone pretty much downhill from there. I could not phone them, could not get past the knowledge that Georg was likely at their Pennsylvania George-Washington-slept-here fieldstone home for Sunday dinner, and probably Mom was doing his laundry for him.

Schweitzer was licking his front paws now, in his usual philosophical manner. I wished I were a dog, so content with so little. My loneliness, as tangible as if I had painted the room indigo, felt so heavy that suddenly I knew I had to get out of there or develop existential nausea.

I stood up. “Schweitzer,” I told my only friend in miles and miles, “this is the South, and a person is allowed to drop in on strangers, for God's sake. I'm going to get acquainted with the neighbors.”

By “neighbors” I meant whoever lived in the shack diagonally across the road from mine, almost far enough away to justify taking the car. Nobody else lived anywhere within sight of either that shack or mine. One thing I liked about this part of Florida was its frontier feeling of spaciousness, small towns spread out enough so that people kept horses in their backyards. Another thing I liked was the tasteless colors. My shack—it really was a three-room wood-frame shack squatting on concrete blocks—was painted fuchsia, or at least that was what I called it, because “pink” didn't do it justice and I don't like magenta. Definitely fuchsia, and a good match for the fuzzy mimosa blossoms all around it. The shack I planned to visit was painted peacock blue, almost turquoise. Peeking from the edge of my front window, I could see parts of it and a generic white van parked alongside it. Somebody was home.

Defiant of the heat, I would walk there. Mad dogs and Englishmen, yeah, whatever, five minutes in the sun wouldn't kill me.

Shoving my keys into the pocket of my shorts and heading for the door, I said, “Schweitzer, be good. Stay out of the trash.”

Schweitzer did not take this philosophically. The moment I stepped outside into the broiling heat, he started barking frantically, almost hysterically, almost as if he knew he would never see me again.

•   •   •

About an hour's drive away, across the state line in Alabama, another middle-aged woman, named Amy Bradley, sat on a sofa overdue for replacement, hugging the cat, a hefty brown tabby she and her daughter had rescued and named Meatloaf. There was plenty of room on the sofa for her husband to sit beside her, but he lounged separate and silent in a recliner even more decrepit than the sofa.

Amy sensed the presence of a large elephant in the room, and decided to stop ignoring it. Careful to keep her voice level and quiet, she asked, “Honey, are you still pissed?”

Chad—his actual name was Charles Stuart Bradley, but everybody called him Chad—gave an exaggerated sigh before answering, “I have a right to be pissed.”

“Then, so do I.” She tried to maintain the same neutral tone and did not quite succeed. Yes, she felt as angry as he did, but for a different reason. She was tired of being nice. For the first year after the unbearable had happened, Amy had borne it with all the nobility seemingly expected of women since long before Michelangelo had created the
, feminine exemplar of tragedy faced with saintly calm. It seemed to Amy that the carved-in-marble Mary should have been screaming with grief and rage. Surely crying out loud was the more fitting reaction for a mother so unfairly bereft.

“Tell me again why you're pissed with me for trying to get our son back,” she said.

Chad did not answer.

Amy hugged Meatloaf so tightly that he stopped purring and tried to squirm away. “I'm angry too,” she said. “I'm angry at God for letting this happen. I'm angry at people who know where their children are. I'm angry at people who can have normal lives and aren't over their heads in debt. But above all I'm angry at that creep who stole Justin and I want him punished and I—I want our son back! Even if it's only his body, or his bones!” Her voice wobbled; the cat scratched her arm, drawing blood, and she had to let him go.

Meatloaf complained at her, but otherwise there was silence. Amy grabbed a tissue for her arm and surreptitiously applied it to her eyes as well. Chad still did not look at her. She stared at the side of his head as he lounged in his recliner, distanced from her as had become usual, front and center to the flat-screen TV, watching a nationally rated rodeo taking place in Alabama's Peanut Capital Arena. Amy ached to go over there and hug him and kiss him. But she couldn't, because Chad would mistake love for capitulation. She wished their ten-year-old twins, Kyle and Kayla, were there to cuddle with her on the sofa. But as so often happened those days, she had sent them to play at a friend's house to spare them the tension at home.

After an uncomprehending glance, Chad had silently turned his attention back to the TV. Amy decided silence might be best; she settled back to watch, sort of. She had no interest in bull riding or calf roping. Nor did Chad; Amy knew he would rather have been enjoying almost any other sport, especially NASCAR. But both of them knew that all the Bubbas and Bubbettes within five hundred miles of here, meaning pretty much the entire population of Alabama and upper Florida, would be tuned in—which was why, despite Chad's opposition, Amy had gone ahead and taken out a second mortgage to pay for the ad they were waiting to see aired.

Which was why, yes, he, the wage earner, was still pissed at her. Because of the additional financial burden, yes, but more because he thought it was time to move on. Just because he said so. The dickhead thought it was all about him—

No, Amy told herself. Chad was a good man. Certainly neither he nor she would ever have chosen this trouble that threatened to tear them apart.

Back when it had first happened, her husband had been with her two hundred percent, both of them intent on getting Justin back. Poor Chad, God, he had
it happen, had seen their son pedaling his bike down the peaceful road to spend Saturday afternoon with a friend; Chad had been out front, mowing the lawn. According to what he'd told her, he remembered waving at the white van as it passed, but without paying much attention; in Alabama everybody waves at everybody. Reaching the edge of the yard, Chad had turned the mower just in time to see, toward the end of the road, the van deliberately bump into Justin's bike, knocking him to the ground. Chad had yelled, of course, quite futilely, “Hey!” as a quick, slim person—probably a man, but could it possibly have been a woman?—someone in a gray hoodie, sprang out of the van and grabbed Justin. Chad did not see the boy kick or resist. Justin had seemed limp, maybe unconscious, as the stranger threw him into the van, slammed the door, ran back to the driver's seat, and drove away fast. Still yelling “Hey! HEY!” in disbelief, Chad had jumped off the mower and “like a lunatic,” as he said afterward, he had run after the van as it sped away, turned onto Wiregrass Widow Road, then disappeared from sight between the slash pine trees. Gone.

With Justin in it.

Their son, gone.

Chad and Amy's firstborn, abducted in broad daylight.

Almost two years ago now.

Amy remembered she had been folding laundry in the kitchen with Kayla, then an eight-year-old, when she heard the drone of the lawn mower stop for some reason. She did not yet know that the mower had turned itself off because Chad had ejected himself from the seat. But she remembered the exact item of clothing—Justin's NASCAR T-shirt, the red, white, and blue cotton tee—she laid down when Chad burst into the house, shouting incoherently, to phone 911.

During the panicky blur afterward, Amy had found strength she had never previously known she possessed, crying with Chad and Kayla and Kyle, trying to comfort all of them, trying to support Chad through long hours with the cops—local, then state, then all over again with the FBI. She had stood by as Chad identified the bicycle still lying at the side of the road with a dent and some white paint on its rear mudguard. Side by side, she and Chad had cried for the TV cameras, pleading with the abductor for Justin's return. She had spent as many sleepless nights as he did, had searched endless pine forests along with swarms of volunteers, had placed uncounted numbers of
posters on telephone posts and light poles and in storefront windows, had answered too many phone calls, had comforted her husband in her arms at least as much as he had ever comforted her.

When it became financially necessary for Chad to return to work at Dixieland Trucking, the torch had mostly passed to Amy. She had quit her job as a dietitian at Delaine Assisted Living to search for Justin. She had spent her days on the phone, prodding the police, getting billboards put up, and sometimes going on talk radio or to a TV interview or a fund-raiser or a conference about missing children. Mostly for that first year she had sat with her computer, searching the Internet for yet more sites on which she could post pictures and descriptions of her missing son.

Yet, despite all this practice, how could she possibly describe Justin, really? He had more than his share of the mercurial, puckish quality of most children, which meant that, almost day by day, he had changed. His passions when she knew him had been NASCAR racing and Taylor Swift, but were they still? Did he still turn to hide tears in his eyes when he saw a road-killed dog or cat? Did he still get that impish smile when he had a secret agenda? Was he still an adorable little squirt who looked and sounded prepubescent, or had he shot up, was his voice changing, was—if he was alive, was he okay, was he still Justin?

Other books

Once Upon a Summer Day by Dennis L. Mckiernan
Mystique by Ann Cristy
I Wish... by Wren Emerson
Jabone's Sword by Selina Rosen
ConQuest (The Quest Saga) by Dhayaa Anbajagane
Shifter Wars by A. E. Jones
Exit Wound by Andy McNab