Book 2 in the Twisted Cedars Series
After a shocking secret is uncovered in Twisted Cedars, Oregon, fresh trouble surfaces.
Sheriff Wade MacKay is fishing on the Rogue River when he comes across a cargo truck crashed off the side of a winding mountain road. The driver is dead. The sole passenger, a woman in her early thirties, is unconscious with a severe head injury. When she comes to the next day at the hospital, she is suffering from amnesia. Since she carried no ID, there is no clue to her identity.
Judging by the woman’s bruises, which pre-date the accident, Wade suspects she was running from danger when she hitched a ride with the truck driver. But how can he protect her, when he doesn’t even know who she is? Wade’s office is already working overtime, investigating the death of one of his former school friends. While true crime writer, Dougal Lachlan, is avoiding writing a book that would force him to confront his inner demons.
Twisted Cedar Mysteries (a three book trilogy):
Book 2 in the Twisted Cedars Series
- Check out the pictures, books covers and quotes that inspired my Twisted Cedar Mysteries on my Pinterest Board.
- Five Star Review: “This is one for the read many times shelf. I cannot say enough how I enjoyed this book and cannot wait for Exposed! This is a true 5 star read as it is a well-crafted mystery that will leave you wanting more!” Read More…
- Watch the series trailer.
- View a map of fictional Twisted Cedars, Oregon:
Twisted Cedars Map
Book Discussion for Mysteries
Some questions for your next book discussion...
1). Discuss the mystery aspect of the plot line. How effective is the author's use of plot twists and red herrings? Were you able to predict certain things before they happened, or did the author keep you guessing until the end of the story? Did you find that the novel held your interest throughout the story, or were there times when it failed to totally engross?
2). Did you enjoy the setting of the book? How important is this setting to the story?
3). What is the most important part of a mystery or thriller to you—characterization, action, dialogue, or setting? How does this book rate in each of these areas?
4). Is the author equally invested in both character and plot? Or did the author put more effort into developing the story than in creating compelling and believable characters? Were the motivations of the characters believable, or did their actions feel like a means to further the plot?
5). Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography about her dislike of mysteries having a romantic subplot. Do you agree or disagree with her views? Do you feel the love aspect enhanced or detracted from the story?
Day of the accident
It was almost noon and Sheriff Wade MacKay was on his way home from fishing on the Rogue River in Oregon when he found the crashed truck, the body, the unconscious woman.
It wasn’t often Wade spent his Friday mornings off duty, but a mental health day was in order after a solid week spent investigating the suspicious death and illegal burial of Daisy Quinpool, nee Hammond. Daisy was a friend from his high school days. Seven years ago, when she left her twin children and ex-husband behind, everyone assumed her well-documented mental illness—which began after the birth of her children—was at fault. Regular withdrawals from her bank account had fed the assumption she’d moved to Sacramento, where she was living under the radar.
Not until Daisy’s remains were discovered by local true-crime author— and yet another former high school buddy—Dougal Lachlan, had anyone suspected foul play. Making the situation even more terrible, a third high school buddy of Wade’s, Daisy’s ex-husband Kyle Quinpool, was the prime suspect for the crime.
Law enforcement in Curry County had to deal with their share of domestic violence. But homicides—especially murder—were fortunately very rare. Wade hoped not to see another one for a long time.
In the back of his SUV, Wade had an ice chest packed with the three summer steelhead trout he’d caught. They would make excellent eating, but he wasn’t looking forward to getting home, or to the weekend ahead in which he’d focus on the investigation of Daisy’s death, probably leading, eventually to Kyle’s arrest.
The evidence, so far, was pretty compelling.
And Wade himself had exchanged heated words with his old friend, during while Kyle had all but admitted his guilt.
Wade felt sickest about Kyle and Daisy’s two kids. Nine-year-old Chester and Cory were away at summer camp right now. Thanks to Wolf Creek Camp they’d missed most of the drama so far, thank God. They’d been dealing with their mother’s absence for seven years already. Now they would likely lose their father to the Oregon State Penn.
Not exactly your classic happy childhood.
Which Wade considered himself lucky to have had.
Back in the days when Wade had been young and summers seemed so blissfully long, he’d fished this same spot with his father. Even then, he’d known he wanted a simple life, like his parents. He loved this corner of the Pacific Northwest, where there were more trees than people, roads that might not see a driver for days on end. He’d dreamed of being the Sheriff of Curry County, with a home, a wife and kids, and one day a week to spend in the wilderness that was the essence of this place.
At age thirty-three he’d landed the job. Now, a year older, he still didn’t have the wife and family. Frankly, his love life was a mess. On a day like today though, being unencumbered didn’t seem so bad.
His fishing spot was off Bear Camp Road, a narrow and crooked traverse over the Klamath Mountains that linked the small Oregon towns of Agness and Galice, carrying on to Twisted Cedars, Wade’s home. He patrolled here regularly, knew every curve, viewpoint and pothole. Normally he would have made it home in under an hour.
If it hadn’t been for the accident.
He was listening to Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major when he spotted the overturned four-axle. He slowed and pulled over. Gripping the steering wheel, he took a deep breath, transforming from man enjoying a morning off work, to first responder at the site of a traffic accident.
The music continued, impervious to the tragedy in front of him.
But Wade couldn’t hear it now. He was studying the scene, looking for signs of survivors. But all was eerily still.
Wade jerked his SUV to the far edge of the road, leaving room for the paramedics when they arrived. It was obvious they’d need paramedics. The truck, which had crashed through a guardrail, lay, like a beached whale, fifty feet down the embankment, backstopped by a grove of old growth cedar. Wade could hear his heart thumping in his chest as he put on his flashers and called in the accident. Then he stepped out into the hot, heavy July air and tried to find a route down the embankment.
“Hello! Anyone in there?” He picked his way around dogwood and vine maples, sometime grabbing onto the shrubs to keep from sliding down the steep decline.
No voices responded to his call. All he could hear was the buzzing of insects.
Stamped over the scent of pine and dirt and living things was the acrid odor of burnt rubber. Dragonflies looped around him as he continued to scramble and claw his way toward the wreck.
“Can anyone hear me?” he called out, again.
He touched a hand to the truck, which had flipped over and lay on its passenger side. The engine was no longer running, but the hood was still warm.
“Sheriff Wade MacKay here. You okay?” Climbing up on the trunk of a dead white pine that had backstopped the truck’s decent, he was able to peer inside the driver side window. A big, balding man, in his late fifties, was slumped over his seat belt.
Blood trickled out of his mouth and Wade’s gut tightened. Using both hands, he pulled at the door, working against gravity to wrest it open, until finally he could get his shoulder under it, and gain access to the victim.
He checked for breathing and a pulse, but found neither.
Wade had seen a lot of accidental death in his fifteen-year career. He knew how to deal. You didn’t look too long. Or think too much.
Averting his gaze from the death scene, he let the door fall shut, the sound crashing through the forest stillness.
Then he circled the wreckage, to see inside the other side of the cab. Most truckers travelled alone. Even hitchhikers were rare these days.
But this guy had company, a woman with long hair, reddish-blonde and stained with fresh blood. She was strapped into the passenger seat, her body limp.
Thanks to the width of the load, there was space between the passenger door and the ground, about two and a half feet. Wade lowered his body to the carpet of wild grasses and wiggled into a position where he could get a better look. Her weight was partly resting on the door, so he couldn’t open it. But the glass in the window had pebbled and he was able to reach in, check her neck for a pulse.
She was alive, but still losing blood from her head wound.
He ran back to his truck for a blanket and first aid kit. He didn’t dare move her, but he could make sure she was warm, and stench the bleeding until help arrived.
When he brushed aside her hair to locate the wound he saw she was pretty and a lot younger than the driver, maybe in her late twenties or early thirties. A diamond glinted on her ear lobe. It seemed to be the only jewelry she was wearing. Her hair smelled pretty, as if she’d recently washed it.
Her jeans and T-shirt looked wrinkled, as if she’d been wearing them a while. But even he could tell they were expensive brands.
What would a woman like this be doing with a burly, middle-aged truck driver? Could she be his daughter?
He called dispatch again, warned them what to expect, all the while keeping a gentle pressure on the wound. Eventually the bleeding stopped. He applied a rudimentary bandage then turned his attention to the miscellaneous items that had fallen to the passenger side of the cab. Anything that hadn’t been secured had ended up here, including a black, leather wallet.
Inside was ID for the driver: Chet Walker, age 52, height five-feet, ten-inches, weight two-ten, hometown Klamath Falls. Emergency contact was listed as his wife.
Poor woman would soon be getting a phone call that would change her life.
Methodically Wade examined the rest of the contents. The driver’s cell phone, was here, but no purse or cell phone belonging to the female passenger.
The other items in the truck seemed of no significance. Mentally, Wade inventoried them, pausing occasionally to check the woman, and say a few words of reassurance.
An empty disposable coffee cup, a wrapper from a McDonald’s burger; a square of pale yellow flannel; a Mariner’s baseball cap, foil-wrapped caramels and a package of peppermint gum.
A breeze came up from the west, and a piece of paper wafted up from the cab, floating toward the smashed window. Wade snatched it from the air. It looked like a page ripped out of a book.
Upon closer examination Wade realized it was the Author Bio page from a novel. And the photo staring up at him was of someone he recognized—his old school buddy, now successful true crime writer, Dougal Lachlan. In a phrase that stated originally from Twisted Cedars, Oregon, two words had been underlined: Twisted Cedars.
What the hell?
Wade had an evidence bag in his pocket. He put the page inside, then turned his thoughts to the woman’s missing ID. Maybe she had something in the pocket of her jeans, but he wouldn’t be able to get at it until the paramedics arrived.
Wade placed a gentle hand on the injured woman’s arm. “Help is coming. You hang tight.” Still she gave no response.
Wade mulled over the accident scene. There were no dead animals, the usual cause of single vehicle accidents in the summer when the roads were good.
Maybe Chet had suffered a heart attack or stroke.
Noticing a trail of blood from the woman’s forehead to her left eye, Wade used the clean flannel cloth to wipe it away. He wished he could do more. She was awfully pale, terribly still.
“They’ll be here soon.”
She remained unresponsive. He took note of her left hand, and the pale line of skin where a wedding band might have been. Her nails were painted turquoise.
Wade glanced up at the sky and guessed it was an hour past noon. So much for his peaceful break from mayhem. Then again, he shouldn’t complain. At least he hadn’t been in the oncoming lane when this truck went off the road.
“Who are you lady?” He spoke again hoping his voice would reassure her, even though she wasn’t conscious. “Seems like you were in the wrong place at the wrong time today.”
In the distance, he finally heard the sound he’d been waiting for. But even the sirens didn’t wake her up.