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Excerpt: Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton

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A startling and timely debut, Julie Carrick Dalton’s Waiting for the Night Song is a moving, brilliant novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed.

Cadie Kessler has spent decades trying to cover up one truth. One moment. But deep down, didn’t she always know her secret would surface?

An urgent message from her long-estranged best friend Daniela Garcia brings Cadie, now a forestry researcher, back to her childhood home. There, Cadie and Daniela are forced to face a dark secret that ended both their idyllic childhood bond and the magical summer that takes up more space in Cadie’s memory then all her other years combined.

Now grown up, bound by long-held oaths, and faced with truths she does not wish to see, Cadie must decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, as drought, foreclosures, and wildfire spark tensions between displaced migrant farm workers and locals.

Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise. It will be available on January 12, 2021, please enjoy the following excerpt!


8

PRESENT DAY

Cadie tripped on a rock pushing its way up through the gravel parking lot of the Maple Crest Police Department. The edge of granite rose a few inches above the ground, but Cadie suspected the block extended deep below the surface. Ice heaves had forced it skyward, despite the construction crew’s best efforts to grade the gravel. Next spring it would thrust itself even higher. There was no stopping it. No ignoring it.

Daniela caught Cadie’s elbow to steady her.

“Anything we say in there, we can’t take it back.” Cadie stopped walking as they approached the stairs to the police station. “Maybe we should talk to your dad first.”

“No. We’re doing this. Now.” Daniela drew her shoulders back.

Daniela had shaken the truth, dislodged it so that it no longer settled in place when Cadie stopped moving. It swelled uncomfortably in her chest, barely leaving room for her to breathe.

The thermometer outside the door read eighty-eight degrees. Too hot for 9 a.m. Sweating made people look guilty. Cadie wiped her forehead with her hand and peeled her shirt from the damp skin on her lower back where it had been pressed against the vinyl car seat.

The heavy metal door resisted as Cadie pushed it open to a lobby filled with the smell of fresh paint, printer ink, and coffee. The burst of air-conditioning sharpened the throbbing in her temples.

“We have information about a crime.” Daniela didn’t bother introducing herself to the woman sitting behind the desk wearing bright pink lipstick and a lime cardigan. Cadie paced behind Daniela.

“What kind of crime are we talking about?” the woman said without looking up.

“We’d like to talk to an officer. In private,” Daniela said. The woman wrinkled her brow. She looked offended.

“There’s no one available but the deputy chief. If this is a traffic thing, or missing wallet, you’re better off filling out an incident report and letting us follow up, okay, dear?”

“It’s not an incident. It’s a crime,” Daniela said.

“Okay, okay.” The woman looked at the clock. “But he has to be over at the middle school in less than an hour, so don’t make him late.”

“We’d like to talk to him.” Daniela put a hand on her hip, the way she did when they were kids.

Cadie had to turn around so the receptionist wouldn’t see her  smile.

The woman shook her head as she walked down the hall. “I’ve got a couple of women out here who insist on talking to you about some crime. I tried to get them to fill out a report.”

“What’s the problem?” a man’s voice said.

“They won’t say.” She sighed. “I’ll come interrupt you so you won’t be late.”

Daniela rolled her eyes at Cadie. “Does she think we can’t hear her?”

The sweat on Cadie’s skin grew clammy in the air-conditioning.

The clock above the receptionist’s desk ticked loudly. “Follow me.” The woman gestured to them.

Cadie had spent twenty-seven years pushing the story down, training her  brain not to think about it. She  had bitten the inside  of her cheek, dug her  nails into the palms of her hands so often  her nerves were numb to the distractions. As she walked down the corridor in the police station, the past clawed its way up her throat, demanding to be spoken.

The door to the deputy chief’s office stood open. A tall man dressed in street clothes stood up and extended a hand to Daniela. “Come on in. I’m Deputy Chief Tierney.”

Daniela shook his hand. “I’m Daniela.”

Cadie hung in the doorway. One more step and there would be no going back.

“Can we close the door?” Daniela said.

Daniela looked at Cadie and tilted her head, urging her to come in. The receptionist hovered in the doorway.

“Whatever makes you comfortable,” the officer said.

The receptionist shrugged and closed the door, forcing Cadie inside the room.

“We have information about the remains the fire crews uncovered,” Daniela said before Cadie had a chance to sit down.

Officer Tierney shifted in his squeaky chair. The air conditioner whirred with dogged determination. Dried sweat pulled Cadie’s skin tight.

“It’s probably not what you think.” He picked up a pen and twisted the two ends apart until the spring popped out and bounced to the floor. He leaned over to pick it up.

Daniela motioned for Cadie to sit down next to her. Cadie walked over to the chair, but remained standing. She squeezed her throbbing fingertip, searching for a spike of pain to distract her.

“There’ve been a lot of rumors,” he said, his head still under the desk searching for the spring. “The remains have been out there a long time, decades it looks like, so I’m not sure what information you could have.”

“We lived here then. We remember it,” Daniela said. “And we know—”

The officer bumped his head on the desk.

Daniela prodded at the truth, she tugged on it, but froze. She pinched the bridge of her nose as if her head ached unbearably. Like the splinter in Cadie’s finger, the truth needed to come out, no matter how painful the extraction.

“We were there,” Cadie said. The words tore at her throat, although her voice barely rose above a whisper. “We know what happened, where it happened, and who did it.”

The officer sat upright and looked at Cadie. He leaned forward. Sweat glistened on his upper lip. The air conditioner cycled off, filling the room with a sudden silence, but for the tick, tick, tick of the wall clock.

“You were there.” He spoke so quietly, he could have been talking to himself. “Cadie.”

Copyright © 2021 by Julie Carrick Dalton

 

Pre-order your copy of Waiting for the Night Song—available January 12, 2021

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