Today we have a sneak peek from The Answer to Your Question, the literary suspense novel by author Paulette Alden.
How well can you really know the people you love, even your own son? Four young women are murdered, and he’s the suspect . . .
After raising her son, Ben, by herself, librarian Inga Daudelin is blindsided when he is accused of murder. At the same time, Jean, a young, pregnant waif who seems both simple and wise, “imprints” on Inga at work, drawing her into an unusual friendship. When Ben kidnaps Jean, Inga and lead detective Ron O’Loughlin, with whom she is falling in love, search for the two, who, along with Jean’s baby, have formed a strange but human family.
Here is an excerpt from The Answer to Your Question…
Chapter One: Inga
I remember the day Ben was born, how they laid him on my chest all mottled pink and squirming. When I rubbed my cheek against his tender head, he clutched my finger with his tiny ones as if to claim me. At that moment I thought I understood everything I needed to know about life, as if everything that had been dark became bright, everything that had been ponderous was lifted up on wings of air. There he was in my arms, my baby boy, flesh of my flesh, a miracle beyond comprehension. A miracle because he existed!
And being, he made me. I became myself, Ben’s mother. I understood my role, my meaning. I would love him and protect him and raise him up to be a fine and gentle man. I would let no harm befall him. Now it seems to me that that was the last simple thing: how the love I felt for him suffused me until it became embedded in my very cells. Of all the things I’ll never really understand, that love is the biggest mystery of them all. It’s just an animal thing, I know, a way nature has of insuring the survival of the young. But we like to think we’re more than animals; we like to think we have free will, spirits, souls, even. In that way we imagine that we’re in control. That we have choices and reasons for why we do the things we do.
Of course that was before everything else. Before Tony Nichols, before I left Charles, before the four girls and Jean. Before the police came knocking on my door. I don’t know how many of us there are whose lives are cleaved in two so abruptly. For me it happened on September 10, 1968. At some point the book I was reading, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, dropped from my hands and woke me up, or maybe it was the sharp rapping at the front door. In all the years I’d lived in the north end of Tacoma, I’d never known of such a thing. I considered not answering, but the rapping intensified, so insistent that I pulled on my robe, switched on the porch light and looked through the peephole. That peephole was Ben’s idea—that, and the chain lock so I could open the door a crack but no one could force his way in. I had scoffed that I didn’t need such protections, it was a quiet, safe neighborhood after all. The only “crime” I could remember in the eighteen years I’d lived there was when the Gleasons’ son threw rocks through the sun porch windows of a duplex down the block.
Outside were two men, their faces ballooned into monstrous size by the lens. One was wearing a police uniform and the other street clothes, though I could see a miniature gun in a shoulder holster, black against his white shirt. I slid the chain off and opened the door. Beyond were three squad cars, their red and blue lights flashing, and several police were running toward the back of the house, the strangest thing.