by Amanda Owens
You never think it will happen to your family—until it does.
Taylor Herron’s mom is missing, and her life is unraveling at the seams. Deciding which way to turn and who to trust has proven to be a monumental task.
Detective Aleena Shaw has been assigned the case of finding Gwen Herron. Both a stunning and complicated woman, she soon becomes Taylor’s only hope.
The path to finding her mom soon uncovers more questions than answers, and leaves doubt in place of hope. Love and lies are an outcome Taylor didn’t expect—but the truth will always be revealed no matter the cost.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"An Unraveling transpired from a conversation I had one night while eating out with friends. My wife watches all kinds of crime type shows, her favorite being Dateline. I had an idea about a mother missing and a daughter trying to find her. That led me down the path that became my second book. I enjoyed writing this story. I hope readers enjoy it as much."
An Unraveling is a fast paced mystery thriller. …This book was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It was fast paced with some unexpected twists and a satisfying ending.
Bonnie S. - …Ms Owens has done a great job of bringing the threads together, making this one of the books I couldn’t put down. Main characters Alenna and Taylor, along with the supporting cast make this a wonderful fast paced read. Very, very good.
It’s been ten hours since anyone last saw my mother, eleven hours since I last heard her voice, and two hours since Dad and I left the police station with no more insight than when we walked in.
I grip Dad’s arm tightly as we walk onto the porch of my childhood home. He’s worn down after the day we’ve had. And to add to it, the police asked him question after question about Mom’s disappearance—like he had something to do with it. Once we left the police station, I drove us around from place to place, searching for hours until we’d exhausted all of our options. None of her friends have heard from her. No one’s seen her. It’s not like Mom to ignore my calls. Now we’re left with nothing to go on as the sun starts to set. Dad was so out of it on the way back. He stared out the window with his hands shaking continuously in his lap. We’re tired and scared, but right now I need to be strong for the both of us.
We stop abruptly as Dad falls to his knees in the entryway of the house. His hands cover his eyes as the sobs shake his whole body. I sit next to him and wrap my arms around his neck. I’ve never seen him like this before. As I raise my head to wipe my tear-clouded eyes, I see a woman walking up to the porch. We never closed our door because we didn’t get a chance to make it completely inside. The woman stops at the top of the stairs when she sees us. She’s wearing dark dress slacks and a white button-up shirt with a blazer. But with the sun in my eyes, I can’t make out her face. What I do see is a shiny badge clipped to the top of her pants next to a holstered gun.
“Can I help you?” I ask the woman as I guide Dad to his feet.
“I’m Detective Shaw,” the woman says, taking the last step so that she’s on the porch. “I was hoping we could speak inside.”
“Well, Detective, what would be really nice is if you would go out and search for my mom instead of—”
“Taylor,” Dad says, putting his hand on my upper arm to keep me from finishing. “Come on in, Detective.” Dad uses his sleeved arm to wipe his eyes.
Dad walks down the hall, leaving me standing at the door. The woman steps out of the sun and into the foyer next to me. The first thing I notice as I meet her gaze are the most stunning amber eyes. Her dark brown hair sits just at her shoulders with soft waves, giving her hair volume that most women would adore. I quickly look away, refusing to find her attractive—even if she might be the most stunning woman I’ve ever laid eyes on.
“Thank you,” Detective Shaw says as she walks into the house.
I shut the door and stand there a moment before following her into the living room where Dad’s sitting on the couch. His arms are propped on his knees. He’s running his hands through what hair he has left on the top of his head. At seventy-two years old, he’s thinned out on the top, and what he does have remaining is all gray. Even his beard, while kept short and neat, is mostly gray with only a small splattering of what remains of his dark hair hanging on.
I stop just inside the living room, keeping my distance from the detective. She walks over to the chair in front of Dad and stops.
“May I?” she asks.
“Please.” Dad motions for her to sit.
Detective Shaw pulls out a cell phone before sitting down in the gray plaid armchair that Mom bought when I was in middle school. “I’ve been assigned to Mrs. Herron’s case. I’m so sorry for what you both are going through, but I promise you,” she says as she turns her head to look at me, “I will work tirelessly to get to the bottom of this.”
“You mean you’ll work tirelessly to bring her back, right?” I step farther into the room and cross my arms.
“That’s the plan,” Detective Shaw supplies.
Dad sniffs. “Come sit, Taylor.” He pats the cushion next to him, then looks up at me with bloodshot eyes. His skin looks pale.
I feel the detective’s eyes on me as I walk to the couch and sit. I don’t look her way because I’m not myself. She’s being kind, while I’m angry and scared. I’m aware of how that looks to a stranger. I can’t stop this feeling from spilling out no matter how much I wish it wouldn’t. Especially after how long they kept Dad for questioning.
“I’m going to record our conversation to make sure I don’t miss anything,” Detective Shaw says. Dad nods his agreement. She clicks a button on her phone and lays it on the coffee table between her and Dad. “Walk me through your morning with Mrs. Herron.”
Dad sniffs. “Nothing has changed since I spoke with the police earlier.”
“I understand, Mr. Herron, but I want to go over it again. For my sake.”
“Why isn’t someone looking for Mom instead of asking us the same questions over and over again? She could be in danger, and we’re just sitting here.” I feel a stress headache forming on the left side of my temple.
“I understand your frustration.” Detective Shaw looks at me with those amber eyes. “I’m here to help. In order to do my job, I need to learn about her and get as much information as possible to help me assess the situation. Then I can formulate a plan on where to begin with the best information to guide me.”
Dad nods and leans back on the couch, accepting her reply. “I got up early to go fishing down at the county lake. Gwen fixed us some fried bologna, scrambled eggs, and toast for breakfast. I started the coffee as I do most every morning. We sat at the kitchen table and ate. Then I kissed her goodbye and left.”
“What time did you leave the house?”
Dad scratches his chin. “I believe it was around seven a.m. or close to it.”
“She didn’t tell you she was going anywhere before you left?” Detective Shaw leans forward in her chair, causing those waves to frame her face. She pushes some hair behind her left ear.
“No,” Dad says. “It was early. She usually does things around the house first thing. I only know that she did have plans for lunch with her friends at eleven.”
“There’s record of you fishing that morning?”
“Should be. Everyone knows I go fishing on Wednesdays every week. Usually, my buddy Mack goes with me, but he had a doctor’s appointment.”
“When you came home and noticed Gwen wasn’t here, did anything seem out of place? Were the doors locked? Was anything taken from the house? How many people have a key to your home?”
“No.” Dad shakes his head. “Everything was normal. And only Taylor has a key.” Detective Shaw nods as she writes something in a small notepad. My head starts throbbing as my stress elevates.
“Taylor.” The detective looks up at me. “You and your mom talked this morning, correct?”
“Yes. Mom and I talk every day. She usually doesn’t call me so early, though.”
“Did you find that unusual?”
“No,” I say as Dad puts his hand on my knee to stop the bouncing. I didn’t realize I was doing it. “She asked what flowers I was going to plant in the town square this week because she wanted to tell her friends about it at lunch. Her friends love to garden and utilize Mom’s brain for tips and advice on what’s new that we’re planning.”
“You’re a gardener?” Detective Shaw asks. I’m not sure if it’s for her curiosity or if it would help with the case.
“My girl’s a landscape architect.” Dad looks at me with pride. “She runs the family business now that Gwen and I have retired. The city gave her a contract to do the seasonal flower decorations and maintenance for the next two years.”
“And what business is that?” She looks from me to Dad.
“We have the biggest nursery in the county.” Dad’s voice cracks and his lip quivers. “Gwen worked so hard to get it where it is. It’s her passion.”
“Mom loves flowers and plants.” I lean into Dad’s arm, putting my head on his shoulder. “She’s a botanist. They started their business forty years ago. I wasn’t even a thought at that point.”
“But you were.” Dad takes my hand in his. “Your mom wanted you her whole life. She dreamed of you.” I feel tears in my eyes now. Dad looks at the detective. “We were told we couldn’t have kids, and then when I was forty-two, Gwen got pregnant. Taylor’s our miracle baby.” I wipe my eyes before the tears can fall. I don’t look at the detective, though I feel her watching me. “Gwen named the business Beautifully Botanic,” Dad says as he wipes his own eyes. “Please bring my wife home safe.” His voice is low and raspy.
Detective Shaw looks Dad in the eyes. Her brow furrows with intensity. “Sir, I’m going to try my best.” And for some reason that I can’t pinpoint, I believe her.
My phone rings, saving me from the conversation. I’m thankful for the break to help ease my aching heart. “Hey, Carly,” I answer, walking out of the room and toward the kitchen.
“I have everything set up for the search,” Carly says, jumping right to the point. “We’ll meet on the corner of Shenandoah and Maple at seven thirty in the morning.” Carly and I thought this would be the best spot to start our search since it’s the closest wooded area to the house. It’s all a guessing game right now, and we needed a starting point.
A gut-wrenching feeling sweeps over me. “Dad and I will be there. Though, I really wish Mom would walk through the door and say her phone died.”
“I wish that too. More than anything.” I can hear Carly sigh on her end of the phone. “But if not, we’re prepared to go in the morning. Gwen’s like a second mom to me, you know. I would do anything for you all.”
“You’re family,” I say, and mean it. Carly’s been my best friend since elementary school. She used to sleep over all the time, and we’d stay up late with Mom and watch movies or play cards. “I better get back in there with Dad. A detective’s here asking questions.”
“Okay. See you soon. Love you.”
“Love you too.” I end the call feeling sad for having to talk about a search for Mom, but also thankful for the people willing to help.
I walk in to hear the detective still asking Dad questions. “Do you have any enemies that would wish your wife ill will?”
“No, ma’am,” Dad says, with certainty. “Everybody loves my Gwen.”
“What about you, sir? Is there someone who would hurt Gwen to get to you?”
“I—I don’t think so,” Dad stutters.
I turn to go back to the kitchen to get him a glass of sweet tea. His mouth is probably dry. I’m not sure the last time we’ve had something to drink or eat.
“Any identifying marks on Gwen such as tattoos or scars?”
“Mom has a small scar on her chin from childhood,” I answer for Dad, handing him the cold drink. He takes a big gulp before setting it on the table beside him. “Would you like something?” I ask the detective.
“No, thank you.” She looks up at me. “When did you first realize Mrs. Herron was missing?”
“Dad called me around two o’clock to see if Mom was with me. I thought maybe lunch with her friends had run late, but Dad said her car was still in the carport.”
“Mr. Herron, do you usually stay out that long fishing?”
“It varies according to the weather, how I’m feeling, and if the fish are biting. I left a little after noon, though, and met my buddy at the Egg House for lunch.”
Detective Shaw writes something else in her notepad. “Can your buddy…” She gestures for Dad to fill in his name.
“Mack,” Dad supplies.
“Can Mack verify you were at lunch with him?”
“Did either of you call her friends and ask if they have talked to her?”
“Yes,” I answer. “I called every one of them. No one has heard from or seen Mom.”
“Did any of them wonder why she didn’t show for lunch, or ask you what was going on?”
“Yes.” I nod. “Every one of them. It’s not like Mom to not show up or call to let them know she won’t be able to make it.”
“Why didn’t anyone call you or David to make sure she was okay?”
Detective Shaw’s questions seem accusatory, and it makes me uncomfortable. These women are good people. I know they care for my mom. “They texted Mom and called her cell but didn’t get a reply. I assume they were waiting to hear from her rather than call Dad or me for an explanation. Who would have thought that Mom would be missing?”
The detective picks up her phone and stands. “I’d like to see the kitchen and Mrs. Herron’s bedroom, please.”
Dad and I look at each other, unsure of what to make of her request. “Okay.” Dad stands. “This way.”
“Taylor.” Detective Shaw stops in the doorway, halting both of our progress. “Could you write down a list of your mother’s friends with their numbers, as well as any family members your mom talks to or may have gone to see? I’d also like Mack’s number.” She turns and walks out of the room to follow Dad, leaving me planted where I stand.
I’m confused as to why she wants to see my parents’ bedroom or the kitchen. I hurry to grab a pen and something to write on. I have to pull up the numbers on my phone because I don’t know any of them from memory. I have them all except for Mack’s. I see Dad’s phone on the side table next to the sofa. I pick it up so I can get Mack’s number, but it won’t turn on. The battery must have died because nothing I do works to start it up. He needs to keep it charged in case Mom calls. I head upstairs, where Dad’s charger is. I hear their voices the closer I get to the bedroom.
“Dad,” I say, walking in. “We need to charge your phone to get Mack’s number.” I go over to plug it in on his dresser.
Detective Shaw pulls open Mom’s nightstand drawers and looks through them. Then she goes to the closet to shuffle through the clothes. “You haven’t noticed anything missing, have you?” She looks at Dad.
“Only her cell phone.”
“Is her purse here?”
“It’s there next to the nightstand.”
Detective Shaw picks it up. “May I?”
Dad nods. I watch as she places Mom’s purse on the bed and begins picking through it. I watch as she moves things around and lifts them up before placing things back inside. I wish I knew what she was looking for.
“Here,” I say, holding out the list of numbers. She looks down at it. “We’ll have to get Mack’s number after Dad’s phone is charged.”
“You don’t know it by chance, do you, Mr. Herron?”
Dad shakes his head. “No. I only know Gwen’s and Taylor’s without looking.”
Detective Shaw nods her head, then folds the paper and slides it into her pocket. “I should be going. I have more people to talk to.” She closes Mom’s purse and places it back on the floor.
“Who?” I step forward into her space. “Has someone seen something?” My heart begins to race with the thought of having more information and what it could mean.
“It’s standard protocol to talk to the neighbors, friends, and family. I’m looking for answers to help point me in a direction. Here.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a couple of business cards. She hands one to me and one to Dad. “This is my direct line. Call me if you have any new information. Any little tip can help. I’ll be in touch.” She turns and walks out of the room. I follow her down the stairs and out the door. She stops on the porch. It’s dark now, but the motion light comes on.
“Do you have any leads?” My anxiety rises, causing my stomach to tighten.
Detective Shaw turns toward me, and the porch light makes her eyes stand out even more. “Not at the moment, but I promise to keep you in the loop as soon as I do.” Her face softens as she steps closer, within inches of me. My breath catches in my throat as I take in our closeness. “I know you’re hurting and scared, just please remember I’m not the enemy. I’m on your side.” She walks away, leaving me speechless. I probably deserved that.
I stand a moment longer to watch her round the black Jeep Cherokee before turning to go back inside. I have a lot to do before bed. One of those things is to take two Tylenol.