BY: LAURA ELVEBAK
Matt Langdon has it all. A beloved son in college. An ex-wife who understands him. An exploration business in oil and gas which has shown a profit. Then, suddenly, his investors back out, and he faces bankruptcy. As Matt rushes to meet the one man he believes can help him, he finds an injured girl on the road. If he’s late for his meeting, he could lose his funding. But he can’t leave the unconscious girl. Being a Good Samaritan changes everything when he’s arrested and charged with assaulting her.
Lillian Wallace is an investigator for Matt’s attorney, and she’s determined to discover the truth. A close look at the mystery girl reveals she holds the key to a past Matt never knew existed. Dark secrets are exposed as the girl recovers and points a finger at Matt’s long-time nemesis—a murderer who has gone undetected for years, and who will now stop at nothing until he destroys both Matt and the girl…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Past Never Dies by Laura Elvebak, Matt Langdon is on top of the world, with everything going right for him. That is until the morning he stops to help an injured girl on the road. Late for a meeting, he puts the girl in his car and rushes her to the hospital, pays for her care, and then hurries to his meeting. But things start to go downhill right away. His investors begin pulling out of his latest oil-drilling project, the cops accuse him of assaulting the girl he tried to help, and his son confesses that he hates college and wants to come home. Just when Matt almost convinces the cops he was only trying to help the girl, she claims she was on that road looking for him. Now Matt has to not only clear his name but figure out who the girl is, why she was looking for him, and how he can prove to the cops that he is innocent when the girl claims she can’t remember who hurt her.
Elvebak tells a chilling tale of greed corruption and murder, with an innocent man caught in the middle just trying to survive. A good solid read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Past Never Dies by Laura Elvebak is the story of a man caught up in forces from his past that he is not even aware of. Matt Langdon’s troubles begin the morning he spots a strange injured young woman on the highway. He knows if he calls nine-one-one, he will be there forever and he is already late for a meeting. So he puts the woman in his car and ferries her to the hospital himself. Leaving her there, he heads for his meeting only to find that the financing he thought was a done deal is falling through. His problems are compounded when a cop with a chip on her shoulder decides she wants to charge with assault on the injured girl. He tries to explain that she was injured when he found her, but the cop isn’t willing to listen. Then he discovers the girl is not what seems. She is a link to his past he has long buried, and when she came looking for him, trouble was sure to follow.
As usual, Elvebak’s character development is superb. You can’t help feeling for Matt, and the other characters, as they struggle to make sense of clues in of a web of lies and deceit. A tense, fast-paced, and chilling mystery you won’t be able to put down.
Dawn daubed the sky with shades of pink by the time Matt Langdon finished his morning run. Sweat pooled under his eyes and darkened his armpits. His mind raced, memorizing and highlighting all the selling points he would present to the broker at breakfast. All he needed was a simple “Yay” to secure the future of Black Gold Exploration. Ironic, he thought. A person poured his energy, his knowledge, and experience of a lifetime into a business, only to see success or failure balanced on the scales of an outsider. Didn’t seem fair or right.
His phone signaled a text. He glanced at it.
Good luck. Call me later. Greg.
Greg Jertize was his landman and partner. Together, with two other geophysicists, they had built Black Gold Exploration from a dream they shared to a physical reality. They amassed small fortunes and watched their profits rise and dip on a rollercoaster ride alongside the economy. Now their existence depended on investors who would gamble on Black Gold’s two most promising wells. The broker who held the critical scale, Sterling McAdams, spoke for those investors. He was the go-between Matt had to convince.
Matt reached his rambling, ranch-style house, nestled in the curve of the cul-de-sac, and jogged along the winding driveway until he reached the back porch. His two Australian Shepherds barked their greeting from their enclosed pen behind the white gazebo.
Once inside, he heard nothing except the whirring of the air conditioner. He took a moment to clear his head and savor the solitude. He opened the refrigerator door, let the cold air breathe into his skin, and took out a bottled water, which he drained. In his bedroom he shed his clothes and stepped into a shower of fine hot spray.
He looked successful, he decided, pleased with the reflection that smiled back at him from the full-length mirror. He had chosen a pale blue shirt and a tan summer suit for the meeting. His slim build made him look taller than his five feet, nine inches. His daily regimen never varied. He ate healthy, exercised daily at the gym in addition to his morning runs, and the results showed. He couldn’t be more ready to face the morning.
As he started up his orange Jeep and backed out of the driveway, his chest tightened. No, he told himself. Don’t let negative thoughts in. They only poison your attitude. This is yours. You’ve earned it. Breathe. In and out.
His fingers played on the steering wheel while he faced the street. The Jeep’s engine rumbled like a hungry tiger.
Let’s do this.
He took his usual route on the back streets, past the live oaks, tall and thick enough to hide the bright sunlight. Beyond the trees to his right, the bayou drifted along in a lazy crawl. On the other side, an expanse of overgrown weeds separated the road from a storage facility. Once he came to the freeway, everything would change. Traffic would snarl the rest of the way, which was why he always left early to give him plenty of time.
An opening in the overhead branches brought a glare from the sun that made him pull down the visor. Even with his sunglasses on, he was momentarily blinded. The sun disappeared again in the next instant, and Matt blinked several times. His eyes stung. The Jeep swerved to the other side of the road. He braked hard.
Through the windshield he saw a bundle of white in front of the Jeep’s front fender. His stomach twisted. He didn’t recall feeling a bump or jolt. Surely he would have known if he had hit something. He looked again. Maybe trash thrown out of a car? That must be it. He could back up, circle around, and drive off.
But then movement stirred under the white material.
This was not happening to him. Not now. He glanced at his watch and the skin on his face burned. Just go! Put the Jeep in gear and hightail it out of there. Even as the thought crossed his mind, he opened the car door and eased out.
Sprawled in front of the Jeep was a slim figure in a white dress, streaked with dirt and blood. She lay face down, a mess of blond hair covering her head.
Shit. Matt knelt beside the figure. “Hello? Can you hear me?”
He gingerly moved the hair away.
“Oh, Jesus,” he gasped, taking in the sight of a young female. Maybe late teens or early twenties, he guessed. Hard to tell in her condition. Her skin was scratched and thin lines of dried blood ran along the edge of her hairline. One eye swollen shut. Multiple bruises on her face and neck looked red and puffy. A runaway? A kidnap victim? A date gone terribly wrong? His imagination ran in all directions. He was never good at guessing a girl’s age.
He put two fingers against her neck. Pulse weak. Alive. Thank God.
The street looked empty. His hands shook when he took out his cell phone. The hour and minutes stared back at him from the screen. If he called nine-one-one, they would make him stay until the paramedics arrived. He would be questioned. He would miss his meeting. Sterling McAdams would not wait for him. The man had made that clear. Be on time, or else.
He paced back and forth, holding tight to his phone. He could call McAdams. Take the chance he would understand. He wouldn’t be pleased. He’d postpone the meeting indefinitely. Matt’s company would lose the funding. The luckiest sonofabitch in the world wouldn’t bet against odds like that.
But he couldn’t just leave the girl on the road. She was alive, but for how long? He wasn’t a doctor. He couldn’t tell how critical her injuries were. There was a small boutique medical hospital a few miles down the road. His options ran through his mind like water through a sieve. Could he even lift her without causing more damage to her body? What if there were broken bones or internal bleeding?
He had no choice. Not really. He returned to his car and retrieved a blanket he kept in a storage bin and covered the back seat with it. He turned back to the girl.
Why did I have to be the one to find you?
Slowly and carefully he lifted her. She didn’t stir, didn’t moan, or react at all. Gently he lowered her on the blanket, closed the door and got in behind the wheel.
He met no traffic on the way, which was a good thing since the Jeep was traveling thirty miles over the speed limit. The girl slid toward the door when he made a sharp turn into the Emergency driveway. He cut the motor, jumped out, and opened the rear door. He lifted her with care.
She was heavier than she seemed when he first picked her up. Running with her toward the emergency doors felt awkward, and he felt a sharp twinge in his back as he carried her inside.
He yelled for a gurney and a medic, but was met with stares from the waiting room. A middle-aged woman cradled a crying baby. An old man in a wheelchair hunkered over his legs. A young man in a torn work shirt staunched his bleeding arm. A metallic smell greeted him along with a rush of cold air. The startled desk receptionist looked up and half rose in her chair.
Matt swore under his breath. He turned away from them and banged on the doors to the treatment room. After several moments, a male nurse came out looking harried and belligerent.
“I found her. I don’t know her.” Matt offered her up to him like she was the prize in a lottery. “She’s unconscious. Might have been beaten up.”
The nurse didn’t hesitate. Muttering under his breath, he rolled a gurney up to the door. Matt eased the girl down. She uttered a moan and her eyes fluttered open.
“Thank God.” Matt let out the breath he was holding and told her, “You’ll be okay.”
The nurse regarded him with narrowed, suspicious eyes. “Sir, you need to talk to the clerk in the waiting room.”
Matt checked his watch. He was going to be late. He could only hope that Sterling McAdams would wait for him. He glanced back at the girl. She tried to focus her eyes on him.
“I’ll check back on you, I promise.” He wasn’t sure if she understood.
The nurse wheeled the gurney into the treatment room. He poked his head out before he closed the door. “The doctor will talk to you when he’s through examining her.”
Matt nodded that he’d heard him, and hurried to the clerk behind a semi-circular counter. He opened his wallet and took out his credit card. “I found her in the road. I don’t know who she is or how she got there. You can bill her services to me on this card. I can’t stay, but I will be back.”
The clerk sputtered, “Sir, you can’t just leave. There are forms and procedures–”
“Sorry, I don’t have time right now.” Matt scribbled down the number of his credit card along with his name, address, and cell phone number. “That should be all you need. Sorry I couldn’t help more.”
Before the clerk could protest further, Matt raced out the door. If he hurried, he might make his meeting. If he was lucky, Sterling McAdams wouldn’t notice the blood on his wrinkled clothes. Matt could explain. He could convince people of anything if he tried hard enough.
© 2017 by Laura Elvebak