Her Daughter's Cry
“ Chouinard really upped her game… I was pulled in right from the start… I could not figure anything out no matter how many scenarios I came up with… Wow, the ending I just never saw coming… I devoured it within a matter of hours. Talk about an intense and crazy storyline!... Another five-star read .” ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Sinfully Wicked Book Reviews
Zoe is a wife and a mother. Or so she’s been told. Ask her for more than that and she couldn’t tell you. The blow to her head wiped her memory clean.
Zoe knows the blood on her shirt isn’t just her own. After she was found stumbling out of the woods, the police ran tests. They say it belongs to her missing daughter.
Zoe is trying to piece together what her daughter’s face looks like, but all she can conjure up is a white-hot panic. A fear that her child is in desperate need of her help.
When a man claiming to be her husband turns up looking for her, she knows she can’t trust him. Until she gets her memories back, she can’t trust anyone. Not the stranger, not the police investigating, not even herself…
A completely addictive thriller that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. Perfect for fans of The Silent Patient, Lisa Regan and Gregg Olsen.
Discover more Detective Jo Fournier thrillers. Each book can be read as a standalone:
1. The Dancing Girls
2. Taken to the Grave
3. Her Daughter’s Cry
Read what everyone is saying about Her Daughter’s Cry :
“ Just WOW!! The twists I just didn’t see coming… The story was crazy SO CRAZY!!! If you think you can guess what is going to happen, you will be sadly mistaken!! The characters in this one were great… I loved every second of it.” Crossroad Reviews ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“M.M. Chouinard you have done it again!!... One hell of a read from one hell of an author… I was hooked straight away… You just know that you are going to be taken on a wild ride and what a ride it is!… I was on the edge of my seat throughout this book and biting my nails, much to my nail technician’s disgust!… Full of action and suspense, this one will get a hold of you and will keep you in its clutches until the final thrilling act… definitely a contender to be part of my best books for 2020.” Once Upon A Time Book Blog ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“ Omg, this book had me completely gripped, with twists and turns. I honestly thought it was someone else who had done it. Amazingly written. This is a first time read for me with this author, but I will be certainly reading more… Crime thriller at its best.” NetGalley Reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Release date: January 23, 2020
Print pages: 336
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Her Daughter's Cry
An hour and a half later, Detectives Josette Fournier and Bob Arnett pulled into the lot of Sacred Heart Hospital’s emergency room in Larkville. The cool air had a biting breeze that, despite a spate of mild weather and daffodils peeping up in front of the red-brick-and-glass hospital, reminded Jo spring hadn’t fully sprung. Even though she’d moved from New Orleans to Massachusetts when she was a young teen, she still fell prey to the first deceptive signs of warmth in a way no truly native New Englander ever would.
As they crossed the tarmac toward the sliding doors, Jo’s gait stiffened.
Arnett shook his head. “You and hospitals.”
“What? I’m not bad.”
“Like hell. You hide it well, but you go two shades paler and walk like you’re made out of sticks and rubber bands.”
She scrunched up her face and pulled her head back. “What does that even mean?”
He laughed and gestured up and down her frame. “You know you do. Look at yourself.”
He was right. Ever since she’d had to accompany her father through his second bout of chemotherapy, hospitals had become synonymous with fear and desperation for her. She took a deep breath and tried to shake off the memories.
But he’d glimpsed her face. “How’s your father doing?”
“Better. They think they’ve eradicated it, so he’s in remission.”
“You don’t sound happy about it.”
“Of course I’m happy about it. I just wish he’d let them remove his prostate.”
“Ah, well. Anytime you’re talking about surgery in that particular location, the subject gets a little sensitive.”
She shook her head, and strode past the rows of yellow plastic chairs to the annoyed blonde triage nurse behind the counter. “I’m Detective Josette Fournier from Oakhurst County SPDU, and this is Detective Bob Arnett. You have a Jane Doe we need to see?”
The nurse’s annoyance deepened. “One minute.”
She slid the frosted glass window back into place, and disappeared for several minutes. Without warning, the door next to the window buzzed like a giant angry mecha-wasp. Arnett pulled the handle and they stepped through.
The nurse pointed back and to the right. “Room three. The officers said you’d need to talk to her privately. Lucky for you we’re slow today so we had a room to spare.”
Jo nodded her thanks. “We appreciate it. We’ll be as fast as possible.”
The nurse gave one short nod, expression slightly mollified.
Jo tried to ignore the antiseptic smell as they followed the beige-and-white hall to the target room. They opened the door and waved out the two uniformed officers, a medium-height brunette in her early thirties, and a tall man with a spray of salt at his temples and just the hint of a starter paunch. Jo glanced at Arnett and hid her smile—in ten years the pair would be Fournier-and-Arnett body doubles. Over the twenty-odd years of their partnership, Arnett’s hair had flipped to more gray than black, and he’d put on about thirty pounds when he quit smoking, although he’d lost ten of that when his marriage nearly ended. While Jo’s stylist kept her own gray permanently covered, she surely had other signs of her own transformation—a reality she quickly blocked herself from dwelling on by leading the introductions.
“So what exactly happened?” she asked when she finished.
The brunette officer, whose badge read Gonsalves, answered. “Woman walked into an antique store over in Taltingham, clothes covered in blood, with leaves and sticks in her hair, scrapes and bruises and sunburn, with no idea who she is. She nearly gave the guy who owns the shop a heart attack. He called the paramedics and they examined her and brought her here.”
“No ID on her?” Arnett asked.
“Nope. No wallet, no phone, nothing. Just the clothes on her back, and barely the shoes on her feet. They’re some sort of slippers, not real shoes, and they’re so shredded they’re nearly falling off. Looks like she walked a fair distance before stumbling into that shop.”
“You said they found her in Taltingham?” Jo asked. “Why didn’t they take her to Suffolk General?”
“There was a five-car pile-up right before the call, so they had their hands full. Since her life wasn’t in immediate danger, they brought her to the next closest hospital. Since nobody in Taltingham knew who she was anyway, now she’s our problem.”
A doctor appeared around the corner and hurried over to them, several strands of auburn hair trailing her severe bun. She addressed Arnett. “I’m Doctor Brodie. The nurse told me you’d arrived.”
Jo answered her, and introduced them. “Can you update us on our Jane Doe?”
Doctor Brodie glanced at her, then physically turned toward Arnett. “She has a concussion, but no laceration, so it can’t be responsible for all the blood on her. No other significant injuries.”
Jo sighed internally. She’d met far too many women like this before. Successful, professional women, who, whether consciously or not, assumed Arnett was the one in charge. It was bad enough when men treated her that way, but when women did it, especially women who’d certainly battled far too much of their own gender discrimination, it just plain pissed her off. “Did you do a rape kit?”
“There was no reason to.” The doctor turned a withering glare on her.
Jo kept her face neutral. “Of course there’s reason to. She wasn’t able to tell you what happened, which means she doesn’t know, and you don’t know. We need to recover any potential evidence as soon as possible.”
The doctor’s cheeks tinged slightly red. “We’ll do it now.”
“Swab inside and out, trim the fingernails, all of it,” Jo said.
The glare turned to daggers. “I know how to collect a rape kit.”
“That’ll help. Blood samples?” Jo said.
The doctor’s sharp intake of breath was satisfying, as was Gonsalves’ muffled laugh. Arnett shot her a questioning glance, which she ignored. Yes, she was being bitchy, and no, it wasn’t like her. Especially on the job.
“Already sent off for bloodwork,” Doctor Brodie said.
“And the extras? For our lab?”
The doctor’s tinge turned to a full flush—she’d been caught in a second mistake. Would she own up to it, or try to BS her way through?
“No need. We’re doing a full screen on her,” she said.
Jo held her eyes. “Right. Except the woman is covered in blood that Officer Gonsalves assures me you said couldn’t have come from her wounds. So my lab will need to compare the blood on her clothes against the blood in her veins.”
“I can do a typing right here.”
Jo had reached her limit—the doctor’s ego was so big she was doubling down on her bullshit, even if it meant playing intentionally ignorant. “We both know that tells us next to nothing. Even if the blood types match up, we won’t be able to say for certain the blood is hers. And since we have no way of identifying her, we’ll need to submit her DNA into the system to see if she matches any missing cases.”
“I’m not a mind reader, Detective. I’ll have the nurse take another sample as soon as possible.”
Arnett shifted, eyebrows up. Jo stopped herself from asking the doctor if this was her first day in the ER, and chastised herself for even having the thought. What on God’s green earth was wrong with her today?
She took a breath and forced herself to smile. She’d made her point, over-made it in fact, and she needed as much information as she could get. “Thank you. Can you tell what caused the injury?”
Relieved to be on solid ground again, the doctor’s flush abated. “My guess is she was in a car accident while not wearing a seat belt, and was thrown from the vehicle. Which is why a rape kit really is a waste of time and money.”
Jo fought to stay civil. “We’ll search for any crashes that match up. This type of memory loss, is that common with her type of head injury?”
“It happens. I’ve called in a neurology consult, he should be here shortly. He’ll be able to tell you more once he examines her.”
“Great, thank you.” Jo pointedly turned her side to Brodie, and spoke to Gonsalves. “Can you make sure all the evidence makes it back to Marzillo at SPDU headquarters?”
Gonsalves smiled. “Sure thing.”
Arnett grabbed the doorknob. “Ready to go talk to her?”
Jo nodded and he opened the door, then waved her through.
The woman’s head shot up as they stepped through the door. She was small, probably no more than five foot five, and the hospital gown made her look smaller. She wore no jewelry other than two rings, a simple gold wedding band, and a faceted figure-eight turquoise ring on her right hand. The pale, sunburned skin dramatized her dark brown hair and highlighted the beginning web of middle-aged crow’s feet around her eyes. Confusion and fear filled her wide brown eyes, reminding Jo of a trapped fox.
Jo pulled a plastic chair next to the bed. By unspoken agreement, Arnett followed suit, but stayed a foot farther back. “You’ve had quite a day,” Jo said.
“I’m sorry if we know each other, I’m having problems remembering.” Her eyes flicked between them, and to the door behind them.
“No, don’t worry.” Jo introduced herself and Arnett. “We’re here to help figure out what happened to you. The doctor says you don’t even remember who you are?”
Tears filled the woman’s eyes. “No.”
Jo leaned in and slowed the pace of her voice. “Don’t worry, we’re going to get this all figured out as soon as possible. In the meantime, what would you like us to call you?”
A cloud passed over her face, deepening the anxiety there. “They’ve been calling me Jane Doe. They use that for dead bodies, don’t they?”
“Yes, exactly. It’s a horrible name for someone who’s alive and going to be well soon. So what would you like to be called until you remember your real name?”
“One of the nurses’ names is Zoë, that’s really pretty. Can we use that?” She searched Jo’s face.
“Zoë it is,” Jo said. “Now I’d like you to think back as best you can. What’s the first thing you remember?”
The door to the room swung open, and a tall, black-haired, brown-eyed doctor strode in. His eyes swung to each of them, then settled on Zoë with an accompanying thousand-watt smile. “You must be my new patient. I’m Doctor Soltero, and I’m a neurologist. I hear tell you have a big lump on your head and you’re not remembering much?”
Zoë sat up, cheeks flushed slightly, and absentmindedly ran her fingers over her hair. Jo hid a smile. She couldn’t blame the woman. Dr. Soltero’s square-jawed good looks must have charmed more than a few patients in their time, even those in far worse shape.
“Yes, that’s right.” Zoë wrung the hands clasped in her lap.
Dr. Soltero nodded. “And you are Detectives Fournier and Arnett?”
“Our reputations precede us,” Jo said.
“Yours does, anyway. Quite a bulldog, I hear.” He raised one eyebrow at Jo, a smile playing at his lips.
She refused to be embarrassed. “We just decided Zoë would be an excellent temporary name, and were asking Zoë if she can remember anything about how she got here.”
“In that case, hello, Zoë.” He stepped around the bed and examined her as he asked questions about how she felt, and checked the extent of her memory loss. “We find ourselves back at the detectives’ question. What’s the first thing you do remember?”
Her eyes darted back and forth over the ceiling. “Waking up in the woods. I was lying under some rocks, like a little lean-to made out of the space between them. I was horribly cold and my head was throbbing, and the bright light made it worse. I had no idea how I got there or what to do, so I got up and started walking. I found a river, which was good because I was really thirsty. I drank some water, which probably means I have some sort of parasite now, but I didn’t have anything to boil it with…” She looked up at the doctor.
He smiled, and patted her hand. “I’m sure you’re fine, but we’ll monitor you. You did the right thing. Dehydration was a much bigger problem just then. Go on.”
She smiled wanly. “Then I followed the river downhill, the direction it was running. I figured, people live near water, right?”
Jo shot Arnett a look. Not just anybody would have put that together.
Dr. Soltero nodded. “Very smart.”
“By that time, though, I was struggling to keep going. I was thirsty and hot and tired, and felt like I was going to pass out. But I didn’t have any other choice, so I just kept walking until I came to a dirt road, and then I followed that until I hit a paved road. Then I followed that until I got to a town, just trying to put one foot in front of the other.”
“Didn’t any cars stop to offer you help?” Dr. Soltero asked.
Zoë quickly looked down before answering. “I, uh, didn’t walk out on the actual road.”
“Trying to stay in the shade? Also very smart. But you should have come out when you heard the cars.” He laughed.
Jo glanced at Arnett again, and registered the change in his expression. He’d also seen Zoë’s flicker of hesitation. She looked back at her. “Is that why? Or were you scared?”
Zoë’s eyes darted over to Jo’s face, and then down again. “Yes.”
“Afraid of the person who did this to you?” Jo asked.
“I—I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t know what I was scared of. I just know I was scared. I mean, I didn’t know what happened, or where I was, or anything, and I was just trying not to let myself get hysterical because I knew that wouldn’t help anything. Because you don’t just find yourself out in the woods covered in blood, there has to be something that—” Her throat seized, and she struggled for words through panicked tears.
Jo squeezed her hand. “That must have been terrifying. But you did the right thing, and you’re safe now. Take a deep breath for me.”
Zoë nodded, and took several breaths.
Dr. Soltero continued when she’d calmed. “Then what happened?”
“That’s it. I just kept going. By the time I found the town, my vision was blurry and I could barely walk anymore. I managed to reach the first building, and the guy called an ambulance for me. They brought me here.”
“Got it.” Dr. Soltero circled around the bed and patted her arm. “I’m going to order a few more tests for you, including a CT scan. Then we’ll chat again once I’ve had a chance to look at the results, okay? In the meantime they’ll put you in one of our deluxe suites upstairs. We’ll get everything figured out, and before you know it, you’ll be angry at me because you remember all your childhood traumas.”
Zoë smiled at his joke, and flushed slightly again.
Jo put on what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “With any luck, we’ll have you identified even before that. Someone must have noticed you missing by now, and must have filed a report. We’ll be back to tell you your real name in no time.” She turned. “Doctor Soltero, may we speak to you?”
“Of course. I’ll see you again soon, Zoë.”
Jo and Arnett followed Dr. Soltero into the hall. “We’ll keep it quick, Doctor Soltero, we know how busy you are,” Jo said.
Dr. Soltero turned on the thousand-watt smile. “Matt, please.”
“Matt. I know head trauma can be deceptive, but is it possible for someone to lose all their memory from an injury that small?” Jo asked.
He wagged his head back and forth. “Memory is complicated, especially cases of pure retrograde amnesia like this. A small injury can trigger a minor stroke or epileptic episode we need test results to detect. And, yes, it’s common with even minor insult to have some memory loss. But generally speaking, in a case like this with relatively moderate injury but dramatic memory loss, I’d expect an accompanying psychological component.”
“Like when someone blocks out something traumatic that happened to them during childhood, but then recovers the memory later?” Jo asked.
The doctor raised his eyebrows. “The whole issue of adults recovering memories of childhood trauma is very controversial. But your gist is right. You’re asking about dissociative amnesia—people who experience something traumatic, even without an accompanying injury, and have extensive memory loss.”
“So this probably wouldn’t just happen as the result of a random car accident?” Arnett asked.
Dr. Soltero grimaced. “I don’t want to say it couldn’t happen, because it could. But I’d say in that case it’s more likely the memory loss would be limited to a few hours, maybe days, surrounding the crash.”
“What if the patient had been attacked and crashed their car in the process of getting away from something traumatic?”
“Definitely closer, yes. Probably the best way to put it succinctly is, you can get this type of memory loss from a traumatic brain injury, or for psychological reasons without any injury at all. So the less severe the injury is, the more likely I’d hypothesize something traumatic accompanied the event.”
Jo nodded. “Got it. And I’m guessing there’s no way of knowing when or if she’ll get her memory back?”
He shook his head. “Excellent guess, that’s also complicated. Most likely it will come back, but there’s no telling when. Sometimes within hours, sometimes not for years, and sometimes only partially. Older memories are more likely to be recovered than newer ones, and more likely to be recovered sooner.”
Jo and Arnett both nodded.
The doctor reached into his lab coat pocket and pulled out a card. “I’d like to keep her overnight for observation, but if her memory doesn’t come back by tomorrow, we’ll need to place her in some sort of care.”
Jo traded him a card of her own. “Right. So you’ll keep us updated?”
“I’ll contact you as soon as I get a look at her test results.” He smiled, and held her eye a moment longer than necessary.
“So, who pissed in your Wheaties today?” Arnett asked as they walked back to the car.
Jo stared at him blankly for a moment before connecting the dots to her conversation with the ER doctor. “Oh, that. I’ll admit, I came down on her a little hard. But she had it coming.”
“Of course she had it coming. But normally the bigger assholes people are, the less butter melts in your mouth.”
Jo laughed. “Look at you, stealing my favorite sayings. But you’re right. I’m not sure why it got under my skin that way. Maybe Hill of Beans gave me decaf by mistake.”
“Lucky for you, I know the perfect remedy.” He reached for the driver’s side door of the undercover Chevy Cruze. “Double meatball sub from Sal’s makes everything right with the world.”
She slipped into the passenger seat. “What about your dinner?”
“Laura’s got her book club tonight, so I’m fending for myself,” he answered. “And besides, that blood on Zoë’s clothes isn’t sitting right with me, I’m worried about who it belongs to. I’d like to find out who Zoë is tonight, if we can.”
“You don’t have to ask me twice. Make it so.” She pointed in the direction of Sal’s. “And I agree. That much blood means someone somewhere may need help, but the question is where? She could have come from any direction out in the woods before she hit that stream she followed, and who knows how long she ran before she passed out last night. This could have happened anywhere in the county, behind God only knows what tree or in what house. We’re looking for a needle in a forest full of haystacks unless Zoë remembers who she is. But I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight until we check for a missing persons report on her, or any accidents that might be related.”
They took their food to go, and jumped into the search. Half an hour later, Jo wiped a glop of marinara off her desk as she broke focus with the database in front of her. “From what I can see, there aren’t any crashes with abandoned vehicles, or that would otherwise fit Zoë’s situation, anywhere near the Taltingham area in the last two days. Pretty much all of the roads in the area would have been traversed by now, so anything like that should have been reported. I don’t think she could have been out in the woods longer than that?”
“Seems unlikely, but we can check with Marzillo to see if she can zero in on the timing any better,” Arnett said, referring to one of the senior medicolegal investigators in their lab.
“Maybe she drove off the road where nobody can see the vehicle? If so, who knows how long before it’ll be reported.” Jo shook her head, frustrated.
“True. On to missing persons.” Arnett wiped his hands and pulled his keyboard closer.
“What do you think, radiate out by county?” Jo asked.
“Probably best, she could be from anywhere. Lots of camping up there even this time of year among the hard-core set. Time frame?”
“I say start with cases reported yesterday or today, but we may have to go back farther. She may even have been abducted and held, for God knows how long.”
Arnett shook his head, expression grim. “You take Oakhurst, I’ll take Hampden.”
The work was arduous, and disheartening. Although Zoë looked to be in her forties, they had to keep their age range wide. Visual estimates of age could be wrong, especially after the ordeal she’d been through. Even with the tragic reality that most missing women were under the age of eighteen, a considerable number of cases remained to slog through.
When Marzillo called them two hours later, they’d only found two possibilities, who, when viewed through squinting eyes, might have been Zoë. But phone calls to the families in question had quickly ruled them out.
“I hate those calls,” Arnett said as they strode down the corridor to the lab. “You raise the family’s hopes, even if it’s only for a second, then the pain’s back in their voice, fresh like the day it happened.”
Jo nodded, and pulled open the door.
“Guys, how’s it going?” Christine Lopez whipped around toward them from her now-permanent set-up on the right side of the room, sending her long black ponytail swinging. During a brief period when Jo had been lieutenant of the department, Lopez had partnered with Arnett. When Jo asked to be made detective again, Lopez, still new to the force, had been assigned to another partner. When he’d been hospitalized the previous fall, Assistant District Attorney Rockney asked Lopez to use her considerable computer and internet savvy to help out in the understaffed lab, working with whichever squads needed her. After a few months on that detail, she’d asked interim lieutenant Martinez if she could make the switch permanent.
“Frustrating. Still enjoying lab life?” Jo asked.
“Happier than a dog in a vat of peanut butter.”
“I always did think you missed your calling. Whenever I picture you, I see you in a room surrounded by five monitors and stacks of illegal high-tech gadgets.” Jo dropped into the desk next to hers.
Marzillo emerged from the back of the room perched on her usual cork platforms, several pencils spearing her dark curls into a tight bun. “Only problem is, now I gotta listen to her music all day. And I use the word music very, very loosely.”
“Still hate headphones, huh?” Arnett asked, grabbing another chair.
Lopez grimaced. “You can’t hear anything around you. Anybody can sneak up on you, zombies could overrun the room, you name it, and you’d never know it.”. . .
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