top of page

The Sacrificial Lamb  |  Excerpts |  Chapter 2


Madison couldn’t help herself. Once that seed was planted, like a dog with a bone, she just couldn’t let it go. She’d been that way ever since she was twelve. She had described it to Dr. Katz as feeling like she was tied to the caboose of a train that was pulling her along as it rolled down the track, destination unknown. 

That feeling overtook her as she fought her way through the rest of her first day. Thankfully the tutorials had eaten up most of the morning and a good part of the afternoon. The lunch with Nicole and a few others had been awkward, to say the least; Madison had picked at her avocado salad and did her best to fend off the questions about her life in Boston beyond the most superficial details. The others seemed to have lost interest and written her off as shy; she wasn’t so sure about Nicole. A few times, Madison thought she’d noticed Nicole looking at her in an odd way, as if trying to figure her out. 

When four-thirty finally arrived, Madison found her way to the transit station. As she waited to board her bus, alone in the throng of co-workers, she gave herself a talking to. 


Why not just accept that one person’s misfortune is another’s good luck? Your good luck, Maddie! Say a prayer for that poor girl, Sam, and be grateful. That’s what normal people do! 

If only. 

Perched now on her new sofa in her new apartment, Madison kept digging – for what exactly, she didn’t know. Nose buried in her laptop, her keen eyes scrutinized one of the two news clips she’d dug up from the local NBC affiliate’s archive. 

“A local jogger was found dead in Byxbee Park early this morning by park maintenance staff, the victim of an apparent hit-and-run. Samantha Dockett, age twenty-seven –”

Madison froze the clip and peered at Sam’s face: youthful, pretty, bright-eyed and full of life. Clad in running gear, cheeks flushed and all smiles, fresh off an invigorating jog no doubt, maybe a half-marathon, it was hard to tell. 

Madison switched to the second clip, a remote segment at Byxbee Park with the Palo Alto Police’s Public Information officer standing at a phalanx of microphones, flanked by other law enforcement and local officials. The PI delivered his carefully-crafted statement, “...Again, I am able to report that at this time, three weeks post-incident, the Medical Examiner has concluded the decedent, Samantha Dockett, died from multiple severe internal injuries, including a broken neck, sustained as the result of being struck by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. Our investigation has found no evidence of foul play. Law enforcement continues to search for the driver involved in this tragic, senseless hit-and-run –”

She hit ‘pause’ and studied the lineup of officials.

What is it, Maddie…?

The three on the right were local PD, one a sergeant, the other two plainclothes detectives; on the left were two city hall types, plus a supervisor from the Parks Dept. 

There – in the back!

Her gaze shifted behind the lineup to three men standing shoulder-to-shoulder off to one side, out of the limelight. All three cleancut, stone-faced. One wore a tan suit; the other two in identical blue windbreakers with a small yellow logo on the left breast pocket: FBI.

Madison zeroed in on the two men in matching jackets. They looked just like the two who had come to her house when she was nine; not their faces, but their square jaws and dead-serious expressions. 

Why are the FBI at a hit-and-run in Palo Alto…? 

Her apartment suddenly felt unbearably hot and stuffy. She got up and slid open her balcony door, inhaling a few lungfuls of cool evening breeze, barely registering that night had fallen. A glimmer of satisfaction came now; she hadn’t found the answer yet, but at least she’d found the loose thread. If she just kept tugging on it –


She slowly turned around to face her living room.

You’re doing it again…!

Her eyes swept the space, stopping when they reached four white bankers boxes neatly stacked in the far corner. The only boxes she hadn’t unpacked. 


Madison stared long and hard at the boxes, then began to laugh. Softly at first, then louder and more harsh until it became brittle and derisive. 

She strode back to her laptop and snapped it closed. 

L.V. Pederson

© 2023 by L.V Pederson. All Rights Reserved

bottom of page