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Authors: Marta Perry

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“So she could watch sports?” She let sarcasm creep into her voice. “That’s what
you
want. What about jewelry?”
“I just gave her an engagement ring,” he protested. “She wouldn’t want more jewelry, would she?”
“You really are hopeless, you know that?” She considered smacking him again, but that might lead to all-out war, and as tempting as it was, she didn’t have time for it now. Still, she had to grin, remembering the series of practical jokes they’d played on each other the last time she was home.
“Listen carefully,” she said. “No woman, especially one newly engaged, wants an appliance for Christmas. She wants something that reminds her you love her. What about a watch? Marisa always wears one, and you could have it engraved with something romantic.”
“Good idea.” His face brightened. “You want to go shopping and help me pick it out?”
“Can’t. I’ve got to go to the hospital to see Esther. But do it today, or you’ll never get it engraved by Christmas. And make it something small and delicate and feminine.”
“Right, I will.” His face sobered. “Listen, it’s not going to bother you that Adam Byler is joining us for Christmas, is it?”
It took an effort to keep her face from changing. “I didn’t know he was.”
Link nodded. “Him and Leo Frost.”
Leo Frost was the family’s attorney and an old friend. His inclusion didn’t surprise her.
“Why did Mom decide to invite Adam?”
“You know Mom.” He shrugged his shoulders. “She can’t stand the thought of anyone being alone on Christmas. She invites him every year, and this time he said yes.”
Okay, she could handle this. “Why would you think it might bother me?”
He avoided her eyes. “Look, I know how you felt about him when we were in high school, remember? And it seems to me sparks have been flying since you’ve been back this time.”
“That’s your imagination.” She caught his look and knew he didn’t believe her. “Whatever sparks you see are the result of our disagreeing over what happened to Esther.”
He held up his hands, evidently wishing he hadn’t asked. “Okay, if you say so. But just remember, sparks can sometimes cause a fire. Give my best to Esther’s family, will you? Is there anything I can do?”
“Not unless you can figure out who did this to her.”
“Afraid not,” he said, his voice slowing. “But something did occur to me after we talked last night—something that’s happening in the township that affects both English and Amish. Still, I don’t see how Esther could be involved.”
“Tell me,” she demanded, mind racing. Was she actually going to learn something helpful?
Link frowned. “Like I say, I don’t see how it could affect Esther. But there’s been a lot of talk going around about a new motel being built on a piece of prime Amish farmland. Nobody can understand how the builder got permission to build there. Not a word of it leaked out until it was a done deal and he broke ground. Word has it several Amish farmers had an eye on that piece of land, just waiting for it to come on the market.”
She didn’t see how Esther could be concerned in that, either, but it
was
the sort of thing she might ask Libby’s advice on.
“Who’s the builder?” She set her mug down. The coffee had cooled while they’d been talking.
“That’s just it. It’s Tom Sylvester. I can’t imagine him doing anything sleazy to get a project through.”
“I thought he retired and went to Florida. Isn’t that why you’re running Morgan Construction now?” She remembered Tom, of course. He’d run the family’s construction business for what seemed most of her life.
“Retiring was all he talked about.” Link’s frown deepened. “It was kind of odd, now that I think about it. He came back after just a few weeks, saying he couldn’t stand doing nothing. He didn’t want his job back—just said he’d be taking on a few small jobs on his own. Next thing we knew, he was digging the foundation for a new motel just this side of Springville.”
She nodded. “I saw that something was going up there. I can’t imagine any reason Esther would be interested, but it’s worth looking into.”
“But Tom—” Link’s face showed his doubt.
She had never been as impressed with Tom Sylvester as the boys had been. His bluff, hearty manner didn’t seem quite real, and his habit of calling her “little princess” annoyed her. That was for Daddy to say, no one else.
“It might be worth taking a look at this new project of his. I’ll stop at the site on my way to the hospital and see if Tom is there.” She stood, abandoning her half-eaten breakfast. “See you later. Do that shopping today.”
He grinned. “I will. And you be careful.”
“I will,” she echoed. But what could happen to her?
* * *

 

ADAM SHOVED HIS chair back from his desk with an impatient movement. Reports, reports and more reports…all negative. The canvass of local garages for repairs hadn’t produced a thing so far, but he didn’t have the manpower to do it any faster. His two part-timers had been let go at the end of the tourist season, leaving him with only three officers.
The state police were circulating a request to all garages in the tricounty area, but they knew, as he did, that there were places that would do repairs and conveniently forget if questioned.
The lab tests on the paint had narrowed the possibilities down slightly. They were looking for a late-model black van or pickup truck, American made. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to point in any particular direction.
He moved toward the door. He may as well join in the check on garages as sit here. There weren’t any other investigations pressing—winter was the quiet season in their little corner of the county.
He reached the dispatcher’s desk in time to see the outer door open. Jason Smalley, one of the three township supervisors, came in, wiping his shoes carefully on the mat.
Jason was always what the old-timers called “finicky” in his actions…maybe the result of growing up with a mother like Sandra. Too bad his flawless exterior didn’t match up with his inside. Adam looked at him and saw, not the successful real estate developer, but the bully who’d made an elementary school career out of taking lunch money from younger kids.
Once his shoes were clean enough to suit him, Jason brushed a melting snowflake from the sleeve of his navy wool coat and strode toward Adam, smile wide and hand extended.
“Adam. Just the person I wanted to see.”
He nodded, unable to feel any matching enthusiasm. “What can I do for you, Jason?”
Jason shot a glance at Ginger, the dispatcher, who promptly turned back to her keyboard.
“Let’s go into your office.”
Since Jason, as a township supervisor, was in a sense Adam’s boss, he could hardly refuse. He stepped back, gesturing Jason in, and thinking fleetingly of the day he’d put an end to Jason’s bullying by giving him a bloody nose. He’d been the one to get into trouble for it, of course, but it had been worth the detention.
He closed the door and returned to his desk, nodding at the visitor’s chair. “What is it, Jason? I was just heading out to join the search for the hit-and-run car.”
“The accident, of course.” Jason sat. “I came by to see how the investigation is coming along. On behalf of the supervisors, of course.”
Adam sat motionless, studying Jason’s face for a clue to his thoughts. The township supervisors, three elected officials, generally concerned themselves with keeping the township roads clear and following up on decisions of the township planning commission. He couldn’t remember a time when they’d asked for more than the latest department statistics.
That stare must be making Jason nervous. He crossed his legs, swinging one foot in quick, jerky motions.
“The department is following all the leads to the driver,” he said.
Jason frowned. “We’d like a few more details than that. The supervisors are responsible for the police department.”
He’d guess the bully was still there, hidden behind that glossy facade. Still, he didn’t really have a reason to refuse.
“We know that the vehicle was a late-model van or truck, black, American made. There must have been considerable damage to the front end of the vehicle, so we’re checking all the garages in the township. The state police have circulated a request for information to all repair facilities in the tricounty. There’s really not a lot more we can do from that angle.”
“Of course, of course.” Jason’s lips twitched in a smile. “You’re doing all you can. No one can fault us if you’re not able to arrest the driver. Probably someone from out of the area, driving too fast on an unfamiliar road. Likely you’ll never know.”
That smug assumption of failure got under Adam’s skin. “It may not be as simple as that.” He hesitated. Better not to mention Libby. “We’ve learned that Esther wrote several letters which hinted that she was worried about a problem that apparently involved the English community. There’s a suggestion the crime was connected with that.”
“Crime?” Smalley looked startled. “You mean the accident.”
“Hit-and-run driving is a crime,” Adam said. He didn’t believe in sugarcoating wrongdoing. “The driver faces a stiff penalty, even if Esther recovers.”
“Yes, well, I suppose you’re right. But these letters…” He paused, eyes narrowing. “They were to Libby Morgan, I suppose. I should have known the Morgan family would be involved somehow.”
His fingers tightened around his pen. “What do you mean by that?”
Jason seemed to sense he’d gone too far. “Nothing, nothing. I suppose the Morgans have gotten used to being the big fish in the pond, but times are changing. People like the Morgans aren’t so important these days. You don’t have to pursue a pointless investigation just to please them.”
Resisting the urge to throw his pen, Adam put it down carefully. “I follow where the evidence leads. That’s my job. I won’t ignore any leads, no matter how slight.”
Jason stood, shoving the chair back, his face stiff. “We know where you stand, don’t we?”
Adam rose and planted his fists on the desk very deliberately. “You keep saying ‘we,’ Jason. Somehow I wonder if you really represent the other supervisors. Or if they even know about your attempt to influence the investigation.”
Anger flared in Jason’s face. “I see it’s useless to talk to you.” He walked to the door and paused for a parting shot. “You always were the Morgan family’s little pet, weren’t you? The trash they picked up from the gutter to do their dirty work for them.”
He was gone before Adam could react.
That was a good thing. Adam unclenched his fists, a finger at a time. He might have bloodied Jason’s nose for him again, and if he had, the consequences this time would be considerably more serious.
Stupid to let anger steer him away from the central point. He didn’t believe the other supervisors knew anything about Jason’s visit, or if they did, they hadn’t instigated it. So what was Jason up to?

CHAPTER SIX

 

LIBBY SLOWED THE car as she neared the outskirts of Springville, watching for the building site Link had mentioned. She didn’t share Link’s high opinion of Tom Sylvester, and it had been obvious to her that her brother had some doubts, even if he didn’t want to admit that.
Just what strings had Tom pulled to get permission to build on what was apparently prime farmland? The township planning commission would be the body that ruled on such a question. Her reporter’s instincts kicked into gear. Too bad she no longer had press credentials to back them up.
She stepped on the brake pedal. The raw, unfinished construction site, barely yards from the road, stood in stark contrast to the simple Amish farms tucked back on their narrow lanes.
Spotting a gravel access road into the site, Libby turned in, parked and stared at the building, speculating. Based on what Link had told her, the first anyone knew about the project work had already started and was moving fast, odd enough at this time of year.
Speed was smart on Tom’s part, though, if he feared a challenge. The zoning commission would be less likely to reverse its decision if the building was already up.
BOOK: Danger in Plain Sight
6.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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