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Authors: Marta Perry

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BOOK: Danger in Plain Sight
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Libby stirred. “Esther’s mother…has someone told her?”
He nodded. “I sent someone to pick up Bishop Amos to help break the news. They should be at the hospital by the time we are.”
The strip of black macadam went over another rise and he spotted the flares and reflective tape. Good. He didn’t want anything messed with before the crime scene team got here. He pulled to a stop and turned on his flashers.
Joe Carmody was at his door the moment he opened it, a little green around the gills over being first on the scene.
“Everything’s cordoned off, just like you wanted it, Chief. I had the volunteer firefighters bring along their battery lamps so we could see better.”
“Good thinking, Carmody.” He hadn’t expected that display of initiative from the kid.
The lights flashed on as soon as the words were out of his mouth, and the scene sprang to life—tangled wreckage of a gray buggy, its battery lantern still flickering, one twisted wheel sunk at an angle in the ditch a few yards down the road, the horse lying dead in a tangle of lines.
“The horse was still alive when I got here.” The kid’s voice shook despite his best efforts to steady it. “Pretty bad. I had to—” He stopped, leaving the rest unsaid.
Adam gave a short nod. “You did the right thing. Nothing else has been touched?”
“Just what the paramedics had to do to get in,” Carmody said quickly, obviously glad to get away from the subject of the horse. “I put the tape up right away after I made the calls. Hasn’t been any other traffic along the road, though.”
“Nobody else through at all?” That would be a break for the crime scene guys. Maybe they’d actually pick up something to identify the vehicle.
Carmody jerked his head toward the nearest lane, where a pony cart was pulled up, an Amishman leaning against it, staring morosely at the scene. “Just Paul Miller. He’s the one made the call. Seems like his teenage boy has a cell phone.”
Amish didn’t have phones in the homes, generally, but cell phones were becoming more and more common with the teens, and the parents usually turned a blind eye to that until the kids were old enough to join the church. A good thing, in this case.
“Did Miller see anything?”
Carmody shook his head. “Vehicle was long gone by the time he got out here. His wife sent out a thermos of coffee, if you want any.”
“Not now.” He walked along the edge of the tape, looking, not touching, just assessing. Esther had been headed toward Springville, and she’d been hit from behind. Those battery lights on the buggy—they could be plainly seen by anyone coming up from the other direction. Why didn’t the driver stop, or at least swerve? Looked like he’d hit square on.
Anger burned along Adam’s veins. “No excuse for this.”
“Drunk maybe. Or high.” Carmody seemed to know what he meant. He gestured down the road, the way the vehicle must have come. “There’s no curves or hills for a good hundred yards. He had to have seen the lights.”
A sound behind him like a choked-off cry, and Adam swung around. Libby stood there, staring at the horse, lips clamped together.
He grabbed her arm and turned her away. “Stay in the car, Libby. Please,” he added, softening his tone. “We need to keep the area clean for the crime scene people.”
“Crime?” She repeated the word, eyes searching his face.
“Hit-and-run is a crime,” he said. And if Esther didn’t make it, that would be vehicular homicide at the very least. Still, they had to find the driver first. “Libby…”
She took a step, wobbling a little on the macadam in those ridiculously high heels she wore. He held her arm securely. There was nothing much he could do here at the moment. He needed to get to the hospital, to see if Esther had said anything.
“Extend that tape along the road on either side for another fifty feet or so.” He spoke over his shoulder to Carmody. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and he swerved off onto the verge after the collision. I’m going to the hospital. I’ll be back.”
“Yessir.” Carmody looked as if he’d like to salute, but didn’t. The boy was recovering from his initial shock, and it would help him recover his dignity to be left in charge.
Adam propelled Libby to the car, not letting go until she was safely inside. If he hadn’t brought her—but that wouldn’t really change anything. He’d still have to run by the hospital, talk to the mother, find out if Esther had said anything and when she could be questioned. Or if.
Once they’d driven past the scene, he glanced at Libby. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”
She let out a shaky breath. “Esther…she’d have heard the car, wouldn’t she? Known it was going to hit her?”
He couldn’t lie to her. “Probably. But it would have been very fast.” His fingers tightened on the wheel, and he felt a totally unprofessional surge of fury. “He must have been blind drunk not to see her lights.”
“Or he intended to hit her. That would explain it, wouldn’t it?”
He hung on to his exasperation. This was bad enough without making it worse. “Libby, no one would deliberately hit a buggy straight on like that. No one would want to harm Esther.”
“You don’t know that.” She snapped the words. “You can’t.”
“Look, I know you’re upset about your friend—”
She was shaking her head. “You don’t understand. Esther wasn’t just my childhood friend. She’s always been like a sister to me. We exchanged letters every week without fail, and we confided in each other. I told her things in my letters I didn’t tell anyone, and she did the same. And the last couple of times Esther wrote to me she was worried, upset. Afraid.”
“Afraid?” He seized on the word. “Of what?”
“She didn’t say.” Libby pressed her fingers against her forehead. “She wanted me to get in touch with her as soon as I got home, but I didn’t get here until nearly time for the rehearsal, and—”
“But what did she say? Had someone threatened her?” It happened, even to someone as blameless as an Amish schoolteacher. Some nut job, fixating on her?
Libby sucked in an audible breath. “Sorry. I’m not making sense.” She closed her eyes for a second, and then opened them. “Like I said, Libby wrote to me every week. The past few times, she’d sounded as if she were worried about something. I tried to find out what it was, but she didn’t say. Then this last letter came.”
She paused, and he thought she was visualizing it in her mind’s eye. “She said that something was very wrong in the Amish community. She talked about how they won’t go to the law, but said maybe in this case they should have. She said she was counting the days until I got home, because I’d understand the situation better than she could.” Her voice shook. “But I didn’t get here in time, did I?”
“Libby, you don’t know that.” He reached across to touch her sleeve. “Chances are her accident is nothing more or less than it seems. Car and buggy collisions do happen, especially at night.”
She jerked away from his touch, turning to stare at him. “Didn’t you understand what I said? She was afraid. Esther, afraid. Esther Zook was never afraid of anything.”
“If it was a situation she didn’t understand—” he began, but she didn’t let him finish.
“She said something was wrong in the community. And it must have involved outsiders, because she implied my experience in the English world would help.”
He weighed the words, weighed too his impression of Libby. She was strung up, distraught about her friend, but she wouldn’t make up the contents of Esther’s letters. Still, she might be exaggerating, making connections that weren’t justified.
“Do you think I could see the letters?”
“Don’t you believe me?”
He didn’t need to look at her to know that those dark blue eyes were snapping.
“I believe you, but I’d like to read her exact words for myself.” They were entering Lancaster now, and he could see Libby’s face a little better in the glow of the streetlights. In her fear for her friend, she would lash out at anyone who got in her way. Especially him.
Finally she nodded. “I brought the letters home with me, thinking I might show them to Mom to see if she knew anything helpful. She’s usually pretty up-to-date about what goes on in the Amish community. They’re at the house. I’ll show them to you. You’ll see I’m right.”
He didn’t suppose a word of caution would be welcome, but he had to try. “Look, even if Esther was concerned about some problem in the community, it doesn’t necessarily follow that her accident was deliberate. I’d need to know a lot more before I could assume that.” To his relief, the lights of the hospital gleamed ahead.
She bit her lip, probably to keep from telling him what she thought of him and his assumptions.
“Fine.” She snapped off the word. “Look at it from all angles. Investigate. Deliberate. And in the end you’ll find I’m right. Esther knew about something wrong going on, and someone made sure she couldn’t tell.”

CHAPTER TWO

 

THE LIGHTS OF the hospital glowed icily in the cold night. Adam pulled up to the emergency room door and stopped. Libby fumbled with the door handle, her fingers cold and stiff despite the heat that had poured from the car heater.
“Wait,” Adam said. “I’ll take you in.”
He was out his door and around the car before she could bolt for the emergency room entrance. He took her arm in a firm clasp.
“You don’t need to go in with me.” It was all she could do to prevent her teeth from chattering, whether from cold or fear she wasn’t sure.
He swept her inside, not bothering to answer, and strode toward the desk. She had to hurry, but she managed to reach the receptionist first.
“Esther Zook…how is she?” She gripped the edge of the counter.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t give out…” The woman’s denial faded away when Adam flashed his badge.
“Where is she?” he asked, his voice crisp with authority.
The woman consulted her computer. “She’s already in surgery. The family is in the third-floor waiting room.”
Ignoring the interested glances from the few waiting patients, Adam took Libby’s arm again, steering her down the corridor toward the elevator. The swags of plastic greenery that draped each door along the hallway were a dismal counterpoint to her feelings.
“You don’t need to hold on to me.” She tried to tug free of his hand. “I can walk.”
“In those shoes?” He sent a dismissive glance toward the heels that had been dyed deep green to match her dress, discolored now with slush from the road.
The elevator doors swished open and as promptly closed behind them. Not long now, and she’d know for herself how serious Esther’s condition was.
“That’s good, isn’t it? That she’s in surgery, I mean.” She wanted to, needed to, find a shred of hope.
Adam turned a grave face toward her. “I hope so.”
That was all. For a second she wanted to storm at him, demand that he say something encouraging, but false hope wouldn’t help. Adam would tell her the truth, or he wouldn’t speak at all. Anyone who knew him must certainly know that.
Would he tell her the truth about his feelings over what had happened between them? The thought popped into her head, and she chased it away. Adam had clearly managed to forget it. To him, she would always be his best friend’s kid sister, nothing more. And maybe that was for the best. She’d embarrassed herself too many times where Adam was concerned.
The doors slid open, and Libby’s stomach tightened.
“The waiting room is to the right.” Adam put a hand on the door.
“I know.” She’d waited there a time or two with Mom and Dad, once when Link smashed up his motorcycle and again when Trey had appendicitis. She hurried her steps, but Adam’s long stride kept pace with her.
Libby pushed open the door, and the two figures in the room swung toward her, wearing identical expressions of fear. She blinked, identifying the faces above the dark Amish dresses. Esther’s mother, Rebecca, and Esther’s sister-in-law, Mary Ann Zook.
“Rebecca, I’m so sorry…” Libby took a step forward and was enveloped in Rebecca’s motherly embrace.
BOOK: Danger in Plain Sight
9.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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