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Authors: Marta Perry

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BOOK: Danger in Plain Sight
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“In the last month, Esther’s letters were different,” she said, feeling her way cautiously. “She seemed to be worried about something. She said she wanted to talk to me about it when I got here.”
“Ja,” Rebecca said softly. “I knew she was wanting to see you. But she didn’t say anything was worrying her.”
Libby looked at her searchingly. “Are you sure she didn’t give you any idea that she was troubled in the past few weeks?”
“Nothing.” She shook her head. “Now, if you’d said Isaac was troubled…”
A step sounded in the doorway. Libby swung around to see Esther’s brother, Isaac, standing there, watching them, and it was obvious he’d heard what his mother said.
There was an awkward silence, and then Mary Ann slipped around her husband to hurry over to her mother-in-law.
“Mamm Rebecca, you must be so tired. We are here now, so why don’t you lie down and rest a bit? That nice nurse said she has a room you can use.”
“Ja.” Isaac came closer, trying to walk softly, as if afraid of disturbing his sister. “You need some rest. And Libby, also. She can go home now.”
Libby managed a smile, trying to see the boy she’d known behind the bearded man in front of her. “I just got back. I’ll stay.”
“You should go—”
“Of course Libby will stay.” Rebecca’s voice was firm. “She is Esther’s oldest friend. What are you thinking, Isaac?”
Grown man or not, Isaac looked abashed at his mother’s words. He stared at his shoes. “I just thought…”
His words trailed off as Anna bustled back into the room, carrying a tray with the promised coffee. Bishop Amos was right behind her, and in a moment the room was filled with low voices, murmuring in a combination of English and Pennsylvania Dutch.
Libby stepped out of the way as the others joined in urging Rebecca to rest for a while. She watched Isaac bend over his sister, reaching out to her tentatively.
What had Rebecca meant? She’d implied that it was Isaac who was worried about something in recent weeks, not Esther. She studied the stiff set of his shoulders. If Isaac had been worried in the past weeks, she had a feeling he’d never admit that.
* * *

 

THE FENCE AT the edge of the road was coming toward her. Libby jerked the wheel, her breath catching, and straightened the car. Obviously she was way too tired to be driving her brand-new sister-in-law’s car.
The driveway to the Morgan farm appeared ahead of her, guarded by enormous hemlocks on either side. With a rush of relief, she turned into the narrow lane.
Thursday’s snowfall still lay in drifts in the patch of woods that screened the house, but it had melted where the sunlight hit the lawn. It had been thanks to that snowfall that she’d arrived in Lancaster County so late. Too late.
She parked on the gravel drive in front of the white frame house, pulling her key from her bag as she scurried to the front porch. Mom should have locked the door when she left for the hospital, but it was anyone’s guess whether she had or not. Mom still seemed to think she lived in the safe, placid, rural community she’d moved to as a bride nearly forty years ago.
Sure enough, the door was unlocked. Libby slung her bag and jacket on the coatrack and walked back through to the family room. “Hello? Anyone home?”
No answer, not even from Sam, the golden retriever. But then, she hadn’t expected one. She and Mom had crossed paths when she was coming out of the hospital while her mother went in, and Link was undoubtedly spending the afternoon with Marisa, probably taking the dog with him. Those two were newly engaged, and eager enough that Mom might well have another wedding on her hands soon.
Fatigue dragged at Libby as she went up the stairs, hand running along the smooth, warm wood of the banister. She was happy for Link. Of course she was. He deserved all the happiness in the world.
So why did the thought of Link married leave her so bereft? It wasn’t as though they’d seen a lot of each other in the past few years.
But twins were twins, wherever life took them. Link had been the companion of her childhood, even more than Esther. He’d been her partner in countless acts of mischief, her confidant when things had gone wrong.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself
, her conscience snapped in a voice that sounded rather like Adam’s. That’s what he’d said to her, wasn’t it?
He didn’t know the half of it. There was also the little matter of her job, and the fact that she still hadn’t told the family she had joined the ranks of the unemployed. To say nothing of the nagging sense that she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life.
Grow up, maybe. That sounded like a good move. She looked longingly at her bed, but another hot shower might do more to take out the kinks induced by hours in a plastic hospital chair.
A few minutes later she was stepping out of the shower, steam fogging the bathroom mirror and window. She wrapped one of Mom’s enormous bath sheets around her. This had definitely been the right choice. The shower seemed to have washed away the doubts she’d let debilitate her.
One thing at a time. The important factor now was to keep Esther safe, in case the accident had been deliberate. Since it was unlikely that Adam would agree to put a guard on her door, she’d just have to make sure there was always someone in Esther’s room with her.
Libby opened the bathroom door, letting the steam escape into the bedroom. She’d snatch a few hours of sleep and go back to the hospital. At some point she’d have to stop at a store and pick up a few more incidental Christmas gifts, with the holiday headed for them so quickly. At least nobody was questioning her staying for so long a visit, since the wedding had fallen less than a week before Christmas.
A door closed downstairs. Mom? A glance at the clock on the nightstand told her it was impossible for her mother to be back already. Maybe Link and Marisa, in which case it would be only tactful to let them know someone was here.
She traded the bath sheet for the fluffy pink robe she’d worn in high school and opened the bedroom door. “Link, is that you? I’m upstairs.”
No one answered. But from downstairs came the creak of a floorboard. She froze, clutching the door. She knew exactly which board made that sound…the one in the hallway near the family room door. They’d joked, as kids, about having their own private alarm system to let them know when Mom was about to appear in the door to the family room.
She listened, holding her breath. The faintest of sounds, like a hand brushing the wall. Her imagination? Or someone being careful, trying to avoid hitting any more creaky boards?
She gripped the door, undecided. She wouldn’t let herself panic. Maybe—
A footstep, definitely.
She moved backward, bare feet making no sound on the wide floorboards. Ease the door shut, carefully, carefully. She held her breath, releasing the knob ever so slowly. The snick of the lock sounded ridiculously loud.
In two steps she was at the phone, and in less than a minute she’d dialed 911. Adam’s voice, crisp and professional, took her aback for an instant, but of course it was Sunday. Probably the only reason the dispatcher had been there earlier was because of the current investigation.
“Adam, it’s Libby.” She kept her voice barely above the whisper. Whoever was in the house knew now that she was there, but maybe not exactly where. “Someone’s in the house.”
He didn’t waste time questioning how she knew. “Where are you?”
The wail of a siren punctuated his words. He was in the police car, then. With luck, not clear at the other end of the township.
“Locked in my bedroom. He’s downstairs.”
“Shove something in front of the door, and don’t come out until I tell you to. Understand?”
She’d resent his tone, but at the moment she was too eager to see him. “Yes. I understand.”
“Keep the phone line open.”
He didn’t need to tell her that twice. She set it down long enough to shove the dresser across the door. Then she leaned over the dresser, trying to listen over the thudding of her heart.
Nothing. Or at least, nothing she could hear. A smart burglar would get out quickly once he realized someone was in the house. Maybe he was gone already.
Or maybe not. She had no desire to find out. She sat on the edge of the bed, the phone cradled in her hands, and waited.
The sound of the siren was suddenly coming both from the phone and from outside. She reached the window in time to see the police car skid to a stop, gravel spraying. Adam got out, and just the sight of his tall figure was enough to make her stomach do a flip.
Going to the dresser, she put her hands on it to push it back into place, then thought the better of it. She’d wait until she heard Adam’s voice first.
She heard the front door open, then the sound of footsteps moving through the downstairs. She waited, and it felt like forever.
Finally the footsteps came up the stairs. “Nobody here now. You can come out.”
She slid the dresser back, unlocked the door and opened it.
Adam lifted an eyebrow, and she realized how she must look—wet hair, damp robe, bare feet, her face bare of makeup.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded, trying to hang on to whatever shreds of dignity she had left. “Did he take anything?” She had a sudden vision of her mother’s sterling silver gone while she was cowering in her room. “Maybe I should have—”
“You did exactly the right thing,” he said, his tone repressive. “I suppose you think it would have been better to go after him armed with a tennis racket.”
“My mother would have.” She could picture it perfectly.
“I love your mother dearly, but common sense is not her strong suit.” A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Come on. Let’s see if anything’s missing before I launch a full investigation.”
She slanted a sideways glance at him as they went down the stairs side by side. “Thanks for getting here so fast.”
“I wasn’t far away.” His gaze was fixed on the front door, not on her. “That door was unlocked. Did you leave it that way?”
“Mom had left it unlocked when she went to the hospital.”
“So you decided to do the same? I thought you big-city types were safety conscious.”
She clenched her teeth for an instant. “I intended to talk to her about it when she came in, but I didn’t want to lock her out, in case she hadn’t taken her keys.”
“There’s one under the third flowerpot on the left.”
At her surprised glance, he shrugged.
“She told me, in case I ever needed to get in. She’s probably told about half the township for one reason or another.”
That was her mother, all right. “If I knew, I’d forgotten. And since I was going in the shower, I might not have heard her when she came back.”
“So I see.” He glanced at her robe, and she had a feeling she was blushing.
Hurrying down the last few steps, she headed for the dining room. “I’ll check the silver. Isn’t that the first thing a burglar would take?”
“Only the sophisticated types. Around here, they’re more likely to grab the electronics.” He followed her to the sideboard, which was adorned with greens and holly in Mom’s silver punch bowl.
She bent to open the door and grabbed the chest, opening the lid. “It’s here.” The tightness in her throat eased as she slid the silver chest back in place. “Maybe he didn’t come in this room. The board I heard creak is at the entrance to the family room.”
The family room, where most of the electronic equipment would be. If Adam was right…
He was ahead of her, and she heard the board creak under his foot.
“That’s what I heard. Dad tried I don’t know how many times to fix that, but it always creaked.”
Adam moved into the family room and stopped, blocking her view.
“How bad is it?” She squeezed past him, expecting a mess. The family room was never all that neat, since that was where most of the family living was done, but Mom and her helpers had no doubt tidied up before the wedding. The mantelpiece was filled with greens and candles, and the family Christmas tree in the corner carried its usual array of ornaments made by her and her brothers. More to the point, her laptop still sat on the desk, in obvious view.
BOOK: Danger in Plain Sight
11.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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