Authors: Marta Perry
She stared blindly into the mirror, seeing, instead of her own face, an image of that grieving mother. When their eyes met, it was as if she’d seen herself as she must appear to that poor woman.
She’d seen a Libby she didn’t know. A Libby she didn’t like much. It wouldn’t have taken the final indignity of that fight with her editor. That moment had been the end of her career.
Voices sounded from downstairs, and the clatter of china and silverware. She tossed the brush on the dresser. Time to stop going over these fruitless thoughts and get on with things.
She hurried down the stairs, consciously trying for the usual spring to her step. The voices came from the dining room. She went in to find that Adam, Link and Marisa were all helping her mother get supper on the table.
Of course. It was Sunday, and Mom’s usual Amish helpers didn’t work on the Sabbath.
“You all look busy.” She forced the lilt into her voice. “What can I do?”
“Put water in the glasses,” Link said promptly, glancing at her and then taking another, longer look and frowning. “What’s wrong?”
So, maybe the twin connection between them hadn’t been entirely vanquished by his love for Marisa. “Nothing. I’ll get the water.” She escaped into the kitchen.
Not that she wasn’t relieved to know the bond with Link still existed, but she hadn’t decided yet how much she wanted to tell her family. Always assuming that Adam didn’t take it out of her hands and tell them everything.
With everyone helping, they had the simple meal on the table in no time.
“Chicken potpie,” her mother said, taking her seat at the foot of the table nearest the kitchen. “Thomas Esch dropped it off from his mother right after church. She knew we’d be tired from the wedding, not that we did all the cooking, the way the Amish do for their weddings.”
Libby frowned, trying to pick out the important fact from her mother’s tale. “Were you here when Thomas brought it, Mom?”
Her mother gave her a wide-eyed look. “Of course, how else would I know what his mother said? Why? What difference does it make?”
“None,” she said quickly, fearing she hadn’t been quick enough. She glanced at Adam, to make sure he hadn’t missed the implication. Whoever her mystery guest had been, it hadn’t been the neighbor bringing the casserole. “How is Thomas?”
The teenage son of their Amish neighbors had gone through a terrible ordeal during the summer, when he’d been accused of killing a woman. That was the case which had brought Jessica to Springville to defend him, and incidentally to fall in love with Trey.
“He seems to be doing all right,” her mother said, frowning a little. “He’s very quiet, but at least he’s stopped refusing to leave the farm.”
“Poor kid,” Link said. “If it hadn’t been for Trey and Jessica, I hate to think what would have happened to him.”
“And your mother,” Adam added. “She’s the one who was determined to defend Thomas.”
That action had had unintended consequences, as the investigation had eventually led to the man who’d killed Dad. Tough for all of them, but at least they no longer had to face the thought that he’d committed suicide.
“Another case of the Morgan family butting into other people’s business,” Link said lightly. He put down his fork to cover Marisa’s hand with his. Marisa returned his look with one so tender that it nearly brought tears to Libby’s eyes.
She didn’t envy them their happiness. Marisa was perfect for Link—gentle, kind, artistic, with a shy warmth that seemed to bring out Link’s gentleness. They’d met through a twist of fate just a few months ago, when Link had found a clue to the long-ago disappearance of Marisa’s Amish mother in the house their uncle left him.
Link glanced at Adam. “I understand you made a house call this afternoon?” His tone made it a question.
“Your sister heard someone in the house when she came back this afternoon,” Adam said, before anyone else could begin explanations. “She called me, so I came over and checked it out. Nothing seems to be missing.”
She managed not to remind him of her computer. Pointless to keep going over it.
Link’s expression darkened. “Are you sure? How did they get in?”
Libby wasn’t going to give her mother away, but it seemed likely that Geneva’s guilty look had done that already.
“Mom.” Link’s tone was close to a howl of frustration. “You left the house open again, didn’t you?”
“It’s not going to happen again,” Adam said. “By the way, I thought you invited me here to pump me about the investigation.” He put a large forkful of chicken potpie in his mouth.
“Not exactly that,” her mother said, clearly ready to change the subject. “But we do want to know what’s happening.”
“We got a preliminary report back on the vehicle,” Adam said. “Based on the paint scrapings and the height at which the buggy was hit, we’re looking for a black pickup truck or van.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t exactly narrow it down a lot. I’d hate to guess how many there are in the county, and it doesn’t have to be someone local.”
Link shook his head. “I’d think only a local was likely to be on Dahl Road at that hour. It’s not as if it’s midsummer, when you stumble over tourists everywhere you turn.”
“I just don’t understand what Esther was doing there, for that matter.” Mom’s face crinkled in distress. “Where on earth was she going?”
“Good question,” Link said. “It’s not on her way home from anywhere she’d be likely to go.” Everyone who knew the area and the Zook family would be bound to see that.
“Your sister thinks Esther was coming to see her.” Adam’s tone expressed his doubt. “Based on Esther’s letters—”
“Letters?” Mom was on that in an instant, as Libby had known she would be. “What letters?”
Libby glared at Adam, but he spread his hands, as if to say that it had to come out. And he was probably right.
“You know that Esther and I write to each other,” she said. “In the last few letters I received, Esther was worried about something. She was eager for me to get here, so that she could ask my advice about it. But by that time…” She let that trail off. It was obvious.
“Elizabeth Amanda Morgan.” Mom was truly upset when she used all three names. “Why on earth didn’t you tell me about this?”
“Come on, Mom. When did I have a chance to? When we were rushing off to the rehearsal, or scurrying around hosting the rehearsal dinner? You’ve been so preoccupied with Trey’s wedding that there was no time for anything else. As you should be,” she added hastily. “I brought the letters with me because I wanted to hear what you thought of them, but…” She shrugged.
“You think the hit-and-run was connected to this whatever-it-was that had Esther worried.” Link could connect the dots quickly when it came to how his twin thought.
“I think so.” She darted a glance at Adam. “Adam doesn’t agree.”
“You don’t have any idea what she meant?” Marisa’s brown eyes were warm with concern.
Libby shook her head. “I asked Rebecca, Esther’s mother, if she’d noticed that Esther was upset lately, but she said no. She said…” She stopped, frowning.
“She said what?” Adam’s tone demanded an answer.
“She said Esther seemed fine, but that Isaac had been upset about something. But that can’t have been what Esther wrote to me about. She wouldn’t want my advice on handling her brother.”
“No.” Link said the word slowly. “You’re right. If she wanted your help, it would have to be something that involved the English.”
“The English and the Amish,” Mom amended. “If it was strictly an English concern, Esther wouldn’t be involved.”
“True.” Adam looked as if he’d prefer not to be discussing this at the Morgan dinner table. “I’ve been thinking about it since Libby mentioned the letters, but I’m drawing a blank.”
“Could we see the letters?” Marisa asked. “Maybe we’d pick up on…well, not anything you missed. But sometimes a different viewpoint helps in seeing something more clearly.”
Libby made an effort not to resent that. Marisa meant well. “I’ll get them.” She slid from her chair.
But getting the letters proved more difficult than she anticipated. She’d put them in the case she always carried on a plane, one that contained her laptop and any work she had with her.
It wasn’t in her room. She came back down the stairs, not looking toward the dining room to encounter any skeptical stares, and hurried into the family room, hearing the familiar squeak of the board.
It wasn’t there. Surely she’d left it next to the desk, hadn’t she, when she took the computer out?
She went back to the archway into the dining room. “It looks as if something was taken after all this afternoon. My computer case is missing.”
“Are you sure you looked everywhere?” Her mother sprang up, always ready to jump into the finding of lost objects. “Where did you last have it?”
That was the same thing she’d always asked when homework was missing.
“It had to be either in my bedroom or by the desk in the family room. It’s not at either place.” She couldn’t help giving Adam a challenging look. Maybe now he’d admit that she was right.
“Oh, dear.” Her mother sounded guilty. “You know, when I was rushing around trying to make sure the house was picked up in case anyone came back here after the wedding, it’s possible that I moved it. I don’t remember doing that, but you know what I’m like when I clean up.”
She did indeed. Mom’s clean sweeps were legendary. Things that were put away at Christmas sometimes didn’t turn up until Easter.
“I’ll have a good look around for it later,” her mother said. “If it’s here, I’ll find it. And anyway, when Esther wakes up, she’ll be able to tell us all about whatever it was.”
If, Libby thought, unable to help herself. If Esther woke up. If she remembered.
A chill went down her spine. And if the person who’d hit her buggy heard that Esther was waking up, what might he do to keep her from talking?
* * *
LIBBY SLEPT LATER than she’d intended the next morning, and she hurried down the stairs, intent on grabbing something to eat before she went to the hospital. The house was quiet. She could only hope Mom was sleeping in this morning. She’d been looking tired after all the festivities, though of course she’d never admit it.
There was no sign of her mother, but when Libby reached the kitchen, Link was there, nursing a mug of coffee with the morning paper spread out on the table in front of him.
“Hey, little sister.” He looked up, his lean face, tanned even in winter, relaxing in a grin. “I thought you’d sleep till noon today.”
She gave him the light slap on the back of the head that had passed for a hug when they were teenagers. “We’re twins. I am not your little sister.” The familiar banter was comforting.
Link caught her hand and gave it a squeeze. “I’m twenty minutes older. That makes you my little sister. Coffee?” He stood, lifting the coffeepot.
“Sounds great.” She found a half grapefruit in the fridge, already cut the way she liked it, and set it on the table.
Link put the coffee mug next to the grapefruit and shoved the sugar bowl in her direction. “How about a sticky bun? Or walnut streusel coffee cake?”
“Coffee cake.” She sat down, eyeing her twin with suspicion. “Okay, out with it. What do you want?”
He put a slab of coffee cake in front of her, his grin sheepish. “How about an idea of what to get Marisa for Christmas?”
“You haven’t done your shopping yet?” She stared at him with horror that wasn’t entirely teasing. “It’s only two days until Christmas. What on earth have you been doing?”
He shrugged. “Getting my brother married off, same as you. Anyway, I can’t decide. It has to be just right. This is our first Christmas together.”
Libby repressed a pang of envy. “Christmas did kind of get lost in the shuffle, with Trey and Jessica getting married the week before. But you know Marisa better than I do. What do you think she’d like?”
Manlike, he shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. Maybe a flat screen television?”