Read Suspendered Sentence (An Amish Mystery) Online

Authors: Laura Bradford

Tags: #FBS, #Amish, #Mystery, #read2015

Suspendered Sentence (An Amish Mystery) (31 page)

BOOK: Suspendered Sentence (An Amish Mystery)
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And fear like she’d never felt before.

“Ben came to my office yesterday evening like I asked. We talked about Elizabeth’s journal, I filled him in on what really happened the night Sadie died, and I asked about Elizabeth’s death.”

She held her breath and waited, her concern for Ben dispelling the lingering fog in her head.

“From what I was able to surmise from Ben last night, the reason we didn’t have any information on Elizabeth was because it was never reported. Ben and the rest of the members of his community believed her death to be a tragic accident—a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“The director of the funeral home who embalmed the body was days away from retiring and had no reason to believe her death was anything other than what he was told. As a result, he felt no need to file a report with us, either.”


Should
he have?” she asked.

“When someone dies of a bullet to the head? Absolutely. But since he died of natural causes about five years ago, that doesn’t really matter now.”

“Oh.”

“Since there was nothing to look at in any file, I began asking Ben questions—where it happened, time of day, that sort of thing. At first, nothing jumped out. I already knew, from an earlier conversation with him, that her death coincided with the legal hunting dates in Lancaster County and that it happened on property purchased and used for hunting.”

“By Josiah,” she finished.

His confirmation came via a nod and a squeeze of her hand. “So I started asking questions about Josiah and Leroy. At first, it was like pulling teeth to get Ben to say anything. The Amish do not engage in gossip. It’s not their way. But, after a while, he began to mention little oddities about Josiah—his bent toward judgment, his belief that Leroy’s marriage to the bishop’s daughter somehow came with a position of power for him, and the near-daily visits to Bishop Hershberger’s home for what, essentially, boiled down to relentless tattling.

“Somewhere, in the back of my mind, something began to feel off. I’d been racking my brain all day trying to think of something Miriam or Leroy had said in their account of Sadie’s death that would have propelled either of them to kill Elizabeth. Sure, they’d been scared—scared enough to keep quiet, as we well know. But to kill? It didn’t fit. Then, as Ben continued talking about Josiah, I started to wonder if
Josiah
could have been the one who wanted to keep Elizabeth from talking.”

“How did you know he had me in the woods?”

“When Josiah started emerging as a strong possibility, I called your cell. Annie answered and told me you’d gone off into the woods to look for the driver of a broken-down buggy. I put her on speaker so Ben could ask her questions about the horse. Eventually, he figured out it was Josiah’s and that he’d probably walked back to his home through the woods. When Annie heard that, she begged me to come and find you. She said Josiah was crazy with his guns. That sometimes she saw him pointing one at her as she walked back and forth from her farm to Eva’s. That he liked to scare her with them when she’d done something wrong. And then, just before she started to cry, she said she hoped you hadn’t made him mad.”

Jakob raked a hand through his already-tousled hair, his eyes trained on hers. “I don’t know if it was hearing Annie say that, or knowing you the way I do, or a combination of both, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I wasn’t the only one with Josiah on my radar for Elizabeth’s death.”

“And so you came . . .” she whispered, watching him.

He leaned forward, brushed a gentle kiss across her forehead, and then flashed the smile she’d grown to love as much as the man himself. “You bet I did. And faster than I’ve ever driven in my life, that’s for sure.”

“I’m so glad you did.”

This time when he kissed her, he went straight for her lips. “So am I, Claire. So am I.”

When he pulled away, she allowed her focus to drift toward the fire, the flickering flames adding an extra layer of warmth and contentment to her heart. But as she sat there, reveling in his presence, she couldn’t help but revisit the turning point in an otherwise harrowing evening.

“I’ll always wonder what that tapping sound was that made Josiah turn at the last minute. It was so unexpected yet deliberate-sounding.”

“That’s because it was deliberate.”

She looked back at Jakob. “What do you mean?”

“That was Ben tapping a rock against a tree. It was his way of pulling Josiah’s attention off you long enough to give me the upper hand.”

“Ben?”

“Ben.”
Jakob snaked his arm around her shoulders and pulled her up and into his arms. “After we got you back to the inn, safe and sound, I told him he made a great partner.”

She nibbled back her answering smile as another reality of the evening elbowed its way to the front. “How is he? How is he taking the news that Elizabeth was murdered? Is he okay?”

“He will be. In time. He’s got a lot to get through, a lot to make sense of. But, in the end, he knows that Elizabeth was trying to do the right thing. That, at least, gives him some comfort.”

She pressed her cheek against his chest and breathed in his scent. “I hope so. Because Ben is a special man.”

Jakob’s head bobbed against the top of hers as he planted yet another kiss on her head. “The hardest part about all of this is that it didn’t have to happen. If Elizabeth . . . or Michael . . . or Leroy . . . or Miriam had just run for help nineteen years ago, none of this would have happened. Sadie’s parents could have mourned their daughter as they had every right to do, four teenagers wouldn’t have had to torture themselves for something that wasn’t their fault in the beginning, and Elizabeth wouldn’t have been gunned down over a secret.”

“Or, rather, a misconstrued set of meetings that never would have been necessary if not for that secret,” she corrected as she pulled away.

“It’s wild to think Josiah didn’t even know about Sadie—that his whole basis for killing Elizabeth was over a feared relationship that didn’t exist.”

She closed her eyes against the memory of Josiah’s gun trained on her chest, the fear it had unleashed in her heart still there for the taking. “But it was that way with me, too. I tried to tell him that Leroy was just helping me pet the new horse, but Josiah refused to believe me. He actually accused me of hiring Annie to get close to Leroy . . .”

“He’s a sick man, Claire. But you’re safe now. I promise.”

Safe . . .

Shaking off the image of Josiah once and for all, she forced herself to move on. “Most of what happened after you showed up is still a little fuzzy for me. I know you asked me some questions, I know you took notes, and I know you brought me back to the inn, but what happened to Annie? Is she okay?”

“She’ll be fine. She’s with her father and from what Ben told me this morning, Atlee is taking good care of his little girl.”

“I’m glad. Annie wants nothing more than to spend time with that man.” Reaching up, she tapped the handsome detective on the nose and motioned toward the entertainment cabinet in the corner of the room. “And
I
want nothing more than to snuggle up with
you
on this couch and have that movie date I sort of ruined the other night.”

“Are you serious?”

It felt good to laugh but it felt even better to feel his touch on the side of her face. “You bet I am.”

“I’ll make the popcorn.”

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BOOK: Suspendered Sentence (An Amish Mystery)
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