Authors: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Tags: #Fiction, #Amish & Mennonite, #Christian, #Romance, #Contemporary, #FIC042040, #FIC027020, #Teenage girls—Fiction, #Amish—Fiction
© 2013 by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Published by Revell
a division of Baker Publishing Group
P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
Ebook edition created 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Scripture quotations, whether quoted or paraphrased, are from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Published in association with Joyce Hart of the Hartline Literary Agency, LLC
The internet addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers in this book are accurate at the time of publication. They are provided as a resource. Baker Publishing Group does not endorse them or vouch for their content or permanence.
This story is for my youngest daughter,
who happens to be a full-time teacher
and a part-time detective.
he year Mary Kate Lapp turned nineteen started out fine enough. Life seemed full of endless possibilities. But as the year went on, a terrible restlessness began to grow inside of her, like sour yeast in a jar of warm water on a sunny windowsill. There were days when she thought she couldn’t stand another moment in this provincial little town, and days when she thought she could never leave.
On a sun-drenched afternoon, M.K. was zooming along on her red scooter past an English farmer’s sheep pasture, with a book propped above the handlebars—a habit that her stepmother, Fern, scolded her about relentlessly. She was just about to live happily ever after with the story’s handsome hero when a very loud
suddenly interrupted her reading.
Most folks would have turned tail and run, but not M.K. She might have considered it, but as usual, curiosity got the best of her. She zoomed back down the street, hopped off her scooter, climbed up on the fence, and there she saw him—an English sheep farmer in overalls, sprawled flat on the ground with a large rifle next to him. The frightened sheep were huddled in the far corner of the pasture. Doozy, M.K.’s big
old yellow dog of dubious ancestry, elected to stay behind with the scooter.
M.K. wasn’t sure what to do next. Should she see if the sheep farmer was still alive? He didn’t look alive. He looked very, very dead. She wouldn’t know what to do, anyway—healing bodies was her sister Sadie’s department. And what if the murderer were close by? Nosir. She was brave, but you had to draw the line somewhere.
But she could go to the phone shanty by the schoolhouse and make a 911 call for the police. So that’s what she did. She waited at the phone shanty until she heard the sirens and saw the revolving lights on top of the sheriff’s car. Then she jumped on her scooter and hurried back to the sheep pasture.
The sheriff walked over to ask M.K. if she was the one who had called 911. She had known Sheriff Hoffman all her life. He was a pleasant-looking man with a short haircut, brown going gray around his ears, and a permanent suntan. Tall and impressive in his white uniform shirt and crisp black pants, radio clipped to one hip, gun holster on the other. He questioned M.K. about every detail she could recall—which wasn’t much, other than a loud gunshot. She didn’t even know the farmer’s name. The sheriff took a pen from his back pocket and started taking notes. (What would he write?
Amish witness knows nothing. Absolutely nothing.
) But he did tell her she did the right thing by not disturbing the crime scene. He took her name and address and said he might be contacting her with more questions.
M.K. stuck around, all ears about whatever she could overhear, fascinated by the meager clues the police were trying to piece together. When the county coroner arrived in his big black van, M.K. decided she had gleaned all she could. Besides, the trees were throwing long shadows. The sun would
be setting soon and she should get home to let her father and Fern know about the murder. It was alarming news!
She took a shortcut through the town of Stoney Ridge to reach Windmill Farm as fast as she could but was intercepted by her friend Jimmy Fisher. Standing in front of the Sweet Tooth Bakery, he called to her, then ran alongside and grabbed the handlebars of her scooter to stop her. She practically flew headfirst over the handlebars.
Men! So oblivious.
“I need your help with something important,” Jimmy said.
“Can’t,” M.K. said, pushing his hands off her scooter. “I’m in a big hurry.” She started pumping her leg on the ground to build up speed. Doozy puffed and panted alongside her.
“It won’t take long!” Jimmy sounded wounded. “What’s your big hurry?”
“Can’t tell you!” she told him, and she meant it. The sheriff had warned her not to say anything to anyone, with the exception of her family, until they had gathered more information. She felt a prick of guilt and looked back at Jimmy, who had stopped abruptly when she brushed him off. She liked that he was a little bit scared of her, especially because he was older and much too handsome for his own good.
She glanced back and saw him cross the road to head into the Sweet Tooth Bakery where her friend Ruthie worked. Good! Let Ruthie solve Jimmy’s problem this time. M.K. was always helping him get out of scrapes and tight spots. That boy had a proclivity for trouble. Always had.
Distracted by the dead body and then by Jimmy Fisher, M.K. made a soaring right turn near the Smuckers’ goat farm, and possibly—just possibly—forgot to look both ways before she turned. Her scooter ended up bumping into Alice Smucker, the schoolteacher at Twin Creeks where M.K. had
spent eight long years, as Alice was herding goats across the road into an empty pasture.
A tiny collision with a scooter and Alice refused to get to her feet. “I AM CONCUSSED!” she called out.
M.K. was convinced that Alice was prejudiced against her. And she was so dramatic. She insisted M.K. call for an ambulance.
Two 911 calls in one day—it was more excitement than M.K. could bear. She hoped the dispatcher didn’t recognize her voice and think she was a crank caller. She wasn’t! Nosir.
Naturally, M.K. waited until the ambulance arrived to swoop away with Alice, who was hissing with anger. When M.K. offered to accompany Alice to the hospital—she knew it was the right thing to do, though the offer came with gritted teeth—Alice glared at her.
“You stay away from me, Mary Kate Lapp!” she snapped, before she swooned in a faint.
Alice. So dramatic.
After M.K. rounded up the goats and returned them to the Smuckers’ pasture, she arrived at Windmill Farm, her home and final destination. She couldn’t wait to tell her father and Fern about the news! She was sorry for the sheep farmer—after all, she wasn’t heartless. But finally, something interesting had happened in this town. It was big news—there had never been a murder in Stoney Ridge. And she had been the first one on the scene.
Well, to be accurate—and Fern was constantly telling her not to exaggerate—M.K. wasn’t
on the scene. But she did hear the gunshot! She absolutely did.
She knew Fern would be irritated with her for being so late for dinner. Fern was a stickler about . . . well, about most everything. But especially about being late for dinner.
The unfortunate incident with Alice Smucker had slowed her down even more. The accident did bother M.K.—she would never intentionally run into anyone. Especially not Alice Smucker. Of all people!
M.K. set the scooter against the barn. She heard her mare, Cayenne, whinny for her, so she went into the barn, filled up the horse’s bucket with water, and closed the stall door. She latched it tightly, her mind a whirl of details. It wasn’t until she had pulled the latch that she noticed her father’s horse and buggy were gone. She peered through the dusty barn window and saw that the house was pitch dark, its windows not showing any soft lampshine. Where could her father and Fern have gone? They were always home at this time of day. Always, always, always.
This day just kept getting stranger.
Guilt pinched the edges of Chris Yoder’s conscience. Old Deborah had taught him better manners than to ignore a neighbor’s greeting, but he wasn’t interested in being neighborly. All that interested him was fixing up his grandfather’s house. For now, it was a disaster. It looked as if a good puff of wind would be all that was required to bring the house tumbling down.
Jenny turned around to peer out the buggy window. “I think she was hoping you would stop and say hello, Chris. She’s seems like such a nice old lady.”
“Can’t,” Chris said. “Gotta get home.” Erma Yutzy was a very nice old lady, and he had done some odd jobs for her, but she liked to talk and he could never find a way to break in and excuse himself. But it wasn’t just that he wanted to avoid Erma Yutzy today. He was always in a touchy mood after a trip
to town. People were everywhere—on the sidewalks, in the stores, riding bikes, eating ice-cream cones, sipping expensive coffees. As if nothing bad could happen. As if nothing could hurt them or threaten their sense of security.
“This isn’t going to work,” Jenny whispered. “We’re going to get caught.”
Chris glanced over at his thirteen-year-old sister. The last few months had taken a toll on her. She had always been a worrier. She worried about everything and everybody. “It’s been working for over six weeks now, Jenny. If we were going to have a problem, we would have had it by now. I think we’re home free.” He didn’t entirely believe that, but he knew it was best to ease Jenny’s concern.
Jenny’s chin jutted forward. “Plunking me in school is the worst idea you’ve ever had.”
“No, it’s not,” Chris said. “You need schooling. And I need you to not be underfoot.”
“I’m going to need new shoes for school.” She scowled at him. “We can’t afford them.”
She had him there. He had no cash to spare, but he had been prepared for lean times. And he wasn’t going to let a few dollars stop his sister from getting an education. Schooling was something he didn’t take for granted.
“Think of school as an adventure. Something new.” Chris kept the smile on his face and the worry out of his voice.
Jenny leaned her head against the window and closed her eyes.
For a moment he was lost in another time of his life, another season. Was it only two months ago? It seemed like much longer. That was the week that Old Deborah, as close to a grandmother to him as anyone ever would be, passed to her glory.
Hours before she had died, she had covered his hand with
hers. “Every now and then, Chris, life throws you something you’d never have chosen in a million years. I know that’s how you feel right now.”
He looked into her tired brown eyes. “How am I going to do it?”
She smiled. “The Lord taught us to pray, ‘Give us
day our daily bread.’ We’re supposed to live one day at a time, not to borrow another day’s troubles.”
One day at a time. That’s how they had been living ever since they arrived in Stoney Ridge two weeks ago, but he hadn’t expected things to be this hard. They were scraping by on a wing and a prayer. But there were good things too. They were settling into a new home. He had picked up some odd jobs, like mowing Erma Yutzy’s lawn, that provided ready cash. Just today he had gotten a tip at the hardware store about a man named Amos Lapp who needed a fellow to help with fieldwork because he had some heart trouble. Wasn’t that a sign of God’s just-in-time providence?