About the Author
shares a house with her mom and a gazillion books. She plays assorted musical instruments, including the organ at her church, composes and arranges music, sings, acts, and occasionally indulges in artwork. She’s always had characters running around in her brain, and is glad she has a new way to share them with others.
Marion is a member of Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Don't think you can get away with it.
The computer printout lay on the pile of library in-mail, as innocent as a rattlesnake ready to strike. Lorie stared at the words for one frozen moment as her heart began to race. She couldn't hear. Couldn't see anything except the note.
This couldn't be happening.
Not after her prayers had been answered to let her begin rebuilding her life in Dainger County.
By the time the other librarian, Jen Burkhalter, loped into the office and slung her denim purse onto the coat-rack, Lorie was shivering.
"The weather's gorgeous. I think spring decided to stick around a little longer." Jen's head jerked in a double take, her short black hair quivering. "What's wrong? Are you cold? You look like a deer in headlights."
Lorie sent a silent prayer heavenward. Help! Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she shook her head. "I'm fine."
Jen stuck her fists on her generous hips. "Don't try to put one over on a mom. If you're fine, I'm a sunflower in a cornfield. Now what's the problem?"
It took a moment for Lorie to calm down sufficiently to speak. "Have you heard any talk about my moving back to town?"
Jen looked surprised. "You mean trash talk? No. Why?"
You can do this. Taking a deep breath for courage, Lorie nodded at the note. "Look at the in-box. Somebody doesn't want me here."
Jen peered into the in-box, adjusting gold wire-rim glasses. "Oh, my. Get away with what?"
But it wasn't.
An icy shiver of doubt skittered up Lorie's spine. What if someone thought it was?
Get a hold of yourself. This isn't San Diego.
Lorie pulled herself together. "Maybe they left it on the wrong desk."
"With your name on it?" Jen jerked her thumb in the direction of Lorie's Head Librarian plaque. "Stop grasping at straws. Everybody knows who the new head librarian is. You haven't touched the paper, have you?"
Lorie shook her head. "I've read enough mysteries to know that's the worst thing I could do."
"Then you also know we need to call the sheriff's department."
Call the law? Fear stabbed Lorie in the gut. "But what if this is just a prank?"
"What if it isn't?" Lorie winced.
"Grimace all you want to, but if you don't call them, I'm going to."
"All right." Lorie's sigh ruffled the papers on her desk. "We'd better use the phone at the main desk, in case there are fingerprints."
"Good idea." Jen followed Lorie out the door, closing it after them, the automatic lock clicking into place.
As she reached for the phone at the circulation desk, Lorie's stomach roiled. Lord, why me? If she never had to talk with another person in law enforcement, it would still be too soon.
You can do this. Her inner pep talk wasn't working. You have to.
She glanced back at Jen. "What's the phone number?"
"You could just dial 911."
"It isn't an emergency. It's just a" What was it exactly?
"A personal threat." Jen finished the thought for her. "Something you can't afford to take lightly."
"You don't know the phone number, do you?"
"Here." Jen punched in seven digits and shoved the beige receiver at Lorie.
"Dainger County Sheriff's Department."
The receptionist's voice was warm, honeyed and very Southern. She also sounded vaguely familiar, but Lorie couldn't put a name to the voice. Just hearing the words "Sheriff's Department," Lorie swallowed hard and almost hung up. Jen, noticing her hesitation, glared at her.
Lorie cleared her throat. "This is Lorie Narramore at the county library. I'd like to report an incident." There. She'd said it, as if the note were the only thing wrong.
"Why, Loretta Lee, is that you?"
Lorie rolled her eyes. A few years in California had eliminated Loretta Lee from her name. A few minutes in Daingerville brought the ponderous moniker back.
"Yes, it is."
"This is Vangie Rae Sutherland. Used to be Vangie Rae McCormick, remember?"
Could she ever forget her old school nemesis? "It's nice to hear your voice again, Vangie." The Lord would forgive her for exaggerating. She hoped.
"Goodness gracious, I haven't seen you in forever!" Vangie sounded delighted. "I'd heard you'd moved back. You're at the county library, you said?"
"Mmm-hmm." Reduced to wordless sounds? Really, Lorie, you 're a grown-up. You shouldn't let her do this to you.
"That explains why we haven't run into each other, then. Frank and I always go to the city library in West Bluff. How do you like being back here with your family?"
The unbusinesslike tenor of the conversation gave Lorie a headache, but she answered automatically.
"It's been fine " Lorie caught Jen's Momzilla I'll get you if you don't 'fess up right this second face. "Look, when I went into my office just now, I found a threatening note on my desk."
"Ooh, that sounds serious." The threat might sound serious, but Vangie sure didn't. A clicking sound issued from the phone speaker, as if Vangie were making a note on her computer. "Are you still single?"
"What?" The sudden change of subject sent Lorie's brain reeling. What could her marital status possibly have to do with the case? If there was a case
"We have several good-looking deputies I've been trying to match up with someone, but"
Fear morphed into irritation. "Vangie, it doesn't matter. There's a threatening note on my desk."
"Well, of course it matters. If you're not divorced or anything, I've got a couple of good Christian boys I could send out."
Lorie sighed. Vangie Rae must not have outgrown her high-school matchmaking tendencies. Lord, preserve me!
"I'm not divorced. I've just been too busy to get married." Not to mention getting dumped twice by guys I should have known better than to date in the first place. And No. Lorie refused to dwell on the main reason she hadn't had a husband or at least a fiancé when she'd left the West.
"Good." A few clicks issued from the line. "Now, tell me what this note said."
"Something like, 'You won't get away with it.'" More clicking sounded on the other end of the line. "Can't you see it?"
"No. I left it in the office. I'm calling from the checkout desk."
"Oh, very good. It'll be better if you haven't got fingerprints all over the place."
Yanking her attention back from the computer, Lorie switched the phone to her other ear. "We all share the office, so my prints are probably on everything except the note. At least, they shouldn't be on it, unless the person responsible used my printer paper."
"Now, now, don't go looking on the gloomy side, Loretta Lee." She still pronounced Lorie's first name as though it were two words: Lo Retta, emphasis on the Lo. "We've already alerted one of our deputies."
"Thanks, Vangie." There was no sense in taking her frustration out on her old school frenemy. Getting on the wrong side of Vangie Rae had always had dire consequences, even before she was in law enforcement. "I never dreamed you'd grow up to work at the sheriff's office."
"Neither did I, but then I met Frank, and my entire career plans changed."
Frank Sutherland. The Dainger County Sheriff. Duh. Vangie was Mrs. Lawman-in-Chief. Suddenly everything made sense. Vangie was bubbly enough to make the station a friendlier place. With her at the reception desk, crime in Dainger County had probably plummeted to an alltime low.
Until someone decided to threaten the new head librarian
"Let's see now. We have several single deputies, and I've put in a request for"
"Vangie, I'm not angling for a date." Lorie fought down her irritation. Especially not a deputy! "I just want to find out who sent the note and stop them from sending any more." There. At least she sounded calm.
"Are you sure? Because after the men you probably dated in California, the fellows here are gonna be a whole lot more real."
That's right, Vangie. Diss the place where I'd still be living if my world hadn't collapsed.
Beeping noises issued from the receiver.
"I have more calls coming in. One of our more eligible deputies should be there within an hour, unless there's an emergency. I surely am glad to talk to you again, Loretta. We'll have to get together real soon, okay? Bye now!"
Vangie disconnected. Lorie stared at the receiver for a moment before replacing it on the cradle.
"So?" Jen sounded like an overeager reporter.
"Vangie Rae." Lorie rolled her eyes. "Why didn't you warn me?"
Jen straightened the free bookmark dump. "I didn't know you knew the Sutherlands."
"I've only met the sheriff in passing, but I had several classes with Vangie. Now she's threatening to set me up with one of the deputies. The last thing I have time for is a romance." With a lawman, especially.
Jen clucked her tongue. "Honey, everybody needs love in their life." Jen started straightening the brochures in the Summer Reading Program display.
Could her day get any worse? "I didn't say I didn't need love. I just don't need romance."
Jen shrugged. "Keep on believing that if you want to. Time to open the doors." She took the library keys from her pocket and ambled toward the entrance.
As Lorie got to work, hushed voices discussing the latest offerings on the new-books shelf trickled through the inside return slot. The coiled spring wound around her insides relaxed. At least she was doing one thing right.
After checking in the returned books and arranging them on their respective shelves, Lorie returned to the office. The impulse to check the door to make certain it was locked almost overwhelmed her, but she squashed it, hoping she and Jen hadn't already destroyed fingerprint evidence on the handle. "Ms. Narramore?"
Lorie started, turned and collided with a solid mass of muscle in a tan uniform. A crackle of electricity jolted her. Was it that dry in here?
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"Dispatch sent me. Threatening note?" The voice issuing from the strong face was a warm baritone.
Lorie met his incredibly blue eyes, shaded by a fawn Stetson. Whew. Okay. Calm down. This is the investigating officer. Without meaning to, she checked his left ring finger. Bare. It's none of your business. He's the law.
Lorie cleared her throat. "Yes. It's right here, Deputy" she glanced at his name tag "MacGregor." Oh, my. Was this the MacGregor boy who'd been the top defensive linebacker for the Daingerville Diamondbacks when she was a lowly freshman? Glancing again at his face confirmed her suspicion. This had to be either Matt or one of his equally handsome brothers.
As Lorie started to insert the key into the lock, the door swung open of its own accord.
"Don't touch it." Deputy MacGregor drew his sidearm and clicked off the safety as he motioned her away.
Lorie's heart threatened to stop. They had locked the door hadn't they?
"Hands up in there. Sheriff's department." Deputy MacGregor kicked open the office door and scanned the room for intruders.
It was empty.
He glanced over his shoulder at Lorie. "Is there another exit?"
"Just the window in the bathroom, but it's a little small . Although they assured me it does meet fire safety standards"
Deputy MacGregor had already moved to the door leading to the minuscule restroom. He nudged it with the toe of his shiny black work boot.
A breeze fluttered through the open casement and into the office, riffling through the papers on the desk.
"Was the window open when you arrived?"
Lorie shook her head. "I don't think sobut I didn't really think to look."
He took a step into the tiny space, enough to bring him close to the frame inset with frosted glass. Examining it, the deputy frowned.
"Screen's been sliced open." The deputy poked at it and then peered at the area around the lock. "Window's been jimmied."
Lorie could hardly hear him over the pounding in her ears. The harassment was starting again, and this time, she had no place to run.
"Wow, look at those scratches!"
Jen's voice made Lorie jump, as she hadn't heard her approach. Lorie glanced at Jen's feet. She would be wearing silent-soled cross-trainers today of all days.
"You didn't notice the window before?"
Lorie shook her head. "We keep that door shut most of the time." Maybe whoever had left the note had still been inside the bathroom while she was in the office . Panic welled up inside her, but she managed to swallow the scream.
"And you're certain you locked the office door?" Deputy MacGregor sounded as if he wanted to get the whole picture.
Lorie shook her head, wishing she had a glass of water. Her mouth had gone completely dry. The proximity of the attractive deputy was not helping, either. "No, I'm not completely sure. I meant to, but I was pretty rattled. I might have forgotten."
"I locked it." Jen put her hands on her hips again. "I felt it catch."
"Right. Let's see the note."
Lorie moved to the desk and waved a hand at the in-box. "It's rightwait a minute."
"Is something wrong?"
No. Where was it? "The note. It isn't here."
"Come again?" Deputy MacGregor's sharp tone could have sliced through granite.
Lorie faced his unbelieving stare head-on.
"S-someone must have taken it."
Great. Just great. Matt's day was complete. First the lead on the meth-lab investigation dried up, and now this. Missing evidence.
Matt clicked the safety on and shoved his silver Colt 1991 back into the holster with unnecessary force.
"Where was it?"
"Right there." Lorie waved a pale, fine-boned hand over the in-box. "On top. It looked like a computer printout."
"Laser, ink-jet, dot matrix?"
"Ink-jet, I think. Full color, anyway. The letters were a deep tomato-red." Her voice wavered almost imperceptibly.
Matt took out his incident notebook and scrawled the information. "And it said.?"
"Something like 'You won't get away with it.'" Jen piped up, "'Don't think you can get away with it.'" Matt wondered whether Jen knew more about the note than she'd told Lorie. She was practically another sister to him ever since she'd married his best friend, but Matt had known her since her prankster days in junior high. Was this another one of her stunts? Matt fixed Jen with his best lawenforcement stare.
"And you know this because.?"
Jen sniffed. "I pay attention. And don't think this is some sort of 'let's fix Matt up with the new librarian' scheme Vangie Sutherland and I cooked up. Because it isn't."
Matt took stock of his old friend. According to J.T., she had stopped pulling pranks on people, but Matt wouldn't put writing a mysterious note as a joke past her. Still, actually threatening someone who seemed to be her friend was unlikely. And besides, she wouldn't be dumb enough to damage library property for a joke. Jen would never commit even a misdemeanor unless she'd lost her mind in the past few weeks.
Lorie appeared to be having her own doubts. Having been three grades ahead of her, Matt hadn't really known Lorie when he was growing up. She'd been one of the brainy kids, scrawny, with braces. Looked as though she'd turned out well, except for her lack of color. Closer inspection indicated her pallor hadn't come from makeup. Whether the note was legit or not, she was frightened.
"Jen couldn't have moved the note." Lorie's voice had grown steadier. "She's been with me since I spotted the note. And you saw the window."
Matt's old classmate nodded gravely, but she had a "so there" twinkle in her eye. This might have started as a serious call, but, from the look of things, Jen intended to go along with Vangie's eternal attempts at matchmaking. No way he'd put up with that. He'd phone J.T. and then drop by the house after work.
Matt tucked the notebook back into his pocket and turned to go.
"Aren't you going to dust for prints?" Lorie sounded disappointed. More, still frightened.
Matt looked back at Lorie. "On my way to the unit now for the kit. Be right back."