No Place to Run

By: Marion Faith Laird

ONE

The note was unsigned.





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 now.

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 coatrack, 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?”

Murder.

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.

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