No Place to Run(10)

By: Marion Faith Laird


Lorie emerged from the kitchen carrying two glasses in each hand.

“Chrissy, put the phone away and help Lorie.”

Chrissy barely missed colliding with Matt on her way to help. She snatched the glasses from Lorie just as Lorie spotted Matt. Good thing. It looked as though she’d have dropped them if Chrissy hadn’t intervened.

“Deputy? Why are you—did Jen phone you?” Lorie still looked alarmed. Had the note been that disturbing?

Matt put a smile on his face.

“Nope. Just called to catch up with J.T., and he invited me for supper.” Noticing that Lorie’s expression hadn’t changed, his trouble radar kicked in. “Why? Has something else happened?”

Before Lorie could answer, Jen called the rest of the family to the table. J.T. brought the two Old West Pizza family-size to-go boxes from the kitchen and set them in the middle as the thundering herd of children took their places.

“I want to sit by Miss Lowie!” Bobby announced.

In the table shuffling that followed, Matt ended up on Lorie’s other side. J.T. held out his hands to Bobby and Kevin, who were seated next to him. The prayer circle quickly formed around the table. Lorie’s hand was soft but firm. Matt wondered if she still played an instrument. He ignored the warmth that traveled up his arm at the contact.

“Lord, thank You for the guests You’ve brought us, and thank You for keeping us all safe today. Please bless this food and our fellowship, in Jesus’s name. Amen.”

A round of hearty “Amens” preceded an immediate scramble for pizza slices. Matt felt a gentle tug and realized he hadn’t let go of Lorie’s hand.

“Oh. Sorry.” He released her.

“No problem.” Lorie concentrated on the slice of pizza in front of her, effectively cutting off conversation.

The Burkhalter children chattered about upcoming church camp and dozens of other subjects. Matt could barely keep up. He did keep a surreptitious eye on Lorie, noticing as color slowly returned to her fine cheekbones.

Matt waited until after the kids had scarfed down their pizza and scattered to their rooms before bringing up Lorie’s distress.

“Something else has happened since that note.”

Lorie turned to look at him. She nodded slowly.

“What?”

“Somebody called.” Jen spoke before Lorie could. “Just as we were leaving for the day.”

“And...?”

Color drained from Lorie’s face.

“She wouldn’t tell me what he said.” Jen sounded irked. “But it must have been pretty bad.”

Matt waited until Lorie turned to him. Her anguished expression revealed more than words.

“You should have notified us immediately so we could put a trace on the call. Was it the person who sent the note?”

Lorie gulped. “I don’t know. Maybe. Probably.”

“So I insisted she come home with me.” Jen took another swallow of sweet tea.

“Good idea.” Was Lorie going to tell him voluntarily, or would he have to drag the information out of her? “Well? What did he say?”

Tears formed in her eyes, making them glisten. She blinked them away.

“Just one word. It was enough.”

Matt raised both eyebrows in a question.

Lorie took a deep breath, and, as she let it out slowly, breathed her answer. “Murderer.”

Jen’s hand flew to her mouth. “You didn’t tell me! Oh, you poor thing! No wonder you were so shaken. Do you think that’s what the note meant?” She reached over the table and patted Lorie’s hand.

Lorie nodded.

“You were cleared completely.” Matt’s words were firm. “There’s no reason you should have to put up with this kind of harassment.”

Lorie flashed him a grateful smile.

Matt turned to look at Jen. “Speaking of the note, what was the story with the invoice you tried to hide from me?”

J.T. got the expression of a foxhound that had just picked up the scent. This was apparently news to him.

“It was for an order of books from a new publisher. One of the patrons put in a request. Unfortunately, he happens to be on the library committee in the county board of supervisors, so we had to order them.”

What books would Jen find so objectionable? “Smut?”

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