No Place to Run(9)

By: Marion Faith Laird



A slight hissing was the only indication anyone was on the other end of the line.

“Hel-lo, Dainger County Library.”

Lorie’s repeated greeting brought no response. “Is anybody there?”

Jen made “hang it up” gestures with her free hand.

She’d give it five more seconds. “Five, four, thr—”

“Murderer.”

Lorie froze. “What did—”

“Murrr-dererrrrr.” The whisper was hoarse, drawn-out.

Not again!

Lorie slammed the receiver into the cradle. Her heart thundered against her ribs.

“What’s wrong?”

Lorie shook her head, unable to speak.

Jen’s eyes grew huge. “It wasn’t Matt with bad news about the fingerprinting, was it?”

Lorie’s mouth opened, but no words came out. Shaking her head, Lorie shivered.

“Okay, that settles it. You’ve coming home with me for supper.”

“But—”

“No arguments.” Jen shoved Lorie’s purse at her until she took it. “It’s just takeout from Old West Pizza, but you don’t need to be alone.”

The phone’s ring shattered the stillness. They stared at it. Another two rings would take it to voice mail.

Jen’s hand reached out before Lorie could stop her.

“Dainger County Library, this is Jen. How can I help you?”

A split second later she held out the receiver so Lorie could hear the dial tone.

Shuddering, Lorie clutched her purse to her chest. “You’re right. I don’t need to be alone.”

* * *

Matt drove back to the Dainger County Library when his shift was over but one glance at the parking lot told him he’d already missed her. He’d forgotten; that was right. The library was open late only on Fridays.

He pulled the pickup into the empty parking lot and phoned J. T. Burkhalter. The voice of the family’s four-year-old answered.

“Bookhawtew wesidence.”

“Hi, Bobby. Put your daddy on, please.”

“Okay. DAD-DEE! TEWEPHONE!”

Matt jerked the cell phone away from his ear at the first bellow, so he wasn’t totally deafened when J.T. picked up.

“Hey J.T., it’s Matt.”

“What’s up, bro?”

“Something strange happened at the library today. I wondered if Jen had mentioned it.”

J.T. chuckled. “You mean the ‘Puzzle of the Purloined Poison Pen?’ She did bring up the subject a time or twelve.”

“Could I swing by and ask her a few questions?”

“Sure. Come for supper. Jen brought home pizza.”

Matt smiled. He hadn’t been angling for an invitation, but pizza sounded good.

“I’ll see you then.”

Five minutes later, Jen opened the door when Matt arrived. “Come on in before it gets cold.”

Matt keyed the automatic lock on his red F-150 SuperCrew and walked into the organized chaos that was the Burkhalter house. Bobby immediately tackle-hugged him around the knees.

“Unca Matt!”

“Hey, Uncle Matt’s here!” Not to be left out, eight-year-old Kevin raced toward his honorary uncle, holding out his latest freebie from the fast-food kiddie meal.

“Ooh, scary dinosaur!”

His comment earned Matt an instant grin from Kevin, who growled and waved the green plastic tyrannosaurus in Matt’s face.

Chrissy typed something on her phone, giggled and put it into her pocket before waving at Matt.

“New boyfriend?”

Chrissy shook her head. “Oh, no, Uncle Matt.”

“Good. You’re too young to date.”

Chrissy giggled again. It was such a normal sound. How old was she now? Matt had lost track.

“I’m thirteen. All my friends are dating.” Her phone buzzed again, and she snatched it out of her pocket to check the latest text.

“All the more reason.” Matt thought of himself at thirteen, a mass of pimples and hormones. He shuddered. He was so thankful he didn’t have kids. He wasn’t sure he could take the stress.

“Jen, where do you keep the soda glasses?”

Matt started. Lorie Narramore was here? Alarm bells clanged in his brain. He whirled to face Jen.

“Upper cupboard over the counter next to the refrigerator.” Jen rolled her eyes at Matt. “Turn off that expression, Deputy. I invited Lorie before J.T. asked you over, so you can stick your suspicion right back in your detective kit.”

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