We are excited to share a book installment on Wednesdays and Saturdays! Hidden Danger by Jennifer Pierce is the first in the Small Town Guardians series. If you love mystery and romance, come read the next chapter below!
Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten / Chapter Eleven / Chapter Twelve / Chapter Thirteen
Cody sat on the bed letting the television watch him. He’d turned it on intending to watch the ten o’clock news but instead got lost in thought. Maggie had been so dejected tonight, it had nearly broken his heart. She’d moved around the room so stiffly, as if a light breeze could break her. He prayed that a good night’s sleep would help.
He thought of her cupping his face, defending him fiercely against his own guilt. And he remembered their fingers intertwined as they sat together in the car. Despite her continued distance, he felt she was slowly warming back to him.
Sudden pounding on the door between their rooms, along with Maggie’s muffled voice, sent adrenaline racing through him, propelling him off the bed and to the door. No sooner did he have the door open than Maggie was in his room. In pajama pants and a t-shirt, she was fresh from the shower, damp hair flying loose around her face.
Her eyes were full of fire. “She’s been here. Dee was in my room.”
“What do you mean? Everything was fine when I did a walk-through. I even looked under the bed. I didn’t see any signs that someone had tampered with anything.”
“Yeah, well, she left me a present under the blanket! Go in and take a look for yourself.” She waved her arms wildly in the direction of her room.
He entered the room and could immediately see something dark contrasting with the crisp white bed sheets. Loose black rose petals and a dark gooey substance that spelled out the next line of the rhyme. Five for silver. A simple white card lay to the right of the creation. Taking his multipurpose tool from his pocket, he used the plier portion to open the card. Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
What does that mean? This isn’t water.
He wasn’t going to stick around to find out. He grabbed Maggie’s shoes and took them with him to his room. “We need to leave. I’ll call someone to contain the scene once we’re on the road.” He barked as he handed her shoes to her. “Did you touch anything other than the blanket?”
She sat on the edge of the bed and shoved her feet into her shoes. “No, I’m not stupid.” The tone of her voice indicated she thought his order barking and question had been uncalled for.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. Did you see what was written on the card?”
“No, I saw the mess and came straight to your room. I didn’t stick around to see what sick note she left.” She stood and marched to the door, but before she opened it, she turned to him, deflated. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. I’m not sure I really want to run again. I mean, she’s just going to follow me until she’s caught. Maybe if we stay here, she’ll come back, and you can arrest her, and this thing will all be over.”
“I think Dee is too smart for that.”
He grabbed his belt, containing his holster and gun, and put it on. Grabbing his wallet, keys, and cell phone from the dresser, he met her at the door. “I’m going to keep you safe. We have to pray and ask God to help us end this.” He squeezed her shoulder.
“What about my stuff?”
“We’ll get it later. There’s no telling if Dee is still here and whether or not she’s left any other surprises in your room.” He motioned for her to step behind him as he slowly opened the door and cautiously took in the surroundings. There wasn’t a soul in the parking lot or anywhere he could see. He stepped out onto the walkway and told Maggie to stay behind him. They quickly made it to his car. He started the engine and wasted no time leaving the parking lot. He pulled his cell from his pocket and dialed the station.
“Dale County Sheriff’s office, this is Angie.”
“Hey, Ang, it’s Sheriff Smith.”
“Hey, Sheriff, it’s a little late for a call from you.”
“Yeah, well, I need you to alert Whitehaven PD about another crime scene at the Lone Star Inn connected to Maggie Jones. Someone got in and left Maggie a message. She was in room two-oh-three.”
He hung up and started going over the latest note in his head.
“Maggie, the rhyme was five for silver, but the card said, ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’ Do you know what that means? Do either of them make sense, either together or separately?” Based on her silence, he assumed she didn’t. “I’m also pretty sure that the gooey substance was blood.”
She didn’t flinch or take a sudden inhalation of breath like he would expect her to. She was becoming used to this. A memory of Iris’s undaunted reaction to the last note flashed in his mind. He had to find Dee; he couldn’t let Maggie get to the point that Iris had. The sound of her voice whispering toward the window pulled him back to the moment.
“When I have fears that I may cease to be,
before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace,
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore,
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.”
“What is that?” He reached over and touched her arm, afraid she was going into shock and rambling nonsense.
She turned to face him. “When I Have Fears that I May Cease to Be is a poem by John Keats.”
He looked at her blankly. What does a poem have to do with what I asked her? “I don’t get it.”
“John Keats was a poet that lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her and then returned his attention to the road. “I’m still not following. I don’t need a literature lesson right now.”
“‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’ is engraved on his tombstone.”
“Oh, okay. So, what does a poet who died three hundred years ago have to do with you?”
“Keats contracted tuberculosis, a nasty disease that eventually led to coughing up blood and death. He died when he was twenty-five. Today is my twenty-fifth birthday. I guess Dee wanted to be clever.” A single tear slid down her cheek.
Without thinking, he pulled the car onto the shoulder, reached over the console, and pulled her into his arms. For a moment, she sat there, rigid and uncomfortable. Just when he was about to let go, she relaxed into his embrace. He rubbed her back, willing his strength to her.
He had seen Grainger doing the same thing for Iris when she’d endured taunting notes and veiled threats. She had even been physically attacked. Through it all, Iris had been strong, not showing a lot of emotion. He had admired the strength he thought she had had… that is until he found the note next to her lifeless body.
He shook the image from his mind. He would not let Maggie get to that point. He would find Dee and end this horrible game.
He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her soft hair. “Lord, give Maggie strength. I pray for protection. For not only Maggie but for everyone involved. Lord let us find Dee and get her the help she needs. Amen.”
“Amen,” she whispered against his chest before pulling out of his arms and leaning into her seat, resting her head on the headrest. Turning to Cody, she gave a weak smile. “Thank you.”
“I’m not sure what you are thanking me for, but you’re welcome.”
“For being here, and for helping me.”
“Anything for you, Magpie.” He reached across the console and squeezed her hand. He didn’t let go immediately.
She moved her hand, breaking the connection and wrapped a loose curl around her index finger and started twirling it.
“I guess we’ll go back to my house.” He put the car in drive and merged back onto the deserted road.
“We’ve already been through this, Cody. I’m not going to stay at your house.” Exasperation filled her voice.
“Stubborn as ever. Where else do you suggest?”
“I can go stay at Jacob’s house. He’s still in the hospital, and I’m sure he won’t mind.”
He shook his head. “I don’t like it. Dee knows where your brother lives. We can’t risk going somewhere she could find you. That also means all the resources of the Dale County Sheriff’s office are out, too.
“Well, see, then going to your house wouldn’t be a good idea, either.” She crossed her arms over her chest, claiming her small victory.
“You’re right. It’s after midnight. I think we should go to a hotel in one of the neighboring towns. I can call Grainger from there.”
She leaned back into the car seat and closed her eyes.
Cody drove them to the Tumbleweed Inn, a small hotel set up much like the previous one, in Prairie’s Grove, a city north of Whitehaven. He spoke with the night manager and checked them in under an alias. He was being careful. He had kept an eye on the rearview mirror the entire trip to make sure they hadn’t been followed.
Their rooms were joined by a door like the last hotel. “I’ll leave the adjoined door unlocked should you need anything.” He made sure she was comfortable in her room before returning to his own. He had phone calls to make to find out what evidence—if any—the police had found in Maggie’s hotel room.
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About Jennifer Pierce
Jennifer Pierce currently lives in Arkansas with her husband and two children. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and River Valley Writers, where she serves as secretary.
WHERE TO FIND JENNIFER PIERCE
SMALL TOWN GUARDIANS SERIES