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 / Chapter Fourteen/Chapter 15/Chapter 16/Chapter 17/Chapter 18/Chapter 19
Cody made sure all the windows around the house were locked. He always kept them latched, but he wasn’t going to take anything for granted. Satisfied that the house was secure, he went back to the couch and pulled Maggie’s notes from his pocket. He looked at every word, staying vigilant for any noise out of the ordinary.
When he began to get drowsy, he started a pot of coffee, grabbed the notes, a notebook and a pen and sat at the kitchen table, making his own notes. He listed all the lines from the rhyme and each act that accompanied them. Maggie was right, everything was centered around her except Dee’s murder.
One for sorrow. Maggie was standing on her father’s porch, in the middle of nowhere, twenty minutes outside of town, when the beanbag was shot.
Two for joy. Her parents’ rings had been stolen from the house and delivered to her.
Three for a girl. Her best friend’s car was vandalized.
Four for a boy. Her brother was attacked.
Five for silver. Her hotel room was vandalized and a veiled threat left on her birthday.
Six for gold. Dee was dead.
Seven for a secret never to be told. Dee’s death was revealed as a homicide.
Maybe if they could get one step ahead of this guy, they could stop him. He grabbed his laptop off the kitchen counter where he had left it yesterday afternoon. Booting up the search engine, he began researching the rhyme. There were several different versions of the rhyme and a lot of them ended with the number seven. There were, of course, other versions that went as high as fourteen. Cody found a rhyme that he thought could be the one their guy was using. If that was so, there would be a number eight, for a wish.
How could someone do something dastardly with a wish?
He refilled his coffee cup and did another walk through of the house. He stopped outside the guest room and listened for anything out of sorts. Satisfied Maggie was sleeping soundly, he went back to the living room. He pulled the Bible from the end table and turned to Psalms.
* * * *
Shuffling seeped into his subconscious and startled him awake. He was on his feet, with his hand resting on the butt of the gun on his hip when Maggie emerged from the hallway. He relaxed, taking his hand away from the gun.
He must have dozed off because the sun was streaming through the front window blinds, casting stripes of golden sun on the floor. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and ran his hand through his rumpled hair. “Sleep well?”
“Not really.” She took a seat on his couch. “You?”
“Some.” He walked to the window and looked out on to the front yard. He didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. He turned back to Maggie and gestured her to the kitchen. “Would you like something to eat? I’ve got some cereal, but the milk is definitely bad. Found that out when I tried to add some to my coffee this morning. I might have some toaster pastries. Want one? Unless you want dry cereal.”
“I haven’t had a toaster pastry in ages. What are you, nine?”
“Hey, don’t knock the tarts.”
He followed her into the kitchen, grabbed the box from the pantry, and offered them to her. After she took one, he grabbed one for himself and put the box back in the pantry.
“I’ll be right back.” He put his toaster pastry on the table, walked through the house, and went outside to check the perimeter. He was probably being ridiculous, but he couldn’t be too careful. Everything was in order. He returned to the kitchen. “I did some research while you were sleeping, and I think I might know what the next line is. ‘Eight for a wish.’ Can you think of anything that he could use for that line?”
She took a bite from the toaster pastry. “I have wishes—who doesn’t—but I can’t think of anything that he could use.”
“Why don’t you humor me and tell me some of them.”
“Okay.” She put down her food. “One of my big wishes is to get kids reading more. In today’s day and age, it seems like no one reads anymore. Everyone is consumed with electronic devices. Reading is good for the brain, and believe it or not, you learn while you read, even if you’re reading for enjoyment.”
“You’ve always been a bookwork. Remember that year you asked everyone to buy you books for your birthday?” He opened the shiny package containing his breakfast.
“That was every year.” She chuckled.
“True.” He nodded. “Back to the kids, how would you accomplish that?”
“Reading contests. Not like who can read the best but more like an achievement type contest. I do a small contest where they’re rewarded for reading.” She took another bite. “What I’d really like to do is pick one book a month for each age group and have a month-long party based on it. Arts and crafts. Costume parties. Fun recipes. The whole shebang. Unfortunately, there’s not enough funding.”
She had always been creative. He had no doubt she’d make her program a huge success.
“I’ve also got the kids I tutor. I’d love to have more resources to help them. Not every child learns the same way. It’d be great to have things that help me cater to each learning type.”
Her eyes were alight while she talked about helping others. He noticed she hadn’t list any personal wishes. He thought it would be safe to rule out any of those other things. Everything that had happened involving Maggie had been personal to her and had happened here in Whitehaven, not in Houston.
“What about personal wishes?” he prodded, hoping she would open up a little.
“Well, I’d like to be a published author someday. Of course, there’s the typical girl wishes, you know, marriage and kids.” She toyed with the plastic package from her breakfast.
He had wanted those things, too. He’d wanted them with Maggie and had even been prepared for the next stage in their relationship. He had the ring to prove it, still in the velvet box from the jeweler. He hadn’t been able to part with it, even after all these years. It was tucked away in a drawer in his bedroom.
“I can’t think of anything that he could use. I really can’t, unless maybe it has something to do with my dad’s stuff.”
Maybe there wasn’t anything to the typical wishes of marriage and kids, but she had mentioned her writing. To destroy everything that someone had worked hard on could be devastating to that person. “Where do you keep the things that you write?”
“Well, I used to have it saved on my laptop. I’d back it up to a thumb drive every couple of months. But one day my computer crashed. I still had the thumb drive, but I hadn’t backed it up in weeks. Now everything is saved to the cloud.”
“How protected is your cloud?”
“It’s pretty secure. I mean, anything can be hacked. Do you think he plans to attack my writing?”
“I don’t know, but that’s a possibility. Maybe you should back everything up to a thumb drive just in case. I have an extra one floating around my computer desk. I’ll get it and you can use my laptop.” He pointed to the laptop sitting on the kitchen counter. After searching the computer desk, he finally found the thumb drive in the bottom drawer and returned to the kitchen where Maggie was booting up the laptop.
He sat at the table while Maggie plugged the thumb drive in.
“Everything is still here so we have averted that potential disaster. Thank you.”
She saw the notebook lying next to her stack of paper towel notes. “What’s that?”
“I told you I did some research last night. I jotted down some thoughts.”
He pushed everything to her.
She chewed on her bottom lip as she read. “You know; I think there is a pattern.”
“Really?” He came around the table and stood next to her. Leaning one hand on the chair behind her and the other on the table next to the note pad, he bent to get a closer look at the list. Her breath hitched at his proximity. His mind traveled to the kiss they shared last night, and he thought about an encore.
She swallowed hard and turned her attention back to the notebook in front of her. “Yes. You know, I didn’t give it any thought when these things were happening, but there is a new taunt every day. I got into town on Monday, and we were shot at that night. Tuesday morning the package containing my parents’ rings was delivered. Wednesday, I had lunch with Cassie and her car was vandalized. Thursday morning, I found Jacob battered on my porch. Friday was my birthday and the awful message in the hotel room. Yesterday, we found Dee’s body in your car, and early this morning someone broke into the house and left the video.”
“You’re right. Why didn’t I see that?” He straightened and walked to the sink. How had he missed that?
“The same reason I didn’t. We were so focused on the what and the why that we weren’t paying attention to the when.”
“So, if that’s the case, then we could assume that whatever he has planned won’t happen until tomorrow. Since we have a whole day to anticipate his next move, do you think there would be anything at your father’s house that could be used? Do you want to see if we can figure out if that move might involve your father’s belongings?”
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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.
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SMALL TOWN GUARDIANS SERIES