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 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14/Chapter 15/Chapter 16/Chapter 17/Chapter 18/Chapter 19/Chapter 20
They had both freshened up and climbed into his truck. They were going to spend the afternoon going through her father’s home office.
“I still want you to be careful. We may think our guy is doing things on a time frame, but we can’t be certain. We’ll go to your dad’s house and go through his paperwork. See if he acquired any new property or investments.”
Once they were at the house, Cody unlocked the padlock that a deputy had installed on the outside of the door after documenting the scene and collecting evidence. He closed the door behind them, moved the end table to hold it shut, and activated the alarm before doing a sweep of the house. No one was lurking in the shadows waiting to attack them.
They started in her father’s office downstairs. There wasn’t much to the room—an old metal desk with two drawers, a filing cabinet, an old loveseat, and a wingback chair. The far wall had a huge picture window with a small school desk below it, and the left wall displayed a built-in bookshelf.
She remembered as a young girl she’d come work at her small desk while her father worked at his. Her father would take a break and sit in the chair. He’d let her climb on his lap with one of the books from his shelf. He had titles ranging from Moby Dick to The Scarlet Letter to The Lord of the Rings. That room was where her love of reading had been born along with the desire to create her own stories.
She sat at her father’s desk and ran her fingers over his pen collection lined up neatly. She opened the top drawer and looked through its contents. It was mostly office supplies, more pens, a stapler, staples, paper clips, and envelopes.
The second drawer contained her father’s banking documents. What she hadn’t known when she was younger was that the work her father was doing was really paying the bills and studying his Bible. Her eyes misted at all the memories that surfaced.
Cody had started digging through the filing cabinet. “Your father kept everything.”
“Tell me about it. I found a bottle of aspirin in his bathroom that expired in 2008.”
“Ouch. I sure hope he wasn’t still taking those.”
She laughed as she rose from the desk and crossed the room. “Have you found anything of interest?”
“Oh, yes. I’ve found several interesting things but nothing our guy could use. I mean, what could he do with tax returns dating back to 1988 or divorce papers from 1956?”
“Oh my goodness. He still had my grandparents’ divorce papers? You’ve definitely beat me in the old category.” She wandered to the bookshelf and picked up an anthology of Shakespeare’s works. She opened it to her favorite play. She’d always giggled at Bottom’s transformation.
As she had gotten older, instead of climbing in her father’s lap and letting him read to her, she’d climb into the wingback chair and read quietly to herself. She was there so much her father had bought the loveseat for her so he could have his chair back.
Cody closed the bottom drawer and moved to the middle one. He looked through it while she thumbed through the books. Her dad’s collection had dwindled considerably in the last few years. Most were now in her collection.
Cody closed the middle drawer and moved to the top. “Bingo.”
She slid the book back onto the shelf and joined him at the cabinet.
“Here’s a folder that says deeds.” He pulled it out and thumbed through the pages. “There are several deeds, but they all have the same legal description. Looks like he had his own makeshift abstract on this land.” He handed her the folder and went back to the drawer. “Here’s a folder with your name on it and one with Jake’s name.”
She smiled at her father’s sentimental nature. “Yep. Mine’ll have old report cards, school pictures, drawings, and my writings. Jacob’s file will have pretty much the same thing, except it’ll also have some Army related things. Speaking of Army stuff, did you come across any of dad’s?”
“Yes. I saw some discharge papers, photos, medals, and ribbons in the middle drawer.”
“Good. I’ve got to remember where those are.” She wanted to come back and spend some time looking at all those historical photos.
“What do we have here?” He pulled a picture from a file and whistled.
Could he have found something important? He turned the picture around. It was her third-grade school picture. Her hair was neatly fixed in ringlets, and she wore a bright yellow dress, which brought out the dark black circle around her eye.
“Is that sweet little Maggie sporting a shiner?” He made tsking noises.
She snatched the photo from him and stuck it back in the folder. “Yes, it is.”
“Do tell.” His eyebrows quirked up.
“Alexander Brown tried to kiss me on the monkey bars, so I punched him.”
“If you were the one doing the punching, how did you get the black eye? Did he fight back?”
“No. He screamed and let go of the bars. He went down kicking. My legs got tangled up with his and took me down with him. I took an elbow to the eye on the way down.”
Cody roared with laughter. “I’m glad you didn’t hit me when I tried to kiss you.”
“No. I was glad you did. I was starting to wonder how long it would take you.” She laughed. Things grew awkward after that statement. She had been referring to the first time he kissed her. Not the most recent kiss. Was he thinking she meant that one?
Cody cleared his throat. “I’m not finding anything else.”
“I didn’t see anything else, either. I could us a drink. You?”
“Do you think there could be anything of use in the basement?” she asked Cody as they sat at the kitchen table where they had taken a break.
“It can’t hurt to look. Why don’t I do that, and you can search your father’s room and see if there is anything there?”
Searching his office was tough, but going through his personal belongings would be harder. She had purposely stayed out of his room, other than the day when her parents’ rings had been stolen, knowing the memories would be overwhelming. But if going through that stuff could lead to finding something to stop this guy, then she would do it. She’d have to pray for the strength to make it through it.
He stood and took the stairwell to the basement. She placed their cups in the sink, then thought better of it. She should probably wash them because there was no telling when she would get to come back.
She washed the cups and thought she needed to gather the trash so that it wouldn’t start smelling while she was away. What are you doing? There is no trash to gather, you haven’t been here much. You are postponing the inevitable. Get up there and get it over with.
Taking the stairs slowly, anxiety rose in her chest. At the top of the stairs, she saw her father’s room and kept her eyes on it as she took shaky steps. She crossed the threshold and stared at the surroundings. Inhaling deeply, the room smelled of his cologne with a hint of dust. Farther into the room, she ran her hand along his dresser. It was covered with various little jars. She lifted the lid on one and it contained nothing but quarters. The next jar contained dimes and the next nickels.
Her search of the drawers didn’t reveal anything other than her father’s clothes. Crossing the room, she took a moment to gaze out the window. Her parents’ room looked out over the garden her mother had kept for many years. Her father had kept it up after her passing. Now it was overrun with weeds. Another thing to add to the to-do list.
She turned to the closet. His favorite shirts were hanging in prominent spots. The farther back in the clothes she went the further back in time she went. She found a shirt she distinctly remembered him wearing in a photo when she was nine. She, of course, had been wearing a matching shirt. Her shirt was long gone by now.
There were boxes on an overhead shelf. She pulled them down and took them to his bed. His reading glasses laying atop his Bible on the nightstand. She touched them, hoping for one last connection. The ache in her chest was unending—a piece of her heart was missing, and she would never get it back. Tears slid down her cheeks.
She’d become a weepy mess lately.
Footsteps behind her alerted her to Cody’s presence. She didn’t turn around right away, instead, she wiped the tears from her eyes and busied herself looking in the boxes. She didn’t want him to see her crying. Again. She cleared her throat, hoping her voice would sound normal.
“Did you find anything?”
There was no answer, just the sound of his feet shuffling into the room.
Before she could turn around and face him, a sharp pain began at the base of her neck, radiating all over her skull. Lights danced in her vision before everything faded to black.
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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