It’s time to return to Heavenly, PA and visit with Claire, Jakob, Aunt Diane, Benjamin, Esther, and Eli. Just Plain Murder (Amish Mystery # 6) is available now online in eBook or paperback! Enjoy chapter one and be sure to leave a review on any retailer site if you read the book. Any and all help you can give in letting fellow readers know it’s out would be greatly appreciated!
Claire Weatherly and her beau, police detective Jakob Fisher, learn that when it comes to murder, evil can hide in plain sight in this all-new addition to the national bestselling Amish Mysteries.
She was on the porch when he drove up, the sight of his car, followed by his full-face smile as he spotted her, eliciting a dreamy sigh she was pretty sure hadn’t come from her own mouth. A glance at the wicker chair to her right simply confirmed that observation.
“I heard that, you know.” Claire Weatherly smoothed her hand over the simple late-summer dress she’d almost forgotten she owned and abandoned the porch swing. “And while I probably should say something about you being every bit as incorrigible as Grandma ever was, I’m just going to say I feel exactly the same way when I see him. Times a hundred.”
Diane Weatherly stilled her knitting needles. “I wasn’t looking at Detective Fisher, dear.”
Claire darted her own attention back to the parking lot just long enough to confirm Jakob had exited his car but was still just out of earshot. “You weren’t?”
“No. I was looking at you, dear.” Tucking her needles into the multicolored ball of yarn wedged between her knees, the sixty-two-year-old woman tilted her head down just enough to afford an uninhibited view of Claire across the top of her reading glasses. “One day, when you have a child of your own, you’ll understand.”
“That’s mighty cryptic, Aunt Diane.”
“It’s just the best defense I can offer.” Diane’s thinning lips twitched with a grin just before her eyes led Claire’s back to the handsome man now no more than three strides away from the porch steps. “Now, go give him a proper greeting so I can sigh in peace.”
Claire tried to nibble back a laugh but it was no use. Instead, she closed the gap between them, kissed the top of her aunt’s head, and then turned back toward the steps as a still-smiling Jakob reached the top. “You look mighty happy this morning. Is it from seeing me or knowing that she”—Claire hooked her thumb at first Diane and then the waiting picnic basket on the floor beneath the swing—“can’t help but toss in a few extra goodies earmarked especially for you?”
“That depends. What are these extra goodies of which you speak?” Then, pulling her toward him before her answering gasp could gain much momentum, he stemmed the rest with a sweet kiss. “Mmmm . . . You taste good.”
Bracing her hand against his chest, she stepped back just enough to ensure a front-row view of the dimple sighting she knew was near. “That’s because those extra goodies that were supposed to be for you were really, really, really delicious . . .”
“What?” She peeked back at her aunt. “Don’t tell me he didn’t have that coming.”
“I did have that coming . . .” Jakob stepped around Claire, greeted Diane with a kiss on the cheek, and then claimed a spot on the porch swing. “That said, you were kidding, right?”
She joined him on the floral cushion. “I was if you were.”
“Phew . . .” He rested his right arm along the back of the swing and found the perfect amount of sway with a practiced foot. “So, Diane . . . Guess who called me last night to say he’s back in town for a few days?”
A quick clap hijacked Claire’s attention back to the wicker chair and the woman whose smile rivaled the late-September sun. “Oh, Jakob, that’s wonderful! I bet Callie and the children are positively thrilled!”
“Callie Davidson?” At her aunt’s nod, Claire moved on, tidbits of information she’d managed to glean during her past eighteen-plus months in Heavenly falling into place a piece at a time. “That’s the redhead that lives over by the playground, isn’t it? The one with the three little towheads that couldn’t be any cuter if they tried?”
Diane nodded. “That’s right. And Russ is her father. He retired down to Florida close to ten years ago after—”
“Serving as chief of the Heavenly Police Department,” Claire finished as she turned her focus back on her swing mate. “Oh, Jakob, no wonder you were smiling like that when you walked up! Your mentor is back in town!”
He nuzzled his chin against the side of her head and then leaned back to look out over the same fields that had served as a backdrop for his Amish childhood. “Trust me, Claire, that smile was all about you. Still, I’m pretty excited to see Russ again, too. It’s been a long time. He wanted me to come out and meet him at Murphy’s on Route 65 when he called, but I was already in bed and I didn’t want to take a chance of missing my alarm when it went off this morning.”
“We could have rescheduled our picnic!” Claire protested. “Especially for something like seeing an old friend.”
“I know that. But I didn’t want to reschedule.”
“Do you two keep in touch on the phone?” Diane asked as she transferred the yarn from her lap to the small table at her elbow.
“We try. And sometimes we go through spurts where we do pretty well with that. But more often than not, I’m busy, he’s busy . . . You know how it is.”
Hiking her calf onto the swing, Claire turned so her back was flush against the armrest and her view was of Jakob and her aunt. “Isn’t Russ retired?”
“On paper, yes. But once a cop, always a cop.”
“Meaning?” she prodded.
“Russ has police work in his blood. Which means he got himself hired on at the station in his new town inside the first month of being down there.”
“But not as a chief,” Diane interjected.
Jakob nodded. “Right. Not as a chief. According to him, he fiddles around at the front desk. Said it kept his finger on the pulse and him out of Amelia’s hair.”
“I take it Amelia is his wife?” At Diane’s slow nod and downtrodden expression, Claire sighed. “And I take it she’s since passed?”
“She did. About five years ago, I believe.” At Diane’s nod, Jakob continued. “He retreated for a while after that. Didn’t return my calls, didn’t acknowledge the notes I sent, et cetera. But eventually he got his feet back under him and he’d send me an occasional text to see how I was doing. When I told him I was considering coming back here if I could get a job, he pulled some strings and, well, here I am.”
“Remind me to thank him.” Claire rested her cheek against his hand, watching him as he appeared to drift away in thought. After a few moments of silence, though, he caught her looking at him and smiled. “So?” she asked. “When and where are you going to get to meet up with him again?”
“Tonight. At Heavenly Brews. Eight o’clock. And I’m kind of hoping you’ll be with me when I do.”
She drew back, surprised. “But you haven’t seen him in what? Two years, at least?”
“Actually, it’s been almost eight.”
“Then you don’t need me tagging along, Jakob,” she protested. “Go. Spend time with him. Talk cop stuff, tell him all the great things you’ve done since you’ve been here in Heavenly—the cases you’ve solved. You can introduce us a different day, before he heads back home.”
“I want him to meet you now, Claire. Besides, there’s nothing Russ and I need to talk about that we can’t talk about with you sitting at the table, too.” Toeing the swing to a stop, he pushed his fingers through his sandy blond hair and laughed. “I’m telling you, Russ is quite a character. He sees everything and forgets nothing. It’s one of the reasons he made a heckuva cop and chief.”
She waited for his hand to return to his lap and then captured it inside her own. “So what you’re telling me is he’ll probably have some cute stories to share about you from your Rumspringa days?”
“Oh, no doubt. Stories I’ve long forgotten but he hasn’t, I’m quite sure. Some that go back even before my Rumspringa, too.”
“Before? But how? You weren’t able to hang around the station until you were on Rumspringa, right?”
“True. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t intrigued by men in uniform before that . . . And Russ being Russ noticed, of course. He made sure to wave whenever he caught me peeking out at him from the back of Dat’s buggy on the way through town.” Jakob turned his hand inside hers so they could intertwine their fingers and then nudged his chin toward the Amish countryside in the distance. “Some of my fascination was simply because they looked different. I saw English from the back of Dat’s buggy often, but police officers? Not so much. But it wasn’t just about the uniforms and the shiny things hanging off them. It was the way they held themselves, the way they’d get down to eye level with English children we’d pass in town, and the way the English children looked back at them—like they were something special, something to be respected.
I remember this time, when I was no more than six, maybe seven, and we were coming back from a horse auction or something. Dat was driving, of course, and I was sitting in the back of the buggy with Martha. We were heading down Lighted Way, which was nothing like it is today in terms of the number of stores. Anyway, this guy comes running out of a shop. And by running, I mean running. Anyway, a few seconds later, the shopkeeper comes out and starts yelling that this guy stole something from his store. Russ, who must have been sitting by an open window in the station house or something, comes running out, takes no more than a split second to get his bearings, and takes off after this guy. Before Dat’s horse had all four feet on the gravelly part of the road just past what is now Yoder’s Furniture, Russ had this guy on the ground with his hands behind his back.” Jakob slid his gaze back to Claire’s. “I . . . I don’t think I can ever explain just how taken I was with that—how in awe I was of Russ and the entire police profession even though I wasn’t supposed to be in awe of anyone other than God.”
Extricating her fingers from his, she scooted across the swing until they were practically nose to nose. “You actually don’t have to explain a thing, Jakob. It’s written all over your face.”
He laughed and pulled her close. “I can’t wait for you to meet him,” he said against her temple. “You’re going to love him.”
Laura Bradford is the national best selling author of the Amish Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in Lancaster County. The sixth book in the series, Just Plain Murder, will release on November 27th. Laura also penned, Portrait of a Sister, an Amish Women’s fiction novel selected by several national book clubs including Delilah (of radio Delilah). Her next novel, A Daughter’s Truth, will be out in May 2019. For more information: www.laurabradford.com