After a murder case threatens her safety, attorney Brooke
Benton seeks sanctuary in the quiet Amish community of
Maplecreek. Although the locals disagree with her
cosmopolitan ways, she soon manages to find a place in their
lives. But when a tragic hit-and-run accident turns fatal,
Brooke cannot abide by the community's belief in absolute
forgiveness. She wants answers.
Daniel Brand left his
childhood home to explore the outside world years ago. Now
he has returned to his Amish roots, and worldly Brooke
Benton does not fit into his plans. But when his niece dies,
he slowly agrees that they must bring to justice the driver
who killed her—especially when a silent presence continues
to threaten the community. Together Brooke and Daniel begin
a journey along a dark road, hoping to bring peace to the
small community…and maybe lead their hearts home.
May 9, 1993 Maplecreek, Ohio
Some said you can't go
home again, but Daniel Brand was bound to do just that. He
pulled the U-Haul behind the house, where no one would spot
him from the road. Starlight grayed the black of early night
when he turned out the headlights and killed the engine. He
sat for one moment, gripping the steering wheel. His stomach
knotted at all there was to face and do here. Starting right
He climbed down, stiff and sore from the long
drive, waging war with himself for calm, even for courage.
His new house, like his new life, was an old one, but he'd
make it right, make everything right from cellar to roof,
inside and out. He was taking his life's biggest step
forward by taking many steps back.
He unlatched the
back doors of the truck and yanked them open. From the dark
cavern loaded with his meager possessions, piles of wood,
and handmade furniture, he dragged out his toolbox and
flopped it open on the grass. He strapped on his leather
tool belt, jammed wire cutters, screwdriver, metal snips, a
claw hammer, and needle-nose pliers in the pockets. Pulling
on leather work gloves, he grabbed a saw.
his tall stepladder out, hefted it next to the back porch,
and jerked it open. With his flashlight wedged in his belt,
he climbed to the porch roof, then to the steeper shingled
roof of the house. He hunkered down next to the tall
television antenna and began to work.
In five minutes
he had cut the antenna loose. He shoved it over the side. It
crashed two stories down, shuddered, and lay
Next, he dug at the nails and metal bands
securing the two old lightning rods, but did not toss them
over. They would fetch a good price as antiques at the
Saturday morning auction in Pleasant.
He gazed at the
plain, clean roofline with relief, for it would publicly
declare his commitment to all who rode by. Sweating in the
cool breeze, Daniel thrust aloft the rods like trophies of
his victory. He had conquered himself; he had come
Slowly, he lowered the rods to his knees and
gazed down from his precarious perch. The dark bulk of the
U-Haul waiting to be unloaded was his last link to his
previous life. He had snapped the radio off once he crossed
the state line from Indiana, right in the middle of that
bouncy-beat chorus he loved in "Achy Breaky Heart." He
didn't mind giving up country music for good, he tried to
convince himself. After he turned the truck in tomorrow,
he'd never drive again, either.
The only lights he
could see were from Verna Sprigg's Sewing Circle Shop and
its second-story living quarters across the field. Two large
farms, his own family's and his sister Emma's in-laws', lay
beyond his lot line, but kerosene lanterns could never be
spotted from here. No traffic on the road, nothing but star
speckles overhead until he watched the full moon, big as a
ripe peach, roll over the hilly horizon. It was a stunning
sight, but he had things to do.
The knot in his
stomach yanked tight again as he scooted crab-like from the
roof, to the porch, and descended the ladder. He laid the
lightning rods in the grass. Under the clay pot where Emma
said it would be, he found the key. He unlocked the creaky
back door and went in. The interior smelled of vinegar,
lemon, and soap; Emma had written that she and her girls
would have it spick-and-span for him.
He turned on no
lights and never would here—not the electric, anyway.
Tomorrow he would disconnect it and have the wires pulled
soon, the ones for the telephone, too, for he hoped to bring
a good, Plain woman here, one he could trust and, hopefully,
In the empty living room, the thick
soles of his work boots sank into what Emma had described as
fairly new wall-to-wall carpet, thick and green as grass,
you won't believe it, Dan. He flicked off the f lashlight
and stood silent. But even in the dark, he saw pairs of
white, fancy, ruff led draperies at each window like
graceful ghosts bowing to a partner for a dance. He yanked
them all down and hurled them in a corner.
burned Brooke Benton's eyes as she listened to her niece
Jennifer's closing to her bedtime prayer to "please tell my
mommy I still love her. Especially because it's Mother's
Day. And good night, God. Amen."
Brooke bent down to
kiss the child's forehead. "You know," Brooke said, "God has
a very good memory, so maybe you don't need to remind Him of
that every night, because then both of us just start
"Yes, but she used to forget things
sometimes. When she was sick, I had to tell her some stuff
again and again. So I'm asking Him to remind her,"
Jennifer insisted in her seven-year-old's logic that often
"Come on now. It's hit the hay time, as
Mrs. Spriggs says," Brooke urged, plumping up her pillow and
trying to make her voice light. "That Monday-morning school
bus will be here bright and early, Jen."
Daddy would be mad at me for going to bed late, don't you
Brooke sank back on the edge of the
four-poster bed and gently stroked Jennifer's hair. "No, I'm
sure he'd understand that we were just having fun. I told
you he's not mad at you for anything."
petite, blue-eyed blonde looked away to arrange her two
dolls, leaned against the other pillow. They were totally
mismatched: the small, molded plastic, adolescent Skipper
doll had been Jennifer's mother Melanie's years ago; the
soft, faceless Amish baby doll, named Nettie, was a recent
gift from her friend Susie.
"I know," Jennifer said,
her voice shaky with exhaustion and emotion, "that Daddy's
not mad at me because Mommy died. That wasn't anyone's fault
"That's right" was all Brooke could
manage, but even then her voice broke. She still stroked
Jennifer's hair; the child sighed and turned onto her side
to cuddle into her deep down pillow. After tucking the sheet
and quilt around Jennifer's thin shoulders, Brooke rubbed
her niece's back, went out, and snapped off the light. A
floorboard creaked loudly, but it would take a bomb to wake
Jennifer once she fell asleep in this pretty haven of her
The bed, pillow, quilt, the rag rugs on the
floor—Brooke thought again how this old but vibrant house
and store below were just like their owner, Verna Spriggs.
Brooke missed her, but it had been her suggestion that Verna
seize the chance for a long visit to her son's family in
Maine. And immersing herself in Verna's duties made her feel
useful as well as safe and sane again.
downstairs to the big quilting room where she and Jennifer
had been practicing line dancing with a videotape called
Country Dance Time. Learning the Elvira and the Tush
Push to the lilting, rhythmic tunes was one of many shared
activities that bound them closer. Tonight Jennifer had
gotten so into it, she seemed to temporarily forget her
Brooke pulled the quilted cover off the
TV again—for when it was not in use, they kept it draped in
deference to the Amish who came here—and rewound the tape to
lesson one, the grapevine step. With the sound turned low,
in her jeans, T-shirt, and beat-up boots, she did the
grapevine around the room—step, behind, step, kick—while she
straightened the quilts for sale on their circular revolving
racks, retacked price cards for pieced wall hangings and
table runners on the peg-board display, and aligned booklets
and supply boxes on shelves. Monday morning would come too
soon for her, too.
The two group quilts in progress—a
Courthouse Steps and a Drunkard's Path—stretched on their
separate rectangular frames needed no tending, for the Amish
women who stitched them always left things immaculately
ordered. Her only real Amish friend so far, Emma Kurtz, who
oversaw things, made certain of that.
noticed some scraps under one quilt where Emma's youngest,
Susie, and Jennifer had been playing house on Saturday. She
crawled under to pick those up. The vacuum didn't reach
clear under here, anyway.
She jumped when she heard a
knock—and on the back door at this hour. Her heart thudding,
she scrambled out from under the quilt, then calmed herself
as she snapped on the kitchen light and walked to the back
door. This was not the city, she scolded herself, and he—or
them—couldn't possibly find her here. It was probably just
an Amish person wanting to use the phone.
out through the window and smiled in relief. Emma's eldest
child, Katie, age eighteen, who came with her to quilt if
she was not tending the house or her siblings, stood there
with three others. Holding Katie's hand until the door
opened was Gideon Stoltz, Maplecreek's blacksmith's son,
whom Brooke knew Katie had been dating. Behind them stood
two other young people about Katie's age whom Brooke did not
"Your lights, we saw them still on," Katie said.
"Stop by with Gid anytime for an ice-cream bar, you
"Häagen-Dazs. Yes, please, all
of you, come in."
"This is Cora Troyer, my best
run-around friend, and this is her come-calling friend, Ezra
Yoder," Katie told her, blushing ever so slightly under the
freckles speckling her cheeks and pert nose.
removed their black shawls and bonnets, leaving their white
starched kapps covering the back of their heads. All
Amish women wore their uncut tresses parted in the center
and swept straight back in a hidden knot. Katie's green eyes
looked huge behind her wire-framed glasses, especially
because her dress was emerald green. How much she looked
like Emma, even the glasses, Brooke thought, warmed by the
fact these four had come to visit. It showed her acceptance
in the community was growing, even without Verna, whom the
Maplecreek Amish had known and trusted for years.
boys did not remove their straw hats, nor do more than nod.
No pleased to meet you's, and Brooke knew to expect
no thank you's or even a good-bye. For such
polite pleasantries were deemed "fancy"
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