Authors: Vannetta Chapman
a Shipshewana Amish Mystery
To my mom, Wanda Van Riper
Questions for Group Discussion
—calmness, composure, placidity
Gotte’s wille—God’s will
—running around; time before an Amish young person has officially joined the church, provides a bridge between childhood and adulthood.
was iss letz
in the center of her garden, admiring the chaos of flowers. May rains and warmer days had brought a burst of color. Brilliant orange flowers dotted with butterflies spread across the ground, white false indigo had grown waist-high, and the purplish-pink blossoms of Joe-pye-weed fought for their place in the sun. Unfortunately grass and common weeds had also shot up with extra zeal. Her garden looked almost like a thing abandoned.
She glanced back toward the quilt shop. Paperwork waited for her there. The garden beckoned her here. And where was Max? As if he could read her thoughts, the sixty-pound yellow Labrador bounded past her, practically knocking her on her keister.
“Catch a ground squirrel and I won’t be bandaging your wounds,” she called after him. Of course she would. She loved the dog more than she would have thought possible—she supposed turning seventy-six last March had softened her a bit. Also, she had no family in the area. The Amish community had accepted her, and the Englishers—like herself—were as close as neighbors could be. But Max, well, Max was her constant companion; he protected her, he played with her, he listened to all her problems without judgment, and he loved her unconditionally.
“Wonder where I left that hand rake. I had it last time I fought
these weeds.” Daisy circled left, then right, finally spying the red handles of her tool set by the fence which bordered the alley running behind her shop and little side yard. With a sigh, she hustled back along the brick walk, aware that she was already losing the day’s light. She’d just reached down to pick up the bucket of tools when she saw movement in the alley—a flash of color in the gap between two of the six-foot bayberry shrubs that lined the fence.
Most folks stuck to the main street, and Daisy was curious. Peeking through the evergreens, she glimpsed a man rounding the corner of the deserted alley. She didn’t recognize the editor of their small town newspaper at first. It wasn’t until he’d crept closer and stopped next to the dumpster behind Pots and Pans, a shop that sold old-fashioned kitchenware to tourists, that she was sure it was Stakehorn.
Just as Daisy was about to call out, he opened a Shipshewana shopping bag and peered down into it, as if he wasn’t sure what he’d find. He pulled an item out, studied it in less than the amount of time it would have taken her to sew a whip-stitch, and dropped it back into the bag. Then he examined his hand, as if it had bit him.
“Now that has to be the oddest—”
Before she could complete her thought, Stakehorn turned and darted between Pots and Pans and the new floral shop which had been taken over by Georgia Stearn’s sister. The place didn’t even have a name yet, which Daisy thought was a shame. Every store needed a name, or how would you look it up in the yellow pages?
She reached down and picked up her bucket of garden tools. When she did she felt a tightening in her chest, that uncomfortable pressure she’d been meaning to talk to Doctor Pat about. Could be indigestion. She’d had one of those new microwave sandwiches for lunch and sometimes they didn’t sit well. With one hand she rubbed her chest and with the other she turned toward the flowers, but the sleeve of her blouse caught on the
evergreen. She reached to loosen it, which was when she saw the second person enter the alley.
This person she didn’t know. Must be from the market. He wasn’t from Shipshewana. She’d lived here long enough to know everyone, and a man like that? She would remember if she’d seen him before. He scanned the backs of the buildings as if he couldn’t decide where he was going. As he walked, his attention moved to the ground. Twice he squatted down and touched the dirt. When he stopped outside Pots and Pans, at the same place Stakehorn had stopped, Daisy saw him pull something out of the inside of his jacket.
It took her a moment longer to realize it was a gun.
had never bothered Deborah Yoder.
Discovering old Mrs. Daisy Powell facedown in her garden had been a surprise. Her friend had died there between the butterfly weed and white indigo, had died with the dog she loved so keeping her company. Deborah had found her when she stopped by to deliver a casserole, rushed to her side and knelt there, not even thinking to go for the police, but she hadn’t been upset.
Amish considered death a natural part of the cycle of life, and Daisy Powell had lived life to its fullest.
Deborah focused on the neat row of stitches in front of her, on the slight tug of the needle as she worked it through the layers of the quilt, on the satisfaction of watching the blue, gray, white, and black pieces fit perfectly together.
She focused on the quilt, but her mind went back to the evening she discovered Daisy’s body in the midst of her flower garden.
Three weeks had passed, Daisy’s body had been properly placed in the ground according to English customs, but still Deborah and her
had no answers to their problem.
Of course she noticed when the voices around her grew silent.
She snipped the thread, pocketed her small scissors, worked
the needle through her apron for safekeeping, and looked across the quilt frame at her two best friends.
Melinda and Esther waited expectantly.
They didn’t state the obvious.
They didn’t spoil the moment—this moment she loved when the three of them completed something they’d worked on for weeks.
They didn’t even voice the questions crowding her sitting room and stifling the summer morning.
Suddenly Joshua’s cries pierced the morning, quickly followed by baby Hannah’s wails, and Leah’s holler of “Mamm.”
“Perfect timing,” Deborah declared brightly, standing and surveying their work.
Melinda and Esther didn’t actually argue with her; instead they shook their heads and spoke as if she were deaf, or worse invisible.
“Perfect timing, indeed,” Melinda muttered, standing and pushing up her glasses with one hand; with the other she touched the strings of the
covering her honey-brown hair.
Esther stood as well—posture straight, shoulders back, never attempting to minimize her five-foot-ten height. Her hair was darker, though you’d never guess it looking at her—she kept it perfectly covered by her
Smoothing her dark apron, she looked pointedly from the finished quilt in front of them to the stack in the corner of the room. “Good thing she has four other
in addition to the crying
in the other room, or our pile of finished quilts would reach the ceiling.”
Deborah merely smiled and strolled into the nearest bedroom where their three youngest children had taken up quite the chorus.
Melinda scooped up baby Hannah, planted a kiss on the six-month-old’s neck, and inhaled deeply. “I adore the way she smells.”
Esther crinkled her nose. “If I’m not mistaken, that odor is
a wet diaper.” As she sat on the bed, her two-year-old daughter crawled into her lap, then promptly snuggled into a ball and closed her eyes.
“We’re lucky they’re young and still take such a good morning nap—gives us more time to sew,” Deborah reasoned as she changed Joshua’s diaper. The fourteen-month-old giggled and reached for the strings of her prayer
“Definitely what we need—more time to sew.” The teasing had left Melinda’s voice, and what crept into its place sounded like a note of despair.
Deborah lifted Joshua out of the crib, and turned to Melinda and Esther. “Why don’t we have some tea and talk about this? Surely we can find a solution.”
Esther smiled as she led Leah to the bathroom across the hall. “You’re good with solutions, Deborah. But even you can’t sell quilts in a shop that’s closed.”
“I had so hoped this would solve our problems.” Melinda stared out the window. She didn’t speak again for a few moments. When she did, her voice took on a wistfulness like the sound of the June breeze in the trees coming through the open windows. “It seemed like such a good idea when we began, but now everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. And we haven’t earned a dime.”
Deborah’s gaze locked with Esther’s as she walked back into the room.
When they’d first started their venture, she’d assumed it would be Esther who would need the income the most. After all, it was Esther who had lost Seth in the accident. Esther who was trying to raise her
Oh, she had the church to help her, and her family pitched in as well. Even as they sewed, Esther’s
were at her place tending to the fields. Still Deborah had assumed Esther would need the added income more than any of them.
Yes, when she’d first had the idea to sell their quilts in the store on Main Street, it was with Esther’s needs as her primary concern. By the time they’d approached Daisy though, Melinda had finally confided with her about her middle
Aaron’s situation was more serious than Deborah had imagined.
She should have known, but then she’d never seen the disease before.
Deborah had known the boy was sick, known how important it was for them all to pray for him, and even known about Doctor Richard’s visits. The boy had seemed so improved though.
In reality, the situation was precarious health wise. Financially it was quite dire.
Of course they helped one another whenever anyone had health costs, since it went against their teachings to participate in health insurance programs. Instead they pooled their resources and helped pay for one another’s expenses. But the toll on Melinda’s family would go far beyond merely what the medical costs totaled, and the extent of what Melinda had shared had been shocking.
Although Deborah believed things would work out for the best, although her faith remained strong, it took only one look at her friend’s face today to see that she remained worried.
She’d been right to go to Bishop Elam about offering the quilts in the English store.
“We’ll find a way to sell the quilts,” Deborah assured her.
“It’s been nearly a month since Ms. Powell passed, Deborah.” Esther sat on the side of the bed, allowed Leah to crawl back into her lap. “Daisy’s Quilt Shop has been closed all this time, and it doesn’t look as if it’s going to reopen.”
“We can’t very well sell our quilts in a store that is closed.” Melinda attempted a smile and pushed up on her glasses.
Even from across the room, Deborah could see the tears shining in her eyes. Though she turned away and pretended to focus
on changing Hannah’s diaper, Deborah could feel the depth of her anguish.
Which is why she told them what she knew.
“I didn’t want to mention what Jonas said to me last night, until I had been to town.” She laughed uneasily as Joshua reached for her nose, then satisfied himself with chewing on the toy she snatched out of the cubby near his crib and handed to him.
“Tell us what?” Esther asked.
“What did Jonas say?” Melinda turned toward her as she bundled up the wet cloth diaper and placed it in her diaper bag.
Both women faced her now, holding their
and Deborah was struck with the thought that families and friendships were like quilts—each person intricately connected to the other.
“Jonas said someone has moved into the apartment above Daisy’s Quilt Shop—a woman, and I’m going to see her this afternoon.”
“And you didn’t tell us this earlier?” Esther’s voice rose in irritation.
“Maybe she didn’t want to get our hopes up.”
“But we’re in this equally.”
“Esther’s right. I should have mentioned it when you first arrived.”
“Is this woman opening the store up again?” Melinda asked.
Esther scooted closer on the bed. “Is she here to stay?”
“He didn’t have any other information. We need to find out though. We deserve to know.”
Esther nodded. Pulling in her bottom lip she glanced down quickly, suddenly completely engrossed in running her fingers over the hem of Leah’s dress.
Deborah realized with a jolt that while her own life had moved forward since Seth’s passing, perhaps Esther’s hadn’t. She had lost a good friend, but Esther had lost the man she loved.
Esther always seemed like the strong one, seemed to take
everything in stride; but then at moments like this one, melancholy practically poured from her.
The accident causing his death had happened just over one year ago, and it wasn’t the Amish way to linger over such things. Still Deborah knew her
was struggling, could see the sadness written on her face, hear it in her voice.
Together she and Melinda moved toward Esther, each sitting beside her on the small bed.
Deborah gazed out the window and could just make out Jonas in the far field, working with the plow and the large horses. He was such a good man, a good husband to her and a kind
to their children. The three of them stayed that way—Deborah, Esther, and Melinda, each holding their
For a few minutes, they remained there, in the morning sunshine, the breeze occasionally stirring through the window. It was enough that they were together and there for each other. They’d find a way to sell the quilts.
Callie Harper pulled the quilt over her head and focused with all her mental powers.
Surely she could go back to sleep. How hard was it? She wanted to go back to sleep. She needed to go back to sleep. She had no reason not to go back to sleep.
The whining lump taking up the entire bottom half of the bed inched forward.
Callie ignored it, focusing instead on sheep in a pasture, jumping lazily over a fence.
The lump whimpered.
Callie peeked out from under the pillow she was using to block the bright sun.
She must not have put enough energy into the scolding.
At the sound of his name, the yellow Labrador launched himself at her, licking what portions of her face he could find.
“Bad dog. Stop! Bad, bad dog.”
Callie burrowed deeper under the covers, and Max retreated to the end of the bed, tail thumping hard and a whine sounding in his throat. Unable to ignore her guilt or forget that the glimpse at her bedside clock had revealed it was well past noon, Callie threw back her covers and stared at the sixty-pound, golden dog.
“I’m not a good pet owner,” she explained.
Instead of answering, Max crept closer—though much more slowly and infinitely more carefully this time. He didn’t stop until he was mere inches away, giant brown eyes staring into hers.
“What am I going to do, boy?”
A single bark was his only answer.
“Right. Well, I suppose that makes sense.”
Rolling out of bed, Callie grabbed her robe, made a quick stop by the bathroom, then clipped the nearly new leash she’d found in the hall closet to Max’s collar. Though she wasn’t sure if there were leash laws in Shipshewana, she’d been trained well in the better suburbs of Houston.
Max practically pulled her down the stairs, out into the bright sunlight, and across the small parking area that served her aunt’s quilting store. Callie walked past the empty spaces—distressingly vacant, reminding her again that she had no car. She continued through the gate and into the side yard that resembled an overgrown forest.
She supposed she’d have to find a way to mow it.
Who was she kidding? A mower wouldn’t cut through this grass. She’d have to find a machete.
After she’d securely fastened the gate behind her, she unclipped Max, then trudged through the tall grass to what must have once been a sitting area. Sighing in relief, she sank into the Adirondack chair under the tall shade tree.
Maybe if she sat there long enough she’d think of some answers. It had been nearly a week, and still she had no idea what she needed to do next. Truth was, she couldn’t make a real guess as to what day it was without booting up her computer or turning on her phone.
Which was when she remembered she’d lost her phone. Maybe she should have ordered a new one when she’d realized it was missing, but it had seemed so pointless. No one would be calling her anyway. What friends she’d had in Houston had slowly distanced themselves since Rick’s death three years ago. That wasn’t really fair. Perhaps she’d been the one to choose distance. Immersing herself in her work had been easier than pretending to be comfortable among her friends, people she suddenly found she had nothing in common with. Now she didn’t even have her work. The final argument with her boss had been her last one. No, she wouldn’t be needing a phone anytime soon—which was good, because her aunt’s service had apparently been disconnected some time ago. She was lucky the electricity had been automatically paid each month from her checking account.
From the looks of things, Max was nearly done with his business though.
They could go back upstairs.
Take a nap.
No doubt life would make more sense to her later in the afternoon, after a few more hours sleep.
The Labrador made a final lap around the yard, then skidded to a stop at her feet, head tipped to the side, ears alert, eyes expecting answers—or at least breakfast.
“Let’s find you some food.” Callie leaned forward, clipped the leash back on his collar, and was headed out of the gate when she remembered that she had no dog food. She’d used the last of it the evening before.
A sinking feeling came over her as she realized the full measure of her predicament.
She couldn’t actually let Max starve. She’d have to shower, dress, and then venture out on foot to the grocery store. She had seen a grocery store when the cab had dropped her off last week. Hadn’t she? Was it close enough to walk to?
Then Callie remembered seeing a chicken dinner in the freezer. Dogs could eat chicken. Maybe she’d warm up the dinner and go to the store later.
Relieved to have found a way out of going out into public, she started toward the opened door, then paused to push the pile of newspapers out of the way.