Read Off the Grid (Amish Safe House, Book 1) Online

Authors: Ruth Hartzler

Tags: #christian romance, #amish, #amish romance, #amish fiction, #amish denomination, #amish fiction romance, #christian romance suspense

Off the Grid (Amish Safe House, Book 1) (8 page)

BOOK: Off the Grid (Amish Safe House, Book 1)

“I just wanted to check whether if you found
out anything new about the case,” she said, keeping her voice as
calm and ladylike as she could muster. She really needed to study
how the Amish people functioned more closely. Surely she didn't
need to act like she was from the Victorian era to keep from
drawing attention to herself.

Ryan Weaver stared at her for a moment,
making her heart thump wildly. Why was she so attracted to this
man? Weaver’s hesitation got to her. Despite her attempts to be a
proper, demure lady, she found herself staring up at him.

“The case is ongoing,” he finally said.
“Don't worry, Ms. Lambright. We'll pass on anything we find to your
authorities,” he said in a measured voice.

Her authorities?
Oh, he means the
, she realized after a moment.

“I hope you’ve been okay since finding Mr.
Byler like that. It must have been such a shock.” His tone was
gentle and considerate.

Kate nodded. “Do you have any suspects?
Anyone matching the description of the man I saw?”

Ryan fixed her with a steely gaze. “Ms.
Lambright, please don’t concern yourself with such matters. The
suspect is still at large, and he may think you’re able to identify
him. It’s best you keep a low profile until all this is over.” He
inclined his head dismissively, giving a small wave of his hand to
gesture toward the lingering people in the crowd. “If we have any
further questions, we'll let you know.”

Kate narrowed her eyes at him. She missed
her badge, and her cell phone with contacts to fix situations like
these. If she wasn't supposed to be a civilian, she would show him
what questions looked like. She forced herself to smile, trying to
radiate goodwill. “That is wonderful to hear. Thank you,” she
managed to say through gritted teeth.

He nodded as she turned to leave. She tried
not to notice Beth’s quiet disapproval from where she stood by her
husband. Apparently wandering off to talk to strange men was
frowned upon in this community. She could appreciate their world,
but she was missing the streets back home more and more every day.
She knew how to solve problems with her tech and her network. Not
so much in this culture. She felt helpless and awkward and out of
place. It was not a good feeling.

As she made her way back to the group, she
stole a glance back at Weaver. To her surprise, he wasn't studying
the area. He was watching her. And there was something entirely
non-official about the way he was studying her.

Kate felt her face burn. Could he feel the
same way about her that she felt about him?
Don’t be silly,
Kate; you don’t even know him
, she silently scolded herself.
She made herself walk stiffly back to the buggy, forcing herself
not to look back at him.



Psalm 28: 7.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him
my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song
I give thanks to him.



As they were leaving the cemetery, Beth
explained that Mr. Byler did not have any
to host
the funeral meal, so everyone was meeting at the Schlabachs’

There was yet another polite offer to take
her home, if the day had tired her. In normal circumstances she
might have been tempted to play the sick card. She’d had her fill
of traditional socializing for one day. What’s more, she had a
booming headache developing from meeting with Officer Weaver. Her
temples were pounding, and she hoped that the Schlabachs would have
a home headache remedy on hand.

Kate wondered what in fact was being done
about the murder. Of course, the police were hardly likely to keep
her informed of their progress. She missed her world. She doubly
missed her badge. It was hard to believe how different a crime
investigation was without it. Once again, Kate thought that she had
never been on the civilian end of a crime before, and she most
certainly did not like it.

Still, Kate was not the sort to walk away
from an open case. Despite the convenient escape offered to her,
she insisted on seeing the event through the end. Kate figured that
Beth had disapproved of her wandering off to talk to the police
right after the funeral. Her boss had warned her that the community
was strict about their isolation from the modern world, which, of
course, was part of its appeal in hiding her in plain sight.

When Kate, Beth, Rose, and Isaac arrived at
the Schlabachs’
, Kate knew, of course, that the place
would be devoid of technology. And four kids - was that what Beth
said? How did they keep sane without television, Nintendo, and
iPads to distract them from tearing up the house? Kate’s elderly
friend, Helen, had two grandchildren who were constantly fighting
and getting into mischief. Kate had managed to dodge a weekend or
two of babysitting the pair. She could not imagine having four
children to keep up with.

The door opened to reveal a woman who looked
to be in her late twenties. She wore the same simple dress and
over-apron that Kate had grown accustomed to seeing. Wisps of red
hair peeked out from under her bonnet, and her cheeks were
decorated with a pretty splash of freckles.

“Good afternoon, Esther.” Beth smiled at the
other woman.

“Beth, it's so good to see you.” The young
woman smiled over the older woman's shoulder at Isaac. “Good
afternoon to you too, Isaac. How is your leg doing?”

“I can't complain. It gets sore in the cold
still, but
saw fit to let me keep using it a while
longer,” Isaac answered.

The young lady smiled, and her eyes trailed
over to Kate.

“Esther,” Beth said. “This is Katie, the
young lady recovering from an accident.”

, Katie. I
apologize that I haven't been down to greet you yet. I thought you
might want to rest a while before you took company. How are you
getting along so far?”

Kate was a little taken aback by the
familiarity. She nodded in greeting. “It's nice to meet you,
Esther. I’m getting along fine,
. I'm just taking it a
day at a time.” Kate smiled to herself at her use of the
Pennsylvania Dutch word.

“That's about all we can do, isn't it?”
Esther was warm and friendly. It was a stark contrast to how Kate
had initially imagined that the community would be.

After a moment of small talk, Esther
escorted them inside. She was so busy helping others, that it was
hard to believe that she was a mother of four. Many people from the
funeral were already there, all chattering among themselves. A
table in the back was laden with pots and pans. The smell of
roasted chicken, fresh bread, and other foods made Kate's stomach
rumble. She watched as Beth gave a basket of shoo-fly pies and the
apple bread she made early that morning to Esther. She felt a small
wave of remorse for not having anything to offer herself. She had,
however, helped Beth make the funeral pie, a delicious concoction
the ingredients of which included cinnamon, raisins, spices, and
brown sugar.

Kate was overwhelmed by greetings and
introductions, and was dragged from one person to the next by her
over-eager hostess. This man raised cattle on the hill over yonder;
this woman ran the knitting circle. She quickly lost track of who
was the school teacher, who were the ministers, and who chopped
wood for the elderly every winter.

Despite her withdrawals from WiFi and cable,
Kate could not help but admire the way everyone seemed to band
together. She was given at least a dozen offers to ask for help
anytime. What’s more, people were catching up about their lives and
checking on each other to see if any help was needed. One lady
offered to give a ride to another lady to town that week. There was
a woman telling a pregnant lady how she was half done with a baby
blanket for her. Another woman was talking to two boys on a bench.
Based on their bright red hair, Kate assumed they were two of
Esther's boys. Kate was amazed at how well behaved the children

Kate had to admit the scene was unlike
anything she had ever seen. No one was off in a corner with their
head drooped over a phone. To the contrary, everyone was talking
and happily interacting, one with another. To top it off, the
children were quiet and spoke politely to the adults at all

Mir gleiche die Amische brieder

Kate looked at the speaker, startled. She’d
been so lost in thought that she hadn’t seen him approach. “Sorry?”
Was his name Jacob? Or John? Perhaps Jeremiah? The names were all
blurring together. It would easily take her a year to memorize
everything she had been told. And what on earth had he said?

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the young man said. “I just
said that we all enjoy visiting our Amish brethren. I forgot that
we were all told to speak only
around you until you
get your memory back. I hear you had a bit of an accident.”

“Yes.” Kate hoped he would not pursue the
matter. While she knew the story by heart, she was not eager to
have too many opportunities to mess up the retelling. She knew that
one could never tell what detail or inconsistency a listener would
latch onto. She was acutely aware of such matters, given her job in
witness security.

“Must have been rough,” he persisted,
studying her with open curiosity. Kate guessed he was in his late
teens or early twenties. “What’s your community like?”

Thankfully, Kate was rescued by an older
woman who gave the young man's arm a light pinch and a scolding
glare. “Now don't go bothering her about that today. There will be
plenty of time when she's rested up.”

“The poor girl has had her share of trials,”
another woman chimed in, “and a good scare the other day.”

is certainly watching over
you,” Esther said, as Kate found herself surrounded by a handful of
reinforcements. Nevertheless, the women looked just as curious as
the young man, but they were clearly too polite to press her for
information just yet.

“Do you need anything at all?” the older
woman asked.

“No, no, I'm all right,” Kate said quickly,
and then added, “
.” She did not want to be fussed over.
Before she could plot a quick escape, she suddenly realized that
she couldn't ask for a better opening. “It’s a shame about Mr.

She paused as the women nodded their
agreement and muttered among themselves.

“You never got a chance to meet him, did
you?” Esther asked.

“No, that day was supposed to be my first
time meeting with him. I was just supposed to deliver some whoopie
pies for Beth.” Her response was met with a couple sympathetic
gasps. “What was he like?”

“Oh, he was
.” Esther said.
“Such a lovely

“Was there anyone who might have wanted to
cause him harm?” Kate asked, trying to keep her tone light.

Her question was met with confusion. The
women looked at each other. “
, of course not,” one of
them said. “Who would want to harm Mr. Byler?”

“He’s gone home to be with
Esther said. “His
had already gone home, so she’ll be
waiting for him there.”

To Kate’s surprise, Esther’s comments were
met with nods and approving expressions. They were talking as if
Mr. Byler had simply had gone away to another state or moved out to
the Bahamas.

Kate couldn’t help but think of her parents.
Were they with God? Were they waiting for her? She had never
thought of it like that; she had only ever acknowledged the simple
fact that they were gone. Yet these people seemed so absolutely
sure that there was a life beyond this earthly life.

“Do you think the police will catch the
man?” she persisted.

“Katie’s fretted about it for days,” Beth
explained to the others in a patient, sympathetic tone. “She's
rightly shaken up about it.”

“I imagine so. Poor thing. You came here to
rest up, and got mixed into such a terrifying situation.” One of
the ladies reached over and patted her hand. “Don't you worry,
though. You are quite safe. Whatever happens is the will of

“Maybe you should speak to the bishop about
your fears,” one of the ladies suggested. The others brightened at
the idea. In fact, it very quickly turned from a suggestion to a
mandate, as Beth promised to have her husband take Kate to the
bishop the following day.

“He’s a compassionate and patient
,” the same lady said. “He’ll be best at dealing with
your delicate condition and shaken nerves.”

It took every shred of willpower Kate had to
not throw her hands up in exasperation. She wasn't worried about
condition, and her
were just
fine. She just wanted to figure out why someone would slip into
Amish territory to kill a man who didn't even like to interact with
the outside world. Was that really too much to ask?

Kate took a deep breath and thanked the
ladies for their concern, and after assurances that she would talk
to the bishop, the topic swapped once again to daily chatter.

Kate slipped outside to get some air. She
had never realized just how suffocating a crowd of people could be.
Crowds were routine at a crime scene and the busy streets, and it
wasn't like she was a recluse. However, she had never had
experienced so many strangers who were so deeply interested in her
own well being.

Kate took in a couple of deep breaths and
mulled over the idea of simply walking back to the house. She was
puzzled by the fact that the people were so accepting of a loss
like this.

She leaned against the wall and looked up at
the late afternoon sky. Around the corner, she could hear some men
talking to each other.

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