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First pages

Chapter 1

A heavy thud woke me, and my eyes popped open to the feeble light of a January dawn. A second impact followed, then a third as the front door gave way and slammed into the wall. I felt Randy slip from my arms and roll out of bed. A sudden chill replaced his warmth.

“Someone’s in the house,” he said. “Call 9-1-1.”

Randy grabbed a gun from the night stand and crossed the room in a few quick strides, plucking his jeans from a wooden chair as he passed. He didn’t stop to put them on. I fumbled with the phone and pressed the buttons.

More sounds came from the front of the house and grew louder—boots on the hardwood floor. Randy eased into the hall and shut the door silently behind him.

“Jessamine 9-1-1. What is your emergency?”

“Send the police! Men broke down our door. They’re in the house.” I kept my voice low and held the phone with both hands to stop its shaking.

“Where are you calling from, ma’am?” The operator’s voice routinely calm as she requested the information my cell phone failed to provide.

“Maggie Linden, 126 Blackhorse Trail. Please, I need help. My boyfriend went to stop them.”

A pause. “I’m dispatching the Sheriff’s Department. Where . . .”

Rapid gunfire erupted from the hallway. Bullets punched holes in the door spraying shattered pieces of white-painted wood. Puffs of Sheetrock flew from the wall beside me as the bullets smacked in.

I dove to the floor and scrambled to the closet, escaping the line of fire. I raised the window on the back wall and pushed out the screen, then stopped with my foot on the sill. Outside was wide-open lawn in all directions. What if more men waited there? I stood frozen, unable to decide.

Seconds passed and the shooting stopped. My breathing slowed from frantic to merely fast, and my thoughts returned to Randy. I closed the window and listened. An unfamiliar voice shouted, then hard-soled shoes sounded from the hallway—not running but moving away—followed by the whish-bang of the storm door, then nothing. A barely audible voice from the cell phone broke the stillness. I ignored it and focused instead on the .22 rifle that leaned against the wall amid a jumble of Randy’s shoes. I picked it up and released the safety, then moved silently to the hallway door.

“Randy.” I whispered it sharply, then tried again, louder.

No answer. No further sounds of movement. I took a deep breath and cracked open the door. The smell of gunpowder drifted in, heavy and familiar. But no one shot at me.

I swung the door wider and slid through. Low light passed from our bedroom into the hallway. More light spilled through the open bathroom door ahead, exposing the dark shape of a man slumped just inside. I flipped on the nightlight. Randy sat on the floor, his back to the wall. Blood covered his chest and pooled on the tiled floor between his legs.

I stared for half a second then pulled a towel from the rack and held it against his wound. Randy’s hand crawled up to touch mine. I held it and fought back tears. I pushed harder on the towel, managing to slow his bleeding but not to stop it.

“They’re still here. Get back to the bedroom. Take the gun.” His words came out in a raspy whisper.

“It’ll be okay,” I said. “The police are on the way.”

The storm door creaked open as I spoke, then slammed shut. Randy’s eyes widened, but he didn’t move. He couldn’t. If we were going to survive, it was now up to me to confront whoever had come in. It was not a role I welcomed.

I let go of Randy’s hand and crept down the hall, clutching the rifle. I stopped at the corner with the front hallway. All was quiet, but I knew the intruder was there, and he had to leave if Randy was to get the help I couldn’t give him. I looked back. Randy’s head shifted slightly. His lips moved. I blew him a kiss and turned away, hoping our time together wouldn’t end when I stepped around the corner.

I hesitated a few more seconds, scared, then took a deep breath and shoved the rifle around the corner. I pulled the trigger as I launched myself into the front hall.

No one was there. I resumed breathing and stared down the passage. An aerial photo of the house lay on the floor, its frame shattered. Dark splotches discolored the beige-painted walls, and a trail of blood led to the open front door. I followed.

Straight ahead, a man lay sprawled on the sidewalk, an assault rifle at arm’s length. A figure crouching beside him rose and cut to the right. He fired a handgun as he ran, and the storm door shattered. I leaped back against the wall, then recovered my nerve and charged forward through the empty door frame. Running man reached the blue spruce near the road. He glanced my way, and we locked eyes for the briefest instant as he slipped behind the tree.

I chased after him, down the steps, veering left past the man on my walk. I reached the road as the man jumped into a car waiting open-doored at the curb. It pulled away before the door shut and accelerated for all it had. I fired and kept firing. The back glass spiderwebbed. A side window burst. But the car roared on and around the corner, the driver showing his disdain for my marksmanship.

I turned back to the house and the man on my walk. If he had moved, I would have shot him dead. He hadn’t, and looking into his empty eyes I did not believe he would move again. I left him there and raced to Randy.

 He hadn’t moved either. I dropped to the floor and held him, talked to him, and when his labored breathing stopped, I blew my breath into him. His lungs accepted my offering like a torn paper sack, but I continued out of stubbornness and desperation, shaking him, pushing his chest, and willing him to live.

Minutes passed. A voice shouted “Sheriff’s Department” from the front of the house. Between breaths, I yelled for help and screamed it again as I heard the man’s careful progress. He turned the corner, gun drawn, and stopped. I watched his eyes take in the scene—Randy and I on the floor, pistol and rifle beside us, blood on both of us, the floor, and the wall. He took a few cautious strides and kicked away our weapons. His gun remained out; his darting eyes telegraphed his uncertainty. I blew air into Randy’s lungs.

“Ambulance is on the way, ma’am.” He stared at Randy and at my blood-soaked nightshirt. “Do you know who shot you?”

“Randy’s dying, please help him.” My voice pleaded in an unfamiliar tone. My eyes fixed on his.

The deputy bent over Randy. I gave him room as he listened, felt, and tried CPR. “Do you know who did this?” he repeated.

“The man outside was one of them. The others left.” I held Randy’s hand and squeezed it; the only help I could offer. “Can’t they get here faster?”

“Very soon ma’am. Is anyone else in the house? Guests? Children?”

“Just the two of us.”

 The deputy stayed with me and Randy until the EMTs arrived. They tried paddles and injections, then rolled him to a van. By then, many more officers had appeared—seemingly, the entire Sheriff’s Department and some from the city. I tried to go with Randy, but I was badly outnumbered.

* * *

Deputy Mackey took charge and led me to the living room, away from where the other police were working. He was in his forties and had hard, black eyes that didn’t speak to me as eyes usually did. I took a seat on the leather sofa. Mackey sat in the matching chair to my left. He verified my name, and that I’d been the one who called 9-1-1. He introduced another deputy, but I was beyond taking note of his name.

“Okay, Maggie. I need to ask you a few questions. Are you up to it?”

I nodded, understanding the need to talk to him. A man was dead. I was the only one who’d seen what happened. If I didn’t give them the information they needed, they couldn’t catch the men who attacked us. I did not want those men coming back.

“Who is the man who was shot in the bathroom?”

“Randy Gannett.” Mackey hadn’t used the word killed. His word choice offered scant hope, but I held on to what I had.

“Does he live here?”

“Yes.”

“The man outside. Do you know him?”

“No.”

“You’re sure of that?”

“I’ve never seen him before.”

Mackey glanced around the room. His gaze stopped on the fireplace and two pictures on the mantel: Me and Randy’s sister.

“Does anyone else live here?”

“No. Just Randy and me.”

“Is he your—”

“Boyfriend,” I said. Randy was sixteen years older, and Mackey wouldn’t have been the first to ask an embarrassing question.

“Is this his house?”

I nodded and tucked my feet under me. I rubbed my arms and my legs and shivered uncontrollably. The second officer fetched a blanket; it wasn’t enough to warm me.

“Can you tell me what happened from the moment the men got here?”

“Will you please call the hospital?”

Mackey asked an officer to check on Randy’s status. While I waited for word, I told Mackey what I knew, starting with bed and Randy. He scratched notes without interruption. When I finished, he resumed the questions.

“Did you recognize any of the men who came here?”

I had only the quickest peek at the man who got away, but when I closed my eyes, I could visualize his face plainly enough.

“I don’t know the two I saw. I didn’t get a look at the driver. If you have a name for the man who was shot, I might have heard it.”

“Not yet,” Mackey said. “I’ll get you one as soon as I can. What does Mr. Gannett do for work?”

I thought maybe he knew more than he said and tried again to read his eyes. I trusted eyes and didn’t like it that his remained stone silent, his intentions hidden.

“Randy owns the Pizza Romano and the store next door.”

“At Bellerive?” That was a shopping center practically around the corner.

“Yes.”

“Does he keep cash in the house?”

“We sometimes bring money home overnight. We didn’t last night.”

“You work for him?”

I untangled my feet, walked to the fireplace, and turned on the gas log. I adjusted the flame and opened the flue slightly before turning back to Mackey. It was Randy’s house, but I lived there. They were his stores, but I was not strictly his employee. We were partners after a fashion, and I felt as comfortable at work as I did in the house.

“We work together, too.” I continued with the we, hoping he’d catch on.

Mackey shifted in his chair. “Does Mr. Gannett use drugs?”

“No.” I said it firmly enough to show a little indignation. “We don’t know those men.”

“You told the other officer the men left in a gray Taurus. You’re sure of that?”

“Yes. It was an older model, not the one they sell now.”

“Have you seen that car before? Maybe around work or in the neighborhood?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t remember it.”

The heat from the fireplace warmed my legs at first and felt good. In no time, though, it overpowered me and drove me away. I returned to the couch and tucked myself back under the blanket.

“You said you had the .22 rifle. And that you fired at the car.”

“It was in the bedroom closet. I fired it in the hall, then I chased after the men and shot at the car.”

“We recovered eight shell casings from that weapon out front. Any chance you hit it?”

“I shot out the back window and a side one for sure. I probably hit the trunk, too.” My father had handed me a rifle when I was ten. He and Jeff Powers had made sure I could use it. I was not likely to miss a car many times at that distance, even with an unfamiliar weapon.

“Has Mr. Gannett been married?”

“Yes. They were divorced about fifteen years ago.”

“Any children?”

“No.”

“And you?”

“No on both.”

“How about former boyfriends?”

“Jeff Powers is the only one I ever went out with before Randy. I haven’t seen him in more than a year.”

“Was there ever trouble between Mr. Gannett and Mr. Powers?”

“They don’t even know each other. And if Jeff had been here, I certainly would have recognized him.”

“Yes, I expect you would.” Mackey pursed his lips. “What about the third person, the driver you couldn’t see?”

“He was shorter than the man who jumped into the car. Jeff is taller. I’ve know him since we were children. I’m not going to mistake him.”

“Okay.” Mackey scribbled in his pad. “Were you and Mr. Gannett having any problems here at home?”

I felt my chest tighten and heard my voice crack. “I love Randy and we’re happy. This is not about us.”

“Have there been issues at work then, maybe over money or an employee?”

I shook my head. “Will you please check on Randy?”

As if on cue, a female officer walked in and whispered to Mackey. He turned to me.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Mr. Gannett didn’t make it.”

Though the answer was expected, the impact of his spoken words jarred like a slap. I thought about Mama and wondered if she had felt the same when Papa had died—if it was the same at every death, or was this a moment of stinging, heart-sick pain known only to those in love.

“When can I see him?”

Mackey turned to the woman officer. Her name tag read Browning, and she was from the city police.

“Someone will have to make arrangements,” Browning said. “With a shooting like this, there will need to be an examination. It will be a couple of days before he’s released. The home will handle the transfer and let you know.”

Mackey exchanged a few words with Browning then excused himself along with the other deputy.

Browning said, “We’ll have to collect evidence from you as well. This is just routine. Are you okay with that?”

I said I was and she led me to what we called the guest suite on the opposite end of the house from our bedroom. A tech joined us. She looked me over, tested my hands, and bagged my nightshirt. I showered after that, and when I stepped back to the bedroom Browning had returned with a change of clothes.

“These will have to do for now. They’re still working in your room.”

I slipped into the jeans and top. “Thanks. I’d like my phone, too.”

“The techs are looking at it. It’ll be a little while.”

“What do they want with my phone?”

“It’s routine. Nothing to worry about. They have to check everything.”

I moved to the window. It was full daylight and policemen roamed the front yard. Their vehicles and now TV news trucks filled the street. I shut the curtains.

“I’d like lie down for a while,” I said.

Browning glanced at the French doors to the backyard. “Please stay here, though, okay?”

I nodded and she left. I slipped under the covers leaving the police to do what they needed. The home phone woke me sometime later, but I didn’t answer. Five minutes after that, Browning returned.

“Caitlin Salyers is outside. She says it’s urgent that she speaks with you.”

Caitlin and I had become friends when we worked together at Save-Mor. I had convinced her to come with me when I left to join Randy. Now, she worked days at the store and pretty much took care of everything

“I need to talk with her.”

“No one can come in,” Browning said.

“Then I need to use the phone in the kitchen.”

Browning handed me her phone, and I made the call.

“What happened?” Caitlin asked. “The cops won’t let me to the house.”

“Two men broke in. Randy tried to stop them. They killed him.”

“Oh my god!” I heard Caitlin suck in a breath. “Are you okay?”

“They got us out of bed, shot up the house. I’ve never been so scared. I thought I was going to die.”

“Should we close the stores?” Caitlin asked.

“I don’t know.” I owed it to Randy to respect his memory and to maintain his business. The only way to do both was to remain open but without me. It was my best solution.

“Take care of things for us,” I said. “It’s what Randy would want.”

“If you were killed? No way,” she said. “He’d lock the place tight and put up a sign in your memory.”

“Talk it over with Jason and do what you think is right. I’ll try to stop in tomorrow.” I hadn’t changed my mind. I just didn’t want to think about it. “Please just explain to everyone,” I said. “Get the keys from Jason.”

Jason Caldwell managed the pizzeria and had worked for Randy since the franchise opened. He loved his job, had never missed a day, and like me, I don’t think there was anything he wouldn’t have done for Randy.

I handed the phone to Browning and she left. I stretched out on the bed then pulled a pillow to me, spooning it as I would have with Randy. I wanted him to hold me and talk to me. I wondered what I would do when I rejoined the world without him. My life had been Randy and the stores, and I didn’t want it any other way.

Meeting Randy had been the most fortunate event in my life—a day when I hadn’t followed the rules—when I’d trusted his eyes and taken a chance. We’d flown to Las Vegas on a whirlwind first date more exciting than my dreams. He bought me clothes, took me dancing, and to shows. He made me smile and laugh. I believed he was the nicest man I’d ever met, and I knew before we left Las Vegas I would never let him go.

But he was gone. One day and one choice had changed my life. A million other choices had changed it, too, but I couldn’t point to them in the same way. It was harder to give such importance to my decision to quit the Dollar Store and work at Save-Mor, but if I hadn’t, someone else would have been standing at the register when Randy walked in and asked me out. I tried to tell myself we would have found each other at some other place, at some other time, but I didn’t believe it. It was then or never. I was sure.

That thought held me. I knew that even small choices mattered, though their consequences were often impossible to judge. But others made choices, too, and they all wove together. The men who killed Randy had woken up that morning and decided to come after us with guns. I didn’t know what choice I could have made that would have stopped them. I fell asleep before I found the answer.

Chapter 2

I woke hours later, still tired, but with much I needed to do. I took the outside route to the kitchen and didn’t encounter any policemen. I searched the house anyway and assured myself they were really gone. I ground beans and made coffee, downing half a cup while I stared at my phone list.

I called my mother first. She was at work, and the call went to voicemail. I told her I needed to talk and would call later. A message was easy. I agonized for minutes over what I would say to Randy’s sister, the only family he had. Then I punched her number.

Gail was younger than Randy and lived in Nashville. We had met only once, when she had joined us for Thanksgiving two months earlier.

“Gail, I have bad news.”

I waited for her to say something, but she didn’t. “I’m sorry. Men came to the house. They shot Randy. He’s been killed.”

A long silence brought knots to my stomach. Then she said, “Why?”

“I don’t know. They were just here. Randy fought back. He killed one of them.”

I repeated the fuller story in increments. She asked questions like the police and Caitlin had and got the same answers. Gail added one more question.

“Have you made arrangements?”

I wrapped the phone cord around my index finger and pulled, watching the finger go pale. Randy and I shared his house and had done so for more than a year, but we were not married.

“I thought I’d talk to you first. Randy didn’t discuss where his family was buried.”

“Our parents are in Rock Island, but there’s no one living there now. He’s been in Kentucky fifteen years. That’s longer than anywhere else.”

“I can take care of things if that suits you, but I may need you to sign off.”

“I’ll go with what you think best. You can email me anything that holds you up. About the cost, do you have access to his accounts?”

Gail worked as a paralegal in her latest occupational incarnation. She hadn’t been at it long, but she’d already taken on the cold tone of the law.

“I think I can cover it from the business. When can you be here?”

“I’ll be up tomorrow, late afternoon. If there’s anything you need before then, call me.”

I ended the call, looked up funeral homes, and set a meeting. Then I stepped carefully to my bedroom, redressed, and headed for the door. I turned the corner, and Deputy Mackey stood in the hallway just inside the broken front door.

“Do you have a few minutes?” he asked.

I didn’t, but politely directed him to the living room.

“We’ve identified the man killed here this morning,” Mackey said. “Albert Decker from Lincoln County. It was his brother Malvern and Malvern’s wife Bonnie you shot at. Lincoln County Sheriff’s got them locked up. Do you know them?”

“No. I’ve not heard those names.”

He showed me pictures. I looked hard and thought about it. “I don’t know who they are, but I’ve worked counters at retail stores since I was sixteen. One of them might have come in. I don’t know.”

“Think carefully. I’d be surprised if you hadn’t seen them somewhere.”

“I don’t think we’ve met in a real sense. But we have hundreds of customers.”

“One of them might have worked for Mr. Gannett. Can you put together a list of employees, past and present?”

“I have them going back at least five years. We also have names of customers who rented videos or paid by credit card. At the pizzeria we keep phone numbers for call-ins and addresses for the deliveries.”

“How soon can I have them?”

I was already going to be late for the funeral director and unsure how long that meeting would take.

“Is tomorrow morning okay?”

“That’ll be fine.” Mackey paused a second. “There were a couple of other things I was hoping you could help sort out, too.”

“I’ll try.”

“You were right about the car; it was a Taurus. The odd thing was the blood on the back seat. Bonnie and Malvern weren’t injured. Albert didn’t make it to the car. There would seem to have been a fourth man in that crew that you didn’t mention. Any idea where he fits into this?”

“I didn’t see anyone else. Maybe he was lying on the seat before I got out there.”

“Possible. Might be he was hit by one of Mr. Gannett’s bullets and retreated to the car. Then again, with the holes in the back seat, it could have been one of yours that caught him.”

“You’ve got the other two. Can’t they tell you what happened?”

“They’re like you. Say there was no one else here.”

“But you don’t believe them.”

“No. Kinda surprised you didn’t see him though, out on the street like you were.”

“A lot happened I didn’t see.”

“We’ll give it a little time. Men with gunshot wounds usually turn up, either in a hospital or dead somewhere in a ditch.”

“You said there was a second question?”

“Yes. There was. We were wondering since these folks are from Lincoln County whether you or Mr. Gannett ever lived or worked down that way?”

“I’m from Garrard County. Randy’s from Illinois. The only place he ever lived in Kentucky is here.”

“Can you give me a list of the places where you and Mr. Gannett worked?”

I got up and picked through the drawer in the end table, pretending to look for something unnamed. I had already told him about Randy. My home in Garrard County was right next to Lincoln County. It was my background he was after. And none too subtle about it either. I shut the drawer.

“I told you. I don’t know them.”

“They knew you or Mr. Gannett, or at least about you. There’s a reason they drove all the way up here and picked this house. We just want to know what that is.”

“You’re going to have to ask them.” I walked back to the couch. He tore a piece of paper from his notepad and handed it to me with a pen.

“Bonnie says she doesn’t know. Malvern says it was Albert got him to go for a ride this morning. Albert’s dead. We need to connect them to you to prompt their memories.”

“I’d like to know, too. But you caught them and have them in jail. Does it matter so much why as long as they stay there?”

“It does if there are other people involved, and we know there’s at least one more. Or if they were really after you.”

I gave that some serious thought. But no one would be trying to kill me. Then I didn’t know of anyone who’d had it in for Randy, either. It had to be a robbery. And then I saw his point: if the men weren’t local, why come all the way here for us?

“Randy ran his businesses here. I worked with him. Before that, I was four years at Save-Mor in Nicholasville. Before that I worked at the Dollar Store in Garrard County.”

He noticed I wasn’t writing and resumed his scribbling. “Where’d you live before Garrard County?”

“I was born there.”

He gave me the stare I’d seen a hundred times. Asking how I like it here usually came next or what language I spoke. Back home, I didn’t look like anyone else in the whole county, my family included. Most people guessed an Asian origin for me without being more specific. My mother said no; that her grandfather had come over from Albania, but that didn’t explain things. I had watched the Albanian Olympic team march into Athens, London, and Rio; I didn’t look like any of them either.

“I would never have guessed,” he said. “What time can I have the store records?”

“We open at ten. Stop by after that.”

Mackey stood and put on his hat. “Just one more thing. Do you know where we might find your old boyfriend? We can’t come up with a current address.”

“I told you. We haven’t been face to face in more than a year. The last I knew he was on active duty overseas. You might try his father. He’s out on Gilbert’s Creek in Garrard County.”

“Thanks,” Mackey said, stepping to the door. “You’ve been very helpful.”

I called the funeral director as soon as Mackey left, apologized for my tardiness, and told him I was on my way. My phone rang before I made it out the door.

“Mama.” I hadn’t called her back yet.

“Are you all right? I saw on the news Randy’s been killed and the house shot up. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m okay. The police just left. It wasn’t like when Papa died. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to talk, and now I’ve got to go make arrangements.”

“What’s wrong with his family?” she asked.

Living with Randy was a sore spot with Mama. She recognized he was good to me and made me happy. That was important to her, and I knew it. She didn’t respect him though, partly because he was older, but mostly because he didn’t seem in any hurry to get married, something Mama thought was important.

“They’re not from here and asked me to look after it.”

“Bet they’re not too busy to come get his money.”

“Mama, hush. Randy’s been killed, me almost, too. I’m sorry I got you all worried. I’ll call when I get back. Love you. Bye.”

I hung up and headed to the funeral home in Lexington. It probably broke someone’s sense of propriety to make arrangements in another county, but, where we lived, we were much closer to Lexington than to Nicholasville, and neither of us had family in town.

I drove past Randy’s businesses, in a shopping center less than a mile from the house. There he had a Pizza Romano franchise and a repurposed video store, both contained in a free-standing, building on the street side of the center. On most days, the stucco sides and red tiled roof made the place seem fun. Today it was just there. Randy owned the third space in the building, too, but he had never decided what to do with it.

* * *

I finished with the funeral director and headed home. It had felt cold talking with a person I’d never met about Randy’s end of life details. But the man had been respectful, sincere, and helpful, and I realized finally that talking with someone I had known would have been much harder.

I noticed the lights were on as I passed the stores, and this time I pulled in. I had promised to gather our records for Deputy Mackey in the morning, but I felt the sudden urge to know if any of the Deckers had ever been connected to the stores.

Caitlin had gone home and Beth Ann stood at the counter with Megan. They greeted me with tears and hugs. I thanked them for looking after the store and told them what had happened.

I continued on to the office at the back of the store. It wasn’t much—a desk, a computer, a couple of chairs, three filing cabinets, and a bookcase. And also an attached bathroom. I shut the door and settled into Randy’s chair, burgundy leather and very comfortable. I sat for a couple of minutes and looked around the room. It felt homey to me, though there was little in the way of personal affects to identify the occupants.

I turned on the computer and began the task that had brought me there. No Deckers had ever been employed by Randy. Two appeared as rental customers, but I couldn’t put faces to the names. I printed the lists along with the information I had from the pizzeria, then called Deputy Mackey. He had gone off duty. I left a message.

Friday was payday at the stores, though no one had called to remind me. I kept track of people’s hours and printed the checks. I’d been signing them as well since November, when Randy added me to the account. I had done the payroll Wednesday, so I collected the checks from the desk and stood to leave. I hesitated, thinking about the gun Randy kept in the desk. The police had taken his handgun and rifle from the house, and even with one man dead and two others in jail, the tangible fear of their return remained. I put the gun in my bag and walked out, giving Megan the checks and instructions on distribution.

The house was dark when I returned, and no cars sat in the driveway or out front, meaning hopefully no one was there. I pushed open the broken door and entered with my hand on the gun. I flipped on lights and walked the house, then dragged a heavy chair from the living room and shoved it against the door. It was not secure, but the former lock hadn’t held determined men at bay, either. At least the wind wouldn’t blow it open.

I felt the need and toured the house again, checking doors and windows, looking under beds and in closets. It made no sense that anyone would be hiding there, but I couldn’t quiet my unease and my sense of vulnerability.

When I convinced myself I was alone and safe, I moved on to the bedroom and collapsed on our bed—Randy’s smell still on the sheets. I closed my eyes but didn’t sleep. When I opened them, the bullet holes were still in the door, and I thought of Randy facing those men in the hall instead of our bedroom, wondering what had made him do that. And even more, what those men had wanted. I closed my eyes again and though my thoughts churned like an ice cream maker when I forgot the rock salt, I failed to reach any answers.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

D.L. Barnhart is a Kentucky author who writes of (mostly) strong women who find themselves struggling with life and death choices. Their solutions aren't always conventional, nor do they always come away clean. But they never quit.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
Mysteries allow me to place characters into life changing situations, then force them to question their fundamental beliefs on right, wrong, and the law, as well as on their conflicting duties to society, family, and friends. I like to leave readers wondering what they would have done.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
All of my stories start from a scene that has somehow intrigued me. The spark for Dinner and a Movie was an encounter documented in a local newspaper. Thrust into that opening scenario, Maggie’s story spills forward.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I enjoy dropping resourceful characters into difficult circumstances, then watching them struggle with solutions and come to grips with the responsibilities for their choices—often with consequences well beyond what the characters had ever imagined. My characters have taught me a lot.

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