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Authors: Patricia Davids

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BOOK: A Home for Hannah
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“Ah, now this is useful.” Nick took a step closer to the roadway. A small puddle had formed after the rain. The imprint of the buggy wheel was deep where it rolled through the mud.

“What is it?” she asked.

He pointed to the print. “The buggy we are looking for has a jagged crack in the steel rim of the left rear wheel. If it breaks all the way through, someone is going to need a new rim put on.”

“It looks like a crooked
Z.
It should be easy enough to spot.”

He stood and rubbed a hand over his jaw. He took another stick of gum from his pocket, unwrapped it and popped it into his mouth. Carefully he folded the silver foil into a star. He noticed her stare and said, “I quit smoking a few years ago, but I can’t kick the gum habit.”

He had his share of struggles like everyone else. It made him more human. Something she wasn’t prepared to see.

She looked away and asked, “How do we begin searching for Hannah’s mother?”

“Even if I had the manpower to launch a full-scale investigation, I couldn’t check every buggy wheel in the district. Most Amish families have three or four buggies, depending on how many of their kids are old enough to drive. It could take months.”

“And Hannah has only two weeks before her mother’s
rights are severed if she doesn’t return.”

“Time may not be on her side.”

“That’s it? You’re going to give up before we’ve started? I’m sorry I let Amber call you. I can tell you aren’t going to go out of your way to save this family. I don’t know why I thought you would.”

* * *

 

Nick studied the myriad expressions that crossed Miriam’s face and wondered where such passion came from.

He said, “I’m not sure I know what you want me to do?”

“We have a letter asking for help. We can’t ignore it. This young girl’s life may be ruined by a rash decision. I don’t think we should wait for her to come back. I think we should go find her.”

“Is there something you aren’t telling me?”

It was as if his question had caused a mask to fall over her face. Her expression went completely neutral. Instead of answering his question, she said meekly, “I want to help, that’s all.”

Miriam’s abrupt switch triggered his cop radar. She was hiding something. By her own admission few people knew she was a nurse. Fewer still would know that she aided Amish youth looking to leave their faith and go out into the world. Was accepting an unwanted baby part of her plan to help an unwed Amish girl escape into the
Englisch
life?

He didn’t want to believe she would lie to him, but did he really know her? They hadn’t spoken in years. People changed.

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that Hannah had been left on Miriam’s doorstep. If the mother knew Miriam, would she be able to stay away? He figured she would need to know how her little girl was doing. The sight of Miriam with the child just might draw that woman out if she were still in the Hope Springs area. He wanted to be around when that happened. It would mean spending time, lots of time, in Miriam’s company.

Could he keep his mind on his job when she was near? At the moment, all he wanted to do was run his fingers through her gorgeous hair. The early morning sun brought fiery highlights to life in her red-gold, shoulder-length mane as it moved like a dense curtain around her face and neck. It was the first time he’d seen her without the white bonnet the Amish called a prayer
kapp.
In his youth, he’d fantasized about what her hair would look like down. His imaginings paled in comparison to the beauty he beheld at the moment.

He realized he was staring when she scowled at him. Forcing his mind back to the task at hand, he asked, “Are you sure you can’t think of anyone who might be Hannah’s mother? Maybe you gave a ride to her or to her family recently and mentioned you were a nurse.”

“No one stands out. Believe me, I’ve been racking my brain trying to think who she might be.”

“I need to get back to the office and have our note and the hamper run for prints. Why don’t you make up a list of the families who might know you’re a nurse? We can go over them later. Something may click in the meantime. If it does, give me a call.”

They returned to the house, covering the quarter mile in silence. When they reached his SUV, Miriam whistled for the dog. As Bella ambled up, she stopped to give Nick a parting lick on the hand. He patted her side. “She’s a nice dog.”

“Thank you.”

“When did you rescue her from the pound?”

Miriam paused. “How did you know that?”

“It seems to be your MO.”

“My what?”

“Your modus operandi, your
mode of operation. Runaway teens, sick people, foundling babies—it just makes sense that your dog would be a rescue, too.”

Her frown turned to a fierce scowl. “Don’t think you know me, Nick Bradley, because you don’t. You don’t know me at all.”

She turned on her heels and marched toward the house.

At the porch, she stopped and looked back. “My mother was right. This is Amish business. We will handle it ourselves. Have a great vacation.”

Chapter Four

 

M
iriam stopped short of slamming the door when she entered the house. Nick infuriated her. How dare that man presume to know anything about her? She didn’t want him to know anything about her. She didn’t want him to read her so easily.

She was scared of the way it made her feel. Like she could depend on him.

She balled her fingers into fists. She couldn’t decide if she was angrier with him, or with herself. For a few minutes, she had forgotten what lay between. Somehow, after everything that happened, Nick still had the power to turn her inside out, as he’d done when she was eighteen and a naive country girl.

Well, she wasn’t a teenager anymore. She wouldn’t fall under his spell again. She had too much sense for that. There was too much that stood between them.

How could she have forgotten that even for a second? She had gone months without running into him. Why now? How much more complicated could her life get? Perhaps in the back of her mind she knew this would happen. That Nick would use his charm to make her forget her anger and forgive him.

If she forgave Nick, she would have only herself left to blame for Mark’s death. She was the one who had sent her brother on his panicked flight that night. The guilt still ate at her soul. If only she’d had the chance to beg Mark’s forgiveness, perhaps she could learn to live with what she’d done.

When Mark’s
Englisch
girlfriend, Natalie Perry, had come begging for a word with him, Miriam had been only too happy to inform her Mark wasn’t home. When the tearful girl explained that her parents were making her leave town the following evening, Miriam had been relieved. It was God’s will. Without this woman’s influence, her brother would give up worldly things and be baptized into the faith. Miriam had given up Nick’s love for her faith. She had passed that test. Mark would, too.

Natalie had scrawled a note and pressed it into
Miriam’s hand, pleading with her to give it to Mark as soon as possible. At the time, Miriam had no idea what the note contained, but she didn’t give it to Mark until late the next day. Only afterward did she understand what harm she had caused.

Mark had flown out of the house, stolen a car and tried to reach his love before it was too late. Nick had stopped him, and Miriam never had the chance to beg her brother’s forgiveness.

The front door opened, and Nick came in looking as if he expected a frying pan to come sailing at his head. The idea of doing something so outrageous made her feel better. Slightly.

When he saw that he didn’t need to defend himself, he said, “Ada, is there anything you need me to do before I leave? I can chop some kindling if you need it.”


Nee,
I reckon we’ll be fine.”

He nodded. “You let me know if you hear anything from the baby’s family.”

Ada nodded toward the baby sleeping in the newly washed bassinet. “Do not worry, Nicolas. The mother, she will come for her babe.”

“I pray you are right. Miriam, I’d appreciate knowing what the doctor has to say about Hannah.”

He waited, as if he expected Miriam to say something. When she didn’t, he nodded in her direction. “Okay, I’ve got to get back to town.”

When the door closed behind him, Miriam took the first deep breath she managed to draw all morning. “I thought he would never leave.”

“It was
goot
to see him again. I remember him as such a nice boy.”

“It’s too bad he turned out to be a murderer.”

“Do not say such a thing, Miriam!” Her mother rounded on her with such intensity that Miriam was left speechless.

Ada shook her finger at her daughter. “You are not the only one who has suffered, but you are the only one who has not forgiven. The more you pick at a wound, the longer it takes to heal. I don’t know why you refuse to see that. I’m tired of your selfish attitude. Maybe it is best that you go back to your
Englisch
home.”

Dumbfounded, Miriam stared at her mother in shock. Not once in her life had her mother raised her voice in such a manner.

Miriam struggled to muster her indignation. “That man caused the death of your only son. Have you
really forgiven him for that?”

“It was
Gottes wille
that Mark died. I can’t pretend to understand why such a thing had to happen, or why your father was taken before me, too. I can only try to live a good life and know that I will be with them when it is my time.” Ada turned her back on her daughter and began to wash the coffee cups in the sink.

Miriam’s anger slipped away. She wanted to punish Nick, but she’d wound up hurting her mother instead. “Do you really want me to leave?”

Her mother seemed to shrink before her eyes. Ada heaved a deep sigh. “I want what I cannot have. I’m tired. I’m going to lie down for a while. Can you watch the baby?”

“Of course.” Miriam fetched her mother’s cane from beside the table and watched her head toward the hallway. Ada moved slowly, leaning heavily on her cane for support.

Overcome with guilt, Miriam said, “I’m sorry if I upset you.”

Her mother paused at the doorway and looked over her shoulder. “I forgave you the moment you spoke. We will talk no more about your stubborn, willful ways and the bitterness you carry. I leave it up to
Gott
to change your heart.”

After her mother disappeared into her room Miriam sat down beside Hannah. Bella had staked out her new territory beneath the crib. She looked up at Miriam with soulful eyes and gave a halfhearted wag of her tail.

Miriam leaned down to pet her. “You love me no matter what I do or say. Thank you. That’s why I have a dog.”

* * *

 

The following morning, Miriam sat in the waiting room of the Hope Springs Medical clinic with Hannah in her borrowed car seat on the floor beside her. They were waiting to be seen for Hannah’s first well-baby appointment.

Miriam was starting to wonder if she
was
a well baby. How soon did colic set in? If Hannah wasn’t sick, she was certainly a fussy baby. It had been a long night for both of them. Miriam’s eyes burned with lack of sleep. A headache nagged at the base of her neck. The baby had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the clinic, but she was starting to fidget now that the car ride was over.

“The doctor will be with you shortly. Would you like some tea or coffee while you wait?” Wilma Nolan, the elderly receptionist asked with an encouraging smile.

Miriam shook her head. What she wanted was a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. The outside door opened. She looked over and saw Nick walk in.

He was out of uniform this morning. He’d traded his dark blues for worn, faded jeans, Western boots and a wool sweater in a soft taupe color that made his tan look even deeper. No one could deny he was a good-looking man. She struggled to ignore the sudden jump in her pulse.

The elderly receptionist behind the counter sat up straight and smiled. “Sheriff, how nice to see you. I’m afraid you will have quite a wait if you need to see the doctor this morning. Dr. White isn’t feeling well, and Dr. Zook is the only one seeing patients.”

“Not to worry, Wilma, I’m not sick. I just came to check on Ms. Kauffman and...the baby.”

Wilma’s eyebrows shot up a good two inches as she glanced between Miriam and Nick. “I see. Is this official business?”

Mortified by what she knew the receptionist was thinking, Miriam wanted to sink through the floor. Nick obviously came to the same conclusion because he quickly stuttered, “It’s...it’s personal business, Wilma.”

“Oh, of course.” A smug, knowing smile twitched on her thin lips as she blushed a bright shade of pink.

Nick took a seat beside Miriam. “Hi.”

“What are you doing here?” she snapped under her breath, keeping a bland smile on her face for Wilma’s benefit.

He leaned down to gaze at Hannah in her carrier. “I wanted to make sure she is okay. Amish babies have a higher incidence of birth defects, you know.”

“Of course I know that. I thought you were going to wait for me to call you with an update.”

“I wasn’t sure you would call me.”

He was right. She had no intention of involving him any more than she absolutely had to. “You didn’t have to come in person. You know what Mrs. Nolan is thinking, don’t you?”

“I’m not responsible for what people think.”

“‘It’s personal business, Wilma.’ Oh, you’re
so
going to be responsible if word gets out that
we
are a couple with a new baby.”

Nick shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “She’s known me for years. We go to the same church. Even if she thought it, she would never repeat it to anyone.”

“Hannah Kauffman?” A young man with thick-rimmed black glasses stood at the entrance to the hallway. He had two pens in the top pocket of his lab coat and a manila folder in his hands.

“It’s not Kauffman, Dr. Zook,” Nick stated as he picked up Hannah’s carrier and walked toward the young doctor.

Miriam took the carrier away from Nick. “It is for now.”

The doctor turned and walked down the hall ahead of them. “Let us know what you put on the birth certificate and that will be her legal name.”

“Legally, she’s a Jane Doe.” Nick stood close behind Miriam. The warmth of his breath on the back of her neck sent shivers rippling across her skin.”

Dr. Zook stopped and looked at him in surprise. “She’s a foundling?”

Miriam nodded. “Someone left her on my mother’s doorstep two nights ago. I caught a glimpse of a buggy going down the lane. A note said her name was Hannah, but that’s about all.”

“I see now why you are involved, Sheriff. This is very odd.”

Nick said, “I’m hoping you can help us.”

Dr. Zook’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses. “You do understand that I can’t reveal any information about my patients.”

“Even if you think you know who the mother might be?” Nick asked in a tone of voice that made Miriam glad she wasn’t the one he was questioning.

Dr. Zook drew himself up to his full height, which was a good four inches shorter than Nick’s six feet. “Not even then.”

Miriam expected this roadblock. “I’m a nurse, so I understand how it works. We won’t ask for confidential information.”

The young doctor relaxed. “Good. Let’s take a look at this little girl and make sure she is healthy.”

He held open the door to an exam room. Miriam walked in and set the carrier on the exam table. Carefully, she unlatched the harness and lifted the baby out. Hannah began fussing but soon settled back to sleep as Miriam soothed her with rocking and quiet words.

Nick took the carrier and put in on the floor, making room for Miriam to lay the baby on the exam table. She took a step to the side, but kept one hand on Hannah. Dr. Zook quietly and thoroughly went about his examination.

Miriam had met him a few times before. She preferred Dr. Harold White, but the older physician was well into his eighties. Dr. Zook had taken over a small part of Dr. White’s practice, and his involvement had grown in the past year until he oversaw almost half of the patients.

Miriam had been impressed with his handling of her mother’s health issues and had no qualms about letting him see Hannah. She said, “I’ve always meant to ask, are you related to our Bishop Zook?”

The young doctor smiled. “All Zooks are related in one way or another, but in the case of Bishop Zook and myself, it’s not a close connection. My family comes from near Reading, Pennsylvania.”

Nick spoke up. “Can you tell if Hannah has any birth defects associated with being Amish?”

“I can rule out dwarfism and Troyer Syndrome, which is a lethal microcephaly or small head, and several others diseases just by looking at her. Only blood tests or time will tell us if she suffers from any inherited metabolic defects such as glutaric aciduria, PKU, maple syrup urine disease or cystic fibrosis. I’ll draw her newborn screening blood tests today. That will check for many of the things I’ve mentioned and more. Do you want me to draw blood for DNA matching, as well?”

Nodding, Nick said, “You read my mind. If someone shows up claiming to be her parent or grandparent, I want to make sure they are related before I release her.”

Miriam said, “The mother’s note did say she would be back for Hannah, but she also said it wasn’t safe to have the baby with her. Can you think of anyone in a situation like that?”

The doctor rubbed the back of his neck. “I honestly can’t.”

Miriam laid a hand on his arm. “I know the Amish are reluctant to go to outsiders with their problems, Doctor. If you hear of anyone in a difficult situation, please let us know.”

Dr. Zook stared at her hand. She withdrew it hoping she hadn’t made a mistake.

He looked into her eyes and said, “I do understand the reluctance of the Amish to become involved with Social Services and the legal system in general. They have not always been treated fairly. I respect the way they take care of each other. I deeply admire their faith in God. I will let you know if I hear of anything like this.”

BOOK: A Home for Hannah
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