Authors: Lynn Hightower
Table of Contents
The Sonora Blair Series
NO GOOD DEED
THE DEBT COLLECTOR
The David Silver Series
The Lena Padgett Series
FORTUNES OF THE DEAD
WHEN SECRETS DIE
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First published in Great Britain 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
First published in the USA 2014 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS of
110 East 59
Street, New York, N.Y. 10022
eBook edition first published in 2014 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited
Copyright Â© 2013 by Lynn Hightower.
The right of Lynn Hightower to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Hightower, Lynn S. author.
Even in darkness.
1. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. 2. Women television personalitiesâFiction. 3. ReclusesâFiction. 4. Suspense
ISBN-13: 978-07278-8351-3 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-499-8 (trade paper)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-496-6 (ePub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
For my magical, outrageous, steel magnolia mama â Joyce â who always knew I was going to be a writer.
To Robert, my husband, and Alan, Laurel, and Rachel. Rebecca, Brian, Katie, Isaac, David, Arthur, Wes, Arnaud & Julien.
To my agent, Matt Bialer, and Lindsay Ribar and Stephanie Diaz at Sanford J. Greenburger.
To Sheila Williams.
To Kate Lyall Grant, at Severn House, and Anna Telfer, Michelle Duff, Piers Tilbury.
If I take the wings of the morning, and settle at the farthest limits of the sea
Even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, âSurely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,'
Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
Psalms 139: 7â12
hat brought me out of my dreams?
I think at some level I became aware of dark things. Something restless beneath the supposed serenity of a life I lived moment to moment. I liked to think I was free. That my past was the least important thing about me. But the universe is a thing of checks and balances, and your shadow follows.
There are times I think the Dark Man will be the source of my salvation, but there is never any doubt that he is a curse. My curse. If I had the chance for a lifetime do-over, I would never have gotten into the evangelism business. It is easy to forget what a dangerous job religion can be.
Caroline Miller is missing. Along with her daughter, my granddaughter, Andee Miller. Andee, whose eyes, the shape of her nose, the way she has of tilting her head to one side when she does not quite believe you â these things she gets from my son. Thus from me.
The Dark Man is back. And I know it is the Dark Man who has taken them.
Seven years ago, Caro was married to my son. Seven years ago, Caro killed my son. Seven years ago, I was a witness for the defense at her trial, testifying fervently on her behalf just before my â¦ I believe the euphemism is
Those days seemed full of the kind of events that happen only to other families. At times like that, nothing feels normal. Perhaps by that I really mean
. There is no question that the things that happened to us, to all of us, were not right.
I am awake again, to my life. Present in the moment. Seven years of winter, functional but frozen, hiding and hibernating, aware, but not afraid. If I miss anything about those years, it is that one thing. Not being afraid.
You might think seven years of drifting would pass slowly, but the time flowed like water draining out of the tub when you want to linger in the bath. I could sit and stare at a blank wall for hours, meditating like a wizened monk. The rapture of true meditation comes easily to me, and feels like a guilty pleasure. I find it seductive and addictive â surrendering to the wall.
It has been fourteen years since the Dark Man first approached me â a man squeezed by a mystifying welter of darkness and will, conflicting with revelation and light. There are times that I wish he'd gone through with his plans, and not let me stop him.
The Dark Man is a sociopath. I don't know his name, but I will, and soon. I'll get the name along with everything else. The FBI is trying to find him. So is every deputy sheriff, news reporter and vigilante in the state. He is the man of the moment, guilty of crimes that turn the strongest stomach.
And the only person who knows how to find him, is me.
woke that morning at five a.m., I really can't say why. It could have been the significance of the date â the seventh anniversary of Joey's death. But I had never woken so early any other year on this day.
I lay quietly, alone of course, my mind straining, body sluggish. I rolled over and looked at the clock. Five twenty-two. The alarm would not go off for another hour. I remember wondering if I was up so early because of the energy supplements I had taken. Caro had sent them to me. The perfect formula for people who suffer from low thyroid. Caro eats organic, and is on the cutting edge of homeopathy. She often sends me things. They often do exactly as she promises.
And that was it. The only unusual thing. Until the mail came.
Marsha brought it in. She always does when she's here, which is more often than she should be. I think she is lonely. She is the kind of mean-spirited person other people avoid, myself included, even though she is my cousin. She hides her unkindness beneath a layer of treacly voice tones and faux jokes â the refuge of many who say things that are unpleasant.
I was just kidding. Can't you take a joke?
I think she is aware how much I dislike her going through the mail. It is one of the reasons she does it, to annoy me, to have power over me, and also because she is obsessively interested in every detail of my life.
She is the accountant for Joy Miller Ministries, not the secretary, so technically the mail is not her province. As I work out of my home, some of the mail is business oriented, and some of it is personal. She goes through my things, too, upstairs in my bedroom, through my closet, my makeup drawer, my jewelry. I wonder if she knows that I know.
I often think of firing her. But she is loyal
to the cause
(her words, not mine, as the cause is me, or rather, my ministries) and I don't pay her as much as a new accountant would cost. And the ministries are winding down. I don't take in very much these days. The heyday of cable television and continuous revivals and preaching gigs are like the memory of a woman I once knew very well, but have lost touch with. It doesn't seem like it could ever have been
life. My cousin Marsha stays employed through the benevolence of my inertia, plus she keeps the IRS off my back.
She stands in the foyer of my house, studying postmarks, holding envelopes to the light. She seems unconcerned that I am standing right beside her with my hand out. She frowns over a thick brown envelope marked personal.
âWhat's this?' she asks. Her eyes are hungry.
I just smile and take the mail. Why do I smile?
âDo you want me to come in tomorrow, Joy? I've got a hair appointment at ten. Sorry, but it was the only day Rena had free.'
I don't believe her. Her schedule is six hours, nine to three, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Of course, I am not her only client. I'm just the one foolish enough to put her on a salary instead of an hourly rate.
âJust come in afterward and stay late,' I say.
Marsha is already headed out the door, but this stops her and she looks at me over her shoulder. âStay late?'
Even then, before I opened that brown envelope marked personal, something inside me was waking up.
As soon as Marsha is gone I kick off my shoes. This is part of the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday ritual. Get rid of Marsha, get rid of shoes.
Outside, my dog Leo is barking. I will wait until he is quiet before I bring him in. I cannot go out while he is barking, because that would give him the message that barking is a good thing â barking gets results. Leo is fourteen months old, a lean eighty-three pounds, and I am still training him.
I tear the envelope open. The return address is
address, though I didn't send it. My name and particulars are printed on simple white labels, and the word PERSONAL is stamped in two inch red letters. On the back, another red stamp says PHOTOS â DO NOT BEND.
Inside, I find a stack of four by six color photographs. There are three sets, clipped together with oversized black binders.
The top picture shows a man standing behind a pulpit. He wears a suit and his hair is combed and gelled into an understated pompadour, which immediately makes me tag him as a Southern Baptist. One of those sticky white labels has been stuck along the bottom of the picture, obscuring the back view of a packed and attentive Sunday morning congregation. Printed on this label is a name. THE REVEREND JIMMY MAHAN.