Authors: Nancy Roe
Copyright © 2015 by
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.
The Nancy Way®
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Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2015908024
Hidden in Shadow Pines / Nancy Roe
. -- 1st ed.
ISBN 978-0-9859257-7-2 (eBook)
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To Jeff and Shadow,
the greatest two guys in my life.
Thanks for making my dreams come true.
To Lisa Gehring for asking all the tough questions in the beginning and putting me on track to write this book.
To my friends for providing advice and not walking away when I wanted to talk about the progress of my book: Monique, Patricia Stewart, Kathza Jackson Goodwin, Tracy Morris, Kristen Kimberling, Judy Kimberling, and all my friends in New Neighbors.
To my editor at Writer’s Digest. Thanks, Miki, for your assistance.
Special thanks to my biggest cheerleader and sister, Dona Vontalge.
And to my husband, Jeff, and four-legged child, Shadow, for their love and support.
Sunday, May 31, 2015, 10:20 p.m.
(current day—my 36th birthday)
My name is Isabella Retsul. I live in Darden, Iowa, making a living as a writer. Darden is a small town, roughly five-thousand residents, in southern Iowa. I’m ambitious, confident, and optimistic. Three traits I never thought I’d again say described me. For sixteen years I dealt with low self-esteem and bouts of depression. That is, until nineteen months ago.
Most people would consider me, at thirty-six, underweight. At five foot seven, I weigh one-hundred-twenty-five pounds. Since 1997, my hairstyle has remained the same—shoulder length, straight, dark brown.
Two items always in my navy Michael Kors large tote (a gift to myself in celebration of my lucrative book deal) are a Glock 19 and foam pepper spray.
I developed amaxophobia—the fear of being in or riding in a vehicle—after my parents died on my eighteenth birthday. The day I killed them. Not on purpose, mind you. It was an accident, but amaxophobia haunted me for sixteen years. Nineteen months ago, I overcame my fear.
For two years after my parents died, I didn’t leave the house. My boyfriend, Roger, gave up on me, as did most of my friends. Because of my amaxophobia, my life revolved around places I could walk to from my house (and return). My best friend, Harper Bragg, suggested a writing career since I’d loved writing throughout grade school and high school. Writing was also a job I could do from home.
Over the course of the following ten years, I wrote fourteen books. You won’t find the books if you Goggle me, though, because I wrote them as a ghostwriter. Six clients hired me to write their books for them: one historical novel, three romances, five British detective mysteries, and five thrillers. My fifteenth book, the novel I wrote under my own name, now sits on my nightstand.
Even though the weather is warmer than normal, I slip into my favorite blue-and-white-striped flannel pajamas with white cotton socks. I’ve hated having cold feet ever since the second grade. That’s when a week before Christmas in the middle of a snowstorm, Harper dared me to walk barefoot to the corner mailbox and mail a letter to Santa.
I pick up my novel and rub my hand over the cover. I still can’t believe my name is listed as the author. Only a select group of people know this book, purportedly fiction, is based on real-life events. Even though I embellished the story for my book, I want to tell you what actually happened. But we need to go back nineteen months.
Monday, August 5, 2013, 9 a.m.
(nineteen months earlier—at home in Darden)
Writing mysteries made me feel like an amateur detective. Stan Burton, Darden’s police chief, had been a friend of my father. When I decided on writing mysteries, Chief Burton let me spend a week at the police station going over procedures, types of calls they receive, and how they handle unruly suspects. He even invited me to spend two days at the morgue. I learned to tell how far away the shooter had stood based on burn patterns, the path the bullet takes depending on trajectory, and how damaged the human body is by trauma.
Chief Burton also suggested I take an introductory handgun course. The course comprised four hours on safety and proper techniques. But I subsequently kept going back to the range for practice, trying out the various types of guns. Eventually, I obtained a gun permit. Soon after, I bought a Glock 19. Carrying a gun was good protection, especially since I spent so much time alone.
Books for research filled my shelves.
Forensics, Police Procedure and Investigation, Conflict and Suspense, Writing Dialogue,
Writing Fiction for Dummies
My most recent client, Christopher, had a book deal for a series of five books. I was almost finished drafting the third. The main character, Jack Deveraux, former Navy Seal and CIA agent turned private investigator, travels all over the world protecting the rich and powerful. Jack is a mix of MacGyver, James Bond, and Jason Bourne.
Years ago, I converted the dining room into my office after I realized only Ed Winston or Kate Gentry ever came for dinner. On those rare occasions, moreover, we ate at the antique round oak table situated in the kitchen nook, not at the formal rectangular mahogany table big enough to fit eight people comfortably. Plus, the kitchen and half-bath were within a few steps of my dining room office, and I had a view of the neighborhood there from the three front windows. This was much better than the view of the backyard I previously had in the office upstairs.
The table, pushed against two walls, occupied the corner. At the end of the table sat a computer and high-speed laser printer. An ergonomic chair, one I’d paid a lot of money for but had decided was worth it—considering how many hours of my day I spent in a chair—rolled on top of a burgundy paisley rug to prevent marks on the hardwood floor.
Two large corkboards hung on the wall above the table. I pinned index cards to the corkboards there to plan out my books. Yellow cards denoted characters. Places—pink cards, clues—green cards, scenes—purple cards, miscellaneous notes—white cards. Reference materials were neatly stacked in piles on the table.
Between the table and windows sat an overstuffed gray couch. Sometimes I sat on the couch to read research articles, but most of the time I used it to take short afternoon naps. I once read an article that taking a nap every day restores alertness, prevents burnout, and makes you more productive. I also discovered that many successful people took naps, including Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, John D. Rockefeller, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Ronald Reagan.
Today, Ed Winston sat beside me as I read to him the latest five chapters for the next Jack Deveraux book.
Ed lived two houses down the street. He’d moved into the neighborhood five months before my parents’ accident. My father and Ed became instant companions, despite the twenty-two-year age difference, spending many hours sitting on the front steps drinking beer and talking about cars, retirement, and hunting. After my parents’ funeral, Ed stopped by every day to make sure I was eating. He delivered groceries and brought the mail. Eventually, Ed became a close friend and confidant.
Scrunching my nose, I turned to Ed. “You think it’s okay that I included the wife of the foreign diplomat?”
Ed adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses. “You’re the writer. I personally think she adds life to the story.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Ed always knew the right thing to say to make me feel better. “I hope Christopher will agree.”
“Why do you keep writing for other people? When are you going to write your own books?”
I chuckled, shaking my head. “Oh, I could never do that. I like writing in the shadows. Plus, you know I never leave Darden. I mean, are all my adoring fans supposed to come to Iowa to meet me?” I swatted his idea away with a wave of my hand.
Ed grinned, pointing his right index finger at me. “So, you’ve thought about it. That’s a start.”
“I enjoy writing for other people. It makes me happy. It’s what I was meant to do.”
Ed turned his weathered black leather watchband so he could see the large, bold numbers under the round, silver frame. “Oh my, look at the time. I need to go so you can start baking your blue-ribbon pie.”
I swiveled in the chair to look at the grandfather clock standing in the living room corner. “How did it get so late?” I stood, gesturing Ed to do the same.
“Give an old man a chance. I’d love to see how fast
get up when you’re seventy-six.”
“Sorry, Ed. Panicked. I’m fifteen minutes behind schedule.” I hated being off schedule. I’d turned into a perfectionist and everything had to be done at a certain time, in a certain way. I felt a twinge in my stomach.
Ed took my hands in his. “Before I leave, the phrase, please.”
Looking into his blue eyes, I gave him a slight smile. “Find the star, right four, down two, in goes the ring, and turn it twice. The bronze skeleton will open the door to freedom.”
Ed gave me a wink. “Very good. Or should I say
“Thank you. Or should I say
We both chuckled. Several scenes in one of the romance novels I’d written took place in Paris. Ed thought learning some French would be fun, so I could get into character. Now, we spoke a few French words every time we got together.
Opening the front door, I asked, “And why do you make me say the phrase every time I see you?”
“It may be important one day. Just remember it.” Ed gave me a kiss on my forehead then walked out the door and down the front steps.
“Bye, Ed. See you tomorrow. Don’t forget you’re going to help me prep the living room before I start painting.”
As I closed the front door, I noticed a white Ford cargo van with a long blue stripe on the side across the street, parked in front of Tish’s house. Two months previously, Tish had put new tile in the laundry room, and last month she’d painted the guest room.
She must be having more work done on her house
, I thought.
Six years before, I took several baking classes that a renowned pastry chef had given at the local high school. I’d never baked with my mom—I always had been too busy with friends. How I wished I could go back in time, especially after I found a box of recipes in my mother’s handwriting hidden behind the Crisco can on the top shelf of the pantry.
My reputation as the blue-ribbon winner at the county fair made my heart palpitate. I’d won top honors four years in a row: first with my blueberry pie, then the white-chocolate banana-cream pie, the peach-pineapple pie, and last year’s raspberry-rhubarb pie. I’d been perfecting my apple pie recipe the last few times at the weekly senior citizen luncheon at the fire station. The patrons had been appreciative and helpful in fine-tuning the recipe.
Today, the pie was due at the judges’ table at three. That gave me four hours. Deducting forty minutes for the walk to the fairgrounds, twenty for the pie to cool, and an hour to bake, I had less than two hours to make two pies. I always made two pies. One in the cranberry ceramic dish and one in the white scalloped-edge dish. This strategy came from the perfectionist in me. I’d choose whichever pie looked the best.
While the pies baked, I cleaned the kitchen, started the dishwasher, and then headed upstairs for a shower.
I tied the belt on my dress—my lucky dress of white cotton, with short sleeves and a collar, buttoned in front to the elastic waist and hanging just below the knees, with hand-embroidered daisies in red, green, blue, and yellow. It was the last dress my mom had sewn for me. I’d worn this dress to the fair for the last four years and each time had won a blue ribbon. Ed would say I was superstitious. I guess I was.