Is someone trying to kill Anne Reynolds?
Kind, reliable, longing for a-place-to-call-home Anne Reynolds?
It was hard for her to believe. But then, it had been hard for her to believe that the townspeople of Overton, California, would turn on her as they had when she testified against the corrupt owners of the town’s largest business. To them, she was to blame for everything bad that followed and they harassed her to the point of driving her away.
Shattered, Anne seeks isolation on the beautiful and lonely northern California Coast, where she hopes to heal her nerves and her spirit.
Only she soon learns that she’s not as alone as she thought: Robert Singleton—a very attractive man entangled in his own weighty problems—and his determinedly friendly five-and-a-half-year-old son, Jamie, are vacationing in the next cove.
Then accidents start to happen…
Read an Excerpt:
“Mr. Foreman, have you reached a verdict?”
The words rang hollowly in the hushed courtroom. All eyes were riveted on the head juror, the one person in twelve who was standing.
Anne Reynolds waited, her hands locked tightly in her lap, keenly aware of the tension surrounding her.
“Yes, we have, Your Honor,” the foreman replied.
“Please give it to the bailiff.”
With practiced ease, the uniformed bailiff collected the finding and brought it to the clerk’s station.
The clerk then passed the folded paper to the judge, who opened it, read the decision, and handed it back for the clerk to read aloud.
Her voice resonant with authority, the woman went through the ritual deliverance of place and statute before finally divulging the contents: “…find the defendants guilty of—”
Pandemonium broke loose in the crowded room. Shocked protests blended with heartrending cries from the two defendants’ families. Members of the news media, anxious to break the story, erupted from their seats to push and shove their way into the rear hall, where they could use their mobile phones, while other members of the media, who hadn’t arrived early enough to get seats, pushed and shoved from the other direction to fill the empty places.
For a moment, Anne couldn’t move. The verdict was guilty!
The judge rapped his gavel, demanding order.
The defendants, both men in their late fifties, sat at the defense table in stunned disbelief.
Once order was restored, the judge asked the clerk to repeat the verdict, then asked the defense attorneys if they wished to have the jury polled. They did, but the outcome remained the same. The judge then dismissed the jury, set a date and time for sentencing, and left the bench, his role in the nightmare that had torn at the heart of one small, central valley California town finished for the present.
As soon as the door to his chambers closed, the noise level rose again. People couldn’t believe what had happened!
Anne heard their grumbling and felt the heated censure of onlookers’ eyes. She wanted to sink lower in her seat, but pride wouldn’t let her. She had done nothing wrong.
The two men on either side of her stood up, and she did as well.
“Well, that’s done,” the taller man said.
“Yes,” the other answered.
Together, the three of them had been the prosecution’s main witnesses: the federal agents who had headed the investigation, and herself, the local person who had come forward with the evidence.
The taller agent reached to shake Anne’s hand. “Miss Reynolds, you already know you have the government’s gratitude. I want to give you mine, as well. I know it’s not been easy for you.”
“No,” Anne replied. The man’s touch was cool and reserved, when what she needed was human warmth. The other agent said nothing.
More eyes came to rest on them, the increasing resentment breaking over Anne like a wave.
When the prosecutor, a triumphant smile on his rather homely face, started toward them, it was more than Anne could bear. She murmured an excuse and escaped into the aisle. But the people who were already in the aisle wouldn’t budge. They stayed stubbornly where they were, forcing her to choose between struggling past them or sitting back down.
Anne had to get out of that room! A cold film of perspiration broke over her body as her stomach lurched. She twisted this way and that, doing her best to get past the angry people she’d once thought of as friends.
She had almost reached the double doors into the hall when a hand caught her arm and yanked her around. “I hope you don’t think people will forget this!” Emily Thompson hissed, her malevolent face bare inches from Anne’s. “Two good men…and look what you’ve done to them!”
“They did it to themselves, Emily.”
“No one believes that! No one believes you!”
“The jury did.”
“Well, the jury was wrong! If you want a helpful hint—go back to your house, pack your things, and leave!”
“Are you threatening me?” Anne demanded. Now the people in the aisle were moving past her, many jostling her on purpose.
“I’m not threatening. I’m telling!” Emily spat. “Leave Overton! We have ways of dealing with traitors.”
“The traitors are over there!” Anne pointed toward the two defendants.
“So you say. You’d better listen, though, or you’ll pay the price.”
“I’m not going to leave!” Anne slapped the woman’s hand away and made another desperate push into the hall. Emotion clogged her throat and tears trembled on her lashes, tears she was determined not to let fall. She would not give the crowd that victory.
“Liar!” someone shouted.
“Busybody!” someone else called.
Several members of the media spotted her and she was soon surrounded by bright lights, cameras, and microphones…with a barrage of questions being hurled at her.
“Traitor!” The spiteful accusation cut through the air, giving a new direction to the media’s curiosity.
She didn’t seem a popular figure…did the citizens of Overton resent what she had done? Was there any truth to the rumor that Kinkaid Systems was being forced to shut down?
The taller FBI agent came to her aid, his professional demeanor drawing the attention of the reporters. Their questions immediately switched to him, allowing Anne to slip away.
She exited the courthouse by a side door and hurried to her car. Though the trial had been held in the county seat, a good thirty miles from Overton, Anne knew that everyone from the town, who possibly could, would be present to hear the verdict. With that in mind, she’d parked her car in the most secluded spot she could find in the hope that it wouldn’t be noticed; that she wouldn’t be noticed when she returned to claim it.
But someone had noticed. All four tires of the car were slashed and resting on the rims, and the windshield wipers had been twisted and bent back like the wings of a broken bird.
Anne automatically searched the nearby area, but the vandals had disappeared. They’d left a calling card, though: a note scrawled in bright red lipstick on the driver’s side window.
Don’t come back or else!
Anne smeared the notice with the side of her fist until it was more of a blob than writing. She would not be intimidated. Not by anyone! Overton was her home now, and she was determined to stay there! She had done nothing wrong!
A car careened into the parking lot, catching her attention, its tires screaming as the occupants yelled obscenities. One of them threw a rock that bounced off the car door at Anne’s side, making her jump. Her startled reaction drew cat calls and laughter.
As the car screeched back onto the side street, a loud pow came from the boulevard that fronted the courthouse.
Though Anne recognized it instantly as an engine backfire…instinct took over and she ducked down as if it had been a gunshot.