Copyright 2012 by Linda Castillo
GONE MISSING. (CHAPTER 1)
My mamm once told me that some places are too beautiful for anything bad to happen. When I was a kid, I believed those words with all of my young heart. I lived my life in a state of ignorant bliss, oblivious to the evils that lurked like frothy-mouthed predators outside the imaginary gates of our small Amish community. The English world with its mysterious and forbidden charms seemed like a million miles away from our perfect little corner of the earth. I had no way of knowing that some predators come from within and beauty has absolutely nothing to do with the crimes men commit.
Ohio's Amish country is a mosaic of quaint farms, rolling hills dissected by razor-straight rows of corn, lush hardwood forests, and pastures so green that you'd swear you had stepped into a Bill Coleman photograph. This morning, with the sun punching through the final vestiges of fog and the dew sparkling like quicksilver on the tall grass of a hay field, I think of my mamm's words and I understand how she could believe them.
But I'm a cop now and not easily swayed by appearances, no matter how convincing the facade. My name is Kate Burkholder and I've been the police chief of Painters Mill for about three years now. I was born here to Amish parents in a one-hundred-year-old farmhouse set on sixty acres of northeastern Ohio's rich, glaciated soil. I grew up Plain—no electricity, no motorized vehicles. Up until the age of fourteen, I was a typical Amish girl—innocent, God-loving, content in the way most Amish children are. My future, my very destiny, had been preordained by my gender and the religion bestowed upon me by my parents. All of that changed on a postcard-perfect summer day much like this one when fate introduced me to the dark side of human nature. I learned at a formative age that even on perfect, sunny days, bad things happen.
I try not to let my view of the world affect the way I do my job. Most of the time, I succeed. Sometimes I feel all that cynicism pressing in, coloring my perceptions, perhaps unfairly. But far too often, my general distrust of mankind serves me well.
I'm idling down Hogpath Road in my city-issue Explorer with my window down and a to-go cup of coffee between my knees. I've just come off the graveyard shift, having covered for one of my officers while he visited his folks in Michigan. I'm tired, but it's a good tired. The kind that comes with the end of an uneventful shift. No speeders. No domestic disputes. No loose livestock wreaking havoc on the highway. When you've been a cop for any length of time, you learn to appreciate the small things.
I'm thinking about a hot shower and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, when my radio crackles. "Chief? You there?"
I reach for the mike. "What's up, Mona?"
Mona Kurtz is my third-shift dispatcher. She's been part of my small police department from day one, and despite her Lady Gaga-esque wardrobe and decidedly uncoplike manner, she's a good fit. A night owl by nature, she keeps things interesting when the shift is slow—which is usually the case—but when the situation calls for it, she's all business and a true benefit to the department.
"I just took a nine one one for some kind of disturbance," she tells me.
"What's the twenty?"
Images of drunk and disorderly teenagers flash in my mind's eye and I groan inwardly. The Tuscarawas Bridge is a favorite hangout for some of the local youths to "chill." As of late, some of that so-called...
Author: Linda Castillo
New York Times bestselling author Linda Castillo lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next book in this series, also set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. Visit www.lindacastillo.com to learn more.