Someone had murdered her grandfather.
And Sable Chamberlain was next on the villain's hit list. With the help of her friend Paul Murphy, she hoped to hide at her family's isolated Ozark home. But then an ice storm trapped the couple there with a busload of shady characters and an atmosphere of tension...and evil. Sable and Paul could trust no one but each other. Their only hope to prevent sharing her grandfather's tragic fate was to solve the mystery surrounding his death, though danger lurked around every corner...
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April 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Hidden Motive by Hannah Alexander
Dr. Sable Chamberlin had begun to detest her telephone's ring tone. Not only did she hate the harsh sound, but the ring often summoned her to the Boswell Community Hospital for an emergency. Being on call sixty hours a week had gotten old. She wasn't on call this evening, however; she was in mourning.
She slid the cordless receiver from the stand on the counter and pressed the answer button, glancing through her kitchen window at the lightning over the company town of Freemont, Oklahoma. It seemed much later than six o'clock on this February evening.
"Sable, that you?" The voice of her elderly friend, Noah Erwin, held comfort.
"How'd the funeral go?"
She closed her eyes, tears still close. Her grandfather, Josiah Kessinger, had been the reason for her move to Freemont from her home in the Missouri Ozarks.
"It went, Noah."
"Especially the accusations against him."
"All false," Noah said.
"I know." Her grandfather's death on Monday had coincided with a rumor of fraud. Sable had also been implicated in the alleged deception. Since she and her grandfather weren't natives of this tightly knit mining community, they made easy targets, it seemed.
"You just get back to town?" Noah asked.
"Yes, I have a shift tomorrow." Saturday was a busy day at the clinic. "What's up?"
"I have a package that was sent to you in care of my address. I'd bring it to you, but my truck's in for repairs."
"It's his writing. No name on the return address, but it's stamped Eagle Rock, Missouri."
"Would you open it, please?" Sable asked. "If it's something important, I'll drive out."
She heard a ripping sound. Noah said something under his breath, and then paused. The pause became a protracted silence.
"Lord help us all," he murmured.
Noah continued to mutter as paper rustled. Sable didn't rush him. He'd been her patient since her second day on the job at the Freemont clinic. He'd also become the most important influence in her life here. Because of Noah, she and Grandpa had found hope for the future--and a whole new reason for living.
"Sable, you'd better come on out," Noah said at last.
"Something's up. I knew Josiah had a lot on his mind, but the old rascal never was much for sharing his thoughts."
"What is it?"
"You should see the stuff he's dug up," Noah said. "Papers and letters about dirty deals, pictures, reports."
"Dirty deals? What kind of--"
"You might think about packing your bags and heading back to Missouri," Noah said. "Here's one of those sticky notes. Says these are copies. Originals in Missouri. You got any idea where--" He broke off.
"Thought I heard something."
"Like what?" This felt increasingly bad.
"Probably the wind. Just get out here, okay? Josiah hinted about spies amongst us, and--" He broke off again. "What was that noise?" Silence, then, distantly, "Hello? Who's there?"
She gripped the receiver and took a slow, steady breath. Just the wind.
Noah came back on the line. "Sorry about that. I'm a little jumpy is all."
"I'll call the police."
"No! These notes suggest someone in the sheriff's office is dirty. Murph's got his cell phone on him. I'll call him out, just to be safe."
Paul Murphy, a paramedic at the clinic, was solid and strong. Sable liked and trusted the man.
"I'll be waiting on the porch," Noah said. "See you in about ten."
She grabbed her car keys and billfold from the kitchen counter and pulled on her coat. Noah lived alone in an old farmhouse four miles from town. She rushed outside, locking the door behind her. Instinctively, as she hurried to the car, her hand went up to the old pocket watch she wore on a chain around her neck, an unexpected Christmas gift from her grandfather.
Ever since he'd given her the watch, he'd become more and more secretive. Three weeks ago, he'd told her, "Darlin', if anything happens to me, get out of Oklahoma. Don't look back. This isn't any kind of town for a young lady like you."
Recalling those words, she jumped into her Camaro and backed from the driveway. Soon, maybe she would have more pieces of this puzzle. She hoped they didn't raise more questions.
A flash of lightning illuminated Noah Erwin's sprawling old house. The violent, approaching storm lit the sky, accentuating the darkness in the house. Noah wasn't on the porch waiting for her, as he'd said he would be.
She unlatched the gate, pulled it open with a creak of rusty hinges, and then stepped carefully along the flagstone path. She stopped as another flash of lightning lit the porch and the wide-open doorway.
In that instant, Sable was blasted with shock at the sight of her elderly friend sprawled across the threshold, his body pinned between the door frame and both the heavy oak and screen doors.