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Authors: Kathy Herman

Not by Sight

BOOK: Not by Sight
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To Him who is both the Giver and the Gift

Contents

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

AfterWords

A Note from the Author

Discussion Guide

Not by Sight

Acknowledgments

I love Arkansas! After moving to the rolling hills of East Texas from the front range of Colorado, I discovered that any time I missed the mountains, I could travel to nearby Arkansas to satisfy that longing. I chose the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas to provide the backdrop for this new series and many of the images I describe in the story. However, Sure Foot Mountain, Angel View Lodge, Raleigh County, and the town of Foggy Ridge exist only in my imagination.

During the writing of this book, I drew from several resource people, each of whom shared generously from his or her storehouse of knowledge and experience. I did my best to integrate the facts as I understood them. If accuracy was compromised in any way, it was unintentional and strictly of my own doing.

I owe a special word of thanks to Retired Commander Carl H. Deeley of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for helping me to understand when and how Miranda rights should be read; how SIM cards, bloodhounds, and helicopters are used to track criminals and victims; and how a command post is operated. Carl, you gave me such great information that, at times, I felt almost embedded with your officers! You’re a joy to work with!

A big thank-you also to Paul David Houston, former assistant district attorney, for giving me clear direction regarding specific criminal charges in a rather complicated plot, and for helping me to understand Arkansas law regarding birth and death records that have not been filed. Paul, your prompt replies to my many questions is not something I take for granted. Thank you never seems like enough, but it is heartfelt.

A special word of thanks to Carolyn Walker, an ardent advocate for families and children who works with the Texas Foster Family Association, for offering helpful input based on her many years of experience with child protective services. Carolyn, thanks for answering a multitude of questions and enabling me to feel comfortable with my handling of this important element of the story.

I’m immensely grateful to my faithful prayer warriors: my sister Pat Phillips; dear friends Mark and Donna Skorheim and Susan Mouser; and my online prayer team: Chuck Allenbrand, Pearl and Don Anderson, Judith Depontes, Jackie Jeffries, Susie Killough, Joanne Lambert, Adrienne McCabe, Deidre Pool, Kim Prothro, Kelly Smith, Leslie Strader, Carolyn Walker, Sondra Watson, and Judi Wieghat; my friends at LifeWay Christian Store in Tyler, Texas, and LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee; my church family at Bethel Bible Church; and my reader friends on Facebook. I cannot possibly express to you how much I value your prayers.

To the retailers and suppliers who sell my books, the church and public libraries that make them available; and the many readers who have encouraged me with personal testimonies about how God has used my words to challenge and inspire them. He uses you to fuel the passion that keeps me creative.

To my agent, Joel Kneedler, at Alive Communications for being such an anchor. Thanks that I never have to wonder if you’re looking out for my best interests.

To Cris Doornbos, Dan Rich, Don Pape, and the amazing staff at David C Cook Publishers for allowing me to partner with you in “transforming lives together.” I’m so pleased and proud that I’ll be writing another two trilogies under your umbrella!

And to my editor, Diane Noble, ever-flexible encourager extraordinaire, for affirming, suggesting, instructing, and inspiring. This go-round was a challenge that pulled our hearts and minds together, page after page. Thank you for your gentle and seemingly endless patience! Your suggested enhancements to this story proved immeasurable.

And to my husband, Paul, my partner and soul mate, for understanding so well the commitment it takes to write one series after another while juggling overlapping edits and deadlines. Thanks for never complaining that we share our home with such a demanding boarder. Were it not for your support, I could never write professionally.

And to the God of all comfort, who collects our tears and uses them to water our seeds of faith, use the words poured out on these pages to remind us of Your goodness and faithfulness.

Prologue

“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

Jimmy Dale Oldham had never killed anything bigger than a June bug. Hunting was supposed to come as natural as breathing to every Arkansas boy. Not him. At least if he could hit his mark, the kill would be quick and clean and the animal wouldn’t suffer. That might be the best he could hope for.

He took careful aim through the scope of the Winchester 94 .30-30 caliber rifle he’d inherited as his birthday present. He slowly squeezed the trigger, and an empty soup can popped off a log about fifty yards away. He pretended it was a feral hog. He’d never shot one but was convinced he could do it now. Maybe. He didn’t dare give in to the revulsion he felt every time he saw his dad shoot and butcher wild game. Or admit how disappointed he was that this birthday present was not the smartphone he had hoped for.

Dad said that turning twelve was a rite of passage. And being given a rifle passed down for three generations was something special—especially since Winchester had stopped making this model. Grandpa and Dad had hunted with this rifle and downed every kind of wild game that roamed the Ozark Mountains—and had wall mounts to prove it.

Jimmy Dale ran his fingers along the smooth, polished wood handle. He had always admired the look of Daddy’s prize Winchester and the respect it had earned from less-successful hunters who recognized his father’s exceptional marksmanship. He was proud to make the rifle his. He just preferred not to shoot anything that breathed.

He glanced up at a red-tailed hawk flying away with something squirming in its talons. He wondered how long he could put off going with Daddy and Uncle Jake to hunt the sounder of feral hogs that were ruining crops, burrowing into lawns, and eating up all the wild turkey. There were plenty of boys his age who could shoot a pesky porker without thinking twice about it. Maybe once he did it a few times, he would toughen up and be like them. Then his dad would be proud of him. His stepdad sure wasn’t.

Jimmy Dale stood erect, the afternoon sun browning his bare shoulders, and lifted the rifle. He took aim and ever so carefully squeezed the trigger. Another soup can popped off the log. Perfect. No squealing. No bleeding. Nothing to butcher. His kind of “kill.” He fixed his gaze on an empty gallon milk jug set on a big rock near the tree line about a hundred yards away. He hadn’t hit one—yet. But there was a first time for everything.

He took off his red cap, wiped the sweat off his forehead, then put the cap back on and raised his rifle. He got the plastic bottle in his sights and squeezed the trigger. Missed. He cocked the rifle and took another shot. Missed again.

He spit out a curse word he knew was grounds for his mom to wash out his mouth with soap. He discharged the empty shell and dug his heels into the dirt. Holding his breath, he took careful aim, his index finger positioned on the trigger—and squeezed. The plastic bottle didn’t move. He hadn’t even grazed it.

He threw his hat on the ground. He stank at this! How come girls never had to prove themselves this way? It wasn’t fair. He gripped his rifle tight and trudged through a field thick with larkspur, primrose, Indian paintbrush, and black-eyed Susans. He stopped at the rock and reached out to snatch the milk jug and move it back fifty yards just as a deep voice bellowed from nearby in the woods.

“That’s some wild shootin’, boy!”

Jimmy Dale jumped, his heart beating like a scared rabbit’s, and saw a silhouette of someone in the dark woods—it appeared to be a bearded man, a little girl clinging to him like a monkey.

“I thought I was alone out here,” Jimmy Dale confessed, his face scalded with humiliation. “I’m pretty good at fifty yards but can’t seem to hit anything beyond it. Name’s Jimmy Dale Oldham. Folks call me J.D. I live over yonder about a mile.” He nodded toward the west. “What’s your name, mister?”

The bearded stranger didn’t answer. He said something to the little girl and set her on her feet, then reached down to the ground and started dragging something across the forest floor and out into the light. It was an injured man, the front of his shirt soaked with blood.

The bearded stranger let go of the man’s wrists. The guy’s arms fell to the ground like lead weights, his face hidden by tall clumps of Indian paintbrush.

“You killed him.” The bearded stranger locked gazes with Jimmy Dale.

“Me …?” Jimmy Dale struggled for a moment to find his voice. “I … I didn’t see a soul out here. I wasn’t aiming for him. Honest. I was just shooting at that milk carton.”

“You missed.”

“It was an accident.”

“So you say.”

“Is he really d-dead?” Jimmy Dale’s knees began to wobble, and he couldn’t bring himself to look at the body.

“Ain’t got a pulse.”

“I … I didn’t mean to do it.”

“He’s just as dead either way. The law’ll expect you to
pay
for what you done.”

“Please, mister. I’ll tell the sheriff it was an accident. You saw everything. You can tell him.”

“All I seen was a man shot! I don’t know nothin’ about the why or how of it!” The stranger’s gruff voice made his little girl whimper, and he shot her an admonishing look, his index finger to his lips.

Jimmy Dale took a step backward. He remembered hearing about another boy who shot and killed a man, was tried as an adult, and went to jail. How could this be happening to him? What would his parents say? His whole life might be over before his voice even changed. Or he got his driver’s license. Or a smartphone. He glanced out across the field and wanted desperately to run. But the stranger knew his name and where to find him.

“Sir”—Jimmy Dale felt urine soak the front of his jeans—“I … I don’t know what to do. I didn’t mean any harm. I’ll swear to it on the Bible. Please … you have to believe me. This man probably has a family. We should tell someone.”

“I know him. He don’t have kin.”

The bearded stranger was about his dad’s age. Piercing eyes. He wore denim overalls and no shirt. His arms were hairy, his biceps big and lumpy like Uncle Jake’s.

“Go on home, boy.” The stranger spoke softly now. “What’s done is done. I’ll see to him.”

“What’re you gonna do?” Jimmy Dale’s heart pounded so hard he was sure his accuser could see his bare chest moving.

“Ain’t your concern. Don’t never speak of this to nobody, or I’ll be forced to tell the sheriff what I know, and they’ll throw you in jail till you’re an old man. Now go on. Git! Keep your mouth shut, and don’t never come back here.”

“I won’t. I promise.” Jimmy Dale turned on his heel, holding tightly to the murder weapon, and raced full throttle across the open field, wildflowers flattening under the thrusting blows of his Nikes, his rush of adrenaline fueled by fear and shame. If only he hadn’t tried to hit the stupid target at a hundred yards! His birthday rifle had been used for decades to put food on the table and trophies on the wall, and now he’d put a man down with it. His dad would be devastated if he ever found out his son had killed a man. He couldn’t let that happen.

Jimmy Dale fell on his knees when he reached the place where he had fired the fatal shot and retched until his lunch came up. He found his cap and put it on, then looked back at the tree line. The bearded stranger and the little girl were gone. So was the body. Nothing Jimmy Dale could say or do would bring the man back to life. All he could do now was try to forget it happened and hope the stranger did the same.

Chapter 1

Abby Cummings floated in the opaque gray fog that separated slumber from wakefulness. The buzz of her alarm clock would soon fill the silence. She would have to open her eyes and face the day she’d been dreading for weeks. Why was it still traumatic after five years? Everyone told her that time heals all wounds. Not hers. And especially not today.

BOOK: Not by Sight
5.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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