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A Darcy Sweet Mystery Box Set Five: A Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery, #5

A Darcy Sweet Mystery Box Set Five: A Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery, #5

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A Darcy Sweet Mystery Box Set Five: A Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery, #5

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607 Seiten
10 Stunden
Jul 19, 2019


Box Set Five: Books 19 to 21

Book 19 - Close to Home

The mists have returned!

Darcy Sweet couldn't work out why the mists would have come back to town. Things have been calm, almost normal, since she'd put the Pilgrim Ghost to rest and solved the mystery of Great Aunt Millie's death.

So why would the mists be back now?

The only thing it could be… the only reason she can think of is that trouble is coming to Misty Hollow once again.

But what could the trouble be? And was she prepared for it?

Book 20 - The Naughty List

The ghost of a teenage girl… A catastrophic fire… And a devastating secret that shatters Darcy Sweet's world.

It's just another Christmas in Misty Hollow and it's business as usual for Jon and Darcy with a disturbing mystery to solve. They have their very own naughty list.

And they're checking it twice!

The further they dig into the mystery the more secrets they uncover. It seems that everyone has a secret including someone close to Darcy.

The stakes are raised for Jon and Darcy when the mystery turns more deadly.

Will they survive to see Christmas with their family?

The Naughty List is the twentieth book in the Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery series. If you love cozy mysteries with paranormal, and a touch of romance you'll love the Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery series.

Pick up The Naughty List to read Darcy's latest adventure today!

Book 21 - Death Takes a Letter

A friend needing help… A suspicious death four decades ago… Another mystery for Darcy Sweet to solve!

For forty years Darcy Sweet's friend Linda Becht has believed that her mother died of natural causes. She has had no reason to question that fact.

Until now!

Her discovery of some old love letters belonging to her mother would seem to cast the shadow of doubt upon that belief.

Was her mother murdered?

Linda enlists Darcy's help to find out for sure. Well into her second pregnancy and unable to contact the spirit world for guidance, how will Darcy unearth the truth to this decades-old mystery?

Death Takes a Letter is the twenty-first book in the Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery series. If you love cozy mysteries with paranormal, and a touch of romance you'll love the Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery series.

Pick up Death Takes a Letter to read Darcy's latest adventure today!

Jul 19, 2019

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A Darcy Sweet Mystery Box Set Five - K.J. Emrick

A Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery

Box Set 5: Books 19 to 21

K. J. Emrick

Copyright © 2019 by K. J. Emrick and South Coast Publishing

First published in Australia July 2019.

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious. Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

- From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

No responsibility or liability is assumed by the Publisher for any injury, damage or financial loss sustained to persons or property from the use of this information, personal or otherwise, either directly or indirectly. While every effort has been made to ensure reliability and accuracy of the information within, all liability, negligence or otherwise, from any use, misuse or abuse of the operation of any methods, strategies, instructions or ideas contained in the material herein, is the sole responsibility of the reader. Any copyrights not held by publisher are owned by their respective authors.

All information is generalized, presented for informational purposes only and presented as is without warranty or guarantee of any kind.

All trademarks and brands referred to in this book are for illustrative purposes only, are the property of their respective owners and not affiliated with this publication in any way. Any trademarks are being used without permission, and the publication of the trademark is not authorized by, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owner.

Created with Vellum



Death Comes Home

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

The Naughty List

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Death Takes a Letter

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

More Info

About the Author


Sign up for the no-spam newsletter and get a FREE mystery book and lots more exclusive content, all for free. Go to K.J.’s website to find out more –

Death Comes Home

A Darcy Sweet Cozy Mystery Book 19

First published in Australia by South Coast Publishing, May 2016. Copyright K.J. Emrick (2012-2019)

Chapter 1

Aunt Millie sat on the porch swing in the late afternoon sunshine, fanning herself against the unseasonable heat of an early June day with the brim of her big, floppy hat. Her long black dress swished as the swing rocked. You should have some lemonade, dear, she said, her voice sweet and kind for her niece.

I’d like that, she answered, smiling at her aunt Millie. She knew this was only a dream. She didn’t care. As long as she got to spend even one more moment like this, it was worth it. In jeans and a tank top, she relaxed into the moment, wishing it could last forever.

Darcy Sweet sat on the swing next to Millie, enjoying the lazy way it moved as they talked about everything and nothing, gossiping like two teenage girls.

Of course, Darcy was far from being a teenager anymore. Thirty-six would be upon her in just a few weeks’ time. She reflected back on her life while she tried to keep the strands of her long dark hair from being blown across her heart-shaped face. Living here in Misty Hollow had been anything but boring. Sometimes it had felt like there were more downs than ups in her life but all in all, she wouldn’t trade what she had for anything.

Her life was peaceful, and content. Their nice little town in New England was thriving, with new business and new construction and a noticeable rise in population. She was married to the best man who had ever lived. And, speaking of the growing population, she and Jon Tinker had been blessed with their first child just five years ago.

The smile that came to Darcy’s face couldn’t be helped. Colby Sweet was an intelligent and precocious child, the apple of her father’s eye. She was going to break hearts when she grew up. Before that time came around, she was going to bring all sorts of joy to her parents.

Her agreement with Jon, when they married, was that they both would keep their last names. Jon Tinker. Darcy Sweet. Their children would take either name, depending on how they entered this world. Girls would be named Sweet. The boys, Tinker. Thus Colby Sweet had been born, and named, and loved by two doting parents.

She might bring you all sorts of fluffy happiness, Smudge griped, rolling over onto his back and scratching at the air. But she’s already cost me a few of my nine lives, and I was already down one to begin with!

Oh, for Pete’s sake, Smudge. Don’t be such a sour puss, Darcy joked with her big black and white tomcat. You know Colby loves you.

Loves to chase me, you mean, he griped. I’m not a spring chicken anymore.

You never were a chicken, silly.

He eyed her from beneath half-closed lids. Now you have jokes?

Why not? Life is pretty good from where I’m sitting.

Yes, Great Aunt Millie agreed, but you’re not really sitting here, are you?

She smiled sweetly as she said it, and Darcy laughed as the afternoon sun sank lower, and the shadows grew longer.

Longer, and darker.

If I lose any more of my lives to Colby, Smudge insisted, the only place I’ll be sitting is right here drinking lemonade.

Oh, Smudge, Darcy said as she rolled her eyes. You don’t even like lemonade. You’ve really gotten cranky in your old age.

He twitched his whiskers. You know what I mean.

She did, of course. Little Colby thought it was a great game to see who could make it upstairs and down again the fastest, her or Smudge. She was only just finding her speed, and Smudge was getting old for a cat. Sixteen years translated to something like eighty-four in people years. Give or take.

Even so, Darcy knew Smudge enjoyed the attention. He’d always been an active part of Darcy’s life and she was sad to know their time together might be near an end. At least here, in her dreams, he could imagine himself to be the young kitten he had been, once upon a time.

Don’t mind him, Millie said. He’s still offended that one of his kittens wasn’t adopted out.

Darcy laughed out loud at that. Smudge and Twistypaws—a pretty gray cat from town—had produced a darling litter of five kittens just two months ago, and all of them had gone to find good homes except a strikingly beautiful little girl cat with gray fur and three white paws and one single black ear tip. Tiptoe was making herself at home in Darcy’s house, right alongside her daddy Smudge. Darcy didn’t mind. In fact, she had intentionally held this one back from being adopted out. She liked the little kitten. And, she liked knowing that there would be another generation of Smudge’s family growing up in the Tinker-Sweet household.

Isn’t it almost breakfast time? Smudge yawned.

Oh, it can’t be that late yet, Darcy complained to Millie. I hardly get to see you anymore unless it’s in my dreams.

Millie smiled and patted Darcy’s hand. You don’t need me hardly as much anymore, dear. You’ve grown into a fine young woman. Able to take care of yourself, and that’s a fact. I couldn’t be prouder.

"That doesn’t mean I won’t ever need you.’

Oh, goodness, of course not. I have tons of good advice left to give. You just never know when you might need an old woman’s perspective. Like mine. She hummed softly. Sometimes we see things that you youngsters miss.

Smudge rolled over to sit at the edge of the porch, curling his tail around his paws as he stared up the road. Somethings coming.

Now Smudge, Millie scolded him. This is Misty Hollow. There’s always something coming down the road. Doesn’t always stay on the road, either.

Darcy followed Smudge’s line of sight. Her street led directly to town, close enough that she could ride her bike there. In really nice weather she could walk, although it took more time. Today was that kind of good weather.

Or at least, it had been. The blue skies were beginning to cloud over. The warm breezes that had caressed Darcy’s skin a moment ago were now crawling over her bare arms with a chill. A cold front was coming, bringing a change.

Up the street, hovering just above the ground, snaky little tendrils of mist coiled into view.

Darcy woke up with a start. The dream was already fading away in bits and pieces. She remembered Millie’s words, mostly, and she remembered Smudge looking up the road at something that was coming their way. She wondered what that could mean. Maybe nothing. It could have been just a dream. Maybe.

Staring up at the ceiling she gave herself a few more minutes to come fully awake.

Her arm reached out to the other side of the bed, her hand fisting into the empty sheets and blankets. That’s right, she thought to herself. Jon was off with Grace at a working conference. Five days apart. After years of wedded bliss, it shouldn’t have been so hard to be without him for just a few days. Only, it was. She’d spent a long few hours the night before he left making sure he would remember her. It had been well worth the sleep they’d lost.

The smile on her face widened and she bit her lower lip, knowing exactly what she was going to do the first night he was back.

For now, she roused herself from her pillow and stretched with her arms above her head. She was wearing one of Jon’s shirts as pajamas over an old cut off pair of sweatpants. She could still smell him on the collar.

At the foot of the bed, Smudge mrowled and rolled over. Without Darcy’s body warmth there wasn’t much reason for him to stick around. He was slow and careful as he teetered over the edge of the mattress and dropped to the floor. Not as spry as he used to be. Darcy knelt on the floor with him and scratched around his ears, Jon’s shirt sliding off one shoulder, listening to the old man purr.

Getting pretty thin, aren’t you? Darcy told him. Maybe I’ll get you an extra helping at breakfast.

Smudge meowed his approval.

From the open doorway to the bedroom, a tiny handful of gray fur came racing in so fast that she lost control and tumbled sideways before digging her claws into the carpet so she could right herself and barrel into her father. Tiptoe the kitten was pure energy some days. She pushed her head against Smudge, playfully biting into the ruff around his neck.

The two of them batted at each other with soft paws for a moment before Tiptoe made a mad dash for the door. Smudge chased after his daughter, eager to prove he could keep up, even if Tiptoe was already downstairs before he made it past the bedroom door.

Laughing softly, Darcy bent one leg up to her chest and laid her cheek against her knee. She was going to have to check on her own daughter pretty soon.

Stretching again, she got up and went to the window to draw the curtains open.

The world was quiet outside on this warm Wednesday morning. Quiet, and familiar. There were just the two houses on her street. The one next door belonged to Izzy McIntosh. She’d have to shake a leg if she was going to beat Izzy to work. Her partner at the bookstore was always at work early. Darcy had made the right choice in giving her that job, to be sure. Life was always easier when you had the right friends…


Out the window, she saw that the edges of the grass next to the road had become shrouded in white fog. Thin, wavy tendrils of mist crept their way over the ground. In that second, her blood turned to ice.

Something’s coming, she remembered Smudge saying in her dream.

Once upon a time, the mists in town had signalled the coming of trouble. Whenever bad things were about to happen, when bad people were about to do bad things, the mists would roll in and blanket the town. It was what had given Misty Hollow its name in the first place, way back in the past. Troubles had always been a part of their history.

For more than five years the mists had stayed away from town. Things had been calm here, almost normal, since Darcy had put the Pilgrim Ghost to rest and solved the mystery of Great Aunt Millie’s death.

Why would the mists be back now?

It was possible that it was just weather. After all, there was such a thing as coincidence. Things did happen for no good reason.

Just not very often.

Reaching her left hand over to her right, Darcy felt for her great aunt’s ring that she wore on that finger. She twisted it around and around, feeling the intricate carvings under her fingertips. It was a nervous habit she did whenever something was bothering her. Usually, it made her feel better.

In the pit of her belly, deep inside, she felt a strange little shiver. Her sixth sense, warning her like it always did when something strange was about to happen to the town, or to a friend, or sometimes to herself. That was what this felt like. Sort of. It was the same, but different.

All her life she’d lived with the fact that she was different from other people. Her abilities and her skills weren’t exactly the sort of things that a high school guidance counselor knew what to do with. Instead of having a talent for drawing or a knack for dance, she could talk to ghosts.

Try putting that on a job application.

Then again, her ability had led her to experience any number of things that most people never even dreamed of. Darcy had gotten very good at trusting her sixth sense when it told her that things were wrong. That’s what she was feeling now.

Only, this wasn’t quite the same. This time it was different.

What were the mists trying to tell her?

Closing the curtain again she decided to think about it later. After a good breakfast. If trouble was coming, she’d know about it soon enough.


That little voice brought her smile back. Turning around, Darcy found her daughter Colby standing in the doorway. She was rubbing her eyes and yawning, her pink bunny pajamas hanging loosely off her shoulders and pooling around her feet. Colby was still a little small for her age. Not that Darcy was worrying about it. The trees that took the longest to grow always became the strongest ones in the forest.

Hey, Sweetie. Darcy wrapped her little girl into a hug and tousled her hair, which was already messy from sleep. It was a shade lighter than Darcy’s own and had these auburn highlights that came out when the sun caught it just right. The color of dark flame, as her daddy liked to say. There was a lot of Jon in that little girl’s face. There was a lot of Darcy in her, too, like how she smiled, and how she walked, and how she tended to speak her mind.

And, like how she seemed sensitive to the ghosts around her.

In Darcy the gift had been present since she was a little girl but had been mostly undeveloped until she came to live with Millie, but just like with growth spurts, talents like this tended to develop at their own pace. Darcy knew that. She couldn’t be sure Colby was sensitive with the gift, but there were hints. There had been plenty of times that Colby had shivered when Great Aunt Millie’s ghost was nearby. Darcy had found her nose to nose with Tiptoe before, sharing silent secrets as if they were having full-on conversations. Things like that.

This gift of theirs ran through the women’s side of the family. If Colby really did have the gift, then there was no telling how strong it might become later in life.

For now, she was just Darcy’s little girl.

Still sleepy, Mommy. Colby yawned, tugging her favorite stuffie tighter under her arm. Her and the purple Bittie Bunny were all but inseparable. The floppy-eared rabbit with the sad eyes and the goofy smile had seen better days, but Colby loved him.

Well, how about we go downstairs and have some breakfast? That’ll wake us both up. Then we can get you ready for the school bus.

Pancakes? Colby asked hopefully.

Darcy chuckled. Her daughter loved pancakes. Sure. I think we still have some blueberry mix left. How’s that sound?

As they started downstairs, that tingly sense of wrongness started in Darcy’s belly again. With each step, it got stronger. It was enough to make her want to turn around and go back to bed. Crawl under the covers. Stay there the rest of the day. Maybe if she did, the feeling would go away.

Well. Bad feelings or not, Colby needed pancakes.

The stairs led down into the living room. It was an open space lined with bookshelves, where a couch stood facing the television and there was plenty of floor space to spread out and play a board game, or just relax. This room had been much busier when Ellen Gless and her son Connor had been living here. They’d found a home of their own now, and Darcy’s big house was emptier for it.

The entryway to the kitchen was one of those rounded-top doorways. Through it, she could just see the edge of the square dining table. It was the same thing she saw every morning.

Somehow, she couldn’t make herself go through that opening today. There was something bad on the other side of that doorway. She just knew it.

Uh, Colby. Sweetie? Why don’t we go out for breakfast? Darcy knew she was being foolish. There couldn’t be anything that bad in her kitchen. In her own house. Still, it felt like if she went through that door, everything in her life was going to change. Her stomach twisted into knots and her legs locked in place where she stood. We could go to that restaurant that you like so much. Then I’ll ask Izzy to drive you to school after. How’s that sound?

The little girl bit at her lip, holding tight to her purple bunny. After carefully considering her options she shook her head. Pancakes, Mommy. Pancakes!

Colby raced into the kitchen. Darcy couldn’t make herself move. There was something in there. Something she couldn’t see. Something… she could feel.

In that moment a feeling of dread washed over her. It slithered across her skin and up her spine, stronger than the gentle tugging she had felt upstairs. There was something wrong here. The mists had come to town—again—and something was very, very wrong…

Daddy! Colby squealed from the kitchen.

Darcy blinked. Had Colby just said… Daddy?

Jon? she whispered. He wasn’t supposed to be home for two days. At least, that had been the plan. Although the way Colby had just sounded didn’t leave much doubt about it. She only ever got that excited for her daddy. Or her mommy.

So Jon must be home.

The dark feelings surged within her.

Making her feet work, Darcy pushed herself to follow Colby into the kitchen. Everything looked like it should. The countertop where she’d left last night’s dishes. The stove with its blue teakettle. The white erase board on the front of the fridge that outlined this week’s chores. Colby sat at the table, happily pretending to feed an apple to her Bittie Bunny.

Hi, Mommy, she said, not looking up from her stuffie. See who’s here?

Darcy sucked in a sharp breath. Colby wasn’t alone at the table.

She was sitting with her father. Jon was here.

Only, he wasn’t. Not really.

What’s wrong, Mommy?

Darcy couldn’t answer. She could only stare at the transparent form of her husband sitting there, staring back at her, smiling a sad smile. Her hands began to tremble and she needed to lean against the wall for support. How many times had she seen this, with other people? How many times had she sat and talked with people who weren’t really there… because…

Because they were ghosts.

The feeling from earlier squirmed inside of her again, and now she understood why it felt so different.

Tears flooded her eyes and made it even harder to see the dim outline of him. Jon’s face, so ruggedly handsome, was turned up so that she could look straight into his blue eyes. He wore the same clothes he’d been wearing when he left to go to that symposium with Grace. Black slacks. A white button-up shirt. Casual police clothes that were suitable for a police chief representing his small town department at a conference.

He held a hand out to her, and Darcy reached out to take it before she knew what she was doing. Her husband wasn’t really here. She couldn’t hold his hand. She would never be able to hold his hand again. This was only his ghost.

Jon Tinker was dead.

The world stopped spinning. The walls of her perfect life came crashing down on her and it was all she could do to keep standing under the weight of it all. How could this… no. It couldn’t be. Oh God, please don’t let this be real.

Colby looked at her oddly. Mommy, don’t you want to give Daddy a kiss? He’s really lonely where he is.

That was exactly what she wanted to do. Darcy wanted nothing more in that moment than to hold Jon. Kiss him, talk to him, feel his breath on her cheek and hear his heart beating against her chest. She wanted that like she’d never wanted anything in her life before. Only, she couldn’t have that. Not now, not ever. Jon wasn’t coming home ever again.

The rational side of her brain tried to make it make sense. Police work was a dangerous profession, and she had lived with her man for years knowing that he could be hurt any day he went to work. She had always known that, but now that she was faced with the stark, horrible reality of it she found herself fighting against the truth. She did not want it to be true. She did not want to be sitting here talking to her husband’s ghost.

If only wishing could make it so.

Jon, please… don’t do this to me.

Jon lifted his hand to his mouth, his fingers curled around the handle of a cup of coffee that was just suddenly there. He took two sips, set the cup down, and spun it slowly by the top.

Darcy gasped and put her hand up over her mouth. She remembered that moment. She had lived it, with Jon, right here in this kitchen a few days ago. Before he left to go to his conference. It was like he was living it all over again… if that was the right phrase.

Then the coffee cup was gone, and he gave her that sad smile again. With one finger he pointed at the table. As Darcy held onto the counter to balance herself, their daughter leaned in closer and watched Jon begin moving his finger back and forth, back and forth.

Darcy was drawn in by the hypnotic movement of it. Back and forth, back and forth.

Back… Forth…

A knocking sound jarred her down to her toes. Her head whipped around to see the dark silhouette of a man through the curtained window of the front door. After she could manage to swallow her heart back into her chest she called out, Just a moment!

Then she turned back to the kitchen table, and Jon’s ghost was gone.

Daddy said he had to go, Colby explained, playing with Bittie Bunny again. He wanted me to tell you that he loves you.

Um. Colby? Darcy tried not to cry. She couldn’t break down and sob. Not in front of her daughter. Not until she knew what was going on. Did Daddy, um… did Daddy say when he’d be back?

The girl shrugged. I think he said later. Can we have pancakes now?

Knock knock knock.

Sure, Sweetie, she told Colby, wiping away the moisture from her cheeks. In a few minutes. All right? I have to talk to the nice man at the door first.

She had a feeling she knew exactly what was going to be waiting for her when she opened the door. Maybe not the who, exactly, but definitely the what. Someone was waiting to talk to her. They were bringing her a message.

Her hand hesitated on the doorknob. Who’s there?

Darcy, said a familiar voice. It’s me. It’s Sean Fitzwallis.

Sergeant Sean Fitzwallis had been a family friend for a long time. Their relationship had been complicated to be sure, and the secrets that he’d kept from her had nearly crushed her, but in the past few years he’d managed to redeem himself in her eyes. Jon’s too, which was why Jon had kept him on at the police department.

Sean, this isn’t really a good time, she called out to him through the door.

Instead of leaving, Sean knocked again. Can I… Darcy, we need to talk. Please open up.

Darcy closed her eyes. Of course he needed to talk to her. Jon’s ghost had just been sitting at their kitchen table, and now the police were at her door. To talk. It could only be about one thing. Her husband, and why his ghost had been here in her kitchen.

Barely able to breathe, feeling like she was moving in slow motion, she opened up the door. Sean Fitzwallis, tall and thin with a full head of graying hair, stood uneasily on her porch. He shifted from foot to foot in his blue uniform, the shoulders a bit droopy on his frame, the brass polished and the seams ironed in. His hat was in his hand, and he rolled it in his fingers, never quite meeting her eyes.

Darcy. Um. I’m so sorry to come here. Like this.

Amazingly, Darcy found her voice. She just wanted him to come out and say it already. Say that her husband was dead, so she could get answers to the questions bubbling inside her skull. Sean, she said to him. What happened?

He sighed. Darcy, there’s been an accident.

An accident. Was that what had killed Jon? It sounded too simple. Her husband was dead and there should be earthquakes and fires and floods and the whole world should know that something was wrong, because Jon Tinker was dead.

Then Sean took another breath and told her the rest.

It’s your sister, Darcy. It’s Grace. She was in an accident, and she’s hurt bad.

Around her, the world came to a crushing stop for the second time.

Chapter 2

Misty Hollow wasn’t a big enough place to have its own hospital. Maybe someday, considering how things were going for the town, but not now. So, Sean brought them to the hospital over in Meadowood. Saint John Camilus Hospital. Darcy had always thought she spent way too much time there, for one reason or another. Like sneaking into the hospital morgue to investigate a mystery. Now, she was going back there for what might be the worst moment of her life. Her sister was badly hurt, and lying in a hospital bed.

But would Jon’s body be there, too?

The whole way, Sean kept watching Darcy out of the corner of his eye as if he was expecting her to ask a slew of questions. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Perhaps, because she knew at least part of the answers.

Grace and Jon had driven together to the conference, in her beat up old sedan. They’d left Jon’s car at the station, and gone together. Darcy had been telling her sister for a couple of years now that she needed to get a new car after everything she’d put that one through but she just loved the thing so much… Anyway. They had been together.

Now Grace was in the hospital after an accident. Jon’s ghost was in her kitchen.

The answers pretty much scripted themselves.

This was not how I wanted to start my day, she thought to herself. With a thin smile she added this was not how she would want to start any day.

Oh, Jon…

Sean stayed with her when they went inside, straight past the reception desk and to the elevators that went up to the patient rooms. On the second floor, down the hall, she could see a room guarded by two of Misty Hollow’s police officers. That was the room that Sean led her to.

At the door, he told her to go on inside. He’d wait out here.

The beeping of the machines inside the room was what Darcy noticed first. They beat out a strong and steady rhythm. It was a safe sound, and it gave her the courage to go in further and push aside the hanging curtain from around the one occupied bed. When she did, her sister Grace smiled at her weakly, propped up on pillows and covered neck to foot in stiff white blankets. Wires taped to her skin under a hospital gown led to monitors displaying numbers next to moving lines. None of it meant anything to Darcy.

Hey, Sis. Grace’s voice was weak, and considering what she’d been through it was no wonder.

Not that Darcy had all the details yet. From the little bit Sean had told her she figured the accident had been bad. What she saw now confirmed it for her.

The head of the bed was raised for Grace to sit up. Her right arm was set in a cast that left only her fingers poking out. Purple bruises puffed her cheeks around both eyes, obscuring the family resemblance between her and Darcy, but it was still there if you knew where to look. It was in the color of her eyes, and the dark shade of her hair.

Darcy had always been able to read her sister’s face. She read pain there now, even as she tried to smile. A lot more than Grace was letting on.

Don’t you ‘hey sis’ me, Darcy said, her voice a lot harsher than she’d meant it to be. She wanted to be comforting. She wanted to be concerned and caring and loving, but all she could be was worried.

Jon, she thought. Tell me about Jon.

Grace, what happened?

Oh, Darcy. Grace reached out to her, with her uninjured hand, and suddenly the tears that both sisters had fought to control were falling freely. It was bad, Sis. One minute I was driving, the next I was upside down in a ditch. The car… kind of disintegrated around me. I’ve been to dozens of accident scenes, Darcy. None of them were this bad.

I’ve been in a couple myself, Darcy offered.

Not like this. She nodded, her eyes focused off into the distance, like she was reliving the accident in her mind. Then she shivered and blinked the memories away. So, where’s Colby?

I left her at the bookstore with Izzy. I didn’t want to send her to school after… you know. I didn’t want her to see you like this, either. Plus, I needed some time, you know? To figure out how to explain things to her.

I appreciate that, Sis, but really. I’ll be fine. Aaron said the same thing about Addison. He kept our daughter out of school too so he could talk to her and make sure she was prepared to see me. Can you believe that? I mean, come on. I’m fine. I’m just banged up real good.

Darcy had meant she needed time to decide how to explain to Colby what had happened to Jon, but she figured Grace knew what she meant. It would be hard enough telling a five-year-old that her daddy wasn’t coming home any more. With Colby, it would be even harder. It was going to be nearly impossible to explain things when she could see her father’s ghost just like he was really sitting at the dining table with her, watching her eat breakfast just like he always did.

Colby was special. Special didn’t always mean easy.

Her lips were trembling, and she needed to push herself to ask Grace, again, what had happened. She needed to know, and at the same time she was afraid to.

There was another car, Grace began with a hitching breath. It came out of nowhere, down a side road, and slammed right into my car. It pushed me off into the ditch… I must’ve rolled like a dozen times. When I came back to my senses I was here. I don’t remember the in between parts.

Lifting her arm up in its cast, she grimaced. Something tells me I’m glad I don’t remember any of it.

Darcy leaned across her sister and gave her a gentle hug. The two of them stayed there for a long time, listening to the machines keeping track of Grace’s breathing and heartbeat and life.

It took several attempts before she could find enough breath to ask, What about Jon?

Grace pushed her back to the edge of the bed. Jon? What happened to Jon?

"Nobody told you…?

Told me what?

It felt like someone had just hit her between the eyes with a steel rod. Looking into Grace’s eyes, Darcy could see it was true. Grace didn’t know. She hadn’t heard. Well technically Darcy hadn’t heard the news yet, either. She only knew because Jon had come to see her. Sean hadn’t said anything about it, and Darcy hadn’t been brave enough to ask. No doubt he could see that Darcy already knew about Jon. He must have figured someone else had told her, and no need to pour salt into that wound. Grace was Jon’s partner, though. Somebody really should have told her.

Apparently, it would have to come from her.

Grace, Darcy said, slowly working herself up to saying the words out loud, when the accident happened, you were driving, right?

Well, sure. Hard to get anywhere in a car unless you’re driving. Grace tried for a laugh and couldn’t find it. The crash wasn’t my fault, if that’s what you’re trying to say.

No, Grace, that’s not it at—

Listen, Darcy, that other car came out of nowhere.

I get that, Grace, I get it. I was only trying—

I’m telling you, it’s just like I was targeted. The guy didn’t even try to stop. He rammed me… so hard… She lifted her one good hand to cover her mouth as the muscles in her jaws flexed. I’ve never been so scared in my life. And that includes the time Aaron got kidnapped. I thought I was dead. I was there in that car for hours before they found me.

Nobody’s blaming you, Darcy promised.

They better not. The guy rammed me. On purpose. I’m telling you, Darcy, I was a target. This accident? It was no accident.

Silence fell between them. Darcy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. The accident was an attack? Someone had used a car as a weapon and tried to kill Grace. And Jon was… dead.

Darcy squeezed her eyes shut tight and gave herself a moment to think. Who would want to kill Grace and Jon? Well. Actually that was a pretty long list. There were any number of people that the two of them had put in jail over the years. She’d never thought of it this way before, but there actually might be lots of people who wanted her husband and her sister dead.

Police work had always been dangerous. She knew that when she first started dating Jon. Then they’d gotten married and had a baby and made a life, and in all that time it never occurred to her that someone might get angry enough to kill Jon.

Grace, she said, bringing her thoughts back to the present. Nobody blames you for what happened. Now if you were targeted… who do you think would have wanted to kill you and Jon?

Well, there’s a few people I… wait. What did you just say?

I asked who would have done this. Maybe if we went through some of your old cases. The ones you and Jon worked together.

Darcy, what’s Jon got to do with this?

Reaching out, Darcy laid her hand over Grace’s fingers in their cast. Okay. I know this is going to be tough to hear. I was sure someone would have told you by now but I guess, I don’t know… I guess they were waiting for you to recover a little more. I mean, Sean Fitzwallis came to get me at my house and didn’t talk to me about it either.

Grace searched her sister’s eyes. Darcy, what are you talking about?

The accident, Grace. The one that put you here and broke your arm. Jon… She took a moment to steady herself. It killed Jon. He’s dead, Grace. I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. I know that. So let’s figure out whose fault it is. Together. Let’s figure out who did this and put them away forever. Let me help you. Please? Don’t give me that line about how this is just for cops, okay? This one is personal. For me, it’s personal. I have to do this. For me, and for Jon.

The machines beeped. Outside of that room, time ticked by in seconds, and then minutes. Finally, Grace spoke again.

Darcy, I don’t understand. What happened to Jon?

I know, Darcy said, still trying to accept it herself. Jon didn’t make it out of the accident, Grace. Please, understand. This is hard enough as it is.

But… Darcy, her sister said. Jon wasn’t in the car with me. I was the only one there.

Darcy sat in one of the chairs set up down the hall from her sister’s room. They were green and padded, meant for people who were waiting to visit loved ones. People could sit here for as long as they wanted to and worry, or pray, or contemplate the mysteries of life.

Right now, Darcy was doing a little bit of all three.

The chairs were actually very uncomfortable, and she doubted anyone would choose to sit in them if they didn’t absolutely have to. They pinched her legs, and they leaned way too far back, and the fabric crackled with every move she made. So she sat very still and ignored the crick she was developing in her back, and continued to stare at the black and white tile squares on the floor. Somewhere not far away, a voice over the intercom speaker called for a nurse in room one-oh-four. Televisions in patient rooms droned softly. Someone coughed. To Darcy, it was all just background noise.

This made no sense.

The curse of her gift, the real thorn in her side, was that she couldn’t tell anyone about what she could do. Not her sister Grace. Grace knew a little bit but not all of what she could do. Not her good friend and business partner Izzy McIntosh. Although Izzy knew about Great Aunt Millie’s ghost hanging around the bookstore, she had never asked to know more, and Darcy had never volunteered much else. Jon knew, but only most of it. There were parts she kept even from her husband, not that it mattered now, because he wasn’t here to hold her and make it better. He wasn’t here at all.

She was alone.

Talking to ghosts was the sort of thing that got you sent to the loony bin. Right now, Darcy thought sourly, she might be willing to check herself in voluntarily.

After a few more minutes spent with her sister it had become clear to Darcy that what she feared was, in fact, true. Grace didn’t know anything about Jon being dead. Darcy had excused herself and promised to come back later but she couldn’t stay in that room one second longer. Everything that had happened this morning rolled back through her mind and she needed somewhere quiet to think. The hospital’s chapel would have been perfect, but this was as far as she’d made it before her legs gave out, and she had to sit down.

As best as she could remember, she went over everything Sean Fitzwallis had told her this morning. He had never once mentioned Jon. He hadn’t said anything to Darcy about him. Not even to offer his condolences. At the time, she chalked that up to him not wanting to add to her grief. He hadn’t wanted to heap on more sadness, was what she’d been thinking.

Looking back on it now, she realized she’d been wrong. Sean hadn’t mentioned Jon, because just like Grace, he didn’t know Jon was dead. No one did.

Except her.

We know he’s missing, Sean said to her, standing at her elbow. That’s all we know at this point.

She hadn’t even heard the old desk sergeant coming. He was a stealthy man for someone his age. Keeping her glare directed at the floor, Darcy spun her aunt’s ring around her finger. She was constantly surprised by how Sean Fitzwallis could seem to know exactly what she was thinking. Like just now, when he’d spoken directly to the question on her mind. Reading my thoughts again, Sean?

Arching a gray eyebrow, spinning his policeman’s hat in his hands, he sat in the chair next to hers. Now, that would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Not that the impossible doesn’t pop up a bit more in Misty Hollow than other places. No. I was just in there talking to Grace. She told me you seemed to think Jon was dead. He rubbed at the back of his neck. Sure wish you’d told me about that, Darcy. I would’ve said something on the ride over here.

Now she turned to him. He frowned at what he saw in her face. Darcy didn’t try to soften her expression. Well, if you think he’s missing, Sean, why didn’t you say something to me? I’m his wife. Don’t you think that would have been the right thing to do? Maybe let me know that my husband is in danger?

He held up a hand, leaning away from the anger in her voice. I didn’t want to tell you anything until we knew for sure, is all. Soon as we found Grace in that wreck this morning outside of town, we tried to contact Jon. He hasn’t been answering his cell phone.

Darcy knew why, even if Sean wasn’t ready to accept that she did. He and Grace were supposed to be together at this conference, Sean. What happened?

He shrugged. They ended up driving separate cars.

No, Darcy shook her head. Jon told me they were riding together.

Changed his mind, I guess. Or more like Grace changed it for him. Grace knew she wasn’t going to stay the whole time. She left to come back yesterday morning because… now how’d she put it? He tilted his head as he pitched his voice to sound like Grace’s. She wasn’t going to stick around there and be bored to tears when there’s real work to do. Her words, not mine. Apparently Jon wanted to stay at least one more day. Grace says he called you yesterday?

Yes. He hadn’t mentioned anything about Grace coming home early, but then again why would he? Darcy didn’t keep tabs on her sister. He called just after lunch. He sounded happy. We… we were joking about my birthday coming up and just silly things like that.

Sean nodded, almost like he was taking notes in his head. And he was at the hotel when you two talked?

Darcy thought back. Yes. He called from there. The next part of the seminar was supposed to start in like, a half hour so he said he had to go…

And told her he loved her, and hung up the phone.

Was that the last time she’d ever hear his voice?

Another nod from Sean. Well. We’ve got the police from over that way going to check his hotel room. Any luck, he slept in through his alarm.

Luck had nothing to do with this. Grace says she was targeted by the other driver in her accident. That he attacked her on purpose. Do we know who did it?

He hesitated, but then shook his head. No. Afraid not. They’ve got some leads they’re working on, Darcy, but that’s all I can really say.

Sean, this is my husband and my sister we’re talking about. Don’t clam up on me now.

She bit her tongue before she added, don’t clam up like you did about Millie. That whole investigation involving Millie’s murder, and Sean’s role in it, had nearly ended his career. She wasn’t trying to threaten the man, but if he held out on her again when he knew something that could help, she wouldn’t rest until he got bounced so far off the police force that somebody would need a GPS unit to find where he landed.

His pale eyes watched her, like he was listening to every thought. Good, she thought. If he can really read my mind, then he’ll know how important this is.

There’s only so much I can say, he said after another moment. If you want to know more, well, I suppose you’d have to go up the chain of command.

Up the chain… Sean was a sergeant at the department. Grace was a detective. Jon was the Chief. Who was she supposed to turn to for answers if those three…

You’re not suggesting I go to the mayor? Darcy asked. For Pete’s sake, Sean, I’m not looking to go over anyone’s head—yet. I just want some simple answers!

He shook his head slowly from side to side. Those answers you’re looking for might not be all that simple. Seems to me you don’t do simple.

It’s not like I go looking for trouble, she grumbled.

No you don’t, and that’s a fact. Thing is, folks like you and me—that husband of yours too—trouble seems to find us. The world needs people who can handle the tough trouble. It needs people like Darcy Sweet.

She was torn between screaming at him that she didn’t want to be tough, and laughing at him for putting her unusual brand of trouble in such a nice light. Either of those choices were going to lead her to tears, though, so she settled for bringing the conversation back to where it had started.

It needs people like my husband, too, she said through clenched teeth. It needs Jon Tinker.

No arguments from me, Sean said gently. Listen. Let me run you back to the station in Misty Hollow. I’m sure the police over in Windy Point have checked on his hotel room by now. Uh, have you tried calling him this morning?

No. She hadn’t. There wasn’t any sense in trying to leave a voicemail for him on the other side. Jon was dead. There was no calling area for that particular zip code. Anger threatened to overtake her again and she had to stuff it back down deep to keep functioning. No, she finally admitted as he continued to stare at her. I haven’t called Jon.

Although… there was one way she could call her husband.

Her way.

The mounting anger was replaced with a wave of exhaustion. Even taking her next breath seemed like too much. What she wanted to do was just go into a corner somewhere, curl up, and stop living. Jon was dead. Jon, the anchor of her life. Jon, her better half.

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