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S.E. Shenkel
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A car is found neatly parked on the side of the road. A short time later, the spot is marked by a cross. Tapp and team are hired to find the missing driver, a middle-aged, Michigan woman. The investigation leads to similar cases where women vanish while on the road, and crosses appear shortly afterward. Where are these women? And what is the meaning of this common thread of car and cross?

The ravages of winter had left the wooden cross bleached and a little lopsided, but it was still there at the side of the road--a lone soldier, marking the site of the unknown.

I parked on the shoulder and got out. Megan joined me near the front bumper, a yellow folder in hand. Our copy of everything the Washburn Police Department had regarding the disappearance of Kathy Zopak, a single, middle-aged female.

She opened the folder on the hood of the car. Pulled out the photo of the missing lady. A plain Jane with a full head of tight curls, big eyes, wide nose and a small mouth.

"I presume you’ve read the file,” said Megan.

"Enough to know it’s pretty skimpy on details.”

"That’s what I was thinking.”

"We don’t even know if her car was locked when they found it abandoned,” I said.

Megan removed a second photo. "At least the police took some shots and we can be pretty sure Kathy wasn’t forced off the road.”

"Oh, yeah?”

She tapped the fender of my Mustang. "Look at the way you’re parked. The wheels are straight. You’re parallel to the road and snug with the woods. If someone had forced you off the road, you probably would have been nose-in and crooked.”

She handed me the picture of the missing woman’s Plymouth Neon. It was parked flush to the woods. Just like mine.

"Do you recall what month Kathy went missing?” I asked.

"August, last year.”

I tapped the photo of the white Neon. "The windows are up.”

"She probably had the air on.”

"Do we know where the car is now?” I asked.

"I would imagine her folks have it.”

"We should check it out, see if it has air-conditioning.”

I walked over to the cross. It was a lot larger up close, and constructed of wood that was an inch thick and two inches wide. I gave it a tug. It barely budged.

Megan approached with a camera. She took some snaps of the cross and the nearby woods. Walked along the shoulder, looking around. I followed, enjoying the sight of her tall, lean figure and the sun highlighting the gray in her hair.

I said, "How old was Kathy?”

"A year younger than me.”

"Men aren’t the only ones who get an itch for adventure in their middle years,” I said.

"Maybe, but that proves nothing.”

"Wasn’t she living with her folks?” I asked.

"Yes. So?”

"Only child?”

"Again, so?”

"If Kathy’s in her fifties, then her parents are probably in their seventies. Maybe older. And who do you think gets stuck with their care?”

"Oh, you mean like you taking care of your mother?” Megan cocked her head.

A car passed. The first since we’d arrived. A vintage yellow Corvette going way too fast on a road that had more curves than a house full of females.

"Plank Road sure doesn’t see a lot of traffic,” I said.

"People prefer the freeway,” said Megan.

"I still think Kathy bailed.”

"And leave everything behind?” asked Megan.

"What’s to leave? She’s living with her folks. Her car isn’t all that new. No kiddies or husband. Pittance in the bank. Bills piling up.”

"There’s nothing in the file about bills piling up or how much she had in the bank,” said Megan.

Something to the side of the shoulder caught my attention. I crouched. "This is interesting.”

"Leaves and twigs?”

"Yeah, when they’re nice and neat like this.” I started sweeping aside the brush. A path emerged. Not much of one, but there nonetheless.

"Someone wanted this trail kept secret,” I said.

"It does seem that way,” said Megan.

"Shall we check it out?”

"We’d better, since it’s not far from where the Neon was parked.”

The cover of leaves and twigs ended a few yards in from the road. But not the trail. I pointed out the presence of weeds in their undisturbed infancy. Also the way the trail stayed a certain width.

"I take it that means something,” said Megan.

"Means it was more likely made by a hoe, rather than foot traffic. As for the weeds, that suggests we’re the first this year to use the path.”

Mysteries have always captivated me. Any kind. Mysteries of faith, creation, people. The mystery of an empty house, trap door. A neighbor’s weirdness. But I didn’t start writing mysteries until two events collided: a power outage and working under the dictatorship of the manager of a grocery store. The outage and its subsequent boredom handed me pen and paper, and my boss supplied the drive to write a story titled - "Murder in the Meat Department”. From that day until now, writing has been right up there with oxygen and chocolate.

Numerically, I’m grandmother to eight, stepmother to four, and sibling to five. I was a member of a missionary group (aka nun) for seventeen years, worked for ten of those years in Africa, have been married for over thirty years. And if you can’t figure out my age from that, you and I have equally appalling math skills.

As for my personality, what I feel, think, value... You’ll find clues to that in my mysteries.

Fiction Books :: Mystery & Detective Books :: General Books

ISBN: 1597056499
ISBN(13-digit): 9781597056499
Copyright: 2008
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 372
Paper Weight (lb): 15.5

If you like this book, you may also enjoy:

Eyes Of Truth              The Telling              Sniffing Sand             
Linda Suzane Jane Shoup Sarita Leone

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