Dixie found a comfortable wingback chair in the living room to curl up in and decided to read some books on her computer. Robert Parker and Janet Evanovich were two of her favorite authors, and she had previously downloaded a few of their books to read when she had spare time. Now, she had more spare time than she knew what to do with.
She dove into Night Passage, the first book in the Jesse Stone series, and was quickly caught up in the story. It was a great way to forget her troubles, if only for a little while. She wished that Jesse Stone was real and that he could take care of her sneaky tormentor too. For now, she was going to have to rely on Jim and Harlan to help her.
The two officers didn’t know that she had brought her Derringer with her, and was keeping it close by in case the killer found her. She had various scenarios in mind, many of which caught the officers off guard and she had to shoot the killer herself. It wasn’t something that she wanted to do, but she was prepared to if necessary. Dixie had spent a lot of time at the shooting range and was proud of her pistol permit. It was a way to make sure she was never at the mercy of an abuser again. Lucky for her ex-boyfriend, she hadn’t had to use it on him.
“What are you reading?” Jim asked as he sat down in a chair across from her.
Dixie looked up from her book and told him about the Jesse Stone book.
“Huh. It doesn’t seem like the kind of book for a woman to read,” he said.
“You’d be surprised at what women read. Ever heard of Patricia Cornwell?” Dixie asked.
“Of course, who hasn’t? Her stuff is pretty brutal,” Jim replied. “I read Potter’s Field and was a little nervous working at night afterward.”
Dixie laughed and nodded. She had read the Kay Scarpetta series and had been nervous reading the books at night on several occasions too.
“What do you enjoy reading?” Dixie asked.
“I don’t have a lot of time to read anymore,” Jim admitted. “I do crossword puzzles when I have some downtime, and I watch sports. I read when I’m on vacation, though, which isn’t very often.”
“I read when I want to relax, like now,” Dixie said. “I will read just about any mystery or thriller that comes my way.”
Harlan unlocked the front door and walked in, startling everyone in the living room. Jim was up like a shot and met Harlan in the entryway to the room.
“Down soldier,” Harlan said, grinning. “Just me, and some food.”
Dixie put her computer down and jumped up to see what he had brought. Angie missed the action as she was sleeping in the recliner. Dixie knew that it would take a lot more than Harlan stomping through the room to wake her up.
“I’ve got all kinds of canned food, some fresh fruit, and a few MRE’s left over from my National Guard drill. If you hate processed foods, you’re not going to like anything I bought, except for the fresh bananas,” Harlan said.
“I’m going to head out and go home for my dinner and a nap,” Jim said, grabbing his jacket from the back of a chair. “I’m working the night shift, so I won’t be around again until tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, we’ll miss you then,” Dixie said, smiling. “Thank you for babysitting us.”
“Anytime,” Jim said with a wink, and then he was out the door.
“Did I miss anything?” Harlan asked, putting away the groceries as if he had always lived there.
“Um, no, not really. I’ve been reading, Angie has been sleeping, and Jim was pacing the floor on and off all morning. Do you want some coffee or tea?” Dixie asked.
“No, I’ve had enough caffeine for one day. I think if I drank anymore I’d get serious jitters,” he replied.
After he was done putting the groceries away, Dixie went back to her chair and placed her computer on her lap. Harlan joined her in the living room and showed her the new phone.
“It is a satellite phone, and it works better than most cell phones out in the middle of nowhere. I’ve already programmed with all of the Friendship Police Department numbers and the dispatcher number for you. Leave it where you can find it at all times, okay? You can put it in your pocket or next to you on a table,” Harlan said.
“Sure. Works just like my cell phone, right?” Dixie asked.
“Yep, you shouldn’t have any problem using it at all,” Harlan said, handing her the phone. “The other officers and I each have one, Harlan said, so we’ll always be in touch.
Later that afternoon, Harlan and Dixie prepared dinner together, and they talked as if they were old friends. She spoke to him about her past relationship with Mike, her business plans, and her relationship with what she fondly called the “Casserole Crew.”
“What the heck is a ’Casserole Crew”? he asked, amused.
“It is Angie’s close-knit group of friends. They enjoy making casseroles and taking them to the funerals in town, whether they know the deceased person or not. They get dressed up and head over to the wake at the funeral parlor, and of course, they get asked to the dinner that always follows. It is a social activity for them. I also heard it is a way to find out about newly eligible bachelors too,” Dixie said with a wink.
“It sounds like Angie has a pretty interesting life,” Harlan said. “I wouldn’t mind having a bunch of older ladies looking out after me.”
“That can be arranged,” Dixie said with a wry smile.
Harlan laughed, and Dixie joined in. Angie woke up from her snooze on the recliner in time to ask, “What’s so funny? What did I miss?”
“You didn’t miss anything,” Dixie said, smiling at her aunt.
Angie raised one eyebrow, which Dixie knew was her skeptical face, and then she glanced at Harlan. She was pretty sure that Dixie and Harlan were getting along well, perhaps too well.
Harlan watched the exchange and made an excuse to go to his truck. He promised that he was going to charge Dixie’s laptop for her to use later.
“He looks like he is mooning over you,” Angie said, raising one eyebrow.
“Oh, no he isn’t. I think I would know if he was. It was just a little harmless flirting, nothing more,” Dixie said.
“I’m not so old that I don’t know when sparks are flying in the room. My advice is to keep it on the back burner until this is all sorted out,” Angie said.
“All right, I will. Scout’s honor,” Dixie said, making the Girl Scout pledge sign with her hand.
Harlan came back into the cabin with a worried look on his face. Dixie’s heart fluttered in her chest, and a flicker of panic in her stomach followed.
“What’s wrong?” Dixie asked.
“Probably nothing. My truck won’t start. Nothing to worry about, though. We still have phones, and you’re not alone. How about we close the curtains and go upstairs?” Harlan replied.
Dixie nodded and helped Angie up out of her chair.
“Auntie, I think it is time we headed upstairs for the evening,” Dixie said.
“What’s going on? It is a little early to go to bed, don’t you think?” Angie asked.
“Officer Granger is concerned for our safety. It is just a precaution,” Dixie replied, taking her aunt by the elbow and urging her upstairs.
“I’m going to make sure everything is locked up, and then call the station,” Harlan said, killing the led lanterns downstairs. Please lock the door behind you once you’re in your room,” Harlan said, and then he turned away.
Dixie watched him disappear into the darkness, and she followed Angie’s flashlight into their bedroom. The light cast an eerie glow in the far corner of the room, and Dixie felt very uncomfortable. She flipped the old iron latch on the bedroom door and stepped away from it cautiously. Angie watched her nervously from the bed where she sat.
“Come sit over here Dixie, it will be alright,” Angie said, patting the bed beside her.
Just then, a shot rang out, startling Dixie and Angie. Dixie quickly got up from the bed and cautiously approached the window and peered out. Something was crashing through the woods next to the cabin, and it wasn’t Harlan.