Pearl know you’ll be back in the morning.” “Thanks.” Ty handed her the list of names he’d written. “These women were in Lorilee’s women’s group at church, PTA at school, and most of them knew her from childhood.” Beth scanned the list. “What about Rick Heppel?” Ty chuckled. “Half-crazy Vietnam vet who lives next farm to the east. Rick’s a good old boy, but missing a few screws since Nam. Lorilee was nice to him after he first inherited his grandpa’s farm and moved down here. After that he was like her self-proclaimed protector.” “Interesting.” Beth circled Heppel’s name on the list. She’d pay him a visit first. Maybe Lorilee and Rick Heppel were more than just friends. She glanced at Ty through veiled lashes. Did that leave Ty in the role of jealous husband?
C HAPTER F OUR Beth stood in front of the Brubaker Arms and watched Ty drive away. The moment his truck turned the corner, she spun on her heel and headed across the town square toward her Honda. Even without a spare, she was driving out to Rick Heppel’s farm. She glanced at her watch, then at the sky. She had about two hours of daylight left if she was lucky. The rain had stopped, and patches of blue broke through heavy clouds, though she’d heard on the radio that they were under a tornado watch. Having grown up in Illinois, she had a healthy respect for violent spring weather. Unfortunately, it also made her restless as hell. She had to keep busy tonight. This would be one of those nights. A vulnerable one. A night when comfort sounded like the clink of ice against glass and smelled like the acrid aroma of bourbon. No matter what happened, she couldn’t give in to weakness. Ty had said Heppel’s place was due east of his. She should be able to find that. Shouldn’t she? Okay, so she’d stop at Gooch’s to see when her new spare would be ready, and ask for directions. No testosterone on board to prevent her from a simple safeguard like that. The wisdom to ask directions wasone of the virtues of womanhood, in her humble opinion. She drove the short distance to Gooch’s Garage, where she found the father instead of the son in charge this time. Lester Gooch was easily the skinniest man Beth had ever seen. She figured the reason he wore overalls was probably because he couldn’t find jeans small enough to stay put around his scrawny hips. “My boy told you earlier the tire would take a couple weeks to get in, li’l lady,” he drawled, shifting an unlit cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. Little lady? Beth bit her tongue. The guy’s bald head glowed in the fading afternoon sun as he looped his thumbs through the bib of his overalls. “Month at the outside.” Month my ass. She’d be long gone before then, and she definitely knew bullshit when she smelled it. Gooch’s excuses reeked. “Thanks, Mr. Gooch, but—” “Just Gooch, ma’am.” “Just Dearborn, Gooch.” She flashed him her belle smile and batted her lashes. The man threw his head back and guffawed, his cigar falling to the pavement. “All right, Dearborn. What can I do for you, since your tire ain’t here yet?” “I need directions to Rick Heppel’s farm.” Beth watched with interest as a scowl replaced Gooch’s grin. “You know where it is?” He stooped to retrieve his cigar stub, wiped it on his overalls, and shoved it back between his teeth. “Yep.” He swung around to face her again. “What in tarnation you wanna go see that no-account for?” “Business.” She lifted a shoulder. “I’m investigating the disappearance of Lorilee Brubaker-Malone.” “Ah.” Gooch stroked the gray whiskers on his chin, which far outnumbered the hairs on his head. “Disappearance, is it?” He snorted. One of those. “I’d appreciate directions to Heppel’s farm, if you don’t mind,” Beth urged. She wanted to take advantage of the remaining daylight. “I figured you would know everything there is to know, so