Chapter 1

I didn’t want to drive by the old warehouse, but I couldn’t seem to help myself, and from the amount of traffic on that dusty back road, I wasn’t the only one. Normally, the only ones who go that way are the handful of folks who live around Walters Lake or optimistic fishermen. Today, there were two cars ahead of us and three more behind us.

“The vultures are circling,” I muttered to Richard.

“We’re not vultures,” my husband said. “We can go back if you want to.”

“We may as well keep going,” I said, as if it didn’t matter to me. “There’s not a good place to turn around until we get to the lake anyway.” It was a lousy excuse, but Richard didn’t argue.

After a few more yards, we passed the last of the scraggly pine trees and could see what was left of the warehouse. There was actually more of it still there than I’d expected. Aunt Maggie had told me the place had burned down to the ground, and I’d never realized how much wreckage remains after a building “burns down.” Misshapen beams reached up toward the roof that wasn’t there anymore while timbers tilted against the remnants of the wooden floor.

The stink of the place sneaked into the car, despite the rolled-up windows. It wasn’t the clean smell of burnt wood, and even though I tried to convince myself that it was from the paint on the walls or maybe asphalt shingles from the roof, my imagination supplied a more gruesome reason for the stench.

The fire had leached the color away, leaving nothing but black. The only bright spot was the yellow police tape flapping in the breeze. Police Chief Junior Norton must have put that up as soon as she realized that the building wasn’t the only thing to burn. There’d been a man’s body inside.

I’d only met Marshall Saunders two days before, but I’d liked him, despite the furor he’d caused in town. Though I wasn’t convinced his motives for coming to town had been pure, I was sure that he hadn’t deserved this.

“He should never have come to Byerly,” I said softly to Richard. “And we shouldn’t have come back.”

“Laura, you know this wasn’t our fault.”

I nodded, but it was going to take a lot more than that to convince me that Marshall’s death had nothing to do with the reason Richard and I were in Byerly. How could I be sure that I wasn’t responsible for a murder?