The Search The Secrets of Crittenden Cou - By Shelley Shepard Gray


“I’d love to say drugs are never a problem in Crittenden County. I’d love to say it, but it wouldn’t be true.”


December 31

Perry Borntrager had been taking drugs again.

Frannie Eicher had suspected it when she first spied his glazed expression, then had known it for sure when she heard his slurred words. Now, here she was, alone with him on the outskirts of the Millers’ property. Not a soul knew where she was, or that once again she was meeting him in secret in a place where they weren’t supposed to be at all.

Oh, she was sure he wouldn’t hurt her. Perry wasn’t dangerous. But knowing that they were completely alone, that no one would hear if she cried out for help, was unsettling.

Especially since at the moment Perry wasn’t acting like himself.

The Perry she’d known all her life had been patient. Methodical. Years ago, he’d been slow to smile and even slower to frown. Everyone far and near had agreed that he was a good man. A man who was easy to get along with, a steady kind of man.

That was not the case anymore.

“Glad you finally made it.” His voice was snide, clipped.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she said. “I had a terrible time getting out of the inn—everyone wanted ‘just one more thing.’ ” Frannie smiled sheepishly. Then waited, half hoping he’d take her bait and ask about her cherished bed-and-breakfast.

He didn’t.

“It didn’t matter if you came on time or not. Nothing would change my feelings. I hate it here. I always have.” A low laugh erupted from his chest. “But you knew that, right?” He was walking somewhat unsteadily. In a zigzag way. As if he was having trouble placing his feet just so on the uneven ground beneath them.

“You hate being here at the Millers’ farm?” she joked as she struggled to keep up with his awkward pace.

He didn’t realize she was kidding. “Jah,” he said over his shoulder as they approached the abandoned well on the edge of the property. “The Millers’ farm, Marion, Crittenden County. Kentucky . . .” His voice grew louder. More hostile. “What’s the difference, anyway? I hate it all.”

She stopped a few feet away from him. Where it was safe. She did remind herself, though, that he would never hurt her. “If you don’t like it here, what are you going to do?”

“Get away when I can.”

She shouldn’t have been shocked, but she was. “And go where?”

“I don’t know. Anywhere. Someplace else.” Slumping against the stacked rocks that surrounded the top of the well, he looked at her contemptuously. “What about you, Frannie? Don’t you want to get away?” The cold air made his breath appear like little puffs in the sky. It also made her aware of how cold she was.

And how much colder their relationship had become.

She felt his gaze skim her whole body, as if he was looking at her from the top of her black bonnet covering her kapp to the toe of her black tennis shoes, and had found her wanting. “I’ve never thought about leaving here,” she said hesitantly, trying to negotiate the conversation that made no sense at all. “Crittenden County is home. Besides, I just took over the Yellow Bird Inn.” Unable to stop herself, she added, “I refinished the wood floors, you know, and it looks so pretty . . .”

Perry merely stared.

She swallowed. “Um. I . . . I could never leave it.”

“You could never leave it.” His blank stare turned deriding. “That inn ain’t nothing special.”

She’d spent the last month helping two men paint the outside a wonderful, buttery yellow. The yellow color went so much better with the name of the inn than the black-and-white paint ever did. The Yellow Bird Inn needed yellow paint, surely.

Because it was a special place. And very special to her. “One day it might be.”

He spit on the ground. “It’s not going to make any money. No one comes here unless they have to.”

She fought to keep her expression neutral. To pretend he hadn’t hurt her feelings. “My great aunt seemed to do all right with it. And some people have come to visit and stay.” Lifting her chin, she said, “Why, just the other day an English couple all the way from Indianapolis said they’d tell their church friends about my B&B.”

His voice turned darker. “The only reason the English come here is look at the Amish.”

“They come for the scenery and the greenhouses, too.” She bit her lip. “We are