The Shadow Girl - By Jennifer Archer


Ty Collier shivered as he paused in front of the Daily Grind coffee shop to wipe his boots on the mat beside the door. Cold weather was nothing new to him; he had grown up freezing his butt off every winter in Baltimore. But this morning something besides the frigid air raised goose bumps on his skin. It was the task ahead of him. And the silence. Noise had always been a constant in his life, so common he didn’t notice it until it was gone. City traffic, a raucous family. Ty felt lost without it.

He glanced over his shoulder at the sleepy Colorado town. Even in May, Silver Lake lay tucked under a thin blanket of snow like a dozing cat. But silence has a sound all of its own—something hummed beneath the town’s stillness that set his nerves on edge.

Not many cars were out at six thirty a.m. on this Monday morning. Only two were parked in front of the Daily Grind—a black El Camino and a blue delivery van with lettering on the side that read WINSTON CARPENTRY. Excitement shuddered through Ty. He recognized the van as the one he’d seen in the photograph. The man was definitely here. After a month and a half of searching, he’d finally found him.

Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, Ty opened the door. A bell jingled to announce his entrance, and warmth rushed forward to welcome him in. “Good morning!” called a woman behind the counter on the far side of the shop.

“Morning,” Ty replied, scanning the room. A girl about his age sat on a sofa against the back wall, her feet tucked under her as she typed on a laptop. At a corner table near the front window, three old men chuckled over their coffee. They glanced up when Ty entered, then quickly returned to their conversation.

Ty studied the men discreetly. Two of them had gray beards, but without openly staring he couldn’t tell which one was Adam.

As he crossed to the counter, Ty recalled that the lady behind it was named Paula. He’d talked to her over a muffin and hot chocolate yesterday, his first day in town. She’d seemed worried when he told her that he was taking a temporary break from college and was traveling the country, working odd jobs to make money.

“You’re too young!” Paula had exclaimed. “What are you? Nineteen?”

“Eighteen,” Ty said. He’d waited awhile before asking in an offhand manner if she knew Adam Winston and if she could give him directions to his shop. Ty was afraid to call the number on the website and ask Adam himself. He didn’t want to take any risks. Who knew if Gail Withers had set off an alarm? He couldn’t be too careful.

Paula told Ty that Adam’s shop was behind his house and gave him directions. She also gave him an unexpected bonus, telling him that Adam came into the Daily Grind on Monday mornings to have coffee with his friends. Which was why Ty woke up before the sun this morning and was out the door of his room two hours before he normally stepped foot into the day. He’d rather talk to Adam without his family around.

Ty slid onto a swiveling stool in front of the counter and ordered a coffee.

“You enjoying your stay in Silver Lake so far?” Paula asked as she filled his mug and handed it to him.

“Yeah, it’s nice. I went hiking yesterday after I left here.”

“Oh yeah? Whereabouts?”

“Some trail at the top of the pass. Still quite a bit of snow up there,” Ty said, sipping his coffee. “I’m thinking of climbing the west peak soon. Make it my first fourteener.” That part wasn’t a lie. Colorado was home to more mountain summits with elevations of at least fourteen thousand feet than any other state, and it was his goal to make it to the top of all of them for his brother, just in case Kyle never got the chance himself. It was something Kyle had always wanted to do.

“Not sure the west peak qualifies as a true fourteener, but it’s close,” Paula said. “Start early in the morning. The weather’s dicey this time of year. We might have snow one day and thunderstorms the next. You don’t want to get caught up there when there’s lightning.”

“I’ll remember that. Thanks.” Ty propped his elbows on the counter and leaned in closer as Paula filled a jug with tea. When she glanced up, he indicated the