Excerpt of Hidden in the Wall

Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity."


Trevor Whittaker couldn't walk away from this job and leave Steff to face an unknown nemesis alone. He had to be there for her.

He parked his truck near the Magnolia College library and immediately spotted the willowy young woman standing next to his waiting backhoe. That figured. Stephanie Kessler had never been content to leave details to anyone else, not even a seasoned pro like him, which was how she'd gotten herself into so much trouble lately. 

Passing beneath waving Spanish moss that festooned the campus oaks he smiled and nodded as he approached. "Morning."

Her responding grin warmed him far more than the sultry Georgia summer. "Good morning. I see you're on time, as usual. I'm impressed." 

"We at Whittaker Construction aim to please." Trevor noted the canvas gloves she wore. "What are you dressed for, Steff?"


That made him chuckle wryly. "Well, well. I had no idea."

"What? You didn't think I'd ever get my hands dirty?"

"Hey, I didn't say that."

"You were thinking it."

"Only because you complained that I'd ruined your manicure the last time we did anything like this together." 

"True. That's why I wore gloves this morning." She pointed at the area where he was supposed to begin digging the foundation for the annex to the Kessler Library. "Cassie and I've decided to rescue that beautiful azalea bush before you ruin it."

"It's pretty big. I doubt it will survive transplanting, especially in this heat."

"I agree. But Cassie says azalea roots are really shallow so we decided to give it a try. All I want you to do is scoop it up as carefully as you can and drop it into this wheelbarrow. We'll take care of the rest."

"Okay, if you say so. You're the boss."

"You'd better believe it," she taunted, laughing.

"Yes, ma'am." 

Trevor hoped she'd take her time disposing of the bush he uprooted because he needed to focus solely on this job. When Steff was close by, that degree of concentration was impossible.

With the azalea out of the way he swung the boom back and took more and more bites of earth. If he hadn't been paying such close attention he might have missed feeling a momentary stutter of the equipment. Concerned, he peered at the partially dug trench then climbed down to take a closer look. 

Steff had left a spade leaning against the building so he grabbed it instead of returning to his truck for his own tools. The blade connected with something hard. It looked like. . . 

Trevor's breath caught. He dropped the shovel and fell to his knees, frantically clawing at the earth. With trembling fingers he brushed aside enough dirt to be certain his imagination wasn't playing tricks on him.

He reeled back on his haunches, appalled. These weren't water or electric lines he had unearthed, they were bones. Human bones!

Suddenly, a shadow fell across the trench. Trevor leaped to his feet, blocked Steff's view with his body and grasped her arms to control her. "Don't look."

She tried to twist free. "Why not? Let me go." 

"No. There's. . ." He thought about trying to distract her instead of revealing his gruesome find, then realized she'd never accept anything but the truth. "There's a skeleton in the trench," he said hoarsely. "It's a grave."