Excerpt of Small Town Justice

"Ask and God will give to you.
Search, and you will find.
Knock and the door will open for you."
Matthew 7:7


Chapter One

The narrow dirt track leading to the deserted farm was so overgrown, so cloaked in shadows, Jamie Lynn almost missed her turn. Seeing the decrepit condition of the well-loved house broke her heart.

Parking her mini-pickup, she shivered and stared. Well, what had she expected? Nobody had lived there for almost fifteen years. Not since her family had been split apart by lies and she'd been sent to live with an elderly aunt. 

The little white dog beside her whimpered. Jamie Lynn instinctively stroked his head. "Yes, this is it, Ulysses."

He began to pant and wiggle all over. "Okay, you can come with me while I have a look around," she told him, slipping her cell phone into her jeans pocket. "Hold still so I can get your harness unclipped."

He continued to strain and squirm. "I'm about to give up and leave you," she warned. "Sit. Stay."

He sat. He did not stay long. The moment she shifted her attention to the leash lying on the floor of the pickup's cab he leaped over her, using her back as a springboard, and landed on the hard-packed ground like an Olympic gymnast making a competition dismount.

"Ulysses! No!"

Jamie Lynn chased him through the tall grass and weeds, ruing the fact that her clothing was summer-light shorts, a T-top and sandals. 

"Ulysses," she drawled, ending on a higher note and trying to sound unperturbed. "Come on, baby. I'm not mad. I just don't want to lose you." 

Ahead, she heard him yip. "Please, please don't catch anything bigger than you are.

She rounded the house. The roof over the back porch had partially collapsed but she spotted a flash of white fur as her dog ducked through the half-open door.

Normally, Jamie wouldn't have considered entering someone else's house without an invitation. However, since her research had shown that this place had long ago been seized for unpaid taxes and didn't belong to any individual, she figured it would be okay to venture inside long enough to catch her naughty dog.

The staccato cadence of his nails led her to the stairway where his paws had left impressions in the dust. Jamie followed. Pausing at the top of the stairs she was overcome with nostalgia. 


Ulysses's sharp, single bark snapped her back to the present and drew her to her former bedroom. He was circling excitedly in front of one of the tall, narrow windows as if insisting she must look. 

Below, parking behind her pickup, was a larger truck with a camouflage paint job. Two men climbed out. They were both carrying rifles!

Jamie's heart began to pound. Apparently she had trespassed after all! Surely a heartfelt explanation, delivered ASAP, would smooth things over. She tried to lift the warped wooden sash and was barely able to move it.

Before she had a chance to shout hello through the narrow opening, let alone begin her apology, she overheard one of the men speaking. His gruff words made the hair on the nape of her neck prickle.

"That's her license number. We know she got here."

"Yeah? So where'd she disappear to?" 

The first man cursed. "Probably the house. Let's go. "I don't like it. Suppose somebody sees us hanging around and makes a connection later?"

"If things turn ugly we'll ditch her truck. Nobody will suspect she ever made it this far."

Jamie Lynn was afraid to breathe. These men had known she was coming to Serenity. Who, of the few people she'd contacted to ask about her family history, would send thugs after her? And why? 

Easing aside so she wouldn't be spotted from below, Jamie watched one of the men making a cell phone call. While he talked, the other began stabbing at her truck's tires. Then they joined forces, started for the house and disappeared beneath the overhang of the porch roof. 

She heard wood splintering. The stomping of heavy hiking boots. They'd smashed the front door. They were coming for her! 

It took only seconds to dial 911. There was no chance anyone from town could reach her in time to intervene. Not unless she hid long enough for help to arrive. But where? 

Voices from downstairs sent rumbling echoes throughout the empty structure. Cracking, banging, background noises indicated that the men planned to take the old house apart, piece by piece, until they found her.

Her feet felt frozen to the bare wooden floor. Her legs were numb. Wobbly. What could she possibly do? 

Memories of growing up in the old house carried Jamie Lynn back to childhood and the simple games she and her big brother had played. The downstairs maid's closet! That was her answer. Their favorite hiding place was perfectly camouflaged. Only how was she going to reach it without being seen?

So terrified she could hardly draw a usable breath, she tiptoed down the hall to the antiquated bathroom, eased the door shut behind her, then whispered to her nervous dog and held him close. "Easy, boy. Shush." 

Were the assailants going to check other rooms first or were they about to confront her? There was no way to tell - and not even a broken towel rack left behind to use as a defensive weapon. All she could do was wait.

Aunt Tessie would have urged her to pray, she knew, yet no inspiring spiritual words came to mind. Jamie Lynn wasn't surprised. God had quit heeding her prayers when she was ten years old. 

If He had been listening to her back then, she knew she wouldn't have lost her whole family.
Shane Colton parked his flatbed tow truck beyond the small pickup with four flat tires and hit the ground running, waving his arms to get the sheriff's attention. "Harlan! I just saw two men in hunter's camo run out the back."

"Must of spotted us," Sheriff Allgood replied. "Let ‘em go. We've got their truck for ID."

"I didn't recognize either one." Glancing at the old house, Shane frowned. "Aren't you going in?"

"In a minute. Gotta radio the station so my officers know to keep their eyes peeled for two guys on foot."

Uneasy, Shane lifted his chin. Sniffed the breeze. And instantly knew what was happening. Smoke!

Hands cupped around his mouth he shouted, "Call the fire department," as he raced toward the house. 

"Stop! Don't!" 

He ignored the sheriff's command. There were no visible flames. If he hurried, he might be able to put the fire out while it was small. If not, he could at least do a quick search of the premises for victims. Somebody had made the report of trouble at the old Henderson farm. That person might still be inside.

What was wrong with Ulysses all of a sudden? "Take it easy, boy. We're safe now. I heard them leave."

The lapdog's tiny claws raked Jamie Lynn's forearm. "Ouch! Knock it off," she snapped, immediately penitent. He'd kept quiet while she'd tiptoed down the stairs and hidden them both in the maid's cupboard. It was time to let him be himself again.

"Okay, okay." She got to her knees and operated the panel that masked the secret opening. It slid back silently, revealing disaster. The walls and ceilings were partially obscured by layers of drifting smoke. They had to get out of there! 

Unseen flames were beginning to make the dry wood crackle and pop in the background as Jamie began to crawl across the littered floor. One knee landed on broken glass and she yelped. 

Startled, Ulysses twisted from her grasp and disappeared into the smoke, barking.


She started to rise. Thicker, acrid vapor made her gag and drop back down. Tears blinded her further. There was no way she'd be able to spot her little dog in that swirling, glowing haze. If he didn't come back to her, the poor baby was going to die! And it was her fault. 

Rasping, gagging, Jamie did her best to scream, "Ulysses?" He didn't respond. Was it already too late? 

Brokenhearted, she started to inch farther into the thick of things, moving by feel and hoping that her next reach might be long enough to touch his soft fur.

She could not give up. Not as long as there was one more breath left to keep her moving. Coughs racked her body, aching all the way to her ribs and beyond. Thoughts of her parents and brother R.J. swirled in her mind and confusion surrounded her, beginning to deaden the pain.

Then, suddenly, she was grasped around the waist and jerked sideways!

Fighting spirit returned. Jamie kicked and struck out at her captor. She even managed a feeble screech.

Spots of bright light flickered in her distorted vision and she felt as if she were floating. Cradled in powerful arms, she heard the strong beating of a heart. 

Brightness abruptly bathed her face and she wondered if this was the phenomenon often reported by those having near-death experiences. 

Surrendering, she laid her head against the shoulder of her captor and slipped into unconsciousness.