No Room to Hide

by

Carol Light

Her business plan doesn’t call for sleuthing—but murder changes everything.

Professional organizer Crystal Ward has nothing against publicity—as long as it’s the truth. But a local reporter is putting Crys in the headlines for her role in solving crimes, not clearing out clutter. Now she’s receiving requests for services that aren’t on her website, and the spotlight is wearing on her family.

At least something good comes out of the unwelcome attention: Crys reconnects with an old friend, Eva, who hires her to sort through historical documents found in a Victorian house she wants to flip. Then a dead body turns up in the parlor, and Eva confesses she’s been receiving threatening notes.

Crys knows to draw the line on the services she’s willing to provide, but this is about friendship, not business. With the reporter hot on her trail, Crys tries to maintain a low profile as she sorts out the secrets. But good intentions aren’t enough. Will this client once again lure her into an appointment with a killer with no place to hide?

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Chapter One

Five Years Ago

Eva Rolfe’s muffled sobs against her shoulder tore at Crys Ward’s heart. There was nothing to say, no hope remaining. The doctors had agreed: Will Rolfe’s scans showed no brain activity. They had suggested Eva allow them to turn off the ventilator keeping her husband alive and let him go.

Crys squeezed her eyes shut, releasing more tears down her already wet cheeks.

This could have been me. This still could be me.

“He can’t…he can’t leave me,” Eva sobbed. “Oh, Will! What will I do without you?”

“Come sit down.” Crys loosened her arms around her friend without releasing her. Eva sucked in a ragged breath and raised her head. She blinked, disoriented.

“I need to sit down,” Crys said. Her legs were shaking. Eva had to be as tired as she was. It was their third night at the hospital, and for Eva, the worst. “Just over here. I promise I won’t let go of you.”

She steered Eva to the only couch in the ICU waiting room. They settled side by side, still joined in their embrace.

Eva’s sobs had diminished into gasps. Straightening, she wiped each eye with a shaking hand. “Thank you for waiting. I was afraid that’s what they were going to say. I guess I knew it was coming, but I couldn’t—”

“Of course you couldn’t.” Will had been brought in with a traumatic brain injury after being freed with the Jaws of Life from his overturned vehicle. His prognosis had never looked good, but there was always hope for a miracle.

Until there wasn’t.

“Tomorrow I’ll call his mother and brother, my sister… My parents don’t need to come back from Arizona until we have a service. And then…I’ll pull the damned plug.” Eva burst into tears again and buried her face in Crys’s shoulder. Clenching each other, they sobbed until they were too exhausted to cry anymore.

The squeak of a cart and a soft voice humming drew closer and then passed the waiting room. At this late hour, the hospital had a lowered pulse rate, except for the ER, floors below where they sat. That’s where they had been that first night, strangers waiting in shock while teams of medical personnel gave their husbands emergency treatment—Will due to car crash trauma and Rick with a gunshot wound. Later that night, while both men fought to live in the ICU, the women had met for the first time in this same room as they prayed, cried, and waited.

Over the past three nights, their friends and family, Rick’s fellow detectives and uniformed police officers, and shifts of doctors and nurses had come and gone. In the late hours, it had been only Eva and Crys, refusing to leave despite the urging of their loved ones. The ICU waiting room had become their refuge, a place to gather strength from each other whenever they’d taken breaks or were asked to leave their husbands’ bedsides while tests were run or procedures were performed. The last day or so—Crys had lost track of time—they’d each developed a sense of when to look for the other. Bonded like twins in their suffering, they seemed to know when the other needed a shoulder to cry on, when the pain of waiting had become too much.

Now that would end. Eva was going to leave her. It was a selfish thought, but Crys had no idea how she was going to continue this vigil alone. She closed her eyes. Darkness and fatigue cloaked her. Despite being determined not to fall asleep while Eva was still here with her, she was too tired and drained to fight off her own exhaustion. Her hand dropped from Eva’s shoulders.

Her friend’s elbow poked her, and Crys’s eyes popped open.

“Sorry,” Eva said. “I thought I could reach over you for a tissue without waking you.” She sniffed. “You’re going to have to wash that sweater with all the snot I’ve put on it.”

“It’s the least I could do.” Tears burned Crys’s eyes at the sight of Eva’s attempt to smile in the face of such a massive tragedy. She leaned to her right to grab the tissue box on the end table. She offered the box to Eva, who grabbed two, before pulling out a tissue for herself.

Eva glanced toward the hallway and then turned back, her eyes concerned. Her brow, reddened from crying against Crys’s wool sweater, furrowed. “How’s Rick tonight?”

“He’s the same.” Not worse—that was a positive. A tough guy, the doctor had told her. Rick was still in critical condition, but his vital signs were strong. And there was no brain injury, unlike poor Will Rolfe.

“He’ll live, Crys,” Eva reached for her hands and squeezed them. “He’ll live.”

Rick’s doctors were becoming cautiously optimistic about his survival. Her husband would never walk again, though. Another inch, or even a fraction of one, and she would have been facing widowhood too. As it was, there was still fear of infection and so much else that could go wrong.

This could be me. Whose shoulder will I cry on then?

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. They’d prayed for each other’s husbands for three days and nights, even as hope for Will became more fragile. Fresh hot tears rolled down Crys’s cheeks. “Oh, Eva. I’m so, so sorry.”

“I know,” her friend said, bringing her in for a hug. It was Eva’s turn to stroke her back as Crys sobbed for the unfairness of it all. “I know.”

End of Excerpt

This book will begin shipping June 6, 2024

No Room to Hide is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-962707-28-2

June 6, 2024

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