The next installment in the Billy Jo McCabe series will be released this weekend, but you can get another sneak peek of HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT today–see below to read Chapter 3! Plus I’ve got more free audio codes to give away. Happy Friday! Best & be well– Lorhainne
Billy Jo had just sent off an email to her boss with a finished report on her meeting with a prospective foster parent. Now, she took in the BMW she was parked beside in the half-full elementary school lot. The sprinklers were spraying water back and forth over the lawn, the kids were all inside, and Billy Jo knew Carly Thornton was there.
Detective Friessen had called her and left a message. What about, she had no clue, and right now, he was the last person she wanted to speak to. Dealing with his arrogance took a great deal of patience, digging deep to a part of herself that she didn’t have the energy to find at the moment. Whatever his issue right now, the only thing she wanted was to corner this woman, who had made her feel as if she were somehow responsible for what had happened to her as a baby, an innocent baby.
She’d never been able to let go of that feeling of being unwanted.
She gave her head a shake and took in the pristine BMW again. Carly Thornton had been a mystery to her for so long, someone she was determined to find, and she was now more convinced than ever that she had stood on the right doorstep that morning, looking into the face of the right person.
She knew when someone was lying or hiding something—because in her business, someone always was. She tapped the steering wheel, considering. She’d sat for an hour, typing her report on her laptop while she waited for Carly to walk out of the school. She had two little girls, and Billy Jo couldn’t help thinking that meant she had siblings, two sisters. What could that mean?
Her cell phone rang again. She reached for it and saw the detective’s name, then sighed and pressed the green answer button. “What do you want?”
“Where are you right now?”
She stared at the school from her parked car, hearing a bell. The doors opened and kids spilled out to the schoolyard, but Carly still hadn’t come out. How long would she have to wait?
“What can I do for you, Detective?” she replied. She wasn’t about to answer him or explain anything about what she was doing. This was all her business, no one else’s.
“Well, an issue has come up, and I need to speak with you.”
“You know, I’m kind of in the middle of something, so if this can wait…”
“It can’t wait.” He cut her off quite sharply. “Tell me whatever you’re in the middle of has nothing to do with Carly Jackson.”
The way he said it made her pull her gaze from the school. He had her full attention now.
“Excuse me?” she started, suddenly at a loss for words.
“You paid a visit this morning to the Jacksons.”
So Carly Thornton was now Carly Jackson.
“How would you know that?” she said. Her heart was hammering, and her palms were sweating. As she held the phone, she had to remind herself to breathe. She looked out the windshield, seeing kids and staff.
“So that was you,” Mark said. “The way he described you, I thought for sure it was. Now I know. Listen, we need to talk. Where are you?”
There was something about the demand in his voice. She could tell he wasn’t taking no for an answer.
“Because right now,” he continued, “I’m outside your place, knocking on your door, and all I see is a three-legged cat staring back at me. You haven’t gone in to work yet, I know that, so again, where are you?”
“I’m at the elementary school, in the parking lot, waiting for someone.”
“I’m on my way. Don’t go anywhere,” he said, then hung up.
She rested the phone back in her bag on the passenger seat, seeing teachers out on the grounds, a few looking her way. Then she spotted Carly walking out of the school with another woman, talking, dressed casually, the same as that morning. Did she work there?
Billy Jo slid her laptop back in its bag on the floor of the passenger side and stepped out. She couldn’t explain the ache that had come out of nowhere, seeing how good Carly looked. This was the person she’d had in the back of her mind forever.
She closed the door and took a step, but a black Jeep drove in and swung around in front of her vehicle. Mark. He stopped behind her and stepped out, dressed as he always was in faded blue jeans, a jean jacket, and cowboy boots. His deep red hair was short and appeared freshly cut, and he didn’t pull off his sunglasses as he gave his door a shove closed and walked over to her. He looked past her and then right at her, angling his head.
“What, exactly, are you doing?” he said, stopping right in front of her. There was just something about him that made her suspect they would always be butting heads.
“You know, Mark, I don’t go around questioning what you’re doing, how you’re handling an investigation, or how you act as a cop. That would be overstepping, inappropriate…”
“So you’re investigating an issue. Is that what this is? Are you investigating the Jacksons, or what is this?”
She said nothing.
He let out a rough laugh. “Okay, so you don’t want to answer. Seriously, Billy Jo, what the hell is going on here? Are you or are you not officially investigating the Jacksons? Are you following up on a complaint regarding their girls? Because I have to tell you that the chief is on my ass about this.”
There was something about the way he said it. She could feel the rug about to be yanked out from beneath her feet.
“This is more personal,” she said.
He angled his head again, then lifted his sunglasses and rested them on top of his red hair, really looking at her. “So this isn’t official? Don’t blow me off. I can see you don’t want to answer, but you evidently stepped into something when you showed up on the Jacksons’ doorstep.”
She pulled her tongue over her teeth, because showing her cards was something she never did. “Let me guess: Carly filed a complaint against me.”
He pulled back and knit his brow. “No, not Carly. It was her husband, Jim Jackson—who, by the way, is friends with the chief. He showed up this morning, making noise about a woman showing up on their doorstep and harassing his wife. As soon as he described her, I knew it was you, but I was hoping it wasn’t, and I’m pretty sure the chief was, as well.”
So Carly had a husband, Jim, and kids, and a nice house, and she was friends with the chief. She’d really stepped into it, but now she was more determined than ever, because she’d bet her bottom dollar Carly was lying about everything to her new family and friends, too.
“Okay, so it was me,” Billy Jo said. “What, are you here to warn me off? Because I have to tell you, it’s not going to work.” She pulled her arms across her chest and took in the surprise in his expression.
He stepped back, brushed his hands over his jean jacket, and rested them on his hips. “Billy Jo, this isn’t a game. You can’t go showing up on the Jacksons’ doorstep and harassing them. What’s going on with them? If this isn’t something from the DCFS, then it’s personal, so what is it?” He gestured toward her.
She worked her mouth, but there was no way she was telling anyone the reason she was really there. She shook her head.
“Unbelievable. Damn it, why are you so difficult?” he snapped. She had suspected he would be quite volatile when pushed, but she’d never received this from him before. “Look, Billy Jo, I don’t know what your issue is with this woman, but you can’t harass the Jacksons. There are people you just can’t do this with.”
“You mean because they’re friends of the chief,” she said. “Let me guess: You were ordered to make sure I never show up on their doorstep, never talk to Carly…”
“They don’t want to be bothered. They want to be left alone, and that is very much their right.” He was so direct, cutting her off, and she didn’t miss the warning in his expression. “And if you’re confused on the law, if you continue bothering them, Jim Jackson wants you issued a trespass ticket. This is a warning, but if you show up again, he’ll likely be demanding your arrest. The chief is going to side with his friend, not you, so whatever this is, stop it now.”
He lifted his gaze, looking past her, and narrowed his eyes. She found herself turning to see what he was looking at, and there was Carly, staring at her with a look of pure alarm.
“Who is that?” Mark asked.
Billy Jo lifted her hand to Carly, who was now digging into each step, walking their way. “That would be Carly Jackson. So tell me, Mark, is this where you arrest me? Because I heard you. I got your warning. You know, what really gets me is how police resources seem to be inappropriately allocated here.”
As she took a step over to Carly, she felt Mark’s hand on her arm, pulling her back. She stared at it and lifted her gaze to him, and all he did was shake his head.
“No, Billy Jo, you listen to me. You’re not talking to her. I’m going to ask you one more time to get in your car, drive out of here, and not come back again.”
“Or what, Mark, you’ll arrest me?”
He looked at her, really looked at her. “Don’t push me, Billy Jo, because this isn’t the kind of thing you can mess around with, not with me.”
Free Audio Codes
Get a FREE audio code for The Neighbor (via Authors Direct) and The Third Call (via US/UK Audible). First come, first served. Please take only if you intend to listen as the number of promo codes are limited. Honest reviews appreciated. Happy listening!
First come, first served (please take only if you intend to listen
as the number of promo codes are limited).
Reviews are greatly appreciated.
Thank you and enjoy!