Millie Fisher may be widowed, but she leads a full life in her Amish hometown of Harvest, Ohio. There's her quilting circle, her Boer goats, her gift for matchmaking—and the occasional murder . . .
Millie is happy that her childhood friend, Uriah Schrock, has returned to Harvest after decades away. He was sweet on Millie in their school days, but she only had eyes for her future husband. Now, there's a new spark between them, so Millie is concerned when Uriah doesn't show up at the Harvest concert series—or for his job as the Village square's groundskeeper. Perhaps Millie has been involved in too many murder investigations, but she has a sinking feeling. And when she and her best friend, Lois, find Uriah with the police, it seems she's right . . .
A film crew is in Harvest to make a movie about a forty-year-old unsolved murder. A skeleton has been found at the bottom of a ravine—and Uriah is certain it's his sister, Galilee. Right before Uriah left Ohio, she disappeared, and her harsh husband, Samuel, was found fatally stabbed with a knitting needle. The sheriff declared that Galilee killed him and ran away. Uriah never believed the theory, and he's come back to Harvest hoping, Gott willing, Millie will help him stitch together the truth . . .
Release date: November 30, 2021
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print pages: 304
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Marriage Can Be Mischief
Lois and I sat side by side in lawn chairs on the Harvest village square just before twilight. Around us, other villagers both Englisch and Amish shifted in their own seats as the middle school band concert dragged on. I felt the hair on the back of my neck curl from the humidity that at last report was at sixty percent, making the warm night air feel that much hotter. It was one of those few times that I saw the benefit of Lois’s air-conditioned house and car.
The businesses that encircled the square—the candy shop, cheese shop, and pretzel shop—had long been closed for the night. The only business still open was the Sunbeam Café, which was trying to take advantage of the Harvest concert series for a few extra sales. The large white church next to the café glowed in the sunset, looking more like a painting of a church than the real thing.
I patted away the dew on my forehead. “Pigs don’t actually sweat,” I said. “That’s why they wallow in mud and water on hot days to cool down.”
“I didn’t say it for an animal husbandry lesson,” Lois said. “Did you see what this humidity is doing to my hair?”
I turned in my lawn chair to have a better look at her. The chair, which Lois had purchased at the local flea market, was far from sturdy. In fact, I had a feeling it might break apart any second. I stopped twisting.
Lois’s typically upright red-and-purple spiky hair drooped to the left side of her head. I didn’t say it, but it reminded me of a grassy field that had been bent over by the wind. “Your hair looks different from usual.” I felt this was the nicest way to put it.
“It’s going to take me an hour to set my hair again after tonight. People really don’t know how hard it is to look like this.” She picked at her hair with her long purple fingernails, but it did little to put her hair upright again.
I certainly didn’t know how hard it was. Lois’s appearance and mine could not be more different from each other. Although we were the same age, nearing the end of our sixties, and had grown up on the same county road, our upbringing had been very different. I grew up Amish, and Lois grew up Englisch. Even so, we had been the best of friends as girls and remained the best of friends to this very day.
However, I knew to many people we appeared to be an odd pair. I wore plain dress, sensible black tennis shoes, and a prayer cap. My long white hair was tied back in an Amish bun. Lois wore brightly colored clothes, chunky costume jewelry, heavy makeup, and had that striking haircut.
She leaned across the arm of her chair, and the seat made a dangerous creaking sound. “Did I sweat my eyebrows off?”
I shook my head. “Nee, they’re still there.” I did not add that they were looking a tad more wobbly than usual. It was certainly due to the trickle of sweat running down the side of her forehead. I had to agree with Lois: It was a hot night, and the concert should have been over an hour ago. We weren’t the only ones who thought it had gone on too long—several couples and families had gotten up and left.
Lois shifted her folding lawn chair, and I found myself wincing with every creak and rattle the chair made. I didn’t want her to be hurt if it broke. Even though we were sitting on the grass square in the middle of the village of Harvest, anytime you fall at our age, it can leave a mark.
“Careful, Lois, that chair is not as sturdy as you think it is,” I warned.
She bounced up and down in the chair. “Don’t be silly. It’s as sturdy as they come. They don’t make chairs like this anymore.” With her final bounce, there was a loud crack, and Lois and the chair went down.
I jumped out of my seat. “Lois, are you all right?”
The children playing in the band froze and stopped playing. The leader held his hands suspended in the air. Lois waved from the grass. “Keep playing. I’m fine.”
Several people from nearby blankets and chairs ran over to us. Two Englisch men helped Lois to her feet.
“Are you hurt?” I asked.
“Nothing more than a bruised ego, and that stopped bothering me twenty years ago.” She smiled. “If I became upset every time I fell over, I would be in a perpetual state of nerves.” She smiled at everyone who’d rushed over to help. “Thank you, you’re all too kind. Now, hurry back to your seats, so the concert can continue.”
After they were out of earshot, Lois said, “Because we need to move this concert along. It’s going on forever.” She rubbed the side of her leg. “I spoke too soon about not being hurt.”
“What’s wrong? Should we find a doctor or nurse?”
“No, no, it’s nothing as serious as all that. I just banged up my knee.”
“Let me at least get you some ice for it, and here—” I moved my chair next to her. “Sit in this until I get back.”
My chair was as unstable as hers had been, but it had to be better than her standing if her knee was bothering her. “Stay there. I will find the ice.”
She rubbed her knee. “We can only hope by the time you return, this concert will be over,” she whispered. Well, mostly whispered, but luckily the band had resumed playing, making it hard to hear much of anything over the cymbals and drums. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
“All right,” I said. “Please, stay there, and I will find some ice.”
On the far side of the square there was a small concessions booth. I thought I would start there. If I didn’t have any luck, then I would run across the street to the Sunbeam Café and grab a cup of ice from Lois’s granddaughter, Darcy Woodin. I didn’t want to scare Darcy until I knew how badly Lois was hurt.
“Excuse me,” I said to the man waiting in line. “Can I just ask for some ice? My friend fell out of her chair and bumped her knee.”
The Englischer stepped aside. “I saw her go down. It looked like a nasty tumble.”
The girl inside the food trailer handed me a cup of ice and a fistful of paper towels.
I smiled at her. “Danki, this is so kind of you.”
“I’d hurry back to your friend, if I were you. Margot Rawlings is headed this way, and she’s staring right at you.”
I looked over my shoulder and found that she was right. I thanked her again.
“Millie Fisher, can I have a word with you?” Margot called.
I sighed and stopped in the middle of the grass. Margot walked up to me and put her hands on her hips. Margot was an Englisch woman who was just a few years younger than me. I had known her most of my life. Although she was Englisch like Lois, their appearances were very different. Margot wore her hair short like Lois, but it was a pile of soft curls, which she had a habit of patting and pulling when she was frustrated. She also had a much simpler wardrobe of jeans and plain T-shirts. She was a no-nonsense woman who was doing everything within her power to make sure that Harvest, Ohio, became the number one tourist destination in Amish Country.
The concert tonight was one of her events. Throughout the summer she had been hosting a concert on the village square every Friday evening from seven to eight. It was almost nine now. The concert had certainly outlasted its allotted time. I had heard from Lois that Margot thought these concerts would bring people back into the village in the evenings. Typically, everything in Harvest closed at five or six, even in the summer. The concerts were popular, and tonight’s had had a nice crowd before the performance ran a little too long.
Margot tapped her sneaker-clad foot in the grass. “What is this I hear about Lois Henry falling out of her chair?”
I held up the cup of ice. “She’s not seriously hurt. We’re taking care of it.”
“What happened?” she asked.
“Lois found the chairs we’re using at the flea market for what she calls ‘a steal.’ I think they were past their prime when she got them. I’m very careful when I sit on them and try not to breathe.”
Margot shook her head and her curls hopped in place. I would never say it to her, but her signature curls always reminded me a little bit of tiny baby bunnies skipping up and down on the top of her head. I didn’t think it was a comparison she’d appreciate.
“Lois and her flea-market finds. Her house is just one big warehouse. You can barely walk through the living room, it’s so jam-packed with her yard-sale and flea-market finds. She needs to purge some of those pieces.”
I made no comment because Lois was my friend, but at the same time, I agreed with Margot. Lois had an addiction to shopping and shopping for furniture in particular. She loved to collect interesting pieces, but she really didn’t have anywhere to put them in her two-bedroom rental house on the edge of downtown. She lived alone and her collection wasn’t hurting anyone; it made her happy, so who was I to offer criticism? It wasn’t like she was a hoarder. Lois was a collector.
And she was one of the most giving people I knew. If someone needed a piece of furniture, she wouldn’t think twice about giving it to a friend, no matter what it cost her to buy it.
Margot looked over her shoulder at Lois. “It’s not the village’s fault she bought a rickety chair. I hope she doesn’t think she can file a complaint.”
“I don’t believe she’s planning to do that.”
“And if you are so concerned about Lois, why not go speak to her? She’s sitting right over there. This ice is for her, and it’s melting quickly in the heat.”
Margot seemed to think about my suggestion for a moment. “Well, I’m glad she’s all right. I’ll check on Lois later. You know when there is an event on the square I’m very busy. I always have to run from one thing to the next.”
I pressed my lips together to keep myself from saying something I would regret. I still thought she should ask Lois how Lois was doing.
“But I am glad I caught you alone. I very much wanted a word with you in private.”
I shook the ice in the cup and listened for the rattle. At Margot’s raised brow, I steadied my hand. I wasn’t shaking the ice to wave her off. I only wanted to know that it had not completely melted away. I had no idea why Margot would wish to speak to me alone. As an Amish person, I could not be on any of her village committees, and I did not have a business or service that would lend itself to events on the square. I was a quilter by trade and a matchmaker by avocation. I subsisted on my small income from selling quilts to local shops and from special orders, and I helped the young Amish men and women in the county to find their matches at no cost. I have had this gift since I was a small child. I knew in my heart when two people were right for each other. I also knew when two people were wrong for each other.
I didn’t charge for the matchmaking because it was a gift from Gott. It was not meant to be a business venture but an adventure in true love.
“What can I help you with, Margot?” I asked in the friendliest manner I could manage. Because if Margot was asking you something, most likely she wanted you to do something for her. She always did.
“When was the last time you saw Uriah Schrock?” Margot asked in her businesslike way.
“Uriah?” I asked. That was not what I’d expected her to ask at all.
I knew Uriah, of course. We had gone to the same Amish schoolhouse as children, and when we were young, he had been sweet on me. But that made no difference to my feelings. I’d only had eyes for Kip Fisher. Kip and I were married young and had twenty wonderful years together, but then he passed away from cancer when he was in his forties.
Today, Uriah was the groundskeeper of the village square, and that made Margot his boss. If anyone should know where he was, it was she. It made me very curious as to why she was asking me where her employee was. Shouldn’t she be the one who knew his whereabouts?
“Uriah was supposed to be here today to set up for the concert as usual.” Margot tugged on her curls. “But he never showed up. I called the shed phone at the farm where he’s been renting a room, and there was no answer.”
My stomach dropped. That wasn’t like Uriah at all. He was typically a very responsible man. He would not ignore his work.
“I just wondered if he said anything to you about going back to Indiana. I know the two of you are special friends.” She narrowed her eyes at me when she said that last part.
I pressed my lips together and willed myself not to blush. I was far too old for blushing. I wasn’t sure what “special friends” meant, but I did not like the sound of it. Special or not, he was my friend, and it worried me Uriah hadn’t shown up for work. It was not like him at all.
“Where is he renting a room?” I asked, realizing for the first time that I didn’t know where Uriah had been living since he’d returned to Ohio. Had I never asked him?
“He’s renting from the Stollers. They are a young couple who live on an alpaca farm.”
“Alpaca?” I asked. “I didn’t know people in our community were farming alpacas.”
“It became very popular in Ohio while you were away.”
Ten years after my husband died, I moved to Michigan for a decade to care for my ailing older sister, Harriet. Only after she passed away did I return to Ohio.
I nodded, feeling a little surprised that Uriah had never mentioned that he lived on an alpaca farm. I would think that would be an interesting bit of information to share.
“So have you seen Uriah?” Margot started tapping her foot again. Apparently, it was taking me far too long to give her a straight answer.
“Nee, not for a few days. I expected to find him at the concert tonight.”
I did not admit to her that I had been looking for him when I first arrived. Usually when Lois and I came to the square for an evening concert, Uriah made a point of stopping by our chairs and saying hello. Months ago, Uriah had asked me to accompany him on a buggy ride. I had been so taken aback by the request that I declined. Somedays, I wished I had the nerve to tell him I had changed my mind.
Margot tugged on her curls, and like some miracle, every time she let them go, they bounced perfectly back into place. “It was very poor form not to tell me that he wouldn’t be here tonight. I had to scramble and tell everyone where to put the chairs and where the band should set up. In the past, I have always relied on Uriah to do that sort of thing. You don’t think he found himself in some kind of trouble, do you?”
I folded my hands on my lap and held them tightly. “Trouble? What do you mean when you say trouble?”
“Could he have gotten lost or hurt? He’s just not the type to blow off work. I expect that sort of behavior from the high schoolers we hire during the summer to help out with the grounds, but not from someone like Uriah.”
“Nee, it does not sound like him.” My worry grew. “There must be some sort of explanation. Maybe his buggy broke down.”
“Maybe,” Margot said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m more concerned than ever now that I know you haven’t heard from him either. I thought if anyone in the village would know of his whereabouts, it would be you. He mentioned that he wanted to move back to Indiana this summer, but I can’t believe he would do so without telling me first.”
My chest tightened. “I did not know that was his plan. When did he tell you?”
“A week or two ago,” she said as if the exact date did not matter. “It was always his plan to go back. All his children and grandchildren are there. What would keep him here?”
“Nothing, I suppose . . .” My voice trailed off.
“He said he wanted to tell me”—Margot stopped tapping her foot—“so that I had plenty of time to find a replacement caretaker for the village square. That doesn’t sound like someone who would leave without a word.”
She was right, it didn’t. “Then it can’t be that. He’d tell you he was leaving. I’m sure it’s something else.” I hoped he would have told me too, but I didn’t say that.
She stood up. “Well, if you hear from him, let me know. And he’d better have a good reason for not being here tonight. I won’t be happy if he doesn’t have a good excuse.”
I swallowed hard and watched her walk away. At the time, we didn’t know how gut his excuse really was.
My hands were shaking after Margot left. I had a sinking feeling that something bad had happened to Uriah. I told myself I was overreacting. There was no reason to assume the worst. My dark thoughts had to be the result of the recent murder investigations I had been involved in since moving back to Harvest. What kind of Amish woman was I that murder was the first thought to come to my mind when someone was reported missing? And I did not know Uriah was, in fact, missing. He simply had not shown up for work. People did that all the time, but not Uriah Schrock.
I glanced at the cup of ice in my hand. Between the hot air and my warm hand, most of the ice had melted. I hurried across the green to Lois.
“You were gone so long, I thought for sure you had flown to the North Pole to harvest the ice.”
“Margot stopped me. I’m so sorry.” I handed her the cup of ice.
“It’s no problem. My knee feels all right now that I’ve been off it for a bit.” She peered inside the cup. “Looks more like ice water to me. I’ll drink that. I’m so hot. The concert is finally over, praise be, and we can leave.” She stood and gulped down the water. Wiping at her mouth with the paper towels I had also brought, she said, “Much better. Now, what did Margot want with you?”
“She asked me about Uriah,” I said and then I went on to tell her what Margot had said about Uriah’s uncharacteristic behavior.
“You know, I was surprised he didn’t come over and greet us before the concert the way he’s always done. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to upset you. I know Uriah is a touchy subject with you.”
“Uriah is not a touchy subject.” I let out a breath. “I’m sure there is a simple answer as to why he is not at the concert today. I’m sure we will know it very soon. And I’m ready to go home too.”
“You can’t head home without me. I need to give you a lift.”
Then I remembered she was right. My buggy was in the shop for repairs. Lois had picked me up to bring me to the concert.
“It’s a nice night for a drive with the air conditioner on full blast,” Lois said.
The student musicians hugged their parents and packed up their instruments. “Let’s just drop off these chairs at the café, and I will take you home. Maybe I can fix the broken one.”
“Maybe.” I had my doubts but dutifully folded my unbroken chair.
Lois and I were walking across the grass when a young Amish woman called my name. She hurried toward us. “I thought it was you, Millie,” she said.
“Marie Beiler? How are you?” I recognized her as a young employee from my niece’s greenhouse.
“I’m so well!” She beamed from ear to ear. “I just wanted to tell you that Jeremy proposed to me yesterday.”
I smiled. “And you accepted, I take it.”
“Of course! I had to tell you because without you, we would never have been matched together since we are from different districts. You really are blessed by Gott to match couples.”
I set the chair on the sidewalk and leaned it against my leg. “I am very glad to hear it. And is your family happy?”
She clasped her hands in front of her. “Both families are so very happy.”
She looked over my shoulder. “Oh! There is Jeremy waving at me now. Danki, Millie.” She ran away to the waiting courting buggy.
“Another satisfied customer,” Lois quipped. “You really should charge for the service you do.”
“I can’t charge money for my gift from Gott.”
She eyed me. “But your quilts cost money.”
I wrinkled my nose because I didn’t have a gut reply to her statement. Even so, it would feel wrong to ask young couples to pay me to find their matches. Love should have no cost.
In silence we crossed Church Street right in front of the big white church with the purple front door. We were headed to the Sunbeam Café, which was still open because Darcy was trying to take advantage of people who might want a bite to eat after milling around the square following the concert. Hers was the only Englisch business on the square and the only one still open. I supposed that Swissmen Sweets was semi-Englisch, as it was run by Bailey King, an Englischer, and her Amish grossmaami, Clara. The candy shop was on Main Street on the opposite side of the square.
The café was doing a brisk business, and Lois tucked our lawn chairs just inside the door. “I’ll mov. . .
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