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Authors: Virginia Carmichael

Leaving Liberty

BOOK: Leaving Liberty
6.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub










For my sister, Susan.

Your quilt inspired this story. Your life inspires me every day.



Copyright © 2013 Virginia Carmichael


All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or
by any electronic or mechanical means,
photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without the written permission of the publisher and author, except where
permitted by law.




Cover by













It was a perfect day for a funeral. The late May rain slanted down in
unrelenting sheets. The Rocky Mountains stood in awesome splendor just miles
away but completely hidden by the driving rain. Daisy McConnell ducked her head
further into the hood of her bright yellow raincoat and walked a little faster,
dodging a mine-field of ankle deep puddles. She was already soaked from the
knees on down, her black pumps squishing with every step. The wide concrete
steps leading up to Old Liberty Public Library were obliterated by the
downpour, but Daisy didn’t need to see them. She knew the route by memory, step
by step, all the way to the top where she yanked on the long brass handle of
the door.

Locked. Of course it was. She rummaged
in her purse for the key the attorney had given her and stooped down to fit it
in the ornate brass key plate of the oak door. She could see the dark library
foyer through the door’s beveled glass panels. Her heart squeezed in her chest.
It all felt so wrong and there was no way to make it right.

“Toby! Stop!”

The bellow pulled Daisy out of her thoughts with a snap. Whirling around, she
caught sight of a police officer in full uniform sprinting down the sidewalk
toward the intersection.

“Toby!” His shout sent a shudder up her spine. She had never seen a man run
that fast in dress shoes. The rain whipped his cap from his head but he didn’t
slow down.

A young kid on a bicycle pedaled furiously toward the corner, crouched low over
the handle bars, the hood on his black sweatshirt pulled up. Daisy’s heart
sank. How many times had she felt what this boy felt? How many times had she
been desperate to escape an angry parent, and no one willing to step in
between? No one except Marie.

Without thinking it through, Daisy left the key in the lock and bolted blindly
down the steps. The rain stung her face and the hood of her raincoat blew back.
He would reach the boy before she would, but maybe her presence would give him
a reason to keep himself in check.

“Stop!” One last yell and the officer had reached the young boy, gripped the
back of his sweatshirt and yanked him to a halt, the bike jerking to the side.
He bent low to grab the bike, breathing hard, his dark blue shirt soaked to the

“Take your hands off that boy,” Daisy shouted. She wished her voice was
clearer, steadier, but it would have to do. The rain was pounding down but she
could see the young boy’s face was pale.

The policeman turned to her, his eyes narrowed to slits against the rain. He
didn’t let go, if anything he gripped him tighter. She felt a cold snake of
fear slide through her and she forced herself to keep her emotions under
control. You can’t show fear. Ever. It was like handing over the keys to your
deepest secrets.

“Your son deserves to be treated with respect.” Her heart pounded with fear and
adrenaline. She tried to smile encouragingly at the young kid, but he looked
back at the officer, silent.

“He’s not my-- ”

The rest of his sentence was lost in a deafening roar of sound. A billowing
wave of freezing water sprayed across the corner, soaking her with the force of
a fire hose. Daisy involuntarily let out a shriek and twisted away, covering
her head with her arms. She stumbled, panicked and confused. The touch of
fingers at her elbow turned her panic into hysteria. She shook him off, her
mind leaping back to another man, gripping her until she bruised.

“Hey, wait a minute. Just calm down.” His voice was quieter now and a whole
octave lower.

Daisy sucked in a ragged breath, fighting to focus. Brushing the hair from her
eyes, she peered down the street. A semi rumbled half-way down the block, not
even bothering to honk an apology for the ice-cold soaking.

“I didn’t see that coming.” She forced herself to be calm and moved her arm
away. Her fear ratcheted down a few notches, enough for her to see him clearly
again. He didn’t seem so scary now, morphing from slit-eyed fiend to relatively
normal guy in less than a second. His blue eyes were fixed on her in concern,
rain dripped down his neck from military short dark hair.

“Yeah, neither did he.” He turned to the boy, flipped back his hood and tugged
ear buds from the boy’s ears. “Toby, how many times have I told you not to ride
your bike and listen to music? You have it up too loud, you’re not paying
attention.” He waved a hand at the pouring rain, then the semi-truck now barely
visible in the distance. “You weren’t even going to stop at the corner, were

Toby shook his head, a miserable expression on his face. The shoulders of his
sweatshirt were soaking wet and his ripped jeans were spattered with mud.
“Sorry. It’s such a great song and I had kind of a bad day so I was just riding
along, not thinking of anything…” His voice trailed off.

“Give it.” He held out a hand. Toby pulled the iPod from his pocket and put it
in the outstretched hand. “Have your mom call me if she disagrees. When you
come to practice tomorrow, we’ll talk about bike safety again. When you
understand how easy it is to be flattened in traffic, then you’ll get it back.”

Toby nodded, his face downcast.

The officer paused, expression softening.
He reached out and rubbed the kid’s hair. “I wouldn’t want to lose you, Toby.”

The boy glanced up, a small smile creasing his face. He shot a look at Daisy,
pulled his hood back over his head, and took off across the street.

Watching him go, her thoughts were as cold as the rain that was easing off into
a drizzle. This was par for the course. Nothing ever went right for her in this
town and she needed to get out before something really horrible happened.

Right after she retrieved her quilt.

“I owe you an apology. I misunderstood the situation.”

There was a short pause as he wrapped the cords around the music player and
stuffed it in a pocket. He leveled a glance at her, face impassive. “You don’t
trust policemen?”

No, just bellowing men who chase small children. “Policemen are fine. I thought
I was witnessing a family conflict.”

His eyebrows went up. She could see now he was too young to have a kid who
would be a teenager soon.

“Listen, I’m sorry I interrupted. I’m going to go.” She turned and started
back, wanting to get out of the pouring rain.

 “The library is closed,” he called.

“I have a key,” she called back. At the bottom of the steps she patted her
pocket. The rain was still falling steadily and she shook her bangs out of her
eyes. “Somewhere here,” she muttered.

He walked down the sidewalk and scooped his cap out of puddle, shaking the
water from it with a sigh. “Well, it can’t have gone far.” Instead of making a
beeline for his dry patrol car, he crossed back into the soggy lawn, eyes
searching the ground.

So, he rescues small children and searches for lost keys? Daisy had to hide a
small smile. This guy had a hero complex. With those looks and that uniform, he
probably owned the town. Well, he could have it.

She trudged along beside him, glancing this way and that. Finally at the top of
the stairs, she let out a short laugh. “Sorry. Still in the door.”

Sweet Christmas. She could see a faint
reflection of herself in the door’s glass and it was enough to scare the dead.
A tangle of dark blond hair dripped rain onto her forehead. Her green eyes
looked puffy and sad, rimmed by smudges of mascara.

“Thanks for your help anyway. And sorry
for, you know, interrupting.” She said over her shoulder. Of course she would
do it again, in a second, if she thought she had to.

“Can I ask what you’re doing in the library?” His tone was cautiously friendly.
He shifted to her right, either trying to get under the tiny entryway roof or
to get a better look at her, she couldn’t tell. His hat was back on his head,
the bill pulled down to his dark brows.

“I’m collecting a quilt that was left to me by the librarian.” It was almost
good enough. She got very close to saying it as if it didn’t matter. But there
was that tiny waver at the end that betrayed her broken heart. Daisy
straightened her shoulders reflexively. Marie wouldn’t want her to fall apart.

As if someone flipped a switch, the officer’s demeanor changed. “I’m Lane
Bennett. You must be Daisy.” He held out a hand and his lips tugged up at the

Daisy didn’t want to shake his hand, didn’t want to make any new friends. She
wanted to turn the key in the door, get her quilt and get out of town. She
wouldn’t feel safe until she was out of the state, out of Colorado, and back to
California where she belonged. His hand was warm, despite the cold rain. “Did
you know Marie?”

This time he grinned, long dimples like commas framed his mouth. “Well enough
to hear all about you. She was so proud of her girl.”

There it was, the tipping point in her grief. Daisy yanked back her hand and
turned to the door. She blinked furiously, blindly searching for the key in the
My girl.
That’s what she had called her, ever since that day Daisy
had tried to steal a book from the library by tucking it under her ratty
t-shirt. She still remembered how the cover felt, cold and slick against her
stomach. A book on sharks, of all things. To a little girl from a small town in
Colorado, it was like a book on Martians.

She clenched her teeth, willing her hands to stop trembling enough to open the
door. After a full minute of fumbling, Lane reached around her and twisted the
brass key, pushing the door open in one smooth motion. Daisy stepped inside,
shaking the water from her hands, keeping her face turned away. She needed just
a minute to get a grip on her emotions. Grateful for the silence behind her,
she took a deep, calming breath. The foyer smelled exactly like it did when she
left seven years ago. Polished banisters gleamed in the low light, the huge
windows were streaked with rain. It was an old Carnegie library through and
through, built to be the center of the community. Even from the landing at the
bottom of the stairs she could smell the books.

Daisy inhaled, letting the scent of dust
and old paper calm her emotions. Memories of discovery, safety, and contentment
washed over her. She could do this.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” He stood just inside the door, quietly watching her.

“Thank you.” She cleared her throat.
“I’m just picking up the quilt and heading to the bed and breakfast. I have a
flight out of Denver tomorrow evening. Too bad the library will be closed for a
while. It will probably take a few weeks before they find a new librarian.”

BOOK: Leaving Liberty
6.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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