Shamed (Kate Burkholder #11)

Shamed (Kate Burkholder #11)

Linda Castillo


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


An incredible amount of passion, expertise, and experience goes into the process of transforming a manuscript into a novel. With the publication of Shamed I have many talented and dedicated individuals to thank. First and foremost, I wish to thank my editor, Charles Spicer, who always sees the magic and never fails to help me bring it to big, bold life. I’d also like to thank my agent, Nancy Yost, whose insights and ideas are always right on. I hope both of you know how much I appreciate those phone calls—and the smiles. I’d also like to thank my publicist, Sarah Melnyk, whose keen instincts, ceaseless energy, and warmth are always a bright spot. Thank you for always being there and for always being willing to go above and beyond. And of course, I wish to thank the rest of the Minotaur Books team: Jennifer Enderlin. Sally Richardson. Andrew Martin. Kerry Nordling. Paul Hochman. Allison Ziegler. Kelley Ragland. Sarah Grill. David Rotstein. Marta Ficke. Martin Quinn. Joseph Brosnan. Lisa Davis. You guys are the crème de la crème of the publishing world and I’m endlessly delighted to be part of it.





PROLOGUE


No one went to the old Schattenbaum place anymore. No one had lived there since the flood back in 1969 washed away the crops and swept the outhouse and one of the barns into Painters Creek. Rumor had it Mr. Schattenbaum’s 1960 Chevy Corvair was still sitting in the gully where the water left it.

The place had never been grand. Even in its heyday, the house had been run-down. The roof shingles were rusty and curled. Mr. Schattenbaum had talked about painting the house, but he’d never gotten around to it. Sometimes, he didn’t even cut the grass. Despite its dilapidated state, once upon a time the Schattenbaum house had been the center of Mary Yoder’s world, filled with laughter, love, and life.

The Schattenbaums had six kids, and even though they weren’t Amish, Mary’s mamm had let her visit—and Mary did just that every chance she got. The Schattenbaums had four spotted ponies, after all; they had baby pigs, a slew of donkeys, a big tom turkey, and too many goats to count. Mary had been ten years old that last summer, and she’d had the time of her life.

It was hard for her to believe fifty years had passed; she was a grandmother now, a widow, and had seen her sixtieth birthday just last week. Every time she drove the buggy past the old farm, the years melted away and she always thought: If a place could speak, the stories it would tell.

Mary still lived in her childhood home, with her daughter and son-in-law now, half a mile down the road. She made it a point to walk this way when the opportunity presented itself. In spring, she cut the irises that still bloomed in the flower bed at the back of the house. In summer, she came for the peonies. In fall, it was all about the walnuts. According to Mr. Schattenbaum, his grandfather had planted a dozen or so black walnut trees. They were a hundred years old now and flourished where the backyard had once been. Every fall, the trees dropped thousands of nuts that kept Mary baking throughout the year—and her eight grandchildren well supplied with walnut layer cake.

The house looked much the same as it did all those years ago. The barn where Mary had spent so many afternoons cooing over those ponies had collapsed in a windstorm a few years back. The rafters and siding were slowly being reclaimed by a jungle of vines, overgrowth, and waist-high grass.

“Grossmammi! Do you want me to open the gate?”

Mary looked over at the girl on the seat beside her, and her heart soared. She’d brought her granddaughters with her to help pick up walnuts. Annie was five and the picture of her mamm at that age: Blond hair that easily tangled. Blue eyes that cried a little too readily. A thoughtful child already talking about teaching in the two-room schoolhouse down the road.

At seven, Elsie was a sweet, effervescent girl. She was one of the special ones, curious and affectionate, with a plump little body and round eyeglasses with lenses as thick as a pop bottle. She was a true gift from God, and Mary loved her all the more because of her differences.

“Might be a good idea for me to stop the buggy first, don’t you think?” Tugging the reins, Mary slowed the horse to a walk and made the turn into the weed-riddled gravel lane. “Whoa.”

She could just make out the blazing orange canopies of the trees behind the house, and she felt that familiar tug of homecoming, of nostalgia.

“Hop on down now,” she told the girls. “Open that gate. Watch out for that barbed wire, you hear?”

Both children clambered from the buggy. Their skirts swished around their legs as they ran to the rusted steel gate, their hands making short work of the chain.

Mary drove the horse through, then stopped to wait for the girls. “Come on, little ones! Leave the gate open. I hear all those pretty walnuts calling for us!”

Giggling, the girls climbed into the buggy.

“Get your bags ready,” Mary told them as she drove past the house. “I think we’re going to harvest enough this afternoon to fill all those baskets we brought.”

She smiled as the two little ones gathered their bags. Mary had made them from burlap last year for just this occasion. The bags were large, with double handles easily looped over a small shoulder. She’d embroidered green walnut leaves on the front of Elsie’s bag. On Annie’s she’d stitched a brown walnut that had been cracked open, exposing all that deliciousness inside.

Mary drove the buggy around to the back of the house, where the yard had once been. A smile whispered across her mouth when she saw that the old tire swing was still there. She stopped the horse in the shade of a hackberry tree where the grass was tall enough for the mare to nibble, and she drew in the sight, felt that familiar swell in her chest. Picking up their gloves and her own bag, Mary climbed down. For a moment, she stood there and listened to the place. The chirp of a cardinal from the tallest tree. The whisper of wind through the treetops.

“Girls, I think we’ve chosen the perfect day to harvest walnuts,” she said.

Bag draped over her shoulder, Elsie followed suit. Annie was still a little thing, so Mary reached for her and set her on the ground. She handed the two girls their tiny leather gloves.

“I don’t want to see any stained fingers,” she told them.

“You, too, Grossmammi.”

Chuckling, Mary walked with them to the stand of trees, where the sun dappled the ground at her feet.

“Look how big that tree is, Grossmammi!” Annie exclaimed.

“That’s my favorite,” Mary replied.

“Look at all the walnuts!” Elsie said with an exuberance only a seven-year-old could manage.

“God blessed us with a good crop this year,” Mary replied.

“Are we going to make cakes, Grossmammi?”

“Of course we are,” Mary assured her.

“Walnut layer cake!” Annie put in.

“And pumpkin bread!” Elsie added.

“If you girls picked as much as you talked, we’d be done by now.” She tempered the admonition with a smile.

Stepping beneath the canopy of the tree, Mary knelt and scooped up a few walnuts, looking closely at the husks. They were green, mottled with black, but solid and mold free. It was best to gather them by October, but they were already into November. “Firm ones only, girls. They’ve been on the ground awhile. We’re late to harvest this year.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw little Annie squat and drop a walnut into her bag. Ten yards away, Elsie was already at the next tree, leather gloves on her little hands. Such a sweet, obedient child.

She worked in silence for half an hour. The girls chattered. Mary pretended not to notice when they tossed walnuts at each other. Before she knew it, her bag was full. Hefting it onto her shoulder, she walked to the buggy, and dumped her spoils into the bushel basket.

She was on her way to join the girls when something in the house snagged her attention. Movement in the window? She didn’t think so; no one ever came here, after all. Probably just the branches swaying in the breeze and reflecting off the glass. But as Mary started toward the girls, she saw it again. She was sure of it this time. A shadow in the kitchen window.

Making sure the girls were embroiled in their work, she set her bag on the ground. A crow cawed from atop the roof as she made her way to the back of the house and stepped onto the rickety porch. The door stood open a few inches, so she called out. “Hello?”

“Who are you talking to, Grossmammi?”

She glanced over her shoulder to see Annie watching her from her place beneath the tree, hands on her hips. Behind her, Elsie was making a valiant effort to juggle walnuts and not having very much luck.

“You just mind those walnuts,” she told them. “I’m taking a quick peek at Mrs. Schattenbaum’s kitchen.”

“Can we come?”

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