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Dr. Mark Morelli studies the genetic illnesses that plague the Amish, but he has other, private reasons for coming to ...
Dr. Mark Morelli studies the genetic illnesses that plague the Amish, but he has other, private reasons for coming to Maplecreek reasons that may be tied to the mysterious disappearance of Leah's daughter.
Together, Leah and Mark must uncover a conspiracy—before there are deadly consequences.
Winter was hanging on by its fingernails. But Leah loved rising early, even on cold, dark mornings.
After she fed Becca, she enjoyed a relaxed breakfast, holding the baby in one arm and eating oatmeal with the other, talking between bites. By nine o'clock, sunlight streamed in the kitchen window onto the Formica-topped table. After years of teaching school, such a quiet Monday morning was a luxury.
"You do know this is our one-month anniversary, don't you, Becca-my-Becca?"
But, Leah thought, that also made it the one-month mark of Barbara's death. Unfortunately, she saw her dear friend everywhere she looked in these rooms. Sam had traveled often, and Leah had spent happy hours here at the Yoders's house with Barbara. Memories of shared activities and conversations both comforted and tormented her, like the time they'd painted the kitchen, getting more white on themselves than on the walls, and laughed themselves silly.
She was struggling hard to make this house hers when it still seemed like Barbara's. Because Sam and Barbara's bedroom was the only decent-size room upstairs, at first she'd slept in their bed. She'd put Becca in a crib nearby since the nursery was too chilly this time of year. But Barbara's marriage and death seemed to haunt the old double bed, and a new, single one was the first thing Leah planned to buy. Nightmares, as much as the chill upstairs, had driven her to lug Becca's crib down into the living room and sleep on the saggy sofa there.
"In a few months you'll be eating sergut, yummy things like this oatmeal and not just that formula. I've got raisins in the oatmeal too, see? I'll make you raisin-filled sugar cookies someday."
The baby loved watching Leah's face, but right now she was fascinated by her moving spoon. "And there's a woodlot of sugar maples just off the back property line," Leah went on, "and when it gets warm, we'll go out there and see the spring flowers."
Leah heard the distant sound of a train, no doubt the one that picked up flour at the AgraGro Mill, just on the other side of the ravine and a field. With the trees bare-branched, she could see the tops of the mill's two tall silos from the backyard. A few weeks ago, when her mother and younger sister, Naomi, had come to spend a rare mild day, they had insisted she get out for a while, and she'd walked over to take a look at the place.
"Do you hear that choo-choo train?" she asked Becca, as if the child knew a thing she was saying. "Some sunny day we'll go over and see it go by. So many things I want to tell and teach you."
This month since Barbara had died had been more than busy. Leah's family had helped her move from her parents' big farm into the Yoder house. Despite the fact Leah had helped her mother raise three younger siblings and had taught eight grades of scholars for eight years, once she was alone with Becca, taking care of her had been initially overwhelming. Each time the baby cried, Leah had panicked that she might be sick, but she'd learned to interpret her fussing and expressions better now.
And though it didn't seem possible, since Becca was so young and so many others had tended her off and on, she seemed to miss her mother. Occasionally, she unnerved Leah by looking over her shoulder or turning her head to listen as if Barbara stood there or was entering the room. Leah partly blamed these incidents on her own jitters. It was strange being cooped up here for weeks on end, when she was used to mingling with lots of people. Yet Becca made up for all of that.
Also in this past month, with Leah's help, a new Amish woman, Mattie Miller, had taken over the one-room school-house, and Leah had officially retired. Despite a few raised eyebrows over Sam and Barbara's decision, the scholars and their parents had showered her with gifts of baby clothing and cradle quilts. She would soon start working part-time at the Helping Hands Quilt Shop, where she could bring Becca with her. Sam's money for Becca took care of necessities, but a job would give her some extra money to fix up the house and buy a new bed.
It was too bad, she thought, that a man who built churches couldn't find time to fix up his own home, and Barbara had been too tired to decorate much. Sam was still saddled with medical bills, too, despite the community relief benefit the church had held. Since the Amish didn't believe in medical insurance, they all pitched in to raise funds if there was a special need. Sadly, the needs were great, and they held several such projects each year.
A knock on the back door jolted her. Her heartbeat kicked up. People seldom came this far out on Deer Run Road because it was mostly woodlots and fallow fields beyond. The road dead-ended at a ravine, which was crossed only by a footbridge. Access to the AgraGro Mill was by another road. The old pioneer cemetery next door—this had originally been the caretaker's house—was tended by the ladies of the Maplecreek Historical Society, but no new burials were held there anymore. And why would someone come to her back door, ins tead of the front? Nothing much was behind the house but trees.
She put Becca into the plastic laundry basket she'd padded with a quilt and placed it on the back corner of the kitchen counter where a draft from the floor or door would not hit her. Since the back door was solid wood with no window, Leah peeked out the kitchen window over the sink.
She was relieved to see Seth Kline, now seventeen, a boy who'd been the best scholar she'd ever taught. Blond and freckled, he grinned at her when she knocked on the win-dowpane and waved. She'd taught all the Kline children, including Seth's six-year-old sister, Susie, who had a rare disease that aged her quickly and prematurely.
Leah and Seth always talked about books, and she'd encouraged him to continue his studies, even though he worked various odd jobs in the community to help pay for Susie's medical needs. One of Seth's part-time jobs was cleaning cages and stalls at the town vet's, so Leah had seen him off and on this winter when her horse had intestinal troubles. She hoped the boy wasn't here with bad news about Susie's health.
"Seth, so good to see you!" she called out in German as she swung the door open.
She saw then that he wasn't alone. Miles Mason, an English man who owned a gift shop in town that featured Amish-made candies, jellies, honey and maple syrup, stood off to Seth's side. He was a big man, with hulki ng shoulders and almost no neck. His fur cap with huge, hanging earflaps, and his brown fake-fur jacket, as well as his jowls and bloodshot eyes, made him look like a hunting hound.
"Hello, Mr. Mason," she said, switching to English, and not asking Seth in as she'd intended. Despite the raw wind, she stepped out and closed the door behind her, pulling her shawl closer.
"We just wanted to tell you," Seth said when the man merely nodded, "that I'm working part-time for Mr. Mason. His crew will be in that back woodlot, tapping trees and checking the sap buckets the next few weeks. We won't be on the Yoders's land, but we didn't want you to hear noises or men's voices and wonder."
"I appreciate knowing. How's Susie doing?"
"Pretty much the same, ja, her arthritis acting up in this weather. Since it costs so much to pay for rides clear to Cleveland for checkups, Maam thought maybe that new gene doctor could help. I might try to hire on, sweeping up for him, in trade for him taking a look at her."
"I was thinking of meeting him too," Leah admitted. "Maybe he knows something about Becca's maams fatal disease. Besides, I heard he's a pediatrician, too, so he'll be a good man to know. Nothing against the two general practitioners in the area, but they're in Pleasant, and one of them's getting near retirement."
Miles Mason's fixed stare was making her jumpy, so she didn't try to talk up further education to Seth this time. She felt sad the boy was sweeping floors, because he'd been the only scholar she'd ever had who she wished would run off in his rumspringa to get schooling somewhere. Most kids his age were feeling their oats right now, as was tradition among the Amish, until they could make a mature decision to commit to being Amish for life. But Seth was loyal to his family, and they needed him.
Though it was something few Amish women would do, Leah stared back at the English man. Unless he was just squinting against the light reflecting off the remnants of snow, his eyes seemed to be assessing her beneath his bushy, gray eyebrows.
"Last year," she said, "Barbara and I watched you tap the trees, Mr. Mason."
"She was real neighborly. Sent out fresh-baked cooki es once." He snatched off his hat, uncovering salt-and-pepper hair as messy as a bird's nest. "Sorry for her loss," he added gruffly.
"Your kind words are much appreciated. You know, I was just eating some maple syrup with oatmeal. I prefer it to brown sugar." She was sure this man had some other business with her, but she was so chilled she was going to have to step back inside soon.
"I hear you don't own this place," Mason said as his gaze took in the house and yard. "It's got some real good sugar trees in front and on both sides that I'd like to tap this year. I'd give you syrup in trade. Actually, I'd like to buy the land.
Maybe you could suggest to Sam Yoder that you'd rather move back into town with your folks, 'stead of being out in an uninsulated old house like this with an infant."
Her eyes widened, and she stifled a gasp. This man knew more about her than she could have imagined. Seth liked to talk and he could have pried all that information out of the boy, but despite that fact, she didn't like it.
"As you may know, though Sam no longer lives here, he comes and goes," she told Mason as she began to shake harder from the cold. "I could write him about it if you want, but I have no plans to move."
"Naw, I'll take care of it later," he muttered, putting his hat back on and heading toward his trees.
"Teacher Leah, I'll see you at Luke Brand and Katie Lind-ley's wedding tomorrow!" Seth called as he started away. "I'm head hostler in charge of parking all the buggies!" He gave her a jaunty wave and trudged after his boss. Leah noted a pickup truck in the distance, which Miles Mason had evidently driven into the stand of trees.
Right then, she decided to buggy into town to pay the rest of her vet bill and drop by that new gene doctor's place across the street. She'd ask about Becca's status as a carrier and what he knew about Regnell anemia. She could offer a reference for Seth, in case he did ask for a job, and maybe suggest the doctor take a look at Susie Kline.
Unlike some Amish, whom she'd overheard saying they'd steer clear of a man who tried to figure out what "mistakes might be in people's insides," she was curious to meet the gene doctor. She'd heard he was Italian, which sounded pretty exotic for Ohio Amish country. He was sure to have some unique stories. One thing she'd missed badly this past month was learning new things to teach her scholars.
As she turned to go back inside, she glanced at the corner of the old graveyard, which was all she could see from here. No Amish were laid to rest there, for their cemetery was on the other side of town. Though most of the pale limestone markers were worn and tilted, a single statue stood out. On a foot-high pedestal, a five-foot angel—wings partly spread, head down—seemed to hover. Snow etched the folds and creases of the hair, robe and wings. Carved from dark gray granite, the figure was still cleanly cut.
The angel guarded the grave of a young woman who had died at age twenty-six in the late I880s. On a whim one day, the first year the Yoders moved in here, Leah and Barbara had scrubbed the moss and lichen off her and decked her with a spring garland around her neck. Since Barbara had also died at twenty-six, it seemed to Leah that the angel now guarded Barbara's house and baby too.
"All garlanded with carven imag'ries of fruits and flowers." Leah whispered the words from one of her favorite Keats poems. Then she added, as if the statue could hear, "Someday I'll tell Becca that you're her mother's angel, too."
Dr. Mark Morelli hated mornings. At 9:00 a.m. he hit the snooze button on his alarm clock so hard the clock skidded off the bedside table. "Mmm—damn!"
Squinting at the sun streaking through the vertical blinds, he forced himself up, righted the clock and stumbled into the bathroom. He'd spent half the night stari ng at columns of numbers he'd been crunching on his new BLAST computer software. The percentages of probable gene mutations burned in his brain even now.
He splashed water on his face, then made the mistake of looking in the mirror. Dark circles under his eyes and heavy beard stubble. Before stepping into the shower, he checked his PDA for voice messages, then called up his emails. Former colleagues sending congratulations for his new endeavor, two online genetics newsletters, business messages and a familiar SOS heading from his longtime friend, Clark Quinn, a patent attorney. He'd call Clark as soon as he thought he could form words.
However obsessed he was with this new project, he had to get more sleep. He looked as bad as he did when he'd been drinking, or what he and Clark had always called wining and wenching. That memory made him regret briefly that he'd broken up with Morgan, but she'd been dead set against his decision to move to rural Ohio to study "a stupid disease so rare it might as well be smallpox these days!" All in all, he didn't love her and didn't need a woman who couldn't be loyal to his dream—or at least cut him some slack for a couple of years to pursue it. Like Clark, she thought he was an idiot for sinking so much of his own money into this clinic and giving up a huge salary. He had two possible grants pending, but nothing had come through so far—probably wouldn't, until he showed some progress.
Posted October 28, 2013
Excellent Book! Excellent Author! This is the third book in a trilogy, but can be read as a stand-alone book. I am looking forward to reading Dark Road Home (book 1) and Dark Harvest (book 2).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 27, 2009
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Posted June 16, 2005
I DID enjoy this book, and I really loved the characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery mixed with a little romance. One thing that really annoyed me, however, was that this book kept referring to one of the characters from the first two books in this series as 'Brett' (should be Brooke). If you've read the first two books, you probably caught this right away, too. I certainly didn't forget the characters names. How did the author???Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
In Maplecreek, Ohio, school teacher Leah Kurtz¿s life long friend, more a sister than a pal, Barbara Yoder is dying from leukemia after giving birth just one month ago. Her husband Sam is not coping well and in some ways blames his infant daughter Becca. Before dying, Barbara, with Sam¿s blessing, asks Leah to raise Becca as her own. Leah agrees loving the child as if she is the biological mother. --- Research Doctor Mark Morelli investigates natal accelerated aging, one of several genetic problems plaguing the Amish. He has a mixed welcome as some Plain People want him to stop playing God; while others welcome him. Leah has become knowledgeable with genetic illness since Barbara became sick; she wants the outsider to succeed. Mark realizes she is his liaison with the community. Leah starts having doubts that the infant she cares for is Becca; increasingly believing a switch occurred. Finding dead flowers everywhere adds to her paranoia, but perhaps someone is trying to drive her and Mark out of town before they discover the dark secrets that someone wants kept hidden. --- DARK ANGEL, Karen Harper¿s third ¿Dark¿ Amish tale (see DARK ROAD HOME and DARK HARVEST) is more a medical murder thriller than a romance though the love subplot between the lead couple enhances the prime mystery. The story line provides terrific juxtapositions between frightening crimes and nurturing caring individuals. Early on the tale slowly establishes the cast and their but once the eerie intrigue takes over, the pace goes to jet speed until the finish as the audience wonders who is the DARK ANGEL?--- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 11, 2005
The young Amish lady, Leah Kurtz's young life has seen too much sorrow; first her sister dies, then her fiance' jilts her following his rumspringa, finally, her best friend falls prey to a genetic disease common among their people, dying far too young. Yet, in Barbara's death lies a blessing. She and her husband choose to give their little girl, Becca, to Leah to raise as her own rather than the young widower trying to be a single father. Perhaps it is partly her duty to Becca that leads Becca to go to work for the English gene doctor, Mark Morelli. Soon, the is much more going on than mere work. Someone has turned the gentle Amish into a target, and it is somehow tied to Mark's work. After a child vanishes, Mark and Leah work together to find out what is going on, and that closeness begins to ignite a forbidden passion that will force Leah to chose between her people and her love. Then, her own Becca disappears, and nothing else matters but rescuing the daughter of her heart. ................................. *** As always, a book centered around the Amish is fascinating. Of all Ms. Harper's Plain heroines, Leah is my favorite. The tension between the clashing worlds provides an apt background for a compelling story that ends on a heartwarming note. ***Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.