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THE LITTLEST WITNESS
Newly hired police chief Gabe McLaren had landed one of the biggest cases of his life and his only hope of solving it was a child witness who refused to say a word. Four-year-old Tommy had seen something the day his daddy was killed, and Gabe would not rest until the officer's murderer was brought to justice. Soon, though, spending time with the boy and his beautiful mother, Holly Poston, made Gabe long for the family he never really had. And holding the ...
THE LITTLEST WITNESS
Newly hired police chief Gabe McLaren had landed one of the biggest cases of his life and his only hope of solving it was a child witness who refused to say a word. Four-year-old Tommy had seen something the day his daddy was killed, and Gabe would not rest until the officer's murderer was brought to justice. Soon, though, spending time with the boy and his beautiful mother, Holly Poston, made Gabe long for the family he never really had. And holding the gentle widow in his arms night after night felt so right. But Gabe knew a killer still stalked, threatening the little family's wish for happier times and Gabe's hopes for a future as husband and father.
He was a big boy. That was why Daddy had said he could stay in this room all by himself and sit here at this table and color his pretty pictures.
Tommy liked to use crayons. Bright colors were his favorite. Lots of bright colors. Today, he colored some flowers, red and purple and yellow with great, big, pretty green leaves.
Daddy was still yelling in the next room. So was someone else. How many big people were there yelling? Tommy couldn't tell. He didn't like so much yelling. He picked up an orange crayon and drew a sad face with it. But sad faces shouldn't be with flowers, so he crossed it out. He took a red crayon and tried to make another flower.
Then there was a loud sound like when he dropped something, two loud sounds, and no more yelling. That was better.
Except that after another minute, Tommy didn't like being by himself in here anymore. He didn't hear talking, either. Did Daddy and Mr. Sperling go away? Did they leave him alone?
"Daddy?" Tommy called. But Daddy didn't answer. "Daddy?" His lower lip trembling, Tommy pushed his big chair away from the table and jumped down. Just like his mommy taught him, he reached way up high to the table and packed his crayons back into their box. He put them with his papers and other stuff into his pretty red bag and put the bag away.
"Daddy?" he called again. But Daddy didn't come. And Tommy still didn't hear him in the next room.
Daddy didn't say he couldn't come see him, so Tommy went to the door and pulled it open.
Mr. Sperling's shop had lots of shelves and cabinets, tall ones that Tommy couldn't see over, with lots and lots of things on them and in them. Tommy stopped and looked around. He didn't see Daddy or Mr. Sperling. He walked farther into the room.
He didn't want to cry. He was a big boy. But he wanted his daddy or his mommy. "Daddy?" He tried just to whisper, but it came out loud.
He saw a movement and turned toward his daddy. Only it wasn't his daddy. It was a monster! It had come to life!
Its face was great big, green and ugly, with a red tongue, giant teeth and a mean frown. And it came toward him. Its arms were raised and it reached its claws toward Tommy.
"Grrrr!" It was growling at him. "Go away, little boy," it shouted. "Get out of here! Now!"
"Nooo!" Tommy cried out as he ran toward the door of the shop. Only there was a big counter in the way. As he got near it, he tripped. He looked down. And screamed, "Daddy!"
But Daddy was asleep. There was bright red all over him. Blood, like when Tommy fell down and cut his knee.
And the monster came closer. "I said get out of here, little boy. And if you ever talk, if you ever tell anyone what you saw, I'll come and get you."
Gasping to breathe, Tommy ran around Daddy and toward the glass front door. It was a big door. A heavy door. But he pushed and pushed. And then he got it open.
Tommy ran outside and down the sidewalk, screaming and crying and very, very scared.
* * *
"Oh, Holly, you poor thing. I want you to know, the whole town is nearly as devastated as you about Thomas's death." Evangeline Sevvers breezed into the funeral parlor's small anteroom off the front of the chapel.
Evangeline would be aware of what the whole town felt, Holly Poston thought wryly. In addition to owning a boutique down the pedestrian mall from Sheldon Sperling's arts and crafts gallery, she was mayor of Naranja Beach, California.
Holly had been waiting in the small room for the memorial service for her husband to begin. Sad, numb, scared-those were emotions she applied to herself for the loss of Thomas and the turmoil from the circumstances surrounding his death.
Devastated ... not really. Not yet, at least. She glanced down toward her son Tommy, at her feet. He looked at Evangeline, but quickly resumed playing with a toy car on the floor.
His hair, as dark a brown as Holly's, had been neatly parted and combed to the side a few minutes ago, but now it was mussed. She would undoubtedly have to brush dirt off his black dress pants, maybe off his white shirt, too, but Holly was thankful that Tommy was acting like a normal child ... almost.
He hadn't said a word for the past four days. "Wait until you see how many people are here to pay their respects to Thomas." Evangeline's enthusiasm sparkled in her eyes.
"That's great," Holly replied, a lot less excited. Evangeline, ever the politician, would be pleased for a throng anyplace she happened to be. Evangeline was also a good friend. A consummate professional woman, she almost always wore a suit-at least while not in costume, for she was a driving force and starring actress at the Naranja Community Theater. Today, she wore a tailored deep cranberry suit that should have clashed with the dyed shade of her red hair but somehow didn't.
"You'll see for yourself soon," Evangeline continued. "Right now, though, I want to introduce you to someone."
Oh, lord, Holly thought. Not yet. She'd brought Tommy here early, before anyone else arrived, to protect him from the polite verbal poking and prodding of other mourners. And the not-so-polite intrusion of the media. As a result, she had avoided them, too. She would have to face them eventually. Probably soon. But she had to prepare herself.
Before she could object, a man entered the room behind Evangeline.
Excerpted from Tommy's Mom by Linda Johnston Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted October 1, 2012