"Kay DiBianca has written a captivating tale … From the gripping prologue to the conclusion of the story, her gift for storytelling keeps the reader eager for the next chapter and loath to set the book aside.
A Watch that Tells More than the Time . . .
In a deserted park on a cold winter day, 27-year-old Kathryn Frasier is training for a marathon when she discovers a gold watch on a fencepost. Sensing that it was deliberately left for her to find, she sets out to solve the mystery behind the watch, but her orderly life is turned upside-down when it leads her to a dark family secret and a suspicion that her parents' recent deaths may not have been an accident.
Thrown into the hunt for a possible killer, Kathryn peels back layer after layer of cryptic clues, and encounters an extraordinary cast of characters, including an actress with a talent for disguises, a politician with a secret of his own, and a handsome businessman who shows a sudden romantic interest in Kathryn.
But is the search for the truth worth risking her own life?
… the writing is well-paced, peppered with interesting characters, and loaded with enough detours and misdirection to keep even avid sleuths guessing as the layers of the plot unfold. Well done!
Whether you’re an avid or casual reader, I highly recommend The Watch on the Fencepost to be next on your reading list.
Riveting. Page turner. Intriguing.
Kay DiBianca masterfully blends her personal theological, technical, and corporate experiences into a mystery full of twists and turns.
"I was hooked on the story while reading the prologue. I liked the nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout …
"If you enjoy mystery and romance, The Watch on the Fencepost is a must read. Kay does a masterful job keeping the reader in suspense …”
“… the writing is well-paced, peppered with interesting characters, and loaded with enough detours and misdirection to keep even avid sleuths guessing as the layers of the plot unfold. Well done!
Read an Excerpt
"C'mon Barkley. Keep up. We're training for a marathon, not a stroll in the garden." Halfway through her five-mile run at Campbell Park, Kathryn Lee Frasier glanced back at her little sable-colored border collie who had stopped to investigate a twig by the side of the trail. Hearing her call, Barkley bounded back to his owner's side, gleefully yipping in the late afternoon chill.
Winter had been slow to loosen its grip on the western foothills of the Rockies this year, and Kate could taste the arctic-forged air as it drove deep into her lungs. Her breath puffed out frosty little clouds each time she exhaled, keeping time with her strides. "Let's pick up the pace," she said as she dodged a patch of snow.
Campbell Park, or "Runners' Heaven" as the locals called it, was like an old friend to Kate. She had trained on its trails when she ran cross-country in high school, and she knew every rise and fall, every switchback, and every level path in the place. But for the past month, this park had taken on new meaning.
"Let's go, Barkley. Up the hill." She tucked a strand of dark hair back under her fleece headband, and the two galloped together past the three-mile marker and up a slight incline to the highest point in the park, where the trail overlooked the town of Bellevue.
Bellevue was one of those adolescent towns that had sprouted out of the hip of a larger, more mature city to its east. Spurred on by some kind of urban hormones, it continued to develop enthusiastically without the burdens of old infrastructure, old industries, or old ideas. But, like most teenagers, it probably thought a little more of itself than it should have and gave less attention to the wisdom of its elders than it could have.
As a matter of fact, if an airplane flew over the town and dropped one hundred leaflets out, half of them would land in the yards of large homes with a swimming pool or a children's cedar activity center in the backyard and a BMW in the driveway. But most of the remaining half would land on smaller properties owned by the "old-timers," those folks who made their livings in Bellevue when it was just a country village and who now provided many of the support services for their new neighbors.
As they passed the four-mile marker, Kate began to pay a price for setting a strong pace early. "Almost there, Barkley," she said. Then to herself: Never give up.
Never give up. Her mantra for the past month since Reverend Whitefield suggested the marathon. The Whitefields had always been her spiritual guides. Now they were shepherding her through the darkness.
"Mourning for your parents is very important, Kathryn, but you can't let it take over your life," the reverend had said. "It's been three months since the accident, and this would be an appropriate time for you to find something to focus your attention on as you continue to deal with the sorrow. You're a runner. Have you ever considered training for a marathon?"
"No. I've never had the time or the courage to take on a full marathon."
But the good reverend and his wife knew her too well. She could never refuse a challenge.
"It won't be easy," Jan Whitefield had said. "I've run several marathons myself, and I can tell you that the training will test your mental and physical capabilities to the limit."
It would be demanding, but that's what she wanted. Something physical. And hard. Her manager at Vectra Software Corporation had given her a long-term leave of absence. So why not?
And so she ran. And as the miles built up, the sorrow began to fade. And her old sense of well-being was rekindled.
Kate and Barkley turned into the wind as they rounded the last bend in their route. The raw air slapped her in the face and made her eyes leak tears. Her body demanded that she slow down, but she pushed back against the desire to relieve the pain in her legs and concentrated on the soft thump, thump of her Sauconys on the paved path.
With a quarter mile to go, her thighs were on fire and her breaths had become short, savage gasps. She clenched her fists for the final sprint. "Race you to the finish, Barkley," she wheezed out as she drove to the end.
Finally, it was over, and they were back at the beginning of the trail, next to a park bench. Lungs burning, she bent over, hands on her knees, to catch her breath. With her chest still heaving from the effort, she leaned down and ruffled Barkley's pert little ears. "We made it. Good boy."
As the sun sank into the hills, a park ranger rode by on a bicycle. "We're closing in a few minutes — time to wrap it up," he said as he headed down the trail to find other stragglers.
She waved to him. "No problem. I just have to stretch out." Kate put her hands on the park bench and extended each leg alternately behind her until the muscles slowly relaxed their tension.
When she stood upright and pulled a deep breath of cold air into her lungs, something caught her eye. Behind the park bench, on top of an old fencepost, a tiny gold object glittered with light from the setting sun. A watch on the fencepost.CHAPTER 2
Phil Warren laid the monthly reports aside and checked his watch. Five-thirty. Just about time for Ben's daily debrief.
"Evenin', sport." Ben Mullins strolled into Phil's office, put his coffee cup on the desk, and settled into a chair opposite his boss.
"Good evening, Ben." Phil took a sip from his water bottle and scrutinized the face of his good friend, wondering what today's topic would be. For the past ten years, the two men had met regularly after a hard day's work to unwind and discuss everything from the state of the business to the latest football scores.
"So, what's happening?" Phil asked.
Ben ran a hand through his dark, buzz-cut hair. He looked older than his thirty-eight years. And yet, despite his deeply lined and weathered face, he had an intelligent air about him, which he tried to hide behind a folksy, approachable facade. Few people would have guessed that he held a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University or that he was extremely well read, especially in nineteenth-century English literature. Trim and athletic, he was the one employee who was allowed to interact with the boss on an even playing field.
"Not much to report." Ben leaned back in his chair with his legs stretched out in front of him, his cowboy boots crossed at the ankles. "Mrs. Widner brought her Cadillac in again today for an oil change. I keep tellin' her she doesn't need to change the oil every month, but she keeps bringing it back in. She says she wants her car to be as clean on the inside as it is on the outside." Ben grimaced. "Now why do you suppose a smart woman like Mrs. Widner would say something as silly as that?"
"Well, I have a theory." Ben almost always had a theory. "See, she and her husband are new in town. I hear he travels a lot, and their kids are all grown up and living in other parts of the country. I've told her we can have someone drive her home, but she always chooses to sit in the waiting room and talk to the other customers. I think she's lonely." He shook his head. "Awful expensive way to make new friends."
And an awful long dissertation on Mrs. Widner and her Cadillac, Phil thought. I wonder what's really on his mind.
There was a protracted silence as Ben brushed at a piece of lint on his blue jeans; then he picked up a car magazine and flipped through the pages. Clearly, he was waiting to be asked.
Okay, I'll bite. "Anything else you want to talk about?"
Ben dropped the magazine back on the table next to his chair and showed that little lopsided smile of his that meant he was getting to the crux of the matter. "Oh, nothin' much. But I was just checkin' the schedule for the rest of the week, and I noticed Kathryn Frasier is bringing her car in on Thursday for some maintenance work."
Ah, so that's it. "So?"
"Yep. Ten o'clock Thursday morning. Knowin' her, she'll be right on time too. Did you ever notice how nicely organized and punctual she is?"
"No, I never noticed that." Phil watched the lines around Ben's blue eyes deepen as his grin widened.
"Well, I just want to be sure you're aware of what's goin' on around here. Maybe you could spiff up a little bit before she comes. You know, try to make a good impression. After all, she's the only female who comes in this place who doesn't throw herself at you."
Phil leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "Thanks for the advice, pal. Coming from the oldest bachelor in Bellevue, I'll take it for what it's worth. In the meantime, maybe you should spend a little less time worrying about my personal life and a little more time thinking about how we can boost our throughput."
Ben retrieved his cup from Phil's desk. "I'd say both things need some improvement," he chuckled, then took a last swallow of coffee and tossed the paper cup into the wastebasket. "Speaking of improvement, have you ever read anything by Jane Austen?"
"No. I'm more of a Jack London kind of guy."
"It's educational to read a book written by a woman. Did you know that women think differently than men?"
"Yeah. Everybody knows that." I wonder where this is going.
"Well, it's real interestin' to get inside the head of a woman. Austen makes a good case about how men and women don't communicate effectively with each other. You could learn something from her. Try reading Pride and Prejudice. Might just give you a little useful insight."
Phil went back to analyzing his paperwork.
"See, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett got off to a real bad start, and they spent so much time making assumptions about each other, they almost missed the most important thing of all."
Phil looked up. "And what's the most important thing of all?"
"Read the book and you'll find out." Self-satisfaction etched itself into the lines on Ben's face.
Phil responded, "Hmph."
Ben stood and stretched. "Well, I guess I'll head on out. You coming to the gym tonight? Bet I can still whip your rear end at racquetball."
"Yeah, I'll be there. You better go start warming up right now, old man, so you can get that decrepit body of yours in shape for a game."
Ben exited the office, whistling.
Should I tell him? thought Phil. No. Not yet.CHAPTER 3
Kate reached over the park bench and gently lifted the watch from the fencepost. The dainty timepiece had several tiny diamonds speckled around its rectangular face. The thin, flexible band had a small chain to protect it from accidentally unlatching and falling off. Somebody must have deliberately removed it and put it on the fencepost.
Kate glanced around. Surely the owner must be close by. But there was no one in sight, and hers was the only car in the parking area next to the trail. This near closing time, especially late on a winter day, the park was virtually deserted.
"Look at this, Barkley. I'm holding time in my hands." What was it Professor Adkins used to say? "With time all things are revealed." She held the watch up at eye level to get a closer look in the fading light. "So, little watch, what story do you have to tell?"
All the watch said was the time: three o'clock. Kate compared it with her wrist- mounted GPS, which read five-thirty. An expensive watch that doesn't even keep correct time.
She turned the watch over and found an inscription on the back: "To Cece - 1998." My goodness. That was twelve years ago. This Cece should take better care of her things.
Barkley woofed, reminding her it was time to go. After looking around once more and finding no one in sight, she drove to the visitor's center. She parked her car and glanced at the watch again. It still read three o'clock. Battery must be dead, but that's no reason to take a watch off and leave it in the park.
As she got out of her car, the frigid air chilled the sweat on the back of her neck, and she realized how cold she was. She grabbed a heavy jacket from the back seat. "Stay, Barkley. I'll be right back."
She walked into the center and up to the information desk. "Do you have a lost and found department?" she asked the middle-aged lady who was sitting there.
"Yes, we do," said the woman. "People are leaving things in the park all the time. We have jackets, gloves, hats. Last week someone even came across a wedding ring lying on the ground in the parking lot!"
Kate held up the watch. "I just found this on a fencepost over by the Sunset Trail."
The lady took the watch and checked it out. "What a lovely watch. And it looks expensive. I'll put it in the safe. If the owner comes in to reclaim it, she'll have to describe it before we'll hand it over. I see there's an inscription on the back. She'll have to identify that too." She took out a small plastic bag and dropped the watch in it. "Thank you for bringing it in. I'm sure the owner will be very happy to get it back."
As Kate drove home, the thought of the little timepiece tickled her imagination. Why would someone take off an expensive watch and reach over the bench to put it on top of an old fencepost? Even a tall person would have a hard time reaching the post from there.
A puzzle, she thought.
When she was a child, her father often gave her little problem-solving challenges, saying, "Puzzles are our friends. Solve a puzzle and you're one step closer to ultimate truth. Solve a puzzle and you're one step closer to God."
She smiled broadly, the first time she'd felt this sense of curiosity in months. "Well, Barkley, I doubt I'll solve this puzzle." But, on the other hand ...CHAPTER 4
It's way too quiet in here.
Mike Strickland walked into campaign headquarters and looked around at the dozen or so workers in the outer office. This place should be buzzing with activity, but these people look about as dull as dishwater.
His candidate, US Representative Robert Hodges, had announced months ago that he would run for governor, and the organization was now in place, but where was the enthusiasm? Can we make this happen?
Mike spoke what he hoped were inspiring words to a few of the workers on his way to the office where the meeting was scheduled.
"Afternoon, folks," he said as he took his seat on one side of the small conference table. The other two members of the senior staff were already there, settled in their places.
Elizabeth Howley sat opposite him. The Dragon Lady. Of the three members of the senior staff, she was the oldest and most experienced. And ruthless. But Hodges relied on her unconditionally. Rumor had it she'd already picked out her office in the governor's mansion and hired a decorator to design the furnishings.
Liz looked up from her laptop and smoothed her hair back with a perfectly manicured hand. "Hello, Mike. How's the fund-raising coming along?"
"Good. We got a few pledges today."
The campaign manager sat next to Elizabeth. If Liz Howley was intense and dominant, Jeremy Dodd was downright crafty. Mike had argued against hiring him since he had never run a campaign before, but Hodges had overruled him. It wasn't just the experience thing that bothered Mike. Jeremy didn't seem to have any commitment to the issues. A successful campaign would be a major stepping stone for him, and he would bend his values in any direction as long as it gave him the win. A chameleon with a bad haircut.
Jeremy looked up under heavy black eyebrows and acknowledged Mike's presence with a nod. Then he continued scribbling notes on the papers in front of him.
Mike got up to get a bottle of water from the small refrigerator at the end of the room and returned to his seat. "Where's Bob?" he asked.
"He stepped out to take a phone call. He should be back in a minute," Liz responded and went back to tapping on her laptop.
Representative Hodges strode energetically into the room. "Mike, I'm glad you're here in time for our meeting." The two men shook hands, and Hodges took his place at the head of the table. "Guys, I just talked to former governor Sparks, and I'm happy to tell you he's going to endorse me at the rally in Bellevue on Saturday."
After a round of congratulations, Hodges rubbed his hands briskly together. "Okay, let's get down to business. Jeremy, how's the campaign going?"
"We're making progress," Jeremy said.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Watch on the Fencepost"
Copyright © 2018 Kay DiBianca.
Excerpted by permission of CrossLink Publishing.
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