In anticipation of the 8th Kate Burkholder novel by Linda Castillo, Among the Wicked (available July 12, 2016), get the latest Kate Burkholder short story, “Seeds of Deception,” for only 99 cents!
It's autumn in Painter's Mill, and fourteen year old Katie Burkholder has been tasked with picking apples in Zimmerman’s Orchard with her brother. It’s just another day filled with chores—until her best friend Mattie arrives to help. Somehow, boredom transforms into fun and games whenever the girls are together. The innocent fun comes to an end when Billy Marquardt and his gang of friends interrupts. Katie is no prude, but she knows better than to associate with the older English boys, especially since they’re known troublemakers. Mattie has no such compunction. Thumbing her nose at the Ordnung and all of the Amish rules, she disappears into the old barn with Billy.
Moments later, the Zimmerman’s barn is consumed by fire. Katie suspects Billy had something to do with the blaze, but he denies it. When the facts don’t add up, Katie begins her own investigation—and she doesn’t like what she finds. Will her friendship with Mattie survive the truth?
Zimmerman’s Orchard was the last place fourteen-year-old Katie Burkholder wanted to be, especially with her older brother, Jacob. He was bossy and about as fun as a milk cow—one that kicked. But Mamm had insisted. She needed six bushels of apples for pies and apple butter, both of which she planned to sell. Katie had already finished the sign Datt would post at the end of their lane: HOMEMADE APPLE BUTTER $3.99. DUTCH APPLE PIES $5.99.
No worms, her mamm had told them as they walked out the door. And keep your sister out of trouble.
She’d just had to add that last line. As if there was trouble to be found in an orchard. Mamm was probably still angry with her. Two nights ago, Katie had been caught reading, huddled beneath her covers, using the flashlight she’d bought for a buck at the drugstore. The reading itself wasn’t the problem, but the material was. It was the book her best friend, Mattie, had given her. A mystery novel in which the young heroine solved crimes and just happened to receive her first kiss. Katie had been enthralled with the story, but before she could finish Mamm had confiscated the book and tossed it in the trash. Now Katie was relegated to picking apples, with Jacob watching her every move.
Datt had hauled them to the orchard in the buggy and dropped them off. While Katie walked ahead, Jacob checked them in with Mrs. Zimmerman, who supplied them with bushel baskets, two wagons with hand pulls, and instructions on where to pick.
“Stop looking so dejected.”
Katie glanced over her shoulder to see him pulling both wagons behind him. “I have better things to do than tromp around in this orchard picking apples with you,” she said.
“Like what?” He smirked. “Read an English romance book?”
“It was a mystery novel,” Katie defended herself, taking the handle of the second wagon.
“You’re just jealous because I read better than you.”
“Better at filling your head with useless words maybe.” He started down the row of trees. “Mamm says those books are trash.”
Katie scooped a rotten apple out of the grass and threw it, hitting him solidly in the back.
Jacob spun, laughing. Katie couldn’t help it; she laughed, too. Her brother might be older, but he still liked to have fun on occasion. When he wasn’t trying to boss her around, anyway.
“Better not bite off more than you can chew,” he warned. “I can throw a lot harder than you.”
He had a point. Not that long ago, she’d been able to outrun him, throw the baseball farther than him, and outwrestle him. But not now. Jacob was nearly a foot taller than her and his muscles were the size of small hams. Of course, Katie knew he was too kind to ever hurt her. On the contrary, she was the one who’d been accused of possessing a mean streak.
He motioned toward the far end of the orchard. “I’ll start a couple of rows over at the end and we’ll work our way toward each other.”
Glad to be rid of him, Katie watched him walk away, trying hard not to feel sorry for herself. It wasn’t fair. Not only had Mamm taken her book, but she’d ripped it in half. That had hurt. Worse, she wouldn’t be able to return it to Mattie. At least Mamm hadn’t found the lip gloss she kept hidden in a sock in her drawer.
Resigned, she dropped the wagon’s handle to the ground, went to the nearest tree, and plucked a shiny Ginger Gold apple off the branch, setting it carefully in the basket so as not to bruise it or nick the flesh.
Around her, the late August day was glorious and warm, with a breeze that held a hint of autumn. She daydreamed as she worked—the one thing she was good at, it seemed. She entertained forbidden thoughts about the boy who had helped her datt and brother cut and bale hay a few weeks ago. Daniel Lapp was Jacob’s age, a good worker, and he had the face of an angel. Pretty eyes that sparkled when he smiled. It had been hot that day, and Mamm had asked her to take lemonade to them out in the field. Daniel hadn’t said a word to Katie, but he’d smiled when she handed him the glass. Her legs weren’t quite steady when she walked back to the house. Later that night, she’d dreamed of him.
She’d just twisted another apple off the branch when something hit her in the back hard enough to hurt.
Drawing back to defend herself from her marauding brother, Katie spun. “Mattie!”
The Amish girl doubled over with laughter. “You should have seen your face! Like you were under attack and you were going to beat the crap out of someone!”
The image struck Katie’s funny bone and for a full minute the girls’ laughter rang out. Mattie Erb had been her best friend for as long as she could remember. In the past, Katie had seen her at school, which made learning so much more tolerable, even though they’d gotten their knuckles rapped for speaking out of turn or laughing when they weren’t supposed to. But the Amish only went to school through the eighth grade; both girls had finished last year. Katie didn’t get to see Mattie as often now. She missed those easy, carefree days. Mattie was funny and pretty and, like Katie, had a penchant for getting into trouble. They were a match made in heaven.
“What are you doing here?” Katie asked.
Copyright © 2016 Linda Castillo.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
Linda Castillo is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Burkholder novels, including Sworn to Silence which was adapted into a Lifetime Original Movie titled An Amish Murder starring Neve Campbell as Kate Burkholder. Castillo is the recipient of numerous industry awards including a nomination by the International Thriller Writers for Best Hardcover, the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and a nomination for the RITA. In addition to writing, Castillo’s other passion is horses. She lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next novel.