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Without Proof, страница 1

 

Without Proof
 


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Without Proof


  Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Father to the Fatherless

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Bonus Scene: Chapter 20.5

  A Note from Janet Sketchley

  Acknowledgements

  Discussion Questions

  Redemption's Edge Series

  Copyright-1

  Without Proof

  Redemption’s Edge

  Book Three

  Janet Sketchley

  janetsketchley.ca

  Without Proof, A Redemption’s Edge Novel

  © 2015 by Janet Sketchley

  ISBN (epub) 978-0-9938743-5-2

  ISBN (mobi) 978-0-9938743-8-3

  ISBN (print) 978-0-9938743-4-5

  All rights reserved, in all media. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed or electronic reviews, without written permission of the author.

  Permissions requests may be directed to the author via the contact page on her website: janetsketchley.ca/contact/.

  The characters and situations in this book are works of fiction and are not intended to represent any individuals, living or dead. The opinions expressed by the characters are not necessarily those of the author, nor is the grammar they use always correct.

  All Scripture references are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

  Edited by Angela Breidenbach. Additional editorial input by Matthew Sketchley.

  Cover by Amanda Walker.

  Photography by Amanda Walker Photography (forest) and Can Stock Photo (model).

  Series cover design by Christina Fuselli, Fuselli Art & Design.

  Published in Canada by Janet Sketchley.

  Dedicated to you, the reader. Enjoy!

  ~~~

  Note to my American readers:

  This novel uses Canadian spelling, which is sort of a hybrid of US and UK English. You’ll see words like colour, neighbour, practice, and licence, and they’re not typos. That said, and despite the many eyes that have checked the manuscript, I can’t guarantee perfection. But I’ve done my best!

  Also, you’ll encounter some French-Canadian and other words and names. Here’s some basic pronunciation help:

  ami: say “ah-MEE” (friend)

  Ayon: say “Ay-ON” where the “ay” rhymes with “hay” and without saying the “n” in “on”

  chérie: say “sha-ree” (a term of endearment, like dear)

  Dafiq: say “dah-FEEK”

  finis: say “fin-NEE” (the end)

  Gilles: the “g” makes a zh sound as in “treasure,” and the name rhymes with “hill,” so say “zhil” (If you have to, call him Jill. Please don’t call him Giles, or he may haunt you.)

  Luc: say “Luke”

  Honore: say “on-ORE”

  Renaud: say “re-NO” (like the car)

  Safia: say “sa-FEE-ya”

  toujours aimée: remember the “zh” sound from “treasure” and say “too-zhoorz ay-may” (always loved, and a play on Amy’s name)

  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,

  is God in his holy dwelling.

  God sets the lonely in families,

  he leads out the prisoners with singing;

  but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

  Psalm 68: 5-6, NIV

  Chapter 1

  The doorbell echoed from the main floor. Amy dropped the square of sandpaper onto the frame she’d been finishing and flexed her aching fingers.

  Overhead, light footsteps headed for the door. Michael’s aunt could sign for the delivery, but Amy wanted to check the boxes. She rolled her shoulders to work out a kink, then slid from the stool and brushed a layer of dust from her clothing.

  Aunt Bay’s voice met her at the top of the basement stairs. “She may not want to talk to you.”

  Not the printer order after all. She, as in me? Amy took a few silent steps but stopped out of sight.

  “Please, I’m on a deadline.” A male voice, light and with a hint of a quiver.

  Amy grinned. Aunt Bay had that effect when she wanted. It might be fun to let her soften this guy up a bit more, but Amy stepped into the hallway. “Is there a problem?”

  Aunt Bay huffed at the man. “Come in, then. But if she says no, you’ll be leaving.”

  The visitor took three quick steps inside before Michael’s aunt could change her mind. “Amy Silver?”

  “Yes?”

  He wasn’t much bigger than Aunt Bay, but closer to Amy’s age. A bit older, maybe in his late 20s. Black, with tight-curled hair and black-framed glasses. Despite the passive voice, his gaze spoke determination. “I’m Troy Hicks, a friend of Michael’s. I’m a journalist.”

  “Okay.” Amy nodded, waiting. Did he want to write about the art studio? But why would Aunt Bay object?

  Troy adjusted the laptop bag strap on his shoulder. “I know this is a sensitive topic for you, but I’d like to ask about your accident.”

  Amy glanced at Michael’s aunt. Felt the quiet of this rambling house that had become her sanctuary. Looked back at Troy. “Why? It’s been almost two years.”

  Dark eyes studied her. “There was a similar crash in the States recently. The local paper is interested in a follow-up on your recovery. Just a short human interest piece.”

  Pain radiated in Amy’s hip and she shifted her weight to her good leg. “I live with the after-effects every day.” She wasn’t crazy about being in the paper, but after all Michael and his aunt — great-aunt, really — had done… A positive mention of the painter and his studio could bring him a new customer or two. She smiled at Troy. “Okay.”

  Aunt Bay’s face relaxed. “Good for you. I knew you were healing.”

  Amy turned to Troy. “If Michael gets back soon enough, he can join us.” She led the way into the living room and sank into the nearest chair. Pain lanced her hip, then began to ebb. She pulled a steadying breath.

  Troy settled opposite her, and opened his laptop on the low table in front of him. He pulled out his smart phone and tapped the screen. “All right if I record this? I’ll take notes, but I like a verbatim backup.”

  “That’s fine, I guess.”

  Aunt Bay entered the room carrying a tray with three glasses of ice water. Amy reached for a glass. “Thank you. My hip started to go. I needed to sit.”

  “I saw it in your face, child.”

  “You’re too good to me.” Aunt Bay and Michael, both. They’d taken in a virtual stranger because she had no family of her own. Amy had met Michael, what? Four times before the crash? Five?

  Troy moved his laptop onto his knees. He held Amy’s gaze for a few seconds, and flashed a reassuring smile. “I appreciate
this. I’ll ask a few questions, we’ll chat, then I’ll distill it into an article once I leave.”

  Aunt Bay set the tray on the coffee table beside Troy’s phone, and carried her glass to a chair that let her observe them both. “You’ll let Amy see what you’ve written first?”

  One side of Troy’s mouth curved down. “That’s actually discouraged. Second-guessing dilutes the original tone and causes missed deadlines.” He glanced at Amy. “Are you concerned I’ll misrepresent you?”

  Amy shook her head.

  “Okay.” Troy checked his laptop screen. “Two years ago this November, a private plane carrying you and your fiancé, Gilles Renaud, crashed on a rural highway.” He looked up. “I’m sorry, Amy. There are no words for your loss.”

  Amy’s throat tightened. “I’ll always miss him. We talk about him a lot, and sometimes that makes it easier.”

  Aunt Bay sniffed. “Far better than stuffing away the grief and pretending he never existed.”

  Troy nodded. “Gilles was an experienced pilot, and weather conditions were fair. I’m told it took a great deal of skill to bring the plane down in one piece.” He glanced back at his laptop. “According to my notes, Gilles died from internal injuries, and you spent weeks in hospital. Everything changed that day, but you’ve found strength to carry on. And you’ve stayed in Nova Scotia instead of moving back to… Ottawa?”

  “I brought everything with me when I came here to marry Gilles.” She’d had nothing — and no one — to return to. “Michael and Gilles were best friends. In his own grief, Michael gave me a place to stay when the hospital discharged me. His great-aunt moved in to help me.”

  “And to keep folks from talking.” Aunt Bay levelled a stare. “I should have introduced myself. Beatrice.” She pronounced it BAY-a-triss, then spelled it for him. “If you can get your tongue around that, feel free to call me by name. Otherwise, it’s Miss Rockland.”

  A grin split Troy’s face. “BAY-a-triss it is. Thank you.”

  Amy looked at the older woman. “It was Gilles who nicknamed you Aunt Bay. Michael told me.”

  “Yes. That first summer Gilles stayed here. An irrepressible teenager ready to take on the world.” Beatrice turned to Troy. “This was my home then. When I bought a condo in the city, Michael took over the house for his studio. The light off St. Margaret’s Bay is perfect in his work room, and he gets tourist traffic in the summer.”

  Troy typed a rapid burst and paused, hands over the keyboard. “Amy, you mentioned your hip. Is this related to the crash?”

  “My leg was trapped when the plane crumpled, and I ended up with a dislocated hip. The surgeon repaired it, but if I stand too long, or over-exert it, the pain comes back.” Amy grimaced. “When I’m out with Aunt Bay, I’m the one with the cane. At twenty-five.”

  She waited until Troy stopped tapping keys. “I wanted a way to give back to Michael and Aunt Bay, so I started helping with the paperwork and accounts between physiotherapy appointments. I’m good with numbers. Michael, your typical artist, isn’t. Then I learned how to do framing and other support work, to give Michael more time to paint.”

  Amy sipped her water and rested the glass on the arm of her chair. “I could get back up to speed with the banking world and apply for work in my field, but I like it here. Less money, but less pressure, and right now I don’t want any stress.” Her fingers twisted the end of her ponytail. “So am I still healing? Or am I hiding?”

  Troy grinned. “I’m a journalist, not a doctor. Sounds to me like you’ve got a good thing going, win-win all around. Have you kept in touch with Gilles’ family?”

  Speaking of stress… “Please don’t mention them in your article. They wouldn’t appreciate it.”

  “Okay. Now, there’s one other angle I wanted to look at in passing. Are you satisfied with the investigation into the crash?”

  Amy pressed her back into the chair. “Why?”

  “Coverage of the American crash suggests there are a few ways to sabotage a small plane that are virtually untraceable. Did Gilles do a pre-flight inspection?”

  “I followed him around the plane. It was fascinating.”

  Troy nodded. “Forgive me — did he take it seriously, or was it a formality?”

  Amy stiffened. “Gilles may have had a reckless streak, but he was obsessive about mechanical safety.”

  Aunt Bay snorted. “Daredevils can’t risk equipment failure. Not that he’d try anything crazy with Amy in the plane. He treated her like spun glass.”

  “Here’s the thing.” Troy positioned the laptop more squarely on his legs. “Gilles’ pre-flight should have caught any ordinary mechanical issues. After your crash, I asked his flight club about the possibility of sabotage — just to cover every option. They shut me down faster than you can say ‘No comment.’ Fine. I thought it wasn’t likely anyhow. But now I know it’s possible. I asked again this morning, and they hit me with a guilt trip. Said to respect you, not to dig up past pain.”

  “Yet you’re asking me about it.”

  “Because I do respect you.” Troy sat forward, one elbow on the edge of his laptop. His features hardened. “If someone did this to you and Gilles, you have a right to know. To see justice done.”

  Amy stared. “But who? Why?”

  “That’s the other reason I’m asking. You and Michael knew Gilles best. Did he have enemies? Personal or business conflicts? I won’t put anything you say now in my article, but I’d like to keep recording for myself.”

  This conversation was unreal. Amy rubbed her hip. “Gilles didn’t seem worried about anything. He was, when we met. Said he was running away from God — don’t repeat that. We fell in love, he settled whatever was bothering him, and we came here to get married.”

  “Gilles had a reputation with the ladies, but this would be a pretty extreme response from a spurned lover. I don’t suppose you have any enemies yourself, Amy?”

  Amy’s scalp prickled. Enemies? She forced a laugh. “Not the murdering kind.” Gilles’ mother. Her own unseen father. “Besides, I’m an easy target and I’m still here.”

  Aunt Bay reached over and squeezed Amy’s arm. “Thank God for that.”

  Troy checked his phone. “Michael hasn’t replied to my text yet. When he does, I’ll ask if he remembers anything. Thank you both for your time.” He shut the laptop and slid it into his bag.

  Amy sat forward in her chair, preparing her hip joint to stand. “It’s been nice to meet you. Thanks for checking on me, and good luck with your article. I really don’t think there’s anything to the sabotage idea, though. Just because it could have happened doesn’t mean it did. Everyone loved Gilles.”

  Aunt Bay stood without any effort. “I agree with Amy. But I hope Michael invites you back socially. He works too much.”

  Troy looked at the older woman. “Are you a praying person like Michael, Beatrice?”

  At her nod, he took her hand. “Then pray for the truth to come out.”

  ~~~

  Troy’s visit left Amy on edge. She popped a couple of painkillers and forced herself to finish sanding the frame she’d abandoned, but instead of applying the final layer of clear-coat, she cleaned up and roamed into the kitchen.

  Aunt Bay looked up from sliding a meatloaf into the oven. “You have an hour, if you’d like to lie down.” She added foil-wrapped potatoes and closed the door.

  “Thanks, but I think I’ll make some tea and sit down with the heating pad. Maybe read a bit, unless you’d like to chat.” Amy filled the kettle and opened the tea cupboard. “Would you like a cup?”

  “If you’re making herbal.” Sharp blue eyes studied Amy. “Don’t fret over what that young man said. If there was the slightest hint of sabotage, Gilles’ parents would have never let it rest.”

  Amy reached for the chamomile tea box, then chose spearmint instead. She tossed two bags into the teapot. “Honore wouldn’t. And heaven help the culprit if she found him. But Luc’s been different since the crash. I’m not sure he
d notice.” Amy couldn’t blame the man for retreating into his grief, but in the hospital, injured and alone, her encounters with Honore had shredded what was left of her emotions. When Honore cut her off completely, it was a relief.

  The kettle clicked off. Amy hadn’t heard the water bubbling. Thoughts of Gilles’ mother would do that. Amy’s hand trembled as she poured water into the teapot.

  The doorbell rang. “This time it’d better be our delivery.” Amy set the kettle down and started for the door. She should have grabbed her cane from the closet.

  Beatrice slipped past her. “Let me. I’ll have him bring the boxes out to the table.”

  Amy changed direction and grabbed the nearest chair. At seventy-plus, Aunt Bay could likely still heft those boxes herself, one at a time.

  The courier drivers never let her try. One stamped into the kitchen now, box in his arms. “Afternoon, Miss. Here on the table good?”

  “Yes, please. Thank you.”

  “No problem.” He left and returned with a second box. “The other lady already signed for them. Have a good one.”

  “You, too.”

  The front door banged shut. Aunt Bay stepped back into the kitchen, Amy’s cane under one arm. “In case you need it.” She propped it against the wall by Amy’s chair and handed Amy a knife. “You open the boxes. I’ll pour our tea.”

  Amy had forgotten the tea. She slit the packing tape and folded back the box tops.

  Aunt Bay set two steaming mugs on the table at a safe distance from the boxes. Both women reached into the nearer box at the same time, bumping hands. Beatrice laughed and drew back. “This was your idea. You go first.”

  Amy pulled out a memo pad, faintly printed with water lilies from one of Michael’s original paintings. She held it to the light. “I like it. Not too washed out, but light enough to write on. And his name and website at the bottom are clear.”

 
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