Simple Deceit

By: Nancy Mehl

DEDICATION


Sometimes in life, God sends us friends who are so special they can never be replaced. When they leave us, they leave a hole in our lives that stays empty. My friend, Judy Roberts, was such a person. I miss you so much, Judy. But I can still hear your sweet voice saying, “Can you feel my love?” And the answer is, “Yes. Now and forever.”





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


My thanks to the following people who helped me to create Simple Deceit. First of all, my thanks to Judith Unruh, Alexanderwohl Church historian in Goessel, Kansas. You are the voice that whispers in my ear while I write.

To Sarah Beck, owner of Beck’s Farm in Wichita, who has been so much help to me. The only bump in our road happened when I asked her how someone would go about destroying a fruit orchard. She admits that my question made her a little nervous—LOL!

To Gordon Bassham who answered all my real estate questions.

Thanks again to my friends Penny and Gus Dorado for being willing to help me with my Mennonite research.

Thank-you to Alene Ward for her constant encouragement, for editing under extreme pressure, and for creating Sweetie’s Christmas quilt. I can hardly wait to see it finished!

I want to acknowledge a few other writers of Amish/Mennonite fiction for their support and encouragement: Cindy Woodsmall, Kim Vogel Sawyer, and Wanda Brunstetter. Thank you for being more than just great authors. You are also wonderful, gracious people.

As always, my thanks to the folks at Barbour. You guys are the best!

To the readers who are willing to take a chance on me. I appreciate you all so much.

As always, to the Mennonite people who have given our country such a rich heritage of faith and taught us to respect the things in life that are really important.

Lastly, and most importantly, to the One who never gives up on me. I will always believe.





Chapter One


There are five words guaranteed to strike terror into the heart of any human being. No, it’s not “Step up on the scale,” although this phrase is certainly a contender. And it’s not “Can we just be friends?” which might actually run a close second. Of course, I’m ruling out all scary medical conditions that elicit remarks like “Let’s run that test again.” I’m talking about day-in, day-out, non-life-threatening situations that we all face but hope every day when we roll out of bed that today won’t be that day .

Unfortunately, today was that day.

“License and registration please, ma’am.”

I fumbled through my purse, looking for my driver’s license. The setting sun pierced through the windshield like some kind of spotlight on steroids, almost blinding me. My hands shook as I flipped open my Garfield wallet. I flashed a smile at the basset hound–faced man who watched me through narrowed eyes. He was obviously not amused.

“I—I know it’s here,” I said a little too loudly. A quick thumb through all the cards jammed into the dividers revealed my debit card, an old library card, several business cards belonging to people I couldn’t remember, and my only credit card. The credit card had never been used because my father had convinced me that the first time I pulled it out of my wallet, I would end up on the street, overcome by high interest rates and personal degradation. I found a reminder card for a dental appointment I’d completely forgotten, an expired coupon for Starbucks, an expired coupon for a Krispy Kreme doughnut, and a card from a video store that had gone out of business two years earlier. No license.

The officer’s breathing became heavier and created steam in the frigid November air. I was reminded of one of those English horror movies where the thicker the fog, the sooner the intended victim bites the dust. The cold seeping into my car through my open window did nothing to dispel the beads of sweat forming along my hairline. Where was that stupid license? Could it have fallen out inside my purse? But why would I have taken it out of my wallet? Another quick look revealed a bank envelope with the cash I’d withdrawn before I left Wichita. I tore it open like an addict looking for drugs. Sure enough, my fingers closed around the small piece of plastic that would surely save me from being hauled to jail.

“Here it is!” I declared with gusto. “I had to show it to the bank when I withdrew cash from my account. I forgot it was still in the—”

“And the registration, ma’am?” The officer’s cold expression and stern tone made it clear that finding my license hadn’t ignited elation in the man’s obviously stony heart. However, this time I was prepared. My father actually checked my glove compartment every time I went home to Fairbury, Nebraska. He was almost paranoid about making sure my registration was where it was supposed to be. Between that and the “credit cards are straight from hell” lectures, I knew where my car registration was at all times.

This balanced out the fact that I had almost no credit. Even my car was a gift from my parents. At least the rent on my old apartment had been in my name. My one accomplishment as an adult.

I pulled the registration out of the blue plastic folder in my glove compartment and handed it to the waiting officer. If I’d expected him to congratulate me on this show of responsibility, I would have been disappointed.

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