BLACK SHEEP–in progress

Twenty-year-old Ellen learns that the year she was born, a trusted employee of her family’s retail store almost bankrupted them by disappearing with $5000. She offers to help the investigating officer who has reopened the case, only to to suspect that someone in her family knows more than they’ve ever told about the missing man, and will do anything to keep old secrets buried.

I love history and mystery, and this novel, set in 1972, has plenty of both. Throw in a budding interracial romance and a spirited ten-year-old co-detective, and you have BLACK SHEEP.

EXCERPT

Dale gazed at them for what felt like five minutes. Ellen stood as still as a cottonwood, breathing deeply of the store’s smell, a blend of bubble gum, laundry detergent, and new cotton.

“What did you break?” Dale finally asked.

“A Tonka dump truck set.”

“How?”

“Showing it to a little boy. The mechanism snapped.” She mimed the motion with her fingers.

“Where is it now?”

Ellen gestured to the back of the building. “The trash bin out back.”

Dale strode to the back door and pushed it open, letting in a blast of March wind before letting it slam.

He’s going to look. He doesn’t believe me.

Well, why should he? She was lying.

“Is there a Tonka truck?” Tricia whispered.

Ellen swallowed past a throat so dry she might not have had a drink of water in months. “Yes. Go along with me. Don’t tell him anything until we know what’s going on. Don’t tell anyone I talked to James. Not your mom, or my parents. And for heaven’s sake, not Eric. Ever.”

“I wouldn’t.”

Dale came back with the truck in his hand. “Hang onto this in case the distributor wants it back. And now you girls better be running along before your folks get worried about you.”

They wouldn’t. Ellen had seen enough damaged merchandise over the years to know that nothing as small and inexpensive as a Tonka dump truck would be worth the cost to return it to the company. Dale certainly knew that, and his only motive in retrieving it from the trash had been to verify her story.

We both know the other’s a liar.

She hated thinking that about an uncle she’d always loved, who had always been good to her. And maybe he really had been concerned about her and Tricia being in the store at such a late hour.

But she knew why he wasn’t following them out of the store. He planned to go to the attic himself and see what they’d been doing.

No one would act like that unless he had something to hide.