The Copycat Killers(10)

By: Paula Millhouse

“What’s this?” Meg asked as they took a seat. She opened the hardback picture book and flipped through a couple of pages. Her brows went up and her chocolate brown eyes took in the gift. She gasped. Evie’s face burst wide with a huge grin. “Wait—these are my black and white Vermont photographs? What have you done?”

As Meg flipped more pages, Evie touched her arm. “I wanted to get you something extra special for Christmas. I talked to Nick, and he talked to Tom. We picked out your favorite landscape photos. Tom gave me your notes from your journal about each photo.”

Meg sucked in a gasp, and a smile as big as Christmas lit up her face. Under each black and white in the artfully arranged book her notes described pictures of Vermont’s rural landscape, the incredible mountains and streams, big sweeping farmhouses, and the state’s famous covered bridges. Evie stared over her shoulder. The publisher had done a great job of putting the coffee table book together.

“If you like it, all it needs is a short dedication from you.”

Meg shook her head, and tears shone in her eyes. She glanced over at Evie. “How…?”

Evie shrugged. “I pitched the idea to my publisher. They run a line of non-fiction books and they were eager to publish your photos. They like your eye.”

Meg had been taking photos of her home state of Vermont since her college days. She taught mini-landscape photography classes to her customers during their outfitting trips. When Evie learned this was one of her passions she decided to see if she could use her contacts in the industry to showcase her work to a larger audience.

Then she went on with the really big news. “The publisher offered you a contract too. You’ll receive a small advance, and a portion of royalties on each book sold. My agent negotiated a pretty good deal, that is, if you’re interested?”

Meg wiped away big soppy tears. “I…I don’t know what to say.”

“Say yes. I had Tom look over the paperwork, and he totally approves. Call him. If you need a few days to think about it, that’s fine too. Merry Christmas, Meg.”

Meg closed the book. She hugged Evie, and they both sat there together, embracing for a moment. Evie couldn’t help but grin. She hadn’t meant to make her cry, but these were joyful tears.

It was the least she could do for her sister-in-law-to-be.

Nick and Patrick packaged the handmade seventeen-foot white birch canoe with the two custom-made bamboo fly-rods. The freight truck picked up his order. He loved that his craftmanship was in demand.

“You know what I love about your new job Uncle Nick?” Patrick asked.

“Tell me.”

The teenager grinned. He was already on Christmas break, and Nick was glad to have an extra pair of hands in the shop. “That you can work from here. That you didn’t have to go back to New York.”

Nick had thought he’d be bored, but there were so many orders since Evie helped him set up his new website he’d been busy every day. He grinned at Patrick. “I like living here too.”

“Mom’s super-happy about you being here. Dad too. When are you and Evie going to, you know, tie the knot?” Patrick asked.

“I don’t know, Pat. She wants to live together for a while, you know, to make sure we’re a good fit.”

“I think she’s afraid.”

Nick quirked his lips. Had Evie and Pat been talking? They liked each other, and hand found tons of common ground together, what with him showing her around Vermont, and the farm. Maybe she’d confided in him? “Afraid to get married?”

“Naw. I think she’s afraid those creeps from New York will show back up here and cause more problems.”

“Are you?” Nick worried about Patrick. He’d been there that day when a hit-team hired by Paulie Marino had shot his mother. He’d shot three grown men that day Meg took a bullet. Nick had insisted they all met for counseling in the aftermath. It had helped everyone but shaking ghosts like that was a hard thing for people. “You worried about them coming back?”

“Less and less each day.” Patrick helped him put away their tools. “Especially since you’re here. I mean, I’m not stupid, but having a former FBI agent as your uncle is seriously cool.”

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