Are you ready to go back out on assignment?” The phone line crackled slightly on the last word, but he thought Jolene Davidson, senior editor for Around the World magazine, had said “assignment.”
Zane Carson sat up in a hurry. He’d been lounging on the couch watching reruns of Happy Days when he should have been at his physical therapy session. But he just wasn’t up to another round of incredibly boring exercises with the commando instructor. No sir, he just couldn’t do it again today. He’d been a little contemplative lately.
Okay, so he had been downright depressed. But who wouldn’t be? One bullet and his entire life had been put on hold. His entire life had changed. He’d been sent home, grounded, and for once he’d started to think about the future. His future. His and Monica’s.
“Of course I am,” he lied. But what better way to prove to everyone that he was ready to hit the red zone than jumping on the horse, so to speak?
“Are you sitting down?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.” Jo was always one for drama. If she weren’t such a wordsmith, she could have been an actress instead.
“Lay it on me.”
“Oklahoma Amish country.”
“Come again?” Surely he heard her wrong, because he thought she’d said—
“Oklahoma Amish country.”
He leaned forward. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about you . . . going to Oklahoma . . . and living among the Amish to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be part of such a community.”
“Jolene, I am a war correspondent. That means I cover wars.” He purposefully made his voice sound like he was talking to a fouryear-old. When would they accept that he was ready to go back out into the field? Maybe ready was a bad word, but he needed to get back out there, if only to prove that he could.
“Now, Carson, this is an important assignment—”
“Jolene, there aren’t many wars in Oklahoma, and there certainly aren’t any in Amish territory.”
“Whatever.” He flopped back on the sofa, then grimaced as he jarred his healing shoulder. “Aren’t they conscientious objectors?”
“You’ve been calling every day asking for an assignment.”
He hadn’t called today and look where that got him?
“Now they want to give you one. You can’t turn it down if you ever want to get back into the red zone.”
She was right. But . . . “Did you say Oklahoma?” Did they even have an Amish community? Why not Pennsylvania? Everybody knew about Lancaster County.
“Everybody knows about Lancaster County. We’re looking for something different—smaller settlement, tighter surrounding community. Alternate worship right there in the buckle of the Bible Belt.”
Zane didn’t know if he would call their manner of religion “alternate,” but what did he know about such things? He’d never been to church. His parents had preferred to worship nature and his uncle hadn’t had time for that sort of thing.
“I need you to do this for me.” Those quietly spoken words held a wealth of information. “You do this and I’ll make sure you get the Juarez assignment.”
“I thought Douglas was in Mexico.”
“He’s ready to come home, but he’s willing to stay until we can find a suitable replacement.”
Juarez, Mexico. Where innocent people died for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was dangerous, very dangerous, this war on drugs. And exactly where Zane wanted to be. Jo knew that, and she used that information to her advantage.
He sighed. “When do you want me there?”
“Day after tomorrow.”
That didn’t give him much time. Zane pushed his fingers through his hair. It needed a cut, but it seemed like even that would have to wait. At least he was going back to work. Sort of. He really didn’t consider an assignment like this work. How challenging could it be? Amish. Right. But with Mexico dangling in front of him, what choice did he have?
“You’ll fly Chicago to Tulsa. There’s a driver who will pick you up and take you to Clover Ridge. And . . .” she paused for dramatic effect. “I’ve arranged for you to stay with a host family.”
“Wait. What? Hold on.” Zane ran his hands down the legs of his faded jeans and tried to get a handle on the information she just dumped on him. “A driver? Why do I need a driver? What about a car?”