Unveiling the Past

A Novel

About the Book

Mysteries, family secrets, and the love of a true Father are found at the heart of this gripping novel from the bestselling author of Bringing Maggie Home

Newlyweds Sean Eagle and Meghan DeFord are no strangers to pain and loss. As cold-case detectives, they know intimately the anguish family members endure after the murder or disappearance of a loved one. But when a new case hits too close to home, it threatens to pull loose the fragile cords of their young marriage.
Sheila Menke was just a girl when her father left for work and never returned. An investigation revealed he had embezzled enough to start a new life elsewhere, but Sheila could never accept the court’s criminalization of her father. Meghan reluctantly takes the case, secretly fearing it will stir up buried feelings about her own biological father. And while Sean investigates the mysterious death of two young brothers, he longs to start a family. But Meghan worries that with a negligent mother and an absentee father as her parenting examples, she might never be fit for motherhood.
As they delve deeper into the past, both Meghan and Sheila must choose to either stumble along the road of bitterness and resentment or walk the difficult path toward forgiveness and healing. When the cases begin to break wide open, these young women are poised to discover that while earthly fathers may fail, there is one in heaven who is a father to the fatherless.
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Unveiling the Past


June 1992

Little Rock, Arkansas

Margaret Diane DeFord

While her daughter happily crunched a big bite of off-brand sugar-frosted flakes, a cereal reserved for summer consumption only, Diane sipped her second cup of coffee and perused the Sunday paper. Bright midmorning sunshine flowed through the sliding glass doors that led to their small balcony and glared against the newsprint. Diane angled the folded pages away from the light. A short article caught her attention, and she laughed as she finished the paragraph.

“What’s so funny, Mom?”

She peeked over the top of the paper at her daughter. “It’s snowing in Colorado.”

Meghan’s fine dark eyebrows shot up and her mouth formed an O, revealing a gap where her bottom front teeth used to be. “But it’s summertime. It’s not supposed to snow in summertime.”

Diane shrugged. “Tell it to Colorado.” She glanced out the sliders and winced when the sunlight met her eyes. Not a cloud in the sky. Today would be a scorcher in Little Rock.

“You know what?” Meghan swung her bare feet and grinned, holding her spoon like a sword. “It’d be neat if it snowed in the summer. Snow is nice and cold, and it would cool us down when it’s so hot outside.”

A six-year-old’s logic. “It’d be neat, but it isn’t possible. You need cold atmospheric conditions for snow to form, and you don’t get that in the summer.”

Meghan’s face puckered. “Then how come it snowed in Colorado? It’s summer there, too, isn’t it?”

“Sure it is, but the elevation is different.”

“What’s elebation?”

“Elevvvvvation.” Without conscious thought, Diane slipped into her teacher’s voice. “Elevation is the height of a land area above sea level. The higher the elevation, the cooler the temperature. Colorado’s average elevation is probably six thousand feet higher than Arkansas’s. It makes a difference.”

“Ohhh.” Meghan’s expression brightened. She clanked her spoon onto the table and half scooted off her chair. “Can we go to Colorado and see the snow?”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go on an impromptu vacation and experience snow in June? But a single mom on a teacher’s salary didn’t have the luxury of taking impromptu vacations. Or even planned vacations beyond day trips to local museums or the zoo. She shook her head. “Sorry, no can do.”

Meghan’s bottom lip poked out. She slumped into her seat.

“But later you can go to the pool and cool off that way.” She’d had to pay more in rent than she preferred to live in an apartment complex that included a private pool and playground area, but it was worth it. Meghan could go swimming whenever she wanted.

“Okay.” Little enthusiasm colored Meghan’s tone.

Time for distraction. Diane pointed at Meghan’s bowl. “Finish up your cereal before it gets soggy.”

“I like it soggy.”

“The sooner you finish eating, the sooner you can head to the pool.”


Diane raised the paper and focused on an article about an agreement between President Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin on arms reduction, ideas forming for discussing the potential ramifications of the pact with her history students when school started again in the fall.

“Mom? Mom!”

Diane snapped the paper down. “What?”

Meghan scowled. “I asked you a question.”

She’d been more caught up in her thoughts than she realized. “What was it?”

Meghan tapped the paper. “I read a new word on there. Hold it where I can see.”

Diane lifted the pages.

Meghan squinted at something. “What is uh-bit-you-are-ees?”

Confused, Diane flipped the paper around. “Oh. You mean obituaries.”

“What’s obituaries?”

This child had more questions in her than Diane ever imagined a small head could hold. “An obituary is the printed record of a person’s death.”

Sadness pinched the little girl’s face. “You mean it says somebody died?”

“I’m afraid so.” Diane glanced at the columns. At least a dozen names were listed, and postage stamp–sized black-and-white pictures gave a face to each name. Her gaze fixed on one, and for a moment she forgot to breathe.

“Like my lizard died?”

Diane stared at the name—Charles (Chuck) Harrison—and the grainy image beside it.

“Mom, like Lenny the Lizard died?”

“Meghan, enough questions already. Eat your breakfast. It’s turning into a soggy mess.”

“I like it—”


Meghan yanked up her spoon.

Diane bent over the page and read the entire obituary. Slowly. Underlining the words with her trembling finger.

Charles (Chuck) Harrison, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, age 52, died on June 15, 1992, in his home. He was born February 25, 1940, in Fort Smith, the fourth child to Frank and Edna (Collins) Harrison. He graduated from Fort Smith High School and earned degrees in business administration and accounting from the University of Arkansas, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1963. He owned and managed Harrison Accounting, a successful business in Fort Smith, for almost thirty years. He married his childhood sweetheart, Melinda Garland, in September 1962. To their union was born one child, Kevin, in 1965. Charles was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Melinda; his son, Kevin, of Fort Smith; his brothers, Richard and James; his sister, MaryAnn (Harrison) Walker; and several nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place. No service is planned.

She gave a jolt at the final line. No service? Why wouldn’t the family have a service for someone who held lifelong connections to a community? And how had the man died? “In his home” was such an ambiguous explanation. More questions than Meghan could ask in a day formed on Diane’s tongue, but all of them remained unstated. She couldn’t—she wouldn’t—ask the person who could answer.

She slid her gaze to a name in the middle of the impersonal recitation. Kevin. Her blood went as cold as the snow covering the mountaintops in Colorado. A dozen images flashed through her mind’s eye, and she winced with each remembrance. Mother always said she had a stubborn streak a mile long, and she’d put it to good use when she determined not to think about Kevin Harrison. She’d succeeded. Until now.

These people—Charles, Melinda, Richard, James, MaryAnn, the unnamed nieces and nephews . . . She had a connection to them. Well, not directly, but Meghan did, which meant Diane did by default.

She glanced at Meghan, who sat with her chin in her hand, stirring the last few sodden flakes in her bowl with a stubby finger. She’d slept in yesterday’s pigtails, and they hung askew with stringy wisps of darkest brown framing her flushed cheeks. The stretched neck of her favorite Care Bears nightgown sagged, and a squiggly thread stuck out from the seam of one shoulder. Such a disheveled mess, and yet so beautiful. Not a single resemblance to her blond-haired, blue-eyed father.

Thank God.

She closed her eyes, wishing she hadn’t seen the obituary. Wishing she hadn’t seen Kevin’s name in print. Now she’d have to start all over in wiping him from her mind. She popped her eyes open and tapped her daughter’s wrist. “Hey.”

Meghan didn’t lift her face, but she shifted her eyes and peered across the table through a fringe of messy bangs.

“Are you done?”

She offered a barely discernible nod.

“Put your bowl and spoon in the sink. Then do your morning stuff.”

Meghan nodded wisely. “I know. Wash my hands, brush my teeth, and get dressed.”

“But don’t put on your swimsuit.”

“No swimming?”

“Nope. We’re going to do something else.”

A hint of curiosity flashed in Meghan’s brown eyes. “What?”

“It’s a surprise.” It would be a surprise to Diane, too. She had no idea where they’d go or what they’d do. She’d probably end up using her credit card, spending money she couldn’t afford to squander. But she needed a distraction.

She flicked her fingers at Meghan. “Go on now. Hurry. We don’t want to be late.”

Giggling, Meghan hopped down from the chair and grabbed her bowl. She scampered to the sink, her bare feet slapping the linoleum. She clattered the bowl and spoon into the sink, then flashed a grin over her shoulder. “We’re gonna have fun, right?”

“C’mon, Di, we’re gonna have fun.”

The voice from the past—the voice she had steadfastly blocked from her memory for seven years—attacked. He’d given her a lot more than fun.

Diane gritted her teeth. “Hurry, Meghan.”

About the Author

Kim Vogel Sawyer
Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, bestselling author with more than 1.5 million books in print in seven different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband, Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find her petting cats, packing Operation Christmas Child boxes, or spending time with her daughters and grandchildren. More by Kim Vogel Sawyer
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