One might assume the crime rate in Ohio’s Amish Country is non-existent. Ninety nine percent of the time, that assumption would be correct. Most calls that come in to the Painters Mill police department consist of small infractions, like loose livestock or the occasional domestic dispute. Every now and then, the unfortunate serious crime occurs and it is then that all hell breaks loose.

On this particular day, chief of police Kate Burkholder’s day begins at midnight. With her department perpetually understaffed, she’s filling in for one of her officers and her shift might go something like this . . .

It’s a week before Christmas, and I’m sitting in my city-issue Explorer, looking out at the empty parking spaces along Main Street. Outside my window, giant red and white candy canes hang from the dozen or so lampposts that line both sides of the street. Farther down, tiny white lights blink in the darkened window of the Butterhorn Bakery. Some enterprising individual has wrapped the telephone pole with green and silver garland where dozens of letters to Santa from the elementary school kids flutter in the breeze. Cheesy, but I’ve got a soft spot for cheesy Christmas decorations.

My name is Kate Burkholder, and I’ve been the chief of police in Painters Mill for four years now—a first not only because I’m the first female chief, but because I was born Amish. When the previous chief retired, the town council approached me, believing I was the perfect candidate. Not only did I bring seven years of big city law enforcement experience to the table, but I’m intimately acquainted with the Amish culture, something they hoped would build a new level of trust between the Amish residents and “English” police. I’ve made progress, but it’s an ongoing process. The jury is still out on whether the six member council still believes I’m the perfect candidate. But then that’s small town politics for you.

My dispatcher’s voice crackles over the radio, pulling me from my reverie. Mona Kurtz is the second female to grace the male-dominated ranks of the department. She’s twenty-four-years old with a quirky personality and a wardrobe that’s almost as madcap as her hair. But she’s an asset to the department and damn good at what she does.

I hit my radio. “Hey, Mona. What’s up?”

“I just took a 911 from Lucy Mariposa out on Township Road 3. Says there’s a guy out there with an axe, chopping up her chickens.”
“He wearing boxer shorts and a hockey mask this time, too?”

Mona snorts. “She said he was nude, actually.”

“Nude, huh? I guess he’d better be careful with the axe.”

Lucy is our resident 911 “regular.” She calls like clockwork three times a week. “I’ll go check on her.” I sigh. “Kind of quiet tonight anyway.”

“T.J.’s already been out there twice this week.”

T.J. Banks is my usual graveyard shift officer, and the one I’m filling in for tonight. “I read his reports.”

“He thinks Lucy is going senile.”
“Happens to the best of us.”

Another snort. “Last time he was out there, she’d baked him a cake. German chocolate. How sweet is that?”

I smile. T.J. hadn’t included that in his report. “I’ll take a look around, make sure everyone’s okay.”

“Roger that.”

I rack the mike and put the Explorer in gear. I’m midway to the old Mariposa farm when Mona’s voice crackles over the radio. “Chief, I’ve got a 10-10 out at Miller’s Pond.”

A 10-10 is the code for a fight in progress. I snatch up the mike. “Copy that.”

“Two males. Teenagers. RP says they’re going at it like a couple of pitbulls, and it’s getting ugly.”

RP is copspeak for ‘reporting party.’ “Weapon?”

“No info on that, Chief.”
“You get names?”
“Cody Jackson. And James Haufmiller.”

The names aren’t familiar. “Run them through LEADS, will you?” LEADS is an acronym for the Law Enforcement Database System and will tell me if either party has a warrant or previous conviction.

“Sure thing.”

I hang a U-turn and hit the gas. “I’m 10-76. Will you give the sheriff’s office a call? See if they can send someone out there.”

“Roger that.”
“And let Lucy know I’m going to be a while.”
“I doubt she’ll mind, Chief.”

You can read more about Kate in BREAKING SILENCE, the third book in the “Kate Burkholder” thriller series.

Linda Castillo’s debut thriller, SWORN TO SILENCE, garnered starred reviews from Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist—and spent four weeks on the extended New York Times bestseller list. The following books in the series, PRAY FOR SILENCE and BREAKING SILENCE, also hit the NYT list and became international bestsellers.

The Lifetime Movie Network has greenlighted the script for the SWORN TO SILENCE movie, which will feature actress Neve Campbell. The next book in her Kate Burkholder series, GONE MISSING, will be released in June 2012.

In her spare time, Linda enjoys trail riding, and dabbles in barrel racing. She resides in the Texas Panhandle with her husband, three dogs, a barn cat, and two Appaloosa horses. She’s currently at work on her next book, a thriller set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder and John Tomasetti. Visit Linda at

** Thanks to the author, I have three (3) copies of SWORN TO SILENCE to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends December 21st. Leave a valid e-mail address with your comment. Book will be shipped directly from the author. **

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

%d bloggers like this: