Thirty and a Half Excuses Page 37

“Rule number four of negotiating a deal: Never correct the other person’s assumptions. You never know when you might be able to use it to your advantage, one way or the other.”


“What are you insinuating? I’m well aware that you’re with Joe. I would never stand in the way of your happiness.”

“I didn’t mean—”

“Rose, it’s no big deal. We’re friends, all right? I like us being friends.”

“Me too.”

I parked at the square, close to Mason’s car. The truck was wider than the Nova, but not by much. It was easier getting into a parking spot than I would have thought.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked.

“I’ll get the big pots Violet and I made and deliver them.” I really didn’t want to go back to the church now. What if Jonah was involved in Dorothy’s murder? What if he killed Miss Dorothy and Miss Laura to get all their money? Heavens knew he was throwing money around like it was holy water.

“What’s bothering you?”

I lifted an eyebrow. “How do you know something’s bothering me? Are you a mind reader?”

“No, I can read your face. It’s my job to read people.”

His words sent a shiver down my back. “Funny,” I said, “that’s what Jonah Pruitt said to me.”

Mason stiffened. “When did you talk to Jonah Pruitt?’ His eyes widened with realization. “Oh. You’re working at his church.”

I nodded.

“Rose, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to do business with him.”

Given Neely Kate’s news, I wasn’t so sure either. “What do you know about Jonah Pruitt that makes you concerned about me doing business with him?”

“Rose, you know I can’t give you the details of an active investigation.”

My mouth dropped. “So you’re investigating him too?”

It was his turn to be surprised. “Too? Who else is investigating Jonah Pruitt?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head. I wondered if I should tell him, but I was already in this deep. I might as well tell him what I knew. “The state police must be looking into him. Joe warned me to be careful, but he insinuated that I’d be okay as long as I got the money to cover my costs up front. When I asked for details, he gave me the same crappy answer you just did.”

“I think Joe’s right, but I also don’t think you should spend much time alone with Jonah.” Mason stared at me for several seconds. “But there’s something else you’re not telling me. What did Neely Kate just call you about?”

I twisted my hands around the steering wheel, avoiding his gaze. “I think Miss Dorothy added Jonah Pruitt to her will last week. Miss Mildred said she drove her to her attorney’s office to change the document.”

“Holy shit.” He sat back in the truck seat, staring out the window.

“That’s not all.”

He sat up. “There’s more?”

I turned to him. “She added him to the deed on her house. She filed a quit claim deed last week. That part’s been verified.”

Mason shook his head. “From the way he’s been courting the elderly women in his town, I suspected he was up to something like that.” His eyes narrowed. “Why are you only telling me this now?”

“I just found out. You heard me take the phone call.”

“You know that’s not what I’m talking about. Why did you have Neely Kate check on it instead of telling me?”

I expected to hear anger—Joe would have been angry—but there was no anger, just curiosity. “Did Detective Taylor find out anything about the shouting?”

“He said he asked around when he questioned the neighbors about the attempted break-in, but no one heard anything.”


“Rose, I told you that I’m not putting a four-year-old boy on the stand.”

“I don’t want that little boy on a witness stand either, but I don’t believe Miss Dorothy died of a heart attack. I think someone killed her. I think someone killed Miss Laura too.”

Mason looked deep in thought for several seconds, and then pulled out his cell phone.

“Who are you calling?”

“I suspect you’re right. I’m going to arrange to have your neighbor’s body shipped to Little Rock for an autopsy.”

“But the funeral is tomorrow.”

Mason grimaced. “Not anymore.” Then he cursed under his breath. He called the coroner and the police department while still sitting in my truck. They talked about digging up Miss Laura’s body and doing an autopsy on her too, which inspired more cursing from Mason, but in the end they decided to wait on Miss Dorothy’s results first. In light of Miss Dorothy naming Jonah Pruitt as her beneficiary, Mason told them to investigate any connection Miss Laura might have had with the minister. When he hung up, he asked. “You’re planning on going to the church this afternoon, aren’t you?”

“It’s the main reason I needed the truck right now.”

He re-buckled his seat belt. “I’m coming with you.”

“Mason, you and I both know that you going to the church is a bad idea. Besides, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”

“But if Jonah Pruitt murdered Dorothy Thorntonbury and Laura Whitfield, he’s a dangerous man.”

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