Thirty and a Half Excuses Page 40

He snorted in disgust. “Ain’t you datin’ a state policeman? The one who busted Daniel Crocker? You know you pissed a lot of people off when you got involved with him and his business. There’s a lot of people who’d like to see you pay.”

It was my turn to be shocked.

“It looks to me like you’re the one in a heap of trouble,” he said.

The doors to the church opened behind me. “What’s going on here, Thomas?” Jonah asked in a stern voice.

“Nothin’, Reverend.” Thomas said, trying to show remorse and failing miserably. “Rose and I was just catchin’ up.”

“You two know each other?”

“We’re neighbors,” I said, swinging my gaze to Jonah. Christy and her mother stood behind him.

“Well, it is a small world.” Jonah said, but his voice was strained. “Imagine that.”

“It gets even stranger when you take into account that Christy’s aunt lived next door to Thomas.”

“You don’t say,” Jonah muttered, but he didn’t look all that surprised. “Thomas, I think Rhonda has some jobs lined up for you. Why don’t you run on inside?”

“Sure thing, Reverend.” He walked toward the door, but when he was behind Jonah, he turned and held his hand up like a gun, aimed it at me, then lifted his finger like he’d fired. He gave me an evil smile before heading inside.

What in tarnation was that all about? I’d never considered that Daniel Crocker’s henchmen might hold a grudge against me. I resisted a shudder. Daniel had been locked up months ago, so surely I would have been threatened by now if there was any true danger.

Christy wrapped her arm around the reverend’s. “Jonah, thank you for being such a support in my time of need.” She glanced at her mother and added, “And, of course, for helping Momma too.”

Jonah patted her hand. “Just doin’ my job to console my flock. But rest assured your aunt was a God-fearin’ woman. She’s with her maker right now, lookin’ down on us all.” I could swear his accent was thicker than usual.

While Jonah walked Christy and her mother to her car, I watched to see if anything was amiss. The way Christy had hugged him told me she was still clueless about the ownership of Miss Dorothy’s house. But with all my gawking, I’d missed my opportunity to escape. Jonah spanned the short distance between us, stopping only a few feet in front of me with his wide television smile.

I cleared my throat. “The guys are almost done. I think they might finish up tomorrow, in plenty of time for your revival on Monday.”

“I hope you’ll consider coming.”

“Uh… I’m pretty busy with the nursery and all. I’ll see if I can make it.” I’d just lied to a minister, which I was sure put me on the slippery slope to my own damnation. I decided to change the subject. “That’s just terrible what happened to Miss Dorothy.”

Jonah pressed his lips together and shook his head. “All the more reason to make sure you’re right with your maker. When God calls you home, there’s no screening caller ID.”

“I’m confused about why Christy and Miss Edna were here.” I hedged. “I thought Miss Dorothy went to the Methodist church.”

He folded his hands in front of him. “She transferred her church membership here. She had been a member for a couple of months at the time of her death.”

“So will the funeral be here?”

“No, they don’t expect a large crowd, so it’s going to be held at the funeral home.” He paused. “However, the police called during our visit and told Christy and her mother that they had decided to conduct an autopsy.” Jonah didn’t look all that unnerved by the prospect. Maybe he didn’t think they’d find anything.

“An autopsy? Why would they do that? I thought the police said she died of a heart attack.”

“That’s a good question, and Christy was very upset over the matter.”

“She didn’t look that upset when I saw her leave.”

“That’s because I assured her that it was all part of God’s plan. She had planned to head back to Shreveport on Sunday, but now she’ll stay until the middle of the week and attend the revival.”

There was no doubt Christy had set her claws in Jonah. Given her lifestyle, why she’d be interested in a man of the cloth was beyond me. Perhaps it was the allure of his cameras.

“Detective Taylor said he wants to interview all the people who saw her in the few days before her death.”

Something in his voice piqued my interest. “Are they going to interview you?”

“Yes, although it’s only a formality.” He was looking me up and down as though he were studying me.

I suppressed a shudder. “When was the last time you saw her?”

“I do believe it was last Sunday, right after the morning service.” He continued examining me. “Did you know Dorothy well?”

“She lived down the street, but no, I didn’t.”

“You feel alone in the world, don’t you Rose?”

I crossed my arms, suddenly feeling exposed. “I’m not sure why you think that.”

His lowered his voice and moved closer. “I can see it in your eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul. I can help you, Rose. You can share your burden with me.”

I remembered what Mason had suggested, that Jonah Pruitt might be after the money he thought I had. The breeze kicked up and goose bumps broke out on my arms. “I don’t really have any burdens, Reverend. My life is great. I have a boyfriend and a new business. I’m happy.”

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