Thirty-Six and a Half Motives Page 20

“Whoa. Back up a step. You said you saw him Friday?”

“Yeah, I saw him lurking around, but when I went to confront him, he took off toward the antique store and disappeared.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he shouted.

“Shh!” I hissed, moving further behind the desk. “Stop yelling!”

“Where the hell are you?” he demanded in a lower voice.

“I’m hiding behind Neely Kate’s desk. Detective Taylor and Kate Simmons are on the sidewalk in front of my office.”

“Where’s Merv?”

“He’s still bleedin’ in my bathroom.”

“Very bad?”

“Well, I’m no judge of gunshot wounds, but Jed bled a lot more from the one to his arm.”

“Then Merv’ll be fine,” he said dismissively. “What else is goin’ on?”

“You’re not gonna tell me to run to the back and hide?”

“Why in the hell would I do that?” he demanded. “What’s going on now?”

“Kate and Taylor are still talkin’.”

“Can you see anyone else?”

“No . . . oh, wait. I see Joe and several deputies walkin’ over to them. Detective Taylor doesn’t look very happy.”

Skeeter chuckled. “I’d love to see that.”

“I suspect most of the Henryetta police officers are here, and it looks like there are four sheriff’s deputies if you count Joe. Why would so many law enforcement officers show up to check out a couple of gunshots? The Henryetta P.D. is so territorial, I can’t imagine why they’re letting Joe and his deputies be part of this.”

Skeeter was silent for a moment. “Shit. They’re moving Simmons to the county jail. What’s Simmons Jr. doin’?”

Joe was yelling at two of his deputies, and two more deputy cars pulled into the street. “Something’s goin’ on, Skeeter. Joe looks pretty ticked.”

“Simmons is up to something.”

I could see Joe pointing down the street, away from the courthouse. He was still yelling, but he’d switched the focus of his yelling to the detective. “Right now he’s yelling at Taylor.”

“Not that Simmons. His father.”

Oh, crappy doodles. “He’s not doin’ what I think he’s doin’, is he?”

“Make a jailbreak? Yeah, I think he is. They must have a stack of evidence so high he knows he’ll never crawl out from under it. Did Teagen see you?”


“Then that confirms it. We’ve got to get you out of there as soon as possible.”

I gasped. “Surely he won’t try something with all those police officers and deputies outside.”

“I wouldn’t put anything past that bastard,” Skeeter growled. “Can you get to the roof?”

“Why?” I asked, my heart skipping a beat.

“That shit scraper can just walk in and snatch you is why.”

“But the police—”

“Shit. Why didn’t I see it before?”

“What?” I asked, starting to panic.

“It’s all about distractions, Lady. Two pipe bombs went off about fifteen minutes ago. One by the ice cream shop and the other close to your friend’s church.”


“They’re trying to get the police and the sheriff’s deputies as frazzled as a mother with a houseful of toddlers. It’ll give J.R. the perfect opportunity to not only slip out of custody, but also to pick up a package along the way.”


“Exactly. So you need to hide. Now. I’m positive it’s all about to happen. So answer my question. Is there a way to the roof?”

Terror washed through my head, making me lightheaded. “There’s a staircase in the back, but it’s locked.”

“Do you have a key?”

“Yeah, but what about Merv? I don’t think he can climb the stairs.”

“He’s not. You’re goin’ on your own. Merv will lock the door behind you. Tell him to give you a gun.”

My heart slammed into my ribcage. “I can’t take his gun! I’ll just use my Taser.”

“Your Taser isn’t gonna hold off Old Man Simmons. Take the gun.”

“And leave him defenseless?”

“He’s got two. Now do it. You’re wastin’ time.”

“Joe’s right out front. Why don’t I run out there and tell him what’s goin’ on?”

“Do you totally trust him?”

“I don’t think he’ll hurt me . . .”

“But he’s not tellin’ you everything, is he? Listen, Rose, I’m gonna shoot it to you straight. J.R.’s escapin’ police custody tonight, and he’s sent Teagen to snatch you again. Simmons intends to kill you himself, and he won’t be kind about it.” He paused. “Remember that I spent six years under this man’s tutelage. I know how he thinks, so I can outwit him before he makes his next move. His son might not condone the things he does, but he still sees him as his father.”

My stomach spasmed. I believed every word Skeeter had said.

“Now, it’s your choice,” Skeeter said, his voiced tight with anxiety. “Stick with me—or go out to Joe.”

I peered around the desk again, trying to see what was going on outside. Joe and Detective Taylor had moved across the street. If I went to Joe, he’d lock me up somewhere, and considering my luck, Officer Sprout would stand guard again. I’d nearly been killed the last time I was in protective custody. J.R. was a lot craftier than Daniel Crocker. It was an easy decision.




Chapter 9



“That’s my girl. Now go to Merv. Tell him to give you his Glock.”

“Okay.” I wanted to argue with him some more about the gun, but I knew he was right.

“Can you get to the back without getting seen?”

“Yeah, they’re all arguing across the street now.”

“Then go.”

“I have to get the key first.” I crawled over to my desk, slid open the drawer, and then reached up and pulled out the key. Then I grabbed my coat off the back of my chair and stuffed my Taser in the pocket. My earbuds were in there, so I tugged them out and plugged them into my phone. I turned on my microphone, inserted one of the buds into my left ear, letting the other dangle, and then shoved the phone into my jeans pocket. Finally, I crawled to the back, staying low until I reached the cracked bathroom door.

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