Thirty-Six and a Half Motives Page 60

“He might not kill us, but he can still make us suffer.”

“Then I promise that your punishment will be humane. Your fate depends on the level of your cooperation, as well as how repentant you truly are.”

I cast a side-glance at Jed, and he gave a slight nod.

“You can trust her word,” Jed said, although he didn’t look too happy about it. “She has Malcolm’s ear. He trusts her judgment.”

Tiny hesitated before he said, “The other two on the list were Mason Deveraux and Malcolm himself, although Teagen set it up to make it look like Malcolm tortured Scott Humphrey and Marcus Tilton.”

While we’d already figured that out, it was good to have confirmation, especially of Teagen’s direct involvement. “What do you know about the attempts on my life and Mason Deveraux’s?” I asked. “And don’t tell me you don’t know anything.”

He squirmed in his seat.

“I’ll work on getting you nearly full amnesty if you tell me everything you know.”

“Rose,” Jed snarled. Leaning into my ear, he growled, “What are you doin’? I suspect these two pieces of trash helped try to kill you.”

Putting my mouth to Jed’s ear, I whispered back, “I don’t want to turn myself in to J.R. tonight, so we’re running out of time to get a lead on Teagen. We need to find out as much as we can as soon as possible. Now you just told them Skeeter trusts my judgment. You need to do the same.”

He grunted, clenching his jaw. “Fine.”

I turned back around to face the two men. Big Mo looked no less angry than he had a few minutes ago, and a new wariness filled Tiny’s eyes.

“Go on, Tiny,” I said. “You were just about to tell me what you knew about the attempts on my life and Mason Deveraux’s.”

He shrugged and looked away. “I don’t recall.”

“You’ve tried to kill so many people they’ve all just blended together?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

But he gave me a smart-ass grin.

He’d just made his own bed with Skeeter, but that didn’t help me now. John Paul squirmed in his seat, making him look like a kindergartner trying to keep a secret.

I turned my attention to him.“Tell me what you know, John Paul.”

“Me?”

“Who’s working with Teagen?”

His eyes widened, and his gaze flickered to Neely Kate before returning to me.

“Ronnie’s workin’ with him, right?” I asked. “And Tiny and Big Mo. Who else?”

He swallowed, then said, “Al Moberly. He and Ronnie are with Teagen now.”

“And Eric Davidson worked with him, too, correct?” I asked.

He nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Teagen hired Eric to run Mason off the road. But Eric doesn’t work at Ted’s. How’d he get hooked up with Teagen?”

He paused for a moment, shooting a sidelong glance at his two coworkers.

Jed’s body tensed. “Your buddies aren’t gonna help you, kid. Your best bet is to answer the lady.”

John Paul nodded, then looked down at his lap. “Eric was recruited after meeting Teagen at a poker game in early December. Eric told me all about it. He was still smartin’ after losin’ all that money at the auction, and ’cause Gentry had promised him all kinds of things. But even though Gentry was lookin’ to strike back at Malcolm, Eric didn’t have the stomach to go through another potential loss.”

“Until he met Teagen,” I prodded. “What did he tell Eric to make him change his mind?”

John Paul looked up at me. “He promised him money and power. He told Eric that his big wig lady boss was stringin’ Mick Gentry along, but if Eric just did a simple job, he’d be part of the inner circle when it was all said and done.”

I stared him in the eye, and he dropped his gaze.

“And that simple job was runnin’ Mason off the road?” I asked.

He was shaking when he lifted his eyes to meet mine. “Eric knew I wanted an in with the poker games. He told me that if I got in tight with Teagen, I could earn the guy’s respect. That’s what he was doin’. Only he was pretty upset about his assignment. He didn’t want no part of killin’ the assistant district attorney.”

“But Eric decided to go through with it anyway?” It seemed so hard to believe. The man I’d met hadn’t seemed like a cold-blooded killer.

“Yeah, but he couldn’t do it in the end. He was supposed to run Deveraux off the road, steal his phone, and make sure he was dead, but Eric told me he couldn’t go through with it when it came time to pull the trigger. So he ran instead.”

“Then Teagen killed him,” I said. “So he wouldn’t tell anyone.”

John Paul nodded. “As a lesson to anyone else who was thinkin’ about not following orders.”

“If I can guarantee that you won’t be charged with anything, will you give your testimony to Mr. Deveraux in exchange for protection?”

Jed’s angry eyes whipped toward me, but I ignored him.

“I don’t know,” John Paul stammered.

“We’re gonna take care of this one way or the other, but I suspect this isn’t the life you want. You don’t look very happy workin’ with these two. Shoot, they won’t even let you come to their poker games. You can either turn to Skeeter for protection, or I can arrange for you to talk to the D.A. One way or the other, we’ll get you out of this mess.”

“Rose,” Jed said in a low voice, “think about what you’re doin’.”

Sure, I was working outside the law right now, but that didn’t mean I planned to totally disregard it. I respected Mason too much for that. Plus, I still wanted to believe in it.

“How about we see how this plays out?” I suggested. “In the meantime, Jed, what can we do to make sure John Paul stays safe?”

“We can put him under our protection.” He turned to the frightened man. “We can take you someplace safe, or you can stay here. Your choice.”

John Paul swallowed. “Mr. Malcolm’s not gonna squash me?”

“Now why would he do that?” I asked.

He looked me straight in the eye. “Because I was the one who ran you off the road.”

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