Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 87

Joe took a step forward, shouting, “Why the hell would you give her name to Skeeter Malcolm?”

I put my hand on Joe’s arm. “Joe, this is my fault, not his. He showed up at the pool hall and saw that Skeeter had me cornered and he helped me get away but accidentally called me Rose.”

“What the hell were you doing with Skeeter Malcolm in the pool hall?”

I’d never seen Joe so angry and took a step backward. “You know who Skeeter Malcolm is?”

“Of course I know who Skeeter Malcolm is. Who the hell doesn’t?”

Apparently, I was the only one.

“Detective Simmons,” Mason said, his hands clenched at his sides. “She’s been through hell tonight and she doesn’t need the stress at the moment.”

“Excuse me?” Joe challenged.

“Joe, please.” I tried to sit down, but my head spun and I started to fall.

“Rose?” Joe’s voice softened, his arms around me.

“Where the hell is the ambulance?” Mason shouted. “This is goddamned Henryetta, not some metropolis.”

“Ambulance?” Joe asked, the word sounding strangled.

“She was attacked, Simmons,” Mason seethed. “Which part of that do you not understand?”

“She said she was fine.”

“And I suspect she’d say that if she had a gaping abdominal wound. She needs medical attention. If you would stop having a fit and look at her, you’d see she’s not fine.”

Joe led me to one of the chairs on the porch and helped me sit down.

A light flipped on inside the house, spilling through the open front door. Joe gasped, staring at me.

“I’m fine, Joe. Really.”

A police officer stepped out the front door. “Mr. Deveraux, we have the lights set up. Do you want to walk through the crime scene with us?”

Joe flinched.

“Coming.” Mason glared at Joe, his face hardening. “I suspect you want to go in?”

Joe glanced over his shoulder at the front door, then back at me. “I don’t want to leave you alone.”

I groaned. “Will you just go already? I’m sick to death of tellin’ everyone that I’m fine. I’m fine!”

Mason asked Officer Ernie to keep guard. “If she needs anything, call me.”

Officer Ernie nodded, sterner than usual. After Joe went inside, the policeman moved closer, his gaze on the yard. “I checked on the ambulance. They got a flat tire but should be here soon.”

“I don’t need an ambulance. Everyone’s overreactin’.” I sighed, leaning my head into my hand. The pounding had gotten worse.

“Do you want me to get you something? A glass of water?”

“No, I’m fine.”

Five minutes later Joe burst out the front door. “Rose, where’s Muffy?”

“She’s next door with the neighbors. I left her there since I was going to go to a motel.” I looked out into the crowd. Sure enough, Heidi Joy and her husband Andy stood at the edge of the crowd. I bet they were rethinking their decision to move in next door.

“Thank God. After…I was…”

“What did you find in there?”

“Rose, for once let the police take care of it.”

My back stiffened. “That’s my house, Joe. This happened to me. I have a right to know.”

Mason walked out the front door. He cleared his throat. “The police said the suspect escaped out the back window, which is how they think he got in.”

My stomach rolled. “That window’s seen a lot of action, huh?” I joked.

Joe didn’t look at me.

“They haven’t found the attacker yet, but they’re bringing Skeeter Malcolm down to police headquarters to question him.”

Skeeter’s name reminded me of Miss Eloise’s information. “Wait. I didn’t get a chance to tell you. I found out that Malcolm’s family had a pin like the one found at Frank Mitchell’s murder scene.”

Joe took two steps back. “Will you let it go, Rose? You are not qualified nor trained to do this. You’ve put yourself in danger, unnecessary danger, as evidenced here tonight.”

While I couldn’t argue with him, the anger in his voice strangled my heart. “I didn’t…” My voice broke as I tried to ignore the pain from Joe’s outburst. “I didn’t do anything dangerous to find that out.” I looked into Mason’s sympathetic eyes. “When I was at the Garden Club meeting, Miss Eloise was wearing an identical one and I asked her where she got it. It was her grandmother’s. She and three friends had them to symbolize their friendship. Miss Eloise didn’t know what they meant, but she knew that one had been in the Malcolm family, another in the White family and the fourth she wasn’t sure about.”

“That’s good, Rose. Thank you. I’ll pass it along, but the police will want to question you about it too.”

“I’m going to talk to Taylor.” Joe bounded off the porch.

I watched him walk away, trying to stuff down my hurt. “They want to question me? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“No one thinks you did anything wrong. They need a statement about what happened.”

“I want a lawyer. I want to call Deanna.”

Mason squatted next to me, his face level with mine. “Rose, I assure you that you don’t need an attorney. If you like, I’ll sit with you during questioning, and if there’s anything I don’t think you should answer, I’ll let you know.”

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