Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 96

“Still Miss Nosy, huh?”

“I figure I’m entitled to know what I’m dyin’ for.”

“Fair enough, although you seem awfully calm for someone about to meet their maker.”

I was far from calm, about to start screaming any minute, but I suspected that was the surest way to get shot with the police milling around. Instead, I held my hands up. “And I’m prepared. After Momma’s accident, God rest her soul, I figured you just never know when evil’s gonna strike. Best to always be ready.”

Jimmy shifted in his seat, glancing in the rearview mirror.

I turned around to get one last glimpse of Officer Ernie walking the opposite direction. I was on my own.

Oh, crappy doodles. I really was in trouble now.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

I needed to keep him talking until I figured something out. “The thing about evil, Mr. DeWade, is it often starts with the best of intentions and not even knowin’ it’s evil, don’t you think?”

“Why’re you asking me?”

“Well, you know… the whole murdering thing and all. I figured go straight to the source.”

His face paled and he ran his hand through his hair. “I’m not evil. I was just getting what was comin’ to me.”

“And I bet Frank got what was comin’ to him too. You were just carrying out justice. Like a vigilante.” My eyes widened with excitement. “Like Batman!” My shoulders dropped and I tilted my head. “No, wait. Wouldn’t Bruce Wayne Decker be Batman with his name and all? No that can’t be right. I don’t think Batman ever went to jail…”

He shook his head, growling. “Bruce Wayne went to jail.”

“Are you sure? But what about Batman? I mean, he’s Batman! Who could arrest Batman? And wouldn’t they take off his hood when they took his picture? Or did they take the picture with his hood on? Because I had to take off my ring so I can only imagine they’d take off his hood.”

“What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

“Bruce Wayne Decker. The innocent guy waitin’ to be convicted.”

“No, you got it wrong. It wasn’t anything like that.”

“Well, then what was it?”

He exhaled in a huff. “I just wanted what was mine.”

“You said that already. What did Frank Mitchell take from you?”

His brow furrowed and his eyes turned dark. “Frank Mitchell didn’t take anything.”

I rolled my eyes. “That makes no sense. If he didn’t take anything from you, why did you kill him?”

“You talk too much.”

“And you told me you’d tell me why I was dyin’. So far, I’ve got nothing.”

“I’ve spent over twenty years working for Fenton County. I hate it. It’s a soul-sucking job. But I figured I’d put in my time and then retire on my pension. But a year and a half ago, Fenton County stole our pensions and ruined everything.”

“I heard about that, but Frank Mitchell didn’t have anything to do with it, did he?”

“If you’d just be quiet, I’d tell you.”

Jimmy was halfway to my house and I still hadn’t come up with a plan other than digging through my shed, which wasn’t any kind of plan at all.

“Like I said, I was gonna retire early on my pension, but that got screwed to hell.”

“I work at the DMV, or I did until yesterday, and that has to be a worse job than working with Neely Kate. You don’t see me whackin’ people with crowbars.”

He gripped the steering wheel with both hands, his body shaking as he grit his teeth. “It wasn’t like that!”

“Then what was it like?”

My phone rang in his pocket. “Damnit!” He pulled it out. “Your buddy, the DA.” He shoved the phone at me. “Answer it.”

“What?” I fumbled to snatch the phone from him, dropping it in my lap.

Jimmy picked up the gun and pointed it at me. “Tell him something to make him stop calling.”

My breath came in short bursts and my face started tingling. Get a grip, Rose. Hyperventilating wasn’t going to help anything. “Hello?”

“Rose! Where the hell are you?” Mason’s angry voice shouted through the earpiece.

Jimmy flinched. He must have heard the yelling.

“Uh…”

“Tell him you went to lunch with a friend.”

I put my hand partway over the phone and whispered, “He’s never gonna believe that. He knows Neely Kate is covering the personal property department until you get back.”

I tried to laugh into the phone, which came out sounding like the squeaky breaks on Miss Mildred’s Cadillac. “You said I’m in trouble? Because I didn’t show up for court? I’ll try to make it in later.”

“Rose, are you in trouble?” Mason whispered. “And it has something to do with Neely Kate? Someone she works with?”

I released a snort. “What are you gonna do? Put me in jail?”

“Where are you, Rose?” Mason sounded frantic. “Does someone have you?”

“Well, I don’t care what Joe says.” I tied to sound indignant, but it wasn’t working so well. “Tell him…tell him…” I choked on a sob. “Tell him I love him anyway.”

Jimmy snatched the phone out of my hand and ended the call, a grim expression on his face. “That didn’t go the way I wanted it to, Rose.”

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