Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons Page 98

Jimmy’s mouth dropped open.

She waved the broom over her head and stopped three feet in front of us. “What kind of a neighborhood do you think this is, Rose Gardner? How many different men have you had here this week? Three?”

I struggled to get my wits about me. “Yes, ma’am.”

“You’re running a brothel outta that house and I’ve plumb had enough!” Miss Mildred whacked Jimmy on the head with the broom.

“Oww!” he shouted, covering his head with his arms. His gun fell to the driveway.

“Rose!” I turned toward the sound of the voice and saw Heidi Joy standing in her front door, her mouth gaping at Miss Mildred. Muffy appeared at her feet and took off running, barking as she went.

Miss Mildred’s beating continued, her momentum picking up. “Get out of here, you filthy vermin! This is a God-fearin’ neighborhood and we don’t allow filth in!”

Jimmy had accidentally kicked the gun under the car. I dropped to my knees, but Jimmy still had enough sense to realize what I was doing and lunged for me.

We fell to the ground, me on my stomach and Jimmy lying on my back. I tried to get to my knees to throw him off, but he pushed me back down.

Miss Mildred moved over and hit him on the head with renewed force. “Devil! Satan! Fornicating! In broad daylight!”

I stretched my hand under the car, the gun only inches out of reach. Jimmy crawled up my back, but I lifted my shoulders and we rolled around grunting. He got both feet planted into the driveway and slammed down onto my back, throwing me to the ground.

“Never,” Miss Mildred shouted, getting in several swings, “have I seen such filth!”

Muffy stood next to us, growling while Jimmy and I continued our tussle. She lunged, but Jimmy and I rolled into the front yard, away from my brave dog’s teeth.

“Heathens!” Miss Mildred shouted before turning the hose on us.

Jimmy jumped to his feet, yelling, his eyes dark and dangerous as he faced his five-foot-two nemesis.

I took advantage of his distraction and crawled to the car, reaching for the gun.

Sirens filled the air, still a distance away.

Releasing an ominous growl, Jimmy charged Miss Mildred, who continued to spray him with the hose. Muffy jumped and bit Jimmy on the leg. Howling, Jimmy bent down to swat her off, but Muffy latched onto his arm. Jimmy squealed in pain and dropped to his knees.

Miss Mildred continued to douse him, holding the hose with both hands. “Damn Yankee carpetbagger scum!”

Gasping to catch my breath, I moved toward them, pointing the gun at Jimmy.

Joe’s car skidded to a halt in front of my house. He threw open his door and tore across the yard, sliding to a halt when he saw us. He stared in disbelief.

Oh crappy doodles.

Two police cars pulled up behind Joe’s and the yard swarmed with police, all circling around, pointing their guns and not doing anything.

“Joe…I can explain.”

Joe’s face was expressionless. “You can explain this?” He pointed to the sight in front of him.

Jimmy screamed while Muffy nipped his arms. Miss Mildred had turned the nozzle on the hose to high. And I stood next to the mess holding a gun.

Maybe I couldn’t explain.

I waved the gun in the air. “This isn’t mine.”

Joe and the police ducked, shouting.

“Rose, toss the gun to the ground!” Joe said, easing himself toward me.

Was he mad enough to arrest me?

I dropped the gun and it landed on the grass with a thud. “Joe, I swear! I didn’t do anything! I was just sitting there mindin’ my own business.”

He pulled me into a hug. “I know. It’s okay.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Trouble seems to find you wherever you go, Rose Gardner. I give up.”

I titled back my head, my stomach flip-flopping in dread.

His mouth lifted into an ornery grin. “I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

Then he kissed me to prove it while mass chaos swirled around us.

But by now, Joe was used to it.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Joe and I walked out of the courthouse, his arm around my waist. Storm clouds brewed on the horizon, and a cool wind swept through the streets of Henryetta.

“Looks like our heat spell may have broken.” I said, breathing in the sweet smell of rain and hope.

Joe nuzzled my ear. “It depends on which heat spell you’re referring to.”

I giggled and nudged him in the ribs as Mason Deveraux descended the courthouse steps toward us.

“Congratulations, Rose.” Mason grinned. “You were right. Bruce Decker was innocent just like you said all along. He’s been released and James DeWade has been charged with the second-degree murder of Frank Mitchell. The police in Louisiana are picking up his cousin for questioning.”

I squinted in confusion. “But I thought Bruce would still be prosecuted for robbing the hardware store. How can he be released?”

“He didn’t break in—the back door was open. And the only thing he stole was the crowbar.”

“Oh.”

His eyes softened. “So what’s next for you? I heard you officially quit your job.”

I looked up at Joe, my heart fluttering with nervousness. “I’m not sure yet.”

Mason held out his hand and I took it, his fingers holding my hand with tenderness. “I wish you happiness with whatever you do.”

I smiled up at him. “Thank you, Mason.”

Prev Next