Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 16

The young blonde woman shot me an ugly glare. She obviously liked Jonah and thought I was trying to steal him from her, especially since we spent so much time together.

Were all secretaries destined to hate me?

“Something important came up and I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to talk. Do you have time now?”

He held his door wider in invitation. “Of course. Come on in.” He leaned out the door after I brushed past him. “Jessica, hold my calls, please.”

I sat in one of the wingback chairs in front of his desk. Rather than sitting behind the desk, he sat next to me, crossing his legs, looking very much like the televangelist I’d first met. He’d updated his hairstyle from its former eighties pompadour, but though it was shorter and more stylish, he hadn’t been able to resist adding highlights. “What’s going on?”

I gripped the chair arm. “Bruce Wayne is missing.”

He paused. “What do you mean, missing?”

“You know how he’s been calling in sick? Well, it turns out he’s not. David says he was leaving in the mornings and coming back late at night, but when David asked where he was going and what he was doing, Bruce Wayne told him it would be better if he didn’t know.”

He sank back in his chair, his shoulders slumping. “Oh dear.”

“Then yesterday morning, David called me before seven a.m. to tell me that Bruce Wayne wouldn’t be in, that he was still sick, but it made me suspicious. I doubt David Moore even knew seven a.m. existed before yesterday morning. So after I ate lunch with Neely Kate at Merilee’s, I stopped by their house and brought him some chicken noodle soup. Only Bruce Wayne wasn’t home and half his clothes were missing. When I asked David, he told me Bruce Wayne never came home the night before.”

Jonah squeezed his eyes shut. “This isn’t good.”

“It gets worse.”

His eyes flew open and his back stiffened.

“Mason told me this morning that Daniel Crocker escaped from the county jail last night.”

Jonah jumped out of his chair and started pacing. “What? How?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t give me details. But I got to thinking that Bruce Wayne worked for Crocker before he got arrested for murder. And he still has a connection to Crocker’s guys. It seems too coincidental for Bruce Wayne to disappear twenty-four hours before Crocker’s prison break.”

“Agreed. This is bad.” He stopped pacing. “What does Mason think?”

“I haven’t told him.”

“Why not? He can help you.”

I twisted my hands in my lap, questioning whether I’d made the right decision. “Jonah, if I tell Mason, he’ll be obligated to report it. And what if Bruce Wayne took off for something stupid? He’s on parole! They’ll toss him in prison. I just need a day or two to see if I can figure out where he went and why he’s gone. I’d go out to Weston’s Garage—”

Jonah released a heavy sigh. “You and I both know that’s a terrible idea. Especially in light of Crocker’s prison break.”

“Well…if it makes you feel any better, the sheriff’s office and the state police think Crocker has left for Louisiana.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s safe for you to go out there.”

“I know…” My voice trailed off as I looked up at him.

He rolled his eyes and groaned. “Rose.”

I sat on the edge of my seat. “Jonah, Bruce Wayne is in trouble. I know it and those guys out there like you.”

He shook his head with a grimace. “I’m not sure I’d call it like. They come to my group for the community service hours. They only do it to stay on the right side of the law and their parole officers. Honestly, some days I question how effective it is. I’ve probably only turned around one boy since starting the group a few months ago.”

I stood and put a hand on his arm. “Maybe it’s only happening one boy at a time, but at least you made a difference to that one boy. I suspect you’re making more of an impact than you realize. And those guys from Weston’s Garage don’t have to come here. They could do something else.”

He released a wry laugh. “You were the one who suggested—quite rightly, I might add—that those guys from Weston’s Garage were probably using my group to recruit boys like your neighbor Thomas.”

I turned and leaned my butt against the desk. “I’m desperate, Jonah. I really care about Bruce Wayne and I know in my gut that something’s wrong. I can’t just sit around and do nothing. I’m open to suggestions.”

He was silent for several seconds. “One of Crocker’s former guys really seems to be trying to turn his life around—Scooter Malcolm.”

My eyebrows lifted. “The brother of Skeeter Malcolm, the bookie at the pool hall ? Their momma must have trouble coming up with names.”

“Yep, that’s him. And we both know that no one wants to get on Skeeter’s bad side.”

I knew that from personal experience with Skeeter when I was looking for evidence to clear Bruce Wayne’s name. I shivered. I hated to think what might have happened if Mason hadn’t shown up. “I didn’t know the Malcolms had ties to Crocker.”

“Rose, everyone in this town had ties to Crocker one way or the other.”

“Oh.” But it wasn’t surprising I didn’t know. Before Momma’s murder, I had lived a completely sheltered life. I went to work at the DMV each morning, went home and took care of Momma, then got up the next day to do it all over again. With Violet’s backing, I’d convinced myself that I was the town outcast, but I’d recently begun to question how much of that was caused by my own isolation, which had perpetuated the idea that I really was strange and different.

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