F is for Fugitive Page 69

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"Looks that way. They'll have to wait for the lab reports to be sure."

"God love her heart," she murmured, picking at the gauze wound around her right arm. She'd taken her gloves off so she could play. Her fingers were visible, sturdy and plain, the nails blunt-cut.

I took the card out of my bag. "Did you talk to Shana Timber-lake here a couple of days ago?"

Her eyes flicked to the card and she shook her head.

"Could your husband have met with her?"

"You'll have to ask him about that."

"We haven't had a chance to talk about Jean Timberlake," I remarked.

"She was a very misguided girl. Pretty little thing, but I don't believe she was saved."

"Probably not," I said. "Did you know her well?"

She shook her head. Some sort of misery had clouded her eyes and I waited to see if she would speak of it. Apparently not.

"She was a member of the youth group here, wasn't she?"

Silence.

"Mrs. Haws?"

"Well, Miss Millhone. You're a mite early for the service, and I'm afraid you're not dressed properly for church," Bob Haws said from behind me.

I turned. He was in the process of shrugging himself into a black robe. He wasn't looking at his wife, but she seemed to shrink away from him. His face was bland, his eyes cold. I had a vivid flash of him stretched out across his desktop, Jean performing her volunteer work.

"I guess I'll have to miss the funeral," I said. "How's Royce?"

"As well as can be expected. Would you like to step into the office? I'm sure I can help you with any information you might be pressing Mrs. Haws for."

Why not? I thought. This man gave me the creeps, but we were in a church in broad daylight with other people nearby. I followed him to his office. He closed the door. Reverend Haws's ordinarily benevolent expression had already been replaced by something less compassionate. He stayed on his feet, moving around to the far side of his desk.

I surveyed the place, taking my time about it. The walls were pine-paneled, the drapes a dusty-looking green. There was a dark green plastic couch, the big oak desk, a swivel chair, bookcases, various framed degrees, certificates, and biblical-looking parchments on the walls.

"Royce asked me to deliver a message. He's been trying to get in touch. He won't be needing your services. If you'll give me an itemized statement, I'll see that you're paid for the time you've put in."

"Thanks, but I think I'll wait and hear it from him."

"He's a sick man. Distraught. As his pastor, I'm authorized to dismiss you on the spot."

"Royce and I have a signed contract. You want to take a peek?"

"I dislike sarcasm and I resent your attitude."

"I'm skeptical by nature. Sorry if that offends."

"Why don't you state your case and leave the premises."

"I don't have a 'case' to state at this point. I thought maybe your wife might be of help."

"She has nothing to do with this. Any help you get will have to come from me."

"Fair enough," I said. "You want to tell me about your meeting with Shana Timberlake?"

"Sorry. I never met with Mrs. Timberlake."

"What do you think this means, then?" I said. I held the card up, making sure the penned message was visible.

"I assure you I have no idea." He busied himself, needlessly straightening some papers on his desk. "Will there be anything else?"

"I did hear a rumor about you and Jean Timberlake. Maybe we should discuss that as long as I'm here."

"Any rumor you may have heard would be difficult to substantiate after all this time, don't you think?"

"I like difficulty. It's what makes my job fun. Don't you want to know what the rumor is?"

"I have no interest whatever."

"Ah well," I said. "Perhaps another time. Most people are curious when gossip like this circulates. I'm glad to hear it doesn't trouble you."

"I don't take gossip seriously. I'm surprised you do." He gave me a chilly smile, adjusting his shirt cuffs under the wide sleeves of the robe. "Now, I think you've taken up enough of my time. I have a funeral to conduct and I'd like to have time alone to pray."

I moved to the door and opened it, turning casually. "There was a witness, of course."

"A witness?"

"You know, somebody who sees somebody else do something naughty."

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