Read Teresa Watson Online

Authors: Death Stalks the Law

Teresa Watson (6 page)

“I think we need to talk to him.”

“Why don’t you talk to Owen first? See what he has to say?”

I thought about Debra’s warning. “If he is involved, he won’t tell us anything.”

Jake went through the cabinets and found a bowl. “So why don’t we talk to Hopkins first then?” he said, pouring the chicken into the bowl. “I’m sure he is on heavy medication. We can get him to tell us something.”

“Good luck with that. Owen told me last night that they were taking turns standing guard outside Hopkins’ room.”

“So call Owen and tell him you want to talk to Hopkins, just to make sure he’s alright. You did try to save the guy’s life.”

 I didn’t think he would go for it, but after a quick phone call, I had permission to see Hopkins. “Keep your nose out of this investigation,” Owen warned me.

“Clean as a whistle,” I told him.

He didn’t know I had my fingers crossed when I said it.

 

 

Chapter Twelve

An hour later, clean and fed, Jake dropped me off in front of the hospital. “I’ll be back in thirty minutes,” he told me as I got out. “I need to drop off an article for tomorrow’s edition.”

“Oh no,” I said, slapping my forehead, “I had an article due as well, but it was on my laptop, which was in the car.”

“Don’t worry about it. We have more than enough articles, thanks to yesterday’s excitement.”

I closed the door and watched him drive off. I don’t know why, but I had a feeling Jake wanted something. Perhaps I was worried about who I could trust and who I couldn’t at the moment.

The stern-looking man in the suit outside Hopkins’ room called Owen to verify that I was allowed to be there before he let me go in. I quietly closed the door behind me and moved over to the bed. Hopkins’ head was wrapped in gauze, and his right arm looked huge because of all the bandages on it. “You’ve looked better,” I told him.

“You’re one to talk,” he said. “There are cuts all over your face.”

“Cut myself shaving.”

He laughed and groaned. “Don’t make me laugh. It hurts when I do.”

“I feel your pain, literally.”

He looked at my cast. “I heard about that. Are you going to be ok?”

“It’s just for a few weeks. I’ve done worse things to myself, trust me.”

Clearing his throat, he said, “I want to thank you for what you tried to do. I wish I could have gotten you out of there before it happened.”

“It’s not your fault,” I reassured him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get the ropes undone fast enough.”

“It wouldn’t have mattered if you had. There was a trigger on the ground behind the tree. As soon as you stepped on it, we had about ten seconds to clear out. There’s no way anyone could have untied me and gotten out of there in that amount of time.”

“How do you know there was a trigger?”

“Whoever did it told me.”

“Do you know who it was?”

He shook his head. “Their face was covered the entire time, but I think it might have been that aunt of yours.”

“What makes you think that?” I said as I pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down.

“I heard a female voice. She tore apart my truck looking for something, but when I asked what, I got backhanded.”

“Do you know what she was looking for?”

“No idea.”

“You’re lying.”

He looked at me. “What makes you say that?”

“You were seen two days ago in a small café in Red Oak, where someone in a brown uniform handed you an envelope. My guess is whoever tried to blow us up was looking for that envelope.”

Hopkins looked at me suspiciously. “How do you know about that?”

“A little birdie whispered in my ear.”

“No one knew about that meeting.”

“Except the person you were meeting, and whoever was following you or the other person.”

“What makes you think one of us were followed?”

“Are you serious?” I shook my head. “Some federal agent you are. Who knew about that meeting?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

“My guess is it was a member of the Brookdale Sheriff’s department.” Hopkins said nothing. “The question is which one?”

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, Crenshaw.”

“Ah, back to calling me Crenshaw again. That means I am on the right trail.”

“Do you want me to call that agent in the hallway? I can have you arrested for impeding a federal investigation.”

“Everyone always wants to arrest me for sticking my nose into their business, yet they always thank me when it’s all over. Just tell me who you were meeting.”

Hopkins let out a loud whistle, and the door behind me flew open. “Is there a problem?”

“Ms. Crenshaw was just leaving,” he said, glaring at me.

“I’m glad to see you’re doing well, Agent Hopkins. Hard to keep a good jerk down,” I said as I left.

 Jake was waiting for me when I came out. “What did he say?”

“Not much of anything, to be honest. Whoever it was searched his truck for something, but he didn’t know what they were looking for. I called him a liar.”

“You didn’t.”

“I did.”

“Are you trying to get arrested or something?”

“He did threaten to arrest me. It’s not the first time someone has said they were going to lock me up.”

“What happened to that sweet little girl I used to know?”

“She was blown up yesterday.”

He reached over, squeezed my hand for a minute, put the car in gear and drove off. “Seriously, why do you think he is lying?”

“Because someone saw him taking an envelope from someone two days ago, and my guess is whoever did this wants it.”

“Any idea what’s in it?”

“No clue.”

“What does your gut instinct tell you?”

“That it has something to do with my aunt.”

“Ah yes, Debra Cosgrove, serial killer.”

“Why are you sticking your nose into my family business?”

“Because you’re the key to whatever is going on.”

“I don’t think I’m the key.”

“You seem to be stuck firmly in the middle, then,” he replied as he pulled into the newspaper parking lot.

“What are we doing here?”

Jake got out, walked around the car and opened the door. “I promised Ellen I would bring you by so she could see for herself that you were alright.”

Ellen and Bruce ran over as soon as I walked in the door, peppering me with questions. “Whoa,” I said, holding up my left hand, “slow down. Didn’t you get an official report about it from the sheriff’s office yet?”

“Oh come on, Lizzie,” Bruce said, “you know those reports always have just the bare bone facts. We want the juicy details from an eyewitness. You know how this works.”

“Yes, I know how it works. But Owen hasn’t said that I am free to talk about what happened. This is also a federal case, so you know they aren’t going to want anyone to talk about any part of the investigation.”

“Which is why you need to tell us about it now,” Ellen urged, “before the Feds shut you down.”

“Well, you have just one other problem.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Bruce walked off, muttering something about freedom of the press. I followed Ellen back to her desk and sat down in the chair next to it. “How are things going with Jake?”

She shrugged. “He’s only been here twenty-four hours, but he’s making a good impression with us. He placed a call this morning, ordering new computers for everyone, and he’s trying to upgrade the printing machine in the back. Good luck with that one. That thing is an antique that needs to be put out of commission.”

“Glad things are going well.”

Ellen looked at me. “How are you doing?”

“I’ve been better.”

“You’ve looked better.”

“So I’ve been told.”

Ellen looked over her shoulder at Jake. “I know I said I didn’t want to know, but what’s the story between the two of you? When he heard about the explosion, he was out of here like his pants were on fire.”

“It’s a long story, and not one I really want to get into right now. Let’s just say we have a history and leave it at that.”

“I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with that for now.”

“Lizzie? Could you come into my office for a minute?” Jake said.

Why did I suddenly feel like I was being called into the principal’s office?

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

Jake closed the door behind me. “Have a seat.”

I sat down behind the desk.

“I’m not here to take your job, Lizzie. You don’t have to feel threatened.”

“Just as long as you know who’s in charge.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, giving me a mock salute. “I have a couple of things to show you. Would you mind trading places with me for a few minutes?”

I reluctantly moved out of his way. He sat down in the chair, turned on the computer, and punched a few keys. “I found this on Dale’s computer when I was working last night. You might find it interesting.” He turned the screen so I could see it.

I read what was on the screen, my eyes widening the further down I went. “Why that rotten son of a…”

“You didn’t know?”

I shook my head. “I had no clue.”

“From what I read, Dale had Oliver Coogan watching you for months. Not just you, but Owen, T.J., and several other people.”

“The only reason he offered me a job was to get an exclusive interview with Debra.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Are you that naïve?”

“No,” Jake said. “I’ve known Dale a long time. I’m sure that was his ulterior motive.”

“We need to tell Owen and T.J. about this.”

“Being the curious person that I am, I did some digging on your sheriff.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Someone around here is working hand in hand with the Feds. Wouldn’t it be nice to know who?”

“It couldn’t be Owen,” I said. “I’ve known him all my life. The man has no secrets, and if he did, Trixie would tell me.”

He held out a file. “I’ll bet money even Trixie doesn’t know about this.”

I took the folder from him and looked at it. “This isn’t a secret. Everyone around here knows about his military service.”

“Look at the next page.”

I flipped the top page over. “Holy moly. You’re kidding me.”

“Nope. I double checked; it’s true.”

“Surely the Feds wouldn’t use this to get him to work for them. I mean, he’s a law enforcement officer. They all help each other out.”

“He doesn’t know about that.”

“Seriously?”

“Not a clue.”

I looked down at the page again. “We have to tell him, Jake. This is a life-changing thing. We can’t keep that from him.”

“It’s not our place to tell him, Lizzie, life-changing or not.”

I put the file down on the desk, not wanting to think about it. “Do you know how to check for bugs?”

“I’ve had a little experience, why?”

“Well, for obvious reasons, I think we should check my house and phone for them. A little bird told me I might be infested.”

“Why don’t you just ask Owen to sweep the house?”

“I’m not sure he has the equipment to do it.”

“I need to stop by Dale’s house first to pick up my stuff.”

I stood up. “Let me borrow ten bucks.”

Jake pulled out his wallet and handed me a twenty. “Smallest thing I have. What do you need it for?”

“I’m going over to the café for some cheesecake while you go get your stuff. My brain needs a break from all this cloak and dagger stuff.”

We agreed to meet at the café in thirty minutes. I waved at Ellen, who was on the phone, and passed a delivery man as I went out the front door. Five minutes later, I was sitting at a table with a piece of cherry cheesecake and a glass of iced tea in front of me. “Maddie, this is heavenly,” I said, as I savored my first bite.

“I’m glad you like it,” she replied. “It’s on the house. I heard what you did yesterday, saving that federal agent. I’m glad you didn’t get blown to smithereens.”

“Thanks, Maddie,” I said, smiling. “It only cost me a broken arm and my car, but I guess it’s a small price to pay for saving someone’s life.”

Maddie laughed. “Your mother was in here this morning, quite upset about the fact that you got her car blown up. From the way she talked, it sounds like she intends to keep that little car of yours.”

I sighed. “I was afraid of that, which leaves me with the pistachio green monstrosity to drive.”

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, worrying your poor mother to death like that,” Gladys said as she came into the café. Maddie rolled her eyes and shook her head as she walked off.

“I suppose I could have left Agent Hopkins there to die, Gladys. But it didn’t seem like the Christian thing to do.”

“You’re a fine one to talk about the Christian thing to do. You ruined a perfectly good blouse with your little stunt yesterday. I will be sending you the bill for the new one I bought yesterday.”

I decided to make peace because I didn’t want to fight with her. “I apologize, Gladys. It was wrong of me to pour the tea on you. I will be glad to pay for your new blouse.”

She opened her mouth to say something, and then closed it. It was obvious I had left her speechless. She merely nodded her head and sat down at her usual table.

As I took another bite, Jake came in. He had a big envelope in his hand. It was the same one I had seen the delivery man carrying when I was leaving the office. I got a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“You need to see this,” he said, sitting down and holding out the envelope.

“What is it?”

“Some information I was hoping not to get.”

“That makes absolutely no sense.”

“Just take it.” Putting my fork down, I took the envelope from him and opened it. There was a thick file inside. “Remember when I said that I thought I had seen T.J. somewhere before?” I nodded. “I called a friend in Washington and she sent me this.”

I slowly opened the file and began reading. When I finished it, I closed the folder and put it down next to me. A flood of emotions ran through me, and I didn’t know how to express any of them.  I picked up my fork to take another bite of cheesecake, but it was all gone. I didn’t even realize I had finished it while I read.

“Are you alright?”

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