Monica stared at her, and Sam could almost see the wheels turning in her head. Finally, Monica said, her voice so cool, “Then I’ve got a deputy I need to question.”
Lee Pope heard the shuffle of footsteps behind him. He spun around, his hands clenched into tight fists. “You’re not gonna believe this shit.” Rage and fear pumped through him. Keep this quiet? Hell, no. “The Feds are looking at us for these kills.”
“Really?” Vance asked, blinking. “Us?”
He could still see Monica Davenport’s face. Perfect face, ice-cold eyes, staring too hard at him.
“They’re running our records. Checking us all out.” Lee shifted from his left foot to his right. “Ain’t right.” She had no business digging into his life. He’d already spilled his guts about his father. She didn’t need to know anything else. His past—it was his.
“Man, what are you worried that she’ll find?”
He stared into Vance’s eyes. Confusion was there. No worry. Because what would Vance have to be worried about? As far as he knew, Vance only worried about who his next screw would be.
Lee blew out a hard breath. “Nothin’.” There’d be nothing for Agent Davenport to find. She could look all she wanted.
He’d be clean.
He brushed by Vance.
“Hey, hold up, where you goin’? I thought you had a mornin’ shift.”
Lee didn’t glance back.
Something more important had come up.
Luke’s eyes were grainy. Stubble coated his jaw, and if he didn’t get a cup of coffee in the next five seconds, he might just go postal on someone’s ass.
“Where is Deputy Lee Pope?” Monica demanded, leaning over Sheriff Davis’s desk. “I need to see your deputy now.”
“You think it’s him?” Davis’s chin sagged. “Him, me, maybe Jake Martin in Gatlin?” Animosity there. While they’d been gone, the fact that they were investigating his deputies, investigating him, must have really sunk in deep.
Luke saw her shoulders tense. “What do you know about Jake Martin?”
“I know he called my office five minutes after you left. He’s at the hospital in New Orleans with his poor sister. The woman was beat damn near to death by some crazy boyfriend—”
“Sheriff, I want you to listen to me.” She leaned forward and her voice—yeah, it would make a grown man shudder. “Either you get on your radio, and you get Lee Pope into this office right now, or I make the call for you because I am not dicking around here.”
The sheriff whirled his chair around and grabbed for the radio he kept in his office. He punched in the buttons, tuned it, then said, “This is Sheriff Davis. I need Lee Pope to report to the station, repeat, I need Deputy Pope to return to the station. Over.”
He raised his brows at Monica. “Satisfied?”
“No.” She lifted the phone and offered it to him. “Call on his cell. Get him in this office.”
His cheeks reddened. “You’re wrong. It’s not Lee, I’m tellin’ you, not him. I’d know—”
“You can never know killers. You only know what they show you, and believe me, Sheriff, it’s damn little.”
He made the call. “Voice mail,” he muttered, but then said, “Pope, it’s Davis. I need you back at the office, got me? Now.” He slammed the phone down and shoved back in his chair.
Luke stirred. “No beeper?”
Davis’s eyes slit. “No.”
“Look, I know you don’t like this,” Monica said. “Neither do I.”
“He’s my man! He’s worked by my side. He wouldn’t—”
“Pope knew all three of the victims here in Jasper, didn’t he?”
“And he was the one at the airport, the one sent to pick up Agent Kennedy?”
It would have put him right at the scene. When he’d called, had he really been checking the terminal? Or had he been driving Sam’s unconscious body away?
“Yeah, you know he was the one…”
She opened one of the files she’d taken from Davis’s office earlier. “And you’d already told me that he transferred back here from Gatlin, Louisiana.”
Davis’s Adam’s apple bobbed. He seemed to shrivel, just a bit. “Not Lee. I’d know.” He pointed a finger at her. “He’ll be here soon, and you’ll see! He’s not hidin’ anything. He didn’t hurt those people! We need to find the real killer!”
Luke glanced at the clock. Nine-fifty-three a.m. “Maybe this will all be cleared up soon,” he said.
Monica glanced back at him, the doubt clear on her beautiful face.
“Or maybe not,” he murmured.
Ten forty-two a.m. Sheriff Davis was sweating. Not a trickle of sweat, but a full-on glistening forehead, beads coating his upper lip, dark patches staining his shirt.
Luke crossed his arms and glanced at Monica.
“No one knows where your deputy is.” She shook her head. “The man managed to vanish awful fast.”
A knock sounded on the sheriff’s door. Davis’s eyes widened and Luke knew hope when he saw it.
Then Vance walked in.
Hope died fast.
Vance strode stiffly into the room. He was sweating, too.
“Sheriff.” He nodded to Davis first, then shot a quick glance Luke’s way, then Monica’s. “You still lookin’ for Lee?”
Monica nodded slowly. “Where is he?”
Vance licked his lips. “I-I don’t know—”
“You two have always seemed pretty close to me,” Luke pointed out. “Like good friends.”
“We are good friends.”
“Then be a friend,” Monica said, “and tell me where he is so that we can clear up a bit of miscommunication.”
Vance’s eyes jerked to Davis. “You think it’s one of us, don’t ya, sheriff?”
“No,” it was Monica who answered. She hadn’t taken her eyes off the deputy. “That’s what I think.”
Vance turned his stare on Luke. The deputy parted his lips, then seemed to hesitate.
Luke tensed. “There something you need to say?”
His jaw flexed. “I-I saw Lee.”
“When?” Monica’s demand.
“About two hours ago, maybe three.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I was just coming on duty. I was… um, a little late because I had to drop a friend off at her place on the way in.”