“We have things to do,” she said to Connor to counter that feeling.
“I know.” His expression turned serious. “Mama Joe has put out some feelers.” He laid down his pole and helped her across the creaky, unreliable dock. “But for now, we rest.”
“I have to figure this out,” she said, her brain already annoying her with questions.
“I’ve been thinking about things all night,” he said. Then he nipped a piece of the biscuit right out of her hand. “I have some of the names we need to research.” He pointed to a small pocket-size notepad. “Since Armond never finished his own list.”
“Names? Of people who might have it in for Armond and you?”
“Yes.” He sat down on an old wooden bench and nibbled his bit of biscuit. “He was too scared, too sure someone was coming for him, as if he’d been expecting this. This has to be the work of a rival boss or someone who has more power than Armond. Maybe even the partner he refuses to name. Which I didn’t think was possible. But if this person heard a rumor that Armond was turning, well...”
“I agree.” She drank some more coffee and took her time looking out over the black bayou waters. A shiver moved down her spine in spite of the warm day. Alligators and snakes and all kinds of creatures lived in that brackish water. It made her think of crime scenes and dead, lifeless bodies. Bad memories. A haze of intuition pushed at her upbeat mood. “My phone has no bars out here.”
“That can work in your favor right now.”
“No traces, no GPS?”
“Exactly. This spot is way off the grid.”
“And how did you find it?”
He shooed a fly out of the way. “I’ve been undercover in some strange places,” he explained. “A drug deal brought me here. Back when I was on the other side of the law.”
A drug deal had done her in at the Dallas division. “You used to deal drugs?”
“No. I just got caught up with some people who did. But they are all behind bars now.”
“And how did you get away so easily?”
“I never said it was easy. They beat me up and left me for dead. I washed up on this shore half-dead and freezing. Mama Joe took me in and nursed me back to humanity.”
Not back to health but back to humanity. Interesting. Maybe this was the place where he’d had an epiphany, a change of heart. “That bad, huh?”
“It’s not the first time I’ve been left for dead.”
“How do you live like that?”
“I don’t. Not anymore. This place was the beginning of my restoration. I’m trying to get past my past.”
“Aren’t we all?” She finished her food and drained the coffee, recording his admission for a later conversation. “We need to get to work, Connor.”
“I want to hear about your past,” he replied, his direct stare unnerving her.
She pulled herself back together. “You know about my past. You’re too good at what you do.”
“I know what’s on paper. But I want to know what’s in your head.”
She grinned, pointed a finger at him. “Not right now. Not when we need to figure out who’s after Armond.”
“And us,” she repeated. “I really don’t like that part.”
He lifted her up with his left hand on her arm. “Let’s go inside. You never know what might wash up out of these dark waters.”
Josie glanced around at the tall cypress trees knotted together in clumps around and in the water and the thick palmetto palms nestled underneath scrawny pines and scrub oaks. The air dripped with a hot, humid wind. The trees shifted and stretched with a lazy lift here and there, the clinging gray moss serving as a curtain. The palms swayed in a secretive dance. She caught a whiff of jasmine and honeysuckle, mixed with decay and wet earth.
Was someone out there, waiting to kill them?
She turned back to Connor and wondered if she’d trusted the wrong man after all.
“So we’re pretty sure Armond has this silent partner for some of his dealings, and Mama Joe’s boys have confirmed that they’ve heard that rumor for years,” Connor explained later between bites of a shrimp po’boy sandwich. “He never gave me a name, but I always wondered what the deal was there. And me being me, I wanted to crack that mystery, but I searched that house and used every tactic I knew but I’ve never found anything—no phone records, no computer files, not even a flash drive.”