“Did you leave the body alone after finding it?”
“Ruben waited with him.” He hadn’t said anything beyond instructing Alejandro and Mario to take the women around front. She’d suspected he’d found it disrespectful to leave the man sprawled there alone on the path. Ruben was never subservient but always respectful, even though many of their customers couldn’t tell the difference.
Sam—Oh, now you call him Sam, when this situation certainly calls for Chief—the chief wiped away sweat that had beaded on his upper lip. “So this makes two of your clients.”
So it was sooner rather than later. Mila’s insides clenched, but she forced a steady nod.
“Do you have any idea if they knew each other?”
“How long had they been Happy Grass customers?”
“This was our first year with Mr. Greeley. Probably would have been our last. He was never happy with anyone, and he changed services every season. We already had the Carlyle account when I started three years ago.”
“What do you know about the rest of your crew?”
Her gaze went to the driveway, where officers were questioning her coworkers. “I’m comfortable with them.”
The honesty of the statement surprised her and, judging by the arch of his brows, the chief, too. Did he understand from the time they’d spent together how important that was to her? She wanted him to, more than she could explain, so she went on talking to keep herself from watching for his responses. Though his pen scribbling across the notebook didn’t thrill her, surely that was something most people would find disconcerting, and not just those with secrets to keep.
“They’re hard workers. They never shirk their duties. They’ve never missed a day of work in the time I’ve been with them except Alejandro, who took a few days off when his son was born early and was in the neonatal unit at Hillcrest. They treat me the same way they treat each other. We’re efficient.”
Being treated no differently…that was important, too. But she thought that, perhaps, only a person who was different could fully appreciate it.
“Tell me about your boss.”
She said the first thing that came to mind. “Once you’ve ruled us out, he’s the next obvious connection between Mr. Carlyle and Mr. Greeley.”
One corner of his mouth turned up. “Do you know anything about Ed Lawrence’s working relationship with his clients? Any problems?”
“No.” She took a deep breath, preparing to say more right now than she’d said at one time in longer than she could remember. Silence and no came so easily to her, but she wanted him to think of her as cooperative.
She didn’t want to be investigated as a possible suspect.
She didn’t want everyone, or anyone, to ever know the truth about her.
“As police chief, it’s important for you to get along with people—the ones you work for, the ones who work for you, the ones you arrest, the ones you protect. You have social relationships with your employees, your bosses, your constituents. You know their spouses’ names, their kids’ names, what sports teams they support and what churches they attend.
“Happy Grass isn’t like that. Mr. Lawrence walks through the yard in the morning before we all head out on our routes, and he can’t call one of us by name. My crew alone is from Panama, Bolivia and Italy, and for me, Ramirez is just a name I got from Gramma. No Latina blood to go with it. But Mr. Lawrence thinks we’re all Mexican. There are four women on the crews at Happy Grass. One is Cherokee, one is Asian American, one is a blue-eyed, corn-fed blonde from Nebraska. To the boss, we’re all ‘that little Mexican gal, Maria.’ The only interest he has in us is getting the best work possible for the lowest pay acceptable.”
Sam needed a moment to finish his notes, and she watched as black ink filled line after line in the narrow notebook. She couldn’t make out his handwriting beyond the date and time he’d printed at the top of the page. But that was all right. If he made comments to pursue later or questioned her veracity or honesty, she didn’t want to know.
His pen had stopped moving for a moment before she realized it. She lifted her gaze to his. His next question, though, wasn’t what she’d expected. “So why do you work for him?”