Page 77 of Killer Secrets

They asked her the same questions about Mr. Greeley’s house, and she gave the same answers. Lord, she really had to work on being more aware of her surroundings when working. Like writing, gardening was cathartic for her, but she couldn’t relax so much that she could get that close to a murderer twice and be clueless.

“We have to assume the guy saw her,” Sam said, his voice quieter, directed to the other officers. “When he saw her again at Greeley’s house, he was startled, maybe thought she was there because of him.” He rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know. There are too many questions and not enough answers.”

“It’s always like that,” Lois said, now perched on the end table nearest Gramma’s seat and still holding her hand. “Half the people we deal with are crazy, and the other half are just plain mean. Their actions never make sense to the rest of the world.”

Mila’s father had been both crazy and mean. She’d spent entire days trying to figure out his games, to see if she did this, would he do that. Sometimes his actions were logical. Usually they came from the brutality that made up his core.

Just as she’d never been able to figure out her father’s thought processes, Sam and his people had no clue why the bald man had killed Carlyle and Greeley, no clue why he’d come after her and turned on Poppy. They didn’t even know for sure he was the killer. He would have to royally screw up for them to catch him. Crazy or mean was scary. Crazy and mean was terrifying, and it could also be sneaky and smart as the devil and very, very good at keeping itself hidden.

Until the last couple weeks, she’d believed she was very good at staying hidden, too. Now she knew better. Emotionally shutting herself off from everyone else, no problem. Being the quiet person on the corner that no one knew, excellent. Slipping in and out of neighborhoods, yards, houses and parks without being seen…not in her skill set.

Luckily for her, surviving was. No matter what.

* * *

Liam Bartlett was on duty in the lobby once again when Sam left. Lois had stayed behind to help clean up, or so she said. Sam knew she didn’t want Mila and Jessica to be alone just yet. Ben and Daniel would follow their paper-thin leads, while Sam had promised his mother he’d show up for dinner. You’ve got to eat. Might as well do it here.

The Douglases had been meeting at the family farm every Sunday after church for more than a hundred years. The yard looked like a used-car lot, the dining room like a summer camp with its maze of tables and chairs. Maybe not the most comfortable chairs, he admitted, but with his father, his uncles and his cousin Mike at his table, who cared about comfort?

There was relative silence while Aunt Hazel said the blessing, then controlled chaos as serving platters were passed around from diner to diner. “Buffet style,” he’d told his grandmother back in the day, and she’d swatted him with a dish towel. “We’re a family, Sammy. We eat family style.”

“So tell us what’s happening,” Uncle Vance said.

“You know I can’t. I came here to listen.” The men in his family usually had a lot to say.

“Ol’ Curt Greeley,” Samuel, Sam’s father, remarked. “He was a piece of work. His own mama used to say she should have sold him to the circus at birth.”

Sam looked around the room for his cousin Zee, the only person in Cedar Creek who might mourn Greeley’s passing, but there was no sign of him. Samuel caught his eye and shook his head faintly. So Zee was either drunk somewhere or high, and his parents didn’t want to discuss it. Sam had to give Zee credit; at least he hadn’t done anything arrestable in Cedar Creek since Sam got the chief’s job.

“Any of you ever do business with Greeley?” his father asked around the table.

“I repaired some holes in the Sheetrock in his bedroom,” Uncle Stan volunteered. “He watched over my shoulder and complained every step of the way. I put on too much mud, I sanded off too much mud, the paint looked funny if he stood in the corner on one leg and leaned over backward to see it with one eye closed.” He paused for the chuckles he knew he would get. They’d all had too much experience with difficult people. “I told SuSu don’t accept any more jobs from him. If I’d had to go through that again, I would’ve killed him.”