Page 10 of Bayou Hero

Once she discovered that of all the people who’d hated Jeremiah, no one hated him as much as Landry, she would probably be looking him up.

The sunroom was empty. He ran into Scott, heading for the stairway carrying a heavy crystal tumbler filled with milk, warm, no doubt—Mary Ellen’s go-to when she needed comfort. Their mother preferred gin, and their father had preferred—

Landry’s stomach took a sour tumble that he did his damnedest to ignore. “Is she lying down?”

“Said she would.” With his free hand, Scott combed through his hair. “The detective asked us to ask the relatives about Camilla—see if we can find out who she’s visiting. I never wanted to say anything to Mary Ellen, but I never thought she was visiting family. If she is, why hasn’t she called the girls at least once? And why wouldn’t the admiral say who? Why the secrecy if it was just a regular trip to visit family?”

Because the admiral was a deceitful man. Landry knew some of his uglier secrets. God, he hoped they were the uglier ones, because he damn well didn’t want to think about what could be worse.

“Where do you think she is, then?” His voice was level, but something new stirred deep inside for his mother: worry. Could something have happened to her? Was it coincidence that her husband was murdered just a few weeks after she disappeared?

Scott shifted uncomfortably, glanced up the stairs, then lowered his voice. “I think she left. Left him. Left the marriage. I think she hasn’t called Mary Ellen because she knew she would beg her to come back. I think she didn’t tell anyone where she was going so he couldn’t find her.”

Left. Landry had asked her to leave his father but only once. He was fifteen, desperately trying to figure out his own and Mary Ellen’s futures, and Camilla had given him a sad, sorry look, murmured, You don’t understand, baby, then taken a healthy sip of gin.

Left, when there was no one left to save except maybe herself.

“There’s other theories.” Scott glanced upstairs again. “Seline Moncrief thinks she ran off with a man. Honoria Thomas thinks the admiral checked her into rehab for her drinking problem. Judge Macklin’s wife is convinced that the admiral sent her away because he has no need for her now that he’s retiring.” He stopped, swallowed hard. “Had no need. Was retiring.”

“I hadn’t heard that. When?”

“A couple months. Said he’d done his service to his country and now he wanted to devote his time to his family, golfing and fishing.”

Inside, Landry shuddered, grateful the old man’s definition of family no longer included him. He’d had enough quality time with his father to last through eternity.

He said his goodbyes and covered half the distance to the door before Scott spoke again. When he turned, his brother-in-law was paused on the stairs.

“Mary Ellen said she would appreciate it tremendously if you would help her with the funeral arrangements tomorrow, but she’d understand if you said no.”

Of course she’d take responsibility for the funeral. Who else would? Leave it to Landry, and he’d have the bastard cremated, then flushed down the toilet. But it wasn’t left to him, and though he’d rather do anything else in the world—almost—he would help plan a respectful send-off for the admiral. Not because Jeremiah deserved it, but because Mary Ellen wanted it.

“Let me know when and where.”

Scott nodded, and Landry was finally free to walk out of the house...where he found Alia Kingsley waiting on the porch. A glance at the street showed that DiBiase was gone, and there were no cars around that might be hers.

She’d put on a pair of sunglasses, the really dark kind that made it impossible to see her eyes. He didn’t trust people when he couldn’t see their eyes.

Hell, he didn’t trust most people even when he could see their eyes.

“Forget something?”

“I thought I’d go see Miss Viola now. I need an address.”

He headed down the steps. “You’re the police. Find her yourself.”

“I can do that. But it’s quicker if you tell me. Or—” she matched him stride for stride “—I can ask your sister.”

“Mary Ellen’s resting.”

“Then it would be a shame to disturb her, especially after such a difficult morning.”

Stopping beside his car, he stared at her, implacably calm and unflustered on the other side of the vehicle. “Three blocks that way.” He pointed back the way he’d come. “At Saint Charles. On the left.” Then he stated the obvious. “You don’t have a car.”

The faintest of smiles tilted the corners of her mouth. “It’s still at the admiral’s house. But I run five miles every day. I can walk three blocks.” She turned and started to do just that.