Cold Hearts(6)

By: Sharon Sala

“Damn, bad news spreads fast in small towns. Yes, but I have yet to notify the next of kin, so I need to do that now before someone does it for me.”

He heard his mother gasp, then begin moaning as if in great pain.

Trey frowned. “Mom?”

When the line went dead, he realized she’d hung up on him. His frown deepened. When Dick Phillips had died, she had scared him with her behavior, although he’d chalked up her reaction to being the one who’d found his body. Now she seemed on the verge of going down that road again. Damn it. He needed to be in three places at once. Then he thought of his fiancée, Dick Phillips’ daughter, Dallas. She could go check on his mother.

He made a quick call home.

Dallas answered on the second ring. “Hey, honey, did you forget something?”

“No. Shit hit the fan early today. Paul Jackson is dead. Looks like the lift fell on him. Would you please go check on Mom, and if she’s acting weird, stay with her for a little while until I can get over there? I need to talk to her, but I can’t get over there for a while.”

Dallas was horrified. With her father’s murder still fresh in her mind, she immediately empathized.

“Yes, I’m on my way. I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I’ll stay with her until you can get there.”

“Thanks,” he said, then pocketed his phone and got in the car with Lissa.

It appeared she’d been doing a repair job on her makeup. Her eyes were still red and slightly swollen, but she had reapplied some makeup and seemed calmer.

“Are you sure you want to go to work?” Trey asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” she said. “If I need to sign anything, just call the office and leave me a message. I can drop by the station after school.”

“Earl said you already gave him your statement?” he said as he started the car and pulled away.

She nodded. “There wasn’t much to tell. I went in to see if my car was ready and...” She swallowed around the lump in her throat, then took a deep breath. “I went in and saw what had happened. I ran back out crying. My friend Margaret Lewis called the police.”

“Did she go inside?” Trey asked.

Her voice was shaking again. “Oh, no, no one else did except your officer.”

“I’ll ask you not to talk about the details, okay?”

She shuddered. “Of course.”

A few moments later he turned the corner and pulled up to the front walk of the school building.

“So here you are. I still think you should have gone home.”

She gave him a brief smile. “Thank you for the ride,” she said, jumping out and fumbling with her things as she walked away.

Trey drove back to the station. He wanted the privacy of his office to call Paul’s son and was dreading this call almost as much as the one he’d made to Dallas when Dick Phillips’ body was discovered.

Inside, he sat down behind his desk, searched online for Jackson Lumber in Summerton and said a quick prayer.

* * *

Mack Jackson was outside in the breezeway of his lumberyard, watching one of his employees loading up an order. He eyed the short line of trucks and pickups behind it, four of which were also being loaded. After satisfying himself that all his customers were being helped, he headed back into the main building and then down the hall toward his office.

He was well liked by his employees and was one of Summerton’s most eligible bachelors. He had no interest in changing that. He stayed friendly but kept everything casual when it came to feminine companions. His bookkeeper, a middle-aged woman named Bella Garfield, had told him that he looked like a dark-haired Daniel Craig, which always made him grin. Being compared to the current James Bond wasn’t a bad thing.

He paused in the hallway to get a can of Coke from the machine and had just popped the top when Bella stepped out into the hall and waved him down.

“Mack! Phone call for you on line four.”

“Thanks,” he said, lengthening his stride. He shut the door behind him and set the can on his desk as he picked up the call. “This is Mack. How can I help you?”

“Mack, this is Trey Jakes.”

Mack smiled as he plopped down in his chair. “Well, hello, stranger. What can I do for you?”

“I’m afraid I have some bad news. Are you alone?”

Mack’s smile disappeared. “Yes, I’m alone. What’s happened?”

“I’m so sorry to have to tell you, but your father was found dead in his shop this morning.”

Trying to make sense of what he’d been told, Mack reeled as if he’d been slapped.

“What? No! Oh, God, no! Was it a heart attack? Did—”