A car horn beeped at me from the opposite direction and I turned my head toward the sound. A police car was rumbling toward me. I turned back, to ask Sol what he meant when he said he was a magician, but he had disappeared into the woods.
I threw Link up in the air. “Should I follow him?” This time I didn’t take my eyes off of the falling coin. I caught it in one hand and slapped it down on the back of my other. Tails…that meant no.
I shoved the coin into my pocket and waited for the occupant of the cop car to arrive.
“You’re still here,” Corporal Welmont said as he emerged from his vehicle.
“Yep,” I answered noncommittally.
“I thought you might have made a run for it.”
“Why would I do that?”
The cop swaggered closer to me, hands on his hips. “I don’t know. A guilty conscience?”
“Nothing to be guilty about,” I said. “I regret that I ran over a body but I didn’t kill him.”
“What about your husband?” Welmont asked, a self-satisfied grin spreading across his face. “Did you kill him?”
I fought the urge to reach out and wipe that smirk right off of his face. Instead I jammed my hands into the back pockets of my jeans.
We stood there for a long moment, staring at each other. He believed he had the upper hand. I believed that the best thing I could do was to keep my cool.
“Cat got your tongue?” he asked finally.
I shrugged and got the satisfaction of seeing that my silence irritated him.
He scowled at me, crossed his arms over his chest and leaned forward in an intimidating way. I held my ground as I made an effort to keep my breathing even and my expression neutral.
“What are you doing here Welmont?” Tess yelled from behind him. “Your shift has to be over.”
The cop turned to face her. “Official business.”
“Yeah?” she asked, her disdain and disbelief practically palpable. “Well I’m going to have coffee with her now. Unless that interferes with your official business.”
He stepped back to allow her to pass and she led the way to Princess. I followed quickly behind her. Grateful for the escape from Welmont’s scrutiny. I opened the side door and motioned for her to walk inside first.
Tess climbed in and quickly made herself at home by taking a seat at the foldout table. “I hope you actually have coffee,” she groused.
“Sure,” I said and began to busy myself making it.
I noticed that Mildred peeked around the seat to get a look at Tess but stayed silent and didn’t make her presence known.
“You left before I was awake,” the campground owner said. “I thought we should have a chat.”
As I scooped the coffee grounds, I glanced over at her. “About what?”
“Why you’re here.”
“To be honest,” I told her as I filled the carafe with bottled water, “I’m not even sure.”
“You expect me to believe that you’re driving Mildred Bloodworth’s RV and you don’t know why you’re here.” Tess’s bitterness made her words sharp.
I finished starting the coffee maker and turned to face her. “You knew Mildred?”
I chuckled, feeling the same way.
“Question is, how do you know her?”
I glanced outside the window and saw that Corporal Welmont had not left. He seemed to be circling the van, searching for who knows what. “I was married to her son.”
“Why?” Tess asked. “He was disgusting.”
“You knew Buddy?” I asked, staring at her incredulously.
“Sure, he was just a kid, when I knew him, an insufferable brat even then. No doubt he grew up to be a horrible adult. Bad seeds become bad–”
Welmont banged on the door. “Come out come out wherever you are,” he called.
I shrugged apologetically at Tess and opened the door. “Where else would I be?” I asked. “You saw me walk in here.”
“People with secrets shouldn’t have such nasty mouths,” Welmont warned.
“What do you want?” I asked flatly. I was all for not antagonizing the police officer, but I wasn’t about to be bullied by him either.
“I’d like you to come down to the station to answer some questions,” he said.
I tensed. That request had been made of me before. That time I’d complied, and the results had not been positive.
“What for?” I asked.
He shrugged a shoulder. “It’s standard procedure.”
“So, does that mean you’re bringing everybody that you questioned in the office last night down to the station?”
“Only the ones that have a history of being a murder suspect.”
“Do not get yourself thrown in jail,” Mildred meowed loudly.
I glanced over at the cat, biting my tongue to keep from asking how she expected me to do that.
“You have the world’s nastiest cat,” Welmont complained. “It tried to kill me last night.”
I frowned at Matilda. The cop could be exaggerating…or Mildred might have actually tried to kill him.
“You’ll get no argument from me about that,” I replied dryly and refocused on him. “Unless you have a legal reason to bring me down at the police station, I’m staying right here.”
He glared at me for a long moment and I saw him flex his fingers as though he was getting ready to grab me and drag me out of the camper van. I braced myself against the door, deciding that the best way to deal with him if he did that would be a quick kick to his chin. Of course, if I did that, I’d get thrown in jail for sure for assaulting an officer.
I glanced over at Tess who was still sitting at the table. She was ignoring me, her focus solely on the cat. I wonder if she recognized Mildred’s spirit in the feline’s body.
“You can question me here,” I told Welmont calmly. “or you can arrest me. Those are your choices.”
“You’re not in any position to lay out terms.”
“And yet I have.”
“You’re going to regret making me your enemy,” Welmont threatened .
“I already do,” I told him tiredly.
With an annoyed huff that sounded like a bull getting ready to charge, he turned on his heel and stalked back to his car. I closed the door behind him.
Tess tore her eyes away from the cat and stared at me. “Whatever you’re here to do, whatever it is Mildred thinks she can do to hurt me,” she said with quiet resolve. “you’ll fail.”
“I’m not here to hurt you,” I assured her.
“Then why are you here?” she asked. “Pulling in last night, stirring up all those memories, causing a dramatic scene.”
“Hey,” I reminded her, “you’re the one who assigned me this stupid parking space.”
“Did you do that because of what I was driving?” I asked as the possibility occurred to me.
“I wanted you as far away from me as possible,” Tess practically spat.
“Then why are you here now?” I asked as we heard Welmont gun his engine and speed away.
“You’re not welcome here.” She got up from her seat and practically mowed me down as she moved to exit the vehicle. I pressed my back into the rear of the passenger seat to get out of her way. “I’m here to tell you to leave.”
“You heard Welmont,” I replied. “I can’t leave.”
“Well then you’d better be very careful,” Tess warned, climbing out. “Raven’s Nest can be a very dangerous place. Deadly even.”