Mitch called and left a message for Len Melton before we went to dinner. “Where would you like to go?” he asked.
“Not anywhere around here.”
“We’ll drive over to Benton then.”
“Thanks. Do you really think what Danny said is going to help? And what about my mother? I don’t think she could kill anyone, but…”
“But you’re not really sure,” Mitch finished for me.
“I guess not.”
“Look, let’s just put all this on the back burner and enjoy our dinner. We’ve both been under a lot of pressure the last couple of days.”
“I appreciate your support, Mitch. I really do. But I don’t want you to feel obligated.”
“I don’t feel obligated, Trixie. Frankly, you’ve been a big help to me. I don’t know any other widowers my age, and if someone hasn’t walked in my moccasins, he doesn’t know how I feel. You do.”
“I’m past where you are now, but you’ll get there.”
“I’m counting on that, but for now, I need a friend. I have too many well-meaning friends who started trying to hook me up with someone barely six months after Macy died.”
“I had the same kinds of friends. And they mean well. They just don’t understand.”
“Someday I might want to remarry, but I still can’t imagine being with anyone except Ned. Maybe that will change, and maybe it won’t.”
“That’s what makes me comfortable with you. I keep thinking I need to move out of the house Macy and I shared, but every time I pick up the phone to call a real estate agent, something holds me back.”
“You’re not ready. I read somewhere that no one should make a big decision like that for at least a year after a life-changing event like a death or divorce. I didn’t have any choice but to move out of base housing after Ned was killed, but my apartment is still furnished with the things we bought together.”
“Macy painted, and she was really good. She had a few shows and sold some stuff. I still have a lot of her pictures stored, besides the ones we hung in the house, and I’m not sure what to do with them.”
“You might put them on consignment with a gift shop or boutique.”
“I could, I guess.”
“But don’t do anything until you’re ready, Mitch. Don’t do anything you’ll regret later.”
He glanced at me and smiled. “Thanks, Trixie. I’ll remember what you said.”
We dawdled over a Mexican buffet, sharing stories of our lives before and after we married. On the way back to Dreamland, he suggested we stop at the Twilight for a drink. “We’ll congratulate Rudy on getting back together with Dee,” he said. “I like them both, and I’d have hated to see that marriage break up.”
“I hope she isn’t in a bad situation because she quit her job. I didn’t like what she said the other night about knowing too much.”
“That was a little disturbing. It bothers me more that nobody knows anything about Candace and Lindy, too. I tried to call her sister Anne but couldn’t get an answer.”
“I’d think Lindy’s in danger of losing her job if she just took off,” I said. “But maybe she had some vacation days coming.”
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to snoop around town. Len will do that, so maybe he’ll find out something.”
Rudy wasn’t at the Twilight. The bartender said he’d been their earlier and had left after getting a telephone call. “I don’t know who called,” he said when Mitch pressed him. “Maybe his wife.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” I said as we walked back to the car. “Should I call him, do you think?”
Rudy picked up on the first ring. “Danny?”
“It’s Trixie,” I said. “What about Danny?”
Rudy blew out his breath. “He told his mother he was going to ride his bicycle around town this afternoon, and he never came home. I found his bicycle in a vacant lot on the edge of town.”
“Where are you and Dee now? I’m with Mitch, and we’re coming over.”
We made it to the Jefferson’s neat little house in under five minutes. Dee met us on the porch, her makeup streaked and eyes red. “Do you know anything about Danny? Oh, Trixie, I can’t stand it if anything’s happened to him!”
Inside, Mrs. Jefferson lay on the sofa. “Do you know where Danny is?” she asked.
I walked over and took her hand. “No, but I saw him this afternoon.”
“Saw him?” Rudy asked.
“Let’s all sit down,” Mitch said. “We don’t know where he’s gone, but we may know why.”
When I’d detailed my encounter with Danny and what he’d told me, Mitch asked, “Have you two called the police?”
“I went straight to Chief Everton,” Rudy said. His jaw tightened. “He said Danny had just run off and would be back when he was ready. I wanted to punch him. Danny’s never done anything like this and wouldn’t worry Dee or his mother.”
“Maybe you should call him back and tell him what Danny said to me,” I suggested.
Rudy shook his head. “I have to wonder now if he knows exactly where Danny is and is covering up for someone. Like Parker Aiken.”
“Or my mother,” I said. “Oh, Dee, I’m so sorry Danny got involved in all this!”
“It was my fault for going to work for Parker,” she said, mopping her eyes.
“It’s not anyone’s fault,” Mitch said, “unless it was my father’s. I’m betting he started all this.”
“I still think his death was a personal thing, but it set Parker off.”
“You heard about him coming to see me?” I asked.
Rudy nodded. “In a round-about way.”
“Len Melton got a restraining order,” Mitch said. “He won’t bother Trixie again without some serious consequences.”
I noticed Mrs. Jefferson had nodded off. “Can I help you get her to bed?” I asked Dee.
“Just let her sleep there where I can keep an eye on her. She’s worn out worrying.”
“So are you. What can I do?”
“Just help us make some sense out of all this and figure out what to do next.”
Rudy put his arms around his wife. “We’ll find Danny, Dee. He’ll be all right.”
The way Mitch looked at me said he didn’t think that was a sure thing at all.