Two Lethal Lies(10)

By: Annie Solomon

Mitch could have shaken her, though she was right. But in the midst of this comfortable house, with its professional owner and his family, dishwashing seemed shameful.

“That’s what you’re looking for?” Tommy asked. “Jobwise, I mean?”

“He fries stuff, too.”

Sara Jean added, “Maybe he can fry something for us.”

Mitch gave Julia a scolding look. “You’ve been talking about me?”

“Well,” she said, though she knew it was against the rules. “You do fry things.”

“I’m a fry cook,” Mitch explained to Tommy, who nodded thoughtfully. “But I can do whatever you got. Janitorial, light carpentry, lawn maintenance.”

“He makes patty melts,” Julia said. “And egg creams.”

Sara Jean looked horrified. “Yuck.”

Julia giggled.

“Don’t worry,” Mitch said, “there’s no egg and just a little cream in it.”

“But there is chocolate!” Julia cried.

“Then why’s it called an egg cream?” Sara Jean asked.

Mitch winked. “A mystery for the ages.”

The doorbell rang, and Bitsy disappeared to answer it. She came back with a short, stocky bulldog of a woman carrying a nylon bag over her shoulder. Bitsy didn’t look very happy, but the newcomer greeted Tommy effusively, then asked Sara Jean how she was.

“Fine,” Sara Jean murmured.

“And this must be our hero,” the woman said, looking at Mitch.

“This is Mitch Turner,” Tommy said. “And that’s his daughter, Julia. Mitch, this is Shelby Townsend. She owns the Crossroads Sentinel.”

Mitch froze. He was allergic to reporters the way some people were allergic to shellfish—even small-town ones were deadly. But there he was in the Blunt kitchen in front of the whole family and Julia. He couldn’t exactly take off. So when Shelby stuck out a pudgy hand, Mitch took it. Her grip was tight and the handshake firm, an indication of how she handled the world, which only increased his apprehension.

Bitsy said, “Shelby, I’m not sure we want everyone in town knowing—”

But Shelby overrode her concern. “How’s about we get you over here, Mr. Turner.” Before he could protest, she had her camera out and was taking his picture. He put up a hand to cover his face and tried ducking his head, but she just kept taking pictures until she got one she liked.

When she tried to question him about the rescue, he said, “I really don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

“A modest hero, too.” Shelby beamed.

“Really,” Mitch protested. “I’m not a—”

“You’re a hero to Sara Jean,” Julia said.

“Butt out, Junebug.”

“I’m just saying—”

“How about you, Sara Jean?” Shelby asked. “No more playing near the river?”

Sara Jean flashed a quick look at Mitch and her parents, then answered Shelby with downcast eyes. “No, ma’am,” she said.

“Bet you were scared,” Shelby said, fishing.

The normal answer would have been yes. The more likely answer, given the situation at the time, was no. Sara Jean seemed caught between the two, so Mitch threw an arm around her, shielding her from the nosy reporter. “Of course she was. And now I think it’s time for Sara Jean to get those… uh… those pajamas for Julia.”

Sara Jean looked at him blankly. “Pajamas?”

Thank God for Julia. “You remember,” she broke in quickly. “The pajamas you were going to lend me.” She grabbed Sara Jean’s hand and dragged her away.

Bitsy bit her lip. “How did you hear about the… uh, accident?” she asked Shelby.

Shelby winked. “Can’t reveal my sources, now, can I?”

Bitsy frowned and threw Tommy a baleful look. “That Emmalyn Mosley has a big mouth.”

Tommy’s face reddened. “My secretary did not…”

Shelby found something interesting in her camera bag to look at, and the rest of Tommy’s words died out. Struggling for what to do or say, he blurted out, “Shelby, join us for banana pudding?”

Bitsy looked like she wanted to clap her husband over the head with a frying pan, but she quickly recovered. “Of course, we’d love to have you. Mitch, would you call the girls down for me?”

But he didn’t want either Julia or Sara Jean around while the reporter was still there. “How about we let them have some girl time. They can have dessert later.”

“Later?” Shelby asked. “Are you staying with the Blunts, Mr. Turner?”

“Mitch and Julia are in the carriage house,” Tommy said as Bitsy began serving out the custard.

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