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Chapter Twenty-Three

I made myself get a grip. I couldn't show up to meet Daniel with a red nose and bloodshot, puffy eyes. Plus, I suspected sex was a way to communicate with Daniel Crocker and I was desperate enough to pull that out of my limited arsenal and use it to save Violet. Nevertheless, I had to look the part to play it.

Clothing proved an issue. If Daniel hadn’t seen me in the red dress, and I if hadn’t got snot and tears all over the front, I would have worn it. Instead I found a pair of jeans and a silky sleeveless shirt and wore my black bra, which peeked out over the top of the low-cut shirt. I decided this would work better in The Trading Post, which was a bar with a rough reputation just outside the city limits.

Torn between heels and sensible shoes, I chose heels. I had little chance of outrunning anyone, but perhaps looking sexy could help me. Heavens knew I needed all the help I could get.

I opened the flash drive package with shaky fingers and tucked it in my jeans pocket. I was fairly certain they were going to check it and I hadn’t figured out how to explain why it was empty.

I gave myself on last look in the mirror, surprised by the image. Maybe I could pull this off.

I went out into the kitchen to call a cab. I’d take a taxi to my car, which was still parked at the funeral home, but it required extra time. While I waited for it to show up, I went outside to look for Muffy, walking up and down the sidewalk and calling her name. I worried Joe would hear me and come out but, he didn’t, even though I saw him watching out his living room window. I checked the time on my cell phone—nine thirty-five. I still had time but my nervousness threatened to swallow me whole. I locked the door and waited for the taxi in the driveway, pacing.

Five minutes later, Joe came outside, easing his way over to me as though I was a wild animal and might bolt if he got too close. “Rose?”

“Leave me alone,” I growled, looking down the street with my side to him.

“Do you need a ride to your car?”

“I called a taxi.”

We waited a few more minutes. I was so anxious I thought I would puke.

“Don’t go, Rose.” His voice was so quiet I could barely hear him.

I turned to face him and shook my head. “Do you have any idea what you are asking?”

“Do you know what’s going to happen if you go with an empty flash drive?”

“What do you care, Joe? Leave me alone!” I started down the sidewalk. Wearing heels wasn’t such a good idea if I had to walk two miles.

Joe jogged up to me. “Let me drive you.”

“Drive me where?”

“To your car.”

I stopped and glared at him. “Why are you doin’ this?”

“Rose, I care about you.”

That made me livid. “Don’t. You. Dare.” I spit out through gritted teeth. I started walking again.

“Okay, I feel guilty. I’m trying to make it up to you.”

I stopped. That sounded like a more honest answer and my cab still hadn’t shown up. Being late wouldn’t work in my favor. “All right.” I turned around and walked to Joe’s car and got in.

We drove in silence for a couple of blocks.

“Do you have a plan?”

I remained silent.