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Authors: Jude Pittman

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BOOK: Deadly Secrets
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It was just past eight when Kelly made it back to Indian Creek. There were several vehicles parked around the bait house and down by the creek, Frank Perkins stood in the center of a group of men. Kelly pulled into the driveway and joined Marty Jenkins on the edge of the group.

“What’s all the excitement?” he asked.

“That’s Frank’s new boat.” Marty pointed to a gleaming new bass boat fastened to the end of the dock. “Isn’t she a honey?”

“She’s a stunner all right.”

From inside the circle of men, Frank’s high, excited voice carried to where Kelly stood. “She’s a sixteen footer with a hundred-and-fifty horsepower motor,” Frank said, his face gleamed with pride. “See that gadget up on the console?” He pointed so the admiring circle of listeners could identify the object. “That’s an electronic fish finder.”

“Damn!” Doug Phillips piped in. “Won’t be no need for you to go fishing, Frank. Y’all can just send that boat along and it’ll catch ’em for yuh.”

“That isn’t as far fetched as you might think.” Frank puffed out his chest. “All I gotta do is turn that gadget on and it’ll spot every damn fish in the lake.”

Doug tipped back his cap and scratched his head. “I’ll be danged,” he said. “What won’t they think of next?”

“Hey, Frank.” Kelly moved closer to the group and broke into the conversation. “What did you do? Win the state lottery?”

“Nah. My sister out in California died last year and the lawyers just now sent me my share of the estate.”

“Oh! Sorry she passed away but it’s nice she remembered you in her will.”

“Yeah…well…I had it coming to me.” Frank’s round face flushed with color. “She got the house and property out in California when my old man died, so it’s only right I should get my share back. As it is, I didn’t get all I should’ve. She left most of it to that good-for-nothing kid of hers.”

Kelly, who now regretted asking any questions, nodded his head. “Nice to see you got yourself a new boat anyhow.”

“I ain’t getting any younger,” Frank growled. “I might’s well have some of the things I been wanting.”

Kelly nodded and strolled back to Marty.

“Have you heard what’s going on with Cam?” Marty asked.

“That’s where I was headed when I stopped off here to see what all the excitement was about,” Kelly said.

“Do you think the cops are gonna charge him with Anna’s murder?”

“You’d have to ask Cam about that.” Kelly smiled to take the sting out of his words.

Marty was a good guy but like all the old timers at the Creek, he liked to gossip and Kelly wasn’t about to feed the rumor mill.

“Guess I’ll catch you later,” he said, starting toward his truck. “I want to stop by and see Cam before I make my rounds at the flea market.”

“See you later.” Several voices called and Kelly lifted his hand in farewell.

When Kelly entered the Hideaway after his inspection of the flea market, Cam was sitting on a stool behind the bar with a towel in his hand and a frosted mug perched on the coaster in front of him. Marty and Leroy were at the back table arguing over their cribbage game and Darlene was bending over the sink washing mugs. In fact, they were all in exactly the same spot they’d been in a week ago before a murderer struck and turned their lives upside down.

“You don’t look any the worse for wear.” Kelly pulled up a stool and held out a hand to Cam.

“Looks are deceiving,” Cam returned Kelly’s handshake.

“So, now that we’ve got the amenities out of the way,” Kelly lifted his left eyebrow and gave Cam his best glare, “what the hell is all this bullshit about you busting into Anna’s cabin?”

Cam
’s jaw dropped and a red flush spread up his face. “Hey, I’m sorry about that, Kelly. I know I should’ve told you but I was afraid you’d think I killed Anna if you found out I swiped the note.” Cam wiped the back of his neck with the bar towel and stood there looking sheepish.

“You can imagine how much I appreciated having Gus drop that bit of news on me. If I hadn’t already talked to Bubba and figured out you’d probably been down to Anna’s cabin that night, I’d have looked like a damn fool.”

“Yeah. That was a stupid move on my part. What can I say? I’m sorry.”

“Okay. We’ll let it drop. I just hope you haven’t held back anything else.”

“I haven’t, Kelly. I swear it. One thing you gotta believe, though. I didn’t break into Anna’s box. I admit I went to her cabin looking for the note but the door was open when I got there and that damn box was busted open and lying on the bed.”

“Are you saying that somebody else was there before you?”

“That’s right.” Cam got up and filled his mug, then leaned back across the bar. “I wasn’t going to keep that note, you know. I just wanted to hold onto it until I had a chance to talk to Anna after she’d sobered up a bit. Then, when I realized the money was gone, I didn’t know what the hell to do.”

“What money are you talking about?”

“The twenty thousand dollars Anna got from the bank for the down payment on that fish camp. I took her to Fort Worth Friday and she drew it out of her savings account.”

Kelly slapped his hand against his forehead. “Where in the hell have you been keeping your brain lately? Didn’t it occur to you that the money might be the motive for Anna’s murder?”

“I know I should’ve told you but everything happened so damn fast. Besides, I expected Bubba to tell you. Anna was getting the money for him, you know. I figured if he told you the money was missing, I could just stay out of it. It seemed like the best idea at the time.”

“Bubba never said shit. Hell, he probably figured you took the money and he didn’t want to rat on a friend. Damn you guys and your misplaced sense of loyalty. How the hell am I supposed to help you if you keep holding out on me?”

Cam
hung his head and Kelly could tell that he’d hurt his feeling.

“Okay.” Kelly struggled to keep the irritation out of his voice. “I can understand why you might keep it to yourself at first but what about later—once the cops questioned you? Didn’t it occur to you then that Bubba hadn’t said anything about the money? Why didn’t you give me a call and tell me about it after they locked you up?”

“I was going to. I even thought about calling you from the jail but then I decided I’d better wait ’til I got out. You know cops… I’ve heard they bug them telephones.”

“You watch too damn much television. I’m sure as hell going to have to tell Gus about this and he isn’t going to like it when he finds out that you’ve been holding out on him.”

“Damn it, Kelly. You go telling him about the money and where the hell does that leave me?”

“It’ll leave you in a helluva lot better spot if I tell him than it would if he found out on his own. I wasn’t going to tell you this yet but Gus has already said if you aren’t involved in the murder, he’ll go to the DA and ask him to drop the burglary charges against you.”

Cam
’s eyes widened. “You aren’t kidding? He really agreed to do that?”

“Yes, provided you’re clean on the murder but he might have changed his mind if he’s found out about that missing money. He hasn’t mentioned it to me but he knows you and I are tight, so he probably wouldn’t.

“I’ll tell you one thing, though. Gus is too damn thorough when he makes an investigation not to have found out Anna withdrew a large sum of money from her account on Friday. Not only that but if you drove her into Fort Worth, you can be damn sure he’s probably already found a witness who’ll testify you took Anna to the bank.”

“I never thought about that. Why do you suppose he hasn’t questioned me about the money if he already knows?”

“Because right now he’s investigating a murder, not a robbery. He’s probably gathered up a whole bunch of shit he hasn’t seen fit to share with you or me either but you can bet your ass he’ll bring it up when the time is right.”

“What do you think I oughta do?”

“Nothing. Just sit tight and keep your mouth shut. I want to have a few words with Bubba, then I’ll go see Gus and tell him what you’ve told me about the money. You keep your mouth shut about all this. In fact, don’t discuss Anna at all—not even with Darlene.”

“I haven’t been talking about it anyhow. To tell you the truth, I’m sick to death of the whole damn thing. I’m sorry as hell Anna’s dead but I can’t help her none now and I just wish this whole pile of shit would go away and let me get back to running my business.”

“I know, it’s tough on everybody. I’m going to do some thinking about the money angle and see what I can come up with. If Gus wants to talk to you, he’ll let you know, otherwise just keep your head and try to get things back to normal around here. I’ll keep in touch and let you know if anything develops.”

On the way to the flea market, Kelly’s mind went back to his conversation with Frank. The little weasel had been plenty evasive when Kelly started questioning him about his sister’s inheritance and it was one hell of a coincidence his coming up with that inheritance at exactly the same time a bunch of money turned up missing out of Anna’s strongbox.

By the time Kelly got to the flea market, it was almost nine and for the next hour and a half he was too busy to indulge in any more speculation about Frank’s sudden wealth. Most of the dealers had shut down and Kelly was kept hopping retrieving tables and issuing gate cards for Sunday’s business. When he’d finally finished for the night, Kelly bolted the door and whistled for Jake, who’d been taking a run around the grounds.

“I don’t know about you,” Kelly said when the dog joined him on the path, “but I’m ready to call it a night.”

At the cabin, Kelly grabbed a couple of hotdogs out of the fridge and tossed them in the microwave. Giving Jake one and taking the other over to his recliner, Kelly stretched out and started thinking about Frank’s inheritance. Not only was it a big coincidence, Frank getting his money at the same time as Anna’s twenty thousand dollars had disappeared but why hadn’t Frank mentioned the anticipated windfall before. Keeping his mouth shut was simply not in his character. Surely he’d had notification about the estate before the money was distributed.

Why hadn’t he bragged about it all over Indian Creek? The only reason Kelly could think of for all the secrecy was if the money hadn’t come from an inheritance. What was Frank really doing at the creek the night Anna and Cam had their fight. Was he night fishing? Or had he just come from rifling Anna’s cabin?

Kelly got up and uncramped his legs. Before he got anymore worked up about Frank, the first thing he needed to do was check out his story. The Hideaway would still be open and Darlene had been quite friendly with Frank’s sister when she’d visited a couple of years ago. Maybe she knew her last name and where she lived. Then Kelly could call Jim Forbes in Dallas. Jim’s brother was a probate lawyer in Los Angeles and ought to be able to check out the details of the sister’s estate.

Kelly dialed the Hideaway, got Cam and asked if he could speak with Darlene.

“Sure, hold on a sec, I’ll get her.”

“How you doing, gal?” Kelly said when Darlene’s voice came on the line.

“Just fine, Kelly. What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing much. I just wondered if you happened to remember Frank’s sister’s last name and where she lived.”

“Sure. Her name was Perkins, same as Frank. She changed back to her maiden name when she and her old man got divorced. She lived in San Clemente but she died last year, you know.”

“Yeah, I knew that but I needed to get some information about her and listen, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this under your hat, okay?”

“Sure, no problem. I wouldn’t have any reason to talk about it anyhow.”

BOOK: Deadly Secrets
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