Did you get your copy of the newest installment in the Billy Jo McCabe series? Book 2, HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT, is now available everywhere. If you haven’t yet had a chance to grab your copy, get a look at Chapter 4 here. PLUS, enter to win the new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite! See below for details. Happy weekend & be well– Lorhainne
Carly Jackson was really digging into each step as she headed right toward Billy Jo, wearing flats, dark capris, and a striped blouse. Despite all the kids in the background, Mark knew when a woman was angry. The energy seemed to explode between them. Everything about her gave him a feeling the confrontation wasn’t going to be peaceful.
“Why are you here?” Carly said, hurling the angry accusation at Billy Jo. “Are you following me?”
The little spitfire beside him went to close the gap, but his feet were already moving to get between them before it went sideways.
“I have questions I need answered,” Billy Jo said. “You have kids, I see, girls. I will get my answers, one way or the other.”
“You are following me,” Carly said. “Look, you can’t be here. I have a good life. I’m a teacher.”
“Hey, enough, already,” Mark said. “What’s going on here?” He moved between the women and put his hand up to block Billy Jo, who he knew wouldn’t back down. De-escalation was the only thing he could think of as he felt both their eyes on him.
“This is personal,” was all Billy Jo said to him. As she pulled her gaze from Carly, the look she gave him said she couldn’t be reasoned with.
“Okay, you’re not doing this here,” he said. “Both of you, take a look around. There are kids here. This is a school. Who are you, anyway?” He looked right at Carly, dark hair, blue eyes. Something about her seemed familiar.
She pulled her arms across her chest, nodded, and glanced up at him. “Carly Jackson. I’m a teacher here, and this woman is harassing me. She showed up this morning on my doorstep—”
“And you didn’t answer me,” Billy Jo said. “You tell me to go away, yet you owe me.”
He didn’t know which woman to look at, to address. When his cell phone started ringing, he pulled it from his pocket and saw the chief’s name. Of course, someone had seen the scene and had likely already called him. “Shit,” he said under his breath, then hit decline, though he wouldn’t get away with that for long.
“Billy Jo, what are you doing?” he said. “What does she owe you?” He was really hoping this was about a formal DCFS complaint.
“I said it’s personal,” she replied. She lifted her eyes to him again, and he saw she wasn’t giving him anything, so he dragged his gaze back over to Carly Jackson. The two appeared ready to go head to head in a cat fight he didn’t want on his hands.
“I asked you a question,” he said matter of factly. “What is this about? Ms. Jackson, what do you owe her? What did you do?”
Carly said nothing for a moment, pulling her gaze from Billy Jo. She was a short woman, the same height and build as her, and she had to look up at him. “She’s right that this is personal, but she has the wrong person,” she said. She turned back to Billy Jo. “I’m not your mother.”
“Wait, what?” Mark said, doing a doubletake, looking from one woman to the other. He knew he needed to end this now. He turned to Billy Jo, who seemed to be looking past Carly. “Mother? You said you were adopted, in foster care?”
“Carly, what’s going on here?” said a short man approaching them. He was balding and round in the middle, wearing beige dress pants and a white shirt. “Are you all right?”
Mark pulled his jacket back to show his badge to the man as he stopped right behind Carly.
“Tony, it’s fine, sorry,” Carly said. “It’s just a personal matter, no problem. Listen, I’ll be right in.”
Mark said nothing, only nodded to the man, who he figured had to be the school principal or something.
“I called the chief already,” Tony said, as if he didn’t believe her. “It looked like you were upset. I didn’t know the police were already here.” Then he just gestured toward her and said, “Recess is almost over. Do you mind taking this somewhere else?”
Carly only nodded and then offered a smile to him. “Absolutely, I’ll be right in,” she said.
Tony simply nodded and walked away.
Mark’s phone rang. As he pulled it from his pocket and saw the chief’s name, he knew he couldn’t decline it again. “Yeah, look,” he answered. “I’m talking to Billy Jo right now—”
“Why did I just get a call from the principal?” the chief said. “He said there appeared to be an altercation between one of his teachers, Carly Jackson, and someone harassing her. Is it Ms. McCabe? We just discussed this less than an hour ago.”
Mark could feel the bite in his words. “I’m shutting it down now,” he said. “It’s handled.”
“See that it is, and see that Ms. McCabe doesn’t bother Jim’s wife again. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal,” Mark said, then heard the click as the chief hung up on him. He turned back to the two women, whose voices were low, and gestured between them.
“Look,” Billy Jo said. “You keep denying that you’re Carly Thornton, and you covered your tracks well. It took a lot of digging to find you, but I did. I have questions, a right to know what you did to me…”
“I did nothing to you. And by the looks of it, it appears you have a great life. I have a life here, too, a husband, kids, a career. I do not want this on my doorstep.”
“Billy Jo, you can’t do this here. You have to go,” Mark cut in.
She only lifted her blue eyes to him. They were filled with stubbornness. She just wasn’t about to be reasoned with. But she finally nodded and said, “You’re right. Outside a school isn’t appropriate, with everyone watching—unless you want me to start telling everyone that you, my mother, were a meth addict who abandoned me…”
“Stop!” Carly hissed. “What do you want?”
This was going from bad to worse.
“I want answers to my questions, no lies, and then you can go back to your perfect life.”
He knew he needed to get Billy Jo out of there, but he couldn’t believe Carly Jackson could possibly be who Billy Jo thought she was. The way she was staring at her, he could feel the secrets and lies that lingered between them. Carly was considering something, but just then, a white Range Rover pulled into the parking lot, headed right their way.
Carly stiffened and lifted her hand. “Okay, you have to go now. That’s my husband,” she said.
He heard the vehicle idling. Then the car door opened to reveal Jim, the man he’d received marching orders from less than an hour earlier.
“I already told you I’m not this woman,” Carly said. “Now, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave. I won’t be threatened or harassed.” She lifted her gaze up to Mark, then walked around Billy Jo, over to Jim. “What are you doing here?” she said as he slid his arm around her.
Jim took in Mark and then dragged his gaze to Billy Jo, and Mark could see the simmer there, the edge of a man who wouldn’t be pushed. “What is she doing here?” he said. “What do
you want? Detective, we had a discussion, and I was clear that I want this woman to stop harassing my wife.”
“Jim, it’s fine,” Carly said. “It’s just a misunderstanding, is all. Look, you didn’t have to come running down here.”
Jim only nodded to his wife. Mark suspected this could turn ugly quick. But at the same time, he knew when someone was hiding something.
“Of course I did,” Jim said. “Tony called from the school, and I told him to call the chief. I saw how upset you were this morning. Detective, I want this woman charged. You said this would be handled. Who are you, anyway, and what do you want with my wife?”
Jim wasn’t going to walk away. Answers needed to be given, but he heard a bell, and the kids were starting to go back into the school. This wasn’t the place to be having this kind of discussion. He should say something. Billy Jo was considering the situation, and he could see what looked like fear in Carly’s expression.
Billy Jo shrugged. “Carly Thornton is your wife?” she said.
Mark wanted to swear, but he also wanted to know more.
Jim shrugged. “Her maiden name is Thornton. What is this about?”
Carly stared long and hard at Billy Jo before saying, “I knew her mother. I wasn’t sure at first. She just has some questions. Isn’t that right, Billy Jo?”
The way Jim was watching her, her hand on his chest, Mark could see he was having trouble with this.
“We were just about to make arrangements to meet and talk,” Carly said before looking right at Billy Jo. “Isn’t that right?”
He wondered whether Billy Jo would agree, by how tight her mouth seemed, but then she nodded. “That’s right,” she said, gesturing toward her. “We were just checking our calendars. After school today, we’ll meet, catch up, talk…”
“You can’t today,” Jim said. “Remember, we have the charity event at the golf club.”
Carly made a face and touched her forehead. “Right, sorry. I forgot about that. It will have to be another time.”
“Well, how about dinner tomorrow at our house?” Jim said. “She can come over and—”
“Dinner tomorrow at your house sounds great,” Billy Jo cut in.
Mark found himself staring between them, wondering how Carly would manage to talk her way out of that.
All she did was nod. “Sure. Listen, you need to go. I have to get back in,” she said.
Carly kissed her husband, who walked away and climbed back into his Range Rover, and Mark didn’t have a clue what to ask, what to say. She turned back to Billy Jo, then lifted her gaze to him, uncomfortable, cornered.
“Look, my husband may have invited you for dinner, but I don’t want you to come,” she said. “You want answers? Fine. I’ll meet you after school at the coffee house. I’ll answer your questions. Then I don’t want you to bother me again. Detective, I’d appreciate your discretion about this.” She gestured to him.
He could see how rattled she was. “I’m just trying to keep the peace,” he said.
She nodded and walked away, hurrying back toward the school. The Range Rover gave a quick honk of a goodbye.
Mark stared down at Billy Jo, wondering about the little bomb that had been deployed. “Well, that was interesting. How about you start at the beginning and fill me in on everything?”
She narrowed her eyes as if telling him where to go. Then she shrugged. “This is personal, Detective. Are you about to charge me or something? As you heard, this was nothing but a friendly discussion, a personal matter. Her husband over-reacted and called your chief, so from my end, it appears as if you’re wasting your time here. You heard her. She’s meeting me after school…”
“She’s your mother, who doesn’t want to be found,” he cut in, stepping closer.
There it was, that pull at her lips that seemed like a smile but wasn’t. “Well, that’s the thing. It’s too late. I’ve found her. She can’t un-ring this bell. So, if that’s all, have a great day.” She actually took a step to her car, dismissive, not to be convinced of anything.
“No, that’s not all, Billy Jo. You don’t want to give me a straight answer. She was a meth addict who abandoned you? I guess I’d be pretty pissed, too.”
“Detective, as you said, you have a mother and father who love you. You’ve never known the kinds of things I have, being tossed away like garbage.” She had a sharp tongue, direct.
“Point taken, but here’s your warning: You meet with her, no shenanigans, and then you leave her be. Although you may feel you have the right to answers, she also has the right to live in peace and not be harassed. So make sure this is as far as it goes. The Jacksons are friends of the chief. If Carly has the kind of past you’re alluding to, I guarantee you her husband doesn’t know. So be sure this is just about getting answers and not about exacting some sort of revenge, destroying her life.”
She pulled at her door and then let out a breath as she looked up to him. “Again, Detective, have a great day. This is my business.”
She slid into her car, pulled the door closed, and started it. Then she shoved on her sunglasses, waiting for him to move his Jeep, which was parked right in front of her. All he could see was a woman who wasn’t concerned with fitting into this community, making peace and keeping this secret. No, he was absolutely, one hundred percent positive that this was only the beginning of something that could turn into a shitstorm.
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