Home > Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson #2)(3)

Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson #2)(3)
Author: Darynda Jones

“I told her whatever her problem was, you could help.”

Sweet but sadly overstated. “Why didn’t you tell me she’d called?” I asked.

“You were in the middle of a case with your uncle and people kept trying to kill you and you were just really busy.”

Cookie had a point. People had been trying to kill me. Repeatedly. Thank goodness they didn’t succeed. I could be sitting there dead.

“She said she would come in and talk to you herself, but she never showed. Then I got this text a little while ago.” She handed me her phone.

Cookie, please meet me at our coffee shop as soon as you get this message.

Come alone. M

“I didn’t even know she was missing.”

“You own a coffee shop?” I asked.

“How could I not know?” Her breath hitched in her chest with emotion.

“Wait, how do you know she’s missing now?”

“I tried calling her cell when I got the message, but she didn’t pick up, so I called her house. Her husband answered.”

“Well, I guess he would know.”

“He freaked. He wanted to know what was going on, where his wife was, but the message said come alone. So, I told him I would call him as soon as I knew something.” She bit her lower lip. “He was not a happy camper.”

“I’ll bet. There aren’t many reasons a woman wants to disappear.”

She blinked at me in thought before inhaling so sharply, she had to cough a few moments. When she recovered, she said, “Oh, no, you don’t understand. She is very happily married. Warren worships the ground she walks on.”

“Cookie, are you sure? I mean—”

“I’m positive. Trust me, if there was any abuse in that relationship, it was to Warren’s bank account. He dotes on that woman like you wouldn’t believe. And those kids.”

“They have kids?”

“Yes, two,” she said, her voice suddenly despondent.

I decided not to argue with her about the possibility of abuse until I knew more. “So, he has no idea where she is?”

“Not a single one.”

“And she didn’t tell you what was going on? Why she wanted to disappear?”

“No, but she was scared.”

“Well, hopefully we’ll have some answers soon.” I started the car and drove to the Chocolate Coffee Café, which Cookie did not own, unfortunately. Because, really? Chocolate and coffee? Together? Whoever came up with that combination should have won a Nobel Peace Prize. Or at least a subscription to Reader’s Digest.

After pulling into the parking lot, we drove to a darkened corner so we could observe for a few moments without being observed. I wasn’t sure how Mimi would take to my presence, especially since she told Cookie to come alone. Making a mental list of who could be after her based on what little I knew, her husband was at the top. Statistics were hard to dismiss.

“Why don’t you wait here?” Cookie asked as she reached for her door handle.

“Because we have a lot of paperwork back at the office, and that paperwork’s not going to file itself, missy. No way can I risk losing you now.”

She glanced back at me. “Charley, it’ll be okay. She’s not going to attack me or anything. I mean, I’m not you. I don’t get attacked and almost killed every other day.”

“Well, I never,” I said, trying to look offended. “But whoever’s after her might beg to differ. I’m going. Sorry, kiddo.” I stepped out of the car and tossed her the keys when she got out. After scanning the near-empty lot once more, we strolled into the diner. I felt only slightly self-conscious in my bunny slippers.

“Do you see her?” I asked. I had no idea what the woman looked like.

Cookie looked around. There were exactly two people inside: one male and one female. I wasn’t surprised it was so slow, considering the freaking time. The man wore a fedora and a trench coat and looked like a movie star from the forties, and the woman looked like a hooker after a rough night at work. But neither really counted, since they were both deceased. The man noticed me immediately. Damn my brightness. The woman never looked over.

“Of course I don’t see her,” Cookie said. “There’s no one in here. Where could she be? Maybe I took too long. Maybe I shouldn’t have called her husband or taken the time to drag your skinny ass out of bed.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh man, this is bad. I know it. I can feel it.”

“Cookie, you have to calm down. Seriously. Let’s do a little investigative work before we call in the National Guard, okay?”

“Right. Got it.” She placed a hand over her chest and forced herself to relax.

“Are you good?” I asked, unable to resist teasing her just a little. “Do you need a Valium?”

“No, I’m good,” she said, practicing the deep-breathing techniques we’d learned when we watched that documentary on babies being born underwater. “Smart-ass.”

That was uncalled for. “Speaking of my ass, we need to have a long talk about your impression of it.” We walked to the counter. “Skinny? Really?” The retro diner was decorated with round turquoise barstools and pink countertops. The server strolled toward us. Her uniform matched the light turquoise on the stools. “I’ll have you know—”

“Hey, there.”

I turned back to the server and smiled. Her name badge said NORMA.

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