Louella emerged from the Piggly Wiggly and stopped outside the entrance long enough to situate her purse in the toddler seat of the grocery cart.
“Miss Harper. Miss Harper. Miss Louella Harper.”
Louella up to see who was calling her name and was somewhat startled to see a late middle-aged black man hobbling toward her from across the parking lot. Her first instinct was to pull the cart back into the store and hope the staff could offer her security, but she forced herself to remain still by reminding herself that this was a public place in which she could expect a reasonable measure of safety. Besides, while the man did not fit the profile of her average reader, the fact that he knew her name showed that he was not some random criminal.
When he finally reached her, the bent over and rested his hands on his thighs while he caught his breath. Louella took the opportunity to move her cart out of the path of the sliding glass doors that would be spitting out shoppers every few minutes.
“Excuse me, Miss Harper. I’m sorry to bother you,” the man said, still panting. He took off his fedora and used it to fan himself. He looked to be in his late fifties. He was bald, with wrinkled skin that stretched around the back of his head.
“Well, you’ve already done so. My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour. You might as well tell me who you are.”
Judging by his expression, the man was disappointed at having been forgotten. “It’s me,” he said, “Evan Waverly.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know that name.”
“You came to my house, Miss Harper. I was Reverend Baxter’s next door neighbor.”
Louella’s face wilted into an expression of supreme distaste. She checked for traffic and then pushed her cart into the parking lot without another word. Mr. Waverly fell in alongside her.
“I’m sorry to be contacting you this way. I reached out to Jim Easton, but he wouldn’t give me your number.”
“My friends no better than to give out my private information,” Louella said, “or they won’t be my friend much longer. As I recall, the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t speak to me.”
Waverly smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry for that, Miss Harper. I didn’t want to threaten a business arrangement. I hope you understand.”
“Oh, I understand perfectly. You were negotiating with a television producer as I recall. The fact that I’m speaking to you now makes me assume the deal has fallen through.”
Waverly shook his head sadly. “Yes ma’am, it did. I never should have trusted that man. I’m sorry about that.”
“You aren’t the first person to pin his hopes on a Hollywood fantasy. It’s a bitter lesson to have to learn.”
“I know that’s the truth.”
“The fact that you’re here, dogging my tracks, makes me thing you’ve changed your mind about telling me your story. Is that also the truth?”
“Yes ma’am. I’ve given it a lot of thought. I said to myself, ‘Evan, you should have talked to that nice lady when you had the chance.’ What I did was downright inhospitable, and I apologize.”
Louella stopped the buggy behind her black Lincoln Continental and slid the key into the trunk lock. “Well, I suppose after you help me put these bags in my trunk, you can fill me in on what you know.”
“Yes, of course.” Waverly scrambled to move the woman’s bags from the buggy to the trunk. Afterwards, they stared at one another across the empty grocery cart, each waiting for the other to speak.
“Well,” Louella said.
“What? You mean, here? You want me to tell the story right here in the parking lot?”
“Well, it’s not the lobby of the Ritz Carleton, but it’ll do in a pinch. Now, hurry it up if you don’t mind, before the milk curdles.”
“But, we haven’t even discussed the conditions of our arrangement.”
“Okay, here are the conditions. You tell me your story and I’ll listen, or else I’m going back to my hotel. Are these conditions satisfactory?”
“No, Miss Harper. I meant financial conditions.”
“Good day, Mr. Waverly.” She pushed her empty buggy towards the nearest shopping cart corral.
Waverly hustled after her. “Wait, Miss Harper. You’ll want to hear my story and all it’ll cost you is three thousand dollars.”
Louella abandoned her cart in the corral and turned back toward her car without looking at him.
“Two thousand,” Waverly said.
“I believe our business is concluded, Mr. Waverly. As I said, I have to attend to my milk.”
“Okay, one thousand, but that’s as low as I can go.”
“At this point, I find that hard to believe,” Louella said. She opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat. Waverly continued to speak to her, but his voice was muffled and she did not understand him. As she pulled out of her parking spot, his tone grew louder and more menacing, but she drove away without another glance in his direction.
Go to Chapter 31.
About This Novel; Chapter 1Chapter 2; Chapter 3Chapter 4; Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7; Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11; Chapter 12; Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16; Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 19Chapter 20 Chapter 21; Blood Cries at the Half-Way PointChapter 22; Chapter 23Chapter 24; Chapter 25Chapter 26; Chapter 27Chapter 28; Chapter 29