“Wow, we really do have a lot of food in here. People have been bringing it by non-stop for the last couple of days. I could go for some macaroni and cheese, how about you?” I ask Bettie, keeping my back to her and my head shoved in between trays of cold-cuts and pans of mystery casseroles.
“Payton Marie Lambert, what are you not telling me?” Bettie asks, jumping down off the counter and walking over to me to yank me out of the fridge and slam the door closed.
She takes one look at my face and smacks me on the arm. “Holy shit, did you really murder the guy? Damn, bitch! I didn’t think you had it in you!”
“This is not funny,” I argue when she laughs. “Before we get into all of that, how about you tell me what you’re doing here. Oh, my God, what happened to Liquid Crack? Did it catch on fire? Did the health department shut us down? Did the investors find out about what’s going on here in Bald Knob and change their minds about the franchise?”
Bettie grabs my arm and pulls me over to one of the kitchen chairs, shoving me down into it and then pushing the coffee cup back up to my mouth.
“Drink, Payton, drink. Liquid Crack is fine. The news from this bustling metropolis hasn’t yet reached Chicago, you’re fine,” she replies sarcastically. “I left Brad and Amy in charge of the store for a few days. That voicemail the other day was from some guy named Deputy Lloyd and he said he had a few questions to ask me about you. I figured it was best if I flew into town and saved him the trouble of repeatedly calling my phone and me not answering it because I didn’t recognize the number.”
“You left Brad and Amy in charge of my baby? The two potheads who keep trying to convince me that pot coffee is the wave of the future and take three hours to make one cup of coffee?!” I screech.
“Slow your roll, psycho. Do you honestly think I’d leave the shop if I thought they couldn’t handle it?” Bettie explains. “They know what they’re doing, it’s fine. Also, I love how you’re more concerned with Liquid Crack than you are about the possibility that you might seriously go to prison for murder.”
“Oh, good, you’re awake!” Emma Jo says as she walks into the room with a tray of cookies in her hand and gives me a smile. “I was going to come up and wake you, but then someone came to the door with more food and I got delayed.”
She sets the cookies down on the table in front of me and Bettie takes a handful before flopping down next to me in a chair.
“This one’s a saint, I tell you,” Bettie announces, pointing at Emma Jo with a cookie. “I’ve been listening to her deal with bullshit condolences since I got here an hour ago. All those people saying how wonderful your husband was and how big of a loss his death is. Give me a break!”
I look back and forth between Bettie and Emma Jo nervously, not quite sure how Emma Jo is going to feel about me spilling the beans about Jed’s abuse to someone she doesn’t know.
“It’s fine,” Emma Jo reassures me, taking the last empty chair on the other side of me. “Bettie and I talked a little bit in between knocks on the door. I like her.”
“You should like me. I’m awesome. So, what are we going to do about Payton beating this murder rap? Has she tried sleeping with the sheriff yet?” Bettie asks, spitting cookie crumbs across the table while she speaks.
“Sadly, no. I’ve tried pushing her in that direction as well, but the last three days they’ve been like two ships, passing in the night,” Emma Jo muses, grabbing a cookie from the tray and taking a bite.
“Well, he’s busy trying to gather evidence against her, I can see how that would make blackmail sex a little tricky. We need another plan,” Bettie nods.
“Hello? I’m sitting right here,” I complain, waving my hands in front of both of their cookie-stuffed faces.
“We know. And yet, you’re still the town’s number one suspect and not even a twelve-year-long wet dream is going to stop the sheriff from arresting the responsible party. Although, with the way Benjamin won’t disappear, I’m assuming you have a magical vagina, so that sex thing needs to stay on the table for now,” Bettie says with a point of her cookie at me.
“She’s had a very eventful couple of days,” Emma Jo explains, patting the top of my hand.
“Yeah, I heard all about you throwing down with Bo Jangles when Starla accosted me in the driveway as soon as I pulled in. That little ball of fur is adorable. I can’t believe you were mean to him,” Bettie chastises.
“You are officially off my Christmas card list.”
“I’ll be back on it when you hear what I have to tell you,” Bettie replies with a smile, turning to look at Emma Jo. “Who’s Roy Pickerson? I was told this Roy guy got into a fight with your dearly departed husband a few weeks ago.”
“Roy owns Pickerson’s Bar. How in the hell did YOU hear about this fight?” I ask in annoyance.
“I stopped at the Gas N Sip on my way here to get a Pepsi and the guy who owns the place told me about it,” Bettie explains with a shrug, grabbing another cookie and taking a sip of her coffee, like it’s no big deal Mo Wesley opened up to a complete stranger just passing through town.
“Seriously? I was born and raised here and no one will give me the time of day. You’re here for five minutes and Mo is spilling secrets,” I complain, drinking more of my coffee before my head explodes.
“Well, you shouldn’t steal coffee from him, he doesn’t like that very much. Also, I was quite pleasant and smiley and that makes people want to talk to me. You should try it sometime,” she mocks. “Plus, it probably helped that I pretended like I didn’t know you and said I was an old friend of Emma Jo’s. Everyone loves Emma Jo in this town. When I told him this Payton Lambert character sounded kind of sketchy, I couldn’t get the guy to shut up.”