Preview of Hook, Line, and Sinker
“Lizzie?” The familiar voice on the line was tentative and confused. Those were characteristics I didn’t associate with Trent, an old “friend” of mine and now a deputy in the sheriff’s office.
His uncertain tone, the one I remembered from when he didn’t want to freak out, immediately made my stomach clench. “What happened? Is Jonas okay?” Nervously, I prattled on, “I knew he shouldn’t have gone out with those guys. Did the boat blow up again?”
“What?” Trent cut me off before my rant could spiral totally out of control.
“What, what?” I snapped. Why couldn’t he just get to the point. “Jonas?” I prompted, as my anxiety over my husband spiked even further.
“What happened to Jonas?” Trent sounded concerned.
“I don’t know. That’s what I’m asking you.” I was practically shouting now. I’d had it with his attempts to act like he was John Wayne in some tense Western scene.
Trent cleared his throat, managing to instill an official tone in his voice. “I don’t know about anything happening to Jonas. That’s not why I’m calling.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, feeling my stomach churn as the worry drained away.
“He’s talking crazy. See, there’s this dead guy.” Trent gulped, the authoritative tone gone again. “I mean the dead guy isn’t talking, of course. But then, you don’t have a father.”
“What am I, a baboon?” I felt my eyes narrowing as I stared out the sliding glass door into my mother’s backyard. Just like Trent; less than one minute on the phone and already I was fit to be tied with him.
“What?” Trent managed.
“I had a father, of course. It’s just that he’s dead.” I shook my head. “Why are you calling me, Trent Walker? It’s early on a Saturday morning and I’m enjoying some alone time.” Jonas and I had been living with my mother, in her house, for what felt like years now.
Jonas kept reminding me it had only been five months.
Only! I was counting down the days until we moved into our own place next weekend.
“It’s almost eleven o’clock, Lizzie,” Trent protested.
“Yeah. Early,” I emphasized. “And I thought I told you to stop calling me that.”
“Sorry.” Trent took a breath. “Look, there’s a guy here in jail who claims he’s your father. He wanted me to call you and was adamant that I not call your mother.”
He laughed. “I mean crazy, huh? We arrested him in the vicinity of the dead guy. The whole case is just bizarre. There’s this dog, you see.” He gulped again. “The dead guy’s dog. It’s nutty. This dog—”
“Trent!” I interrupted to make him stop babbling nonsense. He only did that about a case when he was nervous. “Back up. What did you say about somebody pretending to be my father?”
“The guy we arrested on outstanding warrants says he’s your father.”
I wondered if someone was trying to prank me. “What’s his name?”
“Alan Azucar,” answered Trent.
I drew in a sudden breath, feeling my heart race. “I haven’t heard that name in years.”
“Was that your father? I’ve never heard you mention him.”
Trent sounded sincere in his confusion, but I was still suspicious. It wasn’t beyond possibility that he was trying to get back at me for something. “Well, it was his name.”
“The ID checks out.” Trent sounded confident, more and more official. “Also, he seemed to know an awful lot about your mother when she was young, as well as some of the other old-timers in Jenkins.”
Despite myself, I snorted. “Better not let my mother hear you refer to her as an old-timer.”
“I didn’t—” Sounding seriously off-balance at the idea of my mother coming after him, he paused to gather his wits. Bless his heart, for a grown man, he still seemed to get awfully flustered around me.
I knew it wasn’t appropriate for a happily married woman, but I did sort of enjoy having that kind of impact on my high school boyfriend. We hadn’t been an item in over ten years. He was so not my type now. Jonas was a much better fit for me and knew he had nothing to worry about between me and Trent. Calling Jonas my husband still sounded surprising to my ears and always gave my heart a tingle.
“Look,” exclaimed Trent. “Do you want to come down to the station and talk to him?”
I hesitated as I felt the sting on my psyche from years of my mother bad-mouthing the man who had been my father. “What did you arrest him for?”
“Why does that matter?”
I came up with a quick excuse. “I’m not sure I want to meet any dangerous criminals.”
“But . . .”
I thought I knew why Trent’s voice had trailed off—and it was even partially fair. He had to be thinking of the other killers I’d met since returning to Jenkins. None of them were my fault, and meeting them wasn’t a habit I chose or intended to maintain. “I meant I don’t want to be related to any.”
“We arrested him for a bunch of outstanding speeding tickets.”
“Speeding tickets?” My voice sounded incredulous even to me.
“Over ten grand worth,” Trent justified briskly. “You’ve heard that the Arkansas attorney general has a new initiative to crack down on even minor criminals, get unpaid fines cleared up and all. It’s based on the ‘broken windows’ theory of crime. I actually quite like his thinking—”
“Trent,” I broke in, not interested in a criminology lecture at the moment. I still hadn’t had my second cup of coffee and he was rattling on about a politician who was running for governor.
“Sorry,” said Trent. “Anyway, Mr. Azucar’s Arkansas speeding tickets have penalties that have accumulated over the last . . .” He paused and added, in a strained voice, “Twenty-eight years.”
“Mom!” I yelled, then remembered she was out at some county commissioner event this morning. Or was it a school board thing? Maybe one of her patients? Between her job as a physician and her elected posts on the school board and county commission, keeping up with the woman was basically impossible. Not to mention her weekly card games with her friends and whatever else she had a mind to stick her nose into.
Sensing my tension, our border collie, Daisy, bounded over to make sure everything was all right and rubbed her head against my leg. It was nice of her to show she cared, but I was beyond her skills right now. Was this truly my father, back from the dead?
“Elizabeth Mae Trout!” shouted Trent.
Startled, I snapped, “What?! And why are you yelling at me?”
“That’s the third time I called you. You didn’t respond the other two,” he explained at a less obnoxious level.
“Well.” Despite my confusion, I tried to project indignation in my tone. He knew I hated being called Elizabeth Mae. Only my mother used to call me that, and only when she was really mad at me. I didn’t even care for Ella Mae but had given up on trying to get the townspeople to stop using my childhood nickname.
“Lizzie?” repeated Trent into the silence.
“I’ll be there right away.”
[Read the rest of the story starting on July 14, 2022]
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