F is for Fugitive

F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

Book: F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sue Grafton
hand on his gun butt, his gaze shifting from point to point, searching (I assumed) for some indication that the escapee was being harbored on the premises.
    As soon as the patrol car pulled away, friends began to arrive with solemn expressions, dropping off casseroles. Some of these people I’d seen at the courthouse and I couldn’t tell if their appearance was motivated by sympathy or a craven desire to be part of the continuing drama. Two neighbor ladies came, introduced to me as Mrs. Emma and Mrs. Maude, aging sisters who’d known Bailey since he was a boy. Robert Haws, the minister from the Baptist church, appeared along with his wife, June, and yet another woman who introduced herself as Mrs. Burke, the owner of the Laundromat two blocks away. She just popped over for a minute, she said, to see if there was anything she could do. I was hoping she’d offer cut rates on the Fluff ’n’ Fold, but apparently this didn’t occur to her. Judging from Mrs. Maude’s expression, she disapproved of the store-bought frozen cheesecake the Laundromat lady handed over so blithely. Mrs. Maude and Mrs. Emma exchanged a look that suggested this was not the first time Mrs. Burke had flaunted her lack of culinary zealousness. The phone rang incessantly. Mrs. Emma appointed herself the telephone receptionist, fielding calls, keeping a log of names and return numbers in case Ori felt up to it later.
    Royce refused to see anyone, but Ori entertained from her bed, repeating endlessly the circumstances under which she’d heard the news, what she’d first thought, when the facts had finally penetrated, and how she’d commenced to howl with misery until thedoctor sedated her. Whatever Tap Granger’s fate or her son’s fugitive status, she experienced events as peripheral to “The Ori Fowler Show,” in which she starred. Before I had a chance to slip out of the room, the minister asked us to join him in a word of prayer. I have to confess, I’ve never been taught proper prayer etiquette. As far as I can tell, it consists of folded hands, solemnly bowed heads, and no peeking at the other supplicants. I don’t object to religious practices, per se. I’m just not crazy about having someone else inflict their beliefs on me. Whenever Jehovah’s Witnesses appear at my door, I always ask for their addresses first thing, assuring them that I’ll be around later in the week to plague them with my views.
    While the minister interceded with the Lord in Bailey Fowler’s behalf, I absented myself mentally, using the time to study his wife. June Haws was in her fifties, no more than five feet tall and, like many women in her weight class, destined for a sedentary life. Naked, she was probably dead white and dimpled with fat. She wore white cotton gloves with some sort of amber-staining ointment visible at the wrist. With her face blocked out, hers were the kind of limbs one might see in a medical journal, illustrative of particularly scabrous outbreaks of impetigo and eczema.
    When Reverend Haws’s interminable prayer had come to a close, Ann excused herself and went into the kitchen. It was clear that the appearance of servitude on her part was actually a means of escaping whenevershe could. I followed her and, in the guise of being helpful, began to set out cups and saucers, arranging Pepperidge Farm cookies on plates lined with paper doilies while she hauled out the big stainless-steel coffee urn that usually sat in the office. On the kitchen counter, I could see a tuna casserole with crushed potato chips on top, a ground beef and noodle bake, and two Jell-O molds (one cherry with fruit cocktail, one lime with grated carrots), which Ann asked me to refrigerate. It had only been an hour and a half since Bailey fled the courthouse in a blaze of gun-fire. I didn’t think gelatin set up that fast, but these Christian ladies probably knew tricks with ice cubes that would

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