Secrets Big and Small
“Mrs. Doubt’s Arts and Crafts, how may I help you?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was looking for Tommy’s Floral.” I hung up the phone and waited.
Normally Espy’s cloak and dagger routine bugged me, but the easiest way to get information out of her was to play along. Let it never be said I couldn’t appreciate the big picture.
My phone chirped and I flipped it open.
“This line secure?” Esperanza demanded.
Someday, she would stop insulting my intelligence by asking that. “It’s my hunter phone, Espy.”
“Good boy,” she said.
I ignored that. “Zo Williams.”
“What about her?”
“Her number’s come up,” I said. “Give me everything you have.”
“Everything, Regan?” Her fingers clacked keys in the background. “I have a lot.”
“Everything.” I paced slowly around the guest room. “Every school she’s ever been to, every boyfriend she’s ever had, everyone that’s ever smiled at her on the street. Give me everything, Espy. I want it all.”
“You seem really bent on this,” Espy said.
“Good luck,” she said. “File’s on the way.”
“Don’t need luck,” I said. “I have me.”
“She has a grandma in a nursing home close by,” I announced, returning to Milly’s room.
“Zo?” she asked, sitting up.
“Well, not the Tooth Fairy, Mills.”
She rolled her eyes. “Are you gonna go see her?”
“Of course.” I turned and left her room. “Coming?”
I heard her scrambling off the bed to follow me. “Regan, wait,” she called as I strode down the hallway. “Are you sure you wanna bring her family into this?”
“Why not?” I started down the stairs. “As good as Espy is there’s no intel to match that from someone who knows her. Grandma will have insight into Zo’s personality that no one else will.”
“What if Zo finds out?”
“What if she does?” I returned. “She’s dead anyway.”
“Regan—” Milly started, but we’d reached the ground floor. “Going for a drive, be back later.”
“Bye, guys,” her mom tossed as we left the house.
As the door closed, Milly said, “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
I shrugged, heading for my car. “You don’t have to come.”
“That’s not what I mean,” she said, frustrated. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea in general.”
“Milly, what do you think I’m gonna do?” I asked. “Hold Grams hostage until Zo shows up?”
“What, you’re not vicious enough for that?” Milly mocked.
“No,” I said, opening my door. “I’m too vicious for that.”
Milly didn’t try to talk to me out of it anymore once we got on the road. We didn’t talk about much at all, actually, both of us lost in our own thoughts. I turned the possibilities over in my head, the different ways I could get Zo by herself and off her. I steadfastly refused to think about a certain other vampire, and how he might react to his ex’s death.
At least, that’s what I told myself.
Zo’s grandmother was locked away in a nursing home on the outskirts of town. It seemed like the only place I ever went these days was on the outskirts of town. We pulled into the parking lot a little bit before noon.
“You ready?” I asked Milly.
She sighed. “I guess so.”
She followed me as I sauntered toward the reception desk. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of hospital smell, but the wealth of candle burners at the desk explained that.
A woman in a god-awful nurse’s smock greeted us.
“Hello.” I cast her a charming smile. “We’re looking for Edie Spencer.”
The nurse pointed us down the hall and we headed toward Edie Spender’s room. As we got closer Milly started to trail behind me a little bit. I wanted to tell her to go sit in the car, but she was a big girl. If she was uncomfortable, she knew where we parked.
I rapped my knuckles on the door-frame of the room. “Ms. Spencer? I hope we’re not disturbing you.”
Zo’s grandmother was sitting in a big recliner watching TV, and looked up at us. Her white hair brushed the shoulders of the floral-patterened top she wore. I would bet her pants were the elastic waistband type native to old people everywhere.
“Oh, not at all.” She beckoned us in, shutting off the TV. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, Ms. Spencer—”
“Edie,” she broke in firmly.
“All right,” I said. “Edie. We’re friends of Zo’s, and lately we’ve been a little worried about her.”
Edie’s face lit up at the mention of her grandchild, a look which slowly taper off as I continued.
“Worried?” she asked. “In what way?”
Scrunching up my face, I said, “I’m not sure. She’s just been…different recently.”
Edie scowled. “It’s probably those fool friends of hers she’s been hanging around. They’re trouble, I can spot it a mile away. Except for that Cam boy,” she added thoughtfully. “He’s a nice boy.”
“I don’t mean to alarm you,” I said. “It’s just that, well, I know she has a problem, sometimes, staying out of trouble.”
Cackling, Edie said, “Oh, you don’t know the half of it. We used to just get into it, she and I. She never wanted to let anyone help her with anything.”
“That’s understandable,” I said softly. “I mean, what happened to her parents is not something you just get over.”
Milly looked at me sharply, but I ignored her.
“No, you certainly don’t.” Edie shook her head sadly. “The fights we used to have, the shouting matches. I tried so hard to get her to understand there are some things we just don’t have the power to control.”
“I can’t imagine that went over well.” I packed my voice full of sympathy.
Edie sighed. “One time she said to me ‘I will never be this powerless again, I swear to God.’ And I told her to be careful what she swore to God because he listens.”
“Tragic things happen,” I said. “All we can do is try and learn from them.” I could feel Milly’s eyes burning holes in my face.
“I never had to worry about my girl off at parties, at least,” Edie said. “She’s never touched alcohol that I know of.”
No, I thought. She found a different liquor.
“She was always so desperate not to get hurt I worried she’d be all alone,” Edie went on. "And then she broke up with that Ira, such a shame.”
“You met Ira?” Surprise made my voice sharper than I intended.
“Oh, yes.” Edie beamed. “Such a nice boy, and so handsome. They looked so good together.”
I forcibly restrained a full-body twitch.
“But if she can’t have him,” the old woman continued. “I’m glad she has friends like you who’ll come all this way when you’re worried about her.” She reached out to grip my hand. “You’re good friends.”
“We try,” I smiled, soft and shy.
Edie patted my hand and let it go.
“Well, Edie,” I said. “We should probably go. Oh, if you see Zo don’t tell her about this, would you? She’d be upset if she knew we were this worried.”
“I know how she is.” Edie chuckled and gave me a wink. “It’ll be our little secret.”
“Thank you so much, it was good to talk to you,” I said. “You’ve been more help than you know.”