Home > Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(7)

Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(7)
Jennifer Jaynes

“You think you should call Dr. Broussard?” he asked. “This has been going on for far too long. It’s not healthy for her to stay holed up like that.”

Haley sighed. “He was just here a couple of weeks ago. She wanted some pills to help her sleep. Now she stays in there and sleeps more than she did before.” Haley sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”

The phone rang. Haley sprang up and hurried into the kitchen. “That’s gotta be Tiffany.”

When she picked it up, she immediately heard terror in the voice on the other end of the line. “Please tell me Tiffany’s there,” Mrs. Perron croaked.

Haley glanced at her watch, and her heart skipped a beat. It was already five past four.

Chapter 6

FIVE MINUTES AFTER the phone call, Mrs. Perron climbed into Mac’s truck and thrust an ample hip into Haley’s side. Haley squeezed closer to Mac, and Mrs. Perron slammed the truck door closed.

“Le bon dieu!” she cried, mascara smeared into the deep recesses beneath her worried eyes. “It’s not like my Tiffany to run off like this!”

Mac threw the truck into gear and headed to Trespass Gardens, where Charles lived. Haley looked out at the dusty road watching the big cypress trees as they whizzed by, their branches seeming to reach for the truck. She folded her arms over her body and held herself tight. Where could Tiffany be?

In the distance, a cottonmouth slithered across the blacktop. Mac skillfully eased the truck across the yellow dotted lines, sparing its life. As Haley glanced behind her, watching the reptile hurry into the unkempt grass at the edge of the woods, she thought again of what Tiffany had begun to tell her, wondering if the guy she’d been flirting with was someone she knew. If he could have had anything to do with her not returning home. But just as quickly as the thought had come, she dismissed it.

Tiffany was with Charles. She was okay.

A few minutes later, they pulled off the two-lane blacktop road and bounced their way into Trespass Gardens, a park on the opposite end of Trespass Bayou that housed trailers and small shack-like houses. Gravel crunched beneath the truck as they crawled past one old trailer after another, then several shack-like houses appeared. Haley took in the porches that sagged beneath tattered couches and disfigured toys. Trash barrels of all sizes and colors were lined up for collection.

Soiled-faced children played freeze tag in front of the homes, running through bent sprinklers and beneath clotheslines that groaned with drying wash. Old people rested on lawn chairs and regarded them suspiciously as they rode by. A boom box had been set on the dusty hood of a mud-splattered Ford Escort and the noise of accordions and the wailing voice of Cajun singer Wayne Toups blasted through the blistering air.

Mrs. Perron clicked her tongue, shaking her head disapprovingly as they rolled past the rows of battered homes.

“There,” Haley said, pointing to a small white house in the distance. “That’s Charles’ house.”

Mac pulled off the path and slowed the truck. As soon as he yanked the emergency brake, Mrs. Perron was out the truck door and hurrying up to the porch. At the top of the steps, she smoothed out her pink polo shirt and yanked open the screen door. She rapped loudly.

Mac’s engine popped and hissed as the two sat watching the older woman. “How many times have you been out here?” Mac asked.

“Just once,” Haley said, looking around. A tricycle lay on its side next to two crepe myrtles. Azalea bushes were in full bloom in rock gardens at either side of the concrete steps that led to the front door. Unlike most of the homes in Grand Trespass, Charles’ actually looked cared for.

He fumbled for his cigarettes. “This ain’t a good place for young girls to be hangin’ around.”

Haley had known Mac would comment about Trespass Gardens. He was always worrying over her. Had been for the whole year they’d been together.

He produced a cigarette. “Just want you to be safe is all.”

She looked into her boyfriend’s eyes. The boy who had stood by her side at her father’s funeral and afterward, taking care of the things her father had taken care of before he passed. The yard, the gutters, the siding, her tears.

“You worry about me too much.”

He grinned at her. “If I don’t, who will?”

Sticking the cigarette between his lips, he reached for the door. Before opening it, he glanced up at Mrs. Perron and shook his head. “The girl’s not right in the head. Making her mama worry like this is just plain wrong. A nice, wholesome girl like you would be better off with more upstanding friends. But you know where I stand on that subject,” he said and winked. Then he jumped out of the truck.

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