“What are you doing hiding in here, Liza? Eddie was asking where you were.” Edie closed the door to the small bedroom and went to sit beside Eliza, who was crouched on the setee, her head in her hands.
“Did anyone see you?” Eliza raised her head quickly and looked at the door in alarm. “Did John Robert see you?”
“Is that what you’re worried about? He’s been coming for weeks now, and he’s always got a drink in his hand. I’ve even seen him chatting up some of the girls.”
“Yes, he has a drink in his hand, but do you actually see him drink it? And which girls? Not you or Lucille or Caroline. He’s watching for me. He wants to catch me in sin and drag me out of the bar for all to see.”
“That’s just crazy. I know he’s a bully, but you’re his sister in law! Why his family practically took care of you from the moment your parents died.”
“That was his idea too. He had me all picked out for his brother – the naïve little preacher’s daughter.”
“Oh come on, honey, he’s all bluster. All bark and no bite.”
Eliza stood up and glared down at Edith. “He just know where to bite so no one can see the marks. He’s more than a bully, Edie. He’s a dangerous man, a dangerous man with a cause. And because he’s powerful he can get away with it. No one questions him.”
“Good grief, Liza, you make him sound like a monster.” Edie tried to laugh.
“More like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Remember Lawrence?”
Edie was silent then. Lawrence Sumpter had been the mayor of the town. At first, it had seemed like he and John Robert were friends. But eventually they disagreed, and Lawrence wasn’t one to back down and fall in line like the rest of the town did, despite the McCollum money. Then suddenly he wasn’t elected mayor again, and almost as suddenly he disappeared. Eliza’s mother-in-law had said h ran with his tail between his legs, but Eliza didn’t think so. His children lived just outside, and his wife was buried at the Methodist cemetery. He wouldn’t have just left Decatur with no word.
“You think John Robert’s gonna run you out of town for drinking at a speakeasy? The same one he’s been drinking at?” Edie laughed. “You’re crazy!”
Eliza sat beside Edie, took her hands, and looked at her seriously. “Edie, I don’t think John Robert ran Lawrence out of town. And I don’t think that’s what he’d do that to me either.”
At first Edie tilted her head, confused. Then, as Eliza continued to look at her, realization dawned. “On my God, Liza, you don’t think…..now I know you’re crazy. You actually think your own brother would kill you?”
“Only after he completely destroyed me. No, he wouldn’t kill me; he’d get his little puppet, Cranston to do it, or Memphis Joe. And no one would ever know.” Eliza let go of Edie’s hand and turned away, slumping in defeat. “And all in the name of righteousness.”