“Thanks. And, hey, it’s really great, you know. The way you all get along.”
“We all?” Blake asked.
“You, Martin DuPre and Grable Haines.”
Blake shrugged uncomfortably. He might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he wasn’t stupid.
“Yeah, we get along all right.”
Jackson laughed. “That didn’t sound convincing.”
“We all really love the senator. Grable, he’s a cool guy, but he’s had his problems. He likes to gamble, and he’s definitely a ladies’ man. Girls just like him. All he has to do is grin. Maybe I am a little jealous, but, hey, he’s fine. We have to kill time together sometimes, and it’s cool.”
“What about Martin DuPre?” Jackson asked him.
“Well, he’s an aspiring politician himself, you know?” Blake said.
“You don’t like him.”
“I never said that.”
“But you don’t.”
“I take my orders from the senator. I don’t like Martin DuPre thinking he can snap his fingers at me. I tell him that. And I’ve told the senator that. Otherwise, well…I guess he’s a little too Goody Two-shoes. He’s with the senator, or he’s at home on some online course about how to speak with proper diction, how to market, how to win the love of a crowd. He’s a bit much for me, that’s all.”
“Different personalities,” Jackson sympathized.
“Yeah. And you’re going to dig into all our pasts, right? Because Senator Holloway is so torn up about Regina. If you haven’t found it yet, you will, so I’ll just give you the scoop on me. I did three years in juvenile for manslaughter. I killed a guy in a fight. It really wasn’t my fault—other than I let the fight happen. Knocked him flat, and he came at me with a knife, and I didn’t let him kill me. So, you can look into me all you want, and you won’t find anything more. I paid for my sins, that’s for sure. But I’m not worried about you or anybody else, because I found my peace.”
“I’m glad to hear it. How?”
“I found God. I’m a born-again Christian, sir, and I let anyone know it.”
“Well, Blake, it’s a very good thing for a man to find his own peace. So, tell me, though, seeing as how you have found your own inner peace, how do you feel about the Church of Christ Arisen?”
Blake stared at him, shaking his head. “Those people are listening to demons, that’s all I can tell you. Christ loves every man, and he comes to every man in a different way, and he doesn’t hate those who are confused or haven’t found their way. And Christ does not say that a man should sleep with children, and he sure doesn’t say that a man should do injury to any other. Those people are just wacko, and they hate everyone. My God teaches love—theirs teaches something I don’t begin to understand.”
“You never had any trouble with Regina or David Holloway over religion, I take it?” Jackson asked him.
Blake grinned. “Regina and me, we loved to argue! She was a good Roman Catholic, and I used to tease her about getting guidance from mediums and tarot card readers. She told me her beliefs, and I told her mine, and we’d have a good time arguing now and then. David Holloway is a moderate himself, and he’d always just shake his head. The senator, he always said that debate was good for a man, as long as a man remembered that we were in the U.S. of A., where every man and woman was entitled to his own beliefs—as long as those beliefs did no harm to others.”
“And you don’t believe that the Church of Christ Arisen means no harm to others?” Jackson asked.
“They haven’t been caught on anything yet, but if you call brainwashing children harm, well, then, I think they cause a lot of harm. You might want to look into them,” Blake said. He cut himself off abruptly.
“Was there any trouble between them and the senator that we might not know about?” Jackson asked him.
He looked uncomfortable. “No. Nothing I know about.”
“And the Aryans?”
“Assholes,” Blake said gravely. “And I mean that in every Christian way possible.”
Jackson grinned, but he didn’t leave. “There is something that you’re not telling me,” he said. “Come on—no man can lead a perfect life.”
“I think the senator tried,” Blake said. “I think he tried. I really can’t say anything else except that I heard him talking to DuPre one day, and it sounded…financial.”
“DuPre needed money?” Jackson asked.
“I don’t think it was for DuPre,” Blake said.
“Are you talking blackmail?” Jackson asked.
“I’m not talking anything,” Blake said firmly. “Anything I have is a vague notion, and could be entirely wrong. You got questions—ask the senator.”
He indicated the door beyond the vestibule.
“Please, sir, go right on in. I don’t think that I’ll warn Lisa. I think you should meet Miss Drummond all on your own,” Blake said.
Jackson arched a brow.
But Blake wasn’t going to tell him anything more; if there was something going on between Senator Holloway and his secretary, Blake was going to flatly give him away. He did apparently love David Holloway. He might throw out a few hints, but…
“You said that you wanted to know all of us who were close to the Holloways,” Blake said.
“That I did. Thank you.”
Jackson opened the second door, and walked in.
There was a woman at a large desk, offering the usual: computer, medium-size screen, a picture frame, intercom and an appointment book by the side. The desk spoke of hard work.
The woman, Lisa Drummond, he assumed, wasn’t what he had expected. She wasn’t in her twenties, or even in her early thirties. She was attractive, but nearing forty, thin, with a short businesslike haircut to her light blond hair and an attractive, if not beautiful, face. From the pictures he had seen of Regina Holloway—in life, not once her skull had been shattered and her neck broken—she had been far more attractive than the secretary.
“Hello, what can I do for you?” she asked Jackson, smiling, but studying him carefully. Senator Holloway might have a bodyguard, but this woman was looking out for him as well.
“You’re Lisa Drummond?” he asked her.
He smiled, offering her his hand. “I’m Jackson Crow. I’m working on discovering the truth behind Mrs. Holloway’s death.”
“Oh, yes, of course! How do you do?” she said. She seemed pleased to meet him, and slightly nervous at the same time.
“Fine, thanks,” he told her. “I was wondering if I could get a minute or two of the senator’s time,” he told her.
She frowned. “I thought he went out to see you,” she said.
“Yes, he did, and we were grateful.”
“He just hates that house, you know.”
“I can imagine,” Jackson said. He waited politely. She kept staring at him.
“Do you think it’s possible for me to see him again now?” Jackson asked.
“Oh, let me just ask,” she said. She didn’t use the intercom. She leaped to her feet. She was slim with the right combination of business and femininity in a two-piece suit and white blouse. She wore heels, and her legs were nicely formed. Of course, the idea that the senator might have had an affair was definitely making him take note, even though an affair didn’t have to be with a man’s secretary.
She disappeared into the office. Jackson heard the two of them talking. Lisa had an edge of fear to her voice. The senator’s replies were low—so low Jackson only knew that he was replying because of her responses. He couldn’t make out Lisa’s words.
The door to the inner office opened. Lisa looked at him nervously, patting her short hair. “Come on in, Mr. Crow, please,” she said.
Jackson walked on in.
“Jackson,” the senator said, standing. He offered his hand. “So, you’ve come to see my New Orleans offices.”
“Yes, I just wanted to ask you a few more questions, if you don’t mind,” Jackson said.
“Of course, I don’t mind. I’ve brought you here,” the Senator said. “I pestered the right people to get Adam Harrison to find someone to do something about this situation. I’m here to serve you in any way. Please, have a seat.”
Jackson sat across the desk from the senator. Lisa Drummond hovered nervously by the edge of his desk.
“Can we get you anything, Jackson? Coffee, iced tea? Something stronger?” the senator asked.
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Jackson said.
“Thank you, Lisa,” Holloway said. His tone was gentle. His words were dismissive.
With no other choice, Lisa smiled and walked slowly out of the room.
“What can I help you with, Mr. Crow?”
“I understand that Regina went to see a voodoo priestess,” Jackson said.
He saw the man’s expression change, his easy composure vanish and his muscles harden. Holloway waved a hand in the air. “I can’t possibly explain to you how deeply my wife felt the loss of our child. She was inconsolable.”
“You didn’t like the idea of her consulting outside religions?” Jackson asked.
“Religions? You mean voodoo?” Holloway asked.
“It is a religion.”
Holloway sniffed. “Yes, and that heinous Church of Christ Arisen is supposedly a recognized religion, too. You know, you can register online and become a minister of something or other overnight. I believe in our great Constitution, friend, but, sometimes…” He paused. “I should be politically correct. But right now, here’s the truth. I think that so-called voodoo might have finally warped Regina’s mind. That’s what I want to know. Ghosts, voodoo, belief in hokum. Belief that ghosts exist, maybe. She was a sensible, intelligent woman once. And now…well, that’s why you’re here. You tell me, where do we draw the line on our freedoms—and insanity?”