Royal(97)

By: Winter Renshaw


For now, I’m going to go take the woman I love on a lunch date. And after that, I’m going to look into getting that pre-law degree, and maybe someday I’ll get into law school and become an attorney like I’d always wanted.

Only I won’t follow the Rosewood prosecutor path.

I’ll be a defense attorney.

Because the good ones are few and far between, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to save an innocent man from the seven-year hell I experienced.





Chapter Forty-Seven



Demi



{two months later}



The handles of the grocery basket hanging from my arm leave indentations. I should’ve gotten a cart, but I’d only come here to grab a few staples and some items for dinner tonight. Royal requested lasagna. And not the frozen kind. Bliss’s recipe.

So that’s what he’s getting tonight. Lasagna. Salad. Breadsticks.

But of course, as I was getting lost on my way to grab a quart of ricotta, I happened by his favorite cookies and yogurt and those little candied raisins he loves.

God, he’s like a child.

That’s why I rarely take him to the store with me. He loads our cart with everything we don’t need, and he thinks it’s hilarious.

And sometimes it is.

Two weeks ago, he put a jar of pickled pig feet in the cart, and I didn’t see it until we were checking out.

I’m fourth in line now, and the lady three spots ahead has an overflowing cart. Pretty sure she could feed a small country with all of that.

The two spots ahead of me are occupied with two little old ladies in knit shawls and matching white perms cut short. One lady wears coordinating turquoise earrings and rings, and the other’s lips are slicked in a blinding shade of raspberry.

They’re mostly laughing, whispering here and there. After a minute, their expressions sober. I’m guessing their conversation took a more serious turn.

“It’s so sad, Betty,” Raspberry Lips says, placing her hand on her friend’s arm. “All those people, their retirements . . . poof. Gone.”

“My goodness, I just can’t even imagine,” Betty says, her voice rife with condolences. “I’m living off Virgil’s pension, but boy, half the town handed their money to that man to manage.”

“And everyone thought they were getting filthy stinking rich. I just knew it was too good to be true.” Raspberry Lips clucks her tongue. “I don’t know what they’re going to do now. They’re too old to start over.”

Betty makes the sign of the cross. “They’re in God’s hands now.”

“I heard a bunch of them are looking for a good attorney to take him on. They’re going to sue the ever-loving daylights out of that young man,” Lips says, staring down her pointed nose. Her penciled-on eyebrows lift, and she looks like a scolding schoolteacher.

I would know.

“Excuse me.” I interrupt because I can’t stand it a moment longer, and the twinge in my gut gives me a feeling I need to have confirmed. “Do you mind if I ask who you’re discussing?”

Betty glances behind me, swallows, and leans in. “That Brooks Abbott fellow, with Abbott Financial.”

My heart lands at my feet, and my mouth dries.

“Do you know him?” she asks. “He’s about your age. Not very old at all.”

I swallow the lump in my throat and nod.

“Yeah, I used to know him,” I say. “What did he do? Exactly?”

Raspberry Lips leans in, her hand on Betty’s shoulder. “He was running some sort of Ponzi scheme operation.”

“My God.” I almost drop my basket of groceries when my arms go to Jell-O. The credit cards. The cash advances. The constant moving around of money. The secretiveness. He was constantly buying and selling random things. He never really had any real money.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars. All gone.” Betty shakes her head. “Can you even imagine?”

“How did they find out?” I ask.

“Apparently, he was in a really bad accident a couple of months ago,” Lips says. “While he was recovering, his accountant and partners were trying to balance the sheets, and the numbers just weren’t adding up. That’s when they realized what he’d been doing all this time.”

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