Her head swam. Could the accountant have reported them to the board of health so quickly? Did a law enforcement officer have the power to make her close her doors? But before she could voice her doubts, the policeman spoke again.
"It's your father," Orren explained, blushing. "He's been arrested."
Addie stormed into the police department with such force that the double doors slammed back on their hinges, letting in a gust of cold wind. "Jeez Louise," said the dispatch sergeant. "Hope Courtemanche found himself a good hiding place."
"Where is he?" Addie demanded.
"My best guess? Maybe in the men's room, in a stall. Or squeezed into one of the empty lockers in the squad room." The officer scratched his jaw. "Come to think of it, I once hid in the trunk of a cruiser when my wife was on the warpath."
"I'm not talking about Officer Courtemanche," Addie said through clenched teeth. "I meant my father."
"Oh, Roy's in the lockup." He winced, remembering something. "But if you're here to spring him, you're gonna have to talk to Wes anyway, since it was his arrest." He picked up the phone. "You can take a seat, Addie. I'll let you know when Wes is free."
Addie scowled. "I'm sure I'll know. You always smell a skunk before you see it."
"Why, Addie, is that any way to speak to the man who saved your father's life?"
In his blue uniform, his badge glinting like a third eye, Wes Courtemanche was handsome enough to make women in Salem Falls dream about committing crimes. Addie, however, took one look at him and thought -- not for the first time -- that some men ought to come with an expiration date.
"Arresting a sixty-five-year-old man isn't my idea of saving his life," she huffed.
Wes took her elbow and led her gently down the hall, away from the dispatch sergeant's eyes and ears. "Your father was driving under the influence again, Addie."
Heat rose to her cheeks. Roy Peabody's drinking wasn't any secret in Salem Falls, but he'd gone one step too far last month, wrapping his car around the town's statue of Giles Corey, the only man who'd been a casualty of the Puritan witch hunts. Roy's license had been revoked. For his own safety, Addie had junked the car. And her own Mazda was safely parked at the diner. What vehicle could he have used?
As if he could read her mind, Wes said, "He was in the breakdown lane of Route 10, on his ride-on mower."
"His ride-on mower," Addie repeated. "Wes, that thing can't go more than five miles an hour."
"Fifteen, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, he doesn't have a license. And you need one if you're gonna operate any self-propelled vehicle on the street."
"Maybe it was an emergency..."
"Guess it was, Addie. We confiscated a brand-new fifth of vodka from him, too." Wes paused. "He was on his way home from the liquor store in North Haverhill." He watched Addie knead her temples. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"I think you've done enough, Wes. I mean, gosh, you arrested a man joyriding on a lawn mower. Surely they'll give you a Purple Heart or something for going to such extremes to ensure public safety."
"Now, just a second. I was ensuring safety...Roy's. What if a truck cut the curve too tight and ran him down? What if he fell asleep at the wheel?"
"Can I just take him home now?"
Wes regarded her thoughtfully. It made Addie feel like he was sorting through her mind, opening up certain ideas and shuffling aside others. She closed her eyes.
"Sure," Wes said. "Follow me."
He led her down a hallway to a room at the back of the police department. There was a wide desk manned by another officer, a high counter with ink pads for fingerprinting, and in the shadowy distance, a trio of tiny cells. Wes touched her forearm. "I'm not going to write him up, Addie."
Copyright © 2001 by Jodi Picoult. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Pocket Books.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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