"Do you mind if I ask what the job is?"
"Yes. I mean, no, I don't mind. We're in the market for a dishwasher."
A reluctant grin tugged at Jack's mouth. "I heard."
"Well, even if we fix the machine, we'll still need someone to run it."
"Is it full time?"
"Part time...afternoons. Minimum wage."
Jack's face fell. He had a Ph.D. in history, and was applying for a job that paid $5.15 per hour. Misinterpreting his reaction, Delilah said, "I've been asking Addie to hire a prep cook a while now. That would be a part-time morning job, wouldn't it?"
Addie hesitated. "Have you ever worked in a kitchen before, Mr...."
"St. Bride. Jack. And yeah, I have." He didn't say where the kitchen was, or that he'd been a guest of the state at the time.
"That beats the last guy you hired," Delilah said. "Remember when we found him shooting up over the scrambled eggs?"
"It's not like he mentioned his habit at the interview." Addie turned to Jack. "How old are you?"
Ah, this was the moment -- the one where she'd ask him why a man his age would settle for menial work like this. "Thirty-one."
She nodded. "If you want the job, it's yours."
No application, no references, no questions about his past employment. And anonymity -- no one would ever expect to find him washing dishes in a diner. For a man who had determined to put his past firmly behind him, this situation seemed too good to be true. "I'd like it very much," Jack managed.
"Then grab an apron," said his new boss.
Suddenly, he remembered that there was something he needed to do, if Salem Falls was going to become his new residence. "I need about an hour to run an errand," he said.
"No problem. It's the least I can do for the person who saved me."
Funny, Jack thought. I was thinking the same thing.
Detective-Lieutenant Charlie Saxton fiddled with the radio in his squad car for a few moments, then switched it off. He listened to the squelch of slush under the Bronco's tires and wondered, again, if he should have stayed with the Miami Police Department.
It was a hard thing to be a law enforcement officer in the town where you'd once grown up. You'd walk down the street, and instead of noticing the IGA, you'd remember the storeroom where a local teen had knifed his girlfriend. You'd pass the school playground and think of the drugs confiscated from the children of the town selectmen. Where everyone else saw the picture-perfect New England town of their youth, you saw the underbelly of its existence.
His radio crackled as he turned onto Main Street. "Saxton."
"Lieutenant, there's some guy here insisting he'll talk only to you."
Even with the bad reception, Wes sounded pissed. "He got a name?"
"If he does, he isn't giving it up."
Charlie sighed. For all he knew, this man had committed murder within town lines and wanted to confess. "Well, I'm driving into the parking lot. Have him take a seat."
He swung the Bronco into a spot, then walked in to find his guest cooling his heels.
Literally. Charlie's first thought, pure detective, was that the guy couldn't be from around here -- no one who lived in New Hampshire was stupid enough to wear a sports jacket and dress shoes in the freezing slush of early March. Still, he didn't seem particularly distraught, like the recent victim of a crime, or nervous, like a perp. No, he just looked like a guy who'd had a lousy day. Charlie extended his hand. "Hi there. Detective-Lieutenant Saxton."
The man didn't identify himself. "Could I have a few minutes of your time?"
Charlie nodded, his curiosity piqued. He led the way to his office, and gestured to a chair. "What can I do for you, Mr...."
"Jack St. Bride. I'm moving to Salem Falls."
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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