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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 31 of 92

Chapter 62 (Word prompts: baseball, hammock, swimming, shade, away, lemonade, snake, fair, flip flops)


Dinner was over and Madison was sitting at the computer with Dusty looking over her shoulder as she checked out the list of area rescues she had found earlier. She had already searched for Midtown Mutts and found that it was an Atlanta organization, but their T-shirts could be bought by anyone on line so it might not be much of a lead. Dusty had made a note of the website and intended to check into it the following day. He wanted to make a list of other possibilities to check out and was visiting each website and Facebook page on her list. Soon she told Dusty he could have her chair and started toward the kitchen to clean up.


Craig and Stan were both with the children who were busy planning the weekend. She needed to make a shopping list and lemonade would be at the top of it. But for right now she just stood in the doorway and watched the activity and tried to understand the flip flops that was coming from somewhere in the area of her heart. For some reason it made her think of the feeling she had when she noticed that wasp, only that was frightening where this was definitely pleasant.


She could hear the excitement in Johnny’s voice when he was talking about playing baseball. Even little Pearl was joining in.


“You’re too little”, said Johnny.


“No, I’m not.” A tiny stomping foot accompanied the exclamation.


Ruby, the peacemaker had the solution. “You can help Daisy and Tedi go after the balls.”


That seemed to satisfy everyone and Pearl went over to discuss the plan with the dogs who also seemed to approve.


Johnny sounded a bit less excited as he asked, “Are there really rats and snakes in the barn?”


“I don’t know”, said Stan. “But if they are you’ll be safe in those hammocks. When we were at camp there were even bears and wildcats and we were safe.”


Johnny wasn’t certain if Stan was to be trusted but he felt better about it anyway. Ruby again had the solution to the problem. “We don’t have to worry. We’ll just have Tedi and Daisy stay with us and they will chase any thing away before it can hurt us.”


Something in the way she said that almost broke Madison’s heart. She thought Craig noticed it too as their eyes suddenly met. There were no words needed.


Johnny was still questioning Stan about the camping. “Did your Dad take you camping when you were my age?”


Stan’s eyes suddenly seemed shaded and Madison wondered what the story was there?


“No. I went to camp with a lot of other boys.”


“What else did you do at camp?”


“We had a lake and we went swimming and learned to paddle a canoe. We had a campfire every night and our counselor had a guitar and we sang songs like “Home on the Range” and “Get Along Little Doggie”. Stan could tell the children didn’t know those songs. “I’ll tell you what, I have a guitar and I’ll bring it and I’ll teach you all those songs.”


Ruby got up and gave Stan a spontaneous hug and Madison’s heart flip flopped again. She turned and walked into the kitchen.


How was this possible? She couldn’t help but compare this gathering with the one of just the night before when she had been surrounded by so many friends, some of which she had known for years. But this feeling she had with those people in the other room, none of which she had known much over a week, and yet she had the feeling of a family there. For some reason her eyes seemed to be dripping. Perhaps that’s why she hadn’t noticed that Craig had come up behind her.


“I’m sorry”, he said. “That really wasn’t fair of me to mention plans for the weekend without checking it out with you first. Please know it’s OK if you want to cancel it and I’ll work it out with the children.”


Madison had never meant anything more in her life when she said “No, please don’t cancel it. It will be fine.”


(To be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 32 of 92

Chapter 61 (Word prompts) (baseball, hammock, swimming, shade, away, lemonade, snake, fair, flip flops)


It didn’t take long for both dogs and children to pile into the kitchen drawn by the aroma of hot pizza.


Madison was ready to pour some milk into the three glasses when Ruby took her glass away.


“What’s wrong? Don’t you like milk?”


Without looking up, Ruby shook her head “no”.


“Actually milk doesn’t sound very good to me with pizza”, said Craig. “What else do we have?’


A very shy voice almost whispered “Could I have some lemonade?”


Before Madison had a chance to answer, Stan apologized for not getting any of the lemonade but suggested some fruit punch. The children were suddenly all smiles as the pink liquid filled their glasses.


The meal was a joyous event and Madison had no idea how many morsels found their way to the floor and to the eager mouths of the dogs who had stationed themselves between the children. They made it a point to have general conversation during the meal. Craig had filled in the others about the Midtown Mutts and Madison had promised to check out the name on line later. Dusty had heard nothing from his sources but hoped to hear something soon. At least this gave them another possible lead.


Johnny and his sisters were giggling like children are supposed to. Craig was so happy to see this change in them and he couldn’t stop smiling himself, until Pearl’s small voice broke the merriment.

“Can we spend the night?”


It was as though a shade came over the party. “Not tonight, honey”, he said. This is a school night and all your clothes are at your house. Perhaps we can talk to Madison about staying here over the weekend when we don’t have to worry about school.”


Now it was Madison’s turn to drop the news. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mention that a friend of mine is coming tomorrow and will be staying the weekend.”


She expected to see more disappointment on the faces of the children, but instead Johnny was all smiles. “That’s OK, we’ll be in the barn anyway.”


Madison’s head did a slight flip flop as she tried to make sense of the conversation. Surely she had missed something.


Craig saw her confusion and tried to clear things up. “I was telling the kids about my plan to move the studio into the barn and they all volunteered to help. I was going to ask you if it would be OK to begin that on Saturday.”


“And he said we could hit some baseballs out in the field behind the garage”, said Johnny.


“I’m going to learn to play too”, said Ruby.


“And we could sleep out there”, said Pearl in the loudest voice that Madison had ever heard from the tiny child.


Madison knew there was no way to say no. The children had enough disappointment lately and certainly deserved a little joy. She knew that Craig had been trying to find ways to distract them from all the problems and, if truth be known, distract himself too. This had to be awkward for him.


By this time Stan was chiming in too with a plan to put up hammocks in the stalls to sleep in. “It’ll be just like camping out”, he said.


Madison didn’t want to spoil the plan and yet this last part worried her and she tried to get Craig’s attention who was making more plans with Stan and Dusty, who seemed to have access to camping supplies.


Finally he looked in her direction and she whispered as quietly as she could the possibility that there were rats or even snakes in the barn. Craig just shook his head and laughed at her. “That’s what hammocks are for.”


Madison’s head was practically swimming listening to all the plans being made around her. She told them about her friend and they were all anxious to meet her. She thought Stan was showing a particular interest when he asked if she was bringing her husband.  Upon being assured that Rebecca was without spouse Stan was immediately planning another party.


“I think it’s only right that we have a cook out to welcome your friend. The weather is supposed to be nice this weekend.”


The children were busy planning the menu and Madison had no desire to spoil the party. She only hoped Rebecca would be up to all this excitement. She would have to call later and give her fair warning so she could cancel and make other plans if necessary.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 33 of 92

Chapter 60 (Word prompts) offended, rules, fireworks, friends, group, heat, bicycle, rivalry, games, city limits


Madison stood at the window and watched the tail lights fade as the truck rounded the curve. She knew there were things to be done before Craig arrived back with the children but she felt no need to rush. It would take some time for him to get both children and pizza and it was nice to have a bit of quiet time before the house would be filled with a group that she could not yet really call friends. She wasn’t even certain what to call Craig at this point even though she couldn’t help but feel some heat between them and wondered if he felt it too. She did the best to put that thought out of her mind. There was no hope of that kind of fireworks in the foreseeable future.


With the shake of her head as though to clear it of those thoughts she returned to the kitchen, followed closely by Tedi and Daisy who thought each trip in that direction was reason for a treat. She had to admit that she had given them good reason to believe this and had been guilty of causing a rivalry between them when it came to the handing out of the prized biscuits. This time she gave no excuse to the game by holding out a bone-shaped morsel in each hand and simultaneously rewarded wagging tails. It was obvious this was appreciated as they munched their prizes after taking their places under the table.


She took a stack of plates from the cabinet and placed them on the table. Forks and knives were placed on a stack of napkins. That’s when she realized she had nothing to drink other than coffee or water. She wondered if Craig would think about this and thought about giving him a call, but a look at the clock showed her that he was probably on his way back by this time. That’s when she heard the sound of an engine out front.


She opened the front door expecting to see Craig with the children, but instead there was Stan, carrying a large bag and behind him a man who was unfamiliar to Madison. He was equally loaded with parcels and was being thoroughly inspected by Tedi and Daisy, who were especially interested in the pockets of the stranger.


“I’m sorry”, said Madison. “You must be Dusty. This is Daisy and Tedi and they consider it their duty to examine everyone who enters the house.”


“Don’t worry”, replied the sheriff. “I’m not in the least offended, in fact I’m accustomed to it and after I put this bag down I think we can all become friends.”


Madison showed them to the kitchen where they unloaded their bags. They placed beer, soft drinks and even milk into the refrigerator.


“We didn’t think there had been time to do some shopping and I didn’t know what you had on hand”, said Stan as he pulled out a loaf of bread and some cereal from one of the bags. “I’m afraid I cleaned out some of your pantry after you left on Sunday and I meant to replenish it before now.”


As Madison watched her pantry and frig being filled she watched Dusty pull something from his pocket and give it to each of the dogs. She couldn’t see what it was but she had the feeling that the sheriff had just made friends for life. He noticed her watching and chuckled, “You’ve no idea how many times a pocket filled with beef jerky comes in handy in my line of work.”


They were interrupted by the sound of excited voices coming from the other room. They caught the dogs by surprise and they went running in that direction, barking at the intrusion to be followed by a chorus of screams. Madison couldn’t tell if they were sounds of joy or terror, but went running toward the disturbance just in time to hear Craig call out.


“Wait a minute”, he called. “It’s time we make some rules about the appropriate way to enter a house.”


It was obvious he was wasting his breath as the three children were busy getting puppy kisses and stroking the soft fur.


Craig just smiled and shrugged as he looked at Madison.


“Come on and lets get these pizzas ready and I’ll tell you about the bicycle I just saw at the city limits.”


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 34 of 92

Chapter 59 (Word prompts) offended, rules, fireworks, friends, group, heat, bicycle, rivalry, games, city limits


By the time Craig had given a recap of the past few days it was nearing time to pick up the kids. They decided on a party for the night. Craig had discovered that the children’s favorite food seemed to be pizza and he could pick them up after he got the children. Before leaving he called Stan, who happened to be selling Dusty a new shirt, so Craig invited them both to the party. Perhaps there would be something good in having everyone together for an evening.


It was near 6:00 when Craig pulled up at the curb outside Kozy Korner. The days were getting longer now that spring had arrived and a group of children were still playing in the yard. He was glad to see both Ruby and Pearl were with the others, but Johnny was nowhere to be seen. He was more than a little concerned about the young boy. He was glad that Stan would be around tonight. He got the idea that the two of them had an understanding that he lacked himself. He sat in the car watching the children and recognizing for himself what a joy it was to have friends and finding the prospect of the evening pleasant.


It was the fireworks of young voices that interrupted Craig’s moment of reflection. It was obvious some rivalry had developed between two of the children. It was unclear what game was being played or what rule had been broken, but that wasn’t what concerned Craig. His heart broke as he saw Ruby and Pearl run onto the front porch and hide behind one of the columns at the same time Johnny came running from the house to stand in front of the same column as though to protect his younger sisters. Craig knew this was not the first time this had been necessary and he thought most of the time it had not been at Kozy Korner.


Maggie was soon running out the door too, followed by two other small children who didn’t look familiar to Craig. He wondered if Johnny had some friends too and hoped that was the case. He was amazed at how quickly the teacher quieted the group and in a matter of seconds several of the kids were smiling and shaking hands.


He was hoping to have a brief talk with Maggie and felt it would be better to see if things settled down a bit first. The scene with the children concerned him but he didn’t want the teacher to be offended when he mentioned it. He hoped to convey his admiration at her handling of it rather than his worry for the three youngsters.


As Craig reached the porch he could hear the unmistakable sounds of a child crying. He realized he’d never really heard sobs coming from any of the children and was unsure how to handle it. The thought of having a private talk with Maggie was completely abandoned until some time when the heat was less intense than it seemed to be tonight. He listened at the door to the comforting sounds of her voice and wondered if he would be able to duplicate it if the need should arise. In a few minutes he took a deep breath and entered. He was surprised to see a child he didn’t know with tear stains on her cheek. Johnny, along with his sisters were quietly occupying themselves with crayons and paper.


The girls saw him first and ran over all smiles. Johnny followed a few steps behind, but Craig could tell he was also happy to see his friend. It was Johnny who asked if Madison had come.


As they walked out to the car Craig told them about the party plans. He was unsure if they were excited about the pizza or about Daisy and Tedi, but either way he was glad to see the smiles on the three faces.


While at the Welcome Center he had noticed a new Pizza Place just the other side of the city limit and decided to give it a try. He pulled up in front and all the kids wanted to go inside. He was holding the door open when he noticed a woman coming out wearing a blue T-shirt with a logo on it reading Midtown Mutts. He thought that would be too much of a coincidence but then he noticed she was heading for a bicycle propped up against the front of the building. He wanted to take the time to talk to her but he had three impatient children waiting for him inside. He would have to be satisfied with the name and the possibility of checking it out later.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 35 of 92

Chapter 58 (Word prompts) offended, rules, fireworks, friends, group, heat, bicycle, rivalry, games, city limits


Madison parked in front of the house and sat in the car for a few minutes thinking back to the first time she had seen it, only a bit over six months earlier. The house had looked so empty then, as it did now. In some ways it was difficult to believe that it had been only a few days since she had left Craig and Stan inside as she drove away. Craig didn’t seem to be offended by her behavior, but in her mind she had broken a rule and owed him an apology, or at least an explanation, although she wasn’t certain how to make that. She was brought back to the present by her friends in the back seat reminding her of their impatience to get out of the car.


“Let the games begin”, she laughed as Daisy and Tedi took a flying leap and began a romp around the yard, and finally disappearing into the darkness of the barn.


She allowed them to have their freedom while she unloaded the things she had brought with her. The back of her van had been filled with clothing and art supplies. She’d had a difficult time deciding what to bring with her, having no idea of how long she would be staying. This time she had taken the precaution of asking the post office to forward her mail. She had been surprised at the mound that awaited her, even though most of it was junk. She felt this could have been an announcement to burglars that nobody was at home.


The house was cold, even though it was warm outside. She noticed there were some logs in the fireplace and decided that would heat up the room nicely. There was a gas starter and a lighter on the mantle. It was pleasing to watch as the logs caught fire and began to present their miniature fireworks show. She was still enjoying the warmth when she felt a cold nose on her cheek as a reminder that it was time for treats.


The container in the kitchen still held an ample supply of doggy treats. There was a supply of dog food to last a few days and she noticed the coffee pot on the counter. She could check out the other supplies while it brewed and then she could call Craig, feeling somewhat settled.


After a quick survey of the kitchen, it was obvious a trip to the grocery would be necessary, but there was coffee and a bit of bread. Toast with peach preserves made a nice afternoon snack and soon she was comfy in front of the fire. Now the room was almost too warm, but it was so pleasant that she hated to turn off the gas flame. The coals continued to glow as she pushed the send button.


Craig answered almost immediately and she could tell by the background sound that he was in the car. She hoped he wasn’t moving.


“No“, he said, “I’m parked at that rest stop near the city limits. I can be at your place in about 10 minutes if that’s OK. I’ve got some news but I’d rather talk in person.”


“There’s hot coffee all ready for you, so come on over.” Madison was rather pleased that he was on his way. She didn’t think to ask why he was at the rest stop, but was certain he had a good reason.


She had barely enough time to freshen up before she heard the truck in front of the house. She opened the door while he was still climbing the steps and waited while Tedi and Daisy did their inspection and ushered him inside. If he noticed how warm the room felt he didn’t mention it.


“Sofa or kitchen?” She had the impulse to give him a hug, but hesitated to initiate the intimacy. He didn’t, but his smile said he was happy to see her and that was enough for now.


“Kitchen, I think.” She led the way and filled a mug with coffee as he took his, now familiar, place at the table. He was already telling her about the sighting of some people on bicycles when she got to the table. “I happened to think if Earl was right they might have stopped at the rest area and the people at the welcome office might have seen them.”


“Did they?”


“No“, he said, “but it’s mainly volunteers who work there, so the woman I talked to is going to ask around. She didn’t work that day herself. I think she was rather excited that she might be able to help. Everybody has been feeling pretty helpless to do anything.”


Madison was feeling rather excited herself. “Let’s check on-line. If it’s a rescue group they will probably have a FaceBook page. I can always ask some friends in the rescue community back home and see if they know of any in the area. They seem to all know each other.”


First they Googled “animal rescue groups, north Georgia” and found a long list. They found none listed in the area, although several within the surrounding 50 miles. After making a note of the nearest ones she went to FaceBook and started to look them up. It was the sixth one that was selling blue shirts with the name and logo on them. There was an e-mail address given and she sent them a note asking for information of a rally on the date concerned. Then she sent the same note to three other rescues in the area. She hoped there wasn’t so much rivalry among the groups that nobody would answer her call. At home all the groups were friends, but she was unsure about this area.


Well, she thought. All they could do was wait. Perhaps Dusty or the woman at the welcome center would learn something. At least there were several lines opened for information.


Now plans needed to be made for the evening and the days ahead.


(to be continued)



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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 36 of 92

Chapter 57 (Word prompts) offended, rules, fireworks, friends, group, heat, bicycle, rivalry, games, city limits


Dusty ordered a sandwich to go as he was so anxious to get back to the office and make some calls. His first call would be to his high school rival who was now the mayor of the county seat. He had spoken to the police already but wasn’t certain this had much to do with law enforcement. If Earl had been right, these were law abiding citizens doing something for a good cause. It was the kind of thing Doug would know about and maybe even be one of the participants.


He was in luck and was able to reach his old friend, but he had no knowledge of any bikers. At the same time he had the number of a woman who tried to coordinate volunteers for various groups who might have some information, so Dusty gave her a call. When he called her office she was out but he left the pertinent information on her voicemail along with his number and hoped she would call back. At least he now felt as though something was being accomplished.



Craig was also in a much better mood after Dusty left. It would be several hours before he was to pick up the children and hoped to meet with Madison first. She had promised to call him when she got back into town sometime in the afternoon. 


He had been surprised by how much he missed her considering he had known her for such a short period of time. For a reason that he couldn’t define, he felt more content when she was around. That was the only word he could think of where she was concerned. There was a comfort that he had not felt with another woman, even Stephanie. Perhaps it was the fact that he was older, but he found he liked the feeling. Everyone had encouraged him to get out there and date someone since it had been so long since Stephanie had died. You’re still a young man, it was pointed out. Stan had been the only one who seemed to support is friend in the life he had chosen. Craig didn’t like to admit his reluctance to play the dating game. He had never been good at it and now he didn’t even know the rules, if there were any.


He thought about confessing his feelings to Madison when they talked and then wondered if she would be offended by being told she was “comfortable”. Even though he would mean it as a compliment, it didn’t sound as flattering as being beautiful, or smart, or talented, or any number of other things that would also fit. Perhaps he would be better off to keep quiet about the entire thing. He was well acquainted with the fireworks that could happen if a person took something that was meant as a compliment as something else.


His thoughts were broken by Josie ready to heat up his coffee. He knew she wanted to know if there was any news so decided to ask her about the bikers.


“You say they had on blue shirts? I haven’t seen any bicycles but I did see some people in a few days ago and they were wearing blue shirts that had the name of an animal rescue group on it. I asked them about it and they said they were picking up a mama dog and a litter of puppies that had been abandoned on the highway. They were from over at the county seat.”


Craig thanked her and she promised to let him or Dusty know if she saw them again or remembered the name. She was well satisfied with a new bit of information and it was certain to be passed along to the entire community in a matter of hours.



Madison was still thinking about the party the night before as she saw the sign showing the city limits. Almost everyone had made it, although Amy had been working late and arrived when some other’s were leaving so not everyone was there at the same time. But then that worked out well too and Madison had time to visit with everyone except for Beth. She would try to give her a call over the next few days to see if she was feeling better. She had sounded pretty rocky when she called to cancel and was not interested in having a conversation.


Madison had tried to clear her mind of what she was planning to do after the party but the thought kept coming back to her that she no longer belonged here. Some of these women had been her friends for almost 20 years but it seemed that now so many of the friendships had become habit, built out of a past when they were on a similar path and no longer fit as well. There were exceptions. Phyllis and Rebecca were still very important to her and she enjoyed Amy and Beth who could always make her laugh, but then they had contact by phone most of the time.


She thought about going on and calling Craig to let him know she was in town, but then decided it would be better to wait until she reached the house and got a little settled in first. Only Tedi and Daisy were able to see the smile that suddenly brightened her face.


(To be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 37 of 92

Chapter 56 (Word prompts) offended, rules, fireworks, friends, group, heat, bicycle, rivalry, games, city limits


Everything looked normal in the diner. Josie’s cheerful voice called out as he looked around. He never saw her look up from her task and yet she knew who was walking through her door every time. He often wondered if there wasn’t some sort of secret signal passed to her from her cook, perhaps a hidden camera or something. He wondered if her friends would be offended if they learned this was fact.


He was still contemplating how such a game could be played when he spotted his favorite booth in the back was already occupied. At first he was disappointed but then saw the occupants were Craig and Stan. He had been intending to get in touch with Craig anyway. He hated to admit he had no news to share so had been procrastinating.


Josie met him with the coffee pot at the table just as he took the place next to Stan. She asked if the others were ready to order but after a shake of their heads refilled their cups and left the three alone. It was obvious this was a painful thing for her to do as her curiosity was at high level, but she had her rules to obey and that included giving her patrons as much privacy as possible.


Before Dusty had an opportunity to do more than offer a greeting to his companions he spotted a man who looked vaguely familiar heading in their direction.


“Sheriff, I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Earl and I met you last Summer at the 4th of July fireworks.”


Honestly Dusty had no memory of meeting Earl, but he stuck out his hand anyway. “Certainly, it’s good to see you again.”


“Well, I didn’t want to interrupt your lunch but Martha, that’s my wife,” he nodded toward the front of the room where Dusty saw a nice looking woman sitting with two small children, all looking in their direction. “Well, Martha said I should talk to you.”


It was uncomfortable looking up at their visitor so Dusty motioned to the seat next to Craig. After a bit of hesitation, Earl joined the group.


“It’s probably nothing”, said the newcomer, “but Martha and I were talking about Mrs. McNeil.”


Dusty was all ready to explain that it was an ongoing case and he couldn’t comment when Earl continued. “You see, we’ve been pretty concerned since Mikey is in the same class with Johnny. They aren’t really good friends or anything and we don’t know the parents, but we feel sorry for the little guy and we want to help if we can.”


Dusty was about ready to say some platitude about prayers when Earl continued.


“You see, we might have seen something that could help.”


Earl immediately had everyone’s attention.


“You say you saw something?” Dusty thought this might just be the break he was waiting for. “What did you see?”


“We didn’t see Mrs. McNeil but we might have seen someone who did see something”, said Earl.

Dusty felt disappointed but still encouraged the man to continue.


“We live right outside the city limits, to the south of where Mrs. McNeil had her flat tire, but I was coming back from my brother’s house that morning when I got behind some bikers.”


“You mean a motorcycle gang?”


“No, not motorcycles, these were bicycles.”


Dusty felt the heat of excitement rise for the first time in days. “You mean a race?”


“I don’t think it was a race. I think it was one of those groups that take pledges and ride for charity. It didn’t seem like there was a rivalry like you would see in a race. They all wore the same color shirts, with an emblem on the back, only I didn’t recognize the emblem, but the shirts were bright blue. They would have passed where Mrs. McNeil’s car was parked and they might have seen something.”


Dusty really meant it when he thanked Earl for the information.


(To be continued)


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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 38 of 92

Chapter 55  (Word prompts: offended, rules, fireworks, friends, group, heat, bicycle, rivalry, games, city limits)


Dusty sat in his office and tried to think what to do next. He hated the feeling that he was not good enough to handle a major case and imagined his friends were whispering comments behind his back. He tried not to be offended because he knew they were right. Even though he was sheriff for the entire county, he seldom went into the city limits of the county seat since they had their own law enforcement, as did the only other town in the county. He handled mainly the unincorporated areas and tried to stay out of any rivalry with his fellow law enforcement agents. But the truth was that this was a very law abiding area. He had an occasional stolen bicycle or maybe a drunk and disorderly that had to be straightened out. But a missing person was something totally out of his expertise.


He had made a record of all the people he had talked to, including the other law enforcement organizations in the area. They promised him they had checked all the hospitals and had no report of anything. He had questioned almost everybody in town and they all seemed puzzled and knew of nothing to arouse suspicion. The only person in the whole group who seemed less than honest was Jason. Dusty hated games and he knew when one was being played, only he wasn’t certain what to do about it. He felt there should be something he could do to turn up the heat on the town lawyer. But then with a lawyer, who knew all the rules, it seemed he had not found the right formula.


He realized he was writing “Joyce” on his pad over and over again. Was she the answer to his problem? He had to smile as he thought that if there was anyone who could set off some fireworks in the situation, it was probably Jason’s wife. So far he had not spoken with her. She had been out when he went to the house and there had been no need to make a special appointment to see her. As far as he knew there was no connection, other than the two being sisters, but from everything he had heard, they were totally estranged. It did seem strange that she didn’t seem upset by the fact that her baby sister was missing. In fact, it was rather strange that, other than the children and Craig, nobody seemed upset that a young woman had seemed to vanish into thin air.


He had talked to Sean several times and liked him less and less with each visit, even though he could find no possible connection to his wife’s disappearance. He was perfectly content to leave his children in the care of Craig, an acquaintance at best, and seemed mainly worried about having to take responsibility for his family once he was out of rehab. He had not requested another weekend at home and Dusty suspected he would stay in rehab as long as possible. Normally this would be commendable, but not in this case.


The car had been impounded from Jason and he had gone over it to the best of his ability and then he’d had the town mechanic take a look too. A nail was found to be the cause of the flat tire, but nothing else seemed suspicious. He still had the car impounded in case something should turn up, but it appeared Joanie had walked away from the car and disappeared around a curve in the road and never seen again. There were no houses at that particular spot on the road but he had talked to everyone in both directions and nobody had noticed anything unusual that morning.


He hated to consider this a cold case after such a short time, but he had no idea what to do next. He had instructed everybody to let him know if they thought of anything and the most common theory was that she had been fed up with Sean and had wanted to leave before he was out of rehab. Dusty could certainly understand that desire, but he couldn’t see any woman leaving her children in a car on a lonely road. He kept thinking that either she was taken without her consent or there had been a plan for the children to be taken care of. He was pretty certain Craig had not been a part of that plan.


He put his pad away and took the stroll over to the diner. Perhaps he would hear some gossip that would give him a new idea.


(to be continued)


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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 39 of 92

Chapter 54  (June word prompts: wonder, lily, gossamer, eyes, empathy, lazy, sunny, beings, regret, leprechaun)


Her plan had been to take it easy on Wednesday. She had done the baking for her gathering and most of the packing was done for the trip on Thursday. She deserved a lazy day. She drank her coffee while watching Daisy and Tedi taking their late morning nap and thought she could take some lessons from them.


There was just one problem with her plan. She felt nothing like taking it easy. Her mind was restless as it flitted from one topic to the next. She almost regretted inviting her friends for a visit, although it had seemed a good idea at the time and she knew it would be enjoyable once they all arrived.


It was a beautiful sunny day and Madison thought about what Craig had said about taking a walk. Perhaps that’s what she needed. There had been a time when she and Tedi had strolled around the neighborhood, meeting the neighbors working in their yards or maybe just admiring the day lilies in bloom and smelling the freshly mowed grass. It was a surprise when she realized this was something that had been omitted from her activity list since she had brought Daisy home with her.

Two sets of eyes were on her as she went to the closet where their leashes were hung. Tedi’s ears perked up and she didn’t have to wonder if she remembered what this could mean. Daisy’s expression was one of curiosity but she was not ready to jump as soon as she heard the word.


“Want to go for a walk?” Yes that was the word. Tedi was on her feet before the sentence ended. Daisy seemed to think this meant it was a good thing so she followed and waited patiently while the leash was attached. Tedi had a hard time staying still, but she managed.


As they headed down the walk, both dogs started to head to the car. “No, not today”, said Madison as she led them in the other direction. It was hard to believe, but walking in this direction seemed like visiting a new neighborhood. She couldn’t remember the last time she had walked down these streets. Most of the places she went had been toward the highway in the other direction. Even meetings with Phyllis, who lived in this direction, had been somewhere else.


Tedi and Daisy were beside themselves trying to take in every new unfamiliar odor. Madison could empathize as she tried to take in each new sight and wished she had brought her camera. She was still thinking of her illustrations and noticed several gardens that held flowers that would fit nicely with her imaginary beings. She was especially drawn to a large toadstool growing in the shade of an oak tree. It seemed if she could only get close enough that leprechaun would be hiding under it. All she needed was a fairy with gossamer wings to make the day complete. She turned the corner and was greeted by the site of a flowering bush that seemed to be a magnet for butterflies. They weren’t the fairies that she had wished for, but close enough.


She was standing there admiring the celebration of fluttering wings when she noticed the woman who came around the corner of the house. At first she thought she was being greeted and was all ready to wave and have some nice conversation when the woman called to get the dogs away from her yard. Madison hurried down the street. The mood had been broken.


There had been a time that even at this time of the day there were several neighbors working in their yards. The neighborhood had been filled with young families and retired people. Other than the woman who had chased them away, the yards seemed empty. Was it possible the neighborhood had changed so much that everyone now worked during the day or were they just inside?


As she reached her front door again, she had the strangest feeling that she no longer fit here. Somehow she felt as much an alien here as she had at the other house. Now, she had to ask herself what to do with this information.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 40 of 92

Chapter 53 (June word prompts: wonder, lily, gossamer, eyes, empathy, lazy, sunny, beings, regret, leprechaun)


Madison had tried to rehearse her conversation with Craig. She told herself there was no need to feel so nervous about finding the right words, but the truth was she was nervous about the interaction and it did no good at all to wonder about the reasons why.


Of course she had found it easy to empathize with Stan. She understood his regret over they way he had left. Had she not done the same thing? She wished it was an option for her to wait until she could look into his eyes, the way Stan had planned, but she felt it was important to let him know her plans, not to mention how curious she was about his. She was more than a little surprised at how concerned she was about the children that she barely knew.


Ever since pulling out that old fairy tale she had seen the children’s faces on her fictitious beings. The leprechaun bore a resemblance to little Johnny and she could see Ruby’s face in the throat of that lily, but it was Pearl’s gossamer wings loosing their life that really brought a tear to her eye. She could only hope that she would feel better when she no longer feared for the children’s future and that of their mother.


With this thought in mind, she pressed the “send” button on her phone and waited for a voice on the other end.


“Madison! It’s so great to hear from you.”


Madison had not been prepared for such a sunny greeting. In fact, she was expecting anything other than that and was unsure how to respond. Somehow her prepared apology did not seem fitting.


“Hi, Craig. I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier. I’ve been trying to get my plans lined up. Are you still at my house?


Now Craig sounded more like what she had expected. “No. I’m with the kids at their house. I thought it would be best to keep them in their familiar surroundings, but I’m not certain that it’s not just making them feel worse. I think they expect their mother every time the door opens and then have to feel the disappointment all over again.”


“I assume that means there’s been no progress on Joanie’s disappearance?” Madison was disappointed to hear this.


Craig’s deep breath was audible over the phone. “No. I haven’t talked to Dusty today, but I’m certain he would let me know if there was news. He knows I’m here with the children. All we know so far is that Jason had her car so it was never even examined by the authorities. No alert was sent out until yesterday so almost a whole week was wasted.”


Madison was shocked at the news but tried to hide it from her voice, knowing what a good friend Craig had thought of Jason. “Well, I guess they have been able to look at it now”, she finally said.


“Yes, but I don’t really expect them to find anything there. Johnny said she walked away which means something happened to her on the road, not in the car.”


“Well, changing the subject, I’m planning on coming back on Thursday. I should be there in the early afternoon.”


Craig’s voice sounded lively once more. “Do you think we could have the kids there on Thursday night? To tell you the truth, I think your dogs are good for them. The only time I’ve seen a smile is when Johnny was almost knocked down by a golden retriever this afternoon.”


“Yes, that doesn’t surprise me a bit”, said Madison. I don’t know of anything more comforting than just lazing around with the dogs. They seem to know just what to do. Look, why don’t I give you a call when I get there. You might want to pass the word to Stan too and make it a real party.”


She thought about adding that there would be an additional house guest for a few days, but decided that news could wait until later. Craig sounded cheerful about getting in touch with Stan so she assumed their meeting had gone well. After all, there was no way she could ask about it without letting him know they had already spoken.


“Great”, she said. “I’ll plan on talking to you on Thursday and if you need me before then, you have my number.”


She felt a lot better when she hung up the phone. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see all of her friends tomorrow night, but somehow it seemed a long time before Thursday afternoon.


(to be continued)


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