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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 51 of 92

Chapter 42  (Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter,

manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


Stan had never been to the Sheriff’s office before. Of course he’d been to the courthouse many times to see about his business license and once for jury duty but that was a different entrance from the one that read Dustin G. Carpenter, Sheriff on the door. He half expected it to resemble the one in Mayberry, although Dusty bore little resemblance to Sheriff Andy. However in was a much larger office with a waiting area holding several chairs with cracked leather upholstery. There was a desk with a woman talking the phone. A computer set in front of her and the sound of a printer was coming from somewhere out of sight.


It was obvious that she knew Craig and that they were expected. “Have a seat. The Sheriff is on the phone but I’ll let him know you’re here.”


Craig took a seat, but Stan wandered over to a bulletin board on the wall and pretended to study the assortment of notices, mainly church notices and work schedules. Stan hadn’t realized there were actually ten officers working out of this little station. He had noticed two cars out front and wondered if there were others out on patrol.


The office felt almost too warm after the chill wind outside. He began to take off his jacket. A sweat was threatening to break out on his forehead. He told himself there was no reason for him to feel so on edge. It wasn’t like he was the one being questioned and had certainly done nothing wrong. That thought did nothing to make him feel more comfortable. The more he thought about it he was certain Dusty had been a part of that group who had been pointing and laughing while he held back the tears. He suddenly felt a surge of anger on behalf of that skinny thirteen year old kid that he had been. Somehow that made him feel better. Perhaps with a bit of work he could put that Easter egg hunt behind him where it belonged.


He was about to talk to the woman at the desk when she told them they could go on it. He thought to make it a point to talk to her on the way out. She looked very familiar to him, but the name on her desk meant nothing. It seemed important that he unwind all these fragments of thoughts and random memories that were flashing around in his mind lately. As he walked by even the smell of her perfume triggered a flash of memory, although it was of his mother rather than the young woman who wore it now.


“Come on in and have a seat.” Dusty pointed to more red leather chairs in front of the massive oak desk. Stan noticed that the chair behind the desk was several inches higher than the ones for guests. He was glad he was not a suspect being questioned, and if anything, it was even warmer in here than in the outer office.


“OK”, said Dusty with his most pleasing smile. “Here’s what I know so far. Joanie’s car was in Jason’s garage. I talked to Marlin and he got a call from Jason asking him to pick up the car and take it to his house. He gave no other information. Marlin said his man got there about 11 on Tuesday morning. Craig, I need to know how that fits your time line. When did you talk to Jason?”


“I’m afraid I didn’t really check times. I think it was near 10:00 when I got the call from Johnny. The little one had already been taken to nursery school and Johnny and his sister were on their way to school. Since it was so late by the time I got there, I didn’t take them. I called Jason right away from the car. I was worried about liability if I took the kids and then Joanie came back and couldn’t find them. He told me to go ahead and take them, that it was better than leaving them there in the car.”


“Did he seem surprised when you called?”


Craig tried to remember. “Now that you mention it, he seemed surprised to hear from me rather than being surprised that Joanie was missing. But I could be wrong about that. I was pretty upset myself right then and didn’t know what to do. Ruby was crying and Johnny was trying to comfort her. I felt so bad for them.”


He went on to tell about leaving a note and then checking on the car during the day to find it undisturbed until finally taking them to Madison’s house late at night. “That was Jason’s idea”, said Craig.


Dusty seemed even more interested in that.


“I don’t mind telling you”, said Craig, “that I’m feeling more than a little manipulated and that I’ve turned around and used Madison.”


Dusty nodded his head in agreement. “Oh, there’s a lot of manipulation going on here, more than enough to go around.”


(to be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 52 of 92

Chapter 41 (Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter, manipulation, breaking,          unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


Dusty attacked the chicken pie with the pleasure of someone who hadn’t eaten in days. Craig was mainly playing with the food in front of him. He seemed to be in deep thought as he was breaking up the crust into small pieces and submerging them into the warm gravy filled with chicken and vegetables. Stan seemed unaware that his own plate was getting cold while waiting for him to take the first bite. He had a lot of questions but it didn’t seem his place to ask.


Dusty wiped his bowl clean with a piece of roll from the basket on the table and wiped his mouth with the napkin. Putting it beside the plate, he seemed to notice that his friends were lagging far behind on their progress with lunch.


“I need to get back to the station. I haven’t even checked in yet today and I’ve left Ray there alone, I really haven’t even filled him in on what’s going on. Why don’t you come by when you finish lunch.” The door opened and Marcie, along with two other women took an empty booth only two down. The wind blew the crumpled napkin onto the floor. Dusty ignored it.


“I’d just as soon not talk too much around here anyway. I don’t want everything spread all over town.” Stan thought that was meant as a warning to him and Craig. “By the way, I’ve called a press conference for 4:00 but that should give us enough time to talk.”


Following Dusty’s instructions, Craig and Stan finished their meal in silence. Neither had much to say anyway. There were so many thoughts swirling around Stan’s mind. He had begun this as a support for his friend and yet it had turned into something else entirely. But what was that?


“Look”, said Craig when they were on the sidewalk. “There’s no need for you to come with me. After all, you’re not really a part of this.”


How was Stan able to explain to his friend that he felt more a part of this than he had of anything since he was that thirteen year old kid he now remembered so clearly? Something had triggered along with the memory of that Easter Egg Hunt that he didn’t really understand himself yet and was only beginning to unwind. In a way he was afraid to follow where he knew he had to go. A crack had appeared in his safe little world and he was getting a glimpse of something he had left behind. It was painful to remember that skinny little kid with glasses who had been teased and bullied but now that he had caught a glimpse he knew he had to go wherever the path might lead. His hope was that he would find a light at the end of that path. At the very least he would find some answers.


There was no way he could explain all this to Craig, so he did his best to maintain his usual carefree façade. “What the Hell? I’ve already hung a closed sign on the door. Besides, I’m sort of curious to know what’s going on. We haven’t had any good gossip around here in months, not since Doris Epps threw that bottle of perfume at Gloria Johnson in Crystal’s shop and Crystal tried to make her pay for it and get rid of the smell. That had people taking sides for months.”


“Come on then”, said Craig. “We might as well just walk over. I think it might do me a little good to get some exercise.”


Stan wondered if Craig had not seen through his little manipulation and knew that he was the one who needed some time. Once again he had reason to be grateful for his best friend. In silence they began the two block walk to the small building that held the sheriff’s office and county jail.


Stan couldn’t help but notice that Jason’s car was missing from his parking lot across the street. If Craig noticed he kept quiet about it, just as he was with everything else.


(to be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 53 of 92

Chapter 40  (Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter,

manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


It seemed Dusty had brought the wind inside with him. It got Craig’s attention and he turned around so together he and Stan watched the sheriff approach. Stan had a moment of déjà vu. Was it possible that Dusty, too, had been an part of that group at the Easter egg hunt. As a local boy, it was possible,


His pondering was ended when Dusty arrived at their table and motioned to Stan to move over. “I’d like to sit where I can keep my eye on the door, if you don’t mind.”


Stan didn’t bother to answer. It didn’t seem necessary.


“Have you guys been here long enough to hear if some gossip has begun to go around?” They both responded in the negative.


“Well, I hope that will change shortly. I intend to break the news to Josie. If she doesn’t already know about it, she will and it will be spread all over town in a matter of hours.” It seemed the sheriff was taking a bit of pleasure at the thought. Stan wasn’t certain what that was about but it did nothing to make him feel more comfortable. It was strange feeling that he might be sitting this close to one of his past tormentors.


Josie arrived with another cup and the coffee pot. She poured it out for Dusty and asked if the others wanted it warmed. Craig motioned toward his cup, as did Stan even though he felt he really needed something to unwind rather than to add to the tension he was already feeling. At the same time, the warmth was welcome.


“Are you ready to order yet? The crowd is about to get heavy, you know”, said Josie when she finished with the coffee.


“Can you sit for a moment?” The way Dusty asked it was more of an order than a question. Josie took the seat beside Craig.


“I know you are the first to hear any gossip that goes on within fifty miles of here and I need to know if you’ve heard anything about Joanie McNeil or her family.”


There was no need to answer. The color in her cheeks told the whole story. There was an unmistakable crack in her voice as she spoke. “Now, Sheriff, I don’t want to go spreading stories.”


“Josie, it’s important that you tell me what you’ve heard.”


“Sheriff, all I know is what Marcie told me. She lives down the street from the McNeils. She told me that Sean was back from rehab this weekend and so were the kids, but Joanie was nowhere to be seen. She was wondering if they had gotten a divorce and it was Sean’s weekend with the kids.” She waited to see if Dusty would confirm the explanation, but he said nothing.


“I told her I didn’t know. I hadn’t seen any of them for days and I cautioned her about spreading rumors.”


“That’s good, Josie. I’m glad you didn’t go around spreading false information. The truth is that nobody has seen Joanie since last Monday. We don’t know where she is and we are going to put the word out that if anyone has information they need to get in touch with me. Would you help me by passing that around? And if you happen to hear something, I need to know about it. We are all pretty worried, especially the children.”


“Oh, those poor little children. Are they OK?”


“You don’t need to worry about the children. They are being taken care of.” He looked at the others. “Are you ready to order?”


Josie stood ready to take the orders, knowing this was the end of the previous conversation. Dusty and Craig ordered the Special. Stan ordered a hamburger and French fries. Josie looked as though she could barely wait to get back to the kitchen. They knew the word was on it’s way and would be all over town, possibly before they finished their lunch.


“Are the children being taken care of”, asked Craig.


“I hope so. I talked to the people when I took Sean back to rehab this morning and they want him to stay at least until the thirteenth. That’s when the thirty days will be up. He didn’t really have any suggestions about what should happen with the children. I know this puts you in a tough spot but I was hoping you could continue to be in charge.”


“But what about their next of kin?”


“Well, Sean is their next of kin and he’s unavailable. Besides, I didn’t really like his attitude when I asked. From what I understand, Joanie’s parents haven’t had a lot to do with them since she married Sean and they live out of town. As we know, Joyce has been estranged from her sister and the children and now it’s Jason who’s been manipulating a lot of this and I’m pretty angry about that. At this point it seems to be a choice between you or putting them in the system and I rather hate to do that. Their lives are being disrupted enough as it is. And, I might as well tell you, Johnny has already asked if you will pick them up after school.”


He was interrupted by Becky, the diner’s other waitress, who arrived with their tray of orders. As the perfume of sizzling hamburger and greasy fries mixed with savory chicken pie, they could picture Josie in the back office, on the phone, doing her job just as Dusty had planned.


(To be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 54 of 92

Chapter 39


(Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter,

manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


Craig was already in the back booth when Stan walked through the door of the diner. The wind that had begun last night was stronger now and storm clouds were gathering. This had been the excuse that he used when he hung the “Closed” sign on the shop. Few customers would be venturing out in this kind of weather. The real reason was that he found himself totally unable to keep his mind off of anything other than the mystery of Joanie and all the other issues that surrounded it. He wanted to know what Dusty had to say and he was wanting to know if the news had gotten around the community yet. They had so little excitement in their little town that when something happened it was common knowledge within minutes. He knew there would be no gossip here in the deserted shop.


The night before when he had finally gone home it had been with a feeling of dread. The clouds were already gathering and the moon was breaking through only at intervals, casting strange shadows and seeming to manipulate shapes in the foliage into threatening objects. Stan told himself it was only his overactive imagination but that did little to make his rest easier.


He had some unsettling dreams during the night. There were children pointing and laughing at him and he was trying not to cry, knowing that would only make it worse if they saw tears. He awoke too early and unrested. He knew he had relived the trauma of his thirteen year old self on that memorable Easter egg hunt. Somehow it had surprised him that Craig had no memory of something that had been so traumatic to him. It surprised him also that he had never mentioned it to his best friend and glad that it had come up to him now so that he could voice his appreciation for that long ago kindness. Then he remembered something else. One of those boys pointing their finger and laughing was Jason. How could he have forgotten that?


As soon as the door to the diner was cracked and the perfume of bacon being fried and fresh perked coffee filled his world, Stan felt better. Josie sounded her normal cheerful self as she called out to him that coffee was on the way. She hadn’t even seemed to look up to see who had entered and he wondered if this was what she called out to everyone and if she was ever wrong. He decided not to worry about that as he joined Stan in the back. It was one of the things that made it so pleasurable to eat here. Somehow it always seemed like family.


He reached the table just a few steps ahead of Josie. She carried a cup and the pot of coffee. Stan noticed that Craig’s cup was empty and wondered how long he had been here.


“Now that Stan is here are you ready to order?”


Stan was surprised that she didn’t seem to know that Dusty was to meet them, but he decided to cover. “No”, he said. “I’ll need a few minutes to study the menu. What’s today’s special?”


“Same thing it always is on Monday, chicken pot pie.” Josie’s smile seemed a bit malicious. She knew this was not one of Stan’s favorites which was why she rarely saw him on Monday. He wondered about this as he noticed that it was with a much sweeter attitude that she warmed up Craig’s coffee. He wondered if he had done something to offend her or if something had happened before he got here. Craig seemed to notice nothing.


Yesterday he had thought Craig seemed to unwind and now it was he that seemed to be wound so tight. He felt the stress compound when he heard Josie call out and saw that Dusty had just come through the door and he did not look happy.


(to be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 55 of 92

Chapter 38

(Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter, manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


It was almost 11:00 before the call came from Dusty. Stan was relieved when he said that he had visited Sean and agreed that he would get the kids to school in the morning and then take Sean back to rehab. He suggested they meet for lunch the next day. He could tell Craig was disappointed in the lack of news, but agreed to the plan.


It had been a strange afternoon. Stan had never seen his friend this way before. He continued to look out at the woods seemingly unaware that he had company as he talked on various topics, almost like he was talking to himself. Now Stan had heard Craig ramble on like this many times, especially after Stephanie’s accident, only this time he was speaking of pleasurable memories and fantasies for the future. For that reason Stan thought it best to keep quiet and listen.


Somehow he got the idea that an unwinding was taking place. That was the only word he could think of for someone who had been wound so tight for so long. Of course this could have been the beer, but it seemed more likely it had something to do with Madison.


They moved inside as the wind picked up around sunset. While Craig lit a fire in the fireplace Stan got more beer from the frig. It was the last of the six-pack and he checked out provisions for dinner at the same time. They were sparse. It was obvious there had been no shopping for a while. Other than some condiments, the only containers in the frig were better left closed. Perhaps they could go out for something.


The crackling of the logs was the only sound in the room when Stan returned with the beer. Stan took the chair on the left of the fireplace. Craig was already in the one on the right. It was a comfortable room. It had always reflected Stephanie’s personality, even though it could not be classified as feminine. The colors were rich, dark blue with maroon and tan accents. Craig had built several of the pieces of furniture and Stephanie had made the throw cushions and lamp shades for the brass lamps. Stan wondered if Craig was so accustomed to it that he no longer noticed that the aroma of Stephanie’s perfume was still present in the warming room.


Finally Stan decided the silence needed breaking by something other than the growling of his stomach. He hesitated to disturb Craig, who appeared to be in deep thought about something, but it was after 9:00 and had been a long time since the crackers had vanished.


“Don’t you think we need to do about something about eating? You need to keep your strength up if you plan to wrangle small children.”


“I don’t think I will be needed tonight”, said Craig without taking his eyes off the logs glowing in the fireplace. “I was just sitting here thinking about how gullible I must have been. I never even considered that Jason’s desire to keep a family secret was just a manipulation. It makes me wonder how many other people I have trusted without reason.”


“I don’t think you are gullible at all. I do think you are willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and think the best until they prove otherwise. That’s one of your best qualities and what makes you such a good friend. Do you remember when we were helping at church for the Easter Egg Hunt?”


“No, what are you talking about?”


Now it was Stan’s time to be nostalgic about old times. “How could you not remember? We must have been about thirteen or so and we were feeling very full of ourselves, part of the high school kids now. I was no longer expected to sit at the kid’s table at the big family dinners. Pastor Matheson asked us if we wanted to help prepare for the Easter Egg Hunt for the little kids and I felt like it was being recognized that I was no longer one of them.”


Craig laughed. “I remember that we were pretty full of ourselves at that age. My father told me it would serve me right if I had a son some day. But I don’t remember anything special about an Easter Egg Hunt. We had one every year at the church.”


“Yes, but this year when the children came to search for the eggs, there were none to be found. Everybody began to blame each other, thinking that someone was playing a bad joke and the little kids were very disappointed. You were the one who spoke up and suggested that there was another possible explanation for the vanishing eggs. As it turned out some of us put more candy eggs out the next night and watched as raccoons scurried around feasting on them. If it hadn’t been for your calm voice we would have all been thinking that one of us had been the culprit. I know that seems like a little thing, but it means a lot when you are the person who’s being pointed at.”


“Well, I’m glad I was able to help, even though I don’t remember it. But you’ve made your point and

I’ll stop beating myself up.”


Stan thought his friend looked a lot more like normal now. “Good, now can we please go get something to eat. Thinking about those eggs has made me very hungry.”


(to be continued)


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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 56 of 92

Chapter 37

(Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)


It was a long afternoon waiting for the phone to ring. It took only a few minutes for Craig to pack a small suitcase and place it by the back door ready to leave when needed.


There was beer in the frig and Stan opened one for himself. At first Craig declined, not wanting to arrive smelling of beer when he went to the children. He thought there had been enough of that from their father but he reconsidered his decision after an hour of waiting for word. Stan pointed out that there was no harm in one beer and there was mouthwash in the bathroom. After that he was able to relax a bit and stop obsessing about the phone.


It was a nice day and they went outside to the sundeck that Craig had built before Stephanie’s accident. It looked as though it hadn’t been used since. Stan started to point out a wasp’s nest hanging from the overhang but it looked deserted at the moment and he didn’t want to give Craig something else to worry about.


They sat in the chairs where he had sat so many times before with Craig and Stephanie. Sometimes he had a date of his own and it would be an evening of good food, drink and a lot of laughter. There hadn’t been much of that recently but he had seen the possibility of a new encounter with happiness when he saw the way his friend looked at Madison when he thought no one was looking. He felt that he needed to do something to nurture that relationship but he knew there was no hope for that until the mystery of Joanie was solved. Stan wasn’t very fond of children but the story of the child sitting on the steps with that tiny shoe had gotten to him too.


Stan glanced over at his friend who was staring in the direction of the woods in back of the house. They weren’t really a part of Craig’s yard, in fact he had no idea who they belonged to, but they had played in them as children and he knew that was one reason why Craig had wanted this house. He had visions of watching his own children playing there. He thought he caught another flutter of his eye lashes and suddenly felt he was invading his friends privacy. Perhaps he should leave him alone and allow him to grieve in private. Instead, he decided to take control of the situation and perhaps they could solve at least a part of the problem.


“I was thinking that we should go over and have it out with Jason. I know he has something to do with all of this and perhaps we could make him tell us what’s going on.”


Craig turned suddenly in his direction. It was obvious he had been some place other than here. “I’m certain Dusty is questioning him. I don’t know of anything we could say that he won’t. Our biggest weapon would have been giving him an ultimatum that he level with us or we would go public, and we’ve already done that. We did that as soon as we talked to Dusty, even though we didn’t know it at the time.”


Stan lingered for a while watching his friend stare in the direction of the woods again. Without asking he got up and went to find more beer. It had been over three hours since Dusty had run from the diner and he thought they should hear something soon. He returned to the deck with two more beers and some cheese and crackers he had found in the kitchen. It didn’t seem that Craig had moved since they had ventured outside, other than to glance at the cell phone that lay on the table beside the empty beer can which Stan gathered up and placed in the box beside the door where they could be recycled.


Craig reached over for the new cold one but if he noticed the difference he said nothing. Stan wanted to bring up the subject of Madison, but he was perplexed at exactly how to do that. He knew he didn’t want to focus on her sudden exit, but he had so little conversation with her that he didn’t know that much. It was with this thought that he found his voice.


“I’m really looking forward to getting to know Madison better. She seems like a very interesting person, not to mention very good looking. I think I remember Robert talking about her after he had a few drinks.”


“Yes, he talked to me about her too. He was sorry that he had treated her badly. I guess that’s why he left her the house.”


“That’s a pretty good apology”, laughed Stan.


“I think it was more than that. He also knew that she loved animals and he wanted to be certain that Daisy would be taken care of. I think that dog is about the only thing that Robert allowed to get close to him. Daisy seems to be very comfortable with Madison. I’ll have to say, after spending so much time with them I’m thinking about getting a dog of my own. I would really like a golden retriever but they shed so badly. I’ll have to give it some thought.”


Stan started to suggest he share the dogs with Madison, but Craig continued to talk of the merits of different dogs and Stan thought it better to just let him go.


(to be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 57 of 92

Chapter 36  (Word prompts: wasp, tiny, perplexing, fluttering, control, suitcase, ultimatum, encounter, obsessive, linger)



The two men said little as they finished their meal. Craig hated what he was thinking. Jason had completely fooled him. He wondered just how much of what he had been told was true. Was any of it true? Why would he have the need to lie? It was totally perplexing to him how little he seemed to know about someone he had considered among his best friends since his childhood. Had he changed so much or had he been fooled all along?


Stan watched his friend. He couldn’t miss the little fluttering of his eyelashes that he knew was an attempt to hold back tears. He had to admit that he was experiencing a sense of betrayal, even though he was not nearly as close to Jason as Craig, and he had not received the information “out of the horse’s mouth” so to speak. He had to sit there and watch his friend try to control himself as he carefully cleaned his plate.


“What do you want to do?”


Craig looked up as though this was an alien thought. “I guess I need to go home. I haven’t been there in a while. I might need to pack a suitcase for tonight.”

Do you think the children will need you tonight?” Stan was unsure if this was a good thing for his friend. He himself wanted to drive over to Jason’s house and shake him and give him an ultimatum to either tell them the truth or else. The only problem with that plan was he had no idea what the “or else” would be and besides, he wasn’t the one to be doing the shaking. He couldn’t imagine Craig doing anything of the sort.


Craig still seemed to be somewhere else. “I think I need to be prepared. If Dusty goes over there I’m afraid he will find Sean drunk and I hope he escorts him back to rehab. I’m thinking that I will stay at their house with them tonight. I think the proverbial cat is now out of the bag. And anyway, I’m certain the neighbors have noticed by now that Joanie is not at home. Her car has been missing for several days. I don’t know where it is, but it’s certainly not in the driveway where it’s normally parked. There shouldn’t be the same need to hide them away as before.”


Stan looked at him, his eyes still cast down. He wished so hard that he could think of something to say that would cheer up his friend. It seemed like a lot to handle in one day, finding out he had been betrayed by a friend and feeling abandoned by another one, even if that was a friendship of much shorter duration. There was no way an old male friend could compete with a recent encounter with an attractive female. Everything he could think of to say or do seemed so tiny in comparison to what he knew his friend was feeling.


Then he realized they had come in Craig’s car. His own was still at Madison’s place. He thought this would work out well. He would suggest he go home with Craig and then he could linger there until they got word from Dusty. He didn’t want his old friend to have to be alone this afternoon while waiting for word. He remembered too well those other dark days and how obsessive he had become. He had made excuses during those days too. He had brought over more beer and sandwiches than he could count. He wondered if there was a supply there now. For some reason he thought about that little wasp that was bashing itself into the glass earlier today. He thought he knew how that little creature felt.


(to be continued)

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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 58 of 92

Chapter 35


(Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)


Stan watched his friend walk to the window and stand while the sound of Madison’s car faded into the distance. He had to be puzzled by her sudden departure, thought Stan. He was certain Craig was unaware of what was happening between the two of them and perhaps that was a good thing for the time being.


“She didn’t take a suitcase. That has to be a good thing.”


Craig did not look reassured at that comment. Stan noticed a wasp outside that seemed to be oblivious of the glass between it and it’s destination. It reminded him that there were other things that they should be concentrating on.


Craig lingered at the window seemingly at a loss of what to do next. Stan felt the need to take control of the situation just as he had after Stephanie’s accident. He had been very concerned that Craig would ever pull himself together again, but in recent months with his mentoring of young Johnny, and especially during the past few days since Madison entered the picture, he had almost seemed the same person he had been years ago.


“Why don’t we stop and get some lunch on the way to see Dusty?”


Craig seemed to tune back into the conversation that had been sidetracked with Madison’s exit.

“You’re right”, he said. I guess there’s a sort of ultimatum here. Either we find out what’s going on or we forget the whole thing and let the pieces fall where they may.”


“I know you too well”, said Stan. “There is no way you are going to forget the whole thing, not when you know there’s the welfare of three tiny children involved. You might be able to do it if it were just Joanie, but the way I see it something has to be discovered before Johnny and his sisters are left alone tonight, if they aren’t already. I don’t trust Sean any more than you do.”


“You don’t think I’ve become obsessed by this whole thing? I’m not so sure. I think that might be what Madison was thinking and why she had to leave.”


“I think Madison might have been afraid she was getting obsessed by the whole thing. Besides, didn’t she plan to just come here for a couple of days? I got the idea she extended her stay just after she was invited to the party and that was over last night. I don’t think most of the people there made a great impression on her. I have to admit if I was encountering them for the first time last night I wouldn’t have thought much of them either.”


Craig looked more relieved at this thought. OK. I guess the first thing to do is talk to Dusty and you are right, I’m hungry too. Let’s stop at the diner. It’s right down the street from the Station and it’s possible Dusty will be in there for lunch. I would like to talk to him on a more informal basis without the necessity of filling out reports and all that other official stuff.


He was already grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair as though it was imperative that they waste no more time. Stan followed him out the front door, unaware that the breeze they had created had caused the papers to flutter around the room until they came to rest on the floor among some of the papers Madison had been going through earlier.


There were several cars parked alongside the diner, one of which Stan recognized as Dusty’s own car. Craig spotted it at the same time. “I guess this means he’s not on duty today.”

Josie’s voice greeted them as soon as they walked though the door. “Sit anywhere, I’ll be right with you.”


Craig looked around. He hadn’t expected to see so many people here on a Sunday and then he realized this was the after-church crowd. He spotted a couple of empty tables and a booth in the rear, but then he saw that Dusty was sitting in a booth all alone. He thought this would be perfect if he just invited himself in.


“Mind if I join you? I didn’t realize there was such a big Sunday lunch crowd.”


Dusty didn’t sound exactly pleased but he waved the two men to the opposite side of the booth. Craig called to Josie that they would like two coffees. Dusty had his own cup sitting in front of him and was studying the menu so it appeared he had not yet ordered. Craig and Stan both chose a menu from the stack between the catsup bottle and the wall even though they both knew they would be ordering the special of the day, no matter what it was.


After a bit of small talk about the weather Craig brought up the topic at hand. “I was wondering if you had any news about Josie.”


Dusty looked perplexed at the question. “What do you mean? Why would I be hearing anything about Josie?”


Craig knew his worst fears were being realized. It was a few long seconds before he could gather his thoughts enough to remind the sheriff of their visit to Joanie’s house a few days before and his permission to take care of the kids.


“Do you mean that nobody knows where Joanie is and you’ve been taking care of the children since then? I thought Joanie had just been called out of town on an emergency and that Jason, as her attorney and yours, wanted me as a sort of a witness to the removal of her property. After all, Jason had the key. I didn’t think anything about it.”


The Sheriff listened to the entire story, beginning with the call to Craig from Johnny and how the children had been staying at Madison’s house since Jason wanted it all kept quiet. He picked up his cell phone and made a call when he learned that Jason’s wife was actually the next of kin except for Joanie’s husband. It was obvious he had not known of that connection. Josie brought all three orders just as he disconnected from the call.


“I’ve got the State Patrol looking for Joanie’s car. Don’t worry. I’ll get to the bottom of this thing.” He was about to get up when Craig stopped him.


“We’ve got to find out about the children. Sean’s been with them over the weekend, but I suppose he’s going back to rehab tonight.”


“I’ll check that out and let you know. The paper you signed didn’t have an ending date on it so you still have the temporary guardianship, although I’m not certain if that’s the best thing now.”


“I’d rather keep it the way it is. I don’t trust Jason and Joyce at this point and I’d hate for the children to be caught up with Children’s Services if there’s a way around it. They have to be upset enough as it is. Let’s not make matters worse.”


The Sheriff seemed doubtful, but he nodded his head in agreement before he ran out the front door.


(To be continued)

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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 59 of 92

Chapter 34

(Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)


Madison was still wide awake when Phyllis left with a hug for her and a pat on the head and a scratch behind the ears for both Tedi and Daisy who had awakened to bid farewell to their friend. Although the words were unspoken, Madison had the feeling that the lingering hug she had received was more than the usual.


She wandered about the house aimlessly. Perhaps the coffee had not been such a good idea after all. She turned off the answering machine after cursing at the tiny light that had become obsessive. She punched the erase button with a pang of guilt but she knew those messages would never be listened to. Tomorrow would be soon enough to get in touch with her friends. By that time she might have an idea of what to say to them.


She finally made her way upstairs to the bedroom that she hadn’t seen in a week. Her bed was a mess. She wished she had made it up and left a neat place for her return, but that was not her way. It was still covered with several garments that had not fit in the suitcase when she had packed. Had that been only a week ago? She started to put them away and then decided that would be a waste of time since they would probably go with her this time. That was when she realized she had already made the decision to return very soon.


With a bath in the tub where she could almost lie down, she was able to relax enough that sleep might be possible. The night seemed cool enough to wear the old flannel gown that always made her feel more secure and protected. Tedi and Daisy had already found their places on the bed when she turned out the light with sleep closely following along with dreams of a wasp flying from place to place.


It was while she was making the morning coffee that she remembered she had not mentioned the ultimatum and her realizations about it to Phyllis. She told herself that was understandable as there had been so much to talk about just with Craig and the mystery of Joanie. But then she realized she was not quite ready to have casual conversation about that topic. For the first time in years she wished she had a therapist to talk to. She thought about calling Dr. Blaine but then remembered the chance encounter she had with him at Starbuck’s when they had caught up over a cup of coffee. She had the feeling he was coming on to her and later discovered he had been going through a divorce himself. There had been a time when she had a little crush on the young psychologist and his bright blue eyes behind the horn-rimmed glasses had given her heart a little flutter. No, she didn’t think she wanted to open that relationship back up, even if she wouldn’t have to wait for an appointment.


She found herself wandering around the house once more, carrying the cell phone with her. She had to admit there was some disappointment that she had not heard from Craig. She was more than curious to know if he had talked to the sheriff and learned anything. She assumed the children’s father was back at rehab and some arrangements had been made for the children after school. After all, this was now Monday when things were supposed to be back to normal, whatever that was. There were so many perplexing things in her life right now that she needed to sort out.


Her studio seemed like an alien place when she opened the door that had been closed for much longer than the week she had been away. There was a half finished painting of a mountain cabin propped up against the wall where it could also be seen in the mirror on the opposite wall. That was a commission and needed to be finished soon. Then there was the stack of sketches for the children’s book she was working on. There was no deadline on that but it wasn’t like her to leave projects half done. There was no denying that she had lost control over that part of her life and really needed to get to work. But then again, both these projects were using watercolor and that was simple to transport.


“It’s important, after all, that I need to find out if I can work there if I’m thinking about moving.” She realized she had said this out loud when she saw the smiling faces of the pups who seemed to agree with her. That’s when she decided to call her friends for a gathering on Wednesday night.


(To be continued)

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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 60 of 92

Chapter 33 (Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)


Madison was greeted with an overflowing mailbox and the tiny flashing light of the answering machine on the table beside the door. She decided to leave both for a few minutes while she joined Tedi and Daisy in exploring the house. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed since her departure, which was a relief. Since she had doggy doors she was often greeted by the fluttering wings of a bird who had found his way inside and was unable to leave. These encounters proved to be a large problem if it was discovered by the pups before she had a chance to intervene. They could become quite obsessed with the chase.


The dogs finished their inside inspection and went out into the back yard to check it out. Madison decided to make some coffee even though it was past her usual cutoff time. She told herself without some caffeine she would awaken to a headache in the morning, but the truth was she wanted to ponder on the realizations that seemed so new to her.


The awareness that she still had feelings coming from that old ultimatum had shocked her. It felt good to have the load lifted off her shoulders that she hadn’t even realized was there until now, but it made her wonder how many times that had influenced her in the past and if there were other things lurking in her subconscious that still remained in the dark. She filled the carafe with water from the kitchen sink and noticed a wasp lying on the counter. It seemed significant that this time it was dead.


By the time the coffee was ready the pups were back inside. They had found nothing exciting in the yard and followed her into the living room where they took their usual places on opposite ends of the sofa while Madison sat in the comfortable recliner. It felt odd to be back here. It always did after being away, but this time was different.


The light on the machine was still blinking and she knew she should check for messages but she wasn’t quite ready to give up this tiny bit of control over her life. She knew her friends were perplexed as to why she still used a land line instead of a cell like everyone else. She didn’t tell them she had one as she didn’t want to be in the position to be asked for the number. There were times when she didn’t want to be contacted by anyone. She had given the number to her sister in case of emergency, but that was it.


Of course she had a pretty good idea that most of the calls would be those automated calls that she didn’t want anyway. Her friends were accustomed to her allowing the machine to monitor calls but they would be concerned when their calls weren’t returned within a day or two. Of course she had checked her e-mail and had assured friends who had sent messages that she would return shortly without giving any details.


She decided the mail was the first priority, although she could tell it was mainly junk to be deposited into the recycle bin, but it was cluttering up the front porch. There was so much of it that she took a box with her to gather it and was tempted to put the entire thing into the bin without even bothering to open it, but in the end she brought it inside and went through it, finding only requests for donations and offers for life insurance. In the end there was only one piece of interest. There was a “Thinking of You” card from her best friend and she suddenly felt the pangs of guilt that she had kept Phyllis in the dark along with everyone else.


With that thought she picked up the phone and punched in the number that she knew by heart. It rang several times and she was thinking it was too late when she heard the familiar voice on the other end. Phyllis only lived on the next block and often ran by just for a cup of coffee. Madison hoped this would be one of those times. She wanted to talk about these lingering thoughts with someone face to face. It wasn’t the same when talking on the phone.


She hadn’t needed to worry. As soon as Phyllis recognized that her friend was at last home she said “Have the coffee ready. I’m there in 5 minutes.” The line went dead before Madison had a chance to disagree, which she wasn’t planning on doing anyway.


As promised, it was barely 5 minutes before there was a knock on the door. Tedi and Daisy ran to the front door but they must have recognized the visitor before the door was opened because instead of barking they were prepared to be petted and they were not disappointed right after Phyllis handed over a box to Madison.


“I baked today. You have to get fat along with me while you tell me what’s been going on.” 

From the look on her face, Madison thought her friend had a pretty good idea.


It was very late by the time Madison finished with a recap of all that had happened over the past week. It was only when she finished that she realized how much that had been crammed into just a few days. It was no wonder her head was swimming and she was having trouble feeling the ground beneath her feet.


Phyllis asked few questions and interrupted only a few times to refill the cups with coffee that neither really needed. Finally they both sat quietly, each in the place where they had occupied so often since they had become friends almost twenty years earlier. It was with a touch of sadness that she uttered the words, “When are you packing your suitcase, and do you need some help.”


(To be continued)

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