Ask Sam

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Chapter 18

In the days to come, when Joanna’s fellow teachers asked about her vacation, she would quote Robert Burns’ words, “the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry”. In truth, despite her injuries, she enjoyed the time she spent with her dad and several of her friends. On Monday, she and Melanie enjoyed lunch on her dad’s screen porch, then spent the afternoon reviewing the positives and negatives of summer break. Judy Malone stopped by Tuesday morning with news about her book. Judy’s manuscript and Joanna’s illustrations were in the hands of her publisher, but the date of publication had not been announced. That evening, Kathleen Kelly dropped after she closed Village Crafts.

Joanna assumed Kathleen was there to pick up more of her dad’s carvings, but when Joanna saw the look on her dad’s face, she sensed something was afoot. To Joanna’s surprise, her dad informed her that he and Kathleen had been seeing each other for almost two years. They had been mum about their relationship until they were ready to make a commitment. Joanna was delighted. She liked Kathleen, and she had been concerned about her dad’s lack of social life. She had tried to set him up twice, and he refused to even consider a blind date.

On Thursday, she and her Aunt Polly made a trip to Walsburg to visit Polly’s college friend Joan. The trip, scheduled earlier in the week, was canceled because of her accident, but Joan called and insisted on a reschedule. Polly and Joan, unlike most of their college classmates, worked to help with their college expenses. Polly worked as a waitress, while Joan performed stand-up comedy anywhere she could find an open mic. Joan went on to become the successful director of a non-profit organization, but she had not lost her love of comedy or her ability to deliver a joke. By the time lunch was over, all of Joanna’s negative thoughts had been washed away by laughter.

The stop in Gladstone gave Joanna a sense of closure for Danny’s case. She understood how quickly life could change and how overwhelming new responsibilities could affect a person’s attitude, especially a young person. As she had hoped, the friends of Danny’s parents and the members of their church had rallied around Kevin and his nephew. Kevin was working for a local airport and had committed to staying in Gladstone until Danny graduated from high school.

Friday morning Joanna woke to the sound of driving rain. She pulled on a robe and padded into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, and grabbed a breakfast muffin, one of her Aunt Polly’s creations that contained bacon and corn. Her dad wasn’t wild about the muffins, but as far as she was concerned, savory muffins beat bacon and eggs in the taste department.erH Her dad had suggested a back-off day, the first day since the accident to fend for herself. Is she needed him, he was in his studio catching up on paperwork and completing an order that was due on Monday. Sure, she found the casts cumbersome, but she was determined to be self-sufficient. It was time to go home.

With her second cup of coffee in hand, she settled into a comfortable chair, put her feet up and opened Censored, Raymond Shields’ latest novel.erH

She took a break for lunch, checked the weather report, then returned to her reading. Shields chose to write about controversial subjects; subjects that some readers went out of their way to avoid. She found his books hard to put down. At nine minutes after three, she read the last paragraph. She put the book on the table beside her chair, leaned back and closed her eyes.

“Good Read?”

Her eyes popped open. “Sam. Should have known. Raymond Shields books are cleverly written and thought provoking.”

“Hm-m. I thought females preferred those beach reading novels when they are in need of relaxation.”

“I’ve had a too much relaxation. I need to get back in the groove.”

“Where’s your dad?”

“He’s in the studio. He has an order due Monday.

“Where have you been? I expected you to hover over me like Dad and Aunt Polly have been doing.”

“I was in the ambulance and examining room with the doctors. As soon as I knew the extent of your injuries, I headed out to find Chip Singleton. He needed an alibi for his whereabouts, so I assumed he would head home. He didn’t go directly home because he arrived at his house a few minutes after I arrived.”

“Was he high?”

“He didn’t appear to be, but with some drugs judgement can be impaired even when the person doesn’t appear to be high.”

She shook her head in frustration. “When you know who the guilty party is, it is infuriating to be told that the chances of an arrest are slim.”

“Is that what Officer Ericson said?”

She nodded.

“It’s too bad the witnesses didn’t see his face. As much as I would like to see Chip charged, I am more concerned about what he might do in the future. The next time, if there is a next time, you might not survive.”

“How can we stop him?”

“I can tell you what I learned, but before we discuss the Singleton’s, tell me about your week.”

“Considering the circumstances, the week has been surprisingly pleasant.” She recapped the week’s events for him. “Sam, are you aware that Dad and Kathleen Kelly have been dating?”

“I suspected as much. I didn’t mention my suspicions because the news was your dad’s to share.”

“I’m not angry with you, Sam. If they had wanted me to know, they would have told me. Enough about me, I’m curious about what you learned while hanging out at Chip’s house. And by the way, why is Chip in Fairview. Classes started two weeks ago. Why isn’t he back on campus?”

“He needs to complete his community service hours. He plans to return after Christmas.”

“I’ll bet he is not happy about that.”

“He is spending most of his time on porn sites and on the web site of “Jungle Boys”, a fringe group of revolutionaries.”

“That can’t be good. Do you think his parents are aware of his computer habits?”

“I doubt it. His dad has enabled much of Chip’s behavior, but he loves his son. There is an issue people outside the family aren’t aware of. Martin’s brother committed suicide, and his grandfather’s death was questionable. It would be helpful to have more information about the family’s mental health history, If Chip is suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, he needs to be getting treatment. If he is abusing drugs, he needs treatment.”

“I agree. What’s Chip’s mom like?”

“She is an attractive women, seemingly kind, and genuinely concerned about her son. She wasn’t happy with her husband’s decision to leave St. Matthews. She has continued to attend a bible study group at the church without her husband’s knowledge. I could be wrong, but I sense that she usually abides by her husband’s wishes.

“Currently, Martin and Gretchen’s relationship is contentious. From their conversations, I gather that she was unaware of Chip’s brushes with the law until he was picked up for selling drugs. She wants Chip to see a therapist, but Martin doesn’t want outsiders involved.”

“It seems to me he cares more about his reputation than the welfare of his son.”

“Maybe, and maybe he is afraid Chip will be labeled.”

“Here’s a thought. John Soames is a whiz with computers. Maybe I should ask him to do some digging.”

Sam shook his head. “John and Melanie go to St. Matthews. To be on the safe side, the person searching should not have a connection to the Singleton’s. Ask your dad. I’ll bet he knows a few out-of-state computer nerds”

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