Ask Sam

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Chapter 8

Joanna’s eyes slowly opened to see Sam sitting across from her in one of the Adirondack chairs. Through a yawn she asked, “When did you arrive?’

“A while ago, but you looked so peaceful I decided not to disturb you.”

“One of the reasons I bought this house was because of the screened porch, and lately I have been too busy to take advantage of the balmy evenings and sunlight until nine.”

Sam quoted, “Each morning sees some task begin, each evening sees it close.”

“I didn’t know you were a Longfellow fan, Sam.”

“I’m not but Mrs. Couch, our ninth grade English teacher was.”

Joanna chuckled. “How could I forget? What have you been up to?’

“Nothing newsworthy. Danny Porter has been on my mind. Did the information I shared help resolve the situation?”

Joanna briefed Sam on her conversation with Logan then segued into the confrontation with Danny. “I’m not sure whether it was Logan’s mild-mannered approach or Danny’s loneliness that kept our meeting from being confrontational. Danny is a reasonable kid. It turns out that he didn’t plan to disappear permanently. He was waiting until his Uncle Kevin was back in Gladstone. He left because he needed time to grieve. The help of strangers isn’t always wanted or needed. The adults in charge were dictating how he should act, where he should live, and when he should return to school. He was informed enough to realize he could not fight the system.

“According to Danny, his mom’s friend was wrong about an estrangement between his mom and uncle. Angela encouraged his Uncle Kevin to take the job overseas. She didn’t tell him about her struggle with cancer because she believed the chemo was working. ”

“So, is he back in Gladstone?”

“Not yet. Danny’s case worker agreed to let Danny remain with Logan and Beth until his Uncle Kevin arrives in Gladstone. He is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.”

“Things have a way of working out when people use common sense.”

“Logan had a bargaining chip. Some of the college students who Logan has worked with in the past have been hanging out at St. Matthews’ gym since their colleges let out for the summer. The students agreed to keep Danny occupied.”

“I hope Danny’s uncle will honor his sister-in-law’s wishes.”

“So do I. Needless to say, Danny is concerned about his future. He realizes that his plans and his uncle’s might be at cross purposes, but I predict that he will end up achieving whatever he sets out to do.”

“You did what you could. Now, you have to step back and hope for the best.”

“I have learned from experience that becoming too attached to a student is just as detrimental as not caring enough. The same applies to Danny.”

“But letting go isn’t always easy. Have you heard any rumors about the Stockton’s?”

“Bits and pieces, but not enough information to draw any firm conclusions. Last Saturday, Melanie’s husband John played golf with a lawyer friend from Compton, Stiller & Associates, Peter Stockton’s firm. The friend mentioned that Stockton was no longer with the firm. Ellen, Stockton’s wife, and I serve on the planning committee for the art museum. Until Tuesday evening, the committee had not met since you overheard the conversation about the kidnapping. Ellen did not attend last week’s meeting. The committee chair told us that Ellen was temporarily living at 103 Livingstone Ave. I happened to know that her parents live at that address.”

“It is probably best that she is back home, but my main concern is Tricia. If she and her mom are living with Ellen’s parents, I assume the child will get the support she needs.”

“We can only hope.”

“Don’t you find it rewarding when justice is served, Joanna.”

“I care about justice as much as you do, Sam, but I do not like to meddle in other people’s business. If you investigate and I continue to be a police informer, sooner or later I will pay a high price for my actions. You, my friend, will go scot free.”

“Then I don’t suppose you want to hear the scoop on your old nemesis, Rhonda Greenall aka Rhonda West.”

“Where on earth did you hear Rhonda’s name, Sam?”

“Where isn’t important, but what I heard might be. Rumor has it that she’s been stepping out on her police officer husband. You know Rhonda. She is always the victim, so she will look for someone to blame. If she knows that you are back in town, she will probably come after you.”

“Good grief, Sam. I have not seen the woman in twelve years. Surely she has forgotten that I posted her enemies list on the gym bulletin board.”

“If she has read about your success as an illustrator, don’t count on it. People like Rhonda hold grudges.”

“I felt really guilty because she lost a good friend over that list.”

“Who needs a friend who wants to punch your eyes out and cut off your ears? Isn’t that the action she wanted to take against her friend Gail? And what about you? She wanted to throw gasoline on you and light a match.”

“She’s a drama queen. She was upset because Gail made cheerleader and she didn’t.”

“And she was jealous of you because you have gorgeous blond hair, sky blue eyes and a flawless complexion. As for the list, lots of lost and found items were posted on the gym bulletin board. If she didn’t want people to know that she had a mean streak, she shouldn’t have made an enemies list.

“Aunt Polly was livid when she heard about the incident. She didn’t know about all of the times Rhonda and her friends humiliated me, so she was on Rhonda’s side.”

“Did you tell her that Rhonda started a rumor that you were a witch.”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, Sam.”

Sam laughed. “No, but in Rhonda’s case there must have been one itsy bitsy moment when you felt vindicated.”

Joanna grinned. “You bet, but later I felt guilty.”

“Okay. Let’s forget Rhonda West for now. Anything else I need to know?”

“One of the female students in Logan’s college group came to him for advice about a friend of hers. By accident, she saw a classmate named Chip Singleton, selling drugs out of the trunk of his car. Chip is from a wealthy family, so his sideline doesn’t have anything to do with poverty. Chip’s female friend does not want to be responsible for his arrest, but she is reluctant to ignore a crime. Logan is in a bind, Sam. He hesitates to approach Chip until he has credible evidence. He wants to hire an investigator, but because of his position at the church, he questions the wisdom of getting involved.

“His reservations did not keep him from peppering me with questions about you.”e ques

“What kind of questions?”

“If you are licensed, and if your prices are reasonable.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him that you were not an option because you were already juggling cases. It is one thing to anonymously turn information over to the police, but if you investigate for a friend of mine, how do I explain you?”

Sam shrugged. “What is Logan’s objective? Is he going to inform the police, or will he stage an intervention?”

“Our conversation didn’t get that far.”

“I would gladly investigate for Logan, but you know my limitations.”

“Yes, I do.”

Joanna was relieved when Sam changed the subject.

“Didn’t you have an interview with Betty Allen this week?”

“I did, and I can’t believe how flexible the job is. I will need to work fulltime until the shop opens. I can handle that many hours because Judy’s manuscript will not be completed until late June. After opening day, I will work ten to fifteen hours a week.”

“What will you be doing.”

“Primarily display and set-up for classes, but I’ve agreed to fill in where I am needed. There was one moment during the interview when I almost made a fool of myself. Alex McCord stopped in to say hello to Ed and Betty while I was at the shop.”

“The columnist?”

She nodded. “I was in a hare’s breath of rushing him and telling him to get lost.”

Sam frowned. “That doesn’t sound like you. What did the guy do?”

“It is not what he did. It is his looks. He’s a deep ringer for you, Sam. Same dark hair, blue eyes, great physique but without that sneaky look of yours.”

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