The Favor

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Chapter 12

Jane’s somber mood slowly dissipated as she watched a young boy in a booth across the way make faces at his toddler sister. She snapped a photo of his sister’s response to his nonsensical behavior. The child’s peals of laughter were joyously infectious. Jane wished she could bottle the café’s energy and the child’s merriment. Since she couldn’t, she did the nest best thing. She took a photo.

During her twelve years in New York, Jane rarely saw children When she did, it was from afar. Unfortunately, her chances of having a child of her own were slim, so she took every opportunity that came her way, to enjoy other people’s children.

She had driven out of her way to make a quick stop at Rudy’s. She told herself that Rudy’s had the best smoothies in town. In truth, her primary reason for stopping by was to banish her negativity. Negative thoughts about her future had plagued her since Spenser’s unexpected news.

First and foremost, she feared for Teresa’s safety, her safety and her parent’s safety. Then there was the mater of giving up her job at Nora’s. The hours spent at the florist shop were happy hours; a time for her own personal contentment. She wanted to hang onto her happiness, but it was quickly slipping away.

She found the small, family café shortly after she settled in Gardner. It was a gathering spot for young families with children. According to Layla, her walking buddy, couples without children, or with older children, preferred a quieter place to dine. Jane needed quiet moments, but she also needed the uninhibited laughter and vibrancy of children.

The café provided play areas for their young patrons. A sturdy structure, in a fenced in area outside, offered several kid favorites; swings, a slide and areas to climb. In addition, there was a children’s gaming nook inside. The kid-friendly menu included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and French fries, along with nightly specials for adults.

After she exited the café, she turned and took a photo of Rudy’s front window. An artist had painted a charming scene of children riding on a carousel. He or she had captured the essence of the café. Photos were a great reminde She sensed that in the coming weeks she would need the comfort of knowing that her life in Gardner had been real.

During her ten-minute drive to Graystone Inn, Jane tried to recall what she had read about the Inn’s history. She had driven past the impressive arched gate, but she had never driven down the winding lane to the Inn. When the building came into sight, her eyes widened. The Inn would have looked at home in the English countryside but somehow seemed out of place in rural Missouri.

“The gray stone structure reminded her of the Elms, the Edward Julius Berwind’s Classical Revival style summer home in New Port, Rhode Island. The original estate was completed in 1901. Graystone, the current inn, was not built until 1920. The stone for the building was mined from a local quarry.

Christ Episcopal Church and the county courthouse were built out of the same gray stone. Many of the cottages built in the twenties and thirties were built with stone. Some of the newer homes in town used veneered stone as trim. The Inn was originally known as Graystone Academy, a prep school for boys. When the academy closed in 1981, the property was converted into an resort and Conference Center. According to the Inn’s web site, several conventions were held at Graystone annually.

To her surprise, the lobby was elegant but not ostentatious. She was admiring the beautiful landscape paintings on the walls behind a conversation area when Spenser appeared at her side. “Gorgeous, aren’t they?”

She nodded in agreement. “Because of the architecture, I expected the lobby to be formal and imposing. I was wrong. The décor is inviting.”

“It is, and the staff is accommodating. The food is excellent and the rooms are large, well-stocked and comfortable. It’s not surprising that 90% of their guests are repeats.”

“Thanks for meeting me in the lobby, Spenser. The news about my parents was unexpected and somewhat overwhelming. Now that I’ve grasped the severity of the situation, I have questions. I suggested meeting in the lobby because I didn’t want Mom and Dad to hear our conversation.”

“I figured as much.”

“If my parents use their ATM card or their credit card won’t that put them in danger?”

“I’ll foot the bill for now. When all of this is behind us, your parents and I will settle up.”

“We are going to have massive expenses before this is over, so we need to cut expenses when possible. Accommodations at the B & B in town would have cost half what you will pay here.”

“I chose Graystone for two reasons, Jane. One, I didn’t want to be in town. I don’t want the people you know to ask questions or speculate. Two, your parents have been troopers, but they are scared out of their minds. I want them to be as comfortable as possible. The next few weeks are going to be tough.

“For now, put your worries about the financial costs aside. I don’t spend money foolishly. When I travel, which is often, I choose an inexpensive room because I’ll only be in the room to sleep. I can be tight-fisted until I deem something necessary. The safety of my family is necessary. I will do whatever I have to do to keep you and your parents safe.” He paused before continuing, “My money won’t run out, Jane.”

“I appreciate your generosity, but I might have a partial solution. I chose Jessica to make arrangements to move the furniture in the New York condo because Jess is practical. I was fairly certain that if I asked her to dump the furniture or give it away that she would ignore my request and put it in storage. Knowing Jess, she would assume that I had made the decision when I was angry. When we were in high school, she was a pro at second-guessed me.

“If the furniture is in storage, all of the pieces need to be appraised. Some of the pieces are valuable. I can use the furniture for collateral for a loan. More importantly, I need to know the value of the furniture before Springer’s case goes to court. He bought the furniture, but I trained his girls there, and I was responsible for the condo’s upkeep.

“I kept a record of every job I held when I worked for him. His pat answer when I complained about the size of my paycheck was to say that I didn’t need money because he provided everything I needed. I think the feds will agree that the furniture is a small price to pay for the services I provided.”

“I’ll talk to Jessica about having an appraisal done. Unless you have more questions, I’ll take you to your parents room.”

“One more, Spenser. How shocked are my parent’s going to be with the changes in my appearance?”

“I showed them a recent photo of you. Your mom was skeptical. Part of her hesitation to accept my explanation for the changes in your appearance was her mistrust of me. Mom wasn’t always honest with her. Aunt Marie’s mistrust carried over to me.

“If Uncle Ken hadn’t believed that I was telling the truth about your situation, they wouldn’t be here.”

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