The Favor

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Chapter 14

Jane looked up from the arrangement she was putting together when Nora’s voice sounded on the intercom, “When you finish Mrs. Jones arrangement, Spenser would like for you to give him a call.”

Jane froze. Spenser wouldn’t call her at work unless there was an emergency of some sort. She was temped to call immediately, but Julio was scheduled to start making deliveries in thirty minutes. The arrangement she was putting together was marked priority. Mrs. Jones frequently ordered an arrangement for a shut-in or hospital patient. She did so anonymously. According to Nora, giving flowers to people who needed a touch of joy in their lives, was Mrs. Jones’ personal ministry. With Nora’s approval, she added a few extra flowers to Mrs. Jones’ orders. The flowers in today’s arrangement included roses, Asiatic lilies, peonies, gypsophelia, bee balm and sedum.

To Jane’s dismay, it would probably be a very long time before she had the opportunity to arrange flowers again. Creating beautiful arrangements was her happy place. Years ago, when she despaired of ever being free of Springer, she read a quote by an unknown writer, Flowers grow back even when they are stepped on. So, will I. She silently repeated the quote when things were not going her way.

“Thanks, Nora.”

When finished, she picked up the arrangement and carried the flowers into the showroom. Nora hurried over and took it from her. “I’ll get it ready for delivery. Reba will love this. The arrangement is gorgeous.”

“Is Reba a shut-in or a patient?”

“A partial shut-in. She has an employee who is part housekeeper and part chauffeur, but her husband and two children are dead. She has the distinction of being Gardner’s oldest resident, and today’s her birthday. She is ninety-eight.”

“And she gets out and about?”

“She’s a feisty one. She was still driving until last year. To this day she's grumbling about letting her doctor bully her into selling her car.”

Jane laughed. “That’s my kind of woman. I’ll be in the greenhouse if you need me.”

As soon as Jane was in the greenhouse, she took out her cell and called Spenser. He answered on the first ring. “Sorry about calling at work, but there’s been a change in plans. We need to be in New York tomorrow. You should give Nora a heads up.”

“No problem. She thought I might need time to tie up loose ends here in Gardner, so she asked Julio to work tomorrow.”

“Excellent. Did you call your walking buddy?”

“I did. What’s changed?”

“We’ll talk when I pick you up tonight.”

“What about my car?”

“Didn’t you tell me that Nora’s son is looking for a car to purchase?"

"He is."

"Tell Nora that he is welcome to use your car until you get back to town. Maybe he will offer to buy it. If he isn’t interested, we’ll come up with another plan.”

Jane was puzzled, but she had learned to trust Spenser's decisions.

By five-thirty, Jane was running out of tasks to keep her busy. Her work area was spotless and all orders that could be filled were filled. She tapped on Nora’s office door, then opened the door and asked, “Do you have time to talk?”

Nora motioned her in. “Of course.”

“I want to thank you taking a chance on me. I’ve loved every minute of my time here. I also want to thank you again for giving me the day off tomorrow.” She handed her car keys to Nora. “I would like your son Rob to have a car to drive until he finds the car he wants. If he decides he likes my Accord, I’ll give him a good deal. But . . . I don’t want him to feel obligated because I let him drive it.”

“That's very generous of you, Jane. Are you sure you want to trust a seventeen-year-old with your car?”

“Very sure. There's no way to predict how long I will be gone, or even if I will be able to return to Gardner. If I do come back, I can purchase a new car.

"I will draw up a document and have it notarized for him to have on hand in case he is ever questioned about the car belonging to another party. I will try to mail it to you next week.”

“Rob will be thrilled, Jane. Thank you. Please keep in touch. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers. Hoping that things work out for you.” She stood and gave Jane a warm hug. I’ll miss you.”

“Ditto. I might be out of touch for a while, but I promise to contact you as soon as I can.”

Later, when Jane was closing out the cash register. the door to the florist shop opened and Spenser walked in. “I wanted to come in and say to good-by to Nora.”

“She’s in her office.”

He’s was back out in seconds, and she followed him to his car. As soon as she buckled up, she said, “What’s going on?”

“I didn’t want to say anything while you were working. The police found Teresa’s body.”

Tears welled in Jane’s eyes. “I was afraid of that. Where? How.”

“In a cheap hotel room. She overdosed on heroin.”

Jane shook her head. “Wrong! Jane didn’t use alcohol or drugs.”

“Addicts are masters at covering their tracks, Jane.”

“I’ve worked with addicts, Spenser. I know the signs. Teresa’s mom was a druggy and her dad an alcoholic. She wouldn’t touch the stuff. She was murdered.”

“If true, you owe it to your friend to say as much to the police and FBI.”

She sighed. “I agree. What about Duffy. Has he turned up?”

“No.”

She said, “I miscalculated Springer’s reaction to my disappearance. He doesn’t tolerate insubordination, and he eliminates people on his enemies list. By that, I don’t mean he marks through their name. I have a list of ten people who have mysteriously disappeared in the past ten years.

“I spent twelve years alienating my friends and family by ignoring them. Then, when Springer was out of town, I walked away to save myself. I didn’t consider the mayhem that would follow. I’m usually more astute and more sensitive to other's needs. It doesn’t matter that he was planning to eliminate me as soon as his new muse was trained. And, it doesn’t matter that I ran his legal operations for ten years. When a person is no longer useful, he gets rid of them. Besides, he’s well aware that I have enough evidence of his corruption to put him away for life.”

“Don’t blame yourself for Springer’s actions, Jane. It’s counter-productive.”

“Thanks for reminding me." She paused before continuing, "With my friends disappearing, I’m worried about Jess.”

“Simon and Max won’t let anything happen to her.”

“Remind me. Who is Max?”

“Helen’s soon to be husband. He’s her physical therapist, but he has a background in law enforcement. Jess is in good hands.”

Spenser pulled into Jane’s driveway. “One more thing. On the outside chance that Springer has a man in Gardner, and your apartment has been bugged, we need to convince the listener that we don’t have a care in the world. Here's the script. We are stopping at your apartment for you to change into something more appropriate for dinner at Graystone Inn. Pack enough clothes for two days in a brown paper bag. Better still, a shopping bag from a boutique or department store. Before we leave the apartment, ask if I mind stopping by a friend’s house to deliver a birthday gift for her son. If someone is listening or watching, our actions will appear to be appropriate.

“My theory is that Springer’s plan is to abduct you. A quick kill won’t work with you. He wants you to know who ordered the kill.”

Jane winced. “Sounds reasonable. I hope you are a good actor, Spenser.”

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