The Favor

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Chapter 5

During her mom’s early recuperation, Jessica spent most of her time at her mom’s bedside. In order to supplement her dwindling checking account, she taught piano. Seven months into her mom’s recuperation, she received a call from the president of Ravenscroft Country Club. According to the caller, the board had recently voted to add two evenings of entertainment in the restaurant. One of the board members recommended hiring Jessica on a trial basis. Since her family had never belonged to the country club, she was flattered. The timing was perfect. Jessica enthusiastically accepted the offer. The addition was successful, and seven years later, Jessica was still playing the piano on Thursday and Saturday evenings.

The first evening she performed, Dr. Hayes, a doctor who worked with her mom, asked if she ever did vocals. When she answered in the affirmative, he requested Julie London’s Cry Me a River. The next day he called all of his friends who were jazz lovers. At her next performance, the restaurant was packed. The manager of the restaurant was so pleased that he designated Thursday evening as Cool Jazz Night. The jazz enthusiasts were a faithful crowd. The regulars were still packing the restaurant on Thursday evenings.

As usual, several regulars stopped by to say hello when she finished the night’s performance. Two made requests for upcoming performances. While she chit-chatted with the fans, Barney–the club’s security officer–stood patiently waiting to walk her to her car. When the last fan said goodnight, she thanked Barney for waiting.

“My pleasure. Your fans keep the restaurant open.” He paused before adding, “My job keeps me outside most of my shift, but tonight I was lucky enough to catch your performance of Peggy Lee’s Is That All There Is. I never realized how much you sound like her.”

“Thanks Barney. Jazz isn’t as popular as it was in the forties, fifties and sixties, but the fans who are enthusiasts, are dedicated. Personally, there’s nothing I like better than a lazy Saturday when I can chill and listen to songs by the torch singers.”

“I never listened to jazz until you began playing at the club. Now, I try to find an excuse to slip in to catch at least one of your songs on Thursday evenings.”

“Barney, if you have a request, it would be my pleasure to perform it for you.”

“When you do another Peggy Lee song, let me know.”

“Do you happen to know who was standing in for Blain tonight?”

He shook his head. “The newbie didn’t give you a hard time, did he?”

“No. I just wondered. Blain usually keeps my water glass filled, and a server I’ve never met did it tonight.”

“Ask the chef. He will know.”

When Jessica arrived home, she found her mom journaling while Thor stood alert at her side. Her mom commanded, “Down, Thor.”

Thor dropped to the floor with his head between his paws. Her mom leaned down and patted his head. “Good boy.”

“You and Max are doing a great job with Thor.”

“It helps that he likes to please. He’s a great guard dog and companion.”

When Jessica was a child, her mom didn’t sit still long enough to read or journal. If life is to be lived to its fullest, a person must actively participate had been her credo. The accident changed her perspective. She found that writing about her fears and frustrations helped control her anxiety. Since she and Max had become an item, she had given up journaling.

“It’s good to see you journaling again.”

“I’m working on a writing project, not writing in my journal. Thor’s handler has a loose-leaf notebook filled with testimonials from service dog owners he has worked with. There are no testimonials from dog owners who have trained their own dogs. Max and I are both keeping notes about our experience with training. Eventually, we will combine our thoughts and write a pros and cons article about the process.”

“Why don’t you, Max and Thor’s handler write a book? How-to books are popular these days.”

“It’s a thought. How was your evening?”

“Delightful as usual, although the evening ended unexpectedly. When I put my playlist back in my jacket pocket, I found a note.” She dug in her pocket and handed the note to her mom.”

Her mom shook her head in disbelief. “The circumstances surrounding Kathryn’s disappearance are more and more intriguing. Doesn’t it seem strange that the writer waited seven weeks to warn you not to stick your nose into other people's business?”

“He or she must have some reason for writing the note.”

“Maybe the writer knows Simon is asking questions. He called earlier. He asked Max to meet him at Cody’s for a drink. I think you should send a text to him. He will want to know about the note.

Jessica said, “If the writer suspects Simon is investigating Kathryn’s disappearance, he or she will be aware that Simon has been checking in with us." Jess shuttered. "I hate the uncertainty of not knowing where we stand. I’m looking forward to the day when our lives will get back to normal.”

“I couldn’t agree more. I hate having to lock the front door in the middle of the day, but better safe than sorry.”

“Simon must have information about either Kathryn or Wayne Springer. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be back in town.”

Her mom pondered Jess’ remark before answering. “You can never tell about Simon. He shows up when you least expect him.”

“While I’m waiting to hear from him, I’m going to see if I can rustle up something to eat. I’m famished.”

“Max made a pot of corn chowder. It’s terrific.”

“My mouth is watering. Give me a call if I don’t hear Simon and Max arrive.”

“Will do.”

Jessica was sorting through a stack of mail when Simon strolled into the kitchen. She looked up and said, “Hi. Thanks for responding to my text.”

He frowned. “It’s not good for digestion to combine food and bills.”

Jessica laughed. “I was so hungry I inhaled the corn chowder.” She pointed to an empty bowl. “That’s my proof. Did Mom show you the note?”

“She did.”

“What are your thoughts?

“I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve done some checking.”

“There is a fresh pot of coffee if you are interested.”

“I don’t usually drink coffee after nine, but since I still have at least two hours of paperwork before I close my eyes, I’ll take you up on the offer.” He opened a cabinet door, took out a mug and poured coffee into it.

Jessica mused, “I see you remember where the mugs are.”

“I should hope so. Before our family moved out of the neighborhood, I spent almost as much time in your house as I did in mine.”

“It’s ironic. You were there for me when we were kids, and here you are again. Thanks, Simon.”

“You came through for Kathryn, even though the two of you were no longer close. I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I didn’t respond the same way.”

Jessica shook her head. “Don’t credit me with undying loyalty. My first reaction was to shred her letter.” She paused in reflection. “A friend’s disappearance happens to other people, or so I thought. I can’t get my head around the fact that she needed help years ago, and she didn’t reach out to a friend.

"If she hadn’t been so beautiful or so naïve as a teen, maybe she wouldn’t have become the victim of a predator. I shudder when I think about the web of corruption and lewdness, she was tangled in.

"After I met the infamous Wayne Springer, I researched the modeling industry. There are countless naïve young girls who end up with eating disorders, STD’s or worse. I feel guilty for not demanding answers from her.

“Maybe the writer of the note has a point. If she’s found a safe haven, is it really wise to try to find her? There is no guarantee that Springer will be brought to justice. He’s evaded prosecution for years. As long as he’s walking the streets, she’s probably not safe.”

“So, what are you saying? Walk away and leave Springer free to prey on hundreds of other girls?”

Jess’ eyes widened. “No. I just wish there was a way to take him down without involving Kathryn.”

“So, do I, but Kathryn colluded with Springer. She recruited young girls for his business, and she withheld information from the police. Sooner or later the police or feds will apprehend her. She will serve time unless she testifies against him.” Jessica was becoming agitated, so Simon backed off. “Let’s save this conversation for another time. Keep your eyes and ears open. For now, let’s assume the note is irrelevant.”

“The nagging question for me is who in Laurinburg knows about Kathryn’s disappearance.”

“The person who wrote it might not be from Laurinburg. Were there any unfamiliar faces in the restaurant tonight?”

“Yes, but since the club began allowing non-club members to dine at the restaurant on Thursday and Saturday evenings, unfamiliar faces aren’t unusual. I left my jacket on the piano bench when I took a break. Anyone in the restaurant could have slipped the note into my pocket.”

“What’s the name of the restaurant? I don’t recall hearing it.”

“Callaway’s, but most people refer to it as the club restaurant.”

“When did their policy about exclusiveness change?”

“Almost eleven years ago. The board voted to let non-members dine because the restaurant was losing money. Non-members are asked to pay a cover-charge.”

“Wow. I’ve been out of the loop way to long. Was there any time during the evening when someone brushed up against you?”

“No.”

“Did anything unusual happen during the evening?”

“No, but there was one anomaly that may or may not have anything to do with the note. The server who keeps my water glass filled during the evening was not on the job. I didn’t know the server who filled in for him.”

“Do you have a name?”

“No. If it’s important, the chef should be able to give you a name.”

“I’ll question the wait staff. If learn anything important, I’ll get back to you.

“Have you uncovered any more information about Springer?”

“Not Springer per se. I questioned the residents in Kathryn’s condo complex. Several claimed to have seen her interacting with a man in his seventies named Duffy. He moved out of the complex the week after Max and his crew moved Kathryn’s furniture. I don’t like coincidences, so I intend to find and question him.

“Since we are going to be spending some time together, maybe we should meet in a restaurant. I don’t want to worry your mom.”

“That’s fine by me.”

“Being seen in public might convince anyone who might be checking you out that we are dating. Because of my job, I don’t want anyone to question why I am a regular visitor to your house.

“Fine. I haven’t had a date in so long, I’m not sure how I will know how to conduct myself.”

Simon grinned. “Since we’ve been friends since childhood, I expect you to act like the friend you are. Besides, I’ve had my nose to the grind for too long. A night out will be good for both of us.”

“Sounds like fun. The only evening I have free is Friday.”

“Friday evenings are usually booked early in the week. I’ll check around and get back to you.”

Jessica glanced at her watch. “It’s late, Simon. If you have two hours of work ahead of you, you need to get going.”

“One question before I leave. Did you decide not to move after Max moved in because you feel you are in danger?”

Jessica’s eyes widened. “Absolutely not. Max can be intimidating, and he made it clear to Springer that he had my back. Springer might want to make sure I was telling the truth about not being in touch with Kathryn, but he has no reason to see me as a threat.

“Mom worries. For her sake I’ve been taking extra precautions when I’m out late. Max drops me off and picks me up from the club, or he drives over and follows me home. Tonight, he sent one of his friends to follow me home.

“Besides the note, I’ve seen no evidence that someone is shadowing me. Neither has Max.”

“So, is your plan not to move in the near future?”

“I’ll move when I’ve finalized my plans for the fall. I’ve sent resumes to five schools, but I’ve had only one response. Until I have a firm offer, or decide to keep the jobs I have, I’ll stay put. When I get a breather, I’ll draw up a plan of action.”

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