The Favor

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Chapter 6

“Hi Jess. It’s Simon.”

“Your voice sounds strange. Is something wrong?”

“No. It’s windy, so you might be picking up interference.”

“Windy? Where are you?”

“At the airport waiting for a flight to Washington. I’m not sure how long I’ll be there, so our Friday night dinner will need to be canceled.”

“No problem. Do I need to cancel the reservation?”

“No. I’ll take care of it. I’ll have to be brief, but I need to update you on a couple of things. I talked to the fill-in server at Callaway’s. The man who gave the note to the server was a young guy who claimed to be a friend of yours. I shared the information to the security guard. He will fill you in on the details, and he will also keep an eye out for the man. If we are lucky, he will overplay his hand.”

“Thanks for giving me a heads-up, Simon.”

“One more thing. I have a possible lead. One of the residents at Kathryn’s condo complex called last evening. According to a rumor, Lawrence Duffy moved into a retirement center in Sanford. For now, that’s all of the information I have.”

Jess frowned. Sanford, although a charming town, was a strange choice of location for a life-city dweller to retire. “Sanford has two retirement facilities. Sanford East and Brookhaven. The former is older and more affordable. Brookhaven is privately owned.”

“Are you familiar with the centers?”

“Only Brookhaven, A friend from college is the activities director at the facility. The first time I drove over to Sanford for a lunch date with Kylie, she gave me the grand tour. It reminded me of a ritzy country club. The place was buzzing with activity.

“One of the residents is a retired concert pianist who entertains the residents on Sunday afternoons. One Sunday when she was out of town, Kylie talked me into substituting. Although I was excited to be given the opportunity, it was intimidating to be her fill-in. I completely changed the format of the program. Fortunately, the residents seemed to enjoy the oldies and singalongs.

“Since Kylie is a friend, why don't I contact her?”

“Sounds like a great idea. I assume visitors are screened. For Duffy’s sake, I would prefer to get in and out without upsetting the residents or having by showing my credentials.”

“Security is tight. I don't think it will be an issue, but just so you know, I’ll walk away before jeopardizing Kylie's job." She paused before asking, "Is there any way to keep an FBI agent from eventually showing up at the center?”

“If Duffy isn’t withholding evidence from the police, he doesn’t have anything to worry about. Currently, Kathryn isn’t in Springer's cross-hairs. If Duffy’s only connection to Springer is Kathryn, he isn’t either.”

Before Jessica could ask another question, he said, “My flight is boarding, Jess. I need to go. I’ll be in touch.”

“Good luck, Simon.”

Two days later, Jessica knocked gently on the door frame of her friend Kylie’s office. Kylie looked up and broke into a smile. “Jessica, what a lovely surprise.” She motioned for Jess to enter.

“Have I come at a bad time?”

“Yes and no. I’m free for today, but my husband and I have a meeting with our builder.”

“Sorry. Let me get out of your hair.”

Kylie pointed to a chair. “Sit. I have thirty minutes. We can do a lot of catching up in that amount of time. What are you doing in Sanford?”

“I usually buy my sheet music and music books online, but every six months or so, I come to Sanford to shop at Quarter Note. I like to take my time and browse through the shop's inventory, especially the sale items. Today, my Saturday morning student canceled, so I made a spur of the moment decision to drive over. I can’t come to Sanford without at least checking in with you.”

“I’m delighted you did.”

“Where is everybody? I noticed that the grounds and public area of the building are deserted.”

“Usually, Saturdays are our busiest day here at Brookhaven, but today a bus load of residents went over to the country club to attend a golf tournament. A second group is on a day trip to Newport. A quiet day was a blessing for me, since I needed the afternoon off.”

“Give me a quick update on your building project before you have to leave to meet John.”

“Right now, we are in the process of making decisions about the basics. Floor coverings. Tile for the roof. Fixtures for the baths and cabinets for the kitchen. Once we get past the basics, the project should move quickly. When school is out, I’d like for you drive over and I’ll give you a tour of the house and property.”

“I’d like that. I’m excited for you and John, Kylie.”

Kylie pointed to her phone. “I need to take this.” She listened for a moment, then said, “Sure. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Sorry, Jess. John wants to talk to me before the builder arrives, so I need to go.” She walked over to Jess and gave her a hug. “I would walk out with you, but my car is parked out back.”

“Go. We’ll talk soon.”

She stood in the doorway to Kylie’s office and watched as Kylie disappeared through a doorway at the end of the hall. She shrugged, and muttered, “Well, that went well, Jessica. The next time you want to question someone, it might be wise to call ahead!”

She stopped abruptly when she heard hushed voices in the activities room. The murmurs stopped, and the haunting notes of Liszt’s Liebestraum floated through the air. Enthralled, she listened until the last notes faded. As always, the beauty of the piece washed away her worries, calmed her spirit. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that the gifted pianist was Millicent Sloan. She wondered if the residents realized how fortunate they were to have such a brilliant performer living among them. She stood quietly waiting to see if Millicent would continue to play, but all was quiet.

She had almost reached the front door when someone called her name. She turned and saw a handsome man wearing dockers and dark blue golf shirt striding towards her. She had not met him during one of her previous visits to the center, so she was more than a little curious about how he knew her name.

“Were you speaking to me?”

“I hope I didn’t startle you.”

“No, but I’m curious about how you know my name. I don’t think we’ve met.”

“I assure you I’m not psychic. Another resident and I were in the reading nook when you entered the front door. Fred was excited about seeing you again. He was hoping you were here to make arrangements for another singalong. The residents haven’t stopped talking about how much they enjoyed your visit.”

She relaxed. “The singalong was as much fun for me as it was for the residents.”

“The irony is, I recognized your name. I was aware that Kathryn’s hometown was Laurinburg, but I didn’t expect to meet her best friend here at Brookhaven. My name is Lawrence Duffy. Kathryn and I lived in the same condo complex in New York.”

Jess was momentarily speechless. He couldn’t have known her reasons for being at the center today. Could he? What a dilemma! She didn’t want to say or do anything to interfere with Simon’s investigation. Should she plead lack of time if he tried to engage her in conversation? Or, should she tell him that she and Kathryn were no longer close. If he had seen her when she was at the condo to take inventory, he would know she was lying.

“I can see that I’ve upset you. I apologize. I’m aware your relationship with Kathryn was strained, but I thought you might have questions about her decision to ask you for help.”

Was he for real? “I am extremely curious about why she chose me. Maybe a room with privacy is more appropriate for a discussion about Kathryn.”

“No one is in the parlor, nor likely to be. Follow me.”

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