The Kendrick’s were more and less than Ginny expected, more gracious and less formidable. Within minutes of arriving, Tom had installed the computer game that he’d gifted Molly and had challenged her to a friendly competition. Brian soon joined the fun. Ginny had to threaten them with no dessert to get them to the dinner table.
The bond between Tom, Beth and Molly was immediate. Perhaps because Molly knew that they were Sean’s parents, and she thought that her biological dad was the coolest guy around. Or, maybe, it was because Tom and Beth openly expressed their delight at having a granddaughter as adorable as Molly.
After dinner, Beth read to Molly while Ginny and Tom chatted. Beth’s stories about Sean and Julie’s dating adventures was the highlight of the evening for Molly. Her eyes twinkled every time Julie’s name was mentioned.
At one time during the evening, when Ginny and Beth were alone, Beth thanked Ginny for her willingness to make a home for Molly. “Selfishly, Tom and I wish the circumstances were different, but it’s comforting to know that our grandchild will grow up as a part of a family who loves her. Our hope is that you will allow us grandparent privileges. We don’t want to become the dreaded grandparents who interfere, so we pledge to abide by your decisions concerning Molly’s welfare.”
Ginny was overcome with emotion. “Thank you, Beth. And, I pledge to make you part of our lives.” She reached out and pulled Beth into a hug. “When you are back in the States, I want you to meet my parents and the parents of my late husband Sam. They are wonderful people who will welcome Molly into their lives.
"In some ways, Molly’s a lucky little girl. Even though her beloved mother, Julie, won’t be here to raise her, Molly will be part of an extended family: three sets of grandparents, a dad, a stepmom, an adoptive mother and brother and a network of people too numerous to name. That’s a lot of love.”
Beth handed her a business card. “Our address, email address and phone numbers are on the back of the card. Tom and I have found that we prefer to keep up with Sean by Skyping. Come up with a time that is convenient for you, maybe on a Sunday afternoon. We’ll be back in the States in July or August. We’d like to have Molly come for a visit if you can work a few days into your own vacation plans. Think about it. We can firm up the dates later.”
Early the next morning, Ginny and Molly set out for New Holland. Abigail had agreed to spend Christmas with the Roark family. Ginny was content and even happy with the rhythm of her days until an unexpected phone call brought her back to reality.
“Charles, I hope that you are calling to wish us Merry Christmas, not to deliver bad news.”
“I dreaded making this phone call, but I want you to know that I’m doing it for Roger.”
“Then, it must be about Christine. What’s happened now?”
“Christine outsmarted the security guard. He was totally caught off guard. To his credit, no one expects a woman her age to shimmy down a rope from a second-story window in the middle of the night.”
“Nothing about that woman’s behavior surprises me. Wouldn’t you say that her escape must have been carefully planned? She would certainly need someone outside with a getaway car.”
“And, I think we know who provided that help. Ginny, I need a favor.”
“What can I do?”
“I know it’s a long shot, but can you call your friend Betty. If Christine is in Selma, the police need to act quickly.”
“I only have her number at the restaurant, and I’m not sure that she’ll be working on Christmas Eve morning. I’ll call, or I can give the number to you.”
“It’s bad enough to get an emergency call on a holiday, but I think that a call from a friend beats a call from a stranger.”
“I’ll be back in touch.”
Betty was working, and she wasn’t all that surprised to receive a phone call from Ginny. Carla wasn’t in town, and hadn’t been. Ginny could hear the concern in her voice. “I sensed that we weren’t going to get through the holidays without some unpleasantness. Maybe Carla decided to celebrate Christmas in New York.”
“Could be. I hope that you’re not planning to work all day, Betty.”
“Just till noon. Actually, most of the folks here now are close friends. It’s a tradition that some of us share now that we no longer have young families to keep us busy and involved in so many of the holiday festivities. We get together and have our own little celebration.”
“Sounds like the perfect way to celebrate. I’m going to let you go back to your friends, Betty. Thank you for your help.”
It took less than ten minutes for Ginny to locate a phone number for Brenda Westbrook, Carla’s agent. The voice on an answering machine advised that the office was closed and wouldn’t be open until January 2nd.
Dejected, Ginny headed to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Her phone rang before she reached the kitchen door.
“Ginny, this is Brenda Westbrook. I was coming in my office door when I heard the tail-end of your message. We’re closed today, but I came by to pick up a manuscript. I’ve been trying to reach Carla for weeks. I’ve sent texts, emails and left messages. Are you a friend of hers?”
“No, I’m a friend of her family.”
“Seriously? I didn’t know she had family.”
Ginny wasn’t surprised that Carla had failed to mention her family, but that was Carla’s business, not hers. “Carla is missing Brenda. Her family and friends had hoped that she was spending the holidays in New York.”
“If she’s here, she hasn’t called me.”
“I’ve been told that she has been renting a loft in New York. Is that true?”
“She’s looked at several, but she hasn’t signed a lease. If Christine wasn’t such a terrific writer, I wouldn’t put up with her shenanigans.”
“Are you telling me that she’s done this before?”
“More than once. Sooner or later she shows up with an outlandish excuse for her behavior. This time she’s gone too far. Her new book is scheduled to be released the first of March, and we need to begin planning a promotion campaign. My cell number is 806-3528. Feel free to call me at that number.”
“Thank you, Brenda. I’ll be back in touch.”
Ginny looked up to see Brian standing at the kitchen door. “What’s that all about, Mom.”
“Nothing important, sweetie.”
“Don’t hand me that. I’ll hear eventually, so you might as well tell me now.”
“Christine Snipes has disappeared.”
“I suppose this puts a damper on Roger and Gwen’s Christmas.”
“And the officer’s who is spending his Christmas Eve trying to find her.”
“You’re not going to tell Abigail and Molly, are you?”
“No, and the two of us going to put it out of our minds until after the holidays.”
"I'll try. Cal and I are going ice skating unless you have other plans for me.”
“Have fun, but be sure to be back in time for the church’s Christmas Eve service. Since Abigail is with us, we’re going to the early service at seven.”
He gave his mother a hug. “I'll be here. Love you, Mom.”
“Love you more.”