Ginny opened the door and stepped back. “Carol, this is a pleasant surprise. Come on in.”
“Do you have time to join me at Nemo’s for coffee?”
“We could go out or I can put on a fresh pot of coffee. I stopped by the new bakery on Glen Haven yesterday and picked up a loaf of bread and a Danish Kringle. Nemo’s muffins and pastries don’t compare to raspberry Kringle.”
“How can I turn down an invitation like that.” She followed Ginny to the kitchen. “How was the visit with your parents?”
“They kept us so busy that Molly didn’t have time to mourn Julie, and Brian and I didn’t have time to dwell on Sam’s absence. It’s been a bittersweet holiday. I’m not complaining, Carol. Our days have moved more smoothly than I anticipated. Having Molly with us has made a difference.”
“I’ll bet your mom and dad fell in love with Molly.”
“Mom’s pickled pink to finally have a little girl to buy clothes for, and there’s not a doubt in mind that Molly will soon have Dad wrapped around her little finger. All of that to say, it was a very satisfying visit. What about you. How did you and your family celebrate New Year’s?”
“Ed invited Nick to come over and watch bowl games all day. The girls and I did our own thing. We went to a movie. We enjoyed having Nick with us. He fits right in with our casual lifestyle.”
Ginny just nodded.
“Ginny, I know that you and Nick talk because of Molly, but could there ever be more between the two of you? He’s going to make some lucky woman a good husband.”
“I agree with you, but that woman is not going to be me.”
Carol studied her. “Not even a little bit of chemistry?”
“I didn’t say that, but I’m not the kind of woman he’s attracted to. Besides, I’m not available. I have all I can handle with Brian and Molly.” Ginny handed Carol a mug of coffee and a slice of Kringle. “Enjoy.”
Gwen took a bite of the Kringle. “Mm-m. Delicious. I understand. I just want you to be happy, and I know that you like being part of a team. Maybe someday.”
“Now to the reason for my unannounced visit. I received a call from Anita Switzer last evening. She had heard via the grapevine that you were helping out at Roark & Erikkson. She is going to request a leave of absence, and she’s was hoping that you would be available to take over her class. Do you remember substituting for Anita three years ago?”
“I’m not likely to forget. The woman is the most organized teacher I’ve ever substituted for. She must have spent years developing her curriculum. Better still, she has a delightful sense of humor. Her lessons are designed so that her students have fun in addition to learning. Why is she taking a leave of absence?”
“Her mom fell two days ago and broke her hip. When her mom is released from the hospital, Anita is going to temporarily move in with her. She’ll probably be gone until March or even April. She doesn’t want to put in a special request for you unless you’re interested.”
“I’m definitely interested, but the principal at Reagan might not be eager to hire me since I took my name off the substitutes list after Sam died.”
“I mentioned that, but she said that most of the substitutes only work an occasional day. Not many can step in for two or three months. Anita lost her husband eight years ago, so she’s been in your shoes. She thinks that stepping in for her will get you back into the system. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
“Absolutely. How soon will she be leaving?”
“The doctors haven’t told her how long her mom will need to be hospitalized. If you’re interested, she’ll keep you informed.”
“Tell her that I am thrilled she wants me. Give her my cell number and have her call if she wants to discuss her classes with me.”
“She’ll be in touch.” Carol took the last sip of her coffee. “Thanks for the coffee and Kringle. I need to run by the cleaners this morning and pick up Ed’s shirts. It’s a lucky a coincidence that the new bakery is two doors down. You can bet that I’m going to check it out.”
Ginny’s state of euphoria ended less than a half hour later when she received a phone call from a frantic Gwen Snipes.
“Gwen, take a deep breath, and start over. What’s wrong?”
“The police want me to search Carla Thorne’s writing studio. They know that finding any useful information is a long shot, but they don’t have a clue about where she is.
"I don’t know what they expect me to find. I’m not convinced that Mom is writing under the pen name Carla Thorne, so I don’t feel comfortable rifling through her files. What if she shows up while I’m there?”
“Gwen, we talked about this. Betty, the owner of Betty’s Luncheonette identified Carla Thorne from a photograph of your mom. I can understand why you don’t want to search the loft, but if you don’t the police will. They won’t be concerned about keeping her place tidy.”
“That’s what Dad said. He said that Officer Seaborn was doing us a favor by letting a family member perform the search.”
“I’m surprised that Roger didn’t insist that he do the search.”
“He wanted to do it, but he has a meeting that has been scheduled for six months. If he cancels, he’ll lose an important client. I agreed to do it, but now I have cold feet. This is way out of my comfort zone.”
“Would you be more comfortable if I were there?”
“Yes, yes and yes! I’ll be forever in your debt, Ginny.”
“Where and when should I meet you?”
“Eleven-thirty, at Walter Clemmons Realty. The address is 604 Main Street. Mr. Clemmons is Carla’s landlord. Officer Seaborn said that if I show him a photograph of Mom and me, and an example of her handwriting, that he’ll either loan me a key or open the studio for me.”
“I’ll be there. And, Gwen, think positively and drive carefully.”
Before Ginny left her driveway, she called Betty and explained the situation to her. After grumbling about having to take time out of her busy day, Shirley promised to meet her at Walter’s office at eleven-thirty.
“Betty, I’m not asking you to be there. I’d just like for you to call Walter and tell him that Gwen is legitimate and that I’m not a dingbat.”
She laughed. “I wouldn’t miss it for all of the tea in China. I’m ready for the truth to come out.”
Because of Betty’s intervention, Walt—he insisted that she and Gwen use his nickname—handed over the key to Gwen without an argument.