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Chapter 24

Gwen gasped. “My mom wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like this.”

Ginny scanned the room. “Why not? It’s a cozy enough place.”

“Mom doesn’t like cozy, and she’s a neat freak. This place is messy. She can cook a meal and the kitchen looks untouched. When I was growing up, I had to be careful about putting a book down. I didn’t dare put one on my bedside table. She insisted that the book be placed back on the bookshelf until my next reading session. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.”

She walked over to the bookshelf and perused the titles. “There’s nothing here except psychological thrillers, true crime books and books about mental illness.” She shook her head in puzzlement. “Mom never expressed a desire to write a novel, we didn’t discuss books at the dinner table, she never joined a book club and reading was never a priority for her. If this is her studio, then she has a split personality.”

She plopped down into Carla’s chair at the desk and stared at the messy piles of mail and reading materials. She suddenly picked up a piece of paper and studied it, frowned, then handed it to Ginny.

“I guess she has a split personality.”

“A doodle. Does this have some meaning, Gwen?”

“I’m in shock. It’s one of hers. She has a very distinctive style and doodling is one of her obsessions.” She picked up another fragment of paper and handed it to Ginny.”

“That’s her handwriting. Am I sure? Yes. I’m positive.”

“I’m sorry, Gwen.”

“It could be worse. At least she was doing something productive with her time.” She opened one of the desk drawers and took out a book that appeared to be an address book. She handed it to Ginny. “Why don’t you go through her addresses while I try to access her email. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t need a password to access her files.

Minutes later she let out a hoot of delight. “Yeh, her computer isn’t password protected. I don’t think we are going to find anything that will help locate her. It looks as though this computer was used strictly for writing and communicating with her agent. Have you found an address that you think needs to be checked?”

“Her listings are email addresses, not home addresses. I’ve only found one that doesn’t have a name beside it. The email is [email protected] com.”

“I’ll check her sent messages first. Here’s one. Damn, damn, damn. She addresses him as Kevin, and we can be pretty darn sure that it’s Kevin Levinson. Listen to this, Ginny.

I’m mad as hell. My darling mother left her house to Gwen. What was she thinking. I had it all planned out. It was the perfect opportunity to finally have a house of my own. I’m so tired of playing the woman of the house for Roger Snipes.

“Here’s his reply.

Ginny rose from her chair and stood beside Gwen so that she could see the desktop. She pointed to the screen. “It appears that she set up a folder for his emails. Open the folder and check to see when she received the first email from him.”

Kevin and Carla had been communicating via email since his release from prison. Further searches of the studio produced a stack of letters that went back twenty-five years. After reading two more of the emails, Gwen was fuming.

“My opinion of my mom is bad enough without reading Kevin Levinson’s garbage. I don’t think that the police will find anything in her Word files. Her manuscripts have an icon on the desktop, and her other files are photographs.

“Do you think your dad will want to read the emails.”

“I doubt it, but it’s his call. He gave up on mom years ago. Why don’t we pack up this stuff and get out of here? It’s depressing. If I have my way, I’ll hire someone to haul everything in her studio to the dump!”

“So, what do you want to share with the police?”

“The hard drive, the address book the doodle and the letters. The rest of the stuff isn’t going to help them find Mom.”

After Gwen delivered the key back to the realty company, she met Ginny at Shirley’s. She slipped into the booth next to Ginny, across from Shirley. She looked so dejected that Ginny wanted to put her arms around her and comfort her, but Gwen might not appreciate mothering.

The young woman had learned a bitter truth today. The truth wasn’t always easy, but in the long run, it was better than deception.

Shirley wasn’t one to hold back. She reached across the table and took Gwen’s hand. “Listen to me young lady. Whatever your mother has done isn’t your responsibility, and it isn’t your dad’s. Life happens, and we sometimes have to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and carry on.”

There were tears in Gwen’s eyes. “What I don’t understand is how people in the same family can be so different. Granny and Julie were both exceptionable human beings. And Grandpa George, from all reports, was a sweetheart of a man. How could my mom be so different, so evil?”

“That’s an age-old question. Wise people from across the globe have been asking that question for centuries.”

“Was she really so different when she was here?”

“Carla, the author, is a bit eccentric, but she has traits that are admirable. She can be kind and generous. Try not to judge her too harshly until we know why she has chosen to live a double life.”

“I worry about Molly. I don’t want her to be concerned about bad genes.” She turned to Ginny. “You have told Shirley about Molly, haven’t you?”

Ginny shook her head. “I was waiting until I was sure about the adoption.”

Shirley’s brows shot up. “Adoption?”

Ginny gave her a short synopsis of Molly’s history. “When you have more time, and I know that the adoption is a sure thing, I’ll update you. Molly has had a lot of adapting to do, but at some point, I want to bring her to Selma. Until the question of Carla’s identity was settled, bringing her here wasn’t an option.”

“Understood. What does she know about her grandmother?”

“She met her one time, and Christine wasn’t at her best that evening. Since then, I have avoided talking about her. I won’t make a decision about how much to tell Molly until we know where Christine is and why she disappeared.”

“Doesn’t the child have other blood relatives who want to adopt her.”

“She has relatives who want her to be part of her life, but for legitimate reasons, none are in a position to provide a home for her at this time.”

Gwen chimed in. “That must sound callous to you Shirley, so let me explain my particular circumstances. I’m a student, and will be for another year, maybe two. When I graduate, most of my time will be devoted to setting up a small historical museum.

“I could adopt Molly, but it would be unfair to her. I have the financial resources to hire a nanny for her, but I think that she will be happier in the stable and loving environment that Ginny and Brian have created for her. Molly’s other biological family members’ circumstances are equally problematic.”

“You’re wise to consider the child, Gwen.” Shirley’s eyes met Ginny’s. “I’m impressed. This has been an extraordinary year for you, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, it has. Some ways good and other ways challenging. Now . . . as much as I would like to while my afternoon away talking to you lovely ladies, I need to eat and get back to Archdale to pick up Molly from school. What’s the special today, Shirley?”

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