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Chapter 26

Even though Evie and Bob Hamilton were efficient, accommodating and thoughtful, the tension was palpable after four days of togetherness. Initially, Brian had agreed that security was a good idea, but he hadn’t anticipated being confined to the house except for school and work.

Evie volunteered to do some of the cooking, but Ginny still was responsible for meal planning and providing the food for meals and snacks. She didn’t think that carry-out was particularly healthy, but it helped relieve some of the stress. Molly was the only one in the crew who seemed perfectly content with the situation. She was fascinated that Evie carried a gun and “chased the bad guys.”

Ginny sensed a change in Evie’s attitude when Evie arrived to pick her up from school on Friday. As soon as they were out of the school traffic, Evie said, “You’ll be pleased to know that our services are no longer needed. As soon as Bob and I finish our reports and pack, we’ll get out of your hair, and your life can return to normal.”

“Evie, you and Bob have been great, but I have to admit that I’m relieved. I’m still getting used to someone else’s students, and I’ve been having a difficult time handling the responsibility of someone else’s classroom in addition to worrying about Levinson. There’s no way I could have handled two more people in our home if you and Bob hadn’t chipped into help. Brian’s at the age when he likes being independent, so not being able to go and do as his schedule demands has created some issues for him. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t appreciative.”

“You don’t need to apologize, Ginny. Your family has been far more accepting of the annoyances that come with security than some of the people Bob and I have been hired to protect. All of us take freedom of movement for granted until it’s curtailed.”

“Since it’s safe for you to leave, I assume that the police have Levinson in custody.”

“So, to speak. He lost control of his car during a high-speed chase with the police. He’s in critical condition.”


“At Archdale Memorial.”

“Archdale? That must mean that he was in the area.”

“He was five miles outside of Archdale.” Ginny would later learn that he had several children’s books and toys in his possession. She wouldn’t let herself think about what would have happened if the police hadn’t spotted him.

Ginny received an unexpected phone call from Gwen Friday evening.

“Ginny is there any chance that you can meet me in Selma tomorrow. Now that Levinson is out of commission and Mom is dead, her writing studio needs to be emptied and cleaned. Last time I was there, I swore I wouldn’t go back. After a great deal of soul searching, I’ve decided—make that Dad and I decided— that some of her manuscripts need to be preserved. She was a Northrop, so her original manuscripts should be in the Northrop museum.”

“I’m glad to changed your mind.”

“Dad and I don’t want the money from Mom’s book sales. He’s talked to Charles about a transfer of funds from her heirs to the town of Selma. The money will come from an anonymous source unless Betty decides that the council members should be made aware that the money is from Carla’s book sales.

"Apparently, Mom was happier in Selma than she was in Summerfield. That’s where Carla Thorne was born, so the town should benefit from her success. Charles will send an official letter to Betty. She can handle the gift the way she sees fit.”

“Your dad’s still not up to making an appearance in Selma?”

“He will at some point, but his feelings are still too raw. He blames himself for not knowing what was going on with her. Anyway, your support would be appreciated. I don’t think it will take us more than a couple of hours. The cleaning crew will take care of anything we don’t get done.”

“I’ll be happy to go. How would you feel about Molly being there? I think seeing her grandmother’s writing studio would help bring closure. I don’t want her to think that Christine went completely over to the dark side.”

“If you think that it will help Molly, then sure. She might get bored, so why don’t you have her bring a book or her iPad? We just need to wade through her files and manuscripts.”

“What time should we meet you?”

“What about brunch at Betty’s? If that suits, let’s make it ten-thirty.”

“We’ll be there.”

Ginny, Brian and Molly were already seated when Gwen arrived at Betty’s. She saw them, waved and crossed the dining area to their table. “Hello all. I didn’t expect to see you Brian, but your muscle is greatly appreciated. I’m not looking forward to the heavy lifting.”

“Mom was thinking the same thing.”

She slid into the booth beside Brian and gave him a playful bump with her shoulder. “Seriously, Brian I’m glad you’re here.” Her eyes cut to Molly. “And I’m glad you’re here, too. Whatcha been doing since I saw you?”

“I started taking piano lessons last month.”

“Did you now. Your mom must be smiling in heaven.”

“Thanks for letting me come today, Gwen. I really wanted to see your mom’s studio.”

“My mom and your grandma, sweetie. I wish your first impression of her had been a better one. That evening she wasn’t at her best. She could be a real pill when she was angry, but she was smart and she was talented. When you think of her, remember her good traits, not her bad traits.”

Ginny spotted Betty and waved to her.

Her friend smiled and bustled over. “It’s good to see you and Gwen, but I’m more interested in that handsome boy that you have with you.” She winked at Brian. It’s about time you came back for a visit, Brian. The last time I saw you, you were still in elementary school. Now, your mom tells me that this is your senior year.”

“I can’t believe it either. Seems like yesterday that our family was here. It might have been a while back, but I have a good memory. I remember the hamburger I ate was the best one I had ever eaten.”

“Well done, lettuce, tomato and no cheese or mayo.”

He grinned. “I can’t believe you remember my order.”

“Only for my favorite people. Did Sally take your orders?”

Ginny said, “Not yet, she’s been busy.”

“I have a few questions for you and Gwen, so at elven thirty on the dot, I’m going to change that sign on the door to closed.”

At eleven twenty-five, Brian nudged Gwen. “Can you let me out, Gwen? Molly and I are going to walk over to the toy store and browse. We’ll meet you back here at noon.”

As soon as he and Molly exited the restaurant, Betty turned over the sign, then strolled across the dining area and scooted into the booth next to Ginny.”

“I appreciate our call, Gwen. The residents here in Selma wouldn’t have known about Carla if you hadn’t called. I went on line and tried to find out a little more information about her murder, but it was sketchy. I found two short articles about Christine, but neither mentioned that she was an author who used the pen name Carla Thorne.”

“Carla’s book has just come out, Shirley. Brenda Westbrook, Carla’s agent, is concerned that any hint of scandal will impede book sales. As for the Summerfield residents, neither Dad nor I have shared information about Mom’s writing career. We promised Brenda that we wouldn’t leak the information. But you know reporters. Some young upstart who is trying to make a name for himself or herself, might hear a rumor and do some digging. We’ll take it as it comes.”

“When you put it like that . . . Am I correct in assuming that you are here to pack her belongings.”

“We are. I needed support, and Ginny agreed to come with me. When I was here before, I told Dad that we should hire a cleaning crew to come in, pack up her belongings and take them to the dump. After my initial fury, I calmed down and rethought my words.

“When I finish school, Betty, I’m going to create a small historical museum in the Northrop home place. Mom is descended from of a long line of community involved Northrop families. Her manuscripts should be kept with the other family documents and papers. Besides, her fans have a right to know something about her background.”

“So, if a Selma resident visits the museum, the cat will be out of the bag?”

“The museum won’t become a reality for at least another two years. By that time, I can almost guarantee that the Christine/Carla connection will no longer be a secret.”

Betty nodded. “I have a request, but if you consider it out of line, please say so. Carla kept a small six-inch plaster troll named Simeon on her desk when she was writing. I learned about Carla’s good luck charm when I overheard Alice ask Carla if Simeon was working. Carla looked at me and winked. Later, she explained that Alice saw Simeon on her desk and asked if she had a grandchild. From that day forward, when she saw Carla, she asked about Simeon. If you find it among her things, would you mind giving it to Alice. It would mean so much to her.”

“You are not out of line. I didn’t see it when I was in Mom’s studio, but if it turns up, I’ll save it for Alice. I did see a casual windbreaker and a cashmere cardigan that Alice might like. What do you think?”

“I think you are being very generous.”

“Generosity has nothing to do with it. Dad and I believe that her manuscripts should be preserved, Betty, but we still have to go through and dispense with her possessions in Summerfield. We don’t need more. Everything except the furniture will go to a flea market or clothes closet. Mr. Clemmons, Carla’s landlord, says that he can use her furniture.”

Betty’s eyes widened as Gwen proceeded to tell her what was to become of Carla’s royalty checks. “If Carla’s new book sells as Brenda predicts it to sell, the town should receive some fairly hefty checks. Keep in mind that new books are always iffy, especially when the author is relatively unknown.”

“I don’t understand, Gwen. Why are you and your dad doing this?”

“Mom was unhappy with her life in Summerfield, so she created a new life here in Selma. You could say that Carla Thorne was born here. Since Selma was her hometown, the town should benefit from her success.”

“What happens if the town council doesn’t feel that it’s appropriate to accept her checks?”

“In that case, you will be authorized to use the money as you see fit.”

“What if this turns out to be a windfall? Are you going to rethink the decision you made?”

Gwen shook her head. “We didn’t know Carla. It would seem like stealing if we took her money.”

Shirley looked at Ginny. “Did you know about this?”

“Not until Gwen and I spoke last evening. No one asked me, but it seems to me that Christine owes the town of Selma a debt of gratitude. Since she’s gone, her daughter and husband are saying thank you for her. The council members can express their gratitude by using the money wisely.”

“I like that. That’s the way I’ll present it to the council members.”

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