Love Never Ends

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Chapter Five

Larson got a call from the judge’s secretary. The Scott Chambers hearing had went well, and the judge was considering letting Scott out of jail, albeit monitored. The secretary told Larson he had to draft the necessary paperwork and have it in front of the judge before noon. So many things were happening at once, and Larson, while thankful for the full calendar, was starting to feel overwhelmed.

He had visited the accountant at the jail, or rather tried to. Unfortunately the man had been taken to the infirmary with heart problems. Although it was the night before Lexie’s birthday, it wouldn’t be good for the man to spend any more time as a guest of the Boston PD. He set about writing the necessary brief to go along with the forms to take to the judge the next morning.

The morning of Lexie’s 16th birthday was cloudy, but rather warm in Boston. Larson had been up since 5 am putting the final changes on a report to the DA for a delay of trial for Scott Chambers. There was more evidence, and his investigator had uncovered just enough to stall the proceedings for a few weeks. Long enough to take Lexie to South Carolina, he grinned, glancing over at the airline tickets wrapped up in Hannah Montana birthday paper, an inside joke between them.

Lexie came running down the stairs two at a time, and sprung lithely upon the stool at the counter.

“Gifts” she said, smiling…knowing there would be one for now, and more at her party at the Country Club in Lexington that night.

“This?” Larson asked, holding up the bright colored paper with the kids’ logo.

“You’ve lost it, right? I will never forgive you for singing ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ last year! I was mortified!”

“No you weren’t…and I was good”

“Well, I won’t ever have a karaoke themed party again, I assure you,” she giggled, knowing that that also was a lie. She loved to hear her father sing. He was awesome, almost like a rock star if you did not think about it too much. He had been a singer in school, and still fooled around with the piano and an ancient acoustic guitar he must have had when he was twelve.

“Dang, I’ll have to cancel that then” he teased, handing her the present. She opened it carefully and squealed with delight at the sight of just the corner.

“We’re going? For Thanksgiving? You are so the best dad ever,” she jumped off the stool and launched herself into his arms.

He settled her on his lap, hugging her, and said, “Nothing but the best for my sweet 16 girl,” but he felt her stiffen and draw back.

“Are you sure you can get away?” she asked, her eyes shining with concern.

He looked in her brown eyes, and the lump in his throat threatened to break free to tears. She just looked so much like Margo, and it seemed was growing up with her heart as well.

“Yes, my darling,” he said, squeezing her one more time before letting her get off his lap. “That’s why Nigel will be taking you to school; I have to go to the office early. We will leave Wednesday, and be there for a full ten days. Just in time for the festival you love so much, and then Thanksgiving. How does that sound?”

“You’re the best, Daddy,” she said, meaning it, “have a great day and I’ll see you tonight”, and ran upstairs to get ready for school.

Larson looked outside and saw the car sitting in the driveway. He waved at Nigel, and took his keys and briefcase up from the counter and headed for the door at the back. He went into the garage, started the car and was on his way to work.

Lexie came down a few minutes later and grabbed a muffin and a banana. She checked her schedule on the refrigerator, no practice, just party. She opened the front door to go to the car and saw the box on the steps.

“Time, Nigel?”

“Plenty,” he smiled, nodding at her to go ahead and open the awaited gift.

Lexie picked up the box, brought it inside, and put it on the side table. She opened the envelope taped to the top first, and pulled out the familiar stationary and a small envelope. The card was one of roses and a hummingbird, with a poem about bringing art and love into your life. The card held a familiar quote of Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. The neatly written words struck her, care given to each individual letter. It was from her.

She opened the box carefully, wanting to draw out the moment for as long as she could. Nestled inside the tissue paper and bubble wrap was a beautiful chestnut music box. She lifted it carefully out of the box and placed it on the table. Once out of the box she saw it was a carousel. Four beautifully painted horses sat with silver poles and ribbons. It was heavy, so it had to be musical as well, and Lexie searched quickly for any sort of on/off switch. There in front she found a little button, which she pushed and then stood mesmerized as the little painted horses started to rise up and down, and the base began to turn. The music was familiar, but she could not place it. She would have to research it when she got home though; she had a test first period. She could not afford to be late. She fingered the edge of the wooden box lovingly, then grabbed her book bag again and ran out the door to the waiting car.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Doug Dawson took pride in his work. He had graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in Journalism, but three years at the Boston Globe had turned him off mass media. He loved digging into the truth, but hated hearing the facts distorted to make a buck, so he took a few tests and became a detective with an investigator’s license. He still had plenty of ties from the paper he could rely on, as well as some of the cops on the Boston PD force. Cops didn’t talk to newspapermen, but they talked to fellow detectives more freely. Doug made a habit of frequenting a little diner off Tremont where most of the foot patrol took lunch. He could eat his clam chowder and glean information at the same time, for a minimal amount of money. He sat in his friend Larson’s outer office, silently watching Larson’s secretary field phone calls, and waited. The news he had heard needed a personal touch. Poor old Scott Chambers had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The similarities of the two cases, the civil lawsuit of the Research and Development Company, and the murder of Dawn Petrocelli were too much to be a coincidence. It had taken Doug about a half day to prove out his hunch. He was going to make his friend’s day.

Larson came into the office and smiled at his assistant. “Any messages Abby?” he asked, his hand out for the several she seemed to always have ready for him.

“Only one you need to concern yourself with,” she put the reference slips in his hand. “The restaurant called and wanted to confirm the time for your daughter’s party this evening.”

“Excellent!” Larson smiled, “Get them on the phone for me won’t you?” He looked toward the corner where Doug sat. “Doug, come on back, this will just take a minute.”

Doug entered the plush office and walked over to the counter next to the restroom. He opened the little refrigerator, took out a Coke, snapped off the cap, and took a swig. Larson went to his desk, stowed his briefcase on the floor beside his chair and sat, reaching for the phone. Abby buzzed the office intercom. “Rafael’s on line 2 Boss,” she said. Larson punched the button with his left hand and held the phone to his ear, then thought about it, and just clicked the speaker button. The receptionist on the other end confirmed a guest list of twelve at 7:00 with a carriage ready to take them through Boston Public Gardens at 8:30. The Swan Boats were no longer visible, but the atmosphere in the park was always welcoming, and it was one of Lexie’s favorite parts of living in Boston.

Larson ended the call and gave his friend a long look.

“Those things will kill you someday,” he said nonchalantly, indicating the soft drink.

“Die trying, that’s my motto.” Doug quipped, and took another long drink of the popular soda. “Sounds like the party of a lifetime,” Doug commented, nodding toward the phone.

“You only turn sixteen once,” Larson shrugged, a wistful smile on his face. He leveled his full attention to his friend and smiled, “So, I take it you have some news?” Larson asked, pointing to a chair in front of his desk.

Doug sank himself into the rich Italian leather and paused for effect.
“What would you think if I told you Mr. Chambers had indicated to one of your other workers here that he had some interesting information concerning a few falsified tests made late last year?”

“I’d think somebody was gaining some insurance for themselves.”

“That’s what I thought, until I went to a few other people and found out some other interesting facts. Would you like to hear some of these never before heard facts Larson?”

“Of course, just hang on a second.” Larson hit the intercom button and when Abby’s voice came across the speakers he said, “Hold all calls except for Ben okay?”
“You got it”

“Continue,” Larson gestured to Doug, and went to get him a bottle of spring water from the cabinet and poured it over ice. The clinking of ice in a glass always seemed to help him think.

“Well, the Research and Development firm, Scarsdale, is an outfit out of Maine. Their main branch is in Bangor, but their corporate offices are right here in Boston. It says so on most of the letterhead. Right?”

“Yes, I have a few copies of some of that, I’ve been doing a bit of help for the team on that case in my, ha-ha, spare time.”

“Right, so do you have any idea what that address is?”

Larson took a moment to pull the file from his briefcase, paged through a few forms and gave out the address, “1254 Dorchester Street, Suite 219.”

“Care to hazard a guess as to what is at 1254 Dorchester Street?”

“I’m waiting,” Doug was obviously another person that liked to draw out a good story, but they went way back, and he was good, so Larson bit back the impatience and motioned for him to continue.

“‘Mailboxes ETC’. 219 is a rental box for a -” Doug looked at his notes as if for reference, and then continued. “Barry Petrocelli, the husband of our recently deceased marketing tech, Dawn Petrocelli.”

“Interesting,” Larson’s brain started thinking up several scenarios as to why a major Research and Development firm would have a dummy office in Boston, but Doug wasn’t finished with his report.

“It also seems that the main branch in Bangor has recently filed a chapter 11 suit in the national bankruptcy court in Washington.”

Now this was interesting news. When a major company filed bankruptcy in the midst of a court proceeding, it usually meant they thought they would lose, so there would be no money should the other side win. Scott had just given some valuable insight on rigged tests, which brought two questions to mind. He voiced the first aloud.

“So what did Dawn do in her office on Tremont, if their corporate offices were at a rent a box place?”

“I thought you’d ask. Therefore, I did. It seems that Ms. Petrocelli was the courier for the mailbox place. I showed her picture to the clerk and they said she was in five or six times a week, picking up packages and mailing them out.” He reached into his black notebook carrier and pulled out a list of addresses. “Here’s a list of the places she mailed things off to, it seems a lot of stuff went out to only three separate addresses in the last 6 months.”

Larson took the paper from Doug and looked at the addresses. Interesting enough, there was one in a town not forty something miles from his family home. A town called Seneca, South Carolina.

“I’m going to be in that area next week. I am taking Lexie down for her birthday. I can investigate this one on my own. Seems Research and Design shouldn’t be sending out samples of anything…if you get my meaning.”

“I thought the same thing, but then again you’re the lawyer, so you make the big bucks for those thoughts. I just go dig up stuff.”

For Larson, Doug was a lot more than just the digger; he was a friend, and an instrumental part of his success. The cunning detective before him aided half of the cases in which Larson found himself stranded. Larson decided to go for broke and asked the other question weighing on his mind.

“Any idea what Scott did with this so called proof?”

“Funny you should ask. It seems there was a download of some interesting files off his computer, and then erased. The little geek put the files somewhere, probably a flash-drive, and erased all evidence thereof. The hackers at Boston PD cannot find a thing other than the date the files disappeared. The day before he was arrested.”

Larson made note of yet another question he would have to ask Mr. Chambers at their meeting that afternoon.

Larson stood to shake hands with Doug and gestured toward the door. “Once again you have proven invaluable to me,” he began, but Doug just smiled and waved him off. “Stop by Abby’s desk and pick up a check, and we’ll have lunch sometime before I leave.”

“Lars, I’m just doing my job, but I really hope you can get to the bottom of this. It just does not sit right with me. Mousy Scott bludgeoning someone? Seriously!”

Larson watched his friend leave and sat back in his chair, studying the address before him. Something about that town jogged a feeling, and he did not know quite what it was.

He reached forward and hit the intercom button.

“Abby, make sure Scott Chambers was released, and send him a message for him to come to my office as soon as he can, I’ll be in all afternoon.”

“Yes Sir,” came the quick reply.

Larson ate his lunch at his desk, and had been studying the notes from the file Doug had given him when Abby buzzed him announcing Scott Chambers was there. Time to meet the mouse, he thought whimsically, closing the file, putting it in his top desk drawer.

When people give someone a nickname, it comes from various reasons. A bad haircut, or a particular speech impediment, a funny name, a hobby, a talent. Any number of things can contribute to a nickname, and sometimes it does not even fit at first glance. “Spike” may have outgrown his bad haircut, “Skeeter” could have hit a growth spurt, and “Tank” could have lost that extra fifty pounds after graduation.

At first glance however, Scott Chambers was every bit a “Mouse“. From his simple haircut, black framed glasses, and bow-tie to his wing tipped loafers and black socks, the accountant looked like his nose would twitch any minute. He was timid, alert, and probably scared out of his gourd. Who could blame him, thought Larson as he ushered the timid little man into his office and rang Abby to bring in a service of tea. The thought of this little man spending the next 30 years behind bars would be scary to anyone. He had many questions that needed answering, but the man looked as though he would pass out before he had a chance to answer even one.

“Are you okay?”

The man nodded, brushing his hair out of his eyes with a hand that was trembling.

“I can’t thank you enough for arranging my bail. This monitor is just to insure I don’t leave the city?”

“It actually ties in with me as well as the Boston PD and the prosecution. We’ll all keep you safe as long as you cooperate.”

They talked small talk for a few minutes then after the tea was brought, along with some lemon wafers that Abby had stashed somewhere, Larson got down to business.

“Scott, I know you told the police what you knew, but I need to hear it for myself. Start from the beginning.”

“What beginning?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, there’s the beginning, meaning the night Dawn was killed, and there’s the beginning of when I decided that Scarsdale was going to kill me if I didn’t get away from them. Which beginning do you want?”

“I’ll take Scarsdale for now, and we’ll work our way up to Dawn Petrocelli.”

Larson flipped over to a clean page on his legal pad, and gestured with his hand. Scott took a sip of tea, a bite of a cookie, and then started.

“I’ve been the accountant for Scarsdale Research and Development for about sixteen years now. When Alan Scarsdale retired four years ago, his son Reginald took over. Reggie was a piece of work, let me tell you, but hey, my job was the number cruncher right. What did it matter to me where the numbers came from? Then, as it always happens, the numbers started to change. Accounts had too much money in them, then not enough. Shipments started going out, and we did not have any product. We are a research firm. We have testing labs and papers published in medical journals. FDC licensing and that sort of thing. However, there they were, shipping and receiving. I had to ask what was going on. There was no place in my system for the records. When I asked about the new accounts Reggie said, ‘just put it under donations, kid, and don’t worry about it.’ I grew up in the back bay Mr. Evans; ‘don’t worry about it’ is code for shut up and stop asking questions. My uncle worked for the Sicilians, I’m not stupid.”
“So what did you do?”

“I created the donations account as a secondary, and kept a record of it. An invisible one, just under the other accounts, so that only I could see the activity there. Otherwise, all the monthly finances and expenses were okay. I can pull off the geek mode very well, I have an IQ of 189, but in this business, it is healthier to be naive and stupid.

“Dawn started calling me about a month ago. She was having problems collecting her paycheck from Reggie. I told her I was an accounting executive, not a payroll clerk, but that did not sit with her. She told me she knew I knew more, and that she would find a way to make me look bad. Blackmailing now? That was the last straw. Every time I went to Reggie with a question he said, “You’re the money geek. You straighten it out” so I did. For three weeks, I paid her out of a miscellaneous account. Then I started downloading all that info of the accounts, the shipments, and the mysterious trips and dates, put them all on two separate flash drives, saving them in case I needed them. I even coded them with a GPS so if it‘s accessed I can find out where it is…just in case one falls into the wrong hands. The last night I took one last copy, then erased the memory. I left that office not intending to come back, took Dawn the last check I was ever going to pay her, and then went home to my apartment in Cambridge. The next morning I was awoken by the Boston Police Department, arrested and held for the murder of a woman I barely even knew.”

“Where are the flash drives now?”

“One is in a post office box in Nashua New Hampshire in my mother’s name. I mailed it the night I left. The other one I planted at Dawn’s apartment or I guess it was her office. I put it inside a little merry go round music box about a week or so ago. Come to think of it, I didn’t see that thing when I went that last night to give her the check. She must have moved it or something, but anyway, there is a little secret compartment under the base of the carousel. That is where I stashed the flash drive. I thought it would take the suspicions off me.”

“Or it could have been what got Dawn killed. Does anyone else know about those files?”

“The files were common knowledge, that I had copies, now, that was not.” Scott looked down at his lap, “I didn’t even think that I was endangering her life by putting those files there. I feel horrible now.”

“Don’t,” Larson, said, “At least we have something to go on. I think I can get the whole thing dismissed once I get those files. Can I get my investigator to get into that mail box? I‘ll make a copy for myself and hold the original in the safe here in the office.”

“I can handle that,”he said, standing, fishing in his pockets. He pulled out his keys and took off a gold metal mailbox key and handed it to him. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not make a big deal about it, just in case someone’s watching me too now.“

The two men shook hands and Larson reached forward and put his other hand on top. “Trust me Scott; I will get to the bottom of this.”

Larson sat back, thought about what he had heard that morning, and shook his head. Someone had killed Dawn, framed Scott, and all over fudged numbers in a spreadsheet? There was a lot more to this story. A whole lot more. He picked up the phone to call Doug, and went to the library to do some more research, taking both the Chambers and the Scarsdale files with him.

When Larson came back from the library, there was a package on his desk from Doug, and a letter from Scott. The package contained the key as well as the flash drive. A note told Larson that the files had already been copied and Doug was looking at them himself.

Inside the letter was a thank-you note plus a cashiers check for twenty-five thousand dollars, Larson’s retainer should he have to represent him for his trial. Larson still hoped that the information on the drive would be enough to dismiss the charges, as there had to be someone else who would like to see Scott framed and Dawn removed. Reggie Scarsdale for one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That evening, dressed in a creamy beige shift with black heels and a black cashmere wrap, Lexie was escorted by her father to her birthday party. Nigel held open the door of the limo and Lexie stepped out onto a beautiful red carpet walkway leading to the entrance of Rafael’s, an upscale restaurant just across from the entrance to the Boston Public Gardens.

The doorman opened the door and bowed toward Lexie, her father just beamed with pride. They were escorted to the private room in the back which was elegantly decorated for the party. Several of Larson’s co-workers, including Mr. Prescott and his wife were already seated around the large table, and each stood and clapped when they entered the brightly lit room. The attention caused Lexie to blush prettily, and Larson again thought how much she resembled his long absent wife.

There were pitchers of tea, lemonade and water with lemon and lime slices floating in it on each end of the table. Scattered along the center of the table were red and white rose petals surrounding small white votive candles, their flames dancing brightly among the fine dinnerware. Ben rose to pull out Lexie’s chair, and shook hands with Larson in a warm greeting.

Lexie had known most of the people seated around her all of her life. They were almost like family, as much as her grandparents in South Carolina.

The laughter and dinging of dishes being brought to the table made her aware of how lucky she was.

After their dinner plates were cleared, coffee was served in delicate china cups, and each guest got a matching china plate and silver fork. Then a waiter came through the door carrying the most beautiful cake she had ever seen. It stood five tiers high, with black and white icing around the first two layers, the top three molded to model books. A beautiful structured sixteen stood on top, candles circled the base. Several other servers joined him and they all led the group singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to a very surprised Lexie.

That was not the end of the surprises. After she had made a wish and blown out the candles, the servers dispersed, and while the waiter was cutting the cake, the Maître de wheeled a cart loaded down with dozens of brightly decorated packages. Boxes wrapped with black and white paper, red and pink bags with tissue paper peeking out of the tops. It was all so amazing Lexie’s face beamed with pleasure. A few tears came to the surface, and she dashed them away with the back of her hand discretely. She was only missing one thing. Her mom.

Dutifully Lexie unwrapped and enthused over each gift, especially the diamond encrusted silver tennis bracelet given by the Prescotts.

Nigel appeared at the end of the party to collect their bags, his eyes glittering appreciatively at all the gifts. He smiled mischievously, nodded toward Larson, and excused himself from the party, probably to put the gifts in the car.

Lexie turned her attention toward the party, thanking the guests with grace, smiling and nodding with every hug until her father came beside her holding their coats. He led her outside where she expected to see their car, but instead what she saw was an elegant carriage resembling Cinderella’s coach, slowly coming up the street to stop in front of the restaurant. Nigel was atop the driver’s box, the reins of the two beautiful white horses in his hand. He pulled the carriage to a stop and got down to open the white door of the carriage, bringing down the red-carpeted foot stool, then put his hand out in offering to Lexie with a flourish.

“Daddy? What is all this?”

“This is my, ‘I’ll be too busy in the next week to spend any time so let’s take a ride and have some special Father/Daughter time’ present.”

She launched herself into his arms and held him close for a moment, happy tears shining in her eyes. His arms closed around her, returning the hug, both somewhat overcome with emotion.

“I love you more than my life,” he whispered to her softly, drawing back to look into her eyes. “Now, let’s take a ride through your favorite place!” Nigel assisted them both into the carriage, settled them on the bench, a warm blanket across their laps. Then he climbed up to his seat just behind the horse and with a snap of the reins they were off on their ride.

Full of lush trees and trails, benches and statues, the Boston Public Garden was indeed Lexie’s favorite place. People came from all over the world to see the tribute to the story ‘Make Way For Ducklings,’ the delightful children’s story about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their eight ducklings, Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack, and their adventures as they parade through Boston to their home in the Public Garden. Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings lived forever in bronze at the far end of the park.

A large elm tree with bright lights surrounding it stood as if on guard and the horse clopped along the path at an unhurried pace.

Lexie leaned her head against Larson’s shoulder and sighed. “Tell me about her again Daddy,” she asked softly.

He knew without hesitation that she meant Margo, and though his heart ached at the thought, he did what she asked. His voice was soft as he started telling her again about the afternoon he delivered a trunk to his sister Nikki’s dorm room and met her college room-mate Margo.

Larson had been taking a short break from his studies at The University of Georgia, Law School, and he had drawn the short straw to deliver the trunk full of costumes that Nikki had forgotten the week before. “So I walked in the room carrying Aunt Nikki’s trunk and there she was, standing on a chair stretching to hang a poster of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the classic Franco Zeffirelli movie.“

“You scared her,” she remembered.

“Yes, but I didn’t mean to. The door was open, it was a Saturday after all, and that’s common in dorms. So, in I walk, and I startled her so badly, she lost her footing. I never moved so fast. Dropped that trunk right in the floor and caught her just as she was about to fall.”

“You saved her.”

Larson hesitated for a moment, and smiled. “She saved me.”

He pulled her a little closer to keep her warm in the chilly November air and smiled at the memories flooding through his brain.

“She was a literary major, in her final year. I was finishing my last year of law school. I married her on Christmas Eve, and I remember thinking, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and there she was, walking down the aisle toward me on your grand-father’s arm.

We danced our first dance to ‘Always On My Mind’, you know the country song? I’ll never forget the way it felt when we were dancing that dance. Like we were the only people in the room.”

He turned his head slightly and looked into her eyes. “I think I will always love your mother, Lexie, she is always on my mind.”

They shared the rest of the ride in silence, each pondering the memories his words had brought to life.

Lexie never tired of hearing the story. She knew now that that little music box carousel was almost the clearest sign she could have asked for when she made her birthday wish. Her parents were most certainly still in love. She again thought she should share the newest gift, if only to ease the silent torment her father seemed to suffer even though neither his words nor his voice ever betrayed the sadness that his eyes always seemed to hold.

Later that evening, Larson sat alone in his office, his briefcase open, his files spread out across his desk. There was a glass on the edge with a bit of scotch whiskey left in the bottom, but his mind was not on the case before him, rather it had drifted back in time to that day when Margo and he had married.

Truth be told, his heart had sprang almost out of his chest when he saw his daughter that night. A vision in her own right, she had grown into such a beautiful woman he had scarcely been aware. Until tonight anyway, when, dressed in such elegance she had been almost a mirror image to the woman he had married nearly seventeen years ago.

At his desk, his mind languishing backward in time, he gave up the pretense of working, threw the pencil on the legal pad, and picked up his glass. With it in his hand he gave into the memory and settled into the past.

A Christmas Eve wedding, it had been. A day dawning with so much sunshine you would have thought the angels themselves had blessed the union. Larson and his parents had been in the pastor’s office of the family church. His mother was fussing over his tie. He tried to focus on the petals of the poinsettia plant on the window sill of the small office. He was nervous.

Be still, I don’t want to strangle my son before he marries his bride,” Sylvia struggled with the errant silk bow-tie, her son not wanting to stop his pacing.

I’m sorry Mama,” he said, chagrined.

Leave the boy be, Woman,” Clyde said from his perch at the window. He was looking at the church yard filling with cars and guests. He saw the limousine pull into the lot, but the people inside were hidden from view by the tinted windows, and there was an umbrella brought out to shade the exiting passengers.

The bride, he assumed.

You can stop fidgeting, Boy,” Clyde mused, “She’s here.”

Larson jumped to bolt to the door and was brought back sharply by his mother’s hold on the lapels of his jacket, causing his father to laugh, then cough loudly to disguise his amusement.

Oh no you don’t,” his mother admonished, “you’re not to have so much as a peek at that lady until she’s walking toward you on her daddy’s arm. You don’t want to mess with Fate honey.”

The knowledge that she had arrived was going to have to last him, he decided, looking at the clock above the pastor’s book shelf and knew that he wouldn’t have long to wait. The wedding should begin in less than an hour.

Not long after, he and his dad took their place at the front of the church. The guests were all in their places, his sisters Adriana and Macy had been bridesmaids, so they were standing to his right. They were wearing Christmas red dresses with black and red accents, red and white poinsettia flowered bouquets in their hands. His dad was acting as his best man, for he couldn’t think of anyone else to stand up with him.

Clyde Evans was a role model to everyone, but most especially to his son. Clyde loved God, his family, life, history and the South, in that order, nonnegotiable. There was no other man that Larson could think of to model his newly married lifestyle, and beginning with the wedding was a good place to start.

The instrumental music changed somewhat just after his mother had been seated on the front pew, and his soon-to-be mother-in-law was placed just across the aisle.

A small little girl, no more than four, her hair in tendrils around her face, walked up the aisle spreading rose petals on the red carpet. A little boy, the same age trailed her, a velvet pillow in his arms, held so tightly you could see the white knuckles of his fingers. His face was full of concentration until he looked up and saw the pastor, who had taken his place on the altar behind where Larson was standing. Then his tender young face broke into a grin. A murmur of laughter erupted from the crowd. He was the pastor’s grand-son. Clyde and the pastor had been friends for many years, their membership in the church solidified by many dedications and weddings, catered by his shop. Clyde stole a look toward the man officiating the ceremony, winking. Then he brought up his hand to rest on his son’s shoulder, giving it an affectionate squeeze. Larson smiled nervously and nodded, his attention drawn toward the back of the church, where the archway was decorated with twinkling white lights. Christmas magic was everywhere.

His sister Nikki came next. Her hair was short, but beautifully styled, a spray of baby’s breath along side her head. Her dress was an emerald green silk thing that drifted to the floor in shimmers. Her feet were in silver heels. His eyes glistened at the breath-taking moment, for he knew as she was the Maid of Honor, his Margo was just behind. Nikki took her place next to him, winking in humor, for she could probably tell her brother had all but lost his ability to breathe, much less speak.

Everyone stood as the strains of “Pachabel’s Canon in D” began, and the doors of the sanctuary that had closed after Nikki’s entrance opened. There on her father’s arm came the woman who had changed his life. A vision of white lace and pearls, the dress had been ordered and made just weeks before. He knew that much because his sister Macy couldn’t stop talking about how cool it must have been to have a dress made especially for only one person in particular.

The pastor told the congregation to sit, and Margo’s hand had been placed in his own by her father. The stern stare of the old man in the front row gave him only a moment’s pause. Then his attention was fully on the matter at hand. Joining his life with the woman before him.

The short ride from the church to the reception hall was dreamlike. The joy and love he had felt holding his new wife’s hand in his, her head just lightly resting on his shoulder.

They had been nudged to share kisses from their place at the table in front of the guests. The hall had been sprayed with red and white roses, among the Christmas themed flowers and colors draped over every surface. Rose petals and silver candles were on every table. The food was wonderful, but the taste was nothing to the knowledge that they would be leaving shortly for a honeymoon at the beach, a present from her parents.

The DJ announced the first dance, and the strains of the popular country song began. Larson led his beautiful bride to the center of the room and together they swayed to the music. Softly he sang the words into her ear, meaning each sentiment with all his heart. For, once you find that one true love, the person God Himself had set upon the Earth just for you, there was no other thought but how love never ends.

The glass was heavy in his hand, the amber liquid swirling lightly. His memories had made him even more tired than the effects of the whiskey, so he finished the glass, set it down on the desk and rose to go to bed.

He’d get up early to work on his files.

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