The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 17 - Family Reunion

The excitement of Charlotte's homecoming combined with the humiliation of the council's failure to rescue her made for a raucous reunion in the Dunston living room. We had explained somewhat on the telephone, first Charlotte talking to her dad, then her mom, then me talking to her dad, then to Jones. Charlotte insisted on just going home, skipping the check-up at the Sumter Hospital in favor of her local family doctor. Reluctantly her parents agreed and we turned the car toward Simsville.

Now I was back in "my" kitchen facing both Jones and Smith, trying to explain as calmly as I could how I figured out where to look for the girl. Smith had put a stack of hot pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon on the table. A large carafe of fresh-brewed coffee sat in the center of the table. I felt a little guilty about having breakfasted on an Egg McMuffin an hour earlier but I dug into the pancakes anyway.

"I'm not just a secretary, guys, I do know how to use my brain," I helped myself to a biscuit, split it and filled it with Smith's homemade strawberry jam as I laid out the steps I'd taken. "You didn't give me half a chance to be useful so I decided to do what I could to help out. That's all."

The slight frowns on their faces showed they knew they had underestimated me. I waited for an acknowledgement, if not the apology I felt they owed me.

"Look, Avery, we know you're not a secretary." Jones and Smith exchanged a glance. "But this really wasn't your problem, that's how we figured it. We thought the council could take care of things. It's not like we're a bunch of amateurs, after all." Jones refilled his coffee cup and helped himself to several strips of bacon.

"Well, what's next?" I asked, curious. "Whoever took Charlotte got away with it, didn't he. Y'all going to look for him?"

Jones crossed one leg over the other, pushing his chair against the wall. "Oh, he got away with some cash. He won't get away with taking Charlotte." He briefly outlined the steps they were already taking to find the kidnapper. They seemed pretty thorough and I was impressed.

"We goofed up thinking this was some punk kid. This guy had his marbles together, did some planning. We won't make that mistake again."

Smith pushed our empty dishes to one side, then sat down at the table with us. Sipping on a fresh cup of coffee of her own, she looked at me with a question mark in her eyes. "What're your plans now, Avery? Are you still going to leave?"

I played with my coffee spoon a moment as I debated how to answer. I had wanted to get back to Richmond and away from this peculiar little town. Now, I wasn't so sure it was a good idea to leave this moment. Maybe a few more days wouldn't hurt. I'd like to see the kidnapper locked up, make sure Charlotte was really okay and not suffering any ill effects from the drugs or anything.

"I'll tell you what. I have a few more days of leave time coming. If you won't shut me out of the loop again I'll stay that long. I'd like to help you find that guy, see to it he's under lock and key if possible. After that I'm not making any promises. Deal?" Their relieved smiles gave me their answer.

"Let's go see the council and get started, then." Jones rose from his seat and turned toward the back door.

"Think I'll stay here and work on lunch if it's all the same to you guys." Smith poured herself another cup of coffee and waved us off as Jones and I left the house.

At least I'm a team member now, I thought to myself. That's a whole heap better than "answer the phone if it rings!"

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 |