Friday, October 20, 2017

News at Eleven - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

“Sinclair,” Clisty answered into her cell. “What?” she gasped. “Okay. We’re on our way.”
Jake touched his phone screen. “Okay. Call SWAT,” he said and turned to Clisty. “Sorry Babe. Gotta run.”
“Babe?” she cracked, liking the name and wondering why she liked it … is she did.
“Babe,” he stated decidedly.
“And we have to leave too,” she said as she folded her napkin. “The call was from the station, Becca. A news crew will meet us at 606 North
“Gramercy,” Jake finished.
“Yes, how did—?”
“What’s happening?” Becca asked as she pulled on her coat.
Clisty looked at Pooky who sat at the serving counter. She nodded to Sharon. “Can Pooky stay here and wait for her mother?” She gave the child a hug.
“Did you say, Gramercy?” the eight-year-old asked.
“Yes, but
“We were at a man’s house on Gramercy,” she said with wide eyes. “Is Mama there?”
“What man?” Jake asked.
“The man who brought us here.”
“What did he look like, Honey?” he asked.
“He is tall and has a rough face.” She sipped her drink. “He has on a dark blue sweatshirt.”
Clisty looked from Jake to Becca. Fear stabbed her as she remembered the suspect in the bank robbery. Although missing for eighteen years, Faith could be that woman. “I want you to stay here, Pooky. Have you had supper?”
The eight-year-old looked up, “Sure. My cocoa.”
“What else?” Clisty asked.
“Nothing,” she whispered.
“Okay, Sweetheart. Miss Sharon can give you something hot.”
“How about some creamy macaroni and cheese from the lunch special?” Sharon asked.
“That would be great,” Clisty said. “I’ll pay you later.” She started for the door. “Oh, and keep her away from the news channel.” She raised her eyebrows in emphasis.
Pooky hopped down from the stool and took Clisty’s hand. “Let me come with you. Mama’s there. I know she is.”
“You need to stay and help Miss Sharon. I’ll bet she has some jobs for you.”
“Sure,” Sharon drew out slowly. “You could wipe off the tables and I’ll turn on the cartoon channel.”
“That would be great,” Clisty said as she hurried out the door. Outside, they started walking back to her parents’ home for their cars.
“We need to hurry,” Jake urged.
“Wait for me,” Becca called out from behind. “Where are we going? It’ll be a remote broadcast. I’ll need to prepare.”
“There’s a standoff between a gunman and police over on North Gramercy,” Clisty explained. “There’s a female hostage. As information comes in, they’ll feed it to us on location.”
They slipped on the thin layer of ice as they grabbed the car door handles and hopped in. “Follow me,” Jake called out his car window as he made a U-turn in the middle of the street. “I’ll lead the way with full lights and siren. Stay close behind me.”
“Be careful,” Clisty cautioned.
“You too, Babe.”
As Jake reached out and placed the flashing lights on the roof, Clisty pulled her car in behind his and revved the engine. They flew past Sutton Place, Riverside and two other cross-streets until they came to Gramercy, about a mile from the Coffee Emporium.
Clisty saw the station’s van parked near the cordoned area in front of a house, slammed on the brake and stopped in the middle of the street at the barricade. She jumped out and reached for the microphone Clint handed her. Flattened early crocuses, bitten by the late snow and trampled by various television crews, were under her feet.  She trembled, fearing the same outcome as nearly twenty years ago, but tried to stay professional.
With the ear piece placed in her ear, she stepped in front of the lens. “We’re here in the middle of the six-hundred block of North Gramercy. All residences in the area—stay inside. I repeat—stay inside. If you are traveling, take Randolph Highway rather than North Gramercy and avoid this area. We have just arrived on the scene. We’ve been told that an armed gunman is holding a woman hostage.” She motioned to a man who stood at the edge of the cordoned area. “Sir, tell us your name and what you saw?”
The middle-aged man cleared his throat. “I ... ah,” the man’s voice was shaky. “The name’s Phil. I saw a rumpled man in a dark blue hoody pull a young woman out of an old truck and force her to walk into that house there at 606. I know I saw a hand-gun.”
Clisty repositioned the mic. “Do you know if the man has been living in the house for very long?”
“The house had been for rent. I saw him last week a couple of times,” he answered, his gaze still fixed on the house.
Clisty could feel panic grip her. Her palms felt sweaty inside her gloves and her stomach rolled and fell. “Did you see a young girl?”
“Right ... now that you ask, I do remember seeing a child when they first showed up. Not after that. Come to think of it, hardly the woman either, until late this afternoon.”
“So, you saw the woman when they first arrived and then today?”
“I stopped over there about 4 pm with a pie my misses had made to greet them to the neighborhood and the woman answered the door. I said, ‘Hello Mrs. ...’ I thought she might fill in the last name, but she shook her head. She said he had only given them a ride to Fort Wayne. She started to say more but the man came up behind her. He started screaming at her. She slipped me an envelope before he slammed the door closed. She pointed to your name and TV station written on the outside.”
“You brought it?” Clisty asked.
She heard an interruption behind her. “There, that’s it,” a child’s voice announced. Clisty turned as Pooky fell into her arms and held on tightly. “My Mama’s in there,” the girl sobbed.
“I am so sorry,” Sharon gasped breathlessly. “She got away from me.”
Still on camera, Clisty clung to the girl, in spite of Becca’s direction to release her. Clisty looked into the lens. “I’m holding a child I believe to be the hostage’s daughter.” Looking directly into the light, she added, “She is safe with me.” Her thoughts raced but she tried to stay calm. She hoped that those inside the house had a TV on. “Now, I’m talking to the man in the house.” She smiled at Pooky. “The woman means nothing to you. You just gave her a ride home. I’m sure Faith is very grateful for your kindness. You can let her go now.”
Jake stepped in front of the camera. “If you’re watching, the bank teller is alive. Don’t make things worse for yourself. Release the woman and we can help you make things right.”
Clisty tried not to think of the danger Faith was in. She willed herself to sound calm. “Please, let her go. All little girls need their mother.” She looked anxiously at the house but there was no movement. Suddenly, a car slid to a stop near the barricade. Faith’s parents jumped out.
Clisty’s eyes filled with tears as the Sterlings approached their granddaughter for the first time. “Ralph and Roma Sterling,” she whispered, “this is Pooky. I believe she’s your granddaughter.”
They wrapped their arms around the child, buried their faces in each of her shoulders and sobbed. Silence fell like a warm presence as police and television crew looked on. The new grandmother looked at the house and whispered, “Please. Give her back.”
The front door opened slowly but no lights were on. Darkness was everywhere. “Hold your fire.” Jake shouted with a calm and steady voice. “She’s coming out.”
With shaking hands held high, Faith Sterling slowly emerged, with a dark figure close behind, his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t shoot,” she shouted. “He wants to surrender.”
A police woman took a few steps forward and stopped. Clisty whispered into the microphone. “She seems to be attempting a safe transfer.”
“Let the woman step away from you,” Jake announced into a bullhorn. “Lay down on the ground with your hands behind your head.”
The next events happened so fast, Clisty couldn’t breathe. The man fell onto the cold, wet ground. Officers wrapped his wrists in handcuffs. Her dear friend, Faith, ran forward and embraced all those who had waited eighteen years for her to come home. She sobbed as she grabbed Pooky and fell into her parents’ arms.
Clisty whispered a prayer of thanksgiving and praise as she wiped tears from her face. Rebecca, and all those watching, wiped tears from their cheeks and trembling chins.
Reaching out to Clisty, Faith sobbed in her arms. “I knew you’d find me if I could get here.”

Clisty looked into the camera but, no matter how hard she tried, words would not come. Finally, she whispered, “My friend Faith was kidnapped eighteen years ago. Finally ... praise God, she has come home.” She hugged Faith and beamed. “This has been news of a true miracle in Fort Wayne ... to be seen at eleven.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

News at Eleven - A Novel

Chapter 3
"Jake!” Clisty called in relief as Detective Davis jumped out of his car in front of her parents’ house. “You remembered the story about my childhood clubhouse!”
“Of course I did.” To her surprise and relief, he gathered her in his arms and held her close. “Clisty, who was that?” He pointed back to the person who had darted past him.
“Did you see her?” She gasped breathlessly.
“Her?” he questioned. “I saw him, the guy who beat it out of here when I pulled up.”
“Then, you didn’t see Faith?”
“A girl? No, I was watching the man.”
“I wish I could have watched him!” Rebecca growled as she rubbed her shoulder. “He hit me.” “I would have observed him with the back of my hand.”
“Are you okay?” Clisty asked and gently touched her. “Jake, you know Becca, my news producer.”
“Right,” he said, looking her over, up and down. “You need to have that shoulder looked at.” Then he asked, “Aren’t you two supposed to be at the station right now? The news is on again at eleven.”
“It’s a long story.” Clisty said as she put her arm around Becca. “Are you okay? Can you walk down to the corner coffee shop so we can fill him in?”
Becca flexed her arm. “I’m more angry than hurt.” She raised her arm up, nearly over her shoulder. “You fill him in. I’m still trying to catch up to what’s happening.”
“Jeremy, at the police station, said you had gone to the hospital. How is the bank teller?” Clisty asked. The snow started falling again and tiny ice flakes stung Clisty’s nose and cheeks.
“She’s conscious. Doctors say she’ll mend,” Jake said.
“You had better put your hood up, or your hair will have to be done again before the late news,” Becca cautioned.
“If I put my hood up, I’ll need a major overhaul, not a touch up—from hood hair.” Clisty slipped a little and looked down. She had forgotten she was still wearing on-camera heals. Her feet were cold and had started to hurt. “These shoes weren’t made for chasing criminals or ghosts.”
“Ghosts? Here, you can hold on to me,” Jake offered as he held out his arm. “What is going on?”
“Wow, arm and arm. Now, that’s sweet,” Becca cooed.
“Here, Becca, grab hold of my other arm,” Jake offered. 
• • • • • 
Clisty stepped into the small, warm coffee emporium and rubbed her gloved hands together. “It feels good in here, Sharon,” she said, smiling at the waitress. The wall-mounted TV whispered dialog, but Clisty was too cold to pay attention. She scanned the menu above the serving counter. “My favorite is café mocha. I’d like an extra half shot of café and a double shot of mocha.”
“Wow, with all that, it’s my hips that would be shot,” Becca moaned. “Coffee, black and a double shot of hot.”
“Let’s sit here by the window,” Clisty suggested as she walked a few feet to a small table with four chairs clustered around it. “It’s homey here.”
“Hey, I thought I told you to get along home,” Sharon snapped at a scruffy girl who slipped in through the door behind Clisty and her friends.
“I’m cold,” the child whispered.
“Then, sit right there,” Sharon pointed to a bar stool in front of her. “Where’s your mom?”
“She’ll be here soon.”
Clisty watched the frightened girl and smiled, but gave her the space she needed to warm up to her and the other strangers inside the Emporium.
At the table, Becca gulped as she leaned into the cold glass of the window. “Is that the guy in the hoodie again?”
The child gasped in fear and pulled her wet shoes up onto the seat, hugging her knees. She looked like a small turtle with every vulnerable part hidden.
“That’s my husband on his way home from work,” Sharon laughed and waved a full cup of coffee in his direction.
Clisty watched the child pull a tight, shabby coat around her. As Sharon brought the steamy cups to the table, Clisty’s focus shifted.
“I wondered about that guy too.” Jake agreed.
“I’ll hug the cup for warmth.” Clisty put her gloves in her pocket and blew across the surface of the coffee. “I’m warming my face with the rising, deliciously sweet steam.” She closed her eyes and let the rising vapor warm her cheeks.
“I’d be happy to keep you warm,” Jake offered.
Clisty looked at Becca to see if she had heard him. Becca raised her eyebrows. Over at the counter, big round, hollow eyes watched her sip the warm brew.
“Do you like cocoa?” Clisty asked the child.
“I think I had it one time.” The little one’s voice was as thin as she was, and as distant.
“Did you like it?” Clisty asked as she smiled, trying to develop a rapport with her. The girl smiled. “Sharon, get my friend here a big cup of your best hot chocolate.” She smiled at her. “Will that be okay with your mama?” The child nodded a firm yes.
“When will your mother get back?” Jake asked. He lowered his voice. “I can’t let a seven or eight-year-old run around town at night all alone.”
“Probably when my cocoa’s done,” the girl said as she took tiny sips. “She’ll meet me here.”
Sharon wiped a cocoa ring from the counter. “Did that guy find you, Clisty?”
She froze inside and looked up slowly from her chocolate laced coffee. “Who? What guy?”
“He was tall and tattered, in a dark sweatshirt. I didn’t tell him anything about you, Clisty. You and I have been friends since kindergarten. I’ve got your back.” She slowed as she picked up a tea towel and dried a cup and several spoons. “I wondered how he could be warm in
Clisty’s eyes grew large as she turned toward the darkness beyond the window. “When was he in here?”
“Was the sweatshirt a hoodie?” Jake asked.
“Yes, he had it over his head but I could see his eyes. It was strange. He had the most beautiful brown eyes, sunk down in a face that belonged on an FBI most wanted poster.” Sharon shuddered. “He scared me.” She too looked out into the night. “He was in here just a little bit ago. I was glad when he left.”
“Which way did he go?” Jake asked.
“Down toward your parents’ place,” Sharon nodded in Clisty’s direction.
Clisty stiffened, holding her breath until she wondered if she would be able to breathe. Jake gently took her hand. She could feel his warmth caress her skin. She squeezed his palm and tried to relax. “Sharon, have you seen a young woman around here that isn’t from the neighborhood?”
“Yes, that was another strange thing. Before you got here, this woman slithered around the side of the door and slipped in. It seemed to me she might have been dodging someone. Her eyes darted around the restaurant and she shifted back and forth.”
Clisty’s heart pounded as she held her breath. “And ...?”
“She said she saw you come in here earlier today and asked me to give this to you.” Sharon reached into her apron pocket and drew out a pink plastic hair bow. “She said it’s yours.”
Clisty took the barrette from Sharon’s hand and rolled it over and over in her hand. Tears came to her eyes and threatened to spill down her cheeks. She blotted them with a napkin. “Yes, it’s mine,” she whispered. “Becca,” her voice cracked, “I gave this to Faith the morning of our last day together. Her hair kept falling in her eyes.”
“Who is Faith?” Jake asked.
“She’s your missing witness to the escaped bank robber suspect,” Clisty announced. “I recognized her in
“The ATM video!” Sharon squealed and pointed to the TV. “I saw her on your newscast and thought she looked familiar. She had the same scar above her left eyebrow. Clisty, I thought someone had killed her years ago.”
“That’s what everyone thought, except her parents ... and me. This proves even more, that she’s alive.”
The child at the counter hopped down and slowly approached the small table. “No, Ma’am. That clip is mine,” she announced.
“Yours?” Becca asked.
“Miss Sinclair said it belongs to her, Honey,” Jake chimed in.
The girl shook her head in defiance while willful curls slipped into her eyebrows. “No, it’s not. It’s mine.” She grabbed the hair bow, wiggled back up onto the bar stool and took another gulp of hot chocolate with the barrette clasped tightly in her hand.
Clisty got up, slowly walked over and gently touched the child’s small shoulder. “I had one just like it.” Her eyes glistened. “I gave it to my very best friend in all the world.” She started to reach out for it but stopped when the child pulled back. “What’s your name?”
“My name’s Pooky.” She held the hair clip in both hands and drew it close in a caress. “My mama gave me the hair bow a long time ago.”
Clisty wrapped her arms around the girl. “My name is Pooky, too. I think I know your mother.” She looked over at Jake and Becca and smiled. “We have to hurry but I think we can find her before the eleven o’clock news.”

Friday, October 6, 2017

News at Eleven - A Novel

Chapter 2
Four-leafed Clover
“Let’s go.” Clisty placed her coffee cup on the table and grabbed the envelope with the precious four-leaf clover inside. “Hurry, Becca. The news will be back on at eleven.”
“I know. I’m the producer.” Becca fumbled with her yogurt container. Her spoon teetered on the saucer. “No, don’t fall on the white area rug,” Becca moaned.
“Don’t worry about it.” Clisty brushed it off, crossed the room and pulled her coat from the hall tree.
“Don’t worry about it?” Becca questioned. “This, from the girl with a sterile home, except for the picture of two rag-a-muffins?”
“Okay, okay,” Clisty agreed. She fished in her pocket for her gloves and car keys.
“Where are we going?” Becca asked. Outside, she slipped on the fresh powder of early spring snow as she hurried behind. “The time is flying. You have to be behind the news desk before eleven.”
“I know, Becca. But, I also know that was Faith in that ATM surveillance video. She’s the bank robbery witness everyone is looking for and she’s been missing for years.” She fumbled with the remote entry button. The buzzer squawked and the two women jumped into the SUV.
The leather seats had grown cold. She shivered as she tried to force the key into the ignition.
Becca interrupted. “Wait a minute. I need to know where we’re going.” She patted Clisty’s hand. “Take a deep breath and tell me what’s going on.”
Clisty let the motor idle. Her hand trembled on the floor shift. “Becca, the image in the ATM video was my friend, Faith.”
“Honey, she was nine years old when she was kidnapped. That was eighteen years ago.”
“I know,” Clisty pounded on the shift knob. “But, I know Faith Sterling’s eyes. That was her.” Tears welled up and spilled down her cheeks.
“Don’t mess up your makeup. You may not have time for a touch up before the late-night news.” She patted Clisty’s hand again. “Now, where are we going?”
“First, we’ll stop at police headquarters and hope Jake is there.” She looked right and left. It was early in the evening. On-coming lights sparkled on the windshield’s frost patches. “I think I know where Faith is, but I don’t know if it’s safe to go there alone.”
“Okay. With Jake along, I’ll feel better.” Becca buckled her seat belt. “Why didn’t you just call or text him?”
“I’m a little scattered.” Clisty pulled her phone from her pocket and pushed a button.
“Speed dial?” Rebecca teased.
“Never mind ... I check with him for leads once in a while.” Clisty put the receiver to her ear. “It’s ringing .... Jake, pick up.” She disconnected and looked out at the road ahead. “He’s on duty or at least he’s investigating on overtime. Why doesn’t he answer?”
“Leave a text message and let’s go,” Becca said urgently. 
• • • • • 
Clisty pulled into the police parking lot and had her hand on her seat belt clasp before the engine stopped. She flung the door open and dashed toward the door when Becca slipped a little as she stepped from the car.
“Becca, are you okay?” Clisty turned back quickly.
“Just trying to catch up. I’m wearing the wrong shoes for hot pursuit.”
Clisty waited at the door for her. “I’m sorry. You didn’t hurt yourself, did you?”
“I’m fine,” Becca assured her.
Outside, the daylight had slipped into early spring-evening darkness. But, inside the station, lights beamed in every corner. The smell of freshly popped corn penetrated the room. An officer jumped to his feet when Clisty walked in.
“Clisty Sinclair ... pardon me, Miss Sinclair,” Jeremy Rhodes blustered. “What may I do for you?” He blushed as a few corn kernels fell from his uniform onto the floor.
“That’s alright. Call me Clisty.” She paused and glanced around. “Is Detective Davis here?”
“No, Ma’am. Jake’s been in and out about the bank robbery. He went home for a little while to change.” He paused. “But, you know about the robbery. You broke the news at six.”
“Yes ...” she frantically checked the room. “He hasn’t come back?”
“No, Ma’am. He called to say he’s interviewing the bank teller at the hospital. She was shot-up pretty bad.”
 “The hospital?” She turned to Rebecca. “He probably has his phone off if he’s in the E.R. We’d better hurry on.”
“Clisty, I don’t know.”
“I do,” she snapped. Her texting thumbs flew over her phone’s keypad. “Now, where are my keys?” she asked as she fumbled in her pocket. “I just had them.”
A woman in a frayed coat scooped keys off the floor and handed them to the officer. He thanked her and turned the keys over in his hand. “Initial—P? And ... they’re yours, Miss Sinclair?”
“Yes,” Clisty allow a smile to lighten her face. “Grandma called me Pooky.”
“Pooky?” He raised his eyebrows. “Where did your grand-parents live?
“Over on Norman Avenue.”
“Six-twenty-four Norman Avenue, right?” Rhodes smiled.
“How did you know?”
“My parents bought their house when your grandparents moved to Florida. We lived there for seven years. When Mom and Dad had more kids, we moved. There was a little angel in the kitchen window. On the bottom was a name. Mom told me it was a Christmas Prayer Angel and we should pray for the person. Each person in the prayer partner exchange wrote their name on the bottom. It was Pooky.”
Clisty gasped. “Grandma said she lost my angel, but she prayed for me every day anyway.”
“Pooky,” Rhodes whispered, “I’ve prayed for you since I was a kid.” He paused then asked, “What happened about ten years ago, in the spring?”
“My boyfriend and I were in a car accident after the Senior Prom.” She rubbed her finger over the initial on the key chain. “I was in a coma for two weeks.”
“I could feel it,” Rhodes whispered again. “Something seemed wrong. I prayed twice a day during that time.”
Clisty took the officer’s hand. “Thank you.” Tears again threatened to drown her resolve. She looked away. “Becca, we’d better hurry.” She jingled her keys and spoke again to Rhodes. “If Jake comes back and hasn’t gotten my message, tell him I was here and to meet us at the clubhouse.” She hurried out the door with Becca matching her steps.
“Maybe we should wait for Jake until he can be reached. He’ll turn his phone on soon,” Becca warned.
“We’ll be fine,” Clisty brushed off her concern and pulled her coat more tightly around her. The spring air had taken on a bitter chill. 
• • • • • 
Clisty reached for the car radio. “There may be more news about the robbery. Maybe they’ve found Faith.”
“We just came from the Police Station. There was no news about the witness or the robber.” Becca lowered her voice to a soothing whisper. “Clisty, Faith was kidnapped. If she’s alive, where has she been all of these years and how did she get away?”
“I don’t know. But, I’m going to where she directed.”
“Yes, the four-leaf clover. We kept the treasures we found at the clubhouse. I’m sure she’ll try to meet me there.”
“Where is it?” Becca asked.
“In my parents’ back yard,” Clisty said as she turned the corner and headed to the north side of town.
“I thought your parents were visiting your grandparents in Florida.” Becca spoke slowly. “No one will be there.”
“But, that has nothing to do with the clubhouse.” Clisty downplayed the caution she heard in her friend’s voice. “I can always get in there.”
“I’m not thinking about ease of entry. I’m wondering how safe it will be to poke around in a dark backyard and shed.”
“We’ll be fine. It’s my parents’ yard.” Clisty eased onto Keystone Avenue and followed the winding road into the next block. The street light in front of her parents’ home was out.
“It looks dark,” Becca gasped.
“Come on fraidy-cat.” She popped the door open, jumped out and hurried toward the back of the house. A dog’s bark in the distance hung on the crystal air. The cold gravel crunched under their feet.
“Clisty ... wait,” Becca called in a hoarse whisper. As she tried to catch up, a dark figure approached them from behind.
Clisty strained to see into the darkness behind her. Dim light filtered through bony trees a few houses down. She saw something piled on the ground and gasped. She had just walked from that direction and there had been nothing there. “Becca?” she called into the darkness. There was no answer.
Fear gripped her chest as she crept closer. “Becca?” she whispered. Her eyes darted frantically from bush to each dense hedge around her.
“Oh ....” Becca moaned as she rolled over on her elbow. “What happened?”
Crack! A noise shattered the blackness around them. A large, burly figure about ten feet away staggered and fled from the yard. The shape of a woman wielding a large branch darted off in the opposite direction.

“Faith?” Clisty shouted frantically after her. The bells of the church on the corner chimed. It was eight p.m. News was at eleven.

Friday, September 29, 2017

News at Eleven - A Novel (The Prequel to Heartland News and Mysteries)

Chapter 1
News at Six

Clisty Sinclair froze as she stared into the monitor. It can’t be her. It’s been too long.
The television camera zoomed in as Clisty’s eyes filled with tears. Shaken, she was numb to the fact that viewers were watching her relive a terrible memory.
The news director’s expression widened. “Go on!” she mouthed.
Clisty felt nine years old again, frantically grabbing her friend’s hand. But, in the desperate tug-of-war with evil, the muscular man won and dragged her friend away.
She composed herself. “Help police find the witness visible on the ATM’s surveillance camera,” she reported. “Call 555-2020. Let’s roll that again.” Clisty stopped breathing as she watched the jerky video. A huge figure in dark clothes ran from the bank, nearly knocking down a disheveled woman. The woman paid no attention to him, but focused on the ATM. At the surveillance camera, she looked directly into it with guarded, anxious eyes.
“Those eyes,” Clisty murmured.
Dan Drummond, the senior anchor, waited as Clisty remained silent. Finally Drummond intervened. “Well, that’s the news from the Fort. WFT-TV ... Fort Wayne, Indiana. More news at eleven.”
“Good show, people.” Rebecca Landers waved her arms in the air.  “Everything all right?” she asked Clisty.
“Sure Becca.” But, she muttered, “It can’t be her.”
“Who?” Becca jerked the headset from her ears and handed it to her assistant. “Here, George, stow these until eleven, please.”
“No one. Just my imagination,” Clisty whispered then changed the subject. “Maybe they’ll find that witness in time for the eleven o’clock news.”
“Maybe, but that’s only four hours from now. It could happen, if she walks into police headquarters by herself,” Becca answered. “What happened up there?”
“Nothing,” she brushed the question off.
“Don’t forget the envelope for Clisty.” George put the headset on the desk. “I’m going to run out. I’ll be back.”
“What envelope?” Clisty asked as she stood up slowly.
“Fellow said his name was Phil and left it for you,” George called over his shoulder.
“You’re slowing down. Are you okay? I’ll call a stand-in.”
“No, Becca, don’t do that. I don’t want someone else to look good. I still have to prove myself.” She had risen from intern, to fill-in, to junior-anchor in record time. “I don’t want anyone to think they made a mistake in hiring me.”
“Okay, but you need to talk about it.”
“Hello there, news lady,” a tall man in blue jeans and tan long-sleeve V-neck tee said as he waited just outside the studio glass.
“Jake?” Clisty couldn’t believe it was Detective Davis. Out of navy blue suit, dress shirt and tie, she hardly recognized him.
He grinned warmly. “I was changing from my work clothes and had your six o’clock newscast on.” He bent down and studied her face. “Miss Sinclair, you had an unusual reaction when you were reporting on the bank robbery. What happened? What’s going on?”
Clisty looked away. “Nothing.”
He touched her shoulder and reassured her; his usual prickly pear manner softened. “I’m not interrogating you. I’m just asking.”
The warmth of his hand was something she hadn’t expected. This was the same old Jake Davis as the edgy detective she had encountered at other crime scenes, why did he suddenly rattle her so? She knew she had to slow down to get some professional distance between them. “I have to sort this out in my own mind first, Detective. Maybe I’ll call the police station tomorrow.”
“Maybe?” he asked with a twinkly.
Overwhelmed by what she had seen in the video, now even the mere presence of Jake Davis confused her. Gripped by double-edged tension, she felt like she couldn’t breathe as tears gathered in her eyes and began to roll down her cheeks. This time she looked away from the man she had pleasantly bumped into at several remote news cast and she closed her eyes.
Jake didn’t hesitate. He put his arms around her, enclosing her in his embrace and didn’t let go.
Her heart raced, first because she knew she saw Faith, second because … of Jake. His new unfiltered approach thrilled her; she felt safe. Finally, after a wonderful but awkward span of seconds, Clisty reluctantly pulled away from his warmth and fixed her eyes on the floor. “I have to leave, Jake. “I’ll figure this out and call the station tomorrow.”
“Be sure to ask for me if you think of anything,” he said softly, stroking her shoulder. “With this bank robbery thing, I’m going back to the precinct for a while now.”
“Okay, and yes, I’ll ask for you,” she promised. As tears flooded her eyes, a tissue from her pocket saved her makeup. Why was she reacting so strangely to this man? She didn’t want to look at him and didn’t want to look away. When their eyes met, a new feeling flooded in. Minutes before, despair filled her as she remembered the horrible day when someone kidnapped Faith. Now, the warmth of hope rushed in and bolstered her spirits again.
She had to control all those emotions, the same as she controlled everything, until she could figure it all out. She turned, cleared her voice and changed the subject. “Becca, George said you have a letter for me?” Clisty asked.
Rebecca withdrew the message from her hip pocket. “Here ya go. Hope I didn’t wrinkle it.”
Clisty pushed dark blond hair from her forehead and studied the envelope. The handwriting looked familiar and yet not. “There’s a pot of coffee at my apartment. Can you run out with me for a while? I think I’d better eat something. I’m shaking.”
“Sure. We have nothing until eleven.”

• • • • •

“Looks like you painted last weekend,” Becca observed as she walked around Clisty’s living room. “It’s still white though isn’t it?”
“No. It’s cream,” Clisty insisted.
“Cream?” Becca said with a wry smile. “Maybe off-white ... but, not cream.” She studied the pictures clustered above the sofa. “The girl on the right looks like you.” The gangly girl in the photo had skinned knees that stuck out below pale blue summer shorts. Play equipment in the background revealed an active child.
“It is me,” Clisty agreed. She placed the envelope on the shiny black coffee table. “I’ll get us some coffee and yogurt.” She walked over to the open kitchen.
“That’s great. It’s Jason’s poker night. He’ll stop at the drive-through.” She glanced back at the picture, then around Clisty’s space. “I’m surprised you hung that picture in a room with white walls.” Becca raised her eyebrows. “Sorry, cream walls, white area rug.” She looked down. “I know I was right that time, cream sofa and side chairs, and end tables with absolutely nothing on them, no tchotchkes, nothing.” She looked again at the fireplace. “I take that back. There’s a little angel on the mantle.”
“That’s my prayer angel. At church, Grandma picked my angel and I got hers that Christmas before she and Grandpa moved to Florida.” She smiled defiantly. “Besides, no-clutter settles the mind and makes my space manageable.”
“You don’t strike me as a control freak.”
“I’m not.” Clisty removed her shoes, sat cross-legged on the sofa and pealed the lid from the raspberry yogurt. She put it on the saucer.
Becca watched and did the same, except for the leg position. “You could fool me,” she mused as she glanced around the spotless room. “You take minimalism to an extreme not often seen.”
“It’s just my home that has to be sterile.” She scooped out a spoonful of the creamy treat. “Don’t laugh. I don’t know why, but my house must be stripped of all clutter.”
“You know ... one person’s clutter ...” Becca sighed as she sipped the hot coffee. She sat the cup on its saucer and glanced at the envelope.
“Has it grown larger than the room?” Clisty teased as she watched Becca’s expression.
“I don’t know why you’re not interested in what’s inside!”
“Oh okay,” she chuckled softly. “But, it was fun for a few minutes. I watched your curiosity rise to hyperventilation level.”
“Open it!” Becca yelled.
“All right, all right,” Clisty drew out slowly. Once opened, the envelope appeared to be empty. She shook it and a square piece of plastic fell out. Pent-up grief crossed her face. She frantically snatched up the piece from the polished floor.
“What is it?”
“It’s a four-leaf clover, sealed between clear contact-paper.” She held the piece between her index finger and thumb. “My mother lines her closet shelves with clear contact.”
“But Clisty,” Becca stared at her. “What does it mean? You recognize it. I can tell.”
Clisty gently lifted the photo from the wall. “The other sweet child is Faith Sterling. She was my dearest friend. We investigated everywhere together. Mom’s only rule was to be home by suppertime. We kept the treasures we found in our clubhouse.”
“Where is she?”
“She’s gone.”
“Did they move?”
“Her parents still live over on Oak Street.” Clisty sank back on the thick, sofa pillows. “She’s ... gone.”
“She died?”
Clisty tried to shut out the terrible pictures in her mind. Suddenly, her eyes widened. She glanced at the mantle clock. “It’s seven-thirty. There’s time.” She waved the clover back and forth in anxious hands. “I have to see Jake.”
“Jake? Jake ... your cop ... Jake?”
“No ... yes. No, he’s not my cop.” She jumped up. “I found this four-leaf clover while we played. We took it home and sealed it between the contact-paper. I wrote the date on it with Magic Marker and gave it to Faith. She put it in her pocket. I told you. We were nine years old.” Clisty paced. “We started to play Monopoly then sat on the floor and watched TV.” When her eyes filled with tears, she pulled another tissue from her pocket.
“No,” Becca grabbed a fresh Kleenex from a box on the bottom shelf of the side table and handed it to her. “You’re still in camera-makeup. Now, slow down, breathe, and tell me what happened.”
Clisty blotted her tears with the tissue. “Mom had gone to the grocery. We started watching TV before we put our game away.” She sniffed and tried to clear her throat.
“Then what?”
“Someone ... a big man in a sweaty shirt ... I can still smell him ... stormed into our house.” She cringed as terrible mental images invaded her pleasant childhood memories.
“The man had a heavy beard and yellow teeth,” she shuddered. “He grabbed us both by the wrist and dragged us toward the door.” Clisty’s voice drifted to a whisper while a horror-film played in her head. “I broke free, grasped Faith’s hand and tried to pull her back; but, he was too big. I slipped on the Monopoly board and slid on a few cards and game pieces. With a thud, I fell to the floor but quickly scrambled to my feet, ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I heard the man snort something like, ‘I got what I came for,’ and stormed out the door with Faith.”
“Oh, Clisty, how horrible! Where did they find her?”
“They didn’t,” she whispered. “She just vanished. It’s been eighteen years. Her family has never given up,” Clisty choked on her tears. “I tried to save her.” With a raspy voice she added, “With Grandma’s angel at our house and my angel on her kitchen windowsill, Grandma prayed for me every day.” She closed her eyes and slipped back into dark, frightening memories. “I know the prayers helped.”
“Clisty, you were a child.”

”I know. But, Becca, that witness in the surveillance video on the news at six ... those eyes ... that was Faith. I’m positive of it.” She looked at the clover in her hand and shouted, “This four-leaf clover proves she’s alive! She sent it to me so I would look for her. Becca, I know where she is!”

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

News at Eleven

I have completed the second, or first depending on how you look at it, in my Heartland News and Mysteries series and am in search of an agent. To remind my readers of what Clisty Sinclair went through to get her great promotion, I will re-post the book that set it all in motion, News at Eleven, beginning on Friday. So many readers asked for a sequel, I am developing an entire series.

Let your friends know and watch for the first chapter on Friday and each Friday following. If we can get an overflowing number of readers, it may help a publisher to come on board. Happy reading!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Encountering Harvey from a Distance

The wind blew and the rain came but still our daughter’s home in Katy, just outside Houston, Texas remained dry, except for the roof above our grandson Luke’s room. As the downpour continued Donna and Mark hunkered down in their well-lit and safe home hoping the wind would not take off more of their roofing shingles. I wanted them to leave as soon as the news announced the approach of hurricane Harvey but the local authorities repeatedly said they should remain. All I could do was pray.

Then the Corp of Engineers released the deep waters of a nearby reservoir and everything changed. When the water rose and the only way out was by boat, the “Cajun Navy” came and plucked them out of their home with nothing but their billfolds, insurance papers and Oliver their dog. Luke, a college student, found himself again in his former junior high school building, their new safe refuge.
That night they slept on the floor with Luke under a cafeteria table. Little Ollie, alert to it all, cozied down beside Donna. Mark slept about four hours that night and woke up to begin the FEMA application. They were offered a rental if they could get there right away but all three cars were under water.

Then the prayers of family and friends arrived in Heaven. A Facebook friend from Ohio I’ll call Sue, contacted me when she saw my post about Donna and her family’s home. She had a friend in Katy, I’ll call Mary, whose home stood on higher ground and she volunteered to contact her on Donna and Mark’s behalf. By the time I answered Mary, another couple with two young children offered Donna, Mark and Luke two bedrooms in the upstairs of their home.
Sue contacted me to check on the safety and situation of my family. As we FB chatted, she revealed that she too was originally from Ohio. Amazingly, we lived a few miles from Sue and Mary when my husband was in graduate school … and our four children, including Donna, went to the same Ohio school they attended.

A day later, a PTO vice president from the elementary school one of our sons attended there in Ohio messaged me concerning an assistance program they wanted to implement for a teacher and school in the Houston area. She contacted her former first grade teacher, Mary, in Katy, Texas and Mary gave her my name. She was so excited that she would be able to tell the PTO they would be helping someone who had been part of their school system.

My husband and I wanted to immediately help with clothes. The next day I transferred some money from our account to Donna and Mark’s bank for dry socks and whatever they needed. The bank didn’t charge the usual fee since it was going to Houston. A few days later, Bill and I went to a local hardware store to get some cleaning supplies Donna and Mark couldn’t get in Katy. Another couple shopping in the store heard us discussing which mosquito spray to buy and left a twenty dollar bill at the cash register to help pay for the items we were shipping.

I won’t tell you of the many times when angel wings brushed Donna and Mark’s shoulders. Those are their stories to tell. But, I had to let you know that God answers the simplest prayer. We know, because we experienced Harvey from afar and yet God listened and answered in His own precious way.

Matthew 10:30-31  “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”