Are you still reading along with us? The mystery of is he or is he not? sure has me wondering about Clint Rutherford.
However, in this chapter—written by me!— we find Skye Wright (the main character who will later star as an adult in my novella, The Visitor Kids Around) at the age of fourteen, taking a call from her Aunt Connie. She and Connie are BFF and Skye can’t wait to find out what Connie is discovering about that “creepy” Clint.
Skye Wright lounged in a chair on the patio of Our Kids foster care home. She breathed in the scented air and shaded her eyes to get another look at the lovely gardens surrounding her. It hadn’t taken Skye more than two days visiting the nearby town with her parents to decide that when she grew up, this beautiful town would be her forever home. What could be more exciting than a college town with lots of fun eateries, coffee houses that invited singers and guitarists to perform, and real-life college guys? Even the weather suited her with its clouds and the mists that shrouded the tall, tall trees overshadowing the town. It thrilled her romantic soul.
Too bad her parents had to spend so much time talking business with Jon and Elaine Carpenter, the current operators of the Our Kids foster care charity. Her mom and dad had the idea to make Our Kids another one of the charities that Grandpa Mac’s foundation could help support.
At first, Skye had thought, what a bore. Especially since that creepy accountant, Clint Rutherford, had insisted on coming along to help check out Our Kids financial statements on behalf of the Wright Foundation. Her dad seemed to think the world of him. But she had taken an instant dislike to the man. Maybe it was his eyes. Always checking around himself like he expected someone to draw a gun and start shooting. And anyway, she didn’t understand any of that financial stuff he did. But why was the guy so curious about a little charity like Our Kids? It’s not like the foster care home made tons of money.
Not that Clint Rutherford skimped on anything. He’d flown first class while they sat in economy. And he’d taken a room at a fancy hotel near the waterfront while she and Mom and Dad shared a room here at the home. But this place had as nice a view as any hotel. And she’d had a blast when they took the tour.
Maybe Mom and Dad would even let her go to college here. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
But first she had to start high school this fall.
And do well in school.
Skye checked the time on her cell phone. Almost noon. She hauled herself out of the chaise lounge and headed for the back door of Our Kids. Mom had said they’d be eating lunch downtown, close to the University. Then maybe, they’d walk around and do some shopping for souvenirs.
As soon as she stepped inside, the phone on the kitchen wall rang. Mr. Carpenter and his wife were both out this morning, visiting a potential donor. Should she answer? Maybe Mom or Dad would pick up. But the phone continued to ring. On the fifth ring, she decided to answer.
Before she could identify herself, she heard her dad’s happy voice echoing through the line. “Hi, sis. Good to hear your voice.”
Aunt Connie! She hadn’t seen her aunt in months. Aunt Connie had been away at college and had just graduated. They’d missed her graduation ceremony. Skye had wanted to go, but Mom and Dad had to be out of town that weekend.
Aunt Connie’s upbeat tone sounded like she was in the next room. “Frank, how’s it going out there?”
Her father said something about the weather being “just fantastic” and blah, blah, blah. Skye was about to hang up, but then Aunt Connie’s voice took on a serious tone. “Frank, I’m not being nosy. Just curious, and it’s a long shot, but I wondered if you’ve spoken to Clint Rutherford recently.”
Skye held onto the receiver and covered her mouth so her dad wouldn’t be able to hear her breathing. Anything about the creepy Mr. Rutherford was worth hearing about.
“Why, he’s with us now. We’ve traveled to meet with a charity and some of the financiers of it,” her father said. “Initially we thought we’d come out all by ourselves to meet Jon and Elaine Carpenter. They’ve been running Our Kids foster care for about ten years now and I’ve heard such good things about the charity that I thought Calista and I should check it out.”
“And Skye? Is she with you?”
“Oh, she wanted to go visit with Mac while we came out here, but we insisted she sample some of the culture. I think she’s starting to enjoy herself.”
“And you said Mr. Rutherford did as well?”
Why was Aunt Connie so interested in finding out if the creepy guy had come along?
“He called me last week to let me know that the foundation was interested and he would be joining us. But he’s not with us right now. We’re staying at Our Kids for the week. Clint’s gotten himself a fancy room at the Inn and Spa down by the water.”
The sigh on the other end of the line told Skye that her dad’s answer was not satisfactory for Aunt Connie. But her brilliant aunt was not going to give up easily.
“Did Clint say why he wanted to join you guys? Seems like a waste of valuable time and money to fly out, and stay in some fancy hotels for a little charity like Our Kids.”
Her dad made a kind of grunt noise like he pondered Aunt Connie’s words. “He, uh, said it was always good to thoroughly check out the financial books of any charity the foundation was considering donating to.”
“I see,” was all her aunt said in reply.
“Connie, you sound kind of concerned. Is there anything you need to tell me? I mean, so far, I’m really impressed with Our Kids. They run a tight ship. I’ve met all the kids and you can tell they feel loved and secure. And I’ve talked with lots of people who live in the area. They all know about Our Kids and can’t say enough good things about it. And Jon and Elaine are super people.”
“That’s great to hear, Frank. No, I’m not concerned. Just dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s, so to speak.”
“Okay, sis.” He chuckled. “I’m sure you’re already putting that new degree to good use.”
Aunt Connie laughed good-naturedly. “You bet, Frank. Well, thanks for telling me about Our Kids. And please tell Skye to take pictures and write about her visit in her journal. I’ve a feeling she’s going to want to explore more of that area when she gets older.”
“Will do, Connie.”
Skye silently replaced the receiver. So, Aunt Connie wanted information on Clint Rutherford. Interesting. Did she feel the same dislike Skye felt for the man? Her aunt was only about ten years older than Skye. Almost like a big sister. When Skye got a rare chance to spend the weekend with Aunt Connie, they did fun things and spent hours just talking. Maybe next time they had a weekend together they could gossip about that creepy Clint Rutherford.
She left the kitchen and mounted the stairs to the bedroom she shared with her parents. Lunch in town close to the university was gonna be so much fun. And later, she could call Mac and tell her about all the cute college guys she saw downtown.
“Well, I found Clint Rutherford.” Connie sauntered back out to the reception desk.
“With your brother Frank?”
“I’m not sure why he felt the need to go out there and investigate the financial situation of Our Kids, but that’s what he did.” And staying at a fancy hotel to boot. No wonder there wasn’t enough for Connie to join Mama and Dad at the fundraising event.
Mrs. Hodges tilted her head as she regarded Connie. “Is something else bothering you, my dear?”
Connie sighed. “I probably overstepped my bounds, but Dad told me that the foundation is having some financial trouble.” Maybe she shouldn’t have shared that with the woman, but she needed a sympathetic ear.
“I have heard.”
“Dad told you?” That didn’t sound like her father.
“Oh no, no. Diana Carson told me about it. She said that the accounts were already under pressure because of some unexpected unbudgeted expenses this year. But then she only handled the fundraising expenses, you know.”
“What changed?” Besides the hot water heater and the roof. Of course, those problems couldn’t have been expected.
“Oh, you would need to speak to a far smarter person than I am to answer that question. Mr. Rutherford would be your best bet, or someone else who has the sort of financial background that he has.” She frowned and then scurried around the counter in bright red high heels and reached out to envelope Connie in a brief hug. “Don’t worry, dear. God has proven time after time that He is working through the Wright Foundation. He will prove it again. You wait and see.”
Connie gave her another tight hug. “Thank you, Mrs. Hodges. You have always been such an inspiration to me.”
“Oh fiddle. You, with that stellar smile, make an impact wherever you go. And God is using you, Little Bit.”
Her use of the childhood nickname made Connie rather wispy. “I don’t know.” She certainly hoped that she was stepping down the path that God had for her.
“Oh, yes, you do. He has put a passion in your heart for this and has led you all along. You don’t have to do things the way your mom always has. You’re the head of fundraising now. Put your own stamp on the position and everything involved.”
Mrs. Hodges was right. And it started with Connie unapologetically getting to the bottom of these financial problems. They affected her activities and her position since she wasn’t even able to attend this week’s fundraising event. So even if she wasn’t an accounting type, she had every right to stick her nose fully in.
She smiled at the older lady and touched her shoulders. “I’m gonna do that very thing.”