Introducing Polly from novella book #2, by Fay Lamb.
One of my beloved Write Integrity authors, Fay Lamb, is the writer of this sixth installment of The Visitor Misses a Visit.
In this chapter, you’ll gain some insights into a very familiar problem: family and sibling wounds, even though mostly intentional, can linger long after the initial hurt.
Polly Reagan glanced at the caller ID on her house phone as she rushed by. A local politician, asking for donations. She didn’t have time. As it was, she needed to carve out a few moments to call her little sister.
Kimberly had mentioned in their conversation yesterday that Connie was insisting that something was not quite right with the new accountant her parents had hired for the foundation.
Polly pondered getting the story straight from the horse’s mouth as it were. Now, though, she needed to get busy. Saturdays were always busy. Her four-year-old son, Ethan, had a group tennis lesson in less than fifteen minutes. Tennis was important to her kid, and even though he was the youngest in the group, she made it a priority.
Even so, she had an apology to make to Connie. She’d let her sister down. After years of being out of the law office, she still hadn’t learned to schedule. She’d relied heavily upon her secretary to keep her free of conflicts. Her faux pas in agreeing to help with her nephew’s birthday party on the same day as Connie’s graduation had created not only a scheduling conflict but a very big personal conflict with Connie.
“Mama, we gotta go!” Ethan called from the door. “Dad’s gonna leave us.”
Polly laughed. Yes, Marc would do that. Being on time was an important lesson to teach their only son. “You have your racquets, water, your towel?”
“I got it all.”
Of course, he did. At four, he was better at preparation than she had ever been. “Have. You have it all.” She hurried behind him, closing and locking the door. The call to Connie would have to wait until Ethan settled into the lessons and stopped looking back at her.
A half-hour later, Polly gave Ethan a thumbs-up as the larger than usual red ball used for his age’s tennis lessons sailed over the net, showing off her son’s excellent backhand. At four, the kid showed promise.
She cast a glance to Marc. Her husband’s face showed his intent interest in the lesson.
Ethan stood in the line with his friends and chatted.
Now was her chance. Polly pulled out her mobile phone and dialed Connie.
“Hey,” Connie answered after the first ring. “I almost didn’t answer. Have you ever called me on your mobile phone?”
“Ha. Ha. I don’t like talking on these things.”
“You do know that people are getting rid of house phones, right? Who uses a house phone these days?”
“I do.” Polly smiled at her sister’s teasing. “Listen, I owe you an apology for not attending graduation. I had already agreed to help with our nephew Jimmy’s birthday party. He holds a special place in my husband’s heart. Not that you don’t . . .”
“You aren’t the only one who didn’t attend.” Connie’s words fell soft with a sense of disappointment.
“Connie, I’m sorry, and I don’t have an excuse.
“Kimberly called me.” Polly put the truth out there.
“Figured she would. Did she tell you what she thinks is going on or did she tell you what I said is going on?”
The kids on the court began a new game. Ethan took his place at the shortened service line. Polly held her breath, hoping he wouldn’t look to see she wasn’t being an attentive mom. “This is Kimberly we’re talking about.”
Polly somewhat agreed with Kimberly about giving Connie the responsibility of fundraising for the foundation, but Mama and Dad had the right to do just that. Besides, Polly felt that Connie had to be given room to prove herself—not something the entire family agreed upon. Especially Kim. “What’s going on?”
“I’m really uncomfortable with the accountant Dad hired.”
Kimberly had said as much. “What do you mean when you say uncomfortable?”
“Call it a spidey sense.”
“So, tell me what exactly raised your antenna?”
“My very first conversation with him was off. I don’t know how to explain it. All the sudden, Dad says Clint has decided we don’t even have money to work a fundraiser for one of Aunt Fanny’s causes that I want to champion. Mama and Dad shut me down when I tried to tell them my concerns. Polly, what should I do?”
Mama and Dad had always been too trusting. So far, their trust had not been betrayed. Connie was wet behind the ears, but she wasn’t one to cast dispersion without reason. Even when she’d tattled on her older siblings, she’d always had truth on her side. Connie sounded truly worried. Polly sensed there might be some truth to her youngest sister’s reaction. “What do you mean they shut you down?”
“They don’t seem inclined to believe me. Kimberly dismissed my fears. Apparently, if a man dresses well, looks you in the eyes, and says all the right things, he’s to be believed. Though Phil took my side.”
Polly would have laughed with a description that fit Kimberly to a T, except Connie seemed sincere—and that caused worry to wedge into Polly’s heart.
Still, this was a learning opportunity. “First of all, you’re doing a great job.”
Connie’s exhale of breath did not go unnoticed. “You—you really think so. Kimberly disagreed with everything I said.”
“Kiddo, Kimberly cares about you, but she’s hurting. She wanted the folks to ask her to help. They chose you. Not your fault. I’m trusting you to do what needs to be done so far as your responsibilities for the foundation and the family.”
“That’s just it, Polly. I don’t know what to do.”
“Come on. You’ve already taken steps. You’re following your instincts, and you’ve reached out to others. Keep pressing forward.”
“And what about the foundation’s reputation? How do I protect it if what I suspect is true?”
Polly remained silent for a long moment, trying to think of the right words for her sister.
“You still there?” Connie’s voice softened.
“Yes. I was thinking of how to put this. Dad would never purposely let the foundation fail. Follow his lead, but continue to follow your instinct, and keep him apprised of things you learn even if he balks at you.”
“Okay . . .”
“And if Dad drops the ball despite your best efforts, it will be on him. He’s the head of not only the non-profit, but also our family. That means the responsibility to protect the family and the foundation is his until he passes it on. Your only duty in that regard is to alert him of possible troubles. What he does with that information belongs to him.”
Connie whistled. “Thank you for that. I’ve been carrying this weight on me, but you’re right. And thank you for believing in me.”
The twacking of balls hitting the court reminded Polly that she was missing Ethan’s lesson. “Whatever you decide, I’m with you.”
“Thanks for that, too.”
“Unless you do something stupid. If you do something stupid to make Dad mad, I’m outta here.”
Connie laughed, a good sound to hear. “I don’t do stupid.”
“Yeah, you do. You just get away with it better than the rest of us.” And Connie, the baby, had often been the one who called her siblings’ stupidity to the attention of their parents. “Call me and let me know what you learn.”
“I will. Thanks, again, and I love you.”
“You’re welcome and back at you.” Polly hung up and stepped back to stand behind her husband.
Ethan, his fingers wrapped around the racquet’s handle, swung with all his might, hitting the large red ball over the net and past his older opponent. Her kid had a winning forehand to complement that excellent backhand.
Marc stood and stretched. “That’s our boy. He’s got the skillset to do well.”
Polly nodded. She prayed her little sister had her own skillsets to get through this difficult situation. The foundation, and her family’s reputation, were at stake.
It had felt good to chat with Polly. She and her sister didn’t always see eye to eye, but Connie respected her judgment.
And the fact that she thought Connie was in the right place and doing well warmed her heart.
Still, going behind Dad’s back was not something she was accustomed to doing. She picked up her purse and strolled toward Mrs. Hodge’s counter. “I think I’ll go for a sandwich. Would you like for me to bring you something?”
The woman wrinkled her nose and shook her head lightly, but then she smiled. “You’ve been mighty busy, my dear. And you look a little worried. Is there something I can help you with?”
Connie shrugged. “I’m a little confused with the changes that I’m seeing.”
“Ah, yes. There have been some changes indeed, but I think they will be good ones in the long run.”
“You think so?”
The woman nodded and got a serious look in her eyes. “Take the reimbursement process we’ve always had. Anyone involved with the foundation simply turned in a slip with an amount on it. It didn’t even have to be itemized. Diana would cut a check for them the next time she was in office—no questions asked.”
It certainly wasn’t a good business practice, but the volunteers here were like family. Or was that naïve of her to think so? “You don’t think anyone has taken advantage of that do you?”
“Not on purpose. But yes, I’ve heard of folks rounding up and giving about amounts. Your dad had wanted to require itemized receipts, but Eleanor talked him out of it. And in truth, the people that purchase for the events find things all over, from places where formal receipts just aren’t available, you know.”
Mama’s crew had a special talent for finding the most amazing and unique items. Hopefully, they would do that for Connie as well.
The door chimed and Diana Carson herself waddled in on her cane. Diana had been the volunteer at the foundation who took care of most of the administrative items. Including the bookkeeping when it was needed. She’d been there almost as long as Mrs. Hodges had been working the front desk. “Is there any word about the murder yet?” She leaned over on the counter that was almost too tall for her. “I don’t mind telling you that it has me all a-shiver. Someone buying it like that. And right out there, not thirty yards away. There’s someone up to no good.”
“There’s very little information, even in the papers.” Mrs. Hodges lifted a folded newspaper to the counter. “You’re welcome to look, dear.”
“Thank you.” The woman picked up the day’s edition.
Connie hung onto the other subject, though. Not that the crime behind their building wasn’t intriguing, but the issues at hand tended to affect them even more. “We were discussing the reimbursement policy that Clint Rutherford has put together.”
The woman scowled. “I think it’s completely unfair of Mr. Rutherford to treat the volunteers like that.”
“So he is requiring receipts, then?”
She nodded, “More than that, he has some sort of list of what items will be reimbursed and what sorts of things won’t.”
Like the storage fees for Connie’s furniture.
“No one knows what an acceptable purchase is until they bring it to him. And if he says no.” She waved her thumb away from her as she blew a raspberry.
Mrs. Hodge’s mouth puckered as though she suppressed a laugh. And on most days, Diana Carson could make Connie chuckle with her direct manner and her no-nonsense style. But her concerns about Clint Rutherford weren’t a laughing matter. And while Connie had no evidence of anything out of sorts about him, she had a bad feeling about all of this. Maybe her next call could give her an idea of the next step she should take.
Watch for Episode 7 tomorrow!