Chapter Five – Murder from a Friend

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first four installments of The Visitor Misses a Visit.

Today’s installment finds Connie discouraged in her attempt to get information our of her siblings. But Connie is nothing if not persistent and discerning.



Connie took Phil’s advice and contacted one of her former roommates right away.

Gretchen had majored in journalism, and she doggedly pursued a job as an investigative reporter. Though she only had an entry-level position, her job at the Tribune connected her with all types of information retrieval systems.

Thankfully, she wasn’t too busy to dig into Clint Rutherford’s past. “I’ll give it a shot. And I head you had some excitement out there the other day.”

Her graduation hadn’t really been all that exciting. “It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“I think murder is a big deal.”

Oh, she was talking about the dead man. Wait. “Did you say murder?” She’d been right all along?

“Sure thing. The report I got said he was shot three times at fairly close range with a small caliber pistol.”

“I can’t imagine …” How come no one heard gunshots?

“I was more deducing than asking. It must have happened at night or on a weekend when none of the volunteers were here. It’s close enough to the offices that, barring a hailstorm, anyone would have heard gunshots.”

“Nobody heard anything?” Gretchen clearly pressed for a story, but Connie had nothing to offer.

“No one’s said anything. And I think, considering that the police were here for two solid days, they would have said something.” Especially
Mrs. Hodges. And she’s at the foundation almost every day, right there by the front door.

“Well, I’ll let you know what I hear. Right now, they’re moving heaven and earth to try to identify the dead guy.”

Connie could certainly sink her teeth into the mystery like Gretchen seemed to be doing, but she’d already promised Dad that she wouldn’t do a Nancy Drew. “I want you to dig into the past of someone for me.”

Okay, maybe she would do little Nancy Drew-ing, but clearly her promise had no bearing here since the issue dealt with matters within the foundation itself.

Her friend hummed into the receiver. “Well, I’m between gigs as it were, so I can probably swing it. Who are you investigating? New boyfriend?

Why did everyone always go directly to that assumption? “New accountant here at the foundation.” She gave Gretchen his name. “I want all the details.”

“Is there a problem?” Possibility rang in Gretchen’s tone.

“This is strictly off the record, Gretchen. There isn’t a problem. I just want to know a little more about him. That’s all.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can get worms to wiggle.”

Connie half-scoffed a chuckle. Hopefully, her friend wouldn’t find a can of worms at the bottom of this.

The thought kept niggling at her. She had a terrible time avoiding the discussion with her dad that evening.

Thankfully, he was focused on their upcoming trip to support a charity near her oldest sister’s home. “I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen Margaret?”

Connie hadn’t seen her since she’d been in high school, though even then her sister rarely spoke with her. “I’m so looking forward to meeting your namesake, Dad. I’ve spoken on the phone with like Mac, and she is just adorable.”

“She is.” He gave her a sidelong look. “And she looks exactly like you. But you won’t be coming along this time.”

“What do you mean I’m not going with you?” Connie sounded like a five-year-old in her own ears, but she’d been looking forward to visiting with her sister’s family, even if her old sister did’t usually acknowledge her. Forcing herself to take a deep breath, she laid her napkin on her lap.

“The money isn’t there right now.”

Connie glanced at Mama.

She served herself some potatoes, clearly not wanting to be part of this conversation.

Something was going on. First Aunt Fanny’s charity, and now this fundraising trip. “Dad, you’re going to need to explain this to me. You ask me to be the new head of fundraising, but you don’t let me go to the first scheduled event? That doesn’t even make sense.”

He lifted his chin. “There’s no need for you there. The group has plenty of volunteers. We’re only making if officially part of the Wright Foundation by making an appearance. The rest of the trip is meeting with financiers. Not part of your area of expertise.”

“And spending time with Margaret’s family?”

“You hardly know your oldest sister.”

She shut her eyes and took another breath. “Does this have something to do with the pregnancy center we talked about.”

He shook his head and held out his hand. “One thing at a time, Constance.”

She swallowed her ire at hearing her formal first name. Dad had only ever used it when she was in trouble. Hearing it as an adult didn’t fly, but calling him on it wouldn’t help anything.

Still, if her father was going to treat her like a child, this job might not be such a great fit after all. She lowered her tone. “It seems to be that this is all connected. Otherwise, why would’t we take on the pregnancy center. It is exactly the type of charity we support. You know the people Aunt Fanny meets.”

“I just don’t now.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?” All of her patience fled out the nearby window. After all, this was Aunt Fanny they were talking about. Not some idealistic group trying to do something they’d never heard of.

“Well, to be honest.” Her father slathered some butter on a roll. “Clint’s been highly concerned about some of the extraneous expenses this year.  A few of our best donors have drastically lowered their giving.”

What donors? And why was she only just hearing about his? “So, how will that affect the day-to-day business and our outreach?”

Her father locked eyes with her. “I’m afraid we might have to let some people down. I’m indebted to Clint for finding the problems. But I’m just not sure what to do abut it all. It seems that this is going to end up being an extremely lean year even though we’re only just learning about it.”

Connie needed to talk to Clint Rutherford. “So, what unexpected expenditures have you had to deal with?” She took a bite of her mom’s roast beef and tried to focus on the analytical details that her father began discussing, but the emotion knotting the pit of her stomach made it hard to focus.

“We ended up buying essentials for six different shelters in the area instead of only the one we had pledged to support. I originally understood that we had the backing to cover all of that, but when Clint got here, he informed us that we did not indeed have that backing. Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg.” Dad continued to explain other situations. Something to do with an unexpected roof replacement at one charity and a broken water heater at another.

The bottom line was, they were upside down in the financial department.

“Mind if I look into it a little?” Connie picked up her tea glass and gave her father an innocent look as she took a sip.

She needn’t have gone to the trouble of trying to look innocent. His eyes narrowed. “Now, don’t go looking for mysteries and hooligans where there aren’t any.” His chiding voice was only a little on the gruff side.

She set her glass down and lifted her hands in surrender. “Only to get a better feel for what’s going on, so I know how I need to move ahead.”

“I’m sorry about the trip. I know you were looking forward to it.”

Shrugging, she took another bite of the roast. “I’ll miss finally meeting Mac, but I’d rather dig into this problem and see how I can help.”

More like uncover, learn, ferret out. It was all the same, but she couldn’t really use any of those terms around her dad.

“I’m sure Clint gan guide you in that.”

“Guide me?” Didn’t the man work for her?

“He knows what he’s doing, dear. It would not be of help to anyone for you to come in and begin stirring up the muddy water that he’s been able to settle.” Her father picked up the last bit of his roll and ran it through his leftover gravy. “Besides, you have enough on your plate with the coming Louisville event. No sense wasting time duplicating someone else’s job.” His voice became crustier than normal.

“All right.” She said, but instantly knew she couldn’t just turn around and pretend nothing was wrong.

He ate his final bite, pulled his napkin from his lap and laid on the table as he stood. “Things will work out. They always do.”

Dad had said that all her life. But he was wrong. Things didn’t work out. People worked on them and the Lord worked them out. But things didn’t just magically jump up and right themselves.

And she wasn’t about to sit by and watch to see if she shoemaker’s elves were planning to come solve their current problem.




What will Connie do with this distressing information from her father? If I were her, I’d surely want to dig into the finances to see for herself what’s going on.

Come back tomorrow to see what Connie does next!


Chapter Four – Opinions From Sib #6

Lil Kohler is the author of our prequel chapter four. Here, she introduces another  of Connie’s siblings, Kimberly.

Chapter Three – Advice From a Boomer


Welcome to the third installment of The Visitor Misses a Visit. We seven authors have all contributed a chapter to this prequel, and today’s installment is by Julie B. Cosgrove, a writer of suspense and cozy mysteries.




Fanny Lee Gillespie Henderson sat in the sunroom of her mansion sipping her second cup of coffee. Her housekeeper and cook, Izzy, brought the cordless phone to her.

“Eeats your niece, Meet Connie,”  Izzy whispered as she handed the call over. “She is the one who just graduated, si?”

Fanny nodded, then she punched the button and put the receiver to her ear. “Is that my favorite niece calling?”

“Hi, Aunt Fanny.”

“Congratulations, my dear. Graduated Cum Laude with honors. Not a small achievement. But I knew in my heart you would succeed, and I know you will, now in your new position.”

“I got your amazing bouquet of star lilies. So kind of you to remember they are my favorite. I promise to write you a proper thank you note as soon as I settle in.”

Fanny chuckled. “I know you will, my dear. And I know it isn’t the horse you always wanted. Oh, how I recall the times you’d visit the family ranch here. You’d dash to the stables the moment the car stopped.”

“Snowball always seemed to be ready to greet me. I loved that horse.”

Fanny detected her niece’s voice crack with emotion. “He loved you as well.” Perhaps the stallion’s demise five years ago still stung. But horses were not meant to live forever.

“Aunt Fanny, I called to discuss the information you sent to Dad.”

Fanny took a sip of her coffee and set the cup down. “I see. Do you foresee any problems?”

“No, it’s not that  … well … I need your advice.” Connie seemed a bit distracted. Not like her at all.

“Oh, what is it? You can always come to me, you know.”

“Which is why I called. Just a minute.”

Fanny heard a door softly close. “That’s better.” Connie’s voice lowered. “Have you heard about the new accountant, Clint Rutherford?”

“Your mother mentioned him in passing on the phone last week.” Eleanot’s voice had sounded almost sing-songy. “She seems to think he’s a Godsend.”

“I get the same feeling.”

And Fanny detected a flatness in Connie’s response. “From what your mom told me, he seems to be a gung-ho young man. Has a knack for numbers. And a steady churchgoer. That’s important. Why do you ask?”

She heard Connie suck in her breath. Had her sister’s intuition been flawed? Fanny had learned to rely on it in the past. Sort of a Holy Spirit teleprompter. It had yet to steer her wrong in all the years that Eleanor and Mackenzie ran the foundation, which is why Fanny always agreed to help them find outlets for their funding.

“There is something about him. I don’t know. His smile didn’t seem genuine. It never reached his eyes. And they, well … dart about, as if he schemed what to say next. Like plotting the next move in a chess match.


“It isn’t tangible, just something I sensed. He seems to have taken on quite a lot of authority very quickly, though.”

“Have you had much contact with him?”

Connie sighed, making a roar through the receiver. “I know that tone. Judge not lest ye be judged. Not only Jesus’s warning in the Bible but your motto for life. Mine, too.”

A pause lasted so long Fanny wondered if there had been an interruption in the connection. Then Connie’s voice returned. “Frankly, we just met.”

“Aw, well then perhaps you need to wait before you decide about his motives. Your parents talk well of him. And he is only a few years older than you. Maybe you sense your mother playing cupid and are a bit defensive?”

“Perhaps. I admit Mama’s facial expression when she mentioned him sent prickles up my arm, like the times she suddenly invited a visitor to dinner who happened to be close in age when I came home from college for a visit.”

Fanny laughed. “She can’t help being a mother, dear.”

“True. And you may have a point. Still …”

“Tell me about your conversation, Connie. I sense this has stuck in your craw.”

She did. Fanny remained quiet as Connie spoke. Being a successful businesswoman herself, she had long ago learned that good listening skills were key to an acute insight into people. If Connie’s initial impression was off, Fanny would detect it.

When Connie finished, Fanny took another long sip of her now tepid coffee. She peered out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the garden. If only people could be pruned like flowers and bushes to grow right. Oh, well. Her niece had been well-groomed for this position. She needed to consider her intuition as valid. However, like her new dahlia shrubs. Connie was still growing and might need some bolstering to blossom in the right direction.

“Sounds as if perhaps the young man may be a tad over enthusiastic. As you may be as well, my child. If anyone can rein him in, it is your father.”

“I suppose.”

“I would suggest you keep an open mind over the next few weeks …”

Connie’s scoff came through the line.

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“It’s just a gut instinct, I guess. But you are absolutely correct. I shouldn’t jump the gun.”

Fanny applied a serious tone to her voice as she leaned forward in her armchair. “Look, Connie. You are a smart young woman. You have your father’s knack for business and your mother’s heart for charities. I think God put you on earth when He did for a reason. You, above all your other siblings, have the talent and skill to carry on this foundation. Your parents are not getting younger, you know. Someday it will all land in your lap, not just the fundraising part.”

Silence. Had Fanny been too harsh? In her sixties, she could see the end of the line more clearly. Connie? At twenty-three, the world remained her oyster.

She tried again. “You have always had a good head on your shoulders, and if you sense something amiss about this young man, perhaps you should discuss it with others that you can trust. Your siblings have all been involved in the foundation at one time or other. I think you should speak to them about it. If Clint is pulling any wool over your parents’ eyes, your brothers and sisters should be made aware of it as well.”

Connie let off what sounded like a nervous giggle. “I feel vindicated and taken to the woodshed all at the same time. You do make sense. I trust your insight, Aunt Fanny. Perhaps I need more evidence to validate my initial reaction.”

“That’s my girl.”

“Thank you for your wisdom and your confidence in me. I appreciate your advice.”

“Then accept one more, my dear. Don’t let his nervousness or your own cloud your judgment. You are both getting your feet wet, as they say. However, you always were good at discerning people’s motives. Make sure you’re praying for God’s leading. then, if your gut, or shall we say, the Holy Spirit, continues to send off warning signals, heed them.”

“I will.” Her voice lilted with warmth. “And again, thank you for the flowers. They’re  lovely.”

“Goodbye, my dear. You are in my prayers, but I know you will do just fine. Give your parents my love, and I look forward to hearing more about your plans for the pregnancy center fundraiser.”

Fanny hung up and tapped the phone to her chin. When she’d been talking with Eleanor the other day, she’d heard a man’s voice in the background. Had that been this new man? He’d spoken to Anna Hodges in a rather authoritative tone. Not a respectful one that a long-term volunteer like Anna, who knew the ropes, should command.

Well, he was young as well. If it was him at all. Youth tended to be impulsive. I Clint Rutherford had any ulterior aspirations, Connie would get to the bottom of things. Yes, she would.


Aunt Fannie’s advice stirred Connie.

As hurt as she was that most of her siblings had ignored her college graduation—high school graduation, too, for that matter—she really did need to reach out to them. Family had always been so important to her, probably because, being so much younger, she’d been a little unincluded by most of them. Even Paul had childhood memories of a full house, family trips in a full van, and holidays around a full table that she never had.

For the most part, she got along with her siblings, but maybe she should reach out first to the ones she didn’t relate to as well, in order to get a more objective spin.

She needed to pray about it, but either Margaret or Kimberly needed to be her first call. Come to think about it, Margaret wouldn’t likely spend to her at all. Connie had only seen her oldest sister a handful of times as she was growing up. The woman didn’t seem the least bit interested in Connie.

Kimberly, it would be, then.


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Second Chapter of the The Visitor


Hi again, mystery/suspense readers … or just readers who like some drama and uncertainly in their daily reading.

. I hope you enjoyed reading the first chapter of The Visitor Misses a Visit.

Here’s the second installment.

(And when I’ve finished posting all the chapters, you can read the whole prequel on my newsletter. Sign up on my website home page if you’d like to receive regular updates on my books.)

THE VISITOR Misses a Visit

Chapter Two – Impressions From the Golden Boy

The front door chimed and from Mrs. Hodges’ greeting, Connie wouldn’t have to wait for very long to finally meet the fair-haired golden child.

“Miss Wright, I presume.”

Connie looked up into a beaming face. “You must be Mr. Rutherford.” He didn’t look all that golden. Didn’t have a sparkle in his teeth or a shine to his gold hair, though he was on the handsome side with a clean-shaven, angular chin and piercing blue eyes.

“Call me Clint, please.” He came around the desk. “I have so been looking forward to meeting you.” He opened his arms wide and took a step closer.

A moment of indecision passed, but then Connie reached for his hand and pumped it several times hoping to match his cheerleader-like exuberance. “It’s odd that we haven’t met before now. But I hope you’re feeling at home here.” He hadn’t been involved with the foundation that long, but with the busyness of her last year in school, she’d hardly visited at all.

He placed his hand over her own. “I sincerely feel as if I’ve found something of a home here at the Wright Foundation.” His eyes got a little misty.

Well, he was nothing if not sincere. And it was nice of him to give them such a discounted rate to his work. Connie gave him a slight smile. “I understand that you’re able to lend us a few hours per week?”

“Yes, yes.” He released her hand. “I’ve done freelance work for a number of 501C3s. Though I still have a full-time position at the tax firm. Must keep my nose to the grindstone, as it were.” He furrowed his eyebrows and shook his head like some type of cartoon character. “But this is where I want to be. If I had my choice, I would work here full time.”

“Ah.” Connie merely smiled. “Well, I’m sure Mama and Dad are both delighted to have you here. I’m certainly glad that I don’t have to be the one to balance all the accounts.” Thankfully, Diana Carson had a financial background and hadn’t minded adding a little light bookkeeping to her volunteer hours.

Did she still do that or had Clint taken over the finances entirely? Oh …financials … She slipped past her chair to her backpack and pulled out the reimbursement form that she’d tucked in there. “I guess you should have this, then. It’s for the storage unit for my furniture.” She hated giving up her sweet little apartment, but the foundation only covered living expenses at the brownstone where her parents had lived all their married lives. Her suite on one side of the unit proved large enough for Connie to still feel like she lived on her own. Without the hassle of cooking or dishes.

Back to the business at hand. She held out the invoice. “If you’ll send the direct payment to my account, I’d appreciate it. It took years to get Dad to stop using checks. I don’t want him to go back to doing it that way.” She chuckled, and Clint joined her, taking the paper from her.

He glanced ed at it. “We’re actually doing reimbursements a little differently. I’ll have to make sure this purchase falls into accord with the new program.”

“A new program?” Sort of changing rules mid-game. “With no notice?”

He shrugged. “Your father asked me to do whatever necessary to keep the foundation working. This is part of my number one goal. But don’t worry. I’m sure something can be done for you if the charges don’t clear.” He squeezed his lips together for a moment and turned the sides up in a slim smile. “I’m not here to make waves.”

Connie attempted to duplicate his puckered gesture, but more than likely she only wrinkled her nose in his direction.

For someone not wanting to make waves, he sure did seem to be stirring the waters. “Well, it was wonderful to finally meet you.” She nodded and moved back to her desk, pulling out her computer cords. “And I’m sure we’ll be talking soon. I’m working out the details to support a pregnancy center. As soon as I unearth the files, I’ll send them to you.”

His smile faltered a bit. “Of course. I’d be happy to look into it.” He gave her a nod. “I’ll let you get back to it then.”

She frowned at the doorway that he’d just vacated. He’d look into it? What did he mean by that? She only needed Dad’s approval, and since Aunt Fanny sent her the information about this program, he’d certainly go for it.

Unless this Clint Rutherford held more sway over her parents than she knew.


Between moving all of her worldly belongings either into storage or back to the brownstone where her family had lived all her life, and jumping flat out into the middle of three fiendishly clever events that her mom had been planning, Connie barely saw her parents for the next few days. But she caught her dad just before bed one evening  in the family room. “Any more news from that detective?”

He gave her a sideways look over the edge of his newspaper. “Are we borrowing trouble?”

“Just a simple question. I haven’t heard anything. I thought maybe you had.” She adjusted her denim shorts and drew her feet into the comfy chair seat with her, resting her chin on her knees.

He turned the page of his newspaper. “There was a small article about the death.”


He glanced at her again, moving nothing but his eyes; “They aren’t calling it murder. Suspicious death at the very most.” Again, he gave the financial section his attention. “They’ve given us access to our warehouse again.”

Connie hadn’t even been aware of that much. “Do they know who the man was?”

“Some poor vagrant trying to make a home on the docks, likely.” He gave a slight shrug.  “There’s nothing you can do for him now, my dear.”

True. as much as she’d loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries when she was growing up, she didn’t have the observation skills to solve any crime like the Titian-haired detective. Especially not something as critical as murder. Um, make that a suspicious death.

She leaned against the am of the wingback and focused on her dad’s face as he sat in the recliner. “So, what about the pregnancy center? the project is really important to Aunt Fanny.”

“Yes, yes. But Aunt Fanny has important projects come up all the time.”

Not like this one, but Connie wouldn’t interrupt his thoughts.

“I’ve left this in Clint’s hands. He’ll do whatever is right.”

Clint’s hands? :Daddy, you hardly know him. Are you really willing to give the man that much authority?” She straightened. “He’s the one making the foundation decisions now?”

“There’s more to it than that, Sweetheart.” He closed his newspaper as he rose from his chair. “I’ll consider the matter.” He folded the paper and tucked it under his arm. “That’s the best I can tell you right now.”

Dad’s best tied a knot in Connie’s stomach that wouldn’t go away. Perhaps a call to Aunt Fanny was in order tomorrow morning?



Stay tuned for Chapter Three tomorrow!

The Visitor Misses a Visit



Seven mystery/suspense authors (I’m one of them!) and seven mystery/suspense novellas, each centered around the attractive and vivacious Miss Connie B. Wright, a kind of Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote, and maybe a little bit of Nancy Drew. Each story is unique in setting, situation, and interesting new characters. And within the pages of each novella, you’ll read how the ever-persistent sleuthing by Miss Connie helps solve riddles and bring the criminals to justice.

And to help you get acquainted with Miss Connie and her work as the head of a charity foundation, I’ll be posting a chapter a day of the Prequel, The Visitor Misses a Visit.

Then, in February, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase— or maybe win a free copy— of Julie B. Cosgrove’s The Visitor Makes a Retreat.

I hope you enjoy reading this first chapter of The Visitor Misses a Visit:


CHAPTER ONE – Wariness From the Warehouse

Chicago 2008

“What’s going on there?” Connie Beatrice Wright set her computer case on the chair near her father’s desk.

He rounded the desk and gave her a brief kiss on her temple. “They finally sold that tire graveyard next door. Summer isn’t ever going to smell the same, thank the Lord.”

“But the police?” What would they want with a tire dump?

His chin sagged as he moved back to his desk. “Are they still there?”

“Like ants.”

“As best I’ve learned, they uncovered something when the bulldozer started clearing out that huge pile of tires behind our warehouse.” He sat in his chair and propped his elbows on his desk. “Had a coroner car over there a bit ago.”

A coroner car? “Someone was dead?”

“I know that look, Connie. This is not a lark or a game.”

She ran her finger over the marble nameplate on the edge of his desk that read Mackenzie Wright. “A death is not a game, Daddy.” She knew what he was thinking by the grim set of his mouth. “I’m not doing a Nancy Drew thing.”

“It has nothing to do with us.”

Someone tapepd at Dad’s almost-closed door. “Mr. Wright?” The warbly voice belonged to Mrs. Hodges, the long-time volunteer who worked as their receptionist most weekdays. “A policeman here to see you.” She nudged the door open a little wider.

“Come in, Officer.” Dad got up and met the man at the door.

But he wasn’t a simple police officer. that was clear. He wore a sport coat and khaki pants instead of a uniform.

“Detective Rainey, Mr. Wright.” The man opened a wallet with a card and shield inside. “You own this property and the warehouse behind it?”

“The foundation owns it. The warehouse is used to store the supplies we donate to the local shelters in the area.”

Dad had left out mentioning the many shelves that housed their various displays, decorations, and activities that they used to put on all of the fundraising events. Those shelves were cloaked with her mother’s dreams, brainstorming, and sheer imagination.

But that wouldn’t interest Detective Rainey.

“I’m afraid we’ll need to limit access to your warehouse until further notice.”

“Why in the world—” Connie took one look at her dad’s stern face and halted her comment.

“I understand, Detective.” Her dad reached out his hand. “We’ll certainly be praying that you can quickly figure out what happened to whoever you found.”

The man took Dad’s hand. “As to that, have your heard of any strangers lurking around here? A man, maybe a few months ago?”

The man had been dead that long? Not that they would have noticed with the strong stink that already filled that side of the property from the tires. Connie’s left eyebrow arched on its own before she caught herself and forced it even with the other.

“Not that I remember, but I’ll ask around. Especially to the volunteers who help us in the warehouse.”

The detective nodded and left without glancing at Connie.

“Has anyone been lurking?” She leaned over with her hands flat on the desk when Dad took his seat again.

“You heard me tell the detective that I hadn’t seen anyone.”

“Uh-huh.” Her father wouldn’t lie about a thing like that. or about anything else for that matter, but Connie could smell a mystery in the making—or already made as the case may be..

“I think you should forget about all of that and go on to Mama’s office. Your office.” He gave a sad sort of smile, then stood and took one of her hands. “Your very first day as an employee of the Wright Foundation. We are so glad you agreed to come on board so quickly after finishing your business degree. Your mother’s arthritis is advancing to the point that it is very difficult for her to type, or write, or even craft the decorations. I know handing the reins to you will relieve her mind a great deal.”

Connie chuckled. “Well, after all, it is what I was raised to do, and I will love every minute!” She kissed Dad’s cheek and then stepped down the hall toward the reception center.

“Well, a proper good morning to you, Miss Connie, and congratulations on your graduation.” Though trim, almost petite, Anna Hodges’ vibrant and confident carriage made a formative statement. It was why she had been chosen to be the first face and voice that prospective donors encountered. Wearing her signature red blouse and purple scarf, she set down her skinny latte and reached out as Connie crossed the main lobby.

“Thank you, Mrs. Hodges.” She ga ve the frail woman a side-arm hug, then helped herself to a cup of coffee.. “Have your seen my mom around?”

“In her office, my dear.”  She snapped her fingers and pointed up with a tilt of her head. “I mean, your office.” She gave Connie a wink.

“You have blessed day, now.” Mrs. Hodges waved to her as she turned to greet an entering volunteer. The woman glowed pure joy.

Connie had always wanted to be just like her. She straightened the gray jacket over her short navy dress and slipped back down the executive hallway until she came into what had always been her mom’s office. The name plaque on the door still read Eleanor Wright.

“Well, there you are, sweetie.” Mama’s lively voice cracked a bit. “I was afraid you got lost.”

Connie smiled and shrugged. “Redirected by the police out there.”
“I heard about that from Mrs. Hodges. Seems they found a body.” Mama tsked and put a lid on  top of a box. She eyed Connie. “Did you talk to your father?”

Connie stiffened and met her mom’s stare. “About?” Had they changed their minds about letting Connie take her mom’s place with the fundraising? “You’re not having second thoughts?”

Mama shrugged. “I am, but then it doesn’t matter, really.” She held up her crooked fingers. “I can’t even tie shoelaces anymore. How am I supposed to decorate for banquets?” She flattened her mouth as tears filled her eyes.

“Mama, you know your own limitations, but that doesn’t keep you from the brainstorming  you’ve always done to set up perfect events. You have a gift for matching the exact activity to the charity and the donors who will be interested in supporting it.” It was uncanny.

Mama glanced at the carpet.

“Just because you can’t hang drapery or organize all the details anymore doesn’t mean you can’t contribute, and in a big way.” And Connie was counting on Mama’s input.

Mama laid a blue-veined hand on Connie’s. “Thank you, sweetie. That’s more credit than some of your siblings would give me.” She reopened the box and added a photo of their large family to it.

Connie didn’t want to think about family right now. Of her seven siblings, only Paul and his wife, Maggie, with their toddler, Teagan, had attended her graduation on Saturday. Of course, Paul lived the closest and was the nearest in age to her. Though, since she had been an oops baby, ten years separated their births.

“I did talk to Dad, but not about anything in particular.

Her mom paused for a moment. All right, then.”

“Shall I help you pack up your books?” She eyed the tall shelves filled with Mama’s Bible studies, cookbooks, decorating manuals, and photo albums. Lots of photo albums full of every fundraising event the Wright Foundation had ever sponsored.

“Oh, no. I think you’ll need all of those more than I will. I’m only moving over the bare minimum.

Hmm. Connie had hoped to move some of her own things in, but it looked like the office would still be Mama’s even if the person behind the desk had changed.

Mama toted the small box to the open door and called out over her shoulder, “Oh, and Clint should be here soon.” She poked her head back around the corner with a cryptic smile. “Make sure you meet him.” She gave Connie a nod.

Connie pasted on a benign smile. “Okay.”

Clint Rutherford. The golden boy, by all accounts if Mama and Dad were to be believed. He’d only been around for a couple of months, yet they hung on the man’s every word.


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Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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