A Triple Love Affair


Ursus americanus
Baby Black Bear

Chapter 1 – The Funeral

It was a few days after the incident with the bear and the young boys death and the three friends were sitting in the Coffee Shop together. For people who had just met, they got to learn each others characteristics very quickly. It’s amazing what a brush with death can do.

Evelyn was healing from the cut on her forehead and the Doctor had told her that it would not scar up too badly. She had already said if she needed to, she would get cosmetic surgery to hide the scar and was more interested in her looks than the events that had happened. Angela, who had not been hurt in the attack, was made of sterner stuff and did not mind talking about it.

“Tim’s funeral is tomorrow. Are either of you planning on attending”? I asked. Both nodded in agreement and we discussed travel arrangements as we had to return to the mountains which is where Tim was from.

News from the TV station reported that the whole town was buzzing with the excitement of reading about the bear and the death of the young boy. There was some talk of sending out a hunting party to shoot and kill the bear but the Park Rangers were adamant that this was not going to happen. In their mind, the bear was protecting its young when it was hit and hurt by Tim’s four-wheeler. They had no explanation why it came back later to finish Tim off. It was unusual and showed a marked degree of intelligence especially as it did not kill Bob when it had the chance.

I had turned a copy of the video over the Coroners Office for them to make an official determination on Tim’s death and had already been approached by the Press and others offering to purchase the video but I had not yet made up his mind on what to do with it. I felt it was a personal thing between me, Tim and the bear.

The next day, bright and early, the three of us set off for the little mountain village to be at Tim’s funeral. We were riding in Bob’s SUV this time to give Angela a break from driving. We chattered about different things and then the conversation turned to the “event”.
“How are you both holding up”? I asked “I should have asked, how are you both sleeping”?
Evelyn said, “I keep seeing that bear in my dreams but always from a distance”. Evelyn had been the least involved in the entire episode as she had been attending to Tim when Bob had cut the bear loose.
“I am having nightmares that the bear is attacking us after you cut it loose” said Angela “But they are getting less vivid. I think they are going away”.

“I keep waking up and seeing that bear’s head right in front of me and it looking into my eyes” I said. “The funny thing is, it is not a scary dream. Almost like the bear was trying to tell me something. The worst thing for me is to hear that young boy screaming as the bear mauled him and there was nothing I could do about it. You should know that I plan on giving the video to Tim’s Folks. They can do whatever they want with it. Maybe they can get enough money out of it to pay for the funeral”.

The two girls both agreed that was the best thing we could do for the family. We relapsed back into silence each deep in our own thoughts until we reached the village.

We found the inevitable coffee shop as we stopped to ask directions to the funeral home and relaxed for a bit. Listening to other people’s conversations revealed that most of it was about the funeral that was in a couple of hours time. Others were talking about the bear and some had opinions about leaving it alive and whether it represented a problem and a danger to others hiking the trails. Some of the customers were news journalists here to get a story and were chatting to the locals to get their viewpoint.

The funeral was set for 2:00 pm at the local cemetery and at the appointed time, Bob, Evelyn and Angela joined many others around the grave. Most of the High School Senior Class that Tim had been attending, turned out to the solemn affair. Tim was eulogized as a bright, upcoming student who was planning on a career as a Park Ranger which I found very ironic considering how he died.

After the service, the girls and I made our way over to the parents and introduced ourselves and passed on our condolences at their loss. I turned to Tim’s mother and said “I want you to have this video. There is only one other copy and you can do what you want with this one. You can sell it or keep it or even destroy it if that’s what you want to do. You have our full permission to do with it what you feel is best for you. It is yours in memory of your son”.

The girls and I took our leave and brushed aside questions from the reporters telling them it was not the time or place to be discussing Tim’s death or the entire episode.

We drove to the Park where the incident had happened and talked to the same Ranger who had greeted us the first time. He told us that the trails were closed and would be for a while to give the animals a chance “to calm down” as he put it and to keep sightseers away.

We thanked him and climbed back into the SUV and sat there for a while talking. For me, the episode was over and returning here had at least cleared my mind and I was ready to move on. I discussed how I felt with the girls and Angela said that she felt the same way. Evelyn was a bit more reserved about it and it was obvious she was having trouble in letting it go.

We took a slow drive home and stopped at the Mountain Inn, the one we had planned on visiting before the incident. True to all we had heard, the food was fabulous and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

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Chapter 2 – The Drive-in

I was getting towards the end of my stay in this small town and was making preparations to move on in a couple of days. I received an e-mail from my Head Office telling me that the new project had been delayed for six months “and what did I want to do”. I opted to take at least a couple more weeks off  as life with Angela was beginning to get interesting and I wanted to stay long enough to see if there was a future for us. Not that I could make such an earth shattering decision in two weeks but I would at least know it there was something there.

I e-mailed them back and said that I would take vacation through the end of the month. Back came the response that was agreeable but to report to the Albany Branch Office the first of next month and be prepared to stay their until my project was ready to go. I knew what spending time in the office meant as I had done it before. They would give me a project that required Engineering Design and I would be expected to produce something. It was well within my realm of expertise and by itself was a blessing as it meant that I would be around for the next six months. As Albany was only a fifty mile drive, I would probably commute on a daily basis.

I wandered over to the Coffee Shop and ordered my usual Latte. It there was one thing that I was really addicted to was drinking Latte’s. I didn’t even really like the taste of coffee but had developed a liking for Latte’s. Could be worse I suppose as it could be scotch or dope or something really deadly. I even had a Starbuck’s Gold Card I drank do much of the stuff.

By now, I had made  friends with several of the townsfolk and never lacked for someone to talk to when I stopped in for the Latte. Today was no exception as I chatted to a couple of the locals who wanted me to join the local softball team. I told them that I was moving on in a couple of weeks and thanks, but no thanks.

Apparently, it was Evelyn’s turn to buy the coffee for the hair salon as she came bouncing through the door. “Hello Bob” she said  “How are you today”.
It was a simple enough question for most people but considering what we had been through, it required a little more complicated answer.
“I’m really fine and thanks for asking. The dreams have gone and I am sleeping well, You”?
“Yes” she replied “For me too. What are you doing this evening? Would you like to come to the movies with me”?
“Certainly” I responded “Do you want me to pick you up and what time”?
The next town over had an old-fashioned drive-in movie theater so I assumed that is where we would be going. I thought to myself “This is a turn up for the books. Most unexpected”.

I kept myself busy for the rest of the day and at the agreed time pulled up outside of Evelyn’s small cottage. She had been married before and had divorced her husband leaving her sufficiently well enough off to keep the cottage. I had been in the cottage once before when she and Angela asked me in for coffee. Safety in numbers that day but I never felt pressured by either of them.

She came out dressed in a short dress that showed off her legs and her very nice figure carrying a sweater in case it cooled down at the Drive-In. She looked positively radiant and I was wondering what had created the change in her. Maybe she was getting a good nights sleep as she said. If so, it was certainly agreeing with her.

The trip to the next town over where the drive-in was located took about 30 minutes. Evelyn was full of chatter about her previous husband and her life with him. I don’t know if she felt she needed to tell me or was just making small talk. It was not uninteresting at all and was a good way to spend the drive. By comparison, my life was very simple and easy to relate, college, graduation, first major job, promotion to current position and news to date all wrapped up in about a dozen sentences. I had a lot more stories that I could have told of things that happened on the job sites or things that happened to me in my travels but decided to keep them to myself for the time being.

It had been years since I was at a drive-in so in a way, it held its own interest. We paid our money, and found an open slot and parked. Looking around, there were young folk and old folk all looking to be entertained. Luckily for us, we were parked between a couple of middle-aged couples whose kids were in their teens so at least we wouldn’t have to put up with bored kids who entertain themselves by throwing food at each and screaming at the top of their voices.

We were watching a horror movie with lots of blood and gore and moments of suspense. There was not much of a plot but the  gory effects more than made up for it. I sneaked a look at Evelyn who was watching the screen through her fingers, not really wanting to watch but afraid to miss anything. At one particularly violent scene, she turned and buried her head in my shoulder, afraid to watch anymore. I put my arm around her to both give her strength and to help her relax. It felt good to hold a woman and I was trying to remember how long ago the last person was that I held with any sexual intonations and just couldn’t remember. “Damn, I have got to get out more” I thought to myself, drawing my arm tighter around her.

Evelyn must have felt the added pressure as she looked away from the screen and at me. I caught her glance and we both smiled but never said anything. She turned back to the blood and gore but remained cuddled in the hook of my arm.

At the intermission, I had to use the bathroom and brought us back hot dogs and soda which tasted like caviar we were so in the movie mood. I nearly bought popcorn but I can’t stand the smell of the stuff so drew the line at that.

We watched the second half of the movie but Evelyn controlled her reactions and I never got to hold her anymore. Damn disappointing to me as after having a taste of her nearness, I found myself wanting more.

The movie ended and we joined the long slow procession of cars leaving the drive-in and then finally, the road home. We talked about the movie and how scary some parts of it had been but neither of us mentioned the magic feeling we had felt for such a short time.

We reached her cottage door and she turned and said “Do you want to come in for coffee”
“That would be very nice. Thanks, I will” I replied.

I followed her in wondering what it was I might expect from her. Would it be the pre-intermission or the post-intermission woman. I had no expectations and kept reminding myself “Don’t get involved, Don’t get involved”.  A big ole’ Setter bounded up and proceeded to make a huge fuss over me. “That is Blondie and she really likes you” she said

“Sit down and I will be right back with the coffee” she said “It’s not a Latte so how do you like it”? I responded with my choices and settled down on the sofa with Blondie for company. Five minutes later, Evelyn came back in carrying the coffee along with the fixin’s, milk and sugar. “Hope this is OK” she said and sat down in the easy chair opposite me.
“I’m sure it will be fine” I responded as I put a little milk in mine and stirred it vigorously much more than it needed but full of nervous tension on my part.
“Careful, you will stir the bottom out of that cup if you don’t stop” she said.

I looked across at her. The short dress had ridden up exposing a lot of her thighs not helping my situation one little bit and I felt like I was going to burst I was so uptight. We made small talk about the movie, the episode with the bear, Angela, her job and all of the things I could do without. I needed a sign, an opening, something for her to say it was OK but alas, I was not getting it. She made no attempt and gave me no encouragement so I finally stood up and said “Time for me to go. It’s getting late and you need your beauty sleep”.
“I had a wonderful time this evening. Thank you for the movies and also for being such an understanding and patient man” she said. As a woman, she understood full well what she was putting me through but was not ready to do anything about it, at least not yet. I couldn’t really blame her as we hardly knew each other and she was not the sort of girl to sleep around. Still, she had managed to put me in the throes of agony bursting with expectation and had gently brought me back to earth. That by itself, was some achievement.She kissed me on the cheek as she said goodnight and told Blondie to come inside. I walked back to my car and drove home.

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Chapter 3 – Women Can’t Be Trusted

The next day over breakfast, I thought about the previous evening and tried to analyse my feelings. Was I just being a horny old man and imaging things that were not there or did Evelyn have a different agenda. It had been a long time since I had the company of woman and even longer since I took a woman to bed.

I have a history of falling in love at the drop of a hat or any other piece of clothing and after getting burned pretty badly a couple of time (through my own fault I might add), I have pretty much stayed clear of anything that could lead to any sort of relationship. If I felt that I was being threatened by the advances of one of the female kind, I would immediately break off the relationship. That was my form of self-defence as I was too weak and too selfish  to handle it any other way. As I thought about it, I put last nights episode down to physical need and not necessarily an emotional one.

Of the two, I was much more attracted to Angela and I believe that she had some attraction to me but again, maybe she just liked close companionship and was of the touchy feely kind. Evelyn was definitely not one of those.

In the end, after giving myself a headache thinking about it, I was no closer to solving the mystery. My initial reaction was to head back to work and forget both of them but something, some spark was holding me back.

I sighed and decided to take a walk… again. I got to stop taking these walks as they are what is getting me into trouble. Oh well, some of us just can’t seem to stay out of it.

I ended up in the Coffee Shop with my usual Latte sitting at the counter talking to the waitress who, as it happened knew my Mother. In between serving her customers, she was sort of filling me in about my Mothers life in this small town. Apparently, my Mother was a very active woman and involved in a lot of things and appeared to be in good health when she died. No one could account for it and even the Coroner could not be certain of how she died. It was eventually written as a heart attack brought on by reasons unknown. One part of the story that the waitress didn’t know  was the amount of money that my Mother had accumulated without any obvious means of income except through her pensions. Apparently, no one else had asked that question. I wasn’t complaining as I was a one-third benefactor having shared it with my brother and sister.

No one had any theories as no one knew of any illicit side to my Mother. No one questioned her bank account. To all intents and purposes, she was a very straight arrow.

I thanked the waitress, whose name was Jill, for her time and information and turned back to my Latte. It must have been Jackie’s or was that Josie, I couldn’t remember, turn to make the coffee run for the Salon. Whichever one it was said hello to me and asked how things were going and we chatted for a minute as she had her order filled and then she was gone.

The place was pretty empty for some reason as usually it is always busy. I put it down to the fact that I needed someone to talk to which of course, drove all the customers away. I paid my bill and turned to leave when Angela came in the door. I brightened up immediately as I said hello.

“Are you leaving” she asked
I told her that I was just going to as the place was slow.
“Stay and chat for a bit unless you need to be somewhere” she said
So we found a table and sat there while the waitress brought us both small Latte’s.
“How are you” she said “Evelyn tells me that you took her to the drive-in last night”
I thought about it and decided there was no honor amongst women just as I had always  suspected.
“Yes, she asked if I wanted to go and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, I am not so sure” I said.
“Why do you say that? Did you not have a good time? she said
“Yes, I enjoyed myself immensely as I haven’t been to a drive-in forever. Can’t remember the last time. The film was pretty gory and didn’t have much of a plot but it was fun and Evelyn is good company”.
“So, what was wrong then” she asked
I thought about it trying to think of a delicate way to put it without sounding krass. “Well, for starters, why did she tell you? Is it just a need for one girl to tell another or is there more to it than that” I asked.
“No nothing like that and she only mentioned it in passing” she said. “She didn’t mean anything by it”
“OK” I said “What happens if I asked you out and you agreed, would you have to tell her all about it”?
“Well ” said Angela “She is my best friend and I probably would want to say something but there are limits to the extent of the information. I would never tell her if we slept together or anything like that. Not that I am suggesting that might happen but to make a point”.

I sat there thinking about it for a bit and I could tell that Angela was worried by this conversation. “Look, I understand the buddy thing and the need to chat about things but I certainly am not interested in playing one of you against the other and I don’t want to hurt either of your feelings. I like both of you and you are fun to be with”.

“I tell you what” said Angela “Why don’t you come around to dinner this evening and I will ask Evelyn as well. That way, there can be no hidden agenda’s for any of us”
“That’s a great idea” I said. “I’ll see you this evening”.
“OK, it’s a deal. I’ll see you about 7:00 pm. You know where I live”.

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Chapter 4 – Dinner For Three

Promptly at 7:00 pm, I was at Angela’s door carrying the mandatory bottle of wine. I should mention that Angela lived in an apartment that was above her salon so even though her front door was at street level, it meant climbing a narrow flight of stairs to get to the apartment itself.

I pressed the buzzer and answered the intercom and Angela opened the door from above. Ah, the miracles of modern science that you no longer have to answer your own front door in order to let in your guests. There was a short hallway with a door off to the right which I assumed led into the salon. I took a step forward, the light came on and the door locked behind me.

Angela was waiting at the top of the stairs smiling as I huffed and puffed my way up.
“I need to exercise more” I said “I can understand why you are in such good shape climbing these stairs several times a day”.
She laughed and agreed. She was wearing a short skirt and a low-cut blouse that showed some considerable amount of cleavage. I looked at her as she approached me and said “Wow” out loud. She kissed me on the cheek and said “Wow. Is that all you can say”?
“I”m sorry” I said “It just slipped out, pretty bad on my part. Makes me out to be a sexist pig”.

Angela laughed and said “When a girl dresses in a daring and seductive way, she can hardly expect anything else except complimentary remarks and it has nothing to do with you being a sexist pig”.
“OK” I said, buoyed by her encouragement “You look wonderful, I mean just bloody wonderful. It does a man good to behold such beauty. Thank you”.

She smiled and curtsied. “OK. That’s better. More like I wanted to hear, kind sir”.

I followed her into the apartment which was tastefully decorated and furnished for a woman. No leather chairs and stout furniture but lots of prints in the decor with ornaments and knick-knacks everywhere. I thought about my own place and how barren it was compared to this apartment and wondered what a woman’s touch could do to it. On the other hand, although the women’s touch would change the apartment, it would also change my life and am not sure if I am ready for that.

Evelyn had not yet arrived following the women’s code of being fashionably late so I opened the bottle and we sat down on the couch to sit and talk.

We talked about her life and her childhood. She had grown up on a small farm and had a brother, younger than she who was married and lived in New York City. Her parents were both dead having been killed in a car crash several years ago which is how she ended up on this small town. She and her brother has sold the farm and she had invested her share into this business.

“If you don’t mind my asking, how is business”? I said
“It’s actually pretty good and I am thinking of opening up two more chairs. I have had several enquiries from hair stylists looking for a place” she replied.
“Is that how you met Evelyn” I asked.
“Yes. She was the first stylist I interviewed and really helped me to get this business off the ground. She used to have her own business but when her husband divorced her, she sold it. The people she sold it to were not very good business people and they closed it shortly after” said Angela.
“Lucky you that she was around when you needed the help” I said.

About that time, the door buzzer sounded and Angela let Evelyn in. Evelyn had been here many times before and quickly made herself at home. She disappeared into the kitchen and I could hear pot’s and pans banging as between them, they completed the dinner preparation.

Evelyn came back into the living room. I looked at her and she smiled at me. She wore a buttoned up blouse with pants and even compared to Angela’s more revealing outfit, she came through real favourably in looks and body contours. I thought to myself how lucky I was to be entertained by two beautiful women and wondered just what the evening may bring.

I realized how my thoughts were turning and quickly brought myself back to earth. Why did the evening have to bring anything other than the companionship of two beautiful women. What right did I have to think or expect that their would be a reward at the end of the evening. Wasn’t their company reward enough?

She sat in the chair opposite me and we made small talk and even laughed about the movie we had seen. Now it was funny, but back then, it had been real scary. Amazing the difference what the light of day makes.

Evelyn disappeared into the kitchen to help serve the meal. We were having meatless lasagna and a tossed salad, one of my favorite meals.

“Come and get it” said Angela “You can sit here at the head of the table and we’ll sit on either side”.
We passed the food around and I made the mandatory and required remark on how good it smelled and how hungry I was. Actually, the meal was very good. Angela and Evelyn between them had cooked the meal from scratch and had even made their own pasta. I was lucky that my contribution to the event was to provide the wine and I’m glad that they never asked me to make it from scratch.

It was easy to tell from the way that they interacted they were good friends and very comfortable in each others company. I am not sure where I fitted in to all of this and maybe I didn’t. Maybe, just maybe, they viewed me as a mutual friend brought together by the incident with the bear and that neither of them had an emotional inclination towards me. Maybe, I was just hoping and speculating because it was me that required something more than just friendship. Sure were a lot of maybe’s.

“We have tiramisu for desert. We didn’t make that but bought ready-made” said Angela
“Shame on you” I said laughingly “But I’ll take some anyway”.

I helped them to clear away and wash the dishes and then we sat down to cappuccino.
“That was a fabulous meal. Which of you do I thank or should I thank both” I exclaimed.
“It was a joint effort so I guess both of us” said Evelyn
“Thank you  both not for just the meal but for being my friend. It has made my stay here very pleasant indeed and hopefully will give me more reason to return in the future” I said.

“When do you plan on going back to work”? asked Angela.
“Well, I am going to take the rest of the month off as my new project has been delayed. Something to do with a site permit and I can’t do much without it. I have been told to report to the Albany Office for the next few months until they get the site problems worked out for the California project” I said. The hidden meaning was not lost on the girls. They glanced at each other in a knowing way but did not say anything.

The rest of the evening was spent finishing up the wine and sitting and chatting about nothing in particular and everything in general. I told them a few of the stories of life on the Pipe Line circuit and some of the places I had been. It all made for good conversation and an interesting evening.

I glanced at the clock on the wall and it said 9:30 pm. I stood up and stretched and said it was time to go. Evelyn said “I walked over here. Can you give me a ride home”?
“Certainly, glad of the company” I said

We headed towards the door. Evelyn walked out first after telling Angela that she would see her in the morning. I turned to Angela. “Thank you for a wonderful evening. I’ll call you and maybe we can get together”.
“Yes, please do. I would like that” she said.
She kissed me but this time, on the lips. Just a light kiss but it set the heart thumping and the lust burning.

I followed Evelyn down the stairs and opened the car door for her. She climbed in gracefully and then I made the short drive to her cottage. This time, she didn’t ask me in but kissed me on the cheek and said goodnight. I sat in front of her cottage long enough to make sure that she got in OK then drove back to my apartment.

I sat there for a long while with a bottle of beer for company and thought about the evening just passed. It was becoming more obvious that of the two, Angela was more attracted to me and that Evelyn was sitting on the fence or even leaning towards not wanting to pursue this. The more I thought about it, I realized that I was flattered by having two beautiful women fawn over me but in reality, I cared for Angela and was just lured on by Evelyn’s interest which for all I know, was a figment of my imagination.

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Chapter 5 – Rescuing Cats

Having come to the stupendous decision of the night before, I sat at the breakfast table trying to figure out what was I going to do about it. I now had a reprieve due to the change of work plans so I had to come up with a plan of action if for no other reason than to put my mind at rest.

There was a knock on the door which really surprised me as I don’t normally get any visitors. I opened it to find this young lady standing there. She was probably about twenty-five or so and dressed in her bathrobe.

“Hello” she said. “My name is Julie King and I live in the apartment above yours. I wonder if you could help me rescue my cat”.
“That depends on where the cat is” I said
“Can you come and take a look, please” she said.
I followed her up the stairs to her apartment and she opened the door. She led me into her bedroom and to the window. The cat had climbed out of the window and was sitting on the ledge fully twenty-five feet above the street but didn’t seem to be very perturbed.
“What makes you think the cat needs rescuing” I said “I’ll bet if you leave him, he will come back in on his own”.
“You think so” she said “I don’t want anything to happen to him as he is my only companion”.
“Have you tried enticing him in with food”  I said.
“No, but I can try now if you like” she said
“Put the bowl by your window and call to the cat and then get back out-of-the-way” I said talking as though I knew what I was doing. In truth, I didn’t have a clue and was grasping at straws.
Julie put some food in the cat bowl and made a lot of fuss as she placed it outside of her window and then came to sit down. I sat down next to her and she asked if I wanted coffee while we waited. I agreed that coffee was a good idea and we sat there talking. Turns out that she had lived here for a couple of years but as I was here only rarely, I didn’t know any of the other tenants.

I explained that I worked away a lot and that I kept the apartment as a base for the times when I could get back home. She said that she was a secretary for one of the Lawyers Offices and was single. I don’t know why she threw that in but she did. She also mentioned that she didn’t have a current boyfriend which was way more information than I needed.

As we sat there exchanging information, the cat,”Dusty” climbed back in the window and walked over to her and jumped on her lap. It expected and duly received a welcome fit for a long-lost cat, not one that had taken a walk on a ledge for fifteen minutes. She duly obliged the cat and then got up to retrieve the bowl and close the window.

The robe, that had been so tightly pulled together when she was in the hallway was now beginning to loosen up seemingly un-noticed by her but definitely noticed by me. I finished my coffee and stood up ready to leave.
“How can I thank you enough for rescuing my cat” said Julie “Maybe dinner one evening”?
I said that dinner would be very nice but that she really didn’t have to bother as the cat came in by himself and didn’t need rescuing.
“I insist” she said. “I’ll leave you a note when it will be”.

I took my leave and walked back to my apartment thinking about the latest adventure. I had no strings and there was no reason for me to not go to dinner. I certainly didn’t need Angela’s permission.

True to her word,  I found a note under my door the next day.  The note said,”8:00 pm this evening, bring wine” and was signed Julie. I thought that she was a pushy little thing but I was interested enough to make plans to attend.

I had coffee with Angela during the day and talk switched to us.  I asked Angela if she would like to go to dinner on Friday evening to celebrate that I would be around for another six months.
“You make that sound so final as though you don’t plan on ever coming back” she said.
“No, nothing like that. It’s just that I don’t get back very frequently and usually it is every six months at least when my Mom was alive” I said

I arranged to pick her up at 6:00 pm on Friday and I had plans to take her to a very special place in the mountains. Not the one we went to before but a different one. As she said goodbye she  caught my hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Maybe I will see you for coffee before Friday” I said as we walked out together.

That evening, a little before 8:oo pm, I walked upstairs to Julie’s apartment carrying the mandatory bottle of wine as ordered and knocked on the door. Julie answered and welcomed me in to her apartment. Just like Evelyn’s house and Angela’s apartment, Julie’s looked almost the same as the other two in the sense that the place was tidy and things were put away. Definitely a very feminine apartment from her own ornaments and pictures she had scattered around.

Dusty, the cat wandered over to say hello and rubbed against my leg purring up a storm. I bent over and made a fuss of him and had an immediate friend.

“He likes you” said Julie “He doesn’t always take to men very well. I think his previous owner may have mistreated him so he is a bit skittish sometimes”.
“Dogs and cats get on well with me “I said “or should I say I get on well with them when they let their guard down”.
“Do you believe in reincarnation”? she asked “If I had a choice on how I would like to come back and was not allowed to be a human, I would choose either a dog or a cat. In a good family, of course”.
I mumbled an agreement as she led me towards the sofa. “Sit down and make yourself comfortable and I will open this bottle”.

I watched her depart into the kitchen. She was a nice looking lady, not too tall with a nice body. She had long blonde hair which hung around her shoulders and moved as she moved. She was dressed in a tight pair of jeans and a sweater which showed off her curves very nicely.

I sat there thinking about the current events and wondered how I could go from having no women to finding three in the space of a couple of weeks. Life can be very tricky sometimes. Not that I was counting Julie as a possibility but for me to have dinner with three different beautiful women in the such a short time period was positively unheard of.

She sat on the couch next to me. “Tell me about yourself” she said “How long have you had your apartment”
“I have had it for about four years but I don’t spend much time in it as I work away most of the time. I come back about every six months for a couple of weeks, or I used to when my Mother was still alive. She died six months ago so I don’t know what my routine will be like from here on in”.
“Sorry to hear about your Mom” she said “But I hope you keep up at least the six month routine as this town is not exactly overrun by eligible bachelor’s”.

Immediately, warning bells started flashing in my head and she must have noticed me jump.
“Don’t worry” she said with a laugh “I am not trying to chase you to the altar as I am not ready to settle down yet”.
“Was I that obvious” I said “I apologize if I reacted. Didn’t mean to”.
She laughed, a deep throaty laugh that I found very attractive. “Now it’s my turn to apologize. I was not laughing at you but you got to admit it’s funny. We hardly know each other and here we are almost married off”.
I chuckled to as it was rather odd that our conversation was already at this stage.

We sat there for another thirty minutes or so as she had a roast in the oven that she was waiting to finish cooking. “Come on” she said “You can carve up the meat while I get everything else ready”.
I carved the meat and we sat down to a scrumptuous meal of roast pork, roast potatoes, broccoli and gravy with hot rolls.
“Wow” I said “This looks delicious”.
We sat there for an hour eating and making small talk. She told me a bit about herself how she had been married and her husband was a bit of a wife beater. She had divorced him after a couple of years and the whole thing had soured her on men in general. She still went out if she could find a decent guy but had a real mistrust of men in general. She made up with it by having several women friends which got people thinking she was gay but she assured me she was not.

I thought that her marriage must have been really bad to affect her so deeply and that it was going to take a real kind and understanding man to get close to her. We finished up with apple pie and ice cream. She had made the pie from scratch and it was delicious. I thought she would make some guy happy one of these days, if the right kind of guy came along.

I helped her clean up and wash the dishes. She said I didn’t have to but I didn’t mind as it was the least I could do for the great meal.
“Come and sit on the sofa and we can finish the bottle” she said
I moved over and sat down and accepted the glass she offered me. We talked about my job and how it takes me all over the country and how my little apartment is the only stable thing in my life. The conversation swung back around to relationships and I admitted to her that occasionally, very occasionally, I missed the company of a nice woman and on those times, I wished I was married and settled down. She admitted to the same feelings at times so I suggested that whenever I am in town and either of us was feeling low, we would make contact and then we could sit and talk as we were then.

I stood up to leave and she followed me to the door. “Goodnight” she said as she kissed me on the cheek. It’s been a wonderful evening”.
I agreed that it had and we exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses and I walked back down the stairs to my lonely apartment.

I sat there for a while rehashing the evening. There had been no magic moments as there had been with Angela even when Julie had brushed up against me or got close to serve me a drink. I admired her looks and her long hair and her body could easily turn me on but there was no spark to ignite any thoughts of romance.

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Chapter 6 – A Hopeful Date

The next day was Thursday and I made my usual rounds of the Coffee Shop and chatted to as many people as I could find. Evelyn apparently had drawn the short straw and it was her turn to buy the coffee for the rest of her co-workers.
“Hello Bob” she said and sounded quite pleased to see him.
“Hello yourself” I replied.
“Angela told me that you will be around for another six months or so” she said “That’s great news or at least I know that I am pleased about it. Now we can see how interesting this can get between us”.
“I’m glad that you feel that way” I said “I would  like to see if this is going somewhere also”.
“How about you stop over for a drink later around 7:00 pm this evening. Would you like to do that”? she said.
I said “It would be my pleasure”

She picked up her coffee’s and with a backward glance at me, walked out the door leaving me to try to fathom out the female psyche.

I busied myself the rest of the day preparing for the change of plans and promptly at 7:00 pm I was knocking on the door to Evelyn’s cottage. She must have been waiting for me as the door opened immediately and she ushered me in. Blondie, the setter came bounding out just as excited to see a new me.
“Hello again” she said “I thought we could sit out on the patio as it’s such a nice evening. Is that OK with you”?
“Certainly. Sounds like a grand idea” I replied
“What do you want to drink. How about a scotch and rocks” she asked
“That will do just fine. You must have been reading my mind as I really didn’t feel like drinking beer this evening” I said.
She handed me a drink and I followed her out to the patio which had the usual type patio furniture. I sat at the table and she sat across from me and smiled. “I’m glad that we are able to have this evening together. A lot has happened in the past four weeks what with the bear and all”.
“How are you sleeping” I asked her
“I seem to be over it and am no longer having bad dreams about it and my head has healed with no real visible scar” she said.
“Me neither and your right. I certainly cannot see any marks ” I responded

We chatted about a lot of things some of which had happened in the past four weeks. She seemed a little distant as though something was bothering her and when I asked her she said “I think I am going to miss you when you do eventually move away. I have got used to seeing you around and knowing that I only have to pick up the phone and you will be there. Now I am going to have to do without”
“Not yet you don’t as I will be here for probably another six months and I plan on driving to Albany every day” I said

At that point I gave up trying to understand women. They have always been a mystery to me and now I was totally baffled. I tried not to show it and responded “I am still only a phone call or e-mail away and can still help if only from a distance”.
“Yes I know but it’s not quite the same as having you here full-time as eventually you will be back on the road” she said

Even though she was saying one thing, she was not giving any physical indication of her thoughts and feelings as she sat in the chair opposite me. She looked as beautiful as ever as she sat there in the evening light but she was very composed in her actions, or in my case, lack of action. I looked at my watch and got to my feet.

“Thank you for a very nice evening and the drinks” I said
“Do you have to go. Have one more drink” she replied.
“No, I really need to get going. I still have things to do” I said. In truth, I didn’t see that me staying was going to change very much and I was not content to just sit there and make small talk. I was too old to be playing games.
“OK, I guess this is goodnight then” she said “Call me if you want to go out again”

I promised that I would and repeated my statement about her wanting to talk. We already had exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
“Good night then” she said as she kissed me on the cheek.

I walked out of there totally baffled at the behaviour of women and drove back to my apartment.

Feeling totally confused, I sat there thinking of what has been happening for the past three weeks. Notwithstanding the episode with the bear which by itself was still pretty traumatic, I though about the three women that were currently in my life. Me, someone who has difficulty getting a date, had three women all looking to be a part of my life. Feeling mightily pleased but still no closer to solving the mystery, I went to bed. I had a very vivid dream of  Evelyn’s cottage and the four of us all living together in complete harmony. Except the girls never had any faces and I could not tell one from the other.

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Chapter 7 – Angela’s Date

The next day was Friday and I ran into Angela in the street as she was running some errands.
“We still on for this evening” I asked
“Definitely” she responded “And looking forward to it”
“See you at 6:00 pm then” were my parting words. She acknowledged with a wave of her hand.

I spent the day cleaning the apartment. I even went out and bought a couple of fake oil paintings and some ornaments that I scattered around the room. I stepped back to take a look and made a few adjustments to their positions but no matter how hard I tried, everything looked out-of-place and instead of adding to the room, they in fact junked it up.

In the end, I gave up and left the work sort of unfinished to me but fine to anybody else. “Needs a women’s touch” I said to myself. At least, the place was clean and smelled of furniture polish.

The time of day passed slowly as the hands crawled to 5:45 and promptly at 6:00 I was outside of Angela’s apartment and ringing the bell.
“Be down in a minute” she said over the intercom and true to her word, she opened the door to the street. She looked absolutely beautiful with a low-cut dress that showed both cleavage and thighs.
“God, you are such a beautiful woman” I said “You look more beautiful every time I see you”.
She smiled at me and took my hand as I opened the car door and slipped gracefully into her seat.

On the drive to the restaurant I asked her “How come you have never married? You must have had men breaking down your door to get you”.
“I don’t know” she said “I have had several boy friends over the years but in the final reckoning, they all fall a little short some way or another. It’s not that I am looking for perfection as there is no such thing in a man, but they can’t have obvious flaws. How about you”?

“My biggest problem is my work which takes me away for months at a time but even if with all that, I have not found that person that can make me feel good about myself. Do you know what I mean”?

“Yes, I know exactly what you mean”. We both lapsed into silence for a couple of miles each busy with our own thoughts.

We pulled into the restaurant which was called Buckhorn Lodge. It was also a large hotel and open year round. The food was supposed to be spectacular and came highly recommended.

We were shown into this large dining room with the typical deer heads around the room and a real woodsy flavor to the entire decor. Down one end was this huge fireplace with a fire crackling in the hearth which gave the room a romantic look. Seated at the table, the waiter brought the wine list and made some recommendations and I chose one of them.

The same waiter also asked what we fancied in the way of food and made suggestions to accommodate our tastes.

The food was out of this world. It was a fabulous dining experience and we made it last an hour and a half. We finished off with coffee and desert to end the meal. What an experience for both of us. I was not usually very choosy over food but had to admit this was a wonderful dining experience as did Angela.

We found our way to the bar where a quartet were playing and settled into easy chairs to listen to the music. Angela was tapping her foot and nodding her head as she had at the VFW dance.

“Would you like to dance” I asked her and took her hand.
We both glided about the floor as though we had wings and at the end as I led her back to the table and said “You can dance after all. You were holding out on me at the VFW dance”.
She just smiled at him as no response was necessary.

The band played a slow dance and she stood up and took my hand and took me back out to the dance floor. This time she relapsed into her preferred slow, cuddle up in my arms barely move routine and I had to admit, that of the two, I prefered this one. To hell with ballroom dancing.

On the drive back  home, Angela sat close to me with her head on my shoulder. She was not sleeping but had her eyes closed. I glanced at her and asked what she was thinking about.

She said, “Why can’t relationships always be like this? I have had a wonderful time this evening and you have been the best company but tomorrow, in the light of day, this will all have gone”.

I thought about it not quite knowing how to answer or even if there was an answer then said, “Every moment belongs to itself. No two moments can take the place of each other. Think of every moment as an individual experience and value it for what it is. We can do no more than that”.

Angela cried softly on my shoulder and said, “Yes, you are right”.

The rest of the drive was in a comfortable silence as we each savoured our own thoughts and memories of the evening and when we finally pulled up outside of Angela’s apartment.
“Thank you for a truly memorable evening” she said. She leaned over and kissed me, not the friendly peck on the cheek but a full-blown kiss deep from the heart.

She got out of the car and walked to her door, turned and waved and was gone.

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Chapter 8 – Mary, a Chance for More?

I drove home and sat in the car for a while thinking about the evening and how wonderful it had been. That goodnight kiss held promises of more to come and the chance of a more serious relationship. Interesting that it had not resulted in more than just a kiss.

The next day I knocked on Julie’s door. I wanted to tell her that I would be around for a while just in case her cat needed rescuing again…
She came to the door a little tousled looking as though she had just got out of bed with the robe agape showing her nightdress. She hastily pulled it together as she opened the door and said “Bob, this is a nice surprise”
I looked at her and said, “I’m sorry, it looks like I have disturbed your beauty sleep. I can come back later”
“Not a bit” she said “Come in and I’ll make some coffee”. She busied herself in the kitchen as he sat at the kitchen table.
“Give me a moment to look a little more presentable. Help yourself to coffee when it is brewed” she said.
She disappeared into the bedroom and he could hear the shower running as she freshened up. Ten minutes later, she appeared in jeans and a tee-shirt and headed for the coffee pot.

“What brings you around so early on a Saturday” she said
“It’s not so early, you know. It is almost 9:30” I said “I just wanted you to know that I have a reprieve and that I will be staying here for about six months before heading out again”.
“Thats great news” she said “Now maybe we can do some things together, that is, if you want to”.
“I would love to. Anytime, just give me a call or I will call you. Either way works” I said.

We chatted some more and I finished my coffee and took my leave of her. What a pleasant way to start a day, I thought, chatting to a beautiful young thing.

I went back to my apartment and busied myself with things I had been putting off, like laundry folding and such and thought about the situation I was getting myself  into trying to keep three women on a string at the same time. In my defence, I argued, is that I have not committed to any of them and none of them to me at least not that I knew of. I guess the closest was Angela with her goodnight kiss and then Evelyn with her be patient approach and finally Julie who was new on the scene and as yet, an unknown. I tried to analyse what I wanted out of any of these relationships. Was I looking for something permanent or was I just looking to have a good time and to hell with the consequences. I was smart enough to figure out that this couldn’t go on for ever and if they got wind of each other, I would end up with nothing. Is that what I wanted? I was no nearer solving this riddle as when I started and it was giving me a headache and a severe case of depression just thinking about it.

I suppose that I was also looking for some clues from all three of the girls. I had not been able to figure out Evelyn and I knew that Julie would always be on her guard because of her previous situation. The only one that I was coming close to knowing was Angela but even she surprised me by not asking me up after our wonderful evening together. Maybe, I was expecting too much too soon as after all, the cost of an evening out at a few dollars was nothing compared to making a committment and taking someone into your bed. I knew that none of these three ladies were easy pickings and had much more value on their actions than that and I respected them for their high standards. Those high standards also included not playing second fiddle to either of the other two.

That evening, I decided to eat alone and then go to the local bar and have a couple of beers. I needed a break from worrying about all of these women and the problem I was heading into. The local Diner had good wholesome and soul satisfying food and I was quite happy to eat there and satisfy my inner self. I ordered the pork chops with all of the trimmings followed by a slice of apple pie. I did forgo the ice cream that was offered to me with a mind to watch my weight. It was at least a token gesture in the right direction.

From the Diner, I wandered over to the local bar aptly named, Joe’s Dive. It wasn’t really that bad and the place was clean and cheerful. Just what I needed. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer and chatted to the barman who was the same guy as was at the VFW dance. He remembered me and we talked about school days and life in general. he wanted to know about the bear attack and I briefly filled him in. All of this in between him serving the other customers as the place was filling up.

I was on my second beer and this young lady asked if the stool was taken next to me. I told her no and she sat down and turned to me. “Hi, my name is Mary” she said.
“I’m Bob” I responded
“What does anyone do for entertainment around here. I’m new in town on a temporary assignment and was looking for something to do” she said.
“Well, this is a small town and you are sitting in the liveliest place. We do have the occasional dance at the VFW and Clam Bakes in the summer but other than that, not too much goes on” I said. “There is a movie house in the next town south and a drive in theatre at the town north and of course, many of the bars have bands on the weekends just like this one”

As we were speaking, the band was setting up in the corner. Tonight there was a country and western group which will make for a lively evening a little later on as that music went down well here.

“Well, I guess that I will stay here then. What are you going to do”? she asked
“I only stopped in for a couple of beers and I have no plans. I can stay awhile” I said

We sat there and talked and she told me a bit about herself. She was thirty or so years old and worked for a large accounting firm out of  New York City and was here to do some work for the largest employer in town, a manufacturing group that made chewing gum and lifesavers. She expected to be here for a week.

“Life is much different here than in the city” I said “People go to bed early and pretty much keep themselves to themselves except for the younger group who are crazy anyway so it doesn’t matter where they live”.
She laughed and asked what I did for a living. I gave her a brief rundown of my life including the fact that on Monday, I was due to report back to the Main Office in Albany and would be working out of there for six months.

The band started playing and we sat and listened to the music for a while then she asked me to dance. Turns out, she was a pretty good dancer and could even swing pretty good. It was a lot of fun just blowing off steam on the dance floor with someone who was more or less a stranger.

It was almost 11:00 and she looked at her watch. “I need to be going” she said “Believe it or not, I have to work tomorrow as we want to get finished by this coming weekend. Besides, it is much easier for our work with none of the regular staff around”.
“Do you need a ride home” I asked
“No, I am staying at the Holiday Motel which is only a couple of blocks. You can walk me home if you like” she said

So, I settled the bill and bade everyone goodnight and walked out of the door with Mary. We walked up the road making small talk and came to the Motel. She took her keys out  and put them in the lock and turned back to me. “Thank you for a very nice evening. I was lucky that I sat down next to you”.  She extended her hand and shook mine warmly.
“My pleasure” I said “You have my number if you want to have a drink and relax. Goodnight”.
With that, she turned the key and walked into her Motel room.

I walked back to my apartment and opened a beer. I sat there for a while thinking of the evening and as they usually did, my thoughts turned back to the other three problems that I had to solve

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Chapter 9 – And Now There Are Two

The next day, Sunday, I busied myself in preparation for my new assignment in the morning. I dusted off my brief case and packed a bag that would remain in the car just in case I had to stay overnight. I planned on driving every day but you can never tell with this temporary assignment that I was on and there was no sense in not being prepared. I would need to leave home at 6:00 am every morning to be at work on time as the trip would take at least an hour and a half each way. That’s a lot of time to be sitting in a car but the alternative of staying down there and having additional time to myself was not that appealing. Usually, when I am on a project, I would work those additional hours as there were always a hundred problems that needed my time and attention but because I was just filling in, I didn’t think there would be too much to keep me beyond the 8-5 routine.

Our apartment complex had a laundry room for the tenants and it was sometimes an interesting meeting place. I got to know a couple of the other tenants who lived in the building from sitting and watching the drier spin in endless cycles. It was sort of hypnotic in its way. I took a load down and put it in the washing machine. As I did, in walked Julie in high spirits. She was positively bouncing along.

“Whoa” I exclaimed “Slow down or you will do yourself an injury. What are you so pumped up about”?
“Hello” she said “Well, I just got a call from my Dad in Poughkeepsie. My Mom is ill and has been for some time and I am worried about her. My Uncle John died a couple of months ago. His will was tied up for a bit but has now been released and he left me some money and his house. I was his favorite niece and he was always taking me places as he didn’t have a family of his own, not even a wife.  I have decided that I am going to move back home closer to my Mom and Dad and live in my new house”.

Part of me was very pleased for Julie whose fortunes had changed, another part of me was sad that we were not able to pursue our relationship and yet a third part of me was glad that now Julie was no longer a part of my problem.

“Well, that is good news. When do you plan on leaving us”? I asked
“I need to do the right thing with my boss and give him time to find someone else but other than that, I plan on leaving within a couple of weeks” she said.

I was pleased for Julie and told her so. I offered my help for anything she might need and made her promise me that we would go out to dinner for a final time before she left.

With the laundry finished and folded, I trooped back upstairs and put it away on hangers, in closets and drawers and turned my attention to the latest developments in my life. Actually, the developments were in Julie’s life and my involvement was an absolute minimum. Mine was fueled by desire and physical attraction and by my ego that a pretty girl would have been interested in me. I was busy thinking along these lines when the phone rang. I picked it up.
“Hi, this is Evelyn. How are you”
“This is a pleasant surprise. What’s up” I answered
“Not much. Just wondered if you would like to get together this evening”?
“Do you have something special in mind” I asked.
“Well, they are playing a new movie at the drive-in and as it was so much fun last time, I thought we could go again” she said.
“OK, sounds good, you want me to pick you up”? I said
“No, I will pick you up, how about 6:00 pm this evening” she said
“Sounds good to me. I’ll see you then” and hung up.

Evelyn had an older car that had a bench seat and not the bucket seats favored by the modern cars, I thought to myself. Very useful for a drive-in. Stop that, the other part of me thought. You are behaving like a teenager.

At 6:00 pm, Evelyn rang my doorbell and walked in. She kissed me on the cheek and said hello.
“You ready” she asked
“Almost” I said as I picked up my wallet and keys.

The drive was very relaxing and Evelyn was more full of chatter than usual. She seemed in fine spirits so much so that I commented about it. “You seem pretty cheerful”
“Why not” she said “I’m in a car on a date with a good-looking guy and going to the movies. Whats not to be happy”?
“Well, if you put it like that…” I said

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Chapter 10 – The Disappearance

We arrived and found a parking spot to ourselves probably because it was a Sunday. I wandered back to the concession stand and bought a couple of drinks and again missed out on the pop corn. I just can’t stand the smell of that stuff and to me, it’s like eating cardboard. Evelyn had not requested it so that was a blessing.

I wandered back to the car and it wasn’t there. I walked around and couldn’t find it anywhere. I dialled Evelyn’s cell phone and could not get a response.

I walked back to the concession stand and asked the lady behind the counter if there were any messages for me or if anyone had seen a pretty young lady driving an older Chevrolet but to no avail. By now, I was beginning to worry. What could have happened to her in the time that I took to get to the concession stand. I approached the person on the Exit gate and asked if she had seen anything.
“It’s funny you should mention that as I had to holler at a couple that were speeding out of here and in an older Chevy. The guy was driving and the girls was looking scared” she said
“Did you get a licence plate number”? I asked
“Yes, as a matter of fact I did as the guy nearly crashed he was in such a hurry” she said
“Can you call the police” I said “I think that my girlfriend has been abducted”

The State Troopers were the first on the scene and took statements from the Exit Attendant and myself. I told them my story and they agreed it did seem very odd and put out an all points bulletin to be on the look out for the Chevy. One of them offered to take me home as he was heading back to my town. I tried Evelyn’s cell on the way home but still no response.

I thanked the Trooper for his kindness and let myself into my apartment. I mulled things over in my mind and then decided to drive over to Angela’s apartment. Just to be on the safe side, I called ahead to make sure she was there. She answered the phone and I told her I would be straight over.

The buzzer opened the door and I walked up the stairs. Angela was waiting at the top with a worried look on her face.
“Whats wrong” she asked “You sounded so mysterious on the phone”
I led her back inside and we sat down and I told her the whole story. I watched as her eyes opened wide almost in shock and disbelief that something may have happened to her friend. She made no mention or comment that we had been on a movie date or maybe that part hadn’t had time to sink in.

She began to cry and turned to me and buried her head on my shoulder. I held her tight and gradually the sobs subsided but she did not pull out of the embrace. I think she was gaining strength from me and it had no sexual connotations at all. These were two friends grieving and worrying over their mutual friend. We sat like that for a while and then she began to talk about what may have happened. We both had ideas but I had the feeling that Angela knew more than she was letting on and I mentioned it to her.
“You know, if you have something, anything that might help the cops, you should tell them, doesn’t matter how small or trivial it may seem” I said.
She smiled at me and said she would.
“You going to be OK by yourself” I asked.
“Could you stay with me a little longer” she said “That is, if you don’t mind. I could fix us something to eat if you like”.
“Yes, of course I can stay and food sounds good. I’ll give you a hand” I said.

So we busied ourselves in the kitchen and she cooked up spaghetti with a salad, one of my favorite meals. That washed down with a beer and I was almost in hog heaven except for the disappearance of Evelyn. We lingered over the meal and I helped her clean up. I think the acts of cooking and cleaning and eating a meal were a semblance of normality to what was becoming a very worrying time.

I glanced at my watch and she noticed the action. “I know that you have to be up real early tomorrow morning and it’s an important day for you. I think I will be OK now that I have gotten used to the shock of it” she said.
“Are you sure. I can stay longer if you would like” I said
“No, I will call you tomorrow and we can talk then” she said as she led me to the door. She gave me a hug and offered me her lips and I very gratefully accepted the opportunity. It was a long slow kiss mixed in with emotions of love and fear and discovery.

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Chapter 11 – First Day at the Office

The next day, I was up early and on the road by 6:00 am heading down the Thruway arriving at my Head Office a little before 7:30 am. I knew my way around and reported to the guys I would be working with for the next few months. Altogether we were a team of four and our job was to do some pre-planning and engineering on a couple of upcoming projects including the one that I would be running in California. I knew two of the guys but the third was a stranger and as we made our introductions he mentioned that he had read the article on the bear attack in the Adirondacks.

The others were all ears and we spent the next fifteen minutes telling that story and answering their questions.

The day went pretty smoothly and we began to get the feel of each others work. They were all easy to get along with and it looked like the next few months could be OK. Best not to count chickens I thought to myself. Things have a nasty habit of going wrong real quickly.

I called the number the State Troopers had given me and they told me that they were treating it as a missing person until they had more information. So far, they had a few leads and were following up “and will keep you informed”. Angela had called and we chatted for a while. Between her and the other stylists, they had managed to cover Evelyn’s customers. By now, the whole town was agog at the news and she said she was being bombarded by questions and “could you please hurry home to keep me company”.

I told her that I would be home as quickly as I could and we could go out to get dinner if she didn’t want to stay in and cook again. She said she would think about it and would have an answer when I got there.

I arrived home around 6:00 pm and stopped at my apartment to collect my mail and grab some clothes just in case I stayed over. When I rang Angela’s door bell, she opened the door herself.
“What’s the matter with the buzzer” I asked
“I just needed to see you as soon as possible” she said and gave me a hug and a kiss.
We walked up the stairs and I was greeted at the door by Evelyn’s dog, Blondie who recognized me and made a big fuss.
“I went over and picked her up this morning and she was pleased to see someone. I had to bring her here until we get some news” said Angela.
“Great idea. Now you will have some company in the evening. of course you will need to change your routine a little and get out and walk the dog” I said.
“Yes, that’s a great idea, let’s do that now” she said.

So I put on a pair of walking shoes and we wandered the streets of our little town talking about the day’s events. Turns out that a detective had stopped by and talked with Angela primarily because they worked together and wanted to see if Angela could put a different light on the subject. Angela told the detective that she had remembered the thing that had bothered her last evening. She had overheard a conversation that Evelyn was having on the phone at the Beauty Salon and it sounded like Evelyn was getting really upset at whoever was on the other end. When Angela asked her about it, she just shrugged it off. Angela believed from the conversation, it was her divorced husband,  Tom Jackson which is what she told the detective.

Several people stopped us on our walk, many to offer their sympathies to Angela. She thanked them but told them not to give up hope as she hadn’t and things were going to be OK. We walked back to the apartment and Angela had already pre-prepared dinner for the evening. Blondie was beat from her exertions and flopped down on her bed which gave us the opportunity to finish our meal in peace and then sit together on the couch. Angela cuddled up to me as we chatted about the day and I carefully put my arm around her. I managed to steal a couple of kisses from her but had the feeling that she was holding back on purpose which I respected as I didn’t push my luck.

I got up to leave which woke up Blondie. Again, I said goodnight in the doorway as she kissed me very tenderly. Blondie slurped my face when I bent down to pet her and I told the dog to look after Angela.

The next day, bright and early, I was on my way to the office thinking about the recent events. I wondered what it was with my life when all of a sudden, all of these things were happening. My life, which up until now was almost like a book with the same things happening over and over with little to differentiate between them and me in control of most of it, was now turned upside down.
First was the incident with the Bear but prior to that was meeting Angela and Evelyn and briefly Julie. Then my work project was delayed resulting in my getting extra time off which resulted in to this problem of making choices, one incidentally that still is not fixed. Then Evelyn disappears from a drive-in movie. I was beginning to think that I was jinxed in some way and that someone had put a voodoo curse on me.

Of course, that was a pretty selfish way to look at it as apart from being a little, OK a lot mixed up, nothing physically had happened to me. It had happened to those around me, the bear killing the kid, which had affected both Evelyn and Angela, Evelyn’s disappearance and how it was affecting Angela. I was really just the outsider looking in but was getting swept along by this chain of events.

The day was just a routine day at the office but it was challenging enough for me to get something out of it. It was a nice change solving Engineering problems associated with the work that I did and I quickly slipped into the routines involved. I knew that sooner rather than later, I was going to feel confined and stifled by being indoors all of the time which is why I liked the construction sites much better.

I chatted to Angela  a couple of times through the day but other than needing lots of re-assurance herself, there was nothing new on Evelyn.

On the drive home, my cell phone rang and it was from the detective on the case. He had just called to let me know they had a couple of leads and were following up on them and for me to re-assure Angela, they were doing everything they could. I thanked him and hung up.

Angela had told me that unless I really wanted to, she would be alright taking Blondie out for a walk herself and that she would call and talk to me later on so I was heading for my own apartment. I ran into Julie in the hallway and we stopped to talk for a bit. She asked me up for coffee and we sat and talked some more. She had already started packing and much of her knick-knacks were already put away so her place which had looked so feminine and cared for before now began to resemble mine. I mentioned that to her and she found it very amusing. She was leaving at the end of the month to give herself time to get everything in order so we still had a bit of time together. I thanked her for the coffee and took my leave and went to my own apartment.

When I walked in the door, the place was trashed. Someone had searched the room and had not been too careful about it. I backed out of there and called the local police for them to come and take a look. I also called the detective on Evelyn’s case to tell him what had happened in case he saw a connection. The police came and took pictures and dusted for prints and took statements. This had to have happened through the day when most of the people were out of the building. As far as I could tell, nothing was missing. My computer and stereo were intact as were my camera’s so whoever it was must have been looking for something very specific.

I called Angela and told her what had happened and for her to make sure that her locks were in good shape. Of course, she  worked downstairs so that did help. As an afterthought, I asked her if Evelyn had ever given her something to look after, something that may not seem out-of-place. Angela could not think of anything but would keep thinking.

The police had finished so I straightened things up as best I could and told myself that I would finish it tomorrow evening and went to bed. That night, I dreamed of a man with a bears head trashing my apartment…

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Chapter 12 – The Maintenance Man

The day’s passed one by one. I drove in to work as per usual and each day passed pretty uneventfully. I chatted to Angela who seemed in better spirits and got a call from the detective on the case. He was very interested in the trashing of my apartment and wondered if Evelyn had a hidden side that we didn’t know about. In truth, I had been wondering the same thing and the fact that someone had trashed my apartment looking for something specific only increased that line of thinking.

Of course, the two may be totally unrelated but the coincidence sure seemed to be pointing to a connection.

The drive home that Friday evening sure seemed to take forever with much heavier traffic than normal. On the way, I was thinking of straightening out my apartment and at the same time, I would use the opportunity to throw away a bunch of paper and stuff that was no longer useful. I was thinking that if the apartment looked pretty sparse before, it would probably look even worse when I was through.

I parked the car and climbed the stairs and my door was open. I could hear someone moving around inside so I walked slowly and carefully into the room not knowing what or who to expect. Julie was standing in the middle of the room with a brush and dustpan in her hands. “Oh, hello” she said “I thought that I would clean up a bit for you. I hope that you don’t mind”.
“Not a bit but how did you get in” I asked “I thought I locked the door when I went to work this morning”.
“It was locked so I called the Maintenance man and he let me in” she replied.
“Just like that” I asked
“Well, it took a little persuading and I am not afraid to use my feminine charms when I need to and in the end, he gave in” she said

That got me thinking and so I called the Maintenance man and asked him if someone else had used the same ploy the night before. He was very reluctant to answer until I told him that I wasn’t planning on reporting him but could he please fill me in.

The Maintenance man’s name was Gerry Walker and I had dealt with him in the past when things needed fixing. He seemed a nice enough fellow at  least the few times I had spoken to him. We arranged that he would come over and talk to me later that evening and while I waited, I helped Julie work on straightening up the mess. True to my word, I sorted as we tidied and had a pretty big stack of stuff that I planned on re-cycling which I put off to one side. With Julie’s help, we had the mess pretty much taken care of by the time Gerry arrived. He said hello to Julie as she walked by him and it was easy to see how she had convinced him to let her in. Hell, I would have let her in too and it is my place, with the look that she gave him. She took her leave and I thanked her very profusely for her help and thoughtfulness.

I turned to Gerry and asked him to tell me what he knew.
” I received a phone call from a woman who said her name was Evelyn Hall and that she was good friends with you and that she needed to get something that belonged to her from the apartment. She arranged to meet me here with proof of who she was”.
“You let her in based on her saying she was friends with me” I asked
“Well, I knew her from the reports of the bear attack. I recognized her picture” he said
“Is this her”? I asked as I showed him a picture that I had of the three of us.
“Yes, that’s her. The one in the middle” he said
I looked at the picture in disbelief. “Are you sure about this” I said
“Yes” he replied “The one in the middle is the one that I let in”
I looked at the picture again. The one in the middle was Angela…

I thanked him for being so cooperative and asked him if she was alone. he replied that as far as he knew, she was but some one else could have waited for him to leave before joining her.

I sat down to think about these new developments. Why had Angela wanted to get into my apartment  when I wasn’t there? Was she alone or was someone else involved? Did Angela trash the apartment and if so, what was she looking for? Sure was a lot of questions and as far as I could see, very little in the way of answers. My thoughts turned back to my Mother and the small fortune she had amassed. How did she get that sort of money? What was she into? Were she and Angela friends? I felt that there had to be some sort of connection there somewhere but I didn’t know what or why.

Then there was Evelyn’s disappearance. Was she somehow involved in all of this? Was she on the suspect side or herself a victim and who was the mysterious man who had driven her away in her own car?

I sat there for a while and remembered that I had been given a couple of boxes of papers and other things after my Mother died. I had never bothered to go through the stuff as I was a little upset at my Mother’s loss and then as time wore on, I forgot about them. As I sat there, I tried hard to remember just what I had done with those boxes. Maybe, I might find a clue as to what this was all about.

My Mother had owned the house she was living in at the time of her death. My brother and I had closed it up until we could decide what to do with it and had left everything as it was when she died. The three of us had discussed what we might do with it but had not made any decisions. Of the three, I was the only one at all interested in living in the place. My  brother had a house in Oneida as did my sister in Schenectady so neither of them were ever going to live there. Our immediate thinking was to sell it and divide the money which is why we had boarded it up temporarily to keep people out. I had keys to the place and decided to take a look around tomorrow.

I also did some serious thinking about Angela and just how involved in all of this she may have been. Was she two timing me just to string me along? Was she using me for a different agenda? How was I going to handle this in the meantime. I had her trust and didn’t want to lose it until I knew more about the entire affair. So, I decided to play cool and go on with our friendship as though nothing had happened until I could find out more about the mystery of it all.

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Chapter 13 – Mother’s House

The next day, Saturday, I drove to my Mothers house. I should probably stop calling it that as it was now my house or at least one-third of it was.

I parked the car and walked around the outside. It was an old two-story well over 100 years old and she had kept it in good repair. It stood on two acres of land on a hill with a good view of the valley below. It had the typical upper and lower porches with tall windows and a slate roof. The outside did not show any sign of a forced entry and remained tightly boarded up.

I walked to the front door and let myself in. I had decided to leave the power connected and kept the inside at a reasonable temperature to prevent the pipes freezing during the winter. Now, it was Spring and time to air the house out a bit but I was very reluctant to take down the boards.

I walked through the entire house. it was still fully furnished and very little had been disturbed since my Mothers death. There was a good accumulation of dust which was also a good indicator if someone else had been in here. As far as I could tell, no one had been here since the time we had closed it up. I wanted to be methodical in my search so I laid out a plan in my mind of where to start and how to continue. I had no idea what I might be looking for but thought I would know it if I was to see it.

Being an old house, it had an attic of the kind that it was possible to store things under the roof. Back when the house was built, it was very common to put down a floor but not finish out the rest of the space and usually, there was a staircase leading to it. Such was the case here. Heck, if the need ever arose to require an extra bedroom, it would take very little to finish out the space. With  the floor already laid all it would take would be to frame and sheetrock the walls and there was another four or five hundred square feet of livable space. The past owners had not done that but there was still a large amount of storage area and it was crammed full of boxes and other stuff.

I started to go through all of the boxes that had been stored there. Some of it was very old and might be of interest to an Antique Dealer, other stuff by today’s standards was just junk and needed to be tossed out. However, I reminded myself, I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for and needed to look at every single thing.

I decided that I should look in the newer boxes first in the hope of them containing more recent stuff, whatever “stuff” may be. I began to systematically look at every item in every box and then replace it and move the box to a “finished” area. it was slow painstaking work but I was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Most of the boxes contained books and papers many of which were just household bills. Some boxes contained old household goods, pots, pans others had other miscellaneous “stuff” that people finish using but don’t throw away for fear they may need it in the future. I broadened my search and began looking deeper under the roof and found other even older boxes containing lot’s of old paper and books. Going through the boxes didn’t reveal anything that would cast light on any activity that my Mother may have been mixed up in.

There were several rugs on the floor spread around with boxes and old stuff stacked on them. I didn’t give it much thought when I was going through the boxes and had stacked stuff back where I found it but it but then it occurred to me, why were the carpet scattered around the floor. Why weren’t they rolled up as one would normally store carpets. Was it just by chance or did it have a purpose.

I started over and stacked boxes and the miscellaneous stuff to one side after checking that the flooring was tight in that area and then dragged the carpet off. I don’t know what I expected to see but there was nothing there. No trapdoor, no loose boards, nothing. I had a thought and turned the carpets over one by one and there attached to the underside of one of them, was and a big manilla  envelope. I sat and looked at it and then carefully pulled it away from the carpet. I could feel that there was something inside and opened it and tipping it into my hand, out fell a bunch of stones that looked like diamonds. I had no idea how many but there were a lot.

I sat back and thought about what I had in my hands and how they may have got there in the first place. I remembered when I was a kid there were stories going around about a gang of jewel thieves that had been traced back to this little village way back in the 1920’s and wondered if there was a connection. It sure seemed too big a coincidence for there not to be. I finished checking the rest of the carpets but there was nothing else so I tidied up and went back downstairs.

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Chapter 14 – Discovery

Angela was standing there looking as beautiful as ever, pointing a gun at me. I was surprised at someone being there but not so surprised that it was Angela. Standing with her was some guy that I had never met before.
“Who are you” I asked him “No, let me guess. You are Evelyn’s ex-husband, Tom Jackson. What have you done with her”?
“She is safe” Angela said “But I don’t know for how long”.
I thought about what she had just said.
“Well, it’s pretty obvious that neither her nor I will get out of this alive” I said “So why did you kidnap her”.
“Yes, you are right about that.  It’s a shame. I was just beginning to like you a little bit” she said “I was hoping that Evelyn could lead us to the diamonds but it was obvious that she doesn’t know anything”.
“OK, tell me something. What made you think I knew anything about this. Ransacking my apartment wasn’t too smart”. I stopped and as a thought came to me. “Oh, I get it. You knew that I would try to figure it out and put two and two together especially after you told the Maintenance Man you were Evelyn and then come looking” I said.
“Well it worked didn’t it? You found the diamonds didn’t you”? she said.
“Yes, eventually but I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for when I started the search. I guess you killed my Mother because she wouldn’t tell you where the diamonds were. Tell me as you are going to kill me anyway, how did you find out that my Mother had found the stones. Was it because she was selling them off one by one”? I asked not really expecting to get an answer.

Angela couldn’t resist boasting about how clever she had been in all of this and said, “The stupid bitch wouldn’t co-operate so we had no choice. As for the stones, Tom here knew the guy that your mother was selling them to. Simple as that. The stones please” she said holding out her hand.
I didn’t make any move to hand them over. “I could shoot you right here and take them” she said.
“I don’t think you plan on doing that as you don’t want to explain it to the cops. My guess is that you plan to kill me as you did my Mother with a drug that stops the heart” I said.

Tom took a step towards me which is what I was banking on as he was now between me and the gun. I threw the envelope containing the diamonds at his face and he reacted by trying to catch them which was the opening I needed. I charged at him hitting him in the midriff and driving him back into Angela who was totally unprepared. I heard the gun go off and Tom slid to the floor which gave me the opportunity to kick Angela on the knee bringing her down into contact with my fist. I heard the satisfying sound of her nose breaking as she toppled to the ground. I kicked the gun away and jumped back to survey the scene.

Tom was laying in a pool of ever-widening blood and was obviously dead. Angela was screaming with pain as her nose bled profusely.
“Where is Evelyn” I asked
“Go to hell” she replied
I reached out and hit her on the nose again and she screamed some more. “Tell me” I said. It occurred to me that she was going to kill me using the same drug she used to kill my Mother, probably by some drug injected to make it look like a heart attack as that would be the only way she could explain my death without arousing suspicion. I felt in her pockets and pulled out a syringe in a case and took it out. It was already filled so I grabbed her arm and stuck the needle in her but did not depress the plunger.
“She is in Tom’s cabin in the mountains” she cried “Please don’t kill me”.
“Why not, you killed my Mother this way” I said “You never showed her any mercy”
“Where is Tom’s cabin” I said as I moved to push in the plunger
Angela rattled off a list of directions and I pulled out my cell phone. I called the detective and briefly gave him a quick run down of the events and for him to check the cabin and get back to me. I wouldn’t tell him where I was until I heard back from him.

I pulled the needle from her arm and listened to her sobbing from the pain of the broken nose. I had no feeling for her except contempt for the woman who had killed my Mother and who had kidnapped Evelyn.

Time dragged by for what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only twenty minutes and then my cell phone rang. It was the detective. “We have her. She is safe and unhurt except for a few bruises. We’ll be taking her to the local hospital to be checked over. Now, where are you”?

I gave him the address and within minutes, I heard the sound of police sirens and the local cops burst on the scene with guns drawn. I handed them Angela’s gun and briefly gave them the lowdown. They handcuffed Angela and the detective walked in.

I handed him the diamonds and gave him the rundown of the whole story including the part where I had broken Angela’s nose. I handed him the syringe and told him to be careful. I did not mention that my Mother had been selling off the diamonds and would wait for him to tell me about that part. I planned on playing dumb.

By then, half of the police in the county were in the house or at least that is how it seemed. People were taking pictures and others were checking over the scene. Still others were checking the roof space just in case there was anything else of value hidden in there.

They took Angela away but before they did they gave me the opportunity to talk to her. Any feelings that I had were long gone and she knew it.
“How could you do this” I asked
“It was business” she said “There is a lot of money at stake here. Those diamonds were valued at twenty million dollars when they were stolen and are probably worth twice that now”.
“But to involve your best friend and then me. I guess I don’t understand” I said
“I don’t expect you too. My business is hard work and I didn’t want to be a hairdresser the rest of my life. I wanted more, much more and when I found the story of the diamonds going missing in this small town, I decided to move here to see if I could find them. I had a stroke of luck that Tom knew the fence your Mother was using and he tipped me off. The rest you know” she said.
“What is it with you and Tom” I asked
“I met him after he and Evelyn were divorced and became friends and eventually lovers” she said
I looked at her in disgust. “You were playing me all of the time. Give me your keys” I said “I need to rescue Blondie”

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Chapter 15 – Lost and Found

They took out Tom’s body and took Angela away for both treatment and to lock her up for the manslaughter of Tom and the murder of my Mother. I finished telling my side of the story and locked the house. I gave the detective a key in case he needed to get back in but told him I wanted to board the house up as soon as possible.

He told me where they had taken Evelyn but first I stopped into Angela’s apartment to be greeted by a big ole’ slobbery Blondie who was real pleased to see me. I grabbed her leash and then had a quick look around and closed the door probably for the last time.

I thought about the dreams and feelings that I had nurtured over the past few weeks and the promises of things to come from the person who owned the apartment and how everything was now all gone. It was not just me that was losing out as Evelyn had also lost her best friend although, if she ever knew about Tom, I’m sure her friendship would have ended long ago. All for money.

I drove to the hospital where they had taken Evelyn and walked in. She was sleeping and her face was bruised where they had roughed her up. I talked to her Doctor and he said that she didn’t have any permanent damage, just some bruising and should be fine to go home the next day. I wrote her a note and left it on the table for her to read when she woke up and drove back to my apartment.

Blondie was all over me when I got back in the car and was just so happy to see a friend. I guess I was happy too but for a different reason. At least the mystery of my Mother’s death had been solved and even though she was selling stolen property, she had not spent any of the money putting it into a trust fund for her family. Whether we would be able to keep it will be a different story.

On the way home, my cell phone rang and it was Evelyn. She had read my note and was so pleased and relieved that her ordeal was over and when could she see me and when would I be taking her out of there. We chatted some more and reluctantly, she hung up after extracting a promise that I would be back tomorrow to take her home.

I drove home with my thoughts and with Blondie’s head on my lap. She seemed very content and I wished that I was her and could live for the moment.

The next day, I took Blondie for an early morning walk and was greeted by the other early risers who were either walking their dogs or getting their exercise. it was Sunday so very few were on their way to work. We got back to my apartment and as I looked around, I decided that I would pay off their share of my Mothers home to my Brother and Sister and move in. It was a beautiful old house and did not deserve to be unlived in. Houses are for people and they need life and activity for them to stay alive. We ate breakfast together and then Blondie and I drove back to the Hospital to pick up Evelyn.

I found her Doctor and had a few words with him about her health. He reiterated that apart from a few bruises and possibly her mental condition needing to be watched, she was fine and could go home. I thanked him and walked to Evelyn’s room.

Evelyn looked up and then this huge grin came over her face when she saw who it was. She threw her arms out and clung to me as I hugged her and we stayed like that for the longest time. She pulled away just enough to find my lips as she kissed me again and again.
“Now that’s what I call a welcome” I said as we finally came up for air.
She laughed and hugged me again. “I am so pleased to see you. Can we go home”?
Her Doctor walked in and said “Well, you look very happy. I take it you are ready to go”.
I stepped out of the room as he gave her a quick once over and she put on her clothes. These were not the same ones that she had been abducted in but then I remembered that Angela had stopped by the house to”rescue” Blondie so had picked up more clothes for Evelyn at the same time.

We walked to the car with her holding my arm. Blondie was all over her when she got in. The dog was so excited and showed it. I got in and drove slowly home. We stopped at a Diner for coffee and lunch and we chatted about everything except what had happened which I knew would have to be a conversation all by itself.

I stopped at her cottage. She had a hidden key as hers were lost with her car. Now that the Police had a whereabouts of where she was kept, they might find her car hidden in that area. I walked her to her door and unlocked it and she walked into her own house. Blondie followed her in just as happy to be home and to have her mistress with her as I was.

I kinda hung around making small talk and trying to not appear as a nosy unwanted guest. Evelyn sat  down for a bit and I sat with her. We chatted and then she announced that she was going to take a shower and clean up and would I please wait so that I could take her to the grocery store and would I lend her some money until the banks opened tomorrow so she could straighten out her bankcard. I looked at her and she looked like a lost little girl. I opened my arms and she fell into them as though she needed comfort and reassurance. There was nothing sexual in the embrace but there was an awful lot of pent-up feeling like she was getting ready to blow off steam.

She got up and went into the bedroom and I sat on the couch making a fuss of Blondie who just lapped up all of the attention. I heard the water running and fifteen minutes later, she reappeared looking fresh and a whole new different person in jeans and a sweater.

We drove to the supermarket and she stocked up on her groceries and food for Blondie. She told me that I was staying for dinner that evening. She didn’t ask me but told me and I was secretly hoping that she would. I wanted to stay with her long enough for her to get over her ordeal and at some time, to fill her in on what had happened.

We opened a bottle of wine and sat on her patio enjoying the cool breeze of the beautiful spring day. After a couple of drinks, she turned to me and said “Tell me all about it. I need to know so that I can begin the healing process”
“Are you sure you are ready”? I said
“As ready as I will ever be” she replied

So, I started at the beginning with my Mother and told her about the fortune she had amassed and we didn’t know how she got it. One thing followed the next until I brought us to the present moment in time.

She told me about her abduction of how Tom had waited until I went to the concession stand and then forced his way into the car and drove off before she realized what was happening. He took her to the cabin and locked her up. Angela had shown up and between them, had roughed Evelyn up a bit hoping that she knew where the diamonds were hidden. When it became apparent that although she had known my Mother, she didn’t have a clue  about diamonds. At that point, Angela and Tom argued about what to do with Evelyn. Angela wanted to finish off her former friend but Tom who may still have had some memories of when they were married, was adamant that they would have to find a different way.

She knew that it would only be a matter of time and was actively looking for a way out of the cabin when the police arrived to rescue her.

We sat there for a while in silence each deep with our own thoughts and I said “What are you going to do now? Are you going to run Angela’s business for her or do you have something different in mind”.
“You know, I haven’t really thought that far ahead but I guess we do have some responsibilities to the other stylists and all of Angela’s customers and ours” she said. “I do have keys to get into the building and maybe, that would be the thing to do”.

She sat there deep in thought and then said “You know, I have known Angela for several years and I always thought we were friends. It’s a terrible thing that money can corrupt a person like that even to the point of killing another person. What really hurt was that she was friends with Tom. Actually, they were more than friends as she slept with him the nights she was at the cabin”.

I thought, how can it get any worse. There was I falling in love with Angela and she was encouraging me just for the sake of money. She wanted a way to the diamonds and thought that I was that way.

We went back in and Evelyn busied herself in the kitchen. I helped as much as could without getting in the way but primarily, I just wanted to be with her to act as her crutch if she needed one. We sat and ate our meal and finished up the wine.
“Do you want me to take tomorrow off” I said “I can run you around until we get your car back or buy you another one”.
“Would you do that for me” she asked
“That and much more” I replied “You only have to ask”.

She kissed me goodnight and this time there was no mistaking the yearning and feeling that she put into it. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Call me if you need anything”. Even if she had wanted for me to stay, I could not have taken her to bed in such an emotionally charged situation. We needed time to cool and re-adjust.

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Chapter 16 – And Now there is One

The next morning, I called into the Office to let them know that I needed a couple of days off. By now, the news had hit the airwaves and my boss already had an idea of what had happened. I told him that I would fill him in when I returned which I figured would be on Wednesday, all being well.

One of the things that had been bothering me was how did my Mother locate the diamonds in the first place. Had she accidentally run across them or had she found something in the house that led her to them? I guess I would never know. But, it was something to think about.

I drove to Evelyn’s to pick her up. The police had located her car and except for a flat tire, it appeared to be intact. They had also located her purse which still contained all of her stuff. In that respect, she was a lucky lady but I guess neither Tom or Angela was interested in the contents of her purse. We drove to the police station and she signed for her purse and then to the yard where they towed in her car and she was able to pick it up for a small fee.

We took a slow drive back to her house with me leading the way, stopping to eat at a nice little Country Inn. She had her phone back and we were able to communicate as we drove and she called me a couple of times with questions through the trip.

Mondays, the Salon was closed giving Evelyn time to decide what she was going to do.  I suggested that we stop at the local Lawyers office to get some advice on where Evelyn stood as regards running the business in Angela’s absence. He had some good ideas on how to proceed which gave Evelyn a good starting point.

The detective called and had a couple of questions for me which I readily answered. he said that they had a pretty strong case against Angela as she had confessed to killing my Mother. He also mentioned that the statute of ownership had run out on the diamonds and technically they could revert back to me “but not to get too excited yet as the local judge would be the one to make that decision”. I thanked him and hung up and decided to keep that information to myself.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning up the bloodstain from the floor. Luckily, it was a wood floor and if worst came to the worst, I could sand it and refinish or even cover it with a carpet at least temporarily.  The detective had told me they were all through in the house and that it was OK for me to straighten it up. I had definitely decided that I was going to move into the place and away from my apartment and I had a couple of weeks to clean it up and get it ready. It needed some work especially in the kitchen as it could use some modern equipment.

That evening. Evelyn asked me to come over and she would whip something up, her words, which I was more than willing to do. As long as she was referring to food and not me, then that sounded like a deal.

I thought about my current situation. I had gone from three prospective girl friends to one and I wasn’t sure about her. She was being nice and cosy but I put some of that down to the recent scare and her gratitude for getting out of it alive. Whether she was really beginning to care for me was hard to figure.  I knew that I would have to be extremely patient and not rush the situation. However, I was grateful for the opportunity and as long as she kept giving me encouragement, then I would press forward.

I arrived at her house to be met by an excited Blondie. Evelyn was only a couple of steps behind and threw herself into my arms and gave me kiss.
“Come in and let’s get comfortable” she said. I had no idea what she meant but followed her into the house where I was greeted by the smell of home cooking.
“I am making a Pot Roast. Is that OK with you”? she asked
“Sounds wonderful” I replied and opened the bottle that I had brought with me.

We sat on the patio while the roast was cooking and I asked her how the rest of the day had gone. She told me about her visit to the Salon and the preparation she had made for the morning. She had managed to move customers around so they all were covered and shared between the three of the stylists.

“You know, Angela was talking of taking on another couple of stylists and had interviewed a couple. I bet she has some notes at the store somewhere if you are interested. If you need money to get yourself set up, I don’t mind putting some into your business. You can pay me back when you get on your feet or leave it in as an investment and pay me quarterly. Something we can work out if your interested. Strictly a business deal” I said.

We went back into the house and I helped her serve the food. We sat down and the meal was delicious. Whether that was because she had cooked it or that I was hungry or a combination, who knows. It was a very enjoyable evening. We hardly talked about the events of the past week but she did mention that she had to go and give a statement tomorrow and would I like to come with her. I don’t think it was a question but more a plea for companionship during these difficult times. I had already arranged to have Tuesday off so I said I would go with her.

I broke the news that I was moving back into the family house and was getting out of my apartment and that I planned on doing some work before moving in. “Would she like to help pick out new kitchen appliances”? I asked her. As I expected, she was very happy with the idea that I would have a stable home and readily agreed to help with some of the work.

Throughout the evening, I was very conscious of her nearness and felt that I was picking up all kinds of good vibes. Things like love and caring, passionate feelings and togetherness. It was such a wonderful feeling. I felt like a young kid on a first date only with mature thoughts and feelings and had not felt so excited with life in a long time. I knew that I was falling in love with Evelyn and was hoping that she was having the same feelings for me and the whole of the rest of our lives was in front of us.

But then again, Angela had created the same feelings in me and look how that ended…

**********************************

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