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Authors: Sally John

After All These Years (10 page)

BOOK: After All These Years
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Now, as the news droned on, she read from the monitor. A long set of songs and a program about house renovation was queued. With computerized pre-programming these days, her physical presence wasn't necessary much of the time. But she loved the challenge of live radio and had talked the manager into letting her do the Saturday morning slot. She often scheduled an interview and church bulletin information after the children's stories.

There was plenty of time to grab another cup of coffee. She headed back down the hall, empty mug in hand. She needed coffee desperately. Fifteen minutes ago she had gone for some. Her mind wandered light years away, and she forgot to watch the large clocks that were never out of view around the studio. She wasn't even aware of the broadcast until everything went quiet.

Isabel entered the kitchenette located in a nook across the hall from the lobby. She had drained the pot the last time and now prepared fresh coffee. As it dripped into the carafe, she tuned her ears to the worship music. When it gave way to the house renovator's voice, the pot was full and still she sat, not having heard one word of one song. Wearily, she stood and poured herself a mugful of coffee.

Tony's presence stirred so many memories and emotions. They had kept her awake most of the night. What was she supposed to do with them? They had been buried for years. No problem. Forgotten, right? That's what God did with them. Forgave them and forgot them. She would rebury them. Same thing as forgotten.

A banging on the front door disrupted her thoughts. She was the only one scheduled at the station today. Generally the secretary, engineer, and manager didn't come in on Saturdays. Isabel kept the station locked. She left the tiny kitchen area and entered the lobby. There was a glass door, a small entry, and then another door. She saw Tony outside, waving his arms and grinning.

Wham! All those half-buried emotions flung themselves at her with tornado force. Her second cup of coffee slid to the carpeted floor. She stared at him. He stopped waving and shrugged, questioning.

Isabel went to the doors and opened them.

“Sorry, Izzy. Didn't mean to scare you.”

She pulled the exterior door shut behind him on the pretense of making sure the lock clicked, but in reality hiding her unguarded expression. “You just startled me.” So to speak.

“That's amazing out there! I've never seen so much corn! And it's growing to music!” His gesture encompassed the surrounding fields that always echoed with the broadcast. Except for a sliver of highway at the end of the long drive and the two radio towers, eight-foot-high corn stalks blocked views in every direction. “It's gotta be the tallest corn in three counties.”

In spite of her discomfort she had to smile at his exaggeration. “Tony, what are you doing here?” She retrieved the mug from the floor, making a mental note to scrub out the stains before she went home.

“Nice outfit. Designer?”

She glanced down at the brown-splattered yellow shirt and the khakis damp from waist to ankle along her right leg. “
you don't answer my question. I thought you were leaving today.”

“I am. On my way out of town right now.”

“This isn't the route between Rockville and Chicago.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Listen, I was thinking. I need to spend more time with The Author. And you.” He spread his arms, palms up. “You were right, Iz. I don't get it. None of you add up. For one thing, you were all
last night. I know for a fact that Christians don't dance, they don't chew, and they don't go with girls that do.”

“Last night's square and line dancing was more like a PE class.” She gave her head a slight shake. What exactly was he getting at? “Tony, Christianity isn't about rules.”

“News to me. Anyway, my editor can't spare me to work more on this right now. It's a freelance kind of thing, no deadline. I'll be back in a week or so. I plan to stick like glue to Brady, except when he's at his laptop. Then I'll hang with you. Find out what makes
tick.” He finished with his lopsided grin and a cocked eyebrow.

She stared at him, silence hovering between them.

Silence. Except for fuzzy static.

“Oh, no!” she cried and raced down the hallway. “Not again!” It was a repeat performance at the controls.

“This is Isabel Mendoza, uh,” she ruffled a stack of papers searching for the news she had read at 8:00. “It's…” she glanced up at the clock, “um, 8:57,”
45 seconds late, an eternity in air time,
“and here's our local news.”

She read 90 seconds' worth and then tuned in to the national news already in progress. At 15 seconds shy of nine o'clock she repeated the weather forecast, identified the station, then released control to the children's story hour that
had bounced off some orbiting satellite during the night, imbedding itself into the station's system.

She blew out a breath.

Tony chuckled from the doorway. “Nice job.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Again. I caught your 8:30 segment on the drive out.”

“That was no segment. That was at best a snafu.”

“Oh, well. I hear that Christians aren't perfect, just…” he paused, “forgiven.” His tone was unmistakable.

“Tony, your charm flies right out the window when you start mocking.”

“I know. One of my many bad habits.” He came around the desk and took her arm, urging her from the chair. “Walk me out.”

With dragging feet she made yet one more trip down the hall.

At the door he said, “I guess it's why I'm coming back. I want to know what that means.”

“Know what what means?”

“Forgiven. What does it look like in the nitty-gritty details of everyday living?” He leaned over and gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek. “I'll call you.”

Isabel watched him walk outside to his car.
. How in the world was she going to answer that question? She used to know what forgiven meant in the nitty-gritty details. But that was before Tony Ward had reentered her life, delivering a whole bunch of ugly baggage with “Izzy Mendoza” written on the ID tags.

Tony pulled out onto the two-lane county highway, leaving behind the one-horse operation of a broadcast studio. It was…quaint, just a small building with a pleasant,
homey feel about the rooms that were bright with windows overlooking cornfields and blue sky. The requisite towers and satellite dishes were in a small clearing across the blacktop drive that widened enough for a handful of cars to park.

It had been a kick to hear Izzy's voice sing out across the rustling corn. She had a beautiful voice, whether whispering or fussing at him in Spanish or singing.


Hmm. Did she sing? He felt a distinct notion that she did. Not that he remembered specific incidents…Beyond visiting her grandmother in central Mexico, his past with her remained a memory of impressions. Intense, but just impressions.

Like holding her hand.

Or passionate discussions about…politics…journalism…religion. Religion? They went to church with her

Laughing with her.

Convincing her to move in with him. The apartment on Linden. That last semester he had ended up in a one-bedroom, his roommates dropping out or graduating.

Why couldn't he remember clearly? Brushing her cheek just now with a kiss had been an automatic farewell. As if he had done it all the time. It was a kiss between friends, as if their living together had gone a step beyond physical intimacy, as if they truly cared for each other.

Whoa. That was a scary thought. Was
what had separated them in the end? He couldn't remember why or how they split, but at 26 he would have been a blur on the horizon at the first sign of a truly caring relationship. He had a shot at writing for the
and he was not about to let anything like a college girl distract him from his goal to be the best reporter that ever walked Michigan Avenue.

That could explain her anger, although seven years seemed like an awfully long time to hold a grudge. Especially since she was into forgiveness.

Well, it would be a trip to delve into her psyche. She and Brady professed a faith that was a sham. Why had they fallen for it?

“Speaking of trips,” he spoke aloud and reached for his cell phone. Hopefully his travel agent could book him a seat on the red-eye to Los Angeles that night. He'd track down Nicole Frazell tomorrow, get her version of the Brady Olafsson broken engagement, catch the red-eye back, and be in the office on Monday. Piece of cake.

Cal strode across his and Isabel's adjacent backyards and entered her screened-in porch. He knocked on the kitchen door. When he heard nothing, he pounded a couple of times.

“Hold your horses, Cal!” Her voice carried through the open windows from somewhere inside the house. Two minutes later she opened the door, her hair wrapped turban style in a bright purple towel. She wore a scruffy “3-on-3” blue T-shirt and jeans. “What?”

“How many times have I told you to keep your porch locked?”

She folded her arms and tapped a bare foot.

He blew out a frustrated breath. That wasn't the fight he meant to pick. “Can we talk a minute?”

She took a moment before answering, her thoughts evidently elsewhere. “Sure. Come on in.”

He stepped up into her kitchen and went to the table, taking notice of the full coffeepot and glass jar of cookies. “Truce?”

“I didn't know we were at war.”

“Come on, Mendoza. You've never answered the door and snapped ‘What?' at me like that before.”

She bit her lip. “You just want some good coffee.”

He grinned. “And a cookie.”

She poured him a mugful and set it on the table with the cookie jar. “Excuse me a minute.”

Cal always liked stopping in at Isabel's. Her comfortable rented house always smelled good, usually with the scent of fresh coffee and fresh-baked cookies. She wasn't all sugar-and-spice femininity, though. The thing about Isabel was you could talk to her almost the same as to a guy. It probably had something to do with her having four brothers.

She came back, her hair combed and hanging damp. She poured herself a cup and sat down across from him. “I'm sorry I snapped.”

“No problem. Great coffee.” He was tiptoeing. He hated tiptoeing. “Look, I don't want to disturb you again by talking about Tony Ward—”

“It doesn't disturb me to talk about him!”

Now that is a convincing tone.

“I was just tired the other night. And besides, I told you everything I know.”

Well, she had been avoiding him, but he wasn't going to go into that at this point. “I spent the morning on the Internet. Do you know anything about his sister?”

She sipped her coffee and gazed toward the window above the sink. “I never met his family. He mentioned a younger sister.”

“She died. About two years ago.”

Isabel's eyes swiveled back to him. “Died? What happened?”

“She was a missionary in Colombia. The way I read it, some guerillas didn't like Christian visitors.”

“She was

He nodded, watching the implications sink into her awareness before he said, “He's out to crucify Brady.”

“Cal, you don't know that. Maybe he's searching for the real truth.”

“You're thinking like a girl, Mendoza.”

She scrunched her nose at him.

“Did you know he was nominated for a Pulitzer this year?”

“A Pulitzer? You're kidding!”

“Investigative reporting. He exposed some scam an insurance group was running that involved laundered drug money.”

Isabel walked to the sink and stared out the window. “But Brady's just Brady, Cal. He's authentic. He has no skeletons in the closet. Tony can't hurt him.”

“The likes of Tony Ward can hurt anybody. Why do you suppose he didn't interview me? He interviewed half the town, but not his subject's best friend.”

BOOK: After All These Years
7.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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