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Authors: Traci Tyne Hilton

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BOOK: Good, Clean Murder
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“Short term. Am I
picking up a theme here?”

“Can I help it if
I don’t want to send you away forever? I did just meet you, after all.” Isaac
stopped in front of the Summer Institute of Language/Wycliffe table. “Ever
considered translation work?”

“No, I’m mostly
interested in Evangelism.”

The Church bell
rang. According to the schedule this was the signal to go to Chapel for the
morning keynote speaker. Isaac stood still, his arm around her shoulder, as the
students flowed out of the room around them. “You didn’t want to hear the
keynote, did you? It’s the director of YMA. You know, the short term people.”

Jane rolled her
eyes and laughed. “Maybe I could skip this one.”

“I wouldn’t want
to waste your time on something that wasn’t a lifelong commitment after all.”
He grinned. “Where can two people go for a quiet conversation around here?”

Jane stepped out
from under his arm. “This way, to the library.”

The Bible school
library was a small room filled with donated biographies and commentaries. The
dusty, almost vanilla, smell of old books greeted them as Jane opened the door.
She sat at the library table. Isaac straddled a chair across from her.

“Okay, I’m just
going to lay this out there. Missions work, in the end, is like any other job.
You either need experience or skills.”

“And that’s what
my time at Harvest was for.” Jane folded the corner of her schedule back and
forth.

“That’s what you
intended it for, but it’s not enough. I know, you want it to be enough, but I
think if you are serious about missions you need to consider short-term work.”

“I went on
short-term trips in high school. I don’t want to go backwards when I could
spend my time learning the language and the culture. It will take a long time
to be fluent enough to preach in a 10/40 language. Wouldn’t more short-term
stuff just waste time?” The corner of the paper ripped off in Jane’s hand. She
rolled it into a ball between her thumb and finger.

“Untried
missionaries waste time too. High school missions trips are equal parts helping
the teenagers grow up and helping the community they travel to. What if you got
to your dream closed country and you just weren’t up to it?”

Jane pressed the
ball of paper until it was tiny and hard. “Do I look like I wouldn’t be up to
it?”

“Couldn’t say
until you try. You keep saying ‘short-term,’ but a full year immersed in a new
culture won’t feel short. I think missionaries need to try it before they throw
themselves into a dangerous field.”

“And I think they
don’t. So one of us is wrong.” Jane pressed the small paper ball onto the
table. When she picked her finger up again it stuck. She looked at the small
white dot pressed into her fingertip. It wasn’t what she had anticipated when
she took out her nervous energy on the paper, but it was what happened. She
turned her finger over before she made too much of it. She couldn’t always
predict results, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t sometimes predict them, when
given enough information.

“Yup. One of us is
wrong.” Isaac was still grinning, basically from ear to ear. His happiness, in
spite of her saying he was wrong, was infectious and she found herself smiling
again. “That’s more like it. They call this a Missions
Fair
,
after
all. Not a Missions Gauntlet.”

“Maybe they just
named it wrong.”

“From the crowd in
the other room, it sure felt like it! Where are you going next?” Isaac pulled
the abused schedule from Jane.

“What
long-term
organization is hosting a break-out session?”

Isaac laughed.
“You could sit in with Pioneers. You’d like them.”

“I do like them,”
Jane said. “Are you coming?”

“Wish I could.
I’ve got to get back to my school. Seminary waits for no man.” Isaac stood up.

“I’ll walk you to
your car?” Jane stood up as well.

“Please do.” Isaac
opened the library door for her. “Take good notes today and show me after class
on Monday.”

“Will I get extra
credit?” Jane looked up at him from lowered eyelids.

“Ha! You know, for
a second there I kind of forgot you were the student and not another
instructor.” They were at his car. He picked up her hand and squeezed it. “See
you Monday?”

Jane nodded,
smiling. He forgot she was a student. That was definitely a good sign. In fact,
she felt pretty sure he was interested in her, a novel twist to the end of her
Bible school era. With that happy thought she went back to the missions fair.
If she kept her heart open to God’s plans, she couldn’t help but succeed.

 

Monday morning came even though Jane
had hoped that it wouldn’t. The Missions Fair had left her head swimming with
contradictory ideas. Go, right after graduation, with a short-term organization
and get tons of experience fast. Stay, and learn a trade that she could take
with her as a tentmaker. Go, right away, and serve while she still had her
verve and energy, before she got tied down by life at home. Stay until she had
developed the wisdom and maturity she would need to have a life-long career
overseas. And above all else, serve your current calling faithfully, because
those who are faithful with the small things will be blessed with more opportunity
and responsibility.

Jane had peeled
herself out of bed an extra fifteen minutes early just to have some time alone
in the kitchen. She tried to turn off her whirling thoughts so she could focus
on serving the Crawfords faithfully. She had slipped in and out of church on
Sunday, trying to go unnoticed. She didn’t want to have to attempt to summarize
her missions fair experience in casual conversation with friends. It was much
too soon.

Jane shut the door
to the kitchen in the hopes that the rich aroma of fresh coffee wouldn’t travel
upstairs to wake up the rest of the household. Over a breakfast of leftover
cinnamon rolls and cold cuts, Jane watched the morning news on the little
kitchen TV. The Human Liberation Party was picketing a Roly Burger, blaming the
animal fats for the deaths of the Crawfords and for the obesity epidemic in America.
It was a long shot since the Roly Burger Franchise hadn’t spread East of Idaho
yet.

The reporter held
a microphone up to a skinny, leathery woman with feathers hanging from her
ears. “We were promised these temples of human depravity would be closed and we
demand they be closed!” Her blue eyes looked huge in her skeletal face. The
text running under her picture read, “Rose of Sharon Willis, local head of the
HLP.”

“What does
Help
plan to do to force the Crawford family into keeping their promises?” The
reporter asked. The reporter was about twenty-five. She had shellacked black
hair and a face that looked like her skin and lips and eyelashes were made of
plastic. Jane was fascinated by how the reporter could speak without appearing
to move. She was also aggravated by the way the reporter assumed the HLP (or
Help, as they were called locally) was correctly reporting the Roly Burger
situation.

“Help will Help!”
The crowd behind “Rose of Sharon” were chanting.

Rose of Sharon
glowered over her microphone. “We shall overcome!” she shouted.

Non-answers like
these drove Jane crazy. Were Rose of Sharon, or HLP making a real threat? Were
they planning to keep protesting? To do a sit-in? To vandalize? Their current
activity plus several local “unsolved” cases of vandalism at fast food
restaurants indicated each of these were a possibility.

“Is there a
message that Help wants to send to the people of Portland and the Crawford family
right now?”

“The Crawfords may
be dead, but their legacy of crimes against humanity live on in these corrupt
places and Help won’t stand for it. Today we picket—tomorrow we conquer!”

The plastic faced
reporter turned to the camera. “Back to you, Francis.”

The TV flipped
back to the news desk. “We’ll keep you updated with the latest as the Human
Liberation Party enacts their policy of forcing businesses known to harm the
health of the citizens to shutter their doors.” The newsman shuffled his papers
and smiled into the camera as the TV turned to a commercial for toaster
strudels.

Jane turned it
off. She should know better than to watch television news. The Roly Burger
location that was being picketed was not too far out of the way on her drive to
the Larson’s house, which she had to clean today. If nothing came up before she
had to leave she’d drive past it to see how long HLP’s picketing energy had
lasted.

Jane rinsed the
crumbs from her plate and racked it in the dishwasher. She could hear Marjory
coming down the hall.

“Good morning.”
Marjory didn’t sound happy, per se, but she didn’t sound angry either. Jane
pulled a stool up to the kitchen island and sat down.

“I’ve been going
through all of Bob and Pamela’s papers and came across this.” Marjory slid an
enveloped marked “March Housekeeping” across the table. “According to their
Quicken records they pulled this cash out for you the night before they died.”

Jane stared at the
envelope.

“I’m sorry you had
to wait so long for your pay.” Marjory cleared her throat.

Jane looked up.
Tears brimmed Marjory Crawford’s eyes.

Marjory slid
another piece of paper across the granite. “We’ll be having the reception at
the house, right after the memorial service. I’ve made the list of jobs that
need to be done.” Marjory laid another envelope on top of this list. “I expect
it won’t take you more than fifteen hours to get through this list. I calculate
that this would be half down, as per your request.”

Jane stared at the
pile accumulating before her. It looked like it would be enough money for
everything she needed, plus some.

“Do you have time
in your schedule to fit in fifteen hours of work if the memorial is Saturday
afternoon with the reception following?”

Jane nodded.
Saturday was six days away. She could make it happen.

Marjory stared
over Jane’s shoulders as she spoke. She appeared distracted and tired. “I
should say, four of those fifteen hours are for setup, service and cleaning
after the reception.”

Jane nodded. That
meant she had to fit fewer hours of cleaning into her regular schedule. That
would be more than fine.

Marjory pulled her
eyes back to Jane. “Saturday will be formal. Please wear black.”

Saturday. Jane’s
heart sunk. She had a date for Saturday night. She’d have to call Isaac. She
had his number on her phone now. Or maybe she could text him. Was that too
impersonal? She couldn’t remember. In the three years since she’d left high
school behind her she hadn’t dated at all. Did she text to reschedule to show
that it was a casual thing and not any kind of drama, or did she call to show
that she still really, really, wanted the date but the change couldn’t be
helped?

“I’m sorry.”
Marjory was shaking her head. “I’m at sixes and sevens today. I really am. This
is all for Saturday in two weeks. Make a list and leave it on the desk in the
office if you are going to need anything from me.” Marjory left the kitchen
without waiting for a reply.

Jane stared at the
small stack of papers in front of her. Money. Lots of money. And she could
still make her date. She was glad she was sitting down. If she hadn’t been she
might just have fainted.

On the way to the
Larson house, Jane drove to the bank to deposit her windfall.

She was back to
the Crawford kitchen by lunch. She had driven past the protest on her way home.
News helicopters were hovering over the scene and two television news vans were
parked out front, so it was hard to see anything. Perhaps that was HLP’s plan:
block all of the driveways so no customers could get in. The crowd of
protesters looked less impressive in person. There were about a dozen skinny,
dreadlocked hippies lounging on the sidewalk in front of the door. Jane was
flipping through the television channels to find the newest report on HLP, but
she figured they had assumed positions of fatigue to illustrate that they were
making a hunger strike. It was the same move they had played at the end of last
summer right before the last Pig-N-Pancake packed up and left town. At least a
hunger strike wasn’t destructive.

Before Jane could
find the station with the news, Jake and Fitch from building-and-maintenance
sauntered into the kitchen.

Jane straightened
up.

“At ease,” Jake
said.

“Can I get you all
anything?” Jane motioned to the refrigerator.

“Just coffee.
We’re having a business meeting, aren’t we Fitch?”

Fitch shrugged.
“You called. I came.”

“That’s right, I
called. We need to get those yahoos off of my property.”

Fitch raised an
eyebrow. Jane leaned against the sink, trying to be inconspicuous. Jake had
property? This was news to her.

“The courts always
decide with Help, Jake.” Fitch took a stool.

Jake pulled three
coffee cups out of the cupboard. He filled them, adding plenty of cream in one
and a dash of Irish Crème in another. He handed her the coffee with cream and
kept the coffee with liquor for himself.

Fitch accepted the
black coffee. “I mean it. We can’t make them leave. The police won’t touch them
after that last lawsuit.”

Jane took a sip of
her coffee. Just the way she liked it.

“You are right,
but you can do something.”

Fitch gestured
with the hand that held the coffee cup. Coffee sloshed onto the counter.

“Show a little
respect for Janey here.” Jake wiped the coffee spill with his shirtsleeve.

“Spell it out for
me, Jake. Pretend I’m the dumbest man in the business. Tell me exactly what you
think I can do.”

Jake snorted.
“Pretend?”

Jane blushed. Poor
Fitch. She had never heard her father call him dumb.

“Condemn my
building, building-and-maintenance man. Get the hippies off of my property.”

“Is that one
yours?” Jane asked.

“You can bet your
sweet bippy it is. I could care less about HLP, but they are standing there
talking nasty about my parents who aren’t even cold in their graves yet. I want
them gone.”

“Condemning
property doesn’t really work like that, and, um, you know, I just handle the
equipment and stuff.”

“If the restaurant
is full of rats they’d condemn it,” Jake said.

“I wouldn’t know.”
Fitch stared at his coffee cup.

“If you want your
business to keep running you don’t really want it overrun with rats.” Jane took
another drink of her coffee.
If Jake owned a Roly Burger of his own and he
didn’t want it to be shut down…was that a good motive?

“I don’t care if
the business runs, Jane. Dad was buying back all of the franchises so he could
shut them down. I’m good with or without the burgers, but HLP cannot spread
their filth all over my business while talking smack about my dead parents.”

“Your dad could
afford to buy back all of the franchises?” Jane’s hand shook. She set her
coffee cup down.

“Yes. We’re rich.
Bet your parents wish they had stayed in the game a little longer.”

Jane shook her
head. “I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.”

“The Adlers did
just fine in their deal,” Fitch said. His thin lips were pursed.
Had Fitch
done well too?
Jane wondered if building and maintenance paid as little as
managing fast food restaurants did.

“If you can’t
condemn it, what can you do?”

“I can.” Fitch
looked up and to the left. Jane watched him think with fascination. His mouth
moved in tiny subtle motions like he was sounding out his ideas before he spoke.
“I could order new equipment. Lots of big trucks to haul in and haul away.
They’d have to clear the property if I ordered enough.”

“Make it so.”

“It will be
expensive, and unnecessary.”

“We’re very, very
rich, Fitch. Money is no object, and I’m the one who decides what is necessary.
I want new everything from every vendor. Understand? I’m not selling my
franchise back to the family.”

“But I thought you
didn’t care…” Jane watched Jake. His thoughts didn’t play out on his face like Fitch’s
did, but his body spoke volumes. He stood with his chest out and his shoulders
squared, almost bouncing on his toes like he was about to take off on a fast
run. He wasn’t thinking—just taking action.

“That was five
minutes ago. Keep up.” Jake looked from Fitch to Jane and back again. “That’s
it. Make it so. You can reach me on my cell.” He turned back to Jane, “And you
know where you can reach me.” He winked. Then he bounded out of the dining
room.

“Well!” Jane said.

“No kidding.”

“Are you going to
do it?”

“Might as well. It
would clear out the protestors, and if Jake wants to keep running the business
he might as well have new equipment. That location was his graduation gift and
he hasn’t done much with it yet.”

Jane got a laptop
for her graduation. Jake got a restaurant. The Crawfords were really,
really
,
rich.

“So, I guess I’d
better get back to the office.” Fitch hesitated, sliding his cup back and forth
by an inch on the counter top. “Will your parents come up for the funeral?”

“I suppose so,”
she said. “I guess I’d better give them a call.”

Fitch nodded. “Say
hi for me.”

“Sure, I will.”

Fitch nodded again
and left.

Jane turned the TV
back on. She found a channel playing the news. She’d watch it while she had her
lunch just to see what else they had to say about HLP.

BOOK: Good, Clean Murder
12.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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