Authors: Patricia H. Rushford
Copyright Â© 1993 by Patricia Rushford
First e-book edition published in 2014 by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
All rights reserved
Dedicated to Kathryn, Jamie, and Michael
PATRICIA RUSHFORD is an award-winning writer, speaker, and teacher who has published fourteen books and numerous articles, including
What Kids Need Most in a Mom
and her first young adult novel,
. She is a registered nurse and has a master's degree in counseling from Western Evangelical Seminary. She and her husband, Ron, live in Washington State and have two grown children, six grandchildren, and lots of nephews and nieces.
Pat has been reading mysteries for as long as she can remember and is delighted to be writing a series of her own. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and Director of the Oregon Association of Christian Writers Conference.
“A bomb threat?” Jennie stared open-mouthed at her grandmother. The authorities had delayed their flight to Orlando, Florida, Jennie's sixteenth birthday present from Gram, and had just told them why. “But whoÂ â¦” She stopped and swallowed back the fear rising to her throat. Memories of the kidnaping and the stolen diamonds flashed through Jennie's mind like a slide show.
“No,” Helen McGrady said, answering her granddaughter's unspoken question. “It's over, Jennie. They can't hurt us anymore.” She paused and frowned, pushing a lock of her salt-and-pepper hair from her forehead.
“But what if they escaped?” Jennie squeaked.
“You're really frightened, aren't you? Tell you what. I'll go talk with the police handling the investigation into the bomb threat and see what I can find out.”
Jennie shuddered. If they'd gotten looseÂ â¦Â
Stop it, McGrady
, Jennie chided herself.
There's no point in panicking. Besides, Gram's probably right. It's over.
She uncrossed her long legs and shifted in her chair. Her legs were falling asleep from the pressure of the sleeping child that lay across them.
“NoÂ â¦” Nick whimpered and grabbed her around the neck. Jennie's five-year-old brother had been literally attached to her for the last two weeks. Separation anxiety. That's what Mom had called Nick's behavior. Jennie thought he'd been acting like a spoiled brat. But she loved him.
“Shush. I'm not leaving yet.” Jennie sighed. “I just have to walk around.” Except for occasional trips to the bathroom, they'd been sitting in the terminal at the airport in Portland, Oregon, for nearly two hours.
“Mom,” Jennie leaned toward the auburn-haired woman who'd just returned from the rest room and taken a seat beside Jennie. “Can't you do something with him?”
Susan smiled. “Be patient with him, honey. He adores you. He missed you a lot that week you were gone.”
“I know. But what's going to happen when I have to board the plane?”
“I'm going along,” Nick announced. “I fixed it so you have to take me.”
“You can't go,” Jennie said.
“Yes I can.” Nick looked entirely too pleased with himself. “I put Coco and my blanket in your suitcase and I can't sleep without âem so you have to take me with you.”
Jennie and Mom looked at each other and groaned. Coco was Nick's teddy bear. “Maybe I can intercept the luggage.” Her mother stood and went in search of an airline attendant.
Nick snuggled into her lap again and rested his head on her chest. Jennie stroked his dark, wavy hair and tried to shrug off the enveloping guilt. Nick's anxiety over her leaving again had been her fault. She should have spent more time with him before she'd gone to Gram's. But Nick had seemed so attached to Michael, Mom's boyfriend, she didn't think he'd even notice she was gone.
Truth was, Jennie had been so upset with her mother and so intent on getting rid of Michael, she hadn't thought much about Nick at all. She was still upset. She did not want Mom to marry Michael Rhodes. Even if Dad had been missing for five years, and even if Michael was a nice guy, Mom had no business getting engaged. Well, maybe she did have a right, butÂ â¦
Jennie sighed. Life could be so complicated.
, Jennie told herself.
It'll all work out. By the end of this summer you'll have found Dad and everything will be okay.
Gram slipped into the seat Mom had just vacated. “I just talked with the police chief, and he assured me that all of his prisoners are safely behind bars.”
“It wouldn't be someone after you, would it?” Jennie asked, thinking about her grandmother's career. Gram was an ex-police officer, who now worked as a full-time writer. She also worked undercover for the FBI. Gram's friend in the Bureau, Jason Bradley, otherwise known as J. B., had assured Jennie that while Gram ran occasional errands for them, she wasn't actually an agent. But after watching Gram in action, Jennie suspected her grandmother's involvement with the FBI went considerably deeper.
Gram shook her head. “The airline official in charge said they hadn't found a bomb. The caller may have wanted to keep someone from taking the flight, but I suspect it was just a prank. They've gotten several lately.” Jennie looked in awe at her grandmother. Gram seemed to know everything, and what she didn't know she could find out.
“So what happens now?”
“They'll have another plane ready in about an hour.”
“An hour?” Jennie moaned and rubbed her backside.
“I can't stand it.” She set Nick on the floor in front of her and stood. As she took a step forward he wrapped his arms around her leg. “C'mon, Nick, give me a break. Why don't you sit with Gram for a few minutes so I can go to the bathroom and get something to drink.”
“Nope. I'm coming with you.”
Jennie sighed. “Okay, let's go find Lisa and see if she wants to come too.” Nick clasped her outstretched hand and skipped along beside her.
She located her cousin in the adjoining waiting area, talking to a cute guy in a naval uniform.
“Hi,” Lisa called as Jennie approached, waving her over so she could introduce her new friend, Robert, from Texas.
His plane was about to take off so the two quickly exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. Robert disappeared down the ramp, and Lisa linked her arm in Jennie's and pulled her down the concourse.
“Wasn't he a doll?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Jennie replied. “I guess.”
“Don't sound so enthused,” she joked.
“I just don't get it, Lisa,” Jennie shook her head. “How can you even think about liking another guy when you're going out with Brad?”
Lisa smiled and shrugged. “Ease off, Jen, you know I don't want to get really serious with a guy right now. Besides, it's not like I'm engaged to Brad or anything.”
“I know, but I don't understand how you can be in love with one guy and be attracted to another at the same time.”
Lisa gave her a knowing smile and tossed back her copper curls. “It's Ryan, isn't it? I thought that about my first boyfriend too. But, after a while, you get tired of each other. You'll see. You think you've found true love with Ryan, butÂ â¦Â well, face it, Jennie, guys are, you know, guys. I'll bet he's up in an igloo right now rubbing noses with some snow princess.”
“Lisa, I can't believe you said that. Just because he hasn't asked me to go steady and had to break our date last nightÂ â¦” Jennie paused.
Wise up, McGrady
, Jennie's inner voice insisted,
Lisa could be right. What if Ryan is already tired of you?
Thinking about Ryan tied her stomach in a bazillion knots. It still hurt. Ryan had called a week ago to say he was going fishing in Alaska for three weeks and wouldn't be there to see her offâor take her out the night before. Jennie didn't want to think about Ryan with his sandy blond hair, his tall muscular build, and his shy boyish grin. She didn't want to think about the way he'd kissed her.
Oh, for Pete's sake, McGrady, put a lid on it
! Jennie shook her head.
“You're right,” Lisa said, slinging an arm around Jennie's shoulder, which wasn't easy considering the fact that Jennie was nearly a foot taller than her petite cousin. “I'm sorry. I'm sure Ryan would be here if he could. Like you said, an opportunity to fish in Alaska doesn't come up often.”
“Hey, I'm thirsty.” Nick tugged on Jennie's belt, dragging her thoughts away from Ryan.
“Hi, Thirsty, I'm Jennie,” she teased, glad for the disruption. She took his hand and pumped it. “Nice to meet you. How'd you get a name like Thirsty?'”
Nick giggled. “It's not my name, silly. Now quit joking me and let's go get some juice.”
Not wanting to resume their conversation about Ryan, Jennie told Lisa what Gram had said about the bomb threat.
“Wow. That is so scary,” Lisa said as she took hold of Nick's other hand. “I mean, what if they missed it and there really is a bomb?”
“I guess that's why they're putting us on another plane.” The girls stopped talking as Nick raised his legs and swung between them.
“Swing me higher,” he pleaded. They swung Nick back and forth between them until they reached the snack bar. While Jennie and Lisa slowly made their way back to the waiting area, Nick surprised them by running ahead.
“Whew, I was beginning to wonder if he'd ever let go of me. I hope he doesn't have too hard a time with my leaving this time.”
“He won't.” Lisa took a sip of her drink. “My mom's taking Kurt to your house after his Little League game to sleep over tonight.” Kurt was Lisa's little brother. And Lisa's mom, Kate, was Jennie's auntâDad's twin sister. They had this complicated family where it seemed as if everyone was doubly related to everyone else.
“Everything will be fine,” Lisa assured. “So quit worrying and start thinking about all the gorgeous guys you're going to meet. I wish I could go along.”
“I wish you could too. But you know how Gram is. She likes taking one of us at a time. Besides, I'm the one who should be jealous. You get to go with Gram on a cruise for your birthday.”
“I know.” Lisa grinned. “I'm planning on meeting the man of my dreams.” She sighed and broke into a dance that reminded Jennie of Claire in
. Jennie rolled her eyes and grabbed Lisa's arm just as she was about to crash into a couple standing near the waiting area.
As they passed the couple, Jennie overheard something that brought her to an abrupt halt.
“Maggie,” the man pleaded, “please don't do this. What if that bomb scare was meant for Sarah?”
“Jennie?” Lisa had walked a few feet ahead and turned to look back. “WhatÂ â¦”
Jennie shushed her. “Did you hear that?” she whispered. “That guy thinks the bomb threat might have been meant for Sarah.”
“What guy, and who's Sarah?”
“The guy with the brownish hair and mustache. He's standing next to Maggie. She's the woman in the expensive denim jacket and designer cowboy boots. I don't know who Sarah is, but I'd like to find out.” Jennie pulled Lisa down into some chairs near the couple.
The woman, Maggie, must have been arguing with the guy because he took hold of her shoulders and said,
“Honestly, Maggie, sometimes I'd like to throttle you. You can be so stubborn.”
“Apparently it runs in the family.”
“Did it ever occur to you that Ramsey might not have killed John?”
“The police are satisfied.”
“The police have so much work, they're satisfied with just about anything that seems logical. Well, it doesn't seem logical to me. It never did.”
Maggie made a choking sound and fumbled in her pocket for a tissue. “Oh, Tim, we've been over this before. Don't you see, I need to put all that to rest. What matters now is getting Sarah well. And if this new therapy worksÂ â¦”
“If this works, she might rememberÂ â¦” Tim pulled Maggie into his arms. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. It's just that IÂ â¦Â well, you know how I feel about it. And you're probably right. I'm letting my imagination run wild. Just promise you'll call me if you see any change in Sarah. I want to be there.”
“Attention, please,” the ticket agent announced. “We'll be boarding flight 334 in just a few minutes. At this time we'd like those passengers who need assistance in boarding to come to the gate.”
“Darn.” Jennie watched as Tim and Maggie hurried into the waiting area. Maggie stepped up to a wheelchair and leaned toward it.
“Time to go, Sarah.” Another man with hair so blond it was almost white took hold of the wheelchair handles and turned it around, nearly running into Jennie, who'd positioned herself next to the group, hoping to learn more.
His light blue eyes met hers and crinkled at the corners in a smile. He apologized and quickly swung the chair in the direction of the gate, but not before Jennie got a good look at the girl sitting in it. So that was Sarah. A chill shuddered through Jennie. Sarah had a look in her eyes that Jennie had never seen beforeâa sort of hollow, vacant look, and something else she couldn't quite place. Fear?
The foursome stopped near the ticket agent. Tim stooped to kiss Sarah's cheek, then gave Maggie another hug. “Don't forget to call.”
The blond man patted Sarah's hair and kissed her cheek. “Get well, Princess,” he said as he straightened. He pulled Maggie into his arms and kissed her on the lips. “I wish I could come with you today, but my clientsÂ â¦”
“They need you. Besides, it'll only be a few days. We'll manage until you get there.” Maggie kissed him again, turned and walked with Sarah into the tunnel.
Based on the kiss, she decided Maggie and the blond man must have been married, and Tim? Maybe he was a brother or something. As she watched the men move out of the gate area and down the concourse, Jennie had an uneasy feeling about them. The chill she'd felt earlier settled into a ton of questions that sat in the pit of her stomach like lump of undigested food.
Before Jennie had a chance to consider what she'd just witnessed, Gram put a hand on her shoulder. “It's time to go.”
Jennie turned toward her mom and Nick. Mom, of course, was crying. “You have a wonderful vacation, and be careful. Call me. And try to keep your grandmother out of trouble, will you?” She said it in a teasing way, but Jennie knew she was halfway serious.
“I will, Mom. And don't look so worried. We'll only be gone a couple of weeks.”
Mom sniffed. Gram hugged her. “Don't you worry about a thing, Susan. We'll be fine. As I told you before, we're just going to do some research on dolphins for a series of articles I'm writing.”
Lisa embraced Jennie and Gram in a group hug. Gram reached for Nick. “You don't have to hug me, Gram,” he announced. “I'm going with you guys.”
Jennie picked him up and held him close. “Sorry, pumpkin. You have to stay home this time.”
“No, I'm going. I have to. Coco and my blankyÂ â¦”
“Jennie will mail them as soon as she gets there,” Mom told him, then to Jennie said, “I couldn't intercept them. Federal Express them the minute you get to the hotel.”
“I will. I'll be back before you know it, Nick.” Jennie tried to hand him over to Mom, but Nick had a strangleÂhold on Jennie's neck. “I'll bring you back all kinds of neat pictures, and I'll tell you all about the trip.”
“No!” Nick screamed in Jennie's ear. Mom reached up and they managed to untangle Nick's arms and legs. From the way he was kicking, Mom's legs would be black and blue by morning.
“You two better go before your plane leaves without you,” Mom said. “He'll be okay.” Nick had now attached himself to Mom and was sobbing inconsolably into her shoulder.
“Do you really think he'll be all right, Gram?” Jennie asked as they made their way down the ramp. “I've never seen him this upset.”
“He'll be just fine. I'll bet by the time we get seated, he'll be standing at the window waving goodbye.”
Jennie smiled. If Gram wasn't worried about Nick, she wouldn't be either. As they stepped into the plane and made their way through the first-class seats, Jennie spotted Maggie and Sarah. Maybe she'd have an opportunity to talk to them during the flight, or during their layover in St. Louis, and find out why Tim thought the bomb threat had been meant for Sarah. Jennie followed Gram down the narrow aisle to their seats. Just about the time they'd stowed their carry-ons and squeezed into their seats, the person occupying the window Heat showed up so they had to shift and start the process all over again.
When the plane backed away from the terminal, Jennie leaned forward in her seat on the aisle to see if she could spot Nick. Gram had been right. He was waving. Jennie waved too, knowing he couldn't see her, but knowing too that Mom would tell him she was.
The woman seated next to Gram was a teacher, and she and Gram talked nonstop for the first hour and a half of the flight. Jennie tuned them out and tried to concentrate on her latest mystery book. The girl in the story had been kidnapped, and Jennie could identify all too well with her. When the meals came, Jennie took the opportunity to tell Gram about the conversation she'd overheard.
“Oh, I wouldn't worry about that,” Gram said as she tore open a package of trail mix she brought. “Bomb threats frighten people, and they start thinking about possibilities in their own lives. We did it, remember. The first thing we thought about was who would want to hurt us.”
“But they were talking about a murder.”
“Yes, well unfortunately, murders aren't that rare todayâespecially in Portland.”
Annoyed that Gram didn't find her discovery as enticing as she did, Jennie took a bite of what was supposed to a fiber bar, and grimaced. It tasted more like cardboard. Too hungry to fuss, she ate it anyway and washed it down with a ginger ale.
“It probably doesn't mean a thing,” Gram turned back to her. “But, just to satisfy your curiosity, why don't you see if you can talk to them?”
As soon as she finished her meal and the carts had vacated the aisle, Jennie slipped out of the seat. It felt good to stretch. Even though Gram had given her the outside seat, she felt like one big cramp. Jennie made her way to the bathroom located at the back of the first-class section.
While she used the facilities, Jennie rehearsed what she'd say to Maggie. Should she get right to the point? “Excuse me, but I overheard you talking about the bomb threat and a murder and was just curiousÂ â¦”
Get real, McGrady, an opening like that would probably get you ejected from the plane. Not a pleasant experience at twenty thousand feet.
Maybe you could just ask her about Sarah. “Excuse me,” she could say, “I couldn't help noticing that your daughter seems a little strange.”
Strange? Maybe you should forget it, McGrady. Ifs none of your business, and after this flight you'll probably never see them again anyway.
She wasn't sure why, but Jennie was more nervous than she'd been when she'd had to read her history report in front of the entire junior class. Her palms were sweating, and she felt as if a thousand butterflies were about to take off in her stomach. Jennie eased out of the cubicle and stepped into the first-class section.
“Can I help you?” Jennie whirled around and came face-to-face with a smiling flight attendant.
“IÂ â¦Â ahÂ â¦” The butterflies took off. “I was justÂ â¦”Jennie broke off as she noticed she was standing next to Maggie and Sarah's seats. They were both sound asleep. Jennie smiled back at the woman. “I was going to talk to Maggie and Sarah, but they're sleeping. Maybe I'll try later.”
The flight attendant nodded. “Do you want me to tell you when they wake up?”
“NoÂ â¦Â I'll catch them during the layover in St. Louis.” Jennie made her way back to her seat and folded her lanky body into her allotted space. “I think I'll design airplanes when I grow up,” she said to Gram. “The first thing I'll do is put in wide seats with lots of leg room.”
Gram, Jennie, and their seatmate talked for a while about developing the perfect airplane, and in what seemed like only a few minutes, the pilot announced their arrival in St. Louis.
By the time Jennie and Gram emerged from the tunnel, Maggie and Sarah had disappeared
. Give it up, McGrady
, Jennie told herself.
Think about Gram. You're here to spend time with her, not to try and solve another mystery. Besides, the last one should have cured you.
But it hadn't. Jennie had to admit that after the diamond caper, even though she had come close to losing her life, she was more into solving mysteries than ever.
Jennie resolved not to think any more about Maggie and Sarah. Instead she would concentrate on two thingsâtalking Gram into finding Dad and having a good time in Florida. Make that a