Kip and I left Galveston New Year’s Day and headed for Lake Livingston, which is about eighty miles north of Houston. Our friends, Molly and Cary headed for Rockport where they plan to spend the next few months away from the Indiana winter weather.
We weren’t able to get a spot at the beautiful Livingston State Park, but we found a KOA RV park right on the lake that’s really nice. When you look out our front window, it looks like we’re floating on the water. We’ve been having a good time relaxing and exploring with the dogs. We’ve also been eating like there’s no tomorrow. The weather is great, so we decided to stay until Monday.
Kip took this great close-up of me today…love it!
Below is a new chapter of the Living the dream story
“Where did you get that picture of Vanessa and me?” Alice asked. Edith Morris looked at the picture on the wall for a moment before quickly looking away.
“That can’t possibly be the two of you in the picture,” she said. “I picked that up at an estate sale years ago. The older one looks much like my daughter did at that age.”
“But Annette has really dark hair and skin,” Vanessa argued.
“I didn’t mean Annette. She looks like my other daughter. Now…You’ll find everything you need in the chest of drawers and closet. As you can see, your bathroom adjoins the bedroom. Get freshened up while I fix us a nice dinner.”
When Mrs. Morris left to go downstairs to the kitchen, the girls began to look through all the things that had been hung in the closet or carefully folded and placed in the drawers.
“It looks like they intend to keep us here for a while,” Vanessa said as she walked over to the picture. “I know this is us, Alice. I just know it. I remember those dresses.”
When Annette had driven to an area where she got cell service, she looked to see if she had received any messages. There was only one. It was from detective Stedman asking her to give him a call as soon as possible. She realized she needed to be on her game now. It had only been an hour since he’d called, which hopefully gave her time to get to her house before calling him back. It was important he didn’t become too suspicious.
Blake Stedman and Tom Black, who were FBI agents and friends of Jack Stein’s, were at Jack’s home. Kat was also there. All were trying to come up with clues that would help them find Jack’s two daughters who had disappeared the day before.
“It’s been almost two hours since I left that message for Annette.” Blake Stedman said. He was watching Jack pace back and forth. “I’m going over to her house.”
Before he got out the door his phone rang.
“Blake Stedman, here… Ms. Morris, I’ve been waiting to hear from you. Are you at home? It’s imperative that I speak with you as soon as possible…Okay, good. I’m on my way!”
“I’m going with you,” Jack said. Then he turned to me.
“If your hunch is right, Kat, then Annette very well might have something to do with the girls disappearance.”
I was not at all sure that my hunch as Jack called it would be nothing more than a wild goose chase. Annette would have needed to come up with a plan and put it into action pretty fast after the debacle at my house yesterday. This whole thing was beyond confusing.
“Jack,” Mr. Stedman said. “Tom and I will go. It sounds like our Ms. Morris is a little unstable and seeing you might keep her from talking.”
Jack nodded and the two agents left.
“Yes, Jack,” I said. “We need to figure out who the two men posing as Blake Stedman and Tom Black are. They assured me that Annette was harmless. And Jack, they were trying to convince me to stay with Truth or Consequences. They also said you had decided I should be the one who received the assignments from the directors.”
Jack sat down in a chair and put his head in his hands. “This is all my fault,” he said. “I made it well known that I have been unhappy with the way the assignments have been going. The team is falling apart. It’s been even more difficult since your mother died. Claire was losing faith in us. I wanted out. I’m sure those two guys posing as friends of mine were sending me a message through you. What did they look like, Kat? Can you remember anything more about them?”
Back at the cabin, the girls were seated at the table with a plate of food before them.
“Eat Jennifer, you are much too thin. And what is your name darling?” Mrs Morris was looking at little Alice.
“I’m Alice Stein, and that is my sister. Her name is not Jennifer, it’s Vanessa.”
Mrs. Morris grabbed the plates from the table and threw them into the sink. “Go to your room, Jennifer, and take your sniveling little friend with you. We’ll call her parents in the morning and tell them she’s not welcome here any longer.”
Vanessa and Alice stayed awake the whole long night. Several times, they were sure they heard Mrs. Morris outside of their door.
So far, our time in Galveston has been the best. A really fun couple from Lafayette, Indiana, who went to the University of Wyoming with Kip, met us here.
That’s another great thing about RVing. We’ve spent time with family and friends that we haven’t seen in years, and there is just something about being able to take your own living space with you that makes it more fun and relaxing. Plus you can take your pets with you.
Molly and Cary Cline are a real hoot. It’s been fun for me to listen to the two of them and Kip tell the “do you remember” stories. Between the three of them, they eventually get the story told. (Although the details seem a little contrived to me, it’s usually a pretty good story.) I have no worries that we’ll run out of things to talk about. We have a lot of years to catch up on.
So far, we have eaten at two of our favorite restaurants. On previous trips to Galveston, our friends, Ron and Barbara, introduced us to The Spot, and the Sunflower Cafe. They are both wonderful. The Sunflower rates right up there as far as the great connoisseur of bakery fare is concerned. Kip loves to stand in front of the display case and be amazed at the choices he has.
We also saw the Bishop’s Palace and shopped along the Strand.
While we were reminiscing and looking at all of the delicious baked goods, I decided I was going to treat everyone to Kip’s Grandma McNinch’s homemade cinnamon rolls. Breakfast at my house in the morning! I had brought all of the ingredients for the rolls with me, so we stopped at the store and bought some bacon and eggs to complete the menu. It would be fun to relax with our coffee and enjoy the sunshine we’re supposed to have.
I started to make the rolls and I realized I hadn’t brought any milk…no problem, I borrowed some from Molly. Then, I couldn’t find the yeast, or the special ingredient for the topping, and I have no idea where I put the brown sugar I was sure I had brought from home. When I looked in my spice drawer for the cinnamon, I couldn’t believe I didn’t have any.
Even if she did happen to have it, I didn’t want to borrow all of that from Molly, so I got Kip to take me as far as the Dollar General Store where I found everything but the yeast. I bought self rising flour, which made sense to me. I googled it on the way back to the park and found out you can’t substitute self rising flour for flour and yeast. Self rising flour is made with baking soda. I decided to ignore that little bit of information.
Grandma McNinch’s homemade cinnamon rolls have turned into Grandma MG’s homemade biscuits. Kip, Molly, and Cary might not like them, but in my world you must be flexible.
Either way, the sun is supposed to shine and it’s going to be another day in paradise.
When Annette’s mother got back with all the supplies, the four of them took off in Mrs. Morris’ SUV. They headed for the remote cabin her husband had built twenty years before. No one had been there in years until Annette went to check on it the week before. It needed a thorough cleaning, but it was built to last and had plenty of room for Mrs. Morris and Jack’s two daughters to live quite comfortably for as long as it would take for Annette to accomplish her goals.
“Where are you taking us?” Jack’s fourteen year old daughter, Vanessa, had a protective arm around her younger sister, Alice, who was quietly whimpering. They had looked for opportunities to get away from Annette and her mother, but so far, they had been closely guarded. Even now, they were both blindfolded.
“To a beautiful place,” Annette said. “You will love it. As soon as we get there, we’ll take the blindfolds off. I’ll be leaving you two and Mother there while I take care of some business.”
“Are you going to tell our daddy where we are?” Alice asked.
Annette laughed. “Oh no,” she said. “Quite the contrary. Jack will be convinced I had nothing to do with your disappearance.”
“Here we are,” Mrs. Morris said. “We had better hurry and unload the car so you can get back home, Annette.”
Both girls began to whimper as Annette and her mother, Edith, led them to the cabin. “I guess we can remove their blindfolds now,” Edith said. “They have no idea where we are and no way to get in touch with anyone.”
as soon as they had unpacked all of the supplies. Mrs. Morris showed the girls to their room. “Stay here until I call you for supper,” she said. “And stop whimpering. We could be here a while, and I refuse to listen to that the whole time.
Later, when Edith Morris came to their room to tell them supper was ready, Alice pointed to a picture on the wall and said, “That picture is of Vanessa and me when we were little. Where did you get it?”
******** I hope you and your families had a Merry Christmas. I appologize for my last blog. A whole paragraph was left out and a couple of errors were not showing as corrected. I hope you were able to inderstand it. The blog is switching back and forth between programs and I’m not used to writing, correcting or saving, on the newer one yet. Please bear with me…thanks!
The morning after I received the visit from the two FBI agents, I decided I needed to discuss all of this with Jack. After trying several times to reach him by phone, I finally drove to his house, hoping I could catch him in.
I was about to ring the doorbell when he pulled into the driveway. He jumped out of the car, but he was on his phone so he didn’t see me until he was almost to the door.
“I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW!” He yelled into the phone. I’ve looked everywhere and called everyone I can think of and it’s as though they’ve vanished into thin air. Yes…please send someone over. I’ll remain here. Tell them to hurry.”
“Jack…what’s wrong? What has happened?”
The girls have disappeared. I dropped them off at school yesterday morning, but they never got on the bus to come home. I’ve checked with their teachers to confirm they were in all of their classes, so something happened in the brief period of time between the end of the school day and getting on that bus. Mrs. Martin called me to tell me they didn’t come home.
“Oh Jack, what can I do?”
“Let’s go inside, Kat. The police are looking, too. They’re sending a detective over soon. You can wait with me. Where could they be, Kat? Where are my little girls?”
I had never seen Jack like this. Vanessa and Alice were is world and I could tell he felt helpless.
Soon, a car pulled into the drive and two men came to the door. “I’m so relieved they sent you two,” Jack said. “Kat, meet Blake Stedman and Tom Black. The three of us go back a long way.”
“But this can’t be,” I said. “Two FBI agents came to my house last night. They had badges and their names were Blake Stedman and Tom Black. They most definitely were not the two of you.”
“What?” Jack looked even more alarmed…and confused. “Kat, I’ve known these guys for years and why would the FBI come to see you, anyway?”
“We’ll deal with it later, Jack,” the new detective Stedman said. “What can you tell us about Vanessa and Alice’s disappearance?”
Jack relayed what he knew which was basically nothing.
“I’ve been up all night driving around looking, and making phone calls. They would never do something like this to me on a whim. Something has happened to them.”
A thought occurred to me. “Jack, when I got home, yesterday, Annette was there with a man named Carl Drake. She had a gun with her and she was acting very strangely. Those detectives told me she was no longer part of the team and Carl Drake was back in jail. Is it too far fetched to think they may have something to do with the girls’ disappearance?
“I wonder how dear old dad is doing without his little darlings,” Annette said. “I’m sure he’s half crazed by now.”
“Please Miss Morris,” Vanessa begged. “Let us call our daddy.”
“NO! My mother will be here soon with some clothes and other things you’ll be needing on your trip. She’s taking you to the mountains. You’ll love the cabin. It’s beautiful.”
“Come in,” I said to the two men at the door. “You’re FBI investigators?”
“Yes, Mam,” said the man who had introduced himself as Blake Stedman. “We’ll try not to keep you long, but we’re hoping we can clarify some things for you.”
“Please sit down, gentlemen. Can I get you some coffee or tea?”
“We’re fine, thank you.” Again it was Blake Stedman who spoke. I noticed the second guy took out a notepad and pen.
“What is this about?” I couldn’t wait to hear the answer to that one. What else could go wrong, today?
“We understand you have been working with the team originally put together by your late mother, Claire Spencer. We also know you have concerns about the trustworthiness of some of your teammates.
“I would really like to know what the FBI has to do with this, but I would like to say something first. May I speak frankly?”
“Of course. We are quite aware of the Truth or Consequences project and the good work it has done in the past. We are also aware of the present discord among some of the members. We have a vested interest in the project, but we are not the directors. Ms. Spencer, we know you have been treated unfairly.”
I didn’t know where to begin, but I took a deep breath and didn’t hold back.
“I had not seen or heard from my mother since the day I graduated from college. All these years later, I get word from her that she has deeded her property, this house, to me. She asked that she and Stella remain here until after Thanksgiving. When I arrived, I found my mother was quite ill. She had planned a big Thanksgiving party and wanted me to host it. She went to her home in Seattle so ‘the team’ wouldn’t know the extent of her illness. Sometime later, she asked Jack Stein to bring me to her. She died a few days later. By that time we were in the throws of a project assignment. I believed it had a successful outcome, but right after that, I noticed there were cracks in the dam. Here are my concerns. My mother questioned where Jack’s loyalties lie. I overheard disturbing conversations concerning Jack and Annette.
Tonight, I came home to Annette with a gun, accompanied by a man who had been posing as my housekeeper’s piano teacher. Apparently he has a vendetta against the group. I told them all I want out. There is nothing any of them or the FBI can do to change my mind.”
“I understand, Ms. Spencer. I would just ask that you hear me out before you make that decision.”
“I will, but only out of curiosity,” I said.
“None of members of project T or C will ever know who makes the assignments. Although the FBI plays a roll, we know nothing about where the assignments originate. We only know the directors operate with authority. Your mother was already doing good work with a good team when the assignments began coming to her. Each case has been a humanitarian success, however it has not gone unnoticed that Annette Morris has acted inappropriately, recently. She has become somewhat of a rogue operator. She tracked down Carl Drake and asked him to persue the job of giving your Stella piano lessons. He was really here to spy on you. His other crimes are very serious, but not violent. Mr. Drake is back in jail and Annette Morris is out of the group. A decision made by those who make the assignments and have the ultimate responsibility for the team. You can be assured Ms. Morris will not fight this and her position will be filled by someone who has been properly vetted.”
The two men got up to leave.
“One other thing you should know…Mr. Stein has agreed that you be the one to be approached with the assignments. Please consider all that I have told you. We’ll be in touch tomorrow to answer any questions you might have before you make a final decision. We’ll see ouselves out. Enjoy your evening. Ms. Spencer.
I made sure Stella was okay before I went upstairs and got ready for bed. I slept rather fitfully. One minute I was actually thinking about doing what my mother had hoped I would, and the next minute I came up with a thousand reasons not to.
In the morning I called Jack. I had to know if I could really trust him.