Stephanie stepped over and slipped her arm around her Mom's waist and pulled her into half a hug. "I just want to see you happy, and I hate to see you alone or lonely, especially when I'm gone. You are still a very good looking woman, and there is no reason you should be alone."
"Pffft! As if I need love advice from a starry-eyed teenage girl! Speaking of which, what about you and Justin?"
"Mom, I love him. If he asked me I'd marry him."
Mary put two cups of water into the microwave to heat for tea, a sure sign she wanted to talk. Neither was hungry, having picked up a sandwich on the way home. "Are you sure it isn't just a crush? As I remember you have had a crush on him for forever."
Stephanie sat down at one of the kitchen chairs and rested her arms on the table and thought for a moment before answering. "I know I used to have a crush on him, and I longed for any notice from him at all, and if he talked to me I was on cloud nine until he talked to another girl and then I was depressed, but now it's different. If anything it's stronger than before, except I don't worry if he talks to others, because I know he's mine, and he's mine because he wants to be. I knew I was falling for him before, but after the accident, when he showed me how much he really cared about me and took care of me, well, it just cemented things, and nothing can change it. Do you know he carried me up and down the stairs because I was sore? The first night I really needed it, but after that it was just nice not having to climb them when it hurt."
"I saw the way he treated his sister, and I was almost jealous, but then I got to thinking he treats her that way because he loves her, and he will do the same thing for me. I love the way he and his Mom get along, too. I've heard it said the way to tell how a guy will treat you is to see how he treats his mother. If that is true I'll be in good shape, and she will be a good mother-in-law."
Mary set the tea cups on the table along with a fresh lemon and pitcher of milk before sitting down with her daughter. "So you're planning your marriage already? Does Justin know it?"
Stephie laughed, "No. I'm not planning anything yet, just looking ahead a little bit. I wouldn't mind, though."
"Don't get in a hurry. Puppy love can lead to a dog's life, you know."
"I know. Before the wreck, well, that was puppy love, but since then it's gotten so much stronger and closer. How did you and Daddy know?"
"Oh my! That seems like a long time ago, but really it wasn't all that long. At first we couldn't stand each other, but over a period of time something happened and we just meshed. Neither of us planned it or tried to make it happen, but we just ended up together at different functions with our friends and things, and we were seated next to each other in three classes our Senior year, so we couldn't get away from each other. The next thing you know we got to really know each other and found our preconceived notions were all wrong. We realized we had strong feelings for each other before we even started dating, and it didn't take us long before we knew. We loved each other so much it hurt to be apart."
"If you had it all to do over again, knowing what you know now, would you go through it?"
"Oh yes! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I thought I would die when he was killed, but I had you, and I poured myself into taking care of you, and I made it. Even now there isn't a single day I don't think of him and miss him terribly."
"Mom, can I ask you something very personal?"
"Yes, my dear, you may. I think I know where you are going, but go ahead."
Steph looked down at her hands intertwined on the tabletop before looking up, blushing. "You and Daddy, did you wait until you were married?"
Mary blushed also, and also looked down at her hands before looking back up and looking her daughter in the eye. "No, honey, we didn't. I'm not saying it was right, or that you should give yourself away before you marry, but no, we didn't wait. We knew we were going to marry, and I never had anyone else but him, well before Paul, that is." Mary shook her head in disgust at that thought. "Is he pressing you for sex?"
"Oh no, Mom! Not at all. Justin is a gentleman, but I think about it all the time, and . . . . "
Mary reached across the table and placed her hand on her daughter's. "I'm not giving you permission, mind you, but I understand if you do. Just be very, very sure. It isn't something you can give away more than once, and you can be hurt very badly if it doesn't work out between you two."
Steph nodded solemnly. "Thanks, Mom. Thanks for being honest with me."
"Honey, I'll always be honest with you!"
"I know. That's what I really love about you. Some of the girls at school don't have a Mom as cool as you, and they don't have anyone to talk with about things. I'm lucky!" Steph lifted her mom's hand to her cheek and hugged it to her. "I really hope you and Dr. Meechum get together. I think he's cool!"
"Stephanie!" Steph just laughed at her mom and jumped up from the table and ran upstairs to her room giggling the whole way while Mary shook her head, but the thought of Tom Meechum was firmly planted in her mind.
Rosemary and I hurried into the house when we got back. Both of us were excited to find the missing door. I went through the first floor door and up the ladder to the second floor where I turned on the floodlight and began searching. Not only could I not identify the door itself, I had trouble finding the release! Whoever built this was indeed a master craftsman! I haven't seen this level of workmanship anywhere else. I examined all of the plank ends on the side of the hatch to no avail. Just as I was about to give up and decide the house was different than the carriage house I looked at the adjacent side, behind the ladder, and there it was. Once again, it was not where we expected it.
I called Rosemary on her cell and told her to switch rooms and waited for her to get into the right place before I pulled on the latch. Surprise of all surprises, the door was a wall that had built in changing table in a little alcove changing area in one of the bedrooms. The door pivoted smoothly and silently on its pivot and I stepped into the room.
"Stephanie and I just changed rooms! I wondered how we were going to be able to get together with you without causing comments. Steph could get away with it, but I wasn't sure how it would work for me. Now we can have you whenever we want you!" She gave me a devilish grin. "You'd better eat your Wheaties or whatever you need to keep you going, big brother. Between the two of us you're going to need it!" She stepped into me and gave me a hug and a kiss. I knew right away she hadn't wasted time while I was looking for the latch release on the other side. Her bra had come off, and oh, did it feel nice!
"As much as I'd like to make this room mine, we'd better get down stairs and check out that passage if we are going to get it done before we have to go back."
I nodded agreement, but took time to spin Rosemary around and hug her from the back so I could get a good feel of her breasts and tweak her nipples first. She broke away from me giggling and walked over to the changing table and started looking for something that could work as a latch.
Each side wall had a wooden board with three pegs for hanging garments. I tried turning the pegs and pulling down on them, but nothing worked. The one on the left wall though released the door when I lifted upward on the pegs, pulling the bottom of the board up and out just a bit. I stepped through the door first and untied the floodlight and lowered it carefully to rest on the floor two levels below before climbing the ladder downward, with Rosemary right behind me.
Once down the ladder I picked up the light and led the way through the lower office as I had taken to thinking of it. Rosemary grabbed my hand as we started down the other passageway. We stopped and I showed her the two Southern Pacific chests that we expected to contain the $50,000 in gold coins.
I didn't think it would hurt to move the tarpaulins. This wasn't part of the crime scene as such, or so I told myself, but there was nothing else of interest in the alcove. We shone the light on down the passage, but all we could see was that it turned to the left in about ten feet. A heavy, very solid door faced us, with an iron bar across it padlocked securely in place.
Quickly, I pulled out my cell phone and punched in Grandpa's number. "Justin, what's up?"
"Hey Grandpa. Sorry to bug you right after you got home, but I wanted you to know what we found in the basement. Rosemary and I went down the other passageway, and found a heavy door with a big padlock on an iron bar holding it closed. I have an idea Sam Johnson has the key in his pocket or in the desk. Do we have to wait until tomorrow to check?"
"I'd like to know what's in there just as much as you would, but we have to follow procedure. We have an appointment with the Sheriff himself at 10:00 tomorrow. He'll have the photographer and a detective with him. I asked him to keep it quiet as possible, and to limit the number of people he brings, but he's a politician first, and a law officer second, so Lord only knows who all he'll bring! Any items in his pockets won't be needed, so we can get it then."
"OK, then. What time do you want me to pick you up in the morning?"
"You'd better be here no later than 6:00. Do you think you and Michael can make it that early?"
"Yes Sir," I said with a laugh. "That'll give us time to stop at Bill's for breakfast."
"You kids! All you think about is eating! Better make it 5:45, then. We want to be sure to have it set up the way we want before the Sheriff gets there. There's no point in letting anyone else know how to get in there."
"All right. We'll see you then." I turned to see Rosemary with a frown on her face.
"I want to be here, too. It's my house as well."
"Works for me. I don't know what Mom will say about it, though."
"I'll handle that part."
Michael called Susie when he was about half way back to Tucson just to touch base with her since he had not seen her all day, or Saturday either for that matter. "Hi there, Little One. What's going on with you today? I've missed you terribly!"
"Hi, Mikey! Daddy and I have just been out running around in the Sprite. I'm trying to talk him into letting me take it to school next year, but I don't have him convinced yet. He says I'd just use it to try to pick up guys, but I told him there is only room for you in it."
"Good. Keep it that way. I had to run some errands up in Phoenix and had lunch with the folks. Mom says 'Hi.' I also picked up my tux for Friday. Say 'Hi' to your Dad for me, and you two have fun."
"Oh, we are. I'm glad Mommy doesn't like riding in this car, cause then I get to. We picked up some fudge up on Mt. Lemmon, and if you come by the house I'll let you have a piece, but you'd better hurry before I have it all gone."
"I'll be there for that. I wouldn't come by if you didn't have fudge, but . . . ."
"Michael Borden Thibodeaux! You'd better come by!"
Michael laughed, "Sure, I'll come by, but you'd better save me a piece. I'll see you in a little bit. Love you!"
"I love you, too, Mikey, and I told Daddy I do. You'd better watch out for his shotgun."
"Will do. See ya."
We had done about all we could do for the day other than find the outside entrance from the carriage house, but I was about ready for a break from things for a little while. After making certain everything was shipshape downstairs Rosemary and I started back up the ladder to go home. Rosemary was ahead of me, and as I looked up her ass certainly looked fine! She glanced down about the time I looked up and saw where I was looking and grinned at me as she wiggled it back and forth a bit.
"Like what you see, big brother?"
"You know that I do."
We carefully closed the door to what was now her room and made our way down the front stairs. Rosemary grabbed my hand as we descended. "You know I still like to pretend this is just our house, and that we live here together, just you and me." She sighed and leaned into me. "I know, I'm just a silly girl, but I'm a silly girl who happens to be in love with her brother, as awful as that sounds."
"I don't think it sounds awful at all. I love you, too. I wouldn't mind a bit living here with just you. You would grace a house like this very well!"
"Thank you. That was sweet." She stopped under the rose in the foyer and turned her face up to me for a kiss. "I still say this is better than mistletoe." Our kiss went from just a little peck on the lips to a deep tongue wrestling duel that left us panting and me hard in moments. She does that to me!
"Is this for me?" she asked as she stroked my cock. "I can think of several good things to do with it!"
"We don't have time. I would love to take you back upstairs and show you what you mean to me, but we have to get going."
Rosemary grabbed my hand and pulled me. "Come with me. It won't take long."
She led me into the library and over to the desk. "This time it's your turn!" Quickly she unsnapped my shorts and slipped them down. "Sit up on the desk." As soon as I sat on the edge she dropped to her knees in front of me and grabbed my cock. Her eyes were locked on mine as she slowly slipped the head of my cock between her lips and fluttered her tongue over the end. "I've been thinking about doing this all day, ever since you ate me out this morning," she said as she stroked the end of my shaft with her thumb, spreading around her saliva.
Slowly she slipped my cock back into her velvety mouth and began humming on it as her tongue stroked across the bottom. I felt myself stirring within and knew this was not going to last long. Even though we had done nothing sexual to speak of all day after this morning's hi-jinks, the sexual tension between us and the arousal from waking up with her and then bathing together had me quite built up.
I couldn't help myself. I just had to see her. I reached down and pulled up her tee shirt, causing her to pull off of me momentarily as I slipped it over her head. I'll never tire of looking at her magnificent breasts, especially when the nipples are all puckered up and poking out from arousal. I could just reach them to tweak and roll them in my fingers, which I did and generated a moan from her that went right to my core. It wasn't but a few minutes and I spewed my seed into her mouth, overflowing it just a little bit. As she gently sucked and licked the last little bit from my cock I ran my fingers through her red-gold hair that I loved so much, and caressed her head.
There is no doubt I love my sister! Nor is there any doubt she loves me. It isn't all about the sex, either. The sex is just an expression of that love, and we each do all we can to make it best for the other. Maybe that sounds sappy, but that is the way it was, and is for that matter.
Mom called us as we were leaving, and I'm so glad it wasn't ten minutes before. "Justin? Your Dad called just a few minutes ago, and he would like me to fly out to LA tonight. I hate to run off and leave you kids again. Can you get along until Wednesday if I go?"
"No problem, Mom. You and Dad have fun. We'll be fine. I'll tell Rosemary it's my turn to have all of the girls over, since she had all the boys over last time."
Mom laughed, as I knew she would. "Thanks, Justin. Somehow or another, your Dad got tickets to a movie premier, and no I don't know which one, but I'd really like to go. I'll probably be gone by the time you get here. I've already called for a taxi to the airport. Love you kids!"
"We know, Mom. We love you, too."
Before I could even hang up the phone Rosemary was texting Steph.
Michael, Rosemary, and I were sitting in Grandpa's driveway at 5:30 in the morning. I knew he would see us out there, but I wanted to let him know I waited fifteen minutes for him to get moving this morning. It's not often I get to pull his leg, and I wanted to enjoy it today. Someone being late for an appointment or having to wait for anything was a real bugaboo to him, and I knew he would see the humor.
He wasn't going to have any of it this morning though. He opened the door and stuck his head out. "Well, since you are here on time for a change you have time for a cup of coffee before we go. Michael, I have a glass of orange juice poured for you." All I could do was shake my head. You have to get up really early to put one over on Grandpa.
Grandma was up, too, and she had made some of her delicious cinnamon rolls for us. We might have been a few minutes late leaving, but even Grandpa couldn't complain since he was the last one through eating his second one. I borrowed one of his travel mugs for the trip. He had coffee mugs that stayed with you for a while, holding 24 oz.'s. I decided right then and there, since we were going to have to make a pit stop on the way we'd stop at the Flying J Truckstop in Eloy. I was going to buy one of my own there. I have a really nice stainless steel travel mug, but it only holds 12 oz. It just runs out to fast.
Michael was driving his Escalade, so I jumped in the back seat with Rosemary and allowed Grandpa to sit in the front. He wasn't very excited about Rosemary cutting school to go with us today, but he acceded to her argument that it was her house too, and besides, she was with me when we found the locked room and she wanted a chance to see what was in it.
Grandpa waited until we were well outside of town and there was little traffic around us before he started discussing the day. "As you know, the Sheriff himself is meeting us at the house at ten o'clock this morning. I think that will probably take up a couple of hours, maybe more, but I really doubt it. It isn't like this is an active case they are dealing with, and it is pretty cut and dried what happened. I really want to keep things contained in the basement. I see no need for anyone to be traipsing about upstairs. Now that is the easy part."
"Last evening, I called a friend of mine who is also a friend of the Union Pacific CEO and managed to convince him I needed to speak to the CEO on urgent business beneficial to the railroad before this morning. I would not tell him what it was, but asked him to give the CEO a call on my behalf, telling him it had to do with the Samuel Johnson case. I said to check the company history if the name didn't ring a bell, and then to please give me a call."
"Well, it was about an hour later I received a call from the gentleman, who seemed rather hesitant to talk with me. I'm sure he was expecting a scam or a hoax was about to be played on him, but fortunately my friend was able to convince him I'm legit. I told him I believed we had found Samuel Johnson, and that we had found two Southern Pacific trunks that were still locked. I suggested he might want to come down personally, or at the very least send a senior official and the appropriate security detachment to recover their property. He himself is flying down here, but he can't get here before about one o'clock. Michael, could I presume upon you to meet him at the airport and bring him out here to the house?"
"Certainly. I'll be happy to be of help."
"Thank you. I knew I could count on you."
"Now, I have said nothing to the Sheriff about any of the Southern Pacific tie-in, neither did I make any representation to the CEO about what was in the chests. The last thing in the world I want is for word to get out about them until they are out of our hands. I really don't think anyone could put together a robbery that quickly, but I want to be safe, and I want as little publicity about all of this as we can get by with. I will do my best to keep everything as an 'undisclosed location' and 'clients who wish to remain anonymous' as much as I can, but I'm sure some of it will leak out. I really would not like to have a bunch of TV trucks lined up and down the street and reporters with microphones sticking them in our faces as we come and go. We may need to keep clear of the house for a few days until the furor dies down if it gets out."
Rosemary looked at him with great big eyes, almost wishing she had gone to school after all!
I saw the Eloy exit coming up and told Michael to pull off there for a quick stop at the "Flying Hook," as I've heard truckers call it. All of that coffee was really starting to hit.
After a very quick stop, and with my own new coffee mug in hand, we got back on the road north. I took a quick sip of my coffee and knew right away Grandpa was going to like it! That stuff was so strong you could drink it with a fork!
Grandpa waited again until we were back on the highway and rolling before he dropped another bombshell. "Michael, I know you said you didn't want any of the gold you guys picked up when you found the hidden room, but you are going to be a part of whatever I negotiate with the Southern Pacific today, whether you want to or not. By the way, I am in favor of building out the servant's quarters into apartments, but that is not my decision to make. I will make my thoughts known, though. Now, if those chests contain what I believe they contain, and what the CEO obviously believes they contain, seeing he is flying down here during his vacation up in Jackson's Hole, Wyoming, I expect there to be a very substantial reward. Now my fee for negotiating this is going to be a bit higher than my normal fee for representing my family. You guys have to buy my breakfast, and my coffee on the return trip. Thanks for turning me on to the Flying J, Justin. That is good coffee!"
"According to all I could find out about Sam Johnson's disappearance, he had $50,000 in gold coins as part of the merger of the Southern Pacific with the Union Pacific, for dispersal to shareholders, of which he was a major stakeholder. The value of that gold at present day value is in excess of three and a half million. That is melt value, and doesn't take into account any numismatic value of any of the individual coins. I'm sure there are some that are quite valuable. The S.P. had a reward offer of $5,000 for information locating Sam Johnson, which obviously includes the gold. If you increase the valuation of the reward offer by 70 times as the gold has increased in value that would come out to about $350,000. Now, I don't expect to be able to negotiate quite that much for you, but there is argument under Arizona law that you could be due as much as half of the find. I don't personally believe that is right for you to do, but if they don't want to reward you fairly we can always threaten to take it to court."
Michael spoke up first. Rosemary and I were totally flabbergasted. "I really don't care anything about a reward, Ben. I thank you, but to me returning what is rightfully theirs is the right thing to do."
"You are right of course, Michael, and I appreciate it. However, they are the ones who offered the reward, and I think it only fair and right you should receive your share of it. What you want to do with the money is entirely your choice. Give it away, or put it aside for retirement, or whatever. That money could go a long way toward buying a house for you and Susie; that is if you have the kind of ideas a smart young man like you should have toward her. Not trying to get in your business, and I apologize if I'm sticking my nose in too far." I smiled at Grandpa's comment, but quickly quashed it as Rosemary looked at me questioningly. It wouldn't do to give his plans away. Michael just nodded thoughtfully.
We discussed the matter between us for the rest of the trip to Bill's, but quit talking when we pulled into the parking lot. "Not another word about any of this until after it is all said and done," Grandpa ordered. "We don't need to stir anything up until we are ready to deal with it. Understood?"
We all understood.
Mary Winters stopped in the cafeteria for a cup of coffee at a quarter to nine. She needed the break. One of her patients, a child of nine had just died as the result of an auto accident two days before. She had hoped desperately the little girl would pull through, but it was not to happen. The little girl's mother had been killed instantly in the crash, and her father was in critical condition on the next floor up, but was expected to live. She had been in the room along with the Grandparents when Katie had breathed her last. Losing a patient was always hard, but it was part of her profession. Losing children though always hurt much worse.
She looked up as a shadow fell across her table and saw Dr. Meechum standing on the other side of her table. "May I join you?" Mary nodded wordlessly and waved at the chair opposite. "Rough morning?"
Silently Mary nodded her head, and then sighed. "I don't know why I ever thought I wanted to be a nurse. We just lost Katie. I thought she was going to make it."
"Little blond girl? About 9, was in a car accident?"
"Um hmm. That's the one."
"That's tough. I worked on her when she came into ER. I thought she had a chance."
"How do you deal with it? Especially as an ER doctor? I really don't know how you can work back there."
Tom let out a bitter laugh of sorts. "I guess eight years as a Devil Doc hardened me pretty much. You learn to compartmentalize it after a while. It never goes away, but you just suppress it enough to keep going."
"That's the second time I've heard you call yourself a Devil Doc. What's that mean?"
"Oh, sorry. I thought you would know. It's a nickname the Marines give us Navy Corpsmen. Marines don't have their own medical staff. It's provided by the Navy. We aren't really Marines, but we lived with them and worked with them all the time. We wore Marine Utilities, but we don't wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia on the collar points because we are not Marines. Also, the service tape says US Navy."
"I knew they called you 'Doc', but why Devil Doc?"
"That's a takeoff of Devil Dog, the nickname given them by the Germans in WWI, 'Teufel hunden' in German. They started calling the Marines that at Belleau Wood because of the way they fought, never knowing they were beaten, so they never were. The name Devil Dog stuck, and some of them call us Devil Doc's if we do the job in combat with them. I take it as a real compliment, as being as close to being an actual Marine as I can be."
"How do you deal with it? With losing people, I mean?"
Tom looked down at his hands and saw a slight tremor in them. "You don't. Sometimes in the night it all comes back to you. Some guys turn to alcohol or drugs, but I try to channel it all back into my work telling myself I'm making up for the ones I lost by the ones I save." Tom looked up at Mary and then quickly back down at his hands. "Some are harder to lose than others. Winters, your husband, was the hardest because he took it for me. That should have been me on the ground over there." A tear welled up in his eye before he angrily dashed it away with the back of his hand.
"Tom, you can't take it that way. I know Brad would not be sorry for what he did. He would do it over again if it came to that. It's just the way he was."
"I know. The Chaplain tried to tell me. I even went and saw a shrink when I got out, while I was in Med School. They kept telling me I had to let it out, that I couldn't hold it all in, but that's what I've done. Talking with you and your daughter really helped a lot, and I was really happy to see you in here this morning. I didn't mean to dump on you. You have your own troubles to deal with right now."
"Really I think it helped. I feel better now. I know I can't save them all, but it hurts to lose the little ones. I have it a lot easier than you guys did, though, so I can't complain."
"There is no 'easier' about it when you are dealing with life and death, Mary. You just don't have to deal with all of the terror that goes along with it is all. I've got to get back to the floor. Thanks for listening."
"No, thank you. I needed that this morning."
"Maybe we both did." Tom reached across the table and squeezed her hand briefly before standing and walking away, and Mary rose and made her way back to her floor.
The meeting with the Sheriff went smoothly, and as expected. He was surprised and pleased that we had not disturbed either of the skeletons, nor checked pockets or the desk. He had a photographer along, as well as the Coroner who had to proclaim them dead. I know, it sounds silly, but it is procedure. The Sheriff did note with praise the accuracy of Sam Johnson's shot. "I don't know that I could have done as well, even if I had not been shot first! He took at the least a lung shot, and it probably also got an artery based on his position sitting here. He didn't even have the strength left to stand up."
A check of their pockets identified the other skeleton as that of Henry Murray, as Grandpa had presupposed, but his pocket contained nothing else of interest. Samuel Johnson's pockets on the other hand had a key ring, which we anticipated, but he also was wearing a money belt containing twenty-five twenty-dollar gold pieces.
The Sheriff left us with each of the men's gunbelts and their pistols, Murray's a Colt .45, and Johnson's a Smith and Wesson 'Russian' .44, and once the photographer was finished with his photographs Michael and I assisted in removing the skeletons from the basement out to a waiting ambulance for removal to the morgue. Why they thought they needed to bring an ambulance I have no clue, but I guess that was also procedure.
As the driver closed the ambulance doors I stopped the Sheriff before he could get into his car. "I know it is a little late to have a funeral service as such for Mr. Johnson, but I think it would only be proper for us to tend to his burial and a gravestone. I think we can provide the same for Henry Murray, but we would like to do so with as little fanfare as possible. Would that be possible?"
"I think that would be a very nice thing for you to do. I'll have someone from my office be in touch with you in the next day or so and we can arrange things."
With that he got into his car and prepared to leave. No mention of Union Pacific's interest in the case was made, much to our pleasure. The least it was known of the better all-around as far as we were concerned. Michael and I made our way back into the carriage house and carefully locked the outer door behind us. I also closed the secret door before going back down the ladder.
Grandpa and Rosemary were looking through the desk when we returned to the lower office. Grandpa looked up at us and held up what looked like a ledger. "Samuel Johnson was quite a diarist. I think this will provide some interesting reading and a better understanding of some of the things that went on during that time period in Arizona. The last couple of entries are in particular of interest, especially in regards to the house. Take a look."
I laid the book down on the desk so that Michael could also look at it as I read:
March 29: The arrival of General Sheridan and his party from the government to look into the railroad expansion plans in regards to how it will affect the military could not have come at a more inauspicious time. Two chests from Union Pacific as part of the merger with the Southern Pacific arrived today. Glad we get to keep operating S.P. separately. Murray seems to have gotten a sniff of what is going on. Caught him snooping around looking for a latch for the door from the carriage house. Should have just let him look since there isn't one on the outside out there. Not sure what to do about him. Seems untrustworthy lately. Mustn't be rash, but careful.
March 30: Meeting with Sheridan, et.al. went smoothly and well. Very tired after long day squiring them around. Hope Murray gets here with the ore samples soon. All indicators are the new discovery is going to be rich. Must remember not to let Murray know of location at least until he shows he's trustworthy. Meet with Tohono O'odham chief, Carlos Rios, tomorrow about access on their lands. They have been good to work with in the past. Must arrange a suitable gift. Swenson over at the S Bar has some good Morgan horse stock. Perhaps a stallion and a
"Interesting," I said. "It looks like he got interrupted and put the diary away without finishing."
Grandpa nodded. "The dates match. I'm thinking Murray arrived then, and we have already seen what transpired."
I carefully closed the diary, cognizant of its age and brittle condition, and handed it back to Grandpa, who put it into the drawer. "We don't have much time before the U.P. guys get here if we want to grab some lunch. What do you say we check out the other room quickly and go grab a bite?"
Rosemary, who was holding the key ring agreed, obviously excited at the possibilities. The four of us trooped down the corridor and Rosemary tried the keys until she found the one that fit the padlock. Surprisingly for its age and how long it had remained untouched it opened easily. Michael removed the iron bar for her, and the long unopened door swung open quietly and smoothly under her hand.
Acrid smoke poured from the air conditioning vents moments before the fire alarms began blaring, causing near panic throughout the high school. Everyone knew this was no fire drill as the students poured out through the doors and into the open air, with some students and teachers choking and gasping from the smoke. Sirens from all directions screamed as every available fire truck, ambulance, and police car hurried to the site.
Susie could see Stephanie across the parking lot, and waved, but they could not leave their class groups. Both girls had their phones out texting, first to each other, and then to their parents to let them know everything was OK.
Mass pandemonium was the order of the day as teachers tried desperately to account for all of their charges. For the most part the students cooperated, but of course there always are a few that screw things up for everyone else. As each class was able to account for all of their personnel they were directed to the football stadium, where they were directed to sit in the bleachers. At least there they were free to sit wherever, and most of the students found boyfriend, girlfriend, or at least a friend to sit with.
Stephanie was able at long last to find Susie, but she wished Justin and Rosemary hadn't had to go up to Scottsdale today. It seemed like forever since she had a chance to spend any time with Justin, and after her talk last night with her Mom she felt a little on the horny order; at least to the point of needing a good hug and a kiss. She hadn't seen much of Susie either for that matter.
"Hey, Steph! What's up?"
"Not much. Glad to be out of class, though!"
"I heard that! Haven't seen you in what seems like ages. Anything new?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, there is. I met this really cool guy yesterday and . . . ." She knew it would set Susie off.
"What about you and Justin?"
"Oh, him. He won't mind." Steph continued playing with Susie's mind. "This guy is older and so much more mature!"
"Come on, girl. What gives? You aren't dumping Justin, are you? You're crazy!"
"Oh, he's not for me. I'm trying to get Mom interested."
Susie slapped her friend on the shoulder and shook her head in frustration. "You had me going, there, girl. Don't do that to me! What's with this guy?"
"He's a new ER doc at the hospital. He's been there about six months or so. Really neat guy."
"OK, so how did you get involved?"
"Well, Mom left her purse in the cafeteria Saturday night, and Tom found it. He brought it by the house yesterday morning just after I had gotten up, but Mom wasn't up yet. He saw Daddy's picture in the living room. He knew Daddy in Iraq, and was there when he was killed." Stephanie went on to relate the rest of the story to Susie's rapt attention.
"How cool is that? Do you think your mom is interested?"
"I don't know. She says she can't be because he's a Dr. and she has to work with him, but I think maybe she is. He's really neat, and I hope so. She's been awfully lonely for a long time now with Daddy gone. That's why she fell for Paul." An involuntary shudder shook her at the thought.
"Mom and I had a really good talk last night about her, and about Justin and me and things. You know, I'm really lucky to have the Mom I have! She lets me ask anything and is honest with me." Steph looked around to be sure no one could overhear her, but lowered her voice anyway and leaned in toward Susie, who leaned closer too. "I asked her about her and Daddy, you know, whether they waited until they got married or not. Was I ever embarrassed, and I know she was a little bit, too, but she told me that no, they weren't, but that there had been no one else. She said she knew they were going to be together before they did anything."
"She asked me if Justin was pressuring me, and I said, that he was too much of a gentleman, but that I love him and I was wondering. I didn't tell her we already have had sex! She said she couldn't tell me not to, but to be very careful that I don't get hurt, that I can only give it away once. I mean, how cool is that? How many girls can talk with their Mom's that way?"
"You are so lucky. I know Mommy loves me and all that, but I can't talk with her that way. Oh, we talk and stuff, but I couldn't ask her that! She really likes Mikey, though, and she is very encouraging toward our relationship. She had "the talk" with me a couple of years ago of course, and she was open to answering questions. Don't get me wrong, but she just would freak if I asked about having sex with Mikey!"
"Daddy, on the other hand, I can talk with him about just about everything. Of course there is no way I'm going to ask him anything like that!" Both girls giggled and the look on Susie's face was priceless. "Daddy finally got the 'Bugeye' finished, and he and I spent a good bit of the day tooling around in it. Mommy doesn't like riding in it. She can't stand having her hair blown around that way, but I love it! I asked Daddy if I could have it to take to school next year and he just laughed at me and told me I'd just try to pick up boys in it. I said I could only pick up one at a time, and it would be Mikey!"
Susie stopped for a moment and looked down. "I think something is going on, but I don't know what. Daddy asked me what I thought about Mikey, but there was something funny about the way he asked. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, he might just be trying to play Daddy with his little girl, protecting me or something, but, oh, I don't know. Anyway, I told him I love Mikey, that I would marry him if he asked. He actually dropped a wheel off the edge of the road for a minute. We were going up Mt. Lemmon, and he quickly got the car back under control. I really thought he was going to cry for a minute, but he didn't. He just said he thought I was pretty young to be thinking that way, but that I'm very mature for my age. He said if Mikey asked they wouldn't stand in my way."
Stephanie squealed with delight and hugged her friend. "Susie, that is so cool! Do you think Michael is going to ask you?"
Susie shrugged. "Not that I know of! He hasn't said anything to me. Like I told Daddy, we haven't even 'dated'", she used finger quotes. "The only thing you could call a date was when we went dancing after having dinner with his parents. And speaking of parents! His mother is so cool! She knew I wouldn't know how to dress for going out with Michael, especially for the Prom, so she took Mommy and me up to see her own dressmaker; and you should see the dress! Carole had drawn up a couple of sketches of ideas for me, but she threw them away after meeting me and getting acquainted. She does everything custom, design and everything, but she went out into the showroom while I was being measured and came in with the most beautiful gown! She had made it for the Senator's wife for an Inaugural Ball for the President, and she is giving it to me! She said she would rather see me wear it than her." Susie's eyes were shining with delight as she described the dress.
"I feel almost like Cinderella, except I don't have to worry about Midnight! Joanna, Mikey's mom, is so cool to talk to. I didn't feel like a little girl talking to a grownup, or that she was checking the girl who was wanting to date her son. They made me feel wanted and loved for who I am, with or without Mikey."
Joanne Thibodeaux stretched, drawing the approving look of her husband who lay on the chaise longue next to her. For a fifty year old woman she had kept her figure very nicely. Her breasts sagged a little, but not nearly as badly as many women her age. Crow's-feet marked the corners of her eyes, but Jeff always said they were 'smile lines' and that they showed character, not age. He was always good at bolstering her confidence when she looked in the mirror and bewailed the march of time.
Just enough of a breeze was blowing to dry and cool her bathing suit and bring her nipples to a point. Jeff's approving gaze noted them with pleasure. Thirty years of marriage, in August, had not dampened his love for his wife, nor did it dampen his admiration for her sleek body. In all of his years playing football at ASU, and then for the Cardinals in the NFL, he had never been tempted to stray, even though the opportunity had been thrown in his face time and time again. Once he had drawn sharp criticism from the team owner when one of the cheerleaders complained about him. She had made some rather plain overtures, but he had rebuffed them all. What really ticked her off, and the basis for her sexual harassment complaint had been when he asked her, "Why should I go out with you for a hot dog when I have fillet mignon waiting for me at home?" Jason Wilson, the offensive right guard, and his roommate when on the road, overheard the exchange. When they returned home from that particular road trip Jason had walked from the training facility out to the parking lot with Jeff and saw Joanne waiting by the car to pick Jeff up.
"Mighty nice fillet, Jeff!" Joanne was upset at the remark, especially when Jason walked away with only a wave. It took Jeff a few minutes to calm her down, and he finally had to explain the comment. Since then it had been a bit of a joke between the two of them in private. Jeff and Jason talked on the phone on a regular basis still, and Jason was frequently known to say goodbye with a "Tell the fillet I said 'Hi.'"
"I'd say that fillet looks done to perfection," Jeff said to his wife as he sat up on his lounger.
"Oh, you think so, do you? Are you sure it doesn't need a little more time in the broiler?"
Jeff reached over and poked and prodded her body a few times in different places, making Joanne writhe and giggle. "Yep, it's just right!" He stepped to the end of her lounger and straddled it easily with his six foot six inch frame. Then he bent over and slipped his arms between her legs so that her knees landed on his shoulders and sliding his arms further up her body grasped her by the back of the shoulders stood up lifting her nearly effortlessly and causing her legs to slide further onto his shoulders until her bathing suit covered pussy was against his face. He curled lips over his teeth and began nibbling and gnawing while growling, causing Joanne to squirm and wiggle in his grasp while laughing at him.
"Just perfect! Couldn't be better done!"
Joanne hooked her feet around the front of his chest under his arms and leaned back allowing him better access. "Are you sure it doesn't need some sauce or something?"
"Nope. When it's good quality and done right, just like this, it is juicy and doesn't need a thing!"
Her back tiring from holding herself stretched out Joanne leaned forward again. She was always amazed at Jeff's strength. Even though he had been retired from playing football for so many years he still kept himself in great shape and never seemed to tire holding her, even in such an awkward position. "Perhaps you should take it in from the grill where it can be better enjoyed," she said softly.
Tossing her into the air and catching and then cradling her in his arms Jeff carried her toward the bedroom. Joanne cuddled against him kvelling in his strength and love. She felt moisture gathering in her pussy in anticipation of what was to come.
Grandpa looked over Rosemary's shoulder as the door swung slowly open. The room of course was dark, and nothing could be seen until the door was fully opened. "Justin, go grab that light, son. We can't see anything."
I hurried down the corridor and dragging the cord behind me carried the light toward the door.
Rosemary gasped, and Grandpa muttered "Land sakes o' Goshen!"
When I could see in the door after they stepped in I saw a set of shelves on the far wall lined with dated ledgers, but that was not what had our attention. In the corner, at the end of the shelf was a double stack of gold bars shining in the light. Each bar was about half an inch thick by about two inches wide and four inches long. Each stack was five bars high, and there were three rows. Thirty bars of gold! On the floor were two wooden crates that looked to be full of more bars.
Grandpa regained his equilibrium first and said, "I think at this moment we had better close this room back up and go get some lunch. We can decide what to do about it later, but for the moment nothing needs be said to anyone outside the four of us! We will call a family meeting for Wednesday evening when your folks get home, and Michael, that includes you."
Michael shook his head. "No sir, I don't need to be there. None of this is mine, nor do I covet any of it. You all are the ones who own the house. It belongs to you."
Grandpa stood and looked at Michael carefully, and I could see his 'lawyer' face setting in. "Now you listen to me, young man, and you listen good. I only want to say this once, and I don't want to hear you arguing the point. You are the one who found the entrance to this room. Might Justin have found it later? Possibly, but based on what happened so far probably not. No one else found it in a hundred years. You have been involved in this from the beginning, and you can consider this a bonus for being the kind of person you are. What you choose to do with the gold is your decision, just like I told you on the reward I intend to negotiate with the railroad. I am going to do all I can to keep your name out of the public eye, but I am not going to keep you from benefitting from what you made possible. Are we clear on this?"
"I feel funny taking it. I have all I need, and more, from what I've already done. If I don't want to, I don't have to work another day in my life. This would just add on to what I already have."
"Son, I appreciate what you are saying, and I wish a lot more people had your attitude. Trust me; you can do a lot more good with the money than you ever can without it. Like I said, what you do with it is your choice, but you will accept it. Understood? Your answer is 'Yes Sir.'"
Michael shrugged and said, "Yes Sir." We all grinned and trooped back out the door. Michael lifted the iron bar back into place and Rosemary carefully locked the padlock, then she handed the keys to Grandpa for safe-keeping. Lunch was going to be a festive occasion.
Steph and Susie sat in the sun of the stadium for nearly an hour before an administrator turned on the PA system and announced school was closed, and they were free to go home. He also announced it would be closed the following day for replacement of the air conditioning unit, that an email would be sent to all concerning the following day, whether or not the school would be in session. A ragged cheer erupted from all of the kids and they poured from the stands and headed for their cars. Those who didn't drive wandered around aimlessly trying to find a way to go home.
"I wish Rosie and Justin didn't go up to the house today. I could use a good swim and some sun," Steph said as the two girls walked out to her car.
"You know we can use their pool anyway. Mikey isn't here today either. I hope they don't stay up there too long. I haven't seen him since Friday."
"Oh, you poor baby!" Steph teased and dodged a swat. "I know we can go over there. I just always feel a little funny wandering through their house when they aren't home."
"Yeah, I know, but you know they have said to make ourselves home anyway. I could use some sun. Let's go."
After quick stops at home to grab swimwear and a towel the girls drove to the Thyme home and let themselves in through the garage. The code had been given them a long time ago. They quickly pealed down to their bikinis and dove into the pool for a few laps before getting out to lie in the sun for a while.
"Hey, Susie, I haven't seen you wear that suit in a long time. What's the matter? No guys around?"
Susie just shook her head. "Since I've been with Michael I've learned I don't really need to flaunt it. As far as I'm concerned, I'm his, and I don't need to show off to other guys anymore." She gave Steph a saucy grin. "Don't worry, when the time is right he will get a lot more than just a sexy bikini!"
"I know. Isn't it funny how that works? Remember that suit I got that was mostly string? I got it to try to catch Justin, but I don't need it anymore either." She shrugged her shoulders. "As far as I'm concerned, when he's around I'd rather wear nothing at all, but I don't feel like showing off to any others. Not that I ever did that as much as you did!"
"Hey! Don't make me out to be that bad! I never did all that much!"
"Yeah, I know. It was mostly for Justin. Isn't it funny how that worked out for both of us? Rosemary, too."
"Tell me, what's it really like having sex with Justin? Sometimes when I'm around Michael I just want to drag him to bed with me, but he won't even consider it. I can't even get him to make out with me!"
Stephanie paused for a couple of minutes before replying, making Susie wonder if she had gone too far in asking. "Honestly, it is the most wonderful thing I have ever done." Unconsciously her hand started stroking her upper leg as she gazed unseeing into the sky. "I can see where it could be bad if you didn't have someone you really cared about, or someone who didn't care about you, but when I'm with him, well . . . he just makes it so wonderful." Her nipples were beginning to push out through her bra as she thought of Justin. "You know how Justin is, always thinking of others, well he's the same in bed. It isn't about him getting off, but he will leave himself hanging just to make sure it is good for me, and I know he does the same for Rosemary."
"Of course, we both try to make it really good for him, too. It's a two way street, and I'm really wishing he was here with me now." Now her hand had crept up to caress her belly, and to toy with the top of her bikini panty. "If I know Michael as well as I think I do I think he will be the same way, but don't push him. It is worth waiting until both of you are ready."
Susie's hands were wandering across her own body also as Stephanie was talking. "Sometimes I don't think I can wait! I've about worn out "Fred", and some nights it just isn't enough. How did you know when it was the right time?"
Stephie sighed as she remembered. "Well, you remember when we caught Justin and Rosemary after the fact."
Susie giggled. "The look on their faces was priceless!"
"Well, you remember how Rosie told us she liked to go naked around the house when she was under stress." Susie nodded. "It all started the night of the accident. Since Mom was gone the Thymes took me in. I couldn't climb the stairs that first night, so Justin picked me up and carried me. I was half loopy from the pain meds, or it might not have happened. I know I wouldn't have had the courage, but I was hugging him and holding him tightly. I had on a hospital robe because my clothes were ruined, and I didn't have on a bra, so I kind of rubbed my boobs on his chest, and the robe opened up a little bit and Justin could see one of my tits. He looked away really quickly, and I was embarrassed, but really turned on by it, too."
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