CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Alex paced the floor of his room thinking long and hard about the Lansing case. Something was wrong, very wrong. He couldn't put the pieces together, but he vowed to investigate, scrutinize and examine all aspects until the puzzle was complete.

       He'd call O'Reilly first thing in the morning and report Jenny's reaction concerning the lost briefcase. Another thought drove deep into his mind. Was she also involved in some way? He quickly dismissed that thought and just as quickly picked it up again. He had watched much of the televised trial and read every newspaper article but couldn't find the slightest hint of guilt pointing toward Jenny Lansing. He'd only noticed genuine sorrow for her father and total trust in his innocence. When Lansing plea bargained, she'd appeared devastated. No, Alex said aloud. Jenny Lansing was all she seemed to be, intelligent, though a bit too independent, and a not so incidentally beautiful woman.

       So, Kendall, he chastised himself, get out of you thoughts. She's just another case and you're to protect her from danger. That's all. Do your job and work this case as you would any other, with an emotional detachment.

       Discarding his suit and tie, Alex showered and changed into casual clothes. He ran an electric shaver over his face and brushed his hair. Bending forward, he looked directly at his reflection in the mirror. The Lansing case was complicated, but his attraction to Jenny Lansing was complicating it even further. He'd met many beautiful women, yet none had affected him like this. He'd learned long ago to listen to that

-83-

unmistakable inner voice. He had come to realize through some of his own dark circumstances that there was no rhyme or reason to life's twists and turns. That is, unless one believed in a Higher Power.

       He'd been junior in high school when his father and only sibling, his older sister Joanna, were killed in a head-on collision. His mother remained strong in her faith, instilling in him the assurance of their Heavenly Father's care for them.

       After high school, he headed for the University of Michigan. He knew how difficult it was for his mother to let him go. Her house would be empty. Yet, she never complained, even helped him pack, and walked with him to his car.

       Alex had thrown his suitcases in the truck, anxious to get on the road. He paused when she gently laid her hand on his arm. "Remember, son, The Lord is your Shepherd and He'll guide you in the right way for every decision if you ask Him."

       He wondered later if she'd had premonition, or already knew about the cancer that had invaded her body. "Alex..." she added, choosing her words carefully. "I know you'll study hard and achieve your goals. When it comes time to settle down, I've asked the Lord to send you the right mate at the right time and to let you know without a doubt that she's the right one for you."

       Alex absently nodded and slid behind the wheel. He'd respectfully allowed her to express her simple faith but he drove away with a deep sigh thinking of his mother's naivete. He didn't need God's help to select his wife.

       Another memory haunted him. The night four years later when he'd received a call from his aunt. "Your mother is very ill," she'd said gently, "I think you'd better come home."

       He'd broken all speeding records. He was twenty-three, about to receive his diploma, and it seemed unthinkable that he might lose his only parent. He couldn't comprehend a world without his mother's gentle touch, her loving support.

-84-

       That night as he sat at her bedside in the hospital, she reached up and touched his face. "Don't grieve for me son. I'm going Home. I'll be waiting for you. Remember no matter how it looks to you, God's ways are perfect."

       That subject was up for debate, Alex thought. How could the death of a husband and father, of a teenage girl on the first step of her life's journey and a woman not yet fifty be perfect? His roots were gone, his mother's prayers silenced.

       Her death devastated him. Anger became resentment and deepened into bitterness at God for taking his family too soon.

       He sold their family home, and with the proceeds began his long journey into a far country. He traveled to Asia to explore eastern religions. He focused on positive thoughts, refusing negativity into his mind. He read all the philosophers and at the time they seemed to make sense. Yet, nothing seemed to satisfy the anxiety and unrest within his soul. His search for peace proved futile.

       Returning to Chicago, Alex joined the police force, but after a year, he was bitterly disappointed with his choice of  career. He applied for and was accepted for a position with the FBI. It was exciting at first. But he witnessed too many tangled, mixed-up lives, lives that seemed to mirror his own inner emptiness. Overwhelmed with sadness and desperation, Alex called his mother's pastor. It was that gentle man's kindness and wise counseling that brought him full circle to his childhood faith.

       Now, steeped in contemplation, Alex was startled when the telephone rang. It was Jenny announcing dinner had arrived.

       Against every professional instinct, Alex tapped lightly on the adjoining room door. When she immediately opened it, he faced her with a frown.

       "Jenny, I told you not to open the door unless you were sure who it was."

       Jenny flushed. "I expected you. I didn't think. Anyway, who else would knock on the adjoining room door?"

-85-

        He entered her room, shut and bolted the door and turned to face her. "You must think every minute. Someone's after you. Try and remember that."

       "But they have the briefcase. Why would they want me?"

       Alex's frown deepened. "You're really sure there's something of value in that case, are you?"

       Jenny shrugged. "It was my father's briefcase. Probably held his personal papers. That's why I need to get it back. Any idea?"

       Alex silently paced the room. Suddenly, he stopped and looked at Jenny. She'd changed into a winter white pants suit, and brushed her raven hair until it fell long and loose about her shoulders. Her sea-green eyes were misty and wistful. He steeled himself against reaching out to touch her.

       Room service furnished a dinner of breast chicken, red potatoes, asparagus, slivers of buttered toast and silver servers of steaming coffee.

       Alex deplored his foolhardiness. He shouldn't have come to her room. Not tonight when he was vulnerable toward her. He admonished himself to leave as soon as possible.

       After they pushed their plates away, Jenny walked to the window and looked down at the brilliant stars lighting the skies over the vast San Fernando Valley.

       Alex stood next to her.

       "Seems strange, doesn't it," She said in a voice soft with emotion. "Here we are in the middle of January. Snow and ice cover the Midwest and it's clear and warm here."

       "When I'm in L.A. during the winter, I miss the snow, but there is something about this city that gets in your blood."

       They both turned at once. Alex caught an intoxicating scent of Shalimar and quickly stepped back. "It's been a long day and you're tired."

       "Its been one of the most disappointing days of my life." Jenny frowned. "Alex, we must find my briefcase before I meet my father."

-86-

       He didn't respond. He knew, of course, she would not see her father anytime soon. And he also knew if Jenny felt the tiniest spark of interest toward him, she would quickly quench it if she learned of his growing suspicion about her father's involvement with the mafia.

       "Alex, is there something you're not telling me?"

       When he didn't respond, Jenny's fear heightened. "There is something, isn't there? Do you know where my father is?"

       "Jenny, you must believe that we're doing all we can and..."

       "Where is my father?"

       Alex took a step toward her.

       "You're very tired, Jenny." He involuntarily touched her face and instantly dropped his hand. At the door, he turned, "Remember, open the door for no one but me, and call if you need me."

       Jenny nodded and turned away.

       "Goodnight then," Alex shut the door firmly and waited until he heard her draw the bolt.

       As Jenny showered and dried her hair, she was drawn deeper into despair. Alex was keeping something from her she felt sure. Tomorrow she would insist that he answer her questions. His silence in response to her pleas was unacceptable.

       Yet in spite of her annoyance with him, the warm sensation of his hand on her cheek brought a soft smile.

       She fell exhausted into bed and into a dreamless sleep.

        She couldn't know it then, but it would be the last restful sleep she would know for a long time.

Chapter 14  ||  Table of Contents