CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

Alex made detailed arrangements to have Philip Lansing's body flown to Chicago. Jenny said goodbye to him in the lobby of the Holiday Inn.

       "I'll return to Chicago when I conclude the business," he said. "I'd like to attend your father's memorial service, Jenny."

       "I've decided on an immediate service with only a few of our friends."

       "I see."

       "If his death is announced in the paper, a private service would be impossible. I hope I can find Uncle Charlie, but I haven't the faintest idea where to look."

       Alex's tone became serious. "Jenny, it's important that you don't go near your uncle's apartment until I return to Chicago."

       "But there may be a clue at his apartment where he went this time. He needs to know about Dad. He's my only family now."

       "Jenny," Alex took her arm and led her to a private corner. "Listen carefully. You must stay close to your home until I return. We'll have a man watching you, but you must stay away from your uncle's apartment. I'd rather you didn't even go to the bookstore."

       Jenny lifted her brows. "But I must. I've been gone far too long. Am I still being followed?"

       "Until we know for certain please promise to stay away from your uncle's apartment? I'll be back in Chicago as soon as possible."

       Jenny sighed. "Yes, I promise. When will you return?"

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       "As soon as possible. One, maybe two weeks. I'll call as soon as I get back. We have some unfinished business."

       He looked at her for long moments, turned and left. She watched him leave. Sitting alone in the lobby, she'd reflected on their strange conversation. Unfinished business, he'd said. He meant the note from Uncle Charlie, of course. She was secretly glad he'd insisted she stay away from her uncle's apartment. She had no desire to investigate one step further and suddenly didn't care what was in the sealed envelope.

       But the FBI did. They hadn't closed the file on the Lansing case and wouldn't until they had full disclosure on the contents of the envelope.

       She did as she'd determined and held the memorial service for her father the day after she returned to Chicago. It was held in the Chapel of the mortuary with her mother's pastor officiating. He spoke highly of her father's loyalty and love for his family, willing to put himself at risk to guarantee their safety.

       She'd already shed all her tears. None came that day. She felt barren and desolate as she walked out of the Chapel. With Carole and Lori by her side, she was grateful for their support and for their gift of silence.

       The story broke a few days later. Philip Lansing's death was front page news. A detailed account followed of his involvement in the Berkowitz trial and his year under the Witness Protection Program. The papers reported that the Northridge earthquake seemed the primary cause of Philip's heart attack, but hinted that the loss of his wife and his isolation from his daughter, was more likely the cause of his sudden death.

       The breaking news of Sammy Gavota's arrest and conviction engrossed the Chicago population and overshadowed the news of Philip's death.

       The day after the memorial service, Jenny drove in a snow storm to the bookstore. She determined to put the past behind her and return to her routine.

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       "Carole," she smiled at her friend after she looked over the accounts. "You've done a great job. Thank you for handling everything so efficiently."

       "So I'll give myself a raise," Carole laughed.

       Jenny laughed with her. "I'll do just that, Carole. Next paycheck, a raise."

       Carole beamed. "No kidding, Jenny, business is terrific. I hired two sales clerks. Hope you don't mind."

       "Well, now that I'm back, maybe we'll only need one."

       "We'll need two, you'll see." She didn't add that every time Philip Lansing's name appeared in the paper, business doubled.

       Jenny opened a box from Doubleday Publishers and stacked a new John Grisham in the front window. They'd be out of stock in a few days.

       She choked back her tears as she stepped into her father's back office, remembering the days and nights he'd pounded furiously on his computer. He'd always look up when she entered the room, flashing her a smile that clearly said, I'm glad to see you.

       When Bruce called, she'd almost forgotten he existed. When he invited her to dinner she politely turned him down, explaining she didn't have the energy just yet.

       "How about a raincheck?" Bruce asked.

       "Maybe." Jenny said, knowing she couldn't. She had no desire to see Bruce or anyone.

       Well, that wasn't entirely true.

       The next night, Bruce unexpectedly showed up at the bookstore. "I'm taking you to dinner, like it or not," he walked around the shop scanning a few books, laying romance novels down with cynical sneers. "Do these things really sell?" he asked.

       Carole came to the rescue. "Faster than you can say Shakespeare. Stop roaming around, Bruce, you're making me nervous."

       A heavy snowfall and storm warnings kept potential customers home. Since Jenny had nothing in her fridge but a frozen dinner, she consented. "But I have to be home early, Bruce."

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       "We're going to a steak house and you're to order the works. You've lost weight, Jenny, you look terrible."

       "Gee, thanks, Bruce. I needed that," Jenny called from the cloak room. She came out wearing her heaviest wool coat.

       Bruce took her arm. "Terribly beautiful."

The cold dampness touched her face as they walked into the frosty evening and into his Volvo. She glanced at Bruce's profile. He was a nice-looking man, tall, broad-shouldered, and had a great future as a corporate attorney. Some girl would be lucky to become his wife. She just wasn't that girl.

       At their reserved table, Bruce took the menu from her and ordered two peppercorn steals, twice-baked potatoes and a bottle of white wine. He was wooing her, she knew, but even with soft romantic background music her thoughts were elsewhere.

       Had Alex Kendall spoiled her for other men? Or was she still dreaming, building castles in the air, hoping for a romantic love, as romantic as the one her parents had enjoyed? Did she, like them, want to experience love at first sight? Her heart whispered, yes, that's exactly what she wanted. That's what she'd found with Alex Kendall. After all, she thought these are the nineties. There's nothing that says I can't call him. If he's back in Chicago.

       "So, Jenny," Bruce leaned back and looked at her through half-closed eyes, "tell me about your trip to California. Had quite an adventure I understand."

       "That's one way of putting it, Bruce. Yes, quite an adventure, but I can't relive it for you, not now, maybe never."

       "That bad?"

       She nodded. When their server placed a salad before them, she found she was hungry after all. She'd asked for low-cal dressing on the side. Bruce leaned toward her and poured the entire cup on her salad. "You need to gain weight, Jenny, you're much too thin."

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       She looked with distaste at her salad. "You just drowned a perfectly good salad in a ton of dressing."

       He smiled. "You need meat on your bones darling."

       She sighed heavily. "Bruce, you're impossible."

       "Maybe, but I'm going to make you smile again Jenny. I know you thought the world of your dad, and I'm sorry for your loss." He paused. "You seem different. Did something else happen in Los Angeles? Did you meet someone?"

       Jenny's fork halted in midair. "What do you mean?" Of course I met someone, lots of someones. Now, let's eat."

       "Jenny," Bruce took her fork from her hand and placed it on the table. "I have every intention of marrying you. I have the right to know if I have a competition."

       Jenny picked up her fork. "I have no intention of marrying you or anyone else for a long time. And if the price of this dinner is to say 'yes' then I'll have to take a cab home and thaw my frozen dinners."

       "No price tags on this dinner, dear heart, enjoy your food. I'll say no more."

       "Thanks."

       As Jenny cut her succulent steak she tried to match Bruce's light hearted chatter. Before they finished dessert, she'd made a decision. She'd never date Bruce again. His constant pestering for an answer to his marriage proposal annoyed her. How many ways could she say no, and what was it he didn't understand about her refusal?

       And in that moment, she made another decision. She would call Alex and determine whether he had returned to Chicago. It was time to conclude their unfinished business.

       And it wasn't only about Uncle Charlie's key or his note.

Chapter 29  ||  Table of Contents