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  • Marji Clubine

Chapter Five - Murder from a Friend


Connie took Phil’s advice and contacted one of her former roommates right away.


Gretchen had majored in journalism, and she doggedly pursued a job as an investigative reporter. Though she only had an entry-level position, her job at the Tribune connected her with all types of information retrieval systems.


Thankfully, she wasn’t too busy to dig into Clint Rutherford’s past. “I’ll give it a shot. And I heard you had some excitement out there the other day.”


Her graduation hadn’t really been all that exciting. “It wasn’t that big a deal.”


“I think murder is a big deal.”


Oh, she was talking about the dead man. Wait. “Did you say murder?” She’d been right all along?


“Sure thing. The report I got said he was shot three times at fairly close range with a small caliber pistol.”


“I can’t imagine . . .” How come no one heard gunshots?


Gretchen scoffed. “That happens all the time in the city.”


“I was more deducing than asking. It must have happened at night or on a weekend when none of the volunteers were here. It’s close enough to the offices that, barring a hailstorm, anyone would have heard gunshots.”


“So, nobody heard anything?” Gretchen clearly pressed for a story, but Connie had nothing to offer.


“No one’s said anything. And I think, considering that the police were here for two solid days, they would have said something.” Especially Mrs. Hodges. And she’s at the foundation almost every day, right there by the front door.


“Well, I’ll let you know what I hear. Right now, they’re moving heaven and earth to try to identify the dead guy.”


Connie could certainly sink her teeth into the mystery like Gretchen seemed to be doing, but she’d already promised Dad that she wouldn’t do a Nancy Drew. “I want you to dig into the past of someone for me.”


Okay, maybe she would do a little Nancy Drewing, but clearly her promise had no bearing here since the issue dealt with matters within the foundation itself.


Her friend hummed into the receiver. “Well, I’m between gigs as it were, so I can probably swing it. Who are you investigating? New boyfriend?”


Why did everyone always go directly to that assumption? “New accountant here at the foundation.” She gave Gretchen his name. “I want all the deets.”


“Is there a problem?” Possibility rang in Gretchen’s tone.


“This is strictly off the record, Gretchen. There isn’t a problem. I just want to know a little more about him. That’s all.”


“Okay, okay. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can get the worms to wiggle.”


Connie half-scoffed a chuckle. Hopefully, her friend wouldn’t find a can of worms at the bottom of this.


The thought kept niggling at her. She had a terrible time avoiding the discussion with her dad that evening.


Thankfully, he was focused on their upcoming trip to support a charity near her oldest sister’s home, “I know it’s been a while since you’ve seen Margaret?”


Connie hadn’t seen her since she’d been in high school, though even then her sister rarely spoke with her. “I’m so looking forward to meeting your namesake, Dad. I’ve spoken on the phone with Little Mac, and she is just adorable.”


“She is.” He gave her a sidelong look. “And she looks exactly like you. But you won’t be coming along this time.”


“What do you mean I’m not going with you?” Connie sounded like a five-year-old in her own ears, but she’d been looking forward to visiting with her sister’s family, even if her oldest sister didn’t usually acknowledge her. Forcing herself to take a deep breath, she laid her napkin in her lap.


“The money isn’t there right now.”


Connie glanced at Mama.


She served herself some potatoes, clearly not wanting to be part of this conversation.


Something was going on. First Aunt Fanny’s charity, and now this fundraising trip. “Dad, you’re going to need to explain this to me. You ask me to be the new head of fundraising, but you don’t let me go to the first scheduled event? That doesn’t even make sense.”


He lifted his chin. “There’s no need for you there. The group has plenty of volunteers. We’re only making it officially part of the Wright Foundation by making an appearance. The rest of the trip is meeting with financiers. Not part of your area of expertise.”


“And spending time with Margaret’s family?”


“You hardly know your oldest sister.”


She shut her eyes and took another breath. “Does this have something to do with the pregnancy center we talked about?”


He shook his head and held out his hand. “One thing at a time, Constance.”


She swallowed her ire at hearing her formal first name. Dad had only ever used it when she was in trouble. Hearing it as an adult didn’t fly but calling him on it wouldn’t help anything.


Still, if her father was going to treat her like a child, this job might not be such a great fit after all. She lowered her tone. “It seems to me that this is all connected. Otherwise, why wouldn’t we take on the pregnancy center. It is exactly the type of charity we support. You know the people Aunt Fanny meets.”


“I just don’t know.”


“What do you mean you don’t know?” All of her patience fled out the nearby window. After all, this was Aunt Fanny they were talking about. Not some idealistic group trying to do something they’d never heard of.


“Well to be honest.” Her father slathered some butter on a roll. “Clint’s been highly concerned about some of the extraneous expenses this year. A few of our best donors have drastically lowered their giving.”


What donors? And why was she only just hearing about this? “So, how will that affect the day-to-day business and our outreach?”


Her father locked eyes with her. “I’m afraid we might have to let some people down. I’m indebted to Clint for finding the problems. But I’m just not sure what to do about it all. It seems that this is going to end up being an extremely lean year even though we’re only just learning about it.”


Connie needed to talk to Clint Rutherford. “So, what unexpected expenditures have you had to deal with?” She took a bite of her mom’s roast beef and tried to focus on the analytical details that her father began discussing, but the emotion knotting the pit of her stomach made it hard to focus.


“We ended up buying essentials for six different shelters in the area instead of only the one we had pledged to support. I originally understood that we had the backing to cover all of that, but when Clint got here, he informed us that we did not indeed have that backing. Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg.” Dad continued to explain other situations. Something to do with an unexpected roof replacement at one charity and a broken water heater at another.


The bottom line was, they were upside down in the financial department.


“Mind if I look into it a little?” Connie picked up her tea glass and gave her father an innocent look as she took a sip.


She needn’t have gone to the trouble of trying to look innocent. His eyes narrowed. “Now don’t go looking for mysteries and hooligans where there aren’t any.” His chiding voice was only a little on the gruff side.


She set her glass down and lifted her hands in surrender. “Only to get a better feel for what’s going on, so I know how I need to move ahead.”


“I’m sorry about the trip. I know you were looking forward to it.”


Shrugging, she took another bite of the roast. “I’ll miss finally meeting Mac, but I’d rather dig into this problem and see how I can help.”


More like uncover, learn, ferret out. It was all the same, but she couldn’t really use any of those terms around her dad.


“I’m sure Clint can guide you in that.”


“Guide me?” Didn’t the man work for her?


“He knows what he’s doing, dear. It would not be of help to anyone for you to come in and begin stirring up the muddy water that he’s been able to settle.” Her father picked up the last bite of his roll and ran it through his leftover gravy. “Besides, you have enough on your plate with the coming Louisville event. No sense wasting time duplicating someone else’s job.” His voice became crustier than normal.


“All right.” She said it, but instantly knew she couldn’t just turn around and pretend nothing was wrong.


He ate his final bite, pulled his napkin from his lap, and laid it on the table as he stood. “Things will work out. They always do.”


Dad had said that all her life. But he was wrong. Things didn’t work out. People worked on them and the Lord worked them out. But things didn’t just magically jump up and right themselves.


And she wasn’t about to sit by and watch to see if some shoemaker’s elves were planning to come solve their current problem.



Have you ever hoped for those magical elves to take care of overwhelming issues (or the dishes in the sink)? Come back tomorrow to see what Connie does next!


And be sure to watch for the first book of The Visitor Mystery Series,

THE VISITOR MAKES A RETREAT

releasing on February 10!

You can preorder the first book right now at

THIS LINK!

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