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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Starting Late book cover

Starting Late
A Tale from Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2011, ©2013

Chapter 5

“That’s a little surprising,” Mark replied to Henry’s announcement that Rebecca had been the one upset the previous night. She seemed pretty calm and collected today, at least from the little he had talked to her.

“I’ll tell you one thing I’ve figured out about those two,” Henry replied as they watched the policeman walk toward his car parked across the street. “They are two very different girls. They’re just about as unlike as sisters can be.”

“One of the few things I’ve known about them all along is that they’re actually half-sisters,” Mark shrugged. “They don’t have the same father.”

“I assumed that,” Henry nodded. “I’m afraid you’re going to have your hands full with them.”

“That’s obvious,” Mark shook his head, as they watched the detective get in his car and drive off. “I’m glad he didn’t cause any more problems than we already have, but at least one thing is simplified.”

“What’s that?”

“We’ll have a few days to work out funeral arrangements,” Mark shrugged. “I’ve barely even thought about it, other than the fact that there are a couple empty spaces in the family plot up in Spearfish Lake. We can probably bury her next to her father, for whatever that’s worth.”

“True,” Henry said as they turned back to the house. “But it means you’re not going to be able to do anything about moving the girls’ stuff out of the apartment today.”

“Not with the cops there,” Mark nodded. “And I think it’s important the girls do their part, at least sorting and packing their own belongings at minimum. I somehow didn’t think we’d be able to do much more today than figure out what would have to be done.”

“I’m sure that Bloch woman is going to have some complications for you,” Henry shook his head. “If for no more reason than she represents a bureaucracy that has to have every piece of paper properly filled out and filed in the proper place.”

“I suspect you’re right,” Mark sighed. “Look, I got the idea you think there’s more to what happened than you let on.”

“I don’t know,” Henry shook his head. “I don’t know anything like what he knows, and he may not know much of anything. But there’s some little bug whispering in my ear that there’s more than we’ve seen so far.”

“Well, about all I can say is keep your ear to the ground and let me know what you find out,” Mark told him. “You’re in a better place and position to find out about it than we are. We’ll just have to wait and see how much we tell the girls after we know more.”

“No promises,” Henry shook his head. “There’s a lot of weird stuff that goes on down here, stuff I hardly dreamed of back in Spearfish Lake. Sometimes it takes a while for it to come out.”

“I hope this isn’t putting you out too far. I mean, you do have a job and all.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got plenty of comp time coming. I need to check in at some point, but I’ll have to be careful about what I say. Hopefully something will happen today that’ll keep this off the schedule.”

“Don’t get caught in the middle.”

“I don’t plan on it,” Henry smiled. “That’s part of the reason I don’t really want to know a lot more about it until this is old news. Maybe we’d better get back inside.”

Mark let out a sigh. “Look, before we get back inside, I’m sorry if this has caused any problems between you and Cindy.”

“No real problem. Cindy has actually been pretty good with the girls. It’s just that she gets a little snippy when unexpected things get dumped on her. Ignore it, and it won’t matter.”

“Well, all right, I guess. It looks like we’re going to have to camp on you at least until tomorrow, and I don’t want to put you out if I can help it.”

“No problem on my account,” Henry shrugged. “At least so long as it doesn’t go on too long. There’s a limit to how much Cindy can tolerate having her routine upset.”

Mark was tempted to say something about how Henry managed to put up with Cindy and her temper, but decided to just keep his mouth shut. After all, it was Henry’s business, not his; while he’d heard plenty of complaints about Cindy from Henry’s parents over the years, there was no point in pushing the issue. Henry probably had heard more than he wanted to hear on the subject from his parents, anyway. “We’ll try to keep it to a minimum,” he promised, “but I doubt that we’re going to be the ones setting the time table.”

“Yeah, true,” Henry nodded, “those social services people do things on their own schedule, that’s for sure. Maybe we’d better get back inside and see just how bad it’s going to be.”

*   *   *

A little to Mark’s surprise, Mrs. Bloch proved to be more helpful and less obstructive than he had expected. True, there was paperwork to be dealt with, and it wouldn’t all get done this day, but realistically there was less than he had expected. “It simplifies things when there are relatives the girls can be placed with, no matter how distant,” she commented at one point. “I’ve seen all too many cases where there just isn’t anyone capable or competent to take on children like this, especially at no notice.”

Mrs. Bloch also helped develop a checklist of some other, non-social service items that they’d have to deal with, such as arranging the school transfers for the girls, settling up the lease on the apartment, and the like. Everyone helped with that; Brianna pointed out that she had several books that had to go back to the library, both at the school and the one in their neighborhood. Rebecca added that she ought to at least let the coaches of a couple teams know that she wouldn’t be playing with them any longer.

There were also several issues Mrs. Bloch raised that would have to be dealt with when they got back to Spearfish Lake, including enrolling the girls in school, and getting the guardianship regularized; she suggested working with a lawyer to make sure all the formalities were dealt with. Everyone seemed to think that was a good idea.

It was close to noon before the social services worker left, probably to deal with another crisis – she didn’t talk about it, but it was clear she had to be on her way. She promised to meet up with them the next day to help close out the paperwork.

“Well, we already knew after talking with Lieutenant Seymour that we’re not going to be getting out of here today,” Mike said when Mrs. Bloch had left. “And tomorrow doesn’t seem very likely, with everything that has to be done.”

“Right,” Mark agreed “and what’s more, I don’t want to have to drive all night again, not in that big beast. If we can get everything wrapped up here, maybe we can figure on the day after tomorrow. If we can get on the road early, we ought to be back home while it’s still light.”

“I don’t really have the space here to put everyone up,” Cindy told them.

“That’s not a problem since we’ve got the motor home here,” Mark said. “Henry’s folks, Jackie, and I can stay in it.”

“Well, I suppose that’ll work,” Cindy replied, clearly still not very happy with the idea.

“Maybe we’d better eat out a bit while we’re here,” Kirsten said diplomatically. “It’s lunch time. Rather than having you put something together, we could go someplace. Fast food would be fine with me.”

“That’s probably not a bad idea,” Henry agreed. “We could eat out tonight, or Cindy and I could throw something together.”

“Let’s eat out,” Jackie suggested. “It’s hard to say how late we’re going to be running around dealing with this list. We probably ought to get over to the school before too long, and then go from there.”

“Tell you what,” Mark added, “I’m not looking forward to herding the motor home around in this city traffic any more than I have to.”

“I can do without my car for today,” Henry said. “If Cindy wanted to work this afternoon, she could take my car and you could take the minivan and I can go with you. It’d be a little snug for all of us but we don’t have to go far. I expect you’ll be loading the motor home out of the apartment tomorrow, so you’ll have to take it then.”

“Girls,” Mark said, “I know this is going to be kind of a guess on your part, but do you think there’s going to be a lot of stuff to move in the apartment?”

“It’s not real full,” Rebecca said. “There’s some furniture and stuff, and our clothes. I don’t know what you’re planning on doing with Mom’s clothes and things.”

“Good question, and I don’t know either,” Mark said. “We’ve got some storage space in the barn, if all else fails. I’m afraid it’s going to take more work to settle you in up in Spearfish Lake than it’s going to take to move you out of your apartment. We’re going to have to shuffle things around to make everything work.”

“If we’re going to be dealing with furniture, we’re not going to have enough space in the motor home, even as big as it is,” Mike said after thinking about it for a moment. “Maybe we’d better think about renting a trailer somewhere.”

“Probably not a bad idea,” Mark agreed. “But again, we’re going to have to look at the apartment and see how much there is before we’ll know how big a trailer we’re going to need.”

It took a few more minutes to get everything worked out. Everybody but Cindy crammed themselves into the minivan and left for a nearby fast food place, while she said she’d make herself something before she took off for work in Henry’s car. The minivan was indeed packed full, especially with four people at or above six feet in it, but, as Henry had said, it would do for a short distance.

The afternoon was filled with running around, visiting the schools the girls attended, and doing a few other things. Both the girls seemed pretty quiet all afternoon, and understandably so: they were being taken from places and things they knew, with no warning, and there was much uncertainty lying in front of them.

“I’ll tell you one thing I’m not going to miss,” Brianna commented at one point, “and that’s Mr. Blossom’s class. He really makes me feel creepy. I’ve been counting the days until his classroom and not have to go there again, but I didn’t expect to get out of it like this.”

“I don’t know why you felt like that,” Rebecca countered. “I kind of liked his class. He was pretty cool.”

“Of course you’d like him, he doesn’t make you learn anything,” Brianna snorted. “All he does is talk about how great an athlete he was.”

“This was sixth grade, right?” Jackie asked.

“Yes, I got stuck with him this year,” Brianna replied. “I was afraid that was going to happen, and it did. I didn’t think I was going to like him since Becca liked him so well.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know many of the teachers in Spearfish Lake anymore,” Kirsten told the girls. “It’s been too long since I’ve had kids in your grades. I know two or three of the high school teachers a little better, since it hasn’t been as long since Susan was going to school there. Things don’t change that quickly.”

“Are we going to have to go to school in Spearfish Lake right away?” Rebecca asked.

“This close to the end of the school year, you could probably get away with not going to school till next fall,” Kirsten told them. “But I think it probably would be a good idea for you to go, even if it’s only going to be three weeks or so.”

“Why’s that?” the older girl asked.

“It’s an introduction to the new school, and to let you get to know some of the kids,” Kirsten pointed out. “That way you won’t have to worry all summer about what it’s going to be like in the fall, since you’ll already have an idea. And especially for you, it might give you the chance to make some connections to get on a softball team or something.”

“Are there any summer basketball programs?” Rebecca asked.

“Not formally,” Mike grinned. “But since you’re going into ninth grade, I’ll bet Mrs. Wine would be glad to have you over in her driveway every now and then.”


“Officially, they’re just messing around,” Mike explained. “In practice, it’s an ongoing free-form basketball clinic. It’s part of the reason Spearfish Lake basketball has done so well in recent years. Mrs. Wine and usually another coach or two are there, and they’re teaching all sorts of moves and tricks, so when the season opens in the fall, the kids are ready to go. She’s good. When we get back I’ll give her a call and see if I can clear the way for you, but since you’re going to be a freshman next fall, and probably on junior varsity, I don’t think I’ll have to talk very hard. It’ll probably be a good way to meet some of the kids you’ll be going to school with, too.”

“Is there some way I can meet some kids over the summer,” Brianna asked quietly. “I mean, something that doesn’t involve sports?”

“That might be a little harder,” Kirsten said after a moment’s thought, “but give me a little time to work on it. I ought to be able to come up with something.”

“It would be nice,” Brianna replied. “I mean, something other than sitting on a bleacher seat watching Becca play softball or something.”

“Like I said, let me work on it,” Kirsten promised.

“Uncle Mark,” the girl asked, “will you take us flying? I’ve wanted to do that ever since I heard you had an airplane, and I’ve never even been on a plane.”

“Of course I will,” Mark smiled, “at least, your Aunt Jackie and I will, since we’re both pilots. The only problem is that it’ll have to be only one of you at a time since we only have a two-seat airplane.”

“Great,” she replied, “that will be so neat! Have you had it long?”

“A long time,” Mark said, “over thirty-five years. Your Aunt Jackie and I took our honeymoon in it. We’ve kept it in good shape, so it’s as good as it was the day it was built.”

*   *   *

It was a busy afternoon, but they got about everything from their list done that they could. Things were a little quieter in the evening; mostly they just clustered around in the living room of Henry and Cindy’s house. There were things to talk about, but by tacit agreement among the adults there was little discussion of family events or things about Spearfish Lake; they didn’t want the girls to feel lost. So, after a while they wound up watching television, except for Brianna; she found a book that interested her on one of Henry’s bookshelves and curled up with it as far from the TV set as she could get and still be in the same room.

That evening, the girls again shared the same bed in Henry and Cindy’s guest room, while the adults from Spearfish Lake retreated to the motor home out on the curb, carrying a bottle of wine liberated from Henry and Cindy’s kitchen. It was a while they went to bed; they shared the bottle sitting around in the lounge of the motor home.

“All in all,” Mike commented as he took a sip of the wine, then made a face; it was pretty cheap wine and it tasted like it, “I think it’s going fairly well.”

“I think so, too,” Mark agreed. “I don’t want to bet that we’re going to get out of here the day after tomorrow, since we still don’t have clearance to work on the apartment. I’d hoped to hear something about that this evening.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Kirsten volunteered, “I’m a little surprised we’ll to be able to get in that soon. I mean, from what you hear about big-city cops, they like to take their time, especially if they think there’s something suspicious.”

“Henry seems to think there is something suspicious,” Mike agreed, “and my newspaperman’s gut instinct is going along with him. I wouldn’t be surprised to get a call from that Seymour guy tomorrow morning to tell us they’re going to sit on it for a week or so.”

“I don’t think we want to sit around here for a week to wait them out,” Mark nodded. “Actually, with the exception of the apartment, I think we have things in pretty good shape. If he calls us and puts us off, I say we just load up and go. We could stop at a big box store somewhere to get enough clothes and stuff to hold the girls for a few days, and make another trip back down here in a week or two. I think Gil would let us have the motor home again, and by then the girls might be a little used to what’s happening to them.”

“Not a bad idea,” Jackie agreed. “You can see Cindy’s uncomfortable with having the mob of us here.”

Kirsten nodded her head and took a sip of her wine before she agreed, “I’m sure she is, but she’s doing a better job of keeping herself under control than I expected. But I agree, the longer we mess around here, the more nervous the girls are going to be about what they’re facing. I think maybe we’d better get it over with for their sakes.”

“You know, I agree with that,” Jackie said slowly. “I think the sooner we get them home and get them used to the new surroundings, the better. What’s more, getting them away from here for a while may help them put this behind them a little. Even a couple weeks would go a long way towards getting them settled in. You can tell they’re nervous about it, and I don’t blame them a bit. I can’t believe that we’re not looking at an emotional explosion sooner or later.”

“I’m surprised, too,” Kirsten replied. “Frankly, I’d expected them to be more torn up than they are. I don’t think they’ve accepted the reality of it yet.”

“Cripe, I don’t know what to expect,” Mark said, “and it’s not just from lacking any experience as a parent, either. I definitely get the feeling we haven’t seen the real girls, yet. We’re just seeing, well, I don’t want to say an act, but a shell, a façade. I don’t know what I expected to see, but what we’re seeing isn’t what I expected the girls to be.”

“You’re probably right on that,” Mike replied. “There’s something about those two, well, that doesn’t seem quite right. Every now and then some kid shows through, but it’s tough to get it out of them and we don’t see a lot when we do.”

“It’s going to take them some time, no doubt about it,” Mark said thoughtfully. “And having them in transition isn’t making things go more smoothly. I know I’ll be a lot happier to have them home and have a few days for them to get used to things. Then maybe we’ll start to get an idea of who they really are. I agree with what Henry told me outside earlier, though, after the cop left. Those are two very different girls, and I think getting used to both of them is going to be harder than getting used to just one of them.”

“You expect kids to be a little different,” Kirsten sighed. “I mean, look at how different Henry is from Tiffany, and how Susan is off in another world of her own. It’s hard to believe they’re all our kids.”

“Yeah, and you were with them for a lot of the trip,” Jackie smiled. “And they still turned out pretty different. Like Mark said, we really don’t know these kids, what makes them tick, what gets to them and what doesn’t. I can tell right off that Rebecca is motivated a lot differently than Brianna, and that they don’t share a lot of common interests. They seem to be pretty supportive of each other, but maybe that’s just the hard times they’re going through.”

“Well, Mike and I are going to be ready to help you where we can,” Kirsten promised. “But I’m afraid the worst of the load is going to fall on you. I think you’re going to be looking at some interesting times ahead.”

“That’s pretty obvious,” Mark agreed. “Although I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of times when we’ll be calling on you for support.”

*   *   *

The next morning was fairly slow; there wasn’t much left for them to do without being able to get into the apartment, and they still hadn’t heard from the police when they would have permission. Finally, along in mid-morning, they got a call from Lieutenant Seymour. “I’m afraid I can’t give you clearance to take the girl’s stuff out of the apartment today,” he said to Mark. “I don’t want to say we found anything, but there are some things we’d like to take a harder look at.”

“Out of curiosity, any real leads?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” the policeman said. “At this point we don’t know for sure. I’m sorry we can’t let you get the girl’s things out today, and it could be a few days before we can.”

“I was kind of expecting that,” Mark said. “If that’s the case, we’re going to load up and take the girls home today. We’ll be back after you clear the apartment so we can get their things.”

“Sorry to have to do this to you,” the detective said, “but there are things that don’t make sense about this whole thing, and we’d like to have more time to look into them. I’m sure we can get done with it in a few days, but I can’t tell you just when.”

“I’m guessing it’s going to be a couple weeks before we can clear things away enough to be back,” Mark told him. “Until then, you’ve got numbers to get in touch with us.”

“That’ll be fine,” Seymour replied. “Unless things go really wacky, we ought to be done in the apartment by then.”

After another couple pleasantries, Mark hung up the phone. “Well, that’s that, and about what we expected,” he said. “We’re not going to be allowed into the apartment for a few days. We might as well get on the road before it gets too late. Girls, we told you earlier that if this happened, we’ll stop somewhere and get you some clothes and things to get you by for a few days, so gather up your stuff and let’s get out of here.”

“We don’t have much,” Rebecca announced. “Just what Mrs. Bloch had us pack up before we left.”

“It won’t take long,” Brianna agreed. “I wasn’t looking forward to going back home today, anyway.”

Cindy was off at work, but Henry was there; he didn’t have to go in until late in the afternoon. As the women went to help the girls pack up their things, he came over to where Mark was standing. “I thought that might happen,” he said in a low voice. “It sounds to me like they found something they don’t want to talk about.”

“Sounds like it to me, too,” Mark whispered back. “But I don’t suppose it matters very much right now, anyway.”

“Probably not,” Henry agreed, “but I’ll find out what it is soon enough, and I’ll let you know when I do.”

“Can’t ask for much more,” Mark nodded. “Look, I’m glad you let us drop all this on you and Cindy, and I really appreciate it, but we talked it over last night and agreed that it would be best if we had the girls out of here, anyway. I guess we’ll have to depend on you to be our eyes and ears down here for a while, and maybe run a few errands for us.”

“Sure, no problem. Maybe it’ll give me a reason to nose around a few places I wouldn’t get to go otherwise.”

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