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Meeting Lizbeth - Chapter Five Part IV
The Return Home
Tom's thoughts revolved around Lizbeth. He couldn't figure out how he was going to tell her about her beloved Grandpa Joseph. Joseph was closer to Lizbeth than he was to his own daughter and he knew Lizbeth adored Joseph. How was he going to tell her?
Tom's man still hadn't found Louise which puzzled Tom. His man had canvassed every hotel, motel, bus station, and train station to no avail. Now he was checking the airport. Where could Louise be? She wasn't a world traveller and certainly never made plans herself. She didn't have a lot of friends and no relatives she could stay with. Could she be lost somewhere? He really didn't know what to think. Where could she be?
When he drove up the driveway there were reporters everywhere. Evidently they already knew about Joseph's death. He was an important, well-loved man in this town. His passing was front page news. As Tom exited his car he raised his hands and said,
"Ladies and gentlemen, my beloved father-in-law, Joseph Porter, has apparently suffered a massive coronary. An autopsy will be performed to rule out foul play but we are almost certain he died of natural causes. No questions at this time please, and I ask that you allow my family privacy and time to grieve."
He turned and walked toward the house. When he closed the front door he found Maddy and his personal secretary waiting for him in the foyer. Tom told his secretary to stay in touch with the coroner's office and begin funeral arrangements as soon as he got the all clear.
"Can I get you anything Tom?" Maddy asked quietly.
"Yes, some scotch. I know it's early but I need it. Where's Lizbeth?"
"She hasn't come down yet, but I heard her TV on."
"I'll take that scotch now please."
After Tom swallowed his scotch he headed up the stairs, slowly, with his head down. He knew he would miss Joseph, he was very fond of him. Over the years they had grown close, Joseph was an easy man to like. Louise, well, who knew how she would react now, but Lizbeth. He felt so badly for his sixteen year old daughter. Now, on top of everything else that happened, she had lost her grandfather.
He knocked on her bedroom door and walked in. He could see she had been crying when she turned away from the window to look at him.
"Why Dad? How much more can this family take? What about Mom?"
He had no answers for her. He sat on her bed and she ran to him, kneeling on the floor in front of him with her head in his lap. He ran his fingers through her hair absent mindedly. Neither one knew how long they stayed that way. All they knew was somehow they comforted each other.
Maddy knocked on the door and asked to come in. She had a tray of sandwiches and cokes.
"I know you're probably not hungry, but you need to keep your strength up. The next few days will be very difficult."
She turned to leave but stopped when Tom said,
"Stay Maddy, please. We need to stick together, the three of us."
Maddy's heart ached for these two people she loved so dearly. Like Tom and Lizbeth, she wondered where Louise could be. She racked her brain trying to think of any friends or even distant relatives Louise might turn to, but came up blank. Louise wasn't a very social person so it was easy to eliminate the few people she even bothered with. Maddy had called them on her own, to no avail.
Maddy had always liked Joseph. It was sometimes hard to believe he was Louise's father. He was a caring, gentle man. He wasn't selfish or pretentious in any way. His love for his wife was almost palpable and his love for his daughter was too. The sadness he felt about their life situations was clear for all to see. He had spent his life trying to provide Louise with the love of a father and mother.
Louise on the other hand was impossible to figure out. Even before she knew about the role she played in her mother's death, she was always distant. Maddy watched her and Tom together and could sense that this wasn't the loving couple they wanted people to believe. Yet, there was nothing you could point to that appeared to be the cause. Even now when everyone was worried about her she had shut herself off from them.
Doug heard about Joseph's death from his regular patrol check in. He remembered Joseph's visit. He remembered seeing a well dressed man approaching him. He couldn't figure out what a man like that was doing in this part of town. As he neared Doug he held out his hand,
"My name is Joseph Porter, Doug. I understand you know my granddaughter Lizbeth."
"Yes sir, I do. She's been bringing me food." Doug replied trying to conceal his surprise as he shook Joseph's hand. How had Lizbeth's grandfather found out what was going on?
"I think there's more to it than that. I also know your appearance of dysfunction belies a highly regarded police officer."
"You've done your homework sir, but I must ask you to keep that information confidential. No one must know about my undercover work or I will be ineffective here."
"I haven't come to expose you or give you a hard time. I would just like to talk to you."
And talk they did. Joseph told Doug about his great love for Lizbeth, how she was the apple of his eye from the moment he saw her. As she grew so did his love for her. He said she reminded him so much of what his daughter Louise should have been. How he always wanted her life to bring her joy and never sorrow and pain. He explained he's had people watching her to keep her safe and that was how he knew about Doug.
"Once my people found out about her daily visits here I had you investigated. I know all about you Doug and I know you are a fine young man. Please forgive an old man for being overprotective of his granddaughter. I assure you, no one will know about this. Whether you decide to tell Lizbeth or not I leave to you."
They continued to talk and learned so much about each other. It was easy for them to talk so openly as each sensed the other's honesty and love for Lizbeth. Doug told Joseph,
"Mr. Porter, Lizbeth has given me my life back. Since you've done your homework you know I had pretty much given up on my life after my family's passing. The Police Department threw me a lifeline and then along came Lizbeth. It wasn't until Lizbeth that I started thinking about a future."
Now, he was gone.
Everyone who read Joseph's obituary was saddened. He was a kind man to all. He had done his job as mayor with fairness and dedication, a model politician if there ever was one. As the owner of Porter's Department Store he had given many a young man and woman a chance. A job to help them get through high school or to pay for college. His full time employees were provided with excellent benefits and loved their employer. All that is, except one. Jimmy the Shoe remembered Joseph as the man who had ended his cushy job. Jimmy had a steady income from his job and the money he stole from the register was a windfall for his gambling. If the old man had stayed away from the store he could have continued indefinitely.
When Joseph fired Jimmy, he still owed some gambling money. When he wasn't able to pay up he was visited by some thugs who left him with a broken arm and no money. They cleaned him out and told him he was through. He hadn't forgotten and could still feel the taste of vengeance rising in his throat.
"You may be dead old man, but I'm not finished."
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