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Pulpit Love, a short story, part 11
Karl Hoffner was exhausted from all the driving and decided to stop to get a badly needed good night sleep. He had never been to El Paso before so that's where he would spend the night. After all, he could slow down a bit now. He was several states away from Florida. Furthermore, he doubted very much that the church would officially press charges against him. They wouldn't want the publicity and he knew it. But one is never too careful and he felt protected by his change of identity and the fact that nobody knew which kind of vehicle he was driving, except for the two sisters, but he wasn't worried about them, they would keep their mouth shut. He had left behind everything and everybody that could lead to him. He missed his Chrysler 300 though, he really liked that car. Hey, he said to himself, I can walk into any dealership and buy a brand new one for cash. He smiled at the thought. The power of money ! When he grew up, Hoffner never had any money. His drunk father always spent at least half his paycheck on booze, and when he came home, on rare occasions, he was on a mission to beat the hell out of his wife and children. So, by the tender age of fourteen, little Karl, a scrawny child, was living in the streets on his own. Talk about character building he thought with a smile.
Once he reached El Paso, he got off highway 10 and looked for a not too run down place to stay. If he had been in better shape, he would have crossed the border to Mexico, just a couple of miles away. In Ciudad Juarez, he would have easily picked up a little Lolita for the night. But he felt too tired. He had a thought for the Randolph sisters. These two had surprised him all along. But it was only a matter of time before somebody noticed how much time they spent around him. Not to mention the enamored way they looked at him. So he needed to walk away, something he had planned to do for a while anyway. And he finally did. With a bang ! He checked himself in at the local Holiday Inn Express, half a mile from the highway and had a quick dinner at the adjacent Cracker Barrel restaurant. He couldn't help hitting on the waitress, but she wasn't off until 11.00 PM and he didn't want to wait that long. After dinner, he walked back to the hotel, and picked up two pieces of luggage from the van. Back in his room, he took a long warm shower and called it a night. He crashed on the bed within minutes.
By 8.00 PM, the bulk of the crowd had left and only the usual suspects could be found at the bar of "Le Petit Paris". Cynthia and Stephen sat at the large rectangular wooden counter and ordered the same drinks as before, with the firm intention to enjoy them this time. Billy Bob, a funny guy with a permanent attitude was bartending tonight. He was getting more upset by the minute, listening to a drunk woman from Tennessee who wouldn't stop raving about her home state. She managed to get the best out of Billy Bob who suddenly had enough, and throwing on the bar the towel he had in his hand, he said with an aggravated tone :
- "Lady, I wouldn't even fly over your damn state!" It worked ! She frowned and retreated immediately, completely mute. Billy Bob looked pretty pleased with himself...
- 'Capella, party of two, your table is ready !" an anonymoous voice announced over the loud speaker. Cynthia and Stephen walked to the separate dining room overlooking the ocean, carrying their drink with them. They were seated at table 12, the exact one Cynthia had requested. The atmosphere was cozy and quaint. No ceiling lights. Just an individual Tiffany style lamp on each table with a switch on the wall to control the intensity of the light. Muted soft jazz music playing. Josie, the waitress lit up two candles on their table. The windows had been left slightly open and a refreshing evening breeze came through. The dancing flames of the candles played a ballet of light and shadows on Cynthia's face and Capella took dozens of mental pictures.
- "So, what is this about ?" he asked his date.
- "A combination of things, really" she said. "First, I want to thank you for all the efforts you deployed to help find my girls. I know it's your job and blah blah blah, but I'm not stupid enough to be unaware that you went the extra mile and I appreciate that. Today, you were the only person to really care and show me some compassion. Did you know that nobody from the church ever called me ? And then, there is another thing since you want to know everything : I have been in contact with you in several occasions today, and I like you. So, I would wish for us to become friends, because, right or wrong, I have come to the conclusion that you are a decent person. And I've noticed the way you look at me. It made me feel good !" This is not the same woman I've been talking to all day, Capella thought, she must have a twin sister too. But he had just been hit right in the guts. "I like you" she had said. Okay, it's probably the spicy Bloody Mary kicking in and she will take that back any minute now, as soon as she realizes...
- "I like you too" he said, thinking how lame and corny that sounded. But he was sincere. The beauty of this woman had a profound effect on him the minute he first saw her. He was actually having a hard time believing she was sitting right in front of him. "I'll be honored to be called your friend".
- "Good. So let's celebrate our new friendship and order some decadent food and the proper bottle of wine to go with it , shall we ?" as she grabbed the wine list sitting on the table.
Gray's Anatomy was almost over when the phone rang. Father Gibson picked it up :
- "Andrew Gibson speaking"
- "Oh, hello Father Gibson. My name is Esther Borrowitz and I am a reporter for the Paradise Pines Bugle. I came across a story involving your church earlier today, and wrote an article about it. I would like to read it to you and maybe when I'm done you could comment on it if you wish". Gibson physically felt the blood withdraw from his face. His darkest nightmare had materialized :
- "All right,read it to me then", he said with a feeble voice. When she stopped, he just said :
- "I'm sorry Miss Borrowitz, but there is no comment I wish to add at this time".
- "But do you confirm the veracity of the facts ?"
- "No comment!" And he hung up. I guess I'll take that as a yes, smiling to herself.
Marigold and Hattie Randolph had remained for a while in the living-room after her mother left with the detective. They sat silently on the same sofa, still holding hands, long after they heard their mother's car back up from the driveway. Hattie finally looked at her sister. Huge tears were running down Marigold's face. Hattie hugged her "little" sister, born twenty minutes later than her and they both cried in each other's arms for a long time. When they eventually ran out of tears, they went up to their bedroom, glad to enjoy the comfort of home, and fell asleep immediately...
To be continued...
Copyright 2012 by Austinhealy, his heirs and assigns.
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