Arctic Fox Book 3: Pursuit of the Dream - Chapter 28

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Cover photo by Jonatan Pie. Downloaded from Unsplash

Marcia is seventeen, and along with Darryl, has moved south in Alaska to attend the Anchorage campus of the Alaska State University. She wants to pursue her dream, but will it pursue her instead?
I want to thank Malady, once again, for his help checking through this story for the many errors I frequently insert, as well as listening to my sometimes completely crazy ideas about the direction of the story and telling me how crazy they are!

Chapter 28

Lincoln City, Oregon

It was Sunday, the 30th of July, and the young couple had been married for just over a week. They got up earlier than usual and headed off to a tiny church they had seen in town.

They entered the little building and only about ten other people were there. It was a single room with a couple of metal poles in the center to help hold the roof up. With so few people there, Darryl double-checked his watch and the sign on the door. Both were right, so they continued in and sat down.

A middle-aged man was quietly speaking to a teenage girl on the front pew. She looked like she was probably around fourteen years old, and the couple could hear what they were saying. The man was obviously the pastor, and it seemed as though the girl was his daughter. He was urging her to play the piano, but she was very reluctant.

You sounded great last night while you were practicing, Sweety," he told her.

Doctor Wurst told me not to overdo it, and it’s sore this morning, Daddy,” she told him.

Marcia could see that the girl had a wrist brace on her right arm, and could understand why the girl didn’t want to play. She stood up and walked to where the two were seated. She sat down beside the girl and told the minister, “I’m Marcia Johnson, and if your daughter can’t play, I will.”

The man gave her a grateful smile. “I’m Reverend Goldman,” he said, “and this is my daughter, Heather.”

At his name, Marcia had a momentary surge of panic. She usually played by ear but didn't know any Jewish music. The panic ended as soon as it began, however. He had introduced himself as Reverend Goldman, not Rabbi. And she had seen the name of the church. It was a congregational church and said nothing about Judaism.

Thank you,” the Reverend said. “I’ve got a list of the songs here. If you don’t know any of them, just let me know.”

If you have music, I can play from that.”

I play by ear,” Heather told her. “We don’t have any music yet.”

We just started this church,” Reverend Goldman told her. “Just a few weeks ago.”

Do you live in Lincoln City?” Heather asked hopefully.

My husband and I are on our honeymoon,” Marcia replied. “We live in Alaska.”

Oh,” Heather said, disappointed.

The Pastor looked at his wrist and said, “We’re going to start in just a few minutes. Are you able to play a prelude?”

Sure," Marcia said. She stood and moved to the piano. It was a several-year-old Chickering, and she hoped it was in tune. Playing a few chords, she heard a very nice tone. The response from the keyboard was good as well.

After a few hymns, the Pastor stood and moved to her side. “You play beautifully,” he told her. “I’m glad to hear that the piano sounds so good. A string broke on Heather as she was tuning it. That’s how she sprained her wrist.”

Ouch!” Marcia exclaimed. “I can imagine!’”

Somehow, she finished it with her left hand and even put a new string on it. G5, I think she said."

Marcia deliberately played a G5 and found that the string was in perfect tune as well. "Heather has talent."

Her mother taught her,” Reverend Goldman said. His face turned somber and he moved toward the lectern at the front of the sanctuary.

Marcia stopped playing and wondered if she should go back to her pew, but after just a couple of announcements, and an acknowledgment of Marcia's willingness to help out, he turned the service over to Heather, who stood and moved to the front.

Beside the opening to the baptismal, the wall was off-white, and the girl picked up a remote from the lectern. Pressing a button, a projector came on. It was sitting on a shelf on the back wall. The words to The Old Rugged Cross appeared on the wall, and Heather looked toward Marcia.

Marcia gave a brief introduction with the last line of the song, and Heather started singing at the beginning of the first verse. “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross…

The teenager had a beautiful soprano voice and if Marcia was any judge, she had perfect pitch.

* * *

The message was on 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18, and the minister spoke on gratitude. In everything give thanks. He also referred to Philippians 4:6-7, and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds.

After the sermon, the Pastor thanked the Johnsons for coming. He wondered if they’d be there next week, or if they’d be heading home before then.

No,” Darryl said. “We’re not heading back to Alaska until the end of next week.”

Oh Good!” chimed in Heather, looking at Marcia. “Will you be able to play next week too?”

I don’t see why not,” the new bride told her.

1:30 PDT (Pacific Daylight Time)

The four went their separate ways, but surprisingly, ran into each other at Finchley’s Chowder and Seafood. Darryl and Marcia walked in, and seated off to the side was the pastor, his daughter, and another couple who’d been in Church that morning.

Join us?” Reverend Goldman asked. He didn’t want to pressure the two as he knew they were on their honeymoon, but they accepted the invitation. The minister and the other man from church pulled a table over to theirs and Darryl got a couple of chairs.

He seated his wife, then sat opposite her.

Dan Black,” the man said, holding out his hand to Darryl.

Darryl Johnson and this is my wife Marcia."

The lady with Dan held out her hand to Marcia. “I’m Corina,” she said. “My brother doesn’t seem to like to ever introduce me.”

Marcia giggled. “I think I’ve finally convinced my brother, Chet, to be a bit more socially conscious.”

Corina laughed but then gave Marcia and Darryl a strange look. “Wait a minute. Chet? You two are just married. Is your maiden name Chatham, Mrs. Johnson?”

Just call me Marcia, but yes. You know Chet?”

Dan and I run a small cleaning service for some of the rentals around here. Your brother and sister-in-law just hired us to clean theirs.”

Well, this is fortuitous,” Darryl said. “I was going to call you to see if we could meet up with you this week. Our parents are thinking of purchasing some places too. We were wondering if you could steer them to some places that would be worth purchasing.”

Sure,” Dan said. “And I think we can direct you to a good real estate agent too.”

Oh!” Marcia exclaimed. “That would be great!”

Corina pointed to the pastor, who smiled and said, “I’d love to help out your parents. Something I’ve learned about being a volunteer pastor. It doesn’t pay much. Something about the word volunteer, I think.”

Darryl laughed. “I suppose that’s true, Pastor.”

Call me Paul,” the reverend said.

They enjoyed the companionship and when they were about to leave, Darryl reached into his wallet, pulled out a business card, and handed it to Paul as the man stood up. "This is both of our dads business card. Give 'em a call."

The reverend looked at it. The color drained from his face and he almost seemed to sway. He sat down heavily.

Just as quickly, he seemed to recover. “Thanks,” he said to Darryl.

Are you okay?” Marcia asked, concerned.

“Sorry. I must have stood up too quickly.” He laughed. “Getting older, I suppose. I’ll give them a call tomorrow.”

Darryl and Marcia headed out to the Mustang and were getting in it when Heather hurried out of the restaurant and held up her hand for them to wait a minute.

Darryl rolled down his window and asked, “Yes?”

Can I contact you if I need to?”

What’s wrong?” Marcia asked her.

I've never seen Dad get faint before. It's strange. He's always real strong."

Sure,” Darryl said.

Marcia reached into her purse and pulled out another business card with her name on it and handed it to the young girl. “Call us anytime,” she said. “We’ll be praying for both of you.”

* * *

As they drove away, Darryl asked, “What do you make of that?”

I don’t think it had anything to do with Reverend Goldman growing faint. There was something that spooked him.”

With our Dads’ business card?”

She didn’t answer directly. “It couldn’t have been the business. That’s way too new. It has to be one of them.”

You don’t think it was something else?”

I don’t think so. He was looking at the card.”

Yeah. I agree, but I was hoping I was wrong.”

What do you think we should do?" she asked him.

Maybe we should call Dad?”

Marcia nodded. “I think so.” She took out her phone and called her dad’s number.

* * *

The two spoke to both of their fathers and told them about Reverend Paul Goldman, but neither could recall meeting him or even hearing of him. They both said they'd welcome the call from him and were looking forward to seeing if his voice was familiar.

Oregon Coast

2 PM PDT, Monday, July 31st, 2023

Darryl and Marcia drove to the Blacks’ business office and went inside. Dan was seated behind a desk working on a computer, and when he saw them, he clicked his mouse and said, “Marcia and Darryl are here, Corina.”

Great!” came the woman’s voice from the computer speakers. “We can talk in my office.”

Dan pointed toward a door to his left, clicked his mouse again, and they heard the door unlock. “Go on through,” Dan told them.

They entered a spacious office, well appointed, and Corina was sitting behind the desk. Nice chairs were facing the desk, and she stood, motioning them to sit down.

Outside the office, Dan could be heard talking to someone, then he came through the still slightly open door and shut it. The sound from outside the room was immediately cut off.

Wow! Thought Marcia. Either cleaning the rentals in Lincoln City is a lucrative business, or there are other things the Blacks do besides cleaning.

So what can we do for you?” Corina asked after they had dispensed with the normal pleasantries.

Well, I do the books for Chatham Yardworks, and now Chatham Farms,” Marcia told the Blacks. “While I’m here, I’d like to go over the contract for cleaning at the beach house with you.”

Sure,” Corina said as she pulled up the business's records on the computer. “You know, we used to see the Winters down here. I believe their son worked for the farm.”

He still does,” Darryl told them.

You don’t see him anymore?”

We haven’t seen either Sonja or Stephen since their parents died.”

Oh, that’s too bad.”

Well, their parents paid for the time-share. I’m not sure their kids could afford it.”

Sonja's a therapist," Marcia said, "and Stephen gets a room at the farm. He's a valued employee."

He’s a nice guy,” Dan put in. “I’ve always liked him.”

He’s the number two guy at the farm,” Darryl said, nodding his head in agreement.

The conversation turned toward the contract with the farm, and when they’d gone over everything, and Marcia approved of it, Darryl asked, “What did you make of Reverend Goldman’s spell after dinner last night?”

I’m really not sure,” Dan admitted. “I’ve never seen anything like it with him.”

Corina nodded in agreement. "He's only in his mid-forties," she said.

Marcia wondered, “Does he have a wife?”

Dan and Corina glanced at each other, and then Corina informed them, "He's never been married."

What about Heather’s mother?” Darryl asked.

Well,” Dan said. “I’m not quite sure of the story, but it seems as though she was an old flame.”

There have been rumors that he’s not Heather’s biological father.”

He was in the military, I guess,” Dan continued the story, “so they must have met at one of his postings.”

Do you know which branch?” Marcia asked. Maybe that was how he knew one of their parents. He might have heard of one of the colonels and reacted to that. But why would he be so scared?

Corina shook her head. "No. But he settled here about three or four years ago. He and Heather."

Darryl had a strange thought. “Is there any sign of some kind of relationship between them? You know… sexual?”

Marcia didn’t like the sound of that type of thing, but she had heard of stranger things.

Not that I’ve heard,” Dan said. “It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

I don’t think he’s that type of person,” Corina said defiantly, but Marcia could see a flicker of doubt in her face.

Well, hopefully, we'll get some information later tonight. He's supposed to talk to both of our dads this evening," Marcia said, trying to put Corina at ease.

We’d better go for now, though,” Darryl said. “We’ll keep you informed.”

Dan nodded, and Corina gave a shaky smile. She’s got the hots for him, Darryl thought to himself.

Tuesday, August 1st, 2023, 2:00

Darryl and Marcia were enjoying the view of the ocean from the hot tub on the balcony when Marcia's phone rang. She sighed as she climbed out of the warm water, grabbed her towel, and threw it over her shoulders. She saw that the call was from her dad, and answered brightly. "Hi, Daddy!”

Hi, Marsh. Have you talked to either of the Goldmans today?”

No,” Marcia replied. Her dad’s voice had been very curious. “What’s going on?”

I’m not sure. Neither Bob or I heard from Reverend Goldman last evening, but today I got a call from an attorney this morning. He said he needed to send me a letter from the Reverend.”

That’s interesting,” Marcia said. “Why would he send you a letter when he hasn’t talked to you about any real estate?” She heard a beep on her phone, telling her that another call was coming in. She looked at the screen and said, “I’m getting a call from Corina Black, one of the cleaners, and a friend of the Goldmans.”

Okay,” Mike Chatham said. “Let me know if you hear anything. This is real peculiar.”

I will, Daddy.”

She took the call from Corina and said, "Hi."

“Paul is dead!” Corina wailed from the other end of the line.

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