Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified Feb. 23, 2019
Chapter Title: Reunion
Chapter Number: Five
Copyright: (c) March 1, 2019
John watched Fritz pull the rental car out of the driveway. He went to the regular landline house phone. He activated the return-a-missed-call function. Despite many rings, there was no answer. However, the LCD display on the landline phone showed the number being tried. John put this number into an app on his smartphone. The computer app showed him it was a pay phone on a certain street near the airport. The program even produced a nice map on the screen.
John went to another room. From a desk drawer, he pulled out a special flashlight, which he flicked on to test the batteries. A purplish light came out. He also grabbed a couple small vials and a small brush. He took these back to the kitchen. He took out a drinking glass made of glass. That made him think of a paper bag on the counter. He went to it, and took out a bag of pills. He read the instructions carefully, then took a pill as prescribed, using the drinking glass with water to wash it down. He experimentally waved around his arms.
He then carefully dried the glass with a towel, then firmly gripped the glass in his hand and set it on the table. He then shone the handheld UV light at it, then lightly brushed on some powder. He seemed satisfied, and left the glass.
He glanced an outdoor thermometer visible from the window of the kitchen. He grabbed what looked like a biker jacket, but in brown cloth rather than brown leather. Back in high school, it had been all he could afford. He went out to the garage. He pulled a tarp off of two motorcycles. These had not been used in the past three years, but had been used whenever the weather was nice back when he and Fritz had been in high school.
In another part of the city, Fritz pulled the rental car to a stop in a parking lot that contained only two other cars. One car he recognized as Leone's, who owned the restaurant, and the other as belonging to Christine's parents. Christine didn't own her own car. He hurried to the door of the restaurant. The lights inside were on, but the door wouldn't open when he tugged it.
A voice Fritz recognized as Leone's yelled from behind the door, "We're closed. We open at eleven am tomorrow."
Leone unlocked the door. Fritz entered. The place smelled of delicious food, but tinged over that was the smell of cleansers.
"Sorry. When the lights are on, I constantly get people yanking at the door even though it's after hours and the closed sign is out. You'd think customers couldn't live through the night without food."
Fritz asked, "Are Christine and Vicky gone?"
Hearing Fritz, Christine poked her head out from a booth and announced, "We're back here. Did you bring John?"
"You asked me not to."
Christine responded in a deliberately much too loud voice that somebody outside the door would have been able to hear, "I know what I asked, but that doesn't answer my question. Is John slinking outside the door?"
Leone went to the door as if this was just what he thought too. He opened it and looked around outside. He came in, shaking his head.
Watching this performance, Fritz stated, "John's at our house. I took the only car."
"I'm glad he's not here," Vicky's voice rang out.
Leone spoke up, "The girls haven't explained anything to me, but given how they look, I figured I shouldn't kick them out even though they've been here over an hour. We closed half an hour ago."
Fritz sat down next to Christine on the bench seat and said, "Sorry, Leone, but I think the girls and I should keep this private."
Leone shrugged and said, "I'll be in the kitchen cleaning the grill."
Once Leone was out of earshot, Christine hissed at Fritz, "Vicky said that she heard John and Officer McCormick saying that Iris Morrow is still alive! Is that true?"
Fritz settled in the bench seat. Back in the kitchen, they could hear Leone scraping away. It was a rhythmic metal on metal sound, almost musical. Outside the restaurant, there were the sounds of traffic on the busy thoroughfare, even late at night. One car sounded unnaturally loud, as though it needed a new muffler. Fritz thought that loud engine reminded him of something, but he couldn't think of what. He leaned back and the wooden bench creaked loudly.
In a reasoned, slightly condescending tone, Fritz finally said, "It's been three years since the explosion that destroyed the sedan. I'd say that is evidence that she's dead."
"You liar!" screamed Vicky.
The restaurant door opened unheard by the young people in the booth, the noise of the door drowned out by Vicky's scream.
Fritz's face was rigidly impassive as he calmly responded, "If alive, where has she been all this time?"
Vicky said, "I don't know! I'm not a detective and never claimed to be one! I program computers in college classes, not solve crimes. I know what I heard, though. John said there was no body found after the explosion! Officer McCormick indicated an explosion of that size couldn't possibly vaporize a body, and John agreed!"
Fritz turned from looking at Vicky to Christine, then his gaze abruptly went past Christine to a form of a man silhouetted in the door. The figure was big, similar in build to Gordon Fink. Without taking time to think about it, Fritz leaped from the bench and dove at the figure.
The figure screamed, "Fritz, it's me!"
Fritz already had too much momentum. He tackled the big guy.
Leone raced out of the kitchen, a cleaver in his hand, "What's going on?"
The man on the floor said, "Get off me!"
Leone could see the man on the floor and said, "Conrad Morrow?"
Fritz backed off, confused.
Conrad got up, clearly unhurt by being tackled as he had been even more popular than Gordon on the high school team and was now on the Port City University team, and said, "Hi, Leone. Victoria sent me a text message to come here for important news. The door was unlocked so I walked in."
Leone groaned humorously, "I thought I heard the distinctive sound of your car."
"Yes, I've got glass packs on her instead of a regular muffler. She sounds great that way and has more power, but last week Officer McCormick gave me a ticket. He said my car was too loud. A ticket, not just a warning! He didn't even check it with a dB meter! Still, I'm getting a regular muffler put on next week. I just hope I don't run into McCormick before my appointment at the auto shop. Those tickets are expensive!"
Leone smiled and said, "Hasn't stopped you from driving your hot rod, I see. Conrad, I'm sure you want food, but the ovens and grill are shut down. There's some French bread left over. It's still good, but has to go in the dumpster if not used. Health codes, you know."
Conrad replied, "No, thanks. I'm trying to avoid too many carbs. What's that other car in the lot?"
"My rental," Fritz said.
Conrad looked baffled and asked, "Does John have the SUV?"
Leone shook his head, "Don't you watch TV or listen to the radio? I've been working here all day, but even I know. We have a radio in the kitchen, and the story has been playing all day."
"I've haven't watched TV or listened to the radio in several months. Between my farm chores and commuting into town for my college classes and football, all I've had time to do to relax is ride our horse," Conrad said.
Vicky's voice came out sounding almost normal, "You've got a horse, Conrad?"
"A brown mare named Suzy. We live on a farm, so have room for one. My parents have discussed getting a horse for years. Granted, she wasn't bought for me."
Christine asked, "Your Dad get it for your Mom? That's sweet." Conrad blushed and said, "No, Dad bought it for Iris. He and Mom still won't believe she's dead! Dad said that wherever she is, she may learn she has a horse waiting and come home. Isn't that crazy?"
Vicky replied, "No."
Before Vicky could say more, Leone interrupted, "The Falkowsky's SUV blew up!"
Sudden concern was in Conrad's face as he asked, "Where's John?"
Fritz said, "He got a superficial cut in his back, but he's okay after a couple stitches. He's at home resting. The only person seriously injured was Gordon Fink. He came through surgery fine. He'll make a full recovery."
Conrad remarked, "What a jerk that guy was in high school. Now he acts like he owns Port City while being only a mall cop. He claims to be a private detective as well, but who would hire him? He keeps trying to join the real police force, but they won't have him. Still, I'm glad he'll recover. He was a good football player in high school, though. If he would just shape up academically, he could join me on the Port City U football team. That is, if he really truly recovers completely."
Leone said, "Fritz and the girls want to talk privately, Conrad. Why don't you come back with me to the kitchen until they're done?"
Conrad instead took a seat on the bench next to Vicky, "I need to talk to them too. Sorry, without you in earshot."
Leone walked away, still hanging onto the cleaver. He did make a slight detour and carefully locked the outside door before continuing on to the kitchen.
Conrad's face darkened noticeably as he said, "Leone's out of earshot, so the friendly conversation is over. Why did you say that my Dad isn't crazy, Victoria?"
Fritz said, "If alive, I'm sure Iris would have contacted you by now, Conrad."
Conrad snapped, "Fritz, you seem like a different guy then the one I grew up with. I'm asking Victoria. I'll talk to you later. Go on, Victoria."
Vicky explained the conversation that took place right after John had gotten his stitches as Fritz and Christine sat silently.
After Vicky finished, Conrad turned to Fritz and in steely voice said, "Now it's your turn, Fritz. Is my sister really dead?"
Fritz replied, "After three years not hearing from her, you know the answer."
Christine gave her boyfriend an angry look, then did something he clearly did not expect. She abruptly reached over and yanked the cell phone from Fritz's belt. Fritz grabbed her wrist in a firm grip.
Christine didn't flinch, but said, "Conrad's right. Sometimes you are a different person, Fritz."
Fritz let her wrist go and said in a reluctant but careful tone what he had said before, "After three years not hearing from her, you know the answer."
Christine held onto the phone, "Tell us the truth or I'll use this. I figured out how today."
Vicky countered, "It's far too late to be phoning anybody tonight."
Christine confidently responded, "I think Dr. Ruby or one of his fellow workers will answer this particular phone at any time of the day or night. How about it, Fritz?"
"I gave my answer," Fritz said with obvious distress.
Christine jabbed the screen on the phone. Despite the late hour, Dr. Ruby himself answered after only one ring. He managed to show no surprise that he was talking to Christine again instead of the phone's owner. Dr. Ruby listened for some time as Christine talked. Fritz, Vicky, and Conrad sat at the table watching and listening.
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