In the last episode: Mark is visited by JT Mendoza who confesses to slipping a Mickey as a joke in Monica De La Croix’s drink which lead to her death. JT rejects Mark’s advice to go to the police and confess. JT reminds Mark that if he talks to the police, he will bring harm to the De La Croix family
Mark retrieves his phone and dials Sunni. Skipping all small talk and any other significant events that’s happened since he last saw her, Mark relays what JT shared with him. It is met by an eerily long silence.
“Sunni, are you okay?”
“Of course I’m not okay. I don’t want to believe Celia would suggest something like that. I don’t believe JT,” Sunni delivers her response slowly and distinctly.
“You have to believe JT’s role in this at least. I do,” Mark shifts the phone from one ear to another as he strokes his beard with his free hand.
“If I believe it was meant as a joke, it is still a sick, vindictive joke. I know Celia has no reason to want to hurt Monica,” Mark unconsciously paces as he listens to Sunni’s strong denial.
Mark hesitates to share the thought that just entered his mind. He pulls the phone away from his face and continues to pace.
Mark can hear Sunni, “Mark, are you still there?”
Mark draws in a deep breath and then releases it slowly, “Please understand that I’m not accusing anyone but don’t you and Celia gain materially with Monica’s death?”
After a brief pause, Sunni responds confidently, “We lost a dear friend who helped raise Celia and me. The community lost a champion.”
“There’s no doubt about all that. You and Celia also inherit everything. Why were you emptying and repacking that safe?”
“Forget about the safe, Mark.”
“I can’t. It is what tangled me into this mess. Besides, from those closest to Monica, the safe has drawn more attention than her sudden death.”
Mark can tell that Sunni hasn’t hung up only because he can hear her uneasy breathing.
“Tina and Gina are planning a memorial service for Monica. We want to make it very public because of her involvement in the Foundation. Your mom is helping them. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”
Mark feels shame that he hasn’t reached out to his mom who must be shocked by this sudden death.
“Have you not talked with your mom? Does she know you were in the hospital? Yet, you preach at me for not having my priorities straight.”
“I’ll call my mama as soon as you answer my question. What was in that safe that causes so much attention? How much does it have to do with Monica’s death?”
Mark cannot believe Sunni’s answer, “Mark, call your mom.”
“I want to hear it. I think I’m now ready to hear it,” Mark is determined to get to the truth.
“Remember our promise to Tina, Gina and Steve. Let’s keep it. Call your mom.”
Mark responds but in the middle of his conversation, he realizes he speaks to dead air.
Mark starts to dial his mama, but then decides to go visit her in the morning instead.
The next morning, early enough that he might convince mama to fix some waffles for him, Mark shows up at her house looking tired, troubled and hungry. This proves to be the perfect conditions to get some of his mama’s waffles.
“I’m sorry I’ve failed to show up after Monica De La Croix’s untimely death. I know you thought a lot of her,” Mark pours the maple syrup over a plate of two warm waffles top with melting butter.
“I hear you been comforting the stepdaughters. Too busy for your mama,” Lani Waters Masters sits down across the table from Mark and enjoys a homemade waffle, also.
“I’ve got lots to tell you about those couple of visits and a fascinating visit I had last night,” Mark takes a sip of his coffee.
“I hear you spent some time in the ER. Let’s start there,” Mrs Masters jabs a piece of waffle emphatically signaling to Mark of her frustration with him at that fact.
“How did you hear about that?” Mark sets his fork down.
“I know people in this town. I’ve taught a few of them. Some of them become doctors,” a forkful of syrup-glazed waffle waves frantically in front of her pointed in Mark’s direction.
“Where did you talk to Dr. Kalite?”
“You’d know if you’d ever darken the doors of the church now and then,” Mrs. Masters pokes a bite of waffle in her mouth.
“Let’s not get that discussion going, again,” Mark grips the arms of his chair.
“I’m your mama and your in my kitchen eating my food, so I’ll discuss what I wish to discuss and I wish to discuss what sent my baby boy to the ER. Now, eat and tell me.”
“Which is it, Mama – eat or tell you?” Mark tries to make light of it knowing it won’t change his mama’s mind once it’s set.
“You heard what I said. There was an ‘and’ in my sentence. Surely you’re capable of multitasking two things at once.”
Mark chuckles, takes a bite of waffle, a sip of coffee and begins to catch his mama up on his experiences since the cotillion.
“Well, I don’t know what was in that library safe after he died, but I know Reuben kept the Foundation’s Financial ledgers there,” Mrs Masters gets up and refills Mark’s and her coffee cups.
“I saw one ledger but that’s all. It was a little odd, though,” Mark declines his mama’s offer of more waffles as she begins to clear the table.
“I bet several pages were blank in the middle,” Mrs Masters suggests they take their coffee to the living room.
“Not exactly. Some of the rows were filled with names. Names of people no one seemed to know.”
“Reuben was a fine, godly man, but like a lot of geniuses, he had his quirks,” Mark notices a little smile cross his mama’s lips as she thinks about Reuben.
The two of them find a comfortable spot in the living room. Mark starts to set his coffee cup down on a table in front of the couch where he sits. But then remembers to get a coaster first to rest it on.
“I’m no detective, but I am the mother of three children who never confess to any of their crimes,” Mrs Masters snuggles back into her favorite chair cradling her coffee cup in her hand.
“As I recall you didn’t always get it right and ending up convicting all the suspects whether you had ample evidence or not.”
“Everyone was usually guilty of something,” Mrs Masters unashamedly grabs a quick sip of her coffee.
Mark laughs at this truth until a thought strikes him, “You may have hit on something, Mama.”
“Good. Glad to be of help. Now, let’s discuss church attendance.”
Mark nestles into the back of the couch cradling his coffee cup. Mrs Masters starts in on her usual valid reasons why Mark benefits from going to church. But Mark doesn’t present his usual opposing argument. Instead, he begins thinking about the list of suspects and possibly related misconducts.
“Sunni is probably lying about the contents of the safe. Celia is probably covering up her part in Monica’s death. Someone, either Sunni or Celia is lying about whether Celia was held captive by a co-conspirator of Blake and the boys. Celia, Gina, Tina and possibly Steve Sherman are guilty of using strong arm tactics on Sunni and him.”
“Only Blake Harlow and company are in jail,” without realizing it, Mark blurts this out loud.
“No, that’s not true anymore,” Mrs Masters interrupts Mark’s private analysis.
“What do you mean ‘that’s not true?’”
“Last night on the news, the reporter said three of the men with known ties to white supremest groups were bailed out yesterday. I remember one was named Blake Harlow.”
“They’re the ones who hurt me.”
“I’m sorry, son.”
Mark takes one last sip of coffee, sets the cup down on the coaster and stands.
“You can’t be leaving, son. We haven’t talked about you coming back to church, yet,” Mrs Masters leans forward and reaches out to block Mark’s path.
“I think I need to talk with Detective Madison,” Mark stops to explain.
“She hasn’t got a phone?” Mrs Masters rises from her chair and stands toe-to-toe with Mark.
“Of course, Mama. Even you have a phone.”
“Then call her while you drive you and me to the De La Croix’s,” Mrs Masters moves quickly towards a corner of the living room where her purse rests on a wicker chair.
“When did we decide this?” Mark follows without argument knowing he won’t be changing her mind.
“We decided right now,” Mrs Masters with purse dangling from her shoulder is already standing with the front door open.
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at email@example.com.