Authors: Maggie Sefton
“How's your son Tommy doing?” one woman asked, her needles moving smoothly through the motions. “Didn't you say he was an intern?”
Barb's big smile returned. “Actually he's moved on and is a resident in family medicine now,” she said, face glowing with motherly pride. “He's even working in one of the emergency care clinics.”
“Really?” another woman asked. “Which one?”
“The one near Drake and Timberline. It's open twenty-four hours. Tommy gets the middle of the night since he's the resident.”
“Lowest on the totem pole,” a younger woman commented.
“He won't stay there long,” another said. “He sounds like a rising star from what you've said.”
Barb's face glowed, clearly basking in the praise for her son. “I think so, too. The other doctors seem impressed with him. So he should move up fast.”
“Well, you know what they say,” a middle-aged woman said. “Cream rises to the top.”
A couple of the women chuckled as others concentrated on their stitches. Kelly was about to add her affirmations to the others when her cell phone rang.
“Excuse me, folks, sorry to interrupt,” she said, jumping out of her chair and heading toward the doorway. She quickly dug into her pocket for the phone, which was playing loud Latin music. Steve's name flashed on the screen as she clicked on. “Hey, there. Will you be able to make the kids' ball games tonight or will you be stuck at the building site?”
“Actually I'll be home earlier. You and I are going to dinner. I've already made reservations at the Jazz Bistro for six o'clock tonight,” Steve said, the sound of a smile in his voice.
“Sounds great. Any special reason or do you simply want something other than fast food or pizza tonight?” she teased.
“Matter of fact, there is. Sam Kaufman officially made me a partner today and wants me to expand our construction business into Northern Colorado.”
Kelly could feel Steve's pride coming over the phone just as she could hear it in his voice. “Oh, Steve! That's
! I know you and Sam were talking about it, and we were hoping. It's official?”
“Yep. We signed the papers at the lawyer's office this afternoon. I was going to head back to the work site, but Sam told me to go home and celebrate.” He laughed softly.
“I love Sam. Great advice. So, where are you now?” Kelly asked, walking over to the knitting table.
“Actually, I'm halfway home. I should be there in forty-five minutes at most. Do you have any appointments scheduled?”
Kelly slid the laptop into her over-the-shoulder bag, then checked her watch. “Nope. No appointments until tomorrow. I've finished my accounts, and I'm free as a bird. You want me to meet you at the Bistro? We can have drinks before dinner.”
“Actually I was thinking we could have our own celebration before we head to the Bistro,” Steve suggested, a teasing tone in his voice now.
Kelly caught his meaning immediately and smiled. “Sounds like a plan. I'll see you at home.”
“Count on it.”
Kelly grinned and clicked off, then headed out of the shop.
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took a sip of the crisp clean sauvignon blanc wine and savored. Fruity pear flavors hinting. She leaned back into the cushioned booth in the Jazz Bistro's cocktail lounge and watched the jazz pianist, Mark, take a familiar melody and riff through it with a jazzy twist. The bass player closed his eyes and took the lead, alternating with the piano. Good food, good wine, and good jazz. Hard to ask for more.
She looked over at Steve, who was leaning into the cushions beside her, and placed her hand over his on the table. “I'm so proud of you, Steve. You worked wretched hours, driving back and forth to Denver, helping Sam build up his business. You deserve this partnership.”
Steve turned to Kelly and smiled into her eyes. “That means a lot, hearing you say that.” He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed it.
“When do you think you can open an office up here?”
“Not for a while yet. I'll keep commuting to Denver until I've gotten a couple of projects started up here. I'll be talking to some builders I know who used to be in the business a few years ago. A lot have survived by switching to remodeling. They've had to transform themselves. Hell, we've all had to transform ourselves.” He sipped his Scotch.
“Well, you're in the top of that group,” Kelly said. “I know a whole lot of folks who went belly-up but didn't transform. They just went to ground and got into other work. Some had enough savings to survive with remodeling. But most didn't. They've never come back. And you're the only one I know who did the hard job of leaving town and learning how to be successful in a bigger city like Denver. That takes guts. And brains.” She winked at him and raised her glass before taking a sip.
Steve grinned. “My biggest fan.” Then he leaned over and kissed her, lingering. “What do you say we go home and have dessert there.”
Kelly grinned back. “I say ask for the check.”
Steve laughed softly and raised his hand to signal the
tell Steve âCongratulations' for me, okay?” Arthur Housemann said, smiling across his polished mahogany desk at Kelly. “He deserves to be a partner in that business. Steve worked harder than most to recover from the building bust a few years ago. Most builders I knew then have gone out of business and haven't returned. They've either moved on or moved into remodeling full-time. It's not as risky as building new homes. Steve not only survived, but he came back stronger.”
Her words exactly, Kelly thought and returned her client's smile. “I couldn't have said it better. And coming from you, Arthur, that's high praise indeed. You've seen many a building boom and real estate bust, and you've survived as well.” She lifted her coffee mug in a salute.
“Oh, that I have, Kelly,” Arthur said, leaning back
farther in his upholstered desk chair. “Only the strong survive. And the strong and smart will prosper.” He winked.
“I'll tell Steve that, too. He'll be meeting with some of his old builder contacts here in town as well as the new ones on the scene.”
“You tell Steve I'd be glad to meet with him, too. I've been listening to my tenants and landlords and getting ideas. I wouldn't mind tossing them around with the new partner of Kaufman Construction.”
“Actually, it's now Kaufman and Townsend Construction,” Kelly said, not bothering to conceal the pride in her voice.
Arthur beamed. “I stand corrected. Kaufman and
“I'm sure Steve would love to meet with you, Arthur,” Kelly said, delighted at Arthur's suggestion. That would be a great opportunity for Steve. “Changing the subject, have you done any more wildfire restoration work in the Cache La Poudre Canyon? The last time I drove by there, I noticed that your place and Dennis Holt's place next door are both looking good. The wildfire didn't touch either of them. But down the road that left side of the upper ridge is still blackened.”
“Yes, it is. And a whole bunch of us in the canyon are going to volunteer to plant some more seedling pines this September. Like last year, we'll get past the August heat and let them take root before the winter snows come. We ought to be able to plant more, too. Last year the soil was freshly charred and not in good shape.”
Kelly took another sip of Arthur's office coffee. Not as strong as Eduardo's but passable. “That's a great idea, Arthur. Will Dennis be helping with that?”
“Absolutely. Dennis has been clearing out dead brush on his land and also on his neighbors' properties since spring.” The buzzer on Arthur's phone system sounded. “Oops, that's my secretary. Reminding me that my next appointment is here.”
Kelly drained the last of the coffee and gathered her portfolio into her briefcase bag. “I'd best get back, anyway. You're in good shape, Arthur. So now I need to see what Don Warner and company have waiting for me.”
Arthur Housemann rose from his chair. “Well, knowing Don Warner, I'd vouch to say he's got projects of his own on the table and up his sleeve.”
Kelly slipped her briefcase bag over her shoulder. “Oh, you're right as always, Arthur. Warner is constantly coming up with plans. And it's my job to find the money for them.”
Housemann laughed as he accompanied Kelly to the door of his office. “I don't envy you that task. Take care, Kelly. Are you and your friends playing softball tonight?”
“We are, and wish us luck. We're playing our archrival, Greeley.”
“Well, hit one out of the park for me, okay?” Arthur teased, opening the door.
“I'll do my best. Talk to you next week,” Kelly said as she walked past the waiting client. Once outside in the hallway, Kelly heard her cell phone's music. She clicked on, seeing Lisa's name. “Hey, there. Ready for Greeley tonight?”
“I hope so. They're tough. Say, I just saw Jennifer and she told me about Steve's big news. Partner in the construction firm. Cool! We'll have to celebrate tonight after the game. Have you told Megan yet?”
“I left a message on her voice mail. She's in an all-day conference with one of her clients. The demanding one. So I expect to hear from herâ” The beeping sound of another call coming in sounded in Kelly's ear as she pushed out the office building door. “That's probably her now.”
“Okay, I'll hang up. See you at the ball field,” Lisa said, then clicked off.
Kelly spotted Megan's name and clicked on to the new call as she walked through the parking lot. “Hey, there. You got my message?”
“You betcha. It made my day.
Way to go, Steve!
” Megan yelled into Kelly's ear. So loud, Kelly had to hold the phone away as she laughed.
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afternoon Kelly watched as Jennifer poured a black stream of coffee into her oversize mug. The rich aroma wafted toward her nostrils.
. Caffeine. She took a sip of the hot brew without blowing on it. The brain cells that hadn't reported for duty yet snapped to attention.
Jennifer laughed softly. “I still don't know how you do that. Doesn't it burn your mouth?”
“It's supposed to,” Kelly teased. “That's part of the enjoyment. You'll be at the ballpark tonight, right? Cassie said you guys were bringing her.”
“We'll be there. Cassie's team is playing before you guys. So we'll make it a doubleheader.”
“Well, she and several of the girls I coached last summer have improved so much they made their middle school teams last fall. And now, they're even better.”
“I love to see Cassie run around the bases. I swear, those long legs just sprint across the ground.”
“I know. Didn't you tell me she'd grown at least three inches this past year?”
“At least. And that gangly phase has started.” Jennifer started to laugh. “I swear, she's bumping into walls, knocking mugs off the counter. It's hilarious.”
“Ohhhhh, yeah. I remember that phase in junior high. Stuff used to jump off the table as I passed by. And if you think that's hilarious, you should have seen me play basketball. Arms and legs everywhere.”
Jennifer laughed out loud this time. “It sounds like you were a female version of Marty.” She glanced about the beginning of the early lunch crowd filling the cafÃ© tables. “Well, that's enough for memories right now. Gotta get back to my customers. See you tonight.”
“See you then.” Kelly raised her mug and headed toward the corridor leading back into the Lambspun shop. Numbers were calling her name.
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tabbed through the accounting spreadsheets, entering revenues in column after column. Warner Construction had a very profitable month. Now, if only expenses were in line, all would be well.
Mimi walked into the main knitting room, a stack of magazines in her arm, and pulled out a chair at the knitting table. “I thought I'd do a pattern search in here. Connie can handle whatever happens up front.”
“Good to have the company. It's really quiet this afternoon for some reason.”
“It could be the hot weather. People forget about yarns and fibers on hot July days. Your team is playing tonight, right, Kelly? Make sure you all have enough water,” Mimi said, glancing up at Kelly.
Kelly had to smile. Mother Mimi. Always worrying about her people. “Don't worry. We always bring a couple of huge water containers. That way we can keep refilling our water bottles. We decided last year we needed to cut back on those plastic bottles, so we're going back to the way we handled it years ago. Save the planet.”
Mimi smiled as she paged through a magazine. “I think that's a wonderful idea, Kelly. You and your team deserve to be commended for their efforts.”
Just then Barb strode into the main room. Her face was red as if she'd been hurrying. “I'm so glad I found you two alone,” she said, sinking into a chair beside Mimi.
“Barb, what's the matter? You look soÂ .Â .Â . frazzled,” Mimi asked. “Your class isn't until an hour or so.”
“It's not that,” Barb said, glancing about the room and then over her shoulder. “I heard some
news from Tommy a little while agoÂ .Â .Â . and I have to tell someone. Someone sensible.”
Kelly noticed Big Barb was sweating, water had ringed the sleeveless shirt she wore, and it trickled down her neck.
“Well, Mimi and I are nothing if not sensible. A business owner and an accountant. So what's up? Has Tommy's scholarship run out or something?”
“Oh, Lord, I don't know. But if these awful accusations become police record, Tommy may lose his scholarship entirely!”
“Good heavens!” Mimi said with a shocked expression. “What accusations?”
Barb frowned and her lips tightened as she leaned over. Kelly leaned closer so as not to miss anything Barb was about to say. “Tommy told me last night he was covering the emergency clinic during the nighttime hours like he does every week, and this young woman came in the middle of the night. No other patients were there, just the nurse on duty and him. This woman complained of stomach pains, so the nurse took her into the examining room and had her remove her slacks and then get on the examining table and cover herself with a drape.” Barb took a deep breath.
“Tommy said he came in then, asked her several questions on the medical information form she filled out, and started to examine her. The nurse was out front answering a phone call. The young woman said she had these recurring stomach pains that started yesterday and were getting stronger. Tommy said he started pressing on her stomach in various places, trying to eliminate obvious things like appendicitis, when all of a sudden the woman sat up on the table and yelled âStop that!' Then she jumped off the table, grabbed her clothes, and ran out of the room, crying. She stopped at the nurse's desk and accused Tommy of groping her during the exam! Can you
Kelly stared at Barb, trying to digest what she'd heard, shocked. She'd met Tommy. He was a good guy.
” Mimi cried, sinking back in her chair. “That's
! Whatever is wrong with that young woman?”
“I don't know! Tommy swore to me he did nothing wrong. He was pressing on her stomach and never put his hand between her legsÂ .Â .Â . or anything like that. There has to be something wrong with the girl. A mental problem or somethingÂ .Â .Â . to accuse him like that.”
“What did Tommy do after she jumped off the table and ran out of the room?” Kelly asked. “Did he tell the nurse what happened?”
Barb nodded vigorously. “Of course. He told her right away. She was stunned and told Tommy that the girl said he groped her.” Barb closed her eyes as if she didn't want to picture the awful images she was describing. “The nurse said the girl yanked on her slacks outside the glass front door, dropped the drape on the floor, then ran outside.”
“Do you think the girl will go to the police?”
Barb's face contorted and reddened even more. Kelly thought she might start to cry. “She already
! Tommy said police showed up at the clinic as he was getting off duty this morning. The two officers told him that the young woman had reported an assault at the clinic last night when she was being examined for stomach pains. The officers told Tommy that they had to question him since he was the only physician on duty last night. They called it
! He's just beginning his medical career. ThatÂ .Â .Â . that can hurt him!”
This time, Kelly did spot tears brimming in Barb's eyes.
She reached over and placed her hand on Barb's sweaty arm. It felt clammy in the air-conditioned shop. “I'm so sorry, Barb. That is terrible.”
“Oh, Barb, that can't happen! Tommy is innocent. Surely the police will find out,” Mimi said, her face revealing her concern. “Tommy told them everything, right? Told them how the girl jumped off the table and ran off in the middle of the exam?”
Barb nodded, swiping the tears from her cheeks with one hand. “Yes, yes, he did. But he told me the officers just wrote everything down in their notebooks but didn't give him any feedback. They did tell him that the girl had filed a complaint, and that was official. Tommy told me he got a bad feeling after that.”
“WhaÂ .Â .Â . what did he mean?” Mimi asked, her voice lowering because customers had entered the adjoining yarn room.
“Tommy told me one of the other doctors who'd come in early was close by and advised Tommy to get a lawyer. An official police report goes on file and has to be investigated. And there will be a record of it in the police department.” Barb shook her head. “And that could mean Tommy might lose his scholarship! And if that happened, he could lose his intern spot at the emergency clinic!”
“Oh, no!” Mimi said, hand to her breast in her familiar gesture of concern.
“We need to ask Burt exactly what all of that means. When's Burt coming in, Mimi?” Kelly asked, checking her watch.
“Oh, dear. Maybe not until this evening. He's in Denver doing errands.”
Kelly leaned toward Barb. “I think it would be a good idea for Tommy to speak with an attorney. I can highly recommend Marty Harrington. He's Megan's husband and an excellent lawyer. Several people we know have used Marty's services.”
“Oh, yes!” Mimi enthused. “Marty is excellent! I could call Megan if you want his number.”
Barb shook her head again. “No, no, we have a family attorney who has known Tommy since he was a baby. I used him last year. You knowÂ .Â .Â . when that malicious crook caused all of us such grief.” A different expression crossed Barb's features this time.
Kelly recalled that Barb had been a suspect in Jared Rizzoli's murder a little over a year ago. “Well, if he knows Tommy, that's an even better choice.”