He couldn’t find her and she needed to know he loved her.

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A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement

Chapter 28 – 2

The detectives looked at one another and gave a quick nod.

Cal hurried out the door with one investigator behind him. “She said he has a milk route in this part of town. Let’s start two streets down, it’s still early, maybe we’ll catch up with him.”

They sprinted for the motorcar, and Cal slid into the driver’s seat. Ten minutes later, he turned down several streets without spotting the milk truck.

“We could be on the wrong side of his route. Maybe he’s already been on these streets.” The detective offered.

“We should have split up, but that can’t be helped now. I’m gonna try one more street before we drive to the other side.” Cal turned the corner. “There he is!”

At the end of the block, a milk truck was parked in front of a large white house, and a man carried milk containers toward the porch. Cal pulled up and jumped out of the auto. “Peter? Are you Peter Kirby?”

The empty bottles rattled in the metal container as the man hesitated. “Who are you?”

Cal reached out a hand. “My name is Cal Taylor—from Barkley’s School for Women. Ruth is in danger. I think you can help.”

“Ruth? You know where she is? I’ve searched and searched for her. The Squire’s won’t even talk to me.” Peter rushed toward Cal.

“She is at the boarding school. Mrs. Squire sent her there. There has been a kidnapping, but they got the wrong girl. They wanted Ruth. We must get to the school. Can you come with us?”

“I have to get the horses back to the house. I can’t leave them.” Peter looked at both men.

“I understand. Detective, can you take my vehicle back to the Squires? Explain the situation, and I will meet you back there. I’ll ride with Peter and relay the story.” Cal handed the keys over.

“Well, I don’t know about this. Seems Peter Kirby might be a suspect. Don’t think I should let him out of my sight.” The investigator scratched his double chin.

“Oh wait,” Cal shouted. “Mrs. Whitehead…I almost forgot. We agreed to meet in town for lunch after I turned this whole mess over to you.”

Peter turned around. “You know Mrs. Whitehead—from the Boarding House?”

“Yes, and I know Hattie Morgenstern, too. Met her last night. Look detective, my mother is the head mistress at the school.” He fished a card out of his pocket. “Here is the number. Call her and check me out. I promise I am one of the good guys.”

“Well…”

Cal jumped on the wagon and motioned for Peter. “Let’s go, we’re wasting time.”

Peter hopped up and urged the team into a trot. They left the detective standing in the road, keys dangling in his hand.

“You better start explaining all this to me, Mr. Taylor. Ruth is mine, and I intend to fight for her.” Peter flicked the rein a little harder.

“No need to scrap with me, Peter. I know you are the one she loves, but I care enough to want her safe. Let me start at the beginning.”

****

            Priscilla Squire sat in the parlor with the lone detective…silent, tears evaporated. She knew the right thing to do. Robert took the motorcar to the school to be with Ruthie, and knew it was good he was gone. The confession wouldn’t set well with him. She lifted her head to speak, but the door flew open.

The second lawman rushed into the room. “We found him. Mr. Taylor is riding with Kirby to take the horses home, and will meet us back here. The man seems honest enough. I don’t think he had anything to do with the kidnapping.”

“That’s not for us to decide, Harry. He is a suspect until we unravel this thing. I personally think the Horton guy did it, but I can’t prove it.”

Priscilla Squire held up one hand. “You are both wrong, detectives. If you will listen, I can give you the name of the man responsible.”

“You know who did it, Mrs. Squire? Why have you let us run in circles when you knew all along?” The tall investigator’s voice took a menacing tone.

“Well, I’m not one hundred percent certain, but it is the best possibility at the moment.”

“Start talkin’ and make it fast.” He lit a large cigar stub and leaned against the mantle.

“It’s a very long story, detective. To understand, I would have to begin twenty years ago.”

The man shook his head. “All I want is a name. Give me the name of the man who did the kidnapping.”

“Alright, his name is Captain…”

Sarah burst into the room. “Ms. Squire, there are men at the door. Officers—they want to talk with ya, say it’s urgent.”

The sheriff forced Sarah aside. “No time for pleasantries, ma’am. There’s been a shooting. A body surfaced this morning. I need all available men. Harry, that means you and Sam. This takes priority.”

“A shooting? Where?” Harry asked.

“Down at the river, near The Blue Feather. Come on, no time to waste.” The sheriff bolted for the door, the men scrambled behind.

“Someone was shot? Sarah, did they say who…a man or a girl?” Priscilla raced to the open door and watched them speed away.

“No ma’am, ‘fraid I didn’t hear which. I surely hope it wasn’t that poor child.” Sarah said over Priscilla’s shoulder.

“I suppose we will hear when they return. We’ve nothing to do but wait, bring me a cup of tea, Sarah.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After the maid left, Priscilla paced the room. I almost gave them the Captain’s name. If Robert knew, he would leave me. I have to think this over.

****

            Peter gave his mother a quick explanation of the story Cal Taylor recounted. She looked distraught as they hurried out the door, but he would have to worry about that later. Ruth was in danger, and he must find her.

“So, she’s been at the school all this time. It never crossed my mind. I figured they hid her so they could arrange the marriage to Eric Horton. He has to be the one behind all this.” The steering wheel responded more slowly than he wished as he sped down the country lane and knew impatience was to blame.

“She looked so lost at the train station. I sensed a tragic event brought her to us.” Cal kept his eyes straight ahead. “I asked her to a dance, you know. It took some doing, but finally she agreed. That’s when I knew her heart would never be mine, it belonged to you.”

“Look, the police cars are gone. I wonder what happened.” Peter pulled to the curb.

Both men jumped out and hurried up the steps.

“Mrs. Squire, Mrs. Squire!” Simultaneously, they pounded on door.

Sarah opened it quickly. “They be gone, Peter. A shooting…at the river, near The Blue Feather.”

“Who was shot? Hurry Sarah, tell me.” Peter shook her by shoulders.

“They didn’t say. Please, I don’t know any more.”

Cal grabbed Peter’s arm. “She doesn’t know. Let her go. We know it’s not Ruth. We have to keep our wits about us.”

Peter removed his hands. “I’m sorry, Sarah. It’s just…I’m so close to finding her. Why didn’t you come and tell me and save me all this crazy grief?”

Sarah hung her head. “Ms. Squire wouldn’t let me. She threatened my job if I told. I’m sorry. I just knew you wouldn’t marry that Hattie lady.”

Cal’s eyes popped. “You mean you considered it?”

“Yes, I mean, no, it’s all a mistake.” Peter raked his fingers through his hair.

Mrs. Squire stepped into the hallway. “Please gentleman, stop all this badgering. Someone was shot. It could be that poor girl.”

Peter whirled around. “You are the cause of all this. If anything happens to anyone it is because of your interference.”

Cal stepped in between them. “Peter, that won’t help—water under the bridge. Let’s focus on what we can do to keep Ruth safe and find poor Ella.”

“What can we do? I need to see Ruth, explain. She needs to know I am in love with her, not Hattie.” Peter’s hands clenched. “Enough of this, I’m headed to the school.”

Cal chased after him. “Wait, I only meant to find you. Go to the school if you must, but I want to find out what happened to Ella. You’re on your own, Peter.”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

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