How could her father have betrayed her?

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A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement

Chapter 29 – 2

They approached the building on the outside edge of the crowded scene. An officer held up his hand. “No one past this point. Nothing to see here. Move along.”

“Who was shot? Man or woman?” Cal asked.

“Not at liberty to say. You got no business here, now leave before I arrest you.” The officer smacked a billy club against his empty hand.

“Sure officer, only curious. We’re on our way.” Peter pulled Cal toward their autos. “Come on, Cal. We can’t do anything now. I need to get to Ruth.”

“You go on. I have to stay until I see the body. My mother is the head mistress of the school. Ella is her responsibility, and until I find if she is dead or alive, I’m not budging.” He slid onto the hood of the coupe and crossed his arms.

Peter sighed and joined him.

****

The police had the situation under control, Ruth knew. If they interfered now, Ella could pay the price. Although Father made sense, she gave up the fight, reluctantly. Another idea sprung into head. “Father, do you remember as we drove into town a boarding house called Mrs. Whitehead’s?”

“Vaguely, why?”

They walked arm in arm along the sidewalk.

“Peter mentioned Hattie Morgenstern took a room at Mrs. Whitehead’s boarding house. It’s the same one, I’m sure of it. She convinced him to marry her, and I want to know how. You owe me that much. Please?” Ruth quickened her step.

The hesitation in his step surprised her, and she noticed a pained look cross his face.

“I’m not sure that is a good idea, Ruth. Leave it be. You are in school. We were wrong to manipulate your life. Besides, your mother is home alone right now and probably worried into a frenzy. Let’s go home and tell her what is happening. We need to be together as a family now.” He stopped next to the motorcar.

“I promise I will drop the matter once I’ve talked to Hattie. We need to talk woman to woman. I’ll return to school and study hard once I resolve this in my mind, you’ll see.”

He sighed. “Promise?”

She nodded vigorously.

~~~~

The lump in Ruth’s throat grew bigger. Do I really have the nerve to talk to this woman? It was too late, however. Father had already knocked on the door.

“It’s a might early to be getting’ a room. What do you want?” the white-headed matron snapped.

“Is Miss Morgenstern here? We would like to see her, if it is convenient.” Mr. Squire asked.

“Mighta known it was for her. She’s had quite a few visitors of late. Hold on.” The door shut.

Ruth could hear Hattie’s name called and smiled at the impatience in the old woman’s voice.

A moment later, Hattie stood before them, surprise in her eyes. “Mr. Squire, Ruth? What are you doing here?”

“May we come in, Miss Morgenstern? I’d like to ask you a question.” Ruth found it hard to look at the woman who stole Peter away.

“Certainly, but I’m not sure we have anything to discuss, and Mrs. Whitehead isn’t feeling well. I had to bring her home early from our errands.”

As Hattie stepped aside, Ruth noticed the dark brown cloak around her shoulders. “Are you going out, again?”

“Oh, not now. I have a luncheon engagement later on. We only arrived home a few moments ago.” The cloak landed on a chair inside the parlor as she ushered them inside. “Now, please tell me why you are here.”

Ruth sat next to her father at one end of the room. “Miss Morgenstern, I know you are going to marry Peter, and I want to know what you said to turn him away from me. Youth and experience are the most obvious reasons, but he seemed very sincere in his feelings toward me.”

Hattie stood and crossed the room, took Ruth’s hands in hers, and smiled. “Ruth, Peter has been looking everywhere for you. He is beside himself with frustration. He and I are not going to marry, dear. You ran out before we could finish the announcement.” She turned to look at Mr. Squire. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Why didn’t you tell her?”

Ruth shook, trying to comprehend the words coming from Hattie’s mouth. “Not marry? You and Peter are not going to wed?” For a split second, she continued the gaze into the woman’s eyes. Slowly, her attention focused on her father. “Father…you knew about this? You sent me to Barkley’s knowing Peter wasn’t going to marry Miss Morgenstern? How could you?”

Before Mr. Squire could react, Hattie intervened. “Barkley’s school? You’ve been at Barkley’s all this time? Then you know about the kidnapping.”

“How did you know about that? It only happened last night? It couldn’t have been in the newspapers, yet.” Ruth stood and released Hattie’s grasp.

“A young man took a room here last night. He said he had come from the school to find a man who could help protect the young lady the crooks were really after. Oh my gosh, is it you, Ruth?”

“What was the man’s name?”

“Cal—Cal Taylor.”

All three stood in the middle of the room, silent, mouths half open, eyes wide.

Finally, Ruth spoke. “Cal came looking for Peter? Is that what you are saying?”

“He never mentioned his name, but from what I can see now, that is correct. You know Cal?”

“Yes, his mother runs the school. Hattie, this is awful. If Cal came to find him, then Peter must know about the kidnapping. Cal will try to find Ella, I know it, and Peter, being the kind of man he is, will try to help him.” She whirled on her father. “You just may have gotten Peter and Cal killed! We have to get down to The Blue Feather.”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

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