The daring jewel thief was about to disturb his life again. Borrowed to the Bone. Chapter 25
April 19, 2013
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
Ben Tom was gregarious and loved his fellow man, but living in Riverby was like moving to another planet. He had to become another person, had to clean up the construction language that had become as natural as breathing to him. It felt good, cleansing, to reinvent himself. He placed his new rural neighbors and friends on a pedestal. Some deserved the pedestal; others did not.
Penny was painfully shy, so the couple seldom socialized together during their first years in Riverby, sparking much speculation about the young pair who had purchased the old home built by the town’s founder.
Ben Tom and Penny watched from their porch as curious passersby slowed to examine their progress on the house that had once seemed lost to history. There was little to see, because Ben Tom was concentrating on refurbishing the inside while he dreamed of the showplace the outside would be.
When their children started to school, the couple was forced to interact with other parents, teachers, and school administrators. The neatly and expensively dressed Lawless children intensified curiosity about the family.
He loved doing things for his wife and children that his father had never done for him. Yet, he didn’t blame Purcell Lawless for his shortcomings as a father and husband. He had long ago determined that Purcell and Irene had done the best they could with what they had. The forgiving nature he had earnestly cultivated on the road to forgiveness shaped all of Ben Tom’s relationships.
He enjoyed interacting with the homespun folks he encountered, but was self-conscious and not comfortable discussing his past. Penny’s shyness made her more than willing to let her husband assume virtually all of the social obligations that came with living in a small community.
Ben Tom shouldered the mantle eagerly, almost appearing too anxious to please his new neighbors and to impress upon them the model family his little brood represented. Because of his jack-of-all-trades superb skills, he soon became the go-to man in Riverby, causing a new friend to warn, “Better be careful. Folks around here will stick a needle in your arm and start drawing blood till there ain’t none left.”
Ben Tom still had to spend many days in Dallas tending to his rental properties or supervising a construction job before returning to Riverby to work on community projects. Volunteer work soon superseded the restoration of their historic home.
But Ben Tom was not worried. He had limitless energy and was happier than he had ever been. Helping his neighbors and his community filled a hole that had long been empty.
But doing volunteer work does not pay material rewards, and Ben Tom soon found himself short of cash again. And his family was confined to only about a quarter of the living space in the old house while he renovated the rest. It was not unusual for Ben Tom to work all day on volunteer projects, then most of the night on his home.
Penny soon became impatient with the cramped quarters and the sound of saws, drills and hammers in the middle of the night. But she really became frustrated and embarrassed when a check she had written to the grocery store bounced.
The call from Dallas could not have come at a better time. It was a call he wanted to answer. He had played a pivotal role working for one of the subcontractors who built the downtown high rise known as the LTV Tower. He even had a nodding acquaintance with the big man himself, Jimmy Ling (the L in LTV), an internationally known titan of industry, and his second in command, Paul Thayer. Ling knew Ben Tom only for his craftsmanship but Thayer actually knew his name.
Ben Tom was thrilled when Ling requested the handsome young man with thick dark hair who had helped design and build his offices to work on a new conference room. Ling’s private offices occupied the entire 34th floor. He also wanted the nameless young man whose work he had admired to make some modifications to the Lancers Club on the top floor.
Ben Tom started leaving Riverby hours before daylight and returning well after dark. He was eager when he left and tired when he returned, but creating something he was proud of filled another void. Work on refurbishing his residence ground to a halt.
Ling was a daily visitor to both the conference room and the Lancers Club. The internationally known Merger King had a presence about him that Ben Tom could sense when he came down the hall. Full of energy and self-confidence, Ling had a way of making everyone want to please him, and nobody wanted to please him more than Ben Tom. And he seemed to be succeeding. Ling learned his name and nodded his approval of his work with each visit.
But on Ben Tom’s long awaited and eagerly anticipated final presentation to Jimmy Ling of his finished product, Ling seemed distracted. He and Thayer were involved in deep conversation when he entered the conference room. As Ben Tom put the final finishing flourishes on the bar inside the conference room, making sure that no nails, screws or scratches were visible, he could not help but overhear their conversation.
Thayer was wide-eyed. “He just came in through the upstairs window when you were home?”
Ling’s usual positive energy seemed to exert a negative aura as he shook his head. “Hell, no. Police say he walked right in the first floor hall, opened a window, then used that ornamental lamp we have on the wall outside to swing himself up to the second floor balcony.”
“You’re kidding. Where were you?”
“Had to be watching television a few feet from where he sneaked in. In and out in less than fifteen minutes, but he took about twenty grand in jewels with him. The wife says she feels like she’s been raped. I do, too.”
“Think it was the King of Diamonds again?”
“Who else would have the nerve to come in the front door and swing himself to the second floor? And they found those waffle type shoe prints that are his trademark.”
“Guess it’s no consolation, but he’s hit about half the wealthy homes in your part of Dallas.”
“And still not a clue about who he is.”
The two men must have felt Ben Tom’s stare boring into them. He was glad that his Uncle Clark was still in jail. Or was he?
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.