Final Installment of the first volume of Who?
Jessica by Nikki Arana (from As I Have Loved You)
Visit her website at www.NikkiArana.com
Jessica folded her arms across her chest and blinked back tears. First she’d been signaled out by that loud mouthed Marina and then insulted by the red-headed Barbie, Tiffany.
Jessica tossed her head. She wasn’t surprised Miss Tiffany had a cross dangling above her cleavage. Typical Christian, always judging people. And that remark, “I could do wonders for you.” Jessica adjusted the shoulder strap on her purse and ran her hand over the front latch, making sure it was securely closed. I’ve got something that could do wonders for you, Missy.
She never should have come on the tour. And she never would have if her fiancé’s mother, Leigh, hadn’t made her feel stupid for not even knowing there was a museum in town. She stifled a grin. Thanks to Leigh she had a brand new place to meet her contact in the future.
“Who cares about this stuff, anyway?” Jessica shifted from one foot to the other and motioned at the cases full of artifacts. “It’s all hundreds of years old, and I can’t imagine any of it was useful even when it was new.”
The man who called himself Grandfather smiled and stepped closer to her. “You’d be surprised how valuable those tools were to the people who used them, young lady. My grandfather benefited from similar items in his tribe and managed to survive in the Wallowa mountains.”
She felt heat creep up her neck. “You’re . . . an Indian? I guess when you said that about your ancestors, I didn’t realize. . . I thought. . .”
He chuckled and actually reached over to pat her shoulder, like she was an old friend or something. She took a step back.
“Don’t worry, my dear, I’m not offended.” He winked at her. “Nor do I have any designs on your hair.”
It took a minute for his implication to sink in. “Oh my gosh! Like I thought you were going to scalp me or something?” She turned and walked away.
Jessica glanced around the room for a place to sit down; her legs were killing her. Even though the tour had hardly started, walking on the hard floors had sent shooting pains up her calves. Not seeing anything to sit on, she backed up against the wall behind her and slid to the floor. Clutching her purse in her lap, she eyed the other people in the room.
Her eyes settled again on Grandfather. He’d gone out of his way to walk with her when she’d fallen behind as they’d moved between rooms, then he’d made a point of talking to her here. She’d wondered if he was an undercover cop. Nobody was nice without a reason. That’s why she’d been RELUCTANT to talk to him. No point in encouraging anyone’s interest.
Her gaze shifted from Tiffany to Gracie, both of whom had their backs to her. The image, suddenly familiar, triggered a memory. As the docent had been speaking about the displays in the room they’d just left, Jessica had been scanning the area, looking for a place to sit. And she’d caught a glimpse of a woman talking to a man in the hall and handing him something. She closed her eyes a moment, then looked back at Tiffany and Gracie. She pulled her lower lip between her front teeth and bit down. She wasn’t positive, but she was pretty sure it had been one of them. Whatever. She wasn’t going to get involved.
Jessica’s heart started to pound as Quinn moved toward her. Tightening her grip on her purse she lifted her chin and stared him straight in the eye. She could feel her palms starting to sweat.
It wasn’t the book, it was the baggie of loose leaves and the cigarette wrappers in the bottom of her purse that she was worried about.
Grandfather by Miralee Ferrell (From The Other Daughter)
See it on her blog at www.miraleesdesk.blogspot.com
Grandfather looked around the room, trying not to smile at the antics of the younger generation. Seemed like flirting and arguing was more popular than the Native American display they’d stopped to view.
“Who cares about this stuff, anyway?” The plump red-head beside him shifted from one foot to the other and pointed at the artifacts in the glass case. “It’s all hundreds of years old and I can’t imagine any of it was useful even when it was new.” She brushed her hair out of her eyes.
He searched his memory, groping for her name. Ah, yes…Jessica. “You’d be surprised how valuable those tools were to the people who used them, young lady. My grandfather benefited from similar items in his tribe and managed to survive in the Wallowa mountains.” He tempered his words with a smile.
A slow blush crept above the neck of Jessica’s baggy sweater and stained her cheeks. “I’m so sorry. You’re…an Indian?” She whispered. “I guess when you said that about your ancestors, I didn’t realize…I thought…”
He chortled and patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry, my dear, I’m not offended, nor do I have any designs on your hair.”
A frown creased her face. “Oh my gosh! Like I thought you were going to scalp me or something,” she glared and walked away.
Grandfather shook his head and grinned. Young people now-a-days didn’t seem to have a sense of humor, or an appreciation of things from the past. Too bad his FAMILY couldn’t have come…his grandson David and wife Susanne’s two youngsters would’ve loved this museum. Oops…three youngsters. He’d almost forgotten their newest addition, Brianna, who’d recently arrived on the family’s doorstep, claiming to be David’s Other Daughter. The kids would get a kick out of seeing some of the tools and pottery that his own great-grandfather had used.
Though maybe it was for the best they weren’t here, given this latest development. Grandfather watched as Quinn went from person to person, talking to them about what they’d seen. Grandfather didn’t know what he could really add, so he just went on studying the artifacts around him and bided his time.
“Ah-hem.” A deep vibrato voice at Grandfather’s elbow swung him around.
“Yes, Mr. Quinn?” Grandfather glanced at the man whose eyes kept darting from one woman to the other, but always seemed to return to Tiffany of the low neckline.
“Where were you when the book disappeared?”
“Yeah, you seemed awfully interested in all the displays in the book room,” Marina the cop chimed in.
Grandfather waved his hand in the air and smiled. “Calm down, folks. If there’s one thing my great-grandfather Raven passed down to his children and grandchildren, it was honesty and truthfulness. I’ve been chatting with Gracie and Jessica…and Marina, I spent some time with you earlier, too.”
Gracie stepped forward, swishing her long, auburn hair around her bare shoulders. “My boy-friend and my dad both have experience in the intelligence field, and I’ve learned a lot from them. I think it’s a conspiracy, that’s what. Maybe someone at the museum has it in for some of us.” She crossed her arms and glared at Quinn, then swiveled her glance back to Grandfather. “What did you see, Grandfather? If I may call you that?”
“Certainly,” Grandfather replied. “Let’s see…while we were in the antiquities book room I remember you chatting with me about some of the older volumes and I shared a story with you that’s been passed down through the generations among my people.”
Gracie nodded, her face beaming. “That was so interesting! He was telling me about his great-grandfather, Little Raven when he was just a boy…why you’d never believe…”
“Pu-leese!” Rasped Marina, stomping her foot and silencing Gracie. “Go on Grandfather, then what?”
“I noticed everyone leaving the book room headed for the Native American display, and I hurried to catch up. Jessica’s foot seemed to be bothering her, so I walked the rest of the way with her and we were together almost till the alarm sounded. I’m afraid I can’t add much more.” He shrugged and pulled off his cap, running his fingers through his iron gray hair.
“Right,” drawled Max. “Then the lovely gate came crashing down, and here we all stand, trapped, tired and wanting to go home. Whoever has the book, how ’bout fessin’ up, ya hear?” She ran a hand over her fly-away hair, but only succeeded in sending it spiraling into more absurd directions.
He turned to the group. “I agree. I’m sure whoever took it simply forgot they were carrying it. If you’re embarrassed and are having a hard time letting us know, we’ll understand.”
“Humph,” snored Marina. “You might, Grandfather, but I won’t. Theft is theft and someone’s going to pay.”