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Day of ReckoningA novel
By KATHY HERMAN
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2002 Kathy Herman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTaylor Logan worked studiously at the computer in her upstairs bedroom, finishing Friday's homework. The February wind howled woefully outside the ivy-clad stone walls of the Logan mansion.
Behind her, a white sleigh bed bore the spilled contents of her backpack. Papers were collated in neat stacks along the window seat of a tri-window alcove that graced the other outside wall. In the corner next to her bed, the teenager's school clothes were casually thrown over a powder-blue slouch chair, her shoes pushed underneath.
Her phone rang. She finished typing a sentence and picked it up.
"Taylor, it's Sherry. I thought you were gonna call."
"I was. My dad already asked if my homework was done. Thought I'd get it out of the way first. You know how paranoid he gets. Heaven forbid I should get an A-minus."
"Are you in your room?"
"Uh-huh. Can you hear Oliver purring? He's right here." Taylor fluffed the cat's white fur.
"He sounds happy. Speaking of happy ... I talked to Rusty. He's really excited about the Valentine's Dance."
"Mitch, too. My dad's pretending to hate him, but I know it's an act. He doesn't want his little girl going out with just anybody. Has to be from some socially acceptable family. Kind of a pain, if you askme."
"Well, you are quite a catch-from your long blond hair to your ballet toes." Sherry giggled. "I just thought of that."
"I can tell."
"Taylor, face it, you're practically perfect-looking. You've got two walk-in closets full of gorgeous clothes. You're poised, sophisticated-"
"Can we talk about something else?"
"I meant it as a compliment."
"I don't want to be different from anybody else at school."
"Well, forget that. You can't change who you are. Why would you want to? I mean, look at me: five feet tall, short hair, no curves. Wanna trade ...? Taylor ...? Come on, I only meant-"
"I know what you meant. But other kids might not want me around if I'm rich and pretty and pampered."
"But you are. And they do."
"I just don't want them to resent me for it. I'm an ordinary junior, as insecure as any of them."
"Yeah, I know. You nervous about going out with Mitch?"
"More for him than me. The only reason my dad's letting me is because Mitch's blood happens to be blue enough."
"I'll bet there's more to it than that," Sherry said. "All dads are protective, especially with girls."
"Mine treats me like this long-awaited princess because I'm the only girl born in five generations of Logans."
"And you're complaining? Sounds like fun to me."
"I guess. Look, it's almost seven. My parents'll be expecting me in the dining room. Talk to you later?"
"Yeah, I'll call you after my youth group gets back from the nursing home. 'Bye."
Taylor turned off her computer and walked to the full-length mirror on the back of a closet door, where she tucked a white silk blouse into her plaid wool skirt. While she slipped on her favorite flats, Oliver rushed over and rubbed the side of her leg, leaving a trail of white fur on her pantyhose. She scratched her old friend under the chin and grabbed the roller brush, removing all traces of the cat's loving gesture.
As the grandfather clock struck seven, Taylor hurried toward the winding staircase, to where the aroma of something delicious had already made its way.
Outside, under a dark veil of February night, a lone figure leaned against the wrought-iron fence, peeping through binoculars.
Chapter TwoAssistant Manager Mark Steele had no sooner turned on the Open sign at Monty's Diner than Mort Clary walked through the front door. He hung his hat on the coat rack, picked up Saturday's edition of the Baxter Daily News, and dropped his quarter in the jar by the cash register.
"Hey, Mort," said Rosie Harris. She poured a cup of coffee and set it on the counter. "Want your usual?"
She scribbled on her green pad, tore off the page, and stuck it on the clip. "Order!"
The door opened again. Reggie Mason came in, hung up his coat, and grabbed a newspaper. "Anyone got change for a dollar?"
"Take it out of the jar," Mark said.
"Anything juicy in this morning's paper?"
Mort grinned. "Yeah, Reg. Jimmy's Garage is rotatin' tires fer free if ya git yer oil changed."
"That'll put the zig in your zag." Rosie rolled her eyes.
"Says here it's been five years this month since Logan Textile Industries closed up shop." Mort took a sip of coffee. "Lotsa folks're still sore 'bout that."
"Rosie worked at the plant," Reggie said.
"Sure did. Ten years. Had my job pulled out from under me. Been working here ever since."
"You were luckier than most. Some folks didn't get jobs for a long time."
"Who didn't get jobs?" George Gentry walked in the door with his wife Hattie.
"Folks who worked at the textile plant."
"Why are you talking about that?" Hattie said.
Reggie held up the front page. "It's been five years this month, that's all."
"Not worth rehashing," George said.
"Says you." Mort's eyebrows gathered. "But then, you ain't the one who wasn't workin', was ya, Georgie?"
"Where've you been?" George tapped Mort on the head with the newspaper. "People have moved on."
"Well, that's jus' swell, but if I hadn't retired the year before the layoffs, I'da been up a creek without a paddle."
"Well, you did, so it's moot."
"What's moot?" Liv Spooner walked in and sat at the counter.
Rosie sighed. "Don't ask."
"Some of us ain't over it yet." Mort spun around on the stool. "Ask Wayne. Weren't no picnic when his daddy got laid off."
Wayne Purdy stopped wiping one of the booths and looked up. "So it wasn't a picnic. Coulda been worse."
"Atta boy, Wayne. No point in digging up the past," Mark said.
Rosie wagged her finger at Mort. "You're a troublemaker. I liked you better when you talked about free tire rotation."
"Hey, I ain't the one who brung it up. It's here on the front page. Some folks won't mind rememberin' what a bum G. R. Logan is."
"It's a waste of time crying over what you can't fix."
"Well, thank you, Dr. Laura." Mort whirled back around on the stool.
Rosie slid a plate of pancakes and bacon in front of him. "Take big bites, Mort. Big bites." She winked at Mark. "It's not polite to talk with your mouth full."
The Saturday all-you-can-eat special at Monty's Diner was chili and cornbread. By eleven, the place was already bustling with lunch traffic. Rosie Harris slid a bowl of chili and a basket of cornbread in front of Mort Clary, who was sitting at the counter.
"Why are you back for lunch?" she asked.
"Ain't no concern of yers. Don't fergit my milk."
"Sure thing, O bossy one."
"Mr. Clary knows a good thing when he sees it." Wayne Purdy winked at Rosie. "Best chili in Norris County, right?"
"Yep. Darn good eatin'."
Wayne turned around and almost bumped into a lady in a light blue uniform. "Oh-excuse me, Ms. Sullivan."
"How'd you know my name, young man?"
"You're the iced tea lady. Always take a slice of lime." "How'd you remember that?"
"I thought it was kinda classy. How are things at the hospital?"
"Fine, thank you. A little hectic."
Wayne picked up the plastic tub and started toward the kitchen. Someone tapped him on the shoulder.
"Think I could clone you?" Mark Steele said.
"What do you mean?"
Mark lowered his voice. "Mort Clary twice in one day-and you don't let him get to you? Rosie's fit to be tied."
"Oh, Mort's not so bad. Kinda grows on you."
"Yeah, like the green fuzzy stuff."
Wayne grinned. "Pretend you're his mother. It helps."
Mark looked out across the diner. "Do you believe the crowd already? Not even close to noon."
"That's okay, boss. You only have to work a half-day."
"What do you mean, a half-day? I'm here for-"
"Twelve hours, I know. That's a half-day, isn't it?" Wayne grinned.
Mark punched him on the arm. "The cloning's off. I'm not sure I could handle more than one of you."
Sherry Kennsington rolled over and looked at the clock. She pulled a pillow over her face to block the bright sun.
"Sherry, wake up." Her older sister came in and flopped on the bed.
"Erica, go away. It's Saturday."
"Slagel's has shoes at 50 percent off."
Sherry pulled the pillow off her face. "Heels?"
"Everything! The sale started at 9:00."
"Nine o'clock? It's already 11:00! I know it's your day to have the car, but I really need to find shoes for the Valentine's Dance. Would you trade days with me? Pleeeease, Erica?"
"Then why'd you come in here and wake me up?"
"Because Taylor called and she's picking you up in thirty minutes." Erica smiled. "Let's see, the old Toyota ... or a brand-new BMW ... which would you rather ride to Slagel's in?"
Sherry jumped out of bed and opened the top drawer of her dresser. She reached inside an envelope, pulled out a stack of bills, and started to count. "I've got thirty-seven dollars. That should be enough."
"Don't tell Taylor you're robbing your piggy bank."
"She knows we don't have a bunch of money. It's no big deal."
"I know. She's really nice. I like her. Plus, that car is to die for."
"For your information, Taylor couldn't care less. She more interested in her grades."
"Not about the big date for the Valentine's Dance?"
Sherry smiled. "Well ... that, too."
By 2:00, Monty's had quieted down. Mary Beth Kennsington sat with her husband in the first booth.
She leaned over and put her lips to his ear. "Joe, look who's here!"
He smiled and stood up. "Hey, lovebirds, would you like to join us or is this too public?"
Jed and Rhonda Wilson walked toward them holding hands. "We'd love to." They slid into the booth opposite the Kennsingtons.
"How was the Hawaiian honeymoon?" Joe said.
"Wonderful." Jed kissed Rhonda's hand. "Really great. Makes me wonder what took us so long to get with the program."
"Girl, you look radiant," Mary Beth said.
"Thanks. I keep pinching myself to make sure it isn't a dream. God is so good."
"Who'd have thought we'd have a wedding after being married for twenty-eight years?" Jed turned to Rhonda. "But you know, it seemed like this was the first time. We never really committed ourselves before. Such a waste."
Joe shook his head. "God doesn't waste anything, Jed. He can double up on the blessings now."
"I can't get over what the sun did to Rhonda's hair," Mary Beth said. "It's so blond."
Jed grinned. "Did you see the twinkle in those green eyes of hers? Reminds me of when we were in high school. You know ... I think she's prettier now than she was then."
"Sure I am." Rhonda winked at the Kennsingtons. "That's because you're sitting close and don't have your bifocals on."
The four of them laughed.
"I'm glad you're back," Mary Beth said. "We have so much fun with you guys ... Hey, Guy and Ellen just walked in."
"Watch this." Jed stood up and cleared his throat. "What do you get when you cross a respected attorney with the editor of the Baxter Daily News?"
Guy Jones shrugged. "A motion to suppress?"
"No, the best seat in the house!" Jed moved his arms like he was welcoming royalty. "Would you care to join us?"
"We'd love to," Ellen said. "I'd ask if you enjoyed Hawaii, but I'd have to be blind not to know the answer."
Wayne Purdy walked out of the back room and spotted Mark Steele near the cash register. "Boss, I'm heading out."
"Yeah, okay, Wayne. Enjoy your day off. See you Monday."
When Wayne opened the door to the diner, Taylor Logan and Sherry Kennsington came rushing in and nearly ran into him.
"Excuse me, ladies." He held the door and flashed a friendly smile.
"Thanks, Wayne," they said at the same time, and then raced for the booth where Sherry's parents were visiting with the Wilsons and the Joneses.
"Guess what?" Sherry said. "Taylor won first place and I won second at the county science fair. We get to enter our projects at the regional fair next weekend in Ellison!"
"How'd you find out?" Joe asked.
"We ran into Mrs. Powell at Slagel's. She got the winner's list by e-mail this morning."
"You girls should be proud of yourselves."
"Sounds like mud pie parfaits are in order," Mary Beth said.
All eyes turned to her.
"If you're full, we can split them."
"I wondered when you'd get around to dessert," Joe said. "You've shown unusual restraint."
Mary Beth put an arm around each of the girls. "Well, we have good cause to celebrate!"
Excerpted from Day of Reckoning by KATHY HERMAN Copyright © 2002 by Kathy Herman
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.