Kevin’s common sense was screaming at him. He and Kate had no business out in the night running into such mischief. He should make a bee line for the sheriff’s office. What would they find at the bird? They would likely find a small box. What would be in the box? He shouldn’t be socializing with Evelyn or Kate either as a matter of fact. Of course at this hour parking was easy by the big historical bird and before Kevin finished his conversation with his conscience, the car was parked beside the bird statue.
“Wait here,” Evelyn directed. “I’ll go get the box.”
Kevin really knew then that Evelyn knew more than she first let on.
“Stay in the car with me, Kate.” Kevin directed firmly, half a mind to drive off, leaving Evelyn and going straight to the police.
“I want to see what she finds!” protested Kate.
“And what if it is a booby trap or bomb?” Kevin retorted.
“Oh, I see your point”, Kate said, making her mouth into a big circle before uttering the words.
In less than two minutes Evelyn ran up to the car and climbed in quickly.
“I found the box. Here it is. It was hardly hidden. Let’s see the key and unlock this thing.”
The box was the size of a box of Ritz crackers, and metal like a very small cash box.
“I think we need to go to the police, now. “
Kevin didn’t know what was inside but he was out of his comfort zone big time. He was still shaken from the horrible happenings in the park
“No, we can’t go to the police!” Evelyn protested. “Kevin, trust me. You’ve known me for a long time. We can not go to the police!”
Evelyn, before Kevin could react, reached down and picked up the key and opened the box. Inside there was a piece of cardboard with black marker writing on it. When Kevin, Kate and Evelyn adjusted their eyes in the dim light to view of the piece of cardboard they all said the words at the same time “Ad Astra”.
“What does that mean?” Kate asked, bewildered.
“It’s a clue of some sort, I think, to something around the capitol building. That is the name of the statue on top of the dome.” Kevin frowned as he said this.
“Yes, that must be it,” agreed Evelyn in a tone that told Kevin that it meant nothing of the sort and that she knew but would not tell. Kevin started thinking to himself that he needed to get out of this somehow but how? He was a law abiding city employee. He had a clean record; even his driving record was clean. Good night, he was in an ugly sticky wicket.
Suddenly Kevin discovered back bone he had seen his parents show at various times,
“Evelyn, where do you want to be dropped off because we are five minutes from the police station and that is where I’m taking you if you don’t make up your mind in less than thirty seconds. I’m done with your game. I’m out.”
“Let me off at 6th and Quincy. I have a bus ticket I bought for early in the morning to Kansas City to go on down and see my mother in Tennessee,” Evelyn replied quickly. “I’m done with this drama, too. Do me a favor, Kevin. You two aren’t involved yet. Stay that way. You’ll be fine now. Don’t worry.” Evelyn continued as Kevin drove the shortest route to the intersection by the bus station. “Just go back to work and everything will be fine if you don’t go to the police. No one has any idea about you two”. Evelyn’s voice sounded sincerely concerned and also dictatorial.
Kevin and Kate stopped the car to let Evelyn off and she was like a vapor into the darkness and the door clicked shut behind her.
Kevin looked at Kate with a squinted eye look and said. “You have the morning off to go get yourself an apartment.” He knew he wanted normal and normal wasn’t having an intern camped in your apartment that somehow was getting you into one bad situation after another. Kate nodded her head.
“Should we go to the police?” she asked, her eyes looking frightened as if the reality was starting to settle in.
“Let me think.” Kevin replied. “If we do, I’ll do it, so don’t worry.” He desperately was trying to figure out what had just happened and what he and Kate had gotten into the middle of. Kate came back to his apartment and rested until about seven and then she left to go to get McDonalds and to go find an apartment. The door closed behind her. Kevin wondered why he thought about her and her safety so much. Kevin flipped on WIBW and caught the weather, then stopped in the middle of shaving. The news anchorman was giving developing news.
“Late last night a man from another country was shot and killed in a local cemetery by men who are believed to be terrorists and from the same country as the man that was killed. The police have apprehended the terrorists and are holding them in the Shawnee County jail. The police have reason to believe some innocent residents of our area were caught in the cross fire by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are asking for the public’s help in finding these individuals as they may have information that will aid law enforcement in their investigation. Now for the sports update on the big game yesterday after a few words from our sponsors.”
Kevin finished shaving then went to the closet and chose a tie. He didn’t always wear one, but since today he was going over a couple of blocks to visit with the sheriff’s department, he probably needed to look professional. He felt sick to his stomach, like the time he had to go with his mom to the principal’s office and confess he had written the note to the P.E. teacher himself because he didn’t want to play wiffle ball one more time and had signed his mom’s name.
The morning dragged along. He had called and had gotten a one o’clock appointment with a detective. Kevin decided that he would take Kate with him. Well, no sense worrying right now, but still work was hard. He had trouble trying to concentrate on even the mundane checklist of regular jobs he always did. When Kate came in at ten minutes until one, she was happy that she had keys in hand to an apartment on Lane near Washburn University.
Kevin announced, “We have an appointment, I’ll drive.” He filled her in on what the news was saying and told her going to the sheriff was the right thing to do.
“Tell the receptionist we are going over to the sheriff’s office to get some of the statistics on how crime has decreased over the past several years. Those stats are looking better for our community. It will help us promote Topeka.”
When Kevin and Kate arrived at the station they were quickly met by an officer who walked them back to a conference room. At the table, there was Evelyn! Shock hit Kevin like a sledge hammer!
“I know you are surprised to see me”, Evelyn began. Kevin couldn’t speak. The officer and the detective offered chairs and asked if anyone wanted water or coffee.
“Thank you so much for coming in.” The detective had a kind note in his voice. “You landed in the middle of a sting operation and we apologize for that. We want to give you two some information that will explain things. Evelyn, could you please briefly explain your part in this and I think that will clear things up the quickest for Mr. Emile and his assistant, Miss Sanchez.”
“Kevin, I was trying to help our city of Topeka out and found ads on the internet for businesses to relocate here. Unfortunately, I found a business in Romania that was heavy into cybercrime. The group consisted of computer hackers that were selling nonexistent goods. They were collecting money but not delivering any goods. When the FBI got to investigating this operation for online fraud it turned out to be a bigger ring than they thought. I thought the business was legitimate, and it was my job to try to bring business to Topeka, so I was being checked out at work because of my contact with such couriers and money launderers that the federal government was at the time trying to catch.”
Evelyn paused and sighed dramatically before she continued.
“I lost my job at the city because of my questionable contacts. The criminals were sure they had been found out overseas but thought our homeland security would be watching cities on the west and east coasts and thought that Topeka would be a perfect place that was in the middle of nowhere in a cornfield and that no one would suspect them. When I let them know I was no longer with the city of Topeka they persisted in wanting to work with me. This raised my suspicions so I went to the law and agreed to work with this sting operation.”
Now Evelyn looked regretful; almost embarrassed as she continued.
“I’m sorry but I was nervous about all this so I posted Kate’s picture as my own, and gave Kate’s address as my own, and I ‘m so sorry this about got her killed. The cemetery deal went wrong. I was afraid I’d get there too late. I’ve been working with several agencies trying to get the criminals arrested, but there are still some irons in the fire. That’s where we’re at.”
Evelyn slid her chair back from the table and looked over at the detective to talk next.
“We would like you to help us by letting us observe and follow you a bit to see if anyone else comes out of the woodwork after you, but I highly doubt there will be any more criminals in the area,” said the detective.
“Just go about your day to day work and lives, we’ll do the rest. If you can keep this confidential, we’ll just give you weekly updates if we have noticed anything and if we see any need for alarm we’ll intervene and you can call us anytime if you feel unsafe.”
Kevin and Kate agreed that they could go on as normal. They really didn’t want to talk about this at all anyway. The meeting was short and Kevin told them he would need a printout of the crime statistics to take back to the office as that was what he had said he was actually doing, and he had to keep gossip down.
The rest of the day was as routine a day as the days last week. Blessed routine days, thought Kevin, surprised that he got the city website updated and other time sensitive chores done.
The next morning the cell phone rang and rang. Kevin woke up from a grey haze and reached over to answer it.
“Kate, what’s up?” Kevin mumbled. “Yes, I just woke up. You woke me up.”
“I called to tell you something stupendous. You will never guess but I’ll be late getting work. I guess I’ll probably not come in until after lunch.” Kevin could tell Kate was breathless with excitement.
“Hold on, Kate. I haven’t even had my coffee this morning. My head feels like a mule kicked it and you aren’t coming into work?” Kevin exclaimed.
“Kevin, Kevin, it is so exciting. I haven’t seen them for years!” Kate enthused. Kevin started getting a short fuse.
“Who haven’t you seen for years?” Kevin demanded.
“Well, I’m trying to tell you. I got word this morning that my grandparents are coming in from California on the Amtrak train to vacation here in Topeka. Yes, in Topeka. Can you think of anything more exciting? It’s their fiftieth wedding anniversary and they want to visit around Topeka.”
During WWII Grandpa was stationed over at Ft. Riley. They actually met at the cemetery in the Civil War section. Grandma was Amy Brown then, and she was looking for the marker for one of her mother’s relatives. I think it was her uncle that was buried there. Anyway, soldiers at Ft. Riley were acting as honor guard. When it was over and she was leaving the wind blew her hat off and down the path right against a good looking soldier. Did you ever hear anything so exciting?”
Kevin stretched, his head spinning with Kate’s rambling story, and he tried to think of a coherent reply.
“I think a good strong cup of coffee would rate right up there close!” Kate rushed on.
“Kevin, I’m telling you they will be here for a week at least to look at all the points of interest in this area. It will almost write our project to just keep abreast of what they are interested in. Of course, I’ll want you to meet them. Say how about meeting us at Coyote Canyon? It’s a delicious buffet and all you can eat, plus Grandpa and Grandma will enjoy the western atmosphere.
I know they’ll want to meet the man who I’m working with. Of course I know everything about, you know, that bad stuff, is confidential about what’s happened and we can’t talk shop in front of them but we can talk about how wonderful Topeka is and all about Topeka!”
Kate sounded so happy as she hung up on Kevin. He realized how Kate basically must be a caring happy individual, kind of a cute one, too. Why couldn’t she be that way at the office?
At work, when Kevin had finished his third cup of coffee and felt half human, he decided to get down to business. He had lot to do and still his mind wandered. “Why had Evelyn suddenly surfaced now,” he wondered aloud. “Did she really give the full reason she had been fired from her job?” It sounded so suspicious. “And why weren’t the cops already at the cemetery if what she said was true”? Kevin’s mind was whirling. That cemetery deal sure was a bad experience and it left a lot of questions in Kevin’s mind. He could only hope that the law didn’t have any questions for him or Kate. At least with the thugs cleared from the deck, thinks looked somewhat better, although it didn’t explain why Kate’s house blew up, even if the thugs thought it was Evelyn’s home. The city had been tracking down a gas leak that was the story Kevin had heard, just like all the other workers.
The fire had done more than destroy Kate’s house, it destroyed her clothes as well. Kate figured she needed a couple of quick outfits to be ready for her grandparent’s visit. T-shirts, jeans, and underwear were easy to grab at Wal-Mart on Wanamaker. For dressy or work clothes Kate decided to go slow with selections as well as to go easy on her limited new-job-just-started budget. She didn’t need a whole wardrobe, just a few changes of clothes to get her through the next few days.
Her apartment was for just a six month lease anyway. A person had to be practical, and despite how awesome Topeka supposedly was, Kate didn’t imagine she was going to stick around longer than she had to. She was lucky, she thought, as she considered that her good suit was hanging in the back of her rental car. How fortunate she had not taken it in when her arms were full that one afternoon. Laziness paid off, and at least she had one good outfit other than the one she was wearing the day of the explosion.
Kate made another call to Kevin to remind him that it was almost lunchtime and that they were meeting her visiting family at Coyote Canyon. Minutes later they were walking into the restaurant and greeting the grandparents. Kate gave their names as Amy and George Shaw of Pasadena, California.
“Glad to meet you, sir.” Kevin said.
“Wait, boy, I’m just George. Don’t stand on formality.” Her grandfather gave Kevin a firm handshake. Kevin liked them both immediately and everyone settled in for a delicious lunch.
“Look”, explained Kate, “I have to be at work this afternoon. I know you will want a short rest or nap and then you’ll probably start exploring. This old town is fabulous, even awesome,” and she smiled at Kevin as she said the word ‘awesome’. You may find it has changed a bit in the last fifty years.”
“Well, we do want to see Gage Park and the beautiful carousel,” Amy giggled, “we were having a ride on it when George proposed.”
“Sure thing, “George admitted, “smartest thing I ever did was pick out Amy and marry her.”
Amy was pleased and almost blushed. “Do you even remember the color of horses we were riding?”
“Absolutely. You had a big black horse and I, being your knight in shining armor, was next to you on a glossy white one.” George replied.
Kate knew they were off for a fun afternoon so she kissed them goodbye and told them to go have some fun. Leaving her car with the grandparents, Kate caught a ride back to work with Kevin. Watching Kevin drive across town, Kate caught her breath. She was depending on Kevin almost all the time, almost too much. On the ride to work they were both sober and decided that although the police had arrived that night in time, and even with the reassurance the detective had given them, they needed to be careful. They weren’t sure if they were on or off a hit list, or why. Evelyn giving the criminals Kate’s picture instead of her own explained a little, but not why Kevin was apparently being targeted.
During that evening, Kate caught up on a lovely visit with her grandparents and they made a list of needed items for her new apartment. George and Amy could not have come at a better time. Their help was very welcome as they settled into the apartment; they liked the fact it was near Washburn University. At one point they made a quick run up to North Topeka to Major Thrift to search for some needed articles. George was in charge of finding a couple of kettles, a skillet, and pans to cook in. Amy and Kate were dispatched to the furniture section for a few chairs, a table, and or perhaps a couch. Kate discovered a nice set of stainless steel flatware that was inexpensive. She looked over the shoes but didn’t see anything she liked in her size. Grandma Amy took Kate aside.
“I didn’t pack much, mostly just casual togs. Where can I get a pretty dress, a nice one that George hasn’t seen?”
Kate recalled the David’s Bridal by the mall. “You’ll love it, it has mature sizes for mothers and grandmas of the brides to wear to weddings.” Although Kate hadn’t been to the David’s Bridal in Topeka, she had shopped in several other cities with girlfriends during college. Amy was pleased.
“That’s just the place, I’ll go look in the morning.”
It wasn’t too long before George had Kate’s attention. In a low voice so Amy over an aisle couldn’t hear, he asked where he could get a nice ring. He explained, “You know, a pretty one for our anniversary.”
“Oh, sure, Diamonds by Design has rings or there are several stores downtown for nice jewelry, too. You’ll find something nice.” Kate assured him.
“Great!” George said, “I’m going to do this anniversary up right. I was just an ordinary soldier fifty years ago.” Kate knew her grandparents had earned by hard work every dollar they had made, just like the young soldiers today.
Things at work the next day were quiet. Things had slowed down enough that Kevin and Kate were able to make real plans for the “Topeka is Awesome” project, flipping through the planning notebook that Evelyn had left behind for inspiration. They still watched other people carefully trying not to be obvious. The race idea seemed to fall right into place. They had all the maps and were able to come up with good routes for the one mile fun walk, and the 5K , the half marathon, and the full marathon.
The routes all seemed to have great sites to travel by and those points of interest tied the theme of history and the city of Topeka’s part in it together nicely. Historical neighborhoods, old churches and schools, new and exciting sites, and other parks and tourist sites seemed to be just jumping into their thoughts and onto the yellow pad that Kevin was jotting down ideas on. Kate was excellent at brainstorming, as well as well traveled. Obviously her parents had taken her many, many places other that Disney World.
“My parents love museums,” Kate shared. “We learned a ton of information about the world we live in by spending enough time in museums. My Mom always told us to “just read half of the information by the displays” but we generally ended up reading it all; like she did.”
One point they still didn’t agree on was Kate wanted to investigate local legends on ghosts. Kevin wasn’t interested in ghosts at all. He heard Kate tell him that she thought a lot of people differed on that and would be quite interested in ghosts of the area. Kevin disagreed with her but said she could spend a little time on that aspect, but recommended she not waste much time at all on it.
Kevin found himself feeling rather proud of Topeka and to his surprise felt a love of Topeka beginning to grow. He also stole a side look at his new assistant and thought how lovely she looked. He made a mental note to look up the city employee policy on relationships in the workplace. If Kate worked for another department, or if she finished her internship and found another job in Topeka….he let himself daydream for a moment.
Stop, Kevin! Kevin told himself, remembering terms like “grounds for dismissal” “supervisor and employee boundaries” and “professional relationships in the workplace.” Kevin immediately shook his head, wondering about himself. He was a professional through and through, and a very ethical person. End of Story, Kevin, he told himself sternly, and focused with enthusiasm on his new found interest in his home town, the Capital City of Kansas
That evening Kate’s grandfather took her aside and showed her the velvet box with a flashing circle of diamonds in it.
“The clerk said it was a forever ring and they even engraved our initials in it.” Kate’s eyes were wide.
“Oh, Grandpa, Grandma will love this ring!” Kate whispered. Amy had been no less busy than George and she showed Kate the lovely shining satin gown in a soft rose color. The matching lace jacket made it outstanding.
“Grandma, you will be just beautiful in it,” Kate thought how nice it was that her grandparents were so happy together.
That night Kate fell into a troubled sleep. Many bad dreams rolled in and held her hostage. If she only knew why people were trying to kill her and Kevin, she could rest. She awoke frightened and her thoughts turned to the fellow she had met only a few days ago. Already Kevin seemed such a secure anchor in her hurried, harried days. She knew she was depending on him more and more.
The next morning George told Kate he intended to give Amy the ring that day when they rode the marvelous old carousel. Amy wished them a fun day and headed for work. At work Kevin informed her that his parents had invited all of them to their house for pizza and conversation. Kevin also thought it would be a good idea for someone to kind of look out after the grandparents, not knowing yet just how safe things were.
The afternoon was quite warm, and as anyone from Kansas knows, that can be the forerunner of severe weather. Sure enough, it looked like storms could form later in the evening. The grandparents and Kate and Kevin all rode together to his parents’ house just north of Topeka.
Grandma Amy was wearing a new ring and they both were wearing happy smiles. Kevin’s parents and Kate’s grandparents hit it off immediately. Kevin’s dad knew Topeka really well and discussed at length the sites around the area. State buildings, old schools, the influence of the railroad in the area, it all was included in their conversation. Kevin’s mother and Kate’s grandmother exchanged information of things they enjoyed doing and their hobbies.
“I’d like to spend more time quilting but I’m involved with Bible Study Fellowship and that takes some time.” Amy said.
“Oh, we have Bible Study Fellowship here, too, in Topeka, I love it. What unit did you finish this year?” Kevin’s mother exclaimed. Kate thought that they acted a little bit like teen girls finding the other one had the newest Justin Bieber album.
Being with local people who knew the area and who had lived here for years, Kate knew she could ask about ghost legends of the locale. By this time, Grandma Amy and Kevin’s mom were acting like seventh grade best friends and didn’t take her question seriously as they went into the kitchen to put together a quick salad to go with the pizza.
“Oh, Kate, the only ghost you need to know anything about it the Holy Ghost!” laughed her grandma as she followed Kevin’s mom behind the counter and washed her hands to start helping.
Kevin’s dad asked Kate, “Have you heard about the Holy Ghost showing up in Topeka in 1900 or was it 1901?”
“No, I haven’t,” Kate replied. Finally, someone willing to tell her a real Topeka ghost story!
“I have!” George quickly replied. “They were talking about it even fifty years ago at Forbes Field and at Schilling in Salina. I overheard two chaplains on a bus discussing it. I don’t recall where we were headed but it was an interesting conversation to say the least. I don’t remember where they said it happened though.”
Kevin’s dad said “It was at the corner of 17th and Gage I believe. It’s where Faith Lutheran is located today. Back then it was Bethel Bible College at that location.”
“All I know is that it made world news and it was only a few years later there was the Azusa Street Revival in 1906 out in our fine state of California,” replied George.
Kate had never heard about any of this and found it interesting that two people both knew about this Holy Ghost visiting and even remembered hearing about it for fifty years. She was fascinated, but before Kate could ask another question, a blaring siren suddenly sounded.
“We’re going to the basement” Kevin shouted and quickly whipped open the basement door. Guests and family were in a basement recreation room within sixty seconds. Kevin punched the T.V. on and suddenly it was a typical “only in Kansas” scene. Doppler radar all over the news and everyone’s attention focused in on where the funnel cloud and wall cloud were located, and the projected path as well as severe weather advice scrolling across the screen, with the wail of the sirens coming in from the basement windows. Thankfully the funnel cloud hadn’t touched down yet anywhere.
Kevin, who had been quiet for awhile, remembered out loud “You should have been with me the day I moved out of my parent’s house. I was signing up for classes at Washburn University when the tornado sirens blew on and off for two hours until I finally got out of the Henderson Building basement and back to my dorm room. It was quite a memory of my first day in college. My poor roommate had gone to Wal-Mart to buy a desk lamp and he had to learn about “code black” – he was herded into the dressing rooms and no one was allowed to leave Wal-Mart.
Kevin and the group chuckled at the story and by then the sirens had stopped. The weather man said that the funnel cloud had dissipated.
“It’s over, let’s go eat!” Kevin’s mom said, and they all trouped upstairs to find their chairs around the dining room table. The Gambino’s pizza was good and the salad excellent. They stayed until almost nine talking together, and after agreeing they had all had a good time, someone mentioned they’d have to get together again. Kevin was actually looking forward to it. Kate and her grandparents headed one direction and Kevin drove the other, back to his own apartment, thinking over the evening in his mind.
At home Kevin had just turned in for the night when his phone rang. Kate was on the line. Kevin heard her breathless voice say, “Kevin, you’ll never guess what I just found out, it must be the answer ……….” The phone went dead.
His screen said “Call Ended”.
About the Authors
Jean Kary has written two novels while participating in the National Novel Writing Month which she is in the process of editing. She has written poetry and short stories since high school. She is an avid history lover, having researched, written and presented history papers for the past fifteen years in the Black Hills. After living on her South Dakota ranch for almost sixty years she spends her winters in Kansas while returning to the ranch during the summers. She has four children and eight grandchildren who she enjoys spending time with. Her favorite activities in the Topeka area include spending time at the Topeka Shawnee County Library, browsing the local thrift stores now that she has some time away from ranching, and going to events such as her favorite, The Topeka Passion Play. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, quilting, and collecting this and that.
Rae Kary Staab is a new writer. She watched her daughter and her mother Jean write novels in one month and she is excited to try again this November to write a novel. She has a B.S. in Geological Engineering and is a certified E.M.T. Rae stayed home to raise her family and now that they are grown she is looking forward to writing and working. She enjoys reading, rope spinning, and sewing. Rae and her husband live north of Topeka.
Jean Kary and Rae Kary Staab may be contacted at email@example.com