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Chapter Five: Lunch With Connie

Liam and Connie arranged a meeting at a Denny's a few blocks from the church but Xavier excused himself, claiming the press of urgent responsibilities on another case. They arrived separately and Liam found Connie waiting in a booth near the front of the restaurant.

"Sorry I kept you waiting" he said as he slid into the booth. "I had to drop my dad off first."

"That's okay, I'm not really hungry anyway." She suddenly looked tired and careworn. "In fact, I'm not really sure why I agreed to talk with you about this some more."

"I hope it's because you really think we might be able to help." Liam said over the top of the menu. Unlike Connie, his appetite was in good working order. "He suddenly realized his breach of etiquette and lay the menu to one side. "Actually I don't need to eat right now either, Ill just have -"

"No, there's no reason for you not to eat."

"That's okay, I'll be alright with a cup-"

"Oh stop it" She picked up the menu as the waitress came to the table. "I'll have a cup of coffee, but my friend is gong to have -" she flipped back and forth between a couple pages of the menu, "he'll have the Ultimate Skillet." She glanced at Liam and at his bemused nod, handed the menu to the waitress. "Oh, and a large milk as well, thank you."

"You seemed practiced at that" Liam said with a smile after the waitress had left.

"Oh, I've been out to eat here with my dad and three brother often enough to know what men like to eat at Denny's."

"From around here then?"

"No, back east originally. I think they have Denny's everywhere" she smiled. "I went to school out here up state and ended up staying in this part of the country. I had a job offer here in town."

Liam nodded. "Happens a lot I guess. So, where do you work?"

"I work for Child Protective Services." She paused as if waiting for a reaction. When Liam remained silent she continued. "I'm a case manager working with families at risk."

"Sounds like a tough job."

"Oh, I suppose it isn't easy" she replied. "But, I really enjoy working with kids - I like doing what I can to make people's lives better."

"Did you go into that line of work because of your faith?"

Liam glanced up as the waitress brought his order and Connie held her reply until the woman had left the table. When she did answer, she seemed uncomfortable discussion that topic.

"Well, I suppose so." She fiddled with a salt shaker. "But then again, I feel that every person has a responsibility towards others."

"Hmm, hmm" Liam responded around a fork full of food. Further conversation ceased while he put a dent in his Ultimate Skillet.

"So how well did you know Beverly Slater?" Liam asked as he reached for the glass of milk.

"Pretty well I guess." Connie said the salt shaker back in place and folded her hands on the tabletop. "The truth is I don't really like to even think about what happened. It was really hard for me to talk to the detective this morning."

"That's understandable but the only way the Sheriff or my dad and I are going to find the killer is by asking questions."

"Speaking of that, I still don't really understand what it is you and your dad are all about."

Liam shrugged. "They said, we are part of an international organization that investigates these kinds of events."

"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about" said Connie. "What you mean by 'these kinds of events'?"

"You know, strange events, happenings that -"

"You're talking about paranormal stuff right?"

Liam hesitated a long time before answering. "Why would you say that?"

"I don't know. I guess I just think it must be something like that. You're trying so hard not to say what it is you and your dad do."

Liam nodded. "well, the fact is, is something that." He took a swallow of milk before continuing. "But, I can't really talk about that right now."

"Why not? I mean, you want me to help you and yet you expect me to do that without telling me the truth?"

"It's not that I'm not telling you the truth - "

"Yes it is! It's called lying by omission."

"Connie, we don't usually talk to people about who we are and what we do even this much." He gazed into her eyes for a moment. "Frankly you should feel privileged that I've said as much as I have."

"Feel privileged! Good grief, as if I'm supposed to be impressed by" she gestured palms up, "well by something!"

Lima shrugged. He could feel his face grow hot. "I, I get it, I'm coming across like some sort of arrogant fool." He shifted in his seat and looked out the window. "The truth is, I'm not used to divulging much information." He turned back to look at her. "Normally we work alone and out of sight - ask our questions and move on before anybody gets too curious."

"Well no wonder! How many people are going to take you seriously when you tell them you investigate the paranormal?"

"Do you take me seriously?" Liam asked.

Connie leaned back in the booth and stared at Liam without speaking for several seconds. When she finally spoke it was in measured tones, with carefully selected words.

"I take the part about the paranormal seriously. I am fully aware that there are supernatural beings who exist and have an impact on the lives of everyday people." She continued to stare at Liam. "On the other hand, there really isn't any reason for me to believe that you and your father are part of an international organization made up of experts in the field who are enlisted to investigate supernatural events. That just sounds a little ridiculous"

Liam nodded. "That's reasonable. So let's just forget about how much expertise or experience I might have or who I might represent. Can we just work together on this - for the sake of your friend Beverly, if for no other reason?"

"I suppose." She leaned her elbows on the table. "As long as things don't get too weird. By the way, what is your objective in all this?"

Liam felt a sudden caution and remained silent.

"What's the matter? Cat got your tongue."

"No, I guess It's just that I don't really have an answer to that question."

Connie frowned at him. "Hmm. Well I suppose that's only fair. Since I've already told you that I'm having trouble believing your story, it is only natural for you to clam up a bit."

Liam laughed. "It's not that Connie. It's just that - well as I said, I'm not used to saying so much in the first place. I guess I've opened up to you because you knew Beverly and are a member of the church she attended."

Connie looked at him for the corner of her eye and struck a pose. "Ah, so the dashing young knight is enchanted by the beautiful young maiden in distress, is that it?"

Liam smiled broadly. "Could be, could be."

Chapter One: Slaughter In The Churchyard
Chapter Two: The Guardians
Chapter Three: The Detective
Chapter Four: Checking Out The Church
Chapter Five: Lunch With Connie
Chapter Six: Back To The Scene Of The Slaughter
Chapter Seven: Suspects In View
Chapter Eight: An Unbelievable Story
Chapter Nine: The Suspects Disappear
Chapter Ten: A Plan Of Action
Chapter Eleven: Lily's Help
Chapter Twelve: Another Victim
Chapter Thirteen: The Briefing
Chapter Fourteen: Attack On A Guardian
Chapter Fifteen: The Fury Of The Fiend


THE END WAS NEAR
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