Friday, April 28, 2006

Green Sister 22

They were just about to open the door when a harsh voice came echoing down the hall.

"What are you people doing here?" A figure dressed in a decontamination suit trudged down the hall. "Didn't you get the message that the campus was closed?"

Janna and Mark looked at each other in confusion.

"We just drove onto the campus. What's the matter?" Mark asked.

The man swore softly. "You weren't stopped on the road?" Without waiting for an answer, he spoke into a walkee-talkee and ordered the disembodied voice on the other end to check the perimeters. He then turned his attention back to Mark and Janna.

"We need to get you out of here. Come with me."

Janna stopped him as he turned around. "Wait just a minute. Who are you and what is going on around here? We've come to see somebody."

"All of your questions will be answered in due time. Right now we need to get you to a place of safety."

Mark and Janna exchanged glances. Mark shrugged.

Janna said to Mark, quietly, "I don't like this, but I don't see that we have a choice right now."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Green Sister 21

Janna silently thanked God she had already thought out her cover story as she told Mark her supposed reason for going to see Ann. Although he raised an eyebrow as she said she wanted some background information for a story, he didn't press her further.

The dashboard clock was just showing four o'clock as they pulled into Falstaff and onto the University campus. As Janna had hoped, the different departments were clearly marked on white signposts and within minutes she pulled the car into a visitor's parking place in front of the Slocum Mathematics Center. Finding Ann's name and office number on the glass-enclosed case in the lobby, Janna and Mark headed to the elevator.

The third floor was tiled and their steps echoed in the silence.

Janna whispered to Mark, "Wouldn't you think there would be people around, even at this time of day? It's not that late."

"Maybe they are having spring break or something," he replied, in an equally quiet voice. "Come to think of it, I didn't see anyone outside in the Common either."

Janna's heart started pounding as they reached Ann's office door. Something was not right.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Green Sister 20

Janna and Mark drove for half an hour in silence, Janna mulling over the questions she wanted to ask Ann... and how she could explain her sudden interest in numbers, in general, and pi specifically. Well, she was a writer and imagination was her stock in trade. It wasn't unusual for her to interview people in different fields for background for her stories, so... her next heroine was going to be a mathematician and, possibly she could meet the hero on March 14, Pi Day. That should work.... somehow.

"So," she said suddenly, her mind settled on the way she was going to approach Ann, "it must have been a pretty serious rift between you and Ann to cause you to worry so much about me."

"It was."

Janna waited, but it was obvious Mark was going to be no more forthcoming about it now than earlier. Janna sighed, audibly. It was going to be a long trip at this rate.

"You mentioned that you 'work' but you never said what kind of work you do." Janna tried again to engage him in conversation. Anything was better than the silence in the car and her hand itched to reach over to the CD player and turn Elvis back on.

"At whatever interests me at the moment. This past month, I've been working as a massage therapist at a spa down the street from my house. I spent last year in Brazil teaching English. I like having different experiences, so I spend time doing different things."

"That doesn't afford much security, does it?"

"It's not necessary. My parents were heavily insured and Gran put all the money in safe investments. I guess you could say I'm one of those 'trust fund babies,' but without the fame of some of them. And, a desire to do more with my life than have outrageous parties and be seen on television. Now, why don't you tell me why you are going to see Ann?"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Green Sister 19

"Okay," she said, after a long moment studying him. "Let's go. I don't want to get there too late. I have no idea how long she will stay at the lab, but if we wait til after office hours, there will be no chance of getting to see her tonight."

They walked back to the car and nearly collided as they both headed to the driver's side.

"Oh, no, buckaroo. You are not going to be one of those 'but the man always drives' kinda guy, are you? Cause I'm telling you right now... I am NOT giving up control of this car. It's my name on the contract and my responsibility."

Mark held up his arms in mock surrender as he backed off. "I was just going to open the door for you. I know it's old-fashioned, but Gran..."

"What is it with you and your grandmother?" Janna grumbled as she grudgingly stood back and allowed him to open the door.

After Mark returned to the passenger side and got in, he said, "I guess I do talk about her a lot. She was the most important part of my life for so long, it's a way of keeping her alive, I guess. My folks were killed in a boating accident when I was just a baby and Gran took me in and raised me. She died a couple of years ago and it just helps me remember her."

Janna was, for once, at a loss for words. "I'm sorry," she finally said, abashed at her flippancy.

"Don't be." Mark turned in his seat and brushed his hand against hers. "I have only good memories of her and she lived to see me achieve my dreams... or most of them." He turned away and fastened his seat belt. "Now, I believe we have a few 'miles to go before we sleep'."

After a glance at him, Janna cranked up the car and pulled carefully back on the road.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Green Sister 18

"Okay." Janna stopped and turned to face him. "What did Ann do to you that was so terrible you felt like you had to sneak in my car?" And I still want to figure out HOW you did it without me noticing.

"You'll just have to trust me on this. You do not need to go see her by yourself. Especially since she's never forgiven you for that incident in high school."

"Forgiven ME? I wasn't the one who..."

"I know that and you know that... but, in Ann's mind it was your fault. And, when Ann gets a thought in her mind it doesn't let go. It's like a fish in a round bowl...it keeps swimming but just goes around in circles."

"Well, I don't know. But, as long as you're here, I guess I don't have any choice but to take you with me. There were some questions I wanted to ask her, but I can't imagine a grown woman holding something that happened in high school (even though it wasn't my fault) against me to the extent that it would be dangerous to talk to her. Besides, it would be nice to have company." She was sure there was a grudging tone to her voice. She hated to admit that... especially to Mark, standing here with a slight grin on his face. And, she hated that she noticed how it lit up his eyes. Funny, they weren't just brown as she had always thought, but more of a hazel. Today, they almost looked green.

With an effort, she pulled her gaze away from his and shook her head. There was nothing at all romantic about this trip. He had followed her, for heaven's sake. And snuck in her car. And, her thoughts suddenly flew to the manuscript sitting in her back seat, who knew what else he had been doing? She wrapped her arms around herself as she felt a sudden chill, despite the heat of the air around her.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

from my rose garden

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Green Sister 17

Mark climbed out of the trunk, shook his head, and said, "I didn't think I was ever going to get your attention. And, I knew if I heard Elvis croon one more time, I was going to vomit. Are you locked in a time warp or something?"

Janna put her hands on her hips and stared at him. "Let me see if I'm understanding this picture. Somehow, you snuck into my trunk, scared me half to death with your pounding, and then you have the nerve to criticize my choice of music? What is it with you, anyway? And... what are you doing in my trunk?"

Leaning against the back of the car, Mark folded his arms across his chest and grinned at her. "Did you know that you blush when you get angry? And your eyes flash like emeralds."

"Oh, stuff it up your ear. What are you doing here? How, and why, did you get in my trunk?"

Mark stood up straight and walked up to her, placing his hand on her arm. "I became suspicious when you were asking about Ann. And, I was afraid you were about to get into trouble, so... I followed you."

"You followed me!" Janna jerked away from him and stomped off, furious at him and at herself for not noticing.

"I was worried about you," he said, following close behind her. "You don't know what she's become. I told you she and I had had a falling out... I didn't tell you what about."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Green Sister 16

Janna wished “Sunshine” had been able to make this trip, but it was just too long a distance for that little yellow bug. If she didn’t find a way to put some money into her pretty soon, she wasn’t even going to be able to drive it around town. She glanced at the fancy gauges on the rental, but just couldn’t warm up to it. The sooner she could get this business taken care of and get back home the better she would like it. It was only another couple of hours to Falstaff and she wanted to get there before dark.

A loud thumping came from the left rear. Frowning, Janna reached over to the CD player and turned down the volume of Elvis' "Hound Dog."

“Darn!” she exclaimed. “Just what I need... a flat. What more could go wrong? Maybe this trip to try and see Ann wasn't such a good idea.”

She carefully pulled over to the side of the road and got out, thankful there was a shoulder to pull onto. So much of this trip there’d only been swamp surrounding her. Walking around the car, slapping at mosquitos, she examined each tire. There was nothing wrong with any of them. As she walked past the trunk, a loud thumping caught her attention again.

“What the…?”

She went to the front of the car and popped the trunk. Cautiously, she walked back to the trunk, feeling in her pocket to make sure her pepper spray was in its accustomed place.

“Mark LaRue, what on earth are you doing there?”

Monday, April 17, 2006

Green Sister 15

Janna sighed as she glanced over at her manuscript. If she didn't finish these edits by this weekend, her editor was going to have her head. She just couldn't concentrate on this right now. Things were swirling through her mind. She needed to be able to find Ann Vivene and see if she can come up with any ideas. It wasn't going to be easy, given their history in school, but possibly she could find a way.

First, she needed to start with Dr. Defoe in Falstaff. The way Mark had said it, surely the doctor would be well-known in mathematical circles. History and literature had been her strong points, though. She was lucky she had managed to get through the math classes she had to take to be able to graduate.
Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she punched in the keywords: falstaff dr. defoe. BINGO! Pages of information... boy, he had been prolific. Her heart sunk as she scanned one item on the page. An obituary.

After noting the date of the obit, Janna pulled up the website for the Falstaff Observer. A quick search revealed an article about the doctor and his work. She had been pretty sure there would be something about him. At the bottom of the article, after descriptions of various awards and publications, was the notice "Dr. Falstaff's work will be continued at the present time by his able assistant, Ann Vivene."

Her next step was to get to Falstaff. "Sunshine" definitely wouldn't make the trip. The poor thing will barely make it around town sometimes. With one last look at her own manuscript, she grabbed the mysterious one off the table and headed off to Acme Car Rental to pick up something that would make the trip. Hopefully she would be back before the weekend and could finish her edits then. Or, she could throw herself on her editor's mercy once again.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Green Sister 14

She drew back her hand, furious at it for shaking so much and wiped her sweaty palms on her flannel sleep pants. What on earth was there to be so nervous about? Okay, so it showed up in the middle of the night in her home. Clarence didn't seem too concerned about it. Curious, yes. Concerned, no. That was a plus. It wasn't making any strange noises, it didn't rattle when she shook it, it wasn't a strange and odd shape. As a matter of fact, the shape looked very familiar.

With a deep breath, she reached out again, untied the twine and folded back the paper. A manuscript. Someone had crept into her house while she slept and left her a manuscript. She was just about to push the pile of papers onto the floor when the title caught her eye. "The Green Sister Revealed." What the...?

She grabbed the first few pages and scanned through them, desperately searching for clues that the anonymous author truly knew who she was. With a sigh of relief she dropped the pages on the table. Just the normal, run-of-the-mill National Devourer crap. She was often given manuscripts by wannabe writers, but mostly romance. They all thought she had some secret in with her agent and would be thrilled to introduce them....despite all the times she told people she was not allowed by her agent and publisher to read other people's work. In this world of sue-happy people it was just not safe.

She padded to the kitchen and glanced at the coffeemaker's clock. 5:00? Grumbling, she punched the "on" button, bypassing the automatic timer. No way was she going to wait two hours for a cup of ambrosia. She was amazed she'd been able to function this long.

Leaning against the counter, she concentrated on who would have been able to break into her home and leave the manuscript. And, more importantly, what were they trying to tell her? Was it a coincidence that they had chosen her as the recipient? Or, was there another, more sinister meaning behind it?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Green Sister 13

Janna sat up in bed, her heart pounding. Her skin felt clammy and she was gasping for breath. Thank God it had only been a dream. Nancy the Black had taken every building in town and turned them into circles, using the magic of pi which she had finally successfully harnessed.

Swinging her legs off the bed, she felt for her slippers with her toes, unwilling to turn on the light and face the brightness. Instead of fuzzy slippers, however, her feet came into contact with a prickliness.

"Clarence," she exclaimed, finally motivated to switch on her bedside lamp. "What on earth are you doing there?"

Clarence nudged a brown-paper wrapped parcel laying on the floor. Janna's gaze darted around the room. Where had that come from? She would have noticed it when she went to bed. A dust bunny dragging from the corner of the box caught her attention. It must have been under the bed, she mused. No telling how long it had been in the house, but she knew she'd not brought it in. Gingerly she picked the box up. Printed in block letters was her name.

"This doesn't look good," she told Clarence. "But, on the other hand, if it's been here long enough to collect dust bunnies..."

The bristles on Clarence's forehead stuck out and he snuffled.

"Don't act that way. It's not THAT dusty under my bed!"

Clarence snuffled again and Janna lifted her comfortor from the floor and glanced under the bed. After a sneezing account that ended three minutes later, she said, "Well, okay. Maybe the box hasn't been here very long, but how could anyone have gotten it into the house?"

As if in answer, Clarence ran into the living room where it stood next to an open window.

"Darn it!" Janna fumed as she slammed the window shut and locked it. "Who would have snuck in and left a package for me? This just doesn't make sense."

She went into the bedroom to retrieve the parcel and sat it on the dining room table. It was addressed to her, not the Green Sister, which was reassuring, since no one living knew where the Green Sister stayed or who she was in real life, so at least her secret still seemed safe enough. But, on the other hand, why sneak in a package to Janna Thomason, romance writer. Oh, well. Only one way to find out and she reached out her hand to untie the twine that wrapped around the box.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Green Sister 12

Mark looked at her a minute longer and then shrugged. "The last I heard from her she was in Falstaff, working with Dr. Defoe out there."

Janna glanced at her watch and exclaimed, "My goodness, look at the time. I forgot I had an appointment uptown in just a little while. Thanks for the ice," she continued, handing Mark the plastic bag with the melting ice. "My elbow feels so much better now."

Placing the bag on the tray, Mark walked Janna to the door. "I'm sorry you have to rush off. It's been nice having you here."

Janna impulsively leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "I enjoyed it, too, Mark. Maybe we could get together again?"

"I'll call you. Are you in the phone book?"

Janna nodded and went out the door. What was she thinking of? This was not the time for a possible romance. Not with Nancy the Black lurking out there. Her feet, though, seemed to ignore her brain's misgivings, as she floated down the hall and to her car.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

This is Janna's hedgehog, Clarence



adopt your own virtual pet!

Green Sister 11

Had Mark somehow, somewhere been able to discover her secret? She shook her head mentally. There was no one living that knew she was the Green Sister.

"So, what have I been doing?"

"You've been writing. I have friends who have all your books. And..." He paused, looked away, and blushed. "I have to admit, I've read them as well."

"You? You don't exactly fit the demographics for the general romance reader, but don't feel embarrassed. You like numbers so... did you know that in 2004, 22% of the readers of romance novels were male?"

"You're kidding! Really?"

"God's truth. So... it's not as uncommon as you might think."

"That's interesting." Mark got up and started clearing away the tray.

"Do you ever hear from anyone from school?" She had to hurry up and get to the point of all this before she ran out of an excuse to be here.

"The occasional card from Ann. Do you remember her?"

Janna's heart sang. "I think so." She frowned as if she were thinking. "You and she were pretty tight, right? Where is she now?"

"We... had a falling out over something a year or two back. So, I'm not sure where she is now."

"Oh. Well, where was she then?"

Mark sent her a look laced with suspicion. "Why all this interest in Ann? You and she had your own moments in school, if I remember."

Janna busied herself with readjusting the ice on her arm. "Oh, just idle curiousity."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Green Sister 10

Mark laughed. "Don't worry," he assured her. "They aren't made from thorns! The jam is made from mixed fruit from thorny bushes... like blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry, fruit like that."

"Well, that's a relief!" said Janna, as she picked up her scone again.

Janna thought she'd better start steering the conversation toward the information she wanted or she'd be there all morning finding out what "Gram" had to say. Of course spending the morning with the new and improved Mark would not be an struggle at all.

"Are you okay?" Mark asked, startling Janna out of her reverie and making her realize she'd been staring at him over her teacup.

"Oh, yeah," she said, sitting her cup down. "I was just wondering what you'd been doing with yourself since school."

"Working, mostly. I know what you've been doing."

Janna froze. "Oh?"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Green Sister 9

Janna jerked her hand back and turned to face Mark as he backed into the room. He turned towards her and lay the tray in his hands on the coffee table. Janna was amazed to see it laden with an earthenware teapot, a matching pitcher of milk and sugar bowl, two cups and small plates, a covered dish and a plate of biscuit-looking things.

"I brought some tea along with the ice. I thought you might could use something hot to drink." He laughed a little. "My granny used to say that there was nothing a "cupan tae" wouldn't cure. It was her answer for everything."

"Sounds wonderful," Janna said, moving to the couch and sitting down. She reached for the bag of ice which Mark had wrapped in a linen dishtowel and placed it on her elbow.

"Here, rest your arm on this pillow." Mark hurriedly grabbed a corduroy pillow from the leather chair by the sofa and placed it gently under Janna's arm. "That way, you won't have to hold the ice. It would make it difficult to drink a cup of tea while holding that ice."

Mark's grin when he said that sent Janna's senses reeling. Where was the pudgy boy with glasses and bad skin she remembered from high school? The one who always had a calculator stuck in his back pocket and had been known to bring a slide rule to school?

"And," Mark continued, as he walked back over to the chair and sat down. "I'm afraid Gran also made sure I developed the habit of 'elevenses.' It really works out well, since I normally don't eat breakfast. Shall I be mother?"

Without waiting for Janna to reply, he poured milk into a cup, added the fragrant black tea, and handed it to her.

"There's sugar in the bowl," he said. "Gran always said that a lot of sugar would help with shock."

Janna added a couple of spoons of sugar, stirred it and took a sip.

"It's... stronger than I expected."

"Gran always said it needed to be strong enough for a mouse to trot on. I guess it takes some getting used to. Can I get you anything else?"

Janna smiled at him. "No, this is fine. Now, tell me how I should eat these biscuits."

"I'll have you know these are good Irish scones!" Mark grinned at her again. "Properly, we should have some clotted cream, but it's not that easy to find around here. So, I've brought some jam." He pushed the dish close to her.

She took one bite of the scone with a spoon of jam on it and closed her eyes as she chewed.

"Mmmmm. This is heaven. What kind of jam is it? I've never tasted anything like this."

"It's called bramble jam."

"Bramble? As in thorns?" Janna carefully sat the scone back on her plate.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Green Sister 8

Janna was never one to miss an opportunity that had been handed to her on a silver platter.

"I...I believe I might have hurt my arm when I fell," she stammered, grabbing her elbow. "Do you know where I could get some ice?"

"Sit, Bruno!" Mark said sternly to the dog, who was nuzzling at Janna's leg. "I live in this building right here. Let me go deliver Bruno to his owner and we'll see about looking at your arm."

The three of them walked into the apartment building and Mark punched the up button for the elevator. While they waited, Mark explained to Janna that he was walking the dog for his neighbor, who had broken her leg the weekend before.

"He's a handful, but he's a good puppy. Geri is just waiting for her house in the 'burbs to get finished. It will be good for him to have a yard to run in."

After delivering Bruno to Geri, Mark and Janna walked down the corridor to his apartment.

While Mark went in the kitchen to get the ice, Janna walked around the tastefully decorated living room, examining the shelves. Along with the expected treatises on math and quontum physics, she was surprised to see volumes of Wordsworth, Scott, Blake, Baillie, and Equiano. Funny, she would have never thought he would be interested in the Romantics.

On his desk, next to his computer, was a leather-bound address book. She was just reaching for it when he walked back in the room.