Illustration by Lawrence Tate
It seemed as if Abby’s head had hardly touched the pillow when the morning sun shone full on her face. ‘I’m supposed to be doing something…’ she thought. The memory of her late-night talk with George flooded back into her mind, and she quickly organized her immediate problems.
‘Okay… George’s spying has exposed Morphy’s plot. All these stalkers are his investigators. They intend to assemble evidence of Reverend Tuck’s financial incompetence and use it in a newspaper campaign to support a trustee in the coming election who will vote to fire him, and sell the churchyard to Morphy’s business empire. I will then lose my job as gardener, and our whole community project will be destroyed. And this victory will bring Morphy a step closer to obtaining mining rights to the forest preserve. All my fears have come true… this is a disaster in the making. We have two weeks to do something…’
She dressed, drank tea, and was out the door. The sun was bright in the deep blue sky, a gorgeous day. She knocked a few times on the side door of the church, and Tuck appeared. His frown was not welcoming, but Abby was very motivated, and brushed his bad mood aside. “I need a few minutes of your time,” she said. “Right now, if possible.”
Tuck took in her serious expression and invited her up to his office. Abby took a seat at the long table. One end was covered with a mass of papers. “Let’s just avoid all that,” Tuck said, waving at the jumbled pile. Abby could see files, receipts and bills, lists of figures, notebooks, letters. ‘Oh my God,’ she thought. ‘Is this how he organizes the church finances? He needs someone like my mother!’
“Okay, what is it? I need to get back to this…” He motioned to the mess as if it were garbage. “I’ve neglected it for far too long.”
In a very flat, unemotional tone of voice Abby laid out the facts that George had discovered. Her news hit Tuck like a hammer. He stared at her, totally speechless. Then he put his face in his hands.
“It might not be as bad as you think,” said Abby.
He looked up and shook his head. “No, it’s even worse than you can imagine. I should have asked for help long ago. And no one has volunteered to run for trustee against Becky Scutter. People are afraid.’
“First of all,” Abby replied, struggling to maintain her matter-of-fact manner, “I’ll find a candidate to run for trustee. Put that out of your mind. Second: we are capable of moving very fast. You should ask Terrence Williams to help you.”
“He’s a highly paid lawyer,” replied Tuck, “not an accountant.”
“I would certainly want him as my advisor,” returned Abby. “Third: How about asking Bishop Beckett for help?”
Tuck grimaced. “It’s true he is a crucial ally, but he cannot hide this chaos from the trustees. It is possible that one or more of the trustees is hiding information from me. In that case he would intervene, but the issue is probably just my own mess.”
“I see…” Abby replied, her mind moving at lightning speed. “Fourth: Today we get Eddy and his father over here to give us at least the illusion that the abandoned building is about to be a construction site. Perhaps they can put up scaffolding.”
“Hmm… that’s a thought,” said Tuck, staring off into space. “Of course that will cost money we don’t have.” Abby’s thoughts were inspired, coming into her mind to solve every problem. “We’ll make the money,” she replied. “A week from today at the first festival. Phoebe already has the event laid out. We’ll fill in the details at the Youth Council meeting tonight.”
Tuck looked up and smiled. “You have no idea how much money we need,” he said. “But still, you’re giving me a little hope.”
“This is the kind of work my mother does,” said Abby, pointing at the chaos of papers. “I’m going to get her to volunteer. Now… time is short. It’s time to get to work.” Tuck laughed. “Okay, okay!” he said. “Go! I’ll do my best.”
Abby held her head high and walked out onto Bridge Avenue under the eyes of two stalkers on the bench across the street. They looked up but did not move. She headed down the street and into the coffee shop. Sammy was on the phone, Stephanie was making sandwiches, and Sara Williams was taking orders from a couple of booths full of people. In a few moments Abby explained that she wasn’t there to work because she had been hired by the pre-school, but… she desperately needed help. She persuaded Stephanie to ask her boyfriend Eddy to set up scaffolding, and reminded Sara of their meeting that evening. They were desperate for more information, but Abby said she couldn’t stay and quickly walked back out onto the sidewalk. One of the stalkers was standing nearby pretending to be interested in the toy store window. He turned toward her as she approached. She could feel his staring eyes, and stepped past him without a glance.