Despite the increasing mystery swirling around Caleb, the enigmatic specter from the playground, Stacie’s interaction with Jim Lance had returned her spirits to their pre-run-in with Marti Kohnen level. “Serotonin, anyone?” she asked herself with a self-deprecating smile, rounding the corner and entering Interlachen’s main office.
With Stacie’s arrival, Suzann looked up from her desk and held up her left index finger. Just before winter break the coffee colored woman had rhapsodized about her upcoming trip to Kingstown, Jamaica where she’d spend a week with her eldest child and two granddaughters. “Granddaughters?!” Stacie had blurted without thinking, “I had you pegged for thirty, max!”
“Oh! You flatter me,” Suzann had responded, her usually muted Caribbean Island accent bubbling to the surface. “I have a daughter about your age and two lovely grandbabies. I’ll be half a century come winter.”
Even though she now knew better, Stacie still had a hard time reconciling the sleek, toned Jamaican born woman’s apparent age with the actual age of Interlachen school’s secretary.
“Okay, Leigh Ann,” Suzann said into the telephone, “thanks for checking in. No, no, don’t worry about a thing, the sub did just fine. Get well and maybe we’ll see you on Monday. Okay. Bye-bye,” she said into the phone before hanging up.
Looking up to Stacie, Suzann smiled and said, “That was Leigh Ann. Poor thing. She’s awfully concerned about missing these last few days of school. And what’s up with you, Miss Shannon?” she asked, broadening her smile.
“Is she doing okay?” Stacie asked.
“Oh, I think so. Doctor tells her she should be able to come back to work next week but she’s just not sure if that’ll be Monday or not. I told her that we’ve got things covered and that she needs to relax and recuperate but sometimes it’s hard to release the reins. What brings you to the office late on a Friday afternoon? I’d have figured you’d be heading out for the weekend.”
“Oh, right!” Stacie chuckled, “You know me, Miss Party-hearty. I’ll probably paint the town red tonight. Uh, why I stopped though is that stranger incident on the playground at this afternoon’s recess? I just needed to get some info from you.”
Suzann’s easy-going levity was swept away, and her brows narrowed in concern. “Oh? Everything okay? Did one of your students say something?”
“Well, yes. Skylar Kisor did. She said something that was a bit disturbing that I feel like I need to follow up on.”
“Disturbing?” Suzann asked, rising from her desk and moving closer to Stacie. “Is this something we should bring Doctor Mann in on?”
“Well, no. I mean, I don’t think so. At least not yet. Uh, let me tell you what I know and then we can bother her if you think that’s warranted.”
“Oh, Stacie,” Suzann said, her voice filed with conviction and compassion, “don’t ever feel like you’re bothering Harper with goings on here at school. She’s busy, but safety of students and staff is her top concern. So, what did Skylar say? Did the stranger approach her?”
“Not that she mentioned. She said that she and Sara Kohnen were playing together, and they noticed the man. Jim Lance said the stranger’s name is Caleb?”
“That’s what he told Jim, but of course Jim didn’t ID him. Oh, hang on,” Suzann added, checking a notepad on her desk. “Yeah. Caleb Heald. That’s the name he gave Jim.”
“Right. Jim was pretty sure he remembered Caleb but couldn’t come up with the man’s last name. Anyway, the strange thing is that Skylar was sure that the stranger is her father. Her dead father? And the freaky part is that her father’s name was Caleb as well.”
“You’re kidding,” Suzann answered, mouth pursed, brows nearly touching, and head tilted both downward and to the side. “That is odd on a lot of levels but let’s concentrate on the name thing. Skylar Kisor told you that her father’s name is Caleb Heald?”
“No, not quite. She said that her father’s, her deceased father’s, name was Caleb Morse. Caleb Ezra Morse to be quite specific. She also said that she and her mother went back to Karla’s maiden name of Kisor after Caleb’s passing. She was pretty upset, and I promised her I’d look into it and get back to her so that’s what I’m doing. What do you think? Is this something we need to confab with Dr. Mann on?”
Suzann exhaled sharply, raised and lowered her eyebrows quickly, smiled and shook her head. “Well, strange as it is, don’t you think we should at least fill her in on what we know just so we can watch her reaction?” she asked with a wink of punctuation.