Victor was going home to Catalpa Valley…at least for the weekend. Things had calmed down sufficiently that he wasn’t needed as much…thank heaven! He hated being a babysitter and that’s pretty much what it was like working on this case.
Victor hummed to himself thinking of Violet as he packed when his cell went off. He growled a few curse words about incompetent lawyers, his partner’s nephew and nepotism as he snatched up the phone expecting to find trouble at the office. When he saw Ronnie grinning back at him from the phone he laughed and shook his head in relief.
“Hello, Ronnie, what’s up?” he said.
“Not much. How ya doin’, Dad?”
“I’m good…finally,” Victor replied.
“What’s that mean?” Ronnie said.
“Just…I’ve been busy and finally have two minutes to myself.”
“Me too. It’s been crazy!”
“Crazy how?” Victor asked, albeit casually, but in truth brimming with curiosity.
“Oh, uh…you know…loads to do. What are you up to?” Ronnie asked.
“Big case. Haven’t been home in weeks now.”
“Where are you then?”
“At the apartment. Which reminds me, weren’t you supposed to stay here while you’re doing your mysterious work in the city? There is nary a clue that you’ve even set foot here since we last spoke. Where have you been and where are you really, Ronnie? And don’t lie to me.”
“Well, I was going to stay there until...uh, until things got so busy. I’m staying with my friend. He’s got a nice place in the village and he has tons of room,” Ronnie said.
“And you’re still not willing to tell me what all this work is?”
“Uh…not yet. Trust me, Dad. It’s nothing bad, really!”
Victor sighed. “Guess I’ll have to. At least you’re still alive and well, I assume.”
“I’m great! Just being away from school is awesome, but I’m having the time of my life. Work that don’t feel like work is the best ever!” he said, laughing.
“Indeed, it does help” Victor said, smiling to himself. This was a major clue, but he doubted Ronnie saw it as such. Only one thing ever made Ronnie this thrilled. “I’m very glad to hear you’re happy. You know that’s all I ever wanted for you, but I do wish you would talk to your mother about how unhappy you are at Wharton. You’re wasting time and money studying what you hate.”
“I… I might…soon…ish…maybe,” Ronnie said, not at all reassuringly.
“You need a shot of courage, my boy. I got your back, you know. We can confront your mother together if it’ll help,” he said, not at all kidding.
“Dad, I don’t think that’s a great idea. She’ll blame you and I don’t want you guys fighting about me. Don’t worry, okay?”
“Impossible, Ronnie. You’re my boy and I’m going to worry no matter what.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see what happens after summer,” Ronnie said. “Hey, wanna go see a game with me? That’s what I called about and since you’re already in the city, it’ll be even better, not so far for you to come. The Mets are playing the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.”
Victor grimaced as he listened. He had set his heart on a long weekend visit back home and back to Violet.
“Go to the game, Cowboy. Be with your boy while you can. The day may come when he’s too wrapped up in his own life to even think of you,” Richard said. “Violet can wait, but Ronnie can’t.”
“So, what do you think, Dad?” Ronnie said.
“Sure, I’ll buy the tickets and pick you up,” Victor said.
“Uh…no, I already bought them. I’ve got money now. This gig….I mean, job pays good and I’ll pick you up, too. Okay?”
“How nice. Treated by my son. I may get to like this,” Victor said laughing.
“Don’t get too used to it yet. This job might not last forever. I wish it would, though. Anyway, I’ll see ya soon! Bye, Dad. Love ya!”
Victor smiled sadly as he put down the phone and stared at his already packed overnight bag. Once again he cursed himself for ruining things between himself and his boys. Maybe if Ronnie trusted his father enough, he might let him in on his secret.
“It has nothing to do with the divorce, Cowboy,” Richard assured him. “Your boy just wants to keep this special thing to himself for a little bit longer. He’ll tell ya about it soon enough. Don’t worry about that now and don’t worry about Violet. You can see her next week.”
That, however, wasn’t exactly the case. May slipped into June and June turned to July before anyone in Catalpa Valley caught a glimpse of Victor and it was even longer before he could escape the city heat and get back home.
It was a particularly warm day at the end of July when Violet found it was entirely too hot to transplant petunias into the children’s garden as she had planned for the day’s activity. The flowers, she knew, would wilt quicker than the children and the kids weren’t doing all that well either. Instead, Violet and some of the Littlest Angels were under a shady tree reading stories while the more industrious ones tended their garden plots and spayed each other with the hose. Violet pretended not to notice, although she did kind of wish to be hosed down too. It was blistering hot and that was in the shade!
“Does that mean there really are werewolves?” Maria asked nervously.
“No, sweetie. These are just make-believe stories,” Violet explained.
“But you said there really is a plant called Wolfsbane and that’s what Professor Snape used to make the potion for Lupin and...”
“Honey, JK Rowling just used real plants to make the whole story sound real. The plant is really called Aconite and it has another name, Monkshood, because the flower looks like a hood of a Monk. But people started calling it Wolfsbane back a long time ago, when they did believe in werewolves. They used to say that Wolfsbane in the garden could keep the werewolves away and so JK Rowling used it in the story because it does sounds like they could use it for making a werewolf potion,” Violet said.
“Did it work?” Billy asked, his blue eyes as wide as saucers.
“Did what work?” Violet asked.
“The plant, did it keep the werewolves away?”
Violet giggled. “Must have. I have it in my garden and I never see werewolves.”
Maria gasped and Violet threw an arm around her. “Honey, I’m kidding! There are no werewolves…really and there is no wolfsbane potion either, I promise.”
“But you told us that willow trees are made into aspirin. Isn’t that like a potion?” Billy asked.
“Many plants are used in making medicines. Like this flower, see? That’s a foxglove and there is a chemical in them that can be used to make heart medicines. Digitalis, it’s called. Plants are wonderful like that. They can make us well and make us strong, but they can also poison us and make us very sick if you are not careful. So, we have to let the experts test them to see what is good and what is bad for us,” Violet assured.
“I wish broccoli was bad for us,” Julian grumbled making a yucky face. The others laughed.
“And green beans, too!” Maria added.
“My funny kids,” Violet said laughing, and she hugged Maria and kissed her cheek.
Jeff came up to them with a hoe in his hands. “Miss Violet, do ya know when Victor’s coming back? I want to show him my pumpkin. It’s the biggest one,” he said proudly.
“My pumpkin’s tons bigger,” Kelly insisted.
“Settle down, you nutty kids. There’s still a lot of growing they have to do before anyone claims the title of supreme pumpkin grower,” Violet said.
“Victor’s coming today,” Peter said, as he plucked a blade of grass from the ground.
“No, Peter Honey, I don’t think so. He has to work but he’ll come back when he has time,” Violet said.
“Then he’s got time now,” Claire shouted, waving madly. “Victor’s here!”
Sure enough a grinning Victor came along the tall Rose of Sharon hedges heading straight toward them.
“Omigosh, Victor,” Violet whispered, but nobody heard her over the tumult of shouting from the kids. They all ran to him, but Violet stayed rooted to the spot.
Peter was the first to reach Victor and jumped into his arms hugging the stuffing out of him. “How’s my good boy?” Victor whispered in his ear, kissing his forehead.
“I’m good!” Peter said, hugging him again.
Victor greeted the others as best he could with Peter still clinging to him. Then they started pulling him ten different ways, before Violet came to his rescue.
“Let the man breath! Come on, kids, settle down or you’ll scare him off,” she shouted. She smiled up at Victor. “I think they missed you.”
He stared at her as the kids jostled them about. He was dying to hold her, he was dying to kiss her and he was also dying to ask if she missed him, too.
“Oh, she missed you all right,” Richard said. “She’s just not about to tell ya, Cowboy!”
“Yeah, maybe they did,” Victor said. “I sure missed them…and you.”
Violet smiled shyly. “I did, too.”
Richard gaped as did Victor.
“Okay, so I was wrong,” Richard said, grumpily. “When am I gonna get this ghost thing right?”