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Submitted by Steven ODell on 9 July 2007 - 12:58am.

Chapter 9

The day had come for Ron to see the insurance investigators. He and Denise walked in with all of his financial records, income statements, affidavits of his character and every other scrap of evidence in his favor that he could procure.

“Mr. Jameson, I’m Charles Findley. Would you please come with me-alone, if you don’t mind.” He glanced accusingly at Denise as he said this.

“Alone? Why is that?”

“The policy is in your name. Unless, of course, this is your attorney….” He waited for Ron to verify.

“No, this is my wife and she has every reason to be interested and supportive in this matter, wouldn’t you agree?” His manner was firm. It was obvious he was not going to bend.

“Ah…yes, of course. This way, please.” The point had been made and Findley turned to lead them.
Victory number one for our side, Denise thought and she winked covertly at Ron.

After all were seated, Findley immediately began to state his company’s policies and their stand regarding Ron’s situation. The pile of papers in front of him seemed endless and Ron now showed his impatience just as quickly.

“Can we just cut to the chase here, Mr. Findley? You think I burned my own home for the insurance money. It’s quite obvious that you do. I know it and you know now that I know it. The fact is that you are paid to find ways not to pay on policies that your company cheerfully takes money for. I can almost accept that as legitimate. It has its place in cases of fraud, but it is entirely reprehensible and may be fraud itself to take money from honest folks when you know that you have no intent to deliver on your advertised promises. And, if I am not mistaken, I believe there is at least a law regarding truth in advertising, in addition to breach of contract….”

“Mr. Jameson….” Findley attempted to interrupt and again gain the high ground in this battle of wills, but Ron maintained his newfound momentum and pushed forward with a strength born of excess frustration and pent up rage.

“One moment, sir. I might add that the Attorney General could well be interested in the outcome of this little meeting. Now, you have quite a stack of papers there in front of you. You must have before you every aspect of my life. Your resources are probably much better than you’d ever admit. Then it should also follow that you will know that I am not in any dire financial straits--i.e., I am not a gambler, I have not of late contracted any diseases, nor do I have any pressing and expensive medical needs of any kind, etcetera, etcetera and etcetera. You have likely checked my background deeply enough to have seen that I had top-level security clearance in my work for the government, so the moral veracity of my character is above reproach.” Ron now stood and glared down at Findley from his fully erect height. “You could have verified anything that you chose to, but just in case you have missed something, I have a present for you.” He slammed his own pile of papers onto the desk in front of Findley, who involuntarily jumped at the sound. “Add this to your reading. Perhaps there are details your diligent staff of investigators chose to ignore. If you are an honest and a wise man, as I hope you are, you have nothing to fear in this matter, but if you are not, I will go to every legal measure to hold you personally responsible. Do you understand?”

Findley was a seasoned veteran in the insurance business. Still, he was unused to such treatment from those that he was supposed to be intimidating. The whole thing was very unsettling and he tried unsuccessfully to maintain an air of indifference. “Mr. Jameson, there is no need for threats, I assure you.” He was now on his own feet, trying to regain the lost psychological advantage. Before he could do so, Ron took Denise by the arm and left, slamming the door loudly. Findley stood in stunned silence, staring at the now closed door. Much as he wanted the last word, he actually hesitated to follow.

“Bravo!” Denise screamed as they exited onto the street, unable to contain herself any longer. “Yes, yes, yes!”

“That did feel very good.” Ron clenched his fists in a half-raised gesture that signaled his own feeling of invigoration.

“That was an inspiring performance. You’ve won this round, Sir Ronald. Absolutely magnificent.”

He smiled so wide that he feared it would become permanent. “I was inspired, I guess. It felt so good to blow off some steam at the petty little tyrant. I think I scared him, don’t you?”

“Well, he won’t soon forget Ronald Jameson, I can assure you. She laughed aloud as she pictured his face again. Her laughter was like the sweetest music to Ron. It had been far too long since he had seen her really happy and encouraged.

Two more days passed before they were contacted again--by Findley’s assistant.
The irony was not lost on them. They had hoped he would be respectful enough and man enough to contact them himself. Debra leaned in next to the receiver and listened with Ron as best she could.

“Mr. Findley has asked me to contact you, Mr. Jameson, and notify you that a decision has been made in your favor and your policy will pay In full for the loss of you home.”

“Thank you, miss…?”

“Tarkington.”

“Miss Tarkington, would you please pass on a message to Mr. Findley for me? Tell him he is a wise man after all.”

“Sir?”

“He’ll know what it means.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do that. Have a good day, Mr. Jameson.”

“Thank you--and you, too.”

Mrs. Payton gave Ron a big ‘thumbs up’ and laughed. “So, the old goat decided it would never hold up in court with all the evidence to the contrary. Cheaper to pay you than fight you.” It was not a question, but a statement of fact. “Wise choice, I would say. You’d better tell Denise.”

“Good idea.” He dialed the phone and with a big smile delivered the news. “Another dragon dead, babe. One more to go.” He was settling more comfortably into the role of the defending knight, sensing that he had begun to earn it. He stood taller and took a deep breath, letting it go slowly, releasing tension along with it. The stress was more noted by its absence now. He felt truly relaxed for the first time in days, knowing he had won a major battle.

“Oh, Ron, I’m so proud of you. It gives me hope that life may again be normal for us.”

“It will be. I promise you. It will be.”

“I believe you.”

“Mrs. Payton, what would you like for breakfast?”

“Ron, we have to stop this Mrs. Payton stuff. I’m your age, heavens’ sake! Call me Debra.”

“Okay, Debra it is. The truth is that I was really uncomfortable with that, too. Each time I used it was a reminder that you might object to your daughter marrying someone so much older.”

“Careful, Ron. I’m in that ‘so much older’ category you’re referring to.”

“I guess you are. Does it bother you…her and me, I mean?”

“Ron, what kind of parent would I be if your age was more important than my daughter’s happiness?”

“Yeah, I guess I am being silly. Forgive me.”

“Bacon and eggs.”

“What? I don’t understand.” He looked thoroughly puzzled by such an out of context comment.

“You asked me what I would like for breakfast. I would like bacon and eggs, please.”

Ron chuckled and answered, “I thought for a moment I was losing my sanity. Okay, bacon and eggs it is, then.” He turned toward the kitchen.

“And, Ron…for the record, your age doesn’t bother me at all. I’m a bit jealous, however, that Denise met you before I did…that’s all.” She winked and disappeared down the hall to use the phone, leaving Ron to wonder in confusion if she were flirting with him seriously. His mouth was hanging open and he realized how silly he must look at this moment, even in an empty room. O-o-o-oh, m-y-y-y-y-y, he thought, closing his mouth and shaking his head to remove any further consideration of the incident. Time to focus-cook breakfast, Ron-just cook breakfast.

As Ron was about to call Debra to breakfast, she appeared again in the kitchen. “Looks good and I’m starved.”

Ron knew the statement was innocent, but in his active imagination it was now colored by her earlier comment and he felt nervous once again. Denise had obviously taken her looks from her mother, for Debra was a very attractive woman, to be sure. He reflected that just as he had gotten comfortable with calling her Debra, he might now prefer going back to addressing her as Mrs. Payton. His concerns were short-lived, however.

“Well, let’s get this to the table and eat, shall we?” She easily scooped up much of the morning’s fare and headed for the dining area, quickly distributing things to their proper and logical places. Ron now recalled how Lenore was such a natural in these things and how he’d had to deliberately consider such social graces and still was never certain he’d gotten them right. Since she’d been gone he’d had only himself to set the table for and never concerned himself with the niceties and proprieties of social graces to that extent-that is, until Denise, who had now taken over the responsibilities in that frame. It suddenly occurred to him that he now had two women in his life. Force of habit still strong from all the time he’d spent alone, Ron openly shook his head at the recognition of it, not thinking that Debra might catch the gesture.

“Something wrong, Ron?”

“Hmmm? Oh…no, not really.”

“’Not really’ means ‘partially yes’”.

He looked across the table, surprised by her astute insight. No harm to tell her. “I was just reflecting on how I had been alone for so long and had become rather a recluse and now there are two women in my life.”

“Your first wife and now Denise…” Debra stated matter-of-factly.

Ron registered enough surprise that Debra revised her original appraisal. “Oh…I see. I’m flattered, Ron, but maybe that means that I should be going soon and give you two your privacy back.”

Ron answered quickly, “No, please, Mrs.….Debra…” he corrected. “You’ll always be welcome with us.”

“Just a little while longer, if you don’t mind and then I’ll be returning home. There are a few loose ends I need to tie up first.”

Ron couldn’t help but wonder to what she might be referring. He felt strangely that she knew something more than she was telling-some great secret she held up her sleeve. As he was about to question further, she changed the direction of conversation acutely.

“So, what are your plans for the future, Ron?”

“Uh…Denise and I have been so preoccupied that we have had little time to discuss that. Too busy fighting dragons to have the luxury of knowing what the future holds for us.” There was some hint of anguish to be seen and Debra had developed some skills with her late husband in that regard. Ron was an open book to her-an honest and simple man whose moods were relatively easy to decipher-not buried near as deeply as he would like to believe. Not to the right woman, anyway.

“I know it hurts now, Ron. Believe me. But I also know that the future can’t be bleak forever. Things will get better for the two of you. You’ll see.” The worry on his face dissolved somewhat and he felt surprisingly soothed by her prediction.

“Thank you, Debra. Again, I appreciate your concern and your faith.”

She smiled softly in return and the rest of the meal was spent in benign chitchat and peace.

Before Denise arrived home, the phone rang and to Ron’s surprise, Debra sprang to answer it. Rather than take a message or hand the phone to him, as he would expect, she spoke briefly and in hushed tones, as if to preserve confidentiality with some mysterious stranger on the other end. Stranger and stranger, Ron thought. Debra returned the phone to the hook and turned to face him as he approached inquisitively.

“Who was that?” he asked.

Ignoring his question completely, she asked one in return. “Is there anything I can do for you while I am out? Can I get you anything? I need to go receive a fax.”

“Uh…no, nothing I can think of at the moment, but….”

“Good. Then I’ll be off for a while and will see you this evening. Don’t hold dinner for me, alright?” With that, she grabbed a light coat and headed for the door before he could regroup and formulate any more questions.

Parting the curtains, Ron watched curiously as she stood at the curb, waiting less than one minute before an auto pulled up and a man got out, circled to her side and opened the door for her. He closed the door after seating her and returned to his own place and drove down the street to disappear. Ron could only stand in a confused daze and wonder after her. This woman was becoming more and more of a mystery as time went on.

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