The St. Croix Scandals

Chapter Two

 

Kevin Dalton, a second-year intern in the journalism program, was assigned to the St. Croix Sentinel. Harvey Kellerman, the newspaperís editor-in-chief, sent the teenager to Margie Sullivaní s office to pick up the collegeís press releases for the regents meeting held that afternoon. Kellerman said the releases should be ready by noon. "But," the publisher told Dalton, "if you canít get there before the regents have lunch, then just be sure you pick them up by five. As long as I them Monday night," Kellerman added, "Iíll still have time to get the copy set for the Wednesday edition of the Sentinel.

When Kevin entered the administrative reception area, Margie Sullivan was on the phone. It was nearly five, and all of the senior administrators were already gone. Mrs. Sullivan noticed him out of the corner of her eye, and motioned for him to sit on the couch to the right of her desk, just outside the presidentís office.

The main office had a glass wall running along the main corridor of the first floor of Melrose Hall. The back wall, between the doorway to the presidentís office and the office of the vice president for academic affairs, was hung with sliding doors. One of them was pushed aside revealing a floor-to-ceiling bank of file drawers. The carpet next to Kevinís feet was worn, with a torn seam right in front of the presidentís door.

Dalton untied and retied the leather cord that held his hair back out of his face. The young man was not trying to eavesdrop, but there was nothing else he could do in the silent room except listen in on the secretaryís conversation.

"He should be in his office tomorrow afternoon about two oíclock, Dr. Crawford," she said. "But he has meetings all morning." She paused for a moment. "Wednesday is pretty busy, too. He has some free time around ten, according to my schedule and he likes to keep that time slot clear for phone callsó" She stopped talking abruptly. "Yes, I understand that itís important.

Honest," she said, "Iím not trying to keep you from talking to him. Iíll leave a message that you called, and Iíll tell him that the ten oíclock time slot on Wednesday looks like the only time you can get together." After another short pause, she replied, "Yes, Iíll tell him its about the commitment letter and the raise."

After hanging up the phone, Mrs. Sullivan finished writing the message on a small, pink slip. "Thatís the fourth one of those since he left," she sighed.

"Excuse me?" Kevin Dalton asked.

"What?" Mrs. Sullivan asked. "Oh, Kevin," she said. "Iím sorry, I was just talking to myself."

"Oh," Kevin replied. "All right. Um...do you have those press releases for the board meeting? Mr. Kellerman really wanted them right away."

"Yes," she said, as she shuffled a few papers on her desk. "I have them all ready for you. Pretty routine meeting, though. Thereís not much to report."

"Mr. Kellerman said it would be."

"You know, Kevin," she said. "It wouldnít be such a bad idea if you attended the next meeting. I overhead Mr. Vincent tell President Hamilton he wanted a reporter to take notes and write up what the board did rather than to just print the releases we put together. And you would learn more about being a reporter by attending the meetings rather than just picking up a description of what went on. Thatís what a real reporter would do."

"Gosh, I donít know," Kevin said. "That sounds like a pretty important assignment. I donít know what Mr. Kellerman would think. Heíll probably want to do it himself."

"Why donít you ask Mr. Kellerman. Weíll do the releases like we always do, but maybe heíd like your eye witness report, too. And Iíll bet Mr. Vincent would be happy to add a word if you asked him."

"Okay, Iíll ask Mr. Kellerman," Kevin said. "Thanks. I sure would like to try to report on one of those meetings."

"If Mr. Kellerman okays it, let me know. Iíll make sure you get a notice about the meeting. I might even be able to swing lunch with the regents."

"Really?"

"Well, I canít promise the lunch," she said, smiling at the young man. "But Iíll see what I can do."

Kevin Dalton ran from the office, down the hall and out the Academy- Boulevard side of the building to his beat up, blue Ford Pinto. He was so excited as he sped out of the parking lot that he nearly hit a black Impala coming down the road. A few moments later, when he ran into the newspaper office calling out the editorís name, Kellerman was sitting at the counter talking to Jake Stapleton, who ran one of the two gas stations in town.

"Calm down, Kevin," the grizzled Kellerman told him. "Jake," he asked the middle-aged, redheaded man seated across the counter from him, "you ever meet my intern from the college? This here is Kevin Dalton. Kevin, this is Jake Stapleton."

"Oh, I know who he is," Kevin said. "He has the station on the north side of the Moose Lake highway."

"Well, thatís right," Stapleton said. "I hope you are a loyal and satisfied customer. Our motto is, ĎGet what you want. Get it fast.í And I want to know if someoneís not getting either one."

"Yeah, I buy lots of stuff there," Kevin said. "Just about all the kids at the college use your station."

"Well, thatís good to hear. Next time youíre in, come back and talk to me, young man," Stapleton said. "Harv," the redhead said, "always a pleasure to come in and talk to you. Iíll come by and check the layout on that ad for Sundayís paper day after tomorrow. And Kevin," the middle-aged man said as he rose to his feet, "it was nice meeting you. Make sure he gives you a byline on your next story. Iíll be looking to see your name in print."

"Thank you, sir," Kevin said as Stapleton passed him on his way to the door.

"Now," Kellerman asked, "What are you so excited about?"

"Mrs. Sullivan said I should go to the next board meeting? Donít you think that would be a good idea? She said she might even be able to get me lunch with those guys. Maybe I could write a story about what kind of people they are. I could give an eyewitness report of what happens at the board meeting. I could on something more than just sports at the college. Of course, she told me I had to check with you," Kevin said, finally stopping to catch his breath.

"Might not be a bad idea," Kellerman said. "Let me think about it. But, if it looks like nothingís going to happen, Iím not going to waste your time by sending you. And, frankly, the regents donít do much over there."

"Okay. I see," Kevin frowned. "But I just know somethingís going to happen next time."

"Oh?" Kellerman asked.

But Kevin ignored the question. "Almost forgot, here are those press releases Mrs. Sullivan gave me." Kevin turned to leave.

"Now where are you going?" Kellerman asked.

"Got to interview the baseball coach over at the college," he said.

 

* * * * *

Dr. DeWitt Hamilton arrived at his office early Tuesday morning. He sipped his sixteen ounce, mini-mart coffee through the slitted lid of a Mickey Mouse travel mug, regretting he ever promised to meet with the academic dean, Dr. Jackson Stouffer, about Glenn Coombesí denied tenure. Normally, Dr. Harry Bidwell, the vice president in charge of academic affairs, handled such matters. But there had been bad blood between Stouffer and Bidwell from the moment Bidwell had come on campus from Rice Lake College where he had served as academic dean for three years. The two had never gotten along. Even though they kept their feud beneath the surface, it was increasingly apparent that the two despised and mistrusted one another.

The last thing Hamilton wanted to do was to send Stouffer packing. But Bidwell, along with Dr. Avery Wilson, seemed determined to drive the faculty advocate away from the school. Hamilton played the go-between reluctantly. He knew he was losing control of both Bidwell and Wilson; the best he could hope for was the soothing of Stoufferís feelings.

A few moments later, Stouffer entered the office. He wore a brown, corduroy sport coat. Hamilton idly wondered when he had last seen the dean were a suit to the campus. Stouffer carried his dirty, white ceramic St. Croix Lumberjack mugóan antique his wifeís aunt, Doris Vincent, made when he started teaching history for the college. Hamilton had always liked the way the Paul Bunyon characterís arm and mighty ax formed the cupís handle.

"Am I late?" Stouffer asked after a quick sip of coffee.

"No, come on in, Jack," Hamilton said. "I just barely got here. The mini-mart was packed this morning. The good news is the coffeeís fresh."

"Iím really sorry to force you to schedule so early," Stouffer said, taking a seat in one of the two armchairs in front of the desk. "But itís a busy time for both of us, and I thought we needed to talk about the situation while thereís still a chance we can correct it." Stouffer set his cup on the edge of the desk and took his glasses off to wipe them on his handkerchief.

"No problem, Jack," Hamilton said. "Now, tell me exactly what the status of things are and what you think I can do about them."

"Well," Stouffer said, leaning forward and moving his cup to one side, "as I told you last week, I was given the advanced list of those who would be recommended to the regents for tenure and was surprised that Coombesí name wasnít there."

Hamilton sipped his coffee and nodded for Stouffer to continue.

"Now, itís unusual for someone who has been recommended for tenure by the department to have it denied. In fact, I donít think that has ever happened at this school. I know it hasnít happened since I became dean. And I just want to try and understand the reasoning behind the move."

"Did you talk to Dr. Bidwell?" Hamilton asked, expecting him to say no.

"Yes, I did," Stouffer said. "I figured it was just a clerical mistake, so I called Margie and asked her if there had been a mistake, and she put me through to him. Then I asked him if Coombesí name should be added to the list. He told me no."

"I take it," Hamilton said, pushing his shock of unruly gray hair back from his forehead, "that he didnít offer an explanation."

"Not only didnít he offer one," Stouffer said, taking off his glasses. "But he refused to give one when I asked."

"And what do you want me to do."

"At least get me some reason for the denial. I am going to have to tell Coombes something before that list is released the end of next month."

The two men sat and discussed other matters, including the number of students who signed up for graduation. Stouffer left Hamilton a little after seven forty-five. He taught one of his two Minnesota history classes during the eight oíclock hour.

Hamilton made a note to talk to Bidwell about the matter. He wanted to know what the vice president said to Stouffer. Not that it mattered. Avery Wilson had recommended the tenure denial, and Hamilton had agreed. He didnít remember Wilsonís rationale at the moment. But, if he had to, heíd let the two fight it out among themselves.

He took the last swig of his coffee, putting the mug on the credenza behind his desk. He fished into his pocket for his wallet and his personal long-distance card. After punching in his access number and personal code, the college president hit the memorized numbers for The Big Game Inn in Moose Lake. "Yes," Hamilton said. "This is David Hartridge. Iíd like to make a reservation for Thursday night." Moments later, he was booked into a double doubleóthere were no kings left. He told the woman taking the reservation he wouldnít need to guarantee the room. He would be there before eight on Thursday evening.

When Margie Sullivan checked in at eight thirty, Hamilton was immersed in the report Pendleton sent down from Duluth. On Friday, the two would be going over the strategy they would use on the legislature in St. Paul next week.

* * * * *

When Hamilton came back from the monthly Chamber luncheon, Mrs. Sullivan handed him a registered letter.

"Whatís this?" he asked.

Mrs. Sullivan shrugged her shoulders.

Hamilton tossed his coat and hat on the couch by his office door. "Kimball and Keene, Attorneys at Law," he said, looking at the return address. He slipped his finger under the envelope flap and broke the seal. Inside were two pages of single-spaced typing. He scanned the message without saying a word. When he finished, he turned toward his secretary and asked, "Is Dr. Wilson in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Would you tell him to come to my office as soon as he gets a chance." Hamilton grabbed his coat and hat as he turned back toward his office. Just inside the doorway, he stopped and stared out the window for a long moment before exhaling slowly. He put his hat and coat on the rack in the corner, then looked around the room.

"Damn it," he said under his breath.

He looked for his Mickey Mouse travel mug; then, he remembered taking it to the car when he left for the Chamber luncheon. He grabbed the dark, ceramic mug in his bookcase. Shaking his head as he came back into the reception area, he asked, "Do we have coffee, Margie?"

"Yes, sir," she said. "Dr. Wilson asked me to make some about eleven, so itís pretty strong by now. Do you want me to make some fresh?"

"No," he replied. "Strong coffee is what I need right now."

Hamilton had just finished stirring three packets of sugar into the coffee when Wilson poked his head into the little coffee room. "I wonít ask what this is about," Wilson said, showing Hamilton his copy of the letter. "I canít believe that little sonofabitch thinks he can sue us."

"You told me it would never get this far," Hamilton said. Wilson was about to say something when Hamilton held up a finger to silence him. "Letís go into my office. We can close the door and talk there." The two men walked back across the reception area and into the presidentís office. As he began to close his office door, Hamilton told Mrs. Sullivan to hold all of his calls.

After putting his coffee down on the desk, Hamilton slumped into his office chair. He waved Wilson to a seat, but the portly vice president waved it off.

"I donít like those chairs with arms," Wilson told him. "They feel like theyíre grabbing me."

Hamilton picked up his copy of the letter and reread it quickly.

"It would have to come just when Vincentís starting to get involved again," Hamilton said. "And as chairman of the board, heíll be named if this proceeds any further."

Wilson slouched against the side of the bookcase next to the door.

"You told me that if Harper got a job, we wouldnít have any problems with him," Hamilton said. "Now heís accusing us of denying him due process and not following our own procedure manual. That due process stuff is tricky. You donít think they could get this into federal court, do you?"

"Harperís claims are based on the faculty manual. And you know those are just guidelines. Those statements donít legally bind us. And we can always change policy. Even apply it retroactively."

"Are you sure about that?" Hamilton asked, pushing at the unruly shock of gray hair falling across his forehead. "It doesnít sound legal."

"Oh, itís legal, all right," Wilson said. "Donít worry about it. I think I can handle this. Iíll write a letter detailing our position and mail a registered copy back to Harper."

"What about Kavanaugh?" Hamilton asked. "Donít you think you should bring our lawyer in on this."

"I doubt it," Wilson said.

Hamilton studied his younger colleagueís face but could not read anything in his appearance.

"You can trust me," Wilson assured him.

"Okay," Hamilton said without conviction. "Iíll let you handle this round. I sure hope itís the last. We donít need a lawsuitóespecially not now."

Wilson left with a nod.

Hamilton sipped coffee, shook his head, muttered under his breath. He was relieved when the phone rang and he had something to take his mind off the Harper mess.

At three oíclock, Hamilton told Mrs. Sullivan to cancel the rest of his schedule. He had some sort of stomach problem and he was going home. "Something in the Chamberís chicken casserole is tying me up."

* * * * *

Dr. James Crawford was standing in front of her desk, arms crossed and scowling, when Margie Sullivan returned from the restroom right at ten oíclock Wednesday morning. At five-and-a-half feet, the presidentís secretary was two inches taller than the rail-thin Crawford was. She cleared her throat and adjusted her collar as she took her seat. "Right on time," she smiled, fiddling with the top button on her blouse. "Dr. Hamilton should be right back. Would you like to take a seat?" she asked, waving toward the couch. "Some coffee?"

Crawford harumphed in reply.

Mrs. Sullivan tried to ignore him and get back to the final proofing of some correspondence, but his pacing along the front of her desk distracted her. She reread the first sentence of the top letter in the stack in front of her for the fifth time, her knuckles whitening around the pencil she held. "Are you sure there isnít something I can get you?" she asked.

Before Crawford could respond, Hamilton walked into the office. "Iím sorry to keep you waiting," he said, crossing toward the petite chairman of the mathematics department.

Hamilton offered the younger man his hand.

Crawford harumphed again, before turning on his heel and leading the gray-haired educator into his own office.

"Mrs. Sullivan told me this meeting was urgent," Hamilton said, stepping around to the far side of his desk. "Normally, I like to keep this hour open foró"

"Yes, itís urgent. Itís about our raise," Crawford said, closing the door and taking a seat. I know weíre supposed to be getting contracts this week. I also heard rumors weíre not getting them. That will be the fourth year in a row we are not following stated policy."

"Look," Hamilton said, taking his seat, pushing his hair off his forehead, "Iím not going to lie to you. I will be sending out a letter similar to last yearís. But I donít have a choice. The legislature is behind in finalizing the budget. There isnít a thing I can do about that. And I canít offer contracts until I know what kind of increases the state will make in its appropriations."

"Are you going to guarantee a raise?" Crawford asked.

"I canít do that," Hamilton replied.

"And you expect the faculty to sign on not knowing what kind of raiseóif anyówill be forthcoming?"

"You know Iíll do the best I can for you," Hamilton said.

"I donít think I do," Crawford replied. "I see colleagues at other schools getting raises. Most of the people I know got them last year. What makes us so different?"

"Itís complicated."

"Donít think I can do the math?" Crawford asked, arching his brow.

"Itís not that," Hamilton said, shuffling papers on his desk. "There are just a lot of variables that youíre not aware of."

"Such as?"

"Well, for one, we had a significant drop in enrollment last year, and that reduced the state funding we received. We still had to meet expenses for the year, and we simply had to divert funds from one priority to another to make ends meet."

"Youíre right, the fall figures were off. But, as I recall, we had an increase in enrollment the following spring. Donít the two offset one another?" Crawford asked.

"You want to see the budget?" Hamilton asked, throwing his hands in the air? "I can show you the budget."

"Yes, I would like to see it," Crawford replied, getting to his feet.

"Fine. Iíll see you get it."

Crawford remained standing in front of Hamiltonís desk.

"Is there something else?" the president asked, standing.

"You know that the faculty senate meets on Friday?"

"Yes, I know," Hamilton said, shaking his head.

"I have already put the commitment letters on the agenda."

Hamilton pursed his lips.

"Iím going to recommend that we donít sign them."

"Thatís your right," Hamilton said, slumping back in his chair. "I canít stop you. ButÖ." His voice trailed off.

"The faculty just canít continue to operate this way," Crawford said. "They need to know they will get a raise. They deserve that much."

"Iíve already told you weíre working on it. What more can I do?"

"You could make the same kind of commitment youíre asking us to make," Crawford said. "It would help us have faith in you."

"You donít know what youíre asking me to do," Hamilton said.

"And you donít know what youíre asking of the faculty. Donít think weíre unaware of the fact that the two years we didnít get raises, you, Wilson and Bidwell all did. We wonít stand for that again."

"That was the boardís decision."

"And who tells those regents what to decide?" Crawford asked, arching his brow once again. "Donít treat me like I just fell off some turnip truck. Iíve been here longer than you have. I know how things work. Iíve watched how you operate. Youíre not fooling me."

"Iím not trying to fool anyone," Hamilton said, as his phone rang. He stared at Crawford as the phone rang a second time, then shrugged. "Yes," he said, picking up the receiver.

"Iíll leave," Crawford said. "Iíve told you what I wanted to say." He opened the door just wide enough to squeeze through, leaving Hamilton to take his phone call.

As Crawford passed by Margie Sullivanís desk, he stopped for a moment. "I didnít mean to be so unpleasant earlier, Mrs. Sullivan. Iím sorry. Iím just very concerned about something, and when I get that way, I get a little short."

"Thatís all right, Dr. Crawford," she replied. "I get the same way sometimes. Usually with my grand children. But I donít stay that way long. They wonít let me.

Crawford smiled.

He really looks so much nicer when he smiles, Mrs. Sullivan thought.

The tiny man started to leave, then stopped. "I almost forgot. Dr. Hamilton said I could see the budget."

"Youíll have to talk to Dr. Wilson about that," Mrs. Sullivan replied.

"I need to get back for class. Would you leave a note for him about it and have him call me?"

"Certainly," she replied.

"Great," Crawford said. "Thanks. And again, I want to apologize for my behavior earlier. Regardless of what it was, I shouldnít take it out on you."

* * * * *

Jillian Hamilton made an appointment to see Dr. Edgar Livermore Tuesday afternoon, after her husband, DeWitt, came home from St. Croix College complaining of stomach cramps and diarrhea. He dismissed the problems as nothing more than a little food poisoning. She worried about her husbandís health, especially lately with this increased weight, his shortness of breath, his perpetual weariness. But, like most men nearing retirement age, DeWitt refused to see the doctor.

The long sit in the waiting room increased her growing apprehension. This Thursday morning, it was nearly full when she arrived about a quarter to ten. She chose an empty seat across from the check-in window and tried to interest herself in a year-old article on the growing pollution problem of Minnesota lakes, but never seemed to get beyond the first paragraph. To her right, a young woman, perhaps twenty-five, was trying to soothe her tiny, colicky baby. Its cries were impossible to ignore. To her left, two little girls, no older than four, fought over who sat in the red chair at the kiddy table, who used the orange crayon, who colored the flower. Jillian guessed the woman sitting closest to herówith her eyes closed, head buried in one handówas probably their mother. Jillian smiled. She would have tried to pretend they werenít her children, too.

Every few minutes, Jillian looked at her watch. She compared times with the clock by the check-in window.

"Heís always so slow," an elderly woman on the far side of the kiddy table said to no one in particular. Jillian looked at the white, wispy-haired woman for the first time.

"But at least heís here in town," the woman with the baby said.

"Hate going to Danbury this time of year," agreed an elderly man sitting close to the mother and baby. "Donít you agree, Mrs. Hamilton?" he asked her.

Jillian studied him for a moment. His bright blue eyes sparked her recognition, and she smiled. But she was unable to put a name with the face. She nodded in reply, pretending to go back to her reading.

When she heard the nurse call for Bernard Larson, the elderly man shuffled back to the examination rooms. He used to run the paper mill, Jillian remembered. My how heís aged, she thought, trying to remember when she saw him last.

"Jillian Hamilton," Cathy Mundale, Livermoreís long-time nurse called, bringing her out of her reverie.

"Busy morning?" Jillian asked.

"The doctor had to go to the high school for an emergency," the nurse explained as Jillian left the waiting room.

"Everything okay?" Jillian asked, walking down the hallway behind the nurse.

"Girl was sent to Danbury hospital for observationóprobably nothing too serious. A mild concussion. But we donít like to take chances," the nurse replied, showing Jillian into an examination room. "Have a seat. The doctor should be with you in a moment."

She didnít have long to wait. Dr. Livermore was clearly tired when he stepped into the room. He leaned against the door for a moment to catch his breath. Jillian smiled, watching the air from the overhead vent stir the few thin, white hairs on the doctorís nearly bald head.

"I need to get an assistant who is willing to stay in town," the elderly doctor said, pushing himself away from the door. "I canít take all the running around anymore. And there are too many people to see."

"Do you think youíll be able to find somebody?"

"No," he said with a shake of his head. "Kids coming out of medical school today want to specialize and make the big money. Nobody wants to do the every day stuff anymore."

"I wonder if thereís anything the college could do to help bring a doctor to town?" Mrs. Hamilton asked.

"Doubtful," the doctor replied. "Still, it would give me an excuse to see your husband, since heís not going to come and see me. Thatís why youíre here, isnít it?" he asked. He felt for her pulse.

She nodded.

"Still jogging?"

As the doctor began to fit the blood pressure cuff on her left arm, Jillian noticed the slight tremor in his bony hand. "Yes."

He used the Velcro tabs to secure the cuff to her right arm and pumped it up. He listened through the stethoscope as he released the air in the cuff.

"Even in this cold weather?" he asked.

She gave another nodded reply.

"Thatís good," he replied, taking his stethoscope to listen to her heart and lungs. "Any complaintsóshortness of breath, dizziness, headaches?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Youíre fine," he said, removing the cuff from her forearm, "so whatís wrong with DeWitt?"

"Tuesday, he came home complaining of stomach cramps. He had diarrhea. He said it was probably something he ate at the Chamber luncheon, but he seems to have more and more problems every day. He is out of breath by the time he climbs the stairs to the bedroom. And, well, we donít have much of a sex life anymore."

"Jillian," the old doctor said, taking her hand and caressing it gently, "you know Iíll do anything I can to help you. But DeWittís health is something he has to worry about. You canít do it for him."

"I know," she said, nearly crying. "But I am just so worried about him."

"You canít make him exercise," the doctor told her. "You canít control his diet since he eats one or two meals away from home almost every day."

"But I hate being helpless."

"Iíll stop by and see him the next time Iím on campus. Iíll talk to him about trying to help us find a doctoróhe has a lot of contacts in St. Paul. And, just maybe I can convince him to get a real check up," he told her. "As for you, keep taking your blood pressure medicineóeven when you feel good. And keep jogging. Youíre doing fine. Blood pressure is 120 over 68." He scribbled a few quick notes on her chart before heading to the door. "Have Cathy get your weight and add it to the chartójust for the record," he laughed.

 

* * * * *

 

"Big storm likely," Sheriff Earl Johansson was saying when DeWitt Hamilton entered the mini mart to pay for a tank full of gas Thursday afternoon.

"I heard the storm was gonna hit Stillwell," Jake Stapleton replied.

"Supposed to blanket everything between here and there is what my last report from the state boys said," the sheriff answered. "We might get lucky. But the weatherís been too good lately to bet on it."

"How are the roadís going north?" Hamilton asked, handing Stapleton a twenty for his gas.

"Up along the river or over on I-35?" the sheriff asked.

"The interstate," Hamilton said.

"Interstate ought to be okay," the sheriff said.

"You going north?" Stapleton asked.

"Duluth," Hamilton replied.

"When are you leaving?" the sheriff asked.

"I thought I might leave tonight."

"Might not be a bad idea," the sheriff said. "Once you get to I-35 you should be all right, but it might take you an hour or more to get over there if we get hit with a lot of snow tonight."

"And even then," Stapleton added, "you wonít be able to go speed limit on the interstate if the snow gets bad."

"Oh, I donít know," the sheriff said. "Even if we get a lot of snow, the highway boys do a pretty good job keeping things open."

"Just the same," Stapleton said, "I think Iíd get on the road tonight."

"Iíd kind of planned on it, but the possibility of snow...." Hamilton said.

"Best to be safe," the sheriff agreed.

"Only thing better would be to call off the trip," Stapleton said.

"Canít," Hamilton replied. "Have to be ready for the legislature next week."

 

* * * * *

 

"Lorraine?" Stouffer asked, waving a student into his office while he talked on the phone. "I was afraid I missed you."

"No, Iím still here," his wife answered. "Iím sorry I didnít make it for lunch. Guess you got my message?"

"Yes, Dear," Stouffer said. "Now you be careful. I hear thereís some bad weather coming in. If you need to stay in Duluth until Sunday, weíll be fine here."

"Iíll be careful," Lorraine answered.

"I love you," he told her.

"Oh, I almost forgot. Uncle Ted called. He said heíll come over if you promised to cook him a steak just like the one youíre making Michael."

"Oh, great. Too bad you wonít be there. Youíre his favorite relative."

"I doubt that, now that Ross has twins," she replied. "I gotta go."

Okay, Dear. Be careful. Love you," he said before hanging up the phone and turning his attention to the young man seated in front of his desk.

 

* * * * *

 

"Margie," DeWitt Hamilton said as he gathered up his coat and prepared to leave. "I have all the renewal letters signed. Be sure they get to the campus post office by four, tomorrow, so that Bernice can get them in everyoneís boxes before she leaves for the weekend. That gives everyone ten working days to get them back here."

"If I get all the labels on and get them ready early, is it okay if she puts them in the mail boxes before she locks the door at three tomorrow?" Margie Sullivan asked.

"Sure, thatís fine. Hold down the fort. Iíll see you Monday."

 

End of Chapter Two