July 20
1:30 p.m.

The whole money-missing fiasco is making the entire staff jittery. People eye each other suspiciously. It’s already Monday afternoon and Allan hasn’t yet called.

“First Church, may I help you?”

“Hi! What’s up kiddo? Sorry to miss your call on Friday.” Allan’s warm voice, at last.

“Allan! This is Natalie!”

“No, really. You could have knocked me over with a feather. What a shock to find you answering the phone!”

I’m laughing and suddenly realize I haven’t done this in a while. A long while. It’s so good to have Allan back.

“We have a problem at the church. Actually, it’s in different places on the church campus…”

“Where?”

“Here and at the nursery school. Faye wanted me to let you know.”

“Should I come over to the church office? I could be there around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Won’t keep you late. Unless you need me earlier.”

“No. No. That sounds good. Look forward to seeing you.”

I hang up the telephone and I’m thinking, if a pastor has a history, it has to show up somewhere on the Interwebs. Maybe I should ask Jessica to do a search for me… Nah. I can do this myself…

I type Don and Darlene Walkers in the search box and press return.

Nothing.

Pastor Don and Darlene Walkers, church.

Nothing.

Rev. Don Walkers, international church, Europe, conflict.

“…Don and his wife…problems…international church…Ukraine.”

Coincidence. I think not.

Okay, so the church website hasn’t said much other than “please pray for Pastor Don that he would find the help he needs, let us forgive him for his sin, and ask God to for healing on his family and him.”

Christianese covers a multitude of sins!

I re-read the prayer request, and then check the date. It was two months ago. About the time that Mark had quite given up on finding a pastoral exchange situation. Don and Darlene must have moved quickly from the Ukraine to Switzerland.

I guess there could be other Pastor Don Walkers but somehow a gut feeling told me this Pastor Don and the Pastor Don at our church were one and the same.

Their name Walkers seems to fit them perfectly…I’m thinking!

The adrenaline kicks in. You know the feeling you get when you feel like you’re in a horror movie and the killer is going…

“BOO!”

I swing around in my chair and nearly punch the living daylights out of poor Walt.

“Walt! I nearly…”

And he’s laughing…in his creepy, quiet Walt way.

“You were so involved in what you were doing that you didn’t hear me come in or anything I said. Got you some chocolates to sweeten up your day.”

“Thanks Walt.” I’m wishing he’d leave so I can go back to my sleuthing.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, just looking up something.”

“It’s about Don, isn’t it?”

My face is probably doing a very good job of answering his question.

“You don’t have to worry about me. I won’t say anything. I don’t like them. Darlene is mean to me. I don’t like her. Don’s always eating. People who are always eating are greedy…they’re takers…take what they want…if you know what I mean. Cunning-like. Sly.”

“Walt, I can’t…”

“Don’t worry, Natalie. I like you. Just let me know if they’re ever mean to you.”

“Thanks.”

Nice to know I have a champion. Even if it’s Walt.

–––––
July 22
4:00 p.m.

Allan is early. I’m finishing up the newsletter and here he is—cheerful, happy, and always willing to help. Thank God for the Allans of the church.

“Give me five minutes. I just have to finish uploading the newsletter to the church website…print two copies for Don and Darlene. They want their copies tomorrow morning.”

Or I’ll probably have to make another trip in on Saturday morning.

“Take your time. I’ll just grab myself a cup of coffee. If there’s some?”

“Yes, there is.”

“I’ll be back. I’ll even wash out the coffee pot and clean up the kitchen for you, kiddo.”

“Don’t worry. I can finish up…” But he’s already gone.

“Here’s some tea for you. You look like you could use one.”

“Allan! Thanks.This is exactly what I need.”

He lets me enjoy the first few sips of my tea before he wants to know everything. “Let’s have it all…no details spared.”

“Well, I’m not sure where to begin…”

“Just tell me whatever you know. That’ll be a good start. I can connect the dots.”

I’m surprised because I thought this would be easy to do. But I kept thinking how I’d feel if someone was speculating about my dad. Even though I suspected Don, it was, after all, just a feeling. Nothing concrete.

“Okay. It started with money missing from my petty cash envelope.”

“Go on,” Allan is staring directly at me…

I begin to stammer. I hope he doesn’t think I took the money. I mean, no one really knows me at this church. I haven’t been here that long. My OCD is kicking in…

“Natalie, I don’t think that you took the money, okay?”

I sigh in relief. “Thanks for your trust in me.”

“If you needed the money, you would have demanded that I give it to you,” Allan’s kidding me.

It is so good to laugh.

“Good to hear you laugh. Hasn’t been much laughter in the office since the arrival of Don.”

Exactly my thoughts. Quickly now, I fill Allan in on all the details. He listens in silence, taking a few notes on his iPad every now and then.

“One more thing…”

“Shoot.”

“Up the price and I’ll tell you about my sleuthing.”

“Okay, I’ll have Vera make you a cherry pie.”

“You’ve got yourself a deal. Take a look at this. It’s probably nothing, but you can decide for yourself.” I turn the computer screen towards him, and watch him as he reads the prayer request.

“Can I use the church phone?”

“Sure. You can sit at my desk. I’ll just make sure the rest of the offices are closed so I can leave.”

Allan’s searching for a number on his phone, and then punches it in.

“Hello. This is Elder Allan from First Church. Glad I was able to catch you. Sorry to bother you, but we have a situation here… Yes, he is… You can… Good… Sorry for the trouble… Looking forward to seeing you… The church office will be fine… Three-thirty. Will make it happen. Bye.”

Who has Allan been talking to??

“I have a meeting with Don’s denominational rep on Friday. Can you join us?”

“Sure, if you’d like.” I would definitely like to be in on this meeting.

“Will Don be here on Friday?”

“No. He’s traveling to meet with some Pastor Dale. I think Darlene is going with him.”

“Well, I don’t want to change the appointment. If they’re not here, they’ll hear about it…” He shrugs his shoulders.

This is all becoming very interesting…