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Bank Roll Excerpt







Grace Johnson sat on the sofa in her cozy little room at the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter in New York City. She smiled as she put her feet up on the coffee table. How many times she had told Patrick to get his feet off the table. It was, she reasoned, all right for her to put her feet up there if she wanted to. After all, it was her coffee table.

“You’ve come a long way, baby,” she said aloud, just as she heard a knock on the door. She glanced at her watch. It was a good ten minutes before she expected Anne Douglas to show up with her morning mail. It didn’t matter if she had any mail or not, Anne’s visits to have coffee with her had become a daily ritual.

“Come in,” Grace called out to her visitor.

Patrick had warned her about that countless times. “There’s a reason for that little peek hole in your door,” he told her. “You can’t just invite anybody in. You never know who it might be.”

“That’s right,” Grace had teased him in return. “It might be some old fellow pretending to be a policeman or something.”

Grace laughed as she thought back to the time she had first gotten acquainted with Patrick O’Mally, retired cop extraordinaire, at Central Park. If it hadn’t been for his escorting her home every day and her nosy neighbor reporting the fact that she was obviously getting so confused that a cop had to get her back to her apartment to her daughter, Missy, she would not be where she was now—living in a homeless shelter and happier than she’d ever been in her life.



Anne Douglas, the wife of Philip Douglas, director of the homeless shelter, came in, waving a letter in the air.

“I know I’m early,” she said, “but I was so excited.”

“What is it?” Grace asked. “Did I win the Publishers’ Clearing House?”

“Better than that,” Anne said, holding the letter where Grace couldn’t reach it.

“Come on,” Grace said. “You’re as bad as Patrick when it comes to teasing me.”

“You know people don’t tease somebody unless they like them.”

“Then people must really, really, really, really like me, because they really, really, really, really tease me.”

Anne laughed and handed the letter to Grace. She looked at the return address. It was from Mai-Ling, a young Cambodian woman who had spent time at the Haven of Rest. Grace had taken her under her wings and taught her English.

“It’s the first we’ve heard from her since she left,” Anne said. “You know, it’s funny. Some of the people here come and go so fast we hardly get to know their names. Others, like Walter—may he rest in peace—and Mai-Ling become almost like our children.”

“I know,” Grace agreed. “I miss them too.”

She turned to look at Anne. They had gotten off on the wrong foot when Grace first arrived at the shelter. It was hard to believe how close they had become as time wore on. A tear trickled down Anne’s cheek.

Grace went over and put her arm around her. Anne was such a professional woman, having been a lawyer before she married Philip and became involved in the shelter.

“It will be okay,” Grace said reassuringly. “I’m sure she’s fine.” Grace tore the envelope open. Two airline tickets fell out of the envelope and onto the floor. Grace hurried to retrieve them.

“They are to Green Bay, Wisconsin,” Grace said. “Wonder what that’s all about? Think she’s sending us to a Packers’ football game?”

“Not this time of year,” Anne said, drying her eyes. “Football season is long since past.”

Grace studied the tickets, looking for the date.

“It’s for next week,” she said, shaking her head, puzzled.

“Well, for crying out loud,” Anne said, “read the letter and you’ll probably find out!”

Grace began to read the letter out loud.

“Dear Mrs. Gracie,

            I hope you are well, and Mr. Patrick too. I will be hoping to see you soon.        I entered a contest for a free week at a bed and breakfast place in Marinette. That    is across the river from Menominee. I think one is in Wisconsin and one in   Michigan, but I can’t remember which one is where.

            There is tickets in here for you to fly to Green Bay. I know that one is in

Wisconsin, because they Pack ‘er in, they say. I think I can find somebody to

come and get you, or maybe you can rent a car to drive up here. If you can afford        

it. If you can’t, I’ll try to find some money to sent you.

            I can’t wait to see you. I’ll tell you all about my life here when you get





“Oh, how fun!” Anne exclaimed. “You have to call Patrick and tell him right away.”

Grace seemed way too calm for such a trip when she said, “He will be here before long. I will tell him then.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Anne asked.

“Nothing,” Grace said, grinning broadly.

“What?” Anne asked, getting more exasperated by the second.

“I’m just laughing at Mai-Ling’s English. Remember when she first came? She could hardly speak any English at all. Now she could even write a letter. And she only made a couple of mistakes.”

“What mistakes?” Anne asked.

“She wrote ‘sent’ instead of ‘send’ and ‘there is tickets’ instead of ‘there are tickets.”

“So what?” Anne asked. “You are going to—where is it?”

“Marinette,” Grace said. “I will have to look at a map to see if it’s in Michigan or Wisconsin.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’ve never been to either state.” She laughed again. “Seems like most of the time these days I’m living in the state of Confusion.”

Before she could explain what she meant, Patrick came in. As usual, he didn’t bother to knock.

Lot of good it does me to try to do what you say,” Grace quipped.

“Huh?” Patrick asked. “Did I miss something?”

“You. You always tell me not to open the door to strangers.”

Patrick went over and gave Gracie a tender kiss on the cheek. “I’m not exactly a stranger,” he said, winking at her.

“Stranger than most people I’ve ever known,” Grace joked. They all laughed as Patrick poured a cup of coffee and raised the side of the little drop leaf table so there was room for him to join the two women.

“Ready for a new adventure?” Grace asked.







Chapter 1



Grace handed the letter and the tickets to Patrick. He smiled as he read it.

“When do we leave?” he asked Grace. “You’d better start packing today. I know how you are with that.”

“What do you mean?” Grace asked as she slugged Patrick on the arm playfully. “I am known for my packing ability.”

“I know,” Patrick said. “That’s what I mean. You can get what most people would need six suitcases for into one overnight bag. You end up with way more stuff than you need. Just remember, the airlines go by weight now, not just the number of bags you have.”

“That’s just wrong,” Grace said. “I can put it up on the shelf above our heads and it wouldn’t be in anybody’s way.”

Anne watched the senior duo exchange barbs. She did so enjoy them. She closed her eyes for a moment and tried to remember what it had been like when she was defending people in a courtroom. She wouldn’t exchange that life with what she had now for any amount of money in the world. Especially since Philip went with the deal.

“At least it sounds like it will be a real vacation for you,” Anne said when she came back to the moment. “You sure deserve it. You’ve gotten yourselves mixed up in so many things, trying to figure out how to help solve people’s problems, it seems like you might as well have stayed with the police force, Patrick.” Anne sighed, then added, “I’ve always wanted to stay in a bed and breakfast inn. It sounds so romantic.”

“Think she’ll have to finally give in and say ‘Yes’?” Patrick asked. “Unless you’ve already decided,” he teased Grace. He had proposed to her more times than he could remember, and her answer was always the same. He could hear it coming even before she repeated the words.

“No…but I’m thinking about it.”

They all laughed.

“Maybe this will be your lucky day,” Anne said.

“It’s for a whole week,” Patrick said. “Maybe that will be long enough to do the trick.”

“I’ll say a prayer for you,” Anne said, winking at Patrick.

They reminisced about Mai-Ling as they drank their coffee. Suddenly, Anne jumped up and headed for the door.

“Something we said?” Grace asked.

“No. I’ll be right back. I forgot something.”

When she was gone, Patrick leaned over and gave Grace a big kiss on the lips. She blushed. James, her late husband, wasn’t the affectionate type, and she was trying to get used to Patrick’s advances. They had talked about it, and Patrick decided that it was because James was “a cold-blooded Swede,” and Grace always reminded him that “It wasn’t his fault. He was born that way.”

Anne was back in a few minutes, a box of chocolate éclairs in her hands.

“We had another delivery of these,” she said, tearing the plastic wrap off and setting the open box on the table. They all grabbed for one. “Who knew that a homeless shelter would have such fare as this? When I agreed to marry Philip, I thought I’d be eating all sorts of nasty stuff, not chocolate éclairs by the cases. Well, I don’t eat cases of them, but they arrive by the cases. You know what I mean.”

“They are good,” Patrick said, reaching for a second éclair. “Beats near raw boiled eggs and turkey neck soup.”

They all laughed as they remembered the things Anne had come up with to feed the residents before Grace made her way into the kitchen and demanded to take over.

“And rancid butter on the toast,” Grace added.

Patrick reached into his pocket and took out his cell phone. He searched for a phone number and dialed it.

“Who you calling?” Grace asked.

“I’m just going to check this out. You know there are so many scams these days, I want to make sure we aren’t getting into something over our heads.”

“Boy, that would be a first,” Grace said sarcastically.

“Is this the Riverside Manor Bed and Breakfast?” Patrick asked.

“My name is Patrick O’Mally. My—um, my ladyfriend, Grace Johnson, got a letter in the mail this morning, saying that she had won a week’s stay at your establishment. I just wanted to verify it. You know, there are so many crooks out there these days that I didn’t want her to get hurt, or to end up in…”

Grace whispered to Anne, “Once a cop, always a cop.”

“Yes, that’s it. In Marinette, Wisconsin with nowhere to go and not knowing anybody.” Patrick paused. “Beggin’ your pardon, ma’am. I didn’t mean to imply that you were a crook.”

“So we, er she has a full week to stay there in July?”

“Yes, ma’am. I will be accompanying her. It will be a delightful vacation for both of us.”

“That’s what Mai-Ling, a friend of ours from the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter here in New York said in the letter. She is living there now. I think it’s across the river or something. How do you know Mai-Ling?”

“It will be a delight to meet you,” Patrick said as he hit the “end” button on the phone. He leaned back in his chair and took another éclair.

“Seems like it’s legitimate,” he said. “The woman Mai-Ling works for as a nanny, her name is Kimmy Todd, is a good friend of Becky DeWitt, the woman who owns and runs the B & B, and that’s how Mai-Ling came to enter the contest.”

“Oh, how exciting!” Anne exclaimed. “Grace, you are so lucky. I’ve never won anything in my life.”

“Except Philip,” Grace said, winking at her friend. “I think he was your ultimate prize.”

“You’re right,” Anne said. “That trip to the cemetery had to be the luckiest day in my life.”

Patrick and Grace had heard the story several times of how Philip and Anne had met in the confessional when he was a priest, and how they rendezvoused in the cemetery until Philip left the priesthood, started the Haven of Rest Homeless Shelter, taking Anne, a high-price uptown lawyer with him.

Grace looked up at the clock on the wall. “I’d better get down to the kitchen. It’s almost time to start making lunch.” She bowed her head and said, “I sure do miss Walter.”

“He was a good man,” Patrick said. “At least we cleared his name back in Nebraska. I knew he wouldn’t have committed suicide.”

“We have had quite a few adventures,” Grace said. “Hardly seems possible that we have only known each other a few months. It seems like you’ve always been a part of my life.”

Patrick reached across the table and took Grace’s small fragile hand in his big powerful one. “We’ve got a lot of life ahead of us, Gracie.”

“From your mouth to God’s ears,” Grace said, enjoying the feeling she got when he squeezed her hand.

She stood up and said, “If you two want to stay and talk, feel free, but I’ve got a job to do.”

Anne smiled and said, “I thought you were supposed to be retired.”

“I am,” Grace said. “I got tired, then I got tired again, then I got tired again, and…” She laughed. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been re-tired.”

Patrick and Anne were still laughing as she shut the door behind her.

“And I’ve never had more fun in my life,” she said aloud as she headed for the stairway that went down to the kitchen, even though nobody could hear her. Yup, life was good. And now she was going a vacation. A real vacation. She didn’t remember ever having had one in her life. She and James had never been able to afford it, and she didn’t know where they would have gone if they had wanted to go on a vacation. “Stupid stubborn Swede,” she mumbled as she went down the steps, hanging onto the railing to steady herself as she went. She was still in pretty good shape, for the shape she was in, but she was finding it harder all the time to get up and down the steps.

Anne got up to leave, and Patrick followed behind her.

“I hope you two can stay out of trouble while you’re gone,” she challenged him. “I know that’s asking an awful lot, though.”

“Who, us?” Patrick asked, grinning at her.

“Yeah, you. If you don’t watch it, you will end up getting famous for all of your antics. They might even write a book about you two one day. I can just see it now: ‘America’s famous senior sleuths.’”

“I like that,” Patrick said. “Wonder if it would hit the New York Times bestseller list.”

“You bet it would,” Anne said. “It would have to be labeled ‘fiction,’ though. Not like that James Frey book when it was supposed to be a true story and then they found out it was all make believe.”

“Wasn’t it Oprah that exposed that whole thing? Maybe one day Gracie and I will be on Oprah.”

“Can’t do that,” Anne said.

“Why not?”

“Her show’s been cancelled.”

“Well, scrap that idea.”

“Besides,” Anne said, ending the conversation, “it was the author of the book that got on her program, not the subject of the book.”

“But if he claimed the book was about him, wouldn’t he be both the author and the subject?”

“Just like a man,” Anne said. “Always have to use the logical side of their brain.”


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