This is going to be a long, winding mystery with chapters meted out slowly—she said covering her a**.

The Case of the Jilted Junior

Los Angeles, Friday Night, July 8th, 1966

Driving around and around Los Angeles for hours, they had been to six diners already. At one time, recently even, the young woman with the pale blue scarf tied around her naturally blonde curls had been pretty; perhaps she might even have been called beautiful by some. Haggard from too much worry and pride, though, she doubted her 29 year-old self could recover.

"Mommy," the little boy smiled up at her, "Where are we going now?"

The woman spied another diner and pulled in. You could never give a kid too many French fries or ice cream cones; especially when you were never going to see him again. Staring at him as he colored in his cowboy coloring book, a six-shooter on his hip, his red felt Kit Carson cowboy hat pulled down around his curls she wondered who he would be someday.

Each night she prayed that he didn't have her family's predisposition to depression and suicide. He seemed happy enough now but when his mother ditched him, even if it was to end her pain so it didn't bleed all over him for the next 20 years, she knew it would mean damage. Better some pain now she thought than ruin the rest of his life; she knew that it was a calculated risk.

With any luck, he would have inherited his father's joie de vivre, not that she knew him well or long. Maybe they would be good for one another. What little research she had done she knew his father hadn't married, yet, remaining a bit of playboy. This did worry her when she thought about leaving this helpless little boy with him. But she also knew that she had an ace-in-the-hole.

Caroline had watched his building over the last several weeks, as her son's father came and went, very often in the company of two friends and/or colleagues. One of those was an extremely lovely woman who looked to be in her mid-30s, well dressed, usually laughing, especially tucked between the men in the front seat of one of their Cadillac convertibles.

Vital to Caroline was the sweetness she saw in her face. On several occasions she had gotten close enough to see those eyes—and the fact that there was curiously no wedding wing on that perfect hand—and they were the kindest eyes she had ever seen.

Sidling up next to her at the news stand in the lobby one afternoon, Caroline watched as the dark-haired woman greeted everyone who walked by, asking about family or health concerns. When she caught Caroline staring at her she even said "hello there" to her with an enormous smile. The warmth with which she said it, almost made Caroline cry.

"Are you okay, Dear?" the slender fingers found her arm.

Caroline had nodded and made some excuse that she knew the woman only partially accepted but she let her go. If this had been her big sister, or even her friend, she couldn't help but feel that her life would have been much different. But she had no sister, no family except an elderly great-aunt in an institution, where Caroline would end up any day.


Caroline parked the car out front and went into the building, which the few times she had been in there now made her feel surrounded by success and money. Carrying two suitcases and a small box of toys, her son holding her skirt, Caroline took the service elevator to the right floor and got off. Knowing they would be there, since all these two ever seemed to do was work, she wanted to make sure they were in the back office so she could leave him in the front without being caught.

Taking the cowboy hat off her son's head and packing it in one of his suitcases, Caroline replaced it with his cap, which she instructed him to remove as soon as he saw the lady or the man. Fluffing his curls and straightening his little tie, she felt the tears coming and knew there was nothing she could do about it. After pinning a note to his tiny lapel she held onto him tightly, much longer than she promised herself she would. Little as a minute, as her grandmother used to say, and already so sad, Caroline knew that she was doing the right thing for him. But it didn't make it any easier.

"Mommy will always, always love you. It's because I love you so much that I'm leaving you now. You don't understand this tonight but someday, someday you will, and even if you think I was wrong for what I did you will understand why I did it. I promise."

The little curly, blonde head nodded, sniffling.

"Take out your handkerchief," his mommy smiled and he did as he was told; he was very good at that.

Caroline approached the back door to the office but pulled her son immediately away, covering a smile with her hand. Apparently there was a reason they never left the office. In an odd way, Caroline found their very "enthusiastic" love for one another comforting. She hadn't been sure why that woman would ever have been single, nor was she certain what their relationship was, but now, now she knew.

Caroline went back to the door in 5 minute increments and when it was finally quiet she waited another ten minutes. She had been fooled last time—it had started up again about a few minutes later. Taking her son by the hand they went around to the front door and Caroline slipped quietly in…and then out again. Lingering with the door cracked slightly she watched those blue eyes staring at her with such longing she thought her heart might break. Blowing him a kiss, which he caught in his little hand, Caroline shut the door and just started to run.