Jules Diamond and Ken Thomas met, the next day, to discuss over lunch, how Ken should approach V. Susan Frankenberg, later that evening, at dinner. Jules identified Ms. Frankenberg as the person who was responsible for watching Three Finger Cove and having Mr. Thomas and Collin watched. What Jules was unable to do was to figure out why. His associates talked to a few of the men who watched the house, but they hadn't any idea either. They were paid to observe and report what they saw, how they saw it, and where.
Ken Thomas was at a loss as to why this older woman would be watching him, Collin and their home. He had hoped by meeting Ms. Frankenberg, later that night, he would find out.
"So, Jules, you want me to wear this bug tonight when I am talking to this lady?" asked Ken Thomas.
"Yes, we want to have on tape what she is up to, so, that if anything goes down afterwards, we'll have some idea of her involvement," replied the investigator.
"I feel like I am caught in a bad version of a spy novel," humored Ken. "All this clandestine stuff, and on top of it all is my brazen self-invitation to have dinner with her. She could have me thrown out, or worse, arrested!"
The two men talked for a while longer and then agreed to meet later, to set up the equipment, in order to tape the conversation. As they left, Jules told Ken to calm down, and that things would go alright.
Earlier that morning, Ryan and Collin rode the school bus, affectionately known as Ms. Velveeta, to school, since Collin still wasn't allowed to have any passengers when he drove. They both told each other they couldn't wait until the fall, when that restriction would be lifted, and Collin could then drive them both. They were also looking forward to taking their girls out on a double-date, using Collin's car, though they knew that using the limo was so much better.
Ryan's face was still very swollen and would probably still be that way for another ten days, to two weeks. Many kids at school still stared at him, mostly, because they never knew anyone who had been beaten that bad before, and that they were just very curious.
At fifteen minutes to 8 o'clock, that evening, V. Susan Frankenberg arrived at her favorite restaurant, Donovan's, for dinner. She was immediately shown to her regular table, along the back side of the dining area, so she could watch, and not be watched.
Ken and Jules observed her from afar, and then tried their communications equipment, one last time. The two men then continued to watch until her waiter took her drink order, a Strawberry Daiquiri, and walked away. It was now time for Ken Thomas to walk ON Stage.
"Good evening, Ms. Frankenberg, ah … may I join you … for a drink?" asked Ken Thomas.
"Do I know you?" asked a surprised V. Susan Frankenberg, while looking up at a very handsome and very young man.
"Oh, I am sure you do recognize me, Ms. Frankenberg. Just take a good look at my face for a few moments, and I am sure it will come to you," offered Ken, as he stood there in front of the table
The older woman took those few moments and studied the young man's facial features. She had him turn one way and then another. Then, as Mr. Thomas continued to stand in front of V. Susan Frankenberg's favorite table, it hit her.
"Oh … Ohh! … Hh … how did you find me?" asked a very surprised Frankenberg.
"May I be seated?" asked Mr. Thomas.
"Wh why yes, please do … Mr. Thomas," responded Ms. Frankenberg. "It IS Mr. Thomas, isn't it… would you please join me for dinner along, with that drink you asked for?"
"Thank you…Ms…Ms. Frankenberg …"
"Vickey … please."
"Oh, okay … thank you … Vickey … I would love to join you for your evening meal, and, seeing I haven't eaten yet, the offer sounds too good to pass up," answered Ken. "And, please ... call me Ken."
"Or is that Mr. Ken," teased Vickey.
"No, Ken will do fine. Many people have taken to calling me Mister Ken for some reason, but … I have tried to get them to just call me Ken, as well, but most insist on the mister title, and it isn't worth arguing about."
Vickey called over Stan, her waiter, and had Ken give him his drink order. When the drinks were delivered, Stan took their dinner orders.
"So, Ken … please tell me how did you find me? And don't leave out any details. I want to know what NOT to do the next time, I try to find out about someone," laughed the very lovely lady.
"Money," was all that Ken answered.
"Money? That's all it took?" asked an incredulous Vickey Frankenberg.
"Yes, money and some very observant young men, who work for me," added Ken Thomas.
"Do tell … please, go on."
"You see … I was away and, when I returned, it was Danny and Todd, the two teens I had working on leveling out the field next to the house, who told me about these men who … who appeared to be fishing, but in reality, weren't. Danny told me they stopped by the dock, one day, and asked him some questions, you know, stuff about the house and who lives there and all, but…well, after that, Todd told me, they wore suits one day, too, while fishing, and he thought that was odd.…"
Ken Thomas told her the rest of the story and then about how Ryan got some pictures of the guys, and the registration off the boat and the rest being easy. He finished telling his story just as their dinner's arrived.
"That is an intriguing story, Ken. Just think of it … because of what a couple of teens saw … that something they felt was out of place and … oh, my … an … and that's all that it took for you to find me? My, my!" finished Vickey, as she cut a small piece off her steak and bit into it.
The two sat there eating their meal and exchanged some small talk. It was when they were finished that Ken Thomas asked the unasked question.
"You never told me why…you know, why you were watching Three Finger Cove and me," directly asked Mr. Ken.
"So, you really didn't get ALL the information did you, now?" laughed Vickey.
"I…I don't understand! You had me investigated every which way and watched but … well, I still don't know why. My man was able to finally find you, but he could never find out anything that could associate me with you, in any way. I mean, with all my investments, and the things, I am slowly getting involved in, Jules could not find how or actually why you had me checked out," explained Ken.
"You really don't know, do you? You have no idea who I am, do you?" asked Vickey with a cute smile.
"I'm sorry, I do not. That is the thing that…well that's what baffles me altogether," honestly responded Ken. "At first, well, I considered you could be Collin's missing grandmother, but I didn't think she would be that aloof as to not show up after what all happened to her only grandson."
Vickey laughed out loud but caught herself before she went too far.
"Ken, it wasn't you specifically I was investigating, although you had to be, as well, because of who I was solely interested in," began Ms. Frankenberg.
"Go on," insisted Ken.
"Aloof, you say? …Hmmm, I take it my name doesn't mean a thing to you at all, then … does it?" questioned Vickey.
"No, I am at a loss," replied Ken, while looking at the beautiful older woman. "Collins grandmother's name is Victoria Wilkinson, so your name doesn't register."
"Oh …I'm sorry, but … did you notice…those people over there? How those people keep looking at us. It sort of makes me feel like … like I am very young again … and Jonathan was romancing me," talked Vickey about things from her past.
Ken did take notice of the people looking at them, but he was more interested in knowing more about the lady he was dining with, so he never said anything. But now, thinking on what she said, he realized it might have looked like he was her gigolo, for the night, and that made him smile. Then the more he thought about it, the more he began to laugh and soon it was very noticeable to Vickey, who in turn began to wonder what was happening with this 'wonderful and very handsome young man' just then.
"Oh, so now you know who I am?" inquired Vickey.
"No, I still don't, but…well when you said something about the people over there and … and us, dining together, I… I finally realized how we must look to them. You, the much older and beautiful lady, and me, the ah…young virile man as your ah…escort for the night," explained the still laughing Ken Thomas.
The two looked at one another and they both burst out laughing. That was the turning point for the rest of their conversation.
"Ken, I like you and…well, now I see what my grandson … what he sees in you," said V. Susan Frankenberg.
Ken's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when he heard the word 'grandson'.
"You, you mean…you're…"
"Yy…your…Collin's grandmother?" a surprised Ken Thomas asked.
"Yes, I am" answered Vickey.
"But, I don't understand…why…why, you didn't identify yourself right away and come to help your grandson. The police, and especially the FBI, were looking all over for you," stammered out the young man with his mouth open.
"Well … to be honest … I didn't know.… You see, I was on an around-the-world cruise at the time. James, my son, knew where I was, and so did Charlotte. My guess is they forgot to tell my grandson why I hadn't stopped in to see him, lately. I left on the first of July out of New York and…well, when you are on such an extended cruise, you never get any real news. I'm sure the communications office onboard saw the name Wilkinson in news reports…but, my guess, since I wasn't using my married name, he wouldn't have contacted me. It wasn't until I returned, that Frank Hale told me about what happened," explained Vickey.
"But, well, why didn't you notify the police, then," asked a perturbed Ken.
"Well, Frank Hale told me some things about you and…well, I had to know for myself … My guess is that you, and Collin, were on your Disney cruise when I returned, so I had no one to confirm what he said," explained Vickey.
"What about Collin's Uncle, Andrew Marshall? Why didn't you try to call him?" pointedly asked Ken.
"Frank had told me that Andy was the one who helped get Dennis Clarke fired, and jailed, for collusion in the killing of my James. I only had him to talk to, since everyone else was…was in jail," responded Vickey. "So, you see…I was at a disadvantage. I had no one else I could trust, to get that information, and I needed to know for myself, before I did anything, that could bring me into that fray. That's,…,well that's why I hired those guys, from all over, to work for me to get me everything they could on you, and Collin, and your friends."
"But … well, why from all over?" asked Ken Thomas.
"Well, my thoughts were the less they knew about what the others were doing, the less they could spill on where all that information was going. Now, seeing you were able to find me, I guess that wasn't such a good an idea anyway," laughed Ms. Frankenberg.
"What I don't totally understand is why the ruse? You know…the change of name and all?" inquired Ken.
"Oh, that … well, after my husband died, I wanted to … I needed to ne myself again. My real name is Victoria which I shortened to Vickey. My middle name is Suzannah which I shortened to Susan. I actually dropped my married name and went back to my maiden name, Frankenberg. I didn't really intend to deceive anyone. James knew what I had done, and he thought it was a good way to keep the buzzards away from my money.
"Ken … I am truly sorry this happened this way. I really intended to show myself as soon as I knew everything about you … and how you treated Collin. … I know now that you have done everything imaginable for my grandson. You even put off some of your own endeavors to make sure Collin … that my grandson was well taken care of. When I heard that you … took a bullet, meant for my Collin, I cried like a little baby. Then it finally dawned on me that my son, and his wife, would no longer be around for him, either.
"I was ashamed of myself, Ken. I … I hope you'll believe me! … I had intended to wait until school was out before I made my appearance. I didn't want to cause my grandson to … I didn't want his school work to suffer.
"Ken … I still want to see my grandson. Are you… are you going to allow me that privilege?" softly asked the now teary eyed older woman.
"Ah, well, Yes, I guess … but first … I need to know what your intentions are? Are you going to show up with a bunch of lawyers and court orders and kidnap Collin away from me, and his friends? You know I can NOT allow that to happen. I've promised that boy … that teenager, he would be safe there at the Cove, and he would continue to have a life!" abruptly replied Mr. Thomas.
"Well, I know for a fact, that James and Charlotte both named me as his guardian, in their wills. And, so, with that, you will not have a leg to stand on … if I were to come for the boy!" angrily responded Vickey.
"If your lackey's did their job right, then you know I am a very rich man," quickly replied Ken and then stayed silent for a few moments, staring at the older woman, allowing that to set in.
Then, Mr. Ken continued by adding, "You deliberately abandoned your own grandson … in order … well, so you could find out about me. How absurd! When Collin needed you the most … you, you ignored him, using some 'old woman's' twisted reasoning. … Ms. Frankenberg, I will use every thing at my disposal to fight you, for Collin. You still called him a boy … while he is now sixteen … and almost a grown man.
"Collin has also told me he would use all his money to fight you, as well. Oh, yes… he now has money. The wills went through probate already, and he has a considerable amount of ready cash. The main thing is … he now says he has a life … something his father neglected to give his only son. It was obvious to Collin that it was his grandparents who taught his parents … actually his dad … how to treat him. So, he believes … no HE knows, if he has to live with you, his life would go back to … to him being a no-body, a nothing without friends and or Love," added Ken.
V. Susan Frankenberg sat back stunned from what she had just heard. She felt as if she had been slapped, thoroughly, in the face. Then the more she thought about what was just said, the more she knew she had deserved every word of it.
"But … I only want what is good for my grandson," now argued Vickey.
"Then stay out of his life!" yelled back Mr. Ken.
There was a stalemate. Both sides sat there staring back at one another. The question was,' who would blink first?'
Stan refilled their after dinner coffee for the sixth time and then asked if there was anything else. The two completely ignored the man, so he just walked away.
Finally, after five long silent minutes, Vickey said, "If I promise … to come by myself … no lawyers … no court orders, nothing … but just me and my driver, wou… would you please allow me to visit with my grandson?"
The stalemate was broken and Ken had won, or had he?
"Vickey, what are your intentions towards Collin? I mean, if are you are planning to take him away and put him into a black hole to never have his friends over, or ever be allowed to drive again and to date?" asked a very cautious Mr. Thomas, "then I will have to deny your request."
"Ken, I know my son, James, wanted me to raise Collin, if something happened to him and his wife, even. Now, that it has happened, I need to know if that is what … is what Collin wishes," answered Vickey.
"I think that is fair. Collin does know, you are supposed to take care of him … now that his parents are both gone … but … well, he loves his NEW life as it is, now. He has friends, who can come and go. He has a girlfriend, and a car." Then, Ken smiled at what he just said and how it would mean to an older woman and then qualified it by saying, "Oh, you don't have to worry there … he can't have anyone in his car with him for six months, so, when he drives, he is all by himself.
"I will warn you though … even though Texas doesn't have Emancipation of Minors, per se, Collin knows what he can do to affect the same thing. Both his Uncle Andy and I and my lawyer have thoroughly explained that to him. He is growing up and now … after seeing what his life should have been like, he is … well he is beginning to focus on his future … and I do believe he now knows what he wants.
"He tells everyone he is enjoying his life, for the first time, EVER, since he turned thirteen. That is a date burned in his mind as the day he says his dad began to ignore him and demand he become and act as a 'man'. And another thing … I want you to understand, and I won't hesitate to tell you, is that it was he, Collin, who brought 'life' to Three Finger Cove.
"But, I guess, I DO have to admit that it should be up to Collin, as to where HE wants to live. We would all be devastated if Collin were to pick, or be picked up, and left us all. He has made such an impact on everyone, including Chief, our dog. She would probably miss him the most!" finished Ken with tears running down his cheeks.
Right then, Vickey saw the love Ken Thomas had for her grandson. The very way the man just talked about him was not lost on Vickey. She heard how highly the man spoke of her grandson and, admitting he would fight for him, showed her he had Collin's best interests at stake, and that the lad mattered. But, she still wanted to be reunited with her grandson, so she asked, "When do you think … actually, how soon do you think I would be able to visit with my grandson?"
"This is a three-day weekend coming up, so probably then. I would like a few days to talk things over with him and then let you know how he feels about it. We had already planned a few things with his 'brothers'."
"Ah, yes … Ryan isn't it, and …and Eric, I do believe is the younger boy. My investigator told me how they call each other 'brother'. I thought how cute that was … that was until they told me that both boys are an only child, too. I remembered how Collin always wished he had an older brother. … Oh, my … you … I bet he calls you his brother, too."
That shocking realization meant to her she could have a very difficult time in convincing her grandson to come back home, to live with her. But she knew she had to try.
"Yes, he does," replied Ken. "He calls me his 'Big Bro' or just 'Bro' when he is in a good, or playful, mood. He is known to call me Mr. Ken, also … when he has a serious issue to discuss, or feels he may be in trouble. And, I, too, call him my 'little brother' or even my 'lil bro'. … Also, my being an only child, too, has made his presence fulfill something that was missing in my life, as well. So, as I am sure what you now see is how … how just one … hurt … young … man … has touched so many direct lives not counting the many … many others who have indirectly come in contact with him."
Vickey reached over and placed her warm hand on Ken's and she looked into his eyes and offered, "Ken … I promise … to let Collin decide where he wants to live. … Since it is a long weekend, I know you will need time to tell him about our meeting and to let him … allow him to consider what this may all mean … to his future. … How about I plan to stop by on Monday sometime after twelve noon? That should give you ample time, I hope, to … well, I guess get him ready to see me. Will that be okay with you?" politely asked the lads grandmother.