Don't forget to visit the Mine!!
~ Chapter Forty-One ~
As he advanced toward Arianna’s parents, they stepped out the door.
Lenwood sputtered, “You’ll pay for this, son. You have no idea who you’re messing with.”
A shiver shot up his spine, but Justin continued advancing. “You’re right about that, but I’m learning.”
Lenwood Rathburne’s mouth clamped shut, and he examined Justin.
Esmeralda Rathburne looked at her husband. “What’s he talking about, Lenny?”
The older man shook his head. “I assure you I have no clue.”
Justin’s shoulders tightened. “Oh I assure you, you do.”
Lenwood shook his head. “I’m going to call the administrator. He’ll let us see our daughter.”
Justin shook his head. “No, he won’t. He can’t. I’m her husband. Her next of kin.”
Arianna’s mom’s head bobbed back and forth like a bobble head. “What is going on here? I demand to know, young man.”
Justin stepped into the hallway and pulled the door shut with a soundless click. He gestured to Lenwood Rathburne. “Why don’t you ask Dear Hubby.”
Her head swiveled toward Lenwood once more. “Lenny?”
He shrugged. “I haven’t a clue. I think he’s gone daft.”
Justin laughed, but uncertainty tainted the sound. Was he mistaken? He didn’t think so.
“If we can’t see Arianna, then at least let us see our grandson,” Lenwood demanded.
“Uh, let me think about that for a second. No.”
Arianna’s father’s face clouded up like a thunderhead ready to explode. “What do you mean, no? That’s our grandson and we have every right to see him.”
“Why, so you can sell him to the highest bidder like you did your daughter?” The words were so unexpected, Justin stopped in horror. Where had that come from?
But Lenwood’s face went ashen. “What are you talking about?”
His words were no longer forceful and full of purpose, but weak… and worried.
Justin gestured for the Rathburnes to follow him to the waiting area. He took a seat, glad to brace his quivering body. He was frightened, but didn’t want Lenwood to know it. Was he being foolish to pry for answers on his own? He knew he was, but couldn’t stop.
“I’m curious about a few things, Mr. Rathburne.”
An already angered face twisted into a mask of rage. “Who do you think you are? We don’t know you from Adam. You come up out of nowhere and take over our little girl’s life like you have a right.”
Esmeralda Rathburne shook her head in agreement.
Should I back away? Pulling his shoulders back, he made the decision. He cleared his throat, hating wobble in his tone as he spoke. “What exactly happened the day your daughter disappeared?”
To Justin’s surprise, Arianna’s mom looked at her husband, as if waiting for his answer.
“Didn’t she tell you?” he snapped.
Justin shook his head. “No, we’ve had other things to tend to and haven’t had time to discuss it, but I’d like your take, anyway.”
Lenwood rubbed a wrinkled hand across his face and leaned back in the chair. His shoulders began to shake.
When his hand dropped, Justin saw the tears. “You know, don’t you?” He stared into Justin’s eyes, holding his gaze.
Justin shook his head. “Yes.”
“Know what?” Esmeralda asked, looking at first one then the other.
It was Justin’s turn to shrug and run a hand across his tired features. “I just guessed, really. It makes sense.”
Silence ensued. There was none of the anger and screaming and yelling Justin had envisioned.
After a few moments, he said, “Why?”
Lenwood bent over and sobbed, his burly shoulders shaking, loud guffaws erupting from time to time.
His wife got up and rubbed a comforting hand across his back. “Okay, that is enough. Somebody better tell me what’s going on here.”
“I think it best if it comes from him.” Justin looked to the older man, who seemed to have aged exponentially in just a few moments of time. An emotion rushed to his brain, and he tried to quell it. How could he feel sorrow for a man like that?
Esmeralda pulled her husband’s face up. “What is he talking about, Lenny? None of this makes any sense.”
Lenwood looked up, his mouth opening and closing.
A voice from across the room said, “He sold his daughter to a monster, that’s what.”
Three surprised faces jerked up at the sound of Arianna’s voice.
Justin’s heart pounded at the tough little stance she presented, all tough and gruff. Yet he knew how weak she was. He got up and rushed to her side.
“Pumpkin…” The word was tormented and fraught with hopelessness.
“How could you?” She asked. No tears. No accusations. A simple question.
The room crackled with expectant energy. Lenwood looked from one to the other. His eyes finally settling on his wife. “It’s her fault.”
Arianna cried, “What?”
Justin said, “You better explain.”
Lenwood stood and ran down the hallway, disappearing around the corner.