Categories > Cartoons > Daria > 15 Years On

15 Years On

by DrT 4 reviews

Jodie is in town for a high school reunion, and meets two old friends

Category: Daria - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama,Romance - Characters: Daria,Jane - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2015-08-20 - 6912 words

5Insightful
15 Years On
A Daria Story by Dr. T

Daria and the other associated characters are owned by its creators, MTV, et al. I am just playing.

*

Lawndale Maryland, August 2015

Jodie Summers was bored.

This was a very unusual occurrence for her; she had rarely ever had time in her life to be bored. Her parents had made certain of that when she was growing up, and despite the resolutions she made in her last year of high school, those habits had followed her into college, graduate school, and into life in general. Still, here she was, back in Lawndale for the first time in over a year, with nothing to do until that evening. Her parents were working, her younger sister had made a life for herself on the West Coast, and her younger brother, who would be starting his senior year of high school, was out with his friends. Granted, there was not supposed to be this hole in the schedule; this was supposed to be a father-daughter bonding day. However, her father was trying to find the right buyer for his business, one that would keep the small factory outside of Baltimore going rather than sending the processes overseas. Ideally, the new owner would also be an African American. So far, the negotiations were tough, and so Jodie agreed to forego the day with her father. Therefore, here she was, walking the boring streets of her home town in the later morning.

She was in town for her 15 year high school reunion. To her slight surprise, her high school years still meant something to her and while she was not active in the little group that organized the reunions, she was still in contact with them. It wasn't as if she had many close friends in high school. She was still friends with her high school sweetheart, and in fairly close contact with one of the cheer leaders, but those were the only two. Two others she had been more than casual friends with, Jane and Daria, had drifted out of her sights early during their junior year of college. While it was always good to see Mack and Brittany, and interesting to hear what the others in their class had been up to, she hoped that Jane and/or Daria would make this reunion, despite having missed the first two.

Her steps had led her far out of her parents' neighborhood, and even past the little pizza place that had been as close as she had gotten to having had a hangout. She was walking through an area that was mostly strip malls and small office buildings when she stopped. Taking a few steps back she saw what had caught her subconscious via her peripheral vision: on the list of businesses in the building, the first (and largest) name was MORGANDORFFER CONSULTING. 'Daria's Dad should be retired,' she thought. Her own parents were more than just a few years younger, and they hoped to be retired soon. 'I wonder if Daria or her sister took over the business.' It took a second to bring up Quinn's name.

To her surprise, at that moment two women stepped out of the building. "Daria? Jane?" The two women were instantly recognizable – both were still nearly as slim as they had been in high school and while Jane’s hair was a bit longer and a bit more stylish, Daria’s was pretty much the same, if perhaps a bit more obviously auburn, and she wasn’t wearing glasses. Jane was dressed in a fashionable red pants suit, Daria was wearing a lightweight business ensemble of a lightweight dark green jacket and a silk black dress with orange highlights. Both wore boots, but all their clothes – especially their boots – were much more elegant than anything Jodie had seen from the old Fashion Club, never mind these two.

The two stopped walking and talking to each other and blinked. "Jodie?" Daria asked after a moment.

"What are you doing in town?" Jane added.

"I take it you two aren't in town for the reunion this weekend?" Jodie asked in turn.

"Reunion?" Daria asked. "Oh, that does make sense, but no."

"Is that you?" Jodie asked, pointing to the sign.

"No, Quinn joined Dad's business after she graduated from Pepperhill, and became a partner after getting her MBA from Lawndale State," Daria replied, adding more information than she normally would since she figured Jodie might actually be interested. "She’s really made it a success, and kept the name after she got married." She gave Jane a look.

Jane understood the unasked question. "We're going for lunch. Wanna join us?"

Jodie glanced at here watch and saw it was 11:25. “I'd love to! Any place in particular?”

"Quinn claims there's an Italian place nearby that we'd like."

As the trio walked the two blocks, Jodie asked, "Did she marry anyone I would know? Did either of you, for that matter?"

“We didn’t, but Quinn. . . .” Daria and Jane both smirked. "She married an adjunct business professor she had a class with her last semester at State . . . Tom Sloane," Daria answered drily.

"You're kidding! I don't know what the oddest thing about that statement is."

"Tom is a partner in the family business, but he also likes teaching," Jane answered. "They officially started dating right after Quinn was in his class, but they married less than two months after she got her MBA, and she wasn’t even pregnant, although she soon took care of that. Come up with whatever sarcastic remarks you'd like on any part or combination of the story; I'm sure one of us has already made them!"

"I wouldn't be surprised."

To Jodie's shock, but not Daria’s or Jane’s, when they arrived at the bistro the trio were ushered into a small side dining room. "Missus Sloane called ahead and said you would be more comfortable here," they were told. They quickly ordered pasta salads and a bottle of Riesling.

"So, who wants to go first?" Jodie asked. "Are you two still close?"

"We are, and no smart remarks, Jane," Daria answered. She turned to Jodie. "One question to each of us, and then tell us about you."

"I've never seen your name on Amazon, or seen any Melody Powers stories," Jodie replied quickly. "Aren't you writing anymore? And Jane, did you become a professional artist?"

"I did, and am," Jane replied. "I still paint, and have had a few exhibitions at good galleries, but I make a living more as a commercial artist. Jake and Quinn sent a few commissions my way, and I currently work as a freelance for Quinn and a few ad agencies." She looked at Daria. "I dare you."

Daria sighed and looked at Jodie. "Will you keep it a secret?"

Confused, but drawing on her memories of Daria in High School, Jodie merely said. "I will."

"So, are you a fan of Marie D. Morgan?" Jane asked with a smirk.

Jodie felt her face go warm. "You're. . . ."

Daria merely nodded. "If you ever ordered one of the autographed copies, you can compare the writing."

"I never ordered one of those . . . but I have nine all of the novels." Over the previous twelve years, Marie D. Morgan had been the hottest (in every sense) writer of soft core women's fiction. Only '50 Shades of Grey' had outsold any one of her novels, but any two of the Morgan novels would beat it in sales.

“Is Marie your middle name?” Jodie asked. If so, the ‘D. Morgan’ would make perfect sense.

“Actually, it’s Quinn’s,” Daria replied. “Mine is Louise, and Jane argued that it wasn’t sexy enough.”

"I think you should go first after all," Jane teased. Jodie, still shocked, merely nodded.

Daria sighed. "You remember I went to Raft. I earned a degree in physical anthropology with a minor in creative writing. By testing out of most of the gen ed courses and going to summer school, I graduated in two and a half years, which is just after we lost touch with each other. I went on to med school full time, and managed to earn my degrees in physical anthropology and an on-line MFA in creative writing as well. And score one for Ms Li's career testing, I am a forensic pathologist, associated with the FBI and Homeland Security in fact. The novels keep me sane, or at least as sane as I ever was. Now, personal stuff later. How about you? What do you do?"

"I managed to stay at Turner for my business degree, but only by my agreeing to go for my MBA at Crestmore. And yes, I quickly clawed my way into being a Wall Street broker for just over a year, and somehow made an obscene amount of money. I got out just in time, saving my soul as well as the money. I've been living in part off the interest from the capital I accumulated while working for a reasonable if much, MUCH, smaller salary for BET, the BET Honors."

Their lunches arrived, and they paid attention to salads. After a few bites, Daria said, "Quinn was right; it's good, but I wish it was pizza."

"Damn adult metabolisms," Jane put in.

"So, romantic soft core and dead bodies?" Jodie asked. "Quite the combo. And multiple degrees?"

"You know I always claimed she's a twisted little cruller, not to mention a bright one."

Daria smiled slightly as she chewed. After she swallowed, she merely asked, "Since you said you have all the books, and thank you for that by the way, that means you have 'Parisian Dreams and Nightmares' and the sequel."

"I do . . . oh!" This book, about a pair of bi-sexuals (a male and a female) who found love as they competed with each other in the Paris and (in the sequel, Berlin) art scenes in the early 1920s, was illustrated with 'drawings' of the pair's artwork. "You?"

"All mine," Jane agreed. "Well, the actual drawings. I thought of the subjects for Maurice's works, while Daria did the first drafts of Maria's and then I redid them as surrealist works." Maurice's work was cubist.

"She also designed the covers for the last six hard covers, and all the US paperbacks. Meanwhile, I won't use the word 'enjoy' for my day job, but it's usually interesting, and often fascinating. I do good work, and helpful work, even if few people outside the job ever see the results."

"You don't have to testify in court or anything?"

"Oh, yes, but not as often as you might think. Degrees in medicine and physical anthropology, really forensics for both, can have a lot of overlap, both in getting the degrees and in the work. Other than some consulting, I deal mainly with skeletons and, let's say, older bodies found on Federal land. . . ."

"Oh, Daria, just say you work for the FBI, although not as an agent. It's not a secret."

“I already told her that,” Daria reminded her friend. “I’m not part of the FBI’s main forensic unit. We’re connected to the FBI more for access to labs and other testing technology. It was going to be a stand-alone unit under Homeland Security, but someone correctly decided that it would cost way too much to make it a fully independent unit so it’s part of both. As for testifying, compared to Mom grilling me when I lived at home, I haven't met a defense attorney that even comes close."

"Are your parents still here in Lawndale?"

Daria nodded. "Dad turned over the business to Quinn two years ago. Mom retired last month. Since I only live an hour away and of course Quinn lives here, they won't move to Florida."

"Grandkids, I take it?"

"I married a fellow physician when we were interns together. We had a daughter, Joy, in 2011 and what I thought was a good marriage. Less than a year later, he came out of the closet. . . ."

"Literally," Jane snarled.

Daria flushed. "He was having an affair with a married colleague of his, and they got caught in a supply closet at the hospital. We divorced, because he cheated and wanted to stay out and have an ‘open relationship’, meaning that he could screw his boyfriend or even casual pickups and I could watch or join in, neither of which I wanted to do. It wasn’t because I was upset he's bi-sexual. Actually, the two of them married three weeks ago. Quinn has a boy and girl."

"That's still better than my idiot," Jane pointed out. "Ever hear of the Darwin Awards?" Jodie nodded. "I'm surprised he didn't win one, if they're still being given out."

"He didn't make their website," Daria pointed out. "Perhaps because he had already reproduced."

Jane shrugged. "Toby. . . ."

"Toby?"

"Tobias, named after numerous ancestors. TJ, my son, is unfortunately named Tobias Junior. Anyway, he was a marvelous painter. He could have been great if he didn't have an addiction problem. When we met at BFAC, he was only hooked on art, like I was. Unfortunately, once he started making money, he seemed to get hooked on almost everything. Daria got him into good de-tox programs three times in three years, but he still relapsed each time after a few months. In 2009, he was in New York and partying with some friends. Unfortunately, they were on the twentieth floor of an apartment building – with a balcony. He was high on something. . . ."

"Meth," Daria muttered.

". . . . and decided to show off his dancing skills on the very thin rail of the balcony. I think that says it all."

Jodie decided that it did indeed.

"Daria was in New York, just starting her pathology fellowship – if you didn't notice, she finished all her programs at least a year earlier than normal. Her hubby came from the same kind of family money as her mother, and so Daria was able to help us out a little. When Quinn made it big, I came back here. Her then-not-yet-out-of the-closet-soon-to-be-ex wanted to come back and work in Richmond, so Daria followed him here like a good wife." Daria glared at her friend. "When they split up, we set up house together."

Jodie looked at the pair. "Not like that," Daria stated. "Okay, not totally like that."

"We share the master bedroom, but the other benefits aren't usually included, or at least not as often as I’d like."

Daria blushed. "We're still thinking about that."

"I look after TJ, who's seven by the way, and Joy and do my art. Daria does her work, provides most of the income because of the novels, and does some volunteer work as well as her day job."

"Really? What kind?"

"Unless I'm out of town, one Saturday a month I work at a free medical clinic, looking after the middle school kids – Andrea is a social worker near Washington, and she got me involved just before I joined the FBI. I love my daughter, and TJ and my niece and nephew, but I'm still not crazy about younger kids in general, and so I try to help pre-teens deal with medical issues before they hit the additional problems of their teen years. It also helps keep me in contact with medicine for the living." Seeing Jodie's look, Daria pointed out, "My specialty might be dead people, but I like treating the living as well. With the dead, I’m in a sense trying to solve their last problem and perhaps giving their family and friends closure. With the living, I’m trying to give them better options."

Jodie merely nodded.

"How about you?" Jane asked. "If you had married Mack, I'm sure even we would have heard about it."

"Mack and I stayed together until the end of our first year of grad school. We're still friends. I married a guy who works as a programmer for HBO, and we have a three year old boy, John, who we call Jackie." She smiled. "I'm sure you guys could come to the buffet meet-and-greet tonight and hear everyone else’s stories."

"Do you know what Brittany has been up to since her photo was in Playboy?" Daria asked. The college she had attended had had a ‘Girls of’ Playboy photo collage in 2002, and Brittany had had her one photo of fame that Daria and Jane knew about.

Jodie nodded as sipped her Finger Lake Riesling.

"Except for you, her, and Mack there's no one else in our class I would care hearing about, since I’m still in contact with Andrea. The only other people I would have even the slightest curiosity about would be some of the ones who hung around Quinn, and since she runs the 2001 Alumni Club with an iron hand, I've already heard more about them than I would want to."

"You'll have to fill me in on Kevin and the others in a minute. How about Upchuck? He was at the first reunion, but not the last one. I just wonder if he's still a sleeze."

Daria and Jane exchanged looks and Daria stood. "Go ahead and fill her in about Chuckles and Sandi. You know I shouldn't be here when you do."

Daria left the table and Jane poured herself and Jodie the last of the wine.

"This doesn't sound good."

"It isn't. Do you really want to know why Upchuck won't make this reunion but might make the next one?"

"Daria knows because of the FBI?"

Jane nodded.

"And Sandi Griffin was involved?"

"Not directly with Upchuck, but yes."

Jodie took a sip and simply said, "Go ahead."

“Neither of us knew anything about any of this while it was happening. Daria searched out a lot of the information on-line last year,” Jane started off. “That at least she could share with me.” Jodie nodded; Daria wouldn’t let much if anything slip that she shouldn’t.

“Upchuck finished his degree in computer science, and got a job in part as a web designer and in part as a photographer for a group that, well, they were supposed to be finding teen and pre-teen models, exposing them – in lots of ways – mostly via underwear and swimwear photo shoots. But while they did a lot of that, making a good profit just on those kids alone, they were mostly doing cheese cake shots that sailed very close to soft-core kiddie porn. There are a number of companies that range to ones like this one to more genuine modeling agencies. This was about the worst, because some models were recruited into actual softcore, and even hard core, porn.”

“That’s awful!”

Jane merely nodded her agreement before going on. “Upchuck was nailed when the ring was busted, and the state police that busted him – this was out in Oregon, or maybe Washington – saw he did other computer work. That brought in the Feds who broke the ring nationwide. So, Upchuck was arrested, tried, and convicted in late 2008, maybe early 2009. He’ll likely get out around 2018.” Jane winced. “He was beaten pretty badly in the maximum security Federal penitentiary he was sent to, someplace in California. Beaten to the point that he almost didn’t recover the ability to walk. His father, who apparently hadn’t helped him with his trial, used his influence to get him moved to a minimum security place and paid for his physical rehab.”

“Well, I’m sorry to hear he was beaten that severely. . . .”

“Daria and I pretty much agree. And with his injuries, I guess minimum security time is tough enough.”

“True. How did all that involve Sandi?”

“It turns out that the teen/pre-teen modeling agency was one of the more legit concerns the owner had.” Jane frowned. “I forget the guy’s name, something Russian I think. Anyway, there were a number of other modeling agencies and escort services that were more outright prostitution services – while only a few of the girls were recruited into hardcore as pre-teens or at least under aged, a lot were recruited into hardcore or prostitution once they hit eighteen – and a lot of money laundering was involved as well. Sandi ran the most high-profile of the escort services, and was likely this guy’s mistress. Sandi was arrested in DC just before Upchuck was sentenced, and she got out on bail. When they found there was a stronger connection with the owner, the FBI went to re-arrest her, or maybe just bring her in for a lot more questioning, I forget which. But, she had disappeared in the five days between the time she got out and the time they went to bring her back in. When the owner was finally tracked down a few weeks later in Brighton Beach, all they found was his body and two of his body guards’ as well, all shot once in the back of the head.”

The two paused as the waiter brought in a split of wine, this one a chilled Ontario ice wine. “Doctor Reese said to open this and let in breathe for ten minutes, and then she would be back. I’ll bring in cheese plates when she returns.”

After thanking their waiter, he left and Jane continued the story. “Daria’s unit deals with dead bodies found on Federal lands east of the Mississippi, generally ones that aren’t connected to other cases or else they’re on some other agency’s land who doesn’t have the resources or preference to use someone else. Sometimes, for current cases or ones further west, local MEs are used. For skeletons and near-skeletons, it used to be nearly all consultants, and it usually still is out west, unless Daria’s unit is call out. Daria’s group is a small one – eleven MEs, two physical anthropologists, and her, who does both.”

Jodie again nodded her understanding. “Last spring, a body was found on a barrier island.” Jane frowned. “I don’t remember where it was; off the East Coast, not the Gulf, I do remember that. Daria got the call, and she quickly identified as possibly being Sandi’s before removing herself from the case. Dental records and a DNA match confirmed it.”

“How did she do it without either of those?”

Jane made a face. “Are you sure you want to know?”

“I suppose.”

“Daria has been interested in skulls since elementary school. She made a hobby of estimating what everyone’s skull looks like. She does an excellent job now with the reverse; that is recreating faces over skulls for identification purposes. She saw a skull that looked familiar to her, and a glance saw it was a woman of about the right age, height, and build who had broken her leg where Sandi’s was back in high school.”

Jodie looked longingly at the ice wine.

“Daria will be back in a minute. So, while I don’t know the details, I do know she had been killed sometime the previous fall.”

That surprised Jodie. “So. . . .”

“So she was alive for over four years after she went missing. I also know that those four years were hard on her, and her death wasn’t easy, but again, I don’t know the details and wouldn’t want to. I just know they bothered Daria enough to give her bad dreams.” Jane wrinkled her nose. “Despite everything she’s seen, this is the one case that’s done that to her, probably because she knew Sandi, even if she didn’t like her.”

Daria bustled in at that moment. “You guys done?”

Jodie and Jane nodded.

“Can we talk about something more pleasant?” she asked as the waiter brought in the cheese plates.

“Anything interesting to add about the other two fashion club members, or Quinn’s old fan club? Or at least Kevin?”

“Tiffany was a professional model for two years, but died of complications from anorexia,” Jane told her. “Jamie moved from a patrol officer to some sort a detective over in Baltimore a little more than two years ago.”

“Really? Mack went on to get his degrees in social work and he works in Baltimore,” Jodie told them.

“I’ll give you Quinn’s email as well as Daria’s and mine,” Jane replied. She pulled out a business card and wrote on the back while saying, “Get his email from her and you can see if he and Mack have anything they want to get together on. Daria or I can send you Andrea’s, in case she’s not at the reunion.” She exchanged the card for one of Jodie’s. Jodie saw that Jane was still using her old name. She wondered if she hadn’t changed when she married or had changed it back.

“Joey was in Iraq,” Daria told her. “He survived, but I doubt he’ll ever get out of some sort of institution. And you really don’t know about Jeffy and Stacy?”

“I don’t think so.”

“They both went to Lawndale State. Stacy worked for her father custom race car firm, and even raced for two years. Jeffy was drafted pretty late, but still played in the NFL. . . .”

“For five different teams in just two years,” Daria snarked.

“He still played,” Jane retorted. “He married Stacy the summer after they graduated.”

“And they’ve been popping kids out like crazy ever since.”

“Five in ten years is often these days, but. . . .”

“Six. She’s due again in three months.”

“Just because we’re happy just reproducing once doesn’t mean others who can afford them should limit themselves, and even you said they were doing a good job with their kids after the last time we saw them,” Jane said with a shrug. “As for Kevin, he graduated with Quinn’s class and went to work for his father. Do you remember Brooke?”

Jodie tried to remember.

“Quinn’s class. Our sophomore year she had the failed nose job,” Daria prompted.

“Right! I remember her now.”

“She went to a community college and then got a job in Mister Thompson’s office. She and Kevin got married in 2004. Mister Thompson died of a heart attack, what? Two years ago?”

“About then,” Daria agreed.

“Brooke runs the company, and very well according to Quinn. Kevin owns it in theory, but he’s actually just a day laborer.”

“I’ll be sure to tell Mack!”

“They have two kids, one each,” Jane told her.

“According to Quinn, both take after Brooke in the brains department more than they do Kevin, but she also told us he’s a pretty good father,” Daria allowed.

“I’m still surprised he hasn’t tried to pass one of the kids at some point,” Jane snarked.

“If so, Brooke must have caught the kid without dropping it,” Daria reminder her friend.

“Daria keeps an eye on possible abuse here in Lawndale.” Jodie wondered if Jane was teasing.

She wasn’t. “I do,” Daria admitted, “along with our area. I saw what emotional abuse did to Dad, and physical abuse and neglect did to some of the kids back in Highland. If I can help out, I will.” Seeing Jodie’s look, Daria stated, “Yes, I admit it. I care. Life will always be screwed up and difficult. There’s no reason to allow children to suffer; life will treat them badly enough without that handicapping them from the start.”

“If you weren’t already settled into two careers and a major community service, I’d try to recruit you into a charity group; they could use some caring physicians and other health care people.”

“I’m too busy as it is,” Daria simply stated.

“Changing the subject, isn’t BET headquartered over in Washington? Why are you in New York?”

“Headquarters, yes; all the work, no. David still works for HBO there, and a lot of my work is in New York as well.”

“Are your parents retired yet?”

“Not yet, but they are trying, even if they’re both under sixty-five. Mom will retire next summer, when Evan goes off to college. Dad is trying to sell, but he doesn’t want to just sell the product line, he wants someone who will not only buy out the product line and factory, but keep the factory here going instead of shipping the work out of the country.”

“I hope he finds someone,” Daria told her, impressed at Mister Landon’s putting social commitment over profit.

“So, tell me about you two,” Jodie asked with only a little bit of teasing in her tone. “I won’t tell anyone, not even my husband or Mack.”

“Tell us about Brittany first,” Daria said, hoping to put off that question as long as possible.

“She acted in a few movies, mostly for HBO in fact. She introduced me to David. She usually played the equivalent of ‘the topless girl’, even if she usually had a few lines. She married David’s best friend, Larry. Larry’s a real Hawaiian – part European, part Chinese, part Filipino, part Black. They have two of the prettiest little girls I’ve ever seen. Now spill!”

Daria sighed while Jane smirked and said, “We moved in together the summer after our first year in Boston and stayed together for four years. I was having a great time at BFAC, but I was, well, not lonely, but in great need of companionship, so I seduced Daria that fall.”

“I could qualify all that slightly, but I won’t because Jane likes to think of herself in these terms,” Daria, although very embarrassed about talking to anyone about their intimate lives, teased back. She knew there would be no stopping Jane.

“We were both totally inexperienced with even the idea of being with another woman, but Daria is a diligent and thorough researcher. However, we both liked guys and while we loved and still love each other, we weren’t really in love back then. After the second year and a half or so, we were more cuddle partners than active lovers. While I had met the addict while we were at BFAC as undergrads, we didn’t click until I was back doing my MFA. . . .”

“You didn’t mention that!”

Jane shrugged. “Just another degree. Anyway, we clicked, and Daria met closet boy at the same time. We agreed to try dating, but I got pregnant almost right away. I was certainly going to keep the kid, but wasn’t sure about marrying. Toby talked me into that, which was a mistake in many ways. Once we started dating the idiots, we never went beyond cuddling. When Daria moved down here, they bought a large house with a two bedroom apartment over the garage. TJ and I moved in, and when he came out of the closet and left the house, we moved into the house as well. I think we’re both afraid the same thing will happen as happened last time, and Daria is probably afraid I’m more likely to want a man than her, even though I keep telling her I’ve had enough dick as well as enough dicks in my life and I only want her because I really am in love with her. So, where, if anywhere, we go from where we are is up in the air.”

Jodie saw that Daria was grasping the wine glass hard and blushing. She knew she had to change the subject. “Well, I hope you both resolve things. Why are you here in Lawndale on a Friday?”

“I usually work nine to five,” Daria answered, although still terribly embarrassed by the previous subject. “I haven’t been the ME on a new crime scene since well before I joined the FBI. Still, sometimes we do have to travel to sites, and I was working two weekends ago. Today was something of a makeup day for me. We were just visiting Quinn. Mom is looking after Joy, and Dad and TJ are at an amusement park of some sort.”

“Not Trent, or isn’t he still around?”

Jane answered that one. “He’s still at the old homestead. The band broke up about ten years ago. He tried a solo career, but that paid even less. He works at a music store, selling guitars and amps. He still does gigs on the weekends, and writes and records some jingles, mostly through Quinn. Fortunately, he can work the evening shifts Monday through Thursday, and do his gigs Friday and Saturday. I won’t say he’s happy, but on the whole, he’s not too displeased with his life, and he’s making slightly better music as a solo act than he did with the band.” Neither she nor Daria were about to admit that they had purchased the Lane house before it could be condemned by the city and paid to have it fixed it up and maintained to the city’s new standards. They were fairly sure that Trent and Vincent fully understood what they had done, but doubted the other Lanes had a clue. Of course, other than Amanda and Vincent, no Lanes had been in contact with Trent or Jane in many years.

Further discussion was halted when Daria’s phone went off; this particular ring tone was the first four notes of the old ‘Dragnet’ theme.

“Aw, poop,” Jane complained as Daria answered it and got from the table. She turned away, more so that Jane and Jodie could whisper while she talked. “That’s her ring tone for the various FBI phones.”

“Yes, Doctor Latimore?”

“Daria’s supervisor,” Jane whispered.

“Really? Where? . . . . Well, why us instead of the D.O.D.? The Army has more than enough people. . . . Okay, the Air Force then. . . . I see. When? . . . . No, I couldn’t. . . . Because I am over in Lawndale for my High School reunion,” she turned and winked at Jane and Jodie, “and Jane and an old friend of ours are polishing off a second bottle of wine.” All three knew that the Riesling hand only had 10.5 alcohol, that the Ice Wine even less, and that Daria had had the least amount of the wine, but obviously Daria didn’t want to have to leave that day for an assignment.

“Why did I get chosen for this assignment? No one else was particularly busy yesterday. . . . Really? Well, I guess we can’t really say no to that. . . .” there was a much longer pause. “What? That’s reaching, isn’t it? . . . I suppose so; you’ll have Janice add that to the briefing, I take it?. . . . Really? I can see why it could be important then. I take it that will be added. . . . Yes, this means I won’t put up a fuss. After all, I’m not Doctor Jones. . . . Really? You would? Thank you, I’ll let you know when I get back. . . . Really? They are in a hurry. . . . Yes, they’ll have to take me home first. I can pack in less than an hour once I get there, and I can make a late flight. . . . You’re kidding! . . . . No, you’re right, you kid even less than I do. When would I get picked up?” She then gave her supervisor the address of Quinn’s building and closed the connection.

“Off again, I take it,” Jane said in a disappointed voice.

“I’m afraid so. Some pot hunters pretending to be cavers found eight bodies behind a cave-in on what is now an air force base in New Mexico. However, the only easy way for them to get to the cave was a road through a reservation, which still claims the territory even if the Air Force administers it, and there’s some Department of Interior land involved as well. It also looks like at least some of the bodies are Native Americans, and many of the tribal governments aren’t always welcoming to physical anthropologists. The law enforcement groups that caught them were from both the Air Force and at least one and possibly more of the different reservation police in a joint operation, and there is a bit of a dispute about jurisdiction, since the pot hunters were of course hunting Indian relics and trespassed various reservation, Federal, and Air Force territories. I don’t know if they both wanted jurisdiction or if they both wanted to stick the other with the case. In any event, someone in one of the Tribal governments knows of my work, and they both agreed I could be a neutral party between them.” Daria shrugged.

“Any work in particular?” Jodie asked.

“Just before I was hired by the FBI, I did some work for the Smithsonian, repatriating Indian skeletons from their collections. Also, one of the first jobs I did for the FBI was in the Navajo nation. The Air Force is sending a car over from Washington, and they’ll take me home to get packed, and then take me to Andrews to get an Air Force flight to New Mexico.”

“A flight, as in a flight just for you?”

“I guess so; they want this done right and started quickly. For reasons I can’t go into right now, they have to keep the cave secured and the sooner I can clear this the sooner they can stop camping out. It seems that the Air Force security is into camping even less than I am.”

“Well, I’m glad Latimore sounded like he finally appreciates you. . . .”

“He doesn’t think too highly of anyone other than himself, but as much grief as he’s given me, he’s been harder on everyone else. I choose to take that as being as close as he can get verbally to a compliment.”

“Verbally?” Jodie asked.

“Jane knows full well that he was somewhat more complimentary on both of my yearly evaluations.”

“Somewhat?”

“Jane!” Daria warned.

“What was it he said in the last one? That you are the best member of the team?”

“Well, the way he phrased it, he was saying more like I’m the least worst. He basically thinks everyone under fifty is at best barely competent, and the same is true of the older people in our line of work. You know, that almost makes me want not to tell you the rest.”

“Which is?”

Daria turned to Jodie. “Should I?”

“Sure, you know she’ll just bother you when you get back if you don’t.”

“When I get back, I can have any two weeks off between September twelfth and November fifteenth. He even said the first week would be a priority recall only.” She turned to Jodie. “That would mean I couldn’t be called in short of a 9/11 type incident or outbreak of some plague.”

“Wow, that’s impressive for him. Even almost sensitive.”

Daria thought hard for a moment, and came to a decision she had been putting off for too long. “So, considering what you just told Jodie here, would you like to get married? We’ll have a long undisturbed week for a honeymoon.”

Jane had such a stunned look on her face, Jodie almost giggled.

Finally, Jane managed, “You mean it?”

Daria rolled her eyes. She had been moving in this direction for months, but Jane’s public declaration of love had finally pushed her over the edge.

“She means it,” Jodie stated.

“We don’t have time today, but unless you want to wear our old engagement and wedding rings. . . .”

“I sold mine,” Jane stated firmly. She knew Daria often wore her wedding ring so she wouldn’t be hit on.

“Fine. We can look for engagement and new wedding rings when I get back.” Daria sat down. “We have time. Let’s finish the wine and cheese, then we can walk back to Quinn’s office. I’ll tell her and call Mom. You can decide if you want to stay in town with Joy and TJ like we planned, or drive back with them tonight or tomorrow morning.”

Jane poured out the last of the wine. “If I try to pry Joy out of your Mother’s house before Sunday, there’ll be hell to pay. TJ and I will probably stay at Casa Lane.”

Daria nodded. “Until we finalize the plans, could you not mention this?” she asked Jodie.

Jodie nodded. “No engagement, no novels published. Everything else is fair game?”

Daria shrugged, while Jane agreed.

Jodie raised her glass. “Congratulations.”

Daria and Jane clinked their glasses to Jodie’s. After taking a sip, Jane leaned over and kissed Daria on the cheek. “Just after we met, I thought you might marry a Lane, but I didn’t think it would be me.”

Daria pretended to glare at her partner, and just said, “You know, I still have that old brides maid dress. I can marry you while you’re wearing it and then bury you in it.”

“Just remember, I’ll be with you for eternity,” Jane retorted. “I may have to wear it, but you’ll have to look at it.”

“Huh, after nearly twenty years she finally came up with a good comeback for that one.” Daria reached across the table and took Jane’s hand in hers. “For eternity it is.”
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