More Precious Than Gold

by Mark and Karen Eidemiller

Chapter Twenty-One

It can be so cool being part of history in the making. And, on that significant day, I would be one of the few who could say 'I was there.'

The location was the familiar terrace at the top of Caroline Island. Dot and I were there, as was a slightly disguised Clark. And so were half a dozen media camera crews, all here to record this event. They had been waiting for a little while.

I glanced down at the black armband worn just above my left elbow, then looked up as I heard a sound, followed by a dozen voices talking in reaction. The door to the master bedroom had opened, and Carrie stepped out. She gave us a subtle nod, then moved aside. The instant Pat stepped into the sunlight, the cameras started clicking like a Geiger counter reacting to a chunk of uranium.

She was clothed in a simple dress befitting the mild weather. The media people caught every movement on film and video as she moved with exquisite grace from the door to the small dais with the row of microphones. Slowly turning her head to view the viewers, she caught our eyes and -- with a smile -- lowered her head to acknowledge us. She raised a less-than-smooth hand to her hair, brushing aside the bronze hair -- now streaked with silver -- from her lined face. There was a peace on her face that could only originate from one place, as she faced the world.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for being here today.

"Two months ago, my daughter Penelope was abducted by members of the terrorist group Apex -- in conjunction with a member of my own staff -- and was held for ransom.

"A special paramilitary operations team, at great personal risk, penetrated their stronghold in an attempt to rescue her.

"They failed.

"The terrorists detonated an explosive device which killed most of their group, several of the operations team -- and my daughter." There were assorted gasps and murmurs from the crowd. She paused several seconds, then continued. "Over the last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking. As a result, I wish to announce some major changes.

"Due to my encounter with Apex, I've 'reconsidered' my position on Patricia, Inc. as a cosmetics giant. Therefore, I will be dissolving the company shortly. I wish to assure my loyal workers all over the world, I have not forgotten you, and I guarantee a satisfactory outcome all around.

"I am an old woman, although I may appear to be younger than I seem. Through the years I have been receiving special herbal treatments which have produced the woman you see before you. But I am well beyond my child-bearing years. I will no more be able to produce an heir to carry on the Savage name.

"Instead, I have decided to direct my attention outward, to the children of the world. I will be sponsoring foster homes, adoption agencies, child relief agencies, children' hospitals -- and I will even support those agencies who would choose life for the unborn. As a result, I'm afraid I'm going to make those who visit my island spa very disappointed, in that I will soon be undertaking a project to convert Caroline Island into a haven for children all over the world to live safe, and free.

"Soon, from this very terrace, you will hear the laughter of children. Happy children, no longer scourged by fear and hate, but who will know security, and hope ... and love.

"I have lost a daughter, but I have gained ... a family." A tear slid down a wrinkled cheek, as her voice cracked. "Thank you all."

She swiftly turned from the dais and through the doors of the master bedroom, with Carrie at her elbow, assisting.

Several people tried to rush in for more personal questions, but four brawny women with SECURITY tee-shirts kept them at bay. Grudgingly, the news crews finally broke down their stuff and were escorted to vehicles that would take them to the helipad.

I caught Bonnie Clayton's eye. Her hair shorter and swept back, and dressed in her white SECURITY CHIEF tee-shirt, she smiled at us, then assisted someone from CNN with their gear.

Clark and Dot had maneuvered through the security line and were heading for the 'wrap party' in the master bedroom. I quickly followed. As my eyes adjusted to the light change, I saw Pat hugging both Carrie and Clark. They were laughing with relief.

"I'm sure glad that's over," commented Pat.

"Amen," sighed Carrie. "Penelope is gone for good. And I'm definitely not going to miss her."

"If I recall, there wasn't much there to miss," Clark added with a grin. "I like Pat much better. And I think you settled at just the right age."

Someone else got Pat's attention. She excused herself and broke away.

I joined Clark and Carrie. "She looks good," I said. "But how is she REALLY doing?"

Carrie smiled proudly. "She's over the worst of it. The last three weeks at Dad's place was just what she needed to get her through withdrawal. And we've all gotten a bit closer through it." Her smile spontaneously burst into a wide grin. "What's amazing is how Pat and Mom are quickly becoming good friends. I can't believe how Mom stayed up all those nights while Pat literally kicked and screamed through withdrawal. I tell you, it made me really respect them both." She paused and stood a bit taller. "Y'know, I think I got a good mix, genetically and environmentally."

"I think you're absolutely right," replied Clark with a nod.

"Well, congratulations! I have to admit, you really pulled it off."

"Jill," she said, hugging the black woman. "I can honestly say that I could not have done it without you and the others."

"Thank you, Pat."

"Hey, I heard you got in with that Drake guy. How's that working out?"

She sighed with a smile. "I'm a scientist, Pat ... I'm not cut out to be a terrorist ... and I'm back doing what I do best. Plus it's such a relief not having to worry about who's coming up behind me." She paused, glancing to the left and right, leaning in closer. "And besides ... Mitch is a hunk, and he's single!"

They both exploded in laughter.

Several minutes later, Pat came alongside me and Dot.

"So what's the next move?" asked Dot.

"Well, now that the gold's restored, the sky's the limit. I'm confidant that many of my employees will want to be part of this new endeavor, especially if I offer them fully-paid schooling and reemployment assistance." She smiled at the thought. "I'd also like to get involved with the Institute. And I have a family to get to know, a daughter ... and a granddaughter."

Clark came alongside us as someone came in from the terrace.

Bonnie Clayton announced with pleasure that the media had left the island -- signifying that the coast was now clear. Then she sauntered over to Clark and smiled.

"Clarkie. I just wanted to say somethin'. Back there, in the Valley, you whipped my tail with some dynamite moves. And I like your style. So what d'ya say, tall, bronze and handsome,'bout you an' me goin' out on the town sometime? You like music?"

He nodded. "You like jazz?"

She grinned. "Honey, I was born in New Orleans -- we invented it."

He reached out a large hand. "Then it's a date."

She took his hand. As they stood face-to-face, of equal height, they actually looked normal. "I better get back to work, honey. Bein' Chief of Security is a big responsibility," she said proudly.

But before she left, she took Clark's head between her hands and planted a World-Class kiss on his mouth. Several seconds later they separated, and she said with a grin, "Later, sugah!"

As she sauntered out of the room, Pat suddenly exploded with laughter. "Better watch yourself ... Clarkie," she quipped. "This could spoil your amateur standing."

Clark blushed and gave Pat a nasty look and a sideways hug. "Welcome back, Pat."

Suddenly, the door from the hallway opened and a teenaged girl ran in. Her sandy brown hair was stylishly short, and her smooth, clear face was the picture of youth. She called Pat's name and rushed into her open arms. "We were watching it on tv, Pat! You were awesome!"

"Thanks," she replied sincerely. Then her tone took a serious, concerned tilt. "How about you? How are you feeling?"

"Like a million!" she squealed happily. "It works, it really, really works!"

With tears rolling down her face, and her voice cracking, she looked into the girl's eyes and said, "Everyone deserves a second chance, Jodie. I'm glad I could help."

"Me, too," she replied, also in tears. "Thanks, again! The girls are waitin' for me! I'll see you later ... Aunt Patty!"

Exchanging kisses on the cheeks and a final hug, they separated.

As Pat watched her go, she suddenly felt Clark's hands lightly squeeze her shoulders from behind. "You did good," he whispered.

"Yeah," she nodded, tears streaming down her smiling face. "She used to be the big sister to Jade, Pooh, and Lizzy," she reflected aloud. "Now she's their age ... again."




* TO MY LORD AND GOD JESUS CHRIST: without Him I would be nothing,
and this story would not be what He wanted.

* TO ALL OUR READERS, old and new: our thanks now and in advance.
We have touched your hearts, and you have touched ours.
You are the friends we have never seen, you are our Extended Family of Bronze.

* TO MY WIFE, MY KAREN, helpmeet, co-writer and proofreader, who never gave up on me.

Mark Eidemiller -- February 7, 2001

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