EVER WONDER WHAT might have happened in River Run, Ohio in the summer of 1947, had the Homefront series continued? This Homefront fanfiction story takes place about four months after the final episode (All Good Things) of the Homefront TV series. My story suggests one possible scenario that could have transpired between some of our favorite Homefront characters. Please keep an open mind while reading. After all, in a universe as big as ours, anything is possible.
DISCLAIMER: This fanfiction story, which is based on the Warner Brothers television series, Homefront, is offered here for amusement purposes only. All recognizable characters and locations featured in the afore-mentioned TV series Homefront are the property of Warner Brothers and its associates, heirs and assigns. All other character names in this work of fiction, as well as, some town or other location names, are mine. Any resemblance to any actual persons now living or deceased or, to any actual towns/locations, are purely coincidental and unintended. Rights to, or use of this fictional story is/are not offered here for sale to any business or corporate entity or, to any individual at any price. That takes care of the fine print. Now, on to the story!
"JUST FRIENDS ?"
Humbly submitted for the reader's approval: The opening scene of this story is the soda fountain inside Brandstaetter's Pharmacy, a popular venue with the denizens of River Run. It is August in the year 1947. Charlie Hailey and Linda Metcalf meet by chance on a hot and humid late-summer afternoon. Over the last twelve months, both Charlie and Linda have each, been unfortunate in matters of the heart. They meet, by chance at Brandstaetter's fountain counter, and strike up a casual conversation. But--will Charlie and Linda's impromptu meeting over a glass of cold and frosty Pepsi Cola eventually result in these two friends becoming more than just friends?
IT ALL BEGINS ON A HOT, sultry August afternoon in 1947. Charlie Hailey has just stepped into Brandstaetter's Pharmacy to make his usual mundane purchase of a small bottle of aspirin, along with a tin of Pepsodent tooth powder. The cool, dry rush of air that hits Charlie as he opens the door into the pharmacy is like a rejuvenating tonic. Mr. Brandstaetter has recently installed refrigeration air conditioning. This fact is proudly proclaimed on the freshly painted sign, which Mr. Brandstaetter placed conspicuously in one of the main front display windows. After paying for his purchases, Charlie heads toward the soda fountain, for which Brandstaetter's is justly famous. An ice-cold drink would really hit the spot right now, Charlie thinks to himself. The soda jerk places an ice-filled glass in front of Charlie, pops the cap from a bottle of Pepsi Cola, and pours some of the cold, fizzy beverage into Charlie's glass.
Above: Old advertising sign that could have hung over Brandstaeter's soda fountain
which also could have tempted Charlie Hailey to have a tall, cold, refreshing bottle of Pepsi.
"If you need anything else," says the soda jerk, "just holler." "Thanks, Cliff," replies Charlie. Charlie takes a long draft from the foaming glass of Pepsi. He instantly feels a wave of cool relief wash over him. As Charlie pours some more of the soda into his glass, Linda Metcalf is just completing her own routine purchase at the checkout counter. Just as she turns to leave, she spots Charlie at the fountain counter. Charlie is lost in thought, when Linda steps up to greet him.
"Hi, Charlie! Haven't seen you in awhile. How've you been?" A startled Charlie swivels around on his stool to return Linda's greeting. "Oh--Hi, Linda," is his lack-luster reply. "As for how I am," continues Charlie, "so-so, I guess." Charlie tries to make an effort at light conversation: "So--ah--how 'bout this miserable weather?" "Ah--Yeah," replies Linda in a stilted fashion. "I--ah--I know what you mean. I--I feel like I'm about to wilt." Linda notices Charlie's odd behavior, and it makes her uncomfortable. "Well, I--ah--I guess, I'd better be going." Suddenly, Charlie perks up. "No, wait. Don't go. I mean--unless you hafta be somewhere in a hurry--how 'bout joining me for a soda--my treat?"
Linda gives brief thought to Charlie's invitation. "Sure," answers a grinning Linda. "I'd like that--thanks, Charlie." "Hey, Cliff," calls Charlie to the soda jerk, "another Pepsi over here!" Charlie reaches into his pocket, produces a nickel and smacks it down on the counter. "So-ah-Linda, what's goin' on with you, these days?," "Oh," answers Linda with a nervous grin, "the usual, I suppose." "Still busy at the Courier?," asks Charlie. "Yeah," sighs Linda. "I guess so." Charlie gives Linda a critical glance. "Hmm--you don't sound happy about it. Somethin' wrong over there?" Linda pauses at Charlie's question, then gives another sigh. "Well--I probably shouldn't be telling you this, Charlie, but-well--it's Phil."
"Really?," replies Charlie in muted surprise. "So, what's wrong with Phil, if you don't mind my askin'?" "Well," begins Linda, "he's been more distant and preoccupied, lately. He keeps denying it--but things have changed between us." "That's a shame," says Charlie. "You two seemed to be the cat's pajamas together; I always thought you and Phil would be the next two to get married." Linda doesn't respond to Charlie's comment. After a few seconds of silence, she changes the subject of conversation.
"So--what about you, Charlie--how are Gina and Emma doing?" Charlie lowers his head, then looks at Linda. "Hmm--I wouldn't know." "Why not?," asks a surprised Linda. "You and Gina see each other every day, don't you?" "Not anymore," answers Charlie. Linda is dumbfounded by Charlie's answer. "Why--What happened? Did you two break up, or something?" "No," answers Charlie. "She just up and left me, Linda." "What do you mean?," queries Linda.
"Well--one day--about two weeks ago--when I came home from work--I found this note stickin' out from under my door. It was from Gina. She said she was movin' away from River Run for good. She didn't say where she was goin' or, why. She only said she loved me and would always remember me." Linda is incredulous. "What could've made Gina suddenly move away like that--without telling anyone? Do you think she was in some sort of trouble?" Charlie shrugs. "Beats the daylight outta me. All I know is that I've asked everyone I've run into about Gina--and nobody can tell me a thing, except they haven't seen her in awhile."
"Charlie--do you think the Sloans might have something to do with it? I mean, you know how they hated the very thought of you and Gina being together. They could've spirited her away to a secret location to separate the two of you." "Hah--that's rich," answers Charlie. "The Sloans are accusin' me of doin' the same thing. Anyway, Linda, I know Gina--if the Sloans tried anything like that, she'd never go without a fight." Linda begins to notice that their discussion is having an increasingly negative affect on Charlie. Like everyone else who knew Charlie and Gina, Linda is well aware of how close Charlie and Gina were to one another. Out of compassion, Linda reaches out to Charlie and lays her hand on his arm. "Charlie--I'm-I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say. I know how much Gina meant to you."
Charlie suddenly becomes distraught. "You know, Linda-I would've done anything-anything-for Gina. All she'd hafta do is say the word. I was even ready to become Jewish 'cuz it meant so much to her to marry a man who's Jewish. If she'd asked me to walk, barefoot on burning coals and broken glass, I'd have done that, too-without a second thought! If she was in some sorta trouble, she could've told me, and I would've helped her somehow."
"I know, Charlie," replies a sympathetic Linda. "No one I know would've made a more devoted husband. Charlie--I--know this won't be much consolation. But--maybe you and Gina just weren't meant to be." Charlie answers Linda in strident tones. "I can't believe that, Linda. When Gina and I were together--everything was so right between us. I--I just can't believe it's all water over the dam now." Charlie pauses for a moment. He sighs with resignation. "Ah--I dunno, Linda. Maybe--maybe you're right. I guess, I was an idiot to think Gina and I had a future." Linda looks at Charlie and answers him with compassion. "You weren't an idiot, Charlie. You just followed your heart, like anyone would've done."
Linda suddenly looks at her wristwatch. "I'm sorry, Charlie. I'd stay longer, but I've gotta get home. Ginger wants me to help her prepare supper tonight. She wants to make a meatloaf, now that meat rationing's finally over." "Really?," asks Charlie in surprise. "I haven't seen Ginger in awhile; how's she doin'?" "She's fine," answers Linda. "Jeff will be coming home as soon as the baseball season's over. So she wants to learn to cook a few things before he comes home. Well--I'll see ya later, Charlie." Charlie rushes out a last sentence. "Hey--tell Ginger to save a slice of that meatloaf with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy for me!" Linda chuckles. "Sure, Charlie; see ya later."
As Linda turns to leave, a thought suddenly rushes into Charlie's head. "Linda, wait. I just remembered--there's somethin' I've been wantin' to tell ya." "Alright, Charlie; if you can make it quick." "Well," continues Charlie, "the Union Journal's lookin' for an assistant editor. And-well-I talked to Harvey Van Morgen, the Chief editor, about you. I told him you'd be perfect for the job. He really wants to see you." Linda replies with a mixture of modesty and trepidation. "Oh--I don't know, Charlie. Besides--I've got a good job with the Courier." Charlie counters with enthusiasm. "C'mon, Linda! I've read the stuff you've written for the Courier. You'd be perfect for the Union Journal! "
"Really, Charlie--I--I don't think so. In any event, if the Courier found out I was looking for another job, they might fire me." Charlie counters with an enthusiastic reply. "The Courier doesn't have to know about it. Besides, the Journal job pays $167.00 a month, with full health and pension benefits." Charlie's last sentence grabs Linda's attention. "Really?"
"Yeah, really," answers Charlie with a large smile and a nod. "Listen, I know you gotta go. But--could we meet at the Stream Liner Diner tomorrow night at, say, eight o'clock? Then I could tell you more about the job-what do ya say?" Linda, wary of such a proposal, answers with caution. "Ah--no, Charlie; I think that's a bad idea." "Why?," asks Charlie. "Well," continues Linda, "for one thing, it' be bad for my reputation, and yours, for us to be seen together. Have you forgotten how Caroline-your ex-wife--mind you--was spreading all those vicious lies that you and I were having an affair. If people see us together now, they might think Caroline was right."
"Aw, c'mon, Linda. That's all over now. Besides, Caroline's gone-good riddance. Anyway, we can show up in separate cars, so it won't be a date-just two old friends gettin' together. And, by tomorrow night, I'll have more info on that job for you." Linda gives a moment's thought, then gives a sigh. "Well--alright, Charlie. I'll meet you at the Streamliner tomorrow night at eight. But Charlie-we've gotta be discreet." "Don't worry 'bout a thing," replies Charlie, "it'll be alright." "Well," says Linda, "thanks for the Pepsi; I'd better get going." "Sure thing," replies Charlie with a grin. "See ya tomorrow night."
LATER in the day--in the kitchen of the Metcalf home. . .
Ginger gapes incredulously at Linda. "You--mean--to tell me---you're going on a date--with Charlie Hailey??" Linda sighs in frustration. "Ginger-it's not a date." Ginger answers with prickly sarcasm. "Ah-let's see-the man says he'll pick you up at a certain time to go to a certain place on a certain evening--for supper. In my book, Linda, that's a date." Linda becomes exasperated with Ginger's stubbornness. "Why are you so worked up over this, Ginger? Charlie's only meeting me to discuss a job opening with the Union Journal."
"Oh," says Ginger, "is that the line he fed you? I wonder what opening line he used when he picked up Caroline, that slimy Limey." "Listen, Ginger--first, Charlie wasn't feeding me a line. I know all about the Union Journal from the time I worked with Charlie during the Sloan Industries strike. And, second, I have absolutely no romantic interest in Charlie Hailey, whatsoever." "Well," replies Ginger, "maybe you don't have a romantic interest in Charlie Hailey. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a romantic interest in you." "Ginger, you're jumping to wild conclusions. Besides, Charlie isn't even picking me up; we're each going in separate cars. And, I'm paying my own way."
With a petulant expression, Ginger folds her arms. "That doesn't make it any less a date. And, if he's making you drive yourself to the Stream Liner-and making you go dutch, it means he's not only a womanizer, he's also cheap and lazy." Linda replies with indignation. "Charlie isn't lazy. He's one of the hardest-working men I know. And, despite all his faults, Ginger, he's also one of the kindest and gentlest men I know." "Alright, fine," snaps an intransigent Ginger. "If you wanna go on a date with a two-timer, then go on a date with a two-timer."
"Alright, Ginger--I think I know what's going on here. You're still carrying a torch for Charlie, aren't you." "Hummf!," says Ginger. "That torch is not only out, it's dead and buried. Besides--I'm married to Jeff now--and he's a wonderful husband." "Well, then, Ginger--if that's so, why are you tossing a fit because I'm meeting Charlie tomorrow evening; why should you even care?" Ginger replies in a plaintive tone. "Because you're supposed to be my friend and sister-in-law, Linda."
"I am your friend, as well as, your sister-in-law, Ginger." Ginger replies in a pleading tone. "Then, please, Linda--don't date Charlie tomorrow night." Linda exhales loudly in frustration. "Again, Ginger, it's not a date. And, if you're truly my friend, you'll trust me and not meddle in my affairs." Linda turns and strides out of the kitchen, pushing through the swinging door. Ginger can only stand and watch as the kitchen door slowly swings to a stop.
ON the following evening, Linda pulls into the parking lot of the Stream Liner Diner. The time is shortly before eight o'clock. The sky is fading to a deep purple as the setting sun slowly sinks below the western horizon. Linda notices Charlie's old pickup truck at the other end of the lot. Linda appears unconcerned about the possible ramifications of being seen in public with Charlie Hailey. However, on this evening, as she gets out of her car, she is inwardly very concerned. Is it, indeed, a mistake for her to meet Charlie in this way? Is she, indeed, giving credence to the rumors, spread months earlier by Charlie's sociopathic ex-wife, Caroline?
Linda glances nervously about as she strides briskly through the Stream Liner's diminutive parking lot. Upon arriving at the diner's entrance, Linda pauses, as if mustering the courage to open the first set of double-doors to step inside. With trepidation, she steps into the half-empty Stream Liner Diner. Trying to appear nonchalant, Linda strolls past the main counter with its row of chrome-rimmed stools. Suddenly, she glimpses Charlie, sitting alone in a booth, sipping a glass of beer.
Trying again, not to be overly anxious or conspicuous, Linda approaches Charlie's booth. Charlie suddenly recognizes Linda and rises to his feet. A large grin spreads across his face. "Hi, Linda; glad you made it!" "Shhh," replies Linda as she glances anxiously past Charlie to see if anyone is watching. Charlie eyes Linda with concern. "What's wrong-what's the matter?" "Charlie, I still don't think it was a good idea, meeting like this." "Take it easy, Linda. Nothin's gonna happen. Here-have a seat." With that, Linda scoots into the booth as Charlie takes his seat across from her. "Besides," declares a defiant Charlie, "who cares what people think?"
"Charlie, It's not that simple. Maybe it is, for you. But I'm a single woman with a reputation to protect. As it was, I had a tough time convincing Ginger, last night, that you and I aren't on a date." Just as Linda finishes her sentence, a young gum-chewing waitress startles an already jittery Linda by dropping utensils in front of her with a loud clatter. "Woodjah both like tah awder now?" A rattled Linda looks up at the waitress, then gives her menu card a cursory glance. "Ahh--a burger-no cheese, and a Coke will be fine, thanks." Charlie orders something similar, along with a refill for his beer glass.
When the waitress departs with their orders, Charlie refocuses his attention on Linda. He then commences to explain to Linda in earnest, the details concerning the job opening with the Union Journal. Linda listens with keen interest. When Charlie finishes, Linda has questions. "Charlie-where is this job located?" "It's in the NLA Local 311 Offices in Cleveland-in the Dunsmore Building on the corner of 27th Street and Erie Avenue, 5th floor." Linda is not overly enthusiastic to learn that the job's location is in Cleveland. "Cleveland? I don't know, Charlie. Cleveland's awfully far. I was hoping you were gonna say either River Run or some place closer than Cleveland."
"So, what's the big deal, Linda? It's not really that far. You just park your car in the Central Station day lot, and catch the 7:35 train to Cleveland. Then you get off at the Cleveland station and walk three blocks to the Dunsmore Building; it's easy as pie! And you'd be there in plenty of time to start your shift." Linda pauses, for a moment, to think. "Well-since you put it that way, I guess, the commute wouldn't be too bad. Besides, the pay and benefits make it worth the trouble." "I'll say it does!," replies Charlie. "Old Man Sloan doesn't pay that good for any position. But, call Harvey Van Morgen as soon as you can; he's waitin' to hear from you."
"Thanks, Charlie. I'll call him first thing in the morning." Linda pauses, for a moment, then abruptly changes the subject of conversation. "Listen, Charlie--I've been thinking a lot about what you told me yesterday--about Gina suddenly disappearing. And--I've also been thinking--I might be able to find her." "Really?," replies a hopeful Charlie. "How so?" "Well," answers Linda, "since I've been doing investigative reporting for the Courier, I've made some well-placed friends in key positions. Some of them have access to certain kinds of records. Through them, I might get information that'll lead us to Gina's whereabouts. If she left River Run altogether, she had to have taken a train, plane or bus."
"Well, I can tell you one thing," replies Charlie. "Gina would never get on an airplane. She's been afraid of flying ever since Mike was killed when his transport crashed." "Well," replies Linda, "at least, that narrows my search." Charlie's spirits are lifted by Linda's hopeful proposition. "If you really think you can find Gina, that'd be great." "Now, Charlie, I can't make any promises. But I'll do my best." "Thanks, Linda. You're all aces." Linda then issues a strident warning. "But Charlie-keep this under wraps. Don't tell anyone I'm doing this for you. I've gotta conduct this search for Gina on the sly. If the Courier finds out what I'm doing, I could be fired; I'd never be able to work again as a journalist anywhere."
"Sure thing, Linda. My lips are like Fort Knox-locked up tight." Linda then lays her hands on Charlie's. "I'll do absolutely everything I can, Charlie, to find Gina-you have my word on it." For a fleeting moment, Charlie and Linda sit in silence, their hands still touching. In a split second, something passes between them as they look into each other's eyes. Linda suddenly draws her hands back, looks away, and clears her throat. "Well-ah-I should be getting back home," stammers Linda. "Yeah-ah-sure," replies Charlie. Linda then rises from her seat. Charlie does likewise. "As soon as learn anything, Charlie, I'll let you know." "Thanks, Linda. Good luck."
With that, Linda turns to leave. Charlie watches as Linda exits the diner. In a preoccupied manner, he reaches into his pocket, counts out sixty cents in change, and places it on the table. A minute later, he exits the Stream Liner, hopeful that Linda might pick up Gina's trail. But, deep inside--is he? What about that brief moment, when Linda's hands touched his? What about that look in her eyes? And, what about that feeling deep inside him, which he had never before felt for Linda? But--why, here? Why, now?
Next morning, Linda places a call to Harvey Van Morgen at NLA Local 311 Headquarters in Cleveland. However, Mr. Van Morgen's secretary informs Linda that Van Morgen is out of town for the next seven days on business. Though disappointed by this news, Linda views Mr. Van Morgen's absence as an opportunity to fulfill her promise to Charlie Hailey. Seven days, Linda reasons, ought to be ample time to uncover at least some information on Gina's whereabouts. Linda knows exactly where to begin her search. She has a friend, Betty Kingston, who works as Manager of Manifest Passenger Records at River Run Central Train Station. Linda has another contact, Ida Pangborn, who works at the Greyhound Bus Terminal. Ida occupies a similar position to Betty's at River Run Central Station. First, Linda decides to place a call to Betty at River Run Central Station. As a manager, Betty has unlimited access to passenger train manifests for every train that has ever arrived at, or departed the station.
Linda waits until Ginger leaves the house to run errands. After waiting a discreet minute or two, Linda eagerly snatches up the telephone and calls Betty Kingston's office. After two rings, Betty answers. "Hi, Betty-it's me, Linda Metcalf. ----- Yeah, it's been awhile. ----- Maybe we can get together for lunch sometime. --- Ah, Betty, listen-I need your help in a really big way. ---- Well, I'm trying to help a family friend track down somebody who suddenly disappeared." ----- "Yeah, Betty, it is serious." ----- "No, Betty; she didn't commit a crime. She just suddenly disappeared. We have reason to believe she may have left River Run by train. Betty, I'd be really grateful, if you could check for her name on your passenger manifests for every train that departed River Run Central over the last three weeks." ------ "Yes, her name is Gina Gianni; she speaks with a strong Italian accent. And she would've had a baby girl with her."
Betty promises to begin searching the passenger manifests at her earliest opportunity. But she also swears Linda to secrecy, as she will be conducting her search on the sly. "Sure, Betty, I understand," continues Linda. "I'm doing this on the QT myself; if the Courier should find out what I'm doing, I could lose my job." ----- "Thanks, again, Betty. I owe you lunch."
Linda hangs up the phone. She immediately picks up the receiver again, and dials the office of her other friend, Ida Pangborn, at the Greyhound Bus Terminal, which is located on the north end of town. Ida has the interesting pedigree of being a niece to the Hollywood character movie actor, Franklin Pangborn. Linda asks of Ida the same favor she just asked of Betty Kingston. With the same caveat as that issued Linda by Betty, Ida promises to search the Greyhound passenger lists at her earliest opportunity. She promises to call Linda in a couple of days to inform her of the results of her search.
Linda hangs up the receiver. She sits down on the sofa and reclines with a sigh. The wheels of the search for Gina have are now set in motion. For Linda, there is nothing more left to do, but wait. In her repose, Linda stares blankly at the ceiling. Her mind begins to wander back to that moment, yesterday evening in the Stream Liner Diner, when she touched Charlie's hands. Though Linda stubbornly denies it to herself, she felt something for Charlie in that fleeting moment--something she had never felt for him before. . .
The front door suddenly opens and in, steps Ginger. She is carrying a bag full of groceries from the local A&P Market. Startled out of her thoughts, Linda jumps in her seat. Ginger notices Linda as she closes the door. "Hi, Linda. There's another bag of groceries in the car; could you get it for me, please?" "Ah-sure, " answers Linda. Ginger notices Linda's somewhat dazed and rattled demeanor. "Linda, is something the matter?" "I'm fine, Ginger. I--I was just cat-napping on the sofa when you came in." Ginger seems satisfied with Linda's answer. Linda steps out to the car, collects the other bag of groceries, and carries them into the kitchen. Ginger is just putting away a new box of VEL detergent, when Linda steps into the kitchen. As the two women unpack and store the groceries, they engage in casual conversation. "So," begins Linda, "have you heard from Jeff, as to when he's coming home?"
"Oh, didn't I tell you? I got a letter from Jeff yesterday. He says he'll be home in about a week-and-a-half. I can't wait for us to finally be together again. It's been tough on us, being separated so long." "I know, Ginger. But, at least, he'll be home soon. I'm really happy for both of you." Linda reaches for the last item at the bottom of the grocery bag, a bulky, somewhat egg-shaped thing, wrapped in white butcher's paper. She reads the scrawled handwriting written in black grease-pencil. "A whole chicken, Ginger?" "Yeah, I wanna practice making a roast chicken supper, complete with mashed potatoes and gravy and all the trimmings, so I'll be able to prepare one for Jeff on the first Sunday after he comes home."
Linda grins at Ginger. "Jeff's pretty lucky to have a girl like you for a wife." Ginger glances back at Linda. "I'll say, he is." Linda pauses and thinks, for a moment. "Ah, Ginger--don't you think a roast chicken supper is a bit much for just the two of us? Maybe we oughtta invite a couple of friends to help us eat it." "Yeah," says Ginger, "I guess, you're right. Any--ahh--suggestions, as to which two friends to invite?" Linda gives Ginger's query some thought, then hesitantly offers a suggestion. "Well--how 'bout Charlie Hailey? I know he'd appreciate a good home-cooked chicken supper." Ginger responds apprehensively to Linda's suggestion. "Charlie Hailey? Why, Charlie Hailey?"
"Well," answers Linda somewhat timorously, "because--like I said, he'd really appreciate it. Besides, I doubt that he gets many home-cooked meals, these days. And, despite all your warnings, Ginger, Charlie was a perfect gentleman when we met at the Stream Liner. He didn't try any of the things you said he would." "Well," replies Ginger, "that's beside the point. Anyhow, Charlie Hailey's more of a friend to you, than he is to me."
Because of the short notice, friends who were on Ginger's "A-List" couldn't come. Eventually, Ginger grudgingly relents and allows Linda to invite Charlie to supper. As another last resort, Ginger even more grudgingly invites her cousin, Arnold--a bitter pill. After all, was it not at a certain wedding reception over a year ago that Arnold, masquerading as Ginger's date, confessed to Caroline that he was actually Ginger's cousin? On Sunday evening, Ginger's roast chicken supper is an unqualified success. The chicken and side-dishes were done to perfection. The only shadow over the entire evening is Ginger's strained, awkward demeanor toward Charlie and Arnold. And, all the while--there is Charlie Hailey--and Linda Metcalf. . .
MONDAY Morning heralds the beginning of a new workweek for Linda at the offices of the River Run Courier. As she routinely stows her handbag in the bottom drawer of her desk, a folded piece of paper on her typewriter suddenly catches her eye. Linda unfolds the paper and sees that it's a note from Phil Havel, her boss--and the man whom she has, until recently, dated on a regular basis. The note simply reads:
Please see me in my office when you come in.
Thanks. - Phil
Linda takes this note as a hopeful sign. Her heartbeat quickens. Perhaps Phil is going to ask her out. Full of anticipation, Linda hastens to Phil Havel's office, adjusts her clothing, and knocks at his door. "Come in," calls Phil from inside. With a light-hearted stride, Linda steps into Phil Havel's office. "Hello, Linda," says Phil in a business-like tone. "Thanks for answering my note." In the face of Phil's somewhat ambivalent demeanor, Linda gives an uncertain smile. "So-ah--you wanted to see me?" Phil answers in a preoccupied fashion, raising his head, but generally avoiding eye-contact with Linda. He begins to shuffle though some paperwork in an agitated fashion. "I was wondering how you're coming along on that Sloan Industries versus Lustron Corporation story." "It's-it's coming along fine," answers Linda with a nervous smile. "I should have it finished in a couple of days."
"Good," replies Phil. "I'd like to have it on my desk before noon on Friday so I can read it and get it proofed. I wanna feature your story in the Sunday Edition. That way, it'll reach more of our readership." Linda responds with an uneasy grin. "I'll have the story on your desk on Friday Morning." "Great-thanks," is Phil's terse reply. With that, Phil indifferently dismisses Linda and returns to the work on his desk. Rather than leaving, Linda remains standing in front of Phil's desk.
After an awkward moment of silence, Phil raises his head to see a serious-looking Linda, staring down at him. "Ah-was there something else, Linda?" Linda answers with a firmness, to which Phil is unaccustomed. "Yes, Phil-there is." "Well, then," replies Phil, "get on with it; I'm a busy man." Linda delivers her answer with a sigh of frustration. "It's about us, Phil." Phil frowns at Linda. "What do you mean, 'about us.'" This time, Linda delivers a strident answer. "It's about you and I, Phil. Until a month ago, we were dating on a regular basis. Since then, we haven't shared so much as a minute together by the water cooler. It seems like you've been deliberately avoiding me." Phil leans forward in his seat and replies in a subdued tone. "Linda--this isn't the time or the place--" Linda cuts Phil off. "I know, Phil; lately, it never is." Phil shakes his head and rubs his face. "Look, Linda, I told you--I'm a busy man with a lot on my mind. As you can see, I'm buried under a mountain of work."
"So, you keep saying," replies an exasperated Linda. "For the past month, Phil, you haven't taken me out to dinner or dancing or even a movie. In all that time, we've hardly said two words to each other. And when I ask you why, you give me the same worn-out answer." "Well, Linda--I don't know what else to tell you. What other answer are you looking for?" "I don't know, Phil. All I can say is that things have changed between us. When we started dating, you were buried in work then, yet it never stopped us from going out." Phil gives Linda a plaintive reply. "Again, Linda--I don't know what answer you're looking for." Linda folds her arms, tired of Phil's, by-now, shop-worn excuses. "Well," demands Linda, "how 'bout the truth, for a refreshing change."
Phil doesn't respond. Instead, he grows nervous and fidgety. Linda takes in a deep breath and straightens up. She then speaks to Phil Havel in a firm, assertive tone. "Phil, I'm a woman in my mid-twenties--too old to be wasting time in a relationship that has no future. So, Phil--answer me this, and I want a straight and honest answer: do we have a future?" Phil shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "Look--Linda--couldn't we talk about this later? Honestly, I'm really busy right now." Linda stands in front of Phil's desk, fighting back tears. "I think I just got my answer." With that, Linda turns and walks out of Phil's office. Phil raises his hand, as if to call after Linda. Instead, he sighs and lets his hand drop limply onto his knee.
Later in the morning, Phil and Linda run into one another at the water-cooler. Phil begins to plead with Linda. "Linda-Listen, can we please talk this over, like two mature, intelligent adults?" Linda answers in a tone of forceful determination. "No, Phil. I'm through talking. Earlier I asked you a simple and direct question, and you couldn't give me an answer. Phil, I'm through with your evasiveness and your lack of honesty--and I'm through with you. "But, Linda--can we, at least--" "Phil, it's over--we're done. Like I told you, I won't wait forever while you to decide how you really feel about me. From now on, our relationship is strictly business." Phil takes Linda's arm. "But Linda--"
Linda jerks her arm from Phil's grasp. "As I told you, Mister Havel--my story will be on your desk on Friday Morning." Linda turns and walks back to her desk. Phil is left, standing by the water-cooler. Deep inside, Phil knows that Linda is right. The fact is that Phil is not being honest. For the last six weeks, he has been seeing another woman. Yet a part of him can't let Linda go. But now, the morning's events have made Phil's decision for him.
Ginger has just descended the stairs, when Linda comes home from work. As Linda closes the door and steps into the dining area, Ginger senses that something is wrong. "Hi, Linda." "Hi, Ginger," replies Linda in a somber and distracted manner. Ginger eyes her best friend with concern. "Linda--is-is something wrong?" Linda plunks her handbag down on the dining table, looks straight at Ginger, and gives a terse answer. "I broke up with Phil." A stunned Ginger gapes at Linda. "You--you did?," stammers Ginger, not knowing quite how to respond. "I'm--I'm sorry, Linda. Why did you end it with Phil?"
Linda seems to take a deep breath before answering. "Every time I've asked Phil why we never go out anymore, he'd give the same constant stream of excuses. It's been the same old line: 'I'm too busy.' And he never looks me in the eye when he says it. This has gone on, Ginger, for more than a month now. So--this morning, I finally had enough. I--I walked into Phil's office and told him that he and I are through." Ginger sees tears begin to course down Linda's cheeks. Out of compassion, Ginger reaches out to her sister-in-law to offer consolation. "Linda--I'm really-really so sorry."
Ginger's words unleash a flood of tears from Linda. "Why do I always pick the wrong men?," sobs Linda. "They either end up falling for another woman or they end up being liars and jerks. Ginger, It's been like this, for me, ever since High School. I guess, I'm destined to die an old maid." Ginger offers more sympathy and reassurance to Linda. "Linda, I know what you're feeling right now. Believe me, I've been down that road. But don't sell yourself short, Linda. You're an attractive woman and a good-hearted one, at that. It's just as well you didn't stay with those other men; they don't deserve you. Linda, you have so much more to give; you won't die an old maid; you're too pretty for that. The right man will come along soon--you wait and see! Maybe Mister Right come along sooner than you think. . ."
TUESDAY Afternoon finds Linda at her desk, working on her article for the Courier. She is startled out of her concentration when the phone on her desk suddenly rings. Linda snatches up the receiver. The caller is from Ida Pangborn, her contact at the River Run Greyhound Bus Terminal. Linda cups her hand around the receiver and answers Ida's call in furtive tones. "Ida, did you find anything?" "Hi, Linda. I'm sorry; I came up empty. I searched through every passenger list for every bus that left the terminal over the last three weeks, and then some. But there wasn't a Gina Gianni listed on any of 'em; I'm sorry."
"That's alright, Ida. You did your best, and I appreciate it. Besides, you've helped me narrow my search. We'll go to lunch this weekend; my treat." "Thanks, Linda; I look forward to it." Now that Linda's vicarious search through the Greyhound passenger manifests has led to a dead end, she now pins her hopes on Betty Kingston, at River Run Central Station.
WEDNESDAY sees Linda making better-than-expected progress on her article for the Courier. As there is nothing else urgent on her desk, Linda decides to take the afternoon off. It is about two o'clock when Linda comes home. While in the kitchen, slaking her thirst with a glass of water, the phone rings. Linda abruptly sets her glass down, jogs into the living room, and answers the phone "Metcalf Residence."
"Yes, this is Linda Metcalf--Oh, Hello, Mister Van Morgen. I wasn't expecting to hear from you for another day, or two. Your secretary said you'd be gone for a week. ---- I see. ----- Yes, I can meet with you on Friday Morning. ----- Yes; ten o'clock would be fine. ---- Thanks, Mister Van Morgen. I look forward to meeting you then, Mister Van Morgen. Good Bye." Linda is elated. As it turns out, Mr. Van Morgen, Chief Editor of the Union Journal, has finished his business in Toledo ahead of schedule. Upon seeing the message concerning Linda Metcalf lying on his desk, Mr. Van Morgen wasted no time in returning her call. After hearing so many good things from Charlie Hailey about Linda, Van Morgen is anxious to speak to her.
Naturally, this puts Linda in something of a bind. She is not looking forward to asking her boss--and former paramour--for the time off. Yet she isn't about to pass up the opportunity for a much higher-paying job. Besides, the draw to work for a cause so close to her heart is too powerful to resist. However, Linda knows that under no circumstances must Phil Havel find out that she's applying for work in another office.
[It is important to note that in the 1940s, through the 1970s, an employer could--without breaking any labor laws--terminate an employee if that employer learned he/she was applying for work elsewhere. This happened to my mother in the early 1950s at Lockheed in Burbank, CA while she was still single. But, in Mom's case, all was not lost, for she married Dad a year later.]
LINDA'S quest for Gina's whereabouts gnaws relentlessly at her. Unable to wait longer to hear from Betty Kingston, Linda puts through a call to Betty's office at Central Station. "Hi, Betty. It's me, Linda." "Oh, Hi, Linda. I was about to call you." "Did you find anything for me?," queries an anxious Linda. "Yes, I did," answers Betty. "The person you're looking for, is the only Gina listed in the manifests, so her name jumped out at me. Anyhow, about two-and-half weeks ago, your Gina caught the 1:22PM train to New York City on a one-way ticket. The manifest did show that she was also carrying a baby. She also checked two pieces of luggage."
"New York City?," says a stunned Linda. "Why would Gina buy a one-way train ticket to New York City?," asks Linda to herself in low tones. "Well," replies Betty, "unfortunately the manifest doesn't tell us that." Linda chuckles sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Betty; I was just thinking out loud." "I wish, Linda, that I could give you more information." "That's alright, Betty. You've given me just what I need--a solid lead to follow. We'll go to lunch next week, on me." After Linda hangs up the phone, new questions begin to swirl in her mind: Why did Gina take a train to New York City--on a one-way ticket yet? Does she have a friend there, about whom she never told anyone? Is she seeing another man there in secret? Or--is there some other compelling reason?
JUST as Linda rises from the sofa, the phone rings again. Linda puts the receiver to her ear and is surprised to hear Charlie Hailey on the other end. Linda speaks to Charlie in tense, furtive tones. "Listen, Charlie, I told you not to call me at home. Fortunately, Ginger isn't here. As it is, she could come through the front door any second now." "Take it easy, Linda. I'm sorry. It's just that I can't wait any longer; did you find out anything about Gina?" Linda gives a rushed answer. "Charlie, I've gotta make this quick. I found out, just now, that Gina took a train from Central Station to New York City the same day you found her note under the door." Charlie is shocked by Linda's revelation. "Why, in the world, would Gina take a train to New York City?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out," answers Linda. "Listen, Charlie, real quick: did Gina have any other close friends, that you know of?" Charlie pauses to think. Then it suddenly comes to him. "Hey, now that you mention it, Gina did have a friend! Her name's Maria Amalfi; she's from Italy, like Gina. Sometimes, Gina and I would use her as a go-between." Linda prods Charlie for more information. "Do you know if Gina has friends or relatives in New York?" "If she does," answers Charlie, "she never told me." "That's alright, Charlie. Listen, do you still have Maria's phone number or an address?" "Well," answers Charlie, "I don't remember her exact address. But I know her number by heart: It's Kirtland 5-4395."
"Thanks a lot, Charlie. But do me a favor; don't call Maria and ask about Gina. Gina could've sworn her to secrecy." "Sure thing," replies Charlie. "I'll let you handle the whole thing." Charlie begins to chuckle. "I feel like I hired a private detective." "Just call me Philip Marlowe," says Linda with a grin. "But right now, Charlie, I've really gotta go. Ginger will be home soon." "Linda, wait, don't hang up! Did you talk to Van Morgen at the Union Local?" "Yeah, Charlie, I did. I have an interview with him at ten on Friday Morning." "Hey, great!," exclaims Charlie. "I know you'll get the job." "I really hope so," says Linda. "But Charlie look, I've gotta hang up. I'll call you when I have more info on Gina." "Okay, Linda. As soon as you know where she is, call me right away; don't put it off a second. And, good luck with Van Morgen on Friday." "Thanks, Charlie. Bye."
When the call ends, Linda again drops into the sofa. She glances at the piece of paper in her hand, on which she had just scribbled Maria Amalfi's name and phone number. Linda anxiously drums her fingers on the arm of the sofa, wishing she could call Maria right now. Then another thought barges into her head: what excuse will she give to her boss, Phil Havel, for needing Friday off?. . .
ON Thursday afternoon, Linda steps up to the door to Phil Havel's office. She straightens her clothing and steels herself to face her boss. Clasped in her hand, is the manuscript of her finished article, which she has finished half a day ahead of schedule. However, the far more difficult task for Linda will be asking Phil for the following day off. Linda clears her throat and knocks at Phil's office door. "Come in," calls Phil from the other side. Phil Havel is somewhat startled to see Linda step into his office. He takes notice of the manuscript in her hand. A rather stilted conversation ensues.
"Ah-hello, Linda." Linda wastes no time in announcing her reason for coming to Phil's office. "My Sloan Industries Versus Lustron Corporation article is all finished, Sir." Linda places her manuscript in Phil's "IN" box. "Oh, ah--I see," replies Phil. "That's, ah--that's very good. I trust you thoroughly checked your facts." "Of course, Sir," answers Linda in a cool manner. "I always do." "Good," replies Phil. "I'll get your story proofed this afternoon then." With not so much as the courtesy of looking at Linda and dismissing her, Phil returns to his paperwork. Linda, however, remains standing in front of Phil's desk.
After a brief awkward silence, she clears her throat and asks the dreaded question. "Ahhh-Sir?" "Yes, Linda, what is it?," asks Phil with a sigh, and again, without even raising his head to acknowledge her. Linda continues in a rather halting fashion. "Well--ah--Sir--ah--since I--finished my article ahead of schedule and--since I have--ah--nothing else urgent--ah--on my desk--well--ah--I need to ask--an important favor." Phil Havel promptly lays his pen down, raises his head, and glares incredulously at Linda. "Let me get this straight, Linda--you want me to grant you a favor?" "Phil, I just wanted to ask if I could--" Phil doesn't let Linda finish. He folds his arms and leans back in his chair. "You've got a lotta nerve, Linda. First, you cut me down and bark at me that we're through. Now you've got the unmitigated gall to stand in my office to ask a favor? Boy, are you piece of work."
"What's that supposed to mean, Phil?," asks an indignant Linda. "Since I finished my article early, I just wanted to ask if I could have tomorrow off to deal with a personal family matter." Phil gives a sarcastic reply. "Oh, is that all? Well, then--the answer is NO!" At that moment, Mr. Wainwright, Phil Havel's boss, steps through the open doorway to Phil's office. Arthur Wainwright is a large, gregarious, good-natured 67-year-old man. And he has a soft spot for Linda Metcalf. "Hey-hey! What's the beef in here?," inquires Mr. Wainwright. Phil Havel jumps up from his chair. "Oh, it's-it's really nothing, Sir. Miss Metcalf was asking if she could have tomorrow off. But, I--"
Mr. Wainwright interrupts Phil as he speaks. "Just a minute, Havel." Mr. Wainwright turns to Linda. "Do you really need all of tomorrow off, Linda?" "Well--yes, Sir," answers Linda. "It's concerning a private family matter that just came up." Mr. Wainwright continues his queries. "Have you finished that Sloan/Lustron piece I've been hearing so much about?" "Yes, Sir," answers a confident Linda. "I just put my manuscript on Mister Havel's desk now, Sir."
Mr. Wainwright turns back to Phil Havel. "Well, Havel, it's obvious the young lady has an urgent personal matter to deal with. Since she's caught up on all her assignments, why not give her tomorrow off?" "Ah--yes, Sir," answers a sulky Phil. "Alright, then," replies Mr. Wainwright with a grin. "Glad I could settle the matter. Well, I've got to get back to my office. I'll talk to you later, Havel." As Mr. wainwright turns to leave, he speaks directly to Linda. "Good afternoon, Miss Metcalf. I hope everything works out tomorrow." "Thank you, Sir," answers Linda with visible gratitude. "So do I."
After Mr. Wainwright leaves Phil Havel's office, Phil waits for a second, or two, to be sure that Mr. Wainwright is out of earshot. He then turns and frowns at Linda, and speaks in low, menacing tones. "Linda--don't ever do that to me again." "Do what, Phil?" "Don't play that innocent game with me, Linda. How stupid do you think I am? You know very well what I'm talking about. Don't ever go over my head like that again." "I wasn't going over your head, Phil. Mister Wainwright just happened to walk in. He asked me a question, and I answered. Contrary to what you think, Phil, I didn't plan it that way."
"Maybe not," replies Phil. "But you sure took advantage of the situation." "Phil, I'm not wasting any more time, listening to your paranoid assumptions." As Linda turns to leave, Phil leaves her with one last thought. "Just one more thing, Linda--I'm not a forgetting man." With a strident gait, Linda angrily marches out of Phil Havel's office. She knows that she is now in an untenable workplace situation. The bad blood that now exists between she and Phil will make for a hostile working environment, at best. Linda now prays earnestly that her interview with Mr. Van Morgen will, indeed go well.
FRIDAY morning finds Linda checking her hair and clothing one last time in front of her full-length mirror. She is hoping to create the best possible impression for her interview with Mr. Van Morgen at Union Local headquarters. After approving of what she sees in the mirror, Linda descends the stairs to the living room. Ginger just happens to be in the living room, when Linda reaches the foot of the stairs. "You look great, Linda. In that suit, you oughtta hit a home run in that interview."
"Thanks, Ginger; I sure hope so. Well--I'd better be off." Ginger and Linda give each other a quick hug. "You sure you don't want a lift to Central Station?," asks Ginger. "No, thanks, Ginger. If I park in the day-lot, I won't need a taxi when I get back from Cleveland." Ginger follows Linda out to her car. After Linda gets in, Ginger pokes her head into the car's passenger side window. "Good luck, Linda! That Mister Van Morgen's dumber than a moax, if he doesn't hire you!" "Thanks, Ginger. I oughtta be home by around one o'clock; Bye!" Ginger stands at the curb, waving as Linda pulls away and drives off.
LINDA sits in her seat on the Cleveland Express, tingling with anticipation. Eventually the steady, rapid clickety-clack of the train's wheels works its hypnotic spell on Linda. Her thoughts began to wander. In her mind, Linda repeatedly turns over the events of the past few days. The mystery of Gina's sudden disappearance rankles heavily upon her. Another issue that gnaws at Linda is the deterioration of her relationship with Phil Havel. What caused their relationship to sour? Was it her fault? Was she not pleasing to him anymore? Did he no longer find her attractive? Could she have done something differently? Or--was he seeing someone else? Then there is that other subject--the subject, about which she had forbidden herself to think: the subject of Charlie Hailey--and those feelings she has struggled to suppress ever since. . .
A defiant Charlie Hailey stands in front of Mr. Michael Sloan in his office. Mr. Sloan speaks to Charlie in a threatening, accusatory tone. "If you think-Mister Hailey-that you'll get away with this, you're grievously mistaken." "I told you, Mister Sloan, I have no idea where Gina is." "Well, Mister Hailey, if you are lying--rest assured, you will be found out." Mr. Sloan coolly swaggers around Charlie to his desk, speaking to him in equally cool, but menacing tones. "You see, Mister Hailey--today, I hired the Atherton Detective Agency to investigate the matter of Gina's disappearance. When it comes to locating missing persons, Mister Hailey, they are the best in the business, even better than Pinkerton. And--when they discover that you've been secretly harboring Gina and Emma all this time--I will personally see to your arrest--and prosecution."
"That's fine, Mister Sloan. Hire the Atherton Detective Agency; hire J. Edgar Hoover, for all I care! They'll only prove I'm innocent, that I had nothin' to do with Gina takin' off like that." "All I can say, Mister Hailey, is that I hope--for your sake--that you are telling the truth." Charlie starts for the door to Mr. Sloan's office. Before leaving, however, he turns and points directly at Mr. Sloan. "I am tellin' the truth; you'll see!"
"Cleveland--Cleveland Ohio!," calls the conductor as he strides through Linda's railway car. Startled by the conductor's booming voice, Linda is jolted out of her daydreams. Somewhat disoriented, she picks up her light jacket and purse, and alights the train. The whole experience seems surreal to Linda as she strides through the enormous Cleveland train station to catch a taxi to the Dunsmore Building.
Forgetting that she could've walked the distance, Linda is surprised when her cab stops in front of her destination after only three blocks. After paying the taxi driver, Linda walks into the enormous main lobby of the twelve-story Dunsmore Building. It's a busy place. Many people are marching importantly from one office, to another. Linda catches an elevator to the 5th floor. Upon entering the lobby of the Union Journal, she steps up to the reception counter. "Ah, excuse me. My name is Linda Metcalf. I have a ten o'clock appointment with Mister Harvey Van Morgen." "One moment, please, Miss Metcalf," answers the receptionist.
After placing a call to Mr. Van Morgen's office, the receptionist informs Linda that he will see her shortly. Linda has just sat down in the waiting area, when Mr. Van Morgen steps out through a side-door. As Linda is the only woman present, he steps toward her. Linda rises to her feet. "Linda Metcalf, I presume?," inquires Mr. Van Morgen with a broad, friendly and outgoing smile. "I'm Harvey Van Morgen." "Yes, I'm Linda Metcalf. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mister Van Morgen."
With that, Mr. Van Morgen escorts Linda into his spacious office. Harvey Van Morgen is a good-natured man, much like Arthur Wainwright at the River Run Courier. However, Mr. Van Morgen is 15 years younger, with brown hair that is beginning to gray at the sideburns. As Linda's interview with Mr. Van Morgen progresses, her concerns that it might not go well are soon dispelled. Van Morgen is impressed with the stories and articles that Linda had written for the Courier. He is equally impressed with the work Linda did in support of the Union during the Sloan Industries strike. Finally, Mr. Van Morgen leans back in his chair and grins."
"Miss Metcalf, I can't think of a more qualified person to fill this position. If you want it, it's yours." Taken by surprise, Linda is barely able to speak. "Ah--well--yeh-yes!," answers Linda. "Of course, I want it," answers a relieved and overjoyed Linda. Mr. Van Morgen steps from behind his desk and heartily shakes Linda's hand. Linda expresses that she feels it proper to give the Courier at least, a week's notice before starting with the Union Journal. Mr. Van Morgen cordially agrees. "Good bye, Miss Metcalf! I look forward to seeing you a week from this Monday then! Have a good trip home." "Thank you, Mister Van Morgen. I'll see you next Monday," replies an ecstatic Linda.
During the train-trip home, all Linda can think about is her new job with the Union Journal. She is also elated at the prospect of having more control over her own work, while not having to worry about the constant flux of newspaper circulation figures. The bigger paycheck, pension, health insurance, as well as, having weekends off, are other big pluses. As Linda gazes at the plowed agricultural fields of northern Ohio that pass rapidly by her window, she thinks about how she'll phrase her resignation letter to Phil Havel, her boss at the Courier.
IT is ten minutes to one o'clock when Linda comes home. Famished from her trip to Cleveland and back, she steps into the kitchen to make herself a bologna sandwich. As she reaches into the breadbox, Maria Amalfi--Gina's friend--suddenly springs to mind. Linda realizes that Ginger won't be home for another two hours--a good time to give Maria a call. Perhaps she can extract information from Maria that might lead to Gina's exact location. Linda finds the piece of paper on which she had hurriedly scrawled Maria's name and phone number. She snatches up the telephone and sits down on the sofa.
After two rings, a young woman with a heavy Italian accent, answers. "Hello, who is this--speaking?" "Is this Maria Amalfi?," asks Linda. "Yes," answers Maria, "that--my name is." "Hello, Maria. You don't know me. My name is Linda Metcalf. And-I'm a friend of Gina Gianni." As soon as Maria hears this, she wants to hang up the phone. Linda, however, persuades Maria to stay on the line. Because of Maria's somewhat shaky grasp of the English language, Linda tries patiently to speak as slowly and clearly as possible. However, when Linda begins to ask questions about Gina's disappearance, Maria steadfastly refuses to answer.
Finally, after several grueling minutes of persuasion and outright begging, Linda wears Maria down. Maria informs Linda that Gina had sworn her to the strictest secrecy, should anyone--especially Charlie Hailey--question her about her-Gina's-disappearance. Maria then extracts-in broken English-a promise from Linda that she will tell no one what she is about to reveal. With that, Maria begins to divulge what she knows about Gina's sudden flight. Linda is stunned, almost incapable of believing what she is hearing. When the call ends, Linda slowly replaces the phone's receiver onto its cradle. "My god--poor Charlie," whispers Linda to herself.
It is almost 3:30 in the afternoon. Linda is cleaning in the kitchen when she hears a car pull into the driveway and stop. As Linda steps into the living room to see who it is, Ginger opens the front door and steps inside. When Ginger sees Linda, she rushes to her and asks a rapid-fire question. "Hi, Linda! Did you get the job??" Caught off balance by Ginger's excited greeting/question, Linda stammers out her answer. "Well--actually--I did!" Like a giddy teenager, Ginger wraps her arms around her sister-in-law in a bear hug. "Linda, that's wonderful! I'm soooo happy for you! Now you can go back to the Courier and give Mister Jerk-face Havel the big kiss-off!" Linda turns away and replies in a somber tone. "Yeah--right."
"So," spouts an expectant Ginger, "where are we celebrating tonight?" "Ah--well," answers Linda, "I just was getting ready to fix supper." Ginger waves Linda's suggestion aside in a cavalier fashion. "Oh, don't worry about that. We can get something to eat while we're out celebrating." Linda looks at Ginger with a bewildered grin and shakes her head. "Well, since you've planned out my evening for me, where are we celebrating tonight?" "The Purl Road House, of course," answers Ginger. "That's where everyone I know, goes to celebrate. C'mon, let's go!" Again, Linda shakes her head at her friend. "Ah, Ginger-could I, at least, change clothes?"
LINDA'S enforced celebration at the Purl Road House is tempered by her knowledge of the reason for Gina's disappearance. Though Linda is sitting at the Purl Road House bar, she is a thousand miles from its jovial atmosphere. Then a thought hits her: before telling Charlie what she knows about Gina, she ought, first to check Maria Amalfi's story against certain facts. Linda is suddenly shaken out of her thoughts. . .
"Hello-Planet Earth, calling Linda Metcalf," says Ginger. "Oh, Ginger-I'm sorry. It's been a long day. I'm alittle tired, that's all." "You know, Linda, you've been acting strange all evening--what's up?" "I'm sorry, Ginger. I don't mean to be a wet blanket tonight. I'm just trying to work out what I should write down in my resignation letter to Phil." "Well," replies Ginger, "I think that oughtta be easy enough. Besides, we're here to celebrate your new job, remember? And I'll bet the next good thing you'll be celebrating, Linda, is that you've found a good man to fall in love with real soon--you just wait and see!" Two hours--and seven bottles of beer later, Ginger is feeling just a bit spiffligated. She waggles her finger in Linda's face. "Now, ifff I were youuuu, Linda--I'd marchhhh right innnn to Mmmister jerk-face, lyyying, twooo-timing Havel's offffice and tell him wherrrr--(burp)--to go!" "Hmm," mutters Linda to herself, "I think I'd better drive us home tonight."
OVER the course of the weekend, Linda can think of little else, aside from her new job with the Union Journal, her letter of resignation to Philip Havel, and--Charlie Hailey. Throughout the weekend, Ginger eyes her sister-in-law with suspicion. She knows Linda well enough to know that she is keeping something from her. Linda spends Sunday Afternoon, seated at the dining room table in front of an old Underwood portable typewriter, carefully crafting her resignation letter to Phil Havel. And, all the while, Ginger buzzes intermittently around her like an annoying house fly. "You should also tell Mister Phil Havel the main reason you're leaving is 'cuz he's a big jerk and a liar." By now, an exasperated Linda is losing patience with her sister-in-law. "No, it isn't. Listen, Ginger-isn't there something else you could be doing besides gaping over my shoulder every two minutes?" "Gee, Linda-I was just trying to help." Linda sighs. "Thanks, Ginger, but I can do this without your help."
The telephone suddenly rings, causing both Linda and Ginger's heads to snap toward the Living room. "I'll get it," says Ginger as she jogs to answer the phone. "Thank God," whispers Linda to herself. Ginger suddenly calls into the dining area. "Linda-it's Jeff! He says he's coming home on Thursday!" Linda turns slightly and looks over her shoulder. "That's great! Tell him his big sister says 'Hi'!"
MONDAY morning finds Linda arriving at the offices of the River Run Courier earlier than usual. She hastens furtively to her desk. After checking to make sure she is alone, Linda draws the envelope from her purse that contains her resignation letter to Phil Havel. She steps quietly to Phil's as-yet empty office. Linda is about to lay the envelope on Phil's desk, when suddenly she is surprised by Phil Havel, himself. "Linda? What are you doing in my office??" Linda freezes in shock, and is rendered speechless. Not taking his eyes off Linda, Phil steps around her, to his desk. After hanging up his hat and coat, Phil snatches the envelope from Linda's hand and reads the name on the front.
"Ahhh, what's this--oh, look--a letter to me?," says Phil in a tone laced with sarcasm. "Gee, I just can't wait to read what it says!" A chagrined Linda can only stand and watch as Phil tears open the envelope and removes its contents. As Phil reads Linda's letter of resignation. He shakes his head and smirks. His face then begins to take on a mocking, cynical expression. After reading Linda's letter, Phil nods in a jerking fashion. "So, this is why you wanted Friday off--because you had an interview for a position with the Union Journal in Cleveland. They offered you a job, and, of course you accepted; how nice." Phil sits down and tosses Linda's letter onto his desk. "Again, Linda, you're a real piece of work." "What does that mean, Phil?"
Phil purses his lips and shakes his head at Linda. "You know, Linda, when you go blind in one eye, you don't fool around, do you. You break up with me because you say I'm dishonest. Then you play me and Mister Wainwright for a couple of saps by lying about why you wanted Friday off! Tell me, Linda--just how do you think Mister Wainwright will take it when I show him your letter, huh?"
Linda replies staunchly in her own defense. "I wasn't lying, Phil. My getting a better-paying job is an important family matter, especially since I'm the sole means of steady year-round income for my family." "Alright, Linda--fine. Go ahead--rationalize your actions all you want. But I'm warning you right now, Linda: it isn't wise for a journalist to make enemies in the profession." Without a response, Linda turns and marches brusquely out of Phil Havel's office.
LATER that morning, Linda is going through some items that the mail room clerk has just dropped into her IN box. While Linda is thus occupied, Mr. Wainwright steps over to her desk. "Good Morning, Miss Metcalf," says Mr. Wainwright in his usual good-natured tone. "Oh-ah-Good Morning, Mister Wainwright--Sir." "Well," continues Mr. Wainwright, "Phil Havel tells me you're leaving the Courier for a position with the Union Journal in Cleveland." Linda gives a meek reply. "Ah-yes, Sir, Mister Wainwright. I apologize for the short notice." "That's alright, Miss Metcalf. Besides, I knew we couldn't hang onto a talented young journalist like you, for very long. You have real talent, Miss Metcalf; I've seen it for a long time now. You write with a genuine passion and conviction. I have no doubt you'll excel at the Union Journal. You have a great future ahead of you. You've been a great asset to the Courier. We'll miss you and your talents very much around here, Miss Metcalf. I wish you the best of luck for your future."
"Thank you, Mister Wainwright," replies a humble--and relieved--Linda. "I'll miss the Courier, too." Mister Wainwright shakes Linda's hand and returns to his office. Linda's relief is unbounded. Contrary to Linda's fears, and Phil Havel's vindictive bluster, Mr. Wainwright was very gracious and congenial about her resignation from the River Run Courier.
Still later that morning, Linda is finishing up some small-time paperwork. She doesn't immediately notice Phil Havel as he approaches her desk. Phil loudly clears his throat as a means of getting Linda's attention. A startled Linda looks up to see her boss, standing over her. He holds an envelope in his hand, which he slaps down onto Linda's typewriter. Linda is puzzled. "What's this?" "It's your final paycheck," answers Phil in a chilly tone. "There's no point in your hanging around here any longer; you're useless to the Courier now. Besides, the sooner I won't have to see your face around this office anymore, the better I'll feel." Linda purses her lips in anger and snatches up her pay envelope. "That's fine, Mister Havel. The feeling's mutual."
As Phil looks on, Linda yanks open her bottom desk drawer to retrieve her purse. In an angry manner, she clears some personal items off her desk. Linda also notices a Valentine's Day card that Phil had given her, lying on the bottom of the still-open drawer. Linda vindictively snatches the card out of the drawer, vehemently tears it in two, and throws the two halves forcefully into the waste basket by her desk. That final act of Linda's is a real blow to Phil. Linda slams the drawer shut, rises to her feet, and starts for the exit, while others in the office look on. Phil calls after her. "Linda--wait." Linda stops in her tracks and turns to see a surprisingly contrite Phil Havel looking intently at her. "Linda--I'm---I'm sorry." Holding back tears, Linda gives Phil a stoic look, along with a stoic reply: "So am I, Phil."
With that, Linda turns and strides out of the offices of the River Run Courier and, out of Phil Havel's life, for good. Linda gets into her car, starts the engine, and turns on the radio. By a very strange coincidence, Lena Horn's recording of the song, Haunted Town, is playing. Linda remembers hearing that same song on the jukebox at Brandstaetter's, not long after Jeff and Ginger had broken off their first engagement. Linda puts her face into her hands and begins to weep bitterly. The lyrics to that doleful tune now seem to be meant for her.
IT is a few minutes before noon, when Linda arrives home. As Linda eases her car into the driveway, she notices that Ginger's car is gone. Apparently, Ginger has already left for the WREQ Studios to prepare for her TV show. After changing into some casual clothing, Linda descends the stairs. She suddenly realizes that she'll be alone, for the afternoon. This presents Linda with the perfect opportunity to call another important contact. This particular contact can unequivocally either confirm or refute Maria Amalfi's story behind Gina's sudden flight from River Run.
Linda picks up the telephone, sits down on the sofa and places her call. After making her inquiry, Linda waits on hold while her contact, a Mr. Jonathan Witkowski, looks up Gina Gianni's records. When Mr. Witkowski returns, he can indeed confirm Maria Amalfi's story, down to the last detail. Linda thanks Mr. Witkowski for his assistance, and hangs up the phone. Once again, Linda is stunned. Maria's story is, indeed, true.
With her brother Jeff arriving home on Thursday, Linda thinks it prudent to tell Charlie of her findings before then. But, how--and where? She is not comfortable about meeting Charlie again in a public venue. Linda suddenly remembers that Ginger has made plans to spend the following evening with her mother. Ginger will be away, for the entire evening. For the present, however, it is imperative to Linda that she keep her hunt for Gina's whereabouts from Ginger, especially since she, Linda, is working on Charlie Hailey's behalf. As it is, Ginger has been making noises lately, that she suspects Linda and Charlie are secretly dating.
Later in the evening, another opportunity drops into Linda's lap when Ginger decides to take a bath to unwind from stress. After Ginger ascends the stairs, Linda waits a few minutes, then grabs the telephone and hastily dials Charlie's number. The line rings three times, a nerve-racking eternity for Linda. "Hello," says Charlie. Linda speaks in a tense whisper. "Charlie, it's me, Linda." "Hi, Linda. Did you find out where Gina is?," asks an anxious Charlie. "Yes, Charlie-I--I did." "Well, tell me, Linda-where is she?" "Look-Charlie--I'd rather tell you in person." "Why, Linda? Why don't you just tell me now?" "Charlie, I think it's better if I told you, face-to-face."
Charlie is suddenly gripped by fearful apprehension. "Wait a minute-I know why you won't tell me on the phone. Somethin' bad happened to Gina, didn't it. She's dead or Emma's dead or, they're both dead!" "Charlie, get a hold of yourself. Neither Gina nor Emma are dead." "Well, then, why don't you just tell me where they are right now?" "Well," answers Linda, "it's sort of a long story. Besides, I don't have time to get into it now. Ginger's upstairs taking a bath. And the last thing I want, is for her to come down and overhear me talking to you. And I especially don't want her to know I've been helping you to locate Gina."
"Alright, then," says Charlie, "How 'bout meeting again at the Stream Liner?" "No, Charlie. Listen-Ginger's planning to spend tomorrow evening with her mother. You can come to the house after she leaves. We'll have the whole house to ourselves." "Well--if you say so," replies a wary Charlie. "But I don't want us catchin' flak from Ginger, if she walks in and sees us together." "Don't worry," says Linda. "Ginger said she won't be home until ten o'clock." A thought suddenly crosses Charlie's mind. "Hey, Linda-how'd your interview go with Van Morgen?" "It went great, Charlie. He offered me the position, and I accepted." "Hey, congratulations, Linda!" "Thanks, Charlie. Listen, I'd better go. Ginger could come downstairs any minute. I'll call you tomorrow night when it's safe to come over." "Yeah-sure," answers Charlie. "I'll be waitin'." "Good; now I've gotta go," replies Linda. "Bye."
When the call ends, Linda hangs up the phone with a sigh of relief. And it is none too soon. For, a minute later, Ginger trots downstairs in her bathrobe, feeling refreshed. "Well, you certainly look chipper," observes Linda. "Seems like that bath did you a world of good." "You said it," replies Ginger. "By the way, who were you on the phone with, just now?" Ginger's question tightens the muscles in Linda's stomach. Thinking fast, Linda comes up with an answer. "Oh-ah-just an old friend who works at the Greyhound Bus Terminal. I promised I'd take her to lunch soon." Ginger accepts Linda's answer and strolls into the kitchen, for a quick snack. In the meantime, Linda breathes a sigh of relief and leans back into the sofa.
LATER the following evening. . . Ginger literally skips down the stairs and calls into the kitchen. "Okay, Linda-I'm off to my mom's!" "Alright, Ginger," answers Linda as she emerges from the kitchen. "Have a nice time. Say Hi to your mom from me." "Sure thing," replies Ginger as she steps out the front door. "I'll be home by ten." Through a narrow slit in the living room curtains, Linda watches as Ginger gets into her car, backs out of the driveway, and drives off. To play it safe, Linda waits a discretionary ten minutes, then picks up the telephone and hurriedly dials Charlie Hailey's number.
"Hi, Charlie-it's Linda." "Is it safe to come over?," asks an anxious Charlie. "Yeah, it is," answers Linda. "Ginger left ten minutes ago. But don't waste time; Charlie. Get over here as fast as you can." "Sure thing, Linda. I'll be there in fifteen minutes." "Good," answers Linda. "I'll be waiting." Linda sighs and hangs up the phone's receiver. She sits down on the sofa and stares up at the ceiling, wondering how she'll reveal to Charlie the truth behind Gina and baby Emma's sudden disappearance.
AFTER several agonizingly long minutes, Linda is startled by a sudden rap at the front door. She jogs to the door and peeks through the gap in the curtains to see an anxious Charlie Hailey, standing on the porch. He appears to be looking nervously to-and-fro in an agitated manner as he waits for Linda to open the door. Linda opens the door and quickly pulls Charlie inside. "Hi, Charlie--I don't see your pickup anywhere. Where did you park?" "I parked a block down the street-you know-just in case." "Good thinking," replies Linda.
Linda leads Charlie into the living room and sits him down on the sofa. Charlie, desperate for information on Gina's whereabouts, wastes no time in pressing Linda for information. "So, tell me-where's Gina and Emma? You said they're okay. So, where are they then?" Linda sits down next to Charlie and gives a reticent answer. "Charlie--I--I don't know how else to say this, but--Gina and Emma are gone. And--they're not coming back."
"What do ya mean, Gina and Emma aren't comin' back? Where'd they go?!" Linda lays her hand on Charlie's arm. "Please, Charlie--Calm down, and I'll explain." Linda begins by revealing what she learned from Maria Amalfi, Gina's friend and confidant. "Listen, Charlie-Gina and Emma are not coming back because they left the country." Charlie is stunned. "They left the country?! When? How?!"
"Please, Charlie--let me finish. When Gina left River Run by train on a one-way ticket for New York City, it was because she booked passage on a steamer back to Italy." Charlie glares at Linda in speechless disbelief. Linda continues to divulge what Maria revealed to her. "According to Maria, Gina received a letter about three months ago from her aunt and uncle in Milan, Italy." Charlie bolts upright in his seat and aggressively challenges Linda's statement. "That's a lie! Gina told me herself that-that everyone in her family was killed by the Nazis."
"I know, Charlie; that's what Gina and everyone else, believed. Apparently, Gina's aunt and uncle were among the surviving prisoners at Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria when it was liberated by Allied troops. Eventually, they were repatriated back to Italy by the Red Cross." "Well, then," interjects a defiant Charlie, "how'd Gina's aunt and uncle know Gina was alive and living in America?"
Linda continues with her revelation. "When Gina's aunt and uncle settled back home in Italy--they started to search for other surviving relatives. So they contacted the local Red Cross for 'DPs'--survivors of the war, who were displaced by the Nazis--especially the ones who survived the concentration camps. When Gina's relatives discovered she was the sole survivor in her family, and that she was living in America as the widow of an American serviceman, they tracked her down and wrote to her." "So, then what,?" queries an increasingly distraught Charlie.
"Well," continues Linda, "according to Maria, Gina was naturally excited to find out she has relatives who survived the Nazi death camps. She wrote back to her uncle, and he wrote back, suggesting that Gina and Emma come back to Italy to live with him and her aunt. So--I guess, Gina saved her sewing money and bought a third class steamship passage back to Italy." Charlie, still skeptical of Linda's findings, responds in a tone of strident suspicion. "Wait a minute, Linda--how do you know Maria wasn't sellin' you a bill o' goods? How do you know she wasn't just feedin' you a lotta malarkey to throw you off the track?"
Linda answers in a tone that is equally strident. "Maria wasn't lying, Charlie. Like you, I wanted to be sure Maria was telling the truth. So I contacted someone I know in the Bureau Of Immigration And Naturalization. He pulled up Gina's records. Maria's story checks out--every word of it. Maria said Gina was afraid to tell you she was returning to Italy because she knew you'd be upset--and she didn't want you to try to stop her. Maria also said that Gina was broken up about leaving you, but it was something she had to do. I'm awfully sorry, Charlie." Charlie's eyes begin to redden. He shakes his head and looks away as he fight back tears. "I--I just can't believe it. I just can't believe Gina'd do something like that to me--to just run off without, at least, talking to me about it."
"Charlie," replies Linda, "I can't tell you enough how very sorry I am. I wish I could've. . ." Charlie doesn't let Linda finish. Instead, he continues his dazed monologue. "I thought Gina and I meant somethin' to each other. How could she do this to me?" Charlie suddenly shifts his attention back to Linda. "Do you know the Sloans still think I'm hidin' Gina and Emma somewhere? Mister Sloan told me himself , last week that he hired some hot-shot detective agency to investigate me. Can you believe that?"
Charlie leans forward in his seat, resting his face in his hands. Out of compassion--and perhaps, a little bit more--Linda rests her hand on Charlie's back. "Don't worry about the Sloan's, Charlie. I'll give 'em John Witkowski's phone number at the Toledo branch of the Bureau Of Immigration And Naturalization. He'll set the Sloans straight." Charlie, still fighting tears, suddenly bursts out in a storm of self-pity. "Tell me, Linda-what the hell, is wrong with me? Why do I keep makin' lousy choices in women, huh? When I was in England during the war, why couldn't I see that Caroline was a tramp, a liar, and a thief? Why was I so stupid to throw Ginger over for her? Then-when I think I've found a good woman again, whom I think really loves me, she up and skips outta the country! Am I cursed, Linda, or what?"
After Charlie finishes his emotional monologue, he seems to be coming apart. Linda, seeing what's happening, takes hold of Charlie by the shoulders. "Charlie, listen to me-you're not cursed. You're just the victim of your own bad choices." "So, tell me somethin' I don't know," replies Charlie. "Look, Charlie, I have to admit--I really wanted to punch your clock for what you did to Ginger. And, of course, we all know how Caroline turned out. But then, you fell in love with Gina. And now, she's gone. Charlie--what I'm trying to say is--that--maybe it's time to forget the past, and what you've lost. Maybe now--it's time to look at what you do have--right here in front of you.
In an instant, Charlie and Linda find themselves looking into each other's eyes. Suddenly, that same unspoken communication passes between them, as on that evening when they met at the Stream Liner Diner. Before either of them know it, they find themselves in the throes of passion. Just then, the front door opens and in, steps Ginger. Not immediately noticing Charlie and Linda on the sofa, she calls out in a cheerful manner. "Linda, I'm home. Mom was getting tired, so I. . ." Ginger halts in mid-sentence; her mouth drops open. To her utter shock, she catches Linda and Charlie, embracing on the sofa. "Charlie??? Linda???" Ginger drops her purse and sweater and runs upstairs, distraught over the scene onto which she has just stumbled.
FOR Ginger, the sight of her sister-in-law, locked in a passionate embrace with Charlie Hailey--the man who had once jilted her to marry Caroline--is more than she can bear. Of course, Linda and Charlie are just as surprised, as Ginger was not due back for another 45 minutes. As Ginger runs up the stairs, Linda cries out to her. "Ginger, wait!" Ginger ignores Linda and disappears upstairs. After a few seconds, the loud slam of a door echoes through the entire house.
"Oh, god," says Linda with dread in her voice. Charlie turns to Linda. "I'd better get outta here; she's pretty steamed." "No, Charlie, wait here. Give me a chance to talk to her." Before Charlie can respond, Linda is half-way up the stairs. Charlie can only sigh and shake his head, wondering at what he has just gotten himself into. No doubt, he is also wondering how he is going to get out again.
In the meantime, Linda reaches the closed door to Ginger's bedroom. She knocks three times. "Ginger!" "Go away!," replies Ginger, from behind the door. "I don't wanna talk!" "Ginger, PLEASE! Let me explain!" "There's nothing to explain!," yells Ginger from the other side. "I saw it all-now go away!" "Ginger, let's talk this over, like mature adults." "I said, go away!," replies a resolute Ginger. "Ginger, I can be just as stubborn as you. So--if you don't open this door, I'll come in there and we're going to talk this out." This time, there is no response from the other side. After a moment's silence, Linda gathers her fortitude, opens the door, and steps into Ginger's bedroom. Ginger promptly bellows at Linda. "I told you to stay out!." "Listen, Ginger, when you walked in on Charlie and me, it wasn't what it looked like."
"Oh, c'mon, Linda! What kind of a fool do you take me for?! I know exactly what I saw! So, tell me, Linda--how long has it been going on--how long have you and Charlie been dating behind my back, huh? How could you do this to me, Linda? You're my sister-in-law. How could you betray me like that, especially after the way Charlie dumped me for that tramp, Caroline?" "Ginger, Calm down," answers Linda. "First, Charlie and I haven't been secretly dating. And I wasn't betraying you." "Oh, really?," snaps Ginger. "Well, it'd sure explain all the phone-calls you've been making and receiving since you met Charlie at The Stream Liner. Then there were the shaky answers every time I asked who you were talking to. I had a feeling you and Charlie were dating. And, catching you and him necking on the sofa, proves it!"
"Alright, Ginger," answers Linda. "I was making and receiving a lotta calls lately. But most of them weren't to Charlie. I couldn't tell you at the time, but I've been helping Charlie with something that I had to keep secret." Ginger replies with more mocking sarcasm. "Oh, I'll bet." "Ginger, listen--when I talked to Charlie at Brandstaetter's, he told me he found a note about three weeks ago under his door from Gina. She wrote that she left town with her baby. And the Sloans thought he had something to do with it. Anyway, I promised Charlie I'd use my influence, as an investigative reporter to try to track Gina down." Ginger is inwardly surprised at Linda's revelation about Gina. She continues her interrogation of Linda, though in a somewhat less aggressive tone. "Really? Well, how do I know you're not trying to feed me a lotta baloney?"
"Ginger, everything I just told you, is true. And I can back it up, if I have to. Anyway, to make a long story short, I found out, through all my contacts, that Gina applied for repatriation back to Italy. She left River Run three weeks ago for New York City and took a steamship to Milan, Italy. And, that's the reason for all the phone-calls. I didn't tell you or anyone else what I was doing 'cuz I could've lost my job with the Courier, if I was found out. Now you have the whole story." "Well," replies Ginger, "that might explain the phone-calls and stuff, but why were you and Charlie makin' out on the sofa?" Ginger's question elicits a stammering response from Linda. "I--I don't know--it--it just happened. Charlie--well--he was feeling so hurt when I told him why Gina had gone--I felt sorry for him."
Ginger remains petulant. "And, of course, that was your way of making him feel better, right? Well, answer me this, Linda: do you have feelings for Charlie?" Again, Linda's answer is guarded and somewhat ambivalent. "I--I don't know--maybe--I'm--not really sure." Ginger responds in a strident tone. "I don't understand it, at all, Linda. I don't understand how you can fall for a sneaky--dishonest two-timer, like Charlie Hailey." Linda gives an earnest and heart-felt response. "Listen, Ginger-Charlie isn't the man he was when he threw you over for Caroline." "Oh, of course, he isn't," sneers Ginger.
"Ginger, you know I was just as angry as you at Charlie when I found out he threw you over for Caroline. But--since Charlie and I've worked together during the Sloan factory strike, I've seen another side to him. I've seen how much he's changed since he came home from the war. Deep in his heart, Charlie Hailey really is a good man." "Hah! A good man, is he?," replies Ginger. "Yes, Ginger. Charlie really is a good man, and he really has changed. What I'm trying to say is that, yes, Charlie has made some bad decisions in the past. But he's really learned from them. And I know you still can't forgive him for what he did to you during the war. But that's all in the past now. Things have changed--a lot since then, Ginger. You're married to Jeff now, and you both have a wonderful life together. Ginger--I know it's asking a lot--but--isn't it time to leave the past in the past, and think about your future with Jeff--and the family you both plan to start soon?"
Ginger gives a doubtful reply. "I don't know if I can. Are--you trying to tell me that you and Charlie are serious?" "At this point," answers Linda, "no, I'm not. I'm just saying that--if Charlie and I do become serious, I hope that, as my sister-in-law, you'll learn to accept it." Linda glances at her watch. "Look, Ginger-I've got to get back to Charlie." "I'm sure you do," replies Ginger. "It's not that, Ginger. It's getting late, and I don't want to leave Charlie parked down in the living room all night." Ginger doesn't respond. She only watches as Linda starts for the door. Linda stops in the doorway and turns to Ginger. "Ginger, would you like to come down and say goodnight to Charlie?" Ginger responds with distant resignation. "No--I'm, tired; I'm getting ready for bed." Linda takes a final look at Ginger, turns, and leaves her to her thoughts.
When Linda descends the stairs to the living room, Charlie Hailey rises from the sofa. His expression is that of earnest inquiry. "Is she alright?" "I calmed her down," whispers Linda. "But she's still upset about walking in on us; you'd better go." "Yeah," replies Charlie, "I've gotta get up for work tomorrow anyway." Charlie puts his hands on Linda's arms and leans in for a kiss. Linda, however, gently pushes him back. "Charlie, really--this isn't a good time." "Why not?," asks Charlie. "I mean--after what happened, I thought we had somethin'." "Look, Charlie--this is all happening too fast. I need time to think." "Well," asks Charlie, "can I, at least, call you tomorrow?" "Like I said, Charlie-I need time to think. I'll call you in a couple of days, alright?" "But Linda. . ." Linda doesn't let Charlie finish. "Charlie, please--you'd better go." With that, Linda escorts Charlie to the front door. "Like I just said, Charlie, I'll call you in a couple of days, I promise."
After Linda goes back inside, Charlie is about to descend the porch steps, when suddenly he stops and looks back at the front door. After a brief pause, Charlie descends the steps and strides off down the driveway. Another three days passes. Linda does, indeed, phone Charlie. She offers to meet him the following evening at the Stream Liner Diner. And it is there, late that evening, in a secluded booth, over hamburgers, fries, and a couple of Pepsi's, that Linda and Charlie declare their feelings for each other.