Part 2 - Chapter 24 - Conquest of Dulcinea

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The aroma of breakfast food woke me. I checked the clock on my cell phone, seven a.m. Yawning, I pushed off the sofa and stumbled my way into the kitchen after a quick side trip to the bathroom.

Wearing a nightshirt, Hailee sat at the table eating two scrambled eggs and a fruit cup. We exchanged good mornings.

"Can't believe I slept like that," I said while getting the coffee started.

"Probably the wine. I woke an hour ago and couldn't get back to sleep."

"Have you seen Trent?"

"He stepped out. He didn't tell me where he was going."

I joined her at the table and waited for the coffee to finish. "Is that all you're having? Want me to make you something? Toast? Bacon?"

"No, this is good enough. Eggs for protein and the fruit for vitamins and fiber. I'll have a cup of your coffee though."

How did she do it? I'd be starving.

She glanced my way between bites. "I hope I wasn't too obnoxious last night."

"No more obnoxious than usual."

"Smart ass."

I chuckled.

She muttered, "I hope Trent is okay and doesn't hate me for what I did."

"No chance of that."

The door whooshed open. Heat and humidity invaded the air-conditioned coolness of the apartment. Trent appeared carrying a briefcase. "Morning, Sing. Morning, Hailee."

"Good morning," Hailee and I both said in unison.

"I walked over to the school, to the Herald's vault in the basement where I keep everything," Trent said. "I retrieved comm gear and surveillance binoculars."

"Thanks, T," Hailee said with a smile.

He blushed. Obviously, no harm done from the night before. He was still Hailee's number one fan. "You told me you are in charge of the school. How is that possible since you're just a teen and not a licensed educator?"

Trent set down the briefcase. "Certified teachers and a board of directors run the school and determine the curriculum. I'm the trustee controlling funds left over from the Heralds account."

That was a good enough explanation for me.

All of us took a turn in the shower and waited for Hailee to dry and brush out her long hair. Trent and I loaded the equipment briefcase along with Hailee's big suitcase into the Subaru. The sun already beat down on us. September would soon end, but it was still an oven in the desert. We were just about to leave when Hailee cocked her head and said, "Do you hear that?"

Singing voices drifted toward us from the direction of the school.

"I know that song!" Hailee exclaimed. "It's Dulcinea  from Man of La Mancha. Can we go see?"

I checked my watch. "It's 350 miles to San Diego. We should get going."

"Who's singing?" Hailee asked Trent, completely ignoring what I said.

"Middle school students rehearsing for a fall play," Trent said.

She vibrated with excitement. "C'mon, let's visit them for a few minutes."

"Sure," Trent said, "but remember, these are special needs students. They're different."

He led us toward the building that held ugly memories for me. I had hoped to never walk through those doors again but was curious to see how Trent had influenced things.

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