Jared opened the apartment door as the June sun sank behind the horizon. After his encounter with Mary, he had pushed himself to finish the weeding in the back garden and now his muscles were knotted, screaming at him for the abuse. Anger at the devious David and at himself for the near-kiss with Mary had fueled him to keep working long after he should have stopped.
He filled the clawfoot tub with hot water, dumping in Epsom salts to help ease the soreness. As he sank into the bath, Jared formulated his plan for the evening. With David and Mary’s wedding date only weeks away, he had no time to lose in figuring out the identity of David Kline.
Relaxing against the high back of the tub, he ran over a mental list of things to do. First, conduct Internet searches on David Kline and Bringing Christ to Latin America. If Will and his suspicions were correct, that organization was a front for the scam. He also wanted to extensively research the profiles of the other women on Soul Believers that Wildcat seemed to target. That should be more than enough to keep him busy for the next few hours.
After soaking for an hour, Jared felt revived enough to tackle his to-do list. Once dressed, Jared ate a quick dinner and then settled at the dining room table with his laptop, cell phone, and the stack of folders from Will. As he waited for his laptop to boot up, he flipped through David’s brochure with his smiling face on the cover. Really, the man looked like one of those bronzed models. He pulled up the Soul Believers profile of David Kline and then opened Google in another tab to key in the words “David Kline.” If there was information about this man, he would find it.
His initial searches came up empty. The basic facts listed on David’s profile were verifiable. There was a town called Mason City, Iowa, that hosted a software company called OutBox. The city had a Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, which had a choir. A quick search through the church’s website showed a few photographs of the choir, but none with David.
David’s Facebook profile posted a grainy photograph that appeared to be the same as the man in the photo, although his Facebook account had lain dormant for a while. Jared wondered why David would not have kept the account active, given how useful social media could be for making connections. Just one more anomaly to sort out. Jared jotted down notes of things to tackle in the morning, such as calling the church and the software company. Ditto on the schools David listed as attended.
Then he toggled over to the Bringing Christ to Latin America website, noting that it had the seal of approval from the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, or ECFA. Bringing Christ listed missionaries in every Central and South American country. The organization had its headquarters in Idaho, and Jared noted the number to call the next day, along with ECFA’s contact information.
Jared rubbed his leg, debating on whether to take a pain pill. He stood, stretched, and walked to the bedroom to grab the medication bottle. Shaking out a pill, he dry-swallowed it and returned to the dining room. A spasm raced up his leg and he reached for the phone to check the time. Good, it was just after nine. Not too late to call Amy and schedule a massage. He dialed her number and waited.
“Hello, Amy? It’s Jared, Mary’s friend?” He tapped his fingers on the tabletop.
“Hey, Jared. How’s the leg?”
He grimaced. “Not good. I overdid it today. Any chance you’re free tomorrow for a massage?”
“Let me check. Just a sec.”
While he waited, he wondered if he should ask her if Mary had called. He didn’t want to spoil Mary’s surprise, but he wanted to tap into Amy’s perspective on Mary’s engagement.
“I can come over around one, if that would work.”
“That would be wonderful. Come around back to the carriage apartment. I don’t want to disturb Mary.”
“Okay, will do. See you then.”
“Bye.” Jared ended the call and sighed. Mary obviously hadn’t talked to Amy. He willed his mind away from the ache in his leg and refocused on where else to search for information on David Kline. Picking up his phone, he dialed Will’s number. “Hey, do you have access to LexisNexis?”
“Hello to you, too, buddy.”
Jared sighed. “Sorry. Hi, Will. How are you?”
“I’m fine, Jared. Out on a date with Tricia. This better be important.”
“I’m trying to track down information on David Kline and need access to newspaper records.”
“Can’t it wait until the morning? You’re just glad you caught me in the theater lobby between acts at the Kennedy Center.”
“I thought you hated plays.”
“I do, but it’s my wife’s birthday and all she wanted was to go see ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ starring Cate Blanchett. With me.”
“Ah, I see. But this can’t wait. Mary’s engaged to David Kline and the wedding’s in seven weeks.”
A pause on the other end of the line, then Will said, “I’m sorry, Jared. I know how you feel about her.”
Jared raked his fingers through his hair. “My feelings have nothing to do with this. Do you have a LexisNexis password or not?”
Will sighed into the phone. “I think we have one. Call Sherry. She’s on call at the office tonight. Tell her I said to give you the password.”
“Okay, thanks. And enjoy the play.”
“I’ve got to go, they’re dimming the lights for the second act. If I’m not back in my seat with my phone turned off, I’ll be sleeping on the couch.”
Jared punched the end-call button and immediately dialed Sherry, who, just as Will had promised, gave him the sign-in information to access LexisNexis, a huge database of newspaper and periodical articles.
Once logged into the site, he typed in “David Kline” and waited for the results. To his surprise, quite a few entries popped up. He quickly sorted through the returns and opened one dated nearly two decades ago from the Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa.
Kline, Browning Marry
On June 24, 1993, David Kline, 25, and Grace Browning, 23, wed in an outdoor ceremony on the banks of Spring Lake. The couple, who met while attending Iowa State University, had seven attendants, including the bride’s sister and the groom’s cousin.
He skimmed the rest of the article, then copy-and-pasted the document into a Word file for future reference. So there was someone named David Kline who was the right age for Mary’s David Kline. The photograph accompanying the story was grainy and faded on the screen. No way to tell if it was the same man or not. Better keep looking.
The next story was a short bit in the business section relating to David’s promotion at OutBox. Jared again copy-and-pasted the item into Word and returned to the search results. A few more brief stories mentioned David in connection with OutBox’s charity work, which netted a few more photographs of groups of men, much too small to make out the features of the one marked David Kline.
He was about to give up when one of the last news items caught his attention and he pulled it up. The dateline read October 25, 2002.
Kline Killed in Boating Accident
David Kline, 34, was killed Sunday afternoon after falling out of his boat and apparently striking his head on a submerged tree on Spring Lake. The avid boater had been taking his new motorboat out for a solo spin on the lake when the accident occurred. No witnesses have come forward to shed any light on how Kline toppled overboard. His wife, Grace Browning Kline, 33, told police that her husband often went boating in chilly weather, preferring to have the lake to himself. Mrs. Kline had called police late afternoon when her husband had failed to return from his outing. However, subsequent searches of the lake near his boat failed to find his body. Blood and hair consistent with Mr. Kline were found on a submerged tree near the area where his boat had been spotted that day. Police returned to the lake today with divers to search for his body.
At the bottom of the story ran a photograph of David Kline, a professional head shot that accompanied the story. There was no mistaking the bushy eyebrows, a receding hairline, and a noticeable cleft chin of this man. If this was David Kline, then who was the man gracing the cover of the brochure in Mary’s house?
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.