After reading the Sunday paper in bed the next morning, Marti grabbed her laptop to write down some questions she would like to ask Sarah. "Do you have any questions for Sarah, Chuck? It would be smart to have input from several people."
"I want to know what her local perception is of Serino. I suspect he keeps a low profile here serving as the 'father figure' to his flock but leaving the real work to his staff. He has to keep moving to draw in the money for himself. I'd never heard of him till I worked at the airport."
Before their conversation ended, Marti's cell phone rang. "That's her," she said looking at her cell screen. "I'll let her in the gate and we'll go meet her at the clubhouse."
Taking her pen and pad, Marti left with Chuck. She waved to Shirley letting her know that Sarah had arrived. They saw her locking up her car at the clubhouse entrance.
"You didn't mention she was a gorgeous blonde," Marti said looking at Chuck, "And wearing next to nothing."
"Gorgeous blondes are a dime a dozen," Chuck replied placing his hand at her back.
"This looks like a great place," Sarah said with a big grin. "Hi, you must be Marti."
"Good to meet you Sarah," said Marti extending her hand. "This is Chuck, one of the residents. Tom will be here shortly to give you a tour. I thought maybe we could meet back at my aunt's house to talk a little business."
"Oh, I was hoping we could meet by the pool," said Sarah looking around. "Isn't that where everything happens?" She took a lingering look at Chuck as she asked the question.
"I'd prefer if we meet somewhere quiet first. If you go to the pool, we'll need to sign you in as Shirley's guest. You do realize that you must be nude in the pool?" asked Marti.
"Oh, I know. I checked the website before I came. I want to work on my suntan."
"We can take care of the paperwork now," suggested Chuck, leading them through the doors. Walking into the office, he handed a clipboard to Sarah while he spoke to Charlene. By the time Tom arrived, Sarah was ready for her tour.
"We'll see you back at Shirley's house," waved Marti as the two drove away.
"I can walk her over to the pool after your meeting," offered Chuck, "If you're not ready to see the nudity there."
"No way, Jose," Marti said touching his arm. "Did you see the way she checked you out?"
"It didn't mean anything. I am focused on helping you. Maybe I should get Charlene to give her a day pass so she can come back on her own someday."
"That sounds like a good gesture," commented Shirley as they walked up to her patio. "I'll get the iced tea so we can sit outside and talk."
Marti sat down in a huff. Why am I upset? It is a weekend. A casual meeting by the pool is not so unusual.
"I'll go get the day pass," Chuck said interrupting Marti's thoughts. He leaned over to kiss her quickly before walking away. She watched him crossing the grass and let out a long breath, What red-blooded woman wouldn't take a look at that? Looking down at her notes, Marti decided to let go and re-focus so she could manage the interview when Sarah returned.
Within a half-hour Tom returned with Sarah. She had changed to a transparent silk wrap tied across her breast. "Are we ready to cool off in that pool?" she asked brightly.
"I promise we just need a few minutes here," Marti said indicating the chairs around the table. "I have some questions that we should really discuss in private. Remember I mentioned I'm working on a story with a Greenville connection? I really want to hear your opinion. Then you can hang out at the pool as long as you like."
"What story are you working on?" Sarah asked curiously. "I thought this was about a fundraiser for Whispering Palms."
"That is in the works, too," assured Shirley. "This story came about as we discussed the concert."
"I am working on a story about TV evangelists. One of the ministers I'm featuring has a church here in Greenville, Rev. Serino. Do you know him?"
"Sure. I've heard of him. He's been in the studio to film local ads when the church does its summer revivals."
"We wanted to include how he's perceived by the locals. Tell me what you know about him."
"I know the station manager treats him like a big shot. I remember a limo driving up to the station one day when he stopped by to promote his Easter sunrise service. We've done local spots for his church when they put on community events. They do a "Trick or Trunk" Halloween gathering for kids every October so kids don't wander the neighborhoods. They just walk the parking lot and visit each car that has candy in the trunk."
Marti wrote a quick note and continued, "Have you ever been to his church or know anyone who is active there?"
Sarah laughed, "No, I’m more into church online. I don't need to sit in a hard pew and suffer. I think an ad rep mentioned going to church there, but maybe that was to sell them advertising."
"Have any of your co-workers commented on his behavior when he's in the studio?"
"I do remember the camera man mentioning that his wife stopped filming one time so she could re-powder his face. She thought it looked too shiny on the monitor. My guess is she expected us to have a make-up person." She chuckled at that and took a drink of iced tea.
"Has anything newsworthy happened at the church?"
"Just usual stuff – church camp, guest ministers. I did read in the local paper that the CFO resigned and moved on to manage one of the local banks."
"When did that happen?"
"Let's see." Sarah counted back in her mind. "It was about two weeks ago. I noticed it because I was reading about someone else and his photo was right below hers."
Shirley interrupted, "Would you like some more iced tea?" When Sarah shook her head, Shirley continued, "How do the locals feel about Serino living in a five million dollar home when we're struggling with a recession and high unemployment?"
Sarah looked surprised, "He lives in a mansion? I had no idea." She stopped and looked at everyone. "Why do I get the feeling that you don't think much of Serino? I thought we were talking about a concert to raise money for Whispering Palms."
Tom waved his hand dismissing her question. "Serino has tried to cause difficulty for Whispering Palms in the past. Recently, he sent a negative letter to the county. We are simply researching his ministry to find the best way to deal with him. The concert is to raise money for those efforts."
Sarah nodded, "Well, that makes sense. His church is down the street so you would be on his radar. What kind of trouble is he causing?" She turned her head to Marti.
"It's a continued effort that goes back five years. We've learned he owns the property next door so we suspect he would like to buy Whispering Palms to extend his ministry."
Chuck changed the subject by asking "Did you know he has a private jet that he keeps at the local airport?" He smiled at the shocked expression on her face.
"You're kidding," she replied leaning over to touch Chuck's arm. "I thought those were just for rock stars," she winked at him.
"Not anymore. He flies on speaking engagements every week but comes home to Greenville where his headquarters are," Marti explained pulling Sarah's attention back to her.
"What good things do you hear about his church in the community?" asked Shirley.
"They all do pretty much the same thing. This is truly Baptist country. You can't drive five blocks without seeing a Baptist church in this town."
Tom leaned forward to ask a question, "Do you hear any stories about Whispering Palms as you do your work? Are there questions we can answer for you?"
Sarah smiled at his attention. "Actually, I don't hear much at all. That's what made me curious. I've been to a nudist resort in Florida, but I can tell this one is different. She looked out over the grounds. Your place is more like a community instead of a resort where activities happen every weekend."
"Yes, this is my home," Shirley emphasized, "But I understand what you're saying. We're a much quieter group than the larger resorts with an annual membership."
"Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Sarah. Shirley and I are firming up details for the concert and will follow-up with you when we make final plans in early August. I take it you have heard of Dan Perry, the jazz pianist?"
Sarah smiled, "I dated a member of his band a few years back so I know Dan. It would be good to see him again. That's why I was so excited about the concert."
"I should talk to him this week," Shirley said, "I'll pass on your regards. He was good friends with my husband."
"Please do. I would like to help you with any promos for the concert. Are we ready for that pool now?" Sarah asked pulling out her sunglasses and looking around the group. Marti could tell the interview was over.
"Tom would love to walk you over and introduce you to everyone," Shirley volunteered as she stood to shake hands with Sarah.
"Oh, aren't you guys coming?" Sarah looked at Marti and Chuck.
"No, Chuck and I have plans this afternoon," Marti laced her fingers with his possessively. "But, please, go enjoy yourself. We did get you a free day pass so you can come back to enjoy a day by the pool. Chuck passed the card to Sarah who took it gazing up at him.
"How sweet, Chuck. You didn't have to do that." She grinned slowly at him touching his arm again before she gathered her bag.
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