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Null_Pointer Chapter 16

This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer.  It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete.  You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you.  Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.

You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.

Chapter 16

Joshua thought about his dreams again as he found himself cruising into the subdivision where he used to live. Sometimes he drove by his old house and stared at it, remembering good times with his mom and dad; learning to plant flowers with his mom on a warm spring afternoon, throwing catch with his dad on the front lawn on a hot summer day and backing out of the driveway for his first driving lesson. The memories tended to make him smile and feel good inside as he drove past the older, two story house.
The house was well kept by the current owners and a fresh coat of paint in a new color kept it looking modern. He saw evidence of children in the yard; an electric Jeep, a soccer ball and colored chalk on the driveway. There was a station wagon in the garage and bicycles hanging from the same hooks that his dad installed for their bikes. It was somehow comforting to him that the house that was his home for most of his life was still someone’s home today. It meant that he could return here whenever he wanted and see physical evidence of his own family’s past existence.
As he drove slowly down the street he noticed that Tripp’s dad was in his driveway cleaning out his truck. Greg Thomas saw him coming down the street and waved for him to stop. Joshua pulled into the driveway and got out of his car.
“Hey Joshua, what brings you out this way?”
“I was just in the area and thought I’d stop by.”
Joshua shook the hand of his surrogate father. After his parents had died, Joshua lived with Tripp’s family until he graduated high school and could legally take custody of his parent’s estate. Greg Thomas was the closest thing to a father Joshua had and he stopped by to visit whenever he could.
“We just got back from a weekend in Sun Valley,” Greg said.
Joshua grabbed a ski bag out of the truck and followed Greg into the garage with it. Greg was in his late fifties and retired from banking. He had thick salt and pepper hair and a mustache. His eyes were hazel behind wrinkled skin.
“Tripp tells me you are working on his movie web site again. How’s that going?”
Joshua didn’t want to worry his adopted family about what was going on. In a few days the danger would be over and his life would be back to normal. It didn’t sound like Tripp had mentioned anything about the killings.
“It’s going pretty good. We should be looking for backers in another month or so.”
Greg looked surprised. “Really? Wow, sounds like you had better get working on your business plan.”
Joshua smiled. Greg always thought like a banker.
“I will, I’ll give you a call when we have a working beta.”
Greg flashed a friendly smile and put a hand on Joshua’s shoulder. They returned to the truck to get a suitcase. The sun was shinning in the blue sky above them, as it seemed to do for much of the year in the Treasure Valley.
“How was the ride. Clear flying today?”
Greg nodded. “It was kind of choppy, and the engine on the Piper is about due for an annual inspection. Going to have to take it out of action for a while.”
“Well, you can still fly my Cessna whenever you want.”
“Thanks Joshua, I may take you up on that. When’s the last time you went up?”
Joshua looked into the bright sunlight. “Not for a while now, maybe two weeks ago? I’ve been busy at work lately, hard to get the time to go flying.”
“Nonsense, you get a day off you go up and tool around the sky. Nothing relaxes you better than flying kid, you know that.”
Greg and Joshua’s father were old flying buddies. They used to go to picturesque airports all around the valley for brunches with their wives. Sheryl, Greg’s wife hated to fly, but she went anyway because she loved to travel. Whenever Joshua’s dad was too busy to take him flying, Joshua could always count on Greg to take him up. His own son did not like to fly, so Greg relished the chance to take Joshua up flying.
When Joshua took lessons at the Nampa airport, he often flew in Greg’s Piper Cherokee. The day he was to fly solo for the first time, his father was in Japan on a business trip. Greg drove Joshua out to the airport and watched him go around the local pattern by himself. When Joshua landed he picked up his instructor and taxied back to the terminal where Greg was waiting with a long pair of scissors. It was pilot tradition to cut the shirt tail off a soloist and write the date of the event on the piece of cloth. Most instructors didn’t bother with the tradition anymore but it was important to Greg. Joshua was fifteen at the time. He still had the shirt tail in a frame on the wall of his apartment.
Sheryl came out the front door and greeted Joshua with a hug. She was dressed in fleece and blue jeans, her winter flying apparel. She was an attractive woman in her early fifties with graying black hair and a dimpled smile that always made you feel welcome whenever you stopped by.
“Joshua what a surprise, it’s so good to see you.”
“Good to see you too.”
“Did Greg tell you we just got back from Sun Valley?”
Joshua nodded as Greg retreated into the garage with another bag.
“Boy was it a bumpy ride coming home today. I had to take my Dramamine.” She nudged Joshua, knowing he knew she was not thrilled with flying.
“How was the skiing?”
Sheryl’s smile was big as the morning sun. “It was fantastic, fresh powder the day we got there and it snowed the whole weekend. Oh, did Greg tell you we saw Bruce Willis again? He was slumming with the locals downtown.”
Sheryl loved to pretend that she was unimpressed with celebrities but Joshua knew she was a big fan of the movie actor and regularly followed up on his movies. She always watched Oprah in the afternoon and every other talk show that he was a guest on. He figured she was not alone in her fandom. Greg was aware of his wife’s innocent infatuation and he liked to make fun of her for it. One time he called Joshua up to his den and showed him some official Air Force video of the big action movie star taking a flight in one of the fighter planes stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base. The pilot took him through the rigors of faster than sound maneuvers and had the movie star ready to toss his cookies and sounding sicker than a dog.
“This is why I’m not so impressed with old Bruce. He makes it seem like he’s all cool and in control in the movies but in reality the man gets sick after pulling a few g’s in an F-15.”
They had a good laugh after watching that video over and over again. One of Tripp’s military friends had taped it on the air base’s closed circuit TV channel that had it running practically nonstop.
Joshua had to smile at her mentioning of the actor. He could never watch a Bruce Willis movie again without thinking about that video.
“That’s cool. Did he invite you guys over for dinner?”
Sheryl shook her head. “Oh no. We’re not in his ‘circle’,” she said.
“So how are you doing kiddo? Tripp said you were working on his web site again.”
“I was just telling Greg we will be ready for financing in a few months.”
“Great! So how is your social life? Any new girl friends?”
He knew it was only a matter of time before she got around to asking him that. She was just as nosy about his personal life as his mother had been. He didn’t mind it one bit.
“Well, there is a new someone special, now that you ask,” he teased.
“Do tell, do tell!”
“Her name is Dancia,” he said and her mouth was open before he could get any more out.
“Isn’t she on your code team?”
“Yes. We’ve been working pretty closely for the past few weeks. Let’s just say it’s looking promising.”
Greg came back to the truck. “Best not to mix love and business, that’s never a good thing,” he interjected in his best fatherly tone.
“Don’t worry dad, its cool.”
Sheryl grinned broadly and patted her husband on the shoulder. “It’s okay, Joshua, we’ll stay out of your personal life.”
Joshua remembered he was going to head over to Dancia’s apartment.
“Well, I’d love to stay and chat but I’ve got to get going. It was nice seeing you guys again,” he said, backing up for his car.
“Hey, next time stay for dinner. Maybe bring your new girlfriend?” Sheryl said with a knowing wink.
“I will. That would be fun.”
“Tell our son to stop by some time, we haven’t seen him in a while,” Greg said. Sheryl agreed with him as they waved goodbye.
“Will do. Bye!” Joshua said, climbing back into his Porsche. He backed out into the street and waved one last time as he took off. Greg and Sheryl walked back inside the garage arm in arm. They were an awesome couple and he was lucky to have them as his surrogate family.

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