Home > Blink of an Eye (Kendra Michaels #8)

Blink of an Eye (Kendra Michaels #8)
Author: Roy Johansen

CHAPTER

1

Woodward Academy for the Physically Disabled

Oceanside, California

 

She’s here again?” Dr. Allison Walker’s tone was low and almost menacing as she whirled on Kendra Michaels. “We discussed this, Kendra. I believe I made myself clear. What didn’t you understand?”

“Nothing,” Kendra said quickly. She found herself feeling the same sense of panic and intimidation she’d had when she’d been scolded by the school’s head administrator during the time she’d attended here as a child. Which was totally ridiculous. Yes, Allison was impressive, but between Kendra’s work in music therapy and her investigations with the FBI, she had significant credentials of her own. So why was she backing away instead of defending herself? “It was kind of a surprise visit. We weren’t expecting Delilah Winter to show up here today.”

“I certainly wasn’t expecting her,” Allison said coldly. “And I wasn’t expecting to have to tell the guards at the front gates to clear away all the fans and paparazzi who followed her onto the property. There were even more than there were last time. I understand they had to whisk away Congressman Dalborne, who’d just arrived here for a visit, to keep him from being trampled. Do you realize how important he is? Everyone knows he’s getting his ducks in a row to run for president.”

“You’re exaggerating. Congressman Dalborne was actually a good sport about it all,” Kendra said defensively. “And Delilah Winter took him with her when the guards were getting her through the gates. He was laughing about it.”

“Which is more than I’m doing,” Allison said. “This is a school, not a rock concert. Those students are here to learn how to handle their disabilities, not worship at the feet of some pop star. There’s been enough disturbance here at Woodward Academy in the last months. I agreed to go along with your plans to improve our image, but not at the expense of the students. You promised me that wouldn’t happen.”

“And it’s not,” Kendra said. “Be fair, Allison. I’ve kept my word. A few months ago, this school we both love was going to be forced to shut down. You’d lost the funding to keep it open because no donors were willing to be associated with it. Not only had there been three murders on the property, but a drug lord kingpin and his men were killed here. We had to get another donor as well as convincing the parents of those special kids to bring them back. Something had to be done quickly.”

“So you decided we had to develop a relationship with the media that would cause everyone to forget what happened here and make them think we were St. Jude or Shriners.” She added sourly, “We don’t need to copy any other schools or hospitals. We work hard and we’re one of the best schools in the world for helping the disabled.”

“But we had to make the public remember that and forget the ugliness they’d seen recently on TV,” Kendra said urgently. “We’re making progress, Allison. I was able to arrange one interview with 60 Minutes and two with CNN. Four positive feature articles have been written about celebrities visiting the campus and raving about the classes and students here.” Allison’s expression wasn’t changing, so Kendra rushed on: “And I managed to get that billionaire from Silicon Valley as a prime donor for the academy. That might not have happened if he hadn’t seen those CNN shots of the kids in the classroom.”

Allison nodded grudgingly. “If he doesn’t back out when he sees how Delilah Winter is turning this campus into her personal playground. Favorable publicity is one thing, notoriety is something entirely different. She’s been here five times, Kendra. She’s a disruption. Those paparazzi rob the school of any dignity it might have. Your friend Jessie Mercado arranged for her first visits here to the school. Can’t she tell her to go on tour or something?”

“That might be difficult when Delilah is a superstar and she and Jessie are just good friends,” Kendra said dryly. “We’re only having a small communication problem with her. Jessie didn’t even know she was here until I called her and asked her to drive down from L.A. and talk to her. She should be here by now.” Time to escape. She’d done all she could to soothe Allison. She turned and started across the campus. “I’ll go down to Big Rock where Delilah is performing and meet her.”

“Big Rock?” Allison asked. “Now it’s an outdoor concert?”

“It’s not really a concert.” Big Rock was an enormous flat rock on the grassy expanse of the gentle hills that overlooked the ocean. Kendra and generations of other students had sat there on the rock, carved their initials, and told their secrets to each other. “No one could call Big Rock a stage. She liked what I told her about how the kids felt about it. She just sits on the rock, sings a little, and talks to the kids. By having it outdoors, it gives the kids more room to spread out.” She was hurrying away. “It’s going to be fine, Allison. We’ll take care of it.”

“Then take care of keeping her away from here,” she called after her. “I don’t know why she would even want to come.”

“Because she likes it here, Allison,” Kendra said quietly as she headed across the huge campus toward the hill that led to Big Rock. “She likes the kids. And there’s no way we’re going to hurt her feelings.”

She could hear the sound of Delilah’s guitar in the distance, but she wasn’t singing. Laughter. She must have said something funny to the kids while she was strumming. Delilah was so good with the kids. Why not? She wasn’t much more than a kid herself, barely twenty. She’d hit it big with her first platinum record when she was fifteen and kept on climbing.

Yet Kendra had always been aware of something youthful and wistful about her from the first moment Jessie had introduced them. Jessie had told her she’d had a few big headaches from the time she’d taken over Delilah’s personal protection, but it had only been because the girl was young and scared. She’d never turned into a spoiled brat—which could well have happened considering her sudden fame. Kendra knew Jessie had become really fond of her before she’d turned her over to another protection service, and it was obvious Delilah adored her. Kendra had wondered whether she’d first come to the school because it would give more opportunity to be with Jessie. If that had been the reason, it wasn’t now. She’d told Allison the truth: She’d seen both the gentleness and the affection whenever Delilah interacted with the students.

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