In the next two days or so, Madeline returned back home to National Geographic. When she arrived at nine that morning, Steve had been there for ten minutes. He saw her walk up to him.
"Hi, Steve. Did you miss me? I really missed you."
"Of course I did, honey. How was Easter in Oregon this year?" Steve asked as they finished their kiss.
"It went well, but we did catch some weather."
"What was the weather doing this time?" he asked.
"Well, first it started out as hail, then it started to change with rain. The rain was so heavy that there was no power for two days."
"Wow. Now ask me how my holiday was spent."
"I was going to do that. How was your?" she said.
"Lonely and interesting."
"Why don't you tell me what made your holiday interesting."
"Why don't we get together with the gang for lunch so everyone can hear?"
"Fine with me. Since you have known these people for a long time, I'll let you make the call."
"All right. Maybe on my bathroom break, I'll send a text message. Bill is out on a book tour, so he'll miss out on my interesting Easter."
"After that, they both got started on their day.
At ten – fifteen that morning, Steve went on his morning break. When he was in one of the bathroom stalls, he took out his cell phone and began typing a plan for lunch at noon that day. He sent the first message to Jay and sent it off to the rest of the gang. It was time Tina would be busy, but she usually had her busy period at lunch, so she was there to answer Steve's call.
"Hello, Steve. I wasn't expecting to hear from you at this time of day," Tina said with a friendly tone of voice.
"I know, but I wanted to ask the gang if they were open for lunch today. I know Bill is out on his tour, but I'm sure you can pass this along on your next phone conversation."
"All right. Did you have a good Easter?"
"Madeline asked me that too, Tina. This is why I wanted to get the gang together."
"Okay, Steve. I can save you and the gang a table. I'm already interested in how your holiday went. Have you reached the others?" Tina asked.
"Just a text message is all," Steve answered as they both heard a beep, beep on his cell phone and one of the toilets flush.
"Was that you who flushed the toilet?"
"No, Tina. Must've been someone else. Look, I'm almost due back to those cameras, Tina. My break is coming to a close, so I'll see you at noon."
"All right. Have a nice morning, Steve."
"Same to you too, Tina. Over and out."
He hung up. After flushing the toilet and zipping his old blue jeans, he saw there was a message from Marlene. 'Hi, Steve. I'll see you at Tina's.'
Lunch finally arrived. Steve had been the first to arrive at Tina's. He and Madeline went together. After Tina seated them, Jay McCarey, a blonde man in his late forties headed to the table. Steve noticed Jay was sweating and it looked to Steve that he'd been doing his daily run since he was beginning to sweat.
Jay took a seat next to Madeline.
"Afternoon, Madeline, Steve," Jay greeted them in his friendly tone of voice.
By looking at Jay, Steve could tell that Jay sounded and looked exhausted.
"Are you okay to hear about my interesting holiday, or do you want to go back home and take a nice fresh shower and rest, Jay?" Steve asked his friend.
"No, I have a physical exam with the doctor at about after lunch, so I've got plenty of time," Jay said tiredly when Tina, Karen, Jay's younger sister, and Carla headed over to the booth.
"Hi, Tina," Jay greeted the owner of Tina's with exhaustion on his face.
"Hi, Jay. You probably shouldn't be here if you're this tired," Tina told him.
"That's what I just told him, Tina," Steve said as Tina poured fresh water for them and left without giving a word or two to Steve.
Madeline, Carla and Karen each exchanged greetings. During the greeting, Karen looked in her brother's direction and waved. Karen also saw he was tired and sweaty as well. As brother and sister, neither of them had a close relationship in the past. For quite some time now, Karen and Jay's relationship began to shoot up to be close.
That's when Marlene walked over. As usual, she was wearing her pink and red heart leather jacket. Those two had been her favorite colors. Since Easter had recently passed, Carla's hair was dyed yellow.
"Hi, guys. Now everyone's here, tell us why you all sent us a text message this morning, Steve – o."
"I'm going to wait for Tina to return. She'll pass this on to Bill next time they talk."
"That's right. He's on that tour," Jay said, still tired.
"What's wrong, Hotcakes? Exhausted from all of your performances?" Marlene asked Jay.
Jay didn't bother answering Marlene, so all he did was shake his head.
"Well, what is it that made you tired?" Marlene asked as Tina handed Marlene a menu.
"Thanks, Tina," Marlene said.
"You're welcome. Tell us about your holiday that made it very interesting," Tina told Steve.
"Okay. Madeline was out in Oregon, and I was on facebook. I received this one message from a woman I never met. Here's what her message said:
'Hi, Steve. I have something you might be interested in this.'
This woman's name is Cynthia Cunningham. Anyone here recgonize the name?" he asked as everyone shook their heads.
I was actually online. I'd met a few people, but none of them were from National Geographic like Madeline. I'd received a message on facebook from a woman out in Atlanta. This was actually my first time meeting this woman. I thought she sounded pleasant. She asked if I'd like to get together with her and a few others. I thought to myself: Why am I chosen?
The woman's name was Cynthia Cunningham.
I asked, "Why did you send me this message?"
"Well, Mr. Griswold, did you ever watch the cartoon Captain Planet?"
"Wait a minute," Carla spoke up.
"What?" Steve asked.
"What does this have to make your holiday interesting?"
"That's you'd have to find out," he told her.
"This sure is getting interesting, Steve – o. Go on please," Marlene interrupted.
"I plan to," he told her.
"No, I haven't, but I've heard of it."
"Good enough. I do have an assignment that includes you and me."
"Why don't you tell me? I have to go back to town tomorrow. I'm supposed to do a few shootings on a show I'm working on."
"I see you're from National Geographic."
"That's right. Please tell me what you want."
"Well, a police officer in Brooklyn sent me an e – mail just less than a week or two ago. She had already sent out e – mails to a few other people."
"Why are we involved?" I asked.
"Well, I'm getting to that," Cynthia answered.
"So you actually met these people right on facebook? And what exactly does Captain Planet got to do with you?" Karen asked, finding this story interesting.
"That is coming up," he told her.
The story continued on mute for a few minutes so Tina could take her friends' orders.
"Sorry, guys. This place is starting to crowd. Interesting story, Steve. One of you can text me the rest of the story," Tina said, taking their menus and disappeared.
Tina was a busy woman – owning her own restuant as well the owner, a mother of one child, (two passed on), a wife. She'd kept busy with all of these, so this is probably why she hardly ever had time to goof around online.
"I have a pretty busy week coming up, but you still haven't told me what I have to do to help out."
"Well, she is very interested in finding the Planeteer rings. She's been working on this search for the last five years or so. She would like some people like you and me to help out on this search."
"I'd be happy to help. Where has she looked?" I asked.
"Almost all over. She said she met one of them a couple years ago on Halloween."
"Did she who that Planeteer was?"
"He used to be a local in Brooklyn, where she lives and works. She said she thought he robbed a grocery store."
"We're talking about Wheeler, right?" I asked.
I'd found this story interesting so far. To what I'd been told from Cynthia just now, it made me think Jamie Alyce was thinking of a next generation of the Planeteers.
"I do have another question, Ms. Cunningham."
"Does this police officer want to start a new generation of the Planeteers?"
"It sounded like it to me," Cynthia answered.
"But the original Planeteer you mentioned, Wheeler. Does he know about letting this cop take over?"
"You do know Wheeler's friends from the Planeteers were from outside of the States."
"Well, good question, Steve. She didn't give me an answer."
"That's where I come in?"
"Give me this cop's telephone number," I said.
"Her name is Jamie Alyce," Cynthia said and recited the telephone number.
"Thank you, Cynthia. I will do the rest from here. I'll let you know."
I signed off. Now it was time to have Easter dinner.
"Wow, Steve. No wonder you had a very interesting holiday. Did you ask when this search begins?" Jay asked as he gave out another yawn.
He wasn't too sure if he would fall asleep or stay wide awake for his physical.
"No, but I'd rather ask the cop that," Steve answered.
After their meals arrived and finished, Carla took her turn to pay the bill. After that, everyone walked out of the restaurant and went their separate ways.