The Deans were devastated and knew when Fred O'Connor returned and learned the news, he too would be crushed that his young pal was leaving.
But remember this; we love you— all of us here, Fred included.
After lunch, Cynthia borrowed a practice from Fred as she began to make a list of her own.
"Guess I won't be going to any more auctions or garage sales with Fred," she muttered.
The Deans were on their way to their quarters in the rear of Bird Song when Fred O'Connor returned, fresh from an evening with Mrs. Worthington.
The Deans had feared the long Colorado winter might slow down frisky Fred but, if anything, the opposite occurred, due in no small measure to his young pal and junk sale cohort, Martha Boyd.
Fred could tell by the look on her face that something was wrong.
"Guess I'd better brush up on my Spanish," Dean said, but Fred shook his head.
She's staying with her boyfriend, Fred explained.
Fred took a deep breath.
The Deans retreated to the front porch, allowing Fred and Martha time alone, and Maria to her new chores.
Fred O'Connor moseyed out and joined them.
"Getting a jump in case some latecomer signs up," Fred grumbled.
"Thirty bucks is your share," Fred said, a bold-faced lie.
Fred O'Connor was off to the post office, but before leaving, he ceremoniously presented Martha with thirty dollars and a smothering hug.
The second floor contained six quarters, five rooms for guests and the rear left corner occupied by Fred O'Connor.
Fred O'Connor, dressed to the nines in a dapper suit, pink shirt, bow tie and sporting a boutonniere, asked Dean if his iron was broken when he took one look at his stepson's new but wrinkled slacks.
Finally Fred O'Connor withdrew a crumpled dollar bill from his antiquated change purse and a fountain pen from his jacket pocket.
Dean was hoping to at least finish his salsa before having to stop Fred from dashing up the mountain to single-handedly solve the caper.
Fred, who could find a mystery in a grilled cheese sandwich, hardly stirred.
"I sure would have gotten it when I was your age," Fred said.
It was a rare event for Fred to speak of his past, especially when it sounded like a hint of the truth.
Fred nodded his head.
Fred ignored Dean and reached in his coat pocket and withdrew a letter, handing it to Cynthia.
But once again, Fred wasn't biting.
"Can you imagine Fred not re-reading Twelve Angry Men and trying to memorize the dialog?" he kidded.
The way Fred loves mysteries you'd think he'd be thrilled to be a part of a real jury.
Fred O'Connor plodded down the stairs carrying a wrapped present and set it by her chair.
"I bought it at Ouray Toys yesterday," Fred said.
It's a Lou Rankin design, Fred answered.
Fred O'Connor returned, a bag of treasures in his hand, just as the slide show broke up.
Like Fred, Westlake too had callused fingertips from pounding computer keys.
The sheriff's office was located only a few blocks east of Bird Song, behind the County Court House, where Fred O'Connor would report for jury duty the following Tuesday.
Dinner was a quiet affair, cooked by the returning Fred O'Connor—hamburgers, a tad over-broiled, but the Deans appreciated the effort as they were busy with Bird Song's other chores.
Fred displayed a tad more interest in the mysterious find than the prior evening.
He stopped Fred when the old man began to excuse himself.
Fred O'Connor looked embarrassed and took his time answering.
Fred looked down at his shoes.
"Fred, we're only trying to help, not be nosy," Cynthia said.
Fred just snorted, but Dean noted the old man didn't deny the question.
Fred rubbed his chin and thought.
Like hell, Dean thought, but he let Fred go on.
But Fred continued to skirt the answer.
It was the most Fred O'Connor had ever said about his past, but the conversation was over.
Dean said with a salute as Fred rose and drained his glass.
By the time Dean finished listing the information, Fred was gone and Cynthia was off to read in their quarters.
When she finished, still attired in bathrobe and floppy slippers, and leaving a cloud of flour behind her, she crept upstairs to talk to Fred; a conversation that lasted thirty minutes.
As for Fred, he was downright ecstatic about a baby in his adopted family—hang the underlying circumstances of the blessed event.
"Not that the little tyke doesn't deserve the best," Fred added.
Cynthia raised her eyebrows, but Fred ignored the query.
"Now this here is a sure bet," Fred continued.
He and Fred began chattering away about past bargains found and Internet profits reaped.
"Crime don't take weekends off," Fred grumbled, then added, "that's kind of catchy.
Joseph stormed by Dean and Fred without a word, but Ginger lingered to finish her cigarette.
The ten-year-old girl had resided at Bird Song with David Dean, his wife Cynthia, and Dean's seventy-seven-year-old stepfather, Fred O'Connor, for the past six months.
Fred was anxiously glancing between her bedroom and the front door where he was expecting the arrival of Bird Song's latest domestic helper candidate.
She was shyly paraded forward and introduced by a beaming Fred O'Connor.
Fred nodded, but didn't explain.