Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tea for Three and More Riddles from Reeza

Aunt Cordelia had invited Vivian and Bunny to meet her at the Tea Room for tea around 4 that afternoon. Bunny told Vivian how much she adored Aunt Cordelia. Both were looking forward to the visit.

When Vivian and Bunny arrived at the Tea Room, Aunt Cordelia was already seated. She stood and each gave her a warm hug before they all sat. They chatted about light topics - the weather, 'Miss' Ella's garden, and who was ill. As always, Aunt Cordelia had a humorous take on each topic.

A waitress came to take their order. Aunt Cordelia said, "I'll have a cup of Rooibos - just plain. I've had enough caffeine today."

Vivian said that she would like a cup of Pu'erh. Then she laughed,"I've read it is an appetite suppressant."

The waitress asked,"Would you like sugar, cream, lemon, or perhaps an artificial sweetener with that?"

"No, just plain, please."

The Waitress turned to Bunny, who had been reading the list of teas. "I'll just have a glass of sweet iced tea."

The waitress paused,"Mam, we do not serve ice tea. The Tea Room serves the best teas from across the world, but they are served hot."

Bunny was not sure what to do. Cordelia came to her rescue,"I think she would enjoy a cup of green tea with sugar and lemon."

The waitress asked if there was anything else she could bring them. They replied no, but they may order some pastries later.

Bunny's request for ice tea was not the first such inquiry. The wait staff had let Caroline and Blanche know that this was a frequent order (that they could not fill). One of the ideas behind the Tea House was to provide, not just a lovely and comfortable environment, but the finest selection of teas from across the globe. These teas were always served hot, to bring out even the most delicate flavors. Caroline and Blanche decided from the beginning that adding ice tea to the menu would just keep the women of Gallagher from expanding their experience into the world of teas.

However, being good enterprising women, they were not going to sacrifice any business and leave money on the table. Caroline suggested to Blanche that she may have the answer to their dilemma. "What if we sell iced versions of these fine teas? Granted some of the more delicate flavors will be lost, but it will still offer our patrons the chance to tip toe into the world of different teas, just in a manner they are accustomed to."

Blanche was enthused,"We can offer sweeteners and lemon to be served with the tea. But, we will take Black Tea off the menu since that is what most common ice tea is made from, to make them venture forth into the world of exotic teas."

"Perhaps we should take Green Tea off the menu also?" asked Caroline.

Blanche thought,"No, but we can offer that only served hot and tell our patrons that the Green Tea we use is best served hot."

Caroline laughed, "We have a plan. I'll start working on a new menu right away."

"And, I'll start looking for the best method for making ice tea with these different varieties."

"One problem though," said Caroline," we are going to need ice tea glasses."

"Not a problem, I can deal with that."

Back at the table, Bunny was perplexed,"A Tea Room that does not serve ice tea?"

"Actually,"smiled Aunt Cordelia,"tea comes from India. The British embraced it when the conquered India. It is a staple over there, but only served hot."

Vivian laughed,"Bunny, I'm afraid ice tea is a very southern thing."

"But this is the south," questioned Bunny. "You would think it would be on the menu."

"Bunny, honey, expand your horizons. Try different things," said Aunt Cordelia.

"I'm not sure about that."

"Guess you are not into sushi then?" asked Vivian.

"Sushi? What is that?" asked Bunny

Vivian giggled,"Little rolls of raw fish and rice. It's Japanese."

"You are making that up?"

"No, I am not. You should try it. It is really good." Vivian said, then added,"I guess you would not be up for Steak Tartar either?"

"What's that?" asked Bunny.

"A wonderful dish made of raw beef."

"I'll pass."

Their tea had come by now. Aunt Cordelia was taking in their conversation. As she stirred her tea, she added,"Bunny, if you do not explore new things, you will never grow. True, you will not care for everything. Personally, I do not like Sushi, but I adore caviar and smoked salmon." She took a sip of her tea. "I have tried Steak Tartar and it wasn't my favorite, but I really enjoy Tuna Tartar." She laughed. "If someone had told me when I was in my 20's that I would enjoy eating raw tuna, why, I would have told them they had lost their minds."

Bunny just shook her head. She was finding it hard to even drink the tea.

Vivian noticing her reticence, said,"Just think of the tea as a different kind of coffee and I think you will enjoy it."

Aunt Cordelia smiled, "I am not one to give advice, however in this case, I will. Don't be afraid to try new things simply because you do not think you will like them. Life is full of unknowns, and not all of the unknowns are necessarily bad." She paused. "Think of all the new things Harrison introduced you to. And think what you would have tried, if Harrison were still with us. If nothing else, think of him. He would want you to experience life."

"Now you don't have to go overboard and start skydiving or swimming with sharks," Vivian laughed. "I think different types of teas is a good starting point."

They all laughed.

Caroline was in the kitchen telling Hattie about their plan to offer their tea varieties iced. Hattie agreed that was a good idea. "Especially in the summer. I don't see many folks in here want'n hot tea when it's 90 sumptm'n degrees outside."

"That's a good point. At least until we get them used to it."

Hattie stopped and looked around. "That ain't good."

"What Hattie? What are you talking about?"

"There is that evil wind coming through. That Voodoo woman from the Bayou is back. She ain't nutt'n but trouble. You mark my words."

"OK, but I don't think we have anything to worry about."

"No mam, we don't. But some other poh soul sure do."

Sure enough Reeza was at the Sheriff's station. The Sheriff's welcoming words were,"What card did you bring this time to foretell our next doom?"

Reeza ignored him. She gathered her deep purple colored velvet caftan around her and took a seat in the chair in front of his desk. "I told you he would come for her."

"Well in a round about way. I did not realize that I needed to interpret the Knight of Cups, as being a long lost nephew. And, I think the 3 of Wands came a little late."

"You have to listen," Reeza said sternly. "I am trying to help."

"Well don't talk in riddles," said the Sheriff in desperation.

"I will help, if you will calmly sit down. The boy is not the Widow's nephew. He will have the proper looking ID and some interesting childhood and family facts that will make him seem so. However he is from Pensacola."

"Well how did he get this information and why say he is the Widow's nephew?"

"Like all of us - greed - fortune and vice." The Sheriff smiled and kept quite. "The young man worked in the investment firm that happened to be the one that housed the Barkers account. When he learned of Reverend Barker's death, he started looking into the situation. He saw a minister's wife, no relatives, and a small fortune."

"But how did he know about her being insane and almost losing her mind? We kept those details out of the papers."

"Yes, you did, but he was the reason she was insane."

"It came to me. I saw blood on his hands, a wrecked truck, a knife, and dead deer. He learned that she had seen that Sayre prior to the Reverends death, so he ran with that story."

"I saw notes left for her, foretelling horrible things. There were stories of Mr. Barker having an affair with another woman, of his body being dragged somewhere. She was driven crazy by the thought that her husband had sinned and was possessed by daemons."

"And, her little trick of disappearing from the clinic?"

"You do not need to know everything."

"Where is she now?"

Reeza stood,"“I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was." With that she was gone.

"What the Hell?" the Sheriff walked out of his office. "Mary Lou, did you hear that?"

"Yes sir, I did and I recognize it from somewhere," she said as she busily wrote it down. Then she read it several times."It doesn't tell us anything, she talks about visions and dreams."

Mike walked in. "What in the world has the 2 of you so stumped?"

"Reeza was here," said Mary Lou.

"The Widow Barker is missing," said the Sheriff.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Mike said in disgust.

The Sheriff filled him in on what he knew from the hospital in Montgomery. 

"And Reeza?"

The Sheriff filled him in on that, telling him about her visions of so-called Frederick.

"And these were her last words," said Mary Lou," 'I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.' "

"Why would she be reciting Shakespeare?"

"That's Shakespeare?, asked Mary Lou.

"Yes, if I'm correct it is from a Midsummer Night's Dream."

"Great," said the Sheriff,"we have moved from Tarot cards to Shakespeare. Personally, if you ask me, I would be happy with a crystal ball."

Mike stood there thinking, talking softly to himself for several minutes. Everyone else went back to whatever they were doing before Reeza turned them upside down.

Suddenly Mike said, "I've got it."

"Got what? said Mary Lou.

"The Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium."

"That's a reach," said the Sheriff.

"I'm pretty sure that is closed," said Mary Lou. "At least last I heard it was condemned."  

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Three of Wands

A nicely dressed young man walked into the Sheriff's office. Mary Lou asked,"Good morning, how can I help you?"

"My name is Frederick Barker. I am, or was, the nephew of the Reverend and Mrs. John Barker. I just learned that my Uncle died under questionable circumstances, their home burned, and my Aunt is missing. Do you know anything about this?"

"Let me get the Sheriff for you."

Mary Lou called the Sheriff, he immediately came out of his office, and introduced himself. The young man introduced himself and asked his questions. The sheriff invited him back to his office. After they were seated, the Sheriff started,"First of all, son, your Aunt is not missing, she is in a hospital in Montgomery."

"Is she sick? Was she injured in the fire?"

"No. We are not sure exactly what happened to her. Since your Uncle died she has never been quiet the same. She may have had a nervous breakdown. Dr. Magill, our doctor here who treated her, can answer those questions for you and get you all the contact information for the hospital in Montgomery."

"Well, that is a relief. What about her estate?"

"Her estate? She is in the hospital, she is not deceased."

"But, if she has had a nervous break down, then someone needs to take care of her affairs. I am her only relative, therefore I assume it will be me."

"That may be, but she has not been deemed legally incompetent that I know about. I think she can still take care of her own affairs."

"Well, no offense Sheriff, but as her only relative, I think that decision should be up to me. Can you tell me how I can get in touch with this Dr. Magill."

The Sheriff wrote down Mercer's phone number and address on a sheet of paper and handed it to the young man. "Also, do you know anything about her assets?" Frederick asked.

"Assets? The house was a complete loss. I'm afraid she lost everything in the fire."

"No, not those assets, her financial assets - you know investments, stocks, bank accounts?"

"Son, I would have no way of knowing about that."

Frederick stood up thanked the Sheriff for his help. The Sheriff shook his hand and told him if he could help in any way, please call. Frederick left.

As soon as he was out of the door, the Sheriff called Mike, gave him a short version of Frederick Barker's visit, and asked him to see where he went. Mike said he was on it. Then the Sheriff called Mercer and told him about the visitor. "I just found it a little suspect."

"Well, first let me tell you, I spoke with the hospital this morning and the Widow Barker is doing extremely well. She is no longer despondent and is acting more normal. The doctors feel she can be released in a day or two," said Mercer.

"Hum," said the Sheriff thoughtfully."Do you know anything about her having any significant financial assets?"

"No, but then that is something that would have nothing to do with my care of her."

"Well, just out of curiosity, how are her medical bills being paid?"

"The Baptist Church Convention takes care of the widows and orphans of their ministers as well as any disabled ministers unable to work anymore. The bills are going straight to the Convention."

Meanwhile young Frederick was walking into the law firm of Marlboro, Winston, McGregor, and Sweeny. Mike had watched him enter the law firm from a bench across the street. Frederick approached the receptionist's desk, "I need an attorney."

The receptionist called Mr. Sweeney who came out to lobby and introduced himself to Fredrick. They went back to Luther's office. Frederick explained his situation. "I need to be appointed her Power of Attorney so I can take care of her and manage her affairs."

"Has your Aunt requested this?"

"Not yet", he hesitated. "In fact, I'm not sure she can. She may have been deemed incompetent by the state. In that case, it is my understanding she would have to have a legal guardian. Since I am her only living relative, that responsibility would fall on me."

Luther thought for a moment. "When was the last time you saw her?"

Without thinking Frederick said,"It has been years."

"So you are not close."

"Oh, we are very close."

"But you haven't seen each other in years?" Luther continued. "Were you here for your Uncle's funeral?"

"No, no one told me about it. And I was grief stricken to have missed it."

"So your Aunt, whom you are 'very' close to, did not notify her only relative that his Uncle had died and give him the details of the funeral arrangements?"

"I move a lot, I guess she did not have my newest address." Frederick was losing patience. "Mr. Sweeney, all this is irrelevant. I am here now to care for my Aunt and her affairs. Can you please assist me with this?"

"Well, the first thing we will need is a signed, notarized statement from her doctor stating her mental ability - is she of sound and free mind or is she deemed incompetent? If she is of free mind, then we will need a notarized statement from her appointing you as her Power of Attorney, should that be her wish."

Luther paused and took a long look at the young man sitting before him.

"If she has been deemed incompetent, then we will need to petition the state for your appointment as her guardian."

"And how long will this take?"

"If she is of sound mind, just a matter of days to get the paperwork signed, notarized, and filed. If she incompetent, perhaps several weeks."

"Weeks, I don't have weeks. I mean she doesn't need to go that long with someone to take care of her."

"Well, from what I understand, she is in a very safe place and is being well cared for. So whatever the diagnosis is, she is OK for now. We have time."

Luther stood up, "Give Lucy, my paralegal, your email address and phone number. I can either get her to send you the appropriate forms and directions and you can go to Montgomery and see what the situation is yourself. Or, if you want, I can go and get it settled for you."

"Oh, that will not be necessary. If you can give me the papers, I can handle this."

"OK, let me get you to Lucy. It was nice meeting you. As soon as you find out what the situation is, let me know, and we will proceed from there. Remember, if you need any assistance from me, please call."

Luther took him to Lucy's desk, introduced them, told Lucy what he needed her to do, shook hands with Frederick, and returned to his office.

Mike was in an unmarked car ready to follow Frederick when he left the law firm. He had located the only rental car in town and made a guess that that was the car Frederick was driving. From where he sat he could he see the entrance to the law firm and the rental car. Sure enough Mr. Barker got into the rental car and drove off. Mike followed a ways behind.

Back at his desk, Luther reflected on the past 10 minutes or so. This young man was a curious sort. Due to attorney client privilege, he could not discuss this with anyone but Luther could work his ways to see what he could find out. He found this fishy at best.

Meanwhile the Sheriff kept thinking about Reeza's prediction, the Knight of Cups, and the prodigal son returning after a long estrangement and the evil he brings with him. He called Dr. Magill. "Mercer, I have a sneaking suspicion about this mystery nephew from nowhere and the Widow Barker. Can you call the hospital in Montgomery and give them a head's up that he is coming and that we have no verification that he is indeed who he says he is. And that the Widow never told us about a nephew. I'll fill you in later."

It was then that the Sheriff saw a plain envelope sitting on his desk. There were no words on it, only the pencil etching of one eye - as if staring at him. He opened the envelope and a Tarot card fell out -  "What the Hell?"

By this time Mary Lou was in his office."Sir, what is going on. You do not seem happy."

The Sheriff held up the Tarot card so Mary Lou could see it. "Do you know what this is?"

"A Tarot card?"

"Yes, it's a Tarot card." He said impatiently. "Was Reeza here today?"


"Have you been here all day?"

"Yes sir, I haven't left my desk - even to go to the ladies room."

"I think I'm loosing it now."

Mary Lou looked at the card and went to her desk. In a minute or two, she returned. "That is the '3 of Wands', the card representing somebody missing."

Mercer called Montgomery and made sure the Widow's doctors understood the situation as soon as he ended his conversation with the Sheriff. They assured Mercer they would stay of top of the situation, after all they had dealt with these family messes and the law many times.

Sure enough, 2 and a half hours later, Mike called the Sheriff to let him know they were driving into the entrance of the hospital in Montgomery. The Sheriff told Mike to watch the car and Fredrick. If he entered the hospital, wait about 30 minutes. If there was no sign of him leaving, Mike should just come back to Gallagher. The Doctors had been alerted and could take it from there.

Just to cover his bases, Mike waited 45 minutes. From where he sat, he could see the hospital entrance and Frederick's car. There was no sign of Frederick at either. Mike returned to Gallagher.

An hour or so later, Mercer received a phone call from the doctor in Montgomery. "Mrs. Barker is gone."

"Gone, as dismissed, released from the hospital?"

"No, gone - as in missing. We cannot locate her anywhere. The patients' ID wrist bands also have micro chips that act as tracking devices for cases just like this. We found her wrist band in a trash can in the hall. We checked with all our security people and looked over all the video feeds from the almost 100 cameras we have here - and there was nothing."

"Did you see her nephew?"

"No, we never did."

"That's funny because we followed him to the hospital and saw him enter it."

"We have called the authorities and will keep you abreast of the situation."

"Thanks for letting me know. I'll call our Sheriff and tell him." They rang off.

Mercer called the Sheriff, "You won't believe this, but the Widow Barker is missing again - vanished into thin. She was able to get through all the hospital security systems, was not even captured on any of the 100's of camera's they have in the hospital and around the campus."

"Damn, damn, damn!" said the Sheriff. They discussed the situation some more and rang off. The Sheriff just looked at the Tarot card sitting on his desk.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

When the Universes Collide

Anna Belle was at the dinner with Addison Duiese. She had not mentioned to Winfred that she had also been invited. Anna Belle feared it might make Winfred nervous. However, Anna Belle had failed to put 2 and 2 together and realize that, being the guest speaker, the Colonel and Winfred would be seated with Clark and Adair Butler. 'Well', she thought,'this will show her worth.'  Anna Belle was not concerned about Clark. She had known him forever. He was very good at handling even the most delicate situation. Winfred, however, was the unknown here.

Bob and Parker were seated with Caroline and Paten Hollingsworth. Bob was very curious about the Tea Room and peppered Caroline with questions. Finally Caroline took a sip of her martini and said, "Bob, we do not discriminate. Gentlemen are as welcome as ladies." She paused, "Even gay gentleman." Everyone at the table found that funny.

Caroline added,"You are just pea green with envy that it wasn't your idea first. Think of it - fresh flowers, fine china, sterling silver, and exquisite linen. And your job is to serve Hattie's wonderful fare and keep up with all the town gossip disseminated by your patrons."

Parker laughed,"Well now that you put it that way. I'm beginning to think the CPA field is overrated."

Everyone at the table laughed and the conversation about the Tea House continued. Beau and Blanche Jackson were also sitting at the table. Blanche and Caroline had been roommates at Queen's College in Charlotte. She turned to Caroline, "You know Terse is seeing a young lady we have yet to meet. He seems quite smitten, which is unusual for him."

"Oh, Vivian is a sweetheart. She works as an accountant for Wade at the rental company." Then Caroline paused."Are you not familiar with her background?"

"No, not at all," said Blanche. "I understand she relocated here from another town."

"I think I saw her here tonight", said Caroline pivoting from her last question.

"Well, if you see either of them, tell them we are here, and not to leave without seeing us." Caroline assured Blanche she would.

At another table Blanche and Roy Sullivan were seated with Buzz and his date, a young lady named Miranda. No one seemed familiar with her, but she was a lovely poised red head. Jeb and Kathleen were seated at the same table as well as Aunt Cordelia. Blanch turned to Cordelia,"I hate to be a gossip, but I am terribly curious. What ever happened to Belva's husband, Culler and his little problem with the law?"

Cordelia smiled,"He pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Belva is telling everyone he will probably get probation."

"Well that's a relief", said Blanche.

Cordelia gave that knowing smile, "I'm not sure if he wouldn't be better off in prison when Belva gets finished with him. She has no room for forgiveness in her heart."

Back at the head table, everyone was making small talk. Naturally, Winfred was seated next to Clark, since he was the host and she was the wife of the evening's speaker. She was surprised how easy it was to sit next to him. He handled everything with such grace. It was as if Sara and DC lived in another world -albeit a parallel universe. That security was broken when a gentleman walked up to the table to speak with Clark.

Winfred did not recognize him. As he was talking with Clark, Winfred was having a nice conversation with Adair. Suddenly she heard the other man say, "Sara, Sara, is that you?"  pointing toward her.

Before Winfred could think, Clark was on his feet, "Honestly Madison, I'm not sure who Sara is. But I am sure you have had  much way too much to drink."

"But, that is Sara," Madison said pointing toward Winfred.

"No, that is not Sara, that is Mrs. Walker, the wife of our speaker this evening." Clark managed to quickly get one of the waiters to the table to escort Madison Marlboro out of the dinner. As the waiter gathered up Madison, Clark said, "Please just take him home. He has no business on the road tonight."

Winfred did not recognize Madison Marlboro, a partner in Marlboro, Winston, McGregor, and Sweeny. He was a regular at Anna Belle's but not anyone Winfred had ever seen. There was a reason -  he was always slightly to heavily inebriated. As everything settled back down at the table, Adair just laughed, "I've seen Madison have a little too much Scotch, but I think he was way past his limit tonight." She looked at Clark. "Who in world is Sara? And why would he be calling Winfred that?"

"Scotch does strange things," said someone from across the table. "Maybe instead of pink elephants,  Madison sees strange women, who knows?"

Thankfully, the waitress appeared at the table to serve the salad course. Everyone started enjoying their salad and the conversation turned to the food and the dinner itself. Winfred was thrilled when the conversation at the table turned to the Colonel and he started getting peppered with questions about the museum and what he was going to speak on later that evening.

Anna Belle, on the other hand, had watched from one table over at Madison's little outburst. Everyone who knew Madison, knew his affection for Scotch. It looked to her as if  Clark had handled the situation well. And from where she sat, it looked like Winfred was holding her own.

The main course of the dinner, beef tenderloin, was delicious, as was everything else. Then it was time for the Colonel to speak. One thing about Colonel Wadsworth Washington Walker III, he knew his history. He also knew how to keep an audience listening with rapt attention. His story about General Kirby was especially entertaining. Even with the wait staff who were trying to listen to the talk as they moved about the room. No one was disappointed in his presentation.

He finished to a standing ovation. Clark got up and thanked him for speaking to them. "If I had known history was so interesting I may have done better in that class in school." There was laughter in the audience. Then he added,"I don't remember any of those boring lessons recounting the tale of a distinguished General jumping off a front porch, buck naked." That brought about much laughter from the guests.

Clark thanked everyone for coming. He also reminded them why they were there - to help raise funds for the Historical Society. "There is a table in the front hall, staffed by one of our dear volunteers. Please take time before you leave and give a small donation." He looked around the guests."Think of it as your bar bill for tonight."  Everyone laughed. "OK, just donate what half of your bar bill would have been, keeping in mind there was no cheap wine or liquor." He thanked the Colonel again and reminded everyone that the bars were open and they were welcome to stay as long as wanted to.

Terse found his parents. He introduced Vivian to them. "Well, I was wondering if he was going to keep us from meeting you," said Blanche.

"Mom!" exclaimed Terse, "you know better than that."

Beau was impressed by her poise. "What made you come to Gallagher, of all places?"

"My parents were killed in an accident when I was young, so I was brought up by various distant relatives. I was always knew my Mama was a Wells. All my childhood I was told stories about Gallagher since it was where most of the family was from. So when I finished college and needed a place to settle - this was the closest thing to home I knew."

"Well then dear, welcome home," said Blanche. "Now Terse when are you going to bring her over to Mobile?"

"Soon, Mom, I promise. This second book is taking more time than the first."

The 4 of them kept talking for a while until Terse said they needed to get to the bar to meet their group. After Terse and Vivian left the table, Blanche said,"What a lovely lady. And a Wells? I wonder who her parents were?"

Parker hesitated,"If I am correct, her mother is Tula."

Everyone at the table was uncomfortably quiet. Beau broke the silence,"Tula? Tula Wells?"

Parker smiled, "Thank God, there is only one."

Beau looked at Parker,"And that - is one too many."

"Now Beau, all that is in the past," said Blanche in a very warm voice. "And we cannot hold that against Vivian. God knows she cannot help it."

"No, I would never hold it against that young lady. Bless her heart being saddled with that nightmare." Beau sighed, then looked at Parker. "I'm scared to ask, who is her father."

Bob very quietly said, "William Vontese."

Caroline spoke up, "Well that is no mystery, Tula and William were married at one time." She paused,"for a very short time."

Just when it all seemed to calm down, Parker added,"But Vivian was born five years after Tula and William divorced."

Paten said very slowly, as he swirled his glass of bourbon,"And . . . William was married to Anna Belle at that time."

"God, you cannot make this shit up," said Beau as he finished his drink. "I'm going to the bar. Anyone need a drink?"

Parker stood up, "I'll go with you."

"My glass is empty, I'll join you,"offered Paten.

As they made their way through the crowd, Parker said, "Beau, I am sorry I blurted that out. It wasn't fair to you and Blanche or Vivian."

"No, I'm glad we know it now. Like I said it's not Vivian's fault. Damn Tula, she is like a bad cold that keeps returning." said Beau.

As they approached the bar, they could see the Colonel and Winfred surrounded by admirers. Paten paused,"She looks very familiar. I just cannot place her."

Beau laughed,"The Colonel's wife, Winfred?" He turned to Paten,"Do you remember her when she also dressed in costume just like the Colonel? Talk about a transformation. She is an attractive lady."

Paten just stood there for another moment. "She is, she definitely is."

Parker laughed,"Don't look at me?"

As they were standing in line at the bar, Paten asked,"You said her name is 'Winfred'?"

"You heard the introductions this evening."

"Hell, I wasn't paying attention to all that." said Paten distracted. "She reminds me of a lady named 'Sara'."

Before Beau or Parker could turn around and question him, Paten quickly said,"No, I'm wrong. Don't know why I thought that."

Behind them Buzz walked up. "Gentlemen, good evening. They turned to see Buzz with this gorgeous red head on his arm. Buzz smiled,"This is Miranda." And he introduced Miranda to the men. There was no doubt in Paten's mind who Miranda was, no on could forget her. But her secret was safe with him. 

One would have never guessed that Paten was one of her S&M clients. Not even Caroline knew he was into bondage. To see the situation this evening, one would never think that the 2 had ever met - just another parralell universe.

Anna Belle watched from afar. It was always good to remind the members of the Gentleman's Club that she held the cards. No matter how powerful or wealthy they were, Anna Belle could bring them down at any time. Not that she was vindictive. She cared for these men as much as she cared for her girls. It was just good business to keep everyone in line.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Gallo Ripple and a Knight in Shining Armor

The inside of Holly Hocks was as dreamlike as the back lawn was magical. The home was so large, it had a ball room, which went back to its original design in the early 1800's. Naturally, Ivy Lane was Bunny's home now. It was all she had of Harrison, and she felt his love there everyday. That said, the lawn at Holly Hocks was also special because that was where she first spent time with Harrison. The sweeping carpet of thick green St. Augustine grass that slowly made its way to the river, was the first time she realized that someone really wanted to spend time with her. It was Harrison's choice. He wasn't embarrassed to be with her. But now, all she had was memories.

Her deep thoughts were interrupted by Mike, "I brought you a glass of champagne. I do not know enough about wine to feel safe going there."

"You are a dear," Bunny said taking a sip. "How can you go wrong with champagne." As they stood there chatting, Sam and Della walked up. "Whoa!" said Mike. "Della, you have always been a good looking woman but tonight you are stunning."

Della gave Mike a short curtsy and thanked him. Mike looked at Sam,"Guess those rocks cost you a pay check or 2?"

Sam laughed,"No, I didn't buy them for her. However, worse yet, I fear her expectations have risen a bit." 

They all laughed. Just then Vivian and Terse walked up. If the men appreciated Della's stunning beauty in her deep green dress, red hair, and emeralds, they were speechless when they saw Vivian. Mike just stood there somewhat speechless. Luckily Sam could speak,"Vivian, that color looks divine on you. If Terse is an ass tonight, let me know and I'll be there to console you."

They all laughed when Della cocked an eye toward Sam and interrupted her conversation with Bunny. "Vivian, can take care of herself. Perhaps you need to have someone on standby to offer you solace if you stay on this track tonight."

Sam smiled and gave Della a kiss,"You know I'm smitten with you."

"Yes, but it never hurts to remind you." Sam gave a big hug.

Mike stepped up, "Well Vivian in that case, if Terse does something stupid, come find me, I'll take it for the team."

Bunny looked at him then looked at Vivian. "I'm not even going there." She laughed, "Y'all are all nuts."

Wade walked up with Maisy Ruth, his date for the evening. He complimented everyone on the way they looked. Della said, "Thank you Charlie. And thank you for the tickets tonight. This is wonderful." Wade kissed each lady on her cheek, spoke to the men, then headed toward the bar.

"Charlie?" asked Sam.

Della giggled,"It's an inside joke."

Vivian added,"A long story."

Standing with Vivian and Della, Bunny looked like their Fairy God Mother. All she needed was a magic wand. But no one stared or snickered, or even commented behind her back. This was their Bunny.  Well, that was everyone but folks like Marcy and Tula.

Speaking of Marcy, of course she was there, but only as a date of an older man, with more money than charm or good looks. Marcy spoke badly about him behind his back, but with him, he could do no wrong. Anyone in their company would think she worshiped him. Close friends feared he would die an untimely death from an unfortunate incident.

Bunny excused herself to go to the Powder Room. On her way she ran into Marcy. Harrison had told her that Marcy felt guilty that Harrison had to escort her instead of Bunny to the Ball due to the rules of the Grand Assembly. In a way, she had always remembered that as a thoughtful thing for Marcy to say. They spoke. In the conversation, Marcy asked Bunny,"Can you do me a big favor?"

"Of course, I'll be glad to", said Bunny.''

"I'm waiting for my date, "said Marcy, "and it sounds silly, but I told him I would stay here with his things until he gets back. He always gets irritated at me because he says if he gets up to go to the bathroom, he has lost me for the evening."

Bunny laughed,"I've been accused of the same thing."

"Can you get me a glass of wine? They are serving different kinds, I want a red wine. They'll ask if you want a Cabernet, a Pinot Noir, or a Burgundy. Please tell them you want a 'Gallo Ripple'.

Bunny smiled, " 'Gallo Ripple'? I've never heard of that?"

"It's my favorite, not many people drink it."

"I'll be right back." Bunny scurried to the bar. Luckily there was only one person in the 2 lines for wine, while the full bar lines were 4 and 5 deep.

She walked up and a formally dressed bartender asked,"Yes mam, how can I help you?"

"I would like a glass of 'Gallo Ripple'?"

"Excuse me, what kind do you want?"

" 'Gallo Ripple' "?

"Is that a red or white?"

"A red," said Bunny thinking this must be a new or unsophisticated bartender.

"Please excuse me," and the bartender turned to his partner and explained his problem.

Then both bartenders were there trying to serve her. "Mam, would you like a Cabernet, a Pinot Noir, or a Burgundy?" He paused and added,"maybe, a Malbec?"

Bunny did not realize this would be so hard. "No, thank you, it is a 'Gallo Ripple'."

The first bartender looked at Bunny and smiled,"What does it taste like"

"I don't know. I've never had any. A friend of mine asked me to get  her a glass of wine and was very specific that she wanted a glass of 'Gallo Ripple'."

By this time many of the guests in line had picked up on Bunny's quandary. There were a few hushed chuckles. The first bartender knew he needed to do something to save this lady. Obviously, she was the butt of a cruel joke. He turned away where Bunny could not see him, poured a red wine glass half full of a Burgundy, then added some Bitters and cherry juice from the bar.

He returned to Bunny and gave her the glass and a napkin. "Mam, take this to your friend and make sure she taste it to ensure it is what she wanted."

"Thank you so much for helping me."

"You are welcome, bless you," said the bartender, curious as to what the story was behind the ripple and the Fairy God Mother costume.

Marcy was surprised when Bunny returned, even more so when she handed Marcy the glass of wine."It took a while for them to find it, but they did. The bartender said to make sure you tasted it to make sure it is the right thing."

Marcy just looked at the glass of wine. It couldn't be that bad. After all it was probably just a Cabernet, a Pinot Noir, or a Burgundy or maybe some combination of the later. Marcy swirled the glass, as if she knew what she was doing. Next she sniffed the wine. Then she took a good sip.

Immediately, Marcy spat out the wine, which went all over her white silk sheath dress. She looked at Bunny. "What the Hell is that?"

Before Bunny said anything, a voice over her shoulder said, "Your God Damn 'Gallo Ripple'. Doesn't it have the correct notes Marcy?"

Bunny turned around and saw Terse standing there with 3 glasses of champagne. "I am surprised that even you would try to embarrass someone like that. You are not a 13 year old, although you act like one."

Marcy looked at Terse with looks that would kill. "So you did this? Do realize how much this Carolina Herrera dress cost me?"

"No, I didn't do this. A very quick bartender did and I could not care less what that dress cost." He turned to Bunny,"You OK?"

"I am now."

"Here," he handed her a glass of champagne. I need to get you back to the group. We were all worried where you were?"

"Thanks Terse."

"That's what friends are for. By the way I wanted to thank you for sharing the jewelry with Vivian and Della. It has made a nice evening even more special."

"I'm glad they are enjoying it."

They found the others. Terse made a comment about how difficult it was to get through the groups of people. He said he had found Bunny stuck in the crowd. "Someone had to save her!" he laughed.

"Terse was my knight in shining armor."

At that point they heard their host asking everyone to find their tables for dinner and be seated. As they started looking for their places, Wade spotted them. "Our table is #8, over here. Maisy is already seated." He pointed toward the left side of the large ballroom. The group moved toward the table.

Mike said,"I don't know about y'all, but I'm starved."

Sam laughed,"Me too, but I have never left Holly Hocks hungry."

Della looked at them, "I think y'all are always hungry."

Across the room, the Colonel put his hand behind Winfred's back,"Let's find our table." The Colonel whispered in her ear, "My dear, you have left me breathless this evening."

Just then, Clark Butler found them in the crowd, "Colonel, you and," he paused just a second,"Winfred will be sitting with us at the head table, if you will follow me."

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Harry Winston Jewels and a Black Bow Tie Event

Wade walked into the rental office in the morning."Good morning ladies."

Della laughed,"You sound like Charlie, so that must make us your angels."

Wade shook his head, "Something like that." He put 2 tickets on Della's desk. As he did, Bunny walked into the room. He handed 2 tickets to her also. "I thought y'all would enjoy this."

Della and Bunny looked at the tickets. Before they could ask, Wade offered,"These are tickets to the Gallagher Historic Society's annual dinner. Usually it is a nice affair. The Butlers host it at Holly Hocks, so you know it will be a nice time."

Vivian walked in the front door. Wade handed her 2 tickets also and explained what they were for. All three ladies thanked him.

Wade laughed,"Obviously they are for you 'plus one'. Isn't that the new thing - 'plus one'?"

The Vivian and Della laughed with Wade. Bunny didn't get it. Della smiled and said,"Bunny, 'plus one' means the invitation is for you and the one other person you wish to bring with you. Like a date."

Vivian offered,"Like, Mike!"

"Oh," said Bunny. "I always wondered what that meant."

Wade just smiled and shook his head. Before he walked out the door, he added, "Oh, and Col Walker is the evening's speaker. Even though I know y'all are 3 naturally beautiful women, let's close the office at 2 this afternoon - just in case y'all may need some time."

They all thanked him and told him goodbye. Wade left.

As it was, the dinner was that evening. Della laughed,"Good thing we did not have plans for tonight." She looked at the invitation."Oh my, it is black tie."

"That means that Mike needs to wear a black bow tie, right?" asked Bunny.

"That means Mike needs to wear a tuxedo, if he has one. And if not, his best suit. And, you need to wear a formal dress."

"Oh," said Bunny trying to remember what dress she had like that. "I'm sure I have something to wear."

"Bunny, it will not matter what dress you wear, your jewelry will be gorgeous."

Bunny had not even thought about the jewelry. But, she did know she needed to figure out what she was going to wear that evening. She called Mike to tell him about the invitation, hoping he could go.

"Of course I can go. And, believe it or not I have a tuxedo."

"How did you know it was black bow tie?"

"Because that dinner is always black tie," Mike laughed. Her comment just reminded him of why he adored her. "What if I pick you up at 6?"

"That would be great. See you then." They rang off.

Just as she had called Mike, Della had called Sam, and Vivian had called Terse. Everyone was set to go. The ladies discussed what they would wear. Della had a deep green dress that would look great with her red hair. Vivian said she was going to wear a dark blue one that she loved. One would think it was the prom the way the ladies discussed hair styles, shoes, etc.

At lunch, Bunny went home and pulled her jewelry out of the safe. It always surprised her how beautiful it all was. She selected a tiara, a necklace dripping with diamonds, and matching earrings. While she had the jewelry out, she took her time and looked through it. Carefully she put the jewelry she wasn't using that evening back into the box and locked the safe.

Back at the office, she pulled out a small cloth bag and placed it on Della's desk.  Della just looked at her with a quizzical expression. "I thought this might go well with your dress tonight."

Della opened the bag to find an emerald necklace, earrings, and matching bracelet. "Oh, Bunny!" Della said stunned. "Are these . . .?"

"Yes, they are part of Mary's collection. I thought it would be a good night for you to enjoy them also."

"I don't know what to say?"

"Nothing, I can't wait to see them on you. Just enjoy them."

"I promise I'll get them back to you tonight," Della said excitedly.

"I think sometime next week will do."

Della carefully picked up the jewels, still in awe of what she was holding.

Vivian walked in, saw what was on Della's desk and gasped,"Oh, my God Della, those are spectacular. Are those yours. . . to wear tonight?"

Before Della could say anything, Bunny handed Vivian a small bag.  Vivian carefully opened it. She looked at Della. "Oh!" She pulled out a blue sapphire set of earrings and matching choker. "Bunny!!" The looked closely at the pieces. "These look like Harry Winston pieces."

"They are, whatever that means." Bunny explained the story behind the jewelry. Vivian gave her a big hug. 

Della laughed,"There is only one problem - no one will think they are real."

"I don't care. They will make me feel special." said Vivian, still looking at the sapphires.

Bunny looked at Vivian,"You are special. You do not need sapphires to make you feel that way."

By this time it was 2 and they closed the office. At home Bunny looked through her closet. Mary had many lovely long dresses, but they were all just not that fancy. Bunny just did not think they were correct for a 'black tie' event. Then she came across a dress she knew was perfect. Of course, what was she thinking? She pulled it out.

The gown she never got to wear, the one she bought for the Grand Assembly Ball. She hung the dress from the top of the closet door.  There it was in all its splendor - the purple polyester dress with lace detail on the skirt. She had almost forgotten the amount of tulle that made it look like it had a hoop skirt underneath. The jewelry was a perfect match.

Winfred had known for weeks that the Colonel was the speaker at the Historic Society dinner. She also knew she needed something really nice to wear. Needless to say, even though her 20th century wardrobe was expanding, she had not gotten into formal wear.

On the morning of the dinner Winfred was at loose ends. She still had not found anything to wear. She had taken the day off since she knew it was important to the Colonel. When she showed up at the Gentleman's Club that morning, Anna Belle knew there was some issue. Winfred explained her situation to Anna Belle. Anna Belle just laughed,"I think I can solve that problem for you. Follow me."

Anna Belle led Winfred upstairs into a bedroom at the end of the hall that Winfred had never been in. Anna Belle opened the doors to a large closet and disappeared inside. It wasn't 2 minutes before she emerged with an armful of clothes. "I think these should fit. And I think any of them will look spectacular on you."

Anna Belle spread the dresses across the bed. Winfred had seen gowns like this in fancy magazines but never in real life. "Oh, come on," said Anna Belle,"try them on. Let's see which one best suits you."

As Winfred tried on gown after gown, she felt like a little girl playing dress up. Finally, they agreed on a sequined covered peach colored gown that fit her well without being too revealing, but was still alluring. Winfred was thrilled and, once again, indebted to Anna Belle. Naturally, Anna Belle was more than happy to make someone else happy.

Winfred was so proud of the Colonel. Speeches to historic societies, like this one he was going to give that evening, was when he was at his best. Even with his eccentricities, he really was a fine man. When she emerged from the bedroom, the Colonel was almost speechless. "Winfred, my dear, you will truly be the belle of the ball tonight." She thanked him, they walked to the car, and he opened the door for her. As soon as she was settled in, he got in the driver's side, they started toward Holly Hocks.

"Come to think of it, I do not know anything about the Butlers. Who are they, besides the owners of Holly Hocks? I do not even know their names?" Winfred laughed. 

"Well, they are Mr. and Mrs. Davis Clark Butler III. His wife's name is Adair. They are both so nice, interested in historic preservation, and philanthropy." The Colonel paused. "But is not just our hosts, there will so many people there tonight who are key to supporting the historic preservation of the area. Keep that in mind," he said with a wink.

They arrived at Holly Hocks, and drove up the long drive lined with tall ancient cedars. As they approached the house, the Colonel stopped. A gentleman opened Winfred's door and helped her out. The Colonel gave his keys to the young man on his side of the car. All the cars would be valet parked. The Butlers would never dare have a guest tonight worry about parking.

Winfred stood at the steps looking at the lovely antebellum mansion. Thankfully a few of these were spared the ravages of the war and all the other natural disasters that had followed. The Colonel came to her side and they walked up the steps together. Once they got in the front door, there was a small line of guests waiting to greet the hosts.

While they waited, Winfred looked around at the architectural detail, the fine art, and the rich colors of the grand hall. The large crystal chandeliers overhead, cast a gentle bright but elegant light onto the room. Finally they reached their hosts. Winfred introduced herself to Adair Butler, a lovely red headed lady, who had aged very well. Adair offered her hand and with genuine warmth welcomed Winfred to Holly Hocks. She turned to her right and introduced her husband. "Clark, this is Winfred Walker, she is the wife of our distinguished speaker this evening."

Clark Bulter offered his hand to Winfred,"So nice to meet you."

Winfred took his hand, smiled, and said, "You also. I have heard so much about Holly Hocks. I am looking forward to this evening."

His long look at Winfred ended only when she turned to her right, "Mr. Butler, this is my husband, Colonel Walker."

"Our speaker!" Clark said enthusiastically. "We are so looking forward to your talk tonight."

"Thank you sir, I just appreciate being invited." Winfred and the Colonel moved along. Winfred was relieved when they immediately ran into one of the Colonel's fellow history buffs. As the Colonel rattled on about some newly learned nugget of some battle 150 years ago, she did not have to say a word.

Winfred needed a chance to catch her breath and compose herself. She had no idea that one of her favorite clients, she knew as 'DC' , was in real life Mr. Davis Clark Butler III. No doubt Clark was surprised to see that 'Sara' was Winfred and married to Colonel Walker. This should make for an interesting evening.