Take a small town in southern Alabama, and a young lady, just slightly out of step. Add gnarly family trees, entrenched traditions, and everyone living with skeletons in their closets - welcome to Gallagher. There one will find an extraordinary cast of insane characters. And, it could only happen in the South.


My Life a Bit South of Normal

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Certain Things That I Require

The sheriff finally got the picture of the policewoman from Montgomery. Neither he nor Mike recognized the name or the picture. After looking through the county records, tax list, and phone book, they could not find anyone with the name of 'Miranda', much less 'Miranda Davis'. They took the picture, the other profile information, photos of the car, and every other bit of evidence they had pertaining to Madison Marlboro's death and spread it out on the large table in the evidence room.

“If she stole the taser, she could have sold it,” commented Mike. 

“Could have,” replied the Sheriff as he flipped through the papers on the table.

Hollis came by to discuss the case. The Sheriff told him that he had spoken with Stella as well as the law firm. The only issue was Madison's drinking. All else seemed going well. Madison and Stella were supposedly looking forward to their 25th wedding anniversary and a trip they had planned to the islands. Also, their oldest son, Knox, would be graduating from college this spring. Other than his drinking, the law firm could not come up with any problems either.

“What about Stella’s trip?”

“I checked with her sister and she confirmed the time Stella was there. Her sister also said they were out with friends Wednesday night, if we needed their names.”

They discussed the stolen to taser. “Even it were sold, we would not know where to start looking for a thief. 

Mary Lou walked in. "Ruthanne Flynn just called. I told her that you were out.”

“Jesus, I wish she would stop. She’s only trying to get money.”

Hollis looked up. “Who is Ruthanne Flynn?”

The Sheriff told him about Ruthanne and Delmar. “He swears he saw 2 men putting a body in a BMW on Boulevard, late Wednesday night.”

“You don’t believe him?”

“No, he’s a drunk. Every time he comes in with some story, he was on his way home from a bar and basically shit faced. What kind of witness would he make?”

“Every time? How many times has he been in?” “Oh, he was in here a month or so ago, swearing he had seen 2 men late one night, putting a body in a car in the church parking lot.”

“You don’t think he is credible?”

“No. I think he is henpecked and that unpleasant wife of his, hears about someone dying and comes up with a story.  Delmar was always there and witnessed something. He gets so drunk every night, I'm surprised he can stand up, much less, remember something he saw. Heaven knows how many times we have dragged his ass out of someone’s bushes or off their lawn. He couldn’t make it home, how could he reliably remember what he saw, if indeed he did see something?”

“Rascal, if Madison Marlboro wasn’t killed in his car where we found him, unless he dragged his own dead body into his car then drove home, someone had to do it?”

“So you think Delmar's story is credible?”

“What other witnesses do you have?”

“He won’t talk unless Ruthanne tells him he can open his mouth. And that is not going to happen until Ruthanne gets her grimy paws on some cold cash.”

“Rascal, he is saying he saw it twice.”

"I’ve seen pink elephants several times, but that doesn’t make them real.”

Hollis picked up the the picture and the profile of the fired policewoman from Montgomery County. “Seriously? Miranda Davis? Huh." Hollis looked up, "I think I can help you here. This Miranda works at the Gentlemen's Club. No one can forget that fiery red hair."

“Seriously? If that's the case, maybe we should pay Annabella a visit?" The Sheriff looked at Mike, then added, "Better yet, let's get her to come here. We don't want to stir up any suspicion.”

At the Quinton home, Kathleen and Dixie were having a stand off. Dixie would not give into Kathleen's wishes. “You just don't understand. This is your chance to shine and celebrate.”

“You mean your chance to shine and celebrate.” Kathleen paused. "Mama, we want to get married at the Church of the Seven Wells and Three Stones.”

“Well, that's impossible. That church will only seat 75 to 100 people - at most."

"And the problem is?"

“The guest list is over 350 already.”

“Well then you can choose who doesn't need to attend – or I will," Kathleen smiled. “In fact, you invite 25 people. Mrs. Beauregard can invite about 25 people. Jeb and I will invite 50 of our friends"

Dixie wasn't sure how to handle this. She tried to argue but it was no use. Kathleen walked over to her mother’s desk. She picked up the 40 pages of paper that constituted her Mother’s list. As she did she saw a letter on the desk.

She picked it up. This couldn't be? The letter was on expensive cotton bond corporate stationary. She started reading. "Mrs. Quinton, your proposal is most interesting. I am available May 20. We would like to help make the occasion even more special. That said, there are certain things that I require:

  • The guest list has to be at least 300 people and firm. Once they know I am coming it will be a zoo;
  • I would prefer a unique venue. Churches are so common for weddings;
  • I will need a place for me and my six assistants to stay;
  • After meeting the bride, I will suggest a proper gown;
  • Please send me what you have in mind for the invitations;
  • We have experience working with Beŕnerd, but make sure he knows that I will be assisting;
  • We can discuss the flowers at a later time. I need to see the venue first;
  • As for the attendants, please have the bride select three. Any more and it will look a pageant,  fewer and it will give the wrong appearance;
  • They need to be attractive young ladies. One that is a little overweight can ruin the pictures. If the bride doesn't have three ladies who would be appropriate, I'll be happy for one of my assistants to stand in; 
  • I would like to discuss all of this with you and the bride. Can we set up a video conference call next week? Depending on the event and the venue, I may select it to be highlighted in the June issue of my brides magazine

I look forward to working with you and the bride sincerely, . . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Stolen Taser and Lot's of Experiece

Clint called the Sheriff to let him know that they were able to collect some more the 'confetti'.  The Sheriff sent Mike to pick  up what they had found. They put the ID number from the pieces into the National AFID System. The result was a bit unexpected - the taser had been bought by the Montgomery, Alabama Police Department. The Sheriff was surprised. "I didn't see that one coming."

"Obviously, a policeman from Montgomery did not kill Madison," stated Mike.

"No, but let's find out what they have to say about this", the Sheriff said as he picked up the phone to call Montgomery. As it turned out, the taser had been stolen. "We thought maybe an officer who had been let go stole it, but we never had enough proof."

They spoke for a while. Sheriff Quitman asked if they would send him information on the officer they had 'let go'. Montgomery said they would be glad to. Both parties said they would stay in touch if either learned anything. They rang off.

The Sheriff called Hollis to let him know what they had learned. 

"So where do you go from here?"

"We now have a murder versus just a death by natural causes."

"That may be the case.  I don't think Madison died in his car. I enlarged the picture and all I could see were a few pieces of confetti. There was not enough taser confetti at the scene. "

They discussed a few things and rang off.

Meanwhile Bunny invited Barbara to join her at the Tea Room for the Apres Tea Hour. She explained to Barbara what this was and how it had come about.

As they walked to the Tea Room, Barbara asked, "Aren't there other bars in town?"

"Of course, we go to Dot's Do Drop In a lot."

"Do Drop In?"

"Ike the Bartender, is older than dirt, but a great bartender."

"And what is the name of the Tea Room, or is it just the Tea Room."

"No, that wouldn't say much. It is the 'Goodness Gracious Tea Room'."

'Of course it has a name like that,' Barbara thought as she took notes.

By this time they were at the Tea Room. Caroline greeted them. Bunny introduced Barbara to Caroline. "Ms. Birch is planning to make a movie here in Gallagher."

"Well that's special," said Caroline. "What kind of movie?"

"Oh, I think it will be a love story. Bunny is helping me get a feel for the town."

"Well, we are certainly glad to have you around. If I can help, just holler."

Bunny told Caroline they were sitting at Aunt Cordelia's table.

Looking at the women seated in the Tea Room, obviously enjoying some adult beverages, Barbara asked, "These women do not want to go to Dot's Do Drop In?"

"Of course some go there. But this a pretty fancy place and some women just like being in an elegant setting." Bunny continued as they walked toward Cordelia's table. "Besides, Dot's doesn't have fine crystal and china."

"Now which one is your aunt?"

"Oh, she's not really my aunt. She was Harrison's aunt. But I dearly love her."

"Who is Harrison, your husband?"

"No, but almost. We were engaged for a day or two then he died."

"That's tragic."

Matter of factually, Bunny added, "Something popped in his brain."

As they approached the table, Cordelia turned to greet them. "Bunny, dear who do we have here?"

"Aunt Cordelia, this Barbara Birch. She in town about making a movie."

"A movie, about what, if I may ask?"

"I think it is going to be a love story set in a small southern town."

The ladies at the table showed approval of that idea. Bunny introduced Barbara to Iris, Colleen, Dixie, Rayeanne and "Miss' Ella. They had a seat and Grace was quickly at the table to take their orders.

Bunny said, "I'd like a glass of white wine."

Grace looked at her and asked,"What type?"

"Oh, I don't care, as long as it is white."

Barbara ordered a martini straight up. Grace apologized and told her that they only served wine, cordials, port, cognac - things like that, no hard liquor. "Well, if that's the case, I would like a glass of Pinot Grigios." Grace left to get the ladies order.

It didn't take Barbara long to realize that group of old biddies were terribly tipsy. The ladies had several questions to ask Barbara, which she was happy to answer.

After 10 minutes or so, Barbara asked, "What do your husbands think about you being here so late in the afternoon?"

The ladies looked at each other. Finally Dixie spoke up. "Well if they have their place to go, why can't we? I'm not about to fix supper for Harrell tonight. He knows better."

"So he goes to the Do Drop In?"

Dixie giggled. "Of course not. This is the evening he goes to the Gentlemen's Cub."

"The country club?"

There was another giggle around the table. Barbara knew there was something here she needed know. Dixie replied,"No, the Gentlemen's Club is where the men go at night time."

It was obvious Barbara was a little confused. Finally, Cordelia, smiled. "My dear, the Gentleman's Club is where, as my mama would have said, there are 'ladies of the evening'."

Barbara had to grasp that. "And everyone knows about this?"

"Most everybody," Dixie said. There was more giggling.

By this time Grace had brought another round of drinks. Barbara took a big sip from her glass of wine. This was more interesting than she thought.

"I hope I do not offend anyone, but may I ask a question?"

"Certainly", said Cordelia.

"All of you here don't have a problem with the men frequenting a brothel?"

"Oh, my dear," Cordelia said as she took a small sip of her port."We do not refer to the Gentlemen's Club as a 'brothel'. Why, that sounds awfully crass."

"But, you said prostitutes are there?"

"No, we said that there were 'ladies of the evening" there."

By this time, Barbara had downed her glass of wine. And, Grace brought her another. The alcohol was getting to her head. She had not eaten anything that day. The only food she had seen was at the Starlight Cafe. Her stomach almost turned when she thought of all the grease and carbs that they served. So far, she had not found a salad bar - anywhere in town.

"But this isn't a problem with you?" asked Barbara in a slight slur.

Once again, Dixie spoke up. "Oh sweetheart, no. This is not a problem for us at all." She took a sip of her wine. "There are several advantages to us."

"Like what?"

"Well, when we want something - a serious piece of jewelry, some expensive clothes, or even a trip out of town, the men are happy to oblige. Why, they think if they keep us happy, we will no protest about their club." She added. "More importantly, we don't have to . . .," Dixie paused again. "Well let's just say that their physical needs are taken care of and I no longer feel guilty when I politely deny his entreaties."

"Oh," said Barbara, realizing she was not taking notes. But, she doubted this was anything she would forget.

Before she realized it, Barbara asked, "Well, I assume there is a 'Madam' of the house."

"There is and she had fixed up the Old Hunnicutt home right nicely. Not that I have ever been there."

The table giggled. Rayeanne spoke up,"Oh honey, Anna Belle Vontese runs the club."

"So you know her?"

Cordelia smiled."Of course we know Anna Belle, she grew up here. She is a very enterprising woman."

Finally 'Miss' Ella added,"Why Anna Belle is Bunny's mother."

Barbara did not see this one coming. She felt sorry for Bunny. It must be awful having to live with this.

Bunny just smiled. Having had enough wine, she looked at Barbara and said,"Oh, my Mama knows what she is doing. She has lots of experience." 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Two Widows and A Gnarly Tree

Knowing that few people go through the pain of losing someone dear without saying goodbye, Iris decided to pay Stella Marlboro a call. A very nice young man answered the door. Iris introduced herself. He welcomed her in and said his name was Kirby. Stella was in the den with another handsome young man. Iris introduced herself to Stella.

Stella greeted her and introduced her other son Knox.  She asked Iris to have a seat.

Iris sat and started. You may not know me, but I’m John Barker’s wife,” Iris paused, “widow.” John died unexpectedly also, so I understand what you are going through.”

“That is kind of you. I’m afraid I am still numb - in denial.”

“From experience, it takes a while to even get to the point of grieving.”

Stella paused, then asked, “How did you handle it?”

Iris laughed,”Not well. But everyone is different. You have these 2 sons to help you, I was alone.”

“I cannot imagine not having them here. Seriously, how did you handle these first days?”

“Well, first let me say, I’m the last person give advice. I came over to offer you my concern and support.”

“But you have just experienced this, where do I start?”

Iris took a breath,”I was possessed and went mad.”

“I do feel a bit 'possessed', but am too numb to go mad. What is it  - the 7 stages of grief?”

“No, Stella. I literally felt as if I was possessed. They ended up having to commit me.”

“You’re serious?”

“Yes, I am. I went out of my mind. Eventually, Mercer, Dr Magill, had me checked into a sanitarium.  Iris stopped, thinking that was enough of her story. “But, it all worked out. I had issues before John’s death. Unfortunately, they did not raise their evil heads until he died.”

“You mean just uncontrollably distraught.”

“Something like that. But, that is behind me. What can I do for you?”

“I just have so many questions. What really happened, how long had he been there? Did he suffer in pain?”

“The same ones I had, once I could process it all.”

The 2 women talked for an hour or 2. Iris steered way from the details of her ordeal. But, they began to realize that the 2 deaths were very similar. Stella and Madison had had an argument  on Wednesday, the last day she saw him. They did not part on good terms. Iris told her that she and and John were also having some issues.

Finally Iris realized she needed to go. Stella thanked her for coming. Stella suggested that the 2 of them meet for lunch. Iris thought that was a wonderful idea. They said their goodbyes and Iris left.

Earlier that day, Barbara walked into the Starlight Cafe. She was back in town to do some more 'research'. She reintroduced herself to Walter. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

Walter told her, he could spare about 5, but they were preparing for lunch, their busiest time of the day.

Walter and Barbara sat down at a table and Walter brought cups of coffee for both of them. Barbara started. “You may not remember me, I am Barbara Birch. I represent Spirit Productions. We want to make this movie.”

“About what?” asked Walter.

“It will probably be a love story - 2 people who meet in this small southern town.”

“Is this going to be a documentary?”

“No, we are talking about a full feature film?”

"So what do you need from me?"

"Can you give me the names of a few citizens who can tell me more about the town? Anyone you think would be willing to talk to me and tell me a few interesting facts about Gallagher."

Walter thought for a minute. "Let's see, you probably would be interested in speaking to Ella Osbourne, she is a widow. Also, see if you can get in touch with Wade Hampton, here is his number." He  scrolled down the contacts list and gave her Wade's number. He paused, then said,"I know who can help you. The office manager at Q.G. Hampton Rentals and Housing Co. - Bunny Vontese. Bunny could tell you a lot, since she manages most of the rental property here." He gave her Bunny's number.

Barbara was writing down what Walter had been saying. She looked up,"This is an odd question, but last time I was here I noticed 2 older ladies dressed exactly alike walking down the street."

"Those would be the Eldridge twins, Cora and Flora. Ask Bunny about them. She can help you there." He paused, then his face lit up. "You have to visit our local museum,the Museum of Confederate Uniforms, Hats, and Paraphernalia and speak with Col. Wadsworth.  The Colonel is a walking catalog of local history." Walter opened his phone and looked up the Colonel's number. "Here is the Colonel's Number."

After he gave Barbara the Colonel's number, he told her he needed to get back to work. She thanked him. Walter went back behind the counter and Barbara walked out of the door with some names to start with.

First on her list was Bunny. She walked into the rental company and asked to speak to Bunny. Della showed her into Bunny's office. Barbara introduced herself and explained her project.

Bunny was thrilled,"A movie, a real movie show about Gallagher? Wow, that would be wonderful. I've never been in a movie. Who could I play?"

Barbara explained that it was a love story about a small southern town. "We are still working on the screen play. We will have professional actors in the film."

"Well, this is exciting! Will you have movie stars like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt? I would want Julia Roberts. I just loved her in The Runaway Bride."

Trying to keep Bunny on track, Barbara asked,"I am trying to learn something about Gallagher, about the people who live here. Walter at the Starlight Cafe said I should talk you."

"Isn't he just cutest the thing? I love the bald spot on the top of his head."

"Yes, he is cute." Before Barbara could say anything Bunny called Della and Vivian into her office.

She introduced her to them. "She's gonna make a movie here. I told her I want Julia Roberts to play me."

"Really," said Della.

"Well, that's exciting," said Vivian.

Bunny said, "This is almost as exciting as learning I have a sister." She put her arm around Vivian.

"So you 2 are sisters," asked Barbara trying to figure how those two could possibly be blood relatives. Vivian had on a cute skirt and sweater and boots. Then was Bunny with her teased blond hair, heavy makeup, skin tight dress, and stilettos.

"Well, we didn't know anything about it until several months ago," said Vivian.

"How did that happen," Barbara asked as she took out her pad to take notes.

Vivian started, "We have the same fathers."

"OK."

"My mama didn't want to be a single mother, so she sent me to live with relatives."

"So she was young?"

"No, not really. Let's see, Tula, that is my mother's name, was married to Bunny's father when she was in her mid 20's."

Bunny added,"And my Mama married Daddy when she was in her mid 20's also."

"But Tula and our father only stayed married for a year or two."

"Then he married Bunny's mother."

Barbara commented, "So you are older than Bunny."

"No mam," said Vivian. "Bunny's 2 years older than me."

Barbara looked confused.

"See Bunny was 2 years old when I was born," said Vivian.

"So, Tula remarried your father"

"Heck no. By that time Tula was married to Lawrence Lutrell. She left Daddy for Lawrence."

Bunny added,"Mama and Daddy were only married a year before I was born. Then 2 years later Vivian was born."

"To Tula and your father?" Barbara asked.

"Yep, that's right," said Bunny as she pulled a mint from the jar on her desk. "Care for one?"

"No, I'm fine. So Bunny, your father and mother were still married at the time."

"Yes, mam," said Bunny.

Vivian laughed,"It's complicated."

'No shit', thought Barbara who turned to Della, "And what's your story?"

"Oh, nothing to write home about. Mama died 2 years ago and Daddy died last year. They were happily married for 42 years."

The door opened and Della walked out to see who was there. "Hey Buzz. Come on in. You can meet Ms. Birch. She is going to make a movie about Gallagher."

"Really?"

They walked into Bunny's office. "Ms. Birch, I'd like you to meet Buzz Jackson. Buzz this is Ms. Barbara Birch."

Laughing, Barbara asked,"So how are you kin to these 3 ladies?"

Buzz smiled, "Bunny is my half sister."

"And, Vivian?"

Buzz laughed, "No, mam. Can't say she is."

"So you are older than Bunny?

"Yes, by 3 years or so." He smiled, then realized where Barbara was going with this. "My Daddy and Bunny's mother were not married. I was raised by an adoptive family." He stopped, then added,"I guess you could say the family tree doesn't branch much."

Della laughed,"Well at least we don't marry our cousins," she paused, then added, "like some people think."

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Cards and Confetti

Anna Belle was still getting over her run in with Reeza. She had never believed in voodoo or such. However, this woman played the part very well. If she didn't have the 3 cards in hand, she would have definitely written it off as a figment of her imagination. But the cards were there - 'The Five of Cups', 'The Justice Card', and 'The Chariot Card'.

Anna Belle tried to remember Reeza's exact words. But she could only remember Reeza saying something about Anna Belle not believing everything she heard. Also, something about 'enlightenment' and that she was strong. She wanted to learn more, but feared that one may think that she was delirious if she described the encounter. She knew she would figure it out - somehow. After all, it wasn't like she was going to forget the meeting.

Anna Belle continued on to Heddie's. When she walked in the door, Ada looked up. "You look like you have seen a ghost. You're as white as a sheet. Do you feel OK?"

Anna Belle smiled,"Oh, I'm fine. I just did not expect it to be as cold this morning as it is. I must be getting old and my blood is thinning."

Ada pulled Anna Belle's dresses off the rack. As she placed them on the counter, she laughed, "Join the club. I knew I was old when my knee started predicting upcoming rain."

Anna Belle paid and was walking out, when she met Millie Quinn at the door. "Good morning Millie, how are you doing this morning."

"I thought well until I learned that Stella's husband had died. actually found dead in his car. I feel for her and the boys."

"I did hear about that. It is never good when someone that young passes too soon."

They bid farewells and Anna Belle walked down the steps to the sidewalk. Just then she realized she had left her purse on the counter. She turned and went back into the shop. As soon as Anna Belle opened the door, she heard part of the conversation between Millie and Ada."

" . . . and she just found him there. They even think he had been dead for a day or 2," Millie was saying.

Ada replied,"It was tragic that no one saw him there."

Millie added,"Am I the only one who finds it curious that 2 men have been found dead in their cars in just a matter of a month or 2."

Millie turned to Anna Belle,"I was just telling Ada that I find it strange that 2 men in town have been found dead in their cars. Now, I'm not trying to stir up anything, but I do not believe in coincidences."

Anna Belle walked up to the counter. Ada had seen her by then and handed Anna Belle her purse that she had left on the counter. "I was going to call you, if you didn't return in a few minutes."

Ann Belle laughed, "You are so thoughtful, I am afraid that would have done no good."

Ada gave Anna Belle a puzzled look to which Anna Belle responded,"I didn't have my cell phone." She laughed and said as she pulled the phone from her purse and showed it to Ada. "It was in my purse".    

Ada chuckled, "Dear Lord."

Millie repeated her last thought,"I just think those 2 deaths had too much in common."

Trying to think of something to say, Anna Belle spoke up, "It is horrible that Madison died that way," she paused. "And, also Rev Barker, but Ada and I were just talking about all of us getting older."

"I still find it odd," Millie replied.

Anna Belle, with a smile said,"Millie, are you becoming our new Agatha Christie?"

Millie laughed, "Of course not. But one can wonder?"

Anna Belle bid them a good day once again, and left the shop. 'Certainly no one would connect the 2 deaths?', she asked herself. She tried to shake it off. But a little voice in her head told her that something was amiss. As she pondered this, she made her way home.

At the Sheriff's station Mike, Hugh, and Pearce were listening to the Sheriff's idea."Let's give them what they want. Do you think you can get in touch with them?"

"I can try," said Hugh.

"Contact them and tell them you have your files, work product, programs, and hard drive for them," he just paused. "Tell them you do not want to be in breach of contract."

"What if they just tell me they don't care?" Hugh asked.

"Then tell them that the Sheriff is looking for you and your work. You think he is close and you don't want to turn over what the LLC was supposed to get to him."

"And, what do I do when they just tell me to discard them?"

Mike spoke up, "Tell them, if they do not get the programs and files, you will have to give them to the Sheriff if he catches up with you. And, that you are not sure why the law was interested in this in the first place. Make it clear, you are not willing to go to jail."

The Sheriff added, "That should worry them enough to make an effort to get them."

The men discussed some other details. The Sheriff thanked Hugh and Pearce for coming in. The 3 men shook hands. Pearce and Hugh left.

As soon as the Sheriff walked out of his office, Mary Lou stopped him. "Clint from the funeral home wants to see you."

"About what?"

"I didn't ask but he said it was something you needed to see." With that the Sheriff got his coat and hat off the rack. "Tell Mike where I am going. I cannot imagine this taking very long."

At the funeral home, Clint was happy to see Sheriff Quitman. "Sir, I have found something I want you to see."

The Sheriff followed Clint into the back room of the funeral home. Madison Marlboro was lying on a large stainless steel table. Clint pulled the sheet off of the top portion of his nude body. "Look at this," he said pointing to two reddish, dot-like lesions on the left side of Madison's chest."

The Sheriff looked closer,"My God, that looks like a wound from a taser."

"I thought the same thing. I am not a medical doctor, but seeing where the wound is, close to the heart, this could have very easily brought about an 'acute myocardial infarction'.  Madison had all the issues that would make him vulnerable to such an event. He had heart disease, was an alcoholic, a smoker, and I would bet you money - high cholesterol."

"So you think he died of a heart attack brought about by a taser."

"That is my  guess."

"But a taser  releases dozens of confetti-sized identification tags."

"We found a few when we were undressing the body."

"Did you keep them? But, I'll check his clothes again."

"Didn't think of it. Knowing Madison, they were remnants of confetti filled celebration."

"Clint, this is great. I appreciate your letting me know. Who else knows about this?"

"Just the 2 of us."

"Well, for now let's keep it that way." He thanked Cliff again and left the building. As he got into his car, the Sheriff called Hollis. "Doc, did you see any confetti in or around Madison's car?"

"No, but I will pull up the photos and enlarge them." Hollis paused. "Confetti? The AFID from a taser? You think there was a taser involved?"

"Yep. Let's keep this under our hats until we know more. I'll be by to talk with you later. I'll explain then." The Sheriff rang off.

He called Mary Lou,"Can you find out if Madison was right or left handed? Maybe someone at the law firm would know. And, I'd rather not make this inquiry suspicious, if you can help it."

She said she would get right on it. They rang off. As the Sheriff drove back to the station, he thought, 'Death by suicide? Could be. But only if Madison was right handed. The wounds were on the left part of his chest. If Madison was left handed, then we have a whole 'nuther ballgame."

**AFID (anti-felon identification)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dixie's Wedding and a Dancing Bear

Meanwhile, Dixie Quinton was busy working on the wedding. Finally she was getting to execute her years of detailed planning for this event. First on her list had been calling La Petit Maison de Délice to confirm the date of Kathleen's wedding - May 20th. The young man she spoke to assured her that her daughter's wedding was on the calendar. "Yes mam, we have you and your daughter on our books. We will call 6 weeks prior to the wedding to discuss the details."

"Doesn't Beŕnerd  need to consult with me before then? After all, he has assured me that he himself would be handling the design." 


The young man replied, "Yes, Mrs. Quinton. I will personally tell him that you called."  


"Well, I appreciate that.  Beŕnerd will be most excited that Kathleen is engaged." The young man agreed and they rang off. 


As he put the phone down, the assistant announced, "Thank God that Quinton child from Gallagher has set her date. Do you realize for 4 years now, her mother has reserved the 3rd Saturday in May, insisting that Beŕnerd  personally design the cake. And then, in early April each year she has 'cancelled' saying that this is not the year."


One of the bakers laughed, "Sounds like the mother was putting the cake before the wedding."


Dixie had already learned that perhaps her plans for the "perfect" wedding did not mesh with what Kathleen and Jeb had in mind.  But they were young. Just the night before at supper, things got a bit heated. However, Dixie knew one day they would greatly appreciate their wedding being the social event of the year. 

As soon as everyone had started eating, Dixie announced, "Sweetie, I was able to secure Chateau Belmont for the wedding?"

"Chateau Belmont? Mama, we never discussed that. Why there? That place is just outside of Mobile."

Nonchalantly, Dixie replied,"Well it's the only appropriate place for a wedding such as yours." She took a biscuit from the basket on the table. While buttering it, Dixie added, "After all, there are very few places that can accommodate 300 wedding guests properly."

Kathleen looked at her father,"Dad, did you know about this?"

Harrell just shook his head. "Honey this is news to me. I was not consulted either."

"Oh, Kathleen, it will be lovely. After all Jennifer Garner got married there. And, Julie Anne Moore wanted her daughter's wedding there but a date was not available. That was what first gave me the idea."

"Well, if Julie Anne Moore could not get a date, how are you going to get one."

"Your mother has her ways. The Belmont owners know what publicity they will get out of your choosing their venue."

Kathleen started to argue, but backed down.

Dixie kept on, "I just happen to know the 3rd Saturday in May is available, so I went ahead and booked it." She smiled very pleased with herself. "And I have Beŕnerd from La Petit Maison de Délice, in New Orleans, confirmed to design your wedding cake. You know these days, everyone looks at the cake as the most important part of the wedding. Anyone can have a fancy wedding cake, but brides dream of having Beŕnerd  personally design a cake just for them - a cake that makes a statement."

"Well, you have been busy since we only announced our engagement last week." Kathleen glared at her mother. "Mama, I don't care where Jennifer Garner got married. I don't have to have some high brow French Pastry Chef 'design' a cake for me." She looked at her father, then back to her mother. "Jeb and I don't want 300 people at our wedding."

"Oh honey, the guest list has to be that long. In fact 'we' have had to make some difficult decisions of who we would not be able to invite. With only room for 300 guests, well, some people will not get an invitation. I realize this may cause some ill will. But, as much as everyone wants to come to your wedding, we just cannot invite 'everyone'. The important thing will be to make sure that 'right' people are included."

"Um, and when did you make this guest list?"

"A night or 2 ago, I went through my address book and made a short list. Then I consulted with Amy, my old college roommate. She works at the Mobile Register. She was able to get me the names and addresses of the 'elite' in Mobile. They were not all in my address book. And, Lord, can you imagine leaving those folks off the list?"

"Mama, I do not know who the 'elite' of Mobile are, nor do I care. How many of those 300 are friends of mine and Jeb's? And have you already spoken to Jeb's mother for her list."

"Kathleen, I didn't need to. Anyone who is anybody is already on the guest list. I'm sure Charlotte will appreciate my including all of our well to do friends. I doubt she has access to such."

Kathleen stood up, threw her linen napkin on the table. "This is not what I want. This is not what we had in mind. God, you are being rude and arrogant - just assuming that you know all the right people to invite and that Jeb's mother will be thrilled. Honestly, I'm so angry right now, I am going to leave before I really tell you what I think - as much as I want to."

She stormed out of the dining room. Dixie looked across the table at Harrell. "I've never seen her so upset. I know brides can be a little difficult, but I never thought Kathleen would be that way. What has gotten into her?"

"Dixie, maybe she would like to plan her wedding, not yours." He paused, "You need to back off  or there may not be a wedding."

"Harrell, Kathleen knows I just want the best for her. At her age, she does not understand the complexities of society and planning a proper wedding. Why, if it wasn't for me, we would never have Beŕnerd  designing the cake."  Dixie rattled on about venues, menus,and flowers.

Harrell just said, "What if they don't want a wedding?"

Dixie just stared at him in total disbelief. "Not have a wedding? Why would she not want a wedding?"

"Have you ever asked her if she wanted a wedding?"

"Of course I have. We used to talk about it all the time. Why, she told me, 'Mama I want a dream wedding, just like Cinderella'. Now, how can a mother deny her daughter her dream."

"Really! And when was that?"

"Oh, I think she was 8 at the time." 

Harrell shook his head once again. "Dixie, she may have changed her mind since then."  Before she could say anything, he stood up, "I enjoyed supper . . . at least the meal. Next thing we know, you may have secured a dancing bear, a champagne station serving the guests in Waterford crystal, or better yet, a unicorn."

"Harrell, you need to be serious. A dancing bear is absurd, and a unicorn? Honestly!" Dixie paused for a moment. Then as if she had had an epiphany, she said, "A champagne station serving in Waterford crystal, now that is an idea. I bet they did not even have that William and Katherine's reception."

Harrell laughed at her, "You better start looking for that unicorn because Waterford crystal is not in the budget." He stopped,"There is a budget, right?"

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Fine Print

Hugh told the Sheriff that he was temporarily in Gallagher while he worked on a contracted project in Bay Minette. He had rented a place in Gallagher. He knew Pearce had bought his family's estate and was going to also be in Gallagher.  Hugh's work did not require him to be on site, since almost all of it was computer oriented. 

"Who were you working for in Bay Minette?"

"Well, I contracted with a company named BMMS, LLC. But when I got to Alabama, I learned it was a just a holding company. The project I would be working on would be with a sanatorium in Bay Minette."

"What was the nature of your project?"

"Sir, I am a linguistics designer analyst."

"Son, before you, I never knew such existed."

"Not many people have ever heard of one. There aren't many of us around." He paused, "So Pearce explained to you what I do?" Hugh asked surprised.

"He did." With that, the Sheriff was quiet.

Hugh continued. "The project was proposed as work with the company, creating terms that they could use in the facility. The job description indicated that they wanted to develop terms for medical procedures that both explained the procedure, but also made it not sound so intimidating."

Mike asked,"Is that a normal job for you?"

Hugh smiled, "Not much is normal with my expertise. What they proposed did not seem that odd to me." He paused, "However, when I got here, what they actually wanted a bit different."

"And, that was?" asked the Sheriff.

"They wanted me to develop a list of names and addresses."

"Of their patients?"

"No, that was what I thought was odd. They wanted me to create addresses in Atasi county that do not exist. Also, a list of names, both male and female."

"And, you did?"

"Yes sir. However every time I went to visit the sanatorium, something wasn't right. I just got this odd feeling while I was there. Also, they made it clear that I should be working off site. Not knowing the area, I used Google maps to get locations in Atasi county, then created addresses."

"And these addresses do not exist?"

"No, I would use a street that was real, but a street number that did not exist or just make up a street or road."

"And, the names?"

"I had to really be creative. So I used names of things and people from my past. I have a program that takes words and matches them according to whatever criteria I need. For example, in this case, I programmed it to create names that sounded real, but did not closely match any in the county."

"So why did you just up and leave Gallagher?"

"Because, that afternoon, when I had visited the Sanatorium, I could tell something was amiss. The administrators were packing boxes of files. I was told they were ending the project. I tried to pay close attention to what was going on. They were not placing the files in boxes to be transported and refiled. They were just throwing the files in boxes, more like they were discarding them. When they saw I was watching, they shuttled me out of the offices and into the lobby. That was when I was informed that they also wanted my hard drive and anything else I used on the project. When I refused, they showed me the section in my contract that said any work I produced, including work product, programs, and hard drives belonged to BMMS." Hugh paused.

"I protested, but they showed me the signed contract and between 2 paragraphs, they had inserted this wording in a small font. Stupidly, when I originally got the copy of the contract back from them, I just flipped to the last page to make sure it was signed, and that the corner of each page had been initialed."

"Literally, it was in the fine print," said the Sheriff as he shook his head.

"Yes sir."

"I came back from Bay Minette, got my things, and left. They knew I was in Gallagher, but did not have my address, so I had some time if they were looking for me. Which, I knew they were."

"Where are the lists and the hard drives now?" Mike asked.

"In Pearce's car. I figured you would want to see them."

"I'm not so worried about your end of the story now. We just need to locate the folks who hired you. Sheriff Smythe in Baldwin County and I have exhausted every lead we had." Sheriff Quitman rocked back in his chair. "But I do have a thought."

At the rental company Tim was still bringing single roses to Della on a regular basis. And still there was no note or clue who they were from. She had not heard anything from Sam since he left, but he told her that would be the case. Della wasn't sure if she wanted the roses to be from Sam or not. 

Buzz stopped in that morning, just to visit. "Well, I feel like I never see y'all. I was walking past and thought I'd stick my head in to make sure you remembered me."

Della laughed,"Us? Remember you? If I recall you are the one who deserted us."

Buzz noticed the rose on Della's desk, "And who is sending you roses?"

Bunny had just walked into the room. "It's not 'roses', it is just 'a' rose. She gets one every several days." Bunny looked at Della. "I say they are from Sam."

"I can see that being the case."

"But there is never a card and I do not have a clue who is behind this."

"Maybe it's a secret admirer?"

Della laughed,"Seriously? I don't think so."

Buzz visited with Della and Bunny for several minutes before he left. They decided that they needed to have lunch soon. Della laughed, "It's not like we live in separate zip codes. In fact you have to pass our office every day when you go to the Post Office. Gallagher is only so big."

"I don't know about that. Nothing has been the same since the state put that stoplight in last year."

"Hey, every town deserves at least one, whether we need it or not," replied Della.