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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Deal They Cannot Refuse

Terse took Bunny to lunch that afternoon. Just months earlier Bunny would have been beside herself that he had asked her out. She still found him extremely good looking and charming. However, in the past month or two her life had taken so many turns that she realized she and Terse were not meant to be. Now just the idea of a good friendship was wonderful.

They found a booth at the Starlight and sat down. Terse started,”Bunny, I know I have not been very nice to you. I want you to know it wasn’t anything personal. For the past year or so, I have been tied up with my writing. Often I found myself feeling extremely guilty about the way I treated people and how I hid in my place just writing.”

Bunny laughed,”I think it was worth it, don’t you? After all, you put out a best seller.”

“Well there is that. I still  find it hard to believe that my book has been that popular.”

Their food came. Bunny took a sip of her tea. “How is the second one coming along.”

Terse was munching on his French fries. “ Not as hard as I thought it was going to be. In fact I have the plot lines and characters in my mind for the next two.”

“That’s impressive. I have problems writing a letter.”

“Bunny, don’t sell yourself short.” He took a bite of his burger and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “There is a lot more to you than you give yourself credit for. I'm not sure what Wade would do without you." He smiled, then he remembered, "By the way, what is the story on Vivian?’

“Well, which version do you want to hear?”

“How many are there?”

Bunny hesitated, “Terse, you know how your family and my family have those skeletons in the closet?”

“I can only speak for the skeletons I know. No doubt there are closets I am not even aware of.”

“Uh yeah, there is that,” Bunny laughed. “Vivian and I talked the other day. One of her parents was from the ‘Wells’ family here. Shortly after her birth they were killed in a car crash. Her relatives took her in but she was moved from home to home. Throughout her life, Vivian was told about the family in Gallagher. She said she never felt like she had roots, except here in Gallagher.”

“Was she married?”

“No? Why do you ask?”

“Well, the 3 children.”

“Oh, that’s another part of her story. She had one cousin she was very fond of. When he and his wife were killed in an automobile accident, Vivian felt like she owed it to him to raise his children. She could relate to them in a way given what happened to her parents.”

“Wow?”, Terse said as he leaned back in his chair. “That is dedication.”

“It is.”

“So, let’s hear the 2nd version.”

Bunny heisitated. “Terse, I’m going to share this with you only because of our family’s past history. Vivian does not know this yet and I do not want her to hear it on the street.”

“Fair enough.”

Bunny told him the tale of Vivian, Tula, her father, and their ‘love child’. When she finished, Terse laughed, “You cannot make this shit up.”

“No, and needless to say, Tula is not real happy that Vivian has shown up.” Bunny smiled, “Neither is my mama for that matter.”

“I can only imagine.”

“Terse, are you interested in Vivian?”

“Maybe.”

“Well, she's cute and sweet. And you are not the first to ask me about her.”

They had just finished catching up on life when Mike walked in the front door. Bunny called him over. “Come sit with us.”

Mike walked over to the table. Terse stood up and shook his hand. Mike said,”Well, well, well, if it’s not the town celebrity.”

“I wouldn’t say that. I cannot compete with Colonel Walker and his costumes.”

Mike laughed,”Well there is that. Speaking of the Colonel, I have a great story.”

Bunny brightened up, “Did they find General Kirby?”

“They did.”

Terse said, “Sit down and have lunch with us.”

Mike thanked him and the 3 of them sat down. The waitress came over and got Mike’s order.

Bunny asked, “OK, what did they find?”

Mike skipped the jars of money since that did not have anything to do with General Kirby. “The good news is that the Colonel found General Kirby.”

“And the bad news?” asked Terse.

“There were no artifacts in the grave.”

“Artifacts? What did he expect to find, his gun and sword?”

Mike laughed,”That would have been nice. But the Colonel would have been pleased with buttons or a buckles or even a few patches of cloth.”

Bunny laughed,”There was nothing there? It had all rotted with the body?”

“Well, according to the Colonel, even in graves where there was no box or coffin, there should have been some patches of cloth, much less buttons and buckles from his uniform and boots.”

Terse just howled,”So the General was buried buck naked, huh?”

“Seems the case. Appearantly when he fled the lady’s bed chamber, he left a very delicate situation in haste, taking no time to grab his clothes.”

“What a story!” said Bunny.

“What an exhibit!” exclaimed Terse.

While Mike was having lunch with Terse and Bunny, the Sheriff had called Sam down to the station to discuss the Eldridge case. Sam suggested that this may be an excellent opportunity to get the bottlegging network by offering the twin sisters a plea bargain. If they turned state’s witnesses, they could get off with probation.

There was much discussion of whether the twins would take the offer or not. Sam was convinced otherwise. “I think they will. What do they have to lose?”

“They are pretty stubborn old birds.”

The Sheriff called the judge to get the offer approved. Then he called Mr. Todd to extend the offer. The Sheriff gave the attorney 24 hours to discuss the offer with his clients and get back with him with their answer.

When the Sheriff got off the phone he went back to tell Sam where they stood. Sam asked,”By the way, how much cash was there?”

“$467,824 in small bills.”

“Any idea what they charged for their hooch?”

“Not yet. Hopefully, we’ll learn all that when they accept our offer.”

“Well, hopefully we’ll catch some of their handy work going across the state line. There is a group out there we have known about for a while, but never have been able to infiltrate.”

It wasn’t long before the Sheriff’s phone rang. It was Mr. Todd. He and the Sheriff discussed a few things. Then they rang off. The Sheriff returned to Sam. “Well, I’m not sure what that meant. That was Mr. Todd. He talked with his clients and they are interested in the offer but have some logistical questions they want to discuss.”

“Discuss?” asked Sam. “Since when do we ‘discuss’ these details with defendants.”

“When we really need their help.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Dig Goes On

The following morning Colonel Walker was at the Elderidge house bright and early waiting on his crew to show up. Mike arrived a little later just in case they stumbled upon something a bit more "interesting" than the Colonel expected. As the men worked to carefully take down the fence on the right side of the yard, board by board, to open it up large enough for the equipment to get through, the Colonel approached Mike.

"You realize this could really put our museum on the map. The idea of all the relics that should be in this grave with General Kirby is incredible. So many of these graves are either never found or are robbed and vandalized before any historian can make note of the site. Since I have gone through the proper authorities, have the proper legal permissions, and am a certified historian for the state of Alabama, whatever we find, I will be able to preserve it properly, identify it, catalog it, and then display it in the Museum of Confederate Uniforms, Hats, Swords, and Paraphernalia."

Mike noticed that instead of his standard dress uniform, the Colonel was dressed in more of what appeared to be a "working man's" attire of the period. He was wearing white gloves (Which he had explained to Mike were to make sure the relics were preserved. After being in the dirt for 150 years or so, they definitely deserved the white glove treatment now.) He had a clip board and pen to note what was found and a camera around his neck to record it all for posterity.

The fence was opened and the equipment carefully moved into the back yard. The back hoe starting digging a shallow area the Colonel had shown them. At a certain point it stopped and several men with shovels took over carefully digging deeper in the area, an inch or so at the time. When one of the shovels hit something, the "clink" brought everything to a halt.

The Colonel was beside himself. "Careful now," he ordered his men in the same authoritative voice one would imagine him ordering his troops. "Slowly dig around that area. It could be something buried alongside him, or bones. Let's see."

The men kept digging. The one who had originally hit the mystery item was carefully working his shovel around 'It'. Next he was on his knees, carefully digging with his hands. As he pulled something out of the ground, he yelled,"Colonel, I've got something here."

Everyone turned and looked as the Colonel scurried over to where the man was. Before he got there, the worker was wiping dirt from the sides of a glass jar. He handed it to the Colonel, who held it up and had a puzzled look on his face. Mike asked,"Well sir, what do we have?"

"Well, I do believe it is a jar of money."

"Confederate money from the mid 1800's maybe?"

"Don't think so? It's in a Dukes Mayonnaise jar. If I remember correctly Dukes Mayonnaise was introduced in 1917 in South Carolina."

"Hum," said Mike, as the Colonel handed him the jar. "It's not a crime to bury money in your backyard." He paused as he looked at the jar," as long as the money was not obtained through illegal means."

Wade walked up, and laughed, "Like bootlegging?"

By this time the men had uncovered a dozen or so jars of money. The first jar had $10,000 in mixed bills. No one bothered opening the jars after that. Mike just put them on the picnic table for safe keeping.

The back hoe had moved to a different part of the yard, further back. It only dug so far down and then the men started digging again with shovels. Once again they found a jar of money. The Colonel was sorely disappointed.  General Kirby had to be back here somewhere.

Then one of the men shouted,"Colonel, I think I've found a bone." Everything stopped. The Colonel moved over to the worker's location, bent down and examined the bone.

"This looks like part of an arm. If it was lying in this direction," he held the bone in the air. "My guess is that the body is buried in this direction." He motioned his arms in a direction. "Careful men."

A few of the men started slowly digging with their fingers, less they disturb something. Little by little, the remains came into view. At this point, the men pulled out brushes and carefully brushed the dirt off the bones. The Colonel was taking pictures of all of this while the tedious work continued.

"Even though the site is old, and there was no coffin, there should be small patches of his uniform. Certainly we should find buttons, a belt buckle, maybe cording from his sleeves if it were silk. His hat most likely had leather in it. We find that often times, pieces of leather hold up under ground."

However as they carefully unearthed the bones, there were no buttons, no buckles, no silk, or leather, or wool. The Colonel  then measured the skeleton and announced that it was the correct height and size to match the size of General Kirby. When the skeleton was completely unearthed, everything was photographed, and noted. Then the bones were carefully cataloged and placed in boxes to be moved to the museum.

After the skeleton was removed, the Colonel started digging himself. He knew that the relics should be in the grave. Maybe the grave was so old all that the pieces had dropped through the bones. He continued carefully going through the dirt with a strainer. After an hour or so he gave up. "This makes no sense. Where did everything go? The grave was not disturbed?" the Colonial said.

Mike laughed,"Unless he didn't have anything with him when he was buried?"

"What are you saying?"

"What if he died naked? And was buried just like that?"

"But he wasn't."

"How do you know?"

The Colonel was quiet. It never dawned on him that could have been the case. In fact he found the thought of that happening very disturbing. How could finding a military hero in such a delicate situation be explained? Especially after he had such high hopes for a fabulous display of the relics found with General Kirby.

Mike said,"Colonel, it's history. It is what really happened. Everything is not like a fairy tale. Hell, life's not a fairy tale. General Kirby lived a great life and suffered an unusual death. Why not embrace it? I think every one would appreciate the true story of a hero, warts and all."

The Colonel did not say anything for a while. "Well, if you put it that way, maybe this will make an interesting exhibit afterall."

He laughed and looked at Mike, "What about the jars of money?"

"I don't think they have anything to do with General Kirby."

The Colonel chuckled, walked away and found his crew. They needed to know that the 'dig' was over. However the Colonel wanted to discuss with them the details of filling in the holes and getting both the front and back yards back in the shape they were originally were.

Mike called the Sheriff to let him know about the jars of money. "Well," said the Sheriff ,"we need to talk with the Eldridge twins again and I probably need to get Sam in on this. Looks like we have some federal issues here."

Mike rang off thinking how a search for the grave of General Kirby had revealed a pair of bootleggers and a back yard of cash. And then General Kirby,  bless his heart, had died and been buried in a humiliating way that in no way reflected his valor and his dedication to the cause.

Mike turned to leave the yard,  well aware of the many pairs of eyes watching him walk by. If only the gnomes could talk




Saturday, October 14, 2017

It's Complicated

After Mike left, Vivian asked Bunny if she could talk with her. "Certainly," Bunny said and suggested they talk in her office. As they had earlier, the two ladies sat on the sofa.

"Bunny, I don't know where to start. Ever since I can remember my life has been a mystery. No one ever wanted to be very specific about my family. I came to Gallagher to find my roots. I am realistic and understand that I would not be warmly welcomed into the Wells family. But at least I would know who my family was."

"And, we are all glad you are here."

"But why didn't you tell me that you lived at Ivy Lane?"

Bunny hesitated, "It is so complicated, I did not want to add to the confusion. But, I think you need to know. Harrison and Mary Wells were the last of the family to live in the house. Mary died several years ago leaving Harrison as a widower. Harrison and I started seeing each other and fell in love." Bunny looked at Vivian to check her reaction.

She continued,"Well, he proposed."

"Really, so we are kin,?"

"Well sort of," Bunny continued. "We never told anyone, because he did it at the spur of the moment and did not have a ring. Anyone who knew Harrison, knew he was very thoughtful and methodical and did not rush into anything. Two days later he dropped dead."

Vivian gasped,"Oh Bunny, I am so sorry. That must have been horrible."

"Well it was. He and Mary had 2 adult daughters, Liza and Belva. They despise me, call me white trash. The idea that their father would even be seen in public with him, much less fall in love with me was something they just could not tolerate."

"So Harrison was torn between you and his daughters?"

"No, not really. He dearly loved his girls, but he made it clear to them that he was happy again and it was his life. He would appreciate it if they would accept me, be nice, and move on. But they never have." Bunny sighed. "It was so painful to watch him deal with them."

Vivian shook her head.

"Oh, it got worse after he died. They prevented me from attending his funeral service or burial."

"Did they threaten you?"

"No, they physically shut the church doors in my face." Bunny was silent for a moment remembering that day." Anyway," she continued, "when the will was read, Harrison had reorganized his entire estate and left Ivy Lane to me with a generous trust to care for both me and the home place. Needless to say, that did not go over too well with Belva and Liza. They took me to probate court but there were several witnesses who testified, under oath, that Harrison was in sound mind when he made the changes. That he discussed the family emotional implications his decision would have, and why he was doing it."

"So they got nothing?"

"Oh, gosh no. They inherited his investment accounts, bank accounts, and proceeds from his life insurance. They are well cared for."

"So you and Harrison were never married?"

"No," said Bunny, "I'm afraid, I'm not a Wells after all. But I want you to know that you are more than welcome at Ivy Lane any time you want to come. I will say, it is almost a magical place. Harrison had family books and albums in his study I'm sure you would be interested in."

Vivian slid across the sofa and gave Bunny a big hug, "This is the best news I have had after moving to Gallagher. I get to visit Ivy Lane and I feel like I have a sister no one told me about."

Bunny agreed, but felt terribly guilty, not telling Vivian everything. Bunny just could not handle all that emotion right now.

The two of them talked for a while, then Vivian stood up and laughed, "I've got to get back to work, otherwise I will not have a job."

Bunny laughed, "I don't think you have to worry about that right now".

Vivian gave her another hug, left Bunny's office, and headed down the hall to her own.

By this time word had gotten back to the rental company about the Eldridge twins' operation. Della and Bunny got a good laugh out of it. They explained the story of Flora and Cora, their quirks, including the gnomes to Vivian.  Della's description of how she thought they made moonshine in their backyard under the cover of night, had bootleggers back up their cars to load their trunks with the bottles, then the image of them hiding all the evidence,had Bunny and Vivian in stitches. Then she added," All the while, everyone in town just thought they were eccentric sisters who collected gnomes." 

Della had checked the company's records to get the name of the person leasing the property at the address Mike had given her. It was Huck McKissick, a young man in his late 20's who had moved to Gallagher about 18 months ago. He said he worked at the Pen Company, however, he must have an odd shift because he was seen in and around town at all hours of the day and night. From what Della had heard, he did not frequent any of the local watering holes, did not have a close friendship with anyone, and pretty much stayed to himself. He always payed his rent on time and did not cause any trouble so, as far as the rental company was concerned, he was a model customer.

She emailed all this to Mike without saying a word. Della was most curious but knew better than to ask.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Shine On Flora and Cora

Meanwhile back at the Eldridges', Mike walked into the backyard with Wade. "Notice anything odd," he asked Mike, as they walked around. "Besides the 100 beady eyes staring at you."

"You noticed that too, huh?"

"It gives me the creeps. I can see having one or maybe a pair, but this is a bit much."

Mike laughed as he looked in the lean-to at the old lawn mower and other well worn tools. He walked by the potting bench. Next he came to the wheel barrow and the stack of wood. He stopped, turned and looked around the yard, as if he had missed something. He moved on to the trash pile. Mike brushed some of the grass clippings off the pile with the toe of his boot. He noted the bottles, sacks, and other trash.

Wade said,"Whatcha think?"

"Well, we have a wood pile with no chimney on the house and no wood burning grill or stove I can see." He looked around. "There is a pile of sacks and bottles."

Mike looked at Wade, "If there were some copper pipes and large barrels, I would guess the large sacks of sugar heated with the wood would produce some fine liquor to put in those empty bottles over there." He pointed toward the trash pile.

Wade walked over to the old wooden building and opened the door. "Here she is, in full production."

Mike walked over and looked in. "I'll be damned, we have us some twin sister moonshiners." He turned to Wade, "But I still do not understand why they were so against anyone coming in the back yard. All they had to do was lock the building."

"I thought about that. Then I walked behind the building. Smoke would give them away coming from the small smoke stack on the back roof."

"Well, I'll give the Sheriff a heads up before I arrest them," Mike said as he pulled his phone from his pocket and started dialing.

When he got off his phone, Wade asked him, "Is it possible to handle this quietly? I don't think ladies of their age need to go through a perp walk."

"I agree and the Sheriff suggested we bring them into the house, get everyone else to leave and then take them down to the station."

Wade and Mike walked into the house. Mike stayed in the den while Wade walked out onto the porch. Wade told Flora and Cora, quietly so no one else could hear, that Mike needed to speak to them inside. Then he went to find the Colonel to tell him nothing was going to get done today, but they could dig in the back yard tomorrow.

Most everyone had left by the time the Sheriff arrived. He walked into the house and spoke with the Eldridges. Naturally, they wanted to call their attorney. The Sheriff had no issue with that, so they called Mr. Todd. He said he would meet them at the Sheriff's station. Next the Sheriff called, Joe, the town policeman, briefly explained the situation, and asked him to come, immediately, to secure and watch the crime scene until the Sheriff could return.

Mike quietly got the ladies to the Sheriff's station before anyone knew what was going on. Their attorney was waiting on them. The Sheriff asked them a few questions. He left them in a room to confer with Mr. Todd and went to find the local Judge.

There was a short hearing in the Judge's chambers. He listened to Todd make the Eldridges' case. He asked them a few questions,  set a trial date, then set bail. Mr. Todd assured the Judge he could have the bail, in cash, back in 15 to 20 minutes. The Judge agreed to let the ladies wait in the Sheriff's office until Todd returned. He saw no point in putting the ladies in jail.

Sure enough in 15 minutes Todd was back with the bail in cash. Everything was processed and the Eldridge sisters were free to go, with the understanding there would be no more moon shining.  Mr. Todd took them home.

The Sheriff called Wade to let him know that the search for General Kirby could officially continue in Flora and Cora's back yard. Wade called the Colonel and passed on the news.

Meanwhile the Sheriff and Mike returned to the scene of the crime to relieve Joe of his assigned watch, as well as photograph and note all the evidence.

After lunch, Mike stopped  by the rental office, "Y'all been busy?"

"Well, let's see," said Della. " 'Miss' Ella brought a jar of jam in for Larry. Terse is back in town . . ."

Vivian piped up, "And I met Grace, when she stopped by. She seems very nice."

"Grace?" asked Mike.

Behind Vivian, Della was waving her hands, silently 'telling' Mike not to question it.

"Oh, Grace, good," said Mike, not sure what she was talking about.

Bunny walked in from a showing. "Hey Mike, what finally happened at the Eldridges after I left?"

"The Colonel can resume his search tomorrow."

"There has to be more to it than that?"

"It's a long story, Wade can probably tell you more about it than I can."

Della commented,"That sounds exciting."

"Everything having to do with the Colonel is exciting," laughed Bunny.

"If you are into that kind of 'exciting'," Mike added. Then he looked at Della. "Actually, Della, I came to see you."

"Really?"

"I need some information on the person leasing this address." He handed Della a small piece of paper.

Della read the name on the paper. "Can I email the information to you?"

Mike smiled, "Of course." He looked at Bunny and Vivian," I've got to go. Y'all stay out of trouble," he said with a wink and walked out of the door.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tula "Graces" the Office

Back at the office, the door opened and in walked Tula. Della looked up. "I understand . . ." Tula stopped talking when Vivian walked into the office. Tula quickly offered her hand to Vivian. "I don't think I've met you, I'm Grace."

Tula gave Della a quick 'Don't you dare say anything' look.

Vivian introduced herself to Tula explaining she was new to town and was working at the rental company handling their accounting.

"Are you married?"

"No, I have my hands full. It's been a while since I had time for romance."

"With a career?"

"No, mam, raising 3 children."

Tula raised an eye.

"Oh, they are not mine, at least by birth. My cousin James and his wife were killed in an auto mobile accident and I felt the children needed to stay in the family. So I took them in. I could relate to their loss since my parents were also killed in an automobile accident when I was just a baby." Vivian paused, "I didn't mean to go on like that.  I love them, they keep me on my toes."

Tula just smiled.

Vivian continued,"But I do have family in town. I'm supposed to be distantly related to the 'Wells' family."

Della, deciding to add fuel to the fire,"Vivian, I meant to ask you, have you had a chance to look up any of your family?"

Vivian turned and looked at Della, "No, not yet. But I really would like to meet some of them. Since my parents died, I felt like moving to Gallagher would give me some roots." Vivian smiled at Tula. "I can remember my aunt talking about the old family home called 'Ivy Lane'. I hope to be able to find it. Even if only the land exists, I'd still love to see it."

Tula looked at her watch,"Oh dear, I haven't been paying attention to the time. I must go. It was nice meeting you Vivian."

Vivian smiled, "Same here."

Tula told Vivian it was nice to meet her.  She was sure she would see Vivian around. She spoke to Della and walked out.

Vivian watched her walk out. "She seems very nice."

 "She is," Della said and quietly finished the reply in her mind - 'a witch" as she went back to work.

A few minutes later 'Miss" Ella came in. "I am so excited." She said almost in a tither. "I just heard that Terse was coming back. Please let me know when he gets back into town. I miss him so much."

Della introduced Vivian to 'Miss' Ella.

"Welcome to Gallagher dear, I think you'll like it here."

Della agreed and said Vivian was making life at the rental company so much better now that someone was handling the accounting end of things.

"Well, I have a jar of jam for Larry," 'Miss' Ella said as she pulled a medium size jar from her purse and put it on Della's desk. "Can you make sure he gets it."

"I promise" said Della as she took the jar and put it on the credenza behind her desk.

"I have another one for Buzz but I will take it to him at the store." She smiled, "Also, what in the world is going on at the Eldridges?"

"Well, it seems Colonel Walker thinks General Kirby is buried in their yard."

"Their yard? I thought someone told me it was supposedly buried at Ivy Lane?"

Della took a breath, "They dug up the front lawn there but did not find anything."

"Oh, I bet poor Bunny was upset about that."

"Well, it was all restored to its former beauty in a couple days."

"So now they think the General is in Flora and Cora's yard? Personally, I would not be surprised  at anything they would find in that yard. Those women are a little, how do I politely say it? Odd."

Della laughed, "That's an understatement. Whatever. We'll see soon because I think the plan is to finish the job today." 

Miss Ella's eyes brightened, "Well I might just have to ride down Magnolia on my way home. It really is a shorter way home for me anyway." She turned to Vivian,"It was nice meeting you."

As she walked out, she turned to Della, "Now don't forget to give Larry his jam."

Della promised she would not forget. 'Miss' Ella walked out.

Vivian looked at Della, "She seems so nice. And to bring jam to Larry."

"She is pretty special," replied Della.

Then Vivian asked, "What does Bunny have to do with Ivy Lane?"

Della hesitated, "She lives there."

"Really", Vivian said very excited. "Is she a 'Wells'?"

Della was very relieved that Vivian's inquiry  was interupted when the door opened and Terse walked in. "Hey ladies." He gave Della a big hug and looked at Vivian.

"And, who do we have here?"

"This is Vivian Vontese. She is handling our office accounting now." She turned to Vivian, "Vivian this is Terse."

Terse offered his hand to Vivian, "Terse Jackson, nice to meet you."

Vivian shook his hand,"Same here."

"Well Della, what have I missed?"

"Well, let's see." said Della."The museum has a new director. He and his wife both dress in antebellum period costume- every day."

"That sounds interesting."

Della continued,"They are digging up the Eldridge twins front yard as we speak. Colonel Walker is convinced a General Kirby is buried there." 

"Ah, General Kirby, the famed Confederate spy who had an untimely death." Terse paused, "Buried in the Eldridges' yard?"

"And, for some reason," Della continued, giving Terse a knowing look, "we have been bombarded by your fans."

Terse laughed, "I can explain that."

Della said, "This should be interesting."

"When I had to give the publishers a street address, I knew better than to give them mine. So I gave them the rental company's address."

"Really?" said Della sarcastically.

"Well it wasn't really a lie, because I do not own my place . . ."

Della laughed, "Well it has made things interesting around here."

"I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it."

Vivian spoke up,"I'm sorry, what am I missing here?"

Della laughed,"For weeks Terse's fans just piled into here, thinking he lived here - at this street address." She looked at Vivian and smiled, "Terse is our home town celebrity. He's on the New York Times best seller list."

Vivian laughed, "I read the  best seller list, and I don't think I would miss a name like 'Terse'."

Della looked at Terse, then at Vivian, "How about Reginald Beauregard Jackson III?"

"No." Then it hit Vivian,"Reginald Jackson! You wrote 'The Corporal's Secret'." She said amazed. "But where does the name 'Terse' come from?

"It is from 'Tertius', a Latin word meaning 'third', as in Reginald Beauregard Jackson the third."

He smiled at Vivian then he turned to Della, "Where's Bunny?"

"Why? Terse, you have spent most of your time trying to avoid her and now she's first person you want to see?"

"Well, let's just say, I've need to pay some debts and ask for forgiveness." 

"She is at the Elderidge's, but I expect her back at any time."

Terse's phone rang. After saying a few words, he put it back in his pocket. "Well, I've got to run. Tell Bunny I'm looking for her. I'll give her a call."

He looked at Vivian,"It was nice meeting you."

After the door closed behind him, Vivian said,"Y'all weren't kidding when you said he was good looking."


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Gnomes and Yard Trash

Tuesday morning Colonel Walker came in the Rental office to announce that he had gotten permission from the Mayor to continue his search for General Kirby. He was only waiting for the Judge to sign off on the Order of Exhumation. Della and Bunny congratulated him. Bunny asked,"Just one favor Colonel."

"That's George."

"OK George, one favor, please let us know when you start digging."

"You want to come watch?"

"No, I have to work. But I know our phones will be going nuts with people asking what is going on at the Eldridges."

"Yes mam, I'll let you know." He nodded his head, put his hat back on, and said "Ladies", as he walked out of the door.

Terse called to say he would be in town later that week. "I want to take you to lunch, I owe you some answers."

"Well, I don't know about that but it will be nice to see you." They talked for a few more minutes and rang off.

Bunny told Della that Terse was coming back to town later that week. "I don't know why, but I've missed him," Bunny said. "It's not like I saw a lot of him when he was here," she laughed. "Della, how about have Larry check on Terse's place just to make sure everything is OK."

"Will do," Della said as she picked up the phone.

Vivian walked into the reception area from her office which was down the hall, just past Bunny's. She handed Della some papers. "These are the company's expenses for last month. If you have any questions, let me know. Since it is the first time I've done them, you may have some questions," she paused, "or suggestions." Della assured her they would be fine and she would look at them.

Larry walked in and looked at Della, "You rang?"

"Larry sometime today can you check on Terse's place. He's going to be back in town this week and we want to make sure nothing has happened since he's been gone."

"That's great news. I'll go by there this afternoon."

Vivian looked at Della,"Can I ask, who is Terse?"

Bunny laughed,"He is a real good looking guy that lives on the top floor of 112 Oak Street. Terse has been gone for a while. It'll be nice to have him back home."

"Is he from Gallagher?"

"No, actually he is from Mobile."

The door opened and Mike walked in. "Bunny you may want to see this?"

"See what?

"What's going on at the Eldridges. Come on, I'll give you a ride."

Bunny grabbed her phone and left with Mike. As they turned onto Magnolia, Bunny could see a back hoe and several folks milling around. Mike parked the car and they walked over to the house. A good portion of the front yard was dug up with mounds of dirt about. Colonel Walker was talking to Cora Eldridge while Flora stood on the steps.

"What's going on?" Bunny asked.

"Looks like General Kirby wasn't here either."

"So what are they going to do?"

"The Colonel wants to dig in the backyard now. And the Eldridges aren't having any part of it."

Mike and Bunny just stood across the street and watched.The Colonel walked over. "Bunny is there anything you can do?"

Bunny thought for a minute. "Let me see what I can."

"I'd be much obliged," the Colonel said and walked back across the street.

Mike looked at Bunny, "And just what do you have in mind?"

"Wade," she said as she called her boss and gave him the short version of the situation.

"And, you are interrupting me about this. Bunny, don't you have better things to do?"

"Well Wade, I had to ask  . . ."

Wade started howling,"You know I am kidding. Bunny you know as well as I do, it is not their backyard, it is mine. Their lease plainly states I can go on the premises at any time, as long as I give them notice," he paused to laugh again. "Besides, given the tenacity of Colonel Walker, we may as well get this done with before he petitions the court. I'll be right over. Just don't say anything about talking to me."

Bunny told Mike what Wade had said and they waited. Meanwhile the Eldridge twins were holding their ground. The Colonel was once again explaining their yard would be as good as new by the following day. He had given them his word.

Wade drove up, parked, and walked up to the front porch. Cora said, "Well thank goodness you are here Mr. Gallagher. Will you please tell this man," she pointed to the Colonel,"that he may not go in my backyard, much less dig it up."

"Well, Cora, maybe he cannot, but I can. The lease that both of you signed years ago granted me permission to go anywhere on the premises, any time I wanted to do, after giving you notice."

Flora piped up, "Well you haven't given notice."

Wade smiled and started walking around the house, "Consider this your notice." The fence on the right side did not have a gate, nor was there a gate on the left side. "Ladies, I'm afraid I will need to walk through the house to access the back yard." He started up the front porch steps. Then he paused, "Now if your issue was having to take down the fence, I am sure that the Colonel's promise to restore the yard would also include the fence."

The twin ladies were not fazed by his comment. Their expression showed that did not matter, they were not happy. Wade opened the front door and went in. The collection of gnome and gnome paraphernalia was overwhelming. It was if 100's of little eyes were watching him. He made his way through the den into the kitchen, which was very tidy, albeit the gnome decorations. The back door opened to concrete steps to the yard. As he stepped onto the grass, he saw nothing amiss - besides a 100 or so gnomes lounging in beds, hanging in trees, playing in birds bathes, everywhere he looked.

He walked around. There was a lean-to with an old lawnmower in it as well as several yard tools and old pots. Beside that there was a potting bench with more pots sitting on it. There was a stack of firewood, a wheel barrow, and a pile of trash. Looking at the trash, Wade saw it was just burlap sacks, old bottles, and other miscellaneous items mixed with fresh grass clippings from the lawn mower. 

A wooden yard house, in very poor condition, sat in the back corner. There was an old bicycle leaning up against it. Wade didn't remember the building being there, but it had been years since he had been on this property. God knows how long the Eldridges had lived there. Looking at the piles of trash, worn out yard tools and equipment - it had been a long time. Out of curiosity, he tried the door. It wasn't locked. He opened it.

The room was dark so he had to open the door as wide as possible to let enough light in to see into the room. Wade just stood in the doorway, looked around, turned, and closed the door. He made his way back through the house. He nodded at the twins as he stepped off the front porch. He crossed the street to where Bunny and Mike stood.

"Mike, you may want to come with me. There's something back there I think you would be interested in." He looked at Bunny. "Just stay here. It won't take long."

As Wade and Mike made their way back across the street, the Colonel approached them. "Is there any reason we cannot dig back there?"

"No, I don't see why not. But because of a few obstacles, it may be a day or two before you can get back there."

The Colonel turned around to talk with his excavators. Wade and Mike made their way through the house, pass the gnomes, and into the backyard.