My Life a Bit South of Normal

My Life a Bit South of Normal

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Dust Up With the Old Broads

Mike and Sam had the Eldridge twins set-up a meeting with their distributors for Wednesday night. The ladies were all a twitter with excitement. When they called Sam to let him know that everything was set for 8 that evening, Sam asked them to come to the Sheriff's Station so he could get them ready.

Sam was not surprised when they arrived wearing matching tan trench coats and tweed deerstalker hats. "I assume you are not planning to wear that tonight?"

"Why not? asked Cora. "We will be on assignment, right?"

"Yes," Sam paused. "but for this assignment we need you to act as normal as possible. We do not want these guys tonight to think anything is different."

"Gotcha," said Flora. 

The ladies took off their coats and hats so Sam could put a tiny mike, no bigger than a Smartie under each of their right collars. "Now do not touch these. We need to wire the car also, is it out front?"

"Sure is,"said Cora with her head lowered so she was speaking into her collar. Sam took a breath. "Y'all cannot do that. They'll know right away that you are wired. Trust me, those mikes will pick up everything you say, as well as what someone, who is speaking to you, says and most of the ambient noise around you."

They shook their heads in agreement. Sam added,"I do not want either of you shot, understand?"

Sam got on the  ground and reached under the back of the car. He placed another receiver on the bottom of the chassis. He stood up and dusted off the knees of his pants. "That is a GPS tracker so we can always keep up with your car - just in case things go awry."

Cora looked at Sam. "We got this under control." Flora shook her head in agreement. Sam covered a few last minute details and they left.

About 7:30, Sam, Mike, and a few ATF guys quietly moved their large vehicle into a bushy area over looking the specified meeting spot. Sam told everyone what the plan was and what equipment they were using. He gave each guy an ear piece so they could hear the transaction. Naturally, it was all being recorded, not just the sound, but also by a small night vision camera Sam had set up earlier that morning in a tree just above the meeting spot.

As planned the twins arrived at 7:50 and sat in the car. Flora whispered, "Sam, you there?" 

Sam replied, "Yes, but pretend I am not. Please do not try to speak to me during the transaction. If something goes wrong, not only will we hear it, we can see it also."

With that both women got out of the car and started looking at the surrounding trees. Cora pointed to a tall pine, "See that. That must be a camera."

"Cora, that's just a bunch of pine comes. Look in that oak tree, see on the third limb - that dark object, that's it."

"No, that's a nest."

Suddenly in their ear they heard Sam in a stern voice, "Ladies stop looking up. Trust me. Just act normal."

The ATF agents starting making bets and giving odds on how soon this stake out would go south. One of them said to Sam, "You seriously think this is going to work? I'm not sure if I'm watching Gomer Pyle or the Beverly Hill Billys."

Just then a large SUV drove up. Two men got out. Neither of them looked around, obviously they suspected nothing. Flora opened the trunk to show their wares. "Gentleman, this is some special stuff. It is 'Sweet Mash' with a twist of lemon in it. We remember you liked the orange, so we tried it with lemon."

The 2 men did not say a word, but started moving the crates of moon shine into the back of the SUV. When they were done, the driver came back to the ladies. "Here you go ladies, a pleasure doing business." He handed Cora an envelope. 

She casually asked, "Do you want some more?"

"Actually, I'm surprised you had this. Word on the streets is that you two got caught red handed and arrested. Figured you were shut down."

Cora answered,"No sirree, the law thinks they put a scaring on us when they threatened prison time if we fired her up again. We figure they will never suspect us now."

"Well, if that's the case, can you have 10 cases here next week?"

Flora spoke up, "Think so."

Cora asked, "We figure since we are your best supplier, our product is worth more - say $50 a bottle."

"Well, that's kinda pricey don't you think?"

Flora stepped in,"Sir, we know what it is worth, we got other folks interested."

The driver was silent, then looked over at his partner who nodded his head in agreement. "OK, $50 a bottle, but you better keep the quality up."

Cora spoke up, "Wait there is only $2000 in here, she showed him the envelope. If I do my math right, 10 bottles in a case and 6 cases make $2100. Y'all trying to short us?"

"Hugh, get another c-note from the car." Then he turned to the women,"When did y'all start being so bossy?"

Flora looked at him,"You get yourself arrested and you'll get some balls too."

When Sam heard this, he just looked at Mike with this 'Did I just hear what I thought I heard? "

Mike just smiled and shook his head, as he was not surprised.

The 2 men got back into their SUV, turned around, and headed in the direction they came. The twins got in their car, waited a moment then very slowly, with their headlights off, followed them. The dust on the road along with the darkness pretty much hid their car.

As Sam, Mike, and the Agents got into their vehicle, they realized what the twins were doing. Sam yelled,"What in the Sam Hell do you think you are doing? Stop now before you get killed." But the twins continued.  Sam tried one more time to get them to stop. But he got no response.

Mike suggested they take a side road that circled around and  would put them in front of the SUV therefore forcing it to stop. Sam thought for minute and agreed. A second later the road came up on the left and he turned onto it. If nothing else there was no cloud of dust so he could drive faster.

When they arrived at the main road, Sam took a right with the plan to head the SUV off. They knew it had not passed the side road yet because there was no dust and there were no other turnoffs except the one they had taken earlier. They made their way down the road, expecting to come upon the SUV at anytime. For a few minutes there was nothing. Mike said, "It was moonshine, right? Not fairy dust that would make them disappear."

Just as the words got out of his mouth they spotted the SUV in the ditch, with the twins' car next to it. The 2 men were on the ground. Cora had her foot on one of the men's back and Flora had her foot on the other. Both ladies were holding AK47s pointed at the men's heads.

The ATF agents scrambled from their vehicle and grabbed the men. They cuffed and arrested them on the spot. Mike walked over to the twins, who were right proud of themselves. "What in the Hell were doing? You could have gotten yourself killed."

Flora smiled, "I think the odds were in our favor. It made sense to follow them. Then when I had an opportunity to run them off the road I took it."

"You gave us an assignment and we planned to complete it. Those SOB's tried to cheat us out of some of our money. We were not going to take that sitting down." said Cora seriously.

"And the guns?" asked Mike.

Cora held her rifle up,"Oh, those are ours."

"Seriously?"

Flora laughed, "You think 2 old broads like us would be in our business unarmed? We ain't stupid."

Sam walked up in time to hear the conversation. Cora added, "And before you ask, they are registered."

While the ATF agents took care of the 2 guys, Sam and Mike talked with the twins. Sam looked at them without smiling and said,"You know you put yourself in danger? Were the 2 of you using sign language in the car so I wouldn't hear you? Or was it that secret language only twins understand?"

Flora just smiled,"No sir. We were talking alright, in plain English. You'll find your 2 microphones back at the pickup site. But don't worry, I threw them to the side so they wouldn't get run over."

Sam and Mike just shook their heads.

Cora looked at them,"We knew you would be able to find them. I'm fairly sure if you just yell at us pretty loud, you can follow the sound and find them. We certainly did not want to lose them."

Flora added,"Who do you think we are, some common crooks?"

Mike laughed,"Ladies, there is nothing common about you. Let's get you back home."

As they followed Mike and Sam back to the car, Flora spoke up, "Guess we can't get the load of liquor back?"

"Nope", said Sam without looking back.

"Or, keep the money? said Cora.

"Nope."

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fine Wine, Surprises, and Spam

Bunny invited Vivian to Ivy Lane one Saturday afternoon. Vivian was so excited. She arranged a babysitter for the children. She knew better than to show up with that crew. Finally, she was going to have a connection to her family.

She drove up Ivy Lane's long drive and stopped short of the house. Like everyone else, Vivian was enchanted by the scene before her. She parked her car and got out. Vivian walked to the edge of the front of the house where she could see the lawn as it sloped down to the river. The lush green grass, large old oak trees laden with Spanish moss, and the slow moving river looked unreal - almost like something from a movie.

Bunny walked out to greet her,"It's almost magical isn't it?" she said to Vivian as she looked around.

"This is more than I ever dreamed it would be. Thank you so much for inviting me out here."

"Vivian, you have more ties to this land than I do." Bunny gazed around," My memories here are from the wonderful times I shared with Harrison. Gosh, every time I turn a corner, walk out onto a porch, or open a door I think of him." She turned back to Vivian,"Come on in, I'll show you the house."

Bunny showed her the house and shared as much history as she knew. Vivian was totally entertained by Bunny's tale of Liza and Belva's little project to 'borrow' some things from the house. As they walked through the living room into Harrison's study, Bunny said,"You know, if they had asked me -nicely- for some of those things, I would have gladly given them to them. I'll never use those things. Hell, I don't even know what most of them are. I wanted to redecorate but I was talked out of it."

"Oh, Bunny," said Vivian, looking around, taking it all in,"I'm so glad you didn't. I mean look at this drop leaf table." Vivian lightly touched it. "No telling how old this is. It looks like cherry. And this break front."Vivian said, pointing toward the gorgeous break front along the wall. "Bunny, that looks like bird's eye maple." 

Bunny looked at her and seriously said, "So?"

"So, most of these pieces are valuable antiques. Not only that," Vivian said as she opened the glass door of the break front,"the craftsmanship is just beautiful."

Bunny looked around the living room. "Vivian, maybe you can explain all these pieces to me. I don't even know what they are. That piece,"she pointed to the break front," looks like the pie cabinet my Grandmama kept on her back porch. Why is it in the living room?"

Vivian laughed, "Bunny, I'll be glad to do that. It would be fun."

They walked into Harrison's study. Bunny showed her the boxes of family pictures, notes, and letters. "You are welcome to spend as much time as you want going through these. Take what you want, no one else has shown any interest."

"Oh, thanks." Vivian sat on the floor and for about 30 minutes went through the first box. Finally she stood up -"It will take me days to go through all this."

"I would think so. My family doesn't have anything like this. Guess it's best. It's not like there was history to be proud of." Then Bunny remembered Idella Arnell's House of Pleasures for the Lonely Man.

"Oh, Bunny, everyone has a history."

"Unfortunately." Bunny changed the subject, "Wine?"

"Oh, that would be great."

"If you will take these glasses out to the front porch," Bunny said, handing Vivian 2 wine glasses from Harrison's private bar that was setup in his study. "I'll bring the wine and some hor dourves."

Vivian made her way down the great hall out onto the front porch. There she found two very comfortable chairs with a low cocktail table between them. Bunny came out with a plate that held slices of bologna, saltine crackers, chunks of Spam, and several Twinkies sliced into bite size pieces. "I always try to keep special things around in case I have guests. This will give us something to eat while we talk."

Vivian wasn't sure what to say. She had never been served such 'hor dourves'. She laughed to herself, only Bunny would put out a spread like this. What a complicated person. "Looks great to me," Vivian said as she accepted a glass of wine from Bunny.

"Bunny can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Where did the name 'Bunny' come from?"

Bunny rolled her eyes, "Brunilda. I had a Great Aunt Ethel Brunilda. Mama was convinced if she named me after her, she would bequeath me her prized silver tea set."

"And did she?"

"Oh yes. But do I have it? Nope, my Mama has it." Bunny laughed,"She's taking care of it until I am old enough to use it."

"Ah, southern mothers." They both laughed and talked for an hour or so about little things. Bunny told Vivian about her first visit to Ivy Lane and how she parked in the Wisteria Arbor and tried to enter through the basement pantry door. Vivian howled. After 3 bottles of wine they started talking about families and such. Both lamented growing up as only children. Even though Vivian was brought up with cousins, she always felt like she was alone. It was at that point that Bunny said,"I always wanted a sister."

Vivian laughed,"So did I."

"Well, you know you have one, at least a half-one."

Vivian put her glass down. Bunny continued. "William Vontese was my father also. As you know, Anna Belle is my mother. She was William's second wife."

Vivian just looked at her, and slowly said, "But you never said anything?"

"I never knew you existed until you moved here. I just never knew when the right time would be."

Vivian threw her arms around Bunny,"Oh, I am so happy. So I have family after all."

Bunny laughed,"Be careful what you ask for."  It wasn't long before Bunny told Vivian the tale of Anna Belle, Tula, and Beau. She went on to tell her about Buzz.

When she finished, Vivian just said,"Oh my God, I had no idea." She poured both of them a glass from the 4th bottle of wine. "This is damn good wine. Where did you get it from?"

"Harrison's wine cellar. I just pulled some bottles for tonight."

"How did you know what to choose?"

"I didn't. I just picked them by the names. '92, sounded like a good year and I really liked the name 'Screaming Eagle'. I knew it was a red because Harrison taught me that. It is a 'Cabaret Saveitgon'. I remembered that much."

Vivian laughed, but then got serious,"Bunny, do you know Tula very well? I really did not come here to get involved in her life, or worse yet, get her involved in my life. How could someone just abandon her child?"

"I don't know, but I've never been a mother. There is always another side to the story." Then Bunny laughed," Trust me life has not been a fairy tail with Anna Belle."

"But what about Tula?"

"Vivian, I don't know her that well. The side of her I have seen has been the one still angry about Beau Jackson. I can't really say much more."

"So she carries that grudge."

"Apparently so."

"I guess she is not the most popular person in town?"

Bunny had had enough wine to be honest,"Not hardly."

"Great, so I'm the daughter of an unpopular woman."

Bunny died laughing,"I can top that, your mother could be the town's madame."

"You lie. Bunny you are so funny. Only you would say that."

"No, she is. It runs in the family. Generations back, my family ran the infamous 'Idella Arnell's House of Pleasures for the Lonely Man'."

"The famous brothel in New Orleans? Seriously? Wow!"

"Unfortunately, I'm as serious as I can be. But, thank God it stopped with Anna Belle's generation."

Vivian tried to stand up, but promptly fell back into her chair.  "Bunny, I've got to go."

"I don't think you need to drive," said a male's voice from the lawn.

Vivian and Bunny looked to find Terse standing there. "What are you doing here?" asked Bunny with a smile.

"Just thought, I'd stop by."

"Just stop by?" laughed Bunny.

"I stopped by the office to see you, and Della told me where the hen party was."

"So here you are!" slurred Bunny.

"And, here we are!" Vivian added, her speech not much clearer.

Terse walked up onto the porch. He picked up one of the many wine bottles sitting on the table. "Wow,  two '92 Screaming Eagle Cabs and  two '93  Harlen Estate Cabs! Ladies, you have gone through about $5000 in wine tonight."

"Well it was good," said Vivian.

"I still prefer pink chablis," said Bunny, "and damn if I could find one in Harrison's wine cellar."

Terse walked in the house, was gone for a while, then emerged with another bottle of wine and a glass. "May I join you?"

"Of course," said Vivian with a giggle."Did you know Bunny is my sister?"

"Boy, y'all have bonded."


"No, seriously, we are half sisters. See, I was a love child," Vivian  said batting her eyes with both her hands on her heart.

"You're Anna Belle's daughter. God, she was busy. You know you have a brother - Buzz."

"Noooo, my mother is Tula."

"Tula!," said Terse surprised. He looked at Bunny.

"Yep, Tula and my Daddy - while my Mama and Daddy were married."

"Wait, Bunny, your Daddy was married to Tula."

"Yes, he was. He left her, or rather she left him. He married Mama."

Vivian interrupted,"Then he strayed back to Tula."

Terse laughed,"Maybe, I need to go back to my Mama and Daddy and inquire as to my lineage." He took a sip of wine. "Hell, what if we all go get DNA tests. That would be scary."

"Why would we take a test? I never was good in school. I guess you want to see who is smart?" said Bunny, not laughing.

"No," said Terse laughing so hard could hardly breathe. "Bunny, I love you."

"Well, now you tell me," said Bunny acting hurt.

Ignoring her, Terse went on. "No, not a written taste. Everyone has 23 chromosomes."


Vivian interrupted him,"In our case it may be more or less."

Terse continued with a smile, "This is a test that shows you what your different chromosomes are, and then by comparing your chromosomes to those of someone else, you can tell whether or not you are kin."

"Damn, everyone in Gallagher probably has matching 'chromozones'," said Bunny seriously.

"Could be," laughed Terse. "Glad, I'm from Mobile."

Vivian looked at Terse,"Maybe - maybe not?"

The three of them moved on to other subjects. Soon it was past midnight. Bunny and Vivian were soused. Terse offered, or rather insisted, to take Vivian home.

Vivian looked at him, "Who's home? Yours or mine?"

Terse, with a rye smile, said, "Yours, at least for tonight." He looked at Bunny, "Can you make it inside?"

Bunny tried to stand up but fell back into her chair. "Why not?" she said in a very slurred manner. She looked at Terse, trying to focus,"Noooo, problem."

Terse waited to make sure Bunny was least inside the door, before he helped Vivian down the steps. Vivian looked at him, "Did you know Tula, the bitch, is my mother?"

Taken a little aback, Terse just said,"You've already told me you are Tula's daughter."

"But she is not nice. And she doesn't want me."

"You don't know that."

"Vivian stopped walking, "Then why did she abandon me?"


"Vivian, I don't know, I think you need to ask her?'

Then Vivian tried to whisper in Terse's ear, "But, Bunny's Mama is a whore."

Terse helped her into his car,"Sweet heart, I think you need to go home."


Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Heathens, Voodoo, and a Wicked Widow

It did not take long for Minister Barker's demise to make it's way around town. Once Ed's head waitress, Mae, got word from her boy friend, Parnell, a medic, about Minister Barker, the world pretty much  knew.  The rule of Gallagher was telegraph, telephone or tell Mae, the later being the most efficient. Most citizens were shocked to hear he had died at such a young age - 48.  He was a well liked man. But, the jury was out on  his wife, with a majority not really caring for her.

Della and Bunny were talking about the preacher's death in the office. Vivian walked in and picked up on part of what they were discussing. She asked,"Who was he?"

"The Baptist minister," Della said, "He was a great guy. He had been here for  3 or 4 years."

"Are you a member of the Baptist church?" asked Vivian.

Della laughed,"Not hardly - a lapsed Catholic."

Bunny added,"Most folks in town are Episcopalian or Catholic."

"So Baptists are not popular here?"

Della just laughed again," Vivian, in this part of the world, folks are suspicious of Lutherans and think Baptist are proselytizing folks who don't know any better." She paused,"I didn't say that."

Bunny looked at her,"You are going to Hell."

Vivian asked,"Did he have a family?"

"No children, but a wife. . ."

Della finished Bunny's sentence,"Who is not very friendly."

The phone rang and interrupted their conversation. Della got the phone, as Bunny and Vivian went to their offices. Bunny logged into her computer and checked her email. There was nothing there of interest.  

An hour or so later Mike called and asked her to dinner. Bunny asked him about Minister Barker. He told her what he knew. Then she asked, "Have  you spoken with Mrs. Barker?"

"No, I haven't yet. The Sheriff was going over there this morning."

"I know she is beside herself."

"Yeah."

"You don't sound very sure of that?"

"I don't know, I haven't spoken with her," Mike said pivoting back to the subject of their dinner. "I'll pick you up at 7."

"Great, I'll see you then," said Bunny and they rang off.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff was at the Barker's home. He offered his condolences. Mrs. Barker thanked him and invited him in. The Sheriff started, "Mrs. Barker, is there anything we can do?"

"No, I'm fine," she said with a straight face. They spoke about some trivial things before the Sheriff got serious.

"Just out of curiosity, how was Minister Barker's health?"

"Horrible. He ate too much of the wrong kind of food and never exercised. I tried to get him to change, but he never did."

"Did he eat at home? I know he spent a lot of time visiting members of the church, and probably was only able to see many of them at night."

Mrs. Barker looked perturbed. "Yes, he was out. He didn't like eating at home. You see I am a vegan, I do not believe killing and eating the wonderful life God created."

The Sheriff shook his head in agreement. "I see." He paused, looked around, and saw that the room was filled with pictures of Jesus, crosses, and  framed lines of scripture. "Actually, I imagine as a pastor's wife, you also spent a great deal of time working with the church's congregation."

Mrs. Barker was very stoic. "Sheriff, I do not like to keep company with heathens. Do you know that only 38 people in this community have given their lives to the Lord Jesus? Everyone else attends those other so called churches - the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, and those Catholics."

"So you stayed to yourself?"

"What else was I supposed to do? Walk amongst those infidels? There is nothing that can be done to save those souls, so I feel I best not participate in their pagan lives."

"Mrs. Barker, no offense, but I doubt those, myself included, who attend the other churches are pagans. Your husband was well thought of in town. I got the impression he did not judge a person by the church they attended or not."

"I know and that was an issue. I felt he had ventured from his faith. Sheriff, for months now, I prayed and prayed that he would come back into the fold but, no, he continued his ways."

"His way?"

"Yes, not taking care of the body the Lord gave him and going out beyond his congregation. If he had been preaching the Bible, the words of our Lord, to the heathens, it would have been different. But he had this pragmatic attitude that if someone needed him, they would ask and he would be there for them. Of course, also, if he saw someone he knew needed help he was there for them."

The Sheriff asked a few more questions and made sure Mrs. Barker knew his office was there if she needed any help. He bid her farewell and left. On his way back to the office, the Sheriff called Dr. Mercer Magill, the town doctor.

"Dr. Magill here."

"Mercer, Sheriff here."

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, Doc, I know you have your oath of confidentiality with your patients, but I need some help here."

"Shoot."

"I just left John Barker's home, speaking with Mrs. Barker. She just doesn't seem right in the mind. I knew John pretty well. He was a good guy, you know, an even keel guy. I never thought he was judging me or anyone else. After spending some time with her, I cannot see the 2 of them together. Sometimes, there is something going on that you know about. Any help here?"

"Well, for John's sake, I'll tell you. He wouldn't mind, I'm sure.  And he had his wife's permission to her medical files." He paused."Long story, short Sheriff, she is not right. When they first came here, she was a different person. Her personality was very much like his. However, about 15 months ago, she went to see a lady in the country. When she came back she was a different person. If I didn't know any better, I'd say was possessed."

"I was thinking car accident, fell down the stairs, hit her head -issue. Voodoo never came to mind."

"Yep, it was almost like instead of being possessed by the devil, God took over and went a little wild."

"So you would say she is not really stable?"

"Well, I'm not a shrink, but my guess would be 'no', she is not stable."

"Capable of committing a crime?"

Dr. Magill was quiet for a moment. "Sheriff, anyone is capable of committing a crime. Especially if they have the motive and the means. I don't want to go as far saying she had either."

"Not asking you to. But really appreciate your help." The Sheriff thanked him again and rang off.

He called Mike,"I'm not sure about Mrs. Barker."

"I thought Dr. Sadler said it was a heart attack?"

"He did, I'm just dotting all my I's and crossing my T's."

"What do you need from me?" 

"Nothing now, just me up to date on anything else you hear about this situation," said the Sheriff and they rang off. 

At Ed's a group of ladies were meeting to organize a dinner for Mrs. Barker. Luellen asked,"How many people do we need to plan for?"

'Miss' Ella looked at her, "I'm not sure. Come to think of it, I do not have any idea. They did not have children or any local family. Maybe we should ask?"

Francine laughed,"Ella, OK, you get to call Mrs. Barker and inquire."

Ella tried to look serious,"She just lost her husband. I'm sure she is devastated." Not one lady looked her in the eyes."OK, I'll go. She probably needs company anyway."

They continued planning. As they broke up, Ella told them she would let them know what she learned. 

The Sheriff was having lunch at the counter at Ed's. Wade came in. "What's up?" asked Wade as he sat down beside him. 

"Just left Mrs. Barker's house. Ever met her?"

"Can't say I have." Wade turned to Ed, "The regular."

Ed just said,"Coming up."

"Well Mrs. Barker is nothing like her late husband. Let's just say, she was not happy about her late husband's habits."

Wade raised an eye brow,"Not happy with his habits?"

"Seems, she is a vegan, in good health, and very concerned about her husband's health."

"Hum," said Wade looking at his glass of ice tea.

"Looks like she was not happy with her husband and had all the motives to kill him."

"Seriously."

"Yes, 'fraid so. I'm going to wait until after the funeral to arrest her. I don't think she is going anywhere and there is no point in making a scene"

Wade didn't say anything, he just started eating the burger Ed had just put in front of him. After he swallowed his first bite, he looked at the Sheriff," I thought Hollis said it was a heart attack?"

"He did. I'm just covering my bases. Her reaction to his death was just not normal."

Wade took another sip of tea. Without looking at the Sheriff, he added, "Hollis is a pretty straight shooter. If he said coronary, then why look further?" He laughed, "You got better things to do with your time."

The Sheriff laughed,"I definitely agree, there is just something about his widow that I found unsettling." He took a bite of his sandwich,"Hell, my wife thinks she is odd. Don't you think after 17 years of marriage, she would show some emotion?"

"Guess so." Wade stood up, left some cash on the counter, and said to the Sheriff,"Good luck." With that he turned and walked out the door.

As he got in his car, Wade called Hank, "Hank, there may be a problem here."

"What's that?"

"The Sheriff is considering arresting Mrs. Barker for the murder of her husband."

"Oh that is choice. What do we do?"

"Nothing, if I need you, I'll call you." and they rang off.

Monday, October 23, 2017

We'll Be Back

Bunny and all the fine folks in Gallagher will be taking a break until Monday, October 30th. Lord knows what will happen between now and then. So stay tuned . . .

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Pair of Super Sleuths, an Indifferent Widow, and a Revengeful Arsonist

The following morning, the Eldridge twins were at the Sheriff's office with their attorney ready to discuss the proposed deal they had been offered. Sam was there representing the Feds. As they sat around the conference table, Sam spoke first. "What we need you to do, is continue making liquor just as you always have."

Flora spoke up,"But everyone knows that the still was found."

"We know that, so the story is that since the Sheriff has already raided you once,  he would never think you would do it again," Sam said. "We need you to lead us to the network. All we ask is for you to wear a wire. You don't need to do anything else. Just carry on as usual."

Cora asked,"Are you going to be in one of those white trucks in front the house listening to everything we say?"

Sam laughed,"The equipment we use is cellular so it is as if you are on the line with us."

"Oh, said Cora, clearly disappointed. "Will you be talking in our ear, you know like giving us instructions?"

"No, its nothing like that. This is real simple."

Flora asked,"Will we get training?"

"With the mike, of course."

"No, like with self defense. You know how to defend ourselves."

Cora added,"How to move at night so know one sees us."

Sam paused. He did not expect the ladies to be this enthused about the situation. His concern had been them not wanting to cooperate. "You won't need that, but I can assure you we will support you and will be there the entire time."

The ladies settled down and Sam and the Sheriff went through the details, the time line, and some other things they wanted tell the ladies.

They had just gotten finished when Mike stuck his head in the door. "Sir," he said to the Sheriff, "we have an issue in town you may want to see."

"Sam, I think we're through here?"

"Yes sir, I think we are."

"I'm going with Mike."

As the Sheriff and Mike walked out the door, Sam fielded more questions from the twins about their mission or in their words 'our super secret under cover job.'

As soon as the Sheriff got in the hall he asked Mike, "What's up?"

"Well sir, seems someone found the Baptist preacher dead in his car this morning at the church."

"Does it look like there's any funny business?"

"No sir, my guess is a heart attack when he got in his car to go home last night."

"Well let's go see." The Sheriff got in Mike's car and they drove down to the Baptist church. When they arrived, there was the town police car, the county coroner, an ambulance, and someone from the Mobile paper.

The Sheriff found the coroner first. Hollis Sadler had been the county coroner for 20 years or so. He was a good ol' boy who wore worn khaki's, old boat shoes, and no socks. Hollis was actually a trained MD but did not like wearing a white coat and having a schedule.  The coroner's job suited him well. It was rare for a rural county to have a MD as their coroner.

"Well Hollis, what's the deal?"

"Looks like a heart attack to me. I talked with his wife and she said he was on a Staten for cholesterol, was over weight, and never got exercise. In fact Mrs. Barker went on to say she had been on him to get a healthier lifestyle."

"Well, loved ones always know better and always could have prevented the death, if only the deceased had listened." He paused. "I imagine she was very upset. I'll talk with her later."

"Sheriff, that is another issue. She did not seem very upset at the news of her husband's demise."

"I'm sure she is in shock."

"Given all my experience with families of the dead, I can usually tell the difference between shock, denial, and indifference. Sheriff, Mrs. Barker, was coolly indifferent."

"Hum, that's interesting. Anything else out of the ordinary?"

"Nothing I can see. But if the family wants, we can do an autopsy. However, I don't see any evidence of fowl play, but I'm just the coroner. Now that the professionals have arrived, I'll leave it you."

"Not that I'm a professional, but I play one TV," the Sheriff said with a smile. "Dr. Sadler, show us the way. Come on Mike." The coroner walked over to the parking lot where the minister's car was sitting. The Sheriff walked around the car. He opened the car door and took a good look at the minister. He turned around. "I assume this has all been photographed? If so, you can move him now. "

Mike answered,"Yes sir," then he motioned to the medics,"You can move him now."

On the way back to the station, the Sheriff shared what he had learned from Dr. Sadler with Mike. "Maybe something will be different when I see the photos, but from what I saw, it looked pretty cut and dry."

"What about Dr. Sadler's comments about Mrs. Barker?"

"It doesn't make any sense to me. But, in my experience working with the good doctor, he doesn't miss much. I'll go pay my respects this afternoon."

"Oh, also, Chief Pyre called earlier and said he had gotten an arrest warrant for Mr. Owen Davis, that attorney in Atlanta that was snooping around here."

"For snooping?"

"No, for arson - burning Terse Jackson's place."

"Make sure I tell Mary Lou as soon as I get back to the station to call Atlanta to get that warrant taken care of." Then the Sheriff looked at Mike, "I've been around long enough not to ask this question - but why is an attorney in Atlanta being arrested for burning down Terse Jackson's apartment in a small town in Alabama? And just give me the short version."

Mike laughed, "Apparently, Terse came upon a skeleton in Mr. Davis's closet while doing research for his book."

"Let me guess, when Terse opened the closet door and the skeleton started dancing, Mr. Davis was upset."

"In a nutshell, pretty much. As far as Chief Pyre can learn, Terse did nothing wrong. Mr. Davis's family had been living on a richly embellished story of a war hero for generations. That myth came to an end when Terse started asking questions."

"Enough to burn his place down?

"Apparently so."

"Great, so we have a pair of 70 year old bootleggers, a deceased Baptist preacher with an indifferent wife, and now, an attorney committing arson to protect the fallacy of his family's hero."

Mike laughed, "Don't forget the buc naked General who just got dug up in the back yard?"

"How could I? God, I love this job."

Friday, October 20, 2017

Shackles, a Dead Man, and a Quick Plan

Anna Belle's Gallagher Gentleman's Club was doing very well. Even if every client did not seek the pleasures of the women of the house, they could find a place of peace and companionship. Whether it was a regular game of cards, an available bar to those with wives who still believed in the temperance movement, or just being among the who's who of men who frequented the establishment. There was an unsaid understanding of discretion. After all, almost everyone personally had something to lose, and together, they all knew they had a good thing going that greatly increased the quality of their lives.

That particular evening, Miranda, Anna Belle's red head known for her S & M talent, quietly came down the stairs and pulled Anna Belle aside. Without making any ado, Anna Belle followed her upstairs. There in Miranda's bed, was her client shackled to the head board, dead as a door nail. Miranda was calm but clearly upset. "Anna Belle, he was fine, he was enjoying himself, asking for more. Then he gasped, grimaced, and his head went back. By that time I was trying to hold up his head, but he was dead. What do I do?"

"You do not need to do anything. I'll take care of this."

Suddenly Miranda started sobbing, "It wasn't my fault."

Anna Belle put her arms around the distraught girl. "I know. I need you to calm down and stay up here while I get some help. As far as you are concerned, you know nothing about what happened tonight. Understand?"

"Yes, mam."

With that Anna Belle stepped into the hall and picked up her phone. "Wade, don't say anything and don't show any emotion. I need you to come up the back stairs to Miranda's room. And bring Hank with you. I'll explain when you get up here. Make sure you leave the room without anyone taking notice."

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry, I'm working a little late and I forgot our date." Wade paused. "I promise I'll make it up to you." He rang off and casually made his way over to Hank Jameson. Quietly he told Hank he needed him to follow him and act naturally, "like we are having a good time."

Hank smiled,"I'm always up for that." He turned, and followed Wade toward the dining room. No one found this odd since there was always a small feast setup on the buffet for any clients who were hungry. They moved from the dining room into the kitchen.

As soon as the kitchen door closed, Wade looked a Hank, "Anna Belle needs us upstairs. Follow me."

Without comment, Hank followed Wade up the back stairs. When they entered Miranda's room, Wade looked at Anna Belle, who motioned to the bed with the naked body still shackled to the head board. He saw Miranda standing in the corner obviously shell shocked. "Well", said Wade,"this is an issue."

Anna Belle looked at him and calmly asked, "What do we do?"

"Untie him, get him dressed and we'll get him out of here." He looked at Anna Belle,"I think we can do this without anyone knowing anything about it."

Before Anna Belle could say anything, Wade said, "Don't ask any questions, get him dressed."

Miranda and Anna Belle dressed the dead client. Miranda said, "What happens when his wife learns what happened here?"

"She'll never know." He turned to Anna Belle,"I need you to go down the back stairs and keep anyone out of the kitchen. Miranda, I need you to clean this room up so there is no evidence he was here. If you find anything of his, put it in a pillow case and store it in the closet until the place closes then give it to Anna Belle." Miranda nodded without saying a word. Wade continued. "Then I need you to change your clothes, go down stairs, act like nothing has happened, and if possible find another client to come upstairs into this room."

Anna Belle looked at Wade."Why?"

"Because if for any reason someone notices that he came up but did not come down, we need to have a live person who can say they were in the room with Miranda this evening and there was nothing amiss."

The body was dressed. Wade looked at Hank. "You take one arm, I'll take the other. We'll pull the neck of his coat over the back of his head. We are going to escort a very inebriated cohort out of the backdoor. If anyone asks, we wanted to avoid any embarrassment for him, given his sorted state."

"Gotcha," said Hank as he grabbed the man's right arm and slung it over his shoulder. Anna Belle assured Miranda it would be OK. Then she left to make sure the kitchen was clear. Wade pulled the neck of the dead man's jacket up to cover the back of his head.

"Let's go." They made their way down the back stairs. Their 'friend' was not a slight man, but Hank and Wade were strong enough to hold him up so anyone who saw them would not think anything more than two guys were helping their buddy in poor shape exit the club without embarrassing himself.

When they got outside, Hank asked, Now what?"

"That red sedan over there is his car," Wade said nodding to a car parked across the street. "Let's get him in his car. I'll drive it, follow me in my car." They put the body in the man's car. Wade threw Hank his car keys and they both drove away from the Gentleman's Club.

Hank was a little surprised when they pulled into the Baptist Church parking lot. Wade parked the car and turned it off. Then he and Hank carefully moved the body into the drivers seat, it slumped over the steering wheel. Wade wiped the steering wheel, then wiped the keys off but left them in the ignition. He stepped away, satisfied with his work. Then he and Hank made their way back to Anna Belle's.

Hank just shook his head. "What will they say when they find him?"

Wade chuckled,"I would imagine that the Baptist Minister was working late at the church, got in his car, and had a heart attack. The only issue will be his blood alcohol rate. I watched him drink at least three bourbon and cokes before he went upstairs. That will be harder to explain than him being found dead in his car."

Wade thought for minute."You know I really liked John Barker. For a Baptist minister, he was a good guy. He never judged my lack of religious devotion. Now his wife I did not care for at all."

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

He Left His Calling Card

After lunch, Terse received a call from Chief Pyre. "Terse, we have a lead on the fire at your place. We definitely think it was arson."

"Seriously? What do you know?"

"Do you know someone named 'Owen Davis'?"

"Yes sir, he is an attorney from Atlanta."

"Do the two of you have any issues? Any reason he would want to hurt you?"

"No, well maybe. But if that is your lead, let me come down to the station and talk with you."

The Chief agreed and Terse made his way to the fire station. Terse sat down with the Chief and told him the story of Owen Davis, as it pertained to him.

Terse knew Owen Davis very well after all, and understood the reason he may be a 'person of interest' here. Several years earlier when Terse was doing research for his first book, he stumbled across the story of a private in the Confederate Army, Bethune Bates Davis. In reading up on Private Davis, he learned that he had been blamed on giving  away intelligence on Stonewall Jackson's campaign plans in 1862 in Shenandoah Valley. The dimwit was bragging in a bar that he knew all the plans. When asked, he elaborated. Jackson's troops loss the initial battle but recovered to win the campaign after brilliantly changing strategy.

Private Davis deserted for fear of court marshal and hid until the troops moved on to another area of confrontation. He heard that General Jackson had died in 1863, but he waited until the end of the war to go home. He told his family tales of his 'heroism" during the Shenandoah campaign and how he became one of Jackson's main Lieutenants and spies. The family prospered on his fame, as no one knew any different.

His younger brother who was only 12 at the start of the war had been denied entrance to a prestigious college. However, when the family shared Davis's heroic story, the brother was accepted. He graduated with honors. Finding employment in the south was difficult after the war but the younger brother and a generation or two following lived on the 'legend' of Bethune Bates Davis. The Daughters of the Confederacy raised money and erected a statute in his memory in a downtown park in Atlanta, praising his 'Daunting Courage and Loyal Service to the Cause and to General Stonewall Jackson'.

The truth of Private Davis was buried with him until Terse started his research into the history of Confederate intelligence during the war. He stumbled across a letter in General Jackson's own handwriting sent to General Lee, just after the Shenandoah Campaign, describing the betrayal of Private Davis and the repercussions of his actions. Jackson wanted Lee to be aware of the situation and his plans to court martial Davis, once he was captured.

Always wanting to find the truth, Terse had researched and found a distant relation of Private Davis living in Atlanta - Owen Davis. When he approached Mr. Davis about the story of Private Davis, Owen Davis denied it and was incensed. Terse showed him the letter and explained it had been certified as authentic by not 1, but 2 noted historians.

However, unknown to Terse, Mr. Davis had accepted an advance from a well known publisher for his biography of his 'famous' relative. The advance was substantial and his law career was anything but profitable. All was well until Terse came along with the truth.  If Terse wrote anything about Private Davis in his book, Mr. Davis threatened Terse with defamation of character. Terse quickly told him that he had the facts on his side.

Terse received  threatening phone calls and letters from Mr. Davis over the following months. As it turned out Terse decided not to use Private Davis as a character in his book and went in a different direction. Of course, Mr. Davis was not aware of this.

As the publication date got closer, Mr. Davis got desperate. As it turned out, not only did he fear the truth being revealed, he had no talent in writing the book in the first place and had been stalling his editors. He decided to find Terse, for what end Terse did not know. When he showed up in Gallagher looking for him, Terse realized he needed to leave. Terse had only shared this with his father who was very concerned when he heard that Mr. Davis was in town.

Terse paused reflecting,"But this was well past the time of the fire?"

The Chief leaned back in his chair,"Maybe he wanted to destroy your book before you could publish it?"

"But, I kept all my drafts in the cloud. Anyone would know that."

"Anyone with a lick of sense. Perhaps the halfwit gene runs in the Davis family. Desperate times call for desperate measures."

"Wow. So why come back?"

"Maybe because he learned that the book was going to be published anyway."

"So what made him a suspect? Joe saw his car with Georgia license tags parked on Oak Street the night of the fire. Joe always notes the tags of unfamiliar cars, especially those from out of state. And," the Chief laughed," he literally left his calling card at the scene."

"How did you connect it with the fire?"

"It was found with an empty gasoline container by the dumpster behind your building."

"Well, this would make a great book in its self."

The Chief told Terse where they would go from here. Terse thanked him. Before he left, the Chief opened his desk drawer. "Would you mind autographing my copy of your book?"

"With pleasure," said Terse.

"Oh, and Terse, welcome home."

"Thanks sir, it's good to be home." With that, Terse walked out of the station.