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.

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