Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Who Has the Hooch?

Sure enough after testing the remaining 6 boxes, it was clear, unfortunately crystal clear, that there was a problem. Mike went to Sheriff with the results. "Where do we go from here?" asked Mike. He continued, "As far as I can see, there is no difference in the bottles, the crates, even the straw packing. These have to be the same bottles."

The Sheriff just stood there."OK, let's look at the options. Did the Eldridges only pack 2 'real' cases and the rest were water?"

Mike quickly answered,"I don't think so. Besides they knew it would be tested if the sting worked."

The Sheriff finished Mike's thought," . . . and if the distributors got away they would have come back and probably killed them, or worse."

Mike suggested."Someone emptied the liquor out and exchanged it for water?"

"When could they have done that? That would have been quite the operation."

"Maybe the crates were exchanged?"

The Sheriff scratched his head, "They would have had to have the same bottles, which are fairly unique,the same crates, and straw."

"Or," Mike suggested,"someone just changed out bottles of water for bottles of liquor."

"That's a lot of work. Why not just take the crates?"

"Because they knew they were being accounted for?" Mike looked at the Sheriff. "If someone did this while we had it, they thought no one would know about it?"

"Makes no sense, Sam took the first 2 crates."

"Sam took the first 2 crates, but they were the first 2 closest to the back door. Mary Lou said she held the door open for him while he loaded the crates into his car."

"From the back of the pile . . ." said the Sheriff slowly. "The ones that tested true were the 2 up front. The others were just water." The Sheriff shook his head. "What are the odds that when we stacked those crates in the evidence room, the only two with liquor in them were the 2 up front?"

"Slim and none", said Mike looking at the door of the evidence room. "Let's ask Mary Lou who has been in the evidence room in the past few days."

"And walked out with a 'large' package?"

Mike laughed, "Something like that. You know better than I do, that no one is going to get anything past Mary Lou."

"Well, that's a fact."

At Vivian's house, Harvey was spending time with the children. The older 2 remembered him. Since Jimmy was born while Harvey was in the Amazon, he was clueless. However, his older brother and sister liked this "new" man, so he followed along. Harvey was amazed at how Vivian managed them. She warned him that they could be hellions - sweet lovable hellions - but a handful nevertheless.

Harvey and Vivian discussed their routines, schooling, and care taking. Harvey felt sorry for Vivian. There was no doubt in his mind that she had taken charge of these children out of pure love and devotion to his brother. He also saw the love that had developed between Vivian and the children.

Harvey sat on the sofa as the children played in the kitchen. "This is difficult for me and I know it is difficult for you. Laurelie and I will never be able to have children. To us this is more than just a special tie to my brother, it is an answer to our prayers." He reached for Vivian's hand,"You realize this has nothing to do with you. I am in awe of both your generosity to open your heart to them and the loving way you have cared for them during this difficult time."

Vivian looked toward the kitchen where the sounds of children could be heard.

"Vivian, you know you will always be a very important part of our lives. You are family. I do not want you to ever think I am taking the children because I feel that you cannot care for them, or I think Laurelie and I can do a better job rearing them. You have your whole life before you. Let us care for the children, so you can live for yourself."

"Harvey", Vivian said, "I cannot argue with anything you are saying. It is the best for the children and it is best for you and Laurelie. And, I will not tell you rearing them has not been difficult and exhausting. But, it has been a labor of love I never experienced. The bottom line is that this is all about those 3 young lives, not me, not you, or Laurelie. How do you want to handle this transition?"

"As easily and drama free as possible for everybody," Harvey smiled. "What if you and the kids come stay with us for a week or 2? That way there will be a transition with you there. Then, when you feel comfortable, you can return to Gallagher and we will take it from there."

"I think that will work. I'll call Bunny to discuss this with her. I know she will be more than happy to give me all the time I need."

Harvey laughed,"Also, it will give me and Laurelie some idea of what we are getting ourselves into. You can teach us what we need to know while you are there."

Vivian reached over and gave Harvey a big hug, "As much as I hate to lose them, no doubt they will have a more normal and stable life with you. Their well being is what I care about the most."

They sat and discussed some details and logistics. Vivian said she would call him as soon as she talked with Bunny. Harvey walked in the kitchen to tell the kids goodbye. He was welcomed by Ida sitting on the floor with a half gallon of ice cream, Roger drawing on the chalkboard hanging on the wall pretending to be teaching school, and Jimmy was on his knees pulling everything out of a bottom cabinet. Harvey laughed and shook his head,"Yep, we will definitely need some help."

Vivian laughed,"I haven't stayed on them this afternoon, paying attention to everything they were doing because I wanted some time to talk with you. Trust me, one can organize this chaos."

Harvey hugged all the children and told them he would see them soon. Vivian walked him to the door and told him he would hear from her later that evening. He gave her a hug and left.

Vivian called Bunny and briefly explained the situation. Naturally Bunny said to take as long as she needed to get the children settled. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Not now, but if I think of something I will definitely call you."

"I know you are not even thinking about this now, since your needs are different, we can get you into some better housing. Think about that."

Vivian thanked Bunny. She told her she would keep her updated. Then they rang off. Vivian had her work cut out for her washing clothes and packing.

Back at the Sheriff's office Mary Lou came in. The Sheriff and Mike explained their situation. Mary Lou reached in her drawer and pulled out her 'Evidence Room' Register. "According to my records, after the liquor was brought in, the only person in there was Dr. Sadler." She looked up. "Besides the two of you and Sam."

"Hollis?"

Mary Lou put the Register back in her desk. "Yes, he came in to look at the Barker file again. He said there was one last thing he wanted to see."

"So he just walked in, read the file, and came out?" asked Mike.

"Yep," said Mary Lou. "He was as pleasant as ever. I'll tell you one thing - Dr. Sadler is so laid back, he'll never die of a heart attack."

"Well, it does take a lot to get Hollis worked up," laughed the Sheriff.

"What was he carrying when he walked out?" asked Mike.

"Nothing," said Mary Lou, "nothing that I can remember." She laughed, "I think I would have noticed any crates of liquor he may have had under an arm or a 1 or 2 gallon jugs."

The Sheriff shook his head. "No, that makes total sense for Hollis to be in there. I had questioned him about the Barker case."

Mike, trying to be straight faced,"Think it may have been the gnomes?"

"Funny," the Sheriff said with little humor in his voice.

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