Ignoring the wind in his office, Rascal picked up the phone and called Bunny. "When was the last time you spoke with Tula?"
"A week or so ago when she showed up at Vivian's unannounced and uninvited."
"Vivian, why Vivian's?
"Sheriff Quitman, you've been working too much, You're missing the idle town gossip. Vivian and I are half sisters."
The Sheriff was quite.
Bunny continued with the tale of Vivian's broken past. When she finished, Sheriff Quitman said,"Nothing surprises me any more, especially if it involves Tula." He paused. "There is no record of Burdell Wells ever being admitted to Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium."
"I know he was there," protested Bunny. "How can they say he wasn't?"
"But Bunny did you actually see Burdell Wells at the Sanatorium?"
"No, I never saw him, but he was there. Every time I went to visit him, even if he was unavailable, someone on the staff always told me what he was doing and how he was feeling. In fact one day they told me he had requested an old family he had in his den."
"What family photo?" asked Sheriff Quitman.
"They were not sure. But when I told Tula, she knew exactly which one he was asking for and promised she would take it to him next time she visited the Sanatorium."
The Sheriff assured Bunny that he would let her know more as the investigation continued. They rang off.
Next the Sheriff called Theo (Theodois Lofton Lowle), the head of the local bank, Gallagher 2nd State Bank. "Theo, this is Rascal how are you today?"
"Doing well, and you?"
"I've seen better days, but you can help me."
"Theo, I need access to Burdell Wells' bank statements."
Theo paused,"Rascal, you know I can't do that. I need a warrant."
"Well, let me tell you what is going on with Mr. Wells and why I need to see his statements." Then the Sheriff told Theo the tale of Burdell Wells.
"And, there is no record of his being there at all?"
"That's what they say." The Sheriff thought for a moment. He had an idea. "Never mind that, Theo, changing the subject, do you miss the Twins Elixir?"
"Of course I do. Everyone does. Fact is, bunch of folks are right mad at you for arresting them."
"Theo, I didn't have a choice. It was the law. But would you be interested in access to some elixir of the same quality?"
"Yes, but who is making it?"
"Can't tell you because I honestly do not know. But that's not the issue. The quality is as good or better. You want in?"
"Sure. How much?"
"Well, first it is limited to a very few patrons. But I think I can talk to the man running the show and get him to add your name to the pot. Hell, I may be able to get you a better rate."
"Rascal that would be great. God, I've been missing that stuff."
"OK, well let's do some business. I'll get you access to the Elixir, if you give me access to Burdell Wells' bank statements."
The phone was silent for a moment. Then Theo spoke," Rascal, you are supposed to be enforcing the law, not asking me to break it."
"This is not a break or even a bend or a curve. Hell Theo, this is not even a turn, this is a slight wiggle across a line."
Theo was quiet again. "Damn Rascal, I'm going to go to Federal Prison because of you. I can't give you electronic access to the files because they can trace your IP address, I can't have you in here looking at them without arousing some suspicion - even at night, there are cameras every where." He paused and thought. "Tell you what, send Mary Lou up to my office tomorrow around noon. I'll access the files on the computer here on my desk. She can go through them at my desk, under my login. But we will only have 2 hours max. Do you understand? And tell Mary Lou to wear business attire and if anyone asks her anything, she has an appointment with me concerning a family issue."
Rascal almost yelled for joy into the phone,"Damn Theo, I knew you would come through. Thanks. And I'll get my part of the deal started asap. Thanks again buddy." The Sheriff hung up the phone thrilled to have access to Burdell's bank statements. Now he had to find out where Ike was getting the moonshine from.
The Sheriff was a pretty astute man. Many folks had thought him to be a dumb South Alabama Sheriff who didn't know his head from a hole in the grown. Many of those had then rued the day they had not given him credit for being pretty damn smart and effective. He had been at Dot's enough to see that there was a group of men who could come to the bar and say 'something the doctor ordered' and Ike would pull a bottle from beneath the counter and pour them a small glass of clear liquid. No doubt it was moonshine. No doubt it was fine shine, because these men had been enjoying the best for years and would never lower their standards, even if it were all that was available.
The Sheriff told Mary Lou about her assignment the following day. She was thrilled. Then he told her that he had to step out for 30 minutes or so, but he would be back.
The Sheriff made his way to Dot's. It wasn't open yet, but like all the regular customers, the Sheriff knew Ike would have left the front door unlocked. And it was, so the Sheriff walked in. Ike was behind the bar filling up a few bins with ice from the ice maker.
"Well, Sheriff Quitman, what can I do for you sir?"
"Ike, I got a problem that you can help me with. Now, I'm going to tell you right off the bat that no one is getting arrested, and anything we talk about doesn't go any further than you, me, and the door post."
The Sheriff had Ike's attention. He explained how he knew he was serving moonshine and that did not bother him. And he wasn't worried about who was buying the drinks. But, he needed to know where the Moonshine came from.
Ike just shook his head, "I told Mr. Wade this wasn't going to last long."
The Sheriff laughed,"Ike it can last as long y'all want it to, I just need to know where it comes from. And no, I have no plans to arrest anyone involved at all."
"Mr. Wade Gallagher showed up one day." And Ike went on to tell the Sheriff all he knew about the moonshine. Ike trusted the Sheriff. That was how the law was managed around Gallagher and in Atasi County - the Sheriff and the Town Police picked their battles. If it wasn't hurting anyone, causing any physical or mental damage, damage to property, or involved theft, they were very judicious on how justice was meted out.
When Ike finished, the Sheriff thanked him. "I really appreciate your help. I'll make sure this is held in confidence, in fact, let's just say one of your highly inebriated patrons happened to spill the beans on this to me." The Sheriff nodded and walked out.
Next stop was Wade Gallagher's office. Wade did not argue or deny any of the facts the Sheriff presented. The Sheriff found it quite humorous when Wade told him that source of Ike's stash was, in fact, from the Sheriff's office.
Rascal asked,"So what happens when this stash runs out? Then what?"
Wade just sat there, not saying a word, pondering. Then he leaned forward, put his elbows on the desk, and clasped his hands. "Rascal, I think I can get you access to some number 1 grade A home grown liquor. But," he paused,"if I set it up, you cannot ask me any questions."
"Wade, I don't need any answers, I just need the liquor. Can you just take it to Ike. I'll get it from him when I need it."
Wade didn't say anything. Rascal added,"And let me know how much I owe you. I'll get you the money - in cash. No strings attached."
"Rascal, you must need this badly."
"Actually, this isn't for my personal consumption as much as I wish it were. Let's just say I need this to handle some other official business."
Wade stood up, shook Rascal's hand."You'll do anything to get the job done."
"Well, let's just say, some times it takes a little extra to make all the pieces of a case come to together. Using this elixir is no harm, no foul. Let me know how much I owe you - and this money will be coming from my pocket, if you are wondering."
"So you are saying you are willing to pay for this out of your pocket and not use any of the county funds?"
"Wade, we've been friends for a long time. You know I am a law abiding man. That would be an illegal use of my office's funds. You think I am a man to break the law? Desperate times call for desperate measures."
They exchanged pleasantries and the Sheriff left Wade's office.
On his way back to the station, the Sheriff called Mercer to check on Mrs. Barker. Mercer told him about their ride home. "Rascal, it was like a totally different person. She was pleasant and engaging. Her outlook is positive. Her memories of the past several weeks are spotty at best."
"Well given what she has been through, that may be for the best." Then the Sheriff shared what he had learned (or not) from the Sheriff of Baldwin County. "I'm just stumped. If I didn't know Burdell Wells myself, I would think he was the figment of Tula's imagination. But we are working on it."
They discussed several other details about Mrs. Barker and the Sanatorium before they rang off.
Sheriff Quitman sat quietly at his desk. He was alone at the station. Everything was eerily quiet. Rarely did he have time like this just to think. How did the Barker's home burn? Where in the Hell was Burdell Wells? What would they find in Burdell's bank statements?
His door blew open, he looked up to see Reeza there. "I thought you were lost in the mist?"
Reeza just gave her eerie laugh,"No dear. I may go away, but I can always come back."
"So I see. Like a bad cold" The Sheriff glanced behind her to see if she had anyone or anything with her. But there was nothing that he could see.
"If you are wondering about Mr. Wells, just follow the money."
"So now you are deep throat?" the sheriff said sarcastically.
"No," and her eyes turned a bright yellow. "I am Reeza. Have I been wrong yet?"
Before the Sheriff could reply, Reeza added,"Must I remind you that it was you who sought me. I have no need for this mess. I have little time for all this." She waved her arm with the long wing like sleeve across his desk. "I'd be careful about using elicit elixir to find fiscal evidence. You do not want to open another Pandora's box." She flicked her hand at him. "And don't forget that vile money may have come in just as good money could have gone out."
"Do you always speak in riddles?"
"No, they are only riddles to those who cannot grasp the truth. For everyone else they are the map to enlightenment."
With that, the wind picked up, she turned, and she was gone.
'Damn her', thought the Sheriff. 'I wonder if every Sheriff has a soothsayer who appears, speaks in riddles, throws cards around, then disappears into thin air?' Then he yelled at Mary Lou, "Can you get Tula on the horn? I need to speak with her asap."
He heard Mary Lou pick up the phone and start dialing.
The office phone rang. The Sheriff picked it up, "Sheriff Quitman, how can I help you?"
"Sheriff, this is Iris Barker. Dr. Magill said to call you if I remembered anything that I thought would be of value. And I have."
"Mrs. Barker, that is great."
"Oh, Sheriff, please it is Iris. I can vaguely remember someone knocking on my back door. When I went to see who it was, there was a man standing there covered in blood."
"Well, every little bit helps. If there is anything else you think of, or anything we can do, please call."
"Thank you." And they rang off.
Mary Lou stuck her head in his office,"I'm having some problems finding Tula, but I'm still on it."
"Tomorrow, I need you to find out the date and amount of the last withdrawal from Mr. Well's account. Heck, just makes notes, if you can, of whatever activity you see. I fear you will find a very low balance, if any. And all the debits going to one place. And it will not be the Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium." He thought for a moment. "And, see if it is possible to see copies of the deposits. Some banks are now making digital copies of the deposits for their clients' records."
All he could think of was, 'don't forget that vile money may have come in just as good money could have gone out'.