My Life A Bit South of Normal

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I wish I had a Pencil Thin Mustache

Hollis, who had just walked in with Stella, was making his way from his table over to her. He asked several questions, then turned toward the bar, "Walter can we get a wet towel and some water?"

"On the way."

In 5 minutes or so, Kathleen was back on her feet. Jeb put his arm around her. "No more for you!"

Everybody laughed, relieved that she was okay. 

"Folks, I think we have had enough fun for tonight. 'Fraid we won't make it to Ed's," Jeb apologized.  Assuring everyone that she was okay, Kathleen and Jeb left for home. 

As the rest of the group made their way out of the bar, Mike walked over to speak to Anna Belle and Walter. "We're going to Ed's for burgers. Why don't y'all join us?"

"Mike, I'd love to but I need to get back to the club. Maybe a rain check?"

"OK, but I'm going to hold you to it," Mike said as he kissed Anna Belle on the cheek and shook his grandfather's hand.

Hollis came to bar to order another round for him and Stella. Anna Belle asked, "You sure she is okay?"

"Oh, I think she will be," was all  Hollis said as he thanked Ike for the drinks and returned to their table. 

As he handed Stella her glass of wine, she asked,"You sure there isn't anything seriously wrong with Kathleen?"

"No, she'll be fine. I imagine Jeb will keep a close eye on her."

Walter dropped Anna Belle off at the club. Being the consummate gentleman, he walked her to the door. "I'll call you tomorrow," he said as he kissed her.

Andrew opened the door for Anna Belle. "Welcome mam, I'm glad you are back. There's a gentleman at the bar waiting to speak with you."

"Thank you Andrew." Anna Belle made her way to the bar. It was not unusual for men being there, wanting to speak with her about a membership to the club.

Sure enough, sitting on a bar stool was a man she did not know. With  only his back toward her, she took him in. His jet black hair was shiny, as if either wet or greased. He was wearing a pin stripe suit. Not one of the well cut suits she was used to seeing, made of fine wool, rather one that reminded her of a gangster. But what really caught her attention were his black and white wing tipped shoes. Just then Charles standing behind the bar looked up to see Anna Belle. He must have caught the man's attention. The visitor turned around and faced Ann Belle.

It was all she could do not to laugh. His hair wasn't wet, it was slicked back. The color wasn't natural, it was definitely colored. She had never seen hair that black. The thin line above his lip looked more like a line drawn on by an eye brow pencil, than any mustache she had ever seen.  On the  lapel of his three piece suit was a red carnation. 

"You must be Anna Belle."

"I am," she said shaking his hand. "And, you are?"

"Johnny Ricardo, mam. Or is it madam?"

Ignoring the comment, Anna Belle just hoped she could make this encounter as short as possible. There was no way this man was joining her club. The very idea of him mingling with the members was humorous at best, distasteful at worst.

"What can I do for you?" Anna Belle said trying to be polite as she could.

"Why, I came to see you, Ms. Vontese. I work for The Advocate in New Orleans. Several months ago, while I was going through the archives, I stumbled on a story about a business with quite a reputation. An old establishment long gone that I am sure you are familiar with."

He paused for effect. Anna Belle remained silent.

He continued, "Idella Arnell's House of Pleasures for the Lonely Man". He looked over her shoulder at the game room, then around the bar room, "If I am correct you are familiar with it." He paused again with a smirk. "Must run in the family."

Anna Belle still did not say anything.

"See, when I started researching about it for a story I am writing, I was most interested in this lady, Idella Arnell, a real business woman in her time. Looking into her family, I came across your name. And, now I know why."

Not showing any surprise, Anna Belle asked, "And?" This needed to be short and sweet, she had nothing to add.

"And . .  . when I found out you had a club, I thought I would check it out." He took a sip of drink. "See if the family tradition continues." He looked around. "What kind of 'club' is this anyway?"

"A private one," said Andrew who had been watching from the front door. By now he was standing behind Anna Belle.

"I guessed as much." 

"Then you can understand why we need to ask you to leave," Andrew said.

"Certainly Ms. Vontese is willing for me to finish my drink.

Andrew moved between the man and Anna Belle. "Looks like you have had enough."

Realizing that Andrew was serious and a good 40 pounds more than he was, Johnny smiled, "I'll settle up."

"Not necessary, the drink is on the house."

"What if I want to join."

Andrew smiled, "I'm afraid the membership is full."

"Perhaps I can get on the waiting list."

"How about this," Andrew said as he put his hand on Mr. Ricardo's arm to make sure he understood it was really time to leave. "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Mr. Ricardo placed his glass on the bar, picked up his hat, and looked at Anna Belle with a smirk. "This is even better than I thought."

He nodded to Anna Belle as he followed Andrew to the door.

Wade had been watching from the game room. After the reporter left, he walked over to Anna Belle. "Everything OK?"

Anna Belle smiled, "You just never know who is going to show up." She recounted the conversation she had just had.

"Johnny Ricardo, huh?"

Anna Belle laughed.

Wade shook his head, "More like the character in that Jimmy Buffett song."

Anna Belle laughed, thanked Wade, and headed toward the front door to thank Andrew.

He just laughed, "That's what you hired me for - remember."

"And, you're doing a great job." 

He shook his head, "And the fun just never ends."

"Never told you it would be boring."

"No, mam, you never did that."

Monday, August 13, 2018

I always Thought he Was a Deviant

It seemed everyone was at Dot's that night. Even Pearce had come into town. Sam and Della were sitting at a table with Bunny and Mike. Vivian and Terse came in a bit later. More chairs were added the table to include them. The Sheriff and Pearce were chatting with Ike at the bar. Conversation around the whole room was animated and loud.

The door opened, Bunny looked over to see Jeb and Kathleen walk in. She motioned for them to come over and join them.  Mike and Sam got up and pulled a table over to join the one they were sitting at. "I haven't seen you in a coon's age," Bunny said as she gave Kathleen a big hug.

 The conversation and laughter continued.  Finally, Kathleen said, "Is anyone else hungry?"

Several folks chimed in. Sam suggested,"Let's have another round then all go to Ed's for burgers." There was agreement from the group.

Mike stood up, "Drinks for everyone." He turned toward the bar, "Ike, put this round on my tab."

Annabelle and Walter had come in earlier and were sitting at the bar with Rascal and Pearce. Ike was pouring the last round for the big table. Pearce, seeing the line of  glasses on the bar, spoke up, "Ike, hand me a tray and I'll help you serve those." Ike thanked him and handed him a small tray holding several drinks. Pearce headed toward the table with Ike following behind with another tray.

While they were gone, Rascal found himself sitting next to Anna Belle. Walter was on his phone. "Annabelle," asked Rascal, "Can I ask you something?"

"Certainly Wade. I'll tell you anything as long as it isn't something I don't want to."

Wade laughed, "Annabelle, they broke the mold when you were born." He smiled, "Seriously, I need some help."

"I'm listening," said Annabelle as she sipped her wine.

"Do you have a young lady at the Club named 'Sara'?"

"That's an interesting question. You know how I like to keep things private."

"Look, this is just between you and me. You know you can trust me."

Anna Belle was quiet for a moment. Rascal had always been more than fair with her. They had an unspoken agreement - as long as everything ran smoothly at the Club, he had no reason to question her business. "I do," she took another sip of her wine.

"You trust me? Or do you have a young lady named 'Sarah'?"

She smiled,"Both".

"How much do you know about her background?"

Not comfortable as to where this was going she was coy, "Not much more than I know about any of my girls. I stay out of their personal lives and backgrounds. As long as they are friendly, polite, and keep our members happy, I don't think it is any of my business."

"You're not helping me here."

"Why are you asking?"

"Let's put it this way - if any of them were married, you would know, right?"

"What do you think?" She paused, "Rascal, why are you interested in Sara?"

"I'm not. We just had an incident that may involve her. Let me rephrase that, she's kind of a side bar - an innocent non knowing participate."

"Okay, now you've got my attention." She was quiet waiting for him to speak.

"Apparently Buck Beaver has been 'peeping' in your windows."

Anna Belle shook her head. "I always thought he was a deviant. That said, even this surprises me." She took a sip of her wine. "Rascal, I hope you are taking care of this."

"Oh, I am. He won't do it again. I thought it best not to make a big deal of it."

"Well, I appreciate that. So what does Sara have to do with this?"

"She doesn't. Maybe her husband does."

"Oh, dear God. Tell me what is going on."

"Let's just say, Buck and Colonel Wadsworth got into it."

Anna Belle put her wine glass down, "Over what?" she said slowly.

"He was defending his wife's honor. But, there was some confusion, because everyone knows the Colonel's wife's name is 'Winfred'." He paused for affect. "However Buck kept referring to a lady named 'Sara'. Said he saw her in a compromising situation with one of your members, and approached the Colonel to tell him about the evils of his wife."

"Through the window?"

"Yep." Rascal took a sip of his beer.

"Perhaps we have a case of mistaken identity?"

"Maybe we have someone living a double life?" Rascal felt for Anna Belle. He realized she was known for her discretion and she cared for her girls. "Look Anna Belle, this is just between me and you. I just want you to know what was going on."

"Should I mention this to Sara?"

"That's up to you."

Walter put his phone down and turned around.

"Problems?" asked Anna Belle.

"No, Ms, Harbuck was just letting me know that the wedding at Chateau Belmond went through all the wine they had planned on using. She was going to get more from the cellar."

"Certainly, she didn't need to call you about that?" Anna Belle laughed. "Ms. Harbuck can run that place better than you."

"Not only can, but does - quite well I may add. However, when the father of the bride wanted a few bottles of my prized Caymus Suisun, she knew she better check with me."

"That doesn't sound cheap?"

"Oh, it's not."

They all laughed.

"Well, I'll that depends on how bottles you are purchasing. A bottle of Caymus Suisun Grand Durif, Petite Sirah from Suisun Valley, is only $60 or so a bottle, however when you want to serve it as your dinner wine for the meat course at a sit down meal for 75 of your good friends, that can get a little pricey." He took a sip of his Scotch. "Now what were you 2 talking so seriously about?" He laughed.

"Just catching up. Seems like I never get to visit with Anna Belle."

"Well, she's married to her work," Walter smiled. "That is until a better offer comes along."

Rascal smiled, "I know better than to go there. Great seeing y'all." He looked toward the end of the bar where Ike was filling the beer cooler. "Ike, you got this on my tab?"

"Yes sir, have a good night."

"You too." With that Rascal left the bar.

The group was settling their tabs with Ike before they made their way to Ed's. Bunny walked up to Anna Belle and kissed her on her cheek. "I can't believe you are away from the club?" Bunny looked at Walter, "And, on a date."

Their conversation was interrupted by some commotion behind them. They turned to see Kathleen on the floor with Jeb and Mike kneeling beside her. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Green Velvet and Buck Shot

Della just smiled, thinking of the green velvet corseted dress Bunny had just described, 'Only Bunny would be thrilled with that get up'. "And all the bridesmaids wore them?"

"We did, but that didn't work out so good."

Vivian laughed, "Were the corsets too tight?"

"No, it wasn't that. Jon Bo didn't show up for the wedding."

"John Bo?"

"Her groom. Well,  his mama named him Jonas Buchanan, but we all called him 'Jon Bo'."

"So he stood her up?"

"No, he wouldn't have done that. Come to find out later he was in the hospital. So we only got to wear the dresses for an hour or so."

"That's dreadful?

"It sure was - those dresses cost a lot"

"But, the bride didn't know?" asked Vivian.

"Oh, she knew, but her mama ordered them and sent us bill before Princetta knew anything about it."

"No, not the dresses, Princetta didn't know what had happened to Jon Bo?"

"No one did, well except his best friend Ned. They finally found him stark naked, passed out behind the A&P."

Bunny's story was interrupted when the office phone rang. Della answered it. Bunny turned to go into her office.

Vivian followed her, "So what happened to Jon Bo?"

"Oh, he had been shot in the rear end at his bachelor's party." Bunny was quiet as she thumbed through the mail Della had handed her. The other ladies were waiting to hear more. Finally Bunny looked up and realized she hadn't finished the story. "They were drunk as skunks and those crazy boys decided to play Russian Roulette with a shot gun. Took them over an hour to get that buckshot out of his tail - couldn't sit down for 2 weeks."

"Oh, that is horrible," said Della.

Vivian was shocked,"No, that's not 'horrible', that is insane."

"Not with those boys. They were crazy as Hell. I don't think Princetta wanted to marry Jon Bo any how. She always had a thing for Ned. But he was dating Calista. Of course, Calista broke up with Ned that day after news got out about the boys."

"I guess so, shooting the groom," laughed Della.

"No, the shootin' didn't bother her. He had done worse things than that before. Calista's mama put a stop to that relationship. She was more pissed than a boiled owl. Said finding that boy stark naked in public was the final straw. Anyway, didn't bother Calista much, 'cause she and Jon Bo eloped the next day. Had Preacher Rick do it at the hospital."

"Poor Princetta," said Della trying to imagine this scenario.

"Bet she was upset?"

"Probably so, but I think she was more concerned about trying to get her money back from the Elks Lodge where they had planned the reception."

Della was laughing, "Bunny, no offense to your cousin, but that's the funniest wedding story I've ever heard."

Before Bunny could say anything else,  Wade stuck his head into Bunny's office. " 'Gotta minute? I need to show you something."

Bunny didn't reply, just grabbed her bag and followed Wade out of the office. As soon as the door closed, Vivian said, "This is better than any soap opera."

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Big Puffy Sleeves and Crinoline

Over lunch at the Cafe, Della and Sam were working on the wedding plans. They figured the church could seat 250 at most, so they were only going to send out 125 invitations. "Do you think your mother will be okay with, maybe, 50 of those?" asked Della.

"50 for Texas? Oh no. Let's give her 25 at most. Trust me if she wants more, she'll ask. Then we can started dickering."

"25 it is. Will you let her know?"

Mike looked at Della, "Are you trying to avoid her?

"No, not at all. I would just rather stay clear of the 'invitation' issue."

"Fair enough, I'll add that to my list."

"Thanks sweet heart. Now, I want Luellen to bake the wedding cake. I've already discussed some ideas with her."

"Luellen? Don't you want Bernerd to create one of his masterpieces for you?"

"Are you serious?" Della said with a smile, "Ah . . . no. I have no intentions of spending 90% of my wedding budget on the cake." She continued. "Lavenia can do the flowers. I'm going to let Mama handle that. That'll keep her busy." She looked down at her list. "I have decided that I am going to ask Vivian, Bunny, and my cousin, Quintrelle, to be my bridesmaids."

"Quintrelle? Do I know her?"

"Nope, but you'll love her. Everybody does. She's something special."

They went over a few more issues - what the men were going to wear, time of the service, etc. Della looked at her watch. "I've got to get back to the office." She gathered her lists and spreadsheets.

When she reached over to kiss Sam, he reminded her, "Dot's tonight at 5:30."

"I'll be there." With that she left the cafe and headed back to the office.

Later that afternoon, she formally asked Vivian and Bunny to be in the wedding. "Just us 2?" asked Vivian.

"Oh, no. I've asked my cousin Quintrelle also."

"Quintrelle," Bunny said, "Oh, she is much fun." She turned to Vivian, "If you haven't met Quintrelle, don't worry, she is a scream. Truth is I don't know anyone else like her!"

Della took a few minutes to discuss the details she and Sam had covered at lunch. "The thought of this was daunting. But, once I got organized, it hasn't been that bad."

"What about Sam's people?"

"Thank God, he talked with his mama and explained that we wanted to get married here. I think she was a bit disappointed, but she got over it. Now, his sister, Bryson Lee, is a whole 'nuther ballgame. No doubt, she will think she is visiting a 3rd world country when she gets here."

"Can't be that bad," said Bunny as she handed Della some contracts that needed to be sent out. "I wish Mike had a sister."

"Hey, you've got me," Vivian said as she went through the mail on Della's desk.

"Oh, I know and I couldn't be prouder," Bunny said as she gave Vivian a hug.

"What about our dresses - for the wedding? Have you picked them out yet?" asked Vivian, handing Bunny her mail.

"Oh, y'all just wear whatever you want to. The wedding is going to be at 7, so whatever you choose will be formal."

"Are, you sure?" asked Bunny. "I've never been to a wedding where the bridesmaids didn't wear matching dresses. How does that work."

"Just wear something that suits you. I just thought that would be easier for everybody." Della paused, "Besides, finding something that suits Quintrelle is almost impossible."

"If that's the way you want it, I've got some bridesmaid dresses from other weddings. One is my favorite. It's bright pink and made out of some shiny material." Bunny was getting excited thinking about it. "It has those big puffy sleeves, a big skirt with crinoline, and sequins down the front of it. You know real pretty ones that look like all different colors." She thought for a moment. "Then there is that green dress, I wore in my cousin,  Princetta's, wedding. She paused, tapping her finger on her lips."No, on second thought that is not such a good idea."

Out of curiosity, Della asked, "Why not?"

"It's a winter dress. It's made out of green velvet with a white corset at the top. You know, one that laces up." No one else said anything, No doubt each trying to imagine this dress in their minds. Bunny continued, "And we wore these precious bonnets that tied under our chins with a big bow on the side."

Vivian giggled,"Sounds like something  Little Bo-Peep would wear."

"Exactly, that is what it looked like. But we didn't carry one of those stick things she always had." Della and Vivian had to laugh. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sara, Sources, and Sandwiches

After the Colonel and Buck left, Mike and the  Sheriff sat down to review the cases they were working on. "What about the Eldridges? What the Hell was going on over there this morning?"

Mike told him about his visit earlier that day. "Mike, those women a little bit 'odd', but then I can see not wanting to have to deal with Ella and Rayanne. Those 2 women can be, well, intrusive."

Getting back to the most recent 'incident', they were comparing their thoughts when Mike said, "Wait. Buck said he saw 'Sara' Walker at the Gentleman's Club."

"He did, Sara, the Colonel's wife."

"Not so fast. I'm pretty sure the Colonel's wife's name is 'Winfred'."

"Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure, because I remember the first time I was introduced to her, I thought about my Aunt Winfred. You don't hear that name often anymore."

"Personally, I hope that is the case, would simplify this mess." The Sheriff paused, "The idea of the Colonel's wife being one of Anna Belle's girls is pretty hard to imagine. Let me get Mary Lou to check up on that." He called Mary Lou. "Can you find out what the Colonel's wife's whole name is - her middle name as well as her maiden name. And do it without anyone, especially the Colonel, knowing you are doing so."

Mary Lou told him that was no problem and went back to her desk to start calling her sources. The Sheriff never knew who the 'sources' were. He really thought it best he not know. One thing he had learned over the years was that they were very reliable.

The Eldridges sat down at their kitchen table for lunch. The menu was a BLT sandwich on Sunbeam white bread, just as they had eaten for almost every lunch over their 78 years - at least since they were old enough to eat a sandwich. Flora was still upset with Cora. "You realize you have to get married?"

"Married? Where did that come from?"

"Your dalliances with Ron - you have no other choice. After all he ‘ruined’ you."

“ ‘Ruined’ me?” Cora said laughing. “I wish he had ‘ruined’ me when I was 17. Do you really think at 78, I am ‘ruined’?”

“Certainly do, your reputation has gone to Hell in a hand basket.”

“Next you are going to tell me that no man will keep company with me now.” Cora shook her head is disbelief and took another bite of her sandwich.

“No decent one."

“Flora, you are an uptight stodgy old maid. You need to get over this?”

“Old maid? Like you are some spring chicken.”

Cora put her sandwich down on her plate. “Maybe not a spring chicken, but since I have been ‘ruined’ I don’t think I am 'old maid' anymore.” She grinned at her sister. “Can I help it if I got lucky and you didn’t?" She shook her head. "My God Flora, you are the one who started all this. I just read the book you handed me.”

“I didn’t mean for you to take it literally.”

“Then why did you give it to me? To use as a paperweight?”

Totally exasperated, Flora stood and took her plate to the sink. Not turning around, she answered, "I just didn’t want you to be a ninny. You didn’t know anything about men . . . and their ways.”

“Me? And who are you, Dr. Ruth?”

“No, you’re missing the point. It was to protect you.”

“Flora, you are missing the point. Seriously, what goes on in life, and men?” She stood with her plate. “You have no idea what it feels like to have a man . . .?”

“For God’s sake stop. I don’t need to hear the details.”

“Oh yes you do. In fact what you need is a good romp in the hay. Maybe then you’ll understood that being ‘ruined’ is not the end of the world.” Cora was quiet for a moment. She added dreamily, “You just haven’t lived until you . . .”

Flora interrupted her, "Please stop. No one needs to hear your, . . . your details.” She was totally perturbed with her sister. “Mama would be beside herself.”

“Maybe so, but given she was born in 1912 and she has been in her grave for 20 years, I doubt it."  

"But still, you know how she was.  This is not something she would approve of."

 "How do you think we got here, United Parcel.”

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sins of the Flesh and the Hands of the Lord

By the time Mike made it back to the Station, Mary Lou had gotten Buck calmed down and into a back office. That way when the Sheriff returned, they would be able to get the Colonel's side of the story without any interference from Buck.

It wasn't long before the Sheriff walked in with the Colonel. Unlike the calm polite gentleman he always seemed to be,  the Colonel was very worked up. As he and the Sheriff walked into the Sheriff's office, Mike raised his eyebrows. The Sheriff ignored him, "Colonel would you care for some coffee, a Coke, or water?"

"No, thank you," the Colonel replied in frustration.

Mike followed the Sheriff into the break room. "I've never seen him like this?"

The Sheriff handed Mike a Diet Coke and poured himself a cup of coffee. "Well," he said as he stirred a packet of sugar into the hot beverage, "wait until you hear his side of the story."

"What happened?"

"He'll have to tell you. I want to hear it again, anyway - make sure I heard what I thought I did."

"Mary Lou, hold my calls."

"Yes sir, anything else?"

"Not yet." He followed Mike into the office and closed the door.

"Colonel, I know you told me what happened when I was at the museum. Can you please tell Mike what you told me, every detail. Take your time, try to remember everything you can."

The Colonel turned his chair so he was facing both the Sheriff and Mike, who was sitting on the old sofa across the room. "I was working in the museum arranging the cards for the new exhibit when I heard someone shouting out front.  I walked out to see what was going on.  Mr. Beaver was standing by the entrance to the museum ranting Bible verses."

"So he was outside the museum, not in it?", asked Mike.

"Yes, he was standing right outside the front door." The Colonel paused. "When I saw that it was just Mr. Beaver proselytizing, trying to save everyone's soul," he smiled, "I tried to be polite, telling him that he needed to move. I knew if anyone wanted to visit the museum, they would never come in if they had to walk past Mr. Beaver, his preaching, and his cross. I suggested, nicely, if he would mind moving onto another area. It was at that point that he got angry, incensed, said he was there to save me."

"Save you? Like save your soul?" asked Mike.

"That's what he said. When I thanked him but told him I was okay, he yelled at me.  He said, "Your wife is a whore, you both need your souls saved." Mike and the Sheriff could both tell the Colonel was getting upset. He continued, "Now, generally I am a calm man. Its takes a lot to get me riled up but when somebody says something against my dear Winfred - now, that is going to get me upset."

He had Mike's attention now. "That's exactly what he said, 'that your wife is whore and you both need your souls saved'?"

"If those are not the exact words, they are close enough."

 "So he just made the accusation, he didn't threaten you?"

"No, he didn't threaten me, but a man does not attack the reputation of another man's wife without expecting some reaction. So, I told him that he better leave and never say anything about my wife again, or any one else's for that matter."

The Colonel was quiet. The Sheriff sat still waiting for him to continue. After a minute or 2 of silence, the Sheriff spoke, "Colonel, tell Mike, what happened after that."

The Colonel's knuckles were red as he gripped the hat he was holding in his lap. "Then he started talking about my wife working at the Gentlemen's Club. I interrupted him and told him that, yes, I knew she worked there. But he kept on going. He accused my Winfred of being . . ., well working as . . . , he said she was one of 'those' women. You know the ones who entertain the members."

He was quiet again. "Deputy Pace, I am an honorable man. I couldn't get him to stop talking about her. He was making up things from whole cloth. A man can only take so much. I asked him to leave, but he just stood there. He would not be quiet - not stop talking about her." He paused. "All I could think of was defending my Winfred's honor. I always carry my sword on my waist belt. I just didn't think. Before I realized what I was doing, I had pulled the sword and pointed it toward him. I told him to leave."

"You never hit him or cut him with the sword?"

"No, I just pulled it out, pointed it toward him, and said something like, 'That's enough now'." The Colonel looked at Mike, as if waiting for some comment. Mike was quiet. The Colonel continued. "The next thing I knew he was screaming bloody murder that I had tried to kill him. Honestly, I didn't touch him, with my hand or my sword - although I should have."

"So where did the blood come from?"

"Blood? There was no blood." The Colonel looked genuinely surprised. "Honest Sheriff, I don't know where any blood came from. It wasn't from anything I did. He wasn't bleeding when he finally left, just yelling Bible verses about women of ill repute."

He was silent again. After waiting for him to continue, the Sheriff asked, "And, that's all you can tell us?"

"Sheriff, I am an honest man. That is all that happened."

"From all you have told us, this sounds like a disagreement and self defense on your part. Unless there is anything else you need to tell us, you are free to go."

"Thank you sir."

"Some advice - get an attorney in case this gets messy."

The Colonel stood, "Thank you, I'm sorry I reacted the way I did, but it was pure instinct."

Mike and the Sheriff also stood. "Colonel, I do have to ask that you don't leave town for now. Let's get this straight first." He offered his hand.

The Colonel shook it, turned to Mike, and also shook his hand. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Taking the time to listen to my side of the story."

The Sheriff smiled, and the 3 men walked out of the Sheriff's office. "That's my job and one of the beauties of our constitution. Now I need to talk with Buck - hear his side. If I have any questions, I'll call." The Colonel thanked him again, then turned and acknowledged Mary Lou, " 'Miss' Mary Lou," he said  nodding to the Sheriff's administrator. He then donned his hat and left the Station.

As soon as the door closed behind the Colonel, the Sheriff turned to Mike, "Now the fun part, let's go see what Buck's story is." With that the 2 men walked down the hall to the room where Buck was.

The Sheriff opened the door to find Buck's wooden cross was standing in the corner. He was facing the far wall and talking to himself. Because Buck was mumbling, the Sheriff could not understand exactly what he was saying. "Mr. Beaver, can we talk?"

Buck turned around. Mike noticed the distant look in his eyes. Silently Buck sat down at the table in the middle of the room. The Sheriff offered him something to drink.

"My soul is at peace, I do not need anything like that."

The Sheriff smiled, "Buck, I am talking about a bottle of water, a Coke, or cup of coffee - nothing more."

As soon as they were all settled, the Sheriff told Buck, "You are not under arrest and if you want an attorney, you are free to call one. Do you understand?"

"Yes, I'm at peace. Unlike the sinners of the world, I await the rapture and never ending life."

The Sheriff started, "Okay, I need you to tell me what happened earlier this afternoon at the museum."

Buck started telling his story. "Knowing the sin's of Mrs. Walker's soul, God spoke to me and said I must reveal the truth to the Colonel and offer him redemption."

"The sin's of Mrs. Walker? Exactly what 'sins' are you referring to?"

"Sins of the body. The Bible says, 'A man who loves wisdom makes his father glad, But he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth.' " He looked up at the Sheriff. "Proverbs 29:3. Sir the Colonel's wife is a harlot, a whore, and adulteress."

Mike spoke up, "And what makes you say that?"

"His wife walks among the sinners - she, herself, is a harlot."

"But, how do you know that is the case?"

"I've seen it by mine own eyes?"

Mike looked at the Sheriff and raised his eyebrows.

The Sheriff asked, "Saw what? Where?"

"The Lord told me to seek out sinners. I knew that Ms.Vontese operated a house of wayward women. So I followed the word of the Lord and my heart"

"You went to the Gentlemen's Club?"

"Is there any other house of harlots here?"

The Sheriff remained quiet not willing to go there. The man sitting before him was unshaven, dirty, with long stringy hair, dressed only in a filthy loin cloth and sandals made from rope and worn tire tread.

Buck continued,"I saw through the window. 'Thus they became unclean in their practices, and played the harlot in their deeds.' The Bible says that in Psalm 106:39."

"So you were looking through the windows of the Gentleman's Club?"

Buck was silent. The Sheriff continued, "Buck do you realize that there is a 'Peeping Tom' law that makes that illegal."

Ignoring the Sheriff's question, Mike spoke up, "But what did you see?"

"I saw the Colonel's wife, Sara, offering her flesh to a man who was not her husband."

This caught the Sheriff's attention. "Are you sure it was Mrs. Walker?"

"I've seen Mrs. Walker, of course it was her?"

"Sara Walker?"

"My eyes saw the sins of the flesh."

The Sheriff, not wanting to offer Buck more stage for exhortation, interjected, "Buck, I don't know what you saw. Even though I have no reason to suspect Mrs. Walker of 'sinning' as you say, why did you approach the Colonel?"

Buck, staring at the table, spoke in a low voice that quickly rose into a loud accusation, " 'Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, . . . , will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." He looked up at the Sheriff, "1 Corinthians 6:9-11. He needs to be saved."

Mike could not resist. "So you took it into your own a hands to 'save' him?"

"Not my hands, but the hands of the Lord working through me."

Everyone was quiet for a moment. Finally the Sheriff broke the silence, "And what happened at the Museum?"

"I told the Colonel of his wife's sins. He needed to know. No man should keep company with his wife, is she sells her flesh to other men."

"But what happened?"

"He pulled his sword and threatened me with death?"

"Threatened you with death."

"He tried to kill me with his sword."

Mike smiled, "But Prov 12:19 says, 'The one who tells the truth will endure forever, but the one who lies will last only for a moment' ".

The Sheriff was impressed. But Buck offered in retort. "Thou shall not lift your hand against a man of the cloth."

Mike laughed, "I am not aware of that verse."

"So says the word of the House of Beaver."

The Sheriff interrupted,"The 'House of Beaver' aside, how do we know you are telling the truth?"

"Ask Davis Clark Butler the third - he was the man sharing his body with the Colonel's adulterous wife."

The Sheriff looked at Mike, who shrugged his shoulders. He continued,"Buck, false accusation are against the law. And the word of God."

Buck looked him in the eye,"Sir, you may think I to be crazy, but I don't lie."

"I never said you lied. However, you don't have any evidence that the Colonel truly tried to kill you. Buck, get an attorney to keep you out of trouble. You can leave now."

Without saying a word, Buck stood, got his cross from the corner, and left the room.

After he was gone, the Sheriff turned to Mike, "Mama never told me there would be days like this."

"No offense to your mother, but she lied."

Both men laughed as they left the room. As they walked back into the main part of the station, Mary Lou looked up. "I wonder what's next?"

Mike smiled, "No more for me. I think Mrs. McGillicuddy, Delmar Flynn, and, now, Buck Beaver are the trifecta."

Friday, August 3, 2018

Mrs.McGillicuddy's Twinkles is Up the Tree

The phone rang as Mary Lou sat down. She answered it, Sheriff Quitman's office." She paused, "Yes mam." Pause, "Yes mam. I'm so sorry." Pause. "Mrs. McGillicuddy, I'm not sure what we can do. I can call Chief Pyre and he'll send the ladder truck." Pause. "Oh, you already have? Mrs. McGillicuddy I know you are distraught. Let me get Deputy Mike over to see you." Pause, "Yes, mam." Pause. "Yes mam, you're welcome." Mary Lou rang off.

Mike had only gotten half of the conversation, but with that, he could guess the gist of the problem. "Let me guess, that was Mrs. McGillicuddy and Twinkles is up the tree in her front yard?"

"Bingo!", laughed Mary Lou.

The Sheriff yelled from his office, "I thought Mary Margaret didn't have a cat? Did she get another one?"

"Nope," Mike said as he picked up his keys and cell phone to walk out. "The last time she called, we 'rescued'  'Twinkles'."

As Mike walked out, Mary Lou said, "Good luck."

By the Mike got to Mrs. McGillicuddy's house, Chief Pyre had the ladder truck from the Fire Station backed up with the ladder reaching into the large oak on her lawn. A young man, Mike did not recognize, was up the ladder in the tree.

"Chief, I don't see a cat."

"Just keep looking."

The young man moved over to another side of the tree. Meanwhile Mike approached Chief Pyre, "Twinkles on the loose again?"

"Yep."

"How long have you been here?"

"Not long enough. I'm going to give Mary Margaret about 5 more minutes."

Mike shook his and nodded toward the top of the ladder,"Who's the young man?"

"That's Axson McDermott's son, Bud." The Sheriff paused as he watched the limbs move in the tree. "Didn't much like the wild game business, so I told Axson I could use someone at the station."

Bud came down a few rungs on the ladder, "Sir, I . . ."

The Sheriff just said, "Quiet boy, just wait right there."

Sure enough it wasn't more than a few minutes before Mrs. McGillicuddy came out of the house holding a box. "Oh, Chief, I just found Twinkles. She was asleep on the porch. I swear I looked there but she must have been hiding." She looked into the box, "You're such a naughty cat." She looked at the Fire Chief, "You can go now. I'm going to give this disobedient cat some sardines. You know she loves sardines." With that she turned and headed toward her front door, 'Twinkles' in tow.

"Bud, you can come on down now."

"How many times have you been over here 'looking' for Twinkles?"

"Only twice this month and that's fewer than usual." Chief Pyre shook his head and smiled, "I guess she is lonely."

By this time Bud was down off the ladder and had walked over to where Chief Pyre and Mike stood. "She must have been very upset having lost her cat. My Grandmama was like that. Her life was her 2 cats."

Mike introduced himself, then added,"Wish it were that simple."

Bud gave him a questioning look.

The Chief interjected,"The cat is never in the tree, the cat only exists in Mary Margaret's mind. However, if we come and send someone up there to look for it, miraculously, Twinkles always appears."

"From where? Appears from where?" Bud asked as he pulled the ladder back onto the truck.

"Mary Margaret's mind."

"So she found the cat? That's good right?"

"Yep, that's the idea."

Bud just stood there. "Son, let's go," said the Chief as he climbed into the fire truck.

Mike shook his head, "Chief Pyre can make that cat appear every time."

Mike got in his car and was on his way back to the station when Mary Lou called. "Can you go over and check on the Eldridges? Ellen and Rayanne said they went to visit them, their car was in the drive, but no one was home."

"Sure, I'm only a block away."

Mike made his way over to the Eldridges. He got out of the car. The sisters' car was in the drive. He walked around back to see if anything was amiss. Seeing nothing, he walked back around to the front of the house. 'It's just not same with those little fellows gone,' Mike thought referring to the gnomes, as he walked up the steps to the porch.  He rang the door bell. Noticing the curtain move next to the front door, he was concerned. Then the door opened.

Standing there were Cora and Flora. "Can we help you Deputy?"

"I was just checking on you. Y'all alright? Nothing's wrong is it?"

"No, why would anything be wrong?"

"We got a call at the station from 'Miss' Ella. Apparently when she came to visit you and no one was home."

Flora stepped forward, "Well, as you can see, we are right here."

"And, I'm glad to see it. Can I just come in for a second?"

"Is that necessary?"

"I was wondering if I could get a glass of water while I was here."

Suspiciously, the ladies invited him in. Cora went to the kitchen to get Mike a glass of water. While he waited with Flora, Mike looked around making sure nothing was awry. Cora brought him a tall glass of ice and water. "If Ella and Rayanne weren't such busy bodies, you could have saved your time."

"Thank you, mam." He took a sip or two, handed the glass back to Cora.  "Why do you think Rayanne had anything to do with?"

Flora looked at Cora, then replied,"Let's  just say, just because you're home, doesn't mean you have to answer the door."

Cora added,"All they want is to get into our business. What did you expect us to do, open the door and be rude? We're better than that. If Mama taught us anything, it was not to be rude."

Mike shook his head, "I'm just glad y'all are alright. I'll get Mary Lou to call 'Miss' Ella and let her know there is nothing to worry about." He walked to the door.

He had opened it to leave when Flora spoke up, "Why did you need to come in? I don't think for one moment you were thirsty."

Mike turned around, "To make sure no one was in here holding you hostage?"

Flora was offended,"You think someone could get in here and take us hostage?"

Mike smiled, "Well no." He paused,"But in that case, I needed to make sure you weren't holding anyone else hostage."

"Oh." She paused, "Please tell that nosy Ella, that she doesn't need to 'check up' on us."

Mike said he would, walked out the door, and got into his car. The title 'peace keeper' took on a new dimension in Gallagher. 'I bet deputies in big counties rarely start off their days searching for an imaginary cat, then follow that with a call to settle a skirmish among 4 little ol' ladies.'  

His phone rang. It was Mary Lou again. "I need you to get back. Buck Beaver is in here saying that Colonel Walker tried to kill him?"

"You're making this up?"

"Couldn't if I tried. The Sheriff just left to find the Colonel and get his side of the story."

"What the Hell?"

"No, given Buck's state of mind, it's more like 'For Heaven's Sake'."

Thursday, August 2, 2018

You Haven't Heard? The War is Over

Ruthanna didn't just stand there, she poked Delmar. "Tell them dimwit, tell them what you saw the other night."

Delmar shuffled his feet and looked at the floor.

Ruthanna slapped him on his arm, "Well, tell 'em?"

"The other night I was walking home, you know from playing cards with the boys. I cut through that ally behind the stores on Main Street. Soon as I got close to the bank, I heard 2 fellas talking." Delmar got quiet again as he looked at the floor and twisted the canvas hat he was holding.

The Sheriff asked, "And, what were they saying?"

"Well, one said sumptin' like, 'I'm not sure 'bout this.' Then the other said, 'There is no way they will ever know 'bout this.'

"Delmar, did you see them?"

"Nosuh, just heard 'em. It was dark back there."

"And, what time was this?"

"Gosh, I don't know, maybe around 11. I know it was before midnight 'cause Ruthanna'd kill me if I was out past midnight."

"Did you see a car?"

"Not 'xactly. But, it was a big un'. It was too dark to see much of anything."

"And, only 1 car?"

"Yessuh, that's all I saw."

"Did they see you?"

"Don't know how, I was hiden' behind a big box."

"Nothing else?"

"Nosuh."

Ruth Ann was furious, "You idiot, tell him what else happened." 

Everyone was quiet, waiting for either Delmar to speak or Ruthanna to start screaming. Finally Delmar looked up and spoke. "Well suh, there was some shooting. I thought it was firecrackers until I saw one of the men fall down."

"He was shot?"

"Guess so. Then a truck drove up and a 'nuther man got out." Delmar was silent again. He added, "Then the 2 men dragged the body into the back of the truck and the truck left."

"Both men left in the truck?"

"Nosuh, only one. Well, only 1 live one."

"Now, Delmar when you said 'the other night', what night was that?"

"Don't rightly remember. I get confused 'bout my days."

Ruthanna smiled, showing her 2 missing front teeth, "Sheriff, we brought some damn good information about a crime, maybe a bank robbery. We both know that's worth sumpmen." She smiled smugly, "Seems you didn't know nuttin' about it until we walked in here this morning." 

"I'll admit, this is the first I've heard about this."

"Well, it's worth sumpmen i'dnit?"

The Sheriff just smiled and looked over at Mike, who was just shaking his head.

"Ruthanna, we've gone 'round this before. I appreciate the 2 of you being such good citizens. Why without folks like you, always paying close attention, there'd certainly be things we would miss." He could tell she was a bit miffed. "But there are some holes here. First, Delmar can't tell us what night it was, the time of night it happened, the kind of car he saw, or any details about the men. No one's called in about a dead body or even a missing a loved one. Ruthanna, as I have said before, we don't pay folks for information you should be telling us anyway."

"Sheriff, I've had 'nough of you. Next time Delmar sees sumptin' happen, we'll just keep it to ourselves." She grabbed Delmar's arm, "We're going home."

They turned to walk out, but not before the Sheriff asked, "Delmar, one question - why were you in that alley behind Main Street? My guess is if you were going home from playing cards, you had been at Junior's Barber shop. If I recall correctly, Junior's is just 2 or 3 blocks from your house. And, Main street ain't close to either one."

"No, sir. I got a little lost. Took a wrong turn. Didn't have my bearings. It'd been a long night."

"If I here anything else about this, I may call you for some more help."

"We ain't talking to you without getting something for it." Ruthanna turned to walk out. Delmar just stood there."Dimwit, we're going now."

"Suh, I know I saw sumpmen, I just can't remember all the stuff, you know the things you asked me."

"Delmar, I don't doubt you. We'll look into it. Thank you for letting us know."

As the Flynns walked out of the station, the Sheriff feared for Delmar's well being. If looks could kill, poor Delmar was probably a dead man walking. 

Mike and Mary Lou just stood there as the Flynns left. "What do you think?" asked Mike.

"Hell, if I know. Delmar's a good guy, despite his taste in women. I don't doubt he saw something, I'm just not sure if was 2 alley cats going at each other behind a trash can or some mob hit."

Mary Lou and Mike laughed with the Sheriff. He continued, "After a night with the boys at Junior's, he could have seen unicorns, mystics, or little green men." 

As they stood there, the sound of steps coming down the stairs in the hall caught their attention. There stood Ada Mae, dressed in Victorian era attire head to toe.

Mary Lou spoke first, "Ada Mae, I must say you look quite fetching. What is the occasion?"

"Oh my dear, you haven't heard? The war is over."

Mike was confused,"What war?"

"The Spanish-American war of course, the boys are coming home. I'm going to meet them at the station." With that she walked out the door, parasol and all.

As the 3 returned to what they were doing before the Flynn's visit, the Sheriff mumbled, "Or, the boys coming home from the war, albeit during the McKinley administration.