Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Catching Up and Moving Along

The Sheriff had his hands full. Since they had brought Buck in, they all had to endure screams of scripture and threats of damnation. The Sheriff  needed to get him into court as soon as possible. Let the Judge deal with this, although the Sheriff knew, it was only a matter of time before Buck would be released.

Also on his plate was the list of people who did not exist. However, he did take solace knowing that they were names, concocted out of thin air.  He left the Sanatorium issues to Solly Smythe in Baldwin county.

So the Sheriff moved onto Tula and her antics. Cordelia's suggestion to 'let her squirm' had great merit. But, he needed to find Tula before she did even more damage. He called Theo to see what activity, if any, had happened with Burdell's account.

Mary Lou had called Sarahill Manor to make sure that Burdell was, in fact, there and doing well. The staffer laughed, "Why not call him yourself? Here is his cell number." Mary Lou thanked her and called Burdell. Sure enough, he answered. Burdell had a southern accent that was fairly unique. No doubt, it was him. He said he was happy with his situation. As to the Sanatorium, all he would say was, "Someone is going to Hell."

Next there was Hugh McKissick, the mystery man. The Sheriff had Mike track down every person and or place they could find relating to him. So far, Mike was getting nowhere. They were not even sure what part McKissick played in the case of the Sanatorium. All the medical and administration personnel had long since vanished. Sheriff Quitman had learned from Sheriff Smythe that they had been operating under aliases any way. That path had come to an end.

But Mike and the Sheriff knew that Hugh McKissick was a real person. Mike had called former landlords, roommates, and any other name he could glean from McKissick's application with the Rental Company. But he got nowhere. Through an extensive Google search, Mike was able to get a picture of Hugh McKissick. Inquiries about him around the town, revealed nothing. It was if McKissick had not set foot anywhere in town, short of the Rental Company. They had an APB issued for him with information about his car.

The Sheriff walked into Mike's office and sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. "I think we have enough to get a warrant for Tula Wells' arrest. I wanted to find Burdell, or what happened to Burdell, before I moved on Tula." The Sheriff was not about to give Tula a bargaining chip. Mary Lou's confirmation of Burdell's situation this morning had checked that box.

Mike got the paperwork prepared for the arrest warrant for Tula. "You think anything will come from this?"


"Arresting Tula?"

"Not sure. But I will say one thing - getting an impartial jury 'round here would be almost impossible for any one representing her."

"Well, whatever the case, this request is going to the Judge today."

At the Rental Company, Tim (from Lavenia's) brought Della another single rose with no note. This was a standard delivery lately - one rose, of a variety of colors, sent by some mystery person. Bunny and Vivian were convinced they were from Sam - Della, not so much.

Terse was scheduled to return that afternoon from his book tour.  There was a chance a movie would be made from his first novel. If that came through, Terse was going to insist he write the screen play himself. Even though he was trying to finish writing his new book, that could be put aside for a screen play.

Most people in town, at least any that mattered, had now met Colleen. The women were taken by her wardrobe and how she wore it. The men found themselves trying not to stare at such a beautiful woman. It had since been learned that Colleen was an investment counselor. She worked from her home, handling her customers and accounts virtually. This only added even more allure to Colleen.

Jeb and Kathleen finally announced their engagement to no one's surprise. A grand wedding was planned for a date several months away. Seems Kathleen's mother had been 'planning' her daughter's wedding long before Jeb proposed. In reality, she had been working on the 'details' for the event ever since Kathleen went to college or earlier.

Having so many years to plan the affair, most of the decisions were made, whether Kathleen and Jeb agreed with her or not. They realized early on, this wasn't their wedding, it was Dixie Quinton's wedding. Kathleen ceded control over the final plans to her mother early on. When Jeb asked if she was sure about that, Kathleen just told him, "Fussing about it will do no good. Honestly, I swear the day Dr. Magill said 'It's a girl', Mama started making plans for my wedding."

Kathleen's mother's given name was 'Izelle Julene Quinton'. However when she was little, her father called he 'Dixie' and the nickname which stuck. She despised the name 'Izelle', and 'Julene' even more, which is what she had initially been called as a baby. The name 'Dixie' was memorable, especially when she started dating. Dixie  had decided  early one that 'Dixie Quinton' sounded even better.

She had set her sights on Harrell Quinton early on. He had movie star looks and a pedigree packed with generations of the right families. Harrell's mother often made mention of a certain signer of the Declaration of Independence. Specific names and the actual relation of this great American were fairly vague. The only issue Dixie had was that Harrell had no middle name. That made no sense to Dixie. How could one ever monogram their shirt cuffs, silver desk set, or even the inside of his Brooks Brothers Tuxedo with only 2 letters?

It was traditional for a gentleman to have his monogram embroidered on the inside lining of his tuxedo. How else could he keep up with his jacket at a large party, later on when all the men had shed their coats? There was always the chance that some other gentleman may have a Brook Brothers' Milano Fit Shawl Collar Tuxedo - although she doubted it. She had made sure the suit was tailor fitted for her husband. As far as she was concerned, Harrell would only have the best.

All her life, Kathleen had humored her mother, letting Dixie flit around making minor decisions that Kathleen saw as, in the big picture, inconsequential.  Before Kathleen's 6th birthday Dixie had selected a sterling flatware pattern for her. She chose all of Kathleen's formal gowns and even 'suggested' escorts for those affairs from the best old Alabama families. Dixie's plan was to introduce Kathleen to the sons of the 'better' families. After all, she had a wedding to produce and a "well pedigreed groom' was an integral part of that plan.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Scéal fear Éireannach ag teacht abhaile

As Ella sat there in the hall taking in all the work that was being done.  Just then Pearce walked up with a bottle of cold water, the cell phone in her hand bag rang. She quickly reached into the bag and without pulling it out, turned it off. He handed the water to Ella. She thanked him, and took a swallow. "I just want you to know how nice Doyle was to me."

"He's a good guy." He paused, "feeling better?"

"Much," Ella said. "I'm not sure what came over me." She took anther swig of water. "It's just embarrassing for this to be your  first impression of me."

Pearce laughed,"Not at all. I'm just glad you are better."

"Rayanne should have been here by now."

Ella looking around the room,"I am so glad you are restoring this house. I have pleasant memories coming here as a child. The Fitzgeralds were a nice family. You know their daughter, Imogene, lives in town. As does her brother, Parnell."

"Yes, I did know that."

"What made you decide to buy this place? It is so big and in such run down condition?"

"Oh, I don't see it as buying it, as much as saving it - for generations to come."


"Yes, generations of Fitzgeralds. No family should have lost such a wonderful home, simply due to the folly of an old man."

"You mean Faolan Fitzgerald and that business with the Prince?"

Pearce laughed and looked at the front door. "Well, you see 'Faolan Fitzgerald' was my uncle."

Surprised, Ella asked, "So you are a Fitzgerald?"

"My mother was Gwendolen Fitzgerald. She loved this place so much. I grew up hearing wonderful stories of Cre Uisce Aer. Mum made it sound like a dream world. It had always been my dream to visit it. When I learned it was for sale, I bought it."

"Were you raised in Ireland?"

"Yes mam. My mother married Philip Phinnigan and moved to Ireland. That was where I spent my youth." He paused and looked at Ella. "That was where we were when my uncle lost the place."

"This is quite special, having a Fitzgerald back in Gallagher." Ella looked around and laughed. "People are going to be very surprised. I bet no one guessed a Fitzgerald would ever be back, much less, being the one restoring this place."

"Why? Did someone else have plans for it?"

Ella smiled, "You have kept us entertained for a couple months now. Everyone assumed it was some foreigner - a Saudi Prince, a Mafia Boss, or maybe even a Drug Lord from South America."

Pearce shook head,"Seriously? Well I hate to disappoint them." He smiled, "But then I am a foreigner."

"No, Pearce Phinnigan, you are a Fitzgerald."

They were quite for moment. Ella continued,"Why keep it so private?"


"Yes, it was quite the mystery when everyone noticed work being done here but we had no idea who was behind it. Rayanne, my best friend since high school, but we don't like to talk about how many years "Ella said, realizing  she was just chattering.  "Any way, we took it upon ourselves to do some research in the basement of the court house. Finally, we found that a McMillan, Shaw, Ebert, Wilson and Jones LLC had purchased the property." Ella stopped and smiled,"We feared, with a name that long, it was a company that would tear this place down and build a strip mall or worse."'

Pearce just shook his head - these ladies may as well have been out of central casting,"I guess no one gets away with much around here without someone finding out." He added,"MSEW&J is an LLC I own."

"Well, we were just curious. Rayanne is going to be thrilled to see what you have done here."

As if on cue, Rayanne walked into the house. "Oh dear Ella, are you OK?"

"I am now, thanks to Pearce here. Rayanne, I'd like you to meet Pearce Phinnigan. Pearce this is my best friend Rayanne."

Rayanne just stood there,"Pearce Fitzgerald Phinnigan, isn't it?"

"That would be me," answered Pearce.

"I remember when your mother got married and moved to Ireland."

"And they stayed there. Mum never returned even after Dad died." Pearce added, "I tried to get her to come back, even if just for a visit, before she died. But she would have none of it."

"Well she was a beautiful woman. No one could fault a good looking Irishman like your father for taking her away."  After a moment, she continued, "So you, Imogene, and Parnell are cousins."

"Yes, my mother was their aunt."

"I know they are excited to have you back, Especially, now that you are restoring the house," said Rayanne with a smile.

"Well," Pearce hesitated, "I don't think they know I am back."

"Why not? You're family, and they haven't seen you in a while," commented Ella.

Pearce smiled, "I'm not so sure." He paused as both women waited for him to finish. "You see seanathai's estate was split between Mum and Uncle Faolen. Mum took her inheritance to Ireland. I guess you know what happened to Uncle Faolen."

"You mean you 'grandfather's' estate?"  Rayanne asked.

Pearce nodded, "Yes, my grandfather's estate."

Rayanne continued, "Your mother had nothing to do with that!"

"No, but when he asked Mum for money, she refused to send any. Her comment was, 'it would have been good money after bad'."

Rayanne chimed in, "I'm sure they will not hold that against you."

"I would hope not, but it was diabhal 'cint." Pearce smiled then offered, "a bloody thing."

Rayanne just looked at Pearce, "I could just listen to you talk forever."

"Rayanne, I think we need to leave and stop wasting this man's time. We have chatted enough." Ella looked at Pearce, "I cannot thank you enough for 'saving' me."

Before Rayanne could speak, Ella continued, "And, I promise neither of us will tell anyone about you."

"I'd appreciate that. I'm just glad you are OK. Are you sure you don't need help with your car?"

Ella smiled,"No, but I appreciate the offer. Charlie will fix it."

Pearce walked them to the door. "By the way, how is my  muintir?" He laughed, "My family . . . Imogene and whatever family I still have here?'"

Ella told Pearce that Imogene was married to the town cop. She also told him about the Irish linens.

"Sásta a chloisteáil!" Pearce said with a broad smile. Then he interpreted, "I'm so glad to hear that."

Both ladies laughed at Pearce's words.

"Oh, there is one more person, Hugh McKissick? Do you know him?"

Rayanne looked at Ella,"I'm not familiar with that name."

"The last address I had for him was in Gallagher." He paused,"Any way, it was my pléisiúr to meet you."

They said their good bye. As they were walking out the door, they met Doyle coming in. Ella immediately said, "Oh, I am so glad to see you. I wanted to thank you again for 'saving' me." She turned to Rayanne, "This is my friend Rayanne, who has come to take me home."

"Well it was my pleasure. I'm glad we were so close to your car when it stopped."

"Oh, so am I, so am I."

With that the 2 women left and Doyle walked into the house.  He laughed, "Now that's a pair."

"Oh, they are nice ladies. I think I entertained them with my brogue."

"No doubt."

"I appreciate your helping Ella."

Doyle laughed,"Well, I had been watching the 2 of them this morning for a while."

"Watching them?"

"They were hiding behind that bill board across the street, looking over here with binoculars."

"Are you kidding me?"

"Nope. So I am sorry that her car just 'happened' to 'break down' just a wee bit down the road."

"And, let me guess, she didn't have a cell phone."

"That was the story."

"So the one that rang in her purse must not work." Pearce just laughed loudly.

"Yep, that one."

Pearce stood there looking at Doyle, just taking all this in. "Well, I think they are harmless. Curious, but harmless."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Operation "Lady in Distress"

Before Dawn, Rayanne parked her Oldsmobile behind the hedge and under the Starlight Cafe bill board. Ella pulled out a thermos of lemonade and some pastries she had made for their Cre Uisce Aer surveillance. They were on their official 'stakeout'. The angle and size of the billboard hid the car nicely. The hedge gave them cover as they watched the gate to the estate. Both women had brought binoculars. Their main focus was on the very fancy wrought iron gates guarding the only entrance through the old brick wall that ran along the roadside in front of the estate. A middle aged man was posted at the gate to check the vehicles coming in.

"Well, he's not armed," commented Rayanne.

Around 7 am, the first vehicle approached the entrance. It was a pickup. The words,'Grand Antique Wrought Iron Restoration" were written on the passenger door. The ladies watched the guard at the gate speak to the driver of the truck. The gates opened, the truck drove through, and the gates closed behind it. Over the next hour or so, several more trucks and vans approached the gate and were admitted. The gate closed after each one passed through.

By 9:30, there was no traffic on the road. It had been a while since anyone had approached the gate. Ella put her binoculars down and spoke quietly, as she kept her eyes on the entrance, "I'm not sure what we have accomplished here. I haven't recognized anyone so far."

"So what should we do now?" asked Rayanne.

"I'm thinking." After a pause, Ella quietly said to Rayanne. "We need to get in that gate."

"Duh, you think so, Captain Obvious!"

"I have an idea."

"And, what would that be?"

"A lady in distress - works every time." Ella shared her plan with Rayanne who was really surprised at what a great idea it was. The ladies got back into the car. Rayanne quietly drove across the field behind the sign to a dirt road. She turned to the right when they reached the road. The ladies were able to get back to town, without having to reveal their hiding place.

Rayanne dropped Ella off at her home. As Ella got out of the door, she turned to Rayanne, "Just wait for my phone call, then you know what to do."

Rayanne laughed,"I really like Plan B."

Rayanne drove off. Ella went in her house, put up all her PI equipment, and changed clothes. She got into her tan Buick Regal and backed out of her driveway. Nonchalantly, she drove down Magnolia, turned on Moss. One more turn and she was headed out of Gallagher on the country road that ran in front of Cre Uisce Aer. About a quarter mile before the entrance to the estate, where the guard sat, she pulled her car over on the shoulder of the road. Ella got out of the car and lifted the hood. Anyone driving by could not help but notice this lady in distress.

She carefully removed a can of oil from the floor of her back seat. Making sure no one was coming down the road, Ella gently opened the can. She bent over the engine and poured a cup or 2 of the oil down an opening on the side of the engine so that it puddled under the car. Smoke slowly rose from the hood as the cool oil hit the hot engine.

Leaving the hood open, she put the can of oil into a plastic bag to keep it from spilling. After safely placing the bag in the trunk of the car, she took a seat behind the wheel.  Picking up her cell phone, she called Rayanne. "Project 'Lady in Distress' is on."  Ella got her handbag off the front seat, took her keys, and started walking down the road to 'find help'.

It did not take her but a few minutes to reach the entrance of Cre Uisce Aer. She approached Doyle, the guard, who stood up as soon as soon as he saw her. "Oh, I hope you can help me. It seems I have had some car trouble." She pointed down the road toward her disabled vehicle. "Could I use a phone to call for help?"

"Certainly." He walked back to his chair and picked up his cell phone. As he handed it to Ella, he laughed,"You are welcome to use my phone." He smiled, "You don't have a cell phone? I thought everyone in the world had one."

Ella laughed as she looked at the phone. "I have never needed one." She kept her eyes on the phone, "Never have been good with new fangled things. Why, I have problems making my coffee maker work." She looked up, "I've got one of those fancy ones with all kind of buttons and nobs. I always seem to mash the wrong ones. The damn thing is smarter than I am." She paused, "Excuse me," she looked up,"where are the buttons? I do not see any place to dial."

The gentleman softly laughed and shook his head. "The keyboard is on the screen." He took his finger, pressed the screen, and the numerical pad appeared.

"Wow, now isn't that fancy."

Ella dialed Rayanne's number and stopped. She handed the phone back to the man. "I'm afraid I didn't do something right, it doesn't sound like it is ringing."

Doyle reached across Ella's arm. "You have to press this button for the call to go through." He pressed the green circle at the bottom of the screen.

Rayanne's phone rang twice before she answered. "Rayanne, this is Ella. I was driving out the Old Wire Road when something happened to my car." Ella paused. "It just cut off, luckily I was able to coast to the side of the road." She paused again, "No, don't call him yet. Can you come get me and take me back to town." She paused. "I knew you would save me. You always do. I'm at the gate at the entrance to the old Cre Uisce Aer estate." She paused, "Thanks Rayanne."

Ella handed the phone back to Doyle. He pressed the "OFF" button to end the call.

"My best friend Rayanne is coming to get me. When I get back to town, I'll get Charlie at the filling station to come out and take care of the car.  Funny thing is - my Buick is only a couple years old, and Rayanne drives this 20 year old 98. I'm the one always having car trouble, she never seems to have any problems with her car."

Ella looked around. "What in the world is going on here? No one's been at this place for years." She looked toward the house. "Such a shame what happened to the family - for them to lose the home place that had been in their family forever."

Doyle gazed in the same direction as Ella. "Don't know much about the history, but it is a beautiful house."

"Someone must have bought the place. Not anyone in town, that I know. Gallagher is such a small town." She turned back to Doyle and held her hand over her brow to shade the sun from her eyes. "You're not from here, are you?"

"No mam, I'm from Mobile. Lived there old my life."

"So you are working for the new owner?" She got no reply.  She pivoted "These gates are lovely, but I don't think I've ever seen them closed. The Fitzgeralds always kept them open - more hospitable you know."

She turned to Doyle, "Please excuse me, I guess I'm just so rattled, I did not even introduce myself.  My mama raised me better than that. My name is Ella, Ella Osborne."

"I'm Doyle Smithers."

"So nice to meet you Doyle. You are my knight in shining armor this morning."

Ella heard a car turn onto the drive. She turned, expecting Rayanne. Instead she saw an older model Mercedes sedan. The car stopped and an extremely handsome man stepped out. He was tall and lean, with a weathered face and snow white hair. Before he could say anything, Doyle said, "Sir, this lady has had some car trouble. She walked up here to call for help?"

"That must be your Buick on the road with the hood up?" he said in a deep voice with a light Irish brogue. 

"Yes," Ella sighed,"I'm afraid it is. But I have a friend coming to get me." She held her hand out, I'm Ella Osbourne." 

He took her hand and said, "Pearce Phinnigan - nice to meet you."

"Are you the one who has bought this place?"

"Yes mam, I have."

"Must need a lot of work?" Ella said as she looked up the drive toward the house.

"Well," he laughed,"It is a labor of love. As it has turned out, it is  truly a labor."

Ella swayed a bit and opened her arms, as if to help her balance herself. "Oh my, I suddenly feel a bit woozy." No one said anything. Ella continued, "Can I please sit down?"

"Certainly," Doyle said as he carefully helped her to his chair with Pearce following. When she was settled,  Pearce asked,"Are you OK? Can I get you anything? "

"Just a little faint," Ella said weakly. "It happens to me sometimes."

"Let me get you some water. Actually, let's get you out of this sun. Do you think you can walk to my car?"

Ella nodded her head and quietly said,"I think so."

Pearce helped her into his car. As he walked around to the driver's door he said, "Doyle, when Miss Ella's friend arrives, will you make sure she gets to the house?" He nodded and opened the gates.

Ella was amazed at what she saw. The house looked as if it had never abandoned. The stone walls were clean and cleared of all the vines that once covered them. There were men unloading large pieces of flag stone from a truck. Other men were moving the stones onto the driveway, where even more men with mortar, were setting them in place. Ella assumed to pave the drive.

The side garden, the first traditional English Garden Ella remembered seeing as a child, was being cleaned up.  A crew of men were weeding, trimming, and pulling weeds.  Other men came and went through the front door,  taking pieces of building material into the house.

Pearce parked the car in a graveled area next to the house. "As you can tell, this is a work in progress. Please be careful, you are in a construction zone." He walked around, opened her door, and helped Ella out of the car.

Ella was so excited to get to see the old house, she had to remember she was 'feeling' faint. Pearce led her into the house where workers were hammering and sawing. "If you will have a seat here," he said indicating an antique settee in the hall. "I'll get you some cold water. Can I get you anything else?"

"No," she said as weakly as she could. "But thank you."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Tale, Told by an Idiot

Before the Sheriff could call the Judge, he heard Mary Lou on the phone. "He's right here. You need to talk to him?" She paused, "Sure, hold on, I'll get him."

Mary Lou rolled her chair a few feet back so she could see into the Sheriff's door, "Anna Belle Vontese is on the phone."

The Sheriff picked up, "Anna Belle, how are you?"

"Rascal I'm good. Well, I could be better. My ex son-in-law has decided to protest in my front yard. Can you come do something about it"

"Is he in your yard or on the sidewalk?"

"Oh no, he has stationed himself on my front lawn, where all my members have to walk around him."

"Oh boy," said Rascal. How many times had he dealt with Buck. "Is he bothering or harassing anyone?"

"No, he is just on my lawn with his cross."

"I'll be right over. Just leave him alone until I get there."

Anna Belle thanked the Sheriff and they rang off.

Rascal stood up, put his hat on his head, and walked out of his office. "I'm on my way to Anna Belle's to see why Buck is there. If you need me, call me." With that the Sheriff left station.

When he drove up to The Gentleman's Club, he sighed, and said out loud to himself, "Dear God, what has he done now?"

The Sheriff parked his car and got out. As he walked up to the lawn, there was Buck wearing only a loin cloth holding his wooden cross over his right shoulder, spouting verses of Revelations.

“Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.”  He continued on, “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear . . ."

The Sheriff interrupted,"Buck, what are you doing?" 

"Saving the souls of this sinning place."

"The Gentleman's Club?"

"No, the town - full of the filth of sin, imbibing of evil drink, and  pre-marital relations of the bed. These souls need saving because, 'Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him'."

"Buck, you are on private property, I'm afraid you need to move on."

" 'Tis not true, for Jesus said, 'Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord'."

"Well, even though the Bible tells you so,  you do not have the right to be here. If you want to save souls, why don't you serve at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. That is God's work."

Buck looked at the Sheriff with contempt. "The Lord will provide." He paused, "Tell me sir, when did you last darken the door of the Lord's house?"

Ignoring the last comment the Sheriff asked, "What do you think you are going to accomplish here?"

"The Lord has given me the strength to search for the truth and get back what was pledged to me."

Humoring him, the Sheriff asked,"OK, what was 'pledged' to you?"

"Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." 

Buck are you taking about marriage, about Bunny? She is not your wife anymore."

"But. it cannot be, for I know better." Buck shouted as the Sheriff called Mike for back-up.

"Buck, you and Bunny are no longer married, no longer 'joined together'," said the Sheriff as he waited for Mike. Buck was rarely belligerent and difficult to deal with. However, when the subject was Bunny, the rules changed.

"A dark angel, in flowing black robes, came to me in a vision. She said, 'The world will end', and that I needed to be prepared."

"So you saw this angel? Where were you when you saw her?"

"On Jacksonboro Road, pleading for the salvation of lost souls." Buck looked at him with wild eyes, "I cannot rise to the gates of heaven without my life partner."

Mike finally arrived and the Sheriff told him quietly, "Now, he says he saw an angel who told him the world was going to end and he fears he will not get to heaven without Bunny."

Mike approached Buck, "So you saw this angel, what exactly did she say?"

Buck looked Mike straight in the eyes, "She said that life must move on. That I must gather my things and move." Before Mike could reply, Buck added, "She was foretelling the end of the world. She was telling me that I needed to reunite with my partner to prepare."

Mike looked at the Sheriff, "I agree that, perhaps, Buck should gather his things and prepare. Do we need to get Dr. Magill over here? "

The Sheriff, realizing that Mike was ahead of him, agreed. "I'll call him. You just keep Buck calm."

Rascal went back to his car and called Mercer. After explaining that Buck was expounding Bible verses, as usual. However, today he was saying that an angel had come to him, foretelling the end of the world. She told Buck he needed to 'reunite with his partner' to prepare."

"So Buck is saying that he needs Bunny. Isn't there an restraining order? Has he contacted her?"

"Yes there is a restraining order, but he has not contacted Bunny that I know of. But he sounds as if he is convinced Bunny is his key to heaven."

Mercer suggested that Buck be taken to the Judge for a commitment hearing. "I think hallucinations and threats to violate a restraining order qualify for commitment. No doubt the Judge will agree."

"We can do that. Right now, I'll take him in for trespassing and disturbing the peace." The Sheriff looked at Mike and nodded toward Buck, who was still yelling quotes from Revelations.

As the Sheriff and Mike approached Buck, he slowly backed up. "I saw the dark angel with red tipped fingers and a purple turban. She was the messenger. God said he would send one to foretell of the day."

Mike looked at the Sheriff and shook his head. In unison, they said,"Reeza!"

The Sheriff was very calm. "Buck, we believe you. But we need you to go with us."

"But, I must gather my partner," pleaded Buck.

"Let's talk about this later," the Sheriff said as Mike grabbed Buck's hands and zip tied them behind his back. He recited his Miranda rights, and moved Buck to the Sheriff's car. All Buck could say was "Brunilda, Brunilda". 

Mike shook his head. "He sounds like Orson Wells' character on his death bed asking for 'Rosebud'." Mike shook his head and opened his car. He laughed, "And just where will we find our Phoebe?"

"Our what?" asked the Sheriff.

"Phoebe, the Greek goddess of prophecy, our dark robed angel with red tipped hands, wearing a purple turban."

"Great, now I have an angel speaking riddles to our proselytizing town apostle. Life just gets stranger everyday."

Mike laughed,"Well, 'Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player [ ] it is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing'."

"I like that. Where did you get that from?"

As Mike got into his car, he answered, "I picked it up from a guy named 'Bill'."

Monday, January 22, 2018

Two Sleuths and a Painting

Curiosity may kill the cat, but Ella and Rayanne were determined to find out what was happening at Cre Uisce Aer. Why was it such a secret? Certainly, someone knew something about it. They went to the courthouse and after some research, found that a corporation, McMillan, Shaw, Ebert, Wilson and Jones had bought the estate. However, there was nothing else they could find on MSEW&J in the courthouse - nothing, anywhere. When the ladies did a Google search they learned MSEW&J was an international corporation registered in the Falkland Isles. At that point in their research, the corporation disappeared into thin air.

Instead of being deterred, these women were tenacious. They were on a mission. Tuesday morning they decided it was time to take matters into their own hands. They needed to stake out the estate. Rayanne suggested they wear sunglasses and wide brim hats.

"What in the world is that going to do?" asked Ella.

"Well that way, no one will notice us in the car."

"And where did you get that idea?"

"On TV. All the good detectives do it. They just park their car across the street, wearing sunglasses and a hat, and no one thinks anything of it."

Ella laughed,"They may not notice who is in the car, but I fear your 1994  Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight sedan may stand out a bit. Remember it is only a 2 lane country road that runs through open fields - not some tree lined city street."

Rayanne thought for a minute. "But there is that large billboard across the street. You know the one Walter put up advertising the Starlight Cafe. And, there is a large hedge under the sign."

"OK," said Ella, clearly not sure where this was going.

"We can park my car behind the sign. No one can see it there. Then we can watch what is going on."

"And, just what do you think we are gonna see from there?"

Rayanne just looked perturbed as she shook her head. "Well, what else do you suggest we do?"

Ella agreed that Rayanne's plan might work. They discussed the final details. Rayanne said she would pick Ella up around 7 the next morning.

Bunny had been able to get Mike into the apartment Hugh McKissick had recently vacated. It was a furnished apartment, but McKissick left nothing personal. Mike looked around, then decided there was nothing there. He took Bunny back to her office.

Back at the Sheriff's station, Mike had gathered as many clues to the 'missing patients' as he could using the files they had. He had drawn a chart on the white board in his office, trying to put the pieces together. Mary Lou walked in, "Wow, you are making progress. But I need to know one thing - what are you going to do with the patients who do not exist when you find them?"

Mike picked up his dry eraser as if he was going to throw it at her. "If I needed help from the Peanut Gallery, I would have asked."

Mary walked up to the board and studied the chart with lines connecting various words and names. She stood there, and without turning around and said,"So you are trying to connect all the names with words in the files."

"Smart ass!" Mike said to her. "You know we are looking to see what names, places, etc found in the files 'randomly' match any faces, places, and things we find. Hopefully something will link them all together."

Mike pointed to the board, "For example one of our 'persons of interest', a Mr. Hugh McKissick, drives an Oldsmobile Aurora." He took his pencil and tapped the end of it on the board. "One of the patients is 'Aurora  Kinkade', so we have a possible connection to McKissick." Mike turned around and looked at Mary Lou,"He has hastily vacated his apartment. So I asked Bunny to let me in the apartment so I could see if anything was left."

"What'd you find?"

"Nothing, absolutely nothing."

"I'm sorry Mike, but you know these things take time." Mary Lou said as she walked to her desk to get the phone.

15 minutes or so later Mary Lou stuck her head in Mike's office. "I assume you didn't happen to see something by the painter of light in the apartment."

"What are you talking about? Painter of light."

"You know those prints of cottages, mountains, light houses. His pictures always look as if there is light glowing from the scene."

"No, I am not familiar with this 'painter of light'," Mike said and went back to the file on his desk.

In a few minutes the Sheriff walked in,"Anything new?"

Mike was totally frustrated. "I'm trying to connect the words and names on the board."

Mary Lou laughed, "And, my help was refused."

The Sheriff looked at Mike. Before he could say anything, Mike said, "Lot a help she is. She wants to know if there is a painter of light hanging around."

"Oh, Thomas Kinkade, that's who Mary Lou's talking about."

"How in the world did you know who she was talking about?"

The Sheriff shook his head, "Only because my wife wanted one of his pictures for Christmas a year or two ago. I found an original. However she got got a copy instead. An original was not in my budget as much as I love her." The Sheriff looked at Mike's board, taking time to read the names. "Makes sense to me, see Aurora 'Kincaide'?" 

Mike shook his head, "Boy, we are stretching pretty far these days." 

The Sheriff walked back into his office.

In 20 minutes or so, Mike just said, as if talking to himself, "Well I'll be damned. Mary Lou, I owe you an apology."

"For what?"

"I just Googled 'Thomas Kincaide'. The spelling is different, but sure enough, looking at his work, I can't say that I saw a 'Kinkade' in McKissick's place, but I think there was something like that."

The Sheriff yelled from his office. "I'm sure the Judge is going to be thrilled when I ask for warrant based on a list of people who do not exist, an old Oldsmobile, and the painter of light."

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Just Let Her Squirm

Unbeknownst to Tula, Cordelia had called Sheriff Quitman the day before when she learned that the Sanatorium had  closed and they were searching for Burdell. "Sheriff, it has just come to my attention that the Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium has been condemned and closed."

"It has. That was a horrible place. Guess it had its former days of glory but it had well passed the good times when the State came in and closed it. You would not have believed the condition the place was in."

"Well, actually, that is why I called you." Sheriff Quitman was all ears. "You see, shortly after I learned that Tula had had Burdell admitted there, I went to visit. Why Sheriff, I was shocked and appalled at what I saw. I decided right then and there that Burdell needed to be moved."

"So you visited Burdell there?"

"Not only that, but I got him out of there as soon as I could and had him admitted to this wonderful facility, Sarahill Manor, down by Mobile. There he will be cared for as he should."

"That's odd because his name never showed up on any of the lists of patients in the State. The State Health Department checked everywhere."

"No, I doubt they did find Burdell Wells. But if they had looked for 'Beauregard Williams', they would have found him."

"I'm confused," said the Sheriff. "You moved him into another facility under an alias?"

"How else was I going to keep him safe from Tula."

"Why were there no records of his being admitted or discharged at the Sanatorium?"

"I cannot speak for his admittance, but when I moved him out, I threatened the Sanatorium staff."

"Threatened? With what?"

"I told them that I had connections with the State and one word from them and I would have the Health Department come visit them."

"OK, but what about the money?"

"What money?"

"Burdell's, what was being paid to the Sanatorium for his residence?"

"Oh, that was no problem. Tula sent them a check each month. They cash the check and forward the funds to me. I in turn, deposit the money into a separate joint interest bearing bank account in Burdell's and my name. Then I pay Sarahall Manor from that account. "She paused. "Not only is it a far better place, it is less expensive. I notified the State and the Federal agencies of what I had done so all his medicare could be filed from the new place."

"That's impossible. Tula has his power of attorney."

"She does. However, I have his medical power of attorney, which gives me the authority to make any decisions concerning his medical needs. Besides, there is nothing wrong with Burdell. Trust me, he wanted to get out of that dump. Together we managed to get him admitted under another name. We told Sarahall it was a security issue. They agreed his real name would not be listed anywhere. Then they had all his paperwork with State and Federal government in his name."

"So he's OK?"

"OK? He's better than he has ever been. He's taken up water polo and is keeping company with this nice lady who also lives there. I think she is from Montgomery. From a good family - you know the Monroes." Cordelia paused, "But, I digress. Burdell is fine. He is of sound mind. The issue we have now is with Tula."

"Yeah, thanks to some great detective work, my staff was able to follow the money trail. I imagine Burdell is concerned about all the money Tula took for herself?"

"Well, unfortunately, that is gone with the wind. However," she paused,"Tula only has access to one of Burdell's checking accounts. He has 2 other accounts plus a money market account in another bank in Mobile. The account Tula has been 'caring' for him from is a mere pittance of what Burdell is worth."

"So where is Tula now?"

"I assume looking for Burdell. We had a come to Jesus meeting and I explained that the Sanatorium had been closed, Burdell was missing, and she damn well better find him."

The Sheriff laughed. "So you didn't tell her what you had done. Cordelia, no one is going to get a head of you?"

"Rascal this is serious. Burdell could have died there. He said they kept him in a constant state of  delirium."

"He's not the first patient we have heard that from. But what about the money, aren't you concerned that Tula will drain the account?"

"Well, I imagine if she has not already done that, it is only a matter of time. Burdell says she can have the balance."

"Are you sure he's OK - just giving Tula his money?"

"I think Burdell can spare $5.86." She laughed. "He moved the funds from the account the day I got him to Sarahill and left that balance to keep the account open."

"So what do you want to do with Tula"

"Right now? Just let her get her self further into this pig's mess on her own." Cordelia laughed,"Personally, I want to watch her squirm. I am counting on you not to let on to Burdell's situation."

"I won't say a word. I'll just tell everyone they can call off the dogs, that we found Burdell - it's a long story and leave it at that.  But I am glad to know that Burdell is OK and doing well. If anything changes will you let know."

"I promise." With that they rang off.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Command Performance

The following morning Aunt Cordelia called Tula and 'suggested' that she come to her home to join her for lunch later that day. Tula was not enthused, but knew better than refuse. It was never good when Aunt Cordelia invited her to anything, especially her house. 

Tula showed up at noon. Pearl answered the door, " 'Miss' Tula, come on in. I think 'Miss' Cordelia is expecting you."

"Why thank you Pearl," Tula said. She then walked right past Pearl as Pearl stood holding the door open.  Pearl just shook her head. She expected no less from Tula. 

Aunt Cordelia was waiting for her in the morning room. Tula walked up to her aunt and kissed her on her cheek. "You look well," Tula said as she sat down.

"I should hope so, I feel better than ever."

Great, thought Tula, she is in 'that' type of mood. "And what did I do to deserve an invitation to lunch?"

Before Cordelia could say anything, Pearl walked up, "Would you like tea, coffee, water, or lemonade?"

Tula replied cheekily,"A martini, please."

With a warm smile, Aunt Cordelia looked at Pearl, "We'll both have sweet tea, thank you."

Tula was already irritated and the meal had not even been served. She hated being summoned to Cordelia's house. God, if only the old woman had only died when they had that 'scare' weeks ago.

"Darling Tula," Cordelia said as she buttered one of Pearl's warm biscuits and placed it on her bread plate. "I'm a bit concerned about you."

"Me? I'm quite well," Tula replied taking a biscuit from the basket Cordelia had just passed her.

"Oh, you seem to be in fine form," Cordelia took a small bit of her biscuit and wiped her lips with her linen napkin. "However, it seems, as always, you are leaving a wake of destruction." 

"Whatever are you talking about?"

Looking straight at her, Cordelia asked, "How is Burdell?"

"Fine, I assume. I haven't seen him this week. Last time I visited with him, he seemed to be in fine form."

"Really?" At that time Pearl placed a plate of chicken salad and fresh fruit at each lady's place. "Thank you Pearl." Cordelia continued, as she put pepper on her salad, "And, when was that?"

"Oh, I'm not sure. I try to visit with him every week or so?" Tula said as she busied herself with her meal. If she could keep her mouth full, she could, at least politely, only answer so many questions.

"Well Tula, Burdell is missing. He is no longer at that disgusting place - that Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium." Cordelia raised her voice, "You take his money and then do not have the decency to make sure he is in a safe facility, being cared for in the manner for which he is accustomed? Honestly, even I did not think you could stoop that low."

Tula looked stunned. "Missing? Uncle Burdell? What happened? How do you know this and no one told me?"

"I'm not sure. But I find that very curious." Cordelia just stared at her. "Don't you?" She paused, "Where is he?"

Tula stammered, "Aunt Cordelia, honestly, I do not know. He was in the Sanatorium. It was a good place, had excellent reviews. He was happy."

Cordelia stopped eating,"Please don't lie to me Tula. Have you even been to that God forsaken place? She threw her napkin down on the table beside her plate. "You listen to me. I want to know where Burdell is? This is your doing and your responsibility. Do you hear me, young lady?"

"He's in the Sanatorium, I swear."

"Well then he's in a world of hurt because the State of Alabama condemned the place days ago. It's empty - closed. They rescued all the poor souls who were there. And guess who was not among the patients they found?"

Tula just stared at Cordelia.

"Just guess?" asked Cordelia.

"Please don't tell me Uncle Burdell."

"That would be correct. Your Uncle Burdell was not there when the place was condemned. In fact he had not been there for a while. You took his money and put him away, out of mind, out of sight. Are you happy?"

"But, but, Bunny was visiting him also. She told me she was."

"She was trying to visit him. Conveniently, he was never 'available' when she went to see him. However, the poor dear was assured by you that everything was OK, because you were seeing him."

"Well, ask the staff of the Sanatorium. Certainly they should know. Maybe he just left on his own. He always has been the independent type."

"I would, however they have all skipped town, just ahead of the law." Cordelia looked at Tula with disgust. "It was bad enough for you to abandon your child because it didn't suit your lifestyle - just deny she existed. Another case of out of sight, out of mind." Cordelia stood up. "Get out of my house. And I want to know where Burdell is."

Tula, totally stunned with this news, stood up and left without saying anything. For once in her life she was speechless. How did she know where Uncle Burdell was? He was supposed to be in Bay Minette. That is why she was sending them that exorbitant amount of money every month. It had cost her a fortune - for what?

Totally put out with her niece, Cordelia decided she needed to do something pleasant. She called Bunny, "Dear, I was thinking if you and Vivian are free this afternoon, why not meet me at the Tea Room after you get off work for a cordial or a glass of wine."

"Oh, that would be nice. I'll ask Vivian, but you can count on me."

"Make sure you invite Della, I do not want to leave her out."

Bunny assured Aunt Cordelia she would. They rang off.

Around 4:30, Cordelia made her way down to the Tea Room. Caroline sat her at her favorite table. Cordelia told her she was expecting others to join her. Grice walked over with a glass of Cordelia's favorite port. Blanche came over and spoke.

"Oh dear, please take a seat. I never get to talk with you any more."

"Well, we are so busy." Blanche laughed, "But, don't get me wrong I love it. This is has been so much fun. Caroline, Hattie, and I are having a blast."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it." As Cordelia said that Bunny, Della, and Vivian walked in. Cordelia spotted them, "There they are, my partners in crime."

"I'll leave this to you and Grice. Enjoy!"

"We always do."

The girls sat down at Cordelia's table, Grice came over, and they each ordered a glass of wine. Before Grice left the table, Cordelia asked, "Dear, could you bring us a plate of Hattie's divine cheese straws."

"I'll be glad to. Anything else?"

"Just keep the glasses full." Everyone laughed.

Cordelia looked at the group,"Well, how's Trick's?"

They chimed in with all the scoop and chatted about. It was quite the hen party. Cordelia asked Della about Sam. And, with a twinkle in her eye, asked Bunny about Mike.

Just then 'Miss' Ella and Rayanne walked in. Both Della and Bunny excused themselves for moment to go speak to the ladies. They always enjoyed the older ladies' company. Ella and Rayanne were not just fun, they always seemed to know what was going on before most of Gallagher did.

Cordelia turned to Vivian. "We have not had enough time together." Cordelia sighed. "Sweetheart, I know you cannot change who your mother is. But we are all family. I am so glad you are here."

"So am I," said Vivian. "You know I moved here because it was the only place I knew of as home. Not because it was my home, but my relatives' favorite childhood stories were all from Gallagher. I had no idea there would still be family here, much less that I would find a half-sister." She looked across the room at Bunny and smiled.

"The world works in strange ways," said Cordelia as she took another sip of her port.

"I do miss the children though."

"How are they doing?" asked Cordelia.

"Harvey says they have settled down and getting into a routine. He and Lauralie are thrilled. Harvey said he has never seen Lauralie so happy and so tired."

"Well, both James and Harvey were always good boys. James would be very happy that Harvey and Lauralie adopted his children."

Vivian laughed, "I'm glad Harvey and Lauralie were so generous to open their home to them. If they had stayed with me, we would have figured it out. But, honestly, I don't think I'm cut out for motherhood yet."

Bunny and Della came back to the table. They sat quietly listening to Cordelia and Vivian.

Cordelia, just continued he conversation with Vivian. She smiled that warm smile everyone found so reassuring, "I am sure you would have risen to the task. Your time will come."

As she said this, over Vivian's shoulder, Cordelia noticed a lady at the hostess stand, speaking with Blanche. Speaking to no one in particular, she said, "What a lovely lady, I don't think I know her."

Bunny put her glass down. "Oh, that is Colleen Cantrell. She just moved here."

"And, Haynes Duiese is sweet on her," said Della. "As in smitten, according to Parker." Della and Bunny laughed.

"Has she been here long?" asked Cordelia still watching Colleen over Vivian's shoulder.

"Several weeks," said Della, "Want to meet her?"

Cordelia said she did. Della got up from the table and walked over to the front. "Colleen, I'm Della, Della Lee. How are you?"

"Oh, Della, it's so nice to see you. Thank you so much for giving me Haynes' number."

"Have you spoken with him yet."

Colleen smiled, "He had me over to his house Friday evening, he was having a few friends for dinner. You were right, he is a dear."

"Think you'll see more of him?"

"I hope so," Colleen said with a small laugh.

"There is is someone over here I would like you to meet - Cordelia Wells. We all call her Aunt Cordelia. She is the Grand Dame of Gallagher, although she would argue with anyone who told her that."

Colleen followed Della over to the table where they all were sitting. "Colleen, I'd like you to meet Cordelia Wells. Aunt Cordelia, this is Colleen Cantrell."

Cordelia invited her to join them but Colleen declined. She said she had just stopped by the Tea Room to speak with Blanche. They all spoke for a minute or two before Colleen said, " 'Miss' Cordelia it is so nice to meet you." She turned to Della and smiled. "Hopefully I'll see y'all about. If you will excuse me, I have errands I need to do."

They all said their goodbyes and Colleen walked away.

Bunny looked at Cordelia,"Isn't she one of the most beautiful women you have ever seen. And, the way she dresses. It's like she just stepped out of one of those fashion magazines."

As Cordelia watched Colleen walk off, she said very slowly, "Yes, I agree, she is very striking. But, for some reason, she seems so familiar." Then Cordelia turned back to the group. "Have any of you tried port?" When they all replied they had not, Cordelia called Grice over and ordered a round for everyone. "It is divine. But you must sip it slowly." Cordelia smiled, "I find it goes very well with good friends and nice conversation.