Sunday, January 14, 2018

Oh. . .My . . .God and a Single Rose

When Mike got to the station he found the Sheriff and Mary Lou standing in the Evidence Room going through a box that was sitting on a table. Mike walked up to the table, "What's going on?"

Mary Lou looked up,"A box of papers about people who do not exist?"

The Sheriff further explained, "Sheriff Smythe called me over to Baldwin county earlier today to meet him at the Sanatorium. He had a box of files they had found in the basement. His guys had gone through it earlier and separated the records according to the last location of residence."

"And, these are all from Atasi county?"

"Yep," the Sheriff said as he pulled another file out of the box. 

"But I thought we went over that list and didn't find anyone from Atasi county?"

"We did," said Mary Lou. "But we just had a list of 11 names with no addresses. All we could do was cross reference those names with our county's voter's rolls, tax records, etc."

"So these files have names and addresses?"

"That's right," said the Sheriff, still looking at a file. "This box has files containing names of 14 patients with addresses from our county."

"That's a few more than we had?"

"Well, these files are names and addresses of not only those initial 11, but an additional 3 names we have not seen," said Sheriff Quitman, as he flipped through the first file. "What we have here are extensive medical and personal records on citizens of our county who never existed."

"So they just created patients?"

Mary Lou smiled,"That's our guess. And then they billed the government for their care."

Mike laughed,"Well, those were easy to 'kill' off, weren't they?"

"That would be correct," laughed Mary Lou, "as well as eliminating having any pesky relatives hanging around and asking questions."

Mike just shook his head. "OK, so what do we do now?"

The Sheriff still did not look up from the file he was perusing, "Grab a file, go through it, and see if anything there would lead us anywhere." He paused as he read. "There may be a common name, or names in an address, or anything that seems to be in common with something here in the county. Right now, that's all we have to go on." He paused and looked up. "First thing, obviously, is to check the addresses."

Mike started going through the box of files. He looked up, "Sheriff, I am assuming that Sheriff Smythe had a box of files like this for Baldwin county?"

The Sheriff kept flipping through the file he was holding,"Yeah, but that was also a curious thing. He found only a few more files that were related to Baldwin County."

"Huh," said Mike as he selected several files. He carried them to his office. There he could check records, maps, and other county lists on his PC.

This was going to be a long night, so they sent out to Ed's for burgers and fries. Ed didn't have a delivery service per se. However, when he realized that he was contributing to an official case, he was happy to send food over. Ed asked no questions about what was going on. If nothing else, eventually Mae would get the scoop.

The 3 of them worked until 2 in the morning then called it a night. "Let's all get a good night's sleep, at least what's left of it. This will still be here tomorrow morning." The 3 closed the files they were working on and went home.

The following morning at the Rental Office, Della called Colleen and explained Haynes' request. Colleen naturally had questions about Haynes. Della was happy to share that he was from one of the older families and that she had known him all her life. He was a widower and retired. Colleen paused, "Would you give me his number?"

Della said, "Well, I didn't think about that."

"I would just feel more comfortable calling him first."

"That sounds fair enough. After all he is the one who wanted to get in touch with you." Della pulled up Haynes' home phone number from the local phone book (which was all of 4 pages, front and back). "All I have is his home number. If you cannot reach him, let me know. I'll call his son and get his cell number."

Della gave Colleen Haynes' home number. "If you need anything else, just give me a call."

"This is quite mysterious isn't it?" said Colleen.

"Personally, I find it romantic." They said their goodbyes and rang off.

Vivian walked in just as Della was ending her call, "What is romantic?"

"Oh, that was Colleen. She found the fact that Haynes was interested in her mysterious. I told her I found it romantic."

"Did she say it was OK for you to give Haynes her number?"

"Nope," said Della.

"Seriously? Maybe we should take her a bio and picture of him and let her reconsider."

Della laughed,"She asked for his number and said she would feel more comfortable calling him."

"That's impressive. She already has control of the relationship."

The door opened and Tim, from Lavenia's, walked in. He greeted everyone. Then he handed Della a single red rose.

"What's this for?"

"I don't know, I just deliver the flowers," Tim laughed.

"There is no card," Della asked Tim, "Who sent it?"

"Don't know that either?"

Della thanked Tim and he left.

Vivian and Bunny looked at her, "That is so sweet, you know that is from Sam."

Della shook her head. "I only wish. Sam only sends yellow roses since he is from Texas."

"Maybe he is trying to be mysterious?" smiled Bunny.

"Maybe Lavenia was out of yellow roses?" suggested Vivian.

"Well, I'm sure there are other yellow flowers Lavenia could have sent. Certainly she has some yellow lilies or daisies," Bunny said dead seriously.

Vivian just laughed,"Bunny if a man wants to send a rose, he is not going to be a happy customer if the florist sends a lily or a daisy." She shook her head. "If Sam ordered a yellow rose, the closest thing would be a red one."

Della looked at Bunny, "It's not the yellow color per se. Have you ever heard of the "Yellow Rose of Texas?"

Bunny shook her head, clueless. Vivian laughed, "It's just one of those things."

As far the rose, Della was not convinced, but she did get up, go into the small break room, and return with the single red rose in a bud vase she found in a cabinet. "I'll enjoy it any way. I do love flowers."

After much thought, Colleen did call Haynes. As it was, he was at home. They had been having a nice conversation for 20 minutes or so, when Haynes asked, "Colleen, I'm having a few friends over Friday evening for cocktails and dinner. Would you join us?"

Colleen paused, "Well I guess, it is safe in numbers."

Haynes laughed,"I promise you I am not a serial killer."

"Oh, I don't think that," Colleen laughed.

"I'll be glad to come pick you up."

"That would be nice." She gave him her address.

Haynes told her he would pick her up around 6:30, since the other guests were coming around 7. "As far as dress, I would say dressy casual."

Colleen laughed, "What? Not black tie?"

Haynes replied, trying to sound serious,"Never on a Friday night. Have you ever read Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette? Chapter 3, I think page 45, no it's page 47, she clearly says Black Tie on a Friday is a 'No No'."

Colleen laughed,"Guess I missed that part."

"By the way, that green dress you were wearing at the Tea Room really caught my eye."

"So it was the dress and not me?"

"No, I'm trying to compliment you on your dress. Remember I'm asking you over to my house, not your little green dress."

Colleen laughed and they rang off.

Friday night Haynes picked Colleen up. He was not disappointed when she answered the door. She was wearing a striking pair of light brown silk pants that stopped short of her ankle.  Her red flats were tasteful considering her height. Her stylish red simple sweater with a bulky bronze necklace coordinated perfectly with her pants. Once again, Haynes was mesmerized.

When they arrived at Haynes' house, Colleen was surprised at its size. The Duieses had sold off much of the property of the original plantation, after all, as Haynes said - he did not ever see getting into farming. But they had kept the family home and ten acres. It was a lovely grey stone house that dated back to the early 1800's.

Around 7, the guests starting arriving. First were Bob and Parker. When they walked into the large den that ran half the length of the back of the house, Bob was the first to speak to Colleen. "Oh. . . my. . . God. My dear, you have done it again." He stood back and looked at her outfit. "You have no idea how great that green dress looked on you. And now this," he swept his hand in the air from Colleen's head to her her shoes. "Just divine!"

Bob kissed her hand when she offered it,"I get a bit excited sometimes."

Haynes and Parker walked up, "Colleen, this my son Parker, and this," he said pointing to Bob,"is Bob, his partner.

Parker offered his hand. "It's nice to meet you."

They all laughed.

Colleen replied,"It's nice to meet both of you."

Next Mercer and Iris came in followed by Caroline and Paten Hollingsworth then Blanche and Roy Sullivan. Haynes introduced Colleen to everyone. Colleen recognized Caroline and Blanche from the Tea Room. "This is Iris Barker," Haynes said turning to Iris and Mercer. Then Haynes put his arm around Mercer's shoulders, "And this is Mercer Magill. Make sure you get his number before you leave this evening. He is our town doctor. Best around, if you need anything." 

Colleen smiled, "That is very valuable information."

It was a comfortable group. Haynes made sure everyone felt at home - he was the ultimate host. Colleen felt comfortable with everyone there. She was very entertained by the comical stories Caroline and Blanche had about the Tea Room. Who could not love Bob and Parker was so much like his father - fun and a true gentleman.

Iris and Mercer walked out one of the three sets of French doors that opened from the den onto the large sprawling flagstone patio. Mercer spoke first,"I'm so glad you accepted my invitation."

"I'm so glad you invited me."

They sat next to each other on the low stone wall that edged the patio. As they sipped their wine, Mercer asked, "Iris, I know there is so much more to you than what you have shared. Also, I realize going through the past year or so has been traumatic - at best. I hope, if and when you are ready to talk about it, you will feel free enough to share it with me."

"Oh, it's no secret. I will always fight the daemons - so to say. And I will always see you as my knight in shining armor."

"Wow, I've been called many things, but no one has ever called me that."

They both laughed.

"What do you want to know?"

"Just a little about your past - where did you come from, grow up, go to school? What do you like to do?"

"OKaaaay. Well let's see. I did undergraduate at Duke, then went to Columbia for a Masters degree. After that I had the opportunity to study at Oxford."

"Oxford? Wow! I knew there was much to you. What is your Masters in?" Mercer took a sip of his wine.

Iris laughed, "Art history. While I was in England I managed to get a job with an art house. That allowed me to travel around the world searching for great art work."

"Did you enjoy the travel?"

"I did. And I tried to make the most of each place I went. I scaled mountains in Nepal, swam with the whale sharks off the Galapagos, walked part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, traveled through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan - before they were partially destroyed. "


"When and where did you meet John?"

"In a museum - he was in London taking a short course about the Anglican church."

"And love brought you back to the states?" Mercer laughed. "You went from a world traveling art dealer to a minister's wife?"


"How'd that go?"

"Really well for several years. John was not your typical uptight minister. He was interesting, well read, and fearless." Iris looked toward the house and smiled, "He would try anything, at least once.  John believed in God but more as the Holy Spirit rather than a deity telling us we were all sinners unless we followed the straight and narrow road, if that makes sense. He believed that religion was a personal thing for everyone. He set an example." Iris laughed, "Like the movie, 'Field of Dreams', he believed if you build it, they will come."

"I always heard good things about John. Only met him once, but I felt as if I had known him all my life."

"That was John." Iris took a sip of her wine. "Everything was going well until we decided to start a family, and you know the rest."

Mercer smiled and put his hand on top of hers. "You are past that. I know the scars and nightmares may continue, but you are a lady of strength and you have a lot of life in front of you."

"You make it sound easy."

"It's not, but you are making your way and doing very well at it."

They were interrupted by Haynes calling them for dinner. "I know you two are solving all the problems of the world, but if you could take a break, dinner's ready."

Iris and Mercer laughed and followed him into the house.

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