Monday, January 1, 2018

Uncle Burdell's Benevolence

Sheriff Quitman walked into the station and commented to Mary Lou. "The last thing we need is a Yankee reporter snooping around here trying to get some dirt on one of our citizens."

Mary Lou laughed,"Oh, I imagine he is getting a better story than he ever thought he would. And, I bet it has very little to do with Terse."

The Sheriff went into his office and sat down. The phone rang and Mary Lou yelled from her desk, "Sir, it's Axson McDermott - Liggett's Wild Game Company."

Rascal picked up the phone,"Sheriff Quitman here."

"Sheriff, this is Axson McDermott. You may not remember, but one of my trucks was involved in an accident and robbery several weeks ago. Your deputy said he would let me know when y'all figured out what happened."

The Sheriff thought for a moment. "Axson, we have someone in custody that we think may have been involved in the issue with your truck. There are also some other incidents we think he was involved in as well. I'll let you know, as soon as we know more. He has an attorney so now he is not saying a word."

"Well, I'm just curious. The insurance company covered it all as a hit and run, as well a robbery. As you can imagine they have some questions."

"They contacted us shortly after you filed your claim. I have my girl, Mary Lou, looking into it. Promise as soon as we know more, I'll give you a holler. That's all I can do now."

"I understand. 'Preciate your help." They rang off.

The Sheriff walked to Mary Lou's desk. "I've looked at these notes and ledgers you brought from your visit to the bank. When you get a chance, can we sit down and go over them?"

"Sure, whenever . . ."

Mary Lou was interrupted by the phone. "Sheriff, it's Mr. Lowle from the bank. He says he is returning your call."

Sheriff Quitman went back to his desk, "Theo, how are you doing today."

"Just fine."

"Wanted you to know that Ike has your package down at Dot's. He suggested you pick it up one morning before he opens. And, for the record, Ike is an innocent conspirator here."

"That is great news. How much do I owe you?"

"You don't owe me anything. You've already done your part." They spoke for a while. The Sheriff thanked him again for his help and they rang.

Back to Mary Lou and Burdell's books. "As of yesterday, the balance of the account was $20,650.98."

"What was the balance at the time he was 'supposedly' admitted to the Sanatorium?"

Mary Lou looked up the spreadsheet, "$605,206.98."

"Burdell Wells had over a half million dollars in his account at one time. I knew the Wells all had money but, for some reason, I didn't think Burdell was as well off as he rest."

"Well, he was doing better than that earlier. A year or so ago, the account was well over a million dollars."

"Wonder what happened to that money?"

"About 12 months ago, the statements show an ATM withdrawal for $520 every month."


"Automatic Teller Machine - you walk or drive up to this machine, put your card in it, use a secret code, and you can access your bank account, check your balance, or withdraw money."

"I've never heard of such," said the Sheriff. We don't have anything like that in Gallagher."

"No, but everywhere else in the world does," Mary Lou said with a smile. "I can assure you, there is at least one in Mobile and one in Bay Minette."

"Bay Minette has an ATB machine?"

"A-T-M, and yes, apparently they do. Can I finish here?"

"Carry on."

"Then starting 6 months ago, there was a check written to Bay Minette Midsummer Sanatorium monthly for $5,600.00. I am assuming for Burdell's care."

The Sheriff exclaimed, "Whoa, that flea trap wasn't cheap was it?'

"Nope, there was also a check written to a 'Dr. Welburn' for $786.00 monthly, the same time the check went to the Sanatorium?"

"Dr. Welburn?"

"I checked him out. He was a GP with a practice in Bay Minette and was associated with the Sanatorium."

"Was?" asked the Sheriff

"Yep, seems most of his practice was writing prescriptions for amphetamines, supposedly for weight loss. That was profitable until the state board found out and revoked his license. He disappeared before they searched his office and found a good supply of pills he had no business having."

"Huh." Then the Sheriff paused. "But, we are still missing over a half million dollars, if I've got the math right."

"Well," Mary Lou said as she pulled out another spreadsheet." About a year ago, Tula Wells started benefiting from Uncle Burdell's generosity to the tune of $45,000 a month."

"45 thousand dollars a month!" The Sheriff was surprised at the amount. "Did he write her a check for this amount monthly?"

"No, that's where it gets interesting - she wrote the checks to herself and signed them. On each check it was noted 'Gift to Tula' and the corresponding month. Tula had power of attorney and was a signator on the account, so she had the legal ability to write the checks."

"But," the Sheriff asked,"was Burdell aware of his benevolence?"

"We need to ask him . . ."

The Sheriff finished her sentence,"if we knew where he was."


"Good job Mary Lou. Hold on to those sheets and write up a report of what you found out. I fear we will need that in the future."

"Will do." Mary Lou turned to her computer. Sheriff Quitman walked back into his office.

Across town, Dr. Magill called Iris. When she answered he asked,"Iris, it's Mercer. How you are?"

"Getting better everyday."

"I'm glad to hear that. We finally got the results from your blood work."

"The blood tests done at the Sanatorium?"

"Well, the tests we did as soon as we got you out of there. My question is, do want to come down to the office to go over this?"

"Can we discuss this on the phone?"

Mercer laughed,"Of course and I won't even charge you."

"I would hope not."

"You were suffering from a condition called 'sleep paralaysis'."

"And that is....?"

"A type of parasonomia. For most people it is the inability to move or speak while awake. Some people also have hallucinations. Some feel like they cannot fully wake up. It can be brought on 2 ways - some people slip into this state due to stress, trauma, anxiety and depression. Obviously we are pretty sure you were dealing with those issues." He paused. "The symptoms of sleep paralysis can also be the result of an overdose of barbiturates. And there were barbiturates in your blood."

"Barbiturates? Like Seconal or Nembutal?"

"Yes, those are 2. How did you know that?"

"I toyed with pre-med at one time?"

"Really? You are a complicated person. What made you decide otherwise?"

"Molecular biology."

"Yeah, that will do it. Thank God that was not even a idea back when I was in med school," he laughed and continued. "My guess is that once you got over the depression, the doctors at the Sanatorium starting giving you a pretty heavy dose of barbiturates."

"And, when I stopped taking them, I came out of the fog."

"Yes, if you did."

"Several days before y'all got there I almost choked on my morning medicine. The nurse thought I had swallowed it, but I hadn't. As soon as he left, I did not have enough coordination to spit it out, but I got it out of mouth. By late afternoon, my confusion started clearing up and I had a little more coordination. So I managed not to swallow any of the medicine after that. And everyday, I could tell a difference."

"Well, there you go."

"Are there any long term side effects from the medication?"

"I wouldn't worry about that," Mercer said. They talked for a short while and then rang off.

At Dot's, Terse got 2 glasses of moonshine from Ike. Then he and Art settled at a small table in the corner. Terse handed Art his drink, "I would suggest you don't drink that in one swallow."

"All in one swallow? I'm not sure I'll survive the first sip."

"OK, now you're acting like a Yankee." Terse took a small sip. "And, by the way, you are enjoying a stash just a few know about, so you don't need to share that knowledge with anyone."

"Your secret is safe with me. But can I ask if it is local?" Art was serious, "I promise just idle curiosity."

"Somehow, I question that, given you are a damn Yankee from New York trying to get as much scoop as you can." Terse laughed. "We have these 70 something year old twin spinsters that live here in town - a bit eccentric."

"Terse, not to be cute, what isn't eccentric here?"

"Well, let's put it this way, they collect gnomes."

"As in garden gnomes?"

". . . and pictures of gnomes, glasses and plates with gnomes on them, stuffed gnomes." Terse laughed at what he was saying, knowing it was the truth. 

"I'd swear you were making this up if I had not spent a day here." said Art. "Who would believe this anyway?"

Terse continued, "I guess you can say like the cookies that are 'made by little elves in a hollow tree', high class moonshine 'was made by these old ladies in their 'wooden shed'. . . for years before anyone knew about it."

The two sat there drinking (beers) for several hours and talking. Terse pretty much answered all the questions Art asked. Being respectful, Art did not ask any personal questions. He was so appreciative of Terse's time, that was the least he could do. Art was quickly learning that everything folks said about Terse was true. The only exception being that they did not think he would amount to anything.

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