Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Delusion of Grandeur

While Kathleen and Jeb were quietly planning their special day, Dixie was revelling in a spotlight that was apparent to only her. Ever since Kathleen was young, Dixie had dreamed of her role as Mother of the Bride. Now that she was officially sanctioned to the task, she was ecstatic. This was her chance to get social revenge on her friends who thought their daughters' had fairy tale weddings. The only person she had not considered in her plan was Kathleen.

Weddings are rarely an inexpensive venture. Especially those of the grand nature Dixie was determined to have. During the years she spent quietly planning the wedding, the cost was not lost on her. The beach house on the Florida panhandle that Harrell had so diligently saved for was not in the cards. Those funds would nicely pay the price of the wedding. 

Dixie had little doubt Harrell would capitulate. He was sure to realize that his dreams of a beach house were easily trumped by an outlandish wedding his daughter did not even ask for. More importantly, he would quickly realize that subjugation of his life long and hard earned savings was not nearly as the agonizing as the pain Dixie would wreak for being denied the delusion of grandeur this spectacle would beget.

Kathleen was smart and very attractive. She was well liked around town. Growing up, Kathleen had been able to deftly weave her way through the Cotillions, the balls, and her Debut without emerging permanently scarred. She was a young lady who appreciated the social formality of the Old South, but who was also determined not to be sucked into the quagmire of muck her mother and her socially obsessed friends wallowed in. The only concern she found in marrying Jeb was his family. 

Personally, she adored the Beauregards. They were an authentic southern family with a long running well to do reputation who wore it like a faded well worn chintz sofa. The Beauregards were the opposite of the nouveau social climbers, who tried to polish the reputation of a family's name by buying whatever social status they assumed was for sale. 

No matter how much one tried, truth was these traits were simply in their breeding. They handled whatever wealth they had over the years quietly. As a rule these families shied away from any publicity and most things new. The write-ups of their daughters'  debut and then marriage were the only times one read about them in papers. Their gentility keep most of them behind the walls of their family farms and estates. 

Now, the Quinton family was one of a good name, an old name that had endured without major scandal for centuries. However, Dixie was determined that it had been shorted its status. Ironically in the south, those with a place and heritage in society, could not care less about the trappings they were born to. The romantic ideals some of these sought, had been created out of a southern novel. 

Like many families, Dixie came from one with an old name, but nothing else. Most of the Gilberts were well thought of. They were known as a good southern family whose lot in life had been sullied by an unfortunate scandal of her great grandfather. Eleazar Gilbert had created a ponzi scheme in the aftermath of the South's 'most recent unpleasantness'. He preyed on the few families who emerged from the war with any wealth. By the time the whole game was over, Eleazar was sentenced to life in prison. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a sufficient dose of arsenic from an unknown source. It was a homicide that was never officially solved. However, most of the town people had little doubt who the culprit was.

Considering Dixie's determination to ride her daughter's wedding into the upper crust of society, no doubt this predication ran in the family. There was much speculation, and proven facts, that Eleazar had created his scheme to mollify his wife who was Hell bent on maintaining the family's status in the throws of reconstruction. Most families accepted their fate brought on by the post war scourge. They just held on to their pride and reputation, having the mantra of Margaret Mitchell - that part of their lives was Gone with the Wind. 

Eleazar also realized the reality of one's reputation (and mere survival) trumped any thought of the 'Old South'. His wife, however, failed to accept this reality. She assumed that the antebellum status quo of their lives had not been effected by the war. In order to keep his wife, whom he adored, in the comfort to which she was accustomed, Eleazar had concocted the plan to finance his wife's needs for fashions and a lifestyle that no one else cared about at that time. If she was humiliated by loss of the family's wealth, she was even more mortified when her husband was convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. Much of her despair was alleviated when Eleazar dropped dead at breakfast that faithful morning.

It never dawned on poor Harrell that he could be living Eleazar's Hell. Luckily there was one thing in his favor - he had made good money and investments over the years. The dream of their comfortable retirement on the Florida Panhandle was the guiding  light he had worked so hard for.

Dixie's grand plan (spectacle) of Kathleen's wedding to be the extravagant demonstration of her social status, was lost on Harrell. All he knew was that Dixie was ecstatic about the wedding and Kathleen was very much in love with Jeb. Little did he realize, when he walked the Bride down the aisle, not only was he giving away his beloved daughter in marriage but also (a good chance of) his dreamed retirement on the Florida Panhandle. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"We" Are Not Usual

It took her several days, but Barbara Birch finally made it to the Museum of Confederate Uniforms, Hats, and Paraphernalia. 'If nothing else, this could possibly be used in the movie', Barbara told her self as she got out of her rental car.

The bell on the door tinkled as she opened it. It was not a large place by any means. The first thing she saw was the life size display telling the story of General Holden James Kirby. She was looking at the photos of the General's excavation when Col Wadsworth approached her.  He was a large man. And the full regalia of his Confederate uniform took her aback.

"Now that was a big day here in Gallagher." He looked at the display. "Took us digging up a backyard and 2 front yards, before we found him."

"I'm sure the homeowners were not thrilled." Barbara said.

"I think everyone was excited and didn't mind except the Eldridges." The Colonel chuckled, "During the historical excavation of their backyard we not only found the General, but unfortunately, in the process, the Sheriff found the Eldridge's  liquor still.."

"They were making moonshine?"

"Yep, in old wooden shed in the backyard." He offered his hand, "I'm Col Wadsworth Washington Walker III, but everyone calls me 'George'."

Barbara shook his hand, "Well, George, nice to meet you. I'm Barbara Birch . . ."

Before she could finish her sentence, he offered, "With the movie production company."

"Yes, that is me. Boy, word travels fast here."

"Doesn't have far to go." They both laughed. 

"Is there something specific you are looking for?"

"No, I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss the museum before I left town."

"Glad to have you. If I can help, just holler."

"Oh, I don't want to hold you up."

"I'm not going anywhere, that I know about."

"I'm sorry. I just assumed with the costume, you had some reenactment today."

"Oh, this isn't a costume. This is the authentic uniform of a Colonel in the Confederate Calvary." He smiled. "I dress this way everyday."

Before she could stop herself, she asked, "Everyday?"

"I take my job and my heritage seriously."

"That's admirable."

"My wife dressed in period attire also. Well, that was until several months ago. She took a job and the clothing was not appropriate."

"I don't think I have met her. Where does she work?"

"At the Gentlemen's Club in town. You've probably seen it if you have walked around town. It is a large Victorian home. It is referred to as the 'Hunnicutt House' as it had been in their family for over 100 years."

"Wow," Barbara was about speechless. But curiosity got the best of her. "Col." She stopped,"George, you don't have an issue with your wife working at the Club?"

"Oh, not at all. Just because I dress in the 19th century, doesn't mean I cannot appreciate women finding their ways in this new world. Winfred is very enthusiastic and nice looking - if I must say. She also has a way with people. They always feel at home around her."

"Wow, that is very supportive of you."

"There is something to be said about a long and healthy marriage."

Barbara just smiled. 'It must be in the water here', she thought to herself. She asked the Col several questions and he spent 5 or 10 minutes showing her around. When she had seen as much as she needed for that day, she thanked him and left the museum.

Dixie was visiting Chateau Belmont firming up the wedding plans. Ms. Harbuck, the events coordinator, was tasked to deal with the Brides and their mothers.  Undoubtedly she was up to the task given old school marm look with her graying hair in a tight bun making her stiff countenance even more severe. Her posture was undeniably perfect. When Dixie approached the great hall of the Chateau, Ms. Harbuck was waiting for her. It was hard to miss her as she stood there in her dark suit, sensible shoes, and holding a clip board.

"Good morning, Mrs. Quinton, welcome to Chateau Belmont." With that Ms. Harbuck offered her hand.

Dixie shook the coordinator's  hand and looked around the grand hallway. "Oh, it's Dixie, Mrs. Quinton was my mother-in-law. I am thrilled to be here."

"Now, it is my understanding that you are the Mother of the Bride."

Dixie beamed in pride, "Oh, I am and I'm so excited.

Ms. Harbuck looked behind Dixie. "Is the bride here?"

"No, she was tied up. Besides," Dixie turned and smiled, "she doesn't need to worry about all the details. I told her I'd plan the wedding."

"And, she's is OK with that?"

"Certainly. Why wouldn't she be." Dixie looked at Ms Harbuck who was making notes on her clipboard. "I have experience and know the proper way things should be handled. Girls these days, well they don't appreciate the finer details."

Ms. Harbuck did not have a good feeling about this. However, her job was to accommodate the customers, not question their motives. She asked, "Dixie, how big will the wedding be?"

"I would think around 500. We are sending out 350 invitations. I would imagine not only will everyone invited want to come, there may be others who just show up."

"Really," Ms. Harbuck said a bit sarcastically, which was lost on Dixie. "I guess we will plan on 500 guests and see where it goes from there." She made more notes.

"You don't have to worry about a cake. Beŕnerd from La Petit Maison de Délice, will be handling that. He is designing it personally, you know. "

Ms. Harbuck didn't know and right now, did not care about Beŕnerd. She continued, "Brides usually enter the hall from here," she pointed to the large heavy wooden doors behind them. "Then the bride and her father will proceed down the aisle, this way." She pointed toward the wall across the huge space. "Usually, the bridal party will stand here." She moved to the wall showing a location underneath colorful stained glass panels.

"Usually?" asked Dixie. "What do the other people do?" 

Ms. Harbuck was a bit confused. "Other people?"

"You know those weddings, well shall we say, of the well to do, the upper crust - those who appreciate doing things the most appropriate way." Dixie paused, "We are not usual."

Dixie continued, "Yes, how did Jennifer Garner set up her service and reception."

The coordinator politely said, "Mam, we do not discuss the details of anyone's wedding. We pride ourselves on complete confidentiality." She paused, then added, "Jennifer Gardner, why would you even ask about her wedding?"

"Oh, I read all about it in People Magazine. I was so impressed, I decided the wedding had to be in the same location."

Surprised, Ms. Harbruck said very seriously, "I hate to disappoint you, but we did not host Jennifer Garner's wedding."

"But you had to, I read about it in People."

"Perhaps you are confusing us with Chateau Bel a la Monte on the Danube in France?"

"No, I'm sure it was Chateau Belmont. My sources are very reliable."

Ms. Harbuck did not have the energy to argue with this Mother of a Bride. After all, she was only trying to save Mrs. Quinton from embarrassing herself.  She had dealt with enough Mothers of the Bride and Brides to think she had seen it all. But maybe not. "This is the way everyone setups the service. There really is no other way."

Dixie accepted her word and moved on. "Now if we wish to place small boxes under each guest's chair containing a chrysalis, is that going to be a problem?"

Not daring to ask, Ms. Harbuck just smiled. "Of course, whatever you want."

Dixie took this as Ms. Harbuck not knowing what a chrysalis is.

They made their way to the large half moon shaped flagstone terrace. "This should be big enough to accommodate your guests for the reception." Ms. Harbuck showed her a large well lit room. "This is our Bride's room. We try to make everything they need is here for them. We have a seamstress on staff to handle those last minute issues. The Chateau also provides a hair stylist and makeup artist, if the Bride or her party needs assistance. If she wishes, we can easily set up a champagne bar in here for the Bride and her party."

As they walked back into the hall, the coordinator pointed to a wooden door across the way. "That is a suite similar to the Bride's room, that will be set-up for the Groom and his party."

"And the Mother of the Bride's suite? Where would that be?"

Taken aback, Ms. Tucker politely said, "Oh, I'm sorry we don't have one of those. After all it is the Bride's day, the idea is to serve her needs and make her experience here as perfect as possible."

Dixie did not pursue this, fine points such as this could be dealt with later. They covered some other details that needed to be handled. As Dixie got ready to leave, Ms. Harbuck asked,"Now when will I get to meet the Bride? You didn't even give me her name."

"Kathleen. And she is marrying Reginald Beauregard Jackson. We call him 'Jeb'. He is from THE Jackson family from Mobile. I'm sure you are familiar with them." Dixie added, "Oh, I doubt you will need Kathleen before the wedding. She is just so busy with her career and all."

"Is there anything else I can help you with?"

Dixie told Ms. Harbuck that would be all for now. The 2 women exchanged parting words and Dixie left to return to Gallagher.

Ms. Harbuck made a note to call the bride. She knew from experience, this did not bode well. And, what the Hell was a 'Mother of the Bride suite'. She shook her head, knowing from experience she was dealing with a 'Motherzila' versus a Bridezila. She shook her head as she turned to return to her office. 'Who cared who THE Jacksons were. And, why did Mrs. Quinton want to put a box with a cocoon under each seat'?

Monday, February 26, 2018

You Ain't Listin' To Me

Wade was at the Sheriff's station discussing an upcoming hunting trip he and Rascal had planned. This was an annual trip, almost a ritual, that the two men had taken since they were in high school. Both were good hunters. However as they got older, they  realized getting up before dawn and staying out all day was beyond their ability. Another thing the 2 had done was starting to rent a cabin that was near the fields they hunted.  Rascal was the first to throw in the towel and decide that their tent camping days were finished. 

Sometimes their foray afield was bountiful, other times not. It didn't matter, because the success of their hunt was not necessarily the measure of a good trip. The 2 old friends enjoyed staying up late each night, drinking single malt Scotch, and solving all the problems of the world. The hunting was just something to do in the morning.

Rascal heard the door open. In walked Delmar Flynn drunk as a skunk. The Sheriff just sighed, "Delmar you need someone to drive you home?"

"No, sir. I ain't going home rite now."

"Well, what can I do for you?"

"Remember I told you I saw those 2 men gettin' in big square truck after they moved that body?"

"Sure do," the Sheriff answered, not sure where this was going.

"Well, I found that truck?"

"And, where is it?"

"Out front here. I was just making my way to see the boys when I saw her. You wanted to know, right?"

"Of course," said the Sheriff, still wondering what was going on. "Did Ruthanne drop you off here?"

Delmar got mad and raised his voice,"No, you ain't listnin' to me. I said I was on my way to see the boys."

"OK. Can you show me the truck?"

"Yessir," Delmar turned and walked out of the door.

Rascal looked at Wade, "Let's see what Delmar is talking about?"

They followed Delmar out of the station. Wade took note of his dirty clothes that were a size too big and the old wool newsboy cap he wore on his head. Delmar was wearing a pair of well worn work boots with many miles on them.

When they all were outside, Delmar pointed toward the vehicle, Wade's Range Rover. Rascal was a bit confused, "That one?" 

"Yessir, I'm  pretty sure that's the one."

"How close were you to it when you saw it that night?"

" 'Cross the street." He shuffled his feet, "Sheriff, don't tell Ruthanne I was here. She'll hold back my money."

The Sheriff smiled at Delmar. "No problem we will not say a thing." He paused, "But you're sure this is the truck?"

"Yessir." He started to leave. "Won't say nothin', right?"

"Yes, Delmar, you have my word. Thank you for telling me this."

Delmar sauntered down the street. Rascal and Wade walked back into the station.  Wade spoke first, "What was that all about?"

"That was Delmar Flynn, his wife is convinced that Delmar saw 2 men moving a body into a car on Boulevard the night Madison died. He said the 2 men left in a truck - a 'big square' truck in his words." He paused,"a truck such as yours."

"Really?" Wade acted surprised. "Did he see the color of the truck?"

"No. Nothing else. I don't know what to think." The Sheriff paused, then continued. "There was another time Ruthanne dragged Delmar's raggedy ass down here with some story." He paused again. "She's convinced his 'witnessing' is worth some money. We have told her we do not pay for information."

"Another time?" asked Wade.

"Yeah, he came in after John Barker's death and swore he had seen 2 men moving a body into the minister's car."

"Really?" said Wade. "Maybe you should hire him as your detective - if he sees things like this. How did he happen to be at both places?"

"Apparently, his route to and from where he meets with the 'boys' goes past both places."

"That's fairly circuitous isn't it - to go from one side of the town to the other?" Wade didn't need to ask where Delmar met the boys or where he lived. There was a small bait shop down by the river that had long since been abandoned. Some enterprising fellow had started his own 'club' there. Nothing was official. Wade doubted anything was legal, but that was where the older generation of men, cast out when the Cotton gin closed years before, went. They were too old to do any manual labor and had too little education for any of them to be literate. The men only found solace with their little group, card games, and rot gut liquor.

Delmar lived 'across the tracks' behind what was left of the Cotton gin. A long dirt road was edged with small white clapboard houses. Everyone had a front porch. Some had been kept up in pristine condition, while most of them looked as if the next wind would blow them down. 

Wade could remember, as a young child, going with his Daddy to Hattie's house when she worked for them. Her house always stood out. He could remember it being freshly painted with beds of flowers and a clothes line in the backyard. But Hattie was one of the few who was able to save her money, sell her home, and relocate to another part of town. Now, Wade thought, she was a partner in a successful enterprise. Not everyone had enough ambition to better themselves. There were few positive role models for this generation. 

The Sheriff stopped Wade's train of thought. "Wade, nothin's straight with Delmar." The 2 men finished their plans. "I'll pick you up Friday afternoon," the Sheriff told Wade. He agreed and walked out of the station, leaving the Sheriff thinking about Delmar's visit.

Kathleen called Jeb as soon as she left the Tea Room. "Honey, this is worse than I thought?"

"The wedding?"

"Yes, the wedding and my mother. I just had lunch with her. She is talking about Turtle Doves, and clouds of Blue Butterflies."

Jeb laughed, "Kathleen, that makes her sound seriously nuts. Not just crazy like we thought."

"I really want to elope."

"No, you will regret that. This is important."

"But why should I have to deal with palettes of violet, turtle doves, and blue butterflies?"  Kathleen asked almost in tears.

"Sweetie, the purple whatever and the birds and the butterflies will be at Dixie's wedding, not ours. Remember we are having our own wedding, just like we want." Jeb paused, "Please cheer up. It is all going to work out." Before Kathleen could protest again, Jeb said in an excited voice, "Besides, I have some good news."

"Well, I can use some of that."

"Chip, one of my college roommates, is in a band - a serious band. Lots of brass, they play everything from today's Pop and Country to Big Band."

"Wow, that sounds great, but remember we decided a band was not in our budget." Kathleen's enthusiasm waned.

"This fits in the budget because Chip wants to play at the reception for free - as his wedding present to us."

Kathleen sighed, finally something positive. "That is wonderful." She paused, "Actually that is better than wonderful, that is incredible."

They spoke for a few minutes and then they rang off.

The following morning Anna Belle checked and found that Miranda had not returned. This was very much out of character for her. Miranda was, if anything, dependable. Inquiring, Anna Belle learned from the other girls that they had not seen her nor did they know where she had gone on her day off. Once again, Anna Belle's instincts kicked in - something was not right. And, once again, she ignored them telling herself that it was nothing and not to think about it any more.

Wade thought about telling Anna Belle about Delmar, but decided that was not going to help anyone. Unless something came from that, no need to bother Anna Belle. He just hoped that Delmar's reputation of living in a drunk fog would keep anyone from taking him seriously. Wade really wasn't worried about the Flynns.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Marilyn's We Rent It All

The wedding war was on. Dixie and Kathleen were past the minor skirmishes. "I just do not understand why I am not making some of these decisions or, at least, having some say in my own wedding," Kathleen exclaimed.

"Well, I understand how you feel, but you can trust me. I will make wise choices. Wait, you will be thrilled." Dixie took another bite of chicken salad. She continued,"Now about your wedding gown, do you want to go to Atlanta or New Orleans to look at gowns?'' There was silence,"Or we could go to New York City, certainly anything you have in mind could be found there."

Looking up from her salad, Kathleen replied. "I already have chosen my gown." She had not yet, but Dixie would not know that.

Dixie was shocked, didn't Kathleen understand that one didn't just 'select' a wedding gown. It took time and the right shops. In a very excited voice Dixie said,"Oh, sweetheart, you are going to wear my wedding gown, the one I wore when I married your father." She added very quickly, "Well, in that case, we need to get the gown to Ada at Heddie's to be altered." She paused,"Your doing that, means so much to me."

"No, I'm not wearing your wedding dress." Kathleen moved along quickly," The gown I have found,  the gown I really want is coming from New York."

"New York City? Did you and Jeb sneak off for special weekend.?You didn't let him see the gown, did you." Dixie smiled,"That would be bad luck you know."

"Mama the dress is coming from Rochester, NY, from a shop called 'Marilyn's We Rent it All'." She continued,"I'm not buying a dress, I am going to rent one." Kathleen sat back to enjoy her mother's expression.

"Rent your wedding dress? Have you lost your mind? No one 'rents' a dress. And from a place called 'Marylyn's' whatever - in upstate NY."

Sarcastically, Kathleen hushed her mother, "Mamma, from the tone of your voice, other's in this room may think we are squabbling." 

"How do you know want kind of person wore the dress? I can just imagine some big mouthed girl from New York wearing the dress. No telling what she did in the dress. Did you consider that?" She paused,"Kathleen, it is a used dress."

"Yes, it is. If you can select a 'palette of purples and lavenders' for my wedding, then I can choose the gown I am going to wear."

Dixie, still not over this, said, "Kathleen, what if someone finds out you are wearing a used wedding dress, from New York, no less?" Kathleen really thought her mother was going to break down into tears. "Do you realize what an insane decision like that could cost me my position in society?" Dixie sat back in her chair, "You have no idea what repercussions such a bad decision on your part will have on the family."

They were quiet for a while as they finished their salads. "Oh, I knew there was something else, I needed to tell you." said Dixie. "I was on the wedding channel the other night and saw something that we must have at the wedding."

'Dear God, what is she going to say now?' thought Kathleen. 

"There was this wedding in a beautiful old wooden church. At the end of the service before the Bride and Groom recessed down the aisle, the minister announced, 'Please look under your seat and you will see a small box.' Naturally there was much noise  as everyone looked under the pews. Sure enough there was a small white box with a white ribbon tied around it for each guest. The Minister continued, 'Everyone, please hold the box up high, untie the ribbon, and open it."

Dixie just smiled and shook her head, "Oh, Kathleen, you would not believe how beautiful it was."

"The guests opening boxes was beautiful?"

"No, silly. From each box, a lovely blue butterfly emerged and flew off. Then there was this incredible cloud of the blue butterflies over head, as the Bride and Groom recessed."

Having had enough, Kathleen said,"Well Mama that will not work for this wedding. You know blue butterflies will clash with the purple palette of colors you have chosen. We can't have that now can we?"

Finished with her meal as well as her mother, Kathleen stood up, put a 20 dollar bill on the table, and said, "This should cover my lunch and tip for Grace."

As she walked past her mother's chair, Dixie reached and gently held Kathleen's arm. "You really were kidding about the rented gown, weren't you?"

"No, mama, I am not. The more I think about it, I really wish we had eloped."

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Palette of Lavender and Two Turtle Doves

Lue Ellen was so excited about baking Kathleen's wedding cake. Since she had never baked and designed a wedding cake, she needed to do some research. Needless to say, the idea that the assignment had originally given to the master of all wedding cakes - Beŕnerd, Lue Ellen felt the bar was pretty high. She started with her copy of Martha Stewart Weddings. Seeing that there was not much dedicated to wedding cakes in the book, she turned to Amazon. There she found Martha Stewart Wedding Cakes. 'That was is my ticket', Lue Ellen said as she ordered the book and checked 'Priority Overnight' shipping.

Lavinia spent some time looking through floral idea books seeking inspiration for the flowers for Kathleen's wedding. Nothing thrilled her. She so wanted to please Kathleen and design something special for her wedding. Searching for any help, Lavinia found her copy of Martha Stewart Weddings. The book was old and dusty, but it could be her savior. 

Dixie was looking at her list for the wedding. Flowers - she had met with Elegant Flowers, the floral designer, in Mobile. After some discussion, they decided that the color scheme would be shades of violet and purple. As for the bride's bouquet, Dixie had to think about that. She knew that purple was not Kathleen's favorite color, but never mind that. Dixie was sure sitting Kathleen down and showing her how elegant shades of purple and violet made for a most exquisite showing at the event. She needed to keep in mine that purple was the color of royalty.

Her appointment with Beŕnerd was still a week or so away. Dixie had called several times to speak with his assistants, inquiring as to how the proposal for the wedding cake was coming along. 

"Good morning, this is Dixie Quinton from Gallagher. I know I spoke with you yesterday, but I have more information I need to pass on to Beŕnerd." The assistant said he would be happy to write down her information and share it with Beŕnerd later when he came in. "He's not there? I'm surprised, I just assumed that it would take him weeks to work on the design for my daughter's wedding cake." Dixie was sure Beŕnerd understood how much publicity he would get, given the elite of Mobile who would be at the wedding. The assistant assured her that he had made notes and would make sure they got to Beŕnerd. She rang off and the bakers were finally able to get back to work.

Dixie's calls to the La Petit Maison had become frequent, and obnoxious. Given they had caller ID, the assistants rotated answering her calls. There were times when no one had the time or the energy to speak with her. Those times they just let the call go to voice mail.

Meanwhile Kathleen was trying to find a wedding gown that she thought was 'perfect' for her. She wanted simple and elegant but not something that would break the bank. Reading an article in a bride's magazine, she got the great idea to 'rent' a gown. It made perfectly good sense to her, what would she do with a wedding gown after the wedding. She had no plans to reuse it. This also greatly increased the choices of gowns she would have.

Dreading lunch with her mother, she knew it was a command performance. In order to keep it peaceful, Kathleen had suggested they meet for lunch at the Tea Room. Dixie agreed.

Kathleen knew she was walking a tight rope. She needed to show enough interest in the circus to mollify her mother, while knowing all along she would not be at that wedding.

Dixie was all a twitter when she walked into the Tea Room. Kathleen had come early to reduce, as much as she could, the free time her mother would have to talk with everyone about her favorite subject - the wedding. Dixie had stopped at the door to speak with Caroline, no doubt talking about the wedding. Finally Caroline freed herself from Kathleen's mother and Dixie walked over to the table.

Kathleen stood up to give the expected hug and accept the kisses on either cheek from her mother. She had hardly sat down, when Dixie started,"Oh, I am so excited. Wait until you hear what I have gotten done for the wedding."

They both ordered chicken salad. Dixie continued,"I met with the florist in Mobile yesterday. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I engaged their services. Their plans are so much more elegant and fitting than any flowers you would find around here."

"Mama, that is not necessarily true and you don't want anyone to over hear you."

Dixie tilted her head as if that didn't matter and continued. "After much research and help from the florist, I have decided that the color scheme will be purple."

"Purple?" Kathleen exclaimed. But before she could say anymore Dixie was talking. "Now, now, I know purple would not be your first choice . . ."

Kathleen interrupted her, "Mama, you of all people, know I detest the color purple."

"Well, I knew you would have some reticence about it. Honey, it's not really purple per se. It is more a palette of shaded of purple and violet. The same hues, the Governor's daughter used for her wedding last summer." Kathleen sat back in her chair. This was worse than she imagined. Dixie continued,"You have to remember our station in society. This is not just a 'wedding' this THE wedding of the season. People will expect it to be done correctly. And, given the guest list  . . ."

Kathleen interrupted her. "Mama I am not going to have a 'purple' wedding. God knows you probably have planned to have Barney the Dinosaur entertain the children."

Dixie was taken aback, "Children? This is not a proper place for anyone to bring their children. I haven't invited any children and I dare say there is no guest on the list who would think of bringing a child. This is one more reason to have an appropriate guest list."

By this time Grice had brought both of them their luncheon plates and glasses of iced tea. Dixie took a small bite of her salad with a sip of tea. Kathleen took advantage of the break. "Mama, you didn't even tell me you were meeting with the florist. Don't you think that I would have wanted to be there?"

"Oh, that's just silly. You are so busy. And what's a mother for if she cannot plan her daughter's wedding." She put some chicken salad on her fork and looked up. "Also, I have great news from Beŕnerd. He is considering a design with Turtle Doves on the top of the cake."

"Turtle Doves? The last thing I want is plastic birds on top of my wedding cake." 

"Kathleen, now calm down. From your tone of voice, other's in this room may think we are squabbling. And, no, I would never have a plastic anything on top of your wedding cake. Beŕnerd was talking about a pair of live doves," She paused, then added,"in a gilded cage."

"I would expect no less." Replied Kathleen. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Trust and Covert Plans

While Dixie was planning her grand affair (aka Kathleen's Wedding), Jeb and Kathleen decided they were just going to get married on their own terms. Kathleen got her father's blessing. For the sake of peace, Harrell, Kathleen, and Jeb made a pack to keep the plans from Dixie. As her father said, "For the sake of world peace, if nothing else."

The 3 of them knew there would be hell to pay when she found out. But Harrell assured Kathleen it was worth it.

Jeb and Kathleen met with the priest at the Church of the Seven Wells and Three Stones. He agreed to perform the ceremony. They stuck with May 20th as the date. Kathleen called Mrs. Beauregard and explained what was going on. Mrs. Beauregard was most sympathetic and assured Kathleen she would keep these plans to herself. She reminded Kathleen that if she needed anything, to please call. Quietly, Mrs. Beauregard was thinking 'Jesus. She would never let the kids know, but the idea of being Mother of the Groom at Dixie Quinton's wedding was her idea of Hell'.

Kathleen and Jeb decided to keep the guest list small with only close friends and family at the ceremony. Then their reception would be open to more friends and family. Once Dixie realized that 'her' wedding was going to be short a Bride and a Groom, it would all be over but the crying.

In making the alternate plans, Kathleen was too embarrassed to even mention the Martha Stewart as part of her nightmare. Thankfully, Ms. Stewart had made Dixie sign a confidentiality agreement, preventing her from saying anything about MSL being involved in the wedding plans prior to the event.

Kathleen called Lue Ellen Wadsworth to see if she would make them a wedding cake. "But, my dear, I'm confused. Your mother told me, just yesterday, at the Beauty Parlor that Beŕnerd from New Orleans was baking your cake. You know I saw some of his work on the 'Food Channel'. It was so beautiful, it almost didn't look real." Lue Ellen laughed and continued, "The only other person I want to meet in Martha Stewart. Now that lady can throw a wedding."

"Yes mam." Kathleen said and just moved along. " 'Miss' Lue Ellen, you know I have loved your sour cream lemon pound cake since I was knee high to a grasshopper." Kathleen said and then went on to explain the alternate plan.

"Sweetheart, you know I would love to bake the cake for you."

Once again, she had to ask someone to keep the plans quiet. Like, the Priest, Lue Ellen had no problem with this plan. As long as she did not have to deal with Dixie, she would be just fine. 

Lavenia jumped on the opportunity to do the flowers for the wedding like white on rice. "Kathleen, I would love to do them."

After Kathleen explained the situation, Lavenia added, "I can assure you your secret is safe with me." This thrilled Lavenia since Dixie had snubbed her when choosing a florist for the wedding. Not only did she select someone from Mobile, Dixie made sure everyone in town knew she had secured a 'professional floral designer' to handle the flowers for the wedding versus a 'local' florist who would never be able to rise to the task in Dixie's opinion.

As for the reception, both Kathleen and Jeb wanted it to be a very enjoyable event at a great location. Dixie's plan for a stiff affair with a receiving line and white gloves was not Kathleen's nor Jeb's idea of a good time, given it was the most important day, so far, in their lives. 

After some thought, Kathleen had an idea. Knowing it would involve an apology that was long due, she made the call. After some small talk, Kathleen said, "Bunny, I want to apologize if I said anything inappropriate or hurtful when I learned you and Jeb had been out a couple of times. Honestly, I was jealous because it never dawned on me that he could be interested in anyone else. In addition to the apology, I probably need to thank you."

"For what?" asked Bunny, not expecting to get this call.

"Well, when I realized that I could not take Jeb for granted, it truly made me appreciate him."

"Kathleen, I just did not understand that the 2 of you were an item." Bunny laughed,"Besides, he's cuter than a bunny in April, I don't blame you for holding onto to him."

Kathleen laughed,"I've never heard that but I agree with you." She paused. "Bunny, I know this is asking a lot, but Jeb and I would love to rent the front lawn of Ivy Lane for our wedding reception."

Bunny was thrilled,"Of course you can have your reception at Ivy Lane, that would be wonderful. But, there is no way, you are going to 'rent' it." She paused,"Why not let me host it." 

Oh, no, no, no, you don't need to do that. But I do need one other thing." Kathleen explained the issue with Dixie and that all these plans needed to be held in strict confidence.

Bunny died laughing, "Honey, you don't have to worry about that. Trust me, I can relate. Just the idea of my mama planning my wedding gives me the heebee jeebees. Oh, this will be so fun!" She paused. "We can put a chocolate fountain on the front porch. I went to one wedding where they played 'wedding games', you know like 'bridal shower games' - it was so much fun." She paused, but not long enough for Kathleen to get a word in. "We can give all the guests a gift, like Hershey Kisses wrapped in tin foil. You know, tied with a bow."

Kathleen hoped this Genie could go back in the bottle. "Oh Bunny, thank you. This will make our wedding so much more special. But you don't have to worry about anything. We will have it all taken care and I promise. And, the lawn will be cleaned after the reception. You'll never know we were there." Kathleen tried to remember what else she needed to tell Bunny. "Oh, and the date is May 20th."

"I'll put it on my calendar."

"Thank you so much. And, don't you worry about anything, we have it all planned."

"Oh, I'm so excited . . . a wedding!" squealed Bunny. 

They rang off.

All Kathleen could think of was 'The good news - they were having their reception at Ivy Lane. But the bad news may be - Bunny's helpful ideas. Bless her heart.' Kathleen knew Bunny meant well. 

Anna Belle was waiting for Wade's call. She was very impatient. She was also confused. Normally she relied on her instincts. This time, she felt loss. Then she remembered Reeza and the 3 cards. She had totally dismissed the encounter. Thinking back on it, that was the 2nd time she ignored her instincts. But, who would expect her to take tarot cards from someone resembling a Disney wicked witch, seriously. How could she ever forget the Reeza's words from the cards? 'Don't believe everything you hear. Someone is not being truthful. You seek the truth.'

Wade finally called back. He assured Anna Belle that no one saw them move the bodies. Clark and Hank were 'on-board'. Wade had shared what Anna Belle had learned from Rascal, as well as what she had discovered in Miranda's room with both men. "My advice is to call Rascal. Tell him what you found and let it go from there." Again, he assured her it was OK. "Anna Belle, trust me."

They rang off.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Plan of Containent

"Mama!" Kathleen yelled. "You have truly lost your mind now. I cannot believe you have asked Martha Stewart for assistance." 

“Well, Gallagher is so small," Dixie defended her decision. "I want you to have more than just a regular wedding. I want you to enjoy being on the big stage. After all, this place is so provincial.”

“Well it was good enough for you to live here." 

"And that is why, as a mother, I can only want better for my own daughter." 

Kathleen picked up her bag from the back of the chair. "This is the last straw!”

“Where are you going?"

"To see daddy. Surely he will see that this is all nonsense.”

Kathleen walked out. Dixie shook her head. Eventually, Kathleen would come around. Whatever the case, Dixie didn’t think twice before she went ahead and replied to Martha Stewart. She wrote down all the information Martha had requested said and returned it with the signed contract. By having MSL (Martha Stewart's company)  handle the wedding, she was giving up all the publication rights and the sole use of any photographs of the event.

‘Thank God, Martha is out of jail,’ Dixie thought. ‘What did the poor mothers do during that unfortunate ordeal while Martha was not available?’ 

At the Sheriff's Station, Sheriff Quitman called Annabelle and asked if she could come down to the station. “No, this is nothing about you personally. This is just an issue I think you can help me with.”

Annabelle said she was free around 3 that afternoon and would drop by then. She thought nothing of Rascal's call. Lord only knew what he needed from her.

After some research, Mary Lee learned that Ms. Davis was going under a new name - Miranda Davidson, these days. She checked with Hollis and he confirmed it was 'Davidson' not 'Davis".

A little after 3 that afternoon, Annabelle walked into the Sheriff's Station. As she waited for the Sheriff to get off the phone, Anna Belle made small talk with Mary Lou. It wasn't long before they were interrupted by the Sheriff's loud voice. "Annabelle, thanks for coming.” The Sheriff was standing at his office door. He motioned toward his office, “Let’s talk."

After some pleasant small talk - Annabelle always had all the local scuttlebutt, the Sheriff leaned forward in his chair. He pushed a picture across his desk toward Annabelle. "Do you recognize this young lady?"

Annabelle picked up the photograph and immediately knew it was Miranda Davidson. "This is Miranda, Miranda Davidson, one of the young ladies who works for me. Is she in trouble?"

"I don't know?"

Annabelle did not hesitate, looked Rascal in the eyes and said, "Rascal, I don't have a clue why you have a picture of her. Although, seeing her in a uniform is a bit different than what I am accustomed to."

"Miranda Davidson does not work for you, Miranda Davis does. And that uniform she is wearing is that of a Montgomery, Alabama policeman, or policewoman, I should say." He paused. "Is she popular with your members?"

"Well, let's just say she has developed a special 'niche' that some members really appreciate."

"And, that would be?"

"S&M - Sadism and Masochism."

"Really?" Sheriff Quitman said as he leaned back in his chair. "That's interesting. So she uses 'devices'?"

"Well, I suppose so, I've never seen her, shall we say, at work. However, I've never had a complaint about her. In fact those who favor her are very upset if she is not available."

The Sheriff was quiet for a moment. "Annabelle, this is going to sound odd, but would she use something like a 'taser' on a member?"

"I certainly don't think so. No doubt, I would be notified about such an incident." She paused, "What does a taser have to do with Miranda?"

Ignoring for question, Rascal continued, "Do you know where she came from? Her background?"

"No, but that's not unusual. I don't ask many questions about their past. As long as they present themselves in a good way and pass a background check."

"Background check? I did not know you required a background check?"

"I have the state police run one on any girl I employ."

"And, hers came back clean?"

"I would say so, otherwise I would not have hired her." She paused. "Come to think about it, I don't think Miranda's background check ever came back. The agency called to say they had not received it. I asked Miranda to resend it. Still, why are you so interested in Miranda?"

"Well, it's not so much her, as it is a certain taser." Then he went into the AFID system, the unique trail of 'confetti' each left, and how the taser was identified.

"Who was the taser used on?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"OK, what do you need from me?"

"Nothing really. You have told us what we needed to know."

"Rascal, you know I will do whatever I can to help you. I have no desire to obstruct justice."

"Oh, I know. It is just one of those unpleasant parts of this job."

"Well, if you need me," Anna Belle stood and smiled. "You know where I am."

"I do and I appreciate your help here. Needless to say, we do not need Miranda to think anything is amiss."

"Absolutely. She is off today."

"Do you know where she is going or what she is doing?"

"No, I don't."

They said their goodbyes and Anna Belle left.

Being Miranda's day off, Anna Belle went straight back to the Hunnicutt house where she went straight to Miranda's room. She had never violated her girls' privacy, but given what she knew and what the Sheriff had just told her, this was going to be an exception. Very carefully going through all the drawers and closet, so as not to show someone had been there. It wasn't until she reached underneath the left side of the wooden bed frame. She felt something cold and metal like on the rail. The device she pulled out looked much like a gun, but no doubt it was a taser. 

She returned the taser to its place. Next she left Miranda's room, making sure no one could tell she had been there. She opened the utility closet and found the vacuum cleaner. After removing the dust bag from the device, she went to the deep utility  sink at the back of the room. She opened the bag and carefully sifted the dust as it came out. It took a while, but eventually she started seeing small pieces of what looked like colorful confetti. Annabelle picked as many of the pieces  of the confetti like shreds she could separate from the pile of dust. She placed them in a dry bucket that was beside the sink. 

After washing the dust down the sink, cleaning the area and her hands of the dust, she put the bag back onto the vacuum. She found an envelope in a box of office supplies in the closet and carefully she transferred the tiny pieces of paper into the envelope.

In her office, Anna Belle closed her door and looked carefully at the colorful bits. Yes, there was a constant ID number on each piece of paper. She jotted the number down, closed the envelope, and carefully put it in the back of her desk drawer. Anna Belle hesitated just a moment before she picked up her phone.

"Wade, this is Anna Belle. We may have a problem." With that Anna Belle shared what she had learned from Sheriff Quitman and then what she had found at the house. She told him Miranda was gone for the day. 

"Let me think about this. I'll be back to you as soon as I can with a plan of containment," Wade assured Anna Belle. "I'll call Clark and Hank and give them a heads up."

"I'll speak with Sara." They rang off.

Barbara Birch had checked into the General Taylor Imperial Motel, the only place to stay in Gallagher. The semi circle of single story rooms was interrupted by a small 2 story portion in the middle that housed the lobby and innkeeper's suite. Unlike the pink colored concrete block walls that the rooms were constructed of, the larger part was made of brick with tall white columns in front.  The main door was ornate and made of, what looked liked, yards of heavy molding. Barbara felt as if she had been transferred to the '60s. 

She entered the lobby and was not surprised to find a handsome older man at the desk. Behind him were the cubby holes for each room. The appropriate keys for each room were hung in each  cubby on a cup hook. Seeing that most of the cubbies still had a key in it, she guessed there were few guests at this time.

After seeing the lobby and the innkeeper, she was not surprised when she opened the door to her room.  She was pleased to find it clean. The spread on the bed was old and faded. There was a Bible, a Book of Morman, and a pink princess style telephone that still had the 'Sothern Bell' logo on it. She looked and suure enough, bolted to the headboard was a small metal box. Inserting a quarter into the box would activate the 'Magic Fingers' connected coils under the mattress. For a mere 25 cents and 15  minutes, one could 'enjoy' lying on the bed as it gave you pleasure jiggling side to side

After settling in, Barbara placed a call to Jerry, one of her co-workers with the production company.

"Finding anything interesting down there?"

Barbara laughed,"I'm not sure where to start."

"So, you don't think Art made up his tales from whole cloth?"

"Jerry, the family trees here are so gnarled, they do not branch. There are these middle aged women who meet every afternoon to drink at the Tea Room."

"Of course they drink tea down there, where do you think iced tea came from?"

"They're not drinking tea, they are drinking alcohol. Although, they do not serve hard liquor there."

"Then there was their attitude about the local brothel."

"Brothel? You're making this up?"

"Jerry, I could not if I tried."

"Well take good notes, maybe we are onto a different plot."

They rang off.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Certain Things That I Require

The sheriff finally got the picture of the policewoman from Montgomery. Neither he nor Mike recognized the name or the picture. After looking through the county records, tax list, and phone book, they could not find anyone with the name of 'Miranda', much less 'Miranda Davis'. They took the picture, the other profile information, photos of the car, and every other bit of evidence they had pertaining to Madison Marlboro's death and spread it out on the large table in the evidence room.

“If she stole the taser, she could have sold it,” commented Mike. 

“Could have,” replied the Sheriff as he flipped through the papers on the table.

Hollis came by to discuss the case. The Sheriff told him that he had spoken with Stella as well as the law firm. The only issue was Madison's drinking. All else seemed going well. Madison and Stella were supposedly looking forward to their 25th wedding anniversary and a trip they had planned to the islands. Also, their oldest son, Knox, would be graduating from college this spring. Other than his drinking, the law firm could not come up with any problems either.

“What about Stella’s trip?”

“I checked with her sister and she confirmed the time Stella was there. Her sister also said they were out with friends Wednesday night, if we needed their names.”

They discussed the stolen to taser. “Even it were sold, we would not know where to start looking for a thief. 

Mary Lou walked in. "Ruthanne Flynn just called. I told her that you were out.”

“Jesus, I wish she would stop. She’s only trying to get money.”

Hollis looked up. “Who is Ruthanne Flynn?”

The Sheriff told him about Ruthanne and Delmar. “He swears he saw 2 men putting a body in a BMW on Boulevard, late Wednesday night.”

“You don’t believe him?”

“No, he’s a drunk. Every time he comes in with some story, he was on his way home from a bar and basically shit faced. What kind of witness would he make?”

“Every time? How many times has he been in?” “Oh, he was in here a month or so ago, swearing he had seen 2 men late one night, putting a body in a car in the church parking lot.”

“You don’t think he is credible?”

“No. I think he is henpecked and that unpleasant wife of his, hears about someone dying and comes up with a story.  Delmar was always there and witnessed something. He gets so drunk every night, I'm surprised he can stand up, much less, remember something he saw. Heaven knows how many times we have dragged his ass out of someone’s bushes or off their lawn. He couldn’t make it home, how could he reliably remember what he saw, if indeed he did see something?”

“Rascal, if Madison Marlboro wasn’t killed in his car where we found him, unless he dragged his own dead body into his car then drove home, someone had to do it?”

“So you think Delmar's story is credible?”

“What other witnesses do you have?”

“He won’t talk unless Ruthanne tells him he can open his mouth. And that is not going to happen until Ruthanne gets her grimy paws on some cold cash.”

“Rascal, he is saying he saw it twice.”

"I’ve seen pink elephants several times, but that doesn’t make them real.”

Hollis picked up the the picture and the profile of the fired policewoman from Montgomery County. “Seriously? Miranda Davis? Huh." Hollis looked up, "I think I can help you here. This Miranda works at the Gentlemen's Club. No one can forget that fiery red hair."

“Seriously? If that's the case, maybe we should pay Annabella a visit?" The Sheriff looked at Mike, then added, "Better yet, let's get her to come here. We don't want to stir up any suspicion.”

At the Quinton home, Kathleen and Dixie were having a stand off. Dixie would not give into Kathleen's wishes. “You just don't understand. This is your chance to shine and celebrate.”

“You mean your chance to shine and celebrate.” Kathleen paused. "Mama, we want to get married at the Church of the Seven Wells and Three Stones.”

“Well, that's impossible. That church will only seat 75 to 100 people - at most."

"And the problem is?"

“The guest list is over 350 already.”

“Well then you can choose who doesn't need to attend – or I will," Kathleen smiled. “In fact, you invite 25 people. Mrs. Beauregard can invite about 25 people. Jeb and I will invite 50 of our friends"

Dixie wasn't sure how to handle this. She tried to argue but it was no use. Kathleen walked over to her mother’s desk. She picked up the 40 pages of paper that constituted her Mother’s list. As she did she saw a letter on the desk.

She picked it up. This couldn't be? The letter was on expensive cotton bond corporate stationary. She started reading. "Mrs. Quinton, your proposal is most interesting. I am available May 20. We would like to help make the occasion even more special. That said, there are certain things that I require:

  • The guest list has to be at least 300 people and firm. Once they know I am coming it will be a zoo;
  • I would prefer a unique venue. Churches are so common for weddings;
  • I will need a place for me and my six assistants to stay;
  • After meeting the bride, I will suggest a proper gown;
  • Please send me what you have in mind for the invitations;
  • We have experience working with Beŕnerd, but make sure he knows that I will be assisting;
  • We can discuss the flowers at a later time. I need to see the venue first;
  • As for the attendants, please have the bride select three. Any more and it will look a pageant,  fewer and it will give the wrong appearance;
  • They need to be attractive young ladies. One that is a little overweight can ruin the pictures. If the bride doesn't have three ladies who would be appropriate, I'll be happy for one of my assistants to stand in; 
  • I would like to discuss all of this with you and the bride. Can we set up a video conference call next week? Depending on the event and the venue, I may select it to be highlighted in the June issue of my brides magazine

I look forward to working with you and the bride sincerely, . . .