At first I thought it was a fly that woke
me. I tried to shew it away but instead got a hand full of hair. I awoke with a
start since I didn't remember going to sleep with a cat, dog, or rat. I looked
down at the head of black hair sprawled across my shoulder and tickling my nose.
The hair was so damned black it was almost blue. That hair told me it was Rose.
Now I do some pretty dumb things when I am half asleep. That morning I
tried to look at the clock hanging on the far wall of my one room apartment. The
numbers on the clock should have been large enough to read, since it had come
from the grocery store across the street. Where, I was told, it had hung for ten
Moving my head to look at the clock first caused my head to
pound, then my stomach to turn a few loops. Shortly there after I had the urgent
need to use the bathroom. All things considered waking Rose seemed to be a good
"Hey Rose," I waited a moment. When she didn't stir, I gently shook
her. "Rose honey, I need to use the bathroom."
"Deke, why don't you get a
bigger bed. I got to get completely out of bed so you can get out." She acted as
though she had been in my bed, and in this same situation before. Which I assure
you was not the case.
"Rose, I haven't exactly needed a larger bed
before now you know." I stated it with a very large smile.
you can't prove that. I mean, I ain't been in it before, but I expect that
others have." She had a really smug look on her face, as if she knew a hell of a
lot more than she was telling.
"Well if you will move so that I can get
out we can discuss that later. Right now I got to use the bathroom, and I mean
right now." I really wanted to duck the conversation almost as much as I wanted
to use the bathroom. Just as soon as Rose sat up, I moved past her to sit on the
edge of the bed. I quickly stood then walked to the bathroom which was
surrounded by the only partitions in the apartment.
When I returned I was
surprised to see Rose again stretched out on the bed. When she saw me, she
opened her arms in an invitation for me to join her. I did of course.
held her in my arms even though it hurt a little. It hurt because we were laying
so close. So close in fact she was forced to lay on my right arm. I rested my
head against her. I had never seen her naked. I had seen her in tight jeans.
Rose had about twenty pounds of extra weight attached to her hips. She was also
a couple of pounds light in the chest. Still she was all woman and in my bed.
Which was a definate plus for her.
What really hurt was I couldn't
remember what we had done the night before. After a moment I got up the courage
to ask, in a round about way. "I was pretty drunk last night Rose, I hope I
wasn't too much trouble." I knew when I finished speaking just how stupid it
sounded. Man if nothing else, I was not smooth at all.
"Deke, if you
don't want to make love to me, now is your last chance to back out." she said it
with a small quiet laugh.
"What does that mean?" I asked.
you couldn't get up a card game last night you began to drink. Me and you drank
till closing time. You invited me here before you were so drunk you didn't know
your left foot from you right hand though. Anyway, when I got you here you
passed out while I was in the bathroom. Not real nice of you by the
"So you are telling me that we did not make love last night?" I
asked not really knowing how I felt about it. I mean, Rose was nice enough in
that loose, divorcee hairdresser kind of way, but I wouldn't want to take her
home to Ma. She was the only divorced woman I knew.
"No Deke, we did not
make love, nor did we have sex. So if you want to call this whole thing off, now
is your chance." She had the most amused look on her face. She looked as though
she were reading my mind.
I actually gave it some thought, which shows
you how sick I am. In the end I moved my hand to touch her under the sheet.
I lifted my head and I kissed her gently at first. The kiss quickly
became demanding, then something with a life of it's own. I found myself moving
against her body in the overheated room.
Suddenly I heard a pounding
noise which seemed far away somehow. I guess I just hoped it was far away. Rose
instantly stopped responding to me. I lifted my head from her
she was ignoring me anyway. The pounding continued. By that time it was clear
that the pounding was at my downstairs door.
I might have ignored it had
Rose not pushed me away. "Well, you better go see who that is." Her voice was
more angry than frustrated. Meanwhile the pounding continued.
even answer her. I simply stood, then slipped into last nights pants. I was so
groggy from the beer, and almost sex, that I actually hurried down to answer the
door. Hell, ordinarily I would have ignored it for at least three more bangs. If
Rose had been willing I would have ignored it completely.
As I had
expected, it was someone I didn't want to see. I looked at the familiar man
through the screen. "Yes?" I asked pretending not to know him.
Deke, don't pretend you don't recognize me. Open the damned door and let me
"What in the name of God makes you think I want to see you?" I
"Because, you need to talk to me before I talk to the FBI," he
said with a conspirator's smile.
"I have no idea what you are talking
about. But keep your voice down." I said as I reluctantly opened the door. There
was a strange moment when Rose rushed past me in one direction, then Carlton
Anderson pushed past me in the other. I watched Rose as she disappeared around
the corner. I shook my head sadly then followed along behind Carlton. I did not
like following anyone, especially Carlton.
Carlton stood at the top of my
stairs without entering my apartment. He was obviously assessing the one large
room. "What a dump," he finally announced.
"Thanks, now that you have
seen how low I have sunk, you can leave." I didn't expect that he would. He had
come too far to simply walk away. Why he had come was a totally different issue.
As to the why I really didn't have a clue.
"Why the hell are you living
like this?" he asked.
"Because, I don't have a real job," I replied. "I'm
kind of a fixer, and that don't pay very well." I could see that he didn't
"When things go wrong with the mill workers, they come to
me. Most of the time, I kind of fix things for them. You did know there is no
union down here." I could see from the look in his eyes that he still didn't
understand. I really didn't expect a Princeton man ever would. "Look Carlton, if
a supervisor demands that a woman sleep with him or get fired, she sometimes
comes to me. I have a talk with the supervisor, or his wife. Either way the
problem usually goes away. Since these people don't have much money, I don't
really get rich at it."
"What crap," he said forcefully. Then when he saw
me looking as though I might kill him, he added. "Oh, I believe you are a fixer.
You just don't do it for the money. I took a look at the FBI files before I left
Washington. You've been up to your old tricks again."
"What are you
talking about?" I asked it even though I knew he planned to lay it all out for
me. When he did, I would know exactly what he had on me, so I waited
"You are opening bank cans again," he declared as he picked
up a shirt from my one comfortable chair. He tossed the shirt on the floor, then
sat in the chair.
"Have a seat you prick," I said in a voice filled with
"Thanks, now let's stop the pussy footing around. I know you have
been blowing cans in Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Since that is the
case, I want to know why you are living in this dump."
"Listen to me you
ass. You may think I have been blowing bank cans, but I have been living right
here since my discharge. While I was in Greece blowing up trains for you, I
dreamed of coming home. While I was in Italy blowing up trains, I dreamed of
this place. When I was in France and Poland, I dreamed of home and just living
free. Do you understand. Just free to go to a movie, or to have a drink at the
'Pump Room' across the street.
When I got out, I went to live at my
mother's boarding house, while I decided what to do next. I was there three
weeks before the Village constable came to tell me I had to either work for the
mill or leave. At first I wanted to kill him on the spot. Hell if I hadn't spent
that six months in the German hospital after the war I probably would
"See, you are a better man because of those months," he declared
it, but not too happily I noted.
"I swore I would kill you for having me
committed. Since I changed my mind you need to go home Carlton, before I
remember all the reasons I planned to kill you."
"Come on Deke, you know
I did the best I could for you. There was just no way to help you most of the
time. That's why we trained you to live off the Germans, which
ings us back
to the cans."
ing me back to the cans. I have told you, I
had nothing to do with any American bank cans."
"Deke, those jobs have
black ops written all over them. Add that to the fact that you live in the area
and it is the only thing that makes sense." He paused a moment to allow it all
to sink in. He then continued, " Now I could lose those files easily enough.
Since I'm the only one looking at them. If I did, It would be safe for you to
"I don't know what you are talking about, and I sure as hell
don't care whether you lose a bunch of files or not." He could tell I was
getting frustrated, but I could tell he wasn't quite sure why.
really stand a full court press by the FBI. I know you have done your best to do
a perfect job. If it weren't for me I believe it would be good enough. Good
enough, if the feds don't know who you are and where to find you. I can give
them that, or I can bury the files with the other bureaucratic crap."
thought for only a moment. "Carlton, I know you have an angle here. Like I said
twice before, I don't know anything about any bank cans, but what's your angle?
Hell, maybe I can help you out with whatever you have in mind." I said it even
though my stomach was in knots.
What I really wanted to do was choke the
man. He had been one of those who had sat in London telling me what to do.
Sending me radio messages while I was running all over Europe dodging the
Germans for three years. Three years of terror that seemed to be a
That's the way it worked. Those Princeton types always seemed
to wind up in offices, while the Dogfaces from the farms and factories wound up
getting there asses shot off. Me, I was from the mill village in North Carolina.
I got my training in explosives from the Army. The training was long before I
ever heard of Wild Bill. Somehow my file crossed either Bill's desk or someone
else with enough pull to get me transferred to their show.
I already knew
how to blow a train with it's tracks. They thought me to blow whole factories,
not to mention the bank cans. My trainer explained it this way, 'Sometimes you
are going to need money to pay for information or to hire men. If London can't
get the money to you, then you will have to remove it from a German bank.'
Blowing a bank can proved easier then blowing a ball bearing plant. It was
tougher than a lonely stretch of train track.
The training school also
taught me a lot about hiding in urban areas. According to the instructors anyone
could hide in a barn. It was a damned sight more difficult to hide in a
metropolitan area. It was especially tough, if you spoke almost none of the
native language. I was almost always assigned an interpreter from the local
area. A couple of them were even women who played my wife. It was an act to fool
anybody especially since the act went on twenty four hours a day in most cases.
I always insisted on authenticity.
The school also offered a masters in
forgery and a minor in the theater art of disguise. That school taught me just
about every possible criminal skill, things useful only during a
They didn't teach me to kill in the school. Sure, they taught me how
to kill, but no one can teach you to do it. By the time of Carlton's visit I had
killed more men than I could live with. Sometimes I killed them in train wrecks,
or burned them alive in a fire bombing of their barracks. Worst of all, I killed
some of them with a knife or garrote. Carlton, and the other Princeton boys
weren't around when I did that. Too bad, they might have learned something
useful before they sent men out to die.
They also weren't around when I
hid from the Germans after a blast. They definitely were not there during any of
the three years when I lived in constant fear for my life. They also weren't
there when the Gestapo arrested my pretend wife in Dansk. Certainly not the next
morning when I saw how she looked after the explosion. That was the day I swore
I would kill the men who ordered me around. Every night during the next year, I
dreamed alternately of killing Carlton, and of coming home to live in the mill
village with my family.
The Village was almost completely self
sufficient. It was a world almost completely cut off from the outside. The
company had built houses for it's workers since there had been no place else for
them to live. After the houses, it built and ran mercantile stores in each of
its residential communities. The four communities where I grew up were adjacent
to each other, and to the four cotton mills. The company owned the houses and
the stores. The mill also owned strips of retail buildings, which it rented out
to hand picked businessmen. There were doctor's offices, drug stores, shoe
shops, and movie theaters. There was even a hotel. There were also plenty of
other smaller shops. All of them were run by company approved
Then there were the other business. Businesses which sprang
up just outside the village's boundaries. The street on which I lived at the
time of Carlton's visit was crowded with unauthorized shops. The company didn't
approve of those businesses for one reason or another.
approve, sometimes because the mill owners didn't think their workers should be
wasting their meager pay on the items sold in the shops. More often thought the
owners of the out of bounds businesses had not been enthusiastic enough about
paying the sky high rents for the company owned buildings.
Either way the
'heights' had sprung up on a small hill two blocks from the mill's property. My
large one room apartment was located over a
ick and glass jewelry store.
Sure, there was a lot wrong with my living arrangements, but it also allowed me
to be close to my large family and many friends.
When I wasn't working,
which was most of the time, I drank watered down beer and played poker across
the street. When I got hungry, I either walked two doors down to 'Pop
Marshburn's" cafe, or across the street to the overpriced grocery store for
fruit, cheese and crackers. Maybe the Princeton man didn't think much of my life
style, but it suited me just fine.
I had pretty much tuned him out while
I remembered the circumstances which had led me to the point where Carlton sat
in my one comfortable chair threatening me. When I tuned him back in, he was
saying, "So they are shutting down my operations. My job is going to be gone in
a couple of months and I'm going to be on the outside."
"So what, it
happened to a million men after the war. You've been lucky to keep your job this
long." I am sure he noted that I said it with a certain amount of satisfaction
in my voice.
"I know you hate me, but believe me I had no choice in the
decisions I made. Besides, I was just following orders," he said.
didn't bother to remind him that we had already decided that the, 'I was only
following orders' excuse wouldn't wash for the Nazis. "So what the hell is it
you think I can do for you?" I asked instead.
"Unlike you, I don't want
to run around hitting tiny little banks every few months. I want to hit one then
retire." he was looking hard at the floor when he spoke. He still wasn't sure
how far he could push me.
"I already told you, I haven't hit any banks.
Carlton, if I was opening bank cans would I be living like this." I didn't
figure he would buy it, but it was worth a try.
"Actually you probably
would. If I remember right your only ambition, other than killing me, was to
come home to this 'place' and live out your life in poverty."
do I need with money?" I asked it still trying to convince him.
poverty requires some income. No Deke, you have been hitting small town banks."
He looked into my eyes when he firmly made that last statement.
I have, what make you think I would help you?" I was actually enjoying it by
"How about fear of the FBI?" he suggested.
said that about a dozen times, and I have told you I have no fear of them. If
you want, I will tell you where you can find a phone to make your call." I knew
he was bluffing by that time.
As if he could read my mind he said, "Don't
think I'm bluffing Deke. If I have to start my life over without a dime, I have
no reason not to take you down as my final gesture of revenge."
two bit jerk, if you think you have something call the cops. I know you can't
hurt me, because I haven't done anything." I said it as I turned my back on him.
I went to the refrigerator to fill my iced tea glass. I pointedly did not offer
Carlton a glass. The tea came from my mother's boarding house, since I could
never master the art of making it myself.
"Why don't I just skip over
that part for now," Carlton said. "Instead I will tell you there is a large
vault in a small bank, outside an Army base in Fayetteville. Once in a while, it
contains more money than either of us could make in a lifetime of real
"Surely a Princeton man can make more money than a small town bank
"Princeton men aren't as much in demand as you might think.
Besides the government is paying off in cash these days. That little bank holds
the proceeds of about every merchant, who's cash registers are filled with Army
payday cash. When payday falls on a Friday, the banks can't get the cash moved
until Monday. The money just builds up in the bank on Friday and Saturday. I
expect it is upwards of half a million bucks."
"Now that is a good sized
chunk of change, but I ain't interested." I really did enjoy turning him
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because Carl," I called him by the
familiar name for the first time. I enjoyed his discomfort at it. "I am not a
thief. Secondly you are not the great organizer you think you are. Most of the
missions you and your Princeton friends arranged could have gotten me killed. In
the end, I just ignored your plans and worked out my own."
"We knew that,
but our plans were laid out with the best military intelligence available to us
at the time," he demanded defensively.
"Talk about a contradiction in
terms, military and intelligence should never be allowed in the same paragraph,
let alone the same sentence." I had almost begun to enjoy his discomfort, more
than my dread of him being in my life again.
"Okay Deke, you have made
your joke. How about it? Will you blow the can for me?"
"The short answer
is no. The longer answer is, let me see your plan then I will tell you
"Then you are in?" he asked it obviously ignoring my
"No, but I will listen to your plan before I make my final
decision," I said that hoping to keep him guessing.
"I don't have a real
plan just yet. You see, when I realized you were up to your old tricks, I kind
of just decided on a whim to come talk to you. It would never do for a war hero
to get busted for burglary. Before I found the time, I got the notice that my
job was going to be cut. It looks as though the whole organization is going to
be on the scrap heap."
"Spare me the hearts and flowers, I don't give a
damn about you and your college buddies. So what you are telling me is that you
know about this bank, but you don't have the first idea what to do about
"Not yet, but I can mount an operation. I was always good at that,"
"Like I said before, your operations stank up my life. I
sure as hell ain't going to let you draw up a plan for something as serious as a
bank job. Hell, I wouldn't even let you draw up the plans for a kid's bicycle
race. Now take my advice and go the hell back to Washington. Forget all about
this bank job."
"Like I said, I am going to do this bank, and you are
going to help me or go to jail for the others." He was serious and I knew
"Look Carl, I done told you half a dozen times, go to the FBI if you
want. I am as clean as you. On second thought, I am cleaner than
"Okay then how about this, even if you haven't been doing banks, I
know we can pull this off. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of
money," he said.
"Half a million is more," I replied enjoying the look on
"If you do this without me, I will go to the cops. There won't
even be a doubt in anyone's mind that you did it."
"Same goes for me. You
do this bank, I will roll up your fat ass." I waited while the fact that
information was two edged sword, sank in on him. "Now like I said, you go back
to Washington and forget all about this."
"Like hell, I am going to do it
and so are you." There was a definite threat in his voice.
me tell you something, that doctor didn't save your life. He got you a stay of
execution. Now, do you really want to threaten me?" I looked at him as if he
were already a corpse.
"This is my one chance to be set for life Deke, I
am not going to let you screw it up." He said it positively but he was looking
at the hardwood flooring again.
"Me, you should be worried about screwing
it up yourself. Okay, give me five hundred bucks and I'll drive down to take a
look at the bank."
"I knew you would help. It's the Fayetteville Bank and
Trust. The only
anch is located on
agg Boulevard, about a thousand feet
from the front gate of the Army post."
"Don't tell me any more about it.
I'll go down and take my own look. I'll draw up an operational plan
"Oh no you don't, I am going with you. I am not going to let you
out of my sight until this is over."
"What about your job in
"I am on leave for a month, that should be more than enough time to
do this. When we get the money I am headed for South America."
down to live with the Nazis?" I asked.
"Sure why not, old enemies make
great friends," he said it with a grin.
"First of all forget about
running. You go back to your job on the day your leave ends. If the FBI turns
your ass up, they will eventually get to me."
"Don't get the idea you can
tell me what to do," he demanded angrily. He was trying to salvage his position
as the superior.
"Then you get your ass back to DC right now. Either
that, or you do this job without me. If you do, I am going to turn
"I am not going to take orders from you," he said
"Oh yes you are, you idiot. I have done all this during the war.
You have read and talked about it, but you haven't lived it. You are either
going to take orders from me, or you are going to forget the whole
"Maybe I'll find another explosive man," he suggested.
there was anyone else, you would never have come to me. You know I planned for
three years how I was going to kill you. If you came to me, you were desperate
enough to risk your life. Now, why don't you just cut the crap and go along with
"Okay, but I know all the rules. Hell, I helped to write
them." The man just couldn't let that fact that he had been my boss
"You know them, but now you are going to live them. That is a horse
of a whole different
"I suppose you have figured out that
there is a Friday payday this month. It is exactly three weeks off."
do hope there is a payday between now and the one you are talking about. I want
to see exactly what the security is like."
"There is going to be a payday
in three days, then another fifteen days later. We are going to have a few days
to take a look around, then two weeks to devise a plan."
"Then we need to
get into Fayetteville on payday. In the meantime you go on back
"Like I told you, I am not leaving here until it is all over. So
where do I sleep?"
"In a hotel, did you drive down?" I had been pretty
sure from the start that sending him home was not a real option.
kidding driving down from DC is a real pain. No I caught the
"Where are your bags?" I asked it hoping he had a place
"In a locker at the train station, why?" The idiot really did
get it at all.
"Because you are going to have to get them, then check in to a
"I am staying with you," he demanded.
are, you can stay close but you are definitely not staying with me. I don't want
to be seen with you period. Go across to the grocery store and use their pay
phone. Call yourself a cab, then have the driver take you to the White Oak
Hotel. Tell the desk clerk that you are going to try to sell machine parts to
the mills. If you do they will rent you a room, otherwise you are going to have
to know somebody down here to visit."
"Okay, I can do that. When are we
going to go down to Fayetteville?" He was already antsy, not a good sign at
"It won't be any use going down there until Wednesday morning. That
will give us the afternoon and evening to look around before payday. After the
GIs get paid we want to keep a close eye on the bank. I want to know what
security they have overnight."
"It won't be much. The military won't be
doing any of the security work, and the cops don't have enough men to station
anybody at the bank routinely."
"We will see. Just come back day after
tomorrow." I informed him hoping the conversation was over.
hell am I going to do in a place like this for two days?" The man actually had
desperation in his voice. He obviously bored easily.
"Not much, you could
check into the downtown hotel, but I doubt that you would find much to do there
either. The White Oak will be closer and you can get plenty of rest. If you get
too bored, you can go to the YMCA next door for a swim."
"Was that built
by the mill?" he asked.
"Everything was built by the mill. Now you can
stay where ever you like, just get the hell away from me."
waited across the street for his cab, I gave the whole thing a little thought.
Rose had seen Carlton, but she would never connect a bank job two hundred miles
way with the visitor who
oke up her morning sweat session. That is unless
she was asked by a cop, if she had ever seen us together. If it got that far, it
wouldn't matter at all.
I waited until the cab came and went before I
left the apartment. When I finally walked down the sidewalk I was headed for a
eakfast. Pop's cafe was empty since it was between meals. Being the
only customer did have it's advantages, I got the waitress' full
"You know, if you would get out of bed sooner you could eat at
your mother's place. You know the food there would be better than it is here."
the young waitress remarked.
"It sure as hell couldn't be any worse
that's for sure." I answered. As I was most every morning, I was surprised by
the young woman's terrific body. Lois wasn't a natural blonde. She was a blonde
in the tradition of Jean Harlow. The work was done by Rose of course. Rose was
the hairdresser three doors down from the cafe. The Harlow look alike even had a
body like the actress. She was almost perfectly put together. Only difference
was she wore underwear. It least that's what the younger men at the pump room
Lois always seemed to be more interested in her dream of a movie
career, than in her waitress job. I might have been the only one in the village
who didn't mind. I had nothing but time, so her inattention didn't bother me at
all. I also didn't mind calling her when I wanted something. Unlike a really
good waitress, she tended to forget a customer once his or her food was on the
"You want the usual?" she asked as she placed the cup of black
coffee on the counter in front of me.
"Sure why not," I
Lois didn't have to do more than speak in a normal voice since
the cooking was done on a grill just behind the counter. "Pop, scramble a couple
of eggs, with sausage links."
The man only a few years older than me
nodded. I didn't know when I ever heard Pop speak in the mornings. I know he
could speak, I just don't think I ever heard him before noon. For some reason I
took a good look at pop that morning. Might have been because Carlton had me
nervous that I might lose everything. For whatever reason I noticed that pop had
put on a few pounds since my return home. He to had been in Europe during the
war. Of course he had been in a combat outfit so he had dropped a tremendous
amount of weight before he returned. That morning he seemed to have gained it
all back. The scar on his face, where his real eye should have been, was less
noticeable that morning than it had been on his first day behind the counter six
months earlier. If I had been Pop I would have opted for a patch instead of the
fake eye. The eye government gave him looked like a glass eye and not a very
good one at that.
Then of course Pop wasn't really Pop at all. Tommy Sims
had used his mustering out pay, plus some he had won in a crap game, to buy the
place from the real pop who retired. I guess the name Pop was more an honorary
tittle than anything else. Either that or he didn't want to waste his money on a
Lois dropped the plate containing my sausage, scrambled eggs,
and the ever popular grits onto the red linoleum covered counter. She turned her
back to retrieve a biscuit from the stainless steel
"Deke, why do you always have the same thing every morning?" She
was smiling her movie star smile as she asked.
"Well Lois, I am just a
creature of bad habits." I replied returning her smile.
"Do you have the
same thing at your mama's place?"
"I usually have whatever Ma has left
over. I don't get there in time for the real
what your sister says." Lois suggested. Lois was about the same age as Sissy so
I expected they shared secrets or at least a litle gossip now and
"And what exactly does my sister say?" I asked. Sissy's flights of
fancy really were a source of amusement to me.
"She said that since Max
Fuller ran you off the hill, you won't go in the house during meals. She also
said you were afraid you might get your mama in trouble. That and your mama
didn't have no where else to go."
"Lois you talk too much," it was Pop
who spoke. I was shocked, like I said I had never heard him speak in the morning
"Lois, I don't know about nowhere else to go, but I do know that
mama likes running that house. I sure wouldn't like to see anything happen to
cause her to loose it."
"That's what your sister said," Lois said it to
me but stuck her tongue out at Pop.
"Leave the man to finish his
eakfast," Pop said to her sternly.
None of us said another word until
I had finished my
eakfast. When I did, I looked at the check even though it
was the same as it was every morning. I found enough change in my pocket to
cover the check and a small tip for Lois. I laid in on the check then stood to
I was out the door and half way to the corner when I heard or
more likely sensed someone behind me. I turned slowly toward the man who walked
quickly to close the gap between us. I waited to see what he wanted, but he
passed me without even a nod of his head. I walked on thinking that I was a
arrogant jerk to think everyone I met had business with me. I decided that I
really was on edge after Carlton's visit.
I walked on past the jewelry
store, then past the grocery. I saw the man who had passed me earlier walk into
the beauty shop. The one built into the front of the movie theater not Rose's
shop beside Pop's cafe.
The theater wouldn't be open until five, but the
shop opened at ten. I ignored the man as I entered the auto garage across from
the theater. I was inside the shop when I looked back to see the same man
standing in the doorway looking toward the garage.
"Hot enough for you?"
the man in the greasy jeans asked.
"Sure is Ed. Hey Ed, do you know that
guy?" I was pointing to the man standing in the beauty shop's open
"Sure that's Peanut Harris, he works in the mill."
everybody but me and you works in the mill," I replied.
everyone, but almost," he replied. "Anyway Peanut works down there."
nodded my understanding. Ed walked off so I turned toward the shop. "Hey Ed, you
got my car fixed."
"I did the best I could, but that car has a lot of
miles on it," he replied.
"I know but I couldn't afford anything newer.
Besides there still ain't many cars for sale."
"I know the war done a
number on everything. Anyway, yeah I got it fixed."
I followed him to the
1939 Chevy. The whole front of the car seemed to be grill. The square passenger
box was sort of attached to the rear of the engine box, which was located behind
that monster grill. The car though eight years old still ran pretty well. The
flat six cylinder engine went through oil and spark plugs as if the makers of
the car had stock in both. Which I am sure he did.
"I put in new plugs
and changed the oil for you. It should run a few of thousand more miles before
the plugs go out again. I also put a couple of quarts of oil in the trunk just
in case she runs low when you ain't near a service station.
prince Ed," I said it as I handed him a five dollar bill. I stood looking at the
beauty shop's door which had closed by that time.
"You ain't expectin'
no change are you?" Ed asked.
"Lord no, I just wondered what happened to
"You think he is lookin' for you?" Ed asked.
"I got no
idea, but I don't like people watching me."
"He probably wants to talk
but is too shy. Peanut ain't all that
ight." Ed suggested.
I'll pick up the car after while. I think I'll walk back to the apartment just
to give him a chance to catch up to me."
I was almost to my outside door
when I heard the voice. "Hey, are you Deacon Burke?" it asked.
"I am, but
everybody calls me Deke. What can I do for you Mister Harris?"
you know my name?" he asked a little shaken.
"I know just about
everybody. Those I don't know, my friends do. Now what is it I can do for
"I board at the
idges house across the street from your ma's
place. I know your
other Archie real well. I ain't seen him for a couple of
years, but I know him. Course I know Earl real well."
"Mr. Harris, I'm in
a bit of a hurry. Exactly what is it I can do for you." I wasn't really in a
hurry I just wanted him to get on with it.
"I don't really like to talk
on the street like this. Could we go up to your place?"
"Mr. Harris, I
don't allow strangers into my apartment, but we can go over to the 'Pump Room'.
There shouldn't be anyone in there this time of the morning, at least no one who
gives a damn about your problems."
"That would do I guess," he
We walked across the street, then passed a very small furniture
store before arriving in front of the beer joint. I spent a lot of time in the
place, either drinking their thin beer or playing poker at the rear most table.
That morning I ordered two Cokes as I led Harris to a table near the poker
Harris didn't speak until the Cokes arrived. Once the bartender
had returned to the bar Harris began, "I got fired last night. Mr. Burke,
working in the mill is all I know. I can farm a little, but there ain't no money
in that. Working in the mill is all I want to do."
"Why tell me?" I
"Word on the hill is that you can get the company to change it's
mind about firing people."
"Mr. Harris, somebody has been pissin in your
ear. I don't have no pull with the company. If I did, I would be living in one
of their fancy houses. No, I got run out of my mother's boarding house cause I
wouldn't work for them."
"I heard all that, but I also heard you can talk
to them. Please Mr. Burke, I need some help here."
"Tell me what
happened?" I replied with a sigh.
"I didn't go to church on Sunday, so
they fired me last night when I come to work. I don't think they got the right
to fire me for what I do on my days off."
"Mr. Harris, the job belongs to
the mill, you just use it. They pretty much have the right to do whatever they
want. I mean they can't mistreat you like beating you, but they can sure fire
your ass for not going to church. Let me ask you this, did they ever warn you
about going to church?"
"Not really," he said hedging on me.
on Harris, did they ever tell you that you had to go to church?" I
"Yeah, a couple of months ago the overseer called me in for
missing church. I though that it had been long enough so's they wouldn't mind me
missing again. You know, I thought they meant that I should go most of the time.
I had no idea they meant every Sunday. If I had known, I would have
"Well Harris, since they warned you there is nothing I can do. If
I was you, I'd go look for a job with another mill. There are plenty of
"But I want to stay here," he replied.
"Why?" I asked, then
quickly added. "It don't make no difference, you are out of a job. Since you are
living in the
idges House, you might as well move on as quick as you can.
Just as soon as your board is used up the constable will be coming to see you."
"It's a free country Harris, you can go about anywhere you
"I'm gonna' tell everyone I see that you ain't no help at all," he
"I really would appreciate that. I get awful tired of
people coming to see me. Now if you want, I can tell you where there is a mill
that's looking for help. If you don't want, then I'll be seeing you Mr.
"Where is the mill?" he asked shortly.
"The mill over in
Pamona is always looking for good help. Go see Everette Richardson over there.
You might as well tell him the truth about what happened here. You can bet your
ass, he is going to call the mill for a reference. Tell him up front and he'll
give you a
"Yeah sure," he said as he stood to
"You're welcome," I said too quietly for him to hear as he stomped
"You want another one?" Bobby the bartender asked.
"God no, I
hate sugar this early in the morning." I stood to leave. As I passed the bar I
put a quarter on it for the ten cents worth of cokes.
Bobby said as I walked outside.
The sunlight was blinding after the dark
of the bar. After the sweet smell of stale beer and disinfectant, the fresh air
almost caused me to gag. Truthfully it was the reverse. The smell of the 'pump
room' could be hard to take on your first visit. The smell was a lot like scotch
whisky, you had to acquire a taste for it.
From the 'Pump Room' I
returned to the garage. I found my car in the dirt parking area in the rear. I
headed off toward town. Just a couple of blocks from the center of town I
stopped at the Gulf station. I allowed Bo, to fill my tank while I went inside
for a road map. I made sure he was busy with the car before I picked up the
North Carolina map. I had already gotten several maps of the area, but I had
never been interested in a state map before. I slipped the map inside my shirt
before he finished with the car.
I paid him the almost three bucks for
the fill up, then drove on into town. I parked in front of the public li
I spent a lot of my days inside it's dark rooms. The air was cool inside the
building and it smelled of books. I loved the smell of books, hell I admit it, I
loved to read. With a good book, I could be anywhere and anything, at least for
That particular morning I chose to read magazines since my
attention span wasn't very good. My mind slid between articles about the
new world, and thoughts about the bank in Fayetteville. I didn't like the idea
of working with anyone, especially an amateur. Of all the amateurs, Carlton had
to be the worst. He had never done anything except send poor bastards like me
out to die. I had a bad feeling about it, but then again half a million was a
hell of a payday. It was a real toss up as to whether I would kill Carlton
before or after I took down the bank. I laughed silently at the joke, or maybe I
laughed because it wasn't a joke. Either way, I had decided to go along with
Carlton at least for the time being.
It was after two when I decided to
go for lunch. I drove the eight blocks to the Woolworth's lunch counter. At two
in the afternoon I was almost the only person at the counter. I ordered their
lunch special even though the lunch hour was passed by a few minutes. While I
waited, I looked down the counter at my three companions. The closest one was a
middle aged woman. I could only guess that she was a bank employee or some such
thing. She was much too well dressed to be a shopper, unless she was one of the
Parkview crowd. Then again a woman from the Parkview section of town wouldn't be
caught dead at the Woolworth's lunch counter.
Farther down the counter
was a man in clean work clothes. I figured him to be a delivery man for one of
the department stores in the area. The person farthest from me was a very young
woman in a plain cotton dress. The dress was simple and probably came from one
of the company store's ready to wear sections. Her
ight lipstick and poorly
applied makeup, left no doubt that she was a mill worker. Since the timing was
right on the cusp of shift change, she was either a third shift worker, or she
was playing hooky. I might have spoken to her, if she hadn't been so attractive.
Young women who looked as good as that one did, were forever the recipient of
unwelcome advances. She obviously wanted to be alone, or she wouldn't have
My thoughts about the woman were interrupted by the arrival of my
meat loaf. I took one look and knew that I would rather have eaten at my
mother's boarding house. I only stayed away because I didn't want to press my
luck. Not that I was especially concerned about the constable. I was more
concerned that I would loose my temper and cause a scene. My mother didn't need
the trouble. As it was, I visited her a couple of times a week. I avoided meal
times when the boarders and often even the mill's management people ate
I visited my older
other and sister about as often as I saw
Ma. I don't suppose family would have been as important to me, had it not been
for those years in hiding. I spent most of that time dreaming about my family
and growing up in the village. I didn't know much about the world when I went
into the Army, so remembering home was about all I could do.
I checked my
wristwatch and discovered that I had to hurry home. I had promised to help my
other Earl work on his car. I knew it seemed strange for me to pay someone
to work on my car, then go help my
other do pretty much the same things to
his car. The truth was that helping Earl was just our excuse to spend time
together. His wife didn't much like me. Earl and I had an unspoken agreement, we
always found a reason to spend a couple of hours together each week.
also wanted to slip into the beauty shop and speak to Rose. I figured I might be
able to keep her from telling everyone in the village about our night together.
Since she had already had most of the morning the odds were pretty long that she
had already begun spreading the word. Still there was a small chance so I took
I parked the Chevy out back in the coal cinder covered alley, then I
entered through the rear door of Rose's shop. After passing through the storage
room, I entered into the one long room used as a beauty shop by three different
hair dressers. I passed Lucille Mathews on my way to Rose's station. Lucille
gave me one of those knowing looks. It appeared that I was too late to stop the
gossip. I should have turned at that moment and walked right back out the rear
door. Instead, in my typical stupidity I continued on hoping to talk to Rose.
Since my luck was running almost perfectly lousy, I was not surprised to find
Annita Wilson in Rose's chair.
"Hey Rose, you got a minute?" I
"For you lover, anytime," I noted the concentration camp thin
Lucille giggled. Her bottled red hair seemed to mock me even more than the
giggle. I turned what I hoped was a withering look on Lucille, but it missed her
by miles it seemed. She started giggling even harder at my obvious discomfort.
I returned to the rear storeroom without looking back. If Rose hadn't
follow I planned to beat a hasty retreat out the back. Rose followed me into the
storage room then closed the door. She moved against me, then kissed me deeply.
I was surprised by the amount of passion in the kiss. i was even more surprised
by it's effect on me. I forgot all about asking her to keep our night together a
secret. Instead I simply returned her kiss.
I found myself
in seconds. "Damn that woman can kiss," I thought. By the time she
kiss I was pressing my hips hard against her.
"What was it you wanted to
talk about Deke," she asked with her hand still behind my head, and her body
pressed hard against me.
"Rose, I swear I have forgotten," I replied. I
hadn't of course, I just thought it would be bad form to ask her not to mention
our night together, after just having had my tongue in her mouth. I didn't know
ing it up so I just said, "I got to go see Earl," or something
equally stupid. I just wanted to get out of the shop before I got myself in even
"Okay and thanks for coming by Deke, it means a lot to me.
Especially since we didn't really do anything."
"I hope you told Lucille
that," I replied remembering Lucille's giggle.
"Do you really want her to
know you couldn't get it up, hon?" Rose smiled a wicked smile at me as she asked
I didn't even answer. I just slipped out the rear door.
pulled into Earl's dirt yard around three. I was sitting in my car when he
walked up a few moments later. Earl, I noted had become a well fed looking man.
He was older, taller and heavier than me. Earl was exactly like me otherwise. We
own hair and almost black eyes. His face was rounder, due to the
extra pounds but otherwise we looked like
"Hey Earl, it's
about time you got here. What were you doing flirting with the girls after
work." I asked it jovially.
"Hey, keep it down. If you don't, Eve will be
out here nailing both our asses to the door." He wasn't smiling when he said
"No she won't. She will swear it is my fault, then forbid me to come
here anymore." I didn't bother to smile since thoughts of Eve always
out the anger in me.
"You could be right. I sure wish I knew why she
hated you so much. Hell, let me go get us a beer." He said it as he disappeared
into the house. I knew it would be several minutes before he returned. He would
return wearing greasy overalls and carrying two beers.
Sure enough he
showed twenty minutes later dressed as I had expected and carrying two Shlitz
beers. "So Deke, what you been up to today?" he asked it seriously.
went to the li
ary." I replied waiting for the inevitable.
going to get a job?" he asked.
"You know I got a job." I replied with my
eyes on the car's engine
"You ain't got a job unless somebody is paying
you. Half the time the people you help ain't got enough money for food. You know
they ain't gonna pay you before you even start helping them. How the hell are
you living anyway?"
"Come on Earl, you know I got a ton of back pay from
the Army when I mustered out. Besides, some of the people I help can
"Yeah, well one of these days the company is going to get tired of
you interfering in there business." He said it without any real conviction in
"What are they going to do, have me killed?" I asked it with a
"They damned will might. You are about the only person who ever
tried to change things around here."
"Not really, there were those guys
who tried to unionize the plant back in the thirties."
look what happened to them. The governor called out the national guard to get
rid of them." Earl had Pa's serious look on his face.
"You don't reckon
he will call out the guard just to get rid of me do you?" Unlike Earl I was
wearing a great big grin.
"Deke, you keep it up and they are going to
find you in a ditch."
"Sure they are. Earl, those guys don't give a damn
about me. Now do you have the plugs? I have things I need to be doing." I said
it, but we both knew it was just to change the subject. There was no where I
would rather have been.
We had been working about two hours on the twenty
minute job when a train passed behind the house. Earl's house was a mill house
which set only thirty or so feet from the Southern Railway tracks. That night
the train that passed was a sleek passenger model. I spied on the passengers
through the windows of the speeding cars. I expected they felt sorry for the
residents of the run down houses by the tracks. I knew that if they understood
them, they might actually envy their pressure free lifestyle. Pressure free, if
you didn't want anymore than simple survival.
"Earl, aren't you ever
going to finish with that car. I got supper about ready." The shrill voice
belonged to Earl's wife Eve.
"Earl, when you going to have some kids, so
she has somebody else to holler at?" I asked with a grin.
okay. She just has a real dislike of you for some reason. You want to come in
for supper?" He asked it knowing I didn't. Also knowing that if I went into the
house his wife would have a fit.
"Are you kidding? Eve would poison the
gravy. If it's all the same to you, I would like to live a little longer." I was
grinning and Earl knew it was only a slight exageration.
"So what are you
going to do?" he asked.
"I think I'll go get some barbecue." I
"Deke, you got to start saving money. Man you are always eating
at one of those greasy restaurants. Why don't you find yourself a woman and get
"Yeah, maybe if Eve had a sister." I followed the statement
with a burst of laughter. "Look, you go on into supper, and I'll go look for
that good woman to marry."
I lied to Earl, I had a couple of scrambled
eggs with cheese for supper. I cooked them myself in my own little apartment.
Food cooked in my tiny little kitchen, tucked away in a corner of the large room
I called home, tasted pretty good. I expect that was because I seldom cooked
more than the most basic of foods. If it couldn't be fried in a pan, I didn't
I finished diner and was looking over a three day old newspaper
when the banging started on my door again. Thinking it might be Carlton, I
removed the mauser from under the bed. When I went to the head of the stairs I
could see the legs of my caller. If it was Carlton he was wearing a dress. I
walked down the stairs after hiding the mauser in the rear of my pants. I
recognized the woman instantly.
"Rose, I am glad to see you." I meant it
so that we could talk about the night before. She followed me up the fourteen
steps before she spoke.
"Yeah Deke, I expect you are. I felt kind of bad
about leaving you hanging this morning, so I came to settle up." Rose
"There is nothing to settle Rose," I replied in my bewildered
"You mean you don't mind that we didn't do it?" I could see the
hopeful look on her face. It bothered me a little that I wasn't sure which way
she was hoping.
"Sure, I would like it if we made love, but we were both
high. If you wanted to just forget the whole thing it would be
"Deke, are you trying to be a nice guy, or do you just not want to
sleep with me?" At that moment she was giving me a serious look. I still
couldn't tell what was on her mind.
"Rose, what man would turn down a chance
to sleep with you?" I didn't want to answer the question directly.
got time for a quick roll in the hey?" she asked boldly.
"After last night's
fiasco, I want to hold off till I get rid of this hangover. I just don't want to
disappoint you again." I said it hoping she would buy it.
"Deke, you didn't
disappoint me. I enjoyed laying against you and having you just hold me. You got
the cutest way of wrapping yourself around me." She was laughing inside I know.
She had to be it was all so corny.
"Well glad you like it, but I am much more
fun when I am awake," I was trying to sound like I knew what I was saying. I had
no idea how to answer her. She was too bold for me to handle.
"Then we will
just have to wait until tomorrow night. Are you going to the Pump Room tonight?"
she asked seriously.
Yeah their poker game is how I pay the rent here, why?"
I knew she went there occasionally. Like I said it was where I met her the night
"I have to eat dinner with my mother. I will also most likely wind up
there until pretty late. I could stop by after, but I expect you will be playing
until late. Huh?
"Yeah, I expect so." I saw her face fall slightly. "Course
if you come by, I will buy you a drink. Least I can do for falling asleep on you
"Yeah, you could hardly do less. If I finish up at mom's in time
I'll swing by, but I am pretty tired. I don't keep them hours regular like you
do. I might stop by for a while though"
"Sure come on over and have a drink
at least. Then one night real soon we will get together and finish what we
started." I said it with my very best leer.
"Deke, you don't really mind that
I told Lucille do you? I didn't tell her that you fell asleep, Only that I spent
the night with you."
"I don't know for sure how I feel about that Rose. I
mean it ain't the truth, but then it will do my reputation good to have a
beautiful woman admit she slept with me."
"Deke, you don't need any help with
your reputation, but I do." Rose said almost sadly.
"How so?" I
"Deke, you know I been divorced?" I nodded that I did indeed. "Well
it's like that book, you know where they
anded that girl for being a loose
woman. Everybody thinks I am a loose woman cause of the divorce."
see how sleeping with me will help that any?"
"Come on Deke, all the people
around here respect you. The women all adore you. The guys would stop making
passes at me, if they thought I was your girl."
"But what happens when the
real thing comes along Rose. You might miss it because he was afraid to ask you
out." It sounded perfectly logical to me until she laughed so hard it frightened
"Deke, you are so funny. I have a boyfriend but he is married. I would
really like to have you as a boyfriend too." The tears still streamed down her
cheeks from the laughter, only they didn't seem to be tears of joy.
you are talking about using me for cover forget it. My Ma, would have my ass
when she found out. Before you say it, you know she would find out sooner or
"You mean she wouldn't approve of you seeing a divorced woman?" She
asked it defiantly.
"Not that Rose, she would have my ass for helping deceive
some man's wife." I looked her hard in the eye while I spoke since I finally had
the high ground.
"Nobody knows about the married man, so it wouldn't have to
get out. You and me could sort of spend just a little time together. If we did
no one would suspect that I was screwing around on you. After all Deke, no woman
in her right mind would risk losing you." She had me going until she added that
last part. It was just too much.
"Damn Rose, you are good, but that last bit
about no woman losing me was just too much. So what is the deal here?" I managed
to keep my good humor while I asked.
"Deke, I need a man once in a while, but
I don't need anybody sponging off me. I got a pretty good thing with the shop. I
don't need some guy trying to live off me." Unlike most women she looked me dead
in the eye when she spoke.
"So explain what you really want from me?" I asked
it with as much good humor as I could manage.
"I don't know what I want I
just know what I don't want. I don't want to sleep with a different man every
time I got an itch that needs scratchin'. I'm getting a terrible reputation and
I want to clean it up. Now what you got in your bag of tricks for me?"
gave a quick thought then said, "I guess we need to find you a husband with a
better job than you." I grinned at her when I said it.
"I'll find my own
damn husband, thank you very much. Besides I don't need a husband just now. What
I need is a place to go where I know I can sleep with a nice guy. One who won't
judge me and is accepted by my friends. In other words Deke, I am propositioning
I didn't know what to say and Rose knew it. I tried to stammer out
a response but Rose stopped me. "Look Deke, you think it over and have an answer
for me next time I see you. Now I got to go to Mom's house." With that she moved
close and gave me one of those kisses. One all filled the promise and
"Just a reminder," she said as she stepped back. She quickly
turned and fled down the stairs, leaving me with a physical reminder of her. I
sat at my kitchen table with a glass of iced tea while I gave her proposition
some real thought.
There weren't enough men in the Pump Room later
that night to form a card game, even if they had all wanted to play. I had a
couple of watery beers then went home. I fell into bed and then into a dreamless
sleep. Probably the result of having slept poorly the night before. The tiny bed
in my apartment was hardly enough for one let alone two. If I accepted Rose's
proposal, I was going to have to buy a larger bed. Also the fact that it rained
that night probably added to the depth of my sleep.
I awoke before eight.
Even after I bathed and dressed for the day it was still only a few minutes
after eight. Since it would be after the boarders
eakfast times before I
could get to mom's house, I drove on over. I arrived at almost exactly eight
thirty. I entered the giant three story frame house through the front door. I
walked down the hallway past the two parlors on the right and the huge dinning
room which occupied the same space as both of them on the left. Not only did Ma
feed her boarders
eakfast, she also fed at least half the mill supervisors
eakfast. Hell, once in a while, you could even find the owners of the mill
at her table.
That morning I found Ma and my younger sister in the
kitchen washing the mountain of dirty dishes. My mother looked sixty even though
she was only fifty. I expected that raising eleven kids did that to a woman. She
would have looked even worse had she not been about twenty or thirty pounds
heavier than the doctors would call normal. The extra pounds helped to hide the
"So Ma, did you get all the borders fed and off to work?" I
asked as a greeting.
"Some to work and some to bed. You want I should fix
eakfast?" she asked wearily.
"No thanks, but I would like a
cup of coffee," I replied. It was our not so secret code. It meant that I would
like a cup of coffee, and a biscuit filled with whatever
eakfast meat she
had left. That morning it was a patty of very spicy sausage.
While I ate,
I talked with my mouth full. I managed to find out which of her many pains was
bothering her the most at that moment. As usual, I suggested that she see a
doctor. Also as usual she promised she would just as soon as the pain got bad
enough. That meant she would see one when she was admitted to the hospital, if
that ever happened.
She changed the subject on me. "Deke, Max Fuller is
looking for you."
"Why is that?" I asked it not really expecting her to
"Wouldn't say, but he didn't look happy. I expect it has something
to do with one of the mill hands you been helping. I told you the company
wouldn't take kindly to your butting into their business." As usual Ma wanted to
give me her motherly advice.
"If that's so Ma, why do you keep sending
them to me?" I asked it with my best boyish grin.
"I don't send nobody to
you. If they ask me what they should do when they are in trouble with the mill,
I tell them they should talk to somebody. I can't help it, if the rumor mill
gives them your name. Besides, I only send you people who really could use a
"Then why did you send me Peanut Harris?" I asked
smiling. I knew she hadn't sent the slacker to me at all.
"I didn't send
him. I did know that he was going to see you though. I reckon I should have told
him not to bother."
"No, you just let them all come. Some of them have
legitiment complaints, those I try to help. Can't say as I do much good though."
I was actually looking into the coffee cup when I said that.
what I hear," Sissy replied. I hadn't noticed my very attractive younger sister.
She didn't look so attractive at that moment. Her hair was hanging in her eyes
and she was covered with a fine perspiration film. She also wore one of those
smock things to save her clothes. It might have saved her clothes, but
effectively hid the fact that she was full grown woman.
"Well you heard
wrong. If you see Max, tell him to come to the apartment. Hell, I'll be glad to
talk to him." I said that as I took a long drink from the streaming coffee
"You sure do cuss a lot," Ma said shaking her head.
Ma. It's the company I keep." I grinned up at her again.
"I'll tell your
daddy you was here," she said it as I stood to leave. "He's sleeping right
"Okay, tell him I asked about him. He is doing okay isn't he?" I
asked it as a second thought. Daddy and I hadn't spoken more than a dozen words
since I got home. He didn't much approve of my life style. Rather than tell me,
he just ignored me whenever he could. I got the point real good.
he works a lot, but he is doing all right." Ma looked hard at me as if judging
"Okay, then I'm heading out." I hugged Ma and my younger
sister before I walked back through the house. The front porch was empty as I
left, but it wouldn't stay that way long. The second shift workers would begin
coming down to sit in the shade, once the temperature level in the house rose
past uncomfortable. When it reached unbearable the porch would be full.
thought about driving to the White Oak Hotel to see Carlton, but decided against
it. I really had nothing to say to him, and I didn't want to be seen with him in
case he got caught. It was possible that he could manage to hold it together.
The thought of him holding out, under even our police interrogation, made me
laugh out loud. The Princeton kid couldn't hold out for fifteen
Then I thought about driving to Max Fuller's office in the mill.
I decided not to bother. I knew for a fact that he would find me when he was
ready. Spreading the word was part of the intimidation process. I wasn't
intimidated, but I didn't much like him worrying my mother. Still, she didn't
seem concerned either. She probably knew more about their methods than I would
ever be able to guess.
Instead of doing either, I drove to the ball
field. I never knew the practice schedules for any of the mill's teams, but it
didn't matter since I enjoyed watching them all. Whenever I had a few minutes I
would drive by the practice field hoping to find one of the many industrial
league teams practicing. That morning I was in luck, the Bulls from the White
Oak Plant were working out. I parked the old Chevy in the dirt lot, then found a
seat on the rough wooden bleachers.
For the next two hours I watched the
Bulls hit and throw the baseball around. The Bulls were a good team, but not the
best in my opinion. My
other Earl played for the Red Caps, so I rooted for
them. They weren't the best either though. The team that won the championship,
almost every year, was the team from the Pamona Mill. Rumor was that the mill
owners paid professional players from some of the minor league teams to play for
him. Since professional baseball was a summer sport, he must have come up with
ead to get them. The players really didn't lose out on anything,
since the industrial leagues were scouted just the same as the organized minor
When the practice
oke up, I drove back to the heights. I
didn't have a plan for killing the day. Even if I had, it wouldn't have included
a visit from Carlton. I found him waiting in the doorway to my
"What the hell are you doing here. I told you not to come back
here until tomorrow." I said it in a low menacing whisper.
nothing to do over there. Everybody sits on the porch and talks about the mill.
I don't know lanything about textile mills. I had to get away. I just couldn't
face the whole day over there."
I waited until we were inside the
apartment before I spoke again. "I hope to hell you didn't tell anyone where you
were going." It was more a question than a statement and he knew it.
course not," he replied. "So what should we do?"
I took a good look at
Carlton before I spoke. Carlton was about forty and at least seventy pounds over
weight. If Carlton had a larger frame he might have been impressive with the
extra weight. With his naturally small frame he just looked fat. His hair was
thinning badly, and his face was slightly flushed all the time. After climbing
my stairs he was even more flushed than usual. I figured if I had enough time to
wait his blood pressure would take care of killing him for I had to do it.
"You need to get your fat ass back to the hotel. If you don't want to do
that, go downtown to a movie or something. I have the village constable looking
for me. I don't want him to find you here. I hope to hell you haven't done
anything to put him onto to me." I knew he hadn't since he was staying in White
Oak. Each of the mill villages had it's own constable. If he had done anything
to draw attention, it would be the White Oak constable, not Max, looking to talk
"Okay, how about giving me a ride downtown?" he
"Okay, but only because I don't want you making any more calls
from the grocery store. Hell, they may have seen you this morning anyway."
Fifteen minutes later I dropped Carlton at the public li
ary. He was
within easy walking distance of everything in town from the li
dropping him, I drove straight home. It was still early so I drove past the
apartment, then to the park a couple of blocks from the Heights. The park like
the ball field was owned by the mill. The mill was pretty good about allowing
those of us in the neighborhood to sit on the benches. Even those of us who
didn't work for the mill. I sat on the bench for a long while before I heard a
voice I recognized as that of the Village constable.
"Deke, we need to
talk." The fifty pound overweight Max Fuller said. Everybody seemed to have
gotten fat since the war. Max couldn't use that as an excuse, since he didn't
leave the village during the war.
"I got nothing to talk about, but I
will answer any questions you might have," I replied.
"Okay, what the
hell have you been up to?" he asked it trying his authoritative voice out on me
first. He knew it was a waste of time, but then I suppose it was second nature
to him by that time.
"I have no idea what you are talking about," I
replied as I looked him in the eye.
"Come on, I've been hearing rumors
that you are trying to change the way we do things again." A little of his
bluster was gone, just because I wouldn't look away.
"Who is we?" I asked
just to make him say it.
"You know damned well, I am talking about the
overseers. I heard you been trying to tell them what to do again. If that's
true, you aren't going to be real popular with the owners." He was trying to
make a point blunted by it's over use.
"Why should I care whether I'm
popular with the old men. I don't work for them."
"No, but most of your
family and friends do," he replied with a smirk on his fat face.
I put my hands around his throat, I knew I shouldn't have. It didn't matter what
I knew, I was working on pure instinct. Those instincts had been born in me as
they had in all men. Mine had been refined by the United States Government. I
held Max's fat but fragile throat in my hands. I caught myself just before I
crushed his larynx. I fought myself for control, since killing Max wasn't
necessary, or advisable. He was far to surprised and frightened to put up any
fight. I knew I had to do something to cover my almost murder of the
"Max, listen to me. If anything happens to my family or friends, I
will kill you and every other son of a bitch who had anything to do with it. Now
you can tell your slimy friends that, or maybe you shouldn't, just as you chose.
Personally I wouldn't want anyone to know about this little meeting of ours. I
wouldn't want the mill hands to know how easy it is to take you. Hell, they
might not go along so willingly next time you take a drunk to the high Sheriff's
office. By the way Max, you tell those overseers that I am always available to
talk it out with them. But if they would rather, I'll take it up with their
wives, or the superintendent whichever one needs telling."
I left Max
gasping for air as I walked away. I showed him my back, even though I knew he
carried a .38. I figured if he was going to shoot me in the back, it was as good
a day as any other. If he did shoot me, at least I wouldn't have to fool around
with Carlton. Even the worst events had an up side.
When I got back to my
car I took a deep
eath, then drove home. I sat around the apartment with my
own pistol on the table. I sat there drinking tea and waiting for Max. I didn't
think he would come, but I waited anyway. I half expected him to show up with
the high Sheriff, or one of his men. At that moment, I wasn't sure that I
wouldn't blow them all into the next week. Fortunately for everyone Max decided
to go somewhere and lick his wounds. I was absolutely sure that there would be
another day for us.
I spent a fairly uneventful day after I finally got
moving again. I had a late lunch at Pop's place, then slept away a pretty good
size chunk of the afternoon. Finally after a dinner of cheese and fresh
I went to the Pump Room. I drank slowly while I played poker with several of the
workers from the mill.
Rose came and went during the game. Evidently she
was waiting for me to make the next move. I had poker on my mind, so I didn't
make any move. I was going to have to work something out with Rose. I just
didn't know what it would be.
The game lasted until well after midnight.
I was the last of the customers to leave the Pump Room. The bartender was still
cleaning when I walked out of the door. I was in the middle of the deserted
street when a voice I didn't recognize came from the shadows. "Deke, I got a
message for you." At that moment I expected a shot to ring out. Instead the man
took a step toward me. I waited for the flash of cold steel at
When it didn't come I asked, "What's the message." At the same
aced myself for a fight. I figured Max or some mill boss had found a
"Sandra Evans wants to see you," the heavyset man
"Who the hell is Sandra Evans, as far as that goes, who the
hell are you?" I figured I could sound tough since he hadn't killed or maimed me
by that time.
"Me, I work for Miss Evans. Miss Evans runs the old Hammond
place." Hammond I did know, he had been a farmer. His farm had been in a small
built up rural area just north of the mill village.
"What would a pig
farmer what with me?" I asked. I knew that the Hammond farm had long since gone
out of the pig business. In the twenties and the early thirties it had supplied
pork and vegetables to the mill village and the larger nearby town.
guess you might say Miss Evans is a keeper of pigs, but not the kind you have
for dinner." He laughed at his own joke. "Miss Evans runs a house. You do know
what a house is don't you?"
"Sure I know what a house is. What the hell
does a Madam want with me?" I was more than a little surprised by the
invitation. I guess it showed because Luther looked pleased when he next
"Why don't you just
ing you ass out there and see?" he
suggested it in a dead serious business tone.
"Okay, but I follow you."
The big man nodded his agreement. Obviously he had planned it that way. He
probably didn't want to drive me home in the early morning hours, any more than
I wanted to be his prisoner.
We reached Sandra Evans' farm by way of
gravel roads, dirt roads, oiled roads and even a paved road. The business was
located inside a house with about half a dozen bedrooms. The downstairs area had
been opened up by removing all the doors. The doorways were expanded by arches
which created one large party room. It was a place where the 'guests' could wait
in comfort. In one corner of what had originally been the parlor sat a small
bar. Unlike the Pump Room the bar served liquor. Liquor by the drink, or by the
bottle was illegal in North Carolina at that time. Since the farm was also
illegal, I don't expect that legality of the liquor was real
I was told by her goon to await Miss Evans in what had
once been the living room. I sat on a garish, but comfortable sofa while I
waited for the lady of the house to make her appearance. I was somewhat
disappointed when the goon returned for me instead. I followed him into an
addition on the rear of the large house. From the floor and the wall finishes it
was evident that the room had once been a pantry off the kitchen. At the time of
my visit, it held a very small desk and telephone. My guess was it served as a
sort of office for Miss Evans.
After I checked out the room, I took a
good look at Miss Evans. The lady of the house was probably my mother's age. She
was much more heavily made up, but still she had to be at least fifty. I stood
restlessly shifting my weight from one foot to another until she seemed to
notice me for the first time.
"So, you are Deacon Burke?" she asked, but
she obviously already knew the answer
"I woke up in his bed this morning,
I therefore assume that I am." I replied with a more confident grin than I felt.
"Don't be a wise ass, you don't have the cool to pull it off," she said
with a smile.
"Oh, I got the cool. I just don't show it on all the first
date." I said it hoping to make a tough guy impression on her. I didn't want her
to think I was too easy, otherwise I might have Luther threatening me on a
"I guess we will see what you are. I got a proposition for
you." Miss Evans said looking hard at me.
"I figured as much, why else
would you get me here in the middle of the night?" I asked returning her
"It ain't what you might expect in a place like this. We each have
a problem with an employee who talks too much. At least one who may begin
talking to the wrong people at any moment."
I knew exactly what she
meant, but I pretended I didn't. "I don't know about you but I don't have any
employees. I work alone, when I work at all."
"If we can't be at least a
little honest with each other this conversation is going to be a waste of my
time." she suggested. I nodded for her to go on. "You have a friend named
"I would hardly call him a friend," I responded to her
statement before she even finished.
"Okay whatever he is to you, he
drinks too much and he talks when he does. Your, whatever, asked the night man
at the White Oak Hotel to find him someone to listen to his war stories. Eddy
sent him Ting."
"Who?" I asked.
"Half of my sister act, Eddy sent
him Ting a Ling. Her sister Ding Dong was already working." She waited until I
nodded. He was pretty drunk when she arrived. He got even drunker as time wore
on. During the course of their 'date', he told her that he was coming into a lot
of money. He also mentioned a bank in Fayetteville and his good friend Deke
"Not only is he a loud mouthed drunk, but he is also a lying loud
mouthed drunk," I suggested.
"Probably, but it will still get your ass in
prison if he tell that story to the wrong person. Especially if that bank gets
"Thanks for the warning, I'll take care of Carlton." I
"If you would like, I could have Luther take care of him." As
she spoke she cocked her head toward her goon.
"No thanks, there is a
record of a threat to his life I made once. If he turned up dead around here, I
would be the first one questioned. No I'll figure out something
"I'm sure you will, that's why I need your help with my little
"Why don't you just have Luther take care of yours?" I
"Because mine's in jail. Even Luther can't problem solve inside
the county jail."
"While I figure out what to do about mine, tell me your
"Do you know Raleigh Phipps?" she asked.
superintendent of the weave room at Revolution?" I asked in
"I know the name, and I've seen him at ma's
a couple of times around the
eakfast table. I don't think I ever said more
than a couple of words to him though."
"Well old Raleigh has an eye for
the ladies. He is out here a couple of times a month."
"So he comes out
here, so what?" I asked it trying to hurry her along.
"It's got nothing
to do with this place. Raleigh was at some kind of meeting downtown last week.
When he was walking back to his car, he met a whore. The whore was one who had
worked for me until a couple of months ago. She fell in love with a customer and
"That can't be a good for business." I said it being a smart ass
"Oh, it gets worse. She takes Raleigh to the King Cotton hotel for
a short ride. When they are in the middle of the ride, her boyfriend bursts into
the room. He demands that Raleigh give up his wallet. Now Raleigh has been
around enough to know a scam when he sees one. Raleigh also recognizes that big
old Army colt. All things, being not at all equal, he gives up his wallet. I
guess Raleigh thinks it over all night because it isn't until the next morning
that he calls in Max Fuller. Fuller arranges for the Sheriff to arrest Laura
I interrupted, "I suppose Laura Lee is the hugger
"She is that, now let me finish please." I nodded my apology.
"The Sheriff agrees that no good will come from the superintendent of the weave
room testifying in open court. So he arranges for the DA to take Raleigh's
statement under seal. They all agree, that he can testify in the judges
chambers. So Laura Lee winds up in jail awaiting trial, and everyone is happy.
Well almost happy like I said Laura Lee is in love. She won't give them the
boyfriend. After a couple of days they get tired of asking, so it's Laura Lee
who's going to prison.
"I know that somewhere you come into this, but
where?" I asked.
"You don't have any patience at all do you?" Sandra
Evans asked shortly.
"I guess not. You go on and I'll try not to
interrupt again." I said smiling at her cause we both knew I
"Somehow that no good boyfriend of hers gets word to her. Laura
Lee makes another phone call to me. She tells me that she is going to force the
Sheriff to close me down That is unless I stop her from going to trial. She
don't know all that much, but she can make a stink about me during the trial.
Enough so's the good women in town force the Sheriff to close me." Sandra Evans
did not look happy at the prospect.
"Could she do that?" I
"I don't know, but I can't take the chance. So there you have
"Have what?" I asked.
"I have laid out both problems for you.
They tell me you are the fixer, so fix them. I need you to handle this for me."
She semed almost amused by it all.
"Okay, I'll ask the obvious. Why don't
you just have Luther pay Raleigh a visit."
"Raleigh isn't one of those
4F's. He was a paratrooper during the war. He got himself a crap load of medals.
Luther might have to hurt him to stop him from testifying. That wouldn't be any
better than the fix I'm in now."
"Give me a few minutes to think this
over," I suggested.
"Anybody, I can get you while you think?" she asked
"Best offer I've had since.....Hell it's the best offer I ever had,
but no. Just have Luther get me a beer and let me think a few minutes." The few
minutes became an hour before my
ain finally worked out all the details. I
knew from the start that blackmail was in order, but it took me the hour to get
all the details worked out.
I had both Luther and Sandra making calls and
running errands until the sun came up that next morning. While they ran around,
I assembled the blackmail kits. I had one for each of our
"There is one thing we haven't discussed yet," I stated just
"And what might that be?" Sandra asked.
could sure use a hundred bucks. I mean, I am saving you a damned sight more than
you are saving me."
"I don't know what is ten years in the slammer worth
to you?" she asked.
"I wasn't really going to blow that bank for
Carlton." I said it smiling at her.
"It don't matter, he would have had
the cops looking at you anyway. I get the feeling you couldn't stand that no
matter what you say."
"Maybe not, but I could still use the hundred," I
"If what Carlton said it true, you don't really need the
money." Sandra replied.
"But, what he says isn't true. I am about out of
my GI mustering out pay. How about it, surely it is worth a C note." She didn't
know about the mustering out pay. Nobody else did either. I had gotten a chunk
of back pay all right, but it was a bit more than that. You see every time I
opened a German bank can, I not only found their Marks, but a few American bills
as well. I couldn't spend the American, but I wasn't about to leave if for the
Germans either. Liberating the money seemed like the best plan all around. I
held onto it until the war caught up with me, which happened more than once.
Whenever I got the chance, I sent the money to myself at Ma's. I still needed to
put more money with it every chance I got. I just wasn't near as
"Oh all right, you get Raleigh off my ass and you get
"Right now, I am going home to take a bath. Then I am going
to put on some dry clothes which should last about thirty minutes in this
"It's going to be a hot one all right. I mean that both ways."
"I know. Well, I'll let you know what happens," I advised
"You do that, but just about Raleigh. If you won't let Luther kill
the other one, I don't give a damn what happens to him." She wore a big grin as
she spoke the words. I was playing at being tough, but she was tough.
waited at my kitchen table drinking iced tea. Sure enough Carlton knocked around
nine. I let him pass me as he climbed the steps to my apartment. I stood at the
top of the stairs blocking his retreat.
"Carl, we need to have a little
talk," I suggested.
"About what? I thought everything was settled. Let's
get moving we can talk on the way down to Fayetteville."
"We aren't going
to Fayetteville after all," I informed him.
"What do you mean. I thought
we had settled all that."
"Well, it's been unsettled." I informed him
with a nasty look.
"How?" he asked angrily.
"It happened when you
told a whore at the hotel how you were about to get rich." I said with a
slightly louder voice.
"I don't know what you are talking about," he
"Lower your voice and read this." I handed him the statement
which Ting had given before a notary. The notary wasn't going to be doing any
talking, so it was all right that he heard it. Besides nothing was going to
happen to that bank in Fayetteville anyway.
After Carlton finished
reading the statement, he looked up at me. This is bull. You made this up so
that you could cut me out. There was no whore."
"Sure, and I made this up
too," I said handing him the statement by the desk clerk.
read the statement he said, "It doesn't matter, nobody is going to believe
"Carlton it's over. Get a cab to the train station and go back to
"If I go back without that money from that bank, I swear I am going
to the FBI."
"Carlton are all Princeton kids as dumb as you. If they are,
it's a wonder we won that war at all."
"What do you mean?" he
'Just this, if you read that statement by the whore more
carefully, you will find that she states. You said you were going to be rich
just as soon as you talked me into blowing the bank. Well I refused, so you
tried to set me up for the other banks. That's going to be my story when I get
interviewed. Unlike you, I have the statements from two different people with no
ax to grind. I also have your name on a register at the White Oak Hotel listing
your occupation as salesman. You are going to have a hard time explaining all
"I will just tell them I never met the whore. I'll tell them
you set me up."
"Recognize this?" I asked showing him his liquor bottle
wrapped in tissue paper inside a sturdy shirt box.
"What is it?" he asked
"It's your liquor bottle from the hotel. I also have a
statement from a maid who swears she removed it from your room this morning."
"How did you get it so fast?" he asked.
"Carlton, three a.m. is
also the morning. You are a heavy sleeper, obviously you were never on the
Carlton looked up at me with a defeated expression. "So, if I go
home and never bother you again the bottle and statements never surface?" he
"That would be my expectations. Of course, I am going to rig them
with a deadman's switch."
"If anything happens to you, they go to the
FBI?" he asked.
"Something like that," I replied.
"Well Deke, I
would like to say it was fun, but it wasn't." He was beat but at least he knew
"I feel exactly the same. Look at it this way, you are getting out of
here alive. It's more than you deserve." The look I gave him let him know
leaving was definitely in order.
"Yeah, alive and
oke, I guess it's
better than rich and dead," he stated as he walked toward me.
aside while resisting the urge to push him down the stairs. Instead I watched
him walk out the screen door leading to the street. Well that ended half my days
work, I thought.
Luther showed up with the final piece of blackmail
material two hours later. "Here you go," he said handing me the
"So, you did find it. I'm surprised it wasn't
" Lover boy don't empty his trash regularly. It was in the can
behind his house."
"He must really have something. I mean he was real
confident that Laura Lee wouldn't turn on him."
"Either that, or he is
just plain stupid. By the way, if Laura Lee don't get out of jail till this
afternoon, lover boy will be long gone. I expect just as soon as the Doc
finishes with him, he will be on a train."
"You mean he won't be driving.
I thought he had a car for some reason."
"Man can't drive with a
leg and a
oken arm," Luther was grinning at me. I expect it was his way of
telling me how tough he was. He needn't have bothered. I figured it out just by
looking at him. Not only was he large, but he had mean eyes. It was a
combination which could prove lethal.
After Luther left I tried to read a
novel with a prewar setting. It was one of those silly mystery things. I tried
for a long time but I just couldn't get into it. It was sometime after three
when I heard the voice from the foot of my stairs.
"Mr. Burke, are you up
there?" the voice was definitely female. I thought I recognized it but wasn't
sure until I walked to the top of the stairs. I stood looking down at a very
pretty young woman with short red hair and freckles all over her face. She was
very attractive even in her plain cotton dress. I did recognize
"Hello Sarah., what
ings you here? You want to come up?" I asked
all the questions in a single
"No thanks to the coming up
there. I came to pay you something on my bill," she said it slowly. I had
forgotten that she spoke slowly. She certainly didn't think slowly.
"Wait a second while I get a shirt and I'll come down." I hadn't
realized that I was sitting in my tee shirt until I noticed her look away from
me. I grabbed a shirt then walked down the stairs. She moved back so that we
stood on the street which ran beside the jewelry store.
"So how are
things at work?" I asked.
"Whatever you said to Stanley sure worked. He
didn't apologize, but he never mentioned any of that nonsense to me again. It's
like it never happened."
"Well that's what you really wanted wasn't
"Sure, I just don't know how you did it," she
"It's probably better that you don't know." I couldn't think
of anything else to say so I stood pat.
"Anyway, here," she said
thrusting a five spot at me.
"Can you afford this?" I asked it knowing
how little she made.
"I got paid today and I have a little left over. My
little sister came up a couple of weeks ago. She is staying in my room at your
mother's place. We share expenses. She is also sending money home, so I don't
have to send so much. Besides, I owe you a lot more than five
"I told you to give me what you could spare, when you could
spare it. You probably should keep some of this to go to a movie," I
"If you are worried about that, why don't you take me to a
movie?" she asked with her green eyes averted.
"I would love to do that,
but it would never do for me to drive up to Ma's house for you. The other
boarders would tease you unmercifully." I said it not really sure if I was
trying to avoid taking her out or not.
"I could take the bus and meet you
at the little cafe beside the movie theater.," she suggested.
must mean the Carolina Theater, since it is the only one I know with a cafe
"Sure, I like it best. It is by far the most grand," she said
smiling a little girls smile.
"Why not meet me there at six, and I can
buy you dinner before the movie?"
"All right, but I warn you I'm a big
eater." She was smiling her child's smile again.
"Hey, I have five
dollars. You can have anything you want.
"All right then, I'll see you
"Would you like for me to walk you home?" I asked.
no, people will talk, remember?" She covered her mouth as she
I passed the remainder of the day with the novel, but never
could really get into it. I gave some thought to stopping at Rose's shop for a
quick visit but since I didn't have an answer for her, I passed on that idea.
Finally after dinner at Pop's, I spent the evening in the Pump Room
playing cards. Rose came in around nine. After that during my
eaks I would
sit and talk to her for a while. She didn't press me about her relationship so I
stayed away from it' Besides she seemed to be doing just fine flirting with the
married guys who hung around drinking beer. She finally left around midnight,
but only after she came by the table and whispered in my ear.
"I have to
open the shop early tomorrow. Too bad you found a game, I could try to persuade
you to see things my way." I almost stood up to follow here because her words
were followed by her tongue in my ear. I managed to keep my cool even with the
other player laughing nervously at us. Rose left immediately after returning
After she left it got to be late quickly, even though I
was tired I hung in there till the end. The thing about staying up late a second
night was that I slept like the dead when I finally did get to bed.
awoke around eight the next morning. I spent the better part of an hour bathing
and dressing. I wanted to look as good as I could when I saw the Superintendent.
Not that I gave a crap about impressing him, I just didn't want to be on the
defensive for any reason.
He shared an office with a couple of other
plant management types. There was a secretary assigned to the three of them. I
didn't know her, but I knew her type. She was determined to show me how
important her boss was, therefore herself by association.
Mister Burke, but Mr. Phipps is awfully busy. I don't know that he will have
time to see you," the middle aged woman said.
"Tell you what ma'am, why
don't you tell him it's about the wallet he lost at the King Cotton. I expect he
will find time."
"I don't think so, but I'll see." She said it just
before she disappeared behind the half frosted glass door. Sure enough she came
back after only a couple of moments. "Mr. Phipps said to have a seat, he would
see you in a few minutes."
I knew it was a hustle, but I didn't mind. I
pulled out the novel and began to read. I actually was doing no more than
scanning, then turning the pages. I couldn't get into the novel at home, when I
wasn't distracted. At Phipp's office I hardly even saw the pages. To an observer
I was totally at ease, even though I was really as tight as a drum.
phone on the secretary's desk rang. She mumbled a couple of words then hung up.
She waited a full minute before she said, "Mr. Burke, you can go in
I stood without a word, then stretched my muscles as though I
was thoroughly bored. I walked slowly through the door and into the office of
"I'm terribly busy," the heavy set man stated as I
entered. He hardly even looked up from the papers on his desk.
take only a couple of seconds, unless you want to talk more," I
"Very well, Marsha tells me you have my wallet?" he
"No, I didn't say that. I said I wanted to talk to you about it."
I stated firmly.
He looked me over before he spoke again. "You're one of
those Burke boys from the boarding house aren't you?"
"Well you are
partly right. I am a Burke and my mother does run the boarding house. The one
outside gate three, but I'm no boy. I haven't been a boy since before the war."
I said it just as nasty as he had spoken condescendingly.
"So how are you
involved in the robbery? Maybe I should call the Sheriff?" he
"That is totally up to you. I would hear me out first. Then if
you want to call, I'll wait until he gets here before I leave."
a little worried when it became obvious that I wasn't going to rattle. "Okay,
what have you got to say?"
"Let me start with the fact that I know all
about the robbery and the circumstances involved and could care less. If you
would like, I will run down the facts so that you will believe me when I say you
have a problem."
"If you know about the King Cotton, I will assume that
you know it all."
"Then let me just cut out all the preliminaries and say
that I have a friend on the Charlotte Observer. Mike is a bit of a communist
liberal. He just loves to expose fat cats and how they manipulate the system. If
I give him the story about the sealed indictment and the plan for the closed
court testimony, he is going to have a field day."
"Mr. Burke, I don't
like to be threatened." Phipps said with a certain irritation in his
"Well Raleigh, I think I would hear me out before I decided
whether I was being threatened or not. What I had in mind is a plan where all
the good guys get away clean. I am assuming you are one of the good
"I like to think so," he said lighting a cigar. I noted with
pleasure that he didn't offer me one.
"Okay, I can get your wallet for
you. It has all your Identification and even your money."
"My money?" he
"Well they may not be the same bills, but the money is all
"What you should do Mister Burke, is to give the perpetrator's
name to the Sheriff."
"That in itself is a little strange. You do know
that the jurisdiction of the crime should have been the city police," I
"And you know that the Sheriff has jurisdiction in the town as
well as the rural areas," Phipps suggested.
"Yes, but it is unusual for
him to be invoked in it. None the less, the gentleman who pointed the pistol at
you is no longer in town. He left a few hours ago for the coast."
he gets away. I don't think I like your solution." He didn't look happy that was
"Well, he left with one arm
oken and a
oken leg on the
same side. The man who did the
eaking assures me that using a crutch with a
oken arm is extremely difficult. No judge would or could have done as
"That's nice, but it does nothing to punish the woman. I do assume you
want me to drop the charges against her?"
"Absolutely not, if you did
that the Sheriff wouldn't do you any more favors. I imagine he would feel
betrayed. No, what I want you to do is to call the DA. I want you to suggest
that you were a bit hasty in requesting she be held without bail. Tell him that
her gray haired old mother came to visit you, and persuaded you that Laura Lee
wouldn't jump bail."
"I suppose her pimp is going to bail her
"I told you her pimp is on a train for the coast. No, I am going to
bail her out. I am also going to scare hell out of her. Then I am going to put
her on a bus, one not headed for the coast. She will leave and never come
"And if I don't, you will have your friend run the complete story
in the Charlotte Observer."
"Well, that really isn't all. Not only will
that embarrass your boss, who I expect actually put in the fix. I know you are a
powerful man to the mill workers. I also expect the Sheriff required a little
more fixing than you could do. It will no doubt get back to your employees, who
will be snickering behind your back. Last but certainly not least, I am sure one
of your less than happy employees will see that a copy gets to your
"You bastard, you are blackmailing me," he snapped.
hoped it wouldn't come to name calling, but if you insist. You sir have a young
woman being held incognito for a crime of which she has not yet been convicted.
You are arranging to testify in chambers, so that you can keep your name clean.
That sir, makes you less than an honorable man, I therefore feel no need to
treat you honorably. Now if you think I am bluffing, ask yourself what I have to
loose by calling my friend."
"Your family has a lot to loose. Quite a few
of them work in this mill," Phipps said dangerously.
"See now there you
go threatening me. Let me tell you something. There is not a single one of my
family who would stand for me backing down an inch. They are honorable people,
and would never allow their job security to stop me from doing the right thing.
I, on the other hand, would take it very personally if anything happened to
them. It wouldn't do the District Attorney or the Sheriff much good at election
time to make the papers as company henchmen. It might hurt them in a one man one
vote system. As for my mother, you probably should ask some of the old timers
how she came to run the boarding house before you do anything stupid. All in
all, if this hits the newspapers I expect you would be out of a job before you
could retaliate against my family."
He crushed the mostly unsmoked cigar
in his ashtray. The cigar crumbled into shreds of tobacco. What a waste, I
thought. I stood over his desk without smiling although we both knew I could
have. Raleigh was beat and even he knew it. "You know I won't forget
"I didn't expect you to forget it," I said evenly.
my damned wallet back?" he demanded it to save face.
"Just as soon as I
send Laura Lee on her way. You should probably make that call right now." I
He waved me off with a limp hand. I walked from the room rather
than push my victory. All I wanted to do was get Laura Lee out of town. I didn't
think threatening Sandra Evans was near as inconsequential as they all
pretended. That's why I hadn't mentioned getting her bailed out to her or
Thirty minutes later I stood in front of the magistrate. I
handed him the same hundred dollars that Sandra had sent to me via Luther. "You
go on down to the jailer and give him this receipt. He will go get the woman for
you. Man I don't know what the hell is going on with her. First I get a hold
from the DA, now I get word from the DA that I can issue a bail if I want. Man
this is a screwed up mess."
"I know, but it's about to get straightened
out." I suggested. I took the receipt to the county jail. It took them another
half hour but finally they
ought me Laura Lee.
"Who the hell are
you?" she asked.
"I'm the guy who paid your bail, and guaranteed that you
would return for trial." I said it without a hint of a
"You bet your
ass I am going to return. If that prick don't drop the charges I am going to
blow the lid of more than just one scandal. I know who keeps Sandra Evans in
business." Her voice was loud and her tone
hustled her outside before I answered her. "Listen to me. Your boyfriend is
headed for the coast with a
oken leg and a
oken arm. The only reason he
is still alive is that he don't know nothing. You on the other hand know too
damned much. If you go home, or if you go anywhere at all in this town, Luther
will find you. I expect Luther plans to shut you up permanently."
suddenly began to shake. How could she not have expected Luther to come after
her. She had known both Sandra and Luther for sometime before she ran off with
"Oh God, you are right. What am I going to do?" I could
tell she was genuinely frightened.
"I know you had fifty bucks when you
were arrested because I saw them give it back to you. What you are going to do
is buy a bus ticket far away. I am going to tell Luther, I don't know where you
went because I am not going to know. If you come back to this town, you are
probably going to die. There is nothing else I can do for you. Believe me this
is your only chance."
"Where did Johnny go?" she asked.
know, but you need to stay away from him. Luther might know where he went. You
need to get the hell away from this and start over."
"Okay, just get me
to the bus station." She looked out the rear window every few seconds during the
drive. I could tell she would have rather it had been dark. Still she did the
best she could to hide until her bus left. I parked outside and watched until
she got on a bus headed north.
I had a late lunch at Pop's before I
drove to Sandra's farm. I was met at the door by a black maid. "Is Miss Evans
sleeping?" I asked.
"She is. You be Mr. Deke?" she asked.
"Miss Sandra said to wake her if'n you came by."
bother. You can give her a message for me. Just tell her everything is taken
care of, but not exactly as we discussed."
"No Sir, I got's to go wake
her. You stay right here." She said it as she began slowly climbing the steps to
the second floor.
Luther was the first to come down the stairs. "What do
you mean not the way we planned?" he asked angrily.%%%
"Good to see you
too," I replied just as shortly.
"Cut the clowning, what did you do with
"I sent Laura Lee packing just like we
"How the hell did she get out so quick. I would have thought
it would take a day or two to get the charges dropped." He was talking to
himself at that point.
"I didn't get the charges dropped. I got her bail,
then I put it up for her. Last of saw of her she was on a bus for places
unknown, at least to me."
"What the hell do you mean you bailed her out.
She swore she would go to the papers if I didn't get the charges dropped." That
time the voice came from a much less attractive Sandra Evans. She looked about
ten years older than her years. It appeared that life was as tough on a madam as
"Don't worry she won't be talking to anyone. I put the fear of
Luther into her."
"What's to stop her from talking when she get away from
here?" Luther asked.
"Nobody outside of this county gives a damn about
any of us, or our problems. If she was going to talk, she would have done it
before she left town and she didn't." I noted the looks exchanged by the two of
them. It was pretty obvious that I had been right. They never intended to have
Laura Lee get out of town. It made me wonder where the boyfriend might be at
that moment. I sure as hell wouldn't have bet on California.
done now. I hope for your sake that Laura Lee doesn't show up here again,"
"Now, that wasn't a threat was it. I mean you and I have
been getting along so well up until now. I hope this isn't going to become a
crack in our good relationship." I said it as sarcastically as I possibly
Luther was about to speak when Sandra cut him off with a look. "It
wasn't a threat at all. We just think, she might implicate you in a plot to
avoid prosecution. That wouldn't be good for any of us."
"If you say so.
Anyway I am going home. I think this ends our business," I
"Probably not," Sandra replied.
"What are you talking about.
I have done everything I promised."
"It's not that love. It's what is
going to happen when Raleigh begins putting the pressure on you."
would he do that?" I asked. I was truly surprised.
"By now Raleigh has
convinced himself that you are the one responsible for all his problems. If
hadn't been for you, none of this would have happened."
"What are you
talking about?" I asked.
"You should have figured out by now, Raleigh is
about half wacko. He is going to strike back at you." Sandra and Luther both
looked as though the idea appealed to them.
"That's why you didn't do
this yourself?" I asked.
"That's right. He would have hounded me out of
business. Let him hound you instead. So you take care of yourself love. You
might want to sleep with one eye open."
"Not really, Raleigh isn't the
violent type," I said hoping it was true.
"Maybe not, but he will get
you. That much is for sure."
I returned home to find a note from my
landlord. It seemed as though his daughter had decided to move out of his house
and into my apartment. Mr. Walsh felt that it would be better if I weren't in
the apartment when his daughter moved in. His note informed me that if I weren't
out by the end of the month, the Sheriff would be happy to help me move my
things onto the street.
I was not please with the change in my living
condition. I already had the ideal apartment. It was thirty steps from a diner
and twenty from a beer joint and poker game. I thought about calling Mr. Walsh,
but I couldn't think of anything that would make him change his mind. He
obviously had knuckled under to Phipps or one of the others at the mill.
Pointing out his spineless actions wouldn't endear me to him. It would only make
matters worse. His ultimatum gave me exactly two weeks to find another place to
live. I gave it a lot of thought, then went to the Pump Room and got roaring
I was pretty far along when Rose came in. I noted that it was
after nine. She must have come in for a drink after closing the shop. I attached
myself to her like any good drunk would.
"Before I get drunk with you
Deke, you got an answer for me?" She asked it with a smile that told me she knew
she had me in the weakest position.
"The only answer I got is, I would
like to have a few drinks then finish up our conversation at my place." I said
it with my best leer.
"Deke honey, look around. I can do a one nighter
with any of these guys. All of them are married and all have more money than
you. If all I wanted was a one nighter, I would pick one of them. So lover when
you figure out what you want to do, ask me again." With those words she stood
downed her beer then turned her back and walked away. Not only did she not go
home with me, she did not go home with anyone else either.
left I didn't play cards. Instead I drank until they closed at one. Then I went
home and fell drunkenly into the bed. I slept like the proverbial dead until I
was awakened by a noise on the stairs around ten the next morning. I moved more
by reflex than by any conscious thought. I quickly removed the
Mauser automatic pistol from beneath my bed. I held it as solidly as possible
while I aimed it at the stairway opening. To my surprise I recognized the man
who entered my room. Not him really, but I did recognize the uniform of a deputy
Sheriff draped over the body of an anemic forty some year old man with thinning
"Don't you have to at least knock?" I asked lowering the
"I knocked, and you said come in. At least I thought you did." He
oadly. I knew it was a cop joke, one I was glad I didn't
"Well since you are already in, what can I do for you?" I
"You can tell me where you were last night," he
"Across the street getting drunk, then home in bed,
"I'll ask the questions," was his reply.
"In that case
forget about me answering them." I said it knowing full well that if he arrested
me, I would be talking my head off one way or another. Often confessions came
from innocent men, just as they were about to run out of teeth.
buddy, Raleigh Phipps got his self killed last night," the deputy said watching
close for my reaction.
"So, what time did it happen?' I
"The constable found him around midnight. He was still warm so it
couldn't have been more than an hour or so before."
"I was at the Pump
Room until one. Even if I had seen him, I was too drunk to have done more than
call him a couple of names."
"I suppose the room was filled with your
drunken friends?" the deputy asked.
"Yeah, and a lot more who aren't my
friend," I replied.
"I'm going to check in the mean time don't you leave
town," He sounded like a character from every bad cop movie I had ever
"I ain't leaving town, but I am leaving here," I
"I heard. Let me know where you light."
"How did you
know I was moving?" I asked.
"It's one of the reasons I came to see you.
Raleigh's wife told me his secretary called your landlord. It was her boss's
order. I thought you might have decided to have a little talk with him. One that
got out of hand."
"Not me, where did you find him?"
"I told you, I
don't answer questions, I ask them. Besides I don't need any more answers from
you right now. I'll be back," he said it as he turned for the stairway.
almost made a smart remark but decided against it. Instead I waited until he
left then dressed for the day. I moved to the kitchen table to have a glass of
tea while trying to figure out just what the hell was going on. I found that I
had about two ounces of tea left. I cursed everything in general for a few
minutes, then rinsed out the empty milk bottle. I put it along with three others
into a wire carrying basket like the one the milkmen used to make home
deliveries. It should look like one of theirs, since it was given to me by a
Guilford Dairy truck driver.
I loaded the bottles into the car, just as
the deputy walked across the street from his attempt to interview the bartender
at the Pump Room. I don't know what made him think that anyone would be inside
the closed bar. I especially didn't know why he thought the night bartender
might still be in the building.
I nodded to him as I drove my old Chevy
away. I drove the car the short mile to my mother's boarding house. I entered
expecting to be greeted by a boarder since I usually was.
I got all the
way to the kitchen before I found anyone. In the kitchen I found Ma and my
sister. Ma was working on putting away the food from
eakfast. Sissy was
"I see you two are hard at it. I suppose I should go away
and come back later." I said it even though I knew neither of them would want me
"You don't have to go Deke. What have you been up to? I hear
you were at that terrible Evans woman's farm." At the mere thought of it Sissy
began to giggle.
"Lucy, you hush up that kind of talk," Ma
"Thanks Ma," I said it sticking my tongue out at Sissy.
for you, I worry about you. What kind of man hangs out with trash like that?"
"Beats me Ma. I was just doing some work for her. I got paid
and she got the work done. If I were a carpenter and built her a porch, you
wouldn't be upset would you?"
"Of course I would, but I understand you
have to work. Sit down and have a biscuit," she demanded. The offer was far too
good to pass up.
After the food I said, "I actually came to buy some tea.
Can you spare me a little?"
"Sure, we have made enough for dinner and a
little extra. We will just have to make a little more for supper." Saying that
she filled my glass milk bottles. Sissy left the room to take care of something
in another part of the house.
"Son, I hear you are taking Sarah to a
movie tonight. I want you to be careful. You know all the women who live in a
boarding house are looking for husbands."
"I know Ma. I might get married
but it is going to be to a rich lady, not a mill worker."
"Now you know
you don't marry for money, you marry for love," she said smiling. She knew my
answer. I had given it to her enough times.
'Ma, I can love a rich woman
a damned sight easier than a poor one." That morning I added, "I hear the
superintendent of the weave room's wife is a grieving widow today. Now there is
a nice looking woman who probably has a nice insurance check
"Son, you shouldn't be talking like that. Some of the boarders
say you and Mr. Phipps had words. I hope you didn't have nothing to do with all
"Ma, I have an air tight alibi. Don't worry, I had nothing to do
with it. I can't say I'm sorry though. Did your rumor mongers tell you he had me
"No but I'm not surprised. Did you move already?" She asked it
with real concern on her wrinkled face.
"No, I expect I'll be moving next
"Where you going to move?" Sissy asked.
yet," I replied.
"I sure wish you could come back here," she
"Me too," I lied. I hadn't really wanted to move out, but I did
like the freedom. "Well Ma, I got to run. Is there anything I can do for either
"Nothing at all," she said with a sad smile. I handed her a
dollar for the tea. "You don't have to pay for the tea."
"I know, but you
had to buy the tea," I replied.
"Sure, but I could get enough tea for the
whole month with this," she said. She said exactly the same thing every
"So buy yourself a new car with the change," I grinned at her just
before I turned to walk away.
I sat in the car a moment while I recounted
my conversation with the red headed Sarah. I remembered that I was supposed to
meet her at six at the radio grill beside the movie theater. Since the movies
started at seven and nine it would be hard to work in a bite to eat, though I
distinctly remembered inviting her. I drove home to rest a while before lunch. A
real hangover was cured only by sleep. I managed a couple of more hours before I
awoke naturally shortly after noon.
I didn't even try to go to lunch,
instead I attempted to read the novel yet again. It was tough going, but I
stayed at it until three, where upon I drifted off to sleep again. I awoke in
time to take a shower then drive downtown to the grill.
I ordered a
coffee and had another one before she entered. I was surprised that she wore a
very fashionable lightweight summer dress. It wasn't new exactly but it wasn't
faded or worn either.
"Well you did come," I said it while I stood until
she seated herself across from me.
"Am I late?" she asked.
fashionable amount," I replied.
"God, I love the way you talk. Where did
you learn all those fancy words."
"Oh, I read a lot," I
"Some of the old boarders at your mama's house remember you as a
kid. According to them you were supposed to be a preacher. They say everybody
started calling you The Deacon as a teenager."
"You can hear anything if
you listen," I replied.
"What happened?" she paused then went on. "You
don't mind that I asked do you."
"Actually I don't usually talk about
it, but the war happened."
"Nobody seems to know what you did in the war.
They say you didn't come home during the whole war. They say when you did you
had a chest full of medals."
"They are all wrong. I didn't get any medals
"You aren't going to tell me what you did are you?" she
"No," I replied simply.
"Do you still believe in
"You are asking too many questions."
"I know, everybody says
I am too nosy. Just tell me whether you believe in God or not. I won't ask you
"What day is it?" I asked.
"It's Friday," she
"Then today I don't, but tomorrow I probably will." I
said it with as warm a smile as I could manage.
"I don't know what that
means," she said honestly.
"Neither do I," I admitted just as honestly.
"Now tell me what movie we are going to see."
"It's called 'The Egg and
I. It has Claudette Colbert and Fred McMurry in it. My girlfriend saw the
preview and it's supposed to be very funny."
"If you have finished your
Coke, we should be going," I suggested.
The movie was okay, but I was
never much of a movie fan. I especially don't like inane comedies. After the
movie, I asked, "So where would you like to eat?"
"I know you are going
to think I am terribly forward, but I would like to buy a burger and go to your
place. You don't think I am too pushy do you?"
"Actually I prefer a girl
who states her mind. I hate to suggest things that are too far out. It makes a
man look like he is trying to get over on a woman."
"I knew I was going
to have to be the one to suggest anything. I knew you would be worried that I
might tell your mother that you were a wolf. Nobody wants their mother to know
what they really do. I sure as heck wouldn't want mine to know what all I've
done since I came here."
"So where are you from?" We had almost reached
my car by the time I got around to asking that one.
"A little town up in
the mountains called West Jefferson. Have you ever heard of it."
don't think so, but I never got around much before the war. Most of my travels
during the war were in Europe."
"I'm not surprised, nobody around here
ever heard of it. No reason they should have. It's not much more than a country
store with a post office inside."
"Maybe you'll become famous and put it
on the map," I suggested it as we pulled out of the parking lot. Neither of us
spoke until I pulled into a parking space half a block from the burger joint.
"So how many can you eat?" I asked.
"Only one," she said.
means if you weren't on a date it would be two or three. Listen let's just
pretend we are an old married couple, just try to relax and have fun." I looked
at her to make sure she didn't misunderstand. She was right, I didn't want her
filling Ma's head with garbage about me. I also didn't need anymore black marks
on my reputation around the
"That sounds like a marvelous
idea. I hate being so careful what I say and do. If we are going to do it, then
I want a beer with my burger. Do you have any beer at your place?"
I also live across the street from a grocery store which is closed, but the beer
"Good, you know being out with you is a lot more fun that
most guys I know. Most of them work in the mill and all they want to do is 'you
"Don't drop your guard. I am not that much different from the
others. Now let me go get the food." I said it as I swung the door open. The air
in the California Sandwich Shop was filled with smoke and grease. The smell
probably sold an extra hundred burgers a week. I believe they fried onions even
when they had enough for the burgers. They did it just to create that smell. The
line moved quickly enough so that I ordered after only a few minutes wait. I
ordered four burgers on greasy rolls.
At the California the burgers were
half cooked before you got in the door. The wait was only a couple of minutes
for the sweaty cook to finish them. While I waited I looked out at the traffic.
Cars came and went constantly. It was due to the popularity of the grill on a
date night. That and the fact that the service was so fast.
I gave the
cashier a dollar for the order, then pocketed the silver and copper coins which
I received in change. When I returned to the car, I handed the bag to Sarah as I
slipped under the wheel. When the engine sprang to life I drove to the heights
As I pulled onto the dirt alley behind my building, I again
thought how much I was going to miss the one room apartment. I had to force the
anger down. First of all I didn't know who to be angry with. Raleigh was gone,
but I didn't expect the order to be lifted. There would be plenty of other
overseers and superintendents happy to see me out on my butt.
short walk to my side door I unlocked it. I allowed Sarah to lead the way. She
stopped at the top of the stairs until I found the light switch. When I flipped
the switch the one gigantic room flooded with light.
"Have you got a less
ight light?" she asked.
"Sure," I replied as I turned on a lamp in
the living area. I quickly turned off the overhead. I opened a drawer in the
table under the lamp. From it I removed a big thick white candle. It was the
kind sold in the dime stores to be used when the lights when out. The power
often failed in those days. I found a saucer, then sat the candle in
The light from the candle lit the corner I used as a dining area. The
small lamp and the candle, created two pools of light in the large room. I sat
the bag by the candle, then opened the refrigerator. From it I removed two tall
necked bottles of Schlitz.
"I can probably find you a clean glass, if
you'd like?" I asked.
"Not me, I'm a country girl remember," Sarah
I was a little surprised how easily she drank the beer while
eating the greasy burgers. I finished my first beer with the second burger. When
I went to the refrig for another Sarah said, "Would you
ing me one. This one
is about finished."
I was a little concerned that the ten beers might not
be enough. While I opened the two beers before returning to the table, I noticed
Sarah stand. She walked to the table with the lamp. There she switched off the
lamp, leaving the room with only the glow of the candle. The room was at least
twenty five feet long and sixteen feet wide. The one candle on the table against
the street wall, left most of the room in darkness.
"This is much cozier
don't you agree?" Sarah asked it in a voice I hardly recognized.
I admitted. She and I ate the remainder of the burgers and drank two more beers
Sarah came around the table. "Deke, I guess I am going to have to
seduce you. it don't look like you are ever going to make the first
"Frankly Sarah, I didn't want you to say no, then go back and tell
Ma on me. I got about all the trouble right now I can handle."
honey, I don't kiss and tell." As if to punctuate her statement, she twisted me
around then sat in my lap. She actually bent her head so that she could kiss me.
It was a nice sweet kiss, nothing at all like Rose's kiss. Which is not to say
that it didn't have the same effect on me. She probably knew the effect at least
as soon as I did.
"Why Deke honey, what is that thing prodding me?" she
actually giggled. I had a hard time believing sweet little Sarah was so
"Sarah, you need to get up before something bad happens to you." I
"Deke, what is going to happen is not going to be bad believe me,"
She said it much too quietly. Her voice was also very soft and husky. I knew
what it meant, but wasn't sure it was a good idea. But then there are times you
just don't listen to the voice inside you, or maybe you listen to a stronger
voice. The one shouting at you from a different place all together.
gave all of it a little thought, then pulled her to me for a much deeper kiss.
She didn't resist even when the kiss became slightly painful as my teeth cut
into my lip. I knew the same must be true for her as well. Sarah was the one who
removed my hand from her back and placed it on her
east. I could feel the
sharp seams of her
a through the thin cotton dress.
The sound that
came from her lips once she
oke the kiss was more a demanding groan than
anything else. She pulled me down to kiss her neck as she continued to make
softer noises. I was more than a little surprise when Sarah led me though our
lovemaking. She knew exactly what she wanted, and how she wanted it done. Sweet
little Sarah turned out to be a very demanding lover.
The far off sound
invaded my mind. It was a banging sound that would not go away. I finally jerked
awake and realized that yet again someone was banging on my outside door. I
quickly reached beside me to check for Sarah. There was no one else in the bed.
As I slipped on my pants, I remember that I had driven Sarah home before I
passed out. Actually I had driven her only as far as the corner about fifty
yards from the boarding house.
"It would never do", she informed me,
"For anyone to see her being
ought home at that hour by a rake like me.
People might get the right idea." It was her idea of a joke. I didn't laugh
because there was too much truth in her statement.
All that went through
my head before I reached the top of the stairs. I was terrified that it might be
Sarah with her clothes. I sure as hell didn't remember inviting her to live with
me, but I couldn't be sure. When it turned out to be a man I barely recognized,
I was thrilled.
"Yes?" I asked dully.
"Deke, you do recognize me
don't you?" the tall thin young man asked.
"Sure, you are Goldman the
lawyer?" I made it a question because I wasn't really sure. I had mostly seen
him from the rear. He looked older from the rear. In the
ight morning sun at
his back he looked about sixteen.
"That right, Jacob Goldman. Could you
come by my office around two?"
"I suppose so, but why?" I
"I might have a job for you," he replied. I suppose he expected
that statement to make me more interested.
"Sorry Goldman, I ain't
looking for a job." I didn't mean for the statement to sound like I was a wise
ass, but it did.
"Well, what I really meant is, I have a client who needs
your help. Actually, I don't know for sure that we do need your help. Look Deke,
if you come to the office at two I can explain it all."
I quickly looked
at my watch. It was eleven on a Saturday morning. I had time for lunch and to
probably get a better grip on things. The headache from the full strength beer
and god only knew what else, would probably ease off by two, I thought. "Sure, I
can make it by two."s
"Then I'll see you in the office," Goldman
I spent the waiting time hoping the aspirin would kick in.
They didn't before I had to meet with Goldman.
I had drank about a quart
of iced tea aomost praying it would help. Finally I took another aspirin washed
down with a Goody powder. I still had the headache at two but it was reduced
from a pounding to a mild discomfort.
I walked into Goldman's office
feeling more depressed than pained. I stopped in the waiting area until he came
out for me. "Come on in Deke," he said while holding the inner office door as I
I noticed the very attractive woman in the black suit
immediately. Madeline Phipps would be hard to miss anytime, but that day she was
especially hard. The black suit didn't shout woman in mourning to me. It should
have, but it was too tight and too well cut to be widow's weeds. I had never met
the woman,. She had been pointed out to me once. I couldn't remember where it
had been, and I didn't try very hard either. The very well proportioned blonde
was about to speak. I wanted to hear what she had to say.
"So you are
Deacon Burke. I have heard enough about you to fill a couple of books." The
blonde said it looking at me as if I were a horse she was about to purchase. I
half expected her to look at my tobacco stained teeth.
"Really, I can't
imagine anyone talking to you about me. Believe me whatever you heard isn't
"If I am arrested for Raliegh's murder, I certainly hope it is all
true and even worse," she replied flashing a million dollar smile at
"Mrs. Phipps is afraid the Sheriff intends to arrest her." Goldman
said it trying to look competent. He might have been, but he was obviously
trying to hard to impress the widow Phipps.
"Really, why is that?" I
aimed the question at her.
"The Sheriff's men have been very rude in
their questioning," she replied.
"How many times have they questioned
"Three so far, the last time they all but accused me of killing
Raleigh. I came to Mr. Goldman right after."
"Why Goldman, no offense
intended Jacob, but Mrs. Phipps has enough money to hire a more experienced
"Because, he is known around town as the lawyer who goes against
the mill. Just as you are known as a man not afraid to ruffle their
"Why are you so concerned with the mill. Surely they are
trying to help you?" I asked.
"Are you kidding. The only people the
owners are interested in are those in their own families. One is trying to make
his kid governor. He will throw me to the wolves in a second, if it will keep
this all quiet."
"Why would anyone care about the murder of a mill
worker. I mean other than right here in the village."
"Wouldn't you say
that depends on who stands trial for the murder, and how long the trial lasts.
Then too, the investigation could
ing out some things the owners of the mill
would just as soon stay in the village."
"I don't think I understand,
what sort of things?" I asked.
"That's what we hope you will find out.
The mill is somehow involved in this. They are trying too hard to have Mrs.
Phipps confess to a murder she didn't commit."
"Why does the Sheriff
think you did it?" I asked.
"Who knows?" she asked in
"Okay, let's try it this way. Exactly what happened Thursday
night?" I asked suddenly more interested in the whole thing.
know, if now is the best time for this." Jacob replied before she could say
"If you want my help, it is the only time." I said it because
it was true. I didn't plan to spend a lot of time on something only to find out
it was a mistake.
"I mean, until you accept the job you could be forced
to testify as to what Mrs. Phipps says." Jacob was trying to sound like a lawyer
for Mrs. Phipps again.
"Jacob, nobody forces me to do anything. Now
either I know what is going on, or I am going back to bed. I have a terrible
hangover, I don't need this crap."
"Let me make this simple," the Widow
Phipps said. "I came home around eleven thirty and found Raleigh on the sofa. He
had most of his head missing."
"I think you need to start a little
earlier," I suggested. "Where had you been, and when did you see your husband
"Raleigh and I had dinner together. After dinner I drove to
my mother's house to visit."
"Do you do that often? I mean stay at your
mothers so late?" She could tell I found it unlikely that she would visit her
mother for such a long time.
"Not really, while I was visiting mother my
Uncle Albert came to visit. I stayed to talk with him for a while."
you call your husband to tell him that you would be late?" I asked.
did," she replied. "It was around eight thirty."
"Okay, you arrived home
and found your husband dead. How was he killed?"
"The Sheriff thinks he
was killed with a shotgun."
"Did they find the gun?" I asked.
they found it on a chair in the living room."
"How far was the chair from
"Across the room, ten or twelve feet I would think." she
I noticed that she hadn't shed a tear during the telling of the
ordeal. In the South that could be enough to get her the gas chamber. "What did
you do when you found him?"
"I called Max Fuller. He came over, then
called the Sheriff for me. He seemed to know what to say to them. Of course, it
didn't help much, the sheriff's men still treated me like a
"That's because you are a suspect. Hell, I was even a suspect
myself." I paused a moment then went on. "Is there anything the Sheriff asked
you that you found disturbing?"
"Only about Aaron," she
"Who is Aaron?" I asked.
"Aaron North, he is
superintendent of the spinning and warp rooms. He lives with Raleigh and
I couldn't help it, that one floored me. I knew that most of the
mill hands had family staying with them at one time or another. I just never
thought a superintendent would. "Why was Aaron staying with you?"
went to school with my husband. When the mill hired him, Raleigh invited him to
live with us until he got settled."
It made sense until I asked, "How
long had he been staying with you?"
"About eighteen months."
took him a while to get settled?" I asked it in a disbelieving
"That's exactly the tone the deputies took with me. Aaron works all
the time like Raleigh. He just hasn't had time to make friends, or to find a
place of his own."
I changed the subject to try to throw her off. "Why in
the world did you call Max?"
"Are you sure you don't work for the
Sheriff? His man asked me the same thing. Raleigh always called Max when
anything came up that might cause a problem for the mill. Max always knew what
to do. At least, that was the impression I had from Raleigh. If I had known
calling him would be such a controversial move, I most certainly would have
called the Sheriff myself."
"Did you hope Max could just make it all go
away?" I asked it expecting her to admit that she had.
"No, I just wanted
someone to tell me what to do. I was extremely upset. I had just found my
"The best thing you can do for this lady Jacob, is to find
out what happened to her husband. If the Sheriff doesn't come up with a better
suspect, she is going to get fitted for a prison suit. You will have a hard time
convincing a jury of her innocence."
"Well, I am innocent," she
"That could very well be but what a jury decides is the truth,
usually has little to do with guilt or innocence. It has more to do with how
"I don't know how he knows, but he is right. Our best bet
is to find out who killed your husband. I wouldn't even want you to be arrested.
There are some legal maneuvers I can pull, while Mr. Burke looks for the
"Just a minute, you are assuming that I will look for Phipp's
killer. I'm not so sure I want to do that."
"Why would you refuse to
help," Madeline asked.
"At what point did you tell the cops to come see
me?" I asked. It was obviously news to Jacob.
"Thursday night, they asked
if I knew anyone who Raleigh had argued with. I told them about you. You aren't
going to hold that against me are you? After all, I did tell the truth and
I changed the subject by asking her several hard questions
about their relationship. When I say their, I meant all three of them. According
to Madeline, she and Raleigh were madly in love. Under the circumstances, I
wouldn't have expected her to say anything else. Also according to her, there
was never anything between Aaron and her. I ran out of things to ask, so I
demanded she sketch the positions of everything in her living room on Thursday
I sat quietly while Jacob asked a few questions then said good-bye
as she walked from the office. When she had been gone long enough that I felt
she wouldn't be coming back for her purse, or any other reason, I asked, "So did
she do it?"
"I don't think so, how about you?" Jacob asked.
didn't do it," I replied with a grin.
"No, do you think she did
"I have no idea."
"So what now?" he asked.
stomach has stopped rolling and my head no longer pounds, I am going to get a
"Next door?" he asked.
"Hell no, the only decent hot dog
in town is at the company store on vine street. I am going to drive over there
and get a bag full."
"How about getting enough for us both. We can make
plans over lunch."
"Give me four bits for yours. I said it as I arose to
"Meet me in the park by the bandstand," he suggested. "I'll save
us a bench."
I nodded as I left his office. I drove my old Chevy to the
store. I bought six hot-dogs and two Pepsi Colas from the hundred pound
overweight woman behind the counter. It was just as well that the store had no
facilities to eat in. The woman's white uniform ranged from soaked to damp
depending on the time of day. Her appearance would have freighted off any
potential diners anyway.
The service was quick, so I found myself at the
park twenty minutes after leaving Jacob's office. I parked the Chevy on the side
of the road. I was forced to cross the street to park on the shoulder. The
shoulder on my side of the street was on six inches wide. It dropped off into a
large open drainage ditch.
The entrance to the park was marked by a large
opening in the hedges nothing more. Which was not to be confused with the
several smaller openings made by people pushing their way through the hedges at
various popular spots. I found Goldman sitting on a bench near the bandstand. I
noticed again that the bandstand was badly in need of paint. The bench occupied
by Jacob was not part of the true bandstand area. The area around the bandstand
was a grassy field. When the band played the audience would spread blankets
under the strings of lights to listen to the music. What the couples on the
blankets spread far from the lights did was anybody's guess.
where Goldman sat faced away from the empty bandstand. I sat on the end farthest
from him. I spread the hot-dogs on the bench between us. From the second
bag I removed the Pepsi bottles. I placed the cap of the first bottle against
the wooden seat, then struck the top sharply thereby dislodging the cap. I
handed the bottle to Jacob, then repeated the action to open a bottle for
"Would you mind if I called you Deke?" he asked.
little late to ask, you have been calling me Deke all morning," I
"I know, but I realize now that I should have asked
"Do you mind me calling you Jacob?"
"As a matter of fact
it does bother me some," he replied looking away from me.
just too damned bad," I admitted. "I don't show a great deal of respect to
anyone, especially not a man younger than me."
"I am at least five years
older than you," he suggested.
"Well It is a matter of what kind of years
you count. Look Jacob, don't get hung up on names. You just call me whatever you
"Then Deke, what should we do next?"
"Why are you asking
me, I thought you were running the show?"
"Deke, you have to know more
about this than I do. Hell, I'm from New Jersey for God's sake."
thing we need, is to know all the cops know."
"The cops will never talk
to a lawyer for a suspect."
"I expect you know more than you are
telling." i suggested with a smile. "If the cops won't talk to us then we need
to talk to all the people the cops have talked to."
"If Mrs. Phipps is
right, the mill will never help us, and all those people work for the
"Jacob, do you know how I get things done with the mill
"No Deke, how do you get things done?"
"All that crap
about the mill being benevolent is crap. They only do what they have to do. If
they could, they would use slave labor to make their damned cloth. They just
seem to be interested in their employees because it keeps the unions
In the thirties the unions almost got a foothold in the mills. It
didn't, not because the workers didn't want or need the help, but because the
government couldn't afford any more labor unrest. They called in troops to put
down the pro-labor demonstrations."
"I'm from a union state, I know how
it works," Jacob explained.
"Rather than fight their employees, the mill
management began upgrading their situation. That's how the myth of the
benevolent mill owners began."
"Okay, but how does that help us?" Jacob
"Because you can bet your ass that somebody up in New York is
reading the newspapers down here. The mill owners are more afraid of the
newspapers than anything else. If the paper prints a few pieces of trash about
the mill, the labor bosses can use it to try to stir up trouble again. What I do
is threaten to call the newspapers. I make damned sure that I can get it done,
if they call me on it. You can't run but one or maybe two bluffs on these
"What kinds of things are they doing that would interest the
"Nothing would interest the local papers. Hell the mill
owners could shoot their wives, and it wouldn't make the local paper. However
the Charlotte observer is one of those liberal rags that prides itself on
uncovering corruption. They would run an article in a minute about the mill
buying special privileges for it's management staff. The mill wants to keep it's
reputation clean, but it always want to appear to be fair and unbiased. It is a
tough position to hold. It makes it impossible not to have some contradictions
and that's where I come in. I just help the mill to see the light when it comes
to the individual worker."
"For a price," Jacob countered.
you work for these people. Are you getting rich?"
"I see your point
Neither of us is liable to make much money helping textile workers," he
"That's right, I do it because these are my people. So why do
you do it?" I asked.
"I'm a Yankee, bleeding heart, Jew. I'm doing my
five year penitence before I go home and make a million bucks." He was smiling,
but I felt there was a great deal of truth in what he said.
have that out of the way, let's start by interviewing Max Fuller."
works for the mill doesn't he?" Jacob asked.
"Yes, and the way to get him
to cooperate is to have a high mucky muck at the mill order him to
"So I threaten to go to the papers?" he asked.
make it known that you will do whatever it takes to get your client a fair
shake. If it takes exposing the hypocrisy, then that's what it
"What hypocrisy?" he asked.
"They are going to say they
want justice, but what they really want is for this to go away without any
publicity. They don't mind a report that his wife killed him, what they don't
want is any indication that anything else might be going on."
going on?" Jacob asked.
"We won't know that until we talk to a lot of
people," I replied. Just as I finished the statement I looked up to see a woman
enter the park through the entrance on the far end. Jacob and I spoke of his
next move while she walked toward us. When she was about fifty feet away I
recognized Sarah. For it to have taken so long I had to have still been hung
over and deep in thought about Madeline. "Damn." I said.
"What is it?'
"That woman coming, I should have called on her this
morning. If you hadn't gotten me involved in this crap, I would have. You are
going to have to explain what I've been up to."
"Of course I will," he
replied with a smile.
"Hello Sarah," I said as she approached. "I would
have been over to Ma's this morning, if I hadn't gotten involved with Jacob
here. You do know Jacob?"
"I haven't had the pleasure," she said with a
smile. "And what makes you think I care if you visit your mother or
"I'm sorry, but I thought I might see you if I stopped by," I
"Why would I want to see you?" she asked as she turned her
attention to Jacob. "You go out with a man once, and he thinks he owns
%%%"I really have been keeping Mr. Burke busy this morning. I am
sorry if it made him late."
"Think nothing of it, I certainly don't," she
said that with a sweet little smile.
"I really should be running along,"
"Please, don't go on my account. I was just headed to the
"Why don't you sit here just a minute. We really would like to
ask you a couple of questions," I suggested.
"Like what?" she asked
"You have heard that Raleigh Phipps died Thursday night?" I
"I have, and it has nothing to do with me," she replied
"I know that, what I want to know is what you thought of him. You
do work in the weave room don't you?"
"You know I do. Deke, what is wrong
with you?" She asked it smiling at Jacob as if they were conspirators in some
kind of game to which only they knew the rules.
"Look Sarah, I want to
know what the hands thought of Raleigh?"
"They didn't like him anymore
than they did any of the others," she replied.
"Any particular reason?"
"Nothing special," she obviously wasn't going to volunteer
"Anybody especially upset with him at the moment?" I
"Probably every women in the department. Look Deke, I really have
to go. I'm meeting my sister at the movie. You two are welcome to come along if
Jacob looked at me before he said, "Sure, we can't do much
until Monday anyway."
"You go on along, I want to talk to some more
people. I'll catch up with you on Monday." I had addressed that at Jacob. "As
for you," I said to Sarah, "I hope I see you again soon."
"You will, I
still owe you money," she at least was smiling when she said it. Obviously she
was going to check out Jacob. I expect like everyone else on the hill she knew
that Jacob was a lawyer. He would be an infinitely better catch than a 'lay
about' like me.
After they had gone, I drove the Chevy through the mill
village then on into the country. I drove all the way to ham town. Once inside
the community it was only a few yard to the farm of Sandra Evans. I parked in
the dirt front yard of the farm house. I had not noticed in the dark but the
house needed a coat of paint. It wasn't as badly in need as the mill houses
were. The farm house was only peeling in a few places. Even so I decided that
the house looked much better in the dark.
I knocked on the door. It was
opened by the black maid. "Yes?" she asked.
"My name is Deke Burke. I
would like to see Sandra Evans if she is awake?"
"She isn't, but I am,"
the voice belonged to Luther.
"That's nice Luther, but I want to talk to
"You come to call about Raleigh Phipps?" he asked.
a matter of fact I did. Do you know anything about his death?"
are asking if I killed him, then no I did not. If you are asking if Laura Lee or
her boyfriend did, then the answer is still no."
"How can you be sure
about Laura Lee and her boyfriend."
"Because, Johnny was in no shape to
sneak up on anyone. Raleigh wouldn't have let him closer than a mile. As for
Laura Lee, you sent her out of town, if I remember right."
"She came back
didn't she?" I asked. Something in his manner had told me.
since last night. Even before that she was eating and sleeping in the house. She
didn't kill anybody."
"You got any idea who might have?"
what I hear, he wasn't real popular with the women who worked for
"Really, why is that?" I asked it not expecting much of an
"Something about the supervisors and the women help. I expect you
ought to ask your girlfriend."
"Who might that be?" I asked.
Sarah Anderson of course, she is a pretty little thing, even if she does have
freckles. I wouldn't mind spending a little time with her myself."
Luther, why in the hell are you trying to rattle my cage. We both know that it
would be a terrible sight, if you and I began to play whose is
"Because you got entirely too many fans. You ain't near as tough
or smart as people think." he said sharply.
"I can't help what they
think, but I can tell you this. I ain't near as easy as you seem to
We were both tense. Each waiting for the other to make the next
move. The fighting wouldn't start with a punch being thrown. It would come from
nowhere when either of us sensed an opening or a weakness in the other. It never
came that day because a voice rang out from the top of the stairs.
two cut it out. I got use for you both. If the time ever comes when I don't,
then you can kill each other. But you can not do it just yet." The voice of
course belonged to Sandra Evans.
"If you are looking for Raleigh's
killer, look at his wife or her boyfriend."
"Who is the boyfriend?" I
asked expecting the answer I got.
"Raleigh thought it was their boarder
for a while."
"You mean Aaron North?" I asked.
"Yeah but he found
out it wasn't him. Oh he might have been sleeping with her, but she had a real
"So who was it?" I asked.
"Raleigh didn't know who he
was, but he was sure there was someone."
"Are you sure Raleigh wasn't
just lying to make himself feel better about his little flings?"
didn't need to make himself feel better, because he never felt bad about them.
His wife wouldn't satisfy him, so he came here."
"He wouldn't have been
getting a little from the mill workers would he?" I asked.
admit it if he was. I really don't know whether he would have told our girls or
not. It would sure be touchy if he was. I don't know how the old man would have
reacted to it."
"Any other gossip I should hear," I
"The supervisors who worked for him thought he was the best of the
superintendents. That's the gossip I got from the girls."
"Why did they
"Well, he didn't mind if they engaged in a little pinch and
tickle. That is, he didn't until you raised such a stink about the little
redhead. After that, he was a little more concerned. By the way, if you get
killed, there are going to be so many suspects that the cops will have to call
in two or maybe three more departments to interview them all. I hear everyone in
the mill's management wants you dead. They really don't like you upsetting the
"Why? just because they can no longer force a woman to have
sex with them? Don't these guys have any sense of fair play?"
had a pretty good thing until you started raising hell. Now they have to pay for
their strange, just like everybody else. I don't think you have any friends in
the mills management at all."
I knew she was wrong, but I didn't say
anything. There were several of the people in management who felt bad about some
of the things that went on. None of them were willing to say a nice thing about
me, but none would be willing to drive the stake into my heart
"Then I guess, I better go find someone who knew who the widow
Phipps was seeing," I suggested.
"Why don't you stick around, I have an
offer for you." Sandra said.
"No thanks, I'm still not looking for a
"That offer is still open, but I had a house in mind this time. I
hear you are looking for a place."
"How the hell did you hear that?" I
asked. "It only happened yesterday."
"Sheriff's deputies visit here too
you know. They like to talk and my girls all listen. So how about it, you want
to rent a house from me."
"Is there going to be a sheriff's deputy
keeping track of my comings and goings?" I asked grinning at her.
house is located on a side road. It was a tenant house when this place was a
real farm. You want to see it?" she asked.
"Sure, but I don't know that I
want to rent a tenant house."
"Suit yourself, but I assure you I won't
ask you to leave just because some mill boss' wife calls me."
bother to correct her about who called. I just followed Luther outside. I drove
my own car back to the main road. Just a few yards farther out of town another
road lead off to the left. The house sat on the side of the same property as
I knew the house had once been painted white from the
fact that there were a few spots of white paint still attached to the raw wood.
It did not appear that there was a single pane of uncracked glass in any of the
windows. The large open porch was sagging at the right corner. I didn't even go
to the rear. I figured, I really didn't want to see it. The tin roof did appear
to have been well kept or recently painted.
I was surprised when I
stepped onto the porch. The floor seemed solid. I opened the door to find that
it led into a room which covered the entire front of the house. On closer
examination I realized that it was the only room in the house.
Luther, surely Sandra doesn't think I would want to live in this?"
I told her not to offer you this place. She don't need the aggravation of having
you on the property."
"There aren't even any interior walls." It was
true, the frame of the building was exposed like a medical school's skeleton.
Not that I had ever seen a medical school skeleton, except in the movies.
"I done told you I agree. If I was you, I'd go look for another place
near the village."
I realized then that both he and Sandra were right. No
one near the village was going to rent me anything. Once they called my previous
landlord for a reference, they were going to hear the reason for my departure.
They would then know better than to rent me a dog house. Still the tenant house
wasn't a fit place to live.
"Give me the phone number at the farm. I'll
give it some thought then call," I promised.
"The number is private. If
you got anything to say, just come on over, Try to do it after five next
"Why not, just tell her I've got a little too much on my mind to
make a decision right now."
"Sure, but like I said, we don't need you
hanging around out here."
"Like I said, I'll think about it all." There
was no sense fighting about it. I really didn't want to live so far from the
village. Still I might not have a choice."
I drove back to the Heights
for dinner. I ate a wedge of cheese, a couple of pieces of fruit, and half a box
of crackers. It was my supper a couple of times a month during the summer, when
fresh fruit was available. I washed it all down with a couple of glasses of iced
After my makeshift dinner, I went across to the Pump Room while I
decided on my next move. The problem I was running around in my head was 'Who do
I ask about the Widow Phipps' boyfriend?' I doubted that she would tell me the
truth. I asked myself over and over "Who would a woman tell about her
boyfriend?" I kept coming up empty.
Around nine I sensed someone standing
behind me. I hadn't felt like playing cards so I was sitting at the bar. I
turned to see Sarah smiling down on me. "Well hello, what
ings you in here?"
"I had never been inside. I wanted to see what it was
"So what do you think?" I asked.
"It's dark and it smells
funny," she replied.
"You want to sit at a table for a beer or do you
want to talk to me."
"I want to talk to you, but if we could, I would
rather go to your place," she said seriously.
"Sure, let me pay my tab,"
I turned my attention from her to the bartender. "Roy what do I owe
"Thirty five cents," he replied without any particular expression
on his face.
I left four bits on the bar, then walked Sarah out the door.
Unfortunately we passed by Rose who was looking as if she might kill me on the
way out of the door.
It took about a minute to reach my doorway. I didn't
even get started up the stairs before she kissed me. Kissing Sarah was like
ick. I don't guess she was all that experienced at it. Then again,
she made love like a ten dollar whore. I didn't think she lacked experience in
Half an hour later, we were laying in bed naked.
"Sarah who would you tell, if you had a secret boyfriend?"
asking, if I have told anyone about this?"
"No, what I am asking is, if
you had a married boyfriend, who would you tell."
"It's the same thing. I
don't want anyone to know about us."
"Why is that?"
everyone knows what you are. If I find a nice young man, I want him to think I
am a virgin. Hell Deke, I want to get married someday." Sarah was serious about
not wanting anyone to know she and I were sleeping together. I probably should
have bothered me but I knew everyone in the village was looking for a way out.
Everyone except me.
"Okay, then who have you told about me?"
Jenny," she replied.
"Is Jenny your sister?" I asked.
not, I don't want her to tell my parents. Jenny is my best friend at the
"If somebody asked her, would Jenny tell?"
"I hope not, but
of course I can't be sure." she said.
Sarah left around ten thirty. After
she had gone, I fell into a deep sleep. I awoke to a pounding on my door only a
few minutes later. I had a pretty good idea who would be waiting at the foot of
my stairs. Sure enough, Rose was standing in the night pounding on my
"Deke, you son of a bitch open this door," she shouted up when she
saw me standing at the head of the stairs. I was tempted to just go back to bed.
If I thought I could have slept I might have. Instead I descended the stairs
like a man headed for the gallows.
First I opened the door then stepped
aside to keep from getting trampled. Rose pushed past me as she climbed the
stairs. I followed after but not too closely behind. When I reached the top of
the stairs, I found that Rose had seated herself on my bed."
"I do have a
more comfortable chair over here," I suggested pointing to my one stuffed chair,
the one I used for reading.
"Deke, you really are a bastard. What you
doing with that kid when you can have me. You ain't in love are
"No, but it wouldn't matter. She has her sights see on a man with a
future. I am afraid I have no future."
"Then why is she screwing you?"
Rose asked it with some of the steam missing from her voice.
because I am good in bed?" I asked it trying to take the rest of her anger
"Well I can't comment on that, since you had to get drunk to ask me
up here. Then you passed out on me." She did
eak into a laugh. "So, was she
any good in bed?"
I was more than a little surprised by her question.
"I guess, but then I don't know how you can judge a thing like that."
She went from being pissed to suddenly lowering her voice to an almost
whisper. "Deke baby, come here I am going to give you something to compare it
too. With that she began to unbutton here dress. I remembered her body from the
last time I awoke with her in my bed. Still there is something terribly sexy
about a woman undressing in front of you.
"Rose, I don't think I can do
this," I said as I watched her closely. I also gave a nervous laugh as I watched
her continue to remove her clothes.
"Deke, you sound funny," she said
with a smile in her voice. Then she went on "Sure you can Deke," she was still
I stood back and watched until she was naked. I
swear in the light coming through the window and with her laying across my tiny
bed she looked like a painting in one of those Italian towns. She really was a
beautiful woman, even if she was a little larger than Sarah.
I moved to
her open arms and to lie beside her. Rose was soft and warm. I did not believe
it possible but my desire returned with the very first kiss.
fast," she said. "I want this to last. Besides you still have that bitch's stink
on you. Go draw us a bath.
"Come on Rose," I begged.
"No Deke, I
will not sleep with you smelling like another woman."
I shook my head as
I went into the bathroom to fill the tub.
"Damn Deke close the door. I
don't need to see you washing your ass." Rose had a real laugh in her
I took a quick bath, then rushed back into the hot room. The bed
was empty and I heard the downstairs door slam. I also heard her hysterical
laugh as she walked away.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of rain
falling on the street outside my open window. Since it was Sunday there was
almost no traffic. I listened to the rain until it lulled me back to
I spent the entire day inside the apartment. I expected to hear
from either Sarah or Rose. I had just enough food on hand to make it through the
day. It was one of those days just made for catching up on lost sleep. I dozed
between periods of expectation. Nobody came by, I was more than a little
On Monday I met with Jacob Goldman first thing. He and I
worked out a plan which included me being on hand when he interviewed Max Fuller
and Aaron North. The plan required Jacob to do some fancy footwork with the
general superintendent of the mill, but I figured he could handle it. Jacob
called the super's office early Monday morning. He spoke first with the
secretary, then with the man himself. Jacob offered to go to the super's office
to discuss it, but was assured the trip wouldn't be necessary. In the end a
combination of begging and threatening to go public got us permission to contact
Max and Aaron. We were to work out the details with the two men, but the super
assured us they would cooperate. I knew his idea of cooperation, and my idea of
cooperation were far apart. It was the best we were going to do and I knew
"I have a surprise for you," Jacob informed me.
that be?" I asked.
"While you spent the weekend playing around, I was
working." As he spoke those words he removed two sheets of type written paper
iefcase, then tossed them on the desk.
I picked up the
papers and found them to be copies of the police report. "I know they deputy
didn't give you a copy of his report, so what is this?"
"It's a copy I
typed. I used my notes the ones I took from his report."
I read the
report quickly since it wasn't really as long as I made it sound. The pages were
double spaced. Mostly it said the deputy arrived at five after midnight and
found exactly what the widow had told us. He noted that the widow didn't seem
all that upset considering the state of her husband's body. He also mentioned
that Max Fuller kept getting in his way while he investigated the scene. All in
all, it was what I had expected almost.
"Did you take notes on the
Widow's story?' I asked Jacob.
"You know I did."
"I don't suppose
you have a nice typed summery of her statement do you?"
"I do," he said
that as he fished the statement from his file cabinet. he handed it to me after
he replaced it with the deputy's statement. I read Madeline's statement
carefully. I did learn one thing from it. She was a liar. I should have told
Jacob, but I kept it to myself. It was something I planned to spring on Max,
just as soon as we had him in the interview chair.
"So when do we start
seeing the people involved?" I asked.
"I'll make the calls now," he
replied. Aaron North agreed to stop in around lunch. Max said he would call his
boss, then get back to us. Evidently no one had told him to cooperate. I figured
it was just as well. I really wanted to determine North's involvement before I
talked to Max. I probably should have told Jacob what I knew, but if I had he
might not have gone along with me.
Since the day had turned off hot and
dry, I didn't want to hang around Jacob's office waiting for Aaron or Max.
"Jacob, I'm going out for a while."
"Aren't you going to be here for the
interviews?" he asked with real concern in his voice.
"Sure, it's just
too hot to sit around here. I think I'll go see if any of the ball teams are
"Don't be too long. I don't want you to miss either of
these interviews." Jacob said anxiously.
"Aaron won't be in until noon or
later. Max won't be in until after Aaron. He is going to want to talk to North
before he meets with us," I replied.
"How do you know that?" Jacob
"Max has a secret he wants to keep. Don't worry, I'll be back in a
couple of hours."
From ten until eleven I watched the Red Caps hit and
throw the baseball around. I expected they were the better of the three baseball
teams who practiced on that particular field. Of the softball teams, I liked the
White Oak Spinning Department's team best. They had a couple of real long ball
At exactly eleven I drove to the Heights where I stopped first
at Jacob's office. When he informed me that he hadn't heard from either of our
interviewees, I went to Pop's for a plate lunch. I had just about finished it
when Jacob stuck his head in the door. He motioned for me to follow him. I first
put two quarters on the booth's table then followed after him.
entered his reception area, I looked through the open door to his private
office. There sat a youngish man dressed in a suit and tie. He looked to be
under thirty and very nervous. I was happy to see that Aaron North was sweating
more than me.
"Mr. North, I believe you know Deke Burke," Jacob
"Actually we have never met, but I do know of you." He said it
as he extended his hand to me.
"Mr. North, I've heard a lot about you
lately," I replied.
"Some of it good I hope?" he asked
"I don't know, that remains to be seen." I didn't figure there
was anything to be gained by pussyfooting around it.
"Well Mr. North,
please make yourself comfortable," Jacob said trying to lighten the
"Yeah, do that Aaron, this may take a while, or maybe not. It
really depends on you," I admitted.
"That sounds rather ominous," he said
it trying hard to smile. He couldn't quite make it.
"Let's just start and
see how it goes," Jacob suggested as he gave me a stern look.
how long have you and the Widow Phipps been intimate?" I asked while smiling at
Jacob behind North's back.
"Who said we were?" he asked
"Why Raleigh of course," I replied.
"Raleigh is dead,"
he stated it flatly hoping it was enough to change the subject.
wasn't always dead was he? I can
ing in half a dozen people he told that you
were sleeping with his wife. So why don't you tell us how it went. It would look
a lot better than if I came up with it by talking to everyone she might have
I could see the wheels in his head working. "Sure, why not. Like
you said, it will look better than if you nose around to get it. Raleigh married
Madeline because she was a hot number, then he got bored with her. He moved on,
but he didn't want Madeline to divorce him. It wouldn't do his career any good,
not to mention his standing with the ladies. He liked being unavailable for
anything more than a one nighter."
Aaron paused so I prompted him. "So
what has that got to do with you?"
"Raleigh wanted someone to keep
Madeline quiet. Remember he married her because she was a hot number. He didn't
want her running all over the hill chasing men. Like I said, he didn't want her
to divorce him either. So he suggested that I keep her company when she got
"You have got to be kidding," Jacob suggested.
all, actually it worked out quite well." Aaron actually seemed to be enjoying
the telling of it.
"If it worked out so well, why did you kill her
husband?" I asked. I watched his reaction closely.
"I didn't. I had no
reason at all to kill Raleigh. Like I said, he knew about me and Madeline."
Aaron was enjoying the interview far too much I thought.
"Did you know
that Madeline had a boyfriend?" I asked.
"Besides me, no. I mean she
doesn't." Aaron didn't seem to enjoy that so much.
"Where were you the
night Raleigh got himself killed." It was Jacob who asked that particular
"I was at the mill and I can prove it. We had a couple of
eakdown. I got a call just after supper. I had to go make sure
enough repairmen came in to have the machines up and running before third shift.
If not the mill would run out of bobbins. It wouldn't do me any good to cause a
"I will be asking around," I informed him.
What is this about Maddy having a boyfriend?" he asked it seemingly
"I wouldn't plan on marrying the Widow Phipps, if I were you."
It was my parting shot as I walked out the door leaving Jacob to finish up the
interview. I went next door to Pop's for a glass of only fair iced tea. I stood
by his window and watched until Aaron left. When he did, I returned to Jacob's
"So, it looks as though we wait for Max," I suggested.
hope you know we could have gotten a lot more from North. That is if you hadn't
been so combative." Jacob said.
"Probably, but what else did we need. He
was at the mill at the time of Raleigh's death. You can check that out if you
want, but I believed him completely. The only question I should have asked was,
'Did the three of them ever played together.'" I watched as Jacob actually
blushed. "So what time do we interview Max?"
"It should be sometime after
lunch," Jacob replied.
"Since it is after twelve, I would say that is a
safe enough bet."
"Come on, I couldn't make them be more specific than
they were." Jacob felt like I was accusing him of giving in too easily. Since I
was I didn't say a word to let him off the hook.
"Give me the phone," I
demanded. I called Max's office at the mill. When he came on the phone I stated
emphatically, "If you aren't here within one hour, I am going to call the old
man. If you think stone walling us will make it go away forget it. As a matter
of fact I have a few surprises for you Max, so
ing your fat ass over here
"You go to hell Burke. I'll be there when I get time." Max
would never admit I had him on the defensive.
"Like I said, one hour or I
call the old man and tell him what I know about you and the widow." I slammed
the phone down in Max's ear.
"What was that all about?" Jacob asked with
real concern in his voice.
"That was about showing Max who had the
biggest stick," I replied. "I'm going next door for tea, you
"No thanks, I'm going to start getting ready for Max," he
"Not much getting ready to do," I said it as I left
the office. A few steps later found me inside the door to Pop's cafe. I sat at
the counter, in a seat which allowed me a good view out the front window. I sat
drinking my tea and watching the surly waitress while I waited for Max. Just to
show me that he had no fear of me, Max arrived one hour and five minutes after
the call. I had expected as much, which was why I chose Pop's cafe for a waiting
spot. I guess I could have told Jacob that Max wouldn't be coming until the hour
was up. Then again I hadn't especially wanted any company. I had plenty to
occupy my mind. I finished my iced tea while allowing them both to
When I entered the office Max had lit a cigar, "Put that damned
thing out. This is Jacob's office not yours."
"The kid don't seem to
mind," he replied.
"Actually I do mind," Jacob said it as he smiled up at
"Okay, but if the interview is going to be like this, maybe I should
leave." Max said angrily.
"Like I said on the phone, you do what you
want. If you leave, I will be forced to call the old man. When that call is
finished, you will be out of a job with this mill, and most likely unemployable
at any other."
"You keep threatening me like that, but I don't hear no
proof of anything," he said trying to bluster it out.
"Listen up you
jerk, I don't run bluffs. Everybody knows that when I say something, I can back
"They say that, but nobody ever called you before," he replied in
a louder voice.
"Do you think your wife will continue to lie for you when
she knows where you really were Thursday night?"
"Max, I can prove
you were out with the Widow Phipps the night her husband was killed. If you want
me to go to the Sheriff and the mill owners, I will be more than happy to do it.
Unlike you, it will be absolutely personal with me."
"You bastard, you
have been after me since I forced you to move out of your mother's house. The
old man knows that."
"Like I said Max, I can prove what I say. Now either
you cooperate, or I promise you, I am going to have your job."
your proof, if it really means anything I will tell you whatever you want to
"Okay Max, but I shouldn't bother to tell it twice. If the widow
left her mother's house at 'eleven thirty exactly', which by the way she is sure
of since she listened to the news with her mother and uncle. She told the deputy
they listened to it until the very end. Given that, she would have arrived home
no earlier than quarter till twelve. I drove it myself yesterday and I'm sure.
It was a lie, but I didn't mind lying to Max.
Then if she called you at
home, as she claims in her statement to the cops, you couldn't have gotten there
before twelve. That is even if you were dressed and sitting in your car, which I
expect you wouldn't have been. If that were the case the call wouldn't have
gotten to the dispatcher before at least twelve-o-five. Instead the cop arrived
at twelve oh five, so it plays out like this. Raleigh knew his wife had a
boyfriend, he told enough people that she did anyway. The only way the time
works is if you followed her home to see that she arrived safely after a 'date'.
She goes into the house finds the body and screams. You are turning your
car around in the narrow street. You quickly park your car, then rush up to help
your girlfriend. By the way the deputy remembers that your car was parked headed
out of the dead end street, not into it. I hardly think you would have turned it
around, if you had arrived to check on a body before calling the Sheriff." It
was another lie but it fit just as well as the first one.
"So Max, unless
you killed Raleigh yourself, you better come clean about everything."
watched as Max ran it around in his head for a few minutes before saying, "You
know that thing at your mother's wasn't really personal. Like I said, I was just
"Max how long have you and the widow been seeing each
other?" I asked ignoring his attempt to make nice.
"A couple of years.
That damned Raleigh really was a jerk. He ran around with half the whores in
"Did you ice him?" I asked.
"Look Deke, I was making it
with his old lady, but I didn't kill him. Hell even if he had found out, he
wouldn't have cared."
"Max you know that's a damned lie. He didn't care
about his friend Aaron, but you were a mill hand. A constable is still a peasant
to those guys. If he found out, you would have had to kill him or lose your
"I would have let them have the job before I killed anyone. I ain't
go it in me to kill anybody."
"If you didn't do it, you better come up
with somebody for me to look at. See Max, right now you and the widow are in the
"If worse comes to worse, I can tell them she was with me," he
"And where were you? I suppose there are people who saw you
together." I watched as he shook his head. "I thought so. If you tell them that,
you are both going to fry."
"Not in this state, they use gas down here,"
Jacob said trying to be helpful.
"Look Max, your best bet is to tell me
who might have killed him so that I can check it out. You should know, the
Sheriff is going to file against the widow. She is just too easy a target no
"Why hasn't he done it then?" Jacob asked getting lost in the
conversation. I shook my head at him, but I had to answer.
"Just as soon
as the Sheriff
eaks her alibi, it is all over. He will find someone who knew
that her mom had lied for her before. Lied so that she could keep the husband
with the good job. Once the alibi is gone, she is going to find herself in
"So Deke, can you save her?" Max asked.
"Probably not, but
I would come a lot closer, if you told me who Raleigh was having trouble
"I swear, I don't know of anyone in particular. He might have been
offed by one of his tootsies."
"Which one?" I asked.
know, but there are plenty of them to choose from. At least that's how Maddie
tells it. According to her, he was doing it with half the whores in town. Not
only that, he was doing a few of the mill girls as well."
"Which ones?" I
"Just the ones who were willing. He never forced any of them."
"I guess that's why I never heard about it. The only ones I hear about
are the ones some overseer is trying to blackmail into doing it."
don't expect you will be hearing too much about that in the future. The old men
sent a memo to all the supervisors. It is a firing offense for a boss man to
have sex with an employee, no matter how it happens."
"So was Raleigh
worried about that?" Jacob asked.
"The memo came out after Raleigh was
killed. Hell, it could have been because Raleigh was killed. I expect somebody
told them about Raleigh's little indiscretions." Max said.
"Yeah Max, I
wonder who that might have been?" I asked.
"It wasn't me, but it might
have been Madeline. She wants everyone to know how nasty a trial will be." Max
"No wonder the mill bosses are cooperating," I suggested. "They
would like to see us plant this on someone else."
Just then the phone
rang. I could only hear one side of the conversation, but it sounded
interesting. Jacob whispered but it didn't do any good Max and I could heard
every word. "No....I know I promised and I'm going to do it today but I haven't
had a chance yet...... I'll take care of it, but I'm busy right
now.......yes......I know and I'll do it shortly.....good-bye."
Jacob said directing his attention back to Max. "So Deke, unless you have
something else I guess we are through with Max."
"Just as long as he
knows, we will be getting back to him." I replied.
"No problem, I have
told you everything. At least everything about that night." Max was hiding a lot
but not about Raleigh's death.
"You haven't told me everything, not by a
long shot." I suggested.
"Deke, I wouldn't try using any of that against
me. There was nothing I could do about moving you off the hill, but I could make
things rough on your mother and
I began to move on him but Jacob
stepped between us. "Max, I already told you what I would do if you bothered
them. I'm going to tell you one more time."
He quickly interrupted, "I
know what you said, but I ain't afraid of you. You start the crap rolling and
I'll be happy to play along."%%%
"Fair enough, you have been warned." I
replied while wanting more than anything to wring his fat neck.
out the door before I changed my mind and killed him anyway. When he had been
gone a couple of minutes Jacob spoke. "Deke, I need to get something off my
mind." I waited without answering. He finally went on, "You know I went to the
movies with Sarah and her sister Saturday."
I nodded that I did
"Well, I asked Sarah out for Sunday. Things kind of took on a
life of their on. Anyway, I just wanted you to hear it from me." He said all
that, then placed a sawbuck on his desk and pushed it toward me. He saw the
confused look on my face. "That's the balance of what Sarah owes you for taking
care of her problem."
"You don't have to do that Jacob," I
"No, I don't want her owing you money," he said.
particular reason you feel that way?" I asked.
"Not especially, I just
don't want her in debt to any other man. I would rather she owe me the five." He
was at least smiling. I hoped that meant he didn't know about Sarah and me. I
can't say that I wasn't surprised to find that Sarah was such an easy woman.
Then of course it wasn't any of my business either. I looked at my watch. Since
Sarah had called and she worked first shift I realized that it had to be after
I left Jacob's office, then drove to my
other's house. He was
already in the workshop, the one he and I had built after my return from Europe.
Earl was busy working on a piece of wood.
"What are you doing, making a
toothpick?" I asked.
"Nope, it's going to be a gun rack. What the hell
are you doing here. I thought you would be out bothering the cops."
they told me to butt out. Look Earl, the reason I am here is that I am out of
ideas. I thought you might tell me what the word at the mill is."
is, we might get a raise next year," he said grinning.
"You know what I
mean, what are they saying about Raleigh?"
"As usual Raleigh got smarter,
nicer, and better looking after he died." It was the only thing Earl planned to
"Come on Earl, who do you guys think did it?" I asked it
hoping for some kind of lead.
"The hands are divided. One third think it
was his old lady, another third think it was somebody who worked for him, and
the final bunch think it was you. It wasn't you was it?" he asked.
hell no, which workers do they think might have done it?" I asked.
you know I ain't going to tell you that. I ain't about to get them into trouble
because of some gossip."
"So tell me the kind of people we are talking
"You mean, like was it women that are suspect?" he
"Yeah, like that."
"There is a rumor that Raleigh told
several women that his wife wouldn't do some of the more exotic things he liked.
He implied that if the women who worked for him would, he might leave his wife
for them. Truth is though, that by the time he got himself killed, he had pulled
that half a dozen times. There is no way that any woman in the mill would have
believed him. That little
other, is why he was running around with
"So some of the old girlfriends might have done him in?" I asked
it hoping Earl would agree.
"Like I said, they had all heard it before. I
don't expect any of them would hold a grudge that long."
possible," I said.
"Sure, but the real money is on you." Earl was at
least grinning when he said it that time.
"Hell Earl, if I talk to you
much longer, I am going to start doubting my own alibi." After a pause to allow
for his laughter I began again. "Okay, if you won't give me the killer, I am
"The hell you are, you are going to go sit in the Pump Room
to drink watered down beer. Deke, you need to find yourself a good
"Everytime I find one she decides she likes the security of a man
with a job." I turned for the door. "I guess I'll be running along. Say hello to
Ma for me."
"If you see her first, you say hello for me." Earl's wife
didn't like our mother any more than she did me. It was just as likely that I
would see mom before Earl, as Earl before me.
Earl had me pegged. I spent
most of the evening in the Pump Room playing poker while drinking watered down
draft beer. Those who really drank for the effect, drank only bottles or cans.
Me and a few of the others drank the weak draft so that we could stay longer.
Just before Pop closed at eight, I went across for a quick sandwich. At that
time of the night, I took whatever Pop had left over. That night it was meat
loaf heavily laced with onions. I spent the remainder of the evening trying to
drown the fire from those onions. The beer I poured into my gut did little good.
Even the watered down beer began to effect me by eleven. I staggered off
to bed shortly thereafter. I heard the then familiar banging about midnight. I
opened the door to a very drunken Rose. As was her usual habit she pushed past
me as she stumbled up the steps.
"So Rose, what
ings you here?" I
asked grinning at her.
"Came to get it done, you prick." Rose slurred the
words but that is what she meant to say. "Gonna go take a pee be right
When she returned Rose plopped down on the bed and fell sound
asleep. Rose, by the way, snored like a long shoreman.
happened later that night that almost never happens. In my drunken sleep I came
up with a theory about Raleigh Phipps' murder. I'm not sure that problem solving
in my sleep was so unusual, but the fact that I remembered it the next day
Rose left first thing the next morning after kissing
me good-bye. "Damn Deke, we still have to get this done." She at least grinned
as she walked down the stairs. I was beginning to wonder exactly what her game
I forced myself to have
eakfast before I went in to see Jacob. I
found him behind his desk but not really involved in anything. "Jacob, I have it
almost figured out. I know what happened to Raleigh, I just have to figure out
what I am going to do about it."
"What do you mean, you have to go to the
cops of course. You have to go no matter who did it. Getting the cops on the
right track is the most important thing."
"I'm not so sure that truth and
justice are the same thing, at least not in this case. Either way the decision
is mine to make. The cops will eventually figure it out or maybe they won't. All
I know for sure is that I need to give it a lot of thought before I do anything.
I'll let you know tomorrow what I decide.
I drove to the public li
to read the magazines until lunch. I had lunch at the Kress lunch counter
surrounded by clerks from the downtown offices and retail stores. I went
downtown once in a while just to have lunch with the well made-up and well
dressed young women.
After lunch I returned home to nap. It was
necessary, since I hadn't rested well the night before. I expect problem solving
was less restful than simple sleep. I was awakened by the sound of someone on my
stairs. I quickly removed the Mauser from beneath the bed. I had it pointed at
the opening when Luther entered the room.
"One of these days, I am going
to kill you for sneaking up on me," I admitted.
"One of these days I am
going to come with a gun of my own," He replied smiling down at me. "Boss wants
to talk to you."
"Sorry, I'm a little busy this afternoon. What time is
"Five, come on all you are doing is sleeping. I'll have you
back in an hour," he informed me.
"Like I said, 'I'm busy.' I can spare
no more than an hour, so I'll drive." I said it as I climbed from the bed. It
took me a couple of minutes to dress, then
ush my teeth. Luther drove to ham
town, and I followed along behind. The drive took about fifteen of his sixty
minutes, but I didn't figure Sandra had a social call in mind.
waiting inside the meeting room of the farmhouse. "So, I hear you are close to
finding Raleigh's killer?"
"Exactly what hook do you have in Jacob?" I
"What are you saying?" she asked.
"The only person who
knows that I am close is Jacob Goldman. There has to be some reason he ran to
you with the information. So what is your hold on him."
"I'm a client. I
explained to him that I had an interest in finding Raleigh's killer. I don't
much care for the cops looking so closely at me."
"Jacob is just full of
surprises. Did you send him the widow?"
"I might have mentioned his name
to a mutual friend," she admitted smiling.
"I don't suppose that friend
would be Aaron North?"
"Sorry," she said ignoring the question. After a
short pause so that I would understand the answer wasn't forthcoming she said,
"So who killed him?"
"Sorry," I replied matching her previous
"Maybe you should answer the boss," Luther suggested looking
"I told you already Luther, don't waste your time trying to
impress me. As for you," I said returning my attention to Sandra Evans. "The
killing can't be traced back to you, at least I don't think it
"Since I know where all my people were than night, I never thought
it could. I just wanted the cops to get off my case. I suppose you are going to
explain it to them tomorrow."
"So, why are you waiting?"
"I'm waiting so that everyone can express their opinion. I
don't owe the cops anything. If someone could give me a good reason to forget
what I know, I probably would."
"That wouldn't be a good idea at all,"
Sandra said shortly.
"No problem, the cops will figure it out eventually.
I just happen to know the people better than a deputy Sheriff
"Then you better get home to greet your callers," Luther said. It
was obvious from the expression on his face that he knew what I was up
"Sounds more than reasonable," I replied turning to the
"How about that house?" Sandra asked as an after
"If I get this closed without your name coming up, I think you
should give it to me. Hell it ain't worth nothing anyway."
"Tell you what
Deke, you keep me out of this completely and I'll do that," she
I might have stopped by Ma's, if it hadn't been supper time at
the house. She would be busy feeding borders. I could have had dinner there, but
like I said I had stopped hanging around the house when the mill hands were
taking their meals. No sense running into one of the overseers.
went to the White Oak Hotel for dinner. The hotel dinning room wasn't much but
for a real meal it was better than Pop's. I had a big chunk of roast beef with
mashed potatoes. The food was pretty good, I expected they had a new cook. I ate
there about once a month. The taste of the food varied widely from time to time.
The hotel had a large turn over in cooks. I never really understood why. When
the bill came I understood why I didn't eat there more often. The twenty-five
cent meal cost half a dollar. It was ridiculous but once a month didn't hurt too
I was home by six. I noticed that Jacob's office was dark. I had
killed the day waiting for darkness, I knew I would never receive the visit as
long as Jacob was in the office. Even then it took until after ten before I
heard the footsteps on the stairs. I had known all day who the killer was.
I realized too late that I should have armed myself with the Mauser. The
woman standing at the top of my stairs held a very old Army colt. The gun was so
heavy she was forced to hold it with both hands. I thought, 'Those things are
too easy to come by these days. Almost everybody with a gun had the Army
"Come on in, you can have that chair by the window," I
"No thanks, I wouldn't want anyone to see me."
somebody saw you come in?" I asked it hoping it was true.
"I was very
careful. Nobody saw anything."
"This isn't boss man hill. You aren't
going to be able to just walk away for here."
"Sure I am. The little old
ladies in the other two apartments are going to be to frightened to come out.
Yours is the only door on the side of the building, every other one else faces
the Pump Room. No Deke, I am going to disappear right after I kill
"So what are you waiting for?" I asked.
"I need to make sure
you haven't told anyone. I know you have been running around all day. Did you
"You don't expect me to set anyone else up to be killed do
"I could just start shooting big old nasty holes in you until you
talk," she suggested.
"Wouldn't work. I could hold out until the cops got
here. It's not like the Gestapo, your pain would end when the cops came. Besides
you tell me what really happened and I might make it all go away."
would you do that?" she asked.
"Oh no, I tell you that and I go away. No
sweetie, you are going to have to kill me or trust me. I personally don't think
you have cold blooded murder in you."
"Sure I do. I killed
"Not in cold blood. You killed him in anger. You went to his
house to inform his wife what a louse he was. You didn't know about their
relationship. Not only was she out with her boyfriend, but he told you she
wouldn't care anyway. He might have even asked you to join them in some kinky
thing or other."
"Got it all figured out don't you?" she
"Pretty much, I just want to know a couple of things. You killed
Raleigh but it was your sister who was doing things for him?"
can't believe she fell for his bull. I told her what kind of man he was, but she
wouldn't listen. When he dropped her, she tried to kill herself. I caught her
with this thing," she said waving the pistol at me. "It was my
gave it to me when I came here. To protect me, he said."
"So why didn't
you shoot him with it?" I asked.
"Like you said, I went to tell his wife
what kind of animal she had married. He had the shotgun by the door. He said it
was for some pimp. When he laughed at me, I picked it up and walked to the sofa
where he was laying. I just meant to scare him, but he pulled the barrel to his
chin and dared me to shoot. I shot him. God Deke it was awful the blood and
stuff went everywhere."
I ran everything around in my head for a few
minutes. "So afterward you just walked away?"
"Of course, what else was I
going to do. If I had hung around they would have put me in jail. I expect that
if you tell, I will go to the gas chamber."
I watched her cry for a
while. I don't know if her tears were real, but I convinced myself that they
were. "Okay, I'll make this go away. So help me Sarah, if I find out this wasn't
like you said, I will kill you myself." I said that because it was true. Losing
her to Jacob had been bad. Then find out she killed Raleigh almost made me glad
she had gone.
"You aren't going to tell Jacob are you?" she
"Why would I?" I answered sadly.
"You know, I kind of
dropped you for Jacob." After a
ief pause she hurried on to explain. "I only
did it because he has a better future. I have to look out for myself and my
"Sarah, you were just a momentary diversion for me. You better
take care of Jacob though. He thinks you are the love of his
"Believe me I will be," she said it knowingly.
you will at that."
After she left, I locked the downstairs door. She was
the last visitor I expected. I expect that's why the banging at seven a.m.
surprised me so. I slipped into my day old pants before I walked down the
"You Deacon Burke?" the middle-aged deputy asked.
"The Sheriff sent me out here after you. He said to
ing you in
no matter what you said."
"Well, I am going to eat
eakfast first. I
am not about to get stuck in the Sheriff's office for hours without food. You
can come watch, if you like." I said it as I walked past him. I walked the short
distance to Pops, where I ordered sausage and eggs. %%% The deputy sat across
from me, he looked impatient but he didn't speak.
eakfast took twenty
minutes, the deputy hurried me into his car after.
The fifteen minute
drive took ten. The walk from the parking lot took almost as long. I was
surprised to find the Sheriff waiting in his office. Inside there was also a
second man dressed in a suit, even though it must have been eighty degrees in
"Here he is Sheriff," the deputy said with a big
"I hear you have been running all over town telling people you
know who killed Raleigh." the Sheriff said.
"So who is the suit?" I asked
ignoring his question.
"I'm the state solicitor for this area. My name is
Doug Kenny." the suit answered.
"So now that you know everyone, would you
like some tea," the Sheriff almost screamed.
"No thanks," I replied with
a wise guy grin.
"Come on Deke, tell us who killed Raleigh. After all, it
took you just a couple of days to solve a case my men can't seem to get a lead
on." The Sheriff stated it sarcastically.
"Sure Sheriff, Raleigh Phipps
did it." I replied.
The Sheriff laughed at me. "Raleigh was the
"I know, but he was also the killer."
"You're telling us
that Raleigh committed suicide?" the solicitor asked.
"That's right." I
replied looking him seriously in the eye.
"So how did the shotgun wind up
in a chair ten feet away?" the Sheriff asked.
"Simple, it was the recoil.
Raleigh held it by the barrel, when it went off it jumped out of his hands. You
did find his prints on the barrel didn't you?"
"How did you know that?"
"I didn't, I guessed. I'll bet he also had his socks
"He was also in his underwear, most people take their socks off
when they nap." The Sheriff was adamant in his refusal to accept my theory.
I noted that the Solicitor wasn't so hard to convince. "Sheriff set up a
test. I want to know if a shotgun can recoil that far. If it will, then this
case is closed. Deke here makes perfect sense."
"That and this theory
puts the whole thing to sleep without any scandal on the mill hill." the Sheriff
"You should know better than that. I don't work for the mill."
the solicitor said.
"But if you ever run for governor, it wouldn't hurt
to have friends with money owing you a favor." I suggested.
might be said of you," the Solicitor replied.
"I hardly think this will
make me any friends with the management." I meant it when I said it.
don't know, it looks like an answer we can all live with," he replied. "Will the
shotgun recoil that far?"
"I have no idea, but I imagine it will with
enough help. So can I go home or what?"
"You can go, but if I were you, I
would sleep light," the Sheriff said. "It's possible the real killer will be
uncomfortable with you still alive."
"That sounds like good advice, but
what makes you think I will ever be able to sleep
\ul\i BOOK TWO: DONA DEACON AND THE
When I awoke that morning it was as cold inside my
bedroom as it was inside my new Kelvinator. The outdoor thermometer hanging on
an inside wall showed the temperature to be less than 40 degrees. The coal stove
had held the temperature at least above freezing but not far above. If I had not
heard the persistent call of mother nature, I probably would have rolled over to
return to sleep. Instead I slipped on my old wool pants and the new wool
sweater, then ran for the back porch where my bathroom was located.
completing my emergency errand I returned to the house. Before my return I was
forced to drain the bathroom water pipes to prevent freezing. Once inside I
threw a few lumps of coal into the stove. The house had been a sort of gift from
Sandra Evans, a grateful client. When I got the place it was an abandoned share
cropper's house. During those first few days when I wanted to know the weather
outside, I looked through the cracks in the walls.
I had managed to get
new siding on the outside, and new tin onto the roof before the weather turned
bad. When it turned bad on November first it turned awful. It had pretty much
stayed that way since. Cold wind and rain seemed to be the norm for that whole
year. Christmas had come and gone in a freezing rain that crippled the whole
town. New Year's Eve I was bearly able to get to the Pump Room to cele
with my friends.
Since that night I had been into town only during the
daylight hours. The nights were just too cold. It was by far the winter with the
coldest sustained temperature on record. Add to that the fact that the heater in
my old 39 Chevy was less than wonderful, and you could guess why I stayed home
at nights. I did get a lot of reading done though. It was probably a good thing
since I had decided to become a best selling author. Deciding was the easy part,
doing it was proving to be a damned sight tougher.
I began that morning
by making coffee on the coal stove, but only after a suitable pause for it to
heat the room. I spent the down time in bed trying to decide where to take my
novel. It wasn't easy since I knew very little about anything at all. It was a
point in my life where I should have been out doing things to write about.
Instead I was trying to write about things I had never done. It was only years
later that I found I had no imagination at all.
When the coffee was gone
I switched to iced tea. I did however wait until the room had warmed up before I
switched. In the Kelvinator I found a glass milk bottle only half filled with
tea. I noted with some degree of disgust the other five glass bottles were
totally empty. I had managed to drink a gallon and a half of iced tea in three
days. It was about average, but it meant a trip to Ma's. Don't get me wrong I
loved to visit Ma and sissy, but I hated the thought of driving the cold Chevy.
Starting that monster was always a problem, magnified several times by the cold
weather. No matter the inconvenience, I had to have the tea. Not to mention the
meal at ma's would more than compensate for the inconvenience of the
I dressed for the outside weather around nine. Nine was very late
by the standard of my family. Ma and sissy would have been up for hours. They
would have already prepared and served
eakfast to twenty five people. By
nine they would have been through with the feeding and already be deep into
cleaning the house. There would always be a few scraps of food left for anyone
who happened to wander into the kitchen. That someone was usually one of Ma's
grown kids. By the time of this tale there were fewer of us. Before the war
there had been eleven of us living either in, or around ma's boarding house. In
1947 there was only me Earl and Sissy living in the village. If you wanted to
get technical I no longer lived in the village. My little shack was actually
located in the next little community called Hamtown. I was only five miles away,
but it was in fact a different world. The mill village was a world unto
The drive over the winter damaged dirt roads took twenty minutes.
I arrived at the large three story frame boarding house around ten. I walked
through the unlocked front door, into and through the front parlor into the
dinning room. From the dinning room a door led directly into the
In the kitchen I found Ma rolling out pie dough while sissy
eakfast dishes. I kissed Ma on the cheek and waved at sissy. "So
Ma, you doing okay or what?" I asked.
"I'm doing fine son. Get yourself a
plate and have something to eat. You look like you are starved."
thanks Ma, I just came to buy some tea from you." I said it so as not to appear
eager for the food.
"Sit down and visit son. While we are talking you
might as well have some of the
eakfast biscuits. They ain't gonna hardly be
fit for lunch no way."
"Well if you are sure?" I asked it knowing full
well that she was sure.
"Sissy, fix your
other a plate." Ma
"Don't fix anything sissy, just give me what ever is laying
around." I knew sissy at least would listen to me. If it was left up to Ma she
would be cooking eggs for me.
"So Deke, what you been up to," Sissy
"Sissy don't call your
other that. He ain't no
"Ma," Sissy complained. "Everybody calls him that."
young lady, you ain't everybody, You are family. You call him by the name your
daddy and me gave him."
"Okay Ma," Sissy replied winking at me. "So
Henry, what you been up to?"
"Trying not to freeze in that drafty old
house." I replied with a big old grin.
"I still wish you would move back
in here. The old man said you could."
"No way Ma, you know he would use
it against me one day."
"If you say so," she replied not believing it for
a minute. I watched Sissy fill the glass milk bottles as I spoke with Ma. "So
Henry, you got anything going on for the next few days?" I jerked my attention
back to Ma. When Ma asked a harmless question like that it meant
"Nothing in particular why?"
"Your aunt Tempie needs some
help." It was a simple statement that could mean anything. I tried the obvious
hoping I could duck the problem all together.
"Ma, if aunt Tempie needs
someone to paint or do carpentry, Earl is much better than me at that kind of
"I know that Henry. If it was something to do with tools, I would
have asked Earl in the first place. I know you are helpless with tools." She
wasn't even smiling and that hurt my male pride. "What Tempie needs is what you
I became resigned to being pressed into service. "Okay Ma, what
is it Tempie needs?"
"Did you know Billy got married before he left for
"No, I never heard that, but I was gone by then
Billy was Tempie and
ooks' only son. He was also dead. Billy
had died during the invasion of Normandy. Actually the night before I suspected.
Billy had been my cousin. I had known him since the day his parents moved into
the boarding house.
I was about ten when
ooks got a job in the mill.
His family stayed with us in the boarding house until he had been with the
company long enough to rent one of their houses. Even after they moved Billy and
I played together. We were almost the same age.
I joined the army the
day after pearl harbor. Billy joined the next year. In it's infinite wisdom the
army sent me to demolition school and Billy to the paratroops. He had been
stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia for some time. He taught others how to jump
from perfectly good airplanes. According to
ooks, Billy asked for a transfer
to combat every month. He finally got his transfer during the build up for d
From what I heard of the paratrooper's roll in the fight, Billy
probably never got to fire his weapon. Regardless Billy died a hero. Where as I
had slunk back into town after the war. Nobody knew or cared what I did. It was
just as well, since I could never have made anyone understand it.
Billy got married why didn't anyone tell me?" I asked.
"When it happened
you weren't in touch with us." Ma said it in a way to make me feel
"Ma I have explained that a dozen times." I replied.
know. I am just answering your question son."
"I suppose Tempie's problem
has something to do with Billy's wife?"
"Dona her name is Dona. She has a
four year old, and they are in some kind of trouble. Tempie wants you to go down
there and fix it. Either that or
ing the two of them home"
it. If I
ing his wife to the mill village, Billy will roll over in his
grave. He wanted to get as far away from here as possible."
"Well a grave
in France is pretty far away I would say," Sissy interjected. The look from Ma
"Okay Ma, where is she living now?" I figured it would be
somewhere in Georgia.
"Savannah," Ma replied.
"Okay have Aunt
Tempie write her. I'll go down after she has had time to get the letter. If I
just show up, she might have me arrested." I gave Ma and Sissy a big
"Tempie wrote her last week. The poor girl is expecting you. So
you better make plans right away."
"Ma, exactly how did Tempie know I
would go?" I asked more than a little annoyed that she would just presume I
would drop everything to rush off.
"Because it is a family thing, and you
always take care of family." Ma said it as a dictate from God not a statement of
"Yeah, but one of these days I am going to refuse to run off
solving everybody else's problems."
"If you turn your back on the family,
then you can make your own tea." Ma said it sharply but not
"Well that answers my question. I can't do without the tea and I
certainly can't make it."
"Then get yourself down to Savannah and fix
that poor girls problems." It was an order, but one I didn't really mind
obeying. Like Ma said it was family, besides I was bored with the whole house
remodeling thing anyway, and the book wasn't going anywhere.
"Well if I'm
going to travel, I need to get my overcoat from the basement." I said it while
looking at Ma. I didn't know if she knew that the basement not only contained a
few old items of my clothing, but also the key to a large amount of stolen
"Then go on down and get it." She said it as she handed me the key
to the storage room door.
I walked down the rickety narrow wooden stairs
into the damp basement. the concrete bore the watermarks of having been flooded
at one time or another, probably more than once. The floor though stained was
clean, Ma would never have allowed it to be otherwise. I moved past the men's
shower room to the storage area I opened the heavy wooden door then walked into
the dark room. It took a moment to find the light bulb hanging by a wire from
the ceiling. The pull chain flooded the small room with light. I passed the next
ten minutes digging through boxes and paper bags. I finally found the canvas
duffel bag issued to me by the army hospital on the day I was
From the duffel bag I removed a tan trench coat, also issued
me on the day of my parting company with the government. I noted that it was
wrinkled beyond anything I had ever seen being worn by a human or a horse. It
was obvious, even to a slob like me, that the coat had to go to the cleaners for
a quick pressing. Inside the pocket of the coat I found the key. The one I had
last stashed there a year before. I could hardly believe that I hadn't touched
the money for over a year. Then again life had been pretty good to me in that
I took the coat and the key with me as I walked up the stairs to
the kitchen, where Ma and Sissy waited for me. "So Ma when I get through at the
cleaners I will make arrangements to get to Savannah."
"I'll tell Tempie
that you will be leaving tomorrow then?" It wasn't much of a question, since I
didn't have much of a choice.
"Sure, tell her that." I looked at Sissy
who shook her head with a knowing smile.
"Well then, I guess I better get
on to the dry cleaners." With that I walked from the house wondering what I was
doing spending my own money to solve a stranger's problems. I needn't have
wasted the time wondering about it. It was do it or have Ma on my ass for
months. Like I said before, I was getting bored anyway.
I left the coat
at the laundry while I drove to the bank. The key, which I had transferred to
the pocket of my leather aviator coat, opened a very large lock box at the bank.
Inside the box were several neat little packs of bank notes. Most had been
liberated from safes and vaults belonging to the third Reich. A couple of the
packets I had liberated from other safes, but those were better left
I left the bank with five hundred dollars in small bills
stuffed inside the bomber jacket pockets. While the cleaners finished with my
coat I drove to the train station. The building was just as it had been the
night I returned home. It was large dark and cavernous. I listened to the sound
of my shoes beat out a rhythm on the terrazzo floor as I walked to the ticket
counter. The middle aged woman behind the counter was busy reading a movie
magazine as I approached. I waited a few seconds before I finally asked, "Can I
get a ticket to Savannah please?"
"Yeah Savannah Georgia."
"How many you got and what times?
"Three each day from
here to Wilson. There you have to change to a Seaboard train for
"So what kind of connections are we talking about here?" I
"Well you can leave here at three P.M. and arrive in Wilson at six
thirty, or you can leave here at six am and arrive at three P.M.. last but not
least you can leave at eleven P.M. and arrive at four am.
"Okay if I
leave here at three, when will I get to Savannah?"
"Five a. m. but you
have a couple of hours layover in Wilson."
"Okay give me a ticket on that
"Today or tomorrow?" she asked.%%%
"Tomorrow, I got too
much to do to leave today." I paid four dollars for the ticket then drove to the
cleaners. I paid the fifty cents for the pressing even though I should have
refused. Who ever heard of fifty cents to press a coat. On the way home I
stopped by my
other Earl's house to arrange storage for the Chevy for a
couple of days. Earl wasn't home but his wife was.
Earl's wife Eve met me
at the door. "What do you want?" she asked shortly.
"I know Earl isn't
home, but I wanted to leave him a message." I said it trying not to start an
"So come back when he is home." Eve really hated me and
everyone in my family.
"Just tell Earl I am going to leave my car in the
back yard tomorrow."
"Why you going to leave it here, and for how long?"
she asked suddenly getting curious.
"I don't really know Eve. Could be a
couple of days or a couple of weeks I just don't know yet."
"Yeah, I'm going down to take care of a little problem for
"Going where, Tempie just lives on Maple
"It's for Billy's widow in Savannah," I replied.
I'll bet, the widow must be a knock out if you are going."
"Now what is
that supposed to mean?" I snapped.
"How come all the women you help are
beautiful?" she acted angry. I just couldn't figure out why.
don't think they are, besides I help a lot of guys too." I said trying to defend
myself against something, I just wasn't quite sure what.
"Yeah but not as
many as the women." she said with an evil smile.
"I'm not married so what
is it to you?" I asked it thoroughly angry at that point. Again I just wasn't
sure why I was angry.
"Just go the hell away Deke. I'll tell Earl. Leave
the damned car I don't care." She slammed the door in my face.
a bitch," I thought.
I drove home still smarting from my encounter with
Eve. When I arrived I found that I had not made a plan for the afternoon.
Without a plan I was likely to just sit around drinking iced tea and looking at
the wall. I was at an impass with the book, so I quickly changed into my work
clothes. I began working on the inside walls. I really would be happy to leave
all the remodeling behind for a few days. In the meantime I had wallboard to
I hung the wallboard until six that evening I cleaned up before
driving to the pump room for cold beer and even colder cards. I arrived back at
the house around midnight tired and cold.
Even thought the cards had
been cold, I managed to make five bucks. It wasn't a great night. It was about
average though. I spent two bucks on beer and won five. If I had to make a house
payment, I would have been in trouble. The truth was I could eat on much less
than three bucks a day. Food was about all I had spent money on for the last few
months. I slept well that night, I imagine the beer helped.
afternoon shortly after lunch, I found old man Luther at the company store three
blocks from Earl's house. Luther owned and drove the only taxi in the mill
village. Mr. Luther followed me to Earl's house, then drove me to the train
station. I arrived an hour before the train was to leave.
I waited on the
hard bench trying to read a spy novel. It was one that I had bought at the news
stand inside the station. Reading was difficult since I continually checked the
large wall clock. I was impatient to be on my way.
There were a few
family waiting impatiently. They must have been waiting to meet loved ones
arriving on the two P.M. train from Washington and points north. The waiting
families made more than just a little noise as they waited. Even without being
able to concentrate on the book time passed quickly. The anticipation of being
on a great adventure helped the time pass. Yeah I know it sounds foolish, but
the feeling helped me pass the time. Before I knew it the train for Wilson was
I walked to the stairs leading down to the track with my old
green officers bag in tow. The stairs were fairly steep. They were also dark,
even at three in the afternoon. Once outside on the platform leading to the
tracks, I walk beside the train for several yards. I walked until I came to the
car were the conductor stood accepting tickets. I handed him my ticket without a
word. He punched it also without a word.
I found a seat in the day coach
car. The seats were comfortable enough, except though the covers were coarse and
scratchy. The one saving grace was that they reclined, which made the ride
bearable it not comfortable. I leaned the seat back and spent the next two hours
trying to read the novel. I didn't get very far the rocking of the car made it
impossible to keep my eyes on the print.
Since reading was out of the
question, I turned my attention to my fellow travelers. I found them involved
with either themselves or their traveling companions. I didn't mind since I was
filled with my own thoughts. The thoughts mostly were centered around Dona's
problems. I wondered what they were going to be, and if I could solve them for
About six the train stopped in the middle of absolutely no where.
Suddenly a couple kids came aboard with what looked like small shoe boxes. They
went up and down the aisles selling the boxes for a dollar each. Inside each box
was about twenty cents worth of food. I wasn't hungry, but even if I had been I
would not have bought food from them. I had turned down a much better looking
box lunch from Ma. I expected that some of the other passengers had been on the
train for a while. it seemed so since some of them gladly paid the
I arrived in Wilson around seven that evening. With a five hour
layover I walked from the station to a greasy spoon down the street. Inside the
restaurant I found the food to be good and reasonably priced. I had a hamburger
with home fried potatoes. The ice tea was only adequate. That being the case I
had only three glasses. Passing the five hours became a chore similar to working
on the house. Why killing time should be worse than actually doing physical
labor was beyond me, but it was.
At ten thirty I returned to the station
to await the train. I waited outside the station seated on a bench seemingly
even more uncomfortable than the ones inside, if that were possible. When the
announcement came, I was the first to board the train. I found an almost empty
coach and took a seat by the window. The coach was cold as hell, but I managed
to shrink deeper into my long coat. The cold prevented sleep, but I did manage
to nod off a couple of times before I arrived in Savannah.
impression I got of Savannah at one a.m. was the smell of the ocean. I almost
asked the driver to take me to see it. I decided against it only because I was
exhausted from having spent the whole day on the train. I demanded the driver
take me directly to the downtown hotel. It turned out I should have walked,
since the distance was only three blocks.
The night clerk was a man
about forty and pretty tired looking even at one in the morning. I was sure his
shift was just starting.
"Good evening sir," he said in greeting
"Good evening," I replied. "Do you have a vacant room?"
half a hotel of them. How many do you want." He smiled at his own
"Just one will do fine," I replied.
"Single or double?" He
asked it with a voice betraying his disinterest.
"Single unless you got a
phone number," I replied as a joke.
"Sir, this is not that kind of
hotel." He looked truly angry all of a sudden.
"Sorry please forgive me.
I am tired and I made a bad joke." I was truly apologetic and he recognized
"Of course sir, we do occasionally get those kinds of requests. Once
in a while the men are extremely persistent, drunks mostly."
drunk and I'm really too tired for anything else. Just point me to my room and
I'll leave you in peace."
"You are on the third floor about two doors
from the elevator. Since it is a weekday we have lots of empty rooms. I figured
I might as well make it convenient for you."
"Thank you I appreciate
that." I walked from the desk carrying my own bag. It appeared the bellboys
didn't work after ten in the evenings. It was just as well, I preferred to carry
my own bag anyway. I was so worn out from the train ride that I slept like a
dead man until seven the next morning. Not having to go onto a cold back porch
first thing was a real treat.
"I could get used to this," I said to
eakfast was pancakes and sausage in the hotel's coffee shop.
I paid seventy five cents for the rather ordinary meal. After
caught a yellow cab outside the hotel. I read the address given to Ma by aunt
Tempie to the cab driver. The cab driver didn't seem to know the address. At
least not until I mentioned having passed the confederate civil war monument
twice. Amazingly enough, he found it shortly thereafter.
exactly nine a m I walked onto the porch of a small white frame house in need of
paint. I knocked on the door and waited for Billy's widow Dona to answer. I
waited about five minutes in the cold. Finally I decided that no one was going
to answer the door. It didn't seem to be too early to knock on other doors in
the lower middle class neighborhood so that's what I did.
answered my knock on the door of the house beside Donna's on the right. The
woman was dressed in a faded house dress. She obviously hadn't been awake too
long. "Yes?" she asked.
"Hi, I'm Deacon Burke and I am looking for Dona
ooks." When she didn't answer immediately I continued. "The woman next door.
I am her husband's cousin."
The additional information seemed to satisfy
her because she spoke. "The Widow next door?" she asked.
"Yeah, she works downtown at the Savannah Savings and Loan.
Won't be home till after four or maybe five."
"I don't suppose you have a
pencil and paper so that I could leave her a note?"
"Sure, you wait right
here and I'll get it." She actually closed the door while she went inside the
small frame house to rummage for paper.
"Here you are," she said a few
minutes later. The woman seemed slightly miffed when I moved to the side of the
porch to write the note. Even more when, I took the note to Dona's door rather
than leave it with her.
The note simply explained that I was in town and
would come by that evening. It went on to say that I would take her and the baby
to dinner, if she would allow it. Either way I would be at her house around 6
I spent most of the day strolling the streets of old Savannah. It
was a wonderful day actually. It was warm for winter with a
shinning down on me. I had lunch in a downtown cafe, then spent the afternoon
sitting in the not so warm sun on the dock. The heat seemed to drain from the
sun as the afternoon wore on.
After a while, when it became really cool,
I sought refuge in a local beer joint. I had a couple of drafts as I talked to
the local fishermen. They came in early that day because the fish weren't
running, or what ever fish do. At five thirty I called a cab to take me to
I noted that the porch light was on even though there was
still some daylight left. I knocked on the door and waited. The woman who opened
the door was probably twenty two or three years old. She was also very
attractive in that southern beauty kind of way. Big
own eyes and an even
bigger smile. Her face was like a porcelain doll framed by a generous mound of
dark hair. Dona had either not gained any weight with the birth of her child, or
had lost it during the four years since. She was very thin, but not sickly thin.
It was obvious that she didn't
east feed at the moment. She probably never
had as it wasn't the fashion at the time. Dona being slightly flat chested
didn't bother me at all. Especially since I wasn't in Savannah to flirt with my
ooks, my name is Deacon Burke. Did you get my
"I got it. I do not know you Mr. Burke, and I am not going to
dinner with a stranger. Especially one who shows up at my door reeking of stale
"Strange, I didn't notice the beer being stale when I drank it."
When she didn't smile I continued. "Okay, I'm sorry about the beer, but I had a
lot of day to kill. If you don't want to go out to dinner fine. Why don't we get
right down to it. My aunt Tempie sent me to solve your problem, so what is it."
I know it sounded short but then I felt a little miffed. I wasn't sure why, but
she just infuriated me.
"No offense intended Mr. Burke, but I hardly
think a school yard bully can solve my problems." Her tone was just as nasty as
it could possibly have been.
I was surprised, if not shocked. "Probably
not," I replied bitterly. "But then I'm no bully. What on earth gave you the
idea that I was?"
"The way Billy talked about you. Then his mother just
confirmed it." Dona said it not giving me an inch.
"I truly have no idea
why they would lead you to believe that. I assure you, I am the most peace
loving of men."
"Billy told me all about you." She said it still not
cracking her stone like face.
"I have no idea what Billy told you, but
you must have misunderstood. I promise you, I am a nonviolent
"Well there is nothing you can do anyway." She seemed almost
happy to give me her opinion. I felt at that moment she would rather keep the
problem than be proved wrong.
"Why don't you just explain your problem
and let me try. What can it hurt?"
"I have three problems and you can do
a great deal of damage." The look on her face had finally changed to one of
concern. It looked as though she was weakening.
ooks, I came a
long way to help. Please give me a chance. I promise if I am not sure I can
help, I won't do anything
"Oh come in, but please don't make my situation
worse." She said that as she stepped aside. For the first time I noticed the
four year old sitting on a blanket in the middle of the living room
"Cute kid," I said not meaning it. Oh the child was a real beauty
all right, but I never cared much for kids.
"Yeah, the Bean is something
special," the young woman replied with obvious love in here eyes. It was the
first time I had seen them soften at all.
"Bean?" I asked it with a
"When I told Billy I was pregnant he said, 'You don't look
pregnant.' I had to explain that the baby was the size of a bean a the time.
Billy always called the unborn child his little bean. He never saw her, so I
guess I call her that to remind me." There was the beginning of a tear in her
eye. I would have given her a handkerchief, if I thought she would accept it.
Since I didn't have a handkerchief it was a moot point anyway.
sorry about Billy. He was my best friend as a kid." I said it hoping to warm her
up a little.
"You were his too. He said you used to protect him at
school. Guess that's where I got the school yard stuff. I'm sorry about
"Don't be too sorry, there might have been a time or two when
somebody got a bloody nose. Most likely though it was me."
"I guess I
should be happy that anyone wants to help me. Sometimes I just don't know what
I'm going to do."
"So tell me what it is that you need. I expect there is
something we can do, there usually is."
"I don't know. If you get violent
with my landlord, he will just have you arrested. He is really well connected in
this town. You know pillar of the church and in all the right clubs that kind of
"So what's he up too, this landlord?" I asked it knowing about
what would follow.
"He has threatened to raise my rent ten dollars a
month. He also let me know that I could avoid the increase by cooperating with
"By cooperation I supposed he means having sex with him?" I asked
it because I had heard a hundred different variations of the story.
guessed it. Not as unique a problem as I though." she almost smiled at
"Oldest problem in the world I'm afraid. Sometimes I'm not very proud
to be a man. It is also the easiest to fix," I admitted.
"I told you, if
you go beating him up the cops will arrest you. He is a big deal in this
"Well Dona, you probably should just move to another house." I
said it knowing there had to be a reason she wanted to stay. The woman was not a
dummy and hardly helpless.
"I could, but I really don't want to. For one
thing Bean's baby-sitter lives two doors down. For another, the elementary
school where she will go is only two blocks over. I can walk her to school in a
couple of years.
I should also be able to afford the increase in a
couple of years. I am going to get my boss' job just as soon as she retires.
That won't be for two years though, but most of all I hate to let that jerk
"If you didn't want the jerk to win, why were you so skeptical of
"Like I said, if you plan to punch him in the nose it would be
satisfying, but not very helpful."
"No I have a different plan." Just
then Bean giggled as if she knew the plan. At least it sounded like a giggle to
me. I couldn't help smiling even thought I didn't like children much. Like I
said she was real charmer.
"So what are your other problems?" I
"Let's see what you can do with this one first," she was demanding
but she was also smiling.
I spent the next thirty minutes explaining the
plan. Dona was not happy about it, but she was a good soldier when she realized
it was the only viable plan.
Dona bundled up the Bean and we took a cab
to a downtown restaurant. The restaurant had a couple of other toddlers in high
chairs. It was good that we weren't the only ones disturbing the quiet. I
expected Dona chose it for that reason.
After dinner I dropped Dona and
the bean at home, then continued in the cab to the hotel. Dona had made a call
from the restaurant taking care to set our little plan into action. I had some
arrangements of my own to make. I had most of the next day to make
I slept poorly that night. I had the landlord on my mind. After the
restless night my eyeballs felt as though they were covered in sand. I had
another over priced coffee shop
eakfast. Afterward I walked first to a
pawnshop, then to the drug store. I hung around the docks again until three p.m.
At that time I took a cab to Dona's house.
I waited with her an hour
before the landlord showed. I hid in the bedroom closet while she convinced him
to remove his clothes. He stopped at this skivvies thank god. Dona stopped at
her slip. I thought the old man would have a stroke when I popped from the
closet firing off one flash bulb after another. I fired the camera three times
before he got to me. When he did, I jabbed him quickly on the nose.
looked sheepishly up at Dona as he began to bleed. I really had warned her, but
then she probably didn't pay any attention. She looked angry for about a second
then calmed down. "Now Mr. Stevens, we should have a little talk before you get
"I'm going to call the police," he said holding his
undershirt wadded up to catch the falling blood.
"Well sir that certainly
is an option. Of course unless you plan to stop me, I will be gone by then. I
will also have this roll of film in a drugstore lab. You do have some idea of
what I plan to do with the prints."
He turned his attention to Dona. "I
can't believe you would be involved in something like this."
you think you can blackmail me into having sex, but I wouldn't stoop to
blackmailing you. Mr. Stevens you are a jerk"
"Okay guys, the name
calling isn't going to get us anywhere. I have a business proposal for you
"I'll just bet you do." he replied with a nasty edge in his
"Lose the tone, or I am going to really make this tough on you." I
figured it was time to let him know that he had lost control of the situation.
The look I gave him let him know for sure that I was willing to see his bloody
nose, and raise him a black eye. I waited until he calmed down. "Now you
the lady a two year lease at the same rent, and I give you the undeveloped
He waited for more. I had nothing else to say until he asked, "Is
that all." His tone led me to believe that he expected more.
"A new coat
of paint on this dump would be nice." I smiled at Dona as I said it. I was being
a wise ass just because I had fixed her problem. Dona was not amused.
will have the lease here Monday morning." Stevens said it angrily.
it Monday at five. The film will be mailed to you when I leave town. Take my
advice Stevens, don't try to get cute. Believe me you wouldn't like the results
a bit. Cops can only help you after the fact. I know you have them in your
pocket, but believe me I have been questioned by the best. Your local cops are
not the best by long shot."
I figured by the time he left I had mad a
true believer of him. Usually men understood somehow that a small amount of
damage to the pride was better than a large amount of damage to the body. In
Steven's case a large amount of embarrassment was also headed his way, if he
didn't see the light.
After Stevens left Dona offered to make dinner for
me. I accepted hoping to pry her second problem from her. She sent me to the
store with a list and no money. I returned with her weeks groceries. I really
didn't mind since she did cook a heck of a good steak. Of course, burning a
steak wasn't exactly the same as the cooking in Ma's House. Still the steak was
"Deacon, would you like to come back to attend church with me and
Bean," Donna asked it as I left that evening.
"No thanks, but I will be
here to take you to lunch when you get back. You still have to assign me problem
two," I reminded.
"Why don't you come to church with us?" she
"God and I kind of came to an understanding in the basement of a
"What kind of understanding?' she asked it as the taxi
driver waited on the curb.
"He left me there and I left him there. Now
look, I'll see you after church. Maybe we can go to the docks for
"That would be nice, and Deacon?"
going to stay at you about church. At least as long as you are here." She pushed
me out the door then closed it behind me.
That night I slept well since I
had no idea what Dona's second problem might be. Next morning I ate in the
coffee shop. Afterward I read the Sunday Atlanta newspaper in the lobby. I
arrived at her house shortly after Dona and the Bean made it home from church.
The cab waited a few minutes while Dona got the Bean ready for lunch. The
preparations consisted mostly of changing her dress. Couldn't have her spilling
applesauce on the fancy dress.
With Bean dressed in a plain outfit and
heavy coat, we rode in the cab to the docks. Dona knew a family style seafood
restaurant across the street from the river. We arrived early enough to get a
window table with a view of the moored boats.
"Do you like the water?"
"Don't really know. There ain't much of it in the
"Billy hated the mill village." She remained silent for a
couple of seconds then continued. "Why did you go back? He said he never
"I ain't Billy I guess. All my family is there and they were all
that kept me alive for a couple of months."
"Were you a POW?" she
"Not really and I'd rather not talk about it." after a moment of
awkward silence I went on. "The family means more to me than it did Billy.
Course he was an only child. I come from a large
ood of kids. Ma had nine
head of children."
"Nine, my God I hope you don't have that many in
mind?" It was a harmless question.
"Don't expect so." I didn't explain
that kids weren't in my future. It wasn't really any of her business. "Just to
change the subject are you ready to tell me your other problems?"
you have done enough. I can handle he others I think."
"Well Dona, I came
here to take care of your problems for Tempie. If I go home without doing it,
she will hang me. So come on tell me what you need taking care of
She looked at Bean before she answered. "Did you notice how Bean
"Not really, she kind of falls around but all kids do don't
"Yeah, that's not it. Bean has one foot turned in. I got a doctor
who wants to operate on her foot, but I don't know. She is kind of small for all
that don't you think?"
"Lord Dona, I don't know. Have you gotten a second
opinion on the operation?"
"Not yet. If I do. I want it from someone I
will trust. The closest doctor like that is at Johns Hopkins in Maryland. He is
too busy to see Bean. I must have called a dozen times."
huh, you probably won't believe this but I know someone there."
I know the doctor's receptionist real well, but it don't help."
are probably right, but let me make a call tomorrow. Give me your number at
work. If anything comes of it I'll call you. Now how about the other
"One problem at a time Deacon," she replied with a smile. Dona
had a smile that could replace the electric light. Her smile made a much warmer
glow in any room. I marveled at it as she smiled first at Bean then at me often
during the meal. The smile did something besides light up the room, it made me
determined to do something for the Bean.
I noted with a degree of awe
that she and bean seemed to share a secret world. Even when they were lost in
the bustle of the larger world around them. The two of them seemed to be locked
in a special place. One not available to the rest of us.
I dropped them
at home before I took a walk on the dock. During that walk I felt very much
alone. I quickly found my way back to the hotel bar. I found it all right but
also found it closed on Sundays. As I walked away from the locked door the bell
man motioned me aside.
"If you would like sir, I do know where I could
get you a bottle. I would never
eak a real law you understand, but these
Sunday blue laws are stupid."
"Thanks but I think I'll take a nap
instead." I took the elevator to my room then napped the afternoon away. At nine
the next morning I called Doctor Graham at John Hopkins. It took about five
minutes to get him to the phone. "Doc, you said to call if I ever needed help.
Well I'm calling."
"So Deke, what is the problem. Did you kill those
men?" he seemed pretty serious.
"Naw Doc, I got a friend with a kid who
needs to see one of your orthopedic specialists. The guy says he's too busy.
Would you talk to him for me?"
"Give me the name and I'll try."
read him off the name Dona had given me.
"Hell Deke, I play golf with this
guy. Not sure that I can help though. I beat his ass regularly. Let me see what
he says and call you back."
"That would be fine. Let me give you the
number here at the hotel."
"Hotel, I thought you would be home with the
"I am. I am just staying here to help a friend
"Okay, it's going to be a couple of hours at least," the Doc
"I figured that. Just call me when you can."
around the hotel lobby all day. I read old magazines and ate in the coffee shop.
Finally at three he called. "Deke you were right, he is too busy to see the kid
for at least six months. He did give me the name of a doctor in Atlanta. The man
here said he is first rate. He was trained right here at Johns Hopkins. The
kid's got family in Atlanta so he went home, kinda like you."
think he will see my friend's kid?"
"Have the mother call and mention
Ed's name. She will be able to pretty much set her own
"Thanks Doc, I owe you?"
"Yeah for a lot more than
this. You take care Deke, hell I may need a favor one day." the phone went dead
in my ear.
I immediately called Dona at work. I couldn't understand but I
was overjoyed to be able to tell her about the Doctor. She didn't seem nearly as
happy about it as me.
"Deke, it's like this. I had my heart set on the
Johns Hopkins man."
"Why don't you do this? See the man in Atlanta, then
if you aren't satisfied I will try again with the man at Hopkins."
Deke, but if he say operate I am still going to take her to Hopkins
"Sure, but see the man in Atlanta. When can you get
"For Bean, you get the appointment and I'll get off."
laughed. "Okay, let me make the call."
I called the doctor in Atlanta
then Dona again. She gave me the address of Bean's local doctor. The local
doctor didn't want to give me the records. Finally Dona had to call and then I
threatened to burn the building down.
Renting a car was almost
impossible, so we took the train to Atlanta. The five hour trip began very early
in the morning. Bean slept almost all the way. When she did awake she was
cranky, but then so was I. It took all day to get the doctor to finish his tests
and talk to us. I sat in the waiting room holding Bean while Dona talked to the
doctor alone. When she came out she was crying. I figured he had gone along with
Bean's regular doctor.
It just goes to show how little I knew about
women. The doctor told Dona to buy the kid some fancy corrective shoes with a
ace attached. He predicted a year tops before her foot would be straight.
Dona was so happy she hugged me then kissed me on the cheek. I have to admit I
had the wrong kind of reaction. I hung my red face in shame.
ride back to Savannah was subdued as we were both caught up in emotions. Dona
with happiness for Bean's prognosis and me in confusion. I was more than a
little unhappy with my reaction to Billy's widow. I felt guilty and a little
angry at myself. I was glad when we arrived in Savannah late that evening.
After I made sure the two of them got inside the house safely, I took
the cab to the hotel. An hour in the bar resulted in a good nights sleep in
spite of my restless mind. The next morning I was preparing to leave the hotel
for the downtown when the phone in my room rang. I realized how late it was when
I looked at the clock.
"Hello," I spoke into the receiver.
it's me Dona. I do have one more problem you might can help with. Could you meet
me for lunch?"
"Sure you name it," I said it feeling a tightness in my
"How about the garden restaurant near the bank. Ask anyone when
you get down here they can tell you."
"I expect the cab driver knows," I
"Deke it's only a few blocks and the weather is pretty nice out.
Be adventurous walk."
"Okay, but if I get hit by a car it's on
All during lunch I tried to avoid her eyes. I didn't want to start
something since I knew I would be leaving soon. Lunch was pretty rocky at first.
oke the tension when she said. "Well Deacon, my last problem is going
to be pretty simple to fix."
"Okay, what is it?" I asked it feeling
pretty good about having done so well up to that point.
"Bean needs a
father," she said evenly.
At that particular moment I had a mouth full of
iced tea which I choked on. I managed to get my mouth covered with a cloth
napkin just as it came out my nose. My mind was running at ninety as I tried to
think of something to say. I was still gagging when she spoke.
are you all right. Gee I had no idea you were so easily upset. Billy has been
dead a long time you know. I think it is perfectly normal that I would begin
thinking about a father for the Bean."
"No it wasn't that it just went
down wrong. So who you got in mind?" I asked fearing the answer.
at work named Tom. Tom is a good man and will at least be a vice president
I had the strangest reaction. It was what I wanted to hear and I
was thrilled. Still I was also a little disappointed since it wasn't me. There
was a really crazy set of emotions rolling through my mind at that moment. "So
how can I help you with that?" I wasn't even sure I wanted to help her, but then
it was the reason I was in Savannah in the first place.
"The problem Deke
is that he only sees me at work. He thinks of me only as an employee of the
bank. If I could show him a more glamorous me, then he might be interested.
Actually he is a little interested, I just need to give him a little
"How you gonna do that?" I asked.
"Well, if you are willing
to take me to the places where he will be. You know, maybe we can make him see
me as a woman not a clerk." Somehow she seemed to be looking though me as she
"Sure, but how long is this going to take. I do have to get back
home sometime." The idea just didn't appeal to me at all. Sure going out with
Dona might be nice, but throwing her into the arms of this Tom guy wouldn't sit
all that well with me.
"We could have lunch in restaurants where he will
be, then I know where he and his mother have dinner on Friday night. I also know
where they attend church. On Friday night he will be at the American Legion. He
is a memeber there."%%%
"Most of it is possible I suppose. The Legion
thing might be tough." I didn't feel or sound very enthusiastic.
open to the public for the Friday night dance. Come on Deke, one or two more
weeks and you might solve all my problems.
"Okay but I am making a hell
of a sacrifice for you and Tempie." I replied.
"How so?" Dona
"Living a week or two more in a hotel is a terrible price to
"You know you have done so much for me, I really should let you
stay in my guest room. It would really be a big help as a matter of fact. You
could take Bean to the sitters. You could even pick her up a little early so I
wouldn't have to do it."
"Why would I want to do that?" I
"So I could be a little more careful with my dress and make up
over this next days. If we are going to put a blitz on, I need to look my best.
How about it Deke?"
"What will your neighbors think?" I
"Who cares what they think?" she replied.
"You will, if Tom
comes over and they rat you out." I replied.
"You have to be kidding this
place isn't like the mill village. You have to go ask the neighbors if you want
to know anything. Half the time even then they don't really know who lives next
"They may not volunteer it, but they are going to know who is
staying with you."
"It's up to you, but I'm a pretty good cook. Billy
said I cooked almost as good as your mother."
It was the thought of real
food that did it. I gave in gracefully. At five Dona
ought the Bean home to
find me on the porch with my bag. I followed her into the house, and then into a
small room with a bed even smaller than mine at home. Since I didn't require a
lot of space it was just fine.
I was more than a little surprised to find
myself helping with dinner twenty minutes later. I pealed potatoes while Dona
cooked pork chops in the oven. When dinner was finished I helped with the
dishes. As I dried I remarked, "That really was a good dinner."
but your mother could have done better," she said it smiling. "That's what Billy
would say. Nobody can cook like my Aunt Mary."
"Well my Ma cooks great,
but different than you. In it's own way yours is just as good." What the hell I
thought, a small lie wouldn't hurt. Odds were she would never meet Ma
I slept poorly that night. I knew it was my own fault. I should
never have moved into a house with a beautiful woman. I sat up all night
worrying about her. Actually I sat up most of the night worrying about me. Being
in the house with a beautiful woman, who I was supposed to help land another
man, was going to prove tough I feared.
The next day Dona woke me up
after she was dressed. I showered then dressed for the day. She left coffee on
the table, but was gone before I made it into the kitchen. She left me with the
Bean and directions to the sitter's house. Bean played quietly on the kitchen
floor while I drank my first cup of coffee.
Sometime during the second
cup Bean came to me. Even though I tried to ignore her, she climbed into my lap.
It was to reach the table but it still gave me a nice warm sensation in my
chest. She played with he salt shaker and jabbered at me while I drank the
coffee. When I finished the coffee, I picked up the bag her mother had left by
the door, then carried Bean to the baby-sitter two doors down.
wasn't much for me to do, so I called a cab. It delivered me it to the docks. I
had begun to enjoy hanging around the docks. I had absolutely no desire to work
on the dock, but I did like to hang around there. The ocean helped to calm me
and the air just had a nice cold dampness to it. Not like the air at home which
tended to be colder somehow.
At eleven I showed up at the bank as
planned. I hung around outside until eleven thirty when Dona came outside. "Come
on we have to hurry to beat Tom to the restaurant," she said taking my arm. I
allowed her to guide me down the street and into a restaurant. The restaurant
was filled tables cover with real cloths. The place looked a little too prissy
for my taste. Then nobody asked me.
"Well Deke don't just sit there talk
to me. We have to make it look like we are dating at least."
asked not really understanding at all.
"Why else would I be having lunch
with a man on a weekday?" It almost made sense when she said it that
"So what should we talk about?" I asked.
"It's been a long
time since I was on a date, but I think you are supposed to ask me what kinds of
things I like to do."
"Oh okay, what do you like to do?" I asked still
puzzled by it all.
"Well how about a movie?" she suggested.
lunch?" I asked bewildered.
"No silly tonight. Bean is pretty good in
movies. She really likes popcorn. Quick look interested he is
"What?" I asked.
"We are supposed to be lovers. You have
to act like it." Dona demanded nervously,
"How do lovers act?" I asked it
as much in desperation as anything else.
"Don't you know?" She paused a
moment to read my emotions. "You don't do you?"
"Sure, I've had
girlfriends. I just I don't know what you are talking about."
have had girlfriends, but you never had a lover. Lovers look at each other in a
whole different way." Dona explained as if to a complete idiot.
way?" I asked getting interested for the first time.
"Like your lover is
the only person in the world, or at least the only one who matters. Deke until
you feel it, there is no way to describe it for you."
I really was
beginning to pay close attention to her words. That was supposed to make Tom pay
attention to her, or so she said. I had no idea what the result might really be,
but then I was not a woman in love either. I left it all up to
Dona's lunch period ended while Thomas was still eating his lunch.
When Dona stood to leave she made a slight commotion. The idea was for Thomas to
notice her. It worked pretty well since Thomas smiled at her as she turned to
I walked Dona back to the bank. I had a strange feeling of
anxiety as I left her at the door. I tried to figure it out but couldn't quite
get a handle on it. I turned away with a sinking feeling, which I didn't fully
I walked to the river docks, as I had done every day since my
arrival in Savannah. Most days I had simply walked along enjoying the air and
the sight of the boats moving along the river toward the ocean. That afternoon I
walked all the way to the end of the dock. It was something I had never done
before. Each day I had noticed the old black man fishing at the end. I had never
bothered to go far enough down to speak or even get a close look at
That afternoon I didn't feel like drinking in the riverside bar, so
I walked down to take a look at him. More to pass the time than anything else I
"How's the fishing?" I asked casually.
"Not bad today."
he replied carefully. I expect if you were black in the south during the
forties, you were careful who you spoke with.
"I've seen you here about
everyday for the last week," I suggested it hoping to start some kind of
"Yeah and if you come here any other day, you are most
likely to see me right here." He didn't say it rudely but rather sadly, as if he
would rather have been somewhere else.
"So, what in the world do you do
with all those fish You surely can't be eating them all." I asked it with a
"The old man laughed. "No my daughter and her husband own a diner.
They grind them up into fish cakes, then sell them. Makes a damned fine
sandwich," he said with a wide grin showing very white teeth.
wife mind you fishin' everyday?" I asked it to pass the time. I had a few hours
before Dona and the Bean would be home. I hoped to spend a few more minutes with
the old man.
"Wife passed away three years ago. It was only a couple of
months after we heard our second son had been killed."
"Sorry." I said
meaning it. "The war?"
"Yeah torpedoed his ship somewhere in the North
Atlantic. Eddie got killed in the battle of the Coral Seas. Both of them in the
Navy." The old man looked more angry that anything else. He said nothing further
until I prompted him.
"So you live alone now?" I asked.
daughter, the one that owns the diner." He paused a moment then said, "Name is
The old man didn't extend his hand so I did, "Deacon
Burke. So you fish here every day then?"
"Cept Sundays," was his only
reply. "You ever do any fishin Deacon?"
"Not in the last ten years of
so," I replied.
"You looks like a man who could do with some time to his
self. You know fishin's about the best way I know to do that."
be right, but I'm in town to take care of a few things, then I got to get back
home. Not a lot of water where I'm from"
"Really Deacon, where you from?"
The old man looked at me with genuine interest on his face.
village up in North Carolina, just down here visitin' relatives."
if you get a chance you should do some fishin' while you here. Tell you what,
ing an extra pole tomorrow, if you get a chance you come by and sit a
I had already sat on a bench almost across from him. I didn't
realize that I was sitting until he mentioned it. I had just kind of relaxed and
flopped down on the wooden bench. "Tell me where your daughter's diner is and
I'll try one of those fish cakes," I suggested.
"That might not be a good
idea Deacon. Why don't I
ing you a sandwich tomorrow."
much trouble Samuel."
"Ain't no trouble at all, don't get many people
stoppin' to talk." Somehow the old man didn't seem lonesome just peaceful. I
wanted to ask him how he could feel that way after losing so many people, but I
held off. It was a question for another day.
"Kind of cool," I said
pulling the heavy tan coat tighter.
"Deacon you ain't dressed for the
cold. Them old coats don't keep you warm. Bet you ain't wearing long underwear."
He was grinning across at me.
"You would win that bet all right. Sorry
Samuel, I can't take this cold I'm gonna have to leave. I noted then that I had
been sitting on the hard wooden bench at least an hour. The time had simply
slipped by while Samuel and I looked out at the river.
"Well Deacon, I'll
see you tomorrow then," the old black man said turning his attention back to the
own cork floating on the
"Spect so Samuel," I said
as I began my walk down the dock.
When I reached the end closest to
town, I began walking back into the downtown area. I found an idle taxi. I
ordered it to drive me to Dona's house. Since it was early I debated with myself
about walking to the sitters house. Even the fifty foot walk seemed too far, so
I took a nap instead.
I awoke from my nap on the sofa onlhy when I heard
Dona lugging the bean through the front door. I managed to rouse myself in time
to help with the bags needed for Bean's toys and extra 'things'.
you've been sleeping while I worked," Dona said lightly.
"Yeah, just your
typical bum." I meant it as a joke. I figured I could get away with it sense Ma
"Somehow Deacon, I just can't see you as a bum. I got
absolutely no idea when you are going to get yourself back home, but I am sure
"What do you mean back home?" I really did not
"Some of the soldiers take longer to really come home than
others. You are just one that takes even longer than most. When you find your
way back, you will start moving ahead with your life."
"That's a nice way
of saying I have shell shock." I managed a smile even though I felt
"Not shell shock exactly but something like it. Billy used to
write that nothing seemed very important to the combat veterans. Like everything
after combat was just trivial."
"Yeah that sounds about right I guess. Of
course I never was really in combat. At least not the grinding kind you
"Okay, let's change the subject. Come on into the kitchen while I
cook." she suggested.
I followed her into the kitchen. I leaned against
the sink while she removed things from the refrigerator. I watched in silence as
she began to work on dinner. Every once in a while I would look over at the Bean
playing in the floor.
"You know Bean actually looks a lot like Billy. I
never saw him as a young child but I can see his face in hers."
does look a lot like Billy. She has his nose and eyes." I watched as she began
to cry softly. I should have known better, but I moved to hold her while she
"It just ain't fair Deke. So may jerks came back, but not my
Billy. Damnit he was too good to have been playing soldier."
"Yeah a lot
of guys like me made it home. While a lot of good guys like Billy didn't. Go
"Deke, I didn't mean it that way." She looked apologetic but it
was obvious that she would have preferred Billy be standing in her kitchen. I
took a look at Bean again and thought she might have a point at
When the tears were gone, Dona finished dinner only after forcing
me from the sink. I found myself sitting at the table when Bean came to push her
way into my lap. I sat with my attention split between the child in my lap and
her mother working on dinner. The feelings switched between being happy and
being sad. It was a terrible mixture of emotions that ran through me. Dona and
Bean seemed oblivious to my turmoil.
Dinner was good and the conversation
was pretty innocuous. I expect it was an effort by Dona to make up for her
earlier comments. She chose to just stay away from anything vaguely connected
with my life after the war. She asked me lots of questions about growing up in
the village. Most of them were about Billy but some were about just
After dinner we went into the living room where Dona began reading a
book. The Bean and I played for a while. Suddenly without warning Dona said,
"Bean it's time for bed."
The child clung to me. I know that it was to
avoid bed, but I swear it tore at my heart. I had no idea exactly what I was
feeling. I know I had a terrible desire not to release the child. I finally
succeeded in conquering my feelings.
When Dona returned from tucking the
Bean in, she asked. "Deke, do you play cards?"
I was a little surprised
but finally answered, "A little why?"
"Well Tom spoke to me after lunch
today. We couldn't have a real conversation but he did smile at me several times
today. I think he is getting interested.
"Well, if one lunch was all it
took, he must have been interested before."
"Maybe, but he was definitely
more friendly this afternoon. So Deke, what I was thinking was, why don't you
and I go out tomorrow night."
"If you are making progress with Tom, why
would you want to go out with me?"
"Because Deke, I have tickets to the
dance at the American Legion. Tomorrow is Friday night you know. Most couples do
go out on Friday night."
"I know what most couple do on Friday night, but
you are interested in Tom, aren't you?" I asked it hoping for what kind of
answer I wasn't sure.
"Of course I am. I bought these tickets from Tom.
He is some kind of officer in the American Legion. So you and I are going to the
dance. After a while I want you to leave me with Thomas to go play cards. That
will give me a chance to talk to him without being in an office situation. It
will seem perfectly normal except that we can both talk about what a louse you
are." She did give a soft laugh to lighten the blow to my ego.
"Wow, I do
appreciate your letting me know what you plan to discuss, but I could have done
without that information." I paused for effect, but she didn't seem to catch the
sarcasm in my voice. Are we still having lunch tomorrow?" I asked it because I
really wanted to have lunch with her.
"Of course, I need for you to meet
Tom. I mean, I have to introduce you two. That way when you leave me with him,
it won't look so contrived." She said it with what would appear to anyone to be
the sweetest of smiles.
"Okay already, I understand." I said it as I left
her sitting in the living room. I went into the kitchen for coffee. I wanted the
coffee less than I wanted to be alone for a moment. I used the time to try and
understand my emotions. When I realized I wasn't going to understand, I returned
to the living room.
"So Deke, I am going to make an excuse to leave a
little later for lunch tomorrow. As a matter of fact, why don't you be a little
late picking me up. Say, come around twelve fifteen. That way Thomas will have
to leave the restaurant first."
"You are making the plans. Me, I'm just
an actor." My sarcasm again failed to hit the mark. She ignored it
ing plenty of money Friday night actor, we
got some pretty good poker players down here." She looked serious as she
"Well, if they are real good the game might end before you land
"That's why I said take lots of money. By the way I am going to try
to get him to
ing me home. Don't worry if I am gone after the
%%%I still can't explain how I felt after she said that. i do
remember all I could manage was a nod. For some reason I didn't trust myself to
speak. Our conversation drifted into small talk as we both realized the
conversation about Tom was better left to spurts. The realization was probably
for different reasons but that didn't matter.
The next morning was
uneventful. The first thing of any consequence occurred when Dona and I arrived
at the restaurant. She noticed that Tom was sitting in his usual table in the
rear. She insisted that we wait until a table in the front came open. The
position of the table would require Thomas to pass nearby as he left the
Dona and I shared small talk until he had finished his meal.
"Here he comes," she said as a warning to me. Tom passed close to our table.
When he was the closest he would be, Dona raised her hand to motion him
"Thomas I want you to meet someone." she motioned to me with here
head. I stood to greet her boss. "This is Deacon Burke, he is Billy's
"Nice to meet you," I said extending my hand.
have heard a lot about you lately Mr. Burke."
I shook his limp hand as I
answered. "Really, I am surprised."
"Why wouldn't Dona mention her
husband's cousin?" he asked surprisingly argumentative.
really, I just didn't know I rated a work conversation."
"Oh Deke, you
know you are important to me," she said and looked down at the table. I swear I
would have given her an Oscar, if I had one in my pocket. Thomas was obviously
fooled. I sure as hell would have been, if I hadn't known it was a
After we shook hands he asked if I were enjoying my visit. I almost
told him the truth, but decided to let Dona have her shot. Still he was a
terrible jerk. Definately not someone I would have chosen as a father for
After he had gone I asked, "So Dona, why are you interested in
him?" I guess my scorn showed.
"Deke how far did you go in school?" She
wasn't being mean just curious, it thought.
"I finished high school," I
"Me too and look where I am. It's where most of us
are going to stay. Now Thomas is a department manager and will be a vice
president and maybe even president one day. He can give Bean a real chance in
"But God Dona, he is as dull as dishwater. I would have thought
that after Billy you would be looking for someone like him."
was a wonderful man, but if he had lived Bean would have fallen into the same
trap as me. I want more for her."
"Okay Dona, I guess sacrifice is a
mother kind of thing. I don't understand, but then I am just here to
"Good, then get me back to work before I lose my
After Dona was deposited outside the door to her bank, I walked
down to the dock. I found Samuel sitting on the end watching his cork float on
the water. "So Samuel how is the fishing?"
"Fishin' is fine, the catching
ain't much though." Samuel's laugh was as gentle as the man had seemed the day
"So, did you
ing my sandwich?" I asked it more serious that I
should have been but the fancy restaurant didn't sit all that well with
"I certainly did." With those words he removed a round waxpaper
wrapped sandwich from his paper bag.
"Thanks, I have been thinking about
this all day." I tired the sandwich and found that it was delicious. The fish
cake was good but the sauce was fantastic. "Damn Samuel this really is
"Deacon?" he asked surprised. "What kind of church do you
"Sorry Samuel, but I'm not a real deacon. I got the name as a
kid. Everybody thought I would be a preacher. Things just went a little wrong I
"Sometimes happens, specially in these times," Samuel looked sad
again as he spoke.
"Yeah, been through some bad times okay." I felt about
like Samuel looked. I have absolutely no idea why I asked but I asked. "Samuel
do you believe in god?"
"Shore I believe in God, don't you
"I used to Samuel, but I don't know anymore."
you got any kids?" He looked concerned as he asked.
"Not married Samuel,"
I said trying to figure what he was getting at.
"Too bad, there aren't
many times when you get to see God's face. The one I remember was when I saw my
wife holding our new baby for the first time. I swear to you Deacon, I saw God's
face that day. It was right there in those two people."
I gave that a lot
of thought before I answered. "Samuel, I guess I am going to have to keep
looking or maybe just take your word for it."
"You can do both, but while
you look, believe me there is a god."
"He must have been awful busy these
last few years. I seemed to have slipped through the cracks." I tried to laugh
but a sad smile was the best I could do.
"No you didn't Deacon. You here
ain't you?" Samuel had that gently but serious look again.
about it but didn't answer. "So Samuel, where is your daughter's place? That was
a great sandwich. I might want to have another one."
"You a good man even
if you ain't a deacon, but you still don't want to go down there." His
expression changed slightly but it still had a sadness to it.
tell her she needs to move. She could make a million bucks with those things
downtown. I never had such bad food as I have the last couple of
"Well, I never cared much for white people's food myself." Samuel
finally had a big grin on his face as he spoke. "But it ain't that easy to move
downtown. Rent is mighty high. They don't much care to rent to Negroes down
I should have said sorry and walked away, but it was just
something that appealed to me. "You reckon she would like to move
"Don't know Deacon never thought about it. Matter of fact I
don't spect they have either."
"Tell her to give it some thought, I'm
going to be in town a few more days. If she would like, we could take a look
around maybe find her a place."
"You gonna give us the money for the
move?" Samuel asked with a skeptical smile.
"Hard to tell Samuel. I might
be able to work something out. Just ask your daughter if she would like to move.
I'll see you tomorrow, since it ain't Sunday."
Something was rolling
around in the back of my head, I just wasn't sure exactly what at that moment.
It would come, but I would have to be patient. I walked downtown to the bank and
waited outside. When she came out I caught up with Dona. She had walked right
past me without looking.
"Hey lady, is that anyway to treat the cousin of
"Deke what are you doing here?" she asked.
trying to keep up my end of the act." I said it then notice how it sounded. I
hoped she wouldn't notice but of course she did.
"Deke what's the
problem?" She seemed more expectant than curious.
"I don't know, but this
just doesn't seem right. I mean we are out to trap that poor jerk into marrying
you." I knew how lame it sounded, but I couldn't help myself.
who blackmailed my landlord suddenly developed scruples, I don't believe it."
"It's not so much that, I have never done anything quite like this
before." I tried to make it sound vague enough to be a real answer.
you are going to go through with this. I have a chance to insure my daughter's
future. You are damned sure going to go along with it." At that moment the bus
arrived. I had been so involved in the conversation I had forgotten to hail a
"Sure, I promised to help you get a husband and I am going to do
it. I just don't have to like it." I said it as we stood to board the
During the ride to her house we were surrounded by strangers so we
said little. Once we were in her house with the Bean in tow she said, "I have to
fix the Bean some dinner then get dressed. Why don't you play with Bean, so she
will give me a little peace. I didn't answer instead I took Bean into the living
I spent a very pleasant thirty minutes playing blocks with her. I
would build a block tower and she would destroy it. She never seemed to tire of
throwing the blocks at me, nor of forcing me to build the tower
Dona came into the room to announce dinner for Bean while I was in
the midst of a new tower of babal. I carried Bean into the kitchen since she
didn't want to go. Bean's dinner couldn't have been too much trouble since it
was a toasted cheese sandwich with milk.
Dona on the other hand took
much longer to fix. After her sandwich Bean and I read a children's book while
Dona worked on making herself beautiful. I opened the door for the old woman
from up the street. She had agreed to come sit with Bean while Dona and I went
to the dinner dance.
Getting to the dance wasn't hard just time
consuming. We had to call, then wait for a cab. Then of course the cab took the
scenic route. In the end we arrived shortly after eight p.m. Dinner was already
well underway. They were serving a buffet. When Dona removed her coat I saw her
for the first time in a new light. In the very sleek dress she no longer looked
thin or ordinary at all. she looked absolutely beautiful, actually quite
We sat at a table alone during dinner. After the only fair
meal we began to dance. I am a lousy dancer, not having done a lot of it during
my lifetime. Dona however was a truly wonderful dancer. She was gorgeous in her
dress which seemed to move independently of her. She was a real sight to see. I
certainly wasn't the only man watching as she danced. As a matter of fact I
noted that Tom watched very closely. I swear I could see sweat beads on his
upper lip. Dona danced seemingly oblivious to both Tom and me. It was obvious to
everyone in the room that she was dancing inside her own mind and body. Her
movements might have been inside her, but they effected every man the same. I
could see the desire on the men's faces as I looked about. Hell, if there had
been a mirror I would have seen it on my own face. Lust has a definate look
When Dona and I returned to the table, I actually felt the
other men staring at us. It was eerie. When we were again seated I asked,
"Exactly what was that all about?" I was surprised by the anger in my voice.
Dona tossed her hair as she asked, "What was what about?"
know damned well what I'm talking about. That little exhibition you put on out
there. Who was it supposed to impress?"
"Thomas of course," she
"Well it had better work cause I am getting tired of being your
patsy," I said angrily.
"Deke, what is wrong with you?" she asked with a
smile. One I had never seen on her face before. When I didn't answer she went
on, "Well now is as good a time as any. The card room is off the hall. Just go
knock on the door. They will let you play. Hell they let any one
"Okay then I'll see you later," I said it standing to
"No you don't. Go ask Tom to take care of me. He will love the
I looked down at her without saying a word. I just turned to
walk to the bar. "Thomas, do you remember me?" I asked as I approached
"Sure Deacon glad to see you here." I got to admit he was a pretty
smooth guy. I knew he actually wished I would disappear.
"Yeah, I wonder
if you could do me a favor?"
"I guess, what kind of favor?" he asked
"Dona said I could get into the card game, but I can't leave
her alone. I wonder if you could keep her company until I lose my paycheck." He
didn't need to know that I had no paycheck.
"Sure Deke, I'll go sit with
her a while, but I do have to get home soon." It was his way of saving face. He
couldn't wait to get to Dona.
"Like I said, I don't expect it will take
long to lose my money. Just send word down, if you need to leave before I
finished losing it all."
He was smiling a conspirators smile when he
If I had really been dating Dona, I wouldn't have let that
slimy prick within a mile of her. Since Dona somehow had it in her mind that she
wanted him I just smiled. I found the room and the game without any problem.
After three hours I determined that I should move to Savannah. The men in
Savannah had too much money and too little sense. I won about two hundred bucks
in those three hours. Not only did I win. Calling it a night was their idea. I
was in heaven. The men didn't even try to force me to stay long enough to give
the money back.
When I returned to the ballroom the place was still
rocking. It was rocking without Donna and Tom they were gone. I looked at the
table to see if they had stepped out for air. It had been cleaned and sat empty.
I called a cab then waited for it to arrive. During the drive to Dona's
house I tried to decide what I would do if Tom's car was still outside. I could
kick the door down or go to a hotel. When the cab pulled to the curb I was
almost disappointed to find no cars parked on the curb. I noted that the living
room light was on, as well as the kitchen light. A good sign since I didn't want
to wake her.
I really didn't have a thing to worry about. Dona was up and
primed for bear. "What took you so long?"
"What difference does it make
to you?" I wasn't angry but I was short tempered.
"The difference Deke is
we have to decide what to do next."
"Do about what?" I asked.
has asked me out." She had a really strange look on her face.
I felt a
sinking feeling in my gut. "So, I guess my work is finished."
said bursting into tears.
"Now what is wrong?" I asked.
Deke," she said the tears really beginning to flow.
I let her cry
herself out because I knew she was upset about something, but not just what.
Trying to get it out of her between sobs would be a waste of time. When she
finally stopped sobbing I asked, "So Dona, what is it that I have done
"This is all your fault," she said it as if it were all the
"I really don't understand Dona what is my fault. You
got what you wanted so why the tears."
"You are why the tears. You come
sailing into my life all filled with dark good looks and magic." she said
"What are you talking about?" I asked
"Never mind, just kiss me damn it." I kissed her gently but
she would have none of it. The kiss grew into something terrifying. I felt here
body move against me and I responded. She suddenly
oke the kiss, then ran
down the hall. I hadn't heard a thing but she did. Bean was half awake and
whimpering when I entered her room. I looked through the open door and saw Dona
holding the child. I saw the marks of tears on both their faces. Suddenly I saw
something else. I saw the face of God.
I stood in that doorway looking
at the two of them for several minutes. My mind began to race. I saw into the
future with us a family. Marrying Dona would take me away from the village or it
would take Dona into the life she feared. She feared it not for herself but for
I took one last look, then went to the guest room and packed my
bag. I walked out the front door to the sound of fresh sobs from Dona.
had the cab driver stop on the empty dock. I put the money from the poker game
into an envelope. I placed it under the leg of the bench. I never knew if Samuel
even got the money. I had no idea whether his daughter moved her cafe. I did
know that I had done all I could to make things right in Savannah. Whether they
worked out they was was in the hands of God.
Book three Deacon takes a
I had been home from Savannah about a week when Luther showed up at
my door. Having Luther at the door was bad enough, but having him there at eight
a.m. was enough to really upset me. I staggered to the door in my shorts even
thought the morning air had a definite chill to it.
When I saw that it was
Luther I cracked the door but didn't offer to allow him inside. "So what the
hell are you doing here at this time of the morning?"
"Ain't been to bed
yet," he replied, looking mighty cold standing on my porch.
"Well, I been
asleep since three. If you don't have something real important to say, I am
going back to bed."
"Miss Evans wants you over to the house," he stated it as
thought it was some kind of engraved invitation to a ball. Well that might not
have been the best choice of words considering her line of work.
Luther, but that ain't a good enough reason to get me out of bed." I said it in
my wise guy voice. If I had been nasty, I would have expected what came next.
Since I wasn't nasty it surprised me.
"Now Deacon, you can come easy or
bloody, but you damn sure gonna come with me."
"I don't think so Luther," I
replied in a much more ominous tone.
Luther pushed on the door and it swung
open. It also revealed the
oom handle mauser I held hidden behind it. Since
he had seen it already, I pointed it right between his eyes. "Now Luther, the
only reason I don't kill you on the spot is that I don't want to spend all day
with the sheriff. So go home and tell Sandra that I will be there at six."
"I am going to kill you one day for this," was Luther's only response.
really are a dumb ass Luther, now I almost have to kill you." I held the pistol
even tighter and began to apply pressure to the trigger. Luther knew I was only
ounces of pull from killing him. I'll give the man this, he didn't even flinch.
"Okay Luther, I am not going to kill you today, but no guarantees about
"I would worry about myself Deacon if I were you. Only reason
you ain't dead is Sandra wants you alive for now. If she ever stops wanting you
alive, I am going to enjoy killing you real slow."
"Damn Luther, you are
not making me all that anxious to see Sandra," I said it with a
"You should be, like I said that's what's keeping you alive."
Luther had an even nastier grin than mine, if that were possible.
tell her I'll come over after she is awake." I looked at Luther just as
dangerously as I could. I knew it wasn't nearly enough, but I
Luther turned and walked away without a word. It was a good
thing too, since I had no idea how to act any tougher. Once he was off the
porch, I closed then locked the door. I also checked to make sure the rear door
was locked. I also I went from window to window checking the pins I had
installed for security.
What I saw satisfied me that anyone entering the
house would make a hell of a racket I went to bed. I slept lightly and with the
Mauser handy. Actually I slept until noon even though half it was wakeful
periods of tossing around.
At noon I forced myself from the bed, then
into the my crumpled pants. After stoking the coal stove, I put a shallow pan of
wash water on it. I shivered while sitting along side the barely warm stove as I
waited for the metal to become hot from the burning coal inside.
the stove became hot enough to heat the water, I washed as much of me as I could
reach. I shaved, then dressed my shivering body. With my body more or less clean
and my clothes in place, I ran quickly to my old Chevy. The car was a real bitch
to start on a cold day, but eventually gave in with a grinding sound. It was too
late to eat at Ma's. I wouldn't have gone there anyway, I was still playing it
cool around her boarding house. No sense stirring up the powers that
I drove instead to Pop Marshburn's cafe across from the Pump Room.
Pop's teenage waitress took my order. It was almost too annoying to hear her
talk around the wad of gum, but not quite since she had a great body. My eyes
never once strayed to her gum filled mouth. I expect Pop knew how the customers
felt. Since most were men, I expect he just shrugged his shoulders like he did
about most things.
After my Pork Chop lunch, I drove to the public
ary. "Hello Mrs. Rule," I said to the woman who ran the checkout
"Why Mr. Burke, you are running a little late today. You are
usually here right after I return from lunch."
"I know, I over slept
today. The whole day has been an hour behind. So am I late enough to get the New
York Times?" The times arrived just after noon in our little town. It took
another hour to make it to the li
ary, so I often missed it. That day I was
lucky and late, so I got to read the Times for the current day.
ary I drove home to peck at the old pre-war Royal typewriter. I told Ma
and the other family members that I was writing the great American novel. It was
my new excuse for not working. In those days you needed a better excuse than, 'I
have a little money saved up.' If you didn't work everyday on the 'mill hill'
you were a bum. I expect everyone thought of me as a bum anyway. It didn't
matter, Ma and the family had a story to tell so they seemed pretty much okay
I typed with one finger until six when I drove over to the 'Pig
Farm'. only the name remained. It was the legacy left from the farm where the
pork for the mill village had been raised before the war. It had nothing to do
with the fact that the old farm house was occupied by Sandra Evan's girls at
that time. Of course the name did still apply I expected.
maid met me at the door. "Come on in Mister Deacon, Miss Evans is expecting you.
Why don't you wait in the parlor."
I walked through the door to my right
into what had once been the living room of the farm family. On that day it was
used as part of a garishly decorated meeting room. The room where the men met
the 'ladies'. Sandra Evans kept me waiting several minutes more,. I expected it
was to show me who was the boss more than anything else. She need not have
bothered. I wasn't impressed.
The maid finally came for me after more
than fifteen minutes. I followed her to the small office off the kitchen. I
stood silently looking down at Sandra Evans and then up at Luther. I didn't much
like waiting ever then. I guess I could have forced the issue, but I chose to
wait them out.
After what seemed like several long moments Sandra spoke,
"Deke, I want you to do me a favor."
"What kind of favor and why should
I?" I said it more to rattle Luther than anything else.
"You might do it
cause Miss Evans gave you that house you are living in." He snapped.
wasn't a house when I got it. It was a pile of lumber, stacked up in the middle
of a piece of dirt. I spent a lot of time and money making it into a house. And
just for the record, Sandra did not give it to me. I earned it."
course you did Deke," Sandra said in a sarcastic voice.
"Well, I didn't
force you to sign it over. You must have felt I earned it."
"I wanted you
close. So I could use you for errands, if you must know." She looked as though
she were going to burst out laughing at any moment. She was obviously enjoying
the game. I put a stop to that. I turned and walked out the door.
ran after me. He caught up to me in the parlor. He also grabbed my shoulder then
tuned me toward him. He probably meant to knock hell out of me, but the six inch
hunting knife resting against his ribs changed his mind. "Now listen carefully
Luther. If you ever touch me again, I am going to gut you like a
He looked at me with something close to respect. "Well next
time I am going to have to be ready for you. You got a little more on the ball
than I thought." The think in his eyes was definitely not fear.
is a next time, one of us is going to die," I meant it when I said it. Luther
was much to dangerous to play with. Sandra
oke the standoff by calling
Luther. For some reason known only to God, I followed Luther back into Sandra's
"Okay Sandra, what is it?" I asked it because I wanted to know
what she had in mind for me, just curiosity I told myself. Then again I was
curious as to the payment she had in mind. I could always use the
ead I told
myself. The truth was I was already bored with working on the house. I needed
something else to do with myself.
"Okay Deke," Sandra began. "I got this
problem. Have you ever met Jenny Booker?"
"I don't think so. Is she one
of your girls?" I asked it wondering why Sandra thought I would be interested in
one of her girls. I still had Rose visiting me every Saturday night. Not to
mention her surprise visits during the week to the pump room. Between the two,
it was more than enough for me.
"Well Deke, Jenny is one of my best
girls." Sandra looked as though she expected me to disagree. How could I? I
didn't know on what basis one formed that kind of opinion. When I didn't comment
she went on.
"She is so worried about her family that she is a basket
case. I need to get her family problems straight." Sandra looked at me again as
if waiting for a comment. I simply shrugged my shoulders.
"You got no
comment at all? Aren't you even going to ask what you can do?" Sandra asked the
questions without giving me time to answer before moving on to the
"Okay, what do you think I can do?" I asked it more to keep her
moving since I knew she would tell me, even if I hadn't asked.
know exactly what you can do. I want you to fix it. Isn't that what you
"When I can yeah, So what is
oke?" As before I need not have
asked she had summoned me to tell me what she had in mind.
parents have lost their farm. The kid is so worried that all she does is cry in
front of the customers. That Deke, is not good for business."
think it would be," I said it with a chuckle.
"It is not funny Deke. I'm
losing money every night cause the guys leave and demand that I return their
money. They say if they wanted a crying
oad in bed, they would have stayed
home." She didn't even smile when she said it. I'm not sure she even knew it was
"So what are you saying you want me to do?" I asked expecting
about what she said but not exactly.
"I want you to go buy the place at
auction. The bank has already foreclosed so it is gonna be auctioned
"If all you want for someone to go buy the family farm at auction,
why don't you just send Luther?" I figured there was more to it than Sandra was
It came a second later when she answered, "Well Jenny's dad is
pretty proud and would never accept a gift from me. Jenny hasn't been gone long
enough to have earned enough money in the mill to buy the place at auction. What
we need is a rich husband for Jenny. One who could buy the place and hand it
over to the old man."
"Wait just a minute, if you think I am going to
marry one of your girls just to do you a favor you are nuts. I am also not going
to do it for money." I answered her question before she asked it.
you don't have to really marry her. You just pretend to be married till you buy
the place. When you have it you sign the deed over and come back here. When you
get back Jenny will pay me a few bucks a week until it is paid
"Sandra, first of all why me?" I asked it a little surprised that I
would even care.
"You don't really think Luther could pull this off do
you?" Sandra asked it and waited for me to answer.
I thought about it a
while then said, "No, I guess not. He looks more like he would rob the
"Exactly," Sandra agreed. "Now Deke, you got to be cool with this.
The bank up there is a hometown thing. We don't need them pissed at Jenny's
folks." Sandra said it almost playfully.
"If you didn't think I could do
it, you wouldn't have asked. So now you tell me what is the pay?"
is liable to take a couple of days, so I figure ten bucks a day for expenses and
a hundred for the job." Make it one fifty, is that okay?" she asked.
it isn't enough, this is liable to take a week. I want a flat two and I'll pay
my own expenses." I figured I could keep it down to under ten a day since Jenny
would be staying with her parents.
"Deke this is highway robbery. I guess
it is going to be hard to find another husband for Jenny on such short notice.
Okay, but you got to pull this off first."
"If it can be done, I will do
it." I just had a feeling it was all too easy. But then it was possible that I
was wrong. Maybe it was my turn to have things go right for a
"Okay then you come here in the morning. I'll have Jenny all
ready to go."
"What does that mean all ready to go?" It sounded ominous
to me at that point.
"It means she will be packed and ready to leave at
whatever time you want to go. Hell, she is absolutely no use to me now." Sandra
just didn't seem upset enough about any of it. Somehow she was acting like it
was one great joke. I didn't like the idea of being the butt of a joke.
Especially one I didn't know was running.
I decided the better part of
valor was to ignore it for the moment. "Okay Sandra, have her ready at eight
a.m. I want to get on the road early. By the way were are we
"Deke honey, I got no idea. You gonna have to ask Jenny that
"How about I ask her tonight?" Since Sandra acted as though
she wanted to keep it some kind of secret, I wanted to know at that very
"Deke, I honestly don't know, and Jenny isn't here right now."
Sandra's voice gave me some indication that she or jenny or both were up to
"So where is she?" I asked.
"Downtown shopping," she
admitted. Since it didn't sound sinister I accepted it.
"Fair enough, I
am going to the pump room to play a little poker," I turned to leave but didn't
quite make it to the door.
"Deke, don't let Jenny and her family pull you
in," she said returning her attention to paying bills. I didn't ask what she
meant, I just walked out the door shaking my head. Somehow it looked like I was
in trouble again. I sure wished I knew what they were up to. Then again, I would
refuse to ask she had met my price.%%%
I drove the old Chevy to the pump
room that night while trying to speculate on what I might be letting myself in
for. There was no way to tell, so I just tried to forget it. Since I didn't
expect to have much luck on my own I was thrilled to see Rose when I entered the
Pump room. Okay, thrilled wasn't what I felt, but I was happy to see
I played poker for a while then went to talk to Rose. I found her at
the bar flirting with a mill worker. It was a game she played. She thought it
attracted my attention. It did on nights like that one. Hell just seeing her on
night like that one would have worked as well..
"So Rose, how you doing,"
I asked it around her latest friend. He didn't know that she did not leave with
strangers. I might have told him that, but I had no idea who he was. Rose only
left with me in those days.
"Hey buddy, the woman is talking to me," he
"Easy friend, this is my wife," I said it with a laugh. I
was trying to
eak his angry mood but it didn't work. I just ignored him. I
continued speaking to Rose. Since he had a really nasty look I asked Rose. "You
about ready to leave honey?"
"You ain't really his wife are you?" the
Now when Roise is drunk she can be a real pistol. Rose was
drunk at the time. "Course not honey, if I was married would I be doing this."
Rose put her hand in his lap at that point. She never even looked up at
I had two choices at that point, I could have left or I could have
taken her out with me. I decided I would just leave, seemed the easiest thing to
do. I turned and headed for the door.
I almost made it before Rose
called after me, "Hey, Deke hold up."
I turned in time to see the rather
large man stand up from his seat at the bar. "Hey, you ain't gonna leave with
him. I done bought you half a dozen beers." Not only was it a stupid thing to
say, it wasn't even true. He had bought her one or two but no more.
still had control as I walked to the bar. I placed a dollar bill on it, then
pulled her away. I knew she asked for it. I also knew she just wanted to see us
go at it for some perverse reason. It didn't matter, I just couldn't leave her
"Come on Rose, time to go home." I said it as I moved her from of
the area between the bar and stools. When I had her out of his grasp, I turned
her toward the door.
"Hey you," I heard the gruff voice from over my
shoulder. I tried to ignore him at least until I felt the pain under my arm.
From pure reflex I pushed Rose away, then turned to the big man in the workman's
clothes. He was even larger then Luther. He was also holding one of those hook
bladed buck knives.
I could have said something about being surprised. I
could have threatened him. Hell, I could have called a cop, instead I grabbed
one of the lightweight chairs. I penned him against the bar with it. I had him
locked in the chair's legs trying to decide what to do next. At that moment the
new bartender eddie, hit him hard over the head with a sawed off wooden bat. It
was a good thing too because my arm was getting weak and painful as hell. I
reached around and felt the tare in my jacket and the wet spot. It was too dark
in the bar to see the color of the spot, but I knew it was red. The prick had
sliced me open with that hooked knife. Chances were real good that if I didn't
bleed to death I would get blood poisoning. There was just no telling where that
thing had been.
"Deke are you all right?" Rose asked suddenly very sober.
She burst into tears before she continued, "Deke, I was only playing. You know I
do it all the time. I had no idea he would get violent."
"I guess we both
learned something." I turned my attention to Eddie. "How about giving me a
couple of minutes to get out of here, then call the cops. Tell them I went to
get a couple of stitches. Yeah, and loan me a bar towel. Otherwise I might bleed
to death on the way."
"Sure Deke, you want me to drive you?" he asked no
"Nope, you stay and take care of the idiot there," I said
looking down at the man who hadn't moved since the rap on his head. "Damn Eddie,
you may have killed him. Course at this moment I could care
"Deke let me drive," Rose begged.
"Not thanks Rose you
done about enough." When I heard how it sounded I said, "I'm sorry honey. It
wasn't your fault just a game that got out of hand."
I did allow her to
ride with me in the old Chevy. I drove, but she held the towel under my shirt
pressed tight against the cut. The cut itself had begun to hurt like a bitch.
Getting into the emergency room parking lot was easy. Since I was the only
person in the small room it was easy to get a nurse to look at it.
guess the resident can stitch that up. It won't be pretty but it will stop the
bleeding," she said expecting me to give her some guidance I guess.
took a good look at the cut before I commented. "Well it isn't all that deep,
and it is only eight or so inches long. He should do fine. I wouldn't wake up
the real doctor for this."
"Yeah that's what I thought too but I had to
give you the option." She pressed a clean bandage against it while she worked on
getting the room set up for the resident. I notice that she wasn't much older
than me. I expect she had the least seniority in the emergency department.
Probably why she has the really late shift, I thought. When she bent over to
retrieve an instrument from the floor I noticed that her less than thirty year
old frame looked a lot better than Roses frame. Still Rose had one big advantage
she didn't. Rose was available and felt guilty, it should be quite a
combination. I can remember thinking that at the time.
The kid who looked
hardly old enough to be out of high school came into the room. If not for his
white lab coat, I would never have let him near me. I had guys in the army
younger work on me, but they had a much different look in the eyes. This kid
looked like he was headed for a college football game or something. No lines at
all around the eyes. He didn't even look tired, just too damned young and fresh
looking to be a doctor.
"His hands were cold from the alcohol he poured
over them. The nurse washed the cut which hurt like a bitch. Then the resident
shot the skin full of something like Novocain. I felt nothing after a couple of
After a couple of minutes more the resident asked, "So how you
feeling sir. Not shaky are you?"
"I'm fine, you finished?" I asked it
"Just a couple more. This is a nasty cut, How did you say you got
it?" He was trying to make conversation. He had no interest in my cut at all,
other than doing a few stitches that is."
"I expect there will be a
cop in any minute to explain all that to you. In the meantime can I have a
"Not in here, we have oxygen and it might go up. You can
have one in the hall or the lobby. Hold on and I'll have one with you," he
suggested. I almost told him I would rather not, but then it was a cigarette in
the hall for gods sake, not a kiss in the shower.
When he finished with
the needle point he had the nurse get a bottle of pills while he and I went
outside for a smoke. We stood in the hall outside the closed door puffing away,
me on my Pall Mall and him on his Lucky. I guess there was no mention of keeping
me overnight, because I had no insurance and there was nothing the observation
would show anyway.
I was told to hang out in the examining room a few
minutes just to make sure I didn't slip into shock. Twenty minutes later the
attractive little nurse came into the room.
"You can leave now Mr. Burke.
Just pay the cashier on the way out."
"Interesting concept but I have no
money on me. I can
ing it back tomorrow when the banks open." I suggested it
knowing the money would be in the bank box. I didn't bother to explain the
cashier about the box. I left her thinking it was in some kind of savings
"Well this needs to be paid now," the chubby middle-aged woman
"Like I said, I don't have that kind of money on
"Why don't you make a partial payment now and the rest tomorrow."
"Instead of speaking I pulled the wad of money from my
pants pocket and tossed it on her desk. Not only that I pulled my wallet out and
emptied it onto the desk. I even removed the change from my pocket and dropped
it noisily onto her desk. My only regret was there was only Rose to witness it.
Somehow it seemed like a grand gesture to me.
First the cashier counted
it right down to the penny. She wasn't even embarrassed knowing she had my last
penny on her desk. "Well, I am going to write your balance on the receipt we
expect you to pay it within ten days."
The balance turned out to be over
a hundred bucks. "Man what kind of thread did he use?" I asked it with a smile
even though it was a bitter one. For all my money and the promise of even more,
the cashier did hand me two envelopes
ought to her by the nurse. "One," she
explained held pain killers and the other antibiotics. I pocketed both envelopes
before I turned to the door.
The hospital was right in the center of town
so I had parked on the street. At that time of night I expected no problems
getting out of the space, even with the stitches preventing full movement of my
body. I didn't make it out of the lobby before the Sheriff's deputy came into
"You must be Deacon Burke," he guessed. I suppose it
was a pretty easy guess. I was the only person standing in the room with a
"Yeah?" I replied.
"So tell me what happened at the
pump room?" He was an old man with nothing more to do than try to stay awake. I
told it straight and quickly since I wanted to get to bed. After my story he
asked a few questions then sent me home.
"By the way, how is the guy who
did this to me?"
"They took him to Wesley Long's emergency room. He is
in pretty bad shape I think. That bartender hit him a little too
"I don't see it that way at all," I replied as I turned to the
door. Rose followed behind.
"Deke, I am so sorry," she offered once we
were inside the car.
"Why, I'm okay and the other guy isn't, so
everything worked out fine," I replied.
"But you might have been killed,"
she suggested miserably.
"I guess but I wasn't killed. Besides you didn't
cut me any way. Forget it kid, but I am going to drop you home. I don't think I
am up to anything else tonight."
"God Deke. I understand. I really do
feel bad and I would like to make it up to you, but I do understand
No she didn't. If she had she would have known I didn't give a
damn whether she understood or not. I just wanted to get to bed. I dropped Rose
in front of her house a few blocks from the pump room. During the drive home
there was very little pain. The pills at the hospital and the local anesthetic
seemed to work pretty well for the time being.
When I arrived home I used
my left arm to shovel a scoop of coal into the stove. The house was still
reasonably warm so I closed the drafts on the stove then undressed for bed. The
bed was larger than the one from the apartment. The blankets and quilts on the
bed would probably have kept me warm even without the stove. Still they wouldn't
do much to keep the cold from the rest of the room.
When I awoke the
next morning it wasn't as cold as it might have been since I filled the stove
later than usual. I still awoke with and urgent need to use the bathroom. I
should have tested the arm before I tried to jump from the bed but I didn't. I
simply threw back the covers. I tried to stand but the pain forced me back
A wave of nausea overcame me. I almost tossed my empty stomach's
contents on the floor. Instead I lay in the cold awaiting the feeling to pass.
When it finally did, I emerged from the bed slowly. I carefully and slowly moved
outside to the bathroom. It was strange but the cold bothered me hardly at
Everything took longer that morning. still I did manage to finish
everything by 9:30 a.m. I arrived at the farm only two hours late. I was met at
the door by the maid who informed me that miss Jenny would be ready in a few
minutes. It seemed that being late wasn't as bad as I feared it might have been.
Either that or Jenny didn't plan to finish her preparations until I arrived no
matter what time that might have been.
I cooled my heels in the giant
parlor for several minutes. A young woman with freckles on her face so thick
they were almost connected entered the room. If her freckles had been connected
she would have had a dark complexion rather than one so mottled it hurt to look
To make matters worse the woman was tall, when I say tall I mean
as tall as me almost and I'm six feet. She was thin and pretty much shapeless.
Gee I thought, whores really do come in all shapes and sizes.
must be Deke," she said it looking me in the eye. It wasn't really a question
but I answered anyway.
"Yep, and I guess that would make you Jenny?" I
"Right, look Deke, I guess I should thank you for this. That lousy
piece of dirt is all my Ma and Pa got. They don't know nothing else."
thanks needed, it is a business deal between me and Sandra." I didn't mean for
it to hurt her, but I could tell it did.
I was about to apologize when
she said, "Good, let's keep it that way." There was a hardness in her voice that
contradicted the sweet country girl look.
"Well Jenny, that sounds just
fine to me honey," I replied trying to keep my voice neutral. "So how about we
get moving. By the way can you drive?"
"Sure why?" she asked it while
picking up her bag, after she got tired of waiting for me to lift it. I might
have carried for her on anyother day, but not that one. I don't know if she
expected an explanation but for some reason I didn't feel up to it.
might let you drive." I looked to see her almost smile. She managed to surpress
it. She was just a kid after all, surely no more than seventeen or eighteen.
With that in mind I asked, "So how long you worked for Sandra?"
"A year or so why?" she was challenging me with her words and
"Hey, if I am going to be your husband I need to know about
you," I replied angrily.
"Well, I certainly do not expect you to mention
Sandra." She was down right huffy for a whore.
"Well then on the drive,
you can tell me what I should mention," I snapped the words at her as we walked
down the porch steps.
"Don't worry I plan to do just that and you better
listen," She said just as angrily.
"Just a damned minute who the hell do
you think you are?" I asked as I opened the passenger door. She thought I was
holding it for her till I handed her the keys and got in myself.
the person who will have to pay your bill in the end. Just like the ones I sleep
with for money, and that makes you a whore, just like me. You do charge more but
it is still the same thing. Deke, I plan to get my money's worth."
moment I was really pissed then it struck me funny. Of course, it really upset
her when I began to laugh. "What is so damned funny?" she asked almost in
"This maybe the only job I ever enjoyed," I replied between
gales of laughter. I think it was the pain pills as much as the
"Hey Deke, I don't know you and I ain't gonna be sleeping with
you understand? Course with what I am paying, I think I could if I wanted to."
She almost smiled but not quite.
"Just for the record, if you wanted to
save money you could have hired someone else. Lets see, one of your customers
maybe? Not one of the married ones though. They couldn't take the week off to go
save your reputation and your daddy's farm. How about one of the others. What
kind of single men have to pay for their women. Sure they are the kinds you want
your family to think you married. Maybe you are paying too much for me. If you
think so, then just let me know before we leave town. You are driving you can
always turn the car around. And speaking of money, where is mine?"
you trust me Deke?" she asked without any hint of a smile.
"Just like you
do your customers," I replied.
She actually laughed. It wasn't a pleasant
sound. She reached into her bag for the thick white envelope. She did it while
more or less keeping her eyes on the road. I counted the money and found it all
to be there. "Why so many small bills?" I asked.
"Came directly from
Sandra's safe. Oh yeah, there is a small bag in my case. It contains the amount
for the auction. Sandra said use all you needed, but no more than was necessary.
I guess she trusts you to do it right." From her tone it was obvious she didn't
"Yeah well, she has seen me do a couple of things. I
guess I am pretty trustworthy at that. So how long does this drive take?" I
asked it because the painkiller was about to knock me on my butt.
four hours at the most. If you don't mind me letting your car out a little,
closer to three and a half." She replied
"If you know a place we can
stop for lunch four hours will be okay I guess. I am going to take a nap. I
trust you to drive. Just watch the temperature gauge. If it starts to climb let
"Something wrong with this heap?" she asked with a sour look on
In pure frustration I looked at her hard. I was surprised to
find her eyes to be coke bottle green. I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed that
before. "Nothing is wrong with the car. If anything goes wrong the temperature
will climb just let me know if it does. Try not to kill us while I
"Do you really think there is something you can do even if you
are awake. Why are you so sleepy anyway? Did you stay up all night playing
poker, or were you screwing that Rose woman?"
"Neither, I was at the
hospital getting stitched up." I didn't elaborate. I waited to gauge her
"Really, have an accident?" she asked it with a really
"Yeah, something like that." I expected that if she knew
what had happened and why, she would have been even more sarcastic. She
obviously didn't think much of my life style, but since she was a whore I didn't
pay much attention. What I did do, was stretch out as best I could and fall
The next thing I knew we were parked outside a restaurant.
I wouldn't have known that if Jenny hadn't said, "Hey Deke, you want to eat or
not." even though it had been two hours she was still acting just as angry as
before. I was just about to call her on it when I realized she was probably
upset about her parents farm. There was also a good chance she was upset about
the large amount of money she would owe Sandra Evans. I didn't think I would
want to owe her money.
"So what kind of restaurant is this?" I
"Mostly barbecue, but they sell chicken too." She actually dropped
her guard for a second and sounded pretty normal.
Inside the place was
pretty shabby but filled with people. There seemed to be only two empty tables.
I followed the thin Jenny to one by the front window. I didn't hold the chair
for her not because she had been mean to me, but just because I didn't do that
kind of thing. She did notice though.
"You aren't much of a gentleman are
you?" she asked.
I almost made a remark about her not being any kind of
lady but I didn't. I figured the next time I feel asleep she might cut me worse
than the man the night before had. Instead I said, "Sorry that costs
She actually laughed for a change. "Okay, I asked for that. I
will try to be a little less angry and you try to be a little nicer, how about
"Sounds pretty reasonable to me. You know you got a nice way with
words." I left the sentence open by accident.
"You mean for a farm girl
or for a whore?" She at least kept her voice low.
"For any kind of girl,"
I replied hoping to take the sting out of my words.
"Then you don't
expect a well spoken woman period. Hey, you aren't the only one who reads you
"I will accept that and even apologize if you will take it a
little easier on me." I said it hoping to lighten the mood before we ordered.
Too late the waitress was standing over me before I got it out.
can I get you?" the waitress asked rudely.
ing us two barbecue trays
and two ice teas," Jenny said. The waitress nodded then walked away. "That was
okay with you wasn't it?"
"Sure, but I usually like to order for
"Men, what possible difference could it make who placed the
order?" She didn't look hurt that I might have been critical of her. Instead she
just looked angry again.
"Give me a
eak please. I have just about had
enough of your attitude." I said it hoping to put an end to the
"Just like a man gets his hormones up if a woman talks
straight to him." She said it pretty sharply, but she did laugh.
you hate all men or just me?" I asked it again trying to kid her into easing
"Pretty much all you jerks," she replied. "I would use a stronger
word if we were alone."
"Shy in public huh?" I looked around before I
went on. "Guess you do have some good traits after all."
worry, we wont be in public again for a while. In private you can just not speak
to me." She looked out the window until the food came.%%%
I didn't answer
her because I didn't know what to say. She seemed ready to fight again, and I
just didn't feel up to it. I was on edge enough to fight all right, I just felt
I would rather take another of those pills instead. They didn't especially
mellow me out, but they did allow me to sleep through anything, even Jenny's
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Belton.
Belton was no more than a crossroads in the middle on nowhere. Jenny woke me by
saying, "Hey Deke, we are almost at the farm you need to get awake and your wits
"Just drop me at a motel, or something and you go on." I
should have known that would have been too easy.
"Closest Motel is thirty
miles away," she replied with a sarcastic smile if a smile can be
"Well that's okay, a thirty minute drive isn't too bad.
Besides I just need to talk to the bankers anyway." I said it like I knew it was
the truth. To bad saying it didn't make it so.
"Oh no Deke, for two bills
you are going to play my husband every minute we are here. You might as well get
used to calling me Mrs. Burke, cause I plan to get my money's worth from
At first I was angry but I didn't say anything until I cooled down.
"So does that mean we sleep together too?" I asked it pretty much knowing what
her response would be.
"Not even if you pay the going rate you prick."
She wasn't smiling at all when she spoke. "We are probably going to be forced to
sleep in the same bed, but you better know something right now." I waited
without asking though I had a pretty good idea what it was. After a few seconds
she went on. "I sleep with this."
The 'this' was a small chrome .22
revolver. "Well Jenny believe me I am the only one likely to need protecting." I
was about to add a couple of insults when I got to thinking about the pistol. I
figured there was no sense pushing my luck, so I kept quiet. "So, how much
farther to the farm?" I asked it actually trying to be nice.
we go to the bank first dear?" she asked in that 'I really want to kick your
butt' voice I had come to hate so quickly.
"Okay, but why don't you let
me talk to the bankers. I have a feeling you might just alienate them before we
get a chance to find out what's going on."
"What alienate, you are just
like Sandra. We are just going in to pay off the mortgage. I don't really even
need you for that. I am taking you home just to explain where the money came
from or rather so I don't have to explain where it comes from."
it's your money so do what you want, but I would let me talk to the bankers. I
expect they would feel more comfortable talking to me."
"Because you are
a man I suppose?" she asked angrily.
"Maybe that, but more likely because
I don't have the fifty pound chip on my shoulder," I suggested.
this chip by dealing with jerks like you," she said angrily.
I walked into the farm this morning, I had never seen you before, and I might
add there are no other jerks like me. I am a one of a kind jerk." I had about
used up all my patience with her.
"You are just like all men," She
"Look, enough is enough. Now either you wait and blame me
for what I do, or I am going home and leave you to handle this the best way you
"You took the money, now you are going to do the job." she snapped
it at me.
"Here," I said as I tossed the envelope containing the money
onto the dash. "It ain't near enough to put up with you for a week."
you are feeling guilty about taking so much money for doing nothing at all, then
I will take it. Whether I do or not, you are still going to be my husband until
after the auction."
"If I got to be your husband, I want more money," I
demanded only half kidding. It looked as though the week with Jen was going to
be anything but a honeymoon.
"No way Deke, you struck the deal." She was
actually smiling leaving me to think that maybe things would be okay after all.
Then of course she opened her mouth and ruined it. "When we get to the bank, I
will do the talking. I know these people and how they think." I had already
explained that her doing the negotiating might not be a good idea, but she was
determined not to listen to anything I said.
The bank was housed in a
ick building. Once inside the old wooden door, I noted the can
sitting behind the counter. It was a make I had opened many times before. About
half a pound of C4 underneath it would do the trick. If I did it just right,
which I usually did, the can would tip over from the explosion which would also
rip the bottom open.
The newer vaults were simply big doors hooked to
reinforced concrete walls. A much more difficult task but far from impossible. I
still preferred Safes like the one behind the counter of this little bank. That
particular safe actually had a mountain scene painted on the door. It was a nice
touch in the mountainous farm community.
"Why Miss Booker," the young
woman behind the counter said in greeting.
"Actually it is Burke now,"
Jen said as she motioned me forward. "This is my husband Deacon Burke. Deke this
is Anne. She and I went to high school together."
"Nice to meet you," I
said acting on my cue.
"So, what can we do for you this morning?" Anne
asked. Jenny must have always been tough on people because Anne was acting very
"I guess we need to see Mr. Everette. Deke here came to pay
off Daddy's mortgage." Jan said it putting more emphasis on my name than was
called for. It seemed as though she wasn't nearly as dissatisfied with me as he
had seemed on the drive up.
The young woman looked at me curiously. "So
Anne is Mr. Everette in?" I asked it because I figured that's what the person
with the money would do.
"Sure he is Mr. Burke. You two stay right here
and I'll get him for you," the very thin young woman said.
I looked over
her shoulder and saw that the only office was behind her. Which also put the
entrance behind the counter. Just to keep my hand it I said, "Why don't we just
come on back?"
"Well, Mr. Everette likes to talk business out here as
much as he can," she replied.
"I'm sure that is true, but we are talking
about a great deal of money. I would rather not talk about it where just anyone
might walk in on us."
"Well let me just check with him to make sure
first," she suggested.
"You know best, I expect." I hadn't looked at
Jenny since before we began. I glanced over at her. I noted the nasty look she
gave me. I shrugged to ask, "What?"
She gave me another nasty look then
looked away. I would just bet she would explain later and probably in great
detail. We stood on the customer side of the counter and tried hard not to look
at one another. It took just a couple of very uncomfortable seconds for Anne to
return. She looked sheepish as she spoke, "Sorry, but Mr. Everette is busy right
now. He suggested you come back tomorrow or better still just make a bid on the
place Saturday. He said to remind you that the foreclosure has already gone
thought. He also said to mention that the auction is set and the bank has gone
through considerable expense and trouble.
Anne saw the look on Jenny's
face. "Jenny, I know this is upsetting, but I am just passing along the
message." From her look I could tell Annie knew Jenny better than me. She looked
as though she expected Jenny to pound her at any minute.
In spite of her
tough bitch act, I could tell she was both intimidated and at a loss. She
obviously didn't know how to handle hometown men. Since Everette wasn't from my
hometown, I decided it was time to earn my two Cs.
"Anne honey, why don't
you take a message to Mr. Everette for me. You tell him I am not used to being
treated so rudely. Tell him that unless he owns this bank he better get his butt
out here. Because I will be headed for the chairman of the boards house in about
Anne actually smiled as she said, "I expect he heard
you." She might have been pleased, but she did speak in a whisper after all she
worked for Everette.
"So who is the chairman of this bank and where does
he live?" I asked it again in a loud voice. Might as well let the prick know I
The door opened behind Anne, "Please come in Mr. Burke is
it? I guess I should explain this all to you sir." Mr. Everette did not look all
that happy to be in a confrontation with anyone especially one who wasn't
intimidated by him.
"That would be a very good idea," I
"The truth is Mr. Burke the farm has already been advertised
and the auction contracted for. I simply can not stop it now." Everette said it,
but didn't look as positive as he should have.
"Are you telling me that I
can't just pay your cost plus what the old man owes?" I asked it knowing it was
a strange practice. Banks ordinarily settle, if at all possible since they
didn't like to gamble.
"I'm afraid not," he replied looking more than a
"Tell me why that is You do have to turn over any surplus
funds to the old man." He nodded. "If it is, then it is all going to be his
anyway cause I am going to overbid anybody out there. In that case what possible
difference could it make?"
"The difference is we have already set the
auction. I don't want it said I didn't follow through."
"What are you
going to tell the stockholders, if I buy the farm for a dollar after I offered
you the pay off?"
"It is bank policy to buy it ourselves, if the bidding
doesn't cover our cost." Everette seemed to be a little more confident on that
"Well, I think......" I pulled Jenny's arm to stop her from
making her next statement.
"Well, I guess I will just have to stay
until Saturday then." I said it to cover Jenny's misstep. I took Jenny's arm and
hurried her out the door.
"Why the hell didn't you let me say my piece to
that prick?" Jenny asked.
"Never let the pricks know you are on to them.
He is up to something and we need to find out what it is. Best way to do that is
to talk to your dad. He should know something."
"Not my dad, All he will
know is the price of corn this year. If it isn't about the farm he could care
less," she informed me.
"Well this is about the farm," I assured her. "If
he doesn't know somebody else around here should. What I didn't tell Jenny was
that there would be papers in the bank's can. If all else failed I would blow
the can. Then again maybe not. I might not want to risk going to jail for a
bitch like Jenny. Now the fact that she was a whore didn't bother me in the
least, it was her attitude. She acted like everybody was out to get her. I
expect they had been recently, but I wasn't. It made no difference to her, it
seemed to be more about me being a man than anything else.
know anything but come on you might as well meet them anyway." It was in her
tone that she had all along planned for me to meet them that day. She drove out
of town on a road that went from concrete to oil to dirt within a mile. From
that dirt road she switched to two more before she finally finished on what was
no more than a wagon road. When I say road I am being to kind, it was two dirt
tracks with grass growing between them.
My first look at the farm
made me wonder why anyone would want to save it. The house appeared to be
falling down. Actually it was more due to the lack of paint than any real
structural problems. The fields were laying winter dormant, as they should have
been. The place just didn't have that working farm feel about it. Of course, I
didn't really know what a working farm looked like. I didn't expect it looked so
Jen drove us to the house which was way past the point
of needing a coat of paint. The walls were so peeled it was hard to pick out the
spots of paint. It looked a lot like gray unpainted wood with
The house was two stories in front and one in the rear. Pretty
much you typical farm dwelling of the twenties. It was aging it's way into the
forties and probably not going to survive into he fifties. At least not with the
present residents unless I could figure out what was going on. Something sure as
hell wasn't right with the foreclosure.
I followed Jen onto the
surprisingly solid porch. I stood behind her as she knocked on the glassless
door. I waited in the cold mountain air until a woman who looked like an older,
more tired Jen opened the door. She didn't throw her arms around her daughter
instead she said, "Hello Jennifer come on in." Her voice sounded tired more than
anything else. I was surprised that she hadn't acted at least a little happy to
see her daughter.
If there had been a phone in the old house I would have
thought that Anne at the bank had called. Since it would have been impossible to
get a message to the family by anything less than a carrier pigeon, I could only
assume that Jen had written to her family days before.
living room I found a teen aged boy, and a girl only a couple of years under his
age. Sitting next to them was what had to be Jen's father. He looked up and I
could tell he was in a deep state of depression. He did manage a smile when he
rose to greet me.
"You must be Deacon, Jenny told us all about you," he
said softly extending his hand to me. I didn't know how that was possible since
I only agreed to pose as her husband the day before. At the time I figured he
was just trying to be friendly. Still, Jen didn't explain that I was her
husband. That seemed a little strange.
"So how long did you and Jen know
each other before you got married," the mother asked. That one stumped me. I
couldn't think fast enough to piece it all together. The father knew my name.
The mother knew we were supposed to be married. Yet Jenny couldn't have gotten
in touch with them. Well maybe she had called a neighbor the night before after
I had agreed to pose as her husband.
Rather than answer her mother
myself, I turned to Jenny. She recognized the confusion on my face and said,
"Mom you know I told you Deke and I met almost a year ago."
right. Deacon, I been trying to get her to
ing you home for a visit almost
since the day you two started going out. I know I tried to get her to
you home after the wedding. Shame to this place looks much better in the
Jenny saw my confusion and moved to cover it before anyone else
noticed. "Moma, I told you Deke spends a lot of time on the road."
know, but you two have to have been home some in six months." She did look hurt
that her daughter didn't want to come home.
"Well ma'am, that is my fault
I'm afraid. You see I been working on my business most weekends. I really
haven't taken a day off in a year." I had no idea what I would say if she asked
what kind of business.
"Well, I can understand we ain't had time for
visitin' either. This farm just kept us so busy. Course we will have plenty of
time now to visit."
"Moma, me and Deke came here to make sure that don't
happen. Now don't you worry none." Jenny softened when she spoke to her mother.
She still had an edge to her voice, but it wasn't nearly as sharp as it was when
she spoke to me.
"I waited a respectful amount of time then asked,
"You got any idea why they won't let me pay off the mortgage?"
they won't take your money?" It was Jenny's father who asked.
afraid not. Do you know anybody else who went in and paid off their note after
"Seems like old man Morgan did it two years ago. He got
his son to send him the money and it came late."
"And they took his money
at the bank?" As I asked it I realized the room was getting very stuffy.
"They took it all right," Jenny's mother informed me. "And it was
definitely after the foreclosure.
She hadn't quite finished speaking when
I felt a sudden pain shoot through my body. It originated at the cut but it ran
all over me. That was just about the time the room started to spin. Jenny must
have noticed. She immediately tried to grab me but it was too late. I was
already out and headed to the floor.
"Deke?" I heard her ask in a loud
voice filled with concern. It was the last thing I heard for a while and it
I came around seconds later still on the floor. My jacket
and shirt were open. I could
eath easier. Just as soon as my eyes were open,
Jenny was asking angrily. "What the hell happened to you."
asked not really understanding here question. I thought it was pretty obvious
that I had fainted.
"You are bleeding like stuck pig. What did you do to
get that?" she asked as if I had asked to be cut up.
"This is hardly the
time to go into my injury." I said it trying to explain that her family was in
"All right Deke, but you and I have to talk
about this." Jenny said menacingly.
"Fine Jenny but later. Right now I
think I need to get to a hospital." I said it before I noticed that Jenny's
mother was standing over us both with a pair of scissors.
"Jenny, get out
of the way." The older woman said it as she gently pushed Jenny away from me.
She knelt down beside me then in quiet reassuring voice said, "Deke let me take
a look. I have been patching up you men folk for fifty years."
said that since I had all the antibiotics and pain killers I needed anyway. If
she could stop the bleeding it would save me a trip to the emergency room. God
only knew how far away that would be.%%%
"I hate to do this but your
shirt is ruined anyway." She said it as she cut my shirt and undershirt with the
scissors. I felt nothing more than a twinge of pain as she peeled them from the
oozing wound. "Somehow you pulled a couple of stitches loose. Now we can take
you to the hospital or I can put them back in with a needle and thread. Course
if I do it, it is likely to hurt some."
"Could you hold off a few
"Sure Deke, but why?" she asked.
"I got some pain
killers here, if you wait a few minutes the pain will be gone." I showed her the
pills. "Jenny get your husband a glass of water." I was happy to see Jenny jump
to actually do something constructive for me. When she returned with the water I
took two of the pills and waited while they took effect. While I waited Jenny's
mother held the scraps of my shirt against the bleeding wound.
ten minute wait we all were all surprisingly quiet. When the pain subsided
Jenny's mom began to reinstall the stitches. It hurt but no worse than the pain
before I took the pills. In the end I was again stitched and the bleeding
reduced to no more than an tiny line of blood along the cut itself. I guess
because it was farm and pretty well removed from anything, the Booker's had a
very complete first air kit. The kit contained bandages made from a well
laundered bed sheet.
"Deacon, I know you are a good man from what Jenny
has told us, so I am not going to ask you about that cut, but it is mighty
straight." It was Jenny's father who said it. I could tell he wanted an
explanation but did not intend to ask.
"Mr. Booker, I got cut when a gear
on a machine I was demonstrating flew off. It hit me a glancing blow." I saw in
his eyes that he knew better but he nodded. The explanation seemed to satisfy
his wife. Jenny looked at me as thought I were a liar, which of course I
"Well Deke, you need to rest. Why don't you take Deke up to the
bedroom. We can talk all this over tonight," Jenny's mother suggested.
don't want to put you out none," I suggested hoping they would allow me to drive
to the nearest motel.
"Not at all, we will just put the two youngest on
the floor down here by the fire." She was motioning to the wood stove.
really think it would be better all around, if Jenny and I just drove to the
motel." I said it without much hope that anyone would listen.
honey, it looks like that drive
oke those stitches loose. You need to rest.
Why don't we just go on upstairs and let you lie down." Jenny turned from me to
her mother. "Ma, I will be right back."
"Don't you dare Jenny, you stay
up there in case Deke needs anything. We can visit later, If not tonight, then
in the morning." Jenny's mother seemed most insistent.
"Ma, he isn't
going to do anything but sleep. I ain't sleepy and I don't intend to just sit
there and watch him sleep." Jenny was just as insistent as her
"Listen to me Jen, you do as your mother says. You are a guest in
this house now." Her fathers spoke those words. Jenny looked hard at him but
didn't say another word. Instead she helped me up the stairs
stay in your old room." I heard the words come form behind us. Jenny mumbled
something under her
eath, but I couldn't understand.
When we arrived
outside the bedroom door she said, "I didn't think I would ever sleep in this
room again. Just goes to show, don't ever swear to anything."
have a tendency to screw you up that way." I said it, though the only thing I
swore I wouldn't do was work in the damned mill. So far, I had managed to keep
that promise to myself. "Ma always said to keep your words sweet cause you was
damned sure gonna be eatin some of them."
"Your Ma, said a lot of things
Deacon. Some of them would have to be profound." She actually smiled at me. I
couldn't remember if it was the first one or not. Which meant they were at least
"This is true, if Ma heard a phrase that sounded good to her, she
would pass it on all right. Running a boarding house she heard a lot of them.
Which is why I heard so many."
"Deacon, is that why you think you can
write a book?" Something about the way she said it set my teeth on edge. She
could tell by the look on my face I expect.
"Sorry Deke, I didn't mean
that the way it sounded. I meant to say, is that why you are writing a book?"
She smiled again and on her it didn't look all that good. Jenny had a rather
plain face. When she smiled it showed her crooked teeth. I expect that was at
least part of the reason she smiled so seldom. Without a smile anyone would look
sour. Jenny however had it down to an art form. Her scowl went past anything I
am capable of describing.
I wanted to ask her about a hundred questions
but didn't feel up to it at that moment. The painkiller did exactly the same
thing it always did. It knocked me on my butt, then out like a light bulb struck
by the missile from a B B gun. Which is what happened to all the street lights
in the mill village. Strange it was the last thought I had just before I slipped
I awoke a few hours later with Jenny sitting in a straight
chair by the bed. "Hey, what are you doing sitting there staring at me?" I
didn't man for it sound short so of course it did.
"It sure as hell
wasn't my idea," Jenny said in response. "Ma wouldn't let me out of the room. I
think she has the door locked."
"Really?" I asked.
"No, she just
gets all upset whenever I go downstairs. You know she thinks a woman's place is
with her husband." Jenny gave me another scowl at the thought.
well she don't know you ain't, so just go along with her I
"Deke, I ain't paying you for advice. I am paying you to fix
this. They say you are the world's greatest fixer. So fix this so we can go
"You really in a hurry to go back to Sandra's?" I asked it just to
dig at her.
I was surprised when she
oke into tears. She sobbed
quietly enough. Finally she said, "Of course not you idiot."
"I know you
have a deal with Sandra, but do you really like that life?"
"Deke, do you
really want to know?" I really think she was serious. I mean I think she would
have refused to tell me unless I asked head on.
"Yeah, I guess I
"Okay, do you know what a second girl is on a farm?" She looked at
the floor as she spoke.
"No what?" I asked.
"One too many mouths
to feed. See one girl can help Ma out around the place, but one is all you need
for that. I helped, but then Cindy out there got old enough to help. I really
had no choice but to leave. The folks are too poor to take care of us all. There
wasn't no jobs here, so I went to the Mill down in Greensboro." That was the end
of the story as far as she was concerned.
I wasn't about to ask what
happened at the mill. Whatever it was I didn't want to know. The whole trip was
simply business to me. I took a long time before I asked. "So, what is all this
not letting us pay off the loan about?"
"Deke, I honestly got no idea. I
really did just
ing you here to pretend to be my husband."
of that, why do I get the impression they have thought for a long time that I
was your husband?"
"Well, I told them we were married for a long time,"
"No dear, they seemed to have thought for sometime that we
were married. When exactly did you tell them?"
"Deke, what are you
talking about?" she asked while avoiding my eyes.
"Listen Jenny, it
doesn't matter anymore just tell me so I can keep the lies straight." I demanded
it in as strong a voice as I could muster while curled up naked under the
"Look Deke, they wanted me to come home a couple of years ago.
I knew there was nothing here for me. I also knew it would be a burden on them.
Sort of like why you moved out of you Ma's boarding house."
are explaining it, but you are not telling me anything. When did you tell them
we got married a year ago?" The exasperation had to have shown in my
"No Deke, I told them we were dating then. It just sort of moved
along until we got married six months ago." She looked pretty
"Why me?" I asked.
"Well at first I was living in your
mama's place. I moved out before you got home, but I knew who you were from all
the talk and pictures around. When I needed a boyfriend you seemed safe since
you were gone. You came back and I just never bothered to tell them any
different. When you got the place of your own, I told my folks we were married
and living there. They never bothered to check."
"I never got any mail
from them," I replied curiously.
"Well they don't write much. I had it
sent to Sandra's place. I answered it for you most of the time." Jenny
"I know I am going to be sorry I asked, but who answered it when
you didn't?" I asked.
"You're right you don't want to know." When I
continued to stare at her she said, "It was Luther."
"Of all people, you
had Luther forging my name, Why?"
"Hey there ain't many men you can trust
around a place like that. And keep your voice down." She was obviously concerned
about here family hearing us argue.
"Listen to me," I said in almost a
whisper. "When this is over Luther does not play me again you
"So who am I going to get. Like I said there aren't that
many trustworthy guys around there."
"Okay if you need something written
ing it to the house and I'll do it. Just do not let Luther pretend to
"Okay, okay Deke, I just never thought you would do it," she said
"Well I never would have, but Luther my god Jenny how
"Look, I said I wouldn't do it again. So give me a
"Okay, I am sorry for shouting in your parent's house," I
She waited a few minutes for the air to clear then said, "So what
are you going to do about the bank. I mean there is some reason they won't let
us buy the note."
"I don't suppose they would tell me, if I asked real
nice." I suggested it knowing her answer.
"You did ask nice Deke, at
least nice for you."
"Now what is that supposed to mean?" I asked it
letting my voice rise again.
First she looked at me as thought I were a
retarded child for raising my voice despite her warnings. Then she said, "I mean
you have been known to raise hell to help a client. You were not that bad with
Everett. He probably thought you were an obnoxious city boy but no
'God, I am hungry," I said it to change the subject. Just a second
before I had decided what I would do to help Jenny. Something about her having
done all of it to protect her family hit home with me, since family was so
important to me.
"You should be, you slept almost a whole day. You seemed
to rouse just long enough to take those pills then you fell right back to
Just then I remembered dreaming that Rose was curled up beside me
keeping me warm. I looked at Jenny, but I did not comment. I noticed she was a
lot taller and some thinner especially around the hips. I doubted that it was
Jenny since the body was naked which is why I thought it was Rose. Probably just
my imagination I thought.
"Okay Deke, I'll get you something to eat then
we have to decide how we are going to help the folks." I nodded to her. She left
the room and I tried to get out of the bed. I was pretty weak and the pain was
real enough to drive me back to the bed. To make matters worse there were no
more pills. I couldn't believe I had taken a weeks supply in only two days. No
wonder I had slept a whole day away.
I lay on the bed in a cold sweat
waiting for Jenny to come back. She took one look at me then said, "Damnit Deke,
why didn't you tell me how bad that cut was. You ain't in no shape to do
"Jenny, I done more with more pain, but I do need some aspirin
"Deke, I seen that cut aspirin ain't gonna help much." Jenny
seemed concerned but I figured it was for my ability to take care of things. I
certainly didn't figure she had any good feelings for me.
"Give me three
of them, and I'll be okay." I hoped it was true.
"So what you gonna do?"
she asked skeptically.
"Nothing for a while. I am going to wait until
later then go out and ask some questions. I figure somebody will know
"Then I need to go with you." Jenny looked as though she were
going to prove to be a problem.
"No, I think I need to do this alone. It
will be better if the people don't associate me with your family just
"Deke, you have to be kidding. Everybody in town knows who you are
by now. Gossip is bigger than Amos and Andy up here." She laughed at her own
joke. I might have myself, if I hadn't hurt so bad.
"Even so, I think I
want to look around alone tonight." I was trying to be insistent.
whatever you going to do, you need to do it soon. The auction is
"Yeah, I know and I slept the whole day away. Don't worry,
I'll figure something out." What I didn't tell her was I planned to worry enough
for both of us. Not only had I taken her money, but I felt like I owed her Ma
something for stitching me up again.
Just like Jenny predicted the
aspirin did little good on the pain. If I didn't move it was pretty bearable.
Once I tried to move I found out how much pain I could stand. I had a little
practice from the war, but it still hurt like hell. I wasn't as much the hero
type as I let on. I wanted to just crawl into the bed and sleep another night
and day away.
Of course I couldn't since the auction was the next day. I had
to go out and find out exactly what the hell was going on at the bank.
When I finished the simple dinner which Jenny
ought on a tray, I
dressed as best I could. Jenny stayed and helped, but it was still slow and
painful. Not only that if I bled through the shirt I wore, I would be reduced to
wearing a Hawaiian shirt to the auction. I didn't want to draw attention to
myself so I wore a plain white shirt that evening. I tried to leave Jenny at the
house. She resisted loud enough to convince me that if I didn't take her the
whole town would know that I was up to something. That I figured I didn't
Jenny drove my Chevy as we toured the town. We found what I
expected at the town's one diner. "Okay pull in beside the old ford. I don't
want you parked beside the law." Jenny followed my orders and avoided the police
car. "Now you listen to me Jenny. You have given me grief since I first met you.
It stops right now. Tonight I can not spend anytime trying to make you feel
better or fighting with you. I only have one chance to find out what is going
on. I really don't want you hanging around."
"What the hell are you
talking about?" she asked.
"I have things to do that I don't want you
involved in. What I want you to do is come inside that cafe with me. When we
leave I am going to drop you at home then come along later."
you are. I am going all the way with you. I intend to see what my money bought."
Jenny didn't act angry that time, just forceful. She was determined to stay with
"Well let's go get some coffee. We might not want to do anything
afterwards anyway." I said it as I struggled with the car door.
were ever thou goest I go also," Jenny said with a smile, which I didn't see.
She said it to my back but the smile was in her voice.
"Well I goest into
the diner for coffee." I was out the car door and into the diner before Jenny. I
waited inside for her since it was cold out and my warm coat was home. Not only
was it ripped, it was also covered with blood.
What I was wearing was
one of my Dad's old worn out hunting coats. It was the one I kept around the
house to wear while I worked outside during the cold. It was filthy and not very
warm, but it blended in well with the other patrons of the diner.
Jenny arrived I led her to two seats at the counter not far from the policeman.
I ordered coffee and Jenny ordered a Coke. While I drank my coffee I listened
carefully to the conversation between the policeman and the waitress.
Eddie, what you doing out so late?" The waitress asked.
"Oh hell, Jamie
called seems Mike was drunk and giving her trouble. I went out even though I
knew she wouldn't let me do anything. I don't mind them doing it when I'm
working, but I hate when they call me at home."
"So what did you do with
Mike?" the waitress asked.
"Told him if I came back out there tonight, he
was going to jail and I didn't give a damn what his wife said. Doubt it will do
any good but I did try. He might be beating hell out her as I drink this here
cup of coffee." He should have looked concerned but he smiled at the waitress
instead. She did not look happy with his cavalier attitude.
a look at her face the cop said, "Well, I guess I will head on back home. I got
a wife of my own needs beating." He tried to erase his previous lack of concern
by turning it all into a joke.
"You do that Eddie, she might just cut it
off in your sleep," the waitress suggested it without much of a
"Naw, she needs me to pay the bills, just like ole Jamie." He
didn't offer to pay for the coffee, or leave a tip for the waitress. I fought
hard not to give myself away with a change of expression. Even so the policeman
gave me and Jenny a hard look. I supposed that he knew Jenny but he didn't
%%After the policeman left the waitress turned to refilling my
coffee cup. "You need some more coke Jen?" she asked.
"No I'm fine Lori,"
"Jenny, aren't you going to introduce me to your husband?"
Lori seemed to enjoy Jenny's discomfort.
"Sure, Lori this is Deke Burke."
Jenny seemed reluctant to make the introduction.
"Deke, it's nice to meet
you. I heard a lot about you." Lori said it obviously planning to pump me for
"Really, well you know how
ides are," I
"No, I don't actually," Lori said with a serious look. The
look however was aimed at Jenny not at me. I sensed they shared a secret but had
no idea what it might be and didn't care.
"Well, just so you will know
ides tend to exaggerate their husband's good points." I said it tryin to
rescue Jenny, though I had no idea why. I should have been enjoying her
"Jenny and I don't talk much anymore." The emphasis was on
anymore. I had no idea what she meant but Jenny did.
"Deke honey, I think
it is time we got on back home. Moma will be worried about us." Jenny was
looking deadly so I followed along behind her after having left a half dollar
for the coffee and coke.
Once outside I asked, "What the hell was that
"What the hell do you mean," Jenny asked
"Obviously you too were friends at one time. What happened?" I
thought it was a harmless question.
"Deke, don't try to fix anything but
the auction. It's the only thing I am paying you for."
"I guess she
must have stolen your boyfriend huh?" I really should have let it go but she had
been on me all day. I hated to miss the chance to return the favor.
was in tears when she finally made it to the driver's seat in my old Chevy.
"Deke, just shut up. You have no idea what you are getting into."
I was just kidding." I turned away while she dried her eyes.
"Lori is the
real reason I left this town. She didn't steal my boyfriend she was my boyfriend
or whatever you call it. It happened only a couple of times but I got out of
here before anyone found out. Lori never told so it has always been a big
secret. Funny thing is I must have been the only one, because nothing has ever
been said about her and other women. Of course we were both just
"Well, it is over now so just forget it," I
"Deke, that is not something you just forget."
Jenny," I asked it because I really didn't have a clue what her feeling
"Because I liked it you idiot." She looked at me almost smiling
then burst into laughter. "Deke, you won't tell anyone will you. I mean it's bad
enough I am a whore."
"Not me, I want to be a writer and about half of
them are queers. I can't afford to be tossing
icks at anyone." I noted that
"Okay, then where too?" she looked a lot better at that
"Let's drive by the bank." I looked to see if her expression
would change. I didn't know for sure that Sandra hadn't told her about
"Why the bank it's closed." she suggested.
"Yeah I know,"
It was the only answer she would get for a while. The bank was located in the
middle of a block filled with other businesses. Filled might give the wrong
impression. There were two retails stores on one side and one on the other.
Behind the bank ran a small alley which separated one block of buildings from
another similar block behind it.
"Okay, I want you to drop me at the end
of that alley, then drive somewhere out of town and wait a half hour. When the
time is up come back and meet me right here. If I am not here go back and wait
fifteen more minutes. If I don't show on the second visit go home and wait for
"Like hell, whatever you are doing I'm coming along." Jenny
appeared to be adamant.
"Look, if my car is parked here someone is going
to remember it, or worse yet get curious and call the police. Just do as I say
and keep me out of jail please." Truth is if I did it right no one would even
know. Of course, if I blew the can the car parked a couple of blocks away would
have been the least of my worries. Getting out of town would have been the
number one priority. Blowing the can wouldn't accomplish what I wanted so I
could only pray a couple of other tricks might work.
Jenny dropped me
then quickly drove off. I slipped down the strange alley as quietly as I could.
It was a good thing I had checked out the building before I entered the alley
since there was no sign on the rear. I knew which door belonged to the bank from
the look of the building and the number of buildings beside it.
war almost everything went into the surplus stores. The tiny flashlight was from
a surplus store but the lock pick set was definitely not. I had saved them as a
souvenir. After seeing the door I knew the lock pick set would not be needed.
The rear door lock was a simple mortise thing. The thin but strong metal strip
slipped easily behind the door stop molding. Then it pushed the locking bolt
back into the door. The result was the door swung open easily. It did make a lot
of noise which caused me to hold my
eath for several seconds.
the can was no problem at all, even in the dark. What was more difficult was
opening it without the C4 plastique explosive. About twenty percent of the time
or mayber a little more often I found the combination to the cans laying around
the bank. In Germany it had been the same as in America. I guess bank managers
just never thought it could happen to them.
I searched all the usual
places and was about to give up. My next move would have been an attempt to
manipulate the tumblers, which would have been a total waste of my time. Just in
time I looked under the desk drawer of the woman called Anne. There taped to the
bottom was a set of five numbers. She even had instructions on which direction
to begin the sequence.
I looked at my watch and knew I would never make
the first pick up. I quickly opened the safe, then searched for the file. I
found it just before the first drop. I was still reading it when the second drop
passed. I was determined not to leave until I had the answer. It would be a long
walk back to the farm but I could do it.
I finally found the answer in a
note attached to the file. The note was from a realty company. It was no more
than a confirmation that it intended to bid on the farm. It was just something
about it that told me to keep looking. I looked for another half hour but found
nothing. Still it was all tied up with that realty company.
didn't notice that the company was not a local company. In the dim light I
hadn't bothered to look at the letterhead. I did it only as an after thought.
What I found was that the company was in the state capitol Raleigh. That was
interesting, since I couldn't figure out what a Raleigh company would want with
a farm two hundred miles away. There might be a logical explanation but I didn't
think so. Not since the bank was determined to have an auction even where there
was no need. For some reason Everette was determined that the realty company
have a chance to buy the property even though it mean no more money for the
With that being the case it had to mean money for Everette but how.
The only way to know that was to call the realty company early the next day. I
replaced everything as close to it's original position as I could. I then
slipped out the rear door.
I was not looking forward to the long walk
back to the farm. I turned toward what I thought was the farm's direction and
began to walk down the alley. I saw the headlight shine around me. The car was
behind and I hoped it was Jenny but feared it was the cop instead. When Jenny
opened the door I was thrilled.
"So what did you find out?" she
"I don't know for sure yet. I think Everette might be insisting on
the auction so that a realty company can bid on the place. He knows the bank has
to give your dad all the excess money so there is no reason to hold the auction
unless he is getting money under the table."
"Good then we just tell him
that in the morning and he calls off the auction," Jenny said.
fast, we don't have any proof and all what is doing is legal. We would have to
prove he took a
ibe. Then all that would happen is he would get fired. Not
really much the bank is going to do about it."
"So how you gonna get the
auction stopped?" Jenny asked.
"I got an idea or two," I replied
"Well Fixer, you better have something more than have a vague
idea. This is real stuff Deke not some mill girl getting her panties pulled
down. Sandra said you could hypnotize people. So sing your song to the bank and
make them call this off."
"Just hold your water Jenny and give me a
"Deke, don't make me sorry I married you," She actually smiled
with those words.
"It's okay if you are cause I'm already sorry you
married me." I should have known the effect it would have on her.
just when I am about to decide you are an okay guy you go say something like
that." She was angry. It also looked as though she might wrap my car around a
tree. I think that if she knew it wouldn't kill us both before the auction, she
would have done it just to see me walking.
Ten minutes later we slipped
into the house. I followed her to the small room where I had slept away the day
before. When we were in the room I collapsed onto the bed. I was so worn out
from even that small amount of work that it worried me. I hoped it was just the
after effects of the painkillers. If not I was having a heart attack or
something equally serious.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?"
"Okay, give me a minute and I'll take off my shoes," I
"Not that, you are not going to sleep in the same bed with me."
I would have expected her to sound angry or maybe even said it in a joking tone.
Neither was the case, she actually sounded indignant. "This is where the married
"You mean the room or the bed?" I asked it because I wasn't
about to sleep on the floor.
"Well you have to stay in the room, but we
are not going to sleep together not in my mother's bed."
"Then I hope you
are comfortable on the floor because I am staying right here. I have had a tough
evening and I am beat. I will be asleep before you get your clothes off. If you
insist on seperate beds then it's the floor for you not me." I wasn't angry at
all. As a matter of fact I was almost laughing. Hell, it was humorous.
most certainly will not sleep on the floor," Jenny said outraged that I would
suggest such a thing.
"Well you got a problem then cause I am not going
to sleep there either. If I leave you gonna have to explain that to moma. The
best thing you can do is either come to bed or sleep on the floor. Either way
keep it down because I am beat and intend to go to sleep." Actually we had been
arguing in whispers.
I was as good as my word once she stopped arguing I
feel sound asleep. I might have rolled over when she came to bed otherwise I
ignored her completely.
When I awoke the next morning at eight, Jenny was
still sleeping. She had arranged the blankets so that one made a barricade
between us. She lay on it while I lay under it. There was no way our bodies
could have touched accidentally.
I left her in bed as I went to the
kitchen for coffee. I hoped that Jenny's family was a coffee drinking crowd. I
needn't have worried there was a pot on the warmer of the wood stove. The stove
where the pot sat was a cook stove. It was very different from my heating stove
on which I made coffee. My stove was also coal not wood.
"Hi, would it be
okay if I got a cup of this?" I asked it of Jenny's mother. She looked as
thought she had been up and working for hours.
"Sure Deke, you just help
yourself," she answered cheerfully.
"How come you are in such a good
mood?" I asked smiling.
"Because today we are finally going to get this
farm thing settled. It has been hanging over us about a year now."
I am going to try to buy it for you, but there may be another bidder." I said it
just to be honest with her.
"Oh I know that. Jen tells me you can work
miracles, so I am not worried."
"Jenny said that?" I asked.
she said everybody in the village comes to you when they got a problem. You know
kind of like a priest or something."
"I certainly wouldn't go that far.
However, I am going to try to settle this thing today. I hope that when this day
ends your problems with the bank will go away."
"They will Deke, I have
faith in you."
I really wished she hadn't said it that way. It sounded
to much like backing me into a corner. "Then when I finish this coffee I better
get started. Where can I find a pay phone?"
"There is a booth in the
drugstore. Who you gonna call Deke?" she asked.
"Don't really know, but I
don't have a lot of time before the noon auction. I guess I will run along." I
almost walked out before I remembered I should mention Jenny. I left Jenny in
bed tell her I will be back for her in an hour or two."
"Okay, that girl
should be here with you. Me and her got to have a talk about how a woman should
treat her husband." Jenny's mother was shaking her head and looking away from
"She actually is quite a good wife. I would take it easy on her if I
were you. She isn't feeling all that well right now."
"Oh is she sick?"
There was definitely concern in her voice.
"No just a little tired I
"She isn't pregnant is she. I sure would love to have a grand
baby to spoil."
"You will have to ask her that, but I don't think so." I
smiled to myself thinking I had planted a time bomb inside Jenny's moma. She
would be asking questions or maybe just be a little nicer to her.
the call from the dark wooden phone booth inside the dark drugstore. I couldn't
help be notice that all drug stores smelled alike. I suppose it was all those
bottles of pills lining the shelves.
"Hello," I said to the receptionist
"Can I help you sir?"
"I am looking to sell my house
and a friend recommended you. Could I get you to send me some listing
"I'm sorry sir, we don't sell residential real
"I wonder why my friend would recommend you. What type real
estate do you deal with."
"Actually we represent standard oil company's
interest only. We are a subsidiary of standard oil."
"I guess George must
have had your card from some dealing at his service station." I said it hoping
for the response I got.
"Now that is possible. We acquire sites for
stations and manage the property as well. He might be one of the local dealers
"He does manage a Standard station. Well listen, thanks
"Thank you for calling sir sorry I couldn't help you. And good
luck on the house," I could tell it was just an after thought about the house,
but it caught me off guard."
"Gee thanks," I said as I dropped the phone
back into the cradle.
I left the drugstore, then walked the two blocks to
the diner. It might have been the only one in town. It was for sure the only one
I was familiar with. I moved to the rear. There I found an empty booth were I
sat alone. The place was empty so they didn't seem to mind.
have," the young waitress asked.
"Coffee, tell me what time does Lori
"Lori won't be in till three."
"Okay, I'll try to get
back around then." I finished my coffee and then drove back to the farm. Jenny
was waiting and visibly upset. She held her tongue until we were in the car and
headed out the long dirt drive.
"You son of a bitch, how dare you tell my
mother I was pregnant. Now she is going to be knitting shit." She was in danger
of having a stroke for sure. Her face was beet red and her hair seemed
"Well if you stay in bed you can't defend yourself.
Let's call a truce while you help me. At the auction this afternoon there is
going to be a representative of a Raleigh real estate company. I want you to
point him out for me. I need to have a word with him."
"Why don't you
just out bid him. Daddy will give Sandra back the excess money."
dear, we don't have the excess money and this is a cash auction. We have to put
up at least twenty five percent of the sales price. I don't know how high this
guy is prepared to go or how much Sandra has in cash she can send."
how you gonna get him to drop out?" she asked.
"Just gonna sing a little
song in his ear," I said grinning at her.
"I sure hope there is only one
stranger," she suggested.
"If there is more than one maybe somebody you
know will recognize the others."
"Yeah, I still know all the people
around I guess. If not me then one of my friends will."
"Good what you
want to do till the auction starts?" I asked.
"Sit on the bank steps and
wait. I do not want to miss it. If we aren't there it may end in ten seconds."
She did have a point the auction was rigged for sure. At least it would have
been without Sandra's money.
We actually waited in the car across the
street until five till noon. At that time we walked across the street, then into
the bank. I figured the man from the Standard Oil Company's realty
would be in Everette's office.
"Hi Anne," I said it as I passed
"Mr. Burke, you can't go in there." It was a valiant try but a
hundred pound woman is no match for a two hundred and ten pound six foot male.
She might have had a chance even then, if she had known about the cut
under my arm.
"It's okay Anne, I have something they want to hear." I was
past her before she could have stopped me, even if she had known how vulnerable
"Gentlemen," I said as I entered the office. Sure enough Everette
was enjoying a rather fat cigar with a man in a fancy suit. I turned my
attention to Jenny. "You know this man?"
"Never seen him before," she
"Then that would make you a representative of Standard
Oil's realty division." I extended my hand to him. He just sat staring at me. He
had no idea what was going on.
"Sorry I should have introduced myself. My
name is Deacon Burke, and I am going to be bidding against you today. Not only
that I am going to win. Now before you object I know you have more money but at
some point you are going to recognize that the price is more than the land is
worth. If I get the place the excess money comes back to me. If you get it the
money is lost so I have nothing to lose. More importantly I am going to expose
both of you."
As I said the last I handed them the business card of my
friend who was a reporter for the Charlotte Observer. "The card belongs to a man
I write articles for occasionally. If you doubt it, give him a call." Nobody
moved to make the call.
"So what interest is that to us?" Everette
"The only way that land is of any interest to Standard Oil is if
there is going to be a new highway going through here. When I was in Washington
I saw the proposal for the new Monster Highways. They have these things called
interchanges. On those interchanges they expect service stations to spring up.
Twenty years from now those things are going to be gold mines. My guess is you
have seen the plans. Some state legislator probably had you in his office for
coffee. It takes a lot of money to live like those guys do."
The man from
Standard spoke but it wasn't to me. "Everette, you told me there wasn't going to
be any trouble. You told me last night this man knew nothing and was an idiot.
Well Everette is isn't an idiot." He finally turned his attention back to
"So how did you know. Only me and Everette know about that
interchange and only a few thousand people know about the new highway system."
The man stood before he spoke to me. His size was impressive. He definitely
could have taken me on my good days.
"I really can't tell you how I know,
but the leak is not in your office." I paused a moment then went on. "I sure
hope you can get your money back from Mr. Everette there."
"No problem he
hasn't been paid yet. So Deacon, you looking for a job?" He was smiling as he
"You got no idea how many jobs I have turned down these last few
months," I said with a smile.
"You seem awfully chummy with guys who were
trying to cheat my dad a minute ago," Jenny shot at me from the
"Honey, this man don't know your dad at all. It is just business
with him. On the other hand Mr. Everette here is different. When we check back
we gonna find that your dad was foreclosed on a little quicker than most. He was
probably contacted about this long ago."
"Not long," the Standard man
suggested. "We made some quiet inquires at several banks in the area. We just
wanted to talk to the land owners. Everette here suggested we might get a better
deal and do it quieter if we let him foreclose on the present
"And it would have happened just that way, if you hadn't come
here," Everette said.
"So how we gonna fix this. Everette can't stay
here, if he does I am going to expose him. That will expose you and the
Legislator who sold you the information. You don't want that."
"I guess I
could find a job for him in Raleigh?" It was a question.
"That would be a
good idea," I replied.
"What if I don't want to go?" Everette
"You don't have to go with him, but you can't stay here," I
informed him. I actually enjoyed doing it.
"You are threatening me then?"
"Man, how the hell can you miss the writing on the wall.
He has us good Everette just shut up and take the job." I had begun to like the
Realtor he caught on real quick.
"Okay, then lets go out and have the
auction. Ain't nobody else going to bid is there?" Everette asked it looking at
me and then Jenny.
"None that I know of," I replied.
A few minutes
later while Everette consulted with the auctioneer I spoke with the man from
Raleigh. "You are going to fire him aren't you?" I asked it nodding toward
"Just as soon as his job is filled here. That was the deal
"You bet. I figured you were smart as hell and you
"So tell me how did you know?" He really deserved an answer but I
just couldn't do it.
"Everette talks in bed. It appeared to me my chance
to end any rumors there might be about the waitress Lori at the same time. "A
waitress at the cafe told me last night. Seems she and Everette have been up to
no good, or hell it might have been very good I don't know."
been at it a long time and hiding it from everyone around here. No telling what
the town thinks of her." I was pretty sure that Anne over heard my conversation
with the Realtor. Since Everette was leaving town soon, it should hold up pretty
good I thought.
If it had been a movie there would have been a swell of
hypnotic music then and a 'the end' tag. In real life it ended with the
auctioneer saying, "Sold to the gentleman in the hunting coat."
returned home to a life pretty much the same day in and day out. Helping people
who needed it and while trying to scrape together the rent