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                            The Memo©

                                                   By Bobby H Hataway

 

                                              Table of Contents

 

Chapter I

         The Business

 

 

Chapter II

         The Memories

 

 

Chapter III

         The President

 

 

Chapter IV

The Memo

 

 

Chapter V

The Help

 

 

Chapter VI

The Disclosure

 

 

Chapter VII

The Plan

 

 

Chapter VIII

The Results

        

 

Chapter IX

The Unrest

 

 

Chapter X

         The Revelation

 

 

Chapter XI

The Cover-up

 

 

Chapter XII

The Epilogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business as usual for Fidelity Insurance Company of America, (FICA)

 

 

 

 

Mary Francis sorts through the personal effects of her mother.

 

 

 

 

Kirk Turner, President of FICA, has a unique grasp on computer technology.

 

 

 

 

Mary’s seeks advice from her friends when she finds the memo from FICA.

 

 

 

Mary consults with Judge Myers for help.  Dave attempts to report to FICA.

 

 

 

FICA receives word about the discovery of the memo.

 

 

 

Mary makes her decision.  FICA employs a detective agency.

 

 

 

 

Mary panics when Jimmy is involved in an accident and her funds are cut off.

 

 

 

Kirk Turner had to be brought into the mix when FICA's plan failed.

 

 

 

Kirk Turner goes to Washington DC. Mary meets with Senator Grey.

 

 

 

 

Turner develops a scrub, shower and shove diversion to take the emphasis from the insurance industry.

 

 

Final summation for FICA and the kids from Adobe.

 

 


 

I.  The Business

 

The sun was rising in the east.  It was a bright and beautiful Monday morning.  The horizon was blue and clear with only a few clouds marking the sky.  The end of winter always brought clear days.

 

The helicopter was moving quietly and stealthily over the maze of buildings below.  The noise from the blades could be heard as they whipped the air with the consistency of a human heartbeat.

 

“It could be the calm before the storm,” the pilot thought.  “The spring weather changes can wreak havoc on flying.  A lot times, you have to detour around the spring storms or try to climb over them.”

 

 

Ft Worth is a beautiful city.  It is a metropolitan phenomenon.  Though it has the looks and has the appeal of a big city, it has never grown beyond its outer loop, which gives it the presence of a small town.

 

The pilot, Paul Jackson, had cleared his landing with air traffic control.  He was bringing the helicopter on the final approach to the red circled “X” on the roof of the building housing the Fidelity Insurance Corporation of America.  It had its own landing pad and he had done this many times.  It was a routine landing.

 

The co-pilot, Paul’s dad, Collin Jackson, was running through the final checklist for shutting down.  Paul jumped out of the helicopter to pull the red carpet to the passenger compartment for the president. The carpet provided a dry path leading to his suite.

 

Paul had gotten his love of flying from his dad.  He had received his pilot license when he was only 11 in a small single engine Cessna 150.  His dad still has the plane in his garage.  He loved flying and had progressed to the corporate level.   He considered it an honor to work with his dad.

  . 

Collin had been a helicopter instructor in Mineral Wells, TX, a little known base for flight training during the 70s.  He trained young pilots for the military.  His background included flying corporate jets and with his ability to fly both helicopters and jets, he was perfect for the job with Paul.  He was only 5 years from retirement and the work was a perfect match.

 

Collin loved to fly with his son.  Getting paid was an added perk for the job.  Collin had complete confidence in Paul.  As the saying goes, he could sleep anytime Paul was at the controls.  Paul was a natural pilot.  It was like watching artistry in motion to see him work.  He could read weather conditions and adjust his approaches with amazing skills.

 

Paul opened the passenger compartment.  The president, Kirk Turner, emerged from the helicopter.  He ducked down to avoid the blades as he stepped out.

 

“People always duck under the helicopter blades though it was not necessary.  Can you imagine a company building a helicopter that decapitates people?” he thought.  “But people just naturally duck getting out,” Paul mused to himself. 

 

Kirk Turner was a tall man in more ways than one.   Physically, he was tall person at 6’5”.  It was only natural for him to duck as he stepped from the ‘copter’.  “Paul, I will get back to you concerning my plans.  Right now the time frame will be between noon and 2:00,” said Turner.

 

“Have the ‘copter’ and the Citation ready!  We are going to DC!” the president shouted over the noise of the idling helicopter and the wind on the roof.

 

“We will be returning tonight, but we will be late getting in so set up the car to pick us up at the airport,” he instructed.  “Tell Roger to check in with David or he can just take off if he has something he needs to do.” Turner disappeared into the building toward his suite of offices.

 

Paul gave the ‘throat cutting’ sign with his hand and shouted to Collin to shut down the engines.  Together, they secured the helicopter.

 

Paul and Collin went into their office near the building entrance.  Paul picked up the phone and called the hanger at Meacham.  John answered the phone, “FICA, John Corbin, what can I do you out of?”  John was a real cut-up. 

 

Paul wondered why the president kept him around, being a strict professional as he was, but then John was a first-class mechanic.  If you wanted something fixed, you called John.  And if you are going up where the road has no foundation, John was the man you wanted on your side.

 

“John, this is Paul, I need to have the Citation ready by noon.  Any problems?” Paul asked.

 

“Nope, it’s ready right now.  I will call the caterer and get them out here to stock food and the bar – usual stuff?” asked John.

 

“Yeah, we are going to DC so plan for at least 12 hours,” responded Paul, “and thanks!  See ya’!”

 

In the beginning, Meacham Field was Ft Worth’s answer for Dallas’ Love Field.  However, with the advent of D/FW airport, Meacham became the accepted field for corporate jets.  Airlines tried to add passenger service at Meacham, but failed.  Love Field did make the transition to passenger service with Southern Airlines, but with restrictions on the number of states the airport could serve.

 

FICA had a hanger at Meacham that would equal any major airline setup.  It was a huge metal building with every facility available for performing maintenance on planes.

 

The company had two Citations for corporate use.  The president’s plane was a Citation X.  It was truly a marvel of modern technology.  The Citation X had plush soft beige leather upholstered recliners and sofas.  One could lose themselves in the comfort and the luxury.

 

It had an information center that included wireless computers and monitors.   The monitors were used to follow company activity anywhere in the world.

 

The plane was stocked with food and drinks for each flight regardless of duration.  You could literally forget that you were traveling over 500 mph at 30,000 feet.

 

The Citation X could cruise near Mach 1 and had a range over 3,000 miles.  The president could be anywhere within a matter of hours.  Turner could leave home after breakfast and return prior to dinner.   Sleeping accommodations were available when the trips included overnight flying.

 

The meetings were scheduled on the plane as it sat on the tarmac and Turner could fly in and leave the same day.  Most would not even know he was on board.

 

The other plane was a Citation II that had been purchased right after Kirk had taken over the company.  It was assigned to Chief of Operations.  The Citation II was a great plane, but the president wanted the latest and the greatest. 

 

The shuttle aircraft was a light blue Eurocopter helicopter.  It also had plush soft beige leather upholstered chairs much like the Citations.

 

It was used for flights between Turner’s home, the office, the airport and any other locations that would accommodate helicopter landings.  It was the fastest method of traveling within the city.  And it gave the president the comfort and luxury of the Citation X.  There were times when the ‘copter’ was ferried to other cities to provide transportation should the president be there for several days.

 

Paul had made sure that he had every available computer gadget to aid his flying on the Citation X.  Nothing was spared nor any detail overlooked.  It had everything from weather radar to Enhanced Vision System (EVS) or some referred to it as artificial night vision.  He could see at night almost like it was day.  Even the gauges were reflected in the windshield so that he could read them without having to look down.

 

The plane could fly itself.  Stories had even been told how these planes would fly until they ran themselves out of fuel.  Some laughed that Paul’s job was just to keep the plane fueled and file flight plans.  At times, Paul even mused to himself, “If they ever develop a perpetual fuel, I could be out of a job.” 

 

Paul hung up and called David Morgan in the garage on the ground level.  David answered with his usual greeting, “This is David.  Can I help you?”

 

David Morgan, the System Facilities Manager, had joined FICA right after Turner had taken over the company.  He designed the special security services for the building.  Turner was so impressed that he made David his special systems manager including the building facilities.  No one knew all that David monitored for the president.

 

“David, this is Paul.  I want you to tell Roger that we will not need the car today, but we do want him to pick us up tonight at Meacham.  We’ll be there around 9:00 pm.”

 

Roger Thomas was the president’s driver.  He kept the limousine cleaned and polished.  It was his pride and joy.  Roger was a gentle person and was trustworthy.  He could be trusted to keep secret the confidential meetings that occurred in the back of the limo.

 

“We are leaving for DC at noon and will be away at least that long.  I can coordinate with him by cell phone when I get the finals,” Paul informed David.

 

David responded, “No promblemo’.  Roger is over cleaning the car right now and I will tell him.  I got a couple of things he can do and then he can take off.”

 

“You know Roger; he had rather be working than sitting around doing nothing.  We’ll take care of it,” replied David.

 

Paul finished, “Tell him to keep his cell phone charged as our plans are always subject to change and I will call him.  Have a great day!”

 

Hanging up the phone, David finished, “Got cha!  You be careful up there, you here?”

 



II.  The Memories

 

Mary Francis sat in her apartment in Ft Worth.  She had lost her mother in a bizarre tragedy.  After the memorial service on Saturday, she knew that she would have to go back to the house.  It was not something that she looked forward to doing.

 

All the memories that she had accumulated over the years of love and companionship with her mother were still encompassed in that house.

 

She had not attended church that morning, but instead to choose to reflect on what had happened.  “Somewhere there has to be a reason for all this,” grieved Mary.

 

Mary considered, “With people around, it helps me not to face Mom being gone.  It is almost like everything is OK and Mom will just come walking back in like always.”

 

“I am going to need help going back,” contemplated Mary as she began to sob softly to herself.  She opted to call her best friend, Barbara Adams, to go with her.

 

Waiting until the afternoon when she knew that Barbara would be home from church, she dialed the number.  Barbara agreed to meet her the next morning.

 

The morning air was crisp as Barbara drove up to the house.  “What a way to start the week,” she thought.  She sat there for a moment reflecting on the good times she and Mary had experienced growing up together.

 

She pondered, “There is no way that I would have ever thought it could come to something like this.  You just do not think like that when you are young and growing up without a care in the world.”

 

Noticing a car pulling into the driveway, she knew that Mary was arriving.  Barbara got out her car and went immediately to her car to be with her.  As Mary opened the door and got out, she hugged Mary and said, “Thanks for calling me.  How are you holding up?”

 

Mary walked to the rear of the car to get some boxes from the trunk and responded, “Barbara, it’s tough, but having friends like you around helps.”

 

“Mom did not deserve this and not being able to change what happened is the hardest thing for me.  If only I had been here more often …” her thoughts drifted. 

 

Barbara consoled her, “Mary, I am so sorry about your mother.  It was so horrible.  You should not feel guilty.”  She remembered, “None of us had a clue this could happen.  We lived here and saw her everyday.”

 

Barbara tried to comfort Mary but she was not having any luck.  “We could not believe this could happen in Adobe.  Maybe this happens in Ft Worth, but its so … .”  Realizing that her thoughts were turning from Mary to society in general, she allowed her comments to trail away.

 

Mary returning to the task at hand, replied, “Barbara, I could not do this without you.  Having to go through mother’s things is difficult.  Yet,” she continued, “I need to get all her papers together to be sure that all the legal filings are handled.”

 

Getting boxes from the car, they entered the house and began to look around.  Mary noted, “Everything is as it always was.”  She was surprised, “Evidently, Reggie had cleaned the house to destroy the evidence.  Even the furniture is as Mom always had it.”

 

It seemed strange to think about Reggie in any other light other than the murderer of her mother.  But here she was thinking, “I am glad that Reggie did clean up.  At least, I do not have to see what happened.”

 

“Mom, I am sorry,” Mary began to sob as she thought about her mother’s last moments of life and the pain she must have suffered.

 

Barbara put her arm around Mary and said, “Are you sure you want to do this right now?  There’s plenty of time.”

 

“It has to be done.  Some of the papers need to be given to the attorneys right now.  I can handle it,” Mary seeking to control herself answered.

 

They spent the next two hours looking in desk drawers and the cabinet where her mother kept all her current bills, house deeds and old papers.  Her attorney had given Mary a list and they checked off each item.  They found what she needed.

 

At times, they laughed and put some of the old clothes over their dress.  Barbara skipped about the room with a pair of pedal pushers pulled around her waist.  The lightheartedness put the reason for their being there out of their minds.

 

It was approaching the noon hour and Barbara had to leave to take care of her children.  “I can come back after lunch if you wish,” Barbara offered.

 

Mary commented, “No, that’s not necessary.  I am going to have to go back to Ft Worth early this afternoon myself, and besides, we have found what we need.  She added, “I will just look around for a few more minutes.”

 

“You go ahead – take care of your kids.  And again, thanks for coming.  You have made it easier for me,” responded Mary.  Going through someone’s things after a death is not pleasant, but to go through your mother’s effects is something else.  “All the memories spring back.”

 

Barbara left and Mary meandered into her mother’s bedroom.  There she saw the trunk at the end of her mother’s bed.  “How Mom had liked that trunk,” thought Mary.

 

There was a winter dress lying across the trunk just like her mother had probably left it although she normally hung everything at the end of the day before going to sleep.

 

Not only the memories but also the guilt springs forward for not being who you should have been.  Sure she could come up with all the right answers as to why she was not around as much as she should have been.

 

“The answers do not add up to me not being here for Mother when she needed me,” Mary was distressed over her answer.  “I should have been here for her.  I could have come over every week.  I was not that busy,” Mary reflected.  Now she is faced with the relentless task of sorting out what is left of her mother instead of enjoying life with her.

 

Mary sat on the floor opening the trunk.  It was a family heirloom that had been passed down for at least a 100 years.  The trunk had the familiar smell of mothballs as her grandmother felt it was necessary to store everything in mothballs to keep it from deteriorating.

 

Mothballs were used extensively in the old days but are not used today.  “Guess moths are not a problem,” she pondered.  Mary remembered growing up and climbing into the trunk.  There was that one time when she fell asleep and her mother had to bath her two times to remove the mothball smell.

 

Although the mothballs had a strange smell, now it was strangely comforting.  It reminded her of kinder and gentler times with her grandmother and mother.

 

Then there were those times, she recalled, when as a young girl she would steal away in the quietness of the afternoon to explore the contents of the trunk.  “Then mother came home and smelled the scent of the mothballs on my clothes,” brought a slight smile to Mary’s face.

 

“I used to think that I was getting away with it only to be found out by the mothballs.”  Now she was feeling uncomfortably strange going through the trunk even though the trunk was hers to explore to her hearts content.

 

As she looked though old photos and pieces of lace that had been crocheted by her grandmother, she began to feel the presence of her mother in the room.  “I love you, Mom,” Mary sobbed quietly and wished that she could say this to her mother today.

 

There was a quilt that had been quilted by the ladies that lived around her grandmother.  They had regular ‘quilting bees’ helping each other.  Her grandfather would hang the quilting frames in the living room from the ceiling.

 

The quilt was like a large flat pool of water to a little girl.  You could wiggle it on one side of the room and it would ripple across the room.  Mary used to run around the room dodging the frames.  The frames filled the room so that there was only room to walk around the sides.  The material was laced to the frames that formed the new quilt. 

 

The ladies stitched love memories into the quilts.  Some quilts were designed with family memories that became hand-me-down keepsakes. 

                                                                                                          

The top layer was sewn on a mechanical sewing machine.  “It was not electric,” she thought, “It was operated by pressing the bottom pedal back and forth.”  Her grandmother would sit there for hours pushing back and forth on that machine stopping only to add or change the thread. She set the pattern for the top layer.

 

The top layer consisted of pieces sewn together.  The ladies sewed, by hand, the top layer through the cotton filler to the bottom layer of the quilt.  The bottom layer, the cotton filler and the top layer provided warmth.  Those quilts did not carry an ‘R’ rating, but nothing worked better on cold winter nights.

 

They did not have central heat in those days.  The fireplaces were in the living rooms leaving the bedrooms cold.  Mary remembered the nights she would spend with her grandmother.  She would have so many quilts on her that she could not move, but she was warm.

 

Talk – those ladies would talk and sew, sew and talk, and then they would talk and sew some more.  It was a time of great fellowship for the neighborhood.  They came together in a common bond to make the quilt.  They came early in the morning and worked diligently until noon.

 

Her grandmother would serve them food that she had taken several days to prepare.  It was not fast food, but food she had made from ‘scratch’.  The joke for the young brides was for those who went to the store looking for ‘scratch’ to prepare food for their husbands.

 

“Now,” thought Mary, “no one cooks anymore.  Everybody goes out to eat and they wonder why we are a nation of obese people.”

 

Mary remembered working with her grandmother making fresh butter from milk that was left out to clabber.  The clabber of yesterday is referred to as the yogurt of today.  It was placed in a special barrel type container called a churn – some made with wood and some made with clay.  The top of the churn had a hole in the middle for a paddle.

 

She pushed the paddle up and down through the hole, stirring the clabbered milk until the butter would begin to form on top.  Her grandmother would skim the fresh butter and place it in a one-pound butter dish smoothing it with her fingers.  She would lick her fingers and give the thumbs up sign.

 

She then put the butter in an icebox, not a refrigerator as we have today, but an icebox.  You actually placed ice in the top of the icebox in block form.  An iceman ran a regular route delivering the block ice to his clients.

 

Her fried chicken came from chickens that she had raised on the farm.  She would go out early in the morning to get two chickens for cooking.  She would run a chicken into a corner grabbing it by the neck.  With a quick twist of her wrist; she could pop the head off easily and cleanly.

 

It was always comical to watch the chickens flopping around with their heads cut off until they lay still.  What was really funny was watching her grandmother reach to pick up a chicken that she thought had already gone to ‘chicken heaven’ only to have it do a last flop.  Her grandmother would jump back dropping the other chicken that she already had in her hands.  When that chicken hit the ground, the bounce gave it a fake emergence of life.

 

To be sure they were dead; she would kick the chickens the next time to see if they had finally given up the ghost.  “Strange how phrases like ‘running around like a chicken with its head cut off’ or ‘giving up the ghost’ took on real meaning as I watched this fiasco,” considered Mary.

 

Then it was off to the boiling pot of water.  The hot water softened the feathers so they could be removed easily.  She then took a kitchen match and removed the remaining feather fuzz.

 

Her grandmother could easily match any butcher when it came to cutting up the chicken for frying.  And her cooking is still revered today.   Her mother had learned from her mother’s insight, but for some reason it did not pass on to Mary. 

 

The fried chicken, potato salad, fresh butter beans from the garden along with her cornbread including green onions and ripe tomatoes – you have a meal fit for a king.  She topped all of this off with her lemon meringue pie.  It was not the three ingredients of whipped cream, lemonade and brand milk, but instead real pie.

 

Mary got to lick the bowl and the spoons that she had used to stir the pie.  If she were lucky, she would sneak a few vanilla wafers before she crushed them for the crust.

 

Watching her whip the egg whites into frenzy before placing them on the pie was like watching an artist at work.  She would smooth the meringue over the pie filling.  Her grandmother could give domestic divas lessons on the culinary arts of cooking.

 

In that day the children would eat last.  The tables would be spread, the adults would eat, and then the children would be fed the left-overs at the same table.

 

The often-heard phrase about children growing up was that ‘they were to be seen and not heard’.  No greater time was this evident than during the meal.  Strangely there was no bickering among the children.  They waited and there was always plenty of food.  Mary remembered, “Mother would keep the chicken legs for the children.  I always hoped that there would be one left for me.”

 

The ladies thoroughly enjoyed quilting with my grandmother because of her cooking.  She took great strides to make sure all was right.  It did not make any difference whether it was for the preacher coming on Sunday, or having the ladies over for a ‘quilting bee’.  Her grandmother did it up right.

 

All the thanks she wanted were for folks to have a clean plate when they finished.  After the ladies ate, they would all sit under the old oak tree out front and share stories about their gardens or their flowers.

 

“From time to time, there would be a rumor or two that was bounced about especially if a particular lady was not there,” her grandmother had told her.  All the ladies would be there every time someone would call a ‘quilting bee’.  “I guess they were afraid that if they did not come, the stories would be told about them,” her mother had laughed.

 

Around the middle of the afternoon, the ladies would all leave for their homes to prepare dinner for their husbands who had been in the fields working all day.  These times made the days of hard work in the fields and the garden worthwhile.  A greater day of fun, work and food could not be found in those days.

 

Mary pulled the quilt near her.  The stories this quilt could tell if only it could talk.  Those were the good old days that Mary heard so much about.

 

Although, Mary and her mother used to sit around and laugh, “It is better for the good old days to be left as the old days.  No one wants to go back to them though many times we long for the simplicity of that life today.”

 

“Seems like things today fly by so quickly, we are not able to enjoy it as we should,” pondered Mary completely engulfed in her memories.  Her thoughts of her Mother were flooding back into her mind.  How she loved her Mother and the wonderful times they had spent together.

 

 “Needless to say – age, college, marriage, work and family changes things and people – you have a natural progression of separation that occurs,” she rationalized.  “That should not be, but often it is what happens,” Mary allowed her thoughts to expound on the responsibilities she had with her children and school.

 

Her Mother had received a trust from the death of her dad.  It was not an amount that she could become extravagant, but she was comfortable.  She took bus trips with her church and went on cruises once or twice a year with her friends.  Anyone traveling beyond Ft Worth was a world traveler to her mother.

 

She used to joke, “The food on cruises is 24-7 ‘grazing at the trough’.”  Often she would have to diet when she returned.

 

Mary’s dad had even set up a trust for her when she turned 21.  It was this trust that gave her the privilege of going to school to get her teaching certificate.  She had trouble making ends meet, but by being frugal at the grocery store, she made it.  Her mom used to buy her children clothes and that helped.

 

With the inheritance of her Mother’s trust, things might be a little easier as her education was real expensive.  “But I would gladly give this up to be able to spend time with Mom again,” Mary’s mind was clouding up with emotion.

 

It was the first time she had thought that her Mother would not be at her graduation.  Her mother’s pastor had assured her that her Mother would be proud of her.

 

There was some release knowing that her Mother’s life was full and that she was enjoying herself even without the companionship they had once enjoyed.

 

Some times, Mary would feel jealous that her Mother actually had a great life without her.  She wanted her time, but she could not work in the time for her.  Mary worried at first when her Mother told her about Reggie Pope.  “I know he is a young man, but he is a lot of fun to be around,” her mother used to say.

 

Reggie had some money that he had inherited from his family.  He drove a new car.  He had joined the country club, and opened an insurance agency.  He was quite the flamboyant young man.  He was outspoken and enjoyed strutting with the men talking politics both local and national.

 

Reggie understood football and picked all the local winners in the paper.  He made a point of being involved with all the local events in the community.  The eligible women, and some not so eligible, were hoping that he might look their way.  He did at the beginning, but was not intent on settling down with one person.

 

In retrospect, Mary thought, “I could have been more inquisitive if for no other reason than the attention Reggie began to show toward mom.”  But her mother was so happy and what was the harm.  It could not lead to anything or so she thought.

 

Mary’s mother, Vivian Francis, was in her late fifties, but did not appear that she was slowing down for anyone.  It seemed she had become more agile after retirement.  She was active in all the local events in town.  She was a leader in her women’s group in church and served on the committee for community enhancement.

 

It was her mother who planned the community events.  Chili cook-offs, marathon walks for charitable causes – it would be her mother who would be leading the pack.  She headed up the decoration for the city square for all holidays and especially enjoyed the Christmas decorations.  Vivian used to wonder, “Where will I get time to decorate my own home with all the work I do in town.”

 

It was through these events that Mary’s Mother met Reggie.  They had a common interest in insurance and his company was involved as a sponsor of all her events.  He had sat in on several of her meetings and they had shared many moments around the coffee pot.  Her Mother had said, “He had the best ideas!”

 

Their relationship evolved into having lunch together and then an occasional movie.  Some referred to it as dating, but her Mother would not hear of it.  Her Mother was not concerned with the difference in ages as she considered their relationship as a great friendship and nothing more.

 

She had laughed, “My friends tried to make more of it than it was.”  At times, she even seemed pleased that people would actually think that anything might happen.  But the more she laughed off their comments, the more she thought about what was happening.  It seemed Reggie was occupying more and more of her thoughts.

 

Her Mother had once shared a concern, “Could she actually find love in a person so much younger than she?”  They had dismissed the apprehension that nothing was happening anyway so no need for the concern.

 

Then it happened.  Her Mother’s friends began to call her and tell her about her and Reggie being seen together more and more.  They were being seen at local movies, going to dinner and on one occasion – they had attended church together.

 

Even Barbara, Mary’s best friend, called to see what Mary thought about the relationship.  “Surely, you must question the time they spend together,” she remarked.

 

Mary responded, “It seems the local women who thought themselves eligible with Reggie were now being shunned for an older woman.”

 

Barbara continued, “Her friends said there were rumors that Reggie’s insurance business was not going well.  He might be trying to get your Mother’s money.”

 

At first, Mary thought that this was a sure sign of jealousy on their part and the tongues of a small town.  Even when she talked to her Mother, she assured Mary, “Reggie has made no demands for my money.”

 

The relationship blossomed over the next year and Mary learned that her Mother and Reggie had begun taking cruises together without her Mother’s friends.  Still according to her Mother, “Reggie is not making any demands for financial help.”

 

With a twinkle in her eye, Mary’s Mother continued, “Our relationship is strictly plutonic.”  Mary had great respect for her Mother and never assumed that her Mother would tell her anything but the truth.

 

But her Mother was changing and this worried Mary.  Her Mother had given up all her committee responsibilities and seemed to be spending more time with Reggie.  Not only that she was withdrawing from her friends.  Mary tried to talk to her only to be rebuffed as her Mother raised her hand. 

 

Her Mother stammered, “It is just small town talk.  Don’t worry about it.  As far as my responsibilities, it was time for others to step up and take over.”  Mary accepted this and reasoned that if her Mother was satisfied with her life, so be it.

 

Mary thought back on the events and realized that she should have seen the signs developing herself.  She would call and get Reggie.  He would say that her Mother could not come to the phone but would return her call.  Then she did not return her calls. 

 

When her Mother started not returning her calls, Mary became concerned.  Just two weeks before her Mother’s body was found, she had gone by to visit.  Reggie came to the door and explained, “Your Mother has gone on a cruise with some friends that she had met on one of our cruises.  She would be back in two weeks.”  He further remarked, “I would have gone but I had to work.  I will tell her you came by when she calls.”

 

She then heard that others had been calling and going by only to get the same story from Reggie.  Her Mother seemed to have disappeared.  Mary was considering going to see the Sheriff Day when she received a phone call from him.  Her Mother’s body had been found.  She had been murdered.

 

Reggie Pope had confessed.  The sheriff informed Mary that Reggie’s business had in fact gone bad.  He had come to town living the great life with money and prestige.  Faced with his sudden misfortune, he turned to Mary’s Mother knowing that she had a trust fund that could be tapped to maintain his life style.

 

Her Mother was paying for the trips they took together.  Reggie had even gotten himself added to her bank account and was using her money.  When her Mother had finally had enough, she informed him he would have to go.  In a fit of rage, he killed her, dismembering her body, and burying it in the back yard.

 

Reggie had dug small holes the size of a square of grass, buried a portion of the body and then covered it with new grass he had bought at the Home Mart.  He concocted the story about her cruise with other friends and was taking one day at a time.  “We do not think that it was premeditated, as he did not have a plan,” said Sheriff Day.

 

The sheriff added, “Had it not been for the neighbor’s dog coming into the back yard and unearthing the remains, he would have gotten away with it longer.”  Mary was assured that he would get a life sentence.  The district attorney assured her that he would be incarcerated for the balance of his life.

 

The sheriff had said, “It is not necessary for you to do anything, but you will want to get here.  I have an officer at the home so that the crime scene will not be disturbed.”  He concluded, “You Mother’s remains have been taken by the local funeral home and we have the county coroner coming in today.  I can meet you if you want me to.”  The sheriff finished, “My office is at your disposal.”

 

Now in the midst of memories, darkened by the tragedy of her Mother’s death, she has to let her Mother go without being able to say goodbye.

 



III.  The President

 

 

Kirk Turner went to his bathroom to freshen up and then into his office.  He splashed cologne on his face and straightened his tie.

 

He looked briefly at the monitor for his schedule of appointments.  His secretary was great at keeping him informed.

 

He pushed the green button for Brandi Addison, his private secretary.  She entered the office, “Good morning Mr Turner.  How was your weekend?” Brandi asked and waited for an answer before getting to the day’s agenda.

 

“It was great.  I spent all my time at the ranch.  You should have seen my grandson ride.  He is a natural riding a horse,” he beamed.  “At four that little boy rides and laughs all the time.  He cries when it is time to get off.”

 

“You make it over to your Mother’s?” Turner asked. 

 

“Yes sir, I did.  Thank you for asking.  Mother really likes it at the assisted living care center on the Airport Freeway,” answered Brandi.  “They are talking about raising rates and I just hope that we can keep her there,” she remarked..

 

“I am sure that it will work out.  She is a nice lady and full of life.  She is not ready for a full care facility just yet,” Turner continued.

 

Changing the subject, he asked, “What do you have on the agenda for me?  You know that I am leaving for Washington at noon,” Turner exclaimed.

 

Brandi secured the necessary research for each meeting.   She was his special confidant and she had been with him prior to gaining control of FICA.

 

It was a stock deal they are still talking about on Wall Street.  Seems the stock was going through some kind of public relations fiasco and FICA was in trouble.  The former president had resigned.

 

“This morning, you have Bill Blackwell.  He is already in the office,” she started.

 

“After him we can go over the activity from the weekend and then get you prepared for the DC meetings,” Brandi brought him up to date.  She continued, “I can go to Washington if you need.  The next few days can be cleared.”

 

“No,” Turner responded, “these meetings are preliminary just to let folks know of our interest and we will see where we go from there.”  He asked, “You do have the meetings scheduled for the plane on the tarmac?  I am not interested in being seen in DC.  Some nosy reporter might start trying to put things together,” said Turner

 

“Yes,” Brandi replied, “Senator Patrick, Massachusetts, Senator Troup, Vermont, and Senator Barstow from New Hampshire are all coming between 4:00 and 6:30 PM.”  She explained, “Thirty minutes each starting with Senator Patrick with a 30-minute break between each one.”

 

Brandi continued, “Then you have two representatives from Texas – Representative Johnson, and Representative Hugo, coming together at 7:00 PM for a casual get acquainted meeting.”  She went on, “Should not be more than 30 minutes.”

 

Brandi asked, “You want to go over the rest of this or do you want to have Bill come in?”  She remembered that Bill was outside and Mr Turner liked to stay on schedule with his appointments.

 

“Oops, almost forgot about Bill.  Get him in here!  Are the files up?” asked Turner.

 

“Yes,” responded Brandi as she was going to the door, “It is under his initials ‘BB’ as usual.”  Opening the door, Brandi invited Bill to come in.

 

Bill was shaken from his thoughts when he heard Brandi invite him in to see the president.  He jumped up straightening his tie, nodded to Brandi and went in to meet with Turner.

 

She was so precise and professional.  You could never read what was on her mind by what or how she spoke to you.  Brandi stepped out as he entered and closed the door behind her returning to her desk.

 

The room was darkened for the monitors.  The only light was shining over the working area of the desk.  Behind Turner’s desk, there was a red reflection shadowing the company logo.  It read FICA for Fidelity Insurance Corporation of America in 3-D large black letters.

 

Turner moved to the desk bringing up the files for the meeting and lit a cigar.  You could barely make out his presence, but you could clearly see his cigar.

 

Mr Turner had requested the meeting with Bill.  “As much as I am prepared for the meeting, there could always be a surprise question.”  Bill thought, “What else would he want to know or where would the meeting go?”

 

Bill murmured to himself, “There are other things that I need to be doing today and I have to take time to do this meeting.  Oh well, part of the job is keeping Turner happy,” he chuckled to himself, “I will call him Mr President to his face but he is just Turner.”

 

Bill Blackwell had been with the Fidelity Insurance Corporation of America for 30 years and had worked his way up the ranks.  He was a chief accountant when the president took over two years ago.  Turner had made him the Chief Financial Officer including him in the inner circle.

 

There was a large flat screen monitor on the wall in front of the president that detailed the company’s investments.  Turner could click on any location and receive updates on stock values and on recent changes in corporate structures relating to their investments across the country.

 

The monitor could be changed with the flick of the mouse to the headquarter office including the administrative, accounting, sales and claims departments.  Not only were the departments monitored with video, but with audio equipment as well.  David Morgan had installed the equipment at the direction of Turner.

 

The tapes and files were kept for disputes relating to claims and personnel.  Several personnel disputes had already been solved when the video was introduced. 

 

A large flat screen terminal on one sidewall depicted those states where they were active in the insurance market.  Turner could also click on the company offices in the field and get the profile of the sales office.  The manager was profiled for the last ten years.  And Turner had access to the manager’s family status including any related changes in the last year such as birth, divorce, death or tragedy.

 

Cumulative changes scrolled at the bottom of the screen.  The screen was updated every five minutes.  A scroll of real and estimated claims flashed periodically in the black for positive and red for negative.   The cumulative totals were for individual states.  Red figures reflected the claims and estimated claims as a result of lawsuits, law firms, status of claims and the balance in the escrow accounts.

 

The other sidewall had a large flat screen terminal depicting those areas that the company had targeted to enhance their presence in the market.  He monitored the marketing departments where they were weak and held them accountable.  Turner could click on any area and get an immediate profile.

 

The figures also showed the regulating agencies in each state.  The senators and representatives in Washington along with local politicians in the area could be profiled.  He could click on the senator or representative and get a voting record with emphasis on insurance along with tort reform issues and their political future.

 

Surprisingly missing was the proverbial phone.  Kirk Turner had brought a new order of the business to the company.  He did not talk on the phone nor did he write letters, memos or notes to anyone.  He only gave verbal instructions face-to-face to his inner circle.

 

Turner’s inner circle included the Chief of Operations Officer, John Goodman along with the Chief of Foreign Affairs Officer, Charles Travis.  The latest member to join the group was the Chief Financial Officer, Bill Blackwell.  Bill had been a ‘numbers cruncher’ for several years.

 

Occasionally, he allowed his inner circle to have an assistant sit in with them, but they were not allowed to take notes.  Having assistants sit in was a training and evaluation process.

 

The inner circle was not allowed to bring in notes with them or to take notes regarding the meetings.  They had to be able to give reports from memory.  It was Turner’s belief that verbal presentations without notes represented their involvement in the work as opposed to presenting information by their staff. 

 

The entrance to the president’s suite was a specially designed elevator that carried him to his 98th floor office.  His door opened into living quarters adjacent to his office.  He had full living accommodations including bedroom, bath, lounge area, kitchen and bar area.  Most did not even know the elevator had two doors – one that opened to his suite and one to his office.  Turner was the only person with access to the area through the side of the elevator.

 

The suite was kept immaculate at all times.  His lounge area had a cabinet similar to an entertainment center that contained computer monitors.    They monitored the same information as his office.

 

He had a special back entrance to the suite with a stairway that led to the helicopter pad above the office on the roof of the building.  He could enter the building, leave the building or stay in the building 24-7 without anyone knowing he was there.

 

The regular door opened from the elevator into the president’s office. The suite of offices included a receptionist’s area and a lounge area for those waiting for meetings.  They could be entertained in several different ways.  There was a two-hole putting green plus computer terminals for those who wanted to check their email.

 

Most watched the news channels on the six flat plasma screens grouped on the wall.  The screens were broadcasts from the current news services from around the world.  One only had to use the personal earphones they were given when requested and click on which monitor they wanted to hear.

 

The receptionist, Glenda Spencer, made the guests comfortable until their meeting.  Glenda had been with the company for twenty-two years.  She made everyone feel at ease while waiting for his or her meeting

 

She had actually served as the previous president’s secretary.  With the change in leadership two years earlier, she had been retained as the receptionist until her retirement.

 

Beyond the receptionist’s area was Brandi’s office.  Her office was a very modest office with only a computer terminal and phone on her desk.  To get to the president’s office, you had to have prior clearance granted only by Brandi.

 

Brandi programmed the meeting and assigned a special pin number for guests or to be used with the employee badge number.   This granted them the entrance to the elevator.  The elevator would not move until the employee identification number, along with the assigned pin number and the time of the meeting matched in the computer.

 

If anything went wrong, the computer requested security and the matter was investigated.  David Morgan had been very thorough in designing the security measures.

 

Bill remembered when the company had just one office and three salesmen calling on people in Ft Worth with just life insurance policies.  Now they had a full portfolio of insurance benefits available from the smallest need to the ‘top hat’ polices for corporate giants.

 

They had offices throughout America and foreign markets.  Their investment portfolios in other related industries had multiplied over 20 times in the last 10 years.  Just in the last 2 years with Turner as president, the investments had already doubled from the prior eight years before his coming.

 

His inner circle held Kirk Turner in high esteem.  They had never met someone with a greater grasp for business.  He never operated by the book.  When they went up with an innovative plan, he would add to it so that by the time he finished, the plan was different.  Yet without question, the new plan was better.

 

Turner had an unusual ability to retain figures, reports, and people.  He could meet someone and make an immediate judgment regarding the person’s ability.

 

He could take companies that were on their last leg and bring them into the fold.  His new vigor and ideas would have them back at the top of their market within a year.  Analyst knew that when Turner entered the market there would be a change and the change would be for the better.  The markets immediately reflected positive changes.

 

Brandi developed a file for the meeting on the computer that the president could call up by clicking the wireless mouse.  The monitor in his desk was not visible to others.

 

Turner did not go for small talk, so Bill moved quickly into the agenda for the meeting.  Turner leaned back and drew hard on his cigar lighting the room with its glow.  It was strange.  Turner could be sitting there smoking a cigar and yet it would not smell.  He had a vent in the ceiling directly above him that drew the smoke right out.

 

Bill started his report on the current status of the company and its financial investments.  He covered a multitude of investments in other companies.  He reported, “They were all doing well with no immediate changes indicated.  Their current cash flow is exceptional!” Bill said feeling a certain amount of pride.

 

Turner wanted to know, “Have we added any new fortune 500s in the last quarter with our insurance programs?”

 

Bill said, “Yes and no, yes we have a great opportunity with two new companies just coming on the scene.”  He affirmed, “They are ‘dot.com’ companies and it looks real good.  They are currently gathering the data on their employees.”

 

Bill continued, “They are looking at standard coverage for their employees and ‘top hat’ programs for their boards and senior officers.”  He added, however, “No, they are not signed up as yet.   Looks like it will take another month to finalize the deal.  It does look good!”

 

“We did resign Mogul Oil.  They have been away for 5 years and we have just brought them back.”  He continued,  “They are likewise signing up their junior level and entry level employees while adding ‘top hat’ coverage for the senior level and above.”

 

He remarked, “This will help us with two other Fortune 500s that left us sometime back.  Our competition cannot live up to their commitments on the ‘top hat’ programs.”  Bill concluded, “We pay off on some claims even though they are not covered to keep them happy.”

 

Turner related, “That is good business, Bill.  Keep up the good work.   Some insurance companies ride their policy restrictions to the point that they lose the business.  You keep the top office happy and they will see that the rest stay in line.  Our money comes back to us four fold on the other employee premiums,” confirmed Turner. 

 

Bill continued with his report, “With the current policies in place, our company should see growth through the fourth quarter and could look at great year.”

 

He stated, “We have power brokers in place looking for acquisitions.”  He continued, “And real estate brokers are looking for a location for a new regional office for the northeast and our stockbrokers are looking for units on the chopping block.”

 

“The headhunters have been alerted and already have several prospective clients to interview.  The system is working and is in place,” Bill finished.  Now for the proverbial question.  “What would he want to know that I have not reported?” he wondered.

 

Turner questioned, “What about the PAC committees?  We are going to need help in the northeast with the regulatory agencies this year.”  He added, “They should be very helpful as we have 6 senators and 14 representatives that could face strong opposition this year.”

 

Turner lamented, “Letting them use our mailing list helps buy votes, however, with this being an election year, and we are going to have to ante up heavily for the campaigns.  We need to keep these guys happy to keep them on board,” Turner continued.

 

“The Democrats are the easiest to bring into the fold, however, the Republicans need money for reelection also and money talks,” he remarked.

 

Bill, knew that he would throw in something he had not requested, and thought, “So this is it!”

 

“I do not see a problem,” he remarked.  “It just requires contact and they want us to let them know who, how, what, when and where.  Our operatives have strong connections with the PAC committees,” stated Bill.

 

Turner was elated, “Great!  Bill, I am going to need a strong positive cash flow position to pull off what I want to in the next few months.”  He explained, “It is going to cost us plenty in the political forum.  I can play with stocks on the acquisitions, but the darn politicians want cash.”

 

Bill commented, “Mr President, as you can see from your monitor updates, we currently have a high cash position over claims and estimated claims.”  He added, “Even our losses expected on suits that will be settled in the next six months are less than the amount we put in escrow.  Our lawyers are working tough.”

 

Turner remarked, “Well, I am going to DC today and meet with some senators from the northeast to discuss the problem we are facing up there.  The exceptional bad weather is taking its toll on our homeowner policies,” explained Turner.

 

Turner added, “I want to give them a heads up on our coming before the state regulatory agencies to increase our premiums.  Any thing that we can do to grease the pan before we get there will help us,” exclaimed Turner as he tossed his cigar in a special grinder.

 

“Whatever you have to do, we are prepared to stand behind you, Mr President.  You have a blank check,” encouraged Bill.

 

The president grunts, “Great – we’re through!”

 

To which Bill responded, “Thank you, Mr President,” and left the office.



IV.   The Memo

 

Mary had been a young aggressive girl growing up.  She was a pretty girl and very popular.  She was every young man’s dream of a high school date for the prom.  Only her free-flowing brown hair matched her menacing brown eyes.  She would come into a room and at once become the center of attention.

 

Mary’s household was centered on her.  Her Mom and Dad planned their life according to Mary.  If she played in the band then her parents were at every band event.  If it was sports, they were in the stands.  Practices after school; dances; drama; – it all came under the heading of her parents making time for her.

 

Many weekends, you find Mary’s Mom going one direction and her Dad in another.  You just knew that Mary was in there somewhere.  You might think that this would make Mary a spoiled little child, but instead, her desire was more toward helping those around her.  She reached out instead of in.

 

Her friends could always count on her as she would be there for them night or day.  You had someone who would listen, care and do what she could to help.

 

Mary’s faith was a priority in her life as she always said, “It is the foundation for my life.”  She attended the local Methodist church and participated in all the activities of the church including church camps in the summer and youth revivals in the fall.  She would be the one leading the way gathering up children for summer Bible school.

 

Mary’s parents had built a successful insurance agency.  It was the first franchised agency with Fidelity Insurance Corporation of America and it grew rapidly.  When her dad died prematurely at the young age of 42 as a result of a heart attack, her Mother took over.  She became the liaison with the Ft Worth office.  Mary’s father had prepared for the eventuality of his death and had provided for his wife and Mary through trust funds. 

 

Her Mother sold the agency back to FICA when she retired at 55.  Their agency was the last franchise agency in existence as it was ‘grand fathered’.  The company sent a man from Ft Worth to oversee the office.

 

Mary’s mom had always had an attitude about insurance.  “The insurance game is just that “a game” and that someone needed to expose it for what it is.”

 

Growing up, Mary was able to play sports better than most of her male friends.  She actually challenged Donald Jenson, the quarterback, to a 100-yard dash after school.  Many of his friends were there and taunted him into accepting.  “Girls would go down once and for all,” they shouted.

 

As they lined up to run, Donald told Mary, “Get ready to eat my dust.  I am going to beat you as if you were not even here.”  He was obviously perturbed that he had allowed himself to get drawn into this race in the first place but here he was.  He was going to make the best of it for all to see.

 

A signal was given and they took off.  To Donald’s surprise, he was not leaving Mary behind.  Try as he might, she stayed with him.  What was he to do – he could not lose.  He immediately came up with a plan and pulled up with what appeared to be a pulled muscle that kept him from finishing the race.

 

Mary knew what had happened but never chose to expose Donald thus gaining him as a true friend.

 

Donald was an academic wonder in school.  He excelled in his courses and was the senior class president.  In sports, he was not a star athlete, however, with only 14 people out for football, he was selected as the quarterback because he was smart enough to remember the plays.  Often, in a game, a play would be called in the huddle and he would have to tell various players what they were supposed to do.

 

Due to their small number of players, they would work out by running all of their plays to the left with the left offensive line pairing against the right offensive line.  Then they ran their plays to the right.  Using this innovative practice technique, their team finished second in district in his senior year.

 

It was thought that Donald was going to be a success regardless of what he pursued.  That is why; it was a surprise when he accepted a call to the ministry.

 

In his particular faith, it was understood that God would actually make it known that He wanted someone to do a specific task for Him.  That person, who committed himself to that task, was known as ‘accepting the call’ from God and would commit his life toward that call.  It was a mutual commitment – God to man and man to God.

 

The whole complexion of Donald’s future changed overnight and he went to the university to study the Bible and related courses after high school.  Between getting his undergraduate and graduate degree, he was gone for 10 years. 

 

His friends lost track of Donald as his education took him to Austin and then to Ft Worth for seminary training.

 

He left town as a young man with great aspirations.  Now Donald was returning as the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Adobe.  The previous pastor had left over a dispute regarding the sale of alcohol.  He returned having completed his education and now ready to tackle the world.  Donald recognized that it would be a hard challenge, but he was up to it.

 

Donald’s energy knew no bounds.  He set new standards for his staff and their desire to serve the community.  He was like the young preacher who stepped before the mike of a small 1000-watt radio station whose signal barely reached the city limits and declared, “Hello world!”  Nothing could stop him in the endeavors of the ministry.

 

Jimmy Jacobson was the only person able to get next to Mary.  He was the son of the local Texaco Service Station owner.

 

Mary wished that service stations would come back as they were when she was growing up.  It seemed they had taken the word ‘service’ out of the equation.  The stations of her day filled your tank with gas, cleaned your windshield and swept your floorboard while checking your oil.

 

It was in this relationship that she first noticed Jimmy.  Jimmy was sleek, trimmed and an all around jock especially when he was sweating from work.  His smile was contagious and she could not help but return the smile each time she stopped for gas.  There were times when she would stop for gas not needing gas.  She did not realize that Jimmy knew she stopped to see him.

 

Jimmy would never win the ‘most likely to succeed’ contest and he did not go to college.  He eventually took over his father’s service station.  Little did he know that the large oil companies would change the concept of service stations to ‘stop and go’ as opposed to ‘service’.  He could not compete with the lower prices.

 

He loved to drink and always found a way to get beer even when he was underage.  He ran with a wild crowd and he always had plenty of money.

 

Jimmy’s 55’ Chevy was the fastest and shiniest car around.  He would accept a challenge to drag race at the drop of a hat and loved the thrill of victory.

 

It was thought that he would never settle for one woman as he could get any girl he wanted.  But Mary was a challenge for him.  To him, she represented all that was good in the world and if he were to ever get his piece of the pie, it would have to be through someone like her.

 

He went after her like a vengeance and in the end; they were married shortly after high school.  Children came quickly.  They had two boys and a girl.

 

Jimmy’s desire for the good life could not override his hunger for life on the edge.  Mary could not accept his lifestyle and their life together was destined for divorce court.  After 5 years, three children and heartaches the size of mountains, they divorced. 

 

Mary moved to Ft Worth with their children and began to work on her degree to become a schoolteacher.  Her school time and keeping the children in their activities limited the amount of time she had to come to Adobe to visit her Mother.  It went from every week to once a month and if it were not for bringing the children to see Jimmy, it probably would be longer.

 

After Jimmy lost the service station, he took a job working in the local sawmill.  He watched from the sidelines as Mary lived the life that was beyond his grasp.  She seemed so secure.  He seemed so loose and without direction.

 

Jimmy’s hard work at the sawmill and the cold winters gave him a new desire for a change in his life.  He enrolled and graduated from a community college with a law enforcement certificate.  When an opening became available in Adobe, he applied and became a sheriff’s deputy.

 

Being a deputy was a tremendous change from his former lifestyle.  He had never gotten arrested during his wild days, though he bordered on the extreme at times.  Many times, Jimmy’s dad would go to bat for him to keep him from being arrested.  Jimmy felt that his background would help him understand the criminal mind.

 

Barbara Adams is Mary’s best friend.  They had grown up in Adobe and had always planned to grow old together in Adobe.  They dreamed about getting married to ‘Prince Charming’ and having children along with a house and a white picket fence.  It seemed the perfect dream.

 

Barbara had met the local barber, Don Adams, who had moved into town from Stephenville.  They fell in love almost immediately and were married within 6 months.

 

They bought a home in Adobe and now their three bedrooms are filled with 3 girls.  Their hands are full.  It is a luxury for them to dream period, much less to have a dream.  

 

Barbara remained in contact with Mary and was there for her through the divorce.  Mary’s children visited Barbara and Don once a month so that Jimmy could see his children.  Jimmy had been given regular visitation with his children.  Being able to see them was the highlight of his month.

 

Mary Francis sat on the floor going through the trunk.  In the bottom of the trunk was a folder labeled FICA.  Obviously, it was some papers her Mother still had prior to selling the agency back to the company when she retired.  Her Mom had been the liaison person with them.

 

She wondered, “Why the folder?”  It seemed to be something official as it had the name of the Fidelity Insurance Corporation of America on the label.  Inside, it had only one document.    The document was a memo from the company to a listed group of executives with the company – some who are still with the company.

 

I have seen their names on the news in Ft Worth several times,” thought Mary, “Why would Mother have this document?  Was this memo something she should have turned in since obviously it did not belong to her?”

 

She knew that she worked for them as a liaison, but she never figured that it meant very much other than that her mom represented them in Adobe as a branch office.  Her Mother also attended meetings in Ft Worth at the company headquarters and had even talked about having lunch with the company president on one occasion.

 

Her Mother’s name was not listed among the top executives to whom it was addressed.  Although to have documents like this is not necessarily uncommon as it is a practice among some companies to write memos and then distribute it to others.

 

“Why did her Mother keep this one memo in the bottom of her favorite place to hide something?  And why in a folder containing only one document?” she wondered.

 

These and other questions were racing through Mary’s mind as she began to read the memo.  It did not have a signature, which was not unusual as it was an interoffice memo.  It did have initials by each of the addressed individuals by those individuals.

 

The fact that her Mother had a copy could mean that they passed out a copy at a meeting she attended or that she saw the document and picked it up.  At any rate, her Mother was keeping the document in her favorite hiding place.  “This has to be important!” she wondered.

 

Mary was not a business major and certainly had never worked in a business before.  She did not know a profit and loss statement from a recipe.  But this document had an unusual ring to it.  She had heard her Mother state, “The insurance racket is a racket.  It is only a game played at the expense of the consumer.”

 

How many times had she heard her Mother make this statement?  This document might prove that her Mother knew what she was talking about.

 

If the memo related to the overall general policy that the company was practicing, then others needed to see it – especially those who can do something about it.  “But who were these people?” questioned Mary in her mind.

 

Mary began to make some assumptions in hopes of getting to the bottom of her questions regarding the memo.   “What about public trust?” kept entering her mind.  She was exploding inside.  Knowing that she might be sitting on a powerful document, she began to wonder what to do with it.  Somebody needs to see the memo.

 

 

Mary grew up in Adobe.  It had been her plan to remain in Adobe for the rest of her life.  Her parents would be grandparents there and she would take care of them.  But with her Father’s death when she was 14, her divorce and now her Mother’s death – everything changed.

 

She had to leave after her divorce from Jimmy so that she could work on her degree.  She did plan to return.    She was promised a job as a teacher when she returned.  Mary wanted her children to be brought up with the same values that she learned as a child.

 

Mary chose to return her maiden name after the divorce.  Her parents had been such an influence in her life, it seemed a legacy to her dad to keep his name.  The children did carry Jimmy last name.  Only she had changed back,  

 

Adobe is a small sleepy town west of Ft Worth, TX.  It is thought that should Ft Worth ever plan to build beyond its loop that it will be toward the west.  You cannot go that much further north as Denton is there so it leaves west or east.  Dallas monopolizes the east, so that leaves west.

 

The local court and administrative offices are housed in a limestone courthouse in the middle of ‘the square’ that is in need of repair.  The streets around the building run in a square configuration thus the name “the square’.  Even with its rustic finish, the local townsfolk look upon the old courthouse with great pride.

 

Politicians and preachers come to ‘the square’ to meet the local townsfolk.  They make their speeches and preach their sermons to the ‘spit and whittle club’ sitting on the ‘do-nothing benches’” near the courthouse.

 

Christmas decorations include the manger scene in Adobe, which declares itself as the belt buckle of the Bible belt.  Adobe boasts 3 churches in their small community – the First Baptist, the United Methodists, and the Catholics.  The First Baptist Church recently lost their pastor over the drinking issue and they had gotten a new pastor.

 

The only negative factor is that most of the stores around ‘the square’ are vacant.  The plague of the shopping malls has taken its wrath on the local ‘mom and pop’ stores.  Not only that, most of the new businesses were locating near the interstate just south of town.  Big-Mart had completed building a new store with an adjacent business outlet.

 

Adobe has a volunteer fire department.  They were one of the few towns their size that did not have a fully staffed fire department.  Many had blamed Judge Myers for not applying for the grants for fire equipment.  The government had grants for small towns to use to equip a full time fire department.

 

The sheriffs department handles the calls for fire emergencies.  The signal for a grass fire was 2 blasts on the foghorn.  The signal for a house fire was 3 blasts on the foghorn.

 

The volunteer fire fighters were disturbed that they did not have proper fire fighting equipment and had become lax in showing up for fires.  The sheriff was perplexed at their lack of participation and told the dispatcher on the next fire to get on the foghorn until people started showing up.

 

The designated driver of the fire truck was called ‘Lightnin’.  His real name was Ray Gordon and he was a rather portly man.  He filled the driver’s compartment.  He had gone to Ft Worth for a fire training session one afternoon and had become the resident expert in fighting fires.

 

The fire truck needed new brakes, but no one had time to install them.  They had been purchased a few months back and sat on a shelf in the building housing the truck.  ‘Lightin’ had wanted to install the brakes; however, his company had received a new order for fighter jets and he was called back to work.

 

Adobe has the typical problems of any small town with civilized family values.  The local drinking crowd passed the right to sell alcohol.  As a result on Sunday morning, the church-going crowd had to dodge the beer bottles thrown on ‘the square’ where the beer-drinking crowd had partied Saturday night.  Surprisingly enough, some of the folks going to church on Sunday morning were the same crowd on Saturday night.

 

Education is Adobe’s claim to fame.  Rearing children in a small community tops the conveniences of larger schools with computers and mega football stadiums.  Drugs in the high school were manageable.  Those involved with drugs were still looked upon as the ‘dregs’ of society.

 

Police enforcement in Adobe is by officers who are the sons and daughters of some of the townsfolk.  Very seldom does the sheriff hire a deputy from outside the city.  When a person is arrested, the officers know the person’s momma and daddy.  It is not uncommon to hear the officers inquiring about their momma and daddy.

 

The force had an opening and Jimmy Nixon became a deputy.  The sheriff had assured Jimmy a job when he received his training at the community college in Weatherville.  Judge Myers had recommended that he be given a chance.

 

The judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have farms within arms reach of the city and aspire to become local, state and national politicians.  They regularly meet to determine who is ready to run and run for what.

 

Mary knew that the memo could be important and that she must protect it.  She took it from the Fidelity Insurance Corporation of America folder and went to the local SouthernTrust Bank where she had an account.  She inquired about their safe deposit box program.

 

The young lady, Carol, was not fully aware of setting up a safe box account.  She said, “I have only set one up and it was under the supervision of my boss, Paige Preston, who handles setting up the Safe Deposit accounts.” 

 

Page Preston was the manager of new accounts and for the Safe Deposit Department at the SouthernTrust Bank.  She was away as one of her children was sick.  Page had been with the bank for twenty years and was a trusted employee with special accounts.  She exemplified confidence and efficiency in her work.

 

Working together, Mary and Carol were able to set up the safe deposit account.  Wanting to secure her account, she used her grandmother’s maiden name – Baker on the box.  Leaving the bank, Mary contemplated her next move.  She was not even sure that what she had was of any merit and needed to get some one else’s opinion.

 

Reaching her car in front of the bank, Mary ran into Mrs Chambers, a lady who had been a friend of her Mother’s for many years.  They exchanged small talk.  Mrs Chambers expressed how sorry she was for Mary’s loss of her Mother.  She had been a great friend to her.

 

Mrs Chambers stated that she was not able to attend the memorial service as she had been out of town.  Her sister’s husband had a heart attack.  She asked, “Who did you use for the service?”

 

Mary said, “Since Mother had attended the United Methodist Church, I used Rev Davis, the pastor.”

 

Mrs Chambers said that he was a good man.  She went even further to say that the new pastor of the First Baptist Church would be great for memorial services also.  She said, “I attended one he did a couple of weeks ago and he was a tremendous comfort to the family.”

 

Mary wanted to know who the new pastor was and Mrs Chambers said, “It was a young man from the area and that she believed his name was a Donald Jenson.”

 

Mary’s heart jumped a beat as she remembered Donald from high school.  Maybe he could help her decide what to do about the memo.

 

They exchanged goodbyes and Mary got into her car.  She grabbed her cell phone and called information for the First Baptist Church.  Receiving the number, the cell phone company connected her to the First Baptist Church.

 

The secretary at the church answered the phone, “First Baptist Church, may I help you,” was the cheery response.  Mary asked for Pastor Henson and was placed on hold while the secretary connected her.

 

 “Yes,” it was the familiar sound of Donald’s voice as he answered the phone, “This is Pastor Henson.  Can I help you?”

 

Mary’s mind went back several years as she remembered that voice and how Donald had been such a good friend.  If only she had known he was in town, she would have used him for her Mother’s memorial service.  Surely he had heard what had happened.

 

Suddenly Mary was ashamed – sure he has heard all the stories about what had happened.  She thought to herself, “After all this is a small town and even in a large town, this kind of story makes the news.”  She wondered, “What would he think of her?  Could she talk with him as she could before?”

 

 She gathered all the energy within her to speak, “Donald, this is Mary Francis.  “I need your help!” she blurted.  Nothing about “It is great to have you back; how have you been; just laid it out there – I need help!” she felt embarrassed at her rudeness.

 

Donald responded, “Mary Francis, how great to hear from you!  Sure I want to help.  What can I do?”  Donald’s mind went back to the days of knowing Mary in high school and how they had been great friends.  “Certainly he wanted to help,” he thought.

 

Mary, feeling reassured and comforted that Donald was not going to bring up her Mother, said, “I need to talk with you in your office and without being to bold, can we meet in private?”

 

Donald spoke with the same self-assuring voice, “Mary, anything I can do for you I will be happy to do so.  We can meet in my office and I will assure you it will be private.  When do you want to meet?” he asked.

 

Mary wanting to unload on someone quickly said that she needed to meet as soon as possible.  She needed to have someone else to see what she had and to get advice on what to do about it.  She could not think of a better person than Donald.

 

Donald said, “Come on in now.  I will clear my schedule for as long as it takes.  After all, I just got here and I really do not have that much to clear anyway.”

 

He laughed, thinking that he was unusually candid with her.  He been particularly impressed with her in school and at one time thought that he might pursue her, but it never happened.

 

With Donald working toward his degree, he had left out getting married or even having a relationship with a girl.  It seemed it took all of his time to prepare for ministry.

 

Mary was thankful.  How great it was to hear and to be able to talk with a friendly voice; someone she knows.  She said, “Oh, thank you, I will be right over and Donald, I do thank you for seeing me!”   She thought, “It will be great to see Donald.  Surely he will know what to do.”

 

Mary rushed back to the bank and got the document from the safe deposit box.  Carol was pleased that the process was working well and that she had set the account up properly.  She said, “Very few people come back this quick.”  She took her to the box and then left her alone.

 

Mary took the memo and inquired if she could make a copy.  Carol pointed to a copy machine.  Knowing a little about the machine, she was able to make the copy herself without anyone seeing it.

 

She carefully placed the original memo back in the box and locked it.  She cleared with Carol to make sure everything was in order and left the bank.  As she walked out of the bank, she ran into Paul Lucket.  He was a retired gentleman who never met a stranger and if he did, he immediately introduced himself.

 

Paul had once gone to a meeting in a restaurant thinking it was a republican fund-raising event that was on his schedule.  As he walked in, he noticed several people already seated and straight away went over to meet them.  After the introduction, he then asked if the gentlemen knew the other men in the room who were sitting nearby and they all said they did.

 

At that moment several others walked in and again, Paul did not know them and put out his hand.  He asked if they knew everyone else and they said they did.  This seemed strange to him that he was the only one who did not know everyone.

 

He began to inquire and found out that it was a family meeting and everyone knew everyone.  They invited him to stay, but he embarrassingly left.  Paul went home to check his schedule only to find out that his meeting was the next week

 

Paul expressed his condolences to Mary for the loss of her Mother and then seeing a man crossing the street, he called him over, “Dave, come here, I want you to meet someone!”

 

Dave Ableson came over and was introduced to Mary.  Paul told him that he had a lot in common with Mary as her Mother had previously worked with the insurance company that he was now overseeing.

 

Dave expressed his sorrow for Mary and wished her well.  He said, “Your Mother and I did a lot of work together after her retirement.  I was truly shocked to hear the news.  If there is anything I can do for you, just let me know.”  Dave excused himself and walked into the bank.

 

Paul wished her well and likewise said, “If there was anyway he could help her – just let him know.”  Mary was truly moved by everyone’s sympathy and recognized that everyone held her Mother in high esteem in town.  It made her glad to have had her Mother for the time that was given by God.

 

  In the midst of running into Paul, Mary had momentarily let the issue of the memo slip her mind.  Drawn back into reality by what was in her hand, she went without delay to her car and drove to the church.  

 

The First Baptist Church was pretty.  Its roof-line stretched upward toward the sky and was crowned by a single cross at the peak of the steeple.  It seemed that the cross was 100 feet in the air.

 

The stained glass windows gave the church a certain hallowed distinction and you just knew that when you entered the building you would be on Holy ground.  Yet with the tranquility of the church, what she had in her hand caused her greater concern than the cross could remove.  Knowing that she would soon be sharing the memo with someone else made her a bit apprehensive.

 

She questioned her actions, “Am I making this into something that is nothing?  Was it what she had assumed?”  People sometime say that she makes a mountain out of a molehill and maybe this might be one.

 

She wondered, “Should I go in – should I tell Donald about what I have – maybe – I will just go in and speak to him as a friend and then tell him that I am sorry about disturbing him and leave.”  She contemplated, “No, he will not buy that … maybe … .”

 

At that moment, someone grabbed her by the arm, startling her.  “Mary, it is so good to see you.  You haven’t changed a bit,” exclaimed Donald as he came from the front door to greet her.  He had seen her drive up.

 

Upon seeing him, all the frustration from her Mother’s death, and the memo just exploded and she fell into his arms crying.  He put his arm around her and held her while she cried.

 

Reaching into his pocket, he came up with a handkerchief for her to use and began to escort her toward the door.  He needed to say something and was searching to say the right thing.  “Things happen to all of us, Mary, at one time or another and we have to trust God to be with us,” he said in his assuring pastoral voice.

 

He knew that these words would sound hollow to her even though they were true.           

 

Realizing that Donald was referring to her Mother’s death thinking that is what was bothering her, she said, “Oh, Donald, it is not Mother’s death that concerns me right now.  I am working myself through that.”

 

“I did not mean to be presumptuous, I was just taken by your reaction and knowing that you had lost your Mother, I assumed – my mistake,” exclaimed Donald.  He recovered, “Come into the office and let’s talk.”

 

As the door closed behind her, she noticed how recently Donald had actually moved in.  It was like yesterday.  His books were in boxes and his shelves were all empty.  The desk was completely clean and this was nothing like the Donald that she remembered.

 

She figured that if she had come a week later, the desk would have been cluttered and the books put away.  “You will have to overlook the mess.  I am sure you can tell I just got here,” explained Donald.  “Here have a seat.”

 

He pulled a chair up to a table in the corner of his office.  It appeared that he did a lot of his research here.  Mary sat down at the table with him.  He looked natural as a pastor.

 

She would never have thought of him as a pastor when they were going to school, but now, there was something different about him that gave him a pastoral look.  “It is good to have you back,” she stammered trying to get her composure.

 

“It is good to be back,” he said,  “I am not sure about the church yet, but then who is ever sure about his work until he gets into it.  I feel God wants me here, and He will give me the ability to handle what comes my way,” Donald concluded.

 

“Well, Donald … is it OK if I call you Donald?” asked Mary.  After all, they were not classmates in high school anymore.  Obviously Donald had spent a great portion of his life preparing himself for this position.  He deserved her respect she thought.

 

“I would not have it any other way.  We have always been Donald and Mary and we should always remain Donald and Mary,” he assured Mary.

 

Mary started, “How have you been?  I have thought about all our old friends from time to time and wondered what might have happened to everyone.  You remember Calvin,” she continued, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident a few years back.  He was going through the mountains in Colorado and had a friend with him.”

 

She continued, “They had belted themselves together so the friend could sleep while Calvin was driving.  Evidently, he fell asleep.  Both were killed when they went off a cliff.  Some said they went over 700 feet down before hitting the bottom,” shared Mary.

 

“I had not heard that.  I always liked Calvin and thought he would do well in life,” he remarked.  “I heard that he did leave town and never came back except for an occasional visit and when his dad passed away.  Seems he could not wait to get away from here,” remembered Donald.

 

“What about Mary Bee Haley?  She was a live wire with her ear to the ground for anything that was going on.  Where did she finally land?” he asked.

 

“She got her degree, taught school for awhile and married a school principal in Hemphill.  She has 4 children and a white picket fence,” answered Mary.  “The American dream family that we all thought about at one time,” she remarked..

 

“As you know, Jimmy and I married, but it only lasted for 5 years and three children,” recounted Mary.  “He just did not want to let the old life go and I took it as long as I could,” as Mary brought him up to date.

 

She continued, “Now I am going to school to get my teaching certificate and I guess I will come back here when I finish.”  She continued, “I have a job offer from the school board now, and it should only take another year.”

 

“Great, it will be good to have you back.  You know what we need to do,” Donald remarked, “We need to get the old gang back together.  Not a full class reunion, just our gang.”  He continued, “The reunions will come and they will be structured   I am talking about just our gang where we can sit around and reminisce about the good old days.”  He insisted, “We could have it in the fellowship hall of the church with a meal or something … might be the first time some of them make it to a church,” he laughed.

 

A momentary silence fell over the office as they both were brought back into the reason for the visit.  Mary needed help and Donald wanted to help her.  Small talk would not suffice and he looked intently into her eyes realizing that they were going to get serious.

 

“You wanted to talk with me but not about old times.  What can I do to help you, Mary?’ he asked.

 

Mary began, “Well … Donald, I do trust that God will give you the ability to help me.  You see, I have a memo from an insurance company that I found in my Mother’s effects.  It could be damaging … really damaging,” she added.

 

“Here is a copy of the memo,” as she reached across the table and handed Donald the letter.  She added, “I want you to read this letter and help me decide what I should do with it.  I will just sit here while you read.  You need to have the full impact of the letter without my thoughts,” she finished.

 

Donald took the memo and immediately began reading it.  After what seemed an eternity, he finished; leaned back; and looked out his window.  Then he stood, walked over to the window looking out.  He turned toward Mary, handing the memo to her and sitting back down with her.

 

“Mary, in the wrong hands, this could be devastating,” he declared.  “Tell me, what do you want to do with it – what is your first reaction to the memo?”

 

“I don’t know,” said Mary.  “It seems to me that they are pulling a fast one on the general public and someone needs to know what they are doing.”  She continued, “When regular companies do this, the general public has a choice to go elsewhere and the market adjusts to the demand and supply.”

 

“But everyone,” Mary went on, “has to have medical care and possibly stay in a nursing home and it is not like Coca Cola where you have a coke machine on every corner.  There is the matter of public trust!”  She continued, “They are not a monopoly but they are regulated by federal and state agencies since their services are not readily available everywhere.”

 

She added, “Here in Adobe, for example, we have only one hospital and one nursing home.”  She summed up, “Sure people could go to other cities, but folks like to stay near their homes.  It would be a hardship for families if they have to go to the hospital or in a nursing home out of the area.”

 

“Number one,” Donald said, “I agree with you.  I can’t read hospital bills in the first place.  I have heard that they charge as much as $10 for an aspirin.  A friend in seminary told me about a friend of his who had been a nurse,” he went on, “Her Mother was in the hospital and she stayed with her constantly.”  He continued, “When she received the bill, she protested about half the services billed.”

 

Donald added, “They started the double talk and she informed them that she was a nurse.  She told them that she had been with her Mother the entire time.  “They adjusted her Mother’s bill over $3,000.  It is a matter of public trust,” he declared.

 

“Assuming that the memo is legitimate, and I am sure that it is, someone is definitely trying to pull a fast one,” Donald agreed with a concerned voice.  “Second, assuming that you want to do something with it, we have to decide what to do,” he concluded.

 

“That is why I came to you.  I felt that I could trust you and that you might be able to give me some advice on whom to talk to or to see,” pondered Mary.

 

“Well, we got the newspapers and television stations that could be called, but I am not up on whether they can be trusted,” Donald said candidly.  He continued, “We have got to be really careful.” 

 

Donald warned, “I have only been here for a couple of weeks and my credibility is not established.  You know – just get here – what do I know, etc.”  He questioned out loud.  “This is not a concern for me, but I want you to have the best support available when questions are asked.”

                                                                                                                

“Say, Jimmy just joined the police department.  I have heard that he has really turned his life around.  Oh, I forgot you were married to him once – I am so sorry, I did not mean to …” his words stopped.

 

“Oh, don’t worry about that.  Jimmy and I have made our peace, and yes, he has joined the police department,” explained Mary.  “Do you think that it would be a good idea to bring him in on this?” she asked.  “I would have no problem with bringing him in if you thought it would help”.

 

“He did stay in the area and he knows everyone, even new people who could help.  Let’s call him and get his ideas,” Donald exclaimed excitedly.  He went on, “I will call him and ask him to meet us at the Hardwood Grill for lunch.  I have heard they have a great luncheon menu and if you remember, we used to all go there to eat.”  He added, “Plus it is so noisy in there we could talk about what ever we want and no one would hear us.”

 

“What is your time schedule?” asked Donald,

 

Mary said, “I need to get back to Ft Worth this afternoon.  The kids will be out of school soon and you know me, it is turn about fair play.  I ran my parents crazy and now I am the victim.”

 

“How about noon tomorrow?” inquired Mary.

 

Donald exclaimed, “That is great for me.  I will call Jimmy and set it up – you go to Ft Worth and take care of your children.”  He continued, “I might not get him right away anyway and he might have to call me back, but I will set it up for tomorrow or I will call you and let you know.”

 

“You try to get a good nights rest and don’t let this bother you,” he encouraged her.

 

Donald stood up from the table as Mary stood up and gave her a hug.  This is great.  Being with old friends and being able to help at the same time.  This is what ministry is all about.  “Thank you, God!” he shouted silently.

 

“I am so glad you are back.  It is great having someone around I can trust.  Thank you for being here, Donald,” Mary said as she allowed herself to rest in his embrace.

 

She left his office and Donald settled back into his chair.  “My, my … my!”  He thought, “This is something.  It could be huge and just think it could be revealed right here from little Adobe.  I never counted on this when I decided to come back home, but then you go with the hand that you are dealt,” he thought.

 

“I need help Lord,” he prayed to himself.

 

Donald knew that it was fruitless to tell Mary to try to get rest.  He knew that this thing could really become a large scandal.  “This could be even larger than the EquiGas scandal in New Orleans.  They are still trying to sort that one out,” as thoughts raced through his mind.

 

Just last night Donald had gone to the Ft Worth Rodeo and who comes riding out as one of the principals – Mr Kirk Turner, president of FICA.  He was on a beautiful palomino horse and all the jewelry or stainless steel on that saddle probably weighed as much as Turner did.

 

Not to mention that two of the buildings in the area had his name on them – the Turner Foundation Center; and the Turner Monument Building.

 

This could be big, Donald surmised, as he turned to his phone and called the police department.  The former pastor had the phone number for the police as one of the speed buttons and he thought he would try it and see if it works.  “Wonder why a pastor would have the police number on a speed button,” went though his mind as the number was dialing.

 

He did not have time to think this through as a new concern became relevant, “Hope this is not 911!” crossed his thinking and he wanted to cross his fingers that it would not be.

 

“Adobe Police Department,” responded the voice on the phone.  Donald, relieved that it was not 911, asked for Jimmy and the dispatcher said, “Just a moment.”

 

“Deputy Nixon, can I help you?” he replied in a rather official voice.

 

“Could Jimmy be that official?  Maybe this is some other person instead of the Jimmy I know,” thought Donald, but he stammered, “Jimmy? Is that you?”

 

“Yes, this is Jimmy Nixon, who am I speaking to?” questioned Jimmy.  He smiled to himself, “I get calls like this all this time.  I guess people will take forever to accept me as a real live deputy.”

 

“Jimmy, this Donald Jenson.  How have you been?” exclaimed Donald.

 

“Donald? … Donald Jenson? The former quarterback of the Adobe Panthers who got out run by Mary Francis on a 100-yard dash?” inquired Jimmy.

 

“Say I heard that you have become the pastor of the First Baptist Church – that true?”  Jimmy wanted to know.

 

“Yeah, but I pulled a muscle in that race – at least that’s what I told everybody,” laughed Donald.  “I guess you and I both have chosen paths that many would have never guessed – me a pastor and you a deputy,” he laughed at the irony of it all.

 

“Hey, that is like letting the fox in the chicken house, isn’t it?” chuckled Donald.

 

“I guess it is if you agree that you could be a demon in a church house,” countered Jimmy.

                                                                 

“Touché!  I was glad to hear that you had become a deputy.  I’m proud of you Bro’ and I hope that you do well,” said Donald.  “But then you always do land on your feet so you will have no problem,” assured Donald.

 

Jimmy remarked, “Well, you might know better than me that this is a hard road to hoe after what I was at one time.  At least you could have been anything you wanted to be and as a pastor that is a normal stretch for you,” Jimmy exclaimed, glad to have his former friend back in town.

 

Jimmy had always held Donald in high regard.  He was a good friend first and second, he had the ability to do whatever he wanted.  He represented what he wanted to be but felt he could never measure up.  “Maybe,” he thought, “if Donald had stayed around town, things might not have taken the turn they did.”

 

Donald shook Jimmy from his thoughts, “Jimmy, Mary has a situation that needs our help.”

 

“What?  Is she in trouble?” Jimmy’s mind began to run in all different directions.  Money, pregnancy, criminal – these things are foreign when you think about Mary.

 

“Does she have a parking ticket and wants me to take care of it for her,” hoping that his humor would remove his concern for what the real reason might be.

 

Donald was pleased to hear that Jimmy did not have any bitter thoughts about Mary and further that he could sense an urgency coming from Jimmy for Mary.  He thought Jimmy could have just sloughed it off with, “It’s her problem, let her figure it out for herself.”  But he did not.

 

Donald came to the point, “Jimmy, we need to meet – Mary, you and me.  It has nothing to do with you or your line of work.”  He continued, “It has nothing to do with your kids – it is a totally a 3rd party situation and what to do with the information.”

 

“Can you meet with us at the Hardwood Grill tomorrow for lunch?” he inquired.  “Mary said that she could be there at 1:30 PM, which means that most of the lunch crowd will be gone.  I’m buying,” Donald remarked.

 

“That is fine with me.  I have meetings in the morning with the sheriff on some cases we are working, but we should be through before lunch.”  He remarked, “If you have seen the sheriff lately, you know that he is definitely going to finish up before lunch.  You don’t get between him and a buffet line or a donut,” snickered Jimmy.  “He is a good man though and I don’t mean to say anything bad about him.”

 

Jimmy asked, “Say, how is Mary doing? This thing with her Mother took all of us back.”  He commented, “You talk about getting blindsided; no one ever thought this man could be capable of doing something like that.  Vivian was a good woman and tried to help Mary and me, but I had a mind of my own and would not listen.”

 

“But is Mary doing alright?” Jimmy wanted to know and he thought Donald would tell him.  Jimmy knew he could not go around town asking others how Mary was doing.  Everyone would get the wrong idea.  Was he trying to get back with her?

 

People!  If there was one thing he did not want to do, was to place Mary in a bad light.  She was a great mother to his children and he was sorry that he could not help more.

 

Donald said, “Mary is doing great.  She is working with the children the same as her mom and dad did with her.  She claims she is being paid back for being such a pain when she was young, since she has to get your children to all the things they do,” recounted Donald.  “And she is about a year from getting her teaching certificate – but then she can tell you all this tomorrow.”

 

“It is probably good that she is so busy right now.  It will take her mind off what happened to her Mother and time will help her overcome it,” Donald finished, “Look forward to seeing you.   Call me if something comes up and you have to change your plans – OK?  Your work can dictate your schedule.”

 

“Yeah, I will call you if there is a change.  Look forward to seeing you and Mary,” Jimmy responded as he hung up the phone.  “Gosh,” he thought, “this is great having Donald back in town.”  He looked forward to not only having lunch with him tomorrow, but was sure their paths would cross many times.

 

Jimmy made a note about the luncheon and put Donald’s name by it.  All phone calls had to be logged in at the office.”  Jimmy wanted to do well in his new job, “I have to remember to log every call and to be so precise.”

 

He and Donald had shared a good laugh, but Jimmy was still concerned with this thing with Mary.  He had to put it out of his mind though, as the sheriff was calling him from the back office.

 

Jimmy thought, “Oh no!  He has found out that I was late two times this week already.  He never gives us credit for the number of hours we work over.”

 

Donald hung up the phone and made a note for Allison Jackson, his secretary, about the lunch the next day.  He did not want her to schedule him for something else.   He allotted two hours for the luncheon.

 

Donald had inherited Allison from the previous pastor and was still evaluating her.  He knew better than share anything with her until he could be assured that he had full trust in her.

 

Truth be known, probably more churches face problems because the staff cannot keep things confidential.  Sometimes information is considered to ‘juicy’ to be kept confidential.  They will tell their spouses.  The next thing you know, you are hearing it on the street.

 

Donald had heard how other pastors had lost their churches because their secretaries could not keep things confidential.  “I do not want that to happen here,” he reasoned.

 

Allison is a young woman with a lot of potential.  She is very people oriented and she can handle the computer and the church membership list with great skill.  She stays on top of the hospital list to make sure that he is kept up to date with any members that might be in the hospital.

 

Plus, Allison had prepared a birthday list for him so that he can send out a card to members prior to their birthday.  Simple as these things are, it is important that the people know that the pastor cares.  To make sure that it is not just an exercise, Donald put their names on the prayer list for the staff meeting – breaking them down according to the ministerial responsibility.

 

Donald certainly wanted to remember Mary and Jimmy in prayer the next morning.  “Their names would remain silent, however, as I am not going to introduce anything about what was going on,” he considered to himself.

 

Mary wanted to put the kids to bed.  She had to read a story two times for their youngest son, Robby, who was three.  He was keyed up about seeing a clown at his daycare and it seemed he would never get sleepy.

 

Jimmy named Cathy, their oldest daughter, who was five, after her. He insisted over her objections of having two people named Mary in the house.  They compromised by naming her Mary Catherine and calling her Cathy.   Cathy had fallen asleep on the couch.  How peaceful she looked.  Gathering her up, she took her to her room.

 

Taking care of her children caused her to think about the times that her Mother had taken care of her.  How she loved having her Mother read to her at night.  They shared so much together.  Letting her mind return to her Mother was not a good thing at night.

 

She quickly went to get Mark, their oldest son, who was 4 years of age from the tub.  He was in daycare school.  They had teachers assigned to them and they had little classes.  He loved to tell everyone he went to school.  He was still in the tub playing with his turtle.  She dried him off and put on his pajamas.  He fell asleep before he hit the bed.

 

Jay Leno was on the TV and she hoped that he would make her sleepy.  She knew getting to sleep was going to be difficult.  She had tried warm milk, which she hated and it did not work and Jay was not helping.

 

She needed some sleeping pills.  “Why don’t all mothers have some sleeping pills on hand?” Mary surmised.   “All mothers needed sleeping pills for emergencies.  How many times does an opportunity come your way to sleep and you can’t  – maybe the kids have gone to a sleep-over, or they were with her Mother …,” her thoughts stopped.

 

There she was again thinking about her Mother.  She would just have to go to bed and hope for the best

 

Mary was awakened by the buzz from the alarm clock.  She must have set it wrong, but to her surprise, daylight was coming through her window.  “How did that happen,” she wondered.

 

Her heart jumped just a little at the thought of seeing Jimmy.  She rarely allowed herself to think about Jimmy and now she was going to see him.

 

She got the kids to daycare and kindergarten and made arrangements with her friend, Jamie, to pick them up should she be late coming back.  She hated to not be able to tell Jamie what she was doing, but she was still concerned about what could happen.  There would be plenty of time later to tell her.

 

Jamie and her husband Todd had really been a great help to her since the divorce.  They were always helping her with the kids especially since they knew she was going to school.  She could call on Jamie anytime day or night to help.

 

Todd was another matter altogether.  He seemed too willing to help at times.  Most of the times were when Jamie was away.  “Probably one of those male urchins who thought himself God’s gift to women -- particularly those who were divorced and quote ‘lonely’ unquote,” Mary fumed within herself.

 

Mary had made a mental note to never be alone with Todd for any reason.  He was easy enough to handle, but she wanted always to keep him at an arm’s length.  “Jamie might have to deal with this one day and it was not going to be because of her,” she thought.

 

Driving to Adobe was a pleasant drive.  You top a rise just beyond the loop around Ft Worth, and zap – Ft Worth is gone and there are meadows with trees blanketing the horizon.  It was like magic.  Ft Worth was a big and yet a small city.  But, by the time you reach Adobe, any thoughts of a big city were gone and you were transposed back in time to Smallville, USA.

 

Time was on Mary’s side so she went by her Mother’s house to check on the mail.  You could go to the post office a 100 times and tell them that your Mother is deceased and they still will deliver mail to her address.  “Their motto should be changed to ‘neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor death will keep us from delivering the mail’,” she snickered to herself.

 

Sure enough, there were circulars in the mailbox.  Mary had been successful in getting the paperboy to stop delivering the paper each day.

 

Her Mother liked to spend the first few hours each day reading the paper and drinking coffee.  She used to laugh at the headlines.  ‘Thieves Rob Bank Car Found’ was a great line – did thieves rob the bank or the bank car and was the car found or the thieves who robbed the bank car, found.

 

They never put punctuations in the captions and most of the time the headlines would be unclear as to the meaning.  “Mom was not English major, but she understood readin’ and writin’, as she put it, far better than most writers for the morning paper,” thought Mary.

 

Getting rid of the mail, Mary started looking through the house.

 

On the back porch, she checked her watch and saw that she was going to have to move quickly to get to the Hardwood Grill on time.  It seemed every time she went to the house that time had a way of slipping by quickly.

 

“Maybe if I started sleeping here, I could sleep much better,” Mary remembered the night before trying to get to sleep.

 

Donald emerged from the church ready to go to the restaurant for the meeting.  As he was getting in his car, Paul Lucket drove up.  He did not know much about Paul, but one thing he did remember was that Paul could talk your head off if he wanted to and you could lose track of time if you allowed him.

 

Paul shouted, “Morning, Pastor!  How’s your day?”  He was headed toward Donald as he spoke, reaching out with his right hand to shake hands.  He was his normal bustling self with all the information in town that was happening.  They ought to call Paul the ‘Happening Man’.

 

Donald wanted to cut him off gently as he had to leave, “Paul, good to see you.  How have you been?”

 

“I have been down a bit in my back,” started Paul, “I do not know if it is arthritis or the work I was doing with my flowers yesterday.”  He continued, “You know I have this lovely garden of flowers and I furnish the flowers for the altar each Sunday morning.”

 

“Yes,” responded Donald, “Your flowers are appreciated.  I hear the ladies commenting each Sunday about how pretty they look.  You have a great gift not only in growing them, but also in arranging them,” complimented Donald.

 

“You know,” Donald thought out loud, “we ought to have a little seminar one Saturday morning and have you share with us some of your secrets with gardening.”  Donald asked, “What do you think?”

 

Paul, gleaming from ear to ear, said, “That is a good idea.  I have so many people ask me questions all the time about when to plant and cut roses.  Roses could be just one seminar alone,” Paul was excited and was thinking already about how he could present the facts on horticulture.

 

Donald saw his chance, “Paul check with Allison and see when the church is available and put your name on the calendar.  Tell her you have talked to me and we want to do it.  Gotta run – you have a great day!” he opened the door to his SUV.

 

Paul was still trying to figure out what had just happened as he made his way toward the office to talk to Allison.  But it was great to have a pastor who understood the importance of having good gardening skills.  “This pastor is a very smart man,” Paul thought.

 

Donald arrived at the Hardwood Grill before Mary and Jimmy.  He went in and requested a table for three.  He told the waitress that the other two would be arriving shortly.  Noticing a local paper in the waiting area, he sat down to catch up on the local news.

 

Jimmy left his office signing out that he was going to lunch at the Hardwood Grill with Donald Jenson, pastor of the First Baptist Church.  He did not want to put down Mary’s name.  The dispatcher would make something out of it for sure.  He did not know exactly what this meeting was going to be about, and he surely did not want to stir up gossip.

 

As Jimmy stepped inside the restaurant, he noticed Donald sitting nearby reading the paper.  Going over, he greeted him by knocking the paper from his hand and declaring, “Man, you are a sight for sore eyes.”

 

Jimmy remarked, “Hey, you have gained a little weight since I last saw you.  How are you doing?”

 

Before Donald could answer, Mary walked through the door.  The light shining from outside the door, made her entry look like a grand entry.  But then that was Mary.  She enters anywhere, and all eyes turned toward her.

 

Mary’s eyes immediately met Jimmy’s eyes and there was a momentary silence and they communicated in a language unknown to man.  Time stood still as all the unasked questions raced through both their minds.

 

Donald sat there and watched the mystery of it all.  “These two belong together,” he thought, “I have got to make it a priority to see that they get back together.”

 

At that moment, the waitress shattered the silence, “Your table is ready.  Please follow me.”

 

Mary and Jimmy followed without speaking verbally.  Donald stood and joined as they were led to a table in the corner.  Donald thought, “This could not be any better.  It would seem that a Divine Nature had set their plans for them.”

 

Jimmy pulled out the chair for Mary making sure that she was seated properly.  He took his coat off placing it on his chair and he and Donald sat down together.  Jimmy felt he needed to say something to break the ice, but words would not come.

 

Donald filled in for both Mary and Jimmy in getting the conversation going,  “Jimmy, you are looking good.  You are very professional looking in your uniform.”  He continued, “Hope you never have to use that weapon.  It certainly is big enough.”  Jimmy’s revolver was extending above his waistline in a menacing manner.

 

Jimmy laughed, “I hope I never have to either.  I have gone through training for shooting, but you never know until it is aimed at a real live person.”  He added, “I had just as soon never have to take it out of the holster.”

 

“How about you?” he asked.  “You are looking quite fit.  The pulpit must be agreeing with you.”

 

Donald joined Jimmy’s laughter, “Yeah, the ministry has been good to me.  Fried chicken and banana pudding are hard to turn down as you can see.  Imagine … Jimmy as a law enforcement officer!” Donald changed the subject, “That has got to be one for the books.  I am proud of you.”

 

Jimmy remarked, “Well those mornings when ice was all over the lumber at the mill and I had to try to work with it, convinced me that there had to be something better.  At least something that could be warm like riding around in a patrol car with the heater,” Jimmy saw as a promising compromise.

 

Jimmy declared, “A small town like Adobe seldom has major acts of crime and so it is mostly working school zones and paper work.”  Realizing that what he had just said could cause Mary to do a double take disturbed him.

 

“Mary, I am so sorry.  I did not mean that what happened to your Mother was unimportant,” Jimmy apologized profusely.  “You know that I loved your Mother and she will be missed by me and this town,” he declared, “It was a blow to us all and I know that you above all have the greatest trouble reconciling the loss.”

 

Jimmy found himself talking to Mary congenially as he was genuinely concerned for her.  Jimmy hoped that his concern was being understood.

 

Mary, seeing Jimmy in a different light than she had seen him for over a year, was pleased to know that he did have feelings for her Mother.  This revealed a side of Jimmy that was pleasant.  It was good to meet with him under circumstances that did not center on the children or the divorce.  Jimmy could be nice if he wanted to.

 

“Thank you, Jimmy for your concern.  It has been hard and probably will be hard for some time to come.  But I have understood my role in what happened and I will get past the guilt of not being around in due time,” responded Mary.

 

Donald spoke up and suggested that they order lunch.  The waitress was summoned.  Donald made a point of ordering the onion rings with his beef sandwich, “I remember these things being so big, you could only get your mouth around part of them at a time.  We can share them”

 

Mary replied, “It is all good to me.  I will have fries with a beef sandwich and we can share the fries with the onion rings.”

 

Jimmy, not wanting to be out done, placed his order, “I will have a big piece of coconut pie with a pork sandwich.  We can share the pie.  You cannot eat this pie and go back to work.  You will be sleepy by the middle of the afternoon,” he explained, “but by sharing it, it will not be so bad -- plus ya’ll have got to try it.”  He exclaimed, “They have a new cook and she cooks them the old fashion way.  It is great!”

 

The waitress took their drink order with the food order and left the table.

 

Donald broached the subject of the meeting, “Jimmy, Mary has found something in with her Mother’s things that is a concern for both of us.”  He added, “She came yesterday and shared it with me and I agree with her that it could be a problem.”

 

Jimmy, looking at Mary asked, “What is it?”

 

Mary answered, “It is a memo from the insurance company that Mother worked with in Ft Worth.  It has more to do with their policies and practices than anything else, but it is troubling.  I think something should be done about it,” Mary went further.

 

Mary handed Jimmy the copy, “Here is a copy of the memo.  You read it and tell us what you think.”

 

Jimmy took the letter and turning to get better light on the memo, he began to read.  His eyebrows lifted, as he got further into the text of the memo.  Finally he sighed saying, “You really have something here!” He went further, “they might pay a pretty penny to get this letter back.”

 

“Is that what you want – money?” asked Jimmy candidly.  “Off the top of my head, I would say that it would be worth at least $5,000 or maybe even $10,000,” he calculated.  He knew that money was not the issue; he wanted to get it out of the way.

 

“Jimmy, money is not what I want,” countered Mary, “I have my trust funds as you know and I just picked up mom’s trust fund through inheritance.” she continued, “I see this more as an injustice of the public trust that insurance companies, hospitals, and nursing homes enjoy.  They need to be made accountable.”

 

Donald injected, “Jimmy, we came to you to see if you know of someone who can be trusted to see that the memo gets into the right hands to do some good.  As you know, this could be a big scandal if it hits the news.”

 

At that juncture, the waitress returned with the food.  Donald was right about the onion rings.  He thought out loud, “Where do they get onions this big in the first place?”

 

Mary laughed and offered, “The fries are no slouch either.  This place will never change.  This is exactly how I remember it.”  She looked toward the waitress, “Ma’am, do you think that I could get some ketchup and a straw?”

 

The waitress grabbed a bottle from an adjoining empty table and sat it in front of Mary.  She pulled a straw from her apron pocket and gave it to Mary offering one to Donald and Jimmy.  They refused.

 

“If there is anything else you need, let me know.  I will bring the coconut pie when you get ready for it.  I will keep it cool until then,” she quipped cheerfully.

 

  Jimmy smirked with a glint in his eye, “You will see a change when they bring the pie.  People come all the way from Ft Worth to get their pie.  It does not matter which pie you get either – I am just partial to coconut.”

 

Mary said, trying to get an onion ring in her mouth, “Yeah, I remember Mother making coconut pies for you.  I thought at one time, she was trying to burn you out on coconut pie.”  She laughed, “We had it everyday, but you hung in there – still asking for more.”

 

Donald, having just gotten his mouth over the large beef sandwich, added, “I love coconut pie myself.  I have found that traveling across the country that the one pie that is the hardest to goof up is coconut, so I order it all the time.”  He remarked, “I might rival you in your love for coconut,”

 

Jimmy – enjoying his pork sandwich – getting back to the memo, “You know up front that they are going to claim that this is business as usual.  To be able to give better service, they will say they have to raise the rates”

 

Donald came back, “True, but there is the matter of the public trust.   As Mary said yesterday, ‘it is not like Coca Cola where you have a coke machine on every corner’.”  He went further, “Folks have to use their facilities where they are located and the ones that are there.  There is very little competition in small communities.”

 

“And,” Mary added emphatically, “Sure they can raise the rates at the hospital.  But this is a position that appears to be undocumented by facts,” continued Mary.  She went on, “The same is true for the assisted-care facilities, the increased rates can be justified, but can they be justified with real increases in expenses?” asked Mary.

 

Jimmy waved to the waitress to refill his drink.  He said, “Mary, you have really put some thought into this haven’t you?”  He had not seen her quite so passionate about an issue since their divorce.  “Boy was she passionate about that,” he still ached from the lawyer’s portrayal of him he flinched quietly.

 

Donald interrupted, “What we want to know – do you know of someone who can take the memo and see that it gets into the right hands?  You know, someone who is trustworthy.”

 

Jimmy, not wanting to seem disinterested and at the same time wondering what this could mean for all three of them, asked, “Do ya’ll have any idea what can come of this if it becomes public?  Are you prepared for what this company might do?”

 

The waitress brought Jimmy his refill and Jimmy signaled that they were ready for the pie.  She left to get the pie.

 

Jimmy explained, “The Company is not going to lie down and say ‘Oh, we are so sorry, here is a big refund for all our policy holders’.  They are going to fight tooth and nail over this in any way they can.  It will not be pretty, trust me!” said Jimmy empathetically.

 

Mary, realizing perhaps for the first time that there might be an element of danger involved, asked, “What do you think they might do?”

 

“Well, today, you do not necessarily have hit men who try to take you out to get you out of the picture, you have instead dirty tricks hit men,” answered Jimmy.  “They will try to discredit you and prove that what you know is of little value or validity,” Jimmy shared from his training for his law enforcement certificate.

 

“And,” he finished, “They will try to take you down with it.  Your position in the community will be questioned, your sanity will be questioned, and your family might be affected – whatever they can do.”  Jimmy warned, “Keep in mind; they have all the resources to say what they want them to say!”

 

Donald took a deep breath and leaned back.  “Mary, is this what you want to do?” he asked.  “You and Jimmy do have three young children,” he pointed out to her.

 

“What are we to do then ─ just act like this never happened and that the memo does not exist?” inquired Mary.

 

The waitress brought the coconut pie.  It had to be the biggest piece of pie either Mary or Donald had ever seen.

 

“See,” laughed Jimmy, “did I not tell you.  Now you know why one person cannot eat a piece of pie by themselves.”

 

Donald had been to Amarillo where they have the 72-ounce steak that is free if you eat it all within an hour.  He stated, “They ought to make the same agreement here they have with the steak in Amarillo – you eat it in one setting within an hour and it is free.  You know, they actually have some people who will eat the whole thing up there!”

 

Mary waited for Jimmy to cut the pie into three pieces.  Taking her share, she declared, “This is as much as you get with one piece at Lucy’s in Ft Worth.  Guess that is why they are going out of business.”

 

They momentarily forgot their subject matter as they ate their pie.  Mary was still savoring her first bite when Jimmy finished his share.  He inhaled it according to Donald.  Donald had to concede that maybe Jimmy did like coconut pie more than he did.

 

It was Donald who again brought up the subject of the memo, “Jimmy, we can discuss the risk element later.  Right now, would be better if we had political connections beyond this area – a US Senator or Representative maybe?”

 

Jimmy agreed and stated, “Let me think this over and I will get back to you.  Perhaps, we can meet again at that time and maybe I will even have someone who can help to meet with us.  Be alright if I take the copy of the memo?”

 

“Yes.  You take this copy.  I have the original in a safe deposit box,” replied Mary.

 

Donald waved for the check and replied, “Great, we will wait to hear from you.”

 

“This has been great getting together today.  I look forward to getting together again,” concluded Donald.

 

Jimmy looked at Mary and his eyes said much more than his words, “It was good to see you to, Mary.  How are the kids?” he asked.

 

Being brought back into the realism of their relationship, Mary answered, “They are great.  I have Jamie picking them up from daycare and kindergarten today.”  She went further, “You remember her, she came over with me one day when I brought the kids for your visit at Barbara’s.”

 

Mary was taken back by the fact that she had spent this much time with Jimmy without even thinking about the divorce, the kids, or their prior relationship.  It was almost like old times when they were seeing each other.  “My, how much water has gone under the bridge since then,” she thought to herself.

 

But Jimmy did look good.  He seemed healthy, his mind was sharp, and it appeared that his new chosen profession was agreeing with him tremendously.  The kids do get a kick out of seeing him in uniform.  “I just wish that he would not wear that gun when he sees them,” she pondered.

 

Donald paid the check laughing that he was not expecting special treatment from Jimmy if he saw him speeding.  Jimmy in return offered to buy lunch the next time they met.  These were two wonderful men and Mary was glad to have them in her life.

 

Jimmy went back to his office.  He noted the meeting in his log listing ‘hospitals, nursing homes and insurance rates’ as items discussed.  He checked in with the dispatcher and being cleared, Jimmy left for school zone duty.

 

Sheriff Tom Day returned from lunch and looked in on Jimmy’s desk.  “The boy needed a lot of supervision, but he saw potential and wanted to help Jimmy,” he thought. 

 

He checked his log and wondered what he was doing looking into insurance.  Must be personal insurance or could it be insurance for the office?  “I have got to keep that boy from overstepping the boundaries of his responsibilities and insurance was definitely not one of them,” he thought.

 

Sheriff Day had been the sheriff in Walker County for 20 years.  He ran a tight ship and expected his deputies to go over and beyond the call of duty.  He was criticized for making them be in the office on time regardless of the hours they worked every day.

 

What the deputies did not know is that he was putting together a proposal to get the county to approve more deputies and to pay overtime.  He had to have facts if this were to happen.  He did not want to tell them, as they would get excited over the pay issue.

 

Sheriff Day took a lot of good-natured kidding about his size.  He over heard some town folks saying that you would take your life in your hands if you got between him and a Southern Crème donut.

 

He would just laugh and admit, “Just might be true as those donuts were good.”  But the truth of the matter is that he had been diagnosed at with a thyroid problem.  He was told to do his best to keep his weight from climbing too much.  He did his best to control it, but it was a losing battle – especially if the Southern Supreme Donuts were not a thyroid cure.

 

“But what better way to go,” he surmised.  “I might have to start going to the truck stop to weigh though.”

 

The sheriff went back to his office still thinking about the insurance questions on Jimmy’s log.

 

He had just seen Dave Ableson, the agent for FICA.  Dave had not mentioned that there were any new issues over insurance.  He made a mental note to give Dave a call.

 

Entering his office, Sheriff Day reached for the phone.  At that instant, the dispatcher broadcast an accident on I-20 involving an 18-wheeler and two cars with possible injuries.  He put the call to Dave on the back burner.

 

Since every one was assigned school zone duty at this time of the day, he took the call to investigate the accident.  He left right away with sirens blaring to the accident scene.  Texas Department of Public Safety officers were already at the scene when he arrived and had everything under control.  He visited with them for about an hour and left for the office.

 

Arriving back at the office, he logged out and went home.  His wife was surprised to see him so early.  She busied herself getting his dinner while he caught up on the news.  He told her, “I have a meeting tonight with the Kiwanis, but it should not be long.”

 

The sheriff arrived at the meeting with the Kiwanis late and shook hands with those that had already arrived.  He thought, “They never started the meeting on time anyway and it does not hurt to do a little politicking.  You could never shake too many hands for an election.  His office would be included in the upcoming primaries.

 

Across the room, he saw Dave Ableson and remembered he wanted to talk to him about Jimmy’s note.  Working his way around the room, he got to Dave just as the president called the meeting to order.  He would have to wait until the meeting was over.

 

Standard issues came before the Kiwanis – eyeglasses for the needy, the pancake breakfast fundraiser on Saturday morning and their special speaker.  The sheriff thought, “I am going to have to sit through another boring talk about something I have no interest.”

 

The speaker was a representative from the railroad and spoke on railroad safety.  The most emphatic point that he made caused Sheriff Day’s ears to perk.  It had to do with the noise made inside a locomotive when it T-bones an 18-wheeler.  They had put a video camera with audio capability inside as it broadsided the trailer.  All that was heard was a little ‘blip’ in the cab.  “Not lost time after all – this was interesting,” he thought.

 

The representative shared, “The railroads had been having gridlock problems in Ft Worth and were working themselves out of a terrific backlog.”

 

“The president of BNSF was distraught over the gridlock and wanted to throw himself in front of a train, but he could not find one moving,” the representative finished.

 

To Sheriff Day’s surprise – Dave had slipped out of the meeting and was gone.  “Oh well, he would call him the next day,” he planned.  The balance of the week required his attention to matters at hand and he forgot all about checking with Jimmy or Dave regarding the insurance issues.

 

Saturday morning, Sheriff Day went to the pancake breakfast fundraiser.  He worked the crowd shaking hands.  Some of these folks were new to the area and it gave him an opportunity to meet them under circumstances other than through law enforcement.

 

When the sheriff looked over the cooking crew, he saw Dave flipping pancakes.  He ventured out loud, “Dave, you’re quite a chef.”

 

Dave joked, “Sheriff, we need to get you on this side of the table.  You have that side down pretty pat.  We could take a break if you were here cooking.”

 

Sheriff Day, countered, “Yeah, you feed ‘em, get ‘em sick, and then sell insurance to help them with the medical expenses.  Kind of a catch 22  if you ask me.”  The men standing around laughed heartedly as the two men jokingly went after each other.  The sheriff had seemed to get the best of the exchange and they moved on to other issues.

 

The sheriff got a cup of coffee and moved toward the kitchen area.  He remembered the insurance questions and told Dave that he would like to talk to him before he got away.  Dave agreed to meet with him when his replacement came.

 

The sheriff settled in with a plate of pancakes.  He found a table with syrup and butter.  He sat down and began to get real serious about the task at hand.  Most of the time, these pancakes are not as good as he liked, but these were great.

 

As he finished up his plate, Dave came around with two cups of coffee.  “Do you like your coffee black?” he questioned.

 

“Great!  Thanks!  I had a cup, but I could use another one.  By the way, these pancakes are not like the regular pancakes.  They are great,” remarked the sheriff..

 

“We are using a new mix this year and a lot of people have made comments similar to yours,” Dave concluded, “probably we will use this from here on out.”  He added, “It is more expensive, but I think the difference in number of plates will raise more money before it is over.”

 

The sheriff finished up his last bite and sipped his coffee.  Letting out a belch, he said, “Not bad manners, just good food!”

 

Someone shouted from the next table, “We got the seal of approval – the sheriff belched!”  Laughter ensued and subsided almost as quickly as it began.  Everyone had their mouth full of pancakes.

 

“Dave, I wanted to talk to you,” he started.  “Are we doing any restructuring or seeking new quotes on insurance from my office or the county for my office?”

 

“Not that I am aware,” Dave inquired.  “Is there something going on that I am not privy to at the moment?”  He continued, “You know we have been carrying your insurance for at least 10 years and I am not aware of any problems we might have had.”

 

“Well that is why I wanted to talk with you.  One of my deputies had some notes about hospitals, nursing homes, and insurance rates listed on his log.  I thought maybe he might be looking into something that he does not have the authority to change,” Sheriff Day said diplomatically.

 

“You say your deputy had the notes about hospitals, nursing homes and insurance rates listed on the log?” Dave questioned with a startled shock.

 

The sheriff, realizing that Dave might be misreading his statements reassured the agent that nothing is changing.  “It was on his log and I thought I would clear up the issue before it got out of hand,” he replied.

 

“I have not had any discussions with any of your deputies even about any personal insurance apart from the office,” Dave was taken by the remark.

 

“You have got to pay these folks more so they can be properly insured,” stammered Dave.  “Which one of the deputies was it?” he asked, “That is not privileged information is it?  It might be a deputy looking for personal insurance.”

 

Dave realized that the wording of the logs could be troubling and especially if a deputy was looking into it.  He wanted to find out the deputy’s name by making the sheriff think he is interested in getting personal insurance.  “Maybe I can inquire and get some feel as to why these words were used,” thought Dave.

 

The sheriff explained, “Oh, it is a new deputy and I am sure he probably is checking out personal insurance for himself and his family.”  He went on, “He has 3 children, but he and his wife are divorced.  It is Jimmy Nixon.  He has only been with us less than 6 months.  Good man!”

 

Dave thanked him and said that he would contact Jimmy to see if he could help him.  Getting away from the sheriff, he questioned silently, “What is going on here?”

 

“Those issues came up a few years back and it was thought that it was taken care of then.  The previous president was replaced as a result of the memo,” thought Dave.  It did not change any of the policies of the company, but it caused the headquarter office to do a document search to destroy all copies of the memo.

 

Now he had to get involved to see if he is dealing with a copy that might still be out there.  He declared to himself, “Great, if there is one thing I don’t need, it is this!”

 

Rushing back to his office, Dave checked his files to see if he had home phone numbers for any of his office contacts in Ft Worth.  Only those that he worked with on policies were on file in the office.  He was going to need someone much bigger in the company than them.

 

It became apparent that he would have to wait until Monday.  “Can I sit on this until Monday?  What would Ft Worth want me to do?” he questioned silently.

 

“I know.  I will meet with this deputy and see if there is a problem.  I could be overreacting.  Maybe, he is only looking for personal insurance,” Dave deducted.  He called the sheriff’s office and asked for Deputy Nixon.

 

The dispatcher said, “Deputy Nixon was on a call, but was due back soon.  I will give the message and Jimmy will call you back.”

 

Sitting and waiting for someone to call you back is the most agonizing time you can spend  especially when the issue can be as critical as this matter.  He tried reading the paper, but soon lost interest and turned on the radio for the latest news.

 

The office stood still as the phone began to ring.  It seemed the ring was loud enough to burst eardrums throughout the entire county.  Dave ran to the desk nearly knocking the phone off the desk as he picked up the receiver.  “FICA Insurance, Dave Ableson, can I help you,” Dave struggled to contain the emotion in his voice.

 

It was his wife wanting to know when he would be home.  Dave tried to be patient with her and answer her questions, but he needed to keep the phone free.  “It will be awhile, I have got some policies that I need to file on Monday,” he lied, but he felt she would understand if she knew what he was up against.

 

She protested that Dave was due home for a get together that afternoon and he was supposed to cook the steaks on the grill.  Dave almost shouted, “Honey, it will be a little while.  I have got to have this line free.  I love you.”  Dave finished all their conversations with this affirmation.  He heard her still protesting as he hung up.

 

Again, Dave went back to his waiting status for Deputy Nixon to call.  He began to think, “What if he chooses not to call today?  He might have other responsibilities and may go to them without calling today.”

 

Dave sat down and reasoned, “What can be done on Saturday anyway?  Even if I were to find out that they do have a copy of the memo.  What could I do today?”  Dave decided to leave the office and get home to his wife.  He stood up and started toward the door.

 

The phone rang!  He almost jumped out of his skin.  The phone rang again.  Gathering his wits about him, he picked up the receiver.

 

“This is Deputy Nixon, can I help you?” asked Jimmy.

 

Dave stuttered, “Yes, I … uh … wanted to talk … talk … uh … to you.”  He recovered quickly, “My Company writes the insurance for the sheriff’s office not only with the county but for most of the employees.”  He went on, “I ran into Sheriff Tom Day this morning at the Kiwanis pancake breakfast and he told me that you had recently joined the staff.”

 

“That’s right,” replied Jimmy.  “I have been here a little over six months, but I have all the insurance that I need.  My ex-wife has a policy on the kids and I pay her for that. “

 

He added, “The County provides our medical coverage and I have a term life policy for $100,000.  That is the best that I can do right now.”

 

That is not the answer Dave wanted to hear.  But he was at a loss to carry the conversation any further or to get Deputy Nixon to disclose what he might have meant with the words on his log.

 

“Well, I wanted to make sure that you were covered.  If I can help you in the future, give me a chance to quote your coverage,” declared Dave.  “Thank you and have a great day.”

 

Dave hung up the phone and was convinced that they had a problem.  He would call Ft Worth Monday morning and let them handle it from there.



V.  The Help

 

Jimmy knew Judge Myers.  He had been a family friend going back to the boyhood days of his dad.  He and his dad were friends and went to school together.  Jimmy considered him his second dad when his dad passed away.

 

Judge Myers had not been a county judge for 5 years but everyone continued to call him ‘judge’.  His vision was failing him, but he could recognize your voice.  He was agile for his age and could outwork most young men on the ranch.  He was up at the crack of dawn and would work until dark everyday.

 

Jimmy was going to have Sunday afternoon free and thought this would be the perfect time to visit with Judge Myers.  The judge had a beautiful ranch in the country.

 

Judge Myers had a string of palomino horses when he was younger and anyone that wanted a palomino came to him.  His reputation was known far and wide for great horses.  At the Southern Livestock Show in Ft Worth, all the palomino horses in the grand entry are from his string.  Now that he was older, he was not increasing his herd.  Judge Myers stated, “I am going down with the horses I have.  When they are gone, I will be gone also.”

 

Jimmy drove out to the ranch in his patrol car.  As he drove in the yard, he parked by the old oak tree.  It was February, but it could be warm in February in this part of the country.  But you only had to wait a few minute and the weather could change in an instant.

 

Judge Myers was sitting on the veranda as it was called in the old days.  He was sipping a glass of tea and waving his hat to stir the breeze across his face.  The judge was a man who could afford to have whatever he wanted and yet he sat in the middle of the afternoon attempting to keep cool with his hat.

 

Jimmy loved the old man.  His ability to grasp things happening around him had not diminished with his age.    Several times, people thought they could influence his position.   They even tried using his name only to be rebuffed by his candor and demeanor.  You had only to try this once and you were weaned for life from trying it again.

 

Jimmy knew that if there was help for Mary, it would be through Judge Myers.  It is rumored that he can pick up the phone and speak to the president of the United States.

 

And he was a realist.  Only a very few times in his lifetime, did he ever take off on a tangent.  He would know who could help.

 

In his mouth, he had his lower lip full of snuff.  The empty Folgers’s coffee can was the evidence that he had sat there many times ‘dipping snuff’ before.  As he lifted the can to spit, he said with a jovial laugh, “How you doing, Jimmy?  Long time no see.  You are looking good in that uniform.  Sheriff treating you right?”

 

“No complaints,” answered Jimmy as he drew up and sat on the steps of the porch in front of Judge Myers.  He continued, “He is a good man and takes care of his people.”

 

“Well, it was my pleasure to recommend you to him,” remarked Judge Myers.  “Your dad and I went back a long way and anything that I could do to help, I wanted to do that,” he concluded.

 

“I am in your debt for helping me, especially, with my past history,” Jimmy declared.  “You are a good friend and I count it as an honor to be in your debt.  Anything that I can do to help you, please call me.”

 

Jimmy meant every word, as he knew that the town’s people would not have let him be a deputy had Judge Myers not gone to bat for him.  Many took the sheriff to task over the Jimmy’s appointment.  Jimmy thought, ”The judge had dictated the hiring.”   Sheriff Day took the heat without ever mentioning Judge Myers’ name.

 

“Well, my boy, I am not naïve in my old age.  You did not come all the way out here to tell me what a good man I am,” exclaimed the judge.  “What’s on your mind?” Judge Myers inquired to get to the nitty-gritty of the meeting.  “Your call was a bit of a surprise to me.”

 

Jimmy started, “Judge Myers, I have a copy of a memo that I want you to read.  Mary Francis, my ex-wife, found this in her Mother’s papers and is quite concerned about it.”

 

“Donald Jensen, the new pastor of the First Baptist Church, and I met with Mary the other day,” said Jimmy.  “It appears that this could be a problem if the right people were to see it,” he stated as he handed the memo to the judge.

 

The judge took the memo and leaned back in his wooden rocker.  Pulling his glasses from his shirt pocket, he began to read silently.  As he read, his brow began to tighten and the usual red complexion was draining from his face.  Finishing, he laid the copy of the memo in his lap and looked out over the fields.

 

His horses were running across the meadow toward the stables.  It was getting late and it would be time to feed them.  It started getting dark a little after 5:00.  “Nothing could be prettier than horses running free with their manes blowing in the wind,” the judge pondered.

 

Wanting Judge Myers to comment regarding the memo, Jimmy began to fidget as he sat on the steps of the porch.  The judge was through reading and surely the old man had an opinion.  Jimmy had noticed the change in his facial expression and thought, “We are headed for something, I just wonder what?  But instead … nothing, as the judge continued to peer toward the meadows.”

 

Jimmy started to speak as the judge reached for his coffee can and spit.  Placing the can back on the floor, the judge leaned back in the rocker and said, “Jimmy, you’re right.”  He surmised, “In the wrong hands, this could be a bombshell.”

 

He continued, “Hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, nursing homes, and local medical facilities all have a responsibility to provide the best available service at the best cost.”  Judge Myers rocked forward and looked Jimmy in the eyes.

 

He declared, “We have regulatory agencies who have a certain amount of oversight over these facilities, however, at best they only ‘rubber stamp’ them.  They are at the same mercy everyone else is.   Who understands how much anything medically should cost?” he asked without expecting an answer.

 

“When you are sick and especially with a life threatening situation,” the judge declared, “you want the best that is available to help you.  Do you ask what it cost?” he asked rhetorically.

 

“Oh, some of it is elective such as gastric by-pass operations, but for the most part you want them to get it and you do not ask how much it costs,” explained Judge Myers.  “They in turn have a public trust responsibility to provide you the best care available,” Judge Myers was on a roll.

 

He remarked, “Costs are determined in some cases by the insurance companies who have studied the procedures.  We are at their mercy when it comes to billing for the services rendered.”

 

“Can you read a hospital bill?” the judge asked without wanting an answer.

 

Getting back to the memo, Judge Myers said, “The memo tells me that a group of executives got together and are guilty of violating the public trust for gain whether personal or corporate.”

 

Legally speaking, the judge said, “To that could be added a litany of charges such as wire fraud, mail fraud, possible racketeering and probably money laundering.  Who knows what else would be added?”

 

He concluded, “In a nutshell, yes, in the wrong hands, this could be a bombshell that is going to indict the entire industry!”

 

“How many people did you say are involved in this?” the judge asked but before Jimmy could answer, he demanded, “What do ya’ll want to do with this?”

 

“There is Donald, the pastor of the First Baptist Church, me, and Mary.  That is all that all I know about.  And it will be Mary’s call,” continued Jimmy, “The memo was found in her Mother’s effects and she will have the final decision.”  Jimmy added, “I will say that from talking with her, she is going to want to get it to people who can help make things right,” affirmed Jimmy.  “Is that possible?”

 

“Sure that’s possible, but ya’ll need to understand the consequences,” countered Judge Myers.  He explained, “This is not going to be received well by those whose name appear on the memo and even more so, the company on the letterhead.  They are not a small company who has just acted alone,” remarked Judge Myers.

 

“Their position in the industry is far reaching not to mention their investments in other markets,” explained the judge.  “Needless, to say, Jimmy, all of you are going to be at great risk.  They are going to come after you in everyway they can.”

 

The judge commented, “It could be brutal.  You will get hit where you least expect and you may not survive, Jimmy.  Are ya ‘ll prepared for that?”

 

Now it was Jimmy’s time to reflect on what he had just heard.  “I had not thought about what could happen to me or even to Donald … , but Mary?  There were their children to consider,” he thought.  “I certainly do not want to see anything happen to them or to Mary.”

 

Jimmy experienced a momentary panic thinking that the children might lose their Mother, “She was their mother and they were going to need her even more as they got older.”

 

“Donald was the pastor of the First Baptist Church.  What could they do to him?” thought Jimmy.  “Probably his pulpit would shield him.   He had a great number of folks in the church that would stand by him regardless of what happens,” considered Jimmy.

 

“What am I thinking?  What’s going to happen … what could happen period?” his mind raced with the possibilities.  “Would they actually send people to discredit them?  More than likely, they will try to buy off Mary!” he concluded as he stood up from the steps.

 

“Judge Myers, you have given me a lot to think about.  We were taught at the academy about dirty tricks.  But I have not thought this through all the way,” Jimmy concluded with a concerned voice.

 

He continued, “I need to get back with Mary and Donald and see what they want to do.  Can all of us meet with you if she wants to go further?” he questioned.

 

“Sure, my boy, you feel free to come to me anytime.  And bring your friends with you,” answered the judge.  “I can call a young senator in North Carolina who has been making a name for himself working with matters such as this.”

 

“He is currently working the EquiGas scandal in Louisiana,” concluded the judge.  “He has a staff that knows how to get to the very core of the matter quickly.”  He stated as he handed the memo back to Jimmy.

 

“I can’t thank you enough for seeing me, Judge,” said Jimmy, “My dad always said that you were a wise man who knew how to cut to the chase.”

 

The judge reaching for his coffee can began to empty the snuff from his mouth.  He used a kitchen match, which he fashioned into a brush by chewing the end.  He brushed between his lower lip and his gums with the match to get the snuff from the lower areas and replied, “You come back anytime!”

 

“I got to go feed my horses.”  Grabbing his glass of tea, he took a big swallow to rinse his mouth.  Spitting off the side of the porch, the judge lumbered toward the stables.

 

Jimmy returned to his car.    He thought, “I hope I can get around as good as he does when I get to be his age.  Come to think of it, I would like to make it to his age.” Jimmy got into his car and started the engine.

 

His thoughts were returning to the concerns of the meeting.  “I have got to figure a way to log this visit for the office.”  Jimmy had yet another concern,” This thing could get out of hand if I put down exactly what I am doing and I do not want to hurt Mary before she determines what she wants to do.”

 

Jimmy mulled over his options as he turned the car into the road leading back toward town.

                                                                                                   

Dave Ableson was up early Monday morning.  He could not wait to report the comments from Sheriff Day to John Goodman, Chief Operations Officer for FICA.  He gobbled down his oatmeal barely able to control himself as he ate.  Grabbing a cup of coffee and kissing his wife, Carol, he rushed out to his car. 

 

Carol Ableson had lived in Adobe for most of her life.  She had come as a small girl from Weatherville with her parents and after school she had remained.  She met Dave when he came to town to take over the insurance office for Fidelity and they had fallen in love.

 

Dave and Carol had wanted children, but it had not been possible.  As a young girl, she had fallen from a horse and ruptured her spleen.  It had been touch and go for a few weeks, but she recovered, however, it affected her reproductive organs.  They had recently been thinking about adopting.

 

Carol wondered what was bothering Dave.  He had been unusually quiet since coming home last Saturday from the pancake breakfast.  “And this morning, he was really on edge as he prepared to go to the office.”  She silently considered, “I will be here when Dave wants to open up.  Communication has never been a problem and I am sure he will talk when he wants to.”

 

Arriving at the office, Dave pulled his car into his designated parking space.  “Having a designated parking space in a small town is unnecessary, but it was there when he came and he never changed it,” Dave thought as he turned the engine off.

 

“I really need to think this through before I call in this morning,” he began to consider his options as he took a moment before getting out of the car.  “There is no question that I need to report what I have heard.  The office can then decide if there is something to worry about or not,” he concluded.

 

“You going to sit in your car all morning or you going to get out,” shouted Paul Lucket through the window.

 

Startled from his thoughts, Dave recovered, “Paul Lucket, I was just going over some things I need to do today.  Sometimes, the quietness helps me to think clearly.”  He continued, “What brings you out so early in the morning?  What can I do for you?”

 

“My wife insists that I buy a new car and before I go down to Clements, I wanted to see what I had to do to get my insurance changed over?” Paul questioned.

 

“No problem at all.  Be glad to help you.  Just have Carl give me a call and I will get the VIN number with the rest of the information from him,” explained Dave.  “You will be covered from the moment you drive out of the dealership.  We will send the revised policy to you though the mail.”

 

“Don’t tell me you are going to finally turn lose of some of your money and buy a new car?” laughed Dave.  “How old is the car you have now – ten years?” he continued as he waved to Deputy Nixon as he drove by.

 

“Ten years – well I guess come to think of it – ten years it is,” Paul reflected on the age of his car.  He said, “That has been a fine car and if it was not for my wife, I would just keep fixing it up and driving it, but you know women.”

 

Dave replied, “Paul, with your retirement income, your social security along with your investments, there is no reason for you not to have a new car.”

 

Paul guffawed, “You are starting to sound like my wife now.  I better get there before they sell all their cars.  My wife would never forgive me if I came back and told her they were sold out,” chuckling as if he could get away with it.  I will be dealing with Carl, so I will have him give you a call if I buy a car.  Thanks!” exclaimed Paul.

 

“Not ‘if’, Paul, ‘when’.  You have a great day,” countered Dave as he reached for the keys to open the office door.

 

Entering the office, the mail was on the floor from Saturday.  He had a mail slot in the door and the postman would just drop the mail through the opening.  Folks would even come by when he was not there and put their premiums through the mail slot.  Some mornings, money would be scattered all over the office floor.

 

The mail contained a couple of payments.  Only in a small town could you pay your premiums with just a rubber band and your name around the money.  Dave tried to discourage the practice as anyone could break into the office.  The money would be gone and he would not have a clue as to who left it or if it was even left.

 

“But try and get folks to do something new,” Dave lamented.  Laying the mail and the money on his desk, he went to refresh his coffee in the back lounge.

 

Beverly Rush, his secretary, always made the coffee when she came by on her way to visit her mother in the nursing home.  It was perked by the time he walked into the office.

 

Pouring his coffee, he again went back to his desk.  “The time has come, I must call Ft Worth,” he decided as he bolstered up his courage.  For once, he was glad that Beverly was not in the office just yet.  She always had errands to run in the morning for her mother who was still living at home.

 

Beverly and her husband had wanted to place her mother in a nursing home, but they could not afford it.  One of the stipulations to her coming to work in the office was that she be allowed to see her mother the first thing every morning.

 

Pushing the speed button on his phone, he thought, “If this turns into a fiasco, I do not want to be part of it.”

 

Two years ago when this came to light, it stayed internal and the biggest fall-out was the loss of the former president.  If this gets out now, what could happen in the public forum?” troubled Dave.

 

The phone was ringing.  A recorded message came over the line, “Our offices will be closed in observance of President’s Day.”  The pleasant voice continued, “If this is an emergency, you are instructed to call you agent.  We will resume our regular hours tomorrow.”

 

“Oh great, I had forgotten all about President’s Day,” recalled Dave.  “What does President’s Day have to do with insurance?  I will have to wait until tomorrow to report.  This is just great,” he muttered to himself.

 

Beverly came in with her usual greeting, “Good morning, boss.  How was your weekend?” she asked.

 

Beverly was a cheerful person.  Dave had considered her as the reason FICA had been successful in Adobe.  She was a jovial person and knew everyone in the county.

 

“Great weekend!  We had a good turn out for the pancake breakfast and as far as I know, we should have raised a lot of money.  Your weekend great,” Dave countered?

 

Beverly started, “You will never guess.  We had to take Mother to the emergency room Saturday night.  She was having difficulty breathing.  They kept her overnight and we took her home Sunday afternoon.”  She continued, “I stayed with her and needless to say, I did not make it to church on Sunday.”

 

“How is she doing this morning?” questioned Dave.

 

Beverly’s mother was 85 and seemingly in good health.  For her to have to be taken to a hospital, she must have been in bad shape.  “Oh, she is doing well now.  Her bank account took a hit though.  They charge an arm and a leg at the hospital now,” reported Beverly.

 

“For just the one night stay and I really did not see anything they did – there were no tests; procedures; or x-rays to my knowledge,” Beverly was livid.  “And I was with her all the time – it cost $1500,” she declared.  “That has got to be highway robbery.”

 

Dave agreed, “Yeah, it seems to be getting out of hand.  I did talk with Alex Smith, the administrator of the hospital, the other day, and he said that they were encountering new and added costs every day,” he commented.

 

“Not to mention, what they have to pay for malpractice insurance today,” Dave rationalized.  “There is still the debate in the state legislature about tort reform trying to set the amounts that folks can actually sue.”

 

Beverly answered, “You know who wins in these cases – lawyers!”

 

Dave insisted, “And you have lawyers in the legislature setting amounts for lawyers so you know where that is going.”

 

Dave thought about being a lawyer at one time when he was in school at Texas.  Had he had the money to go to school for an additional 2 – 3 years to get a law degree, he might have.  But his father became ill and he had to take the quick way out so that he could get a job.  He chose a business degree instead.

 

“I put some money on your desk that was left over the weekend for policy premiums,” remarked Dave.  “Go ahead and make up a deposit slip referencing the policies, and then prepare a check for Ft Worth to cover the amount,” Dave instructed.

 

“You will not be able to deposit it in the bank today as they are closed for President’s Day, but go ahead and mail the check to Ft Worth.”  Thinking out loud, Dave concluded, “These folks have got to understand one of these days not to leave cash money like this.”

 

He exclaimed, “It is a good thing we are trustworthy, but even more so, that we did not have a break-in over the weekend and someone steal the money. There would be no way to trace it or even to know who left it.”

 

Beverly said, “I agree.  I have written those who do it notes several times and they still do it.”

 

“I am going to be out of the office today.  The wife wants to go to Ft Worth shopping and for lunch.  By the way, Paul Lucket is supposedly trying to buy a new car today,” chuckled Dave.  “Can you imagine what a day the salesman that is going to have to work with him will be like?”

 

Realizing that very little would be going on and since Beverly was already tired, Dave told her, “Hang around till lunch and then close the office for the rest of the day.”

 

He left the office forgetting for the moment the urgency he had felt all weekend.

 

Monday morning, Jimmy checked in with the office by radio from his patrol car.  He was clear so he volunteered to go by and pick up donuts for the office.  Sheriff Day shouted in the background, “Tell him to get some of the Southern Crème glazed plain donuts.  That jelly gets all over me!”

 

Jimmy responded, “I heard him and will take care of it.” 

 

Sheriff Day was not a person to deal with until he had his morning sugar fix.  The first deputy to check in automatically is cleared just so he could get the donuts.

 

Jimmy turned onto Main Street, passing the FICA insurance office and headed toward the donut shop.  “Dave Ableson and Paul Lucket were already talking, but then Paul is always talking,” thought Jimmy.

 

He waved to Dave and Paul as he passed the office wondering to himself, “If this thing with Mary is true, how will this affect all the people who have FICA policies?”

 

Jimmy reached for his cell phone to call the First Baptist Church.  “Allison, this is Deputy Nixon, I need to talk to Donald Jenson please?” he inquired as the secretary answered.

 

Jimmy just could not bring himself to refer to Donald as ‘Pastor Jenson’.  It all seemed strange yet conflictingly great.  Donald could be his spiritual resource.  “God knows,” contemplated Jimmy, “I need a good influence.”

 

Donald came on the line, “Jimmy, good to hear from you.  Having to work on a holiday, huh?”

 

”Yeah, you know crime does not take holidays.  I guess Satan works on holidays also causing you to work too, huh?” countered Jimmy.

 

“You better know it.  He’s double time all the time.  What’s up with you?” asked Donald.

 

Jimmy began, “I met with Judge Myers yesterday afternoon concerning the memo that Mary has.”  He added, “I think that you, Mary and I need to meet with him as soon as possible.  He said we could come out any time.  Think Mary might be available this afternoon?” Jimmy wondered, “This being a holiday, she is probably not in school today.”

 

Donald replied, “I see no problem with that, I can call her or you can if you want to make sure.”

 

He added, “What do you think that Judge Myers can do?”

 

Jimmy answered back, “We will see when we meet with him.  He does have some ideas, but it depends on Mary and I feel he needs to lay it out for her.”

 

Donald agreed, “Great, I agree with you.  Judge Myers is a good man and you could not have chosen a better person to seek advice.”

 

“Want me to call Mary?” asked Donald.

 

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.  I am trying to keep my phone activity as clear as possible to avoid any questions about this,” said Jimmy.  He pulled into the Southern Crème Donut Shop.

 

He continued, “I saw Dave Abelson going into his office a few minutes ago and it is difficult to be yourself knowing how this thing could blow up.”

 

Donald expressed his concern, “I know what you mean.  I had to get in the pulpit yesterday.”  He remarked, “Seeing people who might be affected by this and just having it in the back of my mind was a problem.”

 

He finished, “I will call Mary and get back with you.  Around 2:00 this afternoon OK with you to get together to go out to Judge Myers’ ranch?”

 

“Fine, catch you later,” Jimmy hung up the phone and turned to place his order for the donuts.

 

Donald hung up the phone and went in to talk to his secretary, “Allison, I am going to need to keep the afternoon free.  This being a holiday, I want you to leave at noon and take the rest of the afternoon off as well,” he instructed.

 

Donald finished, “There will not be very much going on and you have all the entries made in the computer for yesterday’s service completed anyway.”

 

Allison thanked him.

 

He went back into his office to call Mary.  “Normally he would have Allison place calls for him, but his one, he wanted to keep to himself,” assessed Donald.

 

Pulling out the page with Mary’s number on it from his desk drawer, he dialed her number.  “Mary, this is Donald.   How are you doing today?” he asked as she answered the phone.

 

“Great, I finally got a little rest over the weekend.  I feel much better today, thank you!” said Mary.  “Did not think,” she added, “that I would hear from you this quick.  Does this mean that Jimmy found someone?” Mary asked puzzled.

 

Donald responded, “Possibly.  Jimmy met with Judge Myers yesterday afternoon.  He feels that the judge can help you and that all of us need to meet with him this afternoon if you are available,” Donald remarked.  “He said that around 2:00 this afternoon is OK with him if you are available?”

 

Mary relieved that something was happening was glad to set the meeting.  “I will bring the children.  They love to go out to the judge’s ranch and he always seems to enjoy them,” Mary answered.

 

“Plus,” she added, “It will give Jimmy a chance to see the kids.”

 

Donald exclaimed, “Great, come by the church and I will tell Jimmy to meet us here at 2:00.  We have a church van that all of us can get in comfortably.  That way, we will have to take only one vehicle.  See you then Mary and try not to worry!”

 

“I will and thanks again for all your help,” concluded Mary.

 

Donald then called Jimmy’s cell phone.

 

“Deputy Nixon here, can I help you?” came the response as Jimmy answered the phone.  He did not recognize the number on the phone ID and thought, “I better keep this official until I know.”

 

“Jimmy, this is Donald.  I used your cell phone, as I knew you wanted to keep calls to the office to a minimum.  Mary is a go for this afternoon.  We will be at the church at 2:00 and go in the church van so we can only take one vehicle,” planned Donald.

 

Jimmy countered, “That is fine for you and Mary, but I need to stay with the car in the event there is a sudden surge of crime.”  He laughed, “I am always on call you know.  Can be a curse at times, but I asked for this.  I will meet you at 2:00 at the church and I will follow you.”

 

“Oh, I forgot about you needing to be with your horse,” Donald laughed.  “I do understand.”  He added, “By the way, Mary is bringing the kids.  She said that the judge loves for them to come out when they can and you will be able to see them as well.”

 

Jimmy was moved and his heart skipped a beat at the thought of seeing his children, exclaimed, “Fantastic, I look forward to seeing them.”

 

“Since I have already talked with judge about the memo, I might show them around while you and Mary talk to him.” Jimmy remarked, “I will be there when we all decide what is going to happen.  See you at 2:00.”

 

“Great, see you then,” responded Donald as he hung up the phone.  He would need to stop by his house and change clothes.  Taking the rest of the afternoon off did not require that he be in a tie.  “And,” if he remembered correctly, “the judge liked everyone in more casual attire instead of coming out in ties anyway.”

 

Donald decided that now would be a great time for him to have to his prayer time.  Issues like this needed Divine guidance.  He often wondered, “How do people without God get by without having a Heavenly Father to call on in times of need?”

 

He went into the sanctuary and sat down on one of the pews.  He loved to do this, as it was quiet and tranquil.

 

Jimmy looked at his cell phone numbers and selected the judge’s number pushing the call button.  No sooner than the phone started ringing, came a gruffly stiff voice, “Judge Myers, you important?”

 

Jimmy chuckled at the response and stated, “It’s me, Jimmy, and you better believe I am important.”

 

The judge giggled like a small child who had just been caught in the cookie jar, “I knew it, my phone ID told me who you were, but it did not tell me if you were important.”

 

“Mary, Donald and I would like to come out this afternoon.  Are you going to be home?” requested Jimmy.

 

 “Sure, I am going to be home.  Where do I have to go?  Ya’ll come out anytime.  I will be on the porch so wake me up if I am asleep,” answered back the judge.

 

“Will do — thanks!  By the way, Mary is bringing the kids.  I will show them around while ya’ll talk,” Jimmy added.

 

“Bringing the kids – Great!  I haven’t seen them in awhile.  They are probably grown by now,” excited with the prospect of seeing Mary and the children again, stated the judge.

 

Jimmy exclaimed, “Yeah, they are 3 to 5 going on 21.  See you then, judge, and thanks again.”

 

Since Jimmy was not going to be riding with them, Donald decided to take his SUV.  It would be less conspicuous than having the church van sitting at the ranch.

 

He got to the church a little before 2:00 and thought better of opening the church.  Having the church locked always seemed like an enigma.  “The very place people should be able to go for help, should never be locked,” he contemplated.

 

“But with our society as it is today, you have to keep the doors locked when no one is there” Donald rationalized.  He made a mental note to explore the concept of having a prayer room that could be open all the time.

 

Mary drove in with Jimmy right behind her in his patrol car.  As soon as they were on the church driveway, Jimmy turned on his whirly-bird lights.  Mary parked and got out with an expression of shock on her face until she realized that Jimmy was playing with her.  The kids went wild over the flashing lights.

 

Mark was the first to jump out of the car followed by Cathy and Robby.  Cathy and Mark ran to Jimmy each grabbing a leg while Jimmy picked up Robby hugging him and laughing wildly.

 

They loved their dad and missed him terribly.  Mary watched with admiration.  Donald enjoyed seeing children happy.  “Certainly these children were happy even though they were part of our societal plague of divorce,” he silently bemused.  “Hey, you guys ready to have a fun afternoon at a ranch?” Donald asked.

 

Screaming wildly and shouting in unison, the children exclaimed, “Yes, yes, yes!”

 

“We are going in my SUV and your dad is coming in his patrol car.  He is on duty.  You kids come on, we are going to have to get you belted in,” declared Donald.

 

Jimmy said, “Let’s go kids, into the back seat.”  He opened the driver’s side rear door of the SUV and began directing the children into their seats.

 

Mary went to the other side of the SUV and opened the back door to help with the buckling of the children.

 

Jimmy said, “Mary, I am going to show the children around the ranch while ya’ll talk.  I talked to the judge the other day and I know basically what he is going to say.  This will give you and Donald an opportunity to talk without any distractions from the kids.”  He continued, “I do want you to know that I support you in any decision you make.”

 

“Thank you, Jimmy,” an appreciative Mary said and continued, “You have been great through this.”

 

 “OK, let’s get this show on the road,” interrupted Donald as he climbed into the driver’s seat.  “We might even stop for pizza on the way back,” he exclaimed as the children shouted out their approval.

 

“Donald, I will go on out so that it will not look as if I am running escort or following you,” explained Jimmy.  He finished, “I’ll be there when you get there!”

 

Jimmy got into his patrol car and drove out of the parking lot toward the judge’s ranch.  Donald pulled the SUV out of the parking lot and eased into the flow of traffic.

 

Surely this was a definitive moment in all of their lives as they headed toward the ranch.

 

Jimmy arrived at the judge’s ranch first and pulled as he normally does under the old oak tree.  It was rumored that the old oak tree was over a 100 years old.

 

Just as expected the judge was sitting on the porch and although he could not tell for sure, it seemed that he was asleep.  Jimmy decided that it would be better if he waited for Donald, Mary and the kids before he awakened the judge.

 

It was a quite afternoon.  It was almost too quiet.  It was eerie.  Something like the calm before the storm.  There was a slight breeze coming across the meadows and the temperature was in the mid 60s.  The tops of the new budding trees moved back and forth with the wind.  The horses were casually grazing with the colts running around enjoying themselves.  They did not have a care in the world.

 

Donald drove up and parked near Jimmy’s patrol car under the oak tree.  The kids were overjoyed.  They could not wait to get out as they pulled at their seat belts.

 

Jimmy opened the driver’s side rear door and unbuckled Mark and Cathy, while Mary released Robby on her side.  They came screaming out of the SUV.  If the judge was asleep, the gleeful shouting of the children would have awakened him.   Sure enough, he stood up and started coming out to greet them.

 

The judge reached Mark first.  He gave him a hug, then grabbed Cathy and Robby.  As the judge turned, he saw Mary and grabbed her in his robust arms of steel.  He was showing wear and tear with age, but his spirit and demeanor was a perfect cover.

 

“Mary, I did not get to speak to you at the memorial service for your Mother, but I wanted you to know that I am here for you,” spoke the judge.  “Your kids look great.  Let them just have the run of the place.  It will take all of that energy out of them.”

 

“Thank you, Judge Myers,” stammered Mary moved by his compassion.  “I knew you were there for Mother and I knew that I could count on you.”

 

“Come on kids, I want to show you a brand new baby colt,” declared Jimmy as he gathered up the children and headed them toward the barn.  They were running back and forth, around and around, with Jimmy moving as the center of attraction for them.

 

Judge Myers invited them up to his house, “Donald, you and Mary come up to the front porch.  It is cool up there with the breeze from the meadow.”  He led them to the porch pointing to a chair for Mary.

 

His ranch house was a stately mansion.  Though large and dignified, it had modest furniture.  It was unyielding in its functional ability.  There were two pillars of stone beside the concrete steps leading up to the porch.  Donald chose to sit on one of the pillars in front of them.

 

The judge shouted inside, “Rosita, bring everybody a glass of tea.”  Rosita quietly emerged from the house with several glasses filled with ice and a pitcher of tea.  She gave each one a glass.  Filling the glasses from the pitcher with the elegance of one much younger in age, Rosita disappeared as she had appeared back into the house.

 

“She has been with me for years,” explained the judge.  “This place would not run if she was not here overseeing the house and especially the kitchen.  Ever since my wife died 20 years ago, she has taken over.  No one can match her work,” bemoaned the judge with a slight acknowledgment of his sensitive side at the mention of his wife.

 

“How old would you guess that she is?” he recovered and stammered.

 

Mary ventured a guess that she might be in her late 60s while Donald guessed maybe the early 70s.

 

Judge Myers declared, “You are both wrong.  She is 82 years of age and going strong like a 20 year old.”

 

“Wow, that is unreal,” exclaimed Mary.  “With my three children, I sometimes feel like I am already 80 myself,” Mary laughed.

 

“I just want to reach 80 – period,” chuckled Donald.

 

“Donald, I understand that you are the new pastor at the First Baptist Church.  You going to be able to keep those Baptist from fighting each other?” asked the judge.

 

Donald chuckled, “Well, you know Baptists, judge, you put twelve of them in a room and you will have thirteen opinions.”  He continued, “They are good people and they want good things for the community.  It’s going to be an interesting work.”

 

The judge cut to the nitty-gritty of why Mary and Donald had come.  “I understand you have discovered a troublesome memo in your Mother’s effects.  Jimmy showed me a copy and I have to admit that in the wrong hands, it could present some major problems for an industry that enjoys public trust.”

 

“That is my understanding, Judge Myers,” responded Mary.  “What I want to know is there something that I should do with it?” she asked.

 

Mary knew that her Mother had always wanted to see the insurance industry own up to its inadequacies.  Insurance in general is good.  A lot of people could not afford health care were it not for insurance.  But something is wrong when good gets out of hand and becomes the cart that runs the horse.

 

The judge asked, “Mary, what do you want to do with it?”

 

Sitting silently for what seemed an infinity, Mary said, “Judge, as you know, what happened to my mom leaves me in a quandary regarding her memory.  My Mother was a good woman,” she continued, “she was a good wife and Mother and worked diligently for this community – for the good of all.”

 

“Now her legacy is wrapped up in this scandal involving a person of little character and she will be remembered for that,” she remarked.  “I want her death to say something.  I want her life to mean something.  She is still my Mom and I love her!”

 

“Is that wrong?” she asked.

 

“No, not at all.  I think that is a most honorable reason for you to do what ever you want to do,” exclaimed the judge.  “Does this mean that you want to go public with the memo?”

 

“Yes … yes … yes … that is what I want to do,” gulping Mary spoke.

 

Donald interrupted, “Judge, I understand this could get dangerous.  We will have to consider all the consequences.”  He asked, “What light can you shed about what could come from this?”

 

The judge looked intently into the eyes of Mary and then turned to Donald, “Donald, Mary, first, this could be bigger than the EquiGas scandal.” 

 

He continued, “You know what the EquiGas whistleblowers are going through publicly now.  What you do not know is what happened before the story broke.  There is no telling what the ‘higher ups’ did when they first found out it could break,” he commented.

 

“You know they did everything in their power to keep it private including persecuting those at the whistle blowing end,” explained the judge.  He went on without stopping, “Their families were harassed.  Their credibility was brought into question.  I am sure that at times, they wished that they had kept silent.”

 

The judge contemplated out loud, “For the sake of the public, I am glad they had the fortitude to do what they did.  We needed to know what the leaders of the industry were doing and how they were lining their pockets with people’s hard earned money.”

 

“Especially how they were hurting their employees though their retirement funds,” the judge explained.  “That is what happens when people believe they are above the law and that they can not be held accountable.”

 

He added, “I am glad to see that our law makers are changing the way our corporate executives will be held accountable to the law as well as to the general public.  It gives the general public a position in the equation again,” Judge Myers ended.

 

“Back to you,” said an unrelenting judge, “Is this what you want?  First, as I said, you have to understand how big this might be and second, you have responsibilities.”  He warned, “Mary you have children.  Donald, you pastor a church.  Jimmy is a new deputy.  All of you can find yourselves at risk.”

 

“If, and I say ‘if’ at this point, I want to go further with this, how would you suggest that we do it?” questioned Mary.

 

The judge remarked, “I have a friend – Senator Grey, in North Carolina.  He is the senator that you have seen in the news heading up the committee investigating the EquiGas scandal.  I would get it to him with an explanation detailing how you came to possess the memo and your concerns about it,” explained the judge.

 

The judge continued, “Then let Grey run with it.  Assuming he wants to investigate, he might want you to appear before a senate committee or subcommittee.”

 

“But he is the man I would get it to and I would personally deliver it to him.  I could call and get you an appointment to see him,” added Judge Myers.  “You would see him and not one of his staff which is important at this point,” assuming you want to do this,” exclaimed the judge.

 

“Let us talk about this together.  We will get back with you when we make a decision.  You have been a great help,” concluded Mary.  “Not necessarily a comforting help,” she thought, “but at least he did give her a perspective with a plan if she wanted to move forward.”

 

Jimmy came literally running with the kids up to the porch.  The children were shouting with glee over having seen the new baby colt and getting to pet him.  Mark was excited over getting to sit on the tractor in the barn.

 

Jimmy, seeing the serious countenance on their faces, shouted to the children, “You want to go see the fish in the stock pond?”  He added, “I understand you can throw dog food into the water and the catfish will come to the surface to get it.”

 

“Hey, let’s all go,” exclaimed Donald as he looked to Mary for approval.

 

Nodding her head, Mary was relieved by the levity of getting to see the fish.

 

The judge stated, “Ya’ll go.  I have to go to the bathroom.  This tea has gotten the best of me.  You can come in if you need.  We have a guest bathroom.”  He added, “Or there are rest rooms down by the barn.”  The judge gestured with his arm toward the barns.  “I will see ya’ll when you get back.”  The judge got up and went inside the house calling for Rosita to come get the tea glasses.

 

Jimmy, Mary and Donald walked with the children toward the barn.  The boys were jumping and running the chickens as they went.  Robby was trying to catch a chicken while Cathy, who was afraid of them, was clinging to her Mother’s hand.  Mark was happy to just chase the chickens.

 

“We have gotten our plate filled this afternoon,” started Donald as they reached the barn.

 

The stock pond was another 50 yards behind the barn.  The kids had now turned their attention from the chickens to the expectation of seeing fish.

 

Jimmy stopped at the barn and picked up a pail of dog food.  “What decision did you make?” he asked wanting to know what had transpired in his absence.

 

“Nothing yet, Jimmy,” remarked Donald.  “He gave us the option to disclose the memo and the best way of doing it through Senator Grey in North Carolina,” he added.

 

Mary said, “Jimmy, we need to all discuss this.”  She was concerned and said, “It seems I have gotten both of you involved.  I am not going forward unless you both agree that we should.  I am not going to put you in the middle without you wanting to be there,” she concluded.

 

“Mary, my new profession demands that if something smells fishy, then there are bound to be fish in the area,” declared Jimmy.  “And if I am a fisherman in the sense of the law, then I have a duty to go fishing,” he explained.

 

“I, likewise, am a searcher for the truth in my profession and I have found that the truth will set you free,” added Donald.  Seems there is a verse of Scripture that says that,” he exclaimed.  “But don’t worry about me.  You and Jimmy have a responsibility that I do not have.  You have children.”

 

“What can happen?  Did Judge Myers go into detail about that?” questioned Jimmy.

 

“Well, he said there could be a certain amount of risk,” said Mary.  “He said the whistleblowers at EquiGas faced all kinds of persecutions before the story broke,” she explained.

 

“He feels that we could face the same type of persecution if word gets out,” she exclaimed.

 

Donald reasoned, “Let’s sleep on it.  Can we meet tomorrow at the church to go over our options?  Mary, can you come back then?” he questioned.

 

“Yes, but can we make it after hours – like about 5:00.  I need to pick up the children and get someone to keep them,” asked Mary.  She felt that Todd and Jamie could help without any problems.

 

“Fine with me,” responded Jimmy, “I will be off work at that time and maybe we can all go out to eat again.”  He chuckled, “’Partners in crime’ need to eat too, you know.”

 

Donald finalized the plan with, “OK by me.  I will see you then – tomorrow at 5:00.  We will have the church to ourselves since choir does not start until 7:00.  Then we can go to the Biscuit Barrel for dinner.  I ate there last week and it was great,” said Donald.

 

Arriving at the stock pond, Jimmy began to toss in some of the dog food.  Within seconds, large catfish were coming to the surface to grab the morsels of food.  The kids shouted and pointed each time a fish went for the dog food.  They could have stayed there until dark and the fish would have kept coming.

 

The kids ran back to the car with Jimmy, Donald and Mary trying to keep up.  They said their goodbyes to the judge and the children gave him a big hug thanking him for letting them come out.

 

The sun began setting in the west as they drove back to town.  The kids fell asleep in the back of the car.



VI.  The Disclosure

 

 

Dave drove into Southern Supreme Donuts prior to going to the office.  Tuesday was donut morning.  Eating donuts every morning would add at least 10 pounds each week, so he set Tuesday morning as the only morning to have donuts.

 

He noticed Sheriff Day driving out as he drove in.  Must be his morning to get the donuts for his office.  You could always count on someone from the sheriff’s office being at Southern Crème every morning.  “How do those guys do it?  Maybe you have to have a certain metabolism to be a law enforcement officer,” he reasoned.

 

Ordering a dozen glazed donuts, he turned his car toward the office.  Beverly was not in yet and it would give him time to call Ft Worth before she arrived.

 

It would better to report his information to the office in Ft Worth in private.  He put the donuts on the counter by the coffee.  Beverly had come in early and made the coffee. He got two donuts and a cup of coffee and he returned to his desk.

 

As he sat down, he pushed the speed button on his phone for the Ft Worth office.  He heard the familiar buzz of the ring on his speakerphone before the receptionist answered.  His heart was racing, “This information was indeed important and who knows where it will go,” he wondered.

 

“Fidelity Insurance, please listen to the options.  If you know your party’s 4 number extension, you may dial it at any time …” came the recording on the phone.

 

Dave interrupted the recording as he pressed the extension number for John Goodman, the Chief of Operations, and again the system put him through to John.

 

John was one to arrive early each day.  He set the standard for all to follow in punctuality.  You could get John better at the beginning of the day than later.  His day was an entanglement of meetings.

 

“Goodman, can I help you,” replied John as he answered the phone.

 

“John, Dave here, Dave Ableson in Adobe,” replied Dave remembering that John talks to a lot of people.  There are probably others with the name Dave so he gave his last name to be sure that John knew that it was he.

 

“Hey Dave, I recognized your voice.  How is everything in your part of the country,” responded John.  He really did not recognize the voice and wasn’t even sure that he knew where Adobe was.  But it was always good to let his agents know that they were more than a number on the computer.

 

“John, I don’t really know if what I am going to say is a problem, but I feel that you need to hear it at least,” started Dave.  “There has been some conversation here in Adobe using the words – ‘hospitals, nursing homes, and insurance policy rates’ all in the same note.”

 

“There may not be anything to it, but I remember a memo a few years back that created quite a stir.  The former president lost his job over it,” blurted Dave.

 

John, remembering the memo himself, asked, “Dave, how did you hear about the conversations?  Were you there when they occurred?”

 

“No, the sheriff talked to me thinking that someone from his office might be inquiring about insurance rates for the department,” replied Dave.

 

He went on, “I sloughed him off by telling him that no one had called and that if something new did come up to let me know so that we could quote the business.”

 

“When the sheriff talked to you, how did the conversation get to nursing homes and hospitals?” asked John a bit irritated that this was taking to long.

 

Dave answered, “He asked if someone from his office had called,”

 

“When I said no, he said that he was looking at a note that had the words – hospitals, nursing homes, and insurance policy rates – written on it,” he explained.  “He assumed that someone might have called inquiring about new benefits or something.”

 

“And you,” John added, “told him that you were unaware of any calls period.  Right?”

 

Dave responded, “Yes, but in my mind, I thought that this is something that I needed to get with you on as soon as possible.”

 

“When did this happen?” asked John.

 

Dave said, “Last Saturday at a pancake breakfast we had here in Adobe.  I wanted to call you yesterday, but the office was closed for the holiday.”

 

“Do you know who the person in the sheriff’s office is that had the note or wrote the note?” requested John.

 

Dave replied, “Yes, it was Jimmy Nixon, a new deputy that just recently joined the force.”

 

“What do you know about him?” questioned John.

 

Dave answered, “He is a local boy.  Had quite a past, but straightened up his life and got a certificate of law enforcement from the community college in Weatherville.”  He went on, “He was married to Mary Francis.  She is a local girl, who after their divorced, moved to Ft Worth to go to school to get her teaching certificate.”  He finished, ““She is still working on getting it and should be through in a year or so, I believe.”

 

“Anything else?” requested John.

 

“They have three small children … and … oh … by the way, Mary Francis is the daughter of the woman who had this office prior to my coming to Adobe,” recounted Dave.  “Her name is Vivian Francis.  Mary went back to her maiden name after the divorce.”

 

Dave continued, “Jim Francis, Mary’s dad, started this agency, but he died at an early age and Vivian took it over until she sold it back to the company.  I have been here since then.  As I understand it, she retired and did a certain amount of traveling until she was killed in a tragic circumstance recently,” he commented.

 

“What did you do with her when you first took over the office?  Was there a transition period or did she just move out and you took over?” inquired John.

 

Dave replied, “John, it is a small agency.  I took over for her and she left to go on a trip with her church.  We have talked several times regarding clients to be sure I was on the right page, but for the most part – she stepped out and I took over,” he remembered.

 

“Did you clear with her that you had all the documents she had relating to the office when you took over?  Was the question asked?” queried John.

 

Dave, beginning to think that he was getting the third degree, responded, “No, the actual question was not asked as I remember.  It was clearly understood that she was to give over all information she had about the company, clients or people to me or see to it that it was left in the files,” he finished.

 

“All the files are intact as they were left then,” stated Dave and continued, “There has never been a question regarding anything since I have been here.”

 

John, realizing that he was beginning to antagonize Dave, affirmed, “Well, don’t worry about it.  I will talk to a few people around here who might have known Vivian.”  He finished, “If you do not hear back from me, just forget it.  It is probably nothing anyway.”

 

“Well, I just wanted to make sure that I did what was right by letting someone know what I had heard and I figured that ya’ll could handle it from there,” concluded Dave.

 

John commented, “You did right, Dave.  I appreciate it, but don’t worry about it.  Take care and come see us when you can.”  John hung up the phone feeling that this is something that did need to be investigated, but quietly.

 

Dave hung up the phone and placed the matter on the back burner in his mind.

 

John’s mind was running with the memory of the past, “Two years ago, that memo almost broke up the company.  Had it not been for Kirk Turner coming in so quickly, the company might have suffered a complete public relations fall out.”.

 

“Under his leadership, immediate credibility was restored as everything regarding the memo was swept under the table and never mentioned again – until now!” he thought.

 

John called for his secretary, Melanie Tidwell, instructing her, “Mel, get with Bill Blackwell and Charles Travis.”  He directed her, “Tell them I want to meet them as soon as possible – my office or theirs, I do not care!”

 

“Yes sir.  Do I tell them what the meeting is about?” inquired Melanie.

 

John replied, “Not necessary – just tell them we have to meet – now!”

 

John opened the wall safe retrieving the brown envelope that had been placed there two years ago.  It was the report of the investigation of the memo that had been conducted in-house.  He wanted to remind himself again who was on the list of the recipients for the memo.  He sat down at his desk to review the memo.

 

Melanie came in the office and informed him that Charles and Bill were on their way over.  She asked, “You have two appointments starting at 10:00.  Do you want me to reschedule them and keep your schedule clear for the moment?”

 

She was sharp.  John had forgotten about those meetings.  He answered, “Yes, thank you for reminding me – clear the schedule for the rest of the day.”

 

He instructed her, “Have Charles and Bill come in as soon as they get here.  Thank you!”

 

Charles and Bill walked into the office at the same time.  They overheard John talking and came to his door as Melanie was turning back to her office.  She said, “You can go right in.  Would you like to have a cup of coffee or something to drink?”

 

Bill replied, “Yes, I would like to have a cup of coffee – black.  Charles is probably going to want water if I guess right.”

 

“Water is fine.  I do not need caffeine to keep me going.  Thank you Melanie,” responded Charles.

 

Melanie walked out the door closing it behind her.

 

Turning to face John, Charles exclaimed, “John that is one fine woman.  I need her in my office.  My wife dictates who is my secretary and I have this 55 year old battle axe.”

 

“You probably have who your wife trust you with,” chuckled John.  “If I remember, she was your secretary before she became your wife.  Maybe she thinks she knows something about you,” he laughed.

 

Bill laughed, “Charles, John has you pegged.  I guess you get what you deserve since your wife does not consider you trustworthy.”  He continued, “Check out my new secretary sometime and you will see that my wife considers me trustworthy.”

 

“Guys, we might have a problem,” started John.  “Do you remember an agent we had in Adobe by the name of Vivian Francis?” he asked.  “Her husband, Jim, started the first franchised agency sometime back, but he died at an early age and Vivian took over for him.  Then she sold the agency back to the company two years ago when she retired,” John went on.

 

He continued, “If you remember, our corporate setup in the beginning, we had local agencies that were a franchise.  We have only corporate owned agencies now.  The franchised offices shared special privileges – almost like a board of director member,” he explained, “The agency in Adobe, according to this report, was the first franchise and kept their status until Vivian’s retirement.”

 

“At that time, the company purchased the agency and we sent our own man out there,” recounted John.  “On or before the actual sale, we had the shake up with the former company president,” he remembered.  “It was at that time that we had the infamous memo detailing our policy of enhancing our position in the industry.”

 

Melanie reappeared with the coffee and the water for Charles and Bill.  She immediately left the office closing the door behind her.

 

“Mmmm … that is tough.  I would never be considered trustworthy if I had to work around her all day especially behind closed doors,” exclaimed Charles.  “John, you sure you have never ventured from the marital vows?” questioned Charles.

 

John disconcerted that he would be asked the question, responded, “Charles, only you would have those thoughts.  Your mind stays in the gutter.  She is a great secretary and it ends there.”

 

“Back to the matter at hand, if you can activate the brain above your neck as opposed to the rocks between your ears,” sneered John.  “Do either of you remember Vivian Francis?” he asked.

 

“I do,” responded Bill.  “My wife, Laurie, representing the company, worked with her when she was an agent.  Seems it was some kind of fundraiser or something.  I could call Laurie to see if she remembers her, but as I recall, she was just another agent.”

 

“Why are we into this?” asked Bill.

 

John responded, “Well, she was a recipient of the infamous memo two years ago according to this in-house investigation.  We do not have any record that it was ever retrieved as we did with those in the office.”

 

He stated, “It was the only copy given to an outside member of the company at that time.”

 

John further reported, “There is a handwritten notation beside her name that says ‘destroyed – no concern’.”  He reasoned,  “Probably written this way because they called her and she said that she had already destroyed it.”

 

“Now – the problem – it seems she died recently.  Her daughter has found the memo in the mother’s effects,” stated John.  “A sheriff’s deputy, Jimmy Nixon, logged a meeting concerning ‘hospitals, nursing homes and insurance rates’.  He is Mary Francis’ former husband.”

 

“The county sheriff talked to our agent when he saw the office log thinking that the deputy was inquiring about new insurance for the department.” reported John.

 

“The agent was working in our office two years ago and remembered what had happened then,” he stated.  “When he heard these words, they triggered his memory and he called me this morning.”

 

“How serious is this?” asked Bill.  “Even if it is made public, can it hurt us?  It has been two years,” he queried.

 

John responded, “Well, it would not be pleasant.  A lot of people would be affected from hospitals, nursing homes, or medical facilities to the industry in general.”

 

“Well, you know what that means.  We have got to take it to Kirk and get his direction,” the laughter now gone from Charles’s demeanor as he wanted to assert himself.

 

John looked at Bill and asked, “What do you think?  Is this the direction we need to take – take it to Kirk?”

 

“I don’t see any other way of doing it.  He has got to be made aware, but do we do it before we make sure ourselves,” reasoned Bill.  “All we have right now is the words – hospitals, nursing homes, and insurance rates.”

 

Bill reasoned,  “Granted the source of these words is damaging, but I feel we need to investigate to see if we really have a problem before we take it to Kirk.  We can get in touch with our agent in Adobe and find out if there is anything else he might know about the daughter.”

 

“Anything they can find – where she does her banking for example.  She or her mother might have a safe deposit box where the memo was kept,” he reasoned.  “The daughter might have found it in a safe deposit box.  The home obviously – the mother lived in a home and the memo might be there.”

 

“I will call him right now,” picking up the phone, he pressed Melanie’s button.  “Melanie, get Dave in Adobe on the phone for me,” John instructed Melanie.

 

Melanie responded, “Yes sir, right away.”

 

“Charles, didn’t you use a detective agency or private investigative firm on a case you worked down in Argentina?” asked John.

 

“Yes!  It was a local firm and they did a bang-up job for us.  Handled it very quietly.  It was settled very amicably.  I was really impressed with them,” answered Charles.

 

“Do you think you could contact them for us.  We might want to use them on this to get some information for us,” commented John.

 

Melanie’s voice came on the speakerphone, “Mr Goodman, I have Dave on the phone for you.  He was out of the office, and is on his cell phone.”

 

“Thank you, Melanie,” responded John as he clicked the button for Dave.

 

“Dave, I am doing a little investigation on this Mary Francis case.  I have a couple of questions that you might be able to help me,” inquired John.

 

“Be glad to John,” replied Dave.  Thinking to himself, “So this has now been assigned to a case … hmm?”

 

“Do you have any information on Mary Francis?  For example, did you not say that she was a local girl?” questioned John not wanting to introduce any anxiety.

 

Dave said, “Yes, she is local.  She grew up here; however, she now lives in Ft Worth.  She is going to school to get her teaching certificate.”

 

Relating to her mother, Dave said, “Her mother still has a home here.  I guess that means Mary now has the home through inheritance after the death of her mother.”

 

“Oh yeah, you mentioned the teaching certificate – so she lives in Ft Worth.  Where is the mother’s home in Adobe?  Do you have an address?” inquired John.

 

Dave said, “It is on Paradise Street … corner lot with a lot of trees … pretty place … that would be 101 Paradise Street.”  He laughed, “You know insurance agents, we know how to read addresses.”

 

“Great, 101 Paradise Street.  Are you sure about the address or is that a guess?” wondered John to make sure.  “Our agents have got to get a life if they pride themselves on finding addresses.  That is why we have a Mapsco,” he thought unimpressed.

 

Dave laughed, “No, I am sure.  It is 101 Paradise Street.  It is a white frame with green shutters and a screened in back porch.  Beautiful little setting under large elm trees with a white picket fence,” Dave was thinking about how impressed John would be with his knowledge about the area.

 

John came back, “Great, it is 101 Paradise Street then – that is what I needed.”

 

John went further, “Oh by the way, is there any other information you might have that could help us get a handle on this Mary Francis?”

 

“No, she is a pretty thing.  You would never know that she has had three children.  She takes good care of herself,” said Dave.  “I met her the other day for the first time and was quite impressed,” he remembered.  “She was coming out of the SouthernTrust Bank and a local patron here in Adobe called me over and introduced me to her,” remarked Dave.

 

John made a mental note about the SouthernTrust Bank and said, “Dave, you got to watch yourself with pretty little things in small communities.”  He laughed, “That could work against you in the insurance business.”

 

“I did not mean it that way.  I am past 50 myself and long since past worrying about my libido or anyone else’ for that matter,” chuckling to himself, Dave thought, “This is ridiculous for the Chief Executive Officer of the company to be talking with him about such a subject.”

 

“But it was flattering to have this ‘buddy buddy’ conversation.  Who knows, this ‘memo thing’ could help him get back to Ft Worth,” he contemplated.  “Small towns are great, but the city life is greater,” Dave thought.

 

John laughed, “Good to talk to you again, Dave.  If you think of anything else, just call Melanie, my secretary, and give her the information.”   He remarked, “We want to stay on top of this and you are our liaison in Adobe.  Thanks – you have a great day!”

 

Hanging up the phone, John was happy that he was able to get important information without energizing Dave with a larger picture than there might be.

 

John turned to Charles, “Charles, the address in Adobe for Vivian Francis’ home is 101 Paradise Street.  It is a white frame home with green shutters and a white picket fence.”

 

“Get your people to check this out for future involvement, but be careful talking to local people more than they have to,” he instructed.  “We might be interested in checking the house for the memo, but … and I emphasize – BUT – I want this to be above board in all cases,” he emphasized.

 

Nothing against the law – understood?” demanded John.  “This is not Argentina.”

 

Charles accepted the assignment, “Got it.  I will call our people today and get them on board.  Let me know how you want to handle this and what you want us to do.  I will put together some options,” said Charles.

 

“We get back on this when … first thing in the morning?” he asked.

 

“Yes, this needs to be our first priority until it is settled,” exclaimed John.

 

“Now I need to go over some things with Bill.  Do you need me for anything else?” John asked dismissing Charles from the meeting.

 

“No, I will get started and put some facts together for us – hopefully by tomorrow,” remarked Charles.  “There might be a question on how soon the agency can start.  Might be a day or two, but I will get on it,” finished Charles.

 

Getting up and taking a playful swing at Bill shoulder, he said, “You keep him straight, you hear?”  Charles departed the office.

 

John turning his attention to Bill, “Don’t we own SouthernTrust Bank – I know not directly, but through Swartz Financial Firm out of New York?”  He commented, “I think they have SouthernTrust Bank as part of their portfolio.”

 

“Off the top of my head, I would say, yes, but I would need to confirm that first,” commented Bill and asked,  “What do you have in mind?”

 

“Well, it seems that Mary Francis, Vivian Francis’ daughter, might have an account with SouthernTrust in Adobe,” he recounted from his conversation with Dave.  “If so, she might have or Vivian might have a safe deposit box.  She could have the memo in that box,” explained John.

 

“And if she does – how do we get it out.  The safe deposit box is a public trust.  Your items are held secure from others – us included?” questioned Bill.

 

John reacted with a certain amount of frustration with Bill, “Bill, how do you think they get safe deposit boxes open when they are part of an estate?”  He further explained, “You get a court order and the box can be opened with a drill in the presence of the interested parties!”

 

“OK, the bank can open the boxes,” answered Bill, “And I guess you are going to tell me that we are the interested parties?”

 

John, feeling a bit apprehensive, as he was not completely comfortable, said, “Well, there comes a time when the good of the company overrides the letter of the law.  Besides, it is our memo and we would be retrieving what is ours,” he reasoned.

 

“What about a court order?  Can we get a court order here in Ft Worth and serve it in Adobe, which is a different county?” asked Bill.  “It would be easy to quietly get a court order here with our connections, but I don’t know about Adobe.”

 

Bill was reeling from the nature of the conversation.  “Charles handled these types of matters in the past and now, John was involving me.”  He surprisingly found himself uncomfortable.  “I have never been brought in on matters this intense.”

 

John responded, “Bill, if we find out that the bank is under our control, we can send some people to meet with the president and tell him what we want to do.”  He further directed, “We will have to impress upon him that we need his quiet cooperation.”

 

“One last question, suppose we do get the memo and find out later that she has a copy.  What happens then?” asked a concerned Bill.

 

John stated, “The copy would be just that, a copy and not admissible in court.  It could be discredited easily.  It’s the original with the initials that will catch us!”

 

“Well, I will get on it right away,” remarked Bill, “I have a contact with Swartz who can give me a pretty quick answer.”  He informed John, “I will call them as soon as I get to my office and report back to you in the morning when we meet.”

 

“Good, but don’t give me the information in the presence of Charles.  Just sit in on the meeting and then we will cover it after I dismiss him,” instructed John.  “Charles is a loose cannon and I do not want him to do something that I do not approve.”

 

John recounted, “I still remember what happened in Argentina.  He did accomplish what we wanted quietly, but his methods were questionable.”

 

Bill thought to himself, “I have always considered John a good friend and had thought we were close in matters of the company.  This morning confirmed those feelings, yet I am seeing John in a little different light.  He is taking me into his confidence over Charles.”

 

“Most of the time, I am considered a ‘numbers cruncher’, but now it appears that John regards me as a player,” thought Bill.  “I understand,” remarked Bill, “and I will get the name of the president of the SouthernTrust Bank should you decide we are going that direction.”  Bill wanted to please John and be worthy of the confidence placed in him.

 

“Good, Bill, we have got to get this settled once and for all.  It is appalling that we have to dig this back up after having put it to bed,” commented John.

 

He reminded, “We have other things where we need to be concentrating.  I assume Kirk shared his concerns with the political positions we need to have for the presentations before the regulatory agencies in Massachusetts.”

 

“We have got to get the insurance policy rates up to offset the increased expenses we are expecting with the hospitals,” shared John.

 

“Yes, we went over that last week prior to his departure to Washington, DC,” shared Bill.  “He needs cash money to bank roll the PAC committees for the politicians we need on our side,” responded Bill as he confided with John about his meeting with Kirk.

 

Bill wanted to show his cards now that John was including him.  “Who knows where Charles is?  He probably is a ‘loose cannon’ as John had said,” he contemplated.

 

But he did not want to alienate Charles either.  Working in this realm requires all the alliances you can have.

 

John concluded the meeting by saying, “Bill, just keep me posted on what we are doing and I will you likewise.  We will get through this thing.”  He reasoned, “Still it is a large question mark – we might be making a mountain out of a molehill.  We will have to see.”

 

Bill stood to leave the office, “Will do and we will hope for the best.  The memo just should not be sprouting again.”  He editorialized on the memo, “I was in the meeting when it was presented and in no way was it intended as it was written.  We are going to have to see it go away.”

 

“I will get my information by tomorrow,” Bill said as he left the office closing the door behind him.

 

John sat motionless for what seemed an eternity.

 

Charles returned to his office.  Darlene Spruce, his secretary, was busy shuffling paper at her desk.  She always looked busy and he could never figure out exactly what she was doing.  He never gave her that much work.  Must be worked assigned from another office.  “Oh well, if it kept her out of his hair … ,” he considered to himself.

 

Darlene was not an unattractive person, just not a raving beauty like Melanie.   Being in her mid fifties did not help either.  Time had taken its toll.  “That’s being to hard on her,” Charles thought, “She does try to do a good job.  She just has very little to try with.”

 

“How did John always get the prettiest secretaries?” he wondered.  Then he remembered his wife and how she sticks her nose into his business when it comes to hiring a secretary.

 

Sarah Travis, Charles’ wife, had worked for him at one time as his secretary.  They had an affair and then she had encouraged him to divorce his wife and marry her.  Maybe that should give me a clue but as she always said about me, I am clueless when it comes to women!” thought Charles.  “She might be right.”

 

“Darlene, call the folks over at Ryans Detective Agency and get them over here as soon as possible,” instructed Charles.  “If they can get here this morning that will not be soon enough.  Clear my calendar for the rest of the day!”

 

Darlene recognizing that Charles was engrossed in something important said, “Yes sir – right away, sir!”  Checking her computer terminal, she typed in ‘ryans’ and the number flashed on her screen.   Answering the query on the screen, the computer began dialing the number.

 

“Ryans Detective Agency,” responded the recorded message, “Please select from the following options and thank you for calling.  If you wish to speak with an agent, please press 1.”

 

Darlene interrupted the recording and dialed 1.  She waited to be connected to an agent.

 

“Spencer Rush, may I help you?” responded the pleasant voice of the operative.

 

“Yes, I am Darlene Spruce with Fidelity Insurance.  Mr Rush, your name rings a bell with me.  Have we used you before?” requested Darlene.

 

Spencer said, “Yes, I did some work for you in Argentina some time back.  I worked with Charles Travis.”

 

“Charles … uh … Mr Travis is my boss and he would like to have you come visit him this morning.  Are you free?” questioned Darlene.  She never wanted to take liberties with Mr Travis’ name even with someone else.

 

Spencer answered, “I can be there in twenty minutes.  Is that to soon?”  He only needed to leave a message for his wife and he could be on the way.

 

“That would be great.  I will let Mr Travis know you are coming.  Come to our building on 7th Street.  I will clear you with security in the lobby,” Darlene instructed.  “Security will program the elevator for you to come to our floor.  The receptionist will direct you to us.”

 

The 97th floor of the FICA building consists of a suite of three offices for the senior executives.  As you step off the elevator, a receptionist greets you and directs you to your destination.

 

To the west side is the office of Bill Blackwell and to east side is the office for Charles Travis.  John Goodman, second in command to the president, is in the center with the back of his office facing south.

 

Charles’ office has a standard waiting area with a large revolving golden globe of the world.  It has a bright light in the center that sends beams through openings representing where FICA is active in foreign markets.

 

Green plants adorn the area giving it a pleasing atmosphere.  There are large tinted windows beyond the sofas.  On a clear day, you can see downtown Dallas.

 

Darlene pushed the button on her phone for Mr Travis, “Sir, Spencer Rush, with the Ryans Detective Agency, is on his way.  He should be here within the hour.  He was our contact in Argentina.”

 

“Thank you Darlene.  Show him in when he gets here,” came back Charles.

 

Charles turned his attention to his computer monitor and began to enter instructions for locating Vivian Francis.  “Surely with her being an agent, she would have purchased her insurance from FICA or at least she had insurance provided as an employee,” he figured.

 

The screen blipped and up came a complete profile on Vivian Francis.  It showed her address in Adobe, which confirmed the address he had received from John.  He pushed the print button and printed out the page for further reference.

 

He entered Mary Francis and again, a complete profile page was stored in their systems for her.  He pushed the print button again to get the page on Mary Francis.

 

He wondered sometimes if they had profiles only on people with connections with the company or if they had files on everyone in the country.  John was in charge of establishing the policies for the personal files and he left it up to him.

 

As he started to turn toward the printer, he noticed something in her file.  She had been married to Jimmy Nixon, but was now divorced and a mother of three children.

 

He checked his notes and found that Jimmy Nixon was the deputy in the sheriff’s office that had made the notes about ‘hospitals, nursing homes and insurance rates’.  There had to be a connection and made a mental note to talk with Spencer about following-up on this.

 

Checking to see if they had a file on the deputy, he entered his name and blip, up came a profile on Jimmy Nixon.  Again, he pressed the print button.

 

Was he really going to need the detective agency after all,” he wondered.  He had gotten a lot of the information already by himself.  Charles retrieved the printed copies and was studying them.

 

“I need to forward these files to John and Bill in the event they have not seen them and we can go over this information in the morning,” he thought.  Using the computer terminal, he went back individually to each file and forwarded them to John and Bill.

 

“This will let them know that I am on top of this.  I do not get proper credit for what I do around here,” ruffled Charles.

 

“That Argentina thing could have gotten out of hand if I had not done what I did,” he thought.  “It was not my idea to burn the building in Argentina, but it did take care of all the records there.  Rush went beyond my instructions, but it ended the matter completely as no one could prove anything without the files,” considered Charles.

 

“That turned out to be a good investment opportunity for us anyway.  We got a new office building completely updated with new equipment,” he reasoned.  “And the government was happy with our donation of all the equipment that was recovered.”

 

Looking at Jimmy’s file, he noticed that Jimmy had been in the hospital for several accidents that were alcohol related.  Seems the young man had a drinking problem and driving was not his strength when he was drinking … hmmmm,” his thoughts were racing through his mind.

 

“What about this Mary Francis?” he questioned almost out loud.  “She does not have anything that is questionable.  What was it … she was trying to get a teaching certificate to become a teacher here in Ft Worth?”

 

He contemplated, “She is a single mother with 3 children under 6 renting probably.  She has got to have problems meeting bills.”  He thought, “Deputies do not make that much so her child support can not be that great … hmmm,” things were beginning to come together.

 

He let the information about Mary and Jimmy register with his upper brain – remembering John’s comments – and went to get a cup of coffee.  As he went into the outer office, Darlene noticed that he was getting coffee and complained, “Mr Travis, I could have gotten that for you.”

 

“That’s OK, I needed to move around.  My circulation seems to be getting worse lately.  Sarah is after me to start taking an aspirin every morning,” commented Charles.

 

Darlene responded, “Oh, are you having headaches?”

 

Charles laughed to himself, “This is what I have to put with everyday.”

 

He continued, “Everybody knows that you take an aspirin a day to help your blood circulation and here she thinks I am having headaches.”

 

“No, an aspirin is recommended by most physicians to help with the circulation of your blood which helps your heart,” remarked Charles.  “Maybe, I can educate her if nothing else – does she not watch TV or read the news at all,” he pondered.

 

Darlene came back with her caring voice, “Well, you work a lot of time behind that closed door, if you have heart problems, we need to have a signal or something.”

 

Charles turned and just looked at Darlene with all the compassion he could muster.  “Is she for real?  Sarah owes me big time for this,” he thought.  He sloughed off her concern with, “Well you work something out and let me know.” 

 

Charles had turned back toward his office when light on Darlene’s desk came on letting her know that someone was in the outer waiting room.

 

Michele Day, the receptionist, came on the speakerphone and told her that Mr Spencer Rush was there to see Mr Travis.

 

“Thank you, Michele, I will take care of it,” responded Darlene in a crisp voice.  “Mr Travis, Spencer Rush is here.  I will get him for you.”

 

Charles disappeared into his office.

 

Darlene exited the office into the outer room coming back with Spencer Rush.  “Would you like a cup of coffee,” she asked.

 

“Yes, black if you don’t mind,” answered Spencer.  Darlene poured him a cup of coffee and guided him into Charles’ office.

 

“Mr Travis, Spencer Rush to see you,” Darlene introduced Spencer and then waited patiently for him to enter the office.  She exited closing the door behind her.

 

Charles went immediately into the matter at hand.  “Spencer, I have an investigative matter I want you to handle.  It has to be on the QT without getting anybody upset.”

 

“It is in Adobe just west of here and I would like to have some results back today if you can get them.  Can you handle it?” questioned Charles.

 

“I do not see any reason why not,” came back Spencer.  He was committing himself and Ryans without even knowing what Travis wanted.  With FICA, you drop everything and get right on it.  “You want some one shot?” joked Spencer. 

 

The murder was meant as a joke, but in reality, Spencer knew that he and Travis had worked the case in Argentina where the building and all the records were burned.  “Travis was not always concerned with every thing being on the up and up,” thought Spencer.

 

A security guard lost his life in the fire, but Spencer did not know he was in the building.

 

Charles chuckled in a sinister way, “You know me, don’t you?  You did a good job in Argentina although you did not keep me apprised of everything you were doing.”  He went further, “We were saved by the fact that everything worked out as it did.”

 

“Alls well that ends well.  Is that the saying?  Seemed apropos in that case,” remarked Spencer with a nervous laugh.

 

“Well this is a simple job, but it is highly important to us and must be handled in the most discreet way,” he instructed.  “We don’t want to alarm anyone that there might even be a problem.”

 

He added, “Here are files on three people in Adobe.  Vivian met with a tragedy, Mary is her daughter, and the last is the daughter’s former husband, Jimmy Nixon.”

 

“There could be an insurance claim on the death and we want all the facts before we approve the claim,” Charles commented as he handed the three file sheets to Spencer.

 

Charles was not being completely forthright, but Spencer did not need to know any other information than this for the moment.  If Spencer handled this as a simple insurance claim, even if people questioned what he was doing, it would not matter.  “It would be just be business as usual,” he figured.

 

Spencer looked at the files and said, “Will do.  I will do it myself.  You always get first priority with us and we want to please.”  He added, “ I will get back to you this afternoon with our report.  That soon enough?”  Spencer stood to leave the office.

 

“That will be great.  I need to report on this in the morning,” replied Charles as he stood and put out his hand to shake hands with Spencer.  He finished, “I look forward to seeing the report.”

 

Spencer had worked enough cases with Charles to know that he would not call the best detective agency in the area to handle what could be handled by phone by a clerk.  “There has to be something else,” pondered Spencer.

 

“But what do I care, we need the business and I will give him what he wants.  We need help meeting our bills this month,” thought Spencer.

 

Bill went back to his office.  Meeting with John had given him a new found confidence that he had been losing lately.  The ‘numbers cruncher’ thing was beginning to eat at him, but now that John wanted to work with him, he had a new vigor.

 

His office was on the same floor as John and Charles, but was at the other end of the building from Charles.  He was glad that John’s office separated him from Charles as Charles had strange people coming and going all the time.

 

“Of course when you work foreign markets, people from other countries come to your office,” reflected Bill.  “So it has to be, I guess.”  Occasionally, he would be called in with Charles to discuss the numbers, but he never felt comfortable taking through an interpreter.  He did not feel that he came off well.

 

Bill’s waiting room was quaint compared to the golden ball Charles had.  “How do you put numbers along with profit and loss statements on your walls,” he surmised.  “The decorator had insisted on large plants and it looked comfortable,” he guessed.

 

Melinda Carmen was his secretary and she had a master’s degree in accounting along with a graduate degree in math.  He approved her salary and she was paid well.  She was on the same level as his assistant although to get it approved through his budget, he had to pencil her in as his secretary.  Melinda was a pleasant person and she looked up when he entered the room.  Obviously, she was engrossed in her work. I hate that I have to disturb her. 

 

“Melinda, clear my schedule for the balance of the day.  I am going to do some research in my office.  I do not want to be disturbed,” Bill instructed.  He entered his office and closed the door.  He did not even wait to hear Melinda’s response.

 

Sitting at his desk, Bill noticed that he had a file on his computer that had been sent to him by Charles.  It contained profiles for Vivian and Mary Francis and for Jimmy Nixon.  “Well, Charles does not waste anytime,” he considered.  “I’m impressed!”

 

Clicking on the financial information for Vivian Francis, a trust fund was revealed.  Her husband, Jim Francis, had set it up prior to his premature death and it had been giving Vivian approximately $1700 per month.  “Not much, but if your house is paid for, it would be comfortable in Adobe,” he thought.

 

It did show that when the company had bought out the agency a couple of years ago, that they had paid her $50,000.  “Nothing indicated that this money had been added to the trust or that another trust had been established,” he noticed.

 

Backing out of that profile, Bill pulled up Mary Francis financial information.  She to had a trust fund set up by her dad.  “It paid her only $1500 per month.  If she were living as a single mom with 3 kids, this would not go very far,” he deliberated.  “But, with child support, it could not be too bad.”

 

“One thing about being a deputy, you would have to pay you child support payments or lose your job,” Bill figured.  “A lot of mothers do not have the privilege of making their spouses pay.”  He remembered that she was in school.  She probably was getting help from her mother also.

 

Again, he backed out and pulled up Jimmy Nixon.  All they showed for him was a term life insurance policy in the amount of $100,000.  “Fair,” Bill thought, “ but for a wife and 3 kids, not nearly enough.”

 

“Wait a minute … We need to get this Mary Francis to hand over the memo if she has it.  One way might be to cut her income,” his mind was racing.

 

He felt energized as he began to feel a rush of slight wickedness intruding his thoughts.  Going back to Vivian’s profile, he noticed that the Edwards Financial Firm was handling her trust funds.

 

Quickly, he went to Mary’s and sure enough, “Edwards was handling hers also,” there was a link he schemed.  He clicked on Edwards Financial Firm and guess who owns them.  “We do!” he almost shouted out loud.

 

The contact information was on the file.  He clicked on the number and called Edwards.  “Edwards Financial, can I help you?” Bill was surprised by the actual voice.

 

He thought he would have to go through a litany of options from a recorder.  “Let me speak to your trust department manager,” he stammered.

 

“Just a moment,” came the polite response.

 

“Glen Darby, what can I do for you,” he volunteered.

 

Glen Darby had been the trust manager for Edwards longer than he wanted to remember.  He had requested on several occasions for either a promotion or different assignment, but to no avail.  “All I do is make money for everybody else, I can never make money for myself,” he considered.

 

Bill was in new territory with this phone call, but decided to be assertive.  This was against his nature, but they did hold the upper hand, as they owned Edwards.

 

“Glen, this is Bill Blackwell at FICA.  Ya’ll are one of our holdings and it has come to my attention that we might need your services,” this felt great thought Bill.  “You are handling a couple of trust funds for two of our clients here at FICA and it looks like we might run into some difficulty settling a claim with the family.”

 

Pull up Vivian Francis and Mary Francis on your computer,” he directed.  Bill wondered if Glen would pull up the accounts strictly on his say so or would he give him a run-around about pin numbers; mother’s maiden names; and etc.

 

To his surprise, “Got’em,” came the response from Glen.  “We have them categorized here by name and by investment pools.  These two are in the same pool and they both come up together.”

 

“That is why I can pull them up without getting proper ID from you, in case you are wondering,” he answered the question before it was asked.

 

“Vivian died a horrible death last week and there is going to be several questions come up that have to be answered,” Bill explained.  “Can you put a hold on her account before enacting the beneficiary clause?” 

 

He continued on without giving Glen a chance to answer, “I want you to put a hold on Mary’s personal account as well until this thing is settled.  Just tell her the account is in limbo until it gets straightened out.  Can you handle that and by the way, what did you say your name was?” asked Bill.

 

“Yes, I can do that.  It is not uncommon for this to happen in the case of any death and I will be happy to comply.  My name is Glen Darby and any time I can help you, Mr Blackwell, call on me,” he answered.

 

“Consider this done; I just entered the hold order. It will go into effect tomorrow.  She will not be getting a check on the fifteenth,” remarked Glen.  He could see a promotion in the future now as he was dealing with one of the head-honchos at FICA.  He was proud of himself and he was sure he impressed Mr Blackwell with his efficiency.

 

He made a note on the computer to call Mr Blackwell back in a week to follow-up on the transaction and to make sure it was what he wanted.  “It is good to keep your name before those that count,” he thought.

 

“Good, this being the middle of the month, she will be hurting at the end of the month and there will be no prior notice.  Just no check!” thought Bill.  He was happy with himself.  He knew that John would approve the action.

 

“It was pretty much a standard procedure anyway, but I thought of it.  ‘Numbers cruncher’, I will show them what a ‘number cruncher’ can do to a person’s well being,” snickered Bill.

 

Bill turned his attention to the SouthernTrust Bank in Adobe.  He was on a roll.  He first pulled up the bank on the computer and found that it indeed was part of the Swartz Financial Firm in New York.  They had 2200 locations across the country with billions of dollars listed in deposits.  And he thought, “We control them!”

 

Clicking on the Swartz Financial Firm, he saw his old friend, Ed Lasater, was listed as the Executive Vice President.  “Hmmm … ,” he thought, “He is moving on up as the song goes, ‘to the east side, he finally got a piece of the pie’.

 

He clicked on the number by Ed’s name and it went directly to his voice mail, “I will be out of the office today and tomorrow, but I will return on Thursday.”  The recording finished, “ Please leave a detailed message and I will be get back with you then.”

 

“This was going so good.  Oh well, I have already accomplished more this morning than I thought I would.  John will be happy about that,” thought Bill.

 

Leaving a message on Lasater’s voice mail, “Ed Lasater, what are you doing – squeezing the holiday for more days off?  This is your old friend, Bill Blackwell, with FICA.  Call me first thing Thursday.”

 

Bill busied himself crunching numbers with the reports of the day concerning some acquisitions and proposed acquisitions.  He had to report back on them by Monday and it was going to take a long time to cover all the material.

 

Bill was assured he would hear from Ed on Thursday.

 

Spencer got into his car in the parking garage next to the FICA building.  He knew that he needed to get to Adobe as soon as possible.  He picked up his cell phone and called his office.  He used his special number that put him in direct contact with his secretary, Lana Thompson.

 

Lana was always joking with him about his work.  He needed her levity to offset the shifty cases that he had to work.  Divorce cases, affairs – very seldom did he get a case like the one that he worked for FICA in Argentina.  “What’s up, Spencer?” she asked.

 

“I am going to work a case for FICA in Adobe today and should be back in this afternoon.  Plan on getting the case in the computer when I get back,” he advised.  “They want this report by 5:00 this afternoon!”

 

Lana remarked,   “No problem, as you know, we are a little slow.  I can even get some of the other girls to help if we need.  Whatever you need!”

 

“Great, I am going home to change and then get on out to Adobe.  Can’t go to a hick town in a suit and tie.  Gotta get some old clothes on,” he laughed.  Spencer hung up and turned his Lexus RX300 toward his home in north Ft Worth.

 

Arriving in Adobe, Spencer drove around ‘the square’ checking out the lay of the land.  A few men were sitting on the sunny side of the courthouse.  They were whittling.  He thought, “This might be where I can get some local information.  Those old fellows probably need someone new to talk to anyway.”

 

Spencer parked, his Lexus on the opposite side of the courthouse so that they would not see him.  Trying to explain how you get out of a Lexus and go sit at the courthouse might be hard to do.

 

He sauntered up to where everyone was sitting and sat down.  The sun was coming down on his face making the cool February morning feel like late spring.

 

“Be nice if he could live in a town like this and do this every day instead of peeking into people’s lives,” meditated Spencer.

 

He had changed into a faded pair of jeans that though they looked old, he had to pay an arm and a leg to get them.  The t-shirt was a little light for the weather, but with the sun and his windbreaker, he was comfortable.

 

He had a toothpick in his pocket and he put it in his mouth and thought, “I fit in pretty well with this crowd even though I am a lot younger.”

 

One of the men, they called Clyde, asked, “You new in town?”

 

Amused by the question, Spencer replied, “No, I am not new in town.  As a matter of fact I am not even in town.  I have a dentist appointment this afternoon and I am just killing time until then.  I am from Ft Worth and have been going to the community school.”

 

“You going to Dr Taylor’s?” Clyde inquired.  He was rather short of words and straight to the point.

 

Oops, he had forgotten to get a name from the phone directory.  These men had no reason to suspect anything so he responded, “Yeah, I got to have a tooth filled.”

 

“Sure is warm on this side of the building,” he commented.  Spencer wanted to change the subject from him to them.  “What did ya’ll think of the snow a couple of weeks ago?  They said in Ft Worth that it was the first time since ’86, I believe.”

 

“I remember the big snow we had back in 57.  It must have gotten to over a foot,” chimed in Claude.  Claude was sitting on the far end of the bench.  He was so big that if he got up, Spencer was sure he would fall to the ground.  He was chewing tobacco and he spit a stream that went at least five feet from his mouth.

 

“You got to be crazy, Claude.  We have never had snow that deep,” Clyde said turning to Spencer.   “Claude will tell you the truth all the time, just he has several versions of it,” Clyde continued laughing.

 

Clyde reached in the  top pocket of his overalls and pulled out a can of tobacco.  Carefully pouring the tobacco over a single sheer paper strip and rolling it with one hand, Clyde put the can back in his pocket.

 

Licking the long edge and twisting the ends, he got a match and struck it against his pant leg, setting the end of the hand rolled cigarette on fire.

 

He took several deep draws on the cigarette, which put out the fire and settled back to enjoy his labor.  Clyde was a chain smoker with a raspy voice from years of smoking one cigarette after another.

 

“How could he do that,” an absorbed Spencer thought.

 

Claude took issue with Clyde, “You old scoundrel, what do you know.  You have only been here for the last 25 years!  Besides that Prince Albert is going to kill you.”

 

The entire bench laughed at the playful back and forth these two seemed to enjoy.

 

“And that chewing tobacco is not going to kill you.  I can’t afford those store bought cigarettes.  We all got to die from something, might as well be something we like,” countered Clyde drawing on the cigarette with what seemed to be all the energy he had.  Letting out the smoke, he began coughing and hacking from the very depth of his lungs.

 

“Anything ever happen in this town?” asked Spencer wanting to get on with his investigation.  He was beginning to think that these old men just sat around and argued about everything.

 

“Oh,” started Melvin, “we had us a killin’ a couple of weeks back.”  Melvin was sitting in the middle.  He had a cold and placed one of his fingers beside his nose, blowing the mucus toward the ground.  It hit his pant’s leg.  He picked up a twig and tried to clean it off.

 

“You gonna’ make us all sick, Melvin,” Claude sneered.  “Why don’t you go home and clean your britches?”

 

Melvin angered by the comment, responded, “You gotta’ lot of room talking about cleaning britches – your britches need cleaning and it’s not snot.”

 

“Spencer wanted to get back to the killing that had been introduced.  “Who got killed?” he asked.

 

Melvin jumped in, “It was this insurance widow.  She’d been around here for ages.  She got mixed up with another insurance man.  I think his name was Pope.   He chopped her up!”  Melvin recounted seeming to enjoy telling the story.

 

“Chopped her up?  You’re kidding me!” exclaimed Spencer.  He was on the right trail and the scent was getting stronger.

 

Claude tried to make sense of it by saying, “She started dating this Pope feller’.  Seems he was out of money and was using hers.  She got mad and cut him off.  Cut him off from more than his money, I bet.” Claude was laughing heartily as he shared his recollection.

 

  “Anyway, he got mad and chopped her up and buried her in the back yard.  Hadn’t been for the dogs, he might have gotten away with it,” said Claude.

 

Melvin interrupted, “You gotta’ be kiddin’."  There were a bunch of the ladies who were trying to find her.”  He explained, “He kept telling them she was gone on a ship or something.”

 

Spencer asked, “What about the sheriff?  Didn’t he get involved?”

 

Melvin defended the sheriff, “The sheriff is slow, but he is good.  You put a donut in the mess and he will follow the sugar.”

 

Claude came back, “Anyway, it caused quite a stir around these parts.  Strange you have not you have not heard about it.  I thought it was on the news in Ft Worth?”

 

“Matter of fact, I think I saw it on Channel 5.” Claude confirmed as he spit tobacco from his mouth again.

 

“I have been studying a lot lately and do not get to catch TV that much.  I guess it was quite a tragedy for the family to hear about it,” remarked Spencer.  “She have local family around town?”  He began to get to the heart of the issue.  It seemed they had accepted him now.

 

“Yes, she had a daughter who grew up here.  She’s in Ft Worth now going to school,” responded Melvin.  “She had to leave when she and her husband split up.  He was a local boy too, you know.”

 

Melvin cleared his throat and Spencer thought he was going to blow again, but this time he spit.  “That’s gross.  How do these guys put up with this,” he wondered.

 

“I think she and that husband of hers stayed in bed all the time, if you know what I mean.  They had three children,” snickered Claude.  “It seemed every time her stomach got empty – bang, bang, bang,” he emphasized hitting his fist in his hand.  “I would like to have a cow like that.  I could make a lot of money on her calves.”

 

“You can’t make money on anything.  You lost the farm you had and that is why you sit up here and chew tobacco,” chimed in Clyde drawing again on his cigarette.

 

Claude countered, “You one to talk.  You sitting up here drawing SSI and if it wasn’t for the VA, you would never get to see a doctor.”

 

“What about her husband?  He still around?” Spencer saw him losing the subject matter if he could not get them to stop ribbing each other.

 

Clyde, released smoke that appeared from nowhere since he had kept it in so long.   “He is another story.  Wild one, he was.  He would drink anything that stood still long enough and do anything that laid down long enough,” he laughed at his parody without knowing why.

 

“Straightn’d himself out though.  Would you believe that he is our town deputy now?  Strange bedfellers’ we have around here,” Melvin remarked.

 

Clyde added, “Some folks say the judge got him the job.  He seems to be doing a decent job.  I know he has not gone back to the bottle.  I think that last accident got to him.  He almost got killed when he ran into the creek down by the Green’s place.”

 

“The judge?” inquired Spencer, “Who is he?” 

 

Now they were leading him on a different track that was not on his list, but he would let them run with it if it led to somewhere.

 

Melvin barked, “’The judge’, you haven’t heard about the judge.  Man, you must be from some outer planet.  Judge Myers is probably the most portant’ man in these parts.  What he says goes!” he concluded.

 

OK, Spencer surmised, the judge is just a man that can help people.  He will not be in this report.  “I need to get back to the deputy,” he reasoned to himself.  “What about the deputy.  Was he close to the family?” he asked wanting to keep the link between Vivian and Mary in the equation.

 

Claude spit his tobacco again wiping his mouth on his shirtsleeve, and said, “Jimmy is about as close to the family as anyone here.  Those three children kept him close since they are his.”

 

He added, “I saw him, Mary and that new preacher from the Baptist church at the grill the other day having a late lunch.  They seemed to be huddling close together for a couple of divorced kids.  Had the preacher there so he might be fixin’ to hitch them up again,” ventured Claude.

 

“The preacher, huh?” quipped Spencer, “That could get to be interesting.  It won’t be the first time a divorced couple got back together.”

 

“That’s nothing, I saw them all out at the judge’s yesterday,” added Melvin.  “Might be they are checkin’ their options,” chuckled Melvin.  “If’n the preacher won’t do it, the judge will.”

 

Melvin stood up and said that he had to go home for lunch.  His old lady would have his beans heated up by now.  He bid them good day as he ambled off toward the SouthernTrust Bank.

 

“He lives behind the bank,” explained Claude.

 

Spencer sat silent for a moment thinking about what he had heard.

 

Mary, Jimmy and this preacher had been seen together quite a few times since her mother died.  And now they were visiting this Judge Myers.  He reasoned silently, “She is probably getting information on how to handle the probate court if there was not a will and confiding with the preacher.”

 

He thought, “She could also be getting advice on filing the claim for the death with the insurance company.  Jimmy is probably going along for moral support.”

 

Well that would certainly stand to reason with the case that Charles Travis had handed him.  He would write up his report and have it ready this afternoon.  “I am sure that Travis will be interested to know that a judge has been brought into the mix,” reasoned Spencer.

 

Spencer, thought, “One more thing I need to complete the report.  Who is the pastor and what is his position in this?”  He asked, “Who is the pastor of the Baptist church?”

 

Clyde, who attends the church on occasion, said, “His name is Jenson, Donald Jenson.  He is a local boy also.  He played quarterback for the high school and almost got us in the playoffs his senior year.  Fine man,” he said as started rolling another cigarette.

 

He added, “They were all classmates in high school.  Mary was dating Jimmy and Donald was the quarterback.”

 

Striking another match on his pants leg, he lit up the end of the cigarette only this time he fluffed out the fire with his fingers looking at it to see that it was lit.

 

“Yes, there is a connection.  The preacher is consoling the daughter.  The deputy is consoling his ex-wife and the judge is advising them on what to do,” he calculated.  “Travis was going to have to walk a straight line on this one with the judge included.”

 

  “Well, I gotta’ get to the dentist office.  I have put off this pain for as long as I can.  See ya’ll.”  Spencer stood to leave.

 

“You take care now, you hear,” signed off Claude.  He was reaching for some new tobacco to replace the wad he had just spit out.

 

Clyde just grunted as Spencer left to make his way back to his car on the other side of the courthouse.  He heard him coughing and hacking as he walked to his car.

 

He had his report and it would be on Travis’ desk that afternoon.  How easy things go sometime when you get the right people in the right place.  He recognized that the extra commentary was probably not factual, but there was enough meat to make for a good report.  Given more time, Spencer knew he could be more thorough, but this was enough.

 

“The ‘judge’ angle is what Travis would want to know,” feeling good as he started his car and backed away from the curb.



VII.     The Plan

 

 

Mary drove up to the church just before 5:00.  Jimmy’s patrol car was already there and he saw Donald’s SUV near the entrance.  He had a parking place marked ‘Pastor’.

 

“‘Pastor’ – there’s that word again.  It was so appropriate for Donald,” she thought.  “Even though he was never considered to be a religious person in school, he certainly has the touch of God on his life now,” she surmised.

 

Mary got out of her car and walked into the church.  Although it had only been a week, it seemed like a long time since she had been in a church.  It felt strange.  When she met Donald the first time at the church, he had walked her in with his arm around her as she was crying.  She did not even notice the inside of the church.

 

  She looked into the sanctuary.  The pews were all so neatly positioned and polished.  Up front was a table immediately in front of the pulpit and the piano was on one side with the organ on the other.  There were chairs behind the pulpit that she assumed were the seats for the choir.  “I guess Donald sits up there too,” considered Mary.

 

It was beautiful.  But not only was it beautiful, it seemed to possess something that she had not been able to find since her mother’s death.  There was a comfort and peace encompassing the room.

 

She could imagine Donald standing behind the pulpit proclaiming his message from God.  How she wished she could attend one of his services to hear him speak.  “I am going to make it a priority to put that on my calendar, “ Mary determined.

 

“Hey beautiful, why are you standing out here,” came Jimmy’s voice as he walked out of the secretary’s office to greet her.

 

“I was just imagining Donald standing there preaching and thinking how much things have changed since we were in high school.  Something isn’t it?” recovering from being startled by Jimmy, Mary acknowledged.

 

Jimmy replied,  “Yeah, things have changed.  All of us have changed and some more than others.  I guess Donald is one of those.”

 

Mary thought, “Yes Donald had changed, but Jimmy seemed to be changing.  They had been together two times and not one cross word had passed between them.”  Though they had been civil over the last year, there still had seemed to be a disturbance underneath the surface that could erupt at any time.

 

“Donald in his office?” Mary asked.

 

Jimmy answered, “Yes, I stepped out when he got a phone call to give him some privacy.  His secretary has already left for the day.”

 

“You remember Allison Jackson?  She is Donald’s secretary.  She was a couple of years behind us.  I think she might have been a freshman,” remembered Jimmy.

 

“Oh yeah, she was the only freshman to make cheerleader.  The rest were from the senior class except for her,” she remembered.

 

“She had big lungs and could really yell,” laughed Mary.

 

Jimmy chuckled, “That is not all that she had that was big, but then that was another time.  She has gained quite a bit of weight since school.  She is a real jolly person, and liked by everybody.”

 

“Hey, ya’ll coming in or what?” shouted Donald from his office.

 

“We were giving you some privacy for your phone call.  How is it going Bro’?” Jimmy asked as he and Mary entered the office.  Jimmy closed the door behind them.

 

Donald declared, “It has been one of those days.  The Bensons had a death in the family.  Their mother died last night and they want me to do the service on Thursday.”

 

Donald explained, “There are some relatives from out of town that need to get here for the funeral.”

 

“If there is one thing seminary does not train you to handle, it is death,” he lamented.

 

Jimmy exclaimed, “Strange, I only think of you standing behind the pulpit.  I guess you do have other responsibilities other than that.  I am not sure I would want your job especially at funerals.”

 

Mary asked, “The Bensons, isn’t that the family that had the big farm out on the county road north of town?”

 

“Yes, that is them, but the farm is not so big anymore.  They had to sell off part of the property a few years back to a developer out of Ft Worth,” Jimmy explained.  “Tom Benson had to have a heart transplant and they needed the money to pay for the surgery.”

 

Donald added, “Now, they are faced with the expenses for their mother’s hospital and doctor bills prior to her death and this could do them in financially.”  He added, “The church is pulling together to help them with the expenses for the funeral.”

 

“Don’t tell anyone I said that.  It would devastate them for it to get out how bad things are for them,” ordered Donald.

 

Mary jumped in, “Mother left a lot of stuff in the house.  I wonder if they could use any of it.  There are some nice clothes and furniture.  I have no use for it and I would like it a lot better if I knew that it was going for a good purpose.”

 

“I will check and let you know.  They are a real proud people and I will tell them it is some items that have been left at the church,” commented Donald.  “They might have a need for them.  It is a big family.”

 

Mary said, “Good, I have been wondering what I would do with all that stuff.  Even when I move back, I will be bringing most of my own furniture and will not need what is there,” commented Mary.

 

She changed the subject, “Well, has everyone given thought to our decision?”

 

Jimmy spoke first, “Mary, as I see it, when the memo gets taken to Senator Grey, it will be in his hands to make a decision as what to do.  This will take us out of the equation and should release us from any risk.  What do ya’ll think?”

 

Donald seconded Jimmy’s thoughts, ”I agree with Jimmy.  Once it leaves Adobe and gets to Senator Grey, it is out of our hands.  If he wants to pursue it, then he will make his own decisions on what to do and it will not include us.  Even if he chooses to trash it, then the subject matter is closed and it is over,” finished Donald..

 

“Well, ya’ll are on the same wavelength as I am,” Mary was relieved.  “I do agree with Judge Myers that the memo should be hand carried to Senator Grey.  We do not need to take a chance of it getting into the wrong hands or being lost somewhere.”

 

Donald surmised, “Well this was certainly quick enough.  Let’s discuss the details on getting it to him at dinner.  Ya’ll ready to go eat?”  Not waiting for an answer, he added, “The earlier we get to the Biscuit Barrel, the quicker we will be able to get a table.  They start filling up real fast after 5:00.”

 

Mary replied, “I am hungry as a horse.  I have been worried about this all day and what we would do.  I did not feel like eating.  Now, I feel a big burden has been lifted from my shoulders and I am hungry enough to eat a horse.”

 

Mary, Jimmy and Donald went in Donald’s SUV to the Biscuit Barrel.  Just as Donald had predicted, it was busy, but they had a little shopping area prior to going into the restaurant.  There was no question that the shopping area was not an afterthought.  They very much wanted you to browse while you waited.

 

Mary found a few toys she wanted to get for the children.  Jimmy agreed to buy them and they set them aside until after they had their meal.

 

They were called to their table after 15 minutes and were seated near a window up front.  It was a quaint restaurant with old artifacts on the wall.  It was very interesting. 

 

Jimmy said that he believed that he had used every one of those tools on the wall when he was growing up and now they were artifacts.  He thought out loud, “I am getting old.”

 

The waitress took their drink order while they read the menu.

 

Donald decided on country ham with beans and corn, while Jimmy said that he was going to go with the chicken fried steak, french fries and salad.  Mary had the grilled chicken with salad and brussel sprouts as her sides.  They kidded Jimmy about his cholesterol level and the fried foods he was ordering.

 

The waitress took their order after delivering the drinks.

 

A momentary silence fell over the table.  They had made a momentous decision and it seemed that it had not quite settled in as to what they had done.  No one was even addressing the possibility of the fall out that could come from the public disclosure of the memo.

 

Jimmy, still apprehensive, started, “Mary, you need to get the memo out of the safe deposit box as soon as possible.  You never know how far the tentacles might reach from the octopus should they want to find the memo,” he explained.

 

Donald was stunned, “You mean they might have the power to open the safe deposit box without her knowledge and actually get the memo?  I thought that was the purpose of a safe deposit box – public trust in the bank,” he declared.

 

Jimmy countered, “You remember last week, when they settled the estate of the Jameson family and the daughter was here to get the personal effects.”  He added, “Well it seemed that she was aware of a safe deposit box that her dad had and she went to get it only to find that she was not on the card.”

 

“They got a court order and the bank drilled the lock to open the box,” he explained.  “There were just a bunch of old mementoes, but I had to be there for the opening to represent the court,” recounted Jimmy.

 

“So who knows how far anyone could go if they really wanted to and especially if they had some kind of influential control over the bank in some way,” stated Donald.  “Those insurance companies do have far reaching abilities to touch many agencies and financial entities.”

 

“I guess it could happen.  Mary, you might need, as Jimmy has said, get it out and have it in your hand for safe keeping until you get it to Senator Grey,” he warned.

 

Mary responded, “I will get it this week for sure.  I will come over Friday afternoon.  I get out of school early and I can pick the kids up early.  I can’t keep leaving the kids with Jamie and Todd.”  She explained, “They are going to think that I have completely abandoned my kids.  This way I can bring them with me.”

 

Jimmy questioned, “When do you think you will want to go to North Carolina?  I will need to give the judge a call and have him set up your appointment.”

 

Mary thought for a minute, “What do ya’ll think?  I have never flown that much and it might be fun to go to North Carolina.  Jimmy, can you get off and go with me, we can take the kids?” she asked.

 

Jimmy responded, “First, I would love to go, but I cannot take off right now.  Second, the sooner the better in seeing Senator Grey – don’t wait on me,” he explained.

 

Jimmy offered, “I can do this – I will keep the kids while you go if that will help.”

 

“What can I do while you are gone.  I know, I can pick you up in Ft Worth and take you to the airport and then pick you up again when you return,” volunteered Donald.    “Will that help?” he inquired.

 

The waitress came with the food and distributed it according to their order.  It looked delicious.

 

Donald asked if it would be all right if he gave thanks before they ate.  He gave a very comforting prayer, but forgot to thank God for the food.  He laughed and said, “That is not the first time that has happened.  I regularly get to praying and forget to thank God for the food.”

 

Mary exclaimed, “Donald, God understands and, yes, you better believe that it will help for you to drive me to the airport.”

 

“When is the best time for you to go, Mary?” asked Jimmy.

 

“How about Monday?” inquired Mary and added, “Will that be OK for you to keep the kids then?”  She continued without waiting for an answer, “It will probably take at least two to three days.”

 

“If I leave sometime on Monday, meet with the Senator on Tuesday, then I can fly back on Wednesday,” speculated Mary.  “I had better plan on taking the full day for the meeting and then fly back the first thing Wednesday morning.  Will that work?”

 

“Fine with me,” said Jimmy.  “ I can take the kids on Friday when you come over for the memo which is my regular time anyway.  I will keep them until you come back on Wednesday.  You call me when you get home and I will bring them over.”

 

Mary responded, “That is fine with me – lets just do it Friday and I will not have to come back to Adobe so soon.”  She continued, “It seems that I should move back here if I am going to stay over here so much anyway.”

 

“Since you have your mother’s house, you might want to consider that,” said Donald.  You could always go to school at the community college.  You would not have to pay rent that way.”

 

Mary replied, “I will think about it.  Right now it is to soon after mother’s death to think about making a move.  Maybe at the end of this semester I can consider it.  I know that the children would love to be here,” she presumed.

 

“By the way, Donald, will the travel schedule fit into your schedule in getting me to the airport,” inquired Mary.

 

“No problem.  Just give me your itinerary when you get it set up and I will arrange it,” responded Donald.

 

“Hey, Jimmy, why don’t you pick me up at the airport since you are planning to bring the children over anyway,” asked Mary.  “That would save Donald a trip and I would get to see the children quicker that way,” remarked Mary.

 

Jimmy said, “That is fine with me.  I might be ready to come even earlier.” Jimmy laughed at the thought of keeping the kids for several days longer.  “Our boys are a hand full and Cathy seems to egg them on.”

 

Jimmy affirmed, “Its set then, I will call Judge Myers and tell him what you want to do.  You want to meet with Senator Grey on next Tuesday.  I will call you and give you the details when I get them and then you can set your itinerary with the airlines.”

 

Jimmy added, “You will need to make reservations for a motel room as well.  How are you fixed for money?  I can help you some if you need it.”

 

Donald interrupted, “You know, none of us are wealthy people and to fly without waiting 7 days or two weeks – whatever it is – might be very expensive.  We might want to pursue airline tickets to get the best deal before we have the judge set up the meeting.”

 

He added, “I think that all of us can help you with the airline tickets and the motel expenses as well.  With three of us, it will not be so bad on one.”

 

“That would help,” remarked Mary and went on, “Let me call them and get some idea of what it is going to cost and I will let you know.  I have heard of some real good deals on flying if you stay over a Saturday.”

 

Mary surmised, “All I would have to do is wait to leave for a few days to stay over a Saturday, if it would save us money.  I will let you know!”

 

They engaged in small talk as they finished their meal and Jimmy picked up the tab plus paid for the toys for the children.  He called it an Christmas present – “Yeah,” Mary said, “two months late.”  She knew he was kidding.

 

Driving back to the church, Donald requested that they have prayer before they depart.

 

Jimmy said, “I am not much on speaking prayer, although I pray a lot in my work not knowing  what is involved.  You lead it and I will pray with you, Donald.”

 

They held hands and Donald led the prayer.  Getting out of Donald’s SUV, they hugged each other as they departed for their separate cars.

 

As she got into her car, Mary thought, “It has been so long since she has felt close to someone other than her children.  Even her relationship with her mother had become less and now … .”  Her thoughts trailed off into the dark of the night as she drove from the parking lot.

 

Jimmy got into the patrol car and called in on his radio.  “I am through with dinner.  Anything going on that you need me?” he questioned.

 

“No, everything is quiet.  Have a good evening and I will see you in the morning.  Don’t forget the donuts,” came the sheriff’s cheery voice.

 

Jimmy made a mental note about the donuts and departed for home.

 

Donald’s thoughts changed quickly, as he found himself alone in his SUV.  He began to think, “I have got to meet with the Bensons this evening at the funeral home to get the specifics they might want to have said at the service.”

 

Donald thought, “How you go from a high to a low within the ministry will always be a mystery to me.  I sometimes think I need God to be more with me than with the family at a time like this.”

 

Realizing his thoughts were selfish, he prayed, “Forgive me Lord for placing my needs over the needs of a family who has just lost a loved one.”

 

Charles arrived in his office early Wednesday morning.  He was interested in the report from Spencer Rush.  He had called the evening before and security said that the report had been received and that it would be on his desk the next morning.

 

He went through Darlene’s office to get to his office.  He did see the brown envelope placed on her desk and stopped to see what it was.  It was from the Ryans Detective Agency and was on her desk instead of his.  His desk meant his desk, especially if the envelope was marked ‘Personal and Confidential”.

 

He went immediately into his office and opened up the envelope.  Spencer Rush had placed a sticky note to the cover page indicating that he would be available for further service if he were needed.

 

He knew about Vivian’s death – maybe not all the details – and he wanted to know what was going on now.  Charles began to scan the report until it got to the place regarding the meetings with the judge.

 

“What is this about going to a judge?  Judge Myers …?” he pondered.

 

Charles remembered, “I have heard of that name.  He is some kind of legend in his own time.”  “Seems they say he can pick up the phone and speak directly with the President of the country if he wants to,” he thought.  “I remember reading some articles on him in the Star Messenger.”

 

“Well this is going to put a twist on the problem that we might have to take into consideration,” examined Charles.

 

He went into Darlene’s office and ran two extra copies of the report to have for John and Bill.

 

Bill got into the office early also.  He was eager to see if any changes had been made that he needed to be aware before he went in with John and Charles.  Looking over his desk and pulling up his schedule on the computer, he was clear for the next two hours.  “That will be plenty of time for the meeting,” thought Bill.

 

Charles and Bill started toward John’s office as John came off the elevator.  “Morning gentlemen!” came John’s greeting to them.

 

“Morning,” responded Bill.

 

“Morning,” replied Charles and went on to ask, “You ready to meet?”

 

“Sure, come on in.  Melanie, get these men a cup of coffee or whatever they want and I will take a can of V8 juice,” John instructed as he entered his office.

 

“Make mine black coffee,” spoke up Bill.  “She probably knows I want black coffee by now,” he considered, since we meet in here all the time.

 

“I am going to pass for now,” added Charles.  He was foaming metaphorically at the mouth to get his report before them.  He wanted to see what was next on the agenda.

 

Melanie poured the coffee for Bill.  She shook a can of V8 juice before opening it and poured it in a cup for John.  Placing both on the desk in John’s office, she disappeared back to her office closing the door.

 

“What’s up, gentlemen?” questioned John.

 

Charles was unusually stirred up this morning.  He immediately opened the report from the brown envelope.  Passing out the copies to John and Bill, Charles said, “We might have a problem.  This Mary Francis has been going to see a judge.  A Judge Myers, who according to my recollection has political pull with just about anybody up to and including the President of the United States.”

 

“Do you think that she is talking to him about the memo?” questioned John cutting straight to the issue at hand.

 

Charles started. “When I assigned the case to Ryans Detective Agency, I told them that we were concerned about a claim we might have in the death of Vivian Francis.  This report indicates that they think she might be seeking advice from the judge over settling the claim.  Ryans does not know about the memo just yet,” reported Charles.

 

He went on, “From what we know about the note referencing hospitals, nursing homes and insurance rates, this could be for advice on what to do about the memo.”

 

“Those that went out to see him were Mary, Jimmy Nixon, the deputy, and the new pastor, Donald Jenson at the Baptist church.  They were all classmates in high school.  And the note was written by Jimmy the deputy,” he added.

 

“If,” he continued, “It turns out that they were going out to see the judge about the memo, then this thing is escalating.  More people could be entering into the mix.  It could be that we cannot stop it, unless we move quickly.”  He concluded, “We have got to determine if we have a problem and if we do, decide what action we are going to take!”

 

John spoke calmly wanting to dispel the urgency displayed by Charles, “Bill, it appears we have got to find out what we are up against.  Right now, for sure, we only know the words exist.  What are your suggestions?”

 

John began, “Let’s assume the memo does exist.  It could be in the Vivian Francis’ home since we know that Mary has been going through her mother’s effects.”

 

Charles interrupted, “Or it could be in a safe deposit box or it could be in a tin can in the back yard.”

 

 John replied, “Well up front, we can dispel the tin can theory since Vivian’s remains were found in various holes in the back yard.  I read up on the case from the files in the DA’s office in Adobe, yesterday.  I got one of our connections here in Ft Worth to call and get them to fax a copy of their investigation report,” he explained.

 

“Bill, where do you think it might be, if we are to assume that the memo exists?” asked John as he turned and looked him directly in the eyes.

 

Bill said, “I have to agree with Charles.  She is not going to just leave it laying around.  It will be at Vivian’s house, Mary’s apartment, or in a safe deposit box.  Charles sent us the file on Mary yesterday showing where she lives here in Ft Worth.  It is on Haywood I believe.  I would have to look at the file to be sure.”

 

John inquired, “Are you suggesting that we search these places to see if we can find it?”

 

Charles was sitting on the edge of his chair wanting to hear the approval for him to move.  He felt he needed to search all the locations to locate the memo.  This was taking to long.  He needed to move and move now if the assumption is correct.

 

Bill said, “No, I am not suggesting that at all.  I think that we might have some time to try and negotiate with her to see if she will give it over voluntarily first.”

 

“Bill, how can you be such a wimp,” Charles jumped in.  “If we try to talk to her, she will get wise to us and that will be the end of that.”

 

“Just how do you propose that we negotiate with her,” glared Charles standing from the frustration of dealing with these two as if this were a business deal of some kind.

 

Bill started, “We can tell her we have a $10,000 escape clause on the agency that was never executed and we want to close our files.  We will tell her that her father established this clause with the formation of the agency.  As the next of kin after her mother’s death, we will need to have her sign off that all documents and files have been returned to us to execute the clause.  After she signs, then the check will be processed within a week.”

 

He explained, “If she has the memo, she might not think it important and hand it over immediately.  If not, then when she signs, her credibility can be brought into question should she later produce the memo.”

 

Bill added, “We can even have a document drawn up legally that would be placed on file in Walker County.  It might have the shock effect and monetary benefit that she would need and accept.”  He was thinking about the trust funds that he had already shut off.  Within a few days, Mary was going to be in deep financial trouble and would need money.

 

“I like it, Bill,” commented John.  “Set it into motion and get back to me on the progress.  Lets meet again on this on Monday morning first thing.  Can you have someone meet with her by then?” questioned John.

 

Charles turned angrily and started to storm out the door.  “Charles, do not do anything until Bill has had an opportunity to try his plan.  You understand?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” muttered Charles as he charged from the room leaving the door open as he went.

 

Melanie came over, and noticing that Bill was going to remain, closed the door again.

 

“That guy bothers me.  He is a loose cannon if ever there was one.  But he rules the foreign markets with an iron fist and that is what we need there,” rationalized John.

 

Bill introduced, “John, I have discovered the origin of the trust funds for Mary Francis.  The Edwards Financial Firm in Ft Worth is controlling both Mary’s and Vivian’s trust funds..  We own Edwards Financial and I called them yesterday.”

 

He exclaimed, “As of the 15th, Thursday, tomorrow, Mary’s checks will be placed on hold!  We go over on Friday and make the offer to her about the clause on the franchise.  She will already know that she is not getting a check this week and who knows when it will get reestablished – she might just go for it.”

 

“What happens to the money that she is not getting from Edwards on her trust?  It is still there isn’t it?” questioned John.

 

Bill answered proudly, “Yes, it is still there.  As a matter of fact, it will be drawing interest while she does not have it.  When we do release it, she will get a large check bringing her up to date.”

 

Bill went on, “I have been assured by Edwards that this is really standard procedure in the case of death like this anyway.  Too many questions and they lock it up for awhile until it gets settled.  Difference here is that it is going to be instant.”

 

“Normally, it takes a month or two for them to get word and then the situation might be settled by then so they do not act, period,” finished Bill.

 

“Good work, Bill.  It looks like you are on top of this and have got the wheels already in motion,” John was pleased with the work Bill had accomplished.  I look forward to hearing what happens this weekend,” John congratulated Bill for his efficiency and plan.

 

Bill added, “One more thing, we do own Schwartz Financial in New York and they have SouthernTrust Bank including the one in Adobe.  I have a call in for my contact there and I will run interference in Adobe when it comes time to contact the bank,” reported Bill.

 

“Great, stay with it Bill.  If there is nothing else, I will see you and Charles on Monday,” John said with determination.  Bill was becoming a real player with the company.  He would have to bring him in on more issues in the future.

 

“I will be out of town for the balance of the week.   I have to be in Colorado this weekend,” said John.  “I am taking the family skiing.  This has been a hectic two months since the Christmas holidays.  Be great to get away.  We are taking the Citation so I will have communication should you need me for anything.  Don’t hesitate to call,” John remarked.

 

“You need to plan a getaway for you and your family when this is over.  You can take the Citation and go where you like.  Just clear it with the hanger,” instructed John.  “The Citation is a great way to travel.”

 

John got up from his desk and reached for his briefcase.  John knew that offering the Citation to Bill was an empty gesture as he instructed John Corbin that the plane was to be considered scheduled.  The only variation was when the president needed it.  But to offer sounded as a gentle gesture of good will.

 

“Keep an eye on Charles for me while I am away.  He seemed pretty perturbed.” John said as they walked out the door together.

 

Bill went back to his office passing Charles on his way at the receptionist’s desk.  He got strangely quiet as Bill came with hearing distance. 

 

Bill figured that Charles was flirting with Michele since he was not to ‘turned’ on by Darlene in his office.  “Who knows what they might be planning.  Somebody has got to warn that girl about Charles,” he thought.

 

Melinda was coming out of his office as he approached the door.  She said that she was taking some forms down to accounting and that she would return shortly.

 

Bill sat down at his desk and called up his company directory on the computer.  Seeing the legal department, he clicked the number and dialed the extension.  “Hilmore here, can I help you?” was the brisk answer given.  Don Hilmore was a graduate of Texas A&M University and had been in the Corp of Cadets.

 

 “Don, this is Bill Blackwell.  Can you come up to my office right away?” asked Bill.  He wanted to get the legal department on this now so that they could get out and find Mary Francis to see if she would bite on the idea.

 

“Right away,” said Don, “What code do you want me to use for the elevator?”  You had to have a code or the elevator would not come to the floor.  It was a security measure.  A disgruntled client had entered the building last summer and attempted to shoot up the office.  Two security guards overpowered him.  He never made it on the elevator.

 

“Use 5318,” replied Bill, “I am putting it in the computer as we speak.  See you when you get here.”  Bill entered the code and went to get a cup of coffee.  He had just sat back down, when the phone rang.  Melanie was out so he took the call.    “Blackwell, can I help you?” asked Bill.

 

“Ed Lasater, Swartz Financial.  Bill, you remember we worked the financial seminar two years ago in Vegas.  Man did we have a time there,” he exclaimed.  “How have you been doing?”  He was returning Bill’s call from the day before.

 

Bill revamped his thinking quickly and returned, “Sure Ed, you did a bang up job explaining acquisitions and what to look for on balance sheets.  I still remember your suggestions and I use them every time we are looking at new investments.”

 

“I called in and got your message.  Since I was in town, I thought I would run by the office and call you,” declared Ed.  “You nailed me on the vacation question.  You know accountants; we try to follow the rules.  It is hard to break old habits.  I can take off when I want but I still milk the system using the holidays,” exclaimed Ed.

 

“Say, I have a situation here in Ft Worth that I need your help,” started Bill.  “As you know, Schwartz is part of our financial portfolio and looking at your break down, I see that you control SouthernTrust Banks.  “That still true?” he inquired.

 

“Sure, we still have them, although as you know with banks, you almost need a bingo card to keep up with the changes,” laughed Ed.

 

“Know what you mean, we have changes in the insurance market almost as critical at times,” Bill countered.  “We have found ourselves high enough on the heap it seems everything happens underneath us,” he joined in the humor.

 

“I need a contact person that we can get something handled in the SouthernTrust Bank in Adobe, TX,” he explained.  “I do not want to fool around with having to go through different people who do not know who we are, if you know what I mean.”  Bill wanted someone to go the bank and to the direct person who would be ready to do whatever was needed.  “Questions are not what he wants to get into at this point,” he considered quietly to himself.

 

“Sure no problem, I will pull it up on computer and see who my contact person is … uh … uh … there we are.”  He continued, “Larry Case is the man.  His telephone number is 817-555-1234.  I can give him a call and give him a heads up if you want.  Your man will need only to make an appointment after that,” reported Ed.

 

Bill said, “Got it.  You call him, and then we will set up an appointment with him this afternoon.  This has been great talking with you.  We will have to get together and talk acquisitions sometime,” he snickered thinking, “’Numbers cruncher’ talk for accountants.”

 

Ed offered, “You ever get up to New York, let me know and I will get some Broadway show tickets for you.  They are all back up and running now since the shutdown after 911.  Got some really good ones, too.”

 

“Will do,” stated Bill, “have a great day in all the snow.  I see ya’ll were having a lot of snow on the Regis and Kelly show.”  He had seen the show on Monday and everything was covered in snow.

 

Ed laughed, “Yes, we are white outside, white inside white everywhere.  Hey, we will even get you in the Regis and Kelly show if you want to get up that early.  You have a great day and call me if I can help you on anything else.”  Ed hung up the phone thinking I have got to get out of here to Florida or somewhere that is not white.

 

Bill was shaking from his conversation with Ed when Don appeared at his door knocking lightly.  “Your secretary is out?”

 

“Come on in my boy,” greeted Bill.  “I have not had the occasion to use your services for quite a while now.  You are looking fit and trim as always.  That military life at A&M sure taught you how to handle your weight. “

 

“Well, A&M and exercise.  I don’t know which has the most impact.  Probably exercise,” laughed Don.  He had worked out everyday in the gym.

 

FICA provided a great gym in the basement of the building.  It had every exercise machine known and plenty of them so you did not have to wait to get your repetitions.

 

“One thing you learn from the insurance business is that everyone is going to die,” laughed Don.  “You cannot stop that, but if you have a choice on ‘when’ as a result of being healthy, I try healthy.”

 

“Donald, I have a job for you.  I need a legal document for Mary Francis allowing us to close the purchase of the agency from Vivian Francis,” explained Bill.  “She needs to sign off by agreeing to turn over all documents that she might have regarding FICA and in return we will execute a settlement for $10,000,” he said.  “You can call up what you need on Mary Francis through the files on computer.  Can that be done today?”

 

Don said, “Sure, but I have to ask one question, is there such an agreement or is this a cash payout of some sort?”  Before Bill could answer, he continued, “It does not make any difference, I just need to know for the record.”

 

Bill chuckled, “It is a cash payout of ‘some sort’.  I would like the wording to be a little more precise than that.  I could write up a document that said ‘cash payout’ – put in your legalese and make it look official.  We will probably file it with Walker County court records.”

 

“How did your reunion go with A&M?  See all your old classmates?” asked Bill changing the subject.  He had gone to A&M also.  Both he and Don were there together, but he was a senior when Don was a freshman.

 

Don responded, “No, my class did not show up.  I was in the Army Corp and the only ones who came in numbers were the Air Force.  They adopted me and I had a great time.  Looking forward to going again in five years!”

 

“My class was the same way.  I may not even go back for the next reunion,” responded Bill.  “Strangely enough, I enjoy going back for my hometown high school reunion more than I do for the one at A&M.  Maybe it is because we are older and not seeing so many new moons as we did when we were young.”

 

“Say, can you serve these papers when you get them prepared?” inquired Bill.  “Someone has to and who better than our legal department.”

 

“Sure, when do you want it done?” queried Don.

 

Bill answered, “Bring them up first thing in the morning and I will let you know.”

 

“There is another task I am trying to put together in Adobe at the same time and maybe you can do both.  It will be tomorrow or Friday for sure,” he remarked.

 

“We can handle it,” replied Don.  “I will get these drawn up and email them to you this afternoon.  We can go over them in the morning if you want?”  Don stood giving the aggie gig’em sign and left the office.

 

“We have got some fine people on staff here at FICA.  The best that money can buy,” Bill thought.

 

Jimmy drove around ‘the square’ toward his school zone assignment for the elementary school.  He had already gone by and picked up the donuts at the Southern Crème Donut shop.  “I really have some important duties to perform,” muttered Jimmy.

 

“I have to do this until the next deputy comes on board,” he thought.  It was the responsibility of a new deputy to handle school zones.  You did not get out of the school zone duty until a new deputy went to work for the force.  The way it was going now, that seemed a long time away.

 

At 9:00 am, Jimmy left his post having completed the duty.  He decided to go by Judge Myers prior to checking in with the office.  He always took a break after the school zone duty before checking in.  He would use this time to see the judge.

 

Driving up to the judge’s house in the morning might be the wrong time.  He did not know exactly when the judge started stirring around.  This was quickly put to rest as he saw the judge carrying chicken feed to the barn.  He shouted, “Good morning, Judge.  You out awfully early this morning.”

 

“You young whippersnappers, I am out way before this every morning.  I start the day off at 4:30!” the judge responded.  “Ya’ll are still in bed when I am finished with most of my chores,” snorted Judge Myers.

 

The judge placed the chicken feed in the pen with the chickens and turned to face Jimmy.  “I guess you are here to tell me what ya’ll want to do,” stated Judge Myers.

 

Jimmy gathering his composure and wanting to sound real confident giving the judge their answer, said, “Judge, Mary wants to see Senator Grey.”

 

“Are all of you in agreement with this?  You should not go into this half-cocked.  It is all or none as far as I am concerned,” affirmed the judge.

 

Jimmy answered, “Yes, we talked it over yesterday afternoon and all of us decided that we wanted to do this.  As a matter of fact, we are going to split the cost of Mary going to North Carolina to see Senator Grey,” he continued.

 

“That’s great.  I had hoped that it would work out this way, but I did not want to influence your decision until you made it,” said the judge.

 

“By the way, Mary will be going to Washington, DC instead of North Carolina,” instructed the judge.  “Tell her she will fly into LaGuardia.  When does she want to go?” inquired the judge.

 

“She was thinking of leaving next Thursday, spending the day with the Senator if needed on Friday, laying over on Saturday and flying back on Sunday or Monday,” said Jimmy.  “We are under the impression that flights are cheaper if you layover on a Saturday,” answered Jimmy.

 

“You have her ready to fly this coming Monday.  Don’t worry about the plane ticket or the motel; the Senator will cover all her expenses,” explained Judge Myers.  “She can meet with him on Tuesday and fly back Wednesday morning.  You do not want to sit on this thing at all!” exclaimed the judge.

 

He went on, “Tell her the Senator’s office will call her and give her the flight arrangements for Monday.  They will meet her at the airport in LaGuardia and cover everything else from there.”

 

“Mary just needs a couple of changes of clothes with possibly something a little nice – church clothes – for going out to dinner Tuesday night,” explained Judge Myers.  “Write down her phone number where she can be reached on this piece of paper so I will not forget it.  I am going in to call right now,” the judge said with urgency.

 

“She should hear from them this afternoon sometime,” volunteered the judge as he handed a piece of paper to Jimmy.

 

Jimmy wrote down Mary’s cell phone number on the paper and gave it back to the judge.  “This is going fast now.”

 

“It always does, Jimmy.  We need to get Mary, Donald and you out of the picture as quickly as possible.  The Senator’s office is geared to handle what comes their way.”

 

“The insurance company knows you are not equipped to handle it.  They are going to try to stop you if they get word of what is going on.  I have my connections locally, and if I hear anything that is going on, I will call you,” affirmed the judge.  “Now git and set Mary up to travel.”

 

“Oh, tell her that the office must mention my name when they are talking to her.  They will say Judge V Myers called them,” charged the judge.  “The ‘V’ is a code as no one else knows it.”  The judge did not want someone else to call Mary and fly her to some other destination.

 

Jimmy was having trouble controlling himself as he turned back on the road leading to town.  He pulled over at the first pull off and called Donald at the church.

 

“Pastor Jenson, please, Deputy Nixon here,” he heard himself saying.

 

He called him Pastor Jenson – that was a switch.  Must be the complexity of the situation.  Now Donald was needed as a pastor.

 

“Jimmy, what’s going down, Bro’.  Come to think of it, I should not say what is going down to a police officer.  That refers to crime activity,” chuckled Donald.

 

“Well, I could throw it right back at you, Bro’.  What’s going down in your profession means – someone is going to hell,” countered Jimmy snickering.

 

Donald replied, “Got me again.  What’s own your mind is a better question, I guess?”

 

Jimmy said, “I gave our decision to Judge Myers this morning and he is setting it up right now.  He wants Mary ready to travel this coming Monday, meet with the Senator on Tuesday and fly back Wednesday,” he remarked.

 

“The judge says the quicker we get this in someone else’s hands the better it will be for us,” shared Jimmy.  “Oh, he said the Senator would cover all the expenses including the air fare, motel and food.”

 

“All we have to do is get her to the airport.  I am going to call her and tell her, but I wanted you to know first.  Any comments – wet feet?” he asked.

 

Donald remarked, “No, fine with me and thanks for the heads up.  Mary might call and I can tell her that we have talked.  It’s happening, Bro’!  Maybe, by this time next week, it will be in the news.  Who knows, but one thing is for sure, someone else will be responsible for the activity.”

 

Donald finished, “Thanks for calling – call Mary and let her know.  She is going to be beside herself.  Tell her to call me when her plans are finalized for the flight.”

 

Jimmy volunteered, “I will have the kids, so let’s both go and take her there.  She is going to need the moral support.”

 

“Great,” said Donald.  “Call me when you get the plans.”  Donald hung up the phone and sighed a sigh of relief, “This is going to be over soon.”

 

Jimmy pushed the end button on his cell phone and dialed Mary’s number.  For a moment, he panicked.  “What if I can not get in touch with her?”

 

“What if the Senator’s office calls the number and she has the phone off?” he questioned in his mind.

 

“Or what if the battery is down?” these thoughts raced through Jimmy’s mind like horses running on the meadows at the judge’s ranch.

 

“Mary Francis, Jimmy is that you,” she was reading from the phone ID.

 

Totally relieved that he was talking to Mary, he stuttered, “Mary, it’s…it is a go.  I talked with the judge this morning and he is calling the Senator as we speak.  The Senator’s office will call you this afternoon and give you the flight arrangement.  They will pay for everything including the motel and your food.”  He was rushing to give her all the details, but he had to stop for a breath.

 

“What?  Slow down, Jimmy and tell me again,” Mary was having trouble grasping everything that was being said.

 

Jimmy gathered his wits and started again, “Mary, the judge is calling the Senator’s office right now.  He says for you to be ready to fly on Monday, spend Tuesday with the Senator’s office, and fly back on Wednesday morning.  You will be flying into LaGuardia airport near Washington, DC instead of North Carolina.  And the Senator’s office will be paying for everything including the flight, your motel and your food.”

 

Jimmy remembered, “Oh, and he said to take a set of clothes – something like church clothes – as they will be taking you out to dinner Tuesday night.  The other dress is similar to office dress when you meet with the Senator on Tuesday,” going more into detail as he slowed down.

 

“You mean, I will have to be ready to go this coming Monday?  What about the kids?  Wow, I have so much to do before then,” exclaimed Mary excitedly.  “How am I going to know the details and how does the Senator’s office know how to get into touch with me?”

 

Jimmy apologized, “I’m sorry.  I forgot to tell you that.  I gave the judge your cell phone number and he is going to give it to the office.  They are supposed to call you this afternoon on your cell phone to give you all the details.”

 

Jimmy wanting to elaborate with all the details, said, “Mary, I talked with Donald before I called you and we both can come over on Monday and take you to the airport.”

 

He shared, “I will still keep the kids this Friday when you come to Adobe to get the memo.”

 

“Gosh, Jimmy, this is so fast.  I have got to start thinking about what I am going to take.  Can I call you later when the Senator’s office calls me?” Mary asked.

 

“Sure.  There is one last thing.  Make sure Senator Grey’s office mentions the judge by name.  They need to say that Judge V Myers called them.”  He thought, “No need to alarm Mary that the ‘V’ is a code name.”

 

When are you going to get the memo from the bank?” asked Jimmy.

 

“My plans are for Friday afternoon before the bank closes.  That will be all right, don’t you think?” questioned Mary.  She was beginning to feel the pressure of getting everything right for the trip including the memo.

 

“Should be.  Call me when you get your plans from Senator Grey’s office.  I have to go to Ft Worth Thursday to make a prisoner transfer.”

 

He added, “I have to go to Weatherville to pick them up and then to Ft Worth.  It will take most of the afternoon.  Donald can help should you need him,” explained Jimmy.

 

“OK, thanks for calling.  I will call you when I hear from them,” said Mary as she pushed the end button on her cell phone.

 

“What do I take?  I have got to go home and see if I need to go shopping,” her mind was crammed with the dresses in her closet.  She thought, “To my knowledge, not one stood out as the one I might want to take.”

 

Jimmy hung up and called in on the car radio to let the office know that he was back from his break.  The dispatcher said, “Take it to highway 180 and monitor traffic.  The sheriff wants all those speed criminals brought to justice.”

 

“10-4,” he replied and turned his car toward Weatherville.

 

Charles was furious walking back toward his office.  This negotiation thing might work.  “It was a good plan and he wished he had thought of it.  Bill was unusually quick on his feet.  I wonder if he is getting his ideas from someone on his staff,” thought Charles.

 

He went straight for his office ignoring the greeting by Darlene.  Picking up the phone, he called the special number on the report for Ryans Detective Agency.  It went directly to Spencer Rush.  “Spencer Rush, what can I do for you?” came the reply when the phone answered.

 

Charles, controlling his anger, said, “Spencer, this is Charles Travis, FICA.  Meet me at the 6th Street Café at 10:30.  Any problems?”  There had better not be any problems, he would own that agency if they gave him any trouble.

 

“I can be there.  You get the report?” asked Spencer.

 

He was wondering if the anger he heard in Charles’s voice had anything to do with the report or the work that he had done.  He had not done that much investigative work, but it was quite thorough for the time he was given.

 

Charles replied, “Yeah, I got it and it was exactly what I wanted.  I’ll go over the rest of it when I see you away from this office.”

 

Charles knew that there was a recording system for the entire system and had heard rumors that the president had installed secret audio and video devices in the offices.  The calls were recorded because many of their conversations were needed for claims regarding insurance cases.  The office recordings were for the president only.

 

Charles had several meetings in his office when the conversation moved into areas that he would not be comfortable knowing they were being recorded.  Yet he had never been called on the carpet for them.  “It seems as long as it serves their purpose, it is OK,” he reflected.

 

“They know my work could not always be according to the book.” Charles quickly put the recordings out of his mind.

 

Charles told Darlene he would be out to the office for the rest of the day.  He had a golfing date after the meeting with Spencer Rush and it would be great to hit a few balls.  His wife, Hilda, gave him a hard time this morning about going to play golf in February, but if you love the game, you love the game regardless of the weather.

 

Charles stopped by to talk with Michele at the receptionist’ desk.  She was a cute little thing and he often allowed his mind to wonder how it would be to get her alone.

 

“How’s it going, Michele.  They treating you right out here?” he asked.

 

“Yes sir, Mr Travis, my job is great.  I just love everyone,” she responded.  “Why did I use that word ‘love’?  The girls had already told me about Mr Travis and I do not want to introduce anything that would cause him to think anything.

 

Charles saw Bill coming down the hall and leaned over closely to Michele and said, “You don’t have to call me Mr Travis.  Just call me Charles.  We are all friends here and I want to be your friend.  We might even become close friends if you want.  I can really help you here.”

 

“Oh, Mr Travis, I mean Charles, you are just pulling my leg.”

 

“Darn it, I made reference to my anatomy and I do not want to give him any encouragement.  He has got to be satanic,” she wondered.  She thought, “Everything I do not want to do, I do.  I seemed to be completely out control around him.”

 

“Pulling your leg might be a lot of fun sometime.  I have got to go.  See you later,” Charles offered as he turned to enter the elevator.  He entered his special code and the elevator door opened.  He disappeared as the door closed.  “There will be another day with her,” he thought, “This could work out.”

 

“Thank goodness, he is gone.  I am going to have to be more careful in the future,” Michele thought.

 

Charles arrived at the 6th Street Café and saw Spencer waving from a table near the back wall.

 

The 6th Street Café was a quaint place not because it was decorated as such, but because it had been there for so long.  Everything on the walls were things they had used.  The café was a blue-plate café diner and served 100s of meals daily.  Seems they might have wanted to develop franchises, but they chose to stay in the one location.

 

Spencer had ordered a cup of coffee when he arrived.  “I wonder what is happening?” he thought, “Travis wanting to meet out of the office meant that this one could quickly become something like the Argentina case.”  He reasoned, “One thing is for sure, Travis was not taking a chance on being heard or misunderstood in the office.”

 

Spencer saw Travis when he walked in and waved him over.  He stood and shook hands, “Good morning, Mr Travis.  Good to see you.  Would you like a cup of coffee?”

 

“No, I will just take a bottled water if they have it,” replied Charles as he removed his outer coat and placed it over the chair.  Pulling out the chair, he sat down.

 

“Ma’am, can we get a bottled water here, please,” Spencer ordered from the waitress.  He sat back down and took a sip of his coffee.

 

Charles started, “Your report was right on target, however, you did not know what you were really investigating and for a good reason.  If there was not a problem, then it would all go away anyway and you would not need to know what was going on.”

 

The waitress brought the bottled water and a glass.  She also had the coffee pot with her and refilled Spencer’s cup while she was there.  “Is there anything else?” she asked.  Spencer waved her away with his hand and she left.

 

Charles remarked, “You introduced several new people into our mix that we did not know about.  You see about two years ago,” he began to explain, “There was a memo that could do some public relations damage if it became known.”

 

The memo was distributed to several people within the company and to some of the franchised agents” exclaimed Charles.  “We had a franchised agency in Adobe that outlasted all the others since it was the first.”

 

Going further, he said, “The wife took over for the husband when he died.  It was first and it was successful so we just waited until the offer came to buy it back when she retired.”

 

“Well she was at the meeting,” he went on, “when the memo was distributed.  There was a fiasco when it was discovered that the memo existed,” explained Charles, “It was not intended to have the content of the meeting put in writing.”

 

“However, someone typed it up and as executives do sometimes, initialed the memo without reading it and it became official,” he declared.  “We had a shakeup and we lost our president.   The board considered him a risk since it happened under his watch and asked him to stand down.”

 

“That was when Kirk Turner took over.  Personally, I think Turner had his hand on the switch, but that is another story,” he added.  “Under Turner, we did an in-office search and thought we had accounted for all the copies.”

 

“Which brings us to where we are today,” he started again with a new challenge.  “It seems that there might still be a copy of the memo with the original initials on it.  And the copy might have been in the hands of Vivian Francis who got killed a couple of weeks ago in Adobe.”

 

Lastly, he concluded, “Now, we think there is a possibility that the daughter might have found the memo in the personal effects of the mother.”

 

Charles volunteered, “The words, ‘hospitals, nursing homes and insurance rates’ showed up on a note in the sheriff’s office attributed to Jimmy Nixon, a deputy.  As you know from your report, Nixon is the ex-husband of Mary Francis,” added Charles.  “She of course is the daughter of Vivian Francis, the franchised agent from Adobe.”

 

“Get the picture?” questioned Charles as he took the top off his bottled water and began to pour the water into the glass provided by the waitress.

 

Spencer thought to himself, “Why would he pour the water into a glass when the reason he requested bottle water in the first place was that it would be germ free.”

 

“Yeah, I get the picture.  Mary, Jimmy, and the preacher have been huddling and now meeting with the judge,” said Spencer.  “A Judge Myers if I recall, who has his finger on everything that goes on in Walker Country,” exclaimed Spencer.  “You think she has found the memo.”

 

He continued, “And you want me to get the memo back for you?”

 

“Here is Mary’s address in Ft Worth and the address for Vivian’s home in Adobe,” Charles remarked as he handed him an envelope with a sheet of paper.

 

“And some cash money to cover any expenses you might have.  In addition I will expect your normal invoice for services rendered when this is finished,” concluded Charles.

 

Spencer looked into the envelope and noticed several $100 bills, but before he could count or ask, Charles said, “There is $5,000 dollars there.  If you need more, just let me know.”

 

“That should be plenty, Mr Travis,” stated Spencer.  “How far do you want to carry this.  I still remember the Argentina case,” he asked.

 

Charles looked him directly in the eyes and said, “Let’s put it this way, either you come back with the memo or you see to it that no one else finds it.  And see if you can fix it so that no one will listen to either of these three kids that might know about the memo.”

 

“What about the judge?” asked Spencer.  He knew that he had made a reference in the report that the three had been meeting with the judge as well.

 

“Don’t worry about the judge,” responded Charles, “He will be wise enough to know that without the original document, nothing can be done.  Just take care of the kids.”

 

“Well it will be easy enough with Mary Francis and Jimmy Nixon, but I might have to think about the preacher,” Spencer was thinking out loud.  “He might present a problem,” he remarked.

 

Charles was astonished, “What?  Are you kidding?  Haven’t you ever heard that Christians bury their wounded?  All you have to do is to start a rumor and he will be finished in the community and looking for a church somewhere out of state.”

 

Charles had seen pastors lose churches in Ft Worth over conduct unbecoming a pastor and no one ever really investigated to find out if the pastor was really at fault.  It could have been just a woman who is vulnerable and before you know it the counseling session would get out of hand – maybe nothing more than a kiss.

 

“His entire ministry destroyed.  Folks have problems everyday with these issues, but pastors are held to higher standards,” thought Charles.

 

Spencer thought about the group ‘on the square’ and said, “I have just the plan.  I will keep in touch.”

 

“Don’t call me at the office.  Here is my personal cell phone number,” he instructed.

 

“Use it and if I tell you ‘today is not a good day’, know that I am in a position that I can not talk,” directed Charles.

 

Spencer replied, “Fine and here is my cell phone number on the back of my card if you need to contact me.  I will get on this right away.”

 

“Remember one thing, we do not want to get anyone hurt,” added Charles.  “This is not Argentina where you can buy everyone off as we did when we lost the security guard.”

 

Spencer remarked, “No problem, if we need to take drastic action, we will search the premises first.  That should not have happened in Argentina and I am as sorry about that as you are.  Ya’ll took care of the family and they appreciated it.”

 

“Yeah … just let me know what is going on,” finished Charles, “I want this over by Monday morning, you hear?”  Charles got up; put on his coat; and left without even touching the water.

 

“Got to be the germ infested glass,” Spencer thought.  “Perhaps, that is why he did not drink the water.”  Spencer picked up the check and left a tip for the waitress and proceeded to go to the restroom.

 

“Why do I choose to be the middle man for coffee?” he questioned himself.  “I should just take it and pour it directly into the ‘john’ instead of letting my kidneys be the processor,” he wondered trying to get the zipper down on his pants.

 

Mary went to the North Shopping Mall.  She had to get some clothes for the trip to Washington, DC.  “Having dinner with Senator Grey or someone from his staff would require a new outfit for sure,” she pondered.

 

Mary had not expected this to happen so quickly.  When they had talked about it, they expected to have about two weeks before she would have to travel.  Now, it would be next Monday.  Monday is only a few days away.  “How can I put it together so quickly?” she wondered.

 

“What kind of influence did the judge have with these people?” she questioned.  “He just makes a telephone call. It seems he sets policy for them such as the payment for the airline tickets, the motel and food.  It is totally unreal!” she considered.

 

She was short on money and would not get her check from the trust fund until the next day so she reasoned that she could just put it on a credit card.  Then when her check came it, she would sit down right then and write them a check for the amount she had spent and put it the mail.

 

She was hesitant to use the credit card since she had overused one when she and Jimmy first got married.  It took them over two years to catch up.  She wondered, “If being so far in debt caused Jimmy to just give up and go back to drinking.”

 

He could have been running away from his responsibilities.  If that were true then she was one of the reasons their divorce happened.  “I was the one who charged so heavily on the card.  Jimmy did not even know about it until after it happened,” Mary surmised.

 

Mary was starting to enter Haley’s Department store when her cell phone started ringing.  She looked at the digital readout and it said the call was from out of the area.  Her heart jumped through her throat.

 

“Mary Francis,” she stammered.  Her thoughts were racing.  “What if it were not them?  What if it was – an even more frightening thought?”

 

“Mary, this is Ann Nelson, Staff Liaison with Senator Lonnie Grey’s office in Washington, DC,” started Ann.  “How are you doing today?”  She spoke with such authority that she immediately placed Mary at ease.

 

“I am fine, thank you,” answered Mary.

 

Ann remarked, “We want you to come to Washington, DC and meet with the Senator.  Judge V Myers has told us that you have some important information that needs to be reviewed,” explained Ann.

 

Mary almost shouted but was surprised that she sounded so calm.  She wondered, “Why do they use his initial.  Around Adobe, he is just Judge Myers.”

 

She said, “Yes, I would love to come.  Of course, the Senator will have to determine if what I have is important or not.  It could be a wasted trip.”

 

“Not from what the judge tells us.  He has never steered us wrong.  Can you leave on Monday and meet with us on Tuesday?  We have arranged everything,” remarked Ann.  “This young lady is brimming with enthusiasm and needs to be heard,” she thought.  “Are you ready to write?  I have your travel itinerary and motel reservations,” she explained, “Let me know when you are ready to write.”

 

Mary had gotten her pen from her purse and had put a note pad for just this purpose since Jimmy had called.  She found a bench to sit down.  She put her purse near her side and said, “I am ready!”  Mary was bubbling silently, “I hope that I can write, this is so exciting.”

 

“You are on Americo Airlines Flight #1267 leaving D/FW at 1:08 pm Monday afternoon the 18th.  You will arrive LaGuardia at 5:32 pm our time.  You will lose an hour while in flight.  We will have one of our staff meet you at the airport,” explained Ann. 

 

“LaGuardia is different from most airports.  You will be taken off the airlines on the tarmac in a transfer vehicle that will bring you to the terminal,” she instructed.  “Someone from our staff will be at the terminal when you get there.  They will have a sign with your name on it,” she continued, “OK so far?”

 

“Got it!” answered Mary.

 

“Now I am going to tell you something, but you are not to get alarmed about it,” Ann warned.  “We always take security measures when we have someone come in for a meeting.  When you go up to the person, they will give you a code number and you will respond with your code number,” she directed. 

 

“Assuming these numbers match and they will, you will go with our staff person at that point,” instructed Ann.  “This is for your protection as well as making sure we have you and not someone who might have the same name for example.”  She asked, “Now our number will be 4825, and what four digit number do you want to use?”

 

Mary was trying desperately to understand what she was being told and said, “OK, your person will give me the number 4825 and I respond with my number.  Let’s use 2835.  That is my last four numbers on my Social Security Number,” explained Mary.

 

Ann warned, “That will work, just don’t tell anyone else that it is your last 4 numbers of your SSN.  They do not need to know why you use chose them.  OK, we will address you by Mary Francis 4825 and you respond, ‘Yes, Mary Francis 2835’.”

 

“Got it,” said Mary.  This is really cloak and dagger stuff except I am using my real name.

 

Ann said, “Good, you will be taken to the Brury Inn and our people will check you in.  I know that it sounds a little ‘G’manish’ but we just want to make sure you get with the right people,” she explained.  “And you will feel more comfortable knowing that our person is indeed with us.”

 

“Our staff person will let you know when they will be back on Tuesday morning to pick you up,” she went on.  “It will be same person that picked you up at the airport and now will bring you to the office.  We will see you then and keep you posted on your activities for the rest of the day.  Are we clear at this point?” asked Ann.

 

She was so precise and Mary appreciated that.  “Yes, I understand and I appreciate what you are doing for me.”  Mary was so excited about going to Washington, DC and to be apart of something she thought was so important.

 

“One last thing, Mary,” came Ann, “Your flight home will be on Wednesday morning from LaGuardia at 7:30 am our time on Americo Airlines Flight #1267.  It is the same number but is a return trip.  I guess the airlines assign a number to a route and time frame.  You will arrive in D/FW at 9:37 am your time.  You will gain an hour while you are in flight,” completed Ann.

 

Mary wanted to make sure she had everything right.  She read the information back to Ann slowly and carefully as she had written it down.

 

Ann responded, “Great, you have it correct and we look forward to seeing you on Monday.  I might even be the one picking you up, but I need to be sure my schedule is clear.”

 

“Here is my cell phone number and I will have it with me all weekend.  Should there be any changes or questions, you call me.  It is 202-555-6187.”  She repeated the number and Mary read it back to her and Ann hung up.

 

Mary’s heart was still racing.  She would have to get in touch with Jimmy and Donald to tell them when she was flying, but right now she had something more important to do.

 

Mary had to shop.

 

Spencer Rush went to his office to initiate the plans for the case he had been assigned.  He knew that he could not report what he was about to be doing.  His firm did not allow him to engage in clandestine activity.  The policy did not always make for good company relations with clients as they had diverse needs.

 

Spencer knew that some of those needs could be a little questionable.  What made a good operative was being able to meet those needs without getting the law involved..

 

The first thing he did was to take the $5,000 cash and put it in his desk.  He had a drawer that could be locked and only he had a key.  He did not even allow Lana to have a key.  This cash was not part of Ryan’s fee and they would not get even a nickel of it.

 

Secondly, he began to formalize what needed to be done.  He needed to come up with a credible rumor that would be accepted on ‘the square’ by his buddies.  He was looking forward to going back there and to have something to share with them that they would not know about.

 

He would have to find a way to get information on people in the town.  He could not go to the men on ‘the square’ and find out who might be promiscuous.  He needed them to spread the rumor.   “They probably would be that gullible, but it was to risky,” he chuckled to himself.

 

Lana had wanted to work with him.  She could be trusted to keep silent about what they did.  Even more so, she knew that he was not always above board and still wanted to work with him.  “This could be a big break for her,” he laughed to himself.

 

“Who has the most information about people in town in a small town?” he pondered.   It hit him.  “The local beauty shop would be the best source.”