In an attempt to keep my distance from my friends, I brought John up to date over the phone. He was sure interested in how I kept this from him on the ride home from the dance. The hidden cavities in the hay bales particularly caught his fancy. His comment was, “Wonder what happens if they grab a fake bale full of drugs and accidentally feed it to a pen of the rodeo bulls. Could make for some serious action.” Trust John to come up with a twist on the idea.
I called Judy to bring her up to speed, but never got the chance. I wanted to talk to Judy in person and ask but face time with her was out. Judy was tired from her injury and she said Laurie was in a serious heart-to-heart talking mood. She cut me short saying the discussion was just getting juicy and she wanted to get back to Laurie. So Judy would have to wait on an update.
A quick text to TT asking for some time to visit brought a quick response. He was too busy with football practice and studies. Personally I think he was avoiding me.
If Judy didn’t have time to talk to me, Dan would. A visit to the horse barn with a Jack and Coke and a sandwich put a nice touch on the evening. I was feeling good about my decision to talk to Rawlins but chewing on Letty. “Dan, that little girl had the most honest straight forward personality I have run into since Judy. Your barn looks like a mansion compared to the trailer house she lives in. That is one tough situation.”
“That dude from the dance scared me out of doing anything for fear he would hurt one of my friends. But I can’t let him keep me buffaloed.” I looked at Dan to see if he got the play on words but there was no reaction. “So I called Rawlins and filled him in on the hollow hay bales. He and I have a plan. I hope it works. I couldn’t sit any longer without trying to do something. Some days it seems like no matter what I do, I put family and friends in harm’s way. And I have to correct that. ”
Dan kept chewing on his hay, politely listening as usual. “Well, one way or another things should get real interesting. You would let me know if one of those skunks was hanging around the barn wouldn’t you?” No reaction. I took that as agreement. I looked at Biscuit and told her, “You have permission to kick the hell out of anybody snooping around the house.” It was hard to tell but she looked pleased with the idea. Sleep found me easily. I was feeling good about my decisions and my work at the bank.
Tuesday was slow. The bank lobby was slow, I was slow, even Charlie was slow. Charlie has an open door policy and without knocking I stepped into his office to ask him a question. He acted like he was caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing. He grabbed some brochures off his desk and tried to quickly put them on his back credenza. In his haste one of the brochures popped loose and landed near me. Charlie crouched forward and snatched it from my hand as I was trying to hand it back to him. I went on with my question to help him recover from what I took to be embarrassment.
Later as Mary Beth was helping me with an audit response I was stuck on I asked her, “Have you noticed anything strange about Charlie lately?”
“I don’t think so. Charlie never seems strange. He is always so down to earth and practical. Why? What do you think is strange?”
I thought about that a little and then said, “I went into his office earlier and he seemed like he was trying to hide some brochures from me. He had obviously been looking through them when I came in. Then he tried to stash them quickly so I couldn’t see what they were but one popped loose. I got a good look at it before he pulled it from my hand. It was a travel brochure for the Moab, Utah area.”
Mary Beth gave me a puzzled look. “That is strange for Charlie. I haven’t seen him with anything but banking papers and journals for years. That is except for when he is working on the Black Hills Trail Ride.”
“What do you think he is up to? And why does he need to hide it from us?” Mary Beth shrugged her shoulders in reply. “Well if you get a hint, let me know. Okay?”
“I will, but you have to do the same. We’ll both keep an eye on him. I know it may not be kosher, but I will do a little snooping in his office when he goes to lunch.”
Before I went in to eat, I checked to make sure Rawlins wasn’t at the Main Street Café. It was even slow for lunch. Sweet Mary was slow with my food, but that happened every time I went in. It was a slow day in the whole town.
I took a short break sitting on a bench in a green area between two buildings on Main Street. I was in no hurry to get back to work. Watching the traffic, it seemed to be moving at a leisurely pace too. Even the birds sounded slow. There was none of the usual hectic flock flying that you see in the fall as they gather for migration.
My revelry was broken when a shadow blocked the warmth of the sun. Looking up I saw Clive Davies. He stood right in front of me blocking my ability to raise from the bench and escape. “You may have blocked me from entering the bank, but you can’t keep me from being on this street.”
I tried to swivel my legs so I could gather myself to leave. Clive moved to block me. “Just listen to me for two seconds and I’ll let you be.” As I gave up my chance for escape, Clive continued. “You gotta help me, Mr. Tobin. That lady is driving me crazy and every day she adds more issues that will keep that mine from starting up. And every time she does that, it is going to be that much longer until you see some royalty checks.”
“I assume by ‘that lady’ you mean Greta Many Hawks, my good friend.”
Clive dove right back in. “That’s the one. Do you know what she threw out now?” I figured it was a rhetorical question and I was right. “She claims that land is the natural habitat for a story occitcata paha something. And she is demanding a new environmental long term study.”
I was chuckling inside thinking of Greta tying Clive up with her maneuvers. “Do you mean a Storeria occipitomaculata pahasapae, better known as a red belly snake?”
“Yeah. What you said.”
I couldn’t help twisting the knife a little myself. “You know when I first bought that place we experienced a ball of snakes denning up in that old mine entrance. Matter of fact they were all over that property.” Of course he doesn’t know that the snake ball was blown up and pieces of snake were scattered all around the mine entrance – not alive, but pieces. And I didn’t see a one that was a red belly snake. But Clive doesn’t need to know that.
His face is contorting with the news. “Whatever you do don’t tell anybody else about those snakes.”
I had to chuckle a little. “Too late. Greta was right there when this happened. Matter of fact she was not overly impressed when she stepped on several of them.”
Clive sunk on the bench beside me. “Oh crap! This just gets worse.”
I stood up and laid my hand on his shoulder. It was hard not to feel sorry for him. “It’s a beautiful afternoon, Clive. You should try to enjoy it.” I left him and sauntered back to the bank.
With the bank activity at a snail pace, I decided to call John at his office. We were keeping our physical distance because of my possible shadow. “John, I was hoping you could give me some advice on my house. You know I hired Monty as my architect. “
“Yes, I know. You have complained about him several times.”
“Well, I have been after him for an estimate on the house and he keeps ignoring me. He’s so busy working on his car collection that he doesn’t have time to get anything done for me.”
John made a throat clearing noise and said, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this. I overheard him telling that secretary of his that he just took on a big new job and it was real important. He was telling her to clear all of his appointments and work schedules to accommodate the new customer.”
I shook my head and realized John couldn’t see me doing that. “The dirty son of a bitch. He doesn’t have time for my estimate and he’s taking on a new big job. Dammit, that makes me boil.”
“Like I said, I probably shouldn’t have told you.”
My voice was back under control but I was still growling. “I have to get something out of him. You have any ideas?”
“I can draft a letter asking him to produce an estimate or you will cancel his services. Do you want to go that far?”
I chewed on this for a little before I responded. “I don’t know if I am ready to fire him. I still need to get that house built. Why don’t you send him the letter without the ultimatum?”
John said, “Okay, if that is what you want. But knowing Monty, I doubt a letter will have any effect.”
“Maybe not, but I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. Judy is so taken with his house plan and I don’t want to disappoint her.”
John moved onto a different subject. “Any more threats from the Kennedy group? I still can’t believe Art would be involved in a drug ring. What ’s gotten into him?”
I tried to give John some assurance. “I haven’t heard anything from them since Sunday night. They probably think they have me frightened so badly, I won’t do anything. But they went too far when they involved Judy and threatened you and Greta. We are going to take Art and his group down. You can bet on that.”
After I hung up on John, my door was darkened by my dentally repaired ex-wife’s smile. When she is smiling like that it means she is going to ask me for something. “Mitch, I’m glad I caught you. I wanted to talk with you about the grant from the foundation for the theater company.”
Here we go. I shuffled some papers on my desk and said, “I’m awfully busy, Em. Can you come back later?”
“This can’t wait. I have things to do and stopped by as a courtesy to you.” I knew shit was getting deep when Emily put on her patient explaining voice. “There may be some reasons for you to bury a request for foundation funding on something I am involved with.” She raised her eyebrows for emphasis as she added, “But you need to know that I already talked to Junior and he is expecting to see our theatre company request in your Friday GRAB meeting.”
I played my last card. “But I don’t even have a request from the theatre company.” I added snidely, “Did you get sidetracked when you went to Chris’ place to help him with the wording?”
Emily got that nasty smile on her face that I hate and it was mixed with a sense of triumph. As she primped her hair she said, “Chris and I did get a little sidetracked as you call it.” She let that lay allowing me to think I had won a point. Then she added, “But not until after we finished the request form. Here’s the copy. Junior has the original.” Damn I hate this woman. “I will be waiting to hear from you on Friday after your meeting with Junior.” With that she wiggled her way out of my office.
About the time Emily got to the lobby, I remembered I was going to ask her about TT and Brenda Kennedy. Too late now and I was not about to call her. As much as I disliked Emily in person, her fake phone personality was even worse.
Work was at a sedate pace the whole afternoon. It was one of those days when people linger in your office to visit after dropping something off. Or they make excuses to wander into the employee break room or take an unnecessary paper to the attorneys.
I was leisurely working on a spread sheet when Charlie stopped by to check my progress. Of course he could have sent an Email and asked me, but the afternoon’s pace had even affected him. “Mitch, when you went on vacation this spring I don’t remember you calling in to check on work while you were gone. Did you call in at all during those two weeks?”
That was a strange question coming months after I was gone. “No, I didn’t, Charlie. My philosophy has always been that the bank has my cell phone number and if you need me you can call. And you know what?”
“Nobody called. And when I got back the bank hadn’t burned up, fallen apart, or otherwise collapsed. Actually I think there were a couple of staff members that wished I had taken a longer vacation.”
I meant that as a funny but Charlie didn’t pick up on it. His mind must be elsewhere. “So how did that feel? I mean not having anyone needing you or badgering you for answers. No paperwork and no schedule. How did that feel?
“It felt strange for the first couple of days. But it takes surprisingly little time to get used to doing what you want when you want.”
Charlie was quiet for a little while longer as he stared at something on the floor. “You had Judy with you?”
“Yes Judy went along. We had a great time. I showed you pictures of some of our hikes, remember?”
“Yes. You’re right. I remember now.” Charlie was quiet again for a short while and then continued, “Do you think you could enjoy a vacation traveling by yourself?”
I gave that some thought. “Well, Charlie, I like to see new sites. After Emily and I split up I took several trips by myself. The first trip seemed a little strange but when you get used to the change it’s rather relaxing. Of course the switch from traveling with Emily to traveling alone was not that much of a change.” That was another weak attempt at humor that Charlie missed.
Charlie nodded his head absent mindedly. He was a long ways off. He mumbled, “Thanks, Mitch. Well I better get back to work.” That was one of the strangest conversations I had with Charlie in twenty years of working for him.
The slow afternoon didn’t grind on. It rolled smoothly at a sedate pace. I can’t remember a more relaxed afternoon working at the bank. Even the closing for the day was at a relaxed pace. The staff moved at a shuffle going to their cars while they talked and visited. It was almost like they were reluctant to part company. It was so unlike other nights when you can’t wait to see the last of your coworkers.
The stop at the grocery store was a stroll, visiting with friends and neighbors as I shopped the aisles for my sandwich materials. No one appeared to be in the usual rush. It seemed like something in the air was relaxing everyone and putting them in slow motion. The cashiers visited as they checked items and no one appeared anxious or annoyed while they listened and joined into the talk.
At home, I thought about taking Dan for a ride but couldn’t get the motivation. Instead I worked with Biscuit for a change. And for a change, Biscuit behaved. It was almost like she was thumbing her nose at Dan. “Look at me, I’m receiving all the attention.”
Later, as I stood at my kitchen sink making a sandwich, the evening stood still. The birds were singing as they hopped around gathering fruit from the ground under my trees. The sun was just beginning to set when the phone rang. It was Judy. “Mitch, when are you calling me? I thought you had something important to talk with me about. You said you were going to call at seven. I’ve been hanging around waiting. Laurie is gone and I thought we might even get some together time.”
Crap! The easy pace of the day had me too relaxed. So relaxed I forgot to give her a call. I fell all over myself apologizing. “Judy, dammit, I forgot. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
There was a pause on the other end. I could see her thinking it through. Finally she said, “Okay, explain yourself. But you need to know that in-person visit I was envisioning is now a dead item.”
Crap and double crap! I brought Judy up to date on my conversations with Rawlins and the need to keep some distance for a little while. “Mitch, that is dumb. If they have spied on you that much, they already know about us.”
The lady had a point and I would dearly love to see her in person. “You are right like usual. And I would love to spend some time with you in person. But I can’t take the chance. If we visit and then something does happen to you, I could never forgive myself. So I am going to be a good boy and stay home.” I could repeat a lot of the remainder of the conversation but let’s just say the conversation left me breathless and swearing at Broken Glass for keeping Judy and I apart. Broken Glass was piling up the sins he was going to pay for. I was sure he was part of the crew responsible for what happened to Sammy Miller. This was one more offense to lay at the feet of Art Kennedy and his crew. Thinking of Sammy I was reminded to polish my boots so I would look presentable at the funeral tomorrow.