I Found A Knife

A Story site from EldonHughes

Chapter Seven --
Face Value

I arrived early for breakfast at the Morning Glory the next day... and wound up staying late.  No Max. 

I stuck it out until Glory flipped the closed sign at 10:00.  I might have stayed anyway, but she started sweeping the floor, and aiming each stroke at me.

“Yes, ma'am. I'm going.”

“You can come back in a couple hours for lunch, if you like,” she said. “Max'll be here. He hasn't missed two meals in a row in ten years.”

But, he did. Or, rather, he didn't... show up for lunch that is. (Extra large helpings of fresh hot meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, and apple cobbler with homemade cinnamon ice cream – Ike and Glory don't mess around when it comes to lunch, either.) I decided to walk off lunch and headed for the library. I figured I'd go back over the old newspaper articles.. see if maybe I'd missed something. I should have gone home and done some writing on something that would pay a bill, but really, just how excited can a person get about median oil pressure specs on current model, medium range personal watercraft?

Two and a half hours later I'm elbow deep in old newspapers. Not microfiche, the papers themselves. It's much nicer. Microfiche machines may give you facts and figures to go along with the eye strain, but working your way through actual newsprint conveys more. It's like the difference between hearing Beethoven on an old 8-track tape and being in the concert hall, hearing it, feeling it, happen live.  It's as if buried in the musty smell of old newspaper and fading ink is some residual emotion of the events themselves. Microfiche also flattens everything out. Nothing on the page that is on the film stands out from anything else. In newsprint, stories, photos and ads have their own place, their own levels of importance. Like the picture I found of the McColley family.

It was part of a full page photo feature celebrating The Prospect's fiftieth year in print. There, in the bottom right was a photo of old Lawrence, himself. He'd apparently just made the grand, ceremonial first cut into a big sheet cake. He was holding his hands up, a long cake knife, with icing and cake crumbs dripping off of it, in one hand, the other giving the crowd of onlookers a big thumbs up. The caption identified the woman to his right as his wife, Madelyn. She had that smile you see just over the shoulder of men running for office. You know, the supporting wife face.

A slim, moderately pretty teenage girl was tucked in close on the other side of Miss Madelyn. Their daughter, Riley. Madelyn may have been smiling, but Riley wasn't. I wasn't immediately sure just what the expression was on the girl's face. Maybe it was because of the aged and faded condition of the paper, but I thought she looked afraid. I smoothed out the crinkled newsprint and looked at again, holding it up to the light. Yeah. She looked afraid. Maybe she just didn't like being in a crowd.

“I see you're wandering through the good old days again.” The voice startled me. I turned to see the smiling face of the head librarian.

I recovered and returned her smile. “Hey Kelsey, yeah, I'm digging around, just trying to see what else I can find on the history of that old house.”

“This is what, the third time through these old papers for you?”

I shook my head. “Just the second time through the fifties.”

“Find anything interesting?”

"I don't know how interesting it is.” I showed her the photo page. “It only sort of relates to the house. One of the pictures is of a family that used to live there.”

“Ah, yes, the McColley's,” she nodded. “I've heard the stories. 1956, wasn't it?” she asked. I nodded. “Look at the date. April, 1956. Must have been just a short while before she died. How sad.”

She folded the paper once and handed it back to me. “Have you looked anywhere more recent than the fifties?” She gave me a small smile. “Maybe found something from the sixties.. the age of free love and all that.”

“A little bit,” I laughed. “Turns out this wasn't much of a tune in, turn on, drop out kind of community back then.”

“Well, some things haven't changed,” she said.

“You know what else I've noticed?” I asked. “There are very few pictures in the paper with the Sheriff in them.”

“Really?” Kelsey asked.

“Yeah, I mean, he's the sheriff. He arrests folks, serves papers and stuff, he must officiate at some community functions. But there's almost nothing about him in the paper.”

“Well, he never has been one to look for the spotlight.”

“I found maybe one, two pictures of him, and even then he's in the background. Oh, and a couple of shots of other people with a uniformed arm at the edge of the frame. It's the Sheriff's uniform, so I figure it's either him or Andy Taylor."

She laughed.  “Yeah, and I bet most of those were shots of a county board member. Now there's a group of men who could find a camera in a pitch dark coal mine. And, most of 'em would crawl over each other to be the one in front of it when the flash goes off. But not the Sheriff. Says his job is being in the background, tilling the garden and keeping the critters out, not showing off the prize pumpkins.”

I nodded, remembering his gardening reference from the other day. “You seem to know him pretty well.”

“Should,” she said. “Known him most all my life. He's my dad.”


The next morning I had a phone meeting with the artist drawing the diagrams for the watercraft project. He e-mailed me artwork of boat and jet ski engine parts.  Not the boats themselves, nothing sexy about it.  They were just the little, detail specific parts involving the project.  And he was excited about it. Artists are a weird lot. Creative and absolutely necessary... but weird. Doesn't matter what they are drawing, they can work at it with absolute passion.  

I didn't make it to the Morning Glory until just before nine. No Max. As Glory put a plate in front of me she said that he'd been in, and asked her to tell me to meet him back there for lunch today.

I nodded my thanks and looked at the plate. I looked closer. Eggs, mushrooms, tiny diced red peppers, and.... spinach?

“Quiche?  Ike made quiche?”  

Glory nodded. "He's been watching that Food TV channel again.”

It was terrific. Delicious. Delightful. Incredible. I paid the check and then offered to pay Ike and Glory's cable bill.

I was still full when I came back at lunch. I sat in a corner, out of the way of the eating customers and nursed a glass of iced tea. Max came in right at the end of the lunch rush. There were only a few folks still lingering over their plates. Glory came toward us with another glass but he waved her away.

“Don't just sit there, boy,” he said. “Let's go for a ride.” I followed him out the door and almost fell off the steps.

They don't make cars like this anymore. The commercials on TV try to convince us otherwise, and Lord knows they keep trying. But they aren't even getting close. Max was driving a mint condition, 1937 Auburn Boattail Speedster. A long, sleek, coffin-nosed, cherry red beast with sunlight dancing off four chrome exhaust pipes as big around as your forearm, that rolled out on each side of the hood. The convertible top was down and tucked away, showing off dark, rich leather over stuffed seats, and real hand carved wood gleaming on the dash. The whole thing was practically floating on ridiculously wide whitewall tires. It looked and felt as steady and majestic as an old oak, and rumbled like a panther on the hunt. Now this is a motorized project I could get excited about.

“Max. I was going to ask where we were going. But, if we're going in that?  I don't care. I just hope it's a long way off.”

“It's far enough,” he said. “If we hurry we might make it in time for high tea.”


Up Next: High Tea in a Small Town


Book One of the Poison and Wine series by C.H. Valentino and Eldon Hughes.

    There's a battle underway in New Orleans. It's a game being played between the voodoo Barons Samedi and LaCroix.

    Danni Toussaint has a nail in her chest, the mark of her debt to The Baron Samedi. To repay him, she steals souls.

   Michael Belew works for the Sisters of New Orleans. Nuns in the 9th Ward are missing, and he suspects voodoo is the cause.  He's desperate.

    He drafts Danni to help find them. Now they are pawns in the Baron's game.

There is no winning the game. There's only survival. But even that could cost Michael his soul.

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