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Shakespir Edition Copyright 2017 Pamela Joan Barlow Shakespir Edition, License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Shakespir.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

Present day and place

 

 

Thursday January 7th

 

 

City of Birmingham within the US State of Alabama

11:01 p.m.

Apartment of FDA Inspector Teague Haywood

(13 miles south of Skyline Restaurant)

Cold temperatures of wintertime and bright sunshine

 

 

The door opens.

She enters and hears the music, seeing a half naked man.

He stands with a chuckle and a grin and two bowed arms out to her, “Otter.”

“Teague?” Otter moves ahead to the radio, stopping and clicks off the loud music.

Teague yells. “My name…” He finds his natural baritone voice, “…sung prettily by one of only two females within the continental USA that I allow to use and to abuse my personal property.”

Otter turns and drops her jaw. “Are you naked underneath that loose hanging towel? And why are you not at work?” Tall and muscular Teague moves ahead and hugs her as Otter back steps with both her raised palms with a sour frown. “And wet. O gawd, you’re sweating or sweated during…” She parts her lips. “And you smell?”

“…like soap, good manly-man smell. No perfume here.” He points to his crotch, his armpit, and his chest. “Here or here or here…”

Otter moans.

“Tomcat…” a young girl stands in the bedroom archway and sees Otter. “O hi, I’m…”

“Bambi…” Teague turns and smiles at the girl.

The girl turns and frowns to Teague. “Bebe, remember, be, be, be mine, baby?”

He moves with a grin to the girl. “Yeah, I remember, Bebe. Well, Bebe has gotta go to work. It’s a work day for the worker, right? Right! That works for me, too, Bebe.” He touches her arm and gently shoves her to the front door and stops, scraping her tit with his fingers. She giggles. He opens the door with a grin. “See ya next round, darling?”

Bebe moves through the archway with a grin and a giggle. “I can return tonight around…”

He shoves her outside the apartment, staring at her ass for the last time, “Working late. I’ll call you, Bebe. Bye-bye, darling,” He slams the door, swinging with a grin and two bowed arms to her. “Give me a hug, Otter.”

Petite Otter shakes her graying blonde curls as a fifty-plus years old woman, who lives in Birmingham too. She sits on top of the torn sofa across from the gigantic television plasma with a sour frown to him. “Why didn’t you call me sis, sister, Olivia, or even Mrs. Fulton? All would be preferably proper than Otter, Teague.”

He chuckles. “Remember? I started out calling you ‘toter’ for all the tater tots we ate, tossed, and loved more than beer bottles, when I was a young buck.”

Otter shakes her curls. “No, Teague! I don’t remember that other insulting name. Ya know this is a working day?” she turns and views the closed door. “You shouldn’t invite playmates over on school days until the weekend, son.”

He frowns. “I took a vacation day, so I can play, mommie-bitchest.”

“Are you going to wash her sperm off your body? Or will you use the sofa pillow for that task?” Otter turns and views the sofa, wondering if Teague does the wild thing on the sofa too.

“Men leak sperm. Women ooze discharge which is both colored in soft creamy white,” he winks at her. “But I can see how you got confused, Otter.”

She jabs a finger at his bedroom with a stern face and a serious tone. “Change your towel and your language, Teague! Or I won’t provide you lunch money to purchase food today at your celebratory event.”

He twirls in a circle with a grin and a chuckle and back to her eyeballs. “I clean. I just emerged from the warm shower when I caught you breaking into my apartment which is against the law by the way. I believe it’s called breaking and enter, Otter.”

“I have a key that you gave me.” She lifts and holds his apartment key near her smile.

“I gave that key to Bobcat, making it stolen property plus breaking and entering, Otter.”

She grins, “Me and Bobcat are the same, since we exchanged those bodily fluids long time now at our honeymoon after our legitimate wedding.”

“And I secretly happened to know for a fact that those combined body fluid exchanges occurred way long time before that honeymoon and legitimate wedding. But I’ll not tattle-tale to our mama and daddy.” He spun around and moved ahead with a grin and a chuckle to his bedroom.

Otter reaches over and tosses the pillow with a frown at the ass of Teague, missing. He enters and leaves the bedroom door open. Otter smiles, “You do seem happy about your divorce from Zeeta, thou…”

“Three days, nine hours, fourteen minutes, twenty three seconds, and celebrating…”

“Lucky dog! Your celebrating still continues, at least from my part. I’m taking you to the top…”

“Top of what, Otter?”

“The Federal Building in downtown Birmingham at a five-star restaurant named appropriately Skyline for lunch with anything for your greatest heart’s desire.”

“Skyline. I get free champagne…”

“You don’t like champagne, only beer.”

“Free wine?”

“You don’t like wine, only beer.”

“Free?”

“Free everything, Teague.”

“May I have lobster and steak and beer, mommie-dearest?”

“The dish serves up South Florida lobster tail today for your enjoyment pleasure, Teague.”

Teague moves out his bedroom in clothes with a sour frown and stops in front of her. “Why don’t you call me, Tomcat?”

Otter stands and hugs her brother, pulling back with a grin. “I live in the real world and use real names associated with real beating hearts, not pretend ones, Teague. You never broke your daydream, son.”

He shakes his curls. “I don’t daydream,” he turns and views the empty wall with a grin and a chuckle. “Do I, Mr. Sandman?” He turns and grabs her arm, swinging them around, escorting his sister like a good southern gentleman to the archway.

The door opens.

He releases her arm and swings around to lock the door, spinning back, grabbing her arm.

They move ahead down the breezeway of the apartment building to the lot of parked cars.

Otter reaches over and touches his shoulder-length silver hair with a sour frown. “Mama told you to cut that horse mane, before you visit her house in Brier this weekend.”

He gently slaps her hand away with a chuckle, “Naw, the chicks love it.”

“And I don’t either,” she giggles, scooting down the stairs into the bright sunlight.

He turns and views her nose profile. “You be my Otter, not one of my chicks.”

She laughs, stomping down the last step, moving to her car. “I drive.”

Teague scoots her sister Otter toward his car with a grin. “Naw, I drive.”

“In that car?”

“Naw, babe! That ain’t just a car. This is a ‘stang’, my new baby girl.” Teague stops and opens the passenger car door of a new Ford Mustang like a southern gentleman for his sister.

“Be…be…” Otter slides and belts into the seat with a smile, praying he goes the speed limit.

“My latest fuck,” Teague grins.

The car door closes.

He back steps with a smile, moving around the front bumper of the car. The driver’s door opens. He scoots into the seat and cranks the engine, letting it warm. And then the door closes.

He slides the stick into gear and revs the engine with a grin and a chuckle.

Otter rolls her eyeballs, turning and viewing his nose profile. “Teague, I’m relieved that you feel so comfortable around me to stand almost nude in your bathing towel and curse like a freaking pimp. Where’s the money for your baby girl toy, since you’re paying college for Kitten?” She reaches and touches the leather on the arm rest with a frown.

Teague steers and drives forward over the pavement to the highway with a smile. “I got a paying job. Kitten got a general scholarship, since she’s still a majorette in the marching band for Burn U. The tuition money covers all the tuition and books, as long as, she twirls the baton for music. I only pay for the apartment utilities and car insurance. Mama covers the apartment lease which is in bitch’s name.”

Otter grins. “Smooth move. How did you con Zeeta into that one?”

“Kitten did. I just nodded my head up and down, grinning like the devil’s son-in-law.”

“What about the house? Did Zeeta get it?”

“Hell naw! I don’t give bitch nothing but grieve that was mixed with the fresh horseshit from the cow barn. You know she wanted the divorce? I was happy with her wrinkles, her fake fingernails, and her Swiss cheese ass,” he continues to drive with a chuckle.

“You’re so sweet and nasty, to boot.” Otter frowns. “I’m really sorry that you and Zeeta are divorced. We romped around the old stomping grounds together within our hometown of Brier with you, me, Bobcat, Zeeta, and other high schoolers in Brier.”

“The good ole days were fun and gone. Now, my middle age days are here to stay, Otter.” He stops and parks the car in the lot at the restaurant, turning with a smile to see her nose profile. “Let’s eat.”

The door opens.

 

 

12:01 p.m.

Downtown Birmingham

Skyline Restaurant (one mile east of FDA branch office)

Private dining room setting of Teague and his fellow employees

 

 

The door opens.

The waitresses are serving the food plates to each guest at a long dining room table.

Teague stops and hugs Otter inside the archway of the private dining room with a nod and a smile, looking to see each face, waving a free hand. “Welcome gentlemen and ladies to my celebration. This is my sister Otter. Otter’s paying for everything. So eat, drink, and be merry to celebrate my divorce which became official on Monday.”

Duckie sits and dives into the food plate with a chuckle. “You are supposed to do your final celebratory thing on the first day of the divorce, Tomcat.”

Bobcat dives into his food plate and sits next to the wall with a smile. “He’s been partying since the first hour of the divorce and beyond into the nightly stars, right, man?”

Duckie looks down with a grin at his plate of food. “O boy.”

Teague moves and stands at the end of the table, jabbing a finger at each of his co-workers with a nod and a smile. “Otter, I wanna introduce to my buddies from the FDA. Starting on my left at the end of the eating table is Duckie, Moose, Ram, Snake, Bull, Elf. Going around the table are my little fillies Peacock, Chipmunk, Lamb, and my little Dove,” he releases Otter and shuffles to Dove with a wink and a grin. “And Bobcat too…” He sits between Dove and Bobcat, diving into the plate of food.

Otter turns and frowns to Elf. “Hmm! Teague only identifies folks by animal names. How did you get called a non-animal name Elf?”

Elf sits and turns to see Otter, chewing and swallows the food with a grin. “Elf is a non-human name. That qualifies as an animal in Tomcat’s sick demented, delusional, destructive, dangerously dirty mind.”

Otter frowns. “It’s not an animal.”

Elf is five feet and two inches with the set of elevated cowboy boot heels, saying with a chuckle. “He called me that filthy little brown insect cockroach for the first time. So I cocked his cock for the last time,” laughing.

The tall woman stands and wipes a face, dropping the napkin into her chair and moves forward, stopping and extending a handshake and a smile to Otter. “Hi. I’m Lorinda Crawford.”
Otter turns with a smile to see Lorinda, shaking and releasing the pre-offered hand. Lorinda says. “I am the district supervisor of this group of brilliant and funny FDA inspectors. Nice to meet you, Otter. You have a real name which might include the surname Haywood, somewhere in there.”

Otter grins. “My parents call me, Olivia, and my husband calls me, Mrs. Fulton.”

“Fulton?” Lorinda turns and frowns at Bobcat, who sits between Teague and Duckie and then she returns back to stare with a confused brow at Otter. “As in Eckward Fulton, my employee?”

Otter grins. “Ah! Just a light warning here, supervisor Lorinda. He doesn’t like for anyone to use that name Eckward. He’s named after his grandfather.”

“Who isn’t in the South? That middle surname southern tradition has been passed down from generation to generation to generation and still exists in the twenty-first century. My middle name is Totten. Please do not whisper that to Teague. I’m a fourth degree black belt. He might be singing soprano for a couple of hours.” She swung around and moves forward, lifting the napkin, sitting with a chuckle back into her chair, reaching for the fork.

Otter moves forward and sits inside an empty chair next to Lorinda with a smile. “Teague doesn’t care, since he’s tenth degree black belt in martial arts. I promise, I will not share. I don’t want the boy fired and living with me for the rest of his childish days and nights.” She grabs and places the napkin in a lap, reaching for the fork, staring down with a grin at the plate of food.

“Teague will start to call me totter or trotter.” She frowns. “Isn’t a trotter another name for a horse?”

Otter chews and swallows the food, saying with a grin. “Yeah, trotters are slang for horses, mostly ponies. But that would be better than a nasty brown chipmunk. Won’t you agree, Lorinda? I love Teague, but I wouldn’t allow him to call me chipmunk. Period.”

Lorinda chews and swallows the food, saying with a nod and a smile. “I have been called worse throughout the years. Is there a story around Otter? Ah, he couldn’t pronounce Olivia. But I can’t imagine how he contrived the four letters of Otter out of Olivia. The pronunciation isn’t related to my eardrums.”

She lifts, drinks, and drops down the beverage over the table surface with a smile at Lorinda. “Otter isn’t slang for Olivia. We both loved to eat tater tots as little kids. Then one day, Teague gulped one whole and started choking. Being a mean but caring sister, I sucker punched his chest with my fist then he spat the whole tot into my face. He thanked me by calling out in relieve ‘Toter, ya saved me.’ We were three and four years old.”

Lorinda frowns, “Toter?”

“There’s more to the story. I was nicknamed ‘toter’ for a couple of months, accepting the substitution of my Christian name Olivia forever more or until Teague out grew that phase. Yeah, we both can see that Teague really never grew out of his teen years. Bless their hearts! My mom and dad used Olivia, instead of Toter. So I grew up to be normal and then Teague killed that tomcat.”

“Killed the family pet?”

“We grew up in Brier, mostly composed of farmlands and farmers, a perfect triangle set between the cities of Athens, Decatur, and Huntsville.”

“I’m familiar with the local branch FDA Office in Huntsville off of the main highway.”

“Our farm like all the other ones has cows, cotton, corn, gardens, and pets, consisting of cats and dogs. My mama would never allow an animal inside the house, so the family pets lived outdoors. My daddy hunted with the hound dogs, killing small stuff like rabbits and deer plus some mean coyotes that attacked the baby calves. He kept tabby cats around to feed off the hand-sized rats and cute gray field mice that attacked the sweet feed for the horses. My daddy taught Teague to hunt. Their trips included Bobcat and some of the other high school hicks on our farm land property. My daddy owns about eight hundred acres of woodlands and farmland.”

“If your daddy farms, why isn’t Teague there tilling the soil, plowing the stalks, and harvesting the hay? Isn’t that his job as first born son taking over the farm?”

“Isn’t Teague a good FDA inspector for your branch office? I always get the impression Teague loves his job and the work. Since he’s never home and continuously talks about beating the bad guys into paper pulp.”

Lorinda turns and views Teague, who sits between Bobcat and Dove.

Teague flirts with pretty Dove while elbowing easy-going Bobcat. All enjoy Haywood’s entertainingly amusement, humor, fun, and affection. Teague is a dedicated FDA inspector, one of the best in Alabama.

Lorinda realizes that devotion comes from thirty years of combined work experience as a medical pharmacist plus a law enforcement officer. And Teague is in line to retire with full benefits from the FDA office along with his buddy and partner Bobcat, if he chooses that path which does seem likely with his recent divorce.

Lorinda turns and grins to the nose profile of Otter. “Very well, outstanding, excellent, awesomeness…”

Otter smiles, “Our daddy always said that boy liked fighting better than farming.”

Lorinda asks. “His nickname Tomcat comes from?”

Otter grins. “I digress. Sorry. One day, Teague and Eckward were out hunting mostly for fun and came across a pack of flying squirrels. Teague aimed his gun and shot a couple of them down, scooting to intersect the dead bodies. The squirrel pelts are used in wallets and key chains up in Huntsville, mostly purchased by city slickers who don’t know the difference between rabbit, squirrel, or gator. Well, Teague and Eckward discover an old almost ancient farm tomcat at the scene that was sucking on the blood and guts of one of the fallen squirrels. Eckward aims his gun to shoot, but Teague bats it down. The buckshot would damage the delicate pelts of the squirrel. So, Teague stalks to the thing and challenges it over the grand prize. Teague crawls on fours, hissing, pawing, and striking at the old cat. After the dry leaves settled back onto the logs, the cat laid on its side dead. Teague stood up, holding both squirrels by their tails and smiling like the devil himself. Teague wrestled a tomcat, thus inheriting the name Tomcat.”

“I’m not much of a country girl being raised in the city. But I can deduct that being scratched by a cat without proper vaccinations can cause some major health issues specifically lock jaw or cat scratch fever.”

“Right, Lorinda,” Otter smiles. “Teague came out clean from any type of deadly infections. My daddy deduced that the old cat was ailing sick and the vicious romp with Teague just killed its heart into stopping permanently, making Teague look like a fool. But, in the eyes of his hick friends, he is Tomcat,” chuckling and eating her food.

Lorinda grins. “I wonder if I could blackmail Teague with that new information.”

Otter laughs. “No, he’s a redneck. You can’t do much with rednecks but love ‘em.”

“So based on that tall tale, Bobcat received his nicknamed by wrestling a bobcat in the wild woods. I do know those wild cats are very fierce with sharp deadly claws.”

“No. He just shot the gun into the air that scared the poor thing into running back home to his mama.” Lorinda laughs as Otter smirks. “That’s the honest truth. The little tiny bobcat kitten ran back to his mama.”

“They’re quit a pair, Bobcat and Tomcat. I admit that they’re my best investigators. Bobcat whispers in private company about retiring, since both have served a long time in this field office. I dread the day they do. They’re models for the young investigators sharing their know-how’s and don’t know how’s with the youngsters.”

“I’ll chime in being Bobcat’s wife. I whisper those very same secret words every morning before he leaves for work. I realize Birmingham isn’t like Atlanta or DC or LA but the shroud of deadly threats do exist here under that ancient 200 year old overstory oak tree near the Civil War graveyard. I opine to return back home to my home town of Brier. Bobcat’s daddy owns a large farm of cotton, a good crop for retirement. He wants to spend easy days with his wife and wants Bobcat to take over the plowing, planting, and profits. We have a son at Burn State, who’ll graduate next year…”

“…along with the other two hundred thousand un-employed college graduates without the prospect of work. That means moving back home with Mama and Daddy.”

Otter grins. “Cullen, my kid has been accepted into the Bama University School of Pharmacy program this fall. He wants to be a future FDA inspector like his daddy and his uncle. We approve of course part of the sweet whispers about retiring and moving back to the farm, paying the six thousand dollar tuition, while Cullen studies his eyeballs out.”

Lorinda nods. “Be lucky. He’s looking out for his future and not rocking the baby crib. I swear. The southern society hasn’t changed a lick, since my parents graduated high school. Kids get married and then get baby kids and then think about work and then get a divorce.”

“I’ll chime in again. I’m guilt there. Bobcat and I were childhood sweethearts, if I can use that old fashion term. We fell down literally on top of each other in play recess when I was in the fourth grade and stuck together. We’ve been married for twenty five years this year.” Lorinda frowns. Otter smiles, “Ah, that look, I’m fifty two years old with a child twenty one years old.”

Lorinda grins. “You don’t look a year over forty. What’s your secret, girl?”

“Sex, more sex, and lots of sex,” Otter smiles, “I married a country redneck. They only enjoy sports, snacks, and sex all in that order as well,” chuckling

Lorinda smiles, “Thanks for the tip of eternity youth.”

“Hey. It’s always been there. Just do it and do it and do it with a redneck.” Otter turns and smile to her husband Bobcat. He turns and smiles at her. Otter signals with a wave that everything is fine to her husband. He returns to eating.

Lorinda asks, “Cullen, your kid? He doesn’t have a nickname from Teague.”

Otter stabs the food with a smile, “Of course, Cub. Teague calls his precious daughter, Kitten. To me, that’s more of a true loving endearment for his only child.”

“At my school, if you were called another name, it wasn’t an endearment or love more like a rumble in parking lot during school hours. That insult applied to both females and males. Is this a country farm ritual for substituting perfectly good Christian names with silly nicknames?”

Otter grins. “No. I do not believe so. Teague started calling his person Tomcat after the silly incident in the woodlands. Bobcat, being the true hick along with Teague, insisted everyone call him Bobcat. They were nine years old. My mama thought it cute and complied. My daddy loved his only son, so he complied. Then year after year, the nickname kinda stuck. By the time, we all reached high school as a sorta becoming almost a group of mature adults, you’d think teenagers would grow tire and rid themselves of the silliness but stupid-ness lingered. Teague used Otter at home, at church, at school. My mama thought him dumber than a log. Then Teague showed a swift degree of creativity in middle school by acquiring and identifying his childhood friends by a nickname. I thought it really fun at the time. We had a click of friends with special code names that only we used and communicated among our rebel troops. Ya know high school? By our freshman year, the nicknames stuck forever. Eckward isn’t a pretty name by any means and rather funny to repeat vocally until his fist lands in your face. Then he becomes immediately and permanently Bobcat.” Lorinda chuckles as Otter smiles. “Teague becomes Tomcat. He even got the school teachers to use the silly nicknames.”

“You didn’t explain the exact naming methodology of Toter to Otter. Were you called Otter in your elementary classroom too?”

Otter shakes her curls. “O that. Once, Teague acquired his nickname of Tomcat which started with the same first two letters ‘to.’ He didn’t want our mama to get his name confused with ‘toter’ versus ‘tomcat.’ Then my mama thought him a genius. Teague morphed my nickname into ‘otter’ for some bizarre outer-space-alien-made-me-do-it-unexplained reason. My school teachers referenced me by Olivia, because I’m a year younger than Teague and smarter than Teague and less trouble than Teague and overall to disassociated me from Teague. It worked until high school. Then we all re-lumped together as a group. Bobcat and Teague are the same age, attending all their academic classes together at good ole Brier High, including me into their chicken flock.”

“Tomcat was your leader.” Lorinda says.

Otter shakes her curls. “No. Bobcat was the leader of our high school redneck gang. Teague was like the enforcer of Bobcat’s rulings. I was part of the click, because I was Teague’s sister and Bobcat’s cowgirl. Let’s see. There were eight of us. Bobcat, me, Teague, Lark, Cricket. She was Lark’s cowgirl. They married after school like us. And then there was Bear and Fawn, but they didn’t marry each other.”

Lorinda says. “That’s only seven nicknames. I suspect you left out maybe a country cowgirl, who might possibly be named Zeeta Haywood.”

“You’re right. I did that on purpose. Zeeta’s nickname was the original ‘kitten.’ Since, Teague is labeled as Tomcat. Tomcat and Kitten, it was cute, then and now. So, two cats mate to produce a kitten. Therefore, the newborn female became Kitten, compliments of her daddy, resting in the pink blanket inside her nursery bed from the first minute of birth.”

“What did Zeeta’s new nickname become?”

“The rule of thumb is that a person gets one nickname for life. No changing. No substitutions. However, Teague broke the rule and also created the rule he started by calling his wife, darling. But now he just calls her, bitch.”

Lorinda spits food and slaps a hand over her giggles. “I’m so sorry. That’s so amusing.”

“Yeah, the family agrees. Teague and…” she smiles. “For your benefit Lorinda, I will reference the nickname bitch as Zeeta, since that’s her proper name. But ya gotta understand that’s her new nickname in my family. Teague and Zeeta get hitched right after college graduation five years after high school. Zeeta became a medical nurse graduating from the nursing school in Huntsville while Teague graduated from the pharmacy school in Birmingham.”

Lorinda nods. “I understand. Bam U houses all the different medical schools for physicians, pharmacists, and dentists. Nurses must pursue their education at another state institution.”

Otter says. “At the mature age of twenty four, Teague and Zeeta marry and move to Birmingham, pursing their individual careers, setting up a home and enjoying their wedded bliss together. Both adults are doing very well in their careers and home life then Kitten shows up. Both adults are very good parents and good providers for their little Kitten. At her high school graduation, I along with my parents noticed the thick tension in the room from both Teague and Zeeta. Their marriage was on the rocks. They actually tried to stick together until Kitten graduated college so their daughter wouldn’t be sad or upset. That failed when Zeeta had that affair with that other guy. And by the way…”

Lorinda shakes her curls. “I promise I won’t repeat any of this hidden information to Teague.”

Otter grins. “You can spit this into Teague’s face. He ain’t phony about real facts. He was a devoted husband and is a great daddy to Kitten. I wasn’t warning you about not ever mentioning this around Kitten, if ya happen to meet her. She is twenty one years old too young and doesn’t understand the entire wickedly demon tale. And I spell tale…t.a.l.e. Teague wants his precious Kitten both sheltered and happy until she turns eighty years old…”

Lorinda nods. “I can understand being a mother of a couple of precious kitties.”

“Short version, I spied on Zeeta, uncovering the ugly truth. It broke my heart. We’ve known each other since first grade. Zeeta, Bobcat, Teague, and me were thick as thieves in the fight and flight. Teague was heartbroken, first then angry, second, and finally sad, third. My mama and daddy came to the rescue. They hired lawyers to sock-it-to Zeeta. Zeeta wanted everything the house, the furniture, the boat, the cars, the bank accounts, the shotguns, the everything. Teague was so dizzy with heartache that he would’ve given Zeeta everything. However, my parents were unemotionally smarter. The lawyers, I use that word in plural, because she got herself some fancy city lawyers as well. Then all the lawyers could duke it out. Winner takes all.

“Here in Bama, the wife usually gets everything the house, furniture, and the children. Well Zeeta implemented her getaway plot, a little too late. Kitten had turned twenty one years old, by-passing any type of financial child support from Teague, one. Two, Zeeta demanded monetary claim of spousal support for her anguished years with her lousy husband, forcing Teague to pay her a monthly allowance for the rest of Zeeta’s breathing days. That failed too.

“Zeeta has a college education and has worked as a clinical nurse for many years being able to support her annual expenses. Plus, her only child is old enough to care for herself. Three, Teague supplied proof of the huge equity in the home which guaranteed Zeeta the money she craved. Actually my parents purchased the house, allowing Zeeta to live there for almost nothing. They don’t want their only granddaughter’s happy memories of childhood and teen-hood to be totally destroyed which happens in all divorces. Kitten’s old teen bedroom and her high school stuff are there, waiting like a clicked portrait in your cell phone in the same condition before starting college. Kitten decided to stay near the campus, renting an apartment that her mama pays. Now, everyone is living happily after ever. Of course, Zeeta ain’t never invited to any of my family functions, therefore her earned nickname bitch. The end!”

“A sad tale…t.a.l.e.,” Lorinda frowns, “Divorce is a nasty business with money as the root cause and the lack of love as the victim.”

“Amen.”

Lorinda turns and views Teague. “How is Teague doing after his divorce? I’m only being nosy, because I got promoted two months ago to supervise this crew. A good bunch of investigators, I have keenly observed. I’m still learning the multi-faceted good and bad personalities of the team mates. And Teague and Bobcat intrigue me the most out of the young’uns.”

Otter nods. “Teague has bounced back jubilantly. I caught him this morning with a baby. I bet that girl didn’t own a Bama driver’s license,” frowning.

Lorinda frowns. “Did ya check?”

“No. I was too stunned and shocked. But tomorrow, I will…”

Lorinda frowns, “Tomorrow?”

“Teague has a rotating harem being tattled by Bobcat.”

“Does he nickname his new playmates, since he created the rule of thumb?”

Otter slaps a hand over her giggles. “I will be inquiring about that part, as well, tomorrow.”

“You don’t work like the rest of us, lankies.”

Otter nods. “I lucked out being the dumb one in the family. Teague actually did get the brains among the Haywood flock. Bobcat and Teague started Burn U together on the football team with a sport scholarship then I stumbled into the same college intent upon becoming a teacher. But with partying, no sleeping, and no seeing Bobcat in-between all that was too much coupled with my failing grades. I was placed on academic probation then Burn U kicked me off the campus. My mama and daddy came to the rescue, of course. My daddy had his accountant tutor me about the farm’s financial reports while I took accounting courses at the local junior college. I graduated in three years with an associate degree, not really needing any more education, since I work for Daddy. His farm is very profitable and provides a nice living for me.” Lorinda frowns. Otters grins, “Ah, and I can see your face. I’m a lucky duck. My parents adore me. My husband worships me and my son loves me. I work from home on the accounting stuff while people like you, Bobcat, and Teague go to office every day to save the world and protect us from harm in the good ole US of A.”

Lorinda nods. “Hey, we all work and make a living one way or another. So I’m nosy and curious. Do you inherit the farm or Teague?”

“Teague will. Bobcat and I have other retirement plans.”

“I see very clearly. Teague doesn’t have to worry about a family anymore. I guess your hinting that he plans to retire soon.”

Otter shakes her curls, “No way! I wished that was so true. It’s the opposite for Teague. You’re right. He doesn’t have the family unit, needing a house, a yard, a sprinkler system, and a mailbox plus trash pick every Thursday morning. He’s renting a townhouse down the street, has purchased a brand new sports car, and is dating hot slutty tramps. What more could an old man ask for? Farm life is hard and long hours from sun up to sun down. The life is also isolating being so far from the city streets and city store conveniences. My mama and daddy love the country, the farm, and the outdoors. They were made by Almighty God to be farmers. I love the country and miss it but sacrificed lovingly for my husband and my son to enjoy the city life. Bobcat is inching his way towards retirement and back into his first love. Okay. His second love, the land. Teague was almost there with getting Kitten graduated and out of school and off to some job in the city, feeling peace of mind. A daddy had done everything for his child. Then Zeeta comes along and bang, she cold cocks his manhood into the toilet. Now, Teague has gotten prove all over again that he’s a stud muffin even over the age of fifty.”

“Ah, the young girls, new car, and…”

“Me. I mean me and Bobcat. Bobcat and Teague are best bros, since three years old, peeing on each other’s cowboy boots and shooting each other squirrels in the family’s backyard with fully loaded BB pellet gun. They’re like brothers, act like brothers, think like brothers, and live like brothers. If Teague don’t want to leave the big bad city and big bad job, then either will Bobcat.”

Lorinda grins. “Ah, your mission, if you refuse to accept this assignment, Otter…”

Otter winks. “You catch on quickly, Lorinda. I predict by the end of the month you’ll be assigned a nickname.”

“I concur and hope for the best. I have observed two interesting repeating themes. Teague seems to assign nicknames, using exclusively animal titles. Is there a story behind that phenomenon?”

“That’s a very good question which I have never pondered the exclusive use of animal nicknames.” She smiles. “He did introduce me to Elf, the short guy at the end of the table. That’s survival. Then there’s Zeeta but that’s payback. If my old memory cells serve properly, there was one other person, who didn’t get the animal nickname,” she looks and stares down at her food plate with a puzzled brow.

Lorinda grins. “During our conversation, you only say Teague but use the pet names for Bobcat, Kitten, Cricket, Bitch.”

Otter looks up with a smile to see Lorinda. “Yeah, I do that to piss Teague off. He loves it that I don’t conform to his rules.”

Lorinda grins. “Ah, that’s how I can learn to control him.”

She shakes her curls with a laugh, “Control Teague? Good luck, madam. That boy hasn’t changed his manner or mercy in the fifty-plus years. I’m the baby of the family. I have known him since birth and possess personal experience with a couple of skin scars to prove it. He’s a great daddy to Kitten and I’d go as far as saying he’d murder for that child.”

Lorinda nods. “That mandate comes with the daddy and mama territory. Kitten attends Burn U with Cub. Look, you get me calling out the creative nicknames.”

Otter smirks. “Kitten is majoring in Taber Dawson and minoring in biology.”

Lorinda nods. “One daughter is a senior and the other a junior. Both are kicking their fannies for not accepting the offered high school AP classes. They could have attended Burn U for some extra academic classes just to touch the blue jeans of Taber Dawson.”

“Girls and their heavy non-thinking teen hormones, you do realize that females can’t get near the football players during the regular season. These boys are imprisoned inside their steel cages from August until January. No girls are allowed into their private pissing club. I experienced that first hand when Bobcat played football at Burn U. I couldn’t see him during the football game and we were engaged to be married. That was part of my failure at Burn U and my emotional depression while these same teen over emotional hormones were thinking Bobcat was cheating on me or didn’t love me or didn’t want me. But it finally passed.”

“Bobcat quit the football team.”

“No way! Rednecks only love sports, snacks, and sex. I told ya that first rule ways back. Are ya listening, babe?” She smiles. “Sports come first for a reason. Bobcat was happy, sitting on the bench, watching the game pass him by. Since his daddy had the bragging rights back home in Brier. Either Teague or Bobcat was college caliber football material for the Professional Football League. At our small high school, they were hot shit. When they got to college, they were only small rabbit pellet. They wanted to stay and play, since their daddies wanted them to stay and play. Teague got more playing time being a fifth string quarterback than Bobcat. Teague was called into the game last two minutes in the fourth quarter, so the first string quarterback could brush his hair and pose for media pictures after the winning game. Teague was thrilled for his brief ‘three point two minutes of fame.’ Our daddy loved it, remembered it, still boasting about it within three Alabama counties. His son was on the Burn U football team that won the National University Championship Football title that year. Rednecks love sports.”

“Interesting analogy! Based on your personal experience and current sporting tips Taber Dawson’s off limits for any female. Then I shouldn’t worry about my girls, after all.”

“I don’t say that. Football lasts through the fall and the first month of wintertime, then the females attack physically. Bobcat told me stories about one girl after another wanting him along with Teague. Both of them were engaged and devoted to their cowgirls. Bobcat would cut classes on Monday to visit me. Or I would visit him in Birmingham, keeping my man happy and protected. I can’t say the same for Teague. He would disappear during my visit with someone. I had a pretty good idea, but I never asked.”

Lorinda gasped. “Did Teague cheat on his girlfriend?”

“I didn’t say that either. We came from a very small Bama public school. There were forty kids in my senior graduating class, only five of us received a former education after high school. Burn U is not far from the little township of Brier. You can travel without getting tired from the trip and needing a bed to sleep. Teague and Bobcat roomed together. I joined them along with a couple of other folks in my graduating class. But I do sorta recall another kid attending Burn U with Teague.” Otter grins. “O well. Just remember, boys will be boys football or not.”

Lorinda nods. “Right, that’s good advice. How does Teague feel about Kitten being at the same school with Taber Dawson?”

“Sports, Teague adores, worships, loves, and would spit and shin the cleats of Taber Dawson, if presented at the dinner table being the superstar quarterback for Burn U, of course. Burn U is the number one football team in the nation. Guys and sports. Cars and chicks, geez.”

“Does Kitten know Taber Dawson from an academic college class or other social college event?”

“From my spying and ease dropping, since the rednecks love to talk about their young idols, Taber Dawson doesn’t have a girl. And friends of girls plus girls being friends are not encouraged or supported by the football coaches. Based on these facts, Taber Dawson along with his buddies does adhere very tightly to these rules. Some of the players are hoping for professional football jobs after the winning season, if Burn U can repeat their run of number one.”

Lorinda nods. “That’s good to know all this boy-football information for my girl-football fan devotion.”

“Kitten didn’t attend any academic classes with Taber Dawson and has been dealing with Teague’s nasty divorce and her mama’s temper tantrums and her college classes. She is a senior this year and will graduate in May. I feel certain Taber Dawson is rattling inside her mind way below the surface just like hundreds of other girls at Burn U.”

Lorinda frowns. “I’m surprised Teague doesn’t encourage his child to befriend Taber.”

Otter shakes her curls. “No. Teague likes sports and wants his sporting team to win, but he loves his daughter too much. Ya don’t mix girls and sports. And that’s Teague’s quote kinda profound philosophy, coming from a fifty-plus year old biological body with a teenager’s beating heart,.” smiling.

“I do feel more knowledgeable about my daughters attending the local university with lots of hunky single available male sporting icons. I surprised. You aren’t quoting stats and barking demographics on the kid, having a son about the same age. Doesn’t Cub and Bobcat talk about Taber Dawson?”

Otter nods. “Yeah, they do regurgitating the football stats of passing, rushing, foot-balling. I was a cheerleader at my high school. Ya got to be something in high school or nothing? I cheered at the football and basketball games then graduated and left it all behind, concentrating on college in the accounting field and planning my wedding. We got married right after Bobcat graduated Burn U. He entered the FBI service first and then transferred over to the FDA office at about the same time with Teague.”

Lorinda nods. “I have recently reviewed their HR files, trying to learn more about the multi-personalities. Bobcat graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance, joining the FBI Office as a special agent working for three years. Teague studied for two years at Burn U and then transferred to the pharmacy school. That means Teague quit the football team.”

She nods. “Yeah, he did. Daddy wasn’t happy. These two years that Teague played football at Burn U, they won the National Championship twice in a roll. Teague explained his personal reasons and his job career which my parents both accepted. The power play worked in Teague’s favor, because Burn U didn’t win anymore championship games for the rest of the decade. My daddy finally forgave Teague for that. Anyways, I mentioned before Bobcat sit warming his ass on the bench. He was a senior playing in one game then got both beaten’ and bleedin’ in both his face and his ribs. Then he became both wiser and wisdom. He graduated an honor student in finance, making a real person for a real job in the real world.”

“Teague graduated and worked for two years as a medical pharmacist then both applied and was accepted into the FDA field investigator program, where they received some of the office’s highest ranks and honors. You should be proud of them. Teague and Bobcat have been partners for twenty seven years. And what comes after the awesomeness of twenty seven years?”

Otter grins, “Retirement, some golf. Maybe, a daughter-in-law and then a little mischievous grandchild or two, those are my personal family plans for our long-time future of happiness together. Family comes first and always.”

Lorinda asks. “What’s Kitten academic degree at Burn U?”

“Kitten is following in her daddy’s foot pads at Bam U Pharmacy School. This semester, she’s interning at one of the local hospitals in the pharmacy department. That’s probably why Teague really isn’t overly worried about his daughter and Taber Dawson. Once graduated, she’ll be employed immediately then her daddy can retire.”

Lorinda grins. “Ah. Would Teague like to have Taber Dawson as his son-in-law?”

Otter smirks. “Who’s playing the college matchmaker now?”

Lorinda holds the beverage. “Just thinking out loud about my daughter, starting Burn U next year with a stud muffin like Taber Dawson. She’ll never pass her English Lit class.”

“I don’t really know a lot about Taber Dawson’s background other then the quick exchange information Teague, Cub, and Bobcat share among themselves during the football season of active games. He attended Burn U as a freshman and was red-shirted. That means he didn’t play any football games for the first year of college. As a sophomore and junior, he plays regularly unlike Teague. He was a late minute quarterback on the last minute of the last game of the National Championship team. Taber has carried the team to four back to back National Championship games and he’s back this year, running that same streak. Teague and Bobcat are claiming the victory, waving the flag, and celebrating as national champs just like true dumbass rednecks who live in the great State of Bama.”

Lorinda frowns. “If he’s playing his fifth season at college, he must have graduated with a bachelor’s degree and working on a master’s degree in something. That’s mean he’s out of college after the football season terminates. So I really don’t have to worry about Taber Dawson.”

She nods. “You’re right about that. I do remember seeing his picture, a really handsome boy from Florida, not Alabama. The town is called Palm near West Palm Beach close to the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Florida boy, that’s mighty intriguing? We don’t get outsiders playing in the other’s team back yard. I bet he’s got some Bama roots in my family tree to come all the way up north here to Birmingham. Grandparents, maybe, I have an idea. I can check out Taber Dawson.”

“Can you really do that? Isn’t that illegal, Lorinda?”

Lorinda grins. “Just fun, I can justice my actions by explaining that the boy might be a good prospect for the FDA, if he’s rejected by the Professional Football League. Good prospects must receive complete and through background checks. I can find out about his folks, grandparents, grades, and the number of church pews…”

She frowns. “Do church pews really have math numbers?”

“Yes, they do for God’s calendar book. Who knows Taber Dawson might be a good candidate for the FDA office here in Birmingham? I’m always looking for young talent and new blood. Why not start with a jock, who has some quick brains? You’ve to be smart to be quarterback.”

Otter grins. “Yes. A quarterback must be smart like Teague,” she turns and smiles at her brother as he eats and entertains his co-workers with laughter. She turns and views Lorinda. “I’m sorry. I’ve talked your ear off.”

Lorinda turns and smiles to Teague. “I enjoyed your…our conversation, Mrs. Fulton,” she grins and views Otter. “Based on current events, our next meeting might be Bobcat’s retirement.”

She nods with a smile. “Please speak those words out loud around him, beside him, behind him. I beg ya like a starving puppy dog.”

 

 

2:02 p.m.

Downtown Birmingham

FDA Office Building (12 miles north of Teague’s apartment)

Work room setting

 

 

Inside the working room, Lorinda stands with a smile in front of numerous rows of long tables with an individual chair that contains a FDA inspector. “Happy celebrate to Tomcat. And thanks for the lunch, Bobcat. Please tell your wife Otter that I enjoyed our chat.”

“What chat?” Bobcat sits in the last row on the last table and looks up from his mobile telephone with a puzzled brow to see Lorinda.

Lorinda smiles, “The chat, I had with Otter.”

“Uh, ho,” Teague sits beside Bobcat and looks down at his mobile telephone with a laugh and a grin.

“There is no…uh, ho or uh, no or uh doing here, Tomcat.” Bobcat turns and sneers at the silver hair roots of Teague.

“Uh, ho,” Teague laughs for a second time.

Lorinda says, “Eyeballs to me. This is Friday. We have work to do to earn our pay even if it is late afternoon with full tummies. Back to work slaves. I have two major assignments for the day. Let me start with some special effects. Eyeballs look at me. Welcome to the entertainment portal of sports betting. With the big championship game next week coming up, there will be legal gamblers and illegal gamblers, meaning the teens that really are teens. The legal age of gambling and drinking alcohol is both twenty one years old in Alabama. The great news, two of ya’ll luck bastards or bastardettes. Don’t want to leave any sex out. Two of ya’ll are going undercover and playing the ponies for your work productivity jobs. The bad news, the USA spy mission starts today through Monday morning on the Gulf of Mexico.”

The young male FDA inspector waves his hand with a grin and a chuckle in the front row. “Me, me, I wanna go to the Gulf of Mexico. Pick me. Please pick me.”

Lorinda turns and smiles at young male. “The badder news, ya can’t keep any money won during the play scam from any table, any chip, or any card. All of it belongs to Uncle Sam.”

The young male drops the arm, shaking his skull with a sour frown. “Not me. Not me. I don’t wanna go to the Gulf of Mexico, if I can’t play the poker table.”

“Help pay off the twenty four trillion dollar deficit for the US Federal Government, kid,” Bobcat turns and laughs at the rear skull of the young male inspector.

Bobcat and Teague sit in the usual work spot in the last row in the rear of the room near the door.

Lorinda says. “Sport betting is the rare legal plus some of the time illegal activity of predicting the results and placing money on the final outcome. You do this all the time at home, in the office, at church…”

“Not at my church…” the young girl inspector shakes her curls in the second row.

“At my church…” the gray-haired male inspector sits in the third row with a nod and a chuckle.

“Ya should church with Sidell then, Peacock?” Teague grins.

Bobcat chuckles, “What church do you attend on Sundays, Sidell?”

Lorinda frowns. “The concept of sports betting is comprised of game odds, free picks, bonuses, fast payouts, expert analysis, sports trends, and more of stuff that I can’t name here and is usually played within a casino environment…”

“…or around the church poker card tables with Sidell,” Teague chuckles.

Lorinda says. “In the US, it is illegal to operate a betting scheme except in the US States of New Jersey and Mississippi. The National Sporting University League has threatened to ban all playoff football games, if these particular US States bet on any college sporting games especially the upcoming highly anticipated ya know.”

Elf grins to Lorinda. “What ya know?”

Lorinda turns and smiles to Elf. “Ya know.”

Petite and black haired Peacock grins. “Ya know?”

Tall and red-haired Bull grins. “Naw, I don’t ya know.”

Tall and blonde haired Ram stands with a smile and lifts both his arms, “The National University Football Championship game between Burn U and Bam U right here in Birmingham, yeehaw.”

Lorinda grins. “Sit down, Ram.”

Ram sits with a smile, elbowing Elf and Duckie on his row.

Teague frowns. “Who cares? The Northeastern Mississippi University ain’t in the playoffs or vying for the championship today or next year or the year after that.”

Lorinda frowns. “We care. Gambling, good or bad, is a national industry of ten billion dollars and growing which peaks…”

“And pinks…” Teague chuckles.

“…peaks asses and pinks cheeks,” Bobcat chuckles. “You can bet your mama’s hot buttermilk biscuits that corrupt politicians and greedy casinos all over the US are following this news flash to their bankers.”

Teague turns and grins to Bobcat. “Keeping us, FDA inspectors employed.”

Bobcat says. “And right now, we’re employed because the US State governments don’t supervise it. Don’t tax it. And don’t take any revenue from Sport Betting.”

Teague nods. “They do care now.”

Lorinda nods. “Right, Tomcat. When the businesses in Mississippi start profiting from it, the other US States will follow suite like Alabama.”

Teague turns and grins to see the gray hair roots of Bobcat. “Keeping us, FDA inspectors permanently employed.”

Bobcat grins down at his mobile telephone. “Leading into our more permanent role as investigators of…”

Teague shakes his curls. “Naw, Bobcat. We be FDA, not FBI. There’s two different alphabetic letters after the letter F.”

Lorinda smiles, “Tracking and tracing the primary bookmaker. This is the person who acts as a marker for the money.”

Bobcat grins down at his mobile telephone, “Cute motto, boss-lady.”

Lorinda says. “Which wins either way? Because, the bookmaker gets the money, maintains the spread, and pockets the leftovers…”

Teague turns and grins at the hair roots of Bobcat. “I like left over pot roast.”

Lorinda says. “The Federal Wire Act of 1961 prevents bookies from making money on the telephones but that doesn’t apply to online gambling. However, the Mississippi legal casinos on the Gulf of Mexico have set up a system of money wagering, yesterday. The online electronic system is fully functional for all gamblers large or small, teen or not right before the big championship football game, making our jobs the watch dog of…” she pauses. “What’s the answer, children?”

Teague grins down at his mobile telephone. “In July 2012, three US business companies paid Uncle Sam more then 731 million dollars for dirty clothes basket of money, potting drugs, cracking human bones, and whoring ladies of the evening along with other illegal stuff.”

Bobcat reads new text on his mobile telephone with a chuckle. “Tomcat is the Hick Honor Graduate for the day.”

Teague stands and slams the chair with a smile to Lorinda. “Who plays the ponies, boss-lady?”

“Tomcat,” Bobcat grins.

Lorinda nods, “Tomcat.”

Teague raises his arms with his mobile telephone with a nod and a grin. “Me, Yeehaw, me and Bobcat goes to Mississippi to play the ponies.”

Lorinda turns and grins to the other inspector. “Sidell and his FDA junior inspector are going to Mississippi for the weekend paid by Uncle Sam,” she lifts the objects. “Gentlemen, I possess keys to the secret sports car, numerous credit cards, and play envelope of real money. Enjoy!”

Teague looks down and reads a new text on his mobile telephone. “Hell naw. I wanna go to Mississippi. I’m senior staff member in this here office, boss-lady. I might find a girl and retire there, ending my FDA career with flaming glory.”

Lorinda stands and shuffles to Sidell, stopping and handing the envelope with a nod and a grin as the other FDA inspectors stand and leave the work room. Then Lorinda moves and stands in front of Teague and Bobcat, handing a second envelope. Teague accepts and flips open the lip of the envelope, looking at the new assignment. Lorinda says, “Your new assignment.”

Teague reads out loud the paper. “In the year 2009, the US Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act…”

“Turn the page…” Bobcat turns and smiles to Lorinda.

“Hi…rud…rudy…” Teague sounds out the foreign word.

“Hirudo medicinalis…” Bobcat laughs, “Leeches.”

Lorinda says. “I need for both of you to inspect the tiny blood suckers at each hospital around Birmingham.”

Bobcat says, “Actually, the more apt description is the tiny vampires for the human race. Notification 510(k) K033391 on January 2004 granted the FDA permission to produce and market as a prescription medical device, the first living organism of maggots. To clarify the terminology, they are referenced as ‘medical maggots.’”

Teague looks up with a sour frown to Lorinda and Bobcat, shaking his silver tinted curls and matching whiskers side to side. “Uh ho, the things that fuck dead bodies inside a smelly grave. Naw, I reject this assignment, boss-lady. I wanna go to Mississippi instead of Sidell. I’m lucky at cards, chips, and chicks. I can win lots of monies, paying off US Debt for the next fifty years then my daughter can earn and keep all her pennies and nickels and then retire from working at thirty years old,” laughing.

Bobcat chuckles, “In the year 2004, the second living organism was used as a medical device and then cleared by the FDA for aiding and saving a human life was Hirudo medicinalis or medicinal leeches. Let’s go, Tomcat. We finish this up then retire for the day.”

Teague shakes his curls and his whiskers. “Ah naw, I ain’t touching hi…rudy…dumb thingies, Bobcat.”

“We see with eyeballs and not touch with our finger pads.” Bobcat turns and spins to the archway with a smile.

Teague turns and swings to the archway, cussing behind the ass of Bobcat.

 

 

2:22 p.m.

Birmingham Hospital (two miles south of FDA branch office)

Pharmacy department setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright sunshine

 

 

Bobcat and Teague wait outside a secured and locked single door.

Teague types a text on his mobile telephone with a smile. “Where do they come from Bobcat?”

Bobcat stands beside Teague, holding his FDA badge for review near his nose. “The preferred habitat is muddy freshwater pools and dirt ditches with plenty of weed growth in temperate climates. Bama has leeches, as well.”

The door opens.

A male with a tone of pale tinted male with a pair of eyeglasses appears.

Bobcat grins. “Good morning. I am…”

“Busy. Do you have an appointment with me, sir?” The pharmacist frowns.

Teague reads his mobile telephone with a chuckle and a grin. “Here to see the vampires…”

Bobcat thumbs Teague with a smile, wiggling his FDA badge. “My slow partner is referencing the medicinal leeches. My name is FDA Inspector Fulton.”

The pharmacist reads the badge, “Eckward.” He exhales without a smiling. “Eckward is a very old fashioned southern name even though you are disturbing my very important medical research work.”

Teague reads his mobile telephone with a grin, “Must be the good teeth on the leeches, right, Eckward?”

The pharmacist back steps from the archway door to allow Teague and Bobcat to enter the room.

Bobcat grins to the pharmacist. “And you are…?”

“Busy.” He turns and points with a sour frown at the wall. “We have applied and received the USDA permit. See here? The wall holds a nice picture frame. The frame says FDA stamped, reviewed, and approved by the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, US Permit for Medical Devise of Organisms and Vectors stamp dated, this year and signed by our company’s medical officer.”

Bobcat turns with a smile and a nod to see the wall. “Yes sir. This is very good. Thank you for compiling with our request.” He turns and smiles to the pharmacist. “We are not questioning the validation of the permit but are respectful asking to inspect the critters for medical usage.”

The pharmacist turns and moves with a sour frown to a closed door, “This way.” He stops.

The door opens.

The dark room consists of medical supplies and three gray earth ware pottery pots fourteen inches high with a series of tiny air holes that are poked around the diameter underneath a yellow lid with finger holes for lifting the pottery top.

“The vampires,” the pharmacist turns and stands with a chuckle against the metal shelves, watching the FDA inspectors.

Bobcat moves inside the dark room, stopping and lifting the lid with a grin. “The first leech therapy was called blood-letting.”

Teague moves inside the room too, side stepping and leaning against the shelves of medical supplies and watches Bobcat do the work. “Blood sucking slides off the tongue better.”

Bobcat says. “The therapy of blood-letting was discovered on a set of hand printed documents in the year 800 BC by Sushruta. He described that a set of leeches blood sucking on folks with skin diseases, sciatica, and musculoskeletal pains. Since 800 BC, there’s been found numerous medical documents of leeches with blood sucking methods from twelfth century AD in Bagdad until blood-letting was phased out to the end of the nineteenth century.”

Teague chuckles, “Thank you, Lord.”

“The invention of microsurgery has revived the critters which provide an effective means to reduce blood coagulation, relief pressure from pooling blood, and stimulate circulation in cases of reconstructive surgery. The reattachment operation is critical for the patient to get the blood flowing inside eyeballs, fingers, and eardrums. The most common complication from leech treatment is prolonged bleeding, allergic reactions, and bacterial infections…”

Teague grins. “And them boogers suck ya dry.”

Bobcat says. “Dryness isn’t bacterial. That’s vaginal, Tomcat.”

“O virgin,” He chuckles.

“Mature adults measure twenty cementers in length and are greenish-brown with a darker tone on the dorsal side and a lighter ventral side. The dorsal side has red.” Bobcat fingers the leech. “You can see the thin stripe with two suckers…”

“I like suckers too, two of them on each side of the female’s chest.” Teague slams his chest with a fist and a chuckle.

Bobcat says. “The two suckers are located at each end and called the anterior and the posterior suckers.”

He turns with a wink to see the pharmacist. “I do posterior sucking, as well.”

“The posterior end is used for leverage of the small body, whereas the anterior sucker consists of jaw and teeth for feeding. Leeches possess three jaws called tripartite that look like saws with about hundred sharp teeth that are used to incise the host…”

“Victim…” Teague smiles at the pharmacist.

“The incision leaves a mark which is an inverted-Y inside of a circle….”

Teague turns and watches Bobcat fuck with the leech. “You go first, Bobcat?”

“After piercing the skin and injecting anticoagulants and anesthetics, they suck out the blood by consuming up to ten times their body weight in one meal…”

“Hunger boggiers,” Teague chuckles.

“They can live up to a year between feeding.”

“Thanks for the 411, Bobcat.”

“Medicinal leeches are hermaphrodites.”

“That’s love stuff, right?” Teague grins.

“They reproduce by sexual mating laying eggs in clutches of up to fifty near shaded humid non-water places.”

“Too much 411, man, are we done?” Teague stands from the wall, turning and viewing the closed door.

Bobcat looks up with a smile and a nod to see the pharmacist. “Your vampires are healthy and fat. Thank you.” The pharmacist nods. Bobcat replaces the yellow lid. “We’ll show ourselves out of the department. Have a good day.”

The office door closes.

They turn and leave the dark room, moving down the hallway to the elevator. Teague hits the button.

The elevator door opens.

Bobcat enters and turns inside the carriage with a nod and a smile. “We go home to Brier and start the weekend fishing, buddy.”

“Shore,” Teague enters and turns inside the carriage, standing with a smile beside Bobcat.

The elevator door closes

 

 

3:03 p.m.

1st floor hospital corridor setting

 

 

The elevator door opens.

I exit from the elevator carriage, shaking the gym bag away from the fur coat, balancing in a pair of designer boots like a southern lady and move to the emergency department, wondering how females maneuver in high heels, handbags, and business suits.

I’m a physicist of scrubs and sneakers. I’m required to wrap my long hair in bun style like my lovely dead grandmother which is covered in a cap plus a mouth mask. I don’t really wear the mouth mask, allowing it to hang around my neck like a new fad necklace, if I’m called into the laser equipment room for a computer problem.

I parked my personal car inside the hospital garage, leaving my possessions, such as, car keys, wallet, driver’s license, banking check book, and the ATM bank card. The personal items are safely locked inside my office desk. I live in a safe neighborhood, but a girl can’t be safe enough.

My hand bag contains three hundred dollars, my laptop, and a new electronic reading devise. Her brothers had given Nadean the devise for Christmas which contained some novice adventure e-novels written by them. I enjoy reading but don’t have much time, since I work sixteen hour days at three different jobs for money.

The tunnel of money debt is seeing the light thou.

My son is graduating college in four months and will get a real job, making some real money. His uncles have promised a new car and an apartment for a year, a graduation gift.

Then I start to save for my retirement of not working.

I move down the hallway floor and slow with a puzzled brow. “Naw, can’t be?”

The tall male on my left has a set of cropped blackish-silver hair plus a chin of black whiskers while the tall male on my right is him.

Teague stumbles into Eckward and halts with a laugh, staring at her. Teague is nicely muscular for an old man of fifty-plus within a chest which is outlined inside a cotton T-shirt.

No beer gut, babe!

He stands in a pair of polished cowboy boots like a redneck, wearing a head of silver tinted shoulder length hair, instead of his blonde locks from his college days, saying with a smile and a nod. “Duchess, is that you, honey?”

“Teague…” I smirk at my childhood classmate and my former farm neighbor.

“Nadean Garland. Damn! Don’t you look hot for an old woman, girl.” Teague moves and struts around Nadean, looking her body up and down with a grin. “Remember, Bobcat?”

I cuts my eyelashes to Eckward, an older gray hair wrinkled human like me, “Hey, Eckward.” I refuse to use Teague’s childhood silly nicknames.

Eckward smiles with a nod to Nadean.

Teague moves and stands in front of her with a smile and a nod. “Ya live in B’ham, now? Last I heard ya lived not in Brier anymore.”

I smile, “Mobile.”

Teague struts side to side in front of her with a smile and a nod. “Mobile, that’s really down south near the Gulf of Mexico. It’s pretty down there too. We’ll been to Orange Beach, almost every summer. Hot. Sand. Sun. You are looking good, Duchess. What are you doing here in Birmingham? Are ya staying the night? Friday evening, the weekend, ya know?”

“Physics conference…” I smirk with my new fib.

Teague stops and stands in her face with a confused brow. “Physics, that’s a big fancy science word. Are you a nuclear physicist?”

“Sorta…” I smirk again at dumbass Teague.

Eckward leans and pulls at Teague, stretching the jacket that wears no fashionable necktie like a non-business executive, saying with a nod and a grin. “Nice seeing ya, Duchess. Let’s go Tomcat. We are finished here.”

The van driver moves ahead and stops, standing beside Teague, looking at Nadean with a smile and a nod. “We’re ready to leave, Dr. Garland. I was told to fetch ya for the transport down to Mobile.”

I turn and smile to the driver with the fib. “Thank you. I’m ready to leave.” I move around the love huddle of Eckward and Teague with a smirk and a nod. Teague always was a wild-ass redneck in his youth, leading the rebel pack into his old age. I look at the far wall. “Nice to see ya’ll, Eckward and Teague!”

Eckward and Teague move ahead and stroll to the entrance door of the hospital

Teague swings around and watches her priss with a grin and a yell. “Duchess, when ya come back into town? Call me! My number is. Wait!” He pats his jacket and searches for his mobile telephone, “Gimme your cell number, precious!”

Bobcat pulls and drags Teague by the arm out the entrance door of the hospital. “What’s up your ass a flock of crawling black ticks?”

Teague spins around with a smile and moves through the entrance door with a grin and a chuckle. “Duchess, she looks great. Pretty. Slim. Damn pretty. Tall. She’s tall. Remember? How she grew from short into tall when a senior at Brier High? She lives in Mobile. Warm there, all the time.”

Bobcat shoves Teague to his truck with a sour frown. “Let’s go back to the office. Report in and then leave for the day and for Brier. Otter and I are going to see my parents. I wanna go fishing in the pond before sundown. I’m aching for some fresh fried catfish. You want to ride with me or drive your new baby?”

Teague grins with a nod. “Damn. She’s pretty after all those years. Some girls go to shit with their bodies. Duchess looks damn pretty.”

The door opens.

Bobcat slides in the driver’s seat, staring his truck. “Ya riding with me or driving, Tomcat?”

The door closes.

Teague settles into the seat with a smile, securing the safety belt. “Driving. You drive to slow, man. You’re an old man with old ways and old ideas. Ya need a divorce, man. Make ya frisky like a kitten, again.”

“I’m a very safe driver. Ask my insurance agent? And I’m married to your sister, Teague. She’d be really unhappy, if we won’t together.” He drives with a sour frown out of the parking lot and to the office.

Teague laughs. “That’s a test, Bobcat. I am testing your ass of love. Ya passed, man.”

 

 

Monday January 11th

 

 

8:08 a.m.

FDA Office Building

(12 miles north of Teague’s apartment)

Conference room setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright sunshine

 

 

The new work week starts inside the conference room of the FDA office.

Lorinda sits in front of the table with a smile and a nod. “Good morning, ya’ll. This is a new day and the start of the new work week for all of us. I would like to announce. There are no drug raids, no marijuana inspections, or Medicare fraud stakeouts planned for the entire week. And everyone is going to attend the highly anticipated and highly expensive National University Championship Football Game here in Birmingham for free.” She hears the employees cheer and clap.

Teague shakes his curls in the last row of business seats with Bobcat like usual with a sour frown. “There’s a catch 22, folks. Wait for it! The fly ball’s landing on top of Elf’s new pickup truck.”

“Eat it, Tomcat!” Elf doodles on the notepad with the ink pen with a yell and a smile at his FDA monitor, sitting in a first row with the other junior FDA inspectors Peacock, Moose, and Dove.

Lorinda grins. “Because we’re all working the championship game per our boss the governor of Alabama.

“Well, fuck.” Teague looks down with a sour frown to see his mobile telephone.

“Do we get caps and T-shirts too?” Moose says with a smile and a nod as a junior FDA inspector.

Lorinda grins. “Everyone will receive a cap and a shirt with the letters FDA which will be printed in big bold yellow letters over the black cotton plus a slinky non-decorative black silk vest per our boss the governor of Alabama. This cultural…”

“Cut-throat…” Teague frowns.

“This cultural cut-throat competition is the biggest social…”

“Security…” Teague frowns.

“This cultural cut-throat competition is the biggest social and security event of the…”

“Two centuries…” Teague frowns.

“This cultural cut-throat competition is the biggest social and security event of two centuries. Burn U and Bam U will never ever play against each other in a single game in the State of Alabama for a National University Football Championship title. The anticipated spectator count rolls around 150,000 folks. The stadium can hold one hundred thousand with fifty thousand legal loiters.”

“With or without clothing…” Teague chuckles.

“With or without guns…” Bobcat frowns.

“Next year, all the football competition rules will be changing for some dang reason which is beyond my pay grade. I am so proud of both my college football teams and more proud, serving as one of twelve thousand security chiefs with my little Indians pow-wowing around the Old Gray Man for no trouble. Does everyone understand that nasty word?”

Bobcat works the math on his mobile telephone. “150,000 divided by 12,000 equals 12.5,” he turns and views Teague with a grin. “Can you take on 12.5 drunken Burn U fans by yourself, Tomcat?”

Teague turns with a nod and a chuckle to see Bobcat. “As long as, the point five don’t have a set of roller blades. Yeah, old man!”

Lorinda grins. “I’m glad my little Indians like their new assignment, this week. The big assignment this morning, I’m holding a new listing of gamblers living in the great US State of Alabama.”

Teague turns and smiles to Lorinda. “Gambling is legal under the US Federal law, including horses, dogs, education lotteries, bingo cards, and online gambling which a waste of my precious beer and pretzel time, right, Bobcat?”

“Right, Tomcat.” Bobcat looks up with a chuckle to see Lorinda.

Lorinda says. “Each US State monitors and regulates the legal gambling laws and codes, making us the oversight big brothers and sisters of gambling rights in Alabama. Some gambling establishments implement a withholding taxes program on the paid out prize monies then cut the lucky winner a paper check for depositing into a legal bank account in their native state. The other establishments pay out the cash prize directly to the player, regardless of their home state. This is us, Teague.”

Teague says. “Then the FDA just waits for the timely expiration date. If the prize isn’t claimed within the ninety day period, then the money is forfeited back towards the gambling establishment.”

Lorinda frowns. “Good argument, Tomcat. Except, Las Vegas gambling doesn’t work like that.”

Bobcat frowns. “Big brother gives out the IRS form W-2G for reporting your gambling winnings from your particular gambling establishment.”

Lorinda shakes her curls. “Then some or almost all of the gambling winners simply move out of Alabama into Florida to avoid paying Alabama income taxes. The Alabama income taxes are used to pay for the state’s government services.”

Bobcat chuckles, “I work for the US Federal Government simply housed inside the State of Bama.”

Teague grins. “Then the new gambling winner invokes the new estate tax law, giving ten million dollars to any folks he or she favors, including the spouse, before the funeral costs of course.”

Elf lifts an arm with a smile and a nod in the front row of chairs. “Me! I’ll marry you and I’ll take your ten million dollars and go par-tee.”

Teague frowns. “I’m debating, not donating, Elf.”

“I’m paying off the truck note,” Elf chuckles.

“Don’t really give a shit, Elf.” Bobcat answers for Teague with a chuckle.

Lorinda says. “I have electronically zapped the gambling report to your electronic toy which is paid by the US Federal Government. Each team has one name. Find and verify the location of your particular gambling marker and then return back here for lunch. We’re having Chinese food and I need to a couple of team leaders for the scouting patrols at the championship game,” she sees a set of wiggling arms from the employees with a smile and a nod. “Good. Follow me, please.” Lorinda and the FDA inspectors stand and leave the conference room.

Teague stands and slams the chair on top of the tile with a sour frown. “Nadean Garland?”

“Who?” Bobcat stands and reads his mobile telephone with the new gambling report too.

Teague stares down at his mobile telephone. “The name on our pick list reads Nadean Garland. Can’t be right, Bobcat? We just saw Nadean Garland at the Birmingham Hospital on Friday. Remember, Bobcat? She lives in Mobile. She told us that she lived in Mobile. She was visiting Birmingham for a meeting and then returning to Mobile for home. Remember, that little gopher boy told her the vehicle transport was ready to leave for the beach city of Mobile. There’s another Nadean Garland in Bama,” he turns and frowns to Bobcat. “Who would have thunk it?”

Bobcat stares with a puzzled brow at the address on his mobile telephone. “We have this Nadean Garland’s home address of Odum Street in Gardendale, north of B’ham about six miles. The address comes from the Las Vegas Gambling Sporting Center, a reputable establishment. I trust the source.”

Teague types on his mobile telephone. “There are seventy four individuals named Nadean Garland throughout the world. How about that? We know one and we’re about to meet a second one. What are the freaking astronomical odds of that happening in Birmingham, Alabama?”

Bobcat shakes a skull, “Can’t compute it. Let’s interview this particular Nadean Garland. Find out how she’s able to place a huge bet of three million dollars on the National University Championship football game?”

They turn and move through the archway to Bobcat’s truck.

 

 

8:23 a.m.

City of Gardendale (10 miles north of FDA branch office)

Apartment of Nadean Garland setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright sunshine

 

 

Bobcat drives from the FDA office and stops, parking his truck in front of a three story building, killing the engine.

The truck door opens.

Teague scans the building, sliding out the truck.

The two truck doors close at the same time.

Teague moves and leads to the building with a stern face. “I would call these buildings a set of duplexes. An upstairs and downstairs building has two separate entrances for four families with fake wooden façade and a set of large viewing windows.”

Bobcat moves beside Teague and reads his mobile telephone. “These are very nice duplexes for annual rentals. The complex comes with a swimming pool, a picnic area, a playground facility, two set of tennis courts.”

“Who the hell plays tennis anymore?” Teague scans the landscape with a laugh.

“Someone does.” Bobcat moves and reads his mobile phone. “Apartment number eight,” he looks up to see the numbers. “The first building starts with the number one. That’s right across from the apartment’s management office. I think we should bypass the nasty office personnel and go directly and ask Miss Garland where she got all her green money. If she’s a daughter of a Saudi Arabian prince, who lives off her daddy’s royal camel spit, then we can let her be.”

Teague laughs. “You are right. And I’m a billionaire ready to retire to the farm.”

Bobcat and Teague stop and stand together in front the archway of number eight, listening for any violent disturbance inside the apartment like a set of well-trained law enforcement officers first.

They hear the television.

Bobcat turns to Teague with a nod and a fist knock on the door.

The apartment door opens.

A young girl appears in the archway with a smile. Two kids run and hug her legs.

Bobcat and Teague slap on a fake smile. Bobcat holds up a FDA badge for view with a nod. “Good morning, ma’am. We are FDA Inspectors, Fulton and Haywood. Do you happen to be Miss Nadean Garland at 111 Odum Street in apartment eight here in the city of Gardendale?”

The young girl shakes her curls, patting the head of her child. “Naw, I’m Bonnie Rohner. These are my baby girls.”

Bobcat says with a nod and a smile. “I am so sorry to disturb your nice morning, ma’am.”

Teague looks with a fake smile and scans the furniture inside the apartment for any trouble and the young mother. “Ma’am, do you know a girl named Nadean Garland?”

The young mother shakes her curls with a smile. “Naw, I don’t have a friend or relative with that name.”

Teague grins. “Thank you very much. We’re so sorry to disturb ya, ma’am. Have a good day.”

“Thanks.” She backs steps from the archway with the little girls. “One more hour of TV then we go play on the play ground, girls.” The little girls cheer.

The apartment door closes.

Bobcat and Teague back step from the closed door.

Bobcat looks down and reads his mobile telephone. “We’ve received some bogus data, boy. Nadean Garland must live in another apartment,” he looks up and scans the apartments. “Someone typed down the wrong information in the computer and tossed at us.”

Teague scans the apartment landscape with a sour frown and a nod too. “Yeah, let’s inquire with the apartment management office. They can pull up the proper name and give us the correct apartment number. Figures! The IRS can’t do nothing right. We gotta do all the legwork too.” He turns and moves with Bobcat to the office building.

 

 

8:28 a.m.

Apartment business office setting

 

 

The office door opens.

Teague enters the building lobby that holds two chairs, an office desk, a computer, and a set of cheap paintings, pointing to the equipment, “A fitness center with free weights and lots of weight machines, it looks like your exercise room, Bobcat.”

Bobcat moves and displays his FDA badge with a nod and a smile to the young blonde headed female. “Good morning, ma’am. We are from the FDA, a US Federal Government Agency. We’re looking for one of your current residents, occupying one of the duplexes. A female named Nadean Garland. Could you please provide us her apartment number? We have unfortunately received some invalid information mistakenly discovering that she doesn’t live in apartment number eight.”

The female sits with a smile and a nod at the office desk. “I can help ya’ll with your request,” she turns and types on the keyboard of a laptop and then looks up with a grin to see Bobcat. “Nadean Garland. I have…had…past tense here. She did occupy our residential number eight from the dates of December first the year before until December thirty-first of last year. Then she moved out and surrendered her apartment key. Now, it’s occupied by another tenant. Does that answer your question?”

Bobcat nods. “Sorta. Nadean Garland moved out on December thirty-first. That was nine days ago. Did she leave a forwarding address for any of her outstanding bills or a confirmation letter of moving out from your lovely grounds, ma’am?”

“I can check on that,” she turns and types again. “Yeah, she did,” she turns and writes down the information on a sheet of paper, handing it to Teague with a grin and a giggle.

Teague accepts and reads the paper. “Nadean Garland. PO Box 1960. Birmingham. Alabama. 35209-1960.” He looks up with a confused brow to the girl. “This is a post office box, ma’am.”

“Yes sir.” The girl grins to Teague.

Bobcat points with a confused brow down to the paper. “You accepted a post office box as a forwarding address? Wonder if she owed ya more money or damaged the apartment? You might not collect your monies.”

The female grins. “We inspect the interior apartment when a tenant gives up the apartment key. We do a quickie visual inspection. If there aren’t any broken walls or torn up carpet, we are fine and dandy. Since, we charge a decorating fee to re-paint and replace the carpet for the next tenant.”

Teague frowns, “Okay. I learned something new.”

Bobcat sits down in one of the two chairs in front of the office desk, looking up with a sigh and a sour frown. “This doesn’t help us much. We’re trying to track her down and we were given this particular apartment complex as her current address.”

The female frowns. “I’m sorry. That’s all the information I can release without the proper official legal authority or paperwork.”

Teague sits down and leans forward over the desk with a wink and a chuckle at her. “Ya know ya got the most beautiful dancing brown eyes shaped like a baby fawn? Is that your pretty name, Fawn?”

Bobcat leans over to Teague with a whisper. “You’re wasting my time. We are done here. Let’s return to our office, Tomcat.”

She winks at Teague with a giggle. “My name’s Tea, spelled like sweet tea.”

Teague grins. “Tea, awe! That’s so clever and cute like you. Ya know I bet Nadean ain’t as cute like you either, darling?”

Bobcat whispers to Teague. “Not working, let’s go.”

She looks down to the table surface with a smile. “I won’t know that, sir.”

Teague grins. “Ya know we should compare your beauty to her just to be certain?”

Tea looks up with a smile and a nod. “Well, I guess I could do that. Lemme get her paper folder.” She turns and stands, moving to the filing cabinets in the rear of the room as Teague watches her ass.

Bobcat whispers with a sour frown. “What are you doing illegally? We don’t have the authority or authorization to hear or see or take this particular Nadean Garland’s private and personal information. You learned with me there are new vicious enforceable HIPAA rules marking any and all individuals with prison time and payment vouches for any illegal acquisition, Tomcat.”

Teague watches the female. “Was she a good tenant? She rented here for one year, 365 days. Don’t good tenants stay for lots of years? Ain’t that correct? Can ya check on her financial standing with this Gardendale apartment complex? Naw, but, Tea can. Relax, Bobcat, I got this covered.”

Bobcat sits back and shakes his skull. “Why are you doing this to me, Tomcat? When we’re so close of retiring and getting our full pension for the rest of our fishing days,” exhaling. “Not if we break the US Federal Government HIPAA rule paying off a hefty personal money penalty for the rest of our elderly years inside a US Federal prison to boot.”

Teague grins at the female. “We’re at a dead end without talking face-to-face with Miss Garland here. I got some deep suspects that she might be involved in some pretty heavy illegal stuff. This pretty thing can give us some more go-go leads. I wanna see if she was or wasn’t able to pay her rent and utilities. That’s a big deep suspicion.”

“That’s a pretty good reason Lorinda for breaking the US Federal HIPAA privacy rule on an innocent non-criminal American citizen.” Bobcat watches the female resume her chair at the desk.

Tea places and opens the paper folder with a grin. “Hmm. Nadean Garland is starred in a red flag,” she looks up with a wink to Teague. “That’s not good.” She turns and stands, moving to another filing cabinet.

Teague leans to Bobcat with a chuckle. “I still got it.”

Bobcat grins. “Ya still got hair lice too. She’s too young for ya, boy. She looks early, early twenty something…”

The young girl moves back to her desk and sits, opening and reading a second paper folder. “Hmm. Nadean Garland paid all her monthly rental payment by money order. See here? We keep the top half then deposit the bottom half into the business bank account.”

“Is that both honest and common?” Teague looks down and studies the folder upside down.

She looks up with a smile and a nod to Teague. “Yeah. It’s legal, honest, and common. The apartment renter usually does that when she or he doesn’t have a checking account. Or she or he has a temporary job like a waitress or a construction worker. That might account for why she left after a year. She rented one of the mid-range apartments paying seven hundred dollars per month. That’s a lot of money if ya only work a two dollar per hour waitress job plus any table tips.”

Teague says with a nod and a smile to get more privacy information without the legal search warrant. “You’re very smart, darling. Does your daddy own the complex?”

She shakes her curls. “Naw, the complex is owned by a local family. I work for the management company the owner hired the first of this year in January.”

Teague grins. “You definitely know your stuff. Is there anything else in Miss Garland’s file that might help the US Federal Government?”

She gasps. “Is she a fugitive of the law?”

Teague nods. “Sorta, we need to hunt her down for some more questioning, ya know?”

She nods. “Yeah, I watch the crimes television programs all the time,” she looks down and reads the folder. “Well, she signed her new rental contract on December second the year before. She moved into her rental apartment on December third. She was required to pay the first and last month’s rent of one thousand four hundred dollars plus a security deposit of six hundred dollars. She claimed to have two cats that lived with her inside the apartment. She had to provide a pet deposit of three hundred dollars for each cat which is not refunded. She paid a redecorating fee of five hundred dollars. That’s not refunded either.”

Bobcat frowns. “That sounds like highway robbery.”

She looks up with a set of parted her lips to him. “Beg pardon.”

Bobcat frowns. “Ya make a person paid all that money just to rent an apartment for one year. No wonder she moved out.”

“Actually, it would’ve been more economical for her to live here for three or so years to offset the overhead expense of the pet deposit and redecorating fee.” She looks down and views folder. “Garland didn’t damage her apartment on the last day of inspection when she returned the apartment key on December twenty seventh, this year.”

Teague points to the money order. “Why’s the amount seven hundred thirty four dollars instead of seven hundred dollars even, sugar?”

She nods. “The Odum Apartments provide sewer and water, but ya have to pay the apartment complex for the usage.”

“Another bank robbery…” exhales Bobcat, jolting down his hand written notes. In case Teague can’t con the girl into hard copies without a search warrant.

Teague sneers to Bobcat. “Shut up, man.” He smiles at Tea. “The amount includes the seven hundred dollars monthly rental plus the water and sewer usage. That makes perfect sense to me. Is there anything else that might help us track this fugitive down?”

She says. “The final inspection report reads that she had cancelled. This is not common, but it does happen. The final inspection report reads that Garland turned off her electricity on December first. That means that she asked Central Bama Power to click off her electricity on November thirty. Central Bama Power sent her a final bill for electricity on the month of November only and not for the month of December. Then Central Bama Power clicked the running electricity back over to the apartment complex. We picked up her electricity bill from December first to December thirty first, last year. Her electricity bill total is 28.12 dollars. Wow.”

Teague frowns. “In the month of December, we have lots of cold weather spells that needs heat. Are these apartment duplexes that heat and air efficient producing low money bill?”

She shakes her curls. “Not at all, she probably moved out ahead of time into her new apartment, since she didn’t renew her annual lease with us. She found a new place just moved it and cancelled the electricity with our apartment complex.”

Bobcat points the invoice with a grin. “See ya did lose money not asking for a forwarding address of her new place? Then ya could’ve have sent her a bill and collected the funds.”

She shakes her curls. “That’s not how that works. Rental and renters sometimes leave under mysterious circumstances. I’ve worked for this particular management company for two years. I haven’t seen, but I have found renters who vacate and vanish from an apartment in one night. I mean during the nighttime hours, when the management office is closed. The greedy and dishonest renter will move out with not bothering to pay the month’s rental or the electricity or sewer and water bill. Therefore we…”

“…pass the buck down to the other paying renters. The cycle is now complete.” Bobcat turns with a sour frown to see the nose profile of Teague. “Are we done here, Tomcat?”

She winks to Teague with a giggle. “Tomcat, is that a nice nickname or a naughty thing?”

Teague grins. “Both. Ya know maybe we can have supper one evening?”

Bobcat exhales. “Before ya’ll run off to the motel room, is there any more or additional information on Miss Garland?”

She looks down with a frown to see the folder. “When I accessed the computer her electronic folder is red flagged. We will not allow her to rent here at the Odum Apartments ever.”

Bobcat says. “But you mentioned that her security deposit was paid with the amount of six hundred dollars. Why didn’t you subtract the twenty eight dollars plus cents out of that security deposit amount instead of giving it all back to the renter?”

She smirks. “We did. We keep it all, including the pet deposit, the decorating fee, and the security deposit…”

Bobcat frowns, “Because, she cancelled her electricity in the month of December for a total bill of twenty eight dollars plus some coinage.”

She shakes her curls. “Naw, her final inspection report revealed a set of dirty windows, four dirty pan eyes on the oven, a dirty kitchen and bathroom floor, one set of dented blinders inside the master bedroom, and three dirty black spots on the carpet, and three black marks on the wall. All that damaged added up to five hundred and eighty dollars. When we add the twenty nine dollars to the five hundred ninety dollars, we get six hundred and nine dollars. Miss Garland still owes us nine dollars, but we were kinda even to write that off.”

“That’s so sweet,” Teague smiles at her.

Bobcat frowns. “Ya still reported the nine dollars to the Credit Bureau dinking her good credit?”

She grins. “Yes. We’re allowed to report bad rental tenants to help other rental complexes.”

Teague turns with a nod and a grin to Bobcat. “And ya should since Garland is a fugitive from the law, Bobcat.”

She turns and grins to Bobcat. “Bobcat, is that a nickname too?”

Bobcat sneers at her, “Naw, a vicious warning,” he turns with a sour frown to see Teague. “Are we done here, Teague?”

Teague turns with a smile to see her, “Almost, Eckward. Do you have anything else to share, darling?”

She looks down with a stern face to see the folder and with a smile to see Teague. “Based on this folder, Miss Garland is running from the US law enforcement personnel, since she doesn’t possess a bank account allowing her to spend money without it being traced. She holds a temporary job like a waitress or something seasonal without steady income, causing her to terminate her lease and move away. And she doesn’t want to be found, since she has a Post Office Box instead of a proper street address.”

Bobcat frowns. “Miss Garland didn’t just beam from an alien ship that was orbiting Planet Earth. Did you meet or talk or communicate Miss Garland, since she moved out last month?”

She shakes her curls. “No. I’m newly placed here last week. My management company rotates us around to the different complexes for vast business experience. This particular complex is very nice here in Gardendale. I like working here. But I don’t meet Miss Garland. Sorry.”

Bobcat leans to the folder, “Where’s? Why isn’t there a picture photograph of her current Alabama driver’s license inside her personal folder for the Gardendale Apartments?”

She nods. “Ah. You’re very perspective, sir. Her driver’s license is missing. The owner of the complex used his blood-relatives and some poorly trained employees to work inside the administrative office. They didn’t collect the proper legal documents, including the driver’s license. We insist upon that procedure now. But last year at this time period, it wasn’t required.”

Bobcat asks. “Doesn’t a business especially a rental housing complex with bad people conduct a police background check on a renter candidate or the prospective family? Or do you not perform a check on credit financial?”

She says. “Yes. We do. No. They didn’t practice that either last year. When I came on board, I replaced the incompetent workers and implemented all the checks and balances of new candidate of renters. I also discovered that the incompetent employees were renting the apartments to their friends or friends of their friends to fill the units, because the former employees were paid bonuses when the rentals were hundred percent occupied. I do believe Miss Garland with her mysterious background and shady finances might have been one of the friends of a friend of a friend. That’s probably how she ended up here. Then the monthly rent amount was too high, so she moved out.”

“That’s a very good working theory, Tea.” Teague grins to her.

Bobcat exhales. “That’s too bad. If you had her driver’s license, we could visit her previous residential address, if inside Birmingham then ask her about not paying her monthly December electricity bill legally?”

She smiles. “Just call the DMV. They have a photo ID of her driver’s license.”

Bobcat says. “Actually, they cannot without a search warrant and lots of red tape. We don’t even know what color skin or what age Miss Nadean Garland might be.”

She looks down with a smile to the folder and Teague. “Ah, I don’t have Miss Garland’s forwarding address, but I do have her previous address. It is 222 Valleydale Road in the city of Homewood with a zip code of 35209. That’s not in a very good neighbor. As a matter of fact, that’s the lower end income bracket for the city of Birmingham. See my theory does come into play. This girl was a friend of a friend of a friend, getting a good apartment at a very expensive price. Then she couldn’t afford it. Miss Garland has probably moved back to her own haunt. You should try that rental company named Valleydale Apartments. It’s an old apartment complex. I bet they follow their in-house rules and they probably have a photo ID of her driver’s license.”

“You’re so sweet and smart, Tea.” Teague grins.

She giggles. “Hey, you can call Central Bama Electricity, too. They’ll have a previous address on Miss Garland. She had to pay a deposit fee before she received the electricity.”

Bobcat writes down the information with a nod. “That’s a good idea. Central Bama Power would have her electricity history of payments for years. Then we can zap into a current address.”

She shakes her curls. “I hate to bust your pink bubbles. But Miss Garland doesn’t seem like she wants to be found. I’ve discovered in my work experience in apartment complex environments that the renter can get access to electricity using their newly signed and dated leasing agreement with us, not necessary a driver’s license. Since not all folks can drive a car or own a car. But you can try. The other theory here is that she cancelled the electricity bill the month before probably hiding from someone or something. Ya know how criminal operation being law enforcement officers, right, Tomcat?” She winks at him.

Teague grins, “Right.”

Bobcat clears his throat, since they are not legal law enforcement officers here.

She says. “That means that the final electricity bill came to this street address and not a previous street address or her new current address. Or it went to her PO Box.”

Teague grins. “The Post Office Box will hold her current address. You can’t get a box with a valid and picture driver’s license.”

Bobcat grins. “Good thinking, Tomcat. And Tea darling, can we receive a hard copy of Nadean Garland’s folder please?”

“Shore,” She turns and stands, prissing her ass as Teague and Bobcat fist bump with a smile and a chuckle.

 

 

9:02 a.m.

Pickup truck ride of Bobcat and Teague

(12 miles on south Interstate 65)

 

 

The door closes.

Teague wiggles inside his seat with a chuckle to see the building. “She’s cute.”

Bobcat sits in the driver’s seat and cranks the engine with a sour frown. “We don’t know what she looks like to make…” He turns and frowns at the nose profile of Teague. “O yeah, Tea was very helpful. You need to reward her twice as naughty.”

Teague says with a nod and a grin to the building door. “Yup, I will. This post office zip code is right off Greensprings Highway in a not-so-good street district of Homewood. I think our pretty thing has some good instincts. We should drop by the Gents Club and see if Nadean Garland was one of their exotic dancers. They might have an old photo of the girl.”

Bobcat backs out of the parking spot, driving with a stern face to the roadway. “We can do that too. But we should contact the DVM download all photos of any female Garland….”

“We can’t, Bobcat.” Teague shakes his curls. “The FBI doesn’t like us, eating in their picnic basket. Remember, it is the two different letters, after the letter ‘F?’ And we have to get butthole permission from our boss-lady. She doesn’t like us, making trouble on her football turf either.”

“We’re doing our job.”

“And our job’s to track down a legal gambler who has placed a three million dollar bet on a college game with funds, coming straight from a trustworthy bank investment group. And we gently remind the girl that she resides inside Bama, since the Bama Governor wants a pay rate next year. That’s not against any US Federal law. She also might be indirectly connected with the Mob or another foreign investment group that happens to be living in the USA. Since, we house aliens, illegals, and criminals for shitty fun. We don’t have a criminal investigation case going on here just some damn mama nose wiping assignment, Bobcat.”

“That’s a good point, Tomcat. So let’s blow Nadean Garland off, go home, and start our Burn U’s victory celebration, early. Man. We got another great team, this year.”

Teague grins. “And last year, and the year before that, and the year previous to that one that young guy named OT Sims is awesome. His football stats are star shooting to Jupiter this year. He’ll be first draft pick and pick-up this spring as a five-star professional football athletic already.”

 

 

9:10 a.m.

City of Homewood (12 miles south of Gardendale)

Gents Club setting (8 miles south of FDA branch office)

Cold temperatures with partly clouds of bright sunshine

 

 

“I agree.” Bobcat pulls into an empty parking space near the door and stops the truck, killing the engine.

The door opens.

The building is a two story structure with a covered veranda and one metal door without a peek hole but a bulky body.

The door closes.

Teague pulls up beside Bobcat, moving to the entrance door getting a nod from the bouncer to enter.

The door opens.

They enter a dark room.

The door closes.

Teague and Bobcat move to the beverage bar as Teague points with a smile to a beer bottle.

“Get it to go,” Bobcat scans the bar and Teague.

The owner of the club moves and stands in the nose profile of Bobcat.

Teague sits, reaching and grabbing a pretzel with a sour frown, “Beer don’t taste good in plastic.”

Bobcat turns and smiles with his FDA badge to the owner. “Hey there! I’m Fulton from the FDA.”

“Are you cops?” The owner frowns at Bobcat.

Teague says, grabbing another pretzel, “Naw, man! I’m just hungry.”

Bobcat says. “I’m looking for a female. Someone suggested to us that she might be a dancer, since she lived around the area. Her name is Nadean Garland.”

The owner shakes skull. “Naw, she ain’t one of my dancers. Is she in trouble, drugs?”

Bobcat says. “Maybe, gambling? Gambling isn’t really legal in Bama.”

The owner frowns. “Gambling? I don’t allow my girls to entertain or collect money or men on the side. The girls usually just dance, getting lots of sweet cash. And I don’t want a girl like her to cause trouble in my place. What’s she look like?”

“Pretty…” Bobcat fakes a smile with the lie.

The owner turns and moves ahead to a solid wall. “I got a wall of faces of my girls. Ya can look over here? See if ya recognize her, point her out for me.”

Bobcat follows behind his ass, stopping and staring at the wall of pretty girls with a stern face.

Teague pulls up beside Bobcat and holds a plastic cup and a hand of pretzels, chewing with a grin, admiring all the pretty girls.

The owner sneers at the nose profile of Bobcat. “See her?”

“Naw sir! Can’t say that I do.” Bobcat scans the girls and does not know Garland’s face, turning with a smile and a handshake to the owner, “You have been a big help, sir. Thanks kindly for assisting us.”

The owner grins with a nod, “My pleasure! Come back later when ya’ll get off work. Have a beer on me, boys?”

“We will.” Teague smiles at the pretty girls.

Bobcat punches Teague on the bicep, turning and leaving the building. They move outside into the heated sunlight. Bobcat moves to his truck. “What’s inside your cup?”

“Soda. Wanna a pretzel?”

The door opens.

Bobcat slides into the truck, cranking and warming the engine and scans the landscape with a sour frown. “Naw, we go to the post office hopefully find a real street address on Miss Garland. This particular part of town ain’t safe for females, dogs, and small children, mostly druggies, thieves, and low-lives.”

Teague scoots into the seat. “Lots of unemployment around the area closed shops, closed restaurants, closed stores. I believe these are the Birmingham’s slums or slugs.”

The door closes.

 

 

9:16 a.m.

Homewood Post Office (6 miles south of FDA branch office)

 

 

Bobcat drives from the parking lot onto the highway with a sour frown. “Homewood is a city of two tales, a rich tale and a poor tale. We leave the slum side driving into the ritzy side. The US post office is small in the middle of a strip mall of retail stores. Miss Garland had good common sense using a Post Office Box for her mail of bills and important letters, since I would trust a police officer here.”

Teague finishes his snack and burps. “How long are we going to chase this girl?”

Bobcat turns and stops into the parking lot the Post Office, killing the engine, removing the keys and exhales. “You insisted that we gather more information on Miss Garland. We gathered. Now, we inspect like good little inspectors, Tomcat. Then we finish this task and go back to the office.”

The door opens.

Teague slides and closes the door of the truck.

The door closes.

Teague holds the door for Bobcat with a smile. “I’m finished inspecting. We can inspect the fishing hole around lunchtime.”

“Sounds like a plan to me, buddy.” Bobcat enters through the archway and stands in the short line for the Post Office clerk.

There are book shelves of mailing materials on the side wall with three Post Office clerk stations in the middle of the room. The middle Post Office clerk motions for the next person in line with a smile. Bobcat and Teague move and stand together. Bobcat grins with his FDA badge. The elderly man frowns, “Police? What can I do for you, sir?”

Bobcat grins. “I’m Fulton.” He thumbs to Teague. “This is Haywood. We’re in need of securing the address for a person named Nadean Garland. Her US post office box number is 1960. The zip code is 35209-1960. Is this the correct United States postal office, right, sir?”

He looks down with a nod and a stern face to type on his computer. “Yes. If her zip code has been identified as 35209-1960 then this is our facility. Garland, G.a.r.l.a.n.d, is that the correct spelling, sir?”

Bobcat nods. “Yes, can you tell us from the computer her driver’s license address that secured the US post office box number?”

He types with a nod and a stern face. “I can. I’m accessing the menu for that information now.”

Bobcat asks. “Do you also retain a photo of the driver’s license?”

He types. “No sir. We don’t have computer capability to do that for ya. But ya can talk with the Alabama DVM. They can provide a picture ID for ya’ll.”

Bobcat grins. “Thanks for the info.”

He looks up and points to his computer screen. “Here we go. The US post office box number 1960 and it has been rented to Nadean Garland, since May thirty, four years ago. Her account is paid and active on December first, last year. She possessed a current Alabama driver’s license with a street address of 333 Greensprings Highway. Hmm, that’s not a good address for a female. But that’s the one on her driver’s license when she paid and rented the US post office box.”

Bobcat nods. “Thanks, you have been a tremendous assistance. Have a Happy New Year, sir.”

He turns and smiles to Bobcat. “You, too, next in line please,” he waves a hand to the next person with a smile.

Bobcat and Teague turn and leave the building.

The door closes.

Teague pulls out and types on his mobile telephone with a confused frown. “That apartment’s primary location is on the other side of Greensprings Highway. We just passed it before stopping to the Gents Club.”

The door opens.

Bobcat slides inside the cab and cranks the engine. “She moved here first from the town of Wherever, USA and set up a post office box for her VIP important letters. You do think?” He jerks the gears and drives the truck from the parking lot to the highway.

“Yeah, I think so, since the mail service sucks in Birmingham. Sometimes, I get my neighbor’s mail with his correct street address. Dumbass mail carriers, I don’t think they can read shit.”

Bobcat drives with a laugh. “They can read shit. They just can’t read and match English numeric sequential numbers or alphabetic letters.”

“Miss Garland moves from the town of Where within the USA and then gets a leased apartment and then gets a driver’s license.”

“Naw, Miss Garland gets a low paying job from the town of Where within the USA and then gets a leased apartment. Ya can’t rent an apartment without proof of a job with some steady type of income. Then she gets a driver’s license for her car. Wished we know her vehicle then we could contact the DVM or the police? So when she didn’t get her letters probably from electricity, she set up a US post office box. The post office box holds her first address from four years ago. That doesn’t make any sense, Bobcat.”

“It is not against the law or uncommon for folks using post office boxes to secure their shipped packages and important legal documents instead of entrusting the shitty mail service.”

 

 

9:21 a.m.

City of Homewood

(4 miles west of FDA branch office)

Second apartment setting of Nadean Garland

Cold temperatures with bright sunshine

 

 

The truck turns from the roadway.

Bobcat slams his brakes to avoid another deep pothole in the parking lot.

Teague scans the landscape with a sour frown. “Shit. This entire parking lot needs to be bull-dozed and replanted with a grove of pine trees. I can smell the shit, leaking up from the individual sewer tanks. Some of the older buildings didn’t have proper sewer drainage lines in the early 1930s when Birmingham was built.”

Bobcat parks and stops on a flat level piece of the pavement, killing the engine.

The door opens.

Teague slides out and closes his door, leading to a two story red bricked building with a set of iron railing on all the windows.

The door opens.

Teague enters with a smile and a nod the hair roots of a tall skinny mink tinted woman as Bobcat follows behind.

The door closes.

The woman looks up from her keyboard with a sneer. “What’da ya want? Are ya the cops? Ya’ll look like cops, toting around metal pieces on your hips. Ya cops?”

Bobcat stops and leans to Teague with a smile and whisper. “How’ya going to tame his kitten, Tomcat?”

He stands. “Hush, boy.” Teague lifts and holds both his hands away from the gun with a smile and a nod to the older female. “Good morning, ma’am. You’re very observant. We be tracking a fugitive. And’s we be wanting some help, so’s the folks are safe and sound tonight.”

She frowns. “Here?” She shakes her curls, “We gots a runaway from the prison here. Well, I don’t need no trouble here, naw, not here. What’s his name?” She sits and types on her computer.

Teague moves and sits in one of the two empty chairs with a smirk and a nod to the hair roots of the older female, “A girl, ma’am, her name be Nadean Garland, ma’am. Ya know we shore could use some help in finding that girl, ma’am?”

The older female types with a nod and a stern face on the computer keyboard, “Why ya say so? I’s don’t want a runaway here making trouble here. I’s got a Nadean Garland at apartment fourteen. She be on the upper floor in the second building.”

Bobcat grins, “We be interested in her forwarding address too please, ma’am.”

Teague grins. “And, ma’am, all the copied documents that you can spare while we search for her whereabouts. Don’t wanna alert the kids or kittens to danger.”

She types with a nod and a stern face on the keyboard, “Danger, right, don’t wanna hurt the kids or kittens with a runaway,” she stands, grabbing and smoking the cigarette and turns into a side room with a yell, “19908, 19908, 19908, here, I finds her papers inside box number 19908.” She turns and moves back to her chair, sitting and resting the box with number 19908 on table surface with a wink and a grin to Teague. “I mark ‘em for order. Then I put a number inside the computer name of the current and former renter for order too. Nadean Garland is number 19908.” She pulls and reads the papers. “There here be a move-out form when she moved out. She be a good renting tenant, didn’t punch the walls with her fists or a dog’s skull or a whiskey bottle. There here be a page of payments for the rental. She paid using a money order. She be a good paying tenant. She paid on-time each first of the month with good money. Ya’ll can’t go wrong with a money order. We gets our money each month.”

Bobcat looks down with a nod to take hand written notes of the new information, “The amount of the monthly rental, please, ma’am?”

She says. “She gots a good deal be two hundred dollars, each month. She be here and then moved out. That be noted on the move-out form.”

Bobcat asks. “Did she pay monies separate for water and sewer charges, ma’am?”

She shakes her curls. “Naw, it be included in the two hundred dollars rent along with free television services. Our television can hold 900 channels all for free.”

Teague grins. “Well I be never leave that nice benefit, ma’am.”

She grins to Teague, “Ya looking for a place, cutie?”

Teague grins. “No ma’am, I be taking care of my elderly sick mama.”

She nods. “Good, boy, she raised ya right.”

Bobcat frowns. “And’s he never ever lies either, ma’am.”

Teague asks. “And’s does it note on the move-out form, if she left a forwarding address? So’s we be chasing her ass around the new place, instead of the kids and kittens here.”

She says. “She be going. Hmm, she gimme a post box 1960 in Birmingham with zip code 35209-1960.”

Bobcat frowns. “Is that common, ma’am?”

She frowns, “Naw, not common, but okay, I like a real street address with city and zip, thou.”

Bobcat asks. “Did you meet Nadean Garland?”

She shakes her curls at the paper folder, “Naw, I works on Monday thru Friday. The other gal works Saturday and Sunday. She brought her money orders on Saturday morning based on this here paper.”

“And’s what paper is that one in your hand, ma’am?” Teague asks.

She frowns, “We be needing a deposit before ya can enter the apartment, two hundred dollars. She paid with a money order of two hundred dollars on May thirty. Then she told gots a cat. So’s she paid with a second money order of two hundred dollars for the cat too.”

Bobcat asks. “Does she happen to list her job employer? We have received very little information, ma’am.”

She smokes and coughs to see Bobcat, “That no good being cops. Nadean Garland, this be a move-in form for moving into a rental. She’s a waitress. Gots no name of diner,” she turns and views the window. “Probably up the road, there be a pizza place, a hamburger place, a fish place, a chicken place, a donut place. She be real close.”

Bobcat asks. “Did she drive a car, ma’am?”

She shakes her curls. “Naw, we don’t collect that stuff. She started work on May thirty or after or before.”

Bobcat frowns. “I don’t understand, ma’am. How are you able to rent the rental unit to an unemployed person? Don’t you require a steady form of money?”

She shakes her curls. “Naw, money order is always cash. Cash comes from a job like waitress or construction. Don’t care. If’an peoples pays all the security deposit first and last month’s rent, then we be giving them a rental. If’an not, then we be giving them the boot,” laughing.

Bobcat asks. “Do you require a redecorating fee for leasing a rental unit, ma’am?”

She frowns. “Naw, them folks be lucky to have monies for food. When peoples leaves we repair and repaint the walls with them big holes sometimes made by two human fists. Hmm, she moved out on October third.”

Teague reaches and grabs some of the reports also. “This one states that she moved out on December twenty eight. Why’s there a different date in your files, ma’am?”

She turns and views the report with a nod and a grin. “This be the maintenance man’s watches. Them boys keeps an eyeball out for thieves and runaways. Them be folks that run away in the middle of the night without paying the month’s rent. Then the men tattle to me. I call the police. That be wrong for them to leave without paying for their rent monies. This be one of the maintenance man’s notes. He told Trix. Miss Nadean moved her clothes and lots of small boxes from her apartment fourteen. And’s she sold her furniture to some of the neighbors. Bad. When young girls gotta sell the furniture, they be with child. She has a baby and needs the cash.”

Teague turns and frown to him. “Got that, Bobcat?”

He writes with a nod in silence.

She says. “Her stuff be gone on October third. She be returned on December twenty eight to give back the key. She a good tenant, pretty much. She paid the rent in December before she moved into the rental. She can move out anytime in December, since she gimme a leaving-note too. The leaving-note says she is not renewing her apartment lease sixty days before December thirty first. So’s this be fine and dandy.”

Bobcat asks. “Does the rental unit include a person’s electricity, ma’am?”

She smokes and frowns, “Ah, lookie at this, we gots a call from Valleydale Apartments that be where she moved, too. I bet. Ya’ll should go there, too. Valleydale Apartments be our competition for renters, too.”

Bobcat looks up with a puzzled brow to her. “What does that mean, ma’am? I don’t understand.”

She rattles the folder. “When ya rent and paid an apartment on time ya credit is good. She paid good every month. Then she wants to move to another apartment complex, so’s she fills out paperwork with her current apartment address which be me. Then the apartment peoples call me. I tell them she be a good tenant or bad. Well the Valleydale Apartment peoples calls me, well, they called Trix. Trix writes down the phone call, telling them she be good tenant. Damn. Valleydale Apartment steals my renter. She pays in money order, good tenant.”

Bobcat says. “Therefore, you believe that Nadean Garland might have taken a new apartment at Valleydale Apartments here in Homewood on November third.”

She points the window with a nod “Yeah, it be down the road on the right.”

Bobcat asks. “Do you provide electricity within the rent amount, ma’am?”

She shakes her curls, “Naw, ya gots to set it up with Central Bama Power. She paid the monthly electric bill to Central Bama Power. But, hmm, this be wrong. She skipped out on paying the December bill. We be paying it in January, the next month after she moved out.”

Bobcat grins. “I guess that you deducted the proper amount of the electric bill from her security deposit, ma’am.”

She nods. “Yup, we done that. The electric bill be eighteen dollar and sixty one cents. Then we gots to keep the remainder of the two dollars security deposit too. We keep the animal deposit too. That ain’t against the law, since it covers the shit and pee of the nasty beasts. Cats and dogs pee all over the carpet in a rental, so’s the two dollars pays for the new paint supplies and the new carpet. Huh, I never sees this before. I guess Trix took care of it. O well!”

Teague grins. “Ma’am, is it possible to receive a photocopy of all these legal documents? It would very nice help in our pursue of the fugitive.”

“Well shore thing, sonny.” She stands and turns, moving to the copying machine and returns, handing the stack of paper with a smile to Teague, “There ya be, sonny. Ya think she be back here tonight?”

Teague stands and shakes his curls, cuddling the papers with a smile. “No ma’am. Your vitally important information will allow us to hunt her down this afternoon. You’ve been most kind and knowledgeable. Ya be having a good day, ma’am.” He turns and moves to the archway.

She grins. “I will. Thanks for stopping and telling us folks about Nadean Garland.”

The door closes.

Bobcat and Teague leave the apartment building with a smile, moving to the truck.

Bobcat says. “You’re slick, Tomcat. You can charm a snake.”

“I did. She was called, Bitch, remember, Bobcat?” He sneers.

The door opens.

Bobcat enters the cab with a chuckle. “Now, don’t be so hard-ass on yourself. Bitch is very happy living in your house in Birmingham and out of Brier.”

The door closes.

“Thank the Lord for small miracles.” Teague settles in his seat, looking down at the new set of papers. “We should visit the second apartment complex. This girl only lived here for five months.”

“Five months?” Bobcat backs out and drives forward around the potholes and onto the highway with a huff. “I don’t wanna chase her ass around the city all day long.”

Teague looks down with a sour frown to see his wrist watch. “Ten twenty, we have done a lot of chasing, since eight o’clock. We’re almost done. We bring another piece of information to Lorinda. We tried really hard to find our gambler marker Nadean Garland. Lorinda says okay then me and you call it a day. Go fishing.” He stuffs the new set of papers into his worn briefcase that came from his ex-wife for his first job as a medical pharmacist.

Bobcat drives with a stern face to the next apartment complex.

 

 

10:05 a.m.

Pickup truck ride of Teague and Bobcat

City of Homewood (1 mile west from second apartment)

Third apartment setting of Nadean

 

 

“I like.” Bobcat steers off the highway onto the private drive of the complex following the street signs.

Teague chuckles, “No potholes within the gray paved parking lot, so head the truck toward the new apartment office.”

“She moved up. This is much nicer on the outside with actually living and breathing tall trees and green grass and pretty wild flowers.”

Teague chuckles, “She got promoted from the toilet cleaner to the shitty dishwasher.”

“Probably,” Bobcat grins, stopping and killing the engine.

The door opens.

Teague slides out and stands next to the truck door.

The truck door closes.

 

 

10:07 a.m.

Apartment business office setting

(4 miles south of FDA branch office)

 

 

Teague pulls up beside Bobcat to the front entrance.

The door opens.

Teague enters first, seeing a middle-aged olive-skinned woman on the telephone.

The door closes.

The female stands and says in Spanish. “Ole.”

“Hello there, ma’am.” Teague smiles with Bobcat beside him.

She adjusts her word to English with a Spanish accent. “Hello.”

Bobcat lifts and holds his FDA badge with a smile and a nod. “Hi. We’re investigating a missing female. Her name is Nadean Garland, g.a.r.l.a.n.d. Our resources indicated that she once lived here about three years ago. Can you provide us with her forwarding address?”

She sits, turning with a nod and a stern face to her computer, typing. “Yes. I can. Have a seat, sir?” She prints off a set of reports, grabbing and spreading the papers over her empty office and reads the information to Bobcat and Teague. “Nadean Garland. She moved in here on October third and paid her monthly rent of four hundred dollars each month by the convenient and legal money order method. She terminated her lease on December thirty first.”

Bobcat looks down and writes down all her verbal information on his notepad. “Do you have a copy of her driver’s license? Did she leave a forward address? Did she provide a current employer?”

She looks up with a smile and a nod to Bobcat. “No, there is not a copy of Nadean Garland’s driver’s license. That is not our typical custom to ask for IDs, since some of our residents do not posses identification. We are only interested in collecting the monthly funds with a check, a credit card, a money order, or a cashier’s check but no cash monies. As long as, the money is given upfront then the resident can lease a rental unit. Nadean Garland left a forwarding address of US post office box 1960 inside the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama with the zip code of 35209-1960. She placed the position of a waitress on her lease application. We require a completion of an application before you sign a rental with us. You may have a copy of all these documents to aid your government search too. Is there anything else that I can do for you, gentlemen?” She slides a stack of papers to Teague.

He reaches and grabs the stack, looking through the papers.

Bobcat looks up with a stern face to point her papers. “Is it illegal not to have a completed application on file with your apartment complex?”

She stands with a sour frown and a matching tone to see Bobcat and Teague. “Do you think me illegal too, because I speak Spanish? Some people do not have life experiences to fill out all the blanks of the lines like a brilliant college education or a soft cushy office US Government job. Miss Garland must qualify as such being only a lowly paid waitress. You have your documents and your information, sir. I am a very busy person. Please excuse me.” She turns and leaves the reception room.

Teague and Bobcat look at each other with a sour frown, standing and leaving the office building also.

The door opens.

Teague moves into the sunlight with a chuckle, looking down at the papers. “Ya need to work on your people skills, Eckward? That interview sucked worse than the next day’s Easter rotten eggs.”

The door closes.

Bobcat moves into the sunlight and to his truck with a sour frown. “Shut up, Teague.”

 

 

10:10 a.m.

Pickup truck ride of Bobcat and Teague

(10 miles north on Interstate 65)

Cold temperatures with bright sunshine

 

 

The door opens.

Bobcat slides inside and cranks the engine.

Teague scans the papers, “Where we going next?”

“Office,” He backs out the parking spot, twirling the truck to the highway over the smooth private roadway.

Teague shakes his curls, pointing in a northern direction. “Naw, not back to the office, we should go the other apartment complex between the first one, second one, and the last one in Fultondale. The new address is 555 Walker Road. There’s something shitty stinky here, Bobcat.”

“Your shitty breath, Tomcat, that’ll go away, once ya brush your teeth and rinse with mouthwash. And we can’t find this she-ghost. And we ain’t the police. And we ain’t the IRS. And we are locating a body, a cold body.” He stops at the road, looking both ways for traffic. It is clear. He drives over the highway.

“Drive the truck without the whining, please.” Teague studies the papers. “Uh, ho. I see a same pattern here. Miss Garland paid only with money orders like Tea tattled. She uses only cash, needing her cash for a quick getaway to an island or a boat or a private jet plane with her and the baby. Once she collects the three million dollars from winning the championship game…”

“Burn U will win, has always won, and won again for the fifth time, tomorrow afternoon, Yeehaw,” Bobcat chuckles. “They both are equally matched.”

“Not with OT playing, they’re un-equally matched, making our old alma mater win again.” Teague reaches over and fist bumps with a smile to Bobcat, dropping his hand back down to the papers. “And we got nothing else to do…”

“But go fishing,” Bobcat drives in the direction of the city of Fultondale with a sour frown.

 

 

10:25 a.m.

City of Fultondale

(11 miles north from FDA branch office)

Fourth apartment setting of Nadean Garland

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright sunshine

 

 

Bobcat steers off the highway and parks inside a nicely paved parking spot in front of the apartment building complex.

The door opens.

Teague scoots out the door, moving to the entrance doors of the building and stops.

The door closes.

Bobcat moves across the pavement and opens the door, entering first and presents his FDA badge with a smile, stopping in front of the office desk. “Good morning, ma’am. FDA Inspectors, we’re investigating a former tenant Nadean Garland. Would you be able to provide us with any information in regards to her transactions with your apartment complex?”

The old fat white woman stands from her chair with a clap and a chuckle. “Is she under arrest?”

Bobcat says. “We’re just investigating at this point and accumulating all the data.”

The woman claps with a giggle. “Goody, goody, the criminal ain’t catch yet. Are you going to arrest her, today? Is she a drug pusher or a gun fugitive from the law? Is there an arrest warrant on her ass? If I help ya boys, and you find her first, do I get an award too, sir?”

Teague sits in one of two empty chairs at the office desk with a nod and a smile. “Yeah, darling, if we find her first, I’ll make dang shore that ya get your true rewards, ma’am.” He slides his business card over the table surface.

“Thank you, kindly. Is the reward a lot of money?” She reaches and views the business card with a smile.

Teague grins. “A lot, guaranteed.”

She raises both her palms with a nod and a smirk. “Hold on, boys. The office keeps in the storage room a set of every tenant’s apartment folders just for emergencies like this one. Be right back.” She turns and moves to the rear of the room.

Bobcat leans over the hair roots of Teague with a sour frown. “There ain’t no reward money, Teague.”

Teague eye rolls with a chuckle, watching the rear wall. “Play the game, Eckward.”

She appears from the storage room, moving and humming a country song and sits in her chair, resting the paper folder over her office desk.

Bobcat sits and exhales, whipping out his ink pen and his notepad for more written information. “Please if you can just summary all the facts in three sentences or less…”

“Nadean Garland lived in apartment number thirty four on the top floor. She is employed as a waitress. Don’t give any more information. Ugh. Her credit score is really bad…”

Bobcat clicks the pen for writing. “Credit score? Excellent work, ma’am. What is her social security number? Since, you were required to punch in her social security number for the credit check.”

She shakes her curls and views Bobcat. “Yes sir and naw sir, we got this new devise, where the new tenant taps in their own social security number. We get the final credit bureau report. Her credit score is 403, bad. She can’t get no car or no house or no bank loan for any loan monies with this bad score of 403. That’s why she rents an apartment or she lives on the street corner. And she probably got fired from her job or something like that.”

Bobcat frowns, “Thank you, ma’am. Do you have any other information to share with us besides her credit score?”

She looks down and scans the folder. “We use the credit score to figure out her monies. Her monies are bad too. So we make her pay us with a money order or a cashier’s check each month for her rental unit payment. Some folks complain. Some folks comply. Garland pays each month and on time. Well, I be a monkey’s aunt, because I ain’t a guy.”

Bobcat exhales, looking down to read his written notes to the silly apartment manager. “And let me survey you, ma’am. Miss Garland left as a forwarding address Post Box 1960 in Birmingham. Miss Garland moved from 222 Valleydale Road in Homewood to rent here in the month of November. Miss Garland paid the rental electricity bill but did not pay it in the month of December. Miss Garland moved out the month of November but returned the key the last week of December. And Miss Garland didn’t complete her apartment application with her employer or her driver’s license picture. Is the all correct?”

She flips the papers with a nod, “Yeah.” She looks up and narrows her eyelashes to Bobcat. “Why do you, two need my help, again?”

Teague leans forward with a grin to her. “Cause, you got the prettiest baby blue eyes in the entire state of Alabama, darling?” She giggles with a pink blush at Teague.

Bobcat fakes a smile, “Could you explain why Miss Garland’s apartment application is…incomplete?”

She smiles at Teague. “Well we are good people here. Sometimes, a person is just out of luck and money. So we take more chances with female renters than males. Since females got a baby or two. Garland wasn’t required to fill out the form being a female and a mommy. Anyways, once she got us the required 1,900 dollars in the form of money orders for the first and last month’s rent payments, the security deposit, the pet fees, and the redecorating fee then we moved right into her new place.”

Bobcat frowns, “The same ending.”

Teague turns and frowns at Bobcat and smiles at her. “Ya know, honey, we could use a copy of them papers as proof of your sugar sweet co-operation with my employer, the US Federal Government?”

She frowns. “She’s a federal fugitive.”

Teague smirks with a nod. “Yes ma’am, when money is involved it is a federal case.”

She gathers the papers and stands with a nod and a smile to Teague, “Coming right up, darling.” She turns with the paper folder and leaves the room for the copier.

Teague leans over and fist bumps with Eckward as they smile and chuckle with their illegal success.

 

 

11:59 a.m.

FDA Office Building

(11 miles south of Fultondale)

Conference room lunchtime setting

 

 

The door closes.

Inside the conference room, the long conference table is empty without the sitting chairs. All the chairs have been moved for the upcoming exhibition.

Teague stands at the wall humming and punching one of his pre-recorded songs into the wall speaker system and cranks up the music, turning and shaking his ass back to the long conference table. He leans over, shoving a forkful of food into his mouth and chews, turning and jerking his briefcase open and pulls out a large stack of papers, examining the top sheet. He swallows the food.

The door opens.

Bobcat enters the room, stopping and cuddling behind Teague. “What are you eating?”

“Chinese.”

Bobcat watches Teague who separates and places the papers in a neat row. “What are you doing?”

“Constructing.”

Bobcat turns and leaves the room.

The door closes.

Teague leans over, shoving another forkful of food into his mouth and chews, staring a second row of papers and swallows the food. “Shit, this document should go first.”

The door opens.

Bobcat enters the room with a plate of food and a fork, stopping and standing beside Teague, eats his food and sees a row of papers: security deposit, rental payment, electricity payment, application form, and move-out form.

There is a row of hand written papers with the words: Driver’s license. Tax forms.

Bobcat chews and swallows with a sour frown. “I got us out of this, Tomcat.”

Teague points each document. “First, Miss Gambler…”

Bobcat frowns. “Miss Garland.”

“Miss Gambler.” He chuckles. “First, Miss Gambler used only money orders to pay all the security deposits, monthly rental, and electricity bills. That marks her, a criminal who uses only cash. Only criminals use cash and don’t possess a legal checking account. With a three million dollar bet on one football team to win it all, this is a ring of professional gamblers, Bobcat. We can’t stop now. Someone has to stop Miss Gambler. She probably stole the three million dollars from a bunch of little old gray headed ladies on the church’s bingo night. We have to stop this shit, man.”

“I can play cop and robbers until five pm, buddy. That’s my quitting time with you. Then I start my fun time with my wife, your sister, the love of my life.” He eats and chews, staring at the rows of papers.

“I wonder if she possessed a landline telephone or a mobile telephone. What else does a person need to live?”

“A working car for a job. Some food for an empty stomach. Clothes for a naked body.”

“Right, buddy, we don’t know what type of car she drives or the type of food she eats or if she is naked. But we do know death and taxes.”

Bobcat grins, “Ah, death and taxes. She probably ain’t dead, since she’s hiding from getting jailed for her illegal gambling plot. We don’t possess her tax forms either, bro.”

Teague nods. “Once I convince Lorinda of an illegal gambling plot and then get her personal permission to contact the FBI boys. They can provide us with all the missing information, her driver’s licenses, her filed tax forms, and her car tags.”

“Or we let this be die, Tomcat. I don’t wanna chase my tail around the bushes for dead squirrels. Sources of electronic and hard copy data costs money even between the US Federal Government departments. Miss Gambler might not be living in Bama, but the Las Vegas Sporting Center took her three million dollars for the bet in Nevada. Miss Gambler might be driving this very moment to Nevada in her stolen car, hoping she wins the gamble and the money. So the worse possible case scenario is that Burn U loses. And then Miss Gambler loses all that money. And we are done here, boy. I wanna go fishing.”

Teague says. “Hush, Bobcat. The worser case scenario is that Bam U wins. And then Miss Gambler gets all that money and then runs to an island in the Caribbean to enjoy her free loot. Then the Alabama governor will be asking me about the crime. And I will be saying, ‘I will try a littler harder next time, sir.’ Then the Alabama governor will smile and say. ‘Sorry, you’re fired, son.’”

Bobcat frowns. “The governor can’t fire us.”

Teague thumbs over his collar bone to the door with a sour frown, staring at the rows of papers. “The governor can close our branch office in B’ham and then we will be out of a job along with Lorinda and the young does and bucks. Ya want all our people to lose their jobs, Bobcat?”

Bobcat chews and swallows, staring at the row of papers, “Naw.”

Teague taps on one of the stack of the papers. “So if we screw up or someone else screws up this FDA inspection, then we take the fall, the blame, and the shit. Man, this is bigger than us, Bobcat. Miss Gambler’s taking someone for a ride on the roller coaster of love or hate or pity or revenge. And we are going to find her ass first.”

The door opens.

Lorinda stands in the archway with a sour frown, parking her hands over her waist. “Is that the best explanation ya got for me bending over for the FBI girls and boys, Tomcat?”

The door closes.

Bobcat and Teague spins around to see Lorinda in the archway. Teague says with a smile and a nod, thumbing over his collar bone to the row of papers. “Yes ma’am. Come on in. Look at this.” Lorinda moves and stands between Bobcat and Teague in front of the table, scanning the row of papers. Bobcat and Teague swing around to the table as Teague points to the first paper on the first row with a sour frown. “We didn’t undercover much, boss-lady just her name and her four different locations of four different apartments all paid with money orders. Cash.”

Lorinda scans the papers with a worried brow and a nod. “Cash. That’s one reason. I like to have three stable reasons why I pull additional resources with unfunded monies from my annual government budget.”

Teague points with a grin and a nod to another stack of papers. “Her employment job is waitress. Waitress makes two dollars per hour plus tips. So she steals money to gamble away with the hope of striking it filthy rich for life.”

Lorinda shakes her curls. “She could afford a studio apartment for two hundred dollars per month as a waitress plus good tips, a negative reason. You are back to zero justification, Tomcat.”

Teague points with a smile and a nod to the next stack of papers on the table surface. “She has a poor financial money credit score. Her apartment application form has a credit score of 403, a very bad number. They ran her social security number but didn’t write down her social security number, because of all the privacy HIPAA butthole shit from our employer the US Federal Government. She either has declared bankruptcy or has been run out of town without paying off her fashion clothing credit card bills. The retail stores would tattle-tale on her ass. But she did manage to find monies paying in cash for four different apartment locations.”

Lorinda frowns. “She’s a fugitive, running from the local authorities. That makes up three reasons, negating the negative one. You’re back up to two reasons. You got one more chance, Tomcat?”

Teague points with a grin and a nod to a new stack of papers. “I called the Central Bama Power Company to investigate Nadean Garland’s electricity bills. She set up the monthly bills not needing to pay a separate deposit, since the apartment complex guarantees money payment for continuous electricity service for all the apartments, even if a delinquent renter leaves mysterious into the night. All the electricity bills went to her personal PO mailbox in Homewood.”

Lorinda shakes her curls. “No. I have a personal PO Box in Mountain Brook. No go. You lost one reason and back down to one stable reason.”

Teague says. “She cancels the electricity bill every single date of November thirtieth which is the month before the expiration of her rental lease agreement, thus the apartment complex has to pay her final electricity bill of December with her rental security deposit. This girl paid through the nose with a set of security deposits and didn’t get any monies refunded back to her. I’m talking zero point zero dollars and no cents that was kept by the complex and not refunded back to Nadean Garland. Since the apartment complex found the apartment trashed plus the delinquent electricity bill in December.”

Lorinda scans with a nod and a stern face the rows of papers. “I’ll give ya two reasons for that one, simply because that’s really weird-ass. And I’d like to know why Miss Garland…”

“Miss Gambler…” Bobcat grins.

Lorinda laughs, “Clever, Tomcat, you and your silly naming convention. Why Miss Gambler did that too? What’s next?”

Teague turns with a smile to see the nose profile of Lorinda. “Yes ma’am. I’ve saved the ‘bestest’ for lastest. On one of the apartment applications filled out by Miss Gambler and filed by a resourceful smart apartment management staff member, it showed she moved from Miami, Florida to Birmingham, Alabama four years, seven months ago. The former address is 666 Leonardo Street in Florida. The apartment complex could not verify Miss Gambler as the owner or the resident or whatever at the house, since it was out of the state of Alabama. The apartment complex didn’t trust or use the former street address information as long as Miss Gambler paid upfront, before signing for the rental, all the required security deposits in money order format.”

“A house?” Bobcat places an empty plate on the table surface with a sour frown, whipping out and thumb-typing on his mobile telephone.

“Yeah,” Teague pulls out and swishes the icon, lifting and pointing at the tiny picture on his mobile telephone. “Her house, see the pretty pastel pink color with a nice green lawn and a vanilla colored swimming pool. The realtor website can’t access any name of the former seller. But the house was sold on May twenty eighth. Miss Gambler moved into her first apartment on May thirtieth, the next day. The house sold for 3,000,245.97 US dollars in Florida. Take the money and run, baby. Boom…”

Bobcat turns and stares at Teague’s mobile phone with a worried brow. “Whoa the stagecoach, now, Miss Gambler is both mysterious and rich. She has betted her own money on Bam U to win the National Championship University football game, this week.”

The door opens.

Dove enters through the archway and moves to Teague with a smile and a rattle of her paper. “Tomcat, darling. I got you that VIP important information.”

Teague swings around with a smile and a nod to see Dove. “What VIP information, love?”

Dove prances in her tight jeans and stops in front of Teague with a grin and a rattle of her paper. “I have found and retrieved Miss Gambler’s money bank. It’s the Third National Bank of Florida, a new financial money chain that is invading the red clay of Alabama. Why would a Florida Bank move from Florida, Tomcat? There are plenty of good Bama banks here. My money’s in a Bama bank, darling.”

Lorinda turns and frowns at the nose profile of Dove. “How exactly did you retrieve the money bank name for Miss Garland? Please clarify, dear.”

Dove smiles at Teague, learning to ignore her bossy boss-lady like him. “I deduced that she would have banked in Florida being from Miami, since she sold a house there. And there is only one bank here in Birmingham that uses a Florida name, the Third National Bank of Florida. Miss Gambler has a bank account there.” She hands the paper to Teague as he accepts and views Lorinda.

Lorinda turns and frowns to Teague. “That’s very good detective work, Dove.”

Dove says with a nod and a smile to Teague. “Thanks, Lorinda.”

Lorinda turns and frowns to Dove. “How did you verify that Miss Garland had opened a bank account there, dear? We don’t possess her current street address for her home or a social security number from her tax form provided by the IRS either.”

Dove views Teague and flips her hand with a smile and a nod. “It was so easy. I called up and told the bank that I was some type of government investigator, asking about Miss Garland and then gave out all her known past apartment addresses. I received them from Tomcat. I was so clever. Then one of the addresses pinged into the computer system at Third National Bank of Florida.”

Lorinda turns and frowns to Teague. “Mr. Haywood?”

Bobcat exhales with a sour frown at the nose profile of Lorinda. “We finished and completed our search for the misplaced Miss Nadean Garland, Lorinda. She can’t be found anywhere in B’ham. We’ve determined that she is a lowly waitress, who moved from job to job, place to place, and town to town. I don’t think the IRS dumb shits got the right Nadean Garland. I vote to tin can our FDA Inspection case, since she isn’t importing leeches or maggots or bugs. Call it a day, Lorinda.”

Teague exhales with a stern face to Lorinda. “I am sorry, Lorinda. I will correct the junior FDA inspector with the proper legal procedure right away for a proper investigation of possible criminals under the FDA umbrella.”

Dove pouts to Teague and Lorinda. “What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong. I was following Tomcat’s instructions. Isn’t he the head lead of this FDA investigation?”

Lorinda turns and frowns to Dove. “Mr. Haywood did something very wrong. Ms. Beller, a street address for a private residential home of any law abiding American citizen is secret and is not ever shared until the American citizen is placed under suspicion of a charge and then usually is placed under arrest for that suspicious crime. Then the FDA conducts a proper legal investigation with a legal search warrant from a federal judge and not before. Miss Garland has not been found. Her body is not inside a jail cell. She is not under arrest for any type of illegal activity, especially from the FDA. She has placed a large bet of three million dollars which is a concern and not a cause to find and question her ass and not harass her ass.”

“O.” Dove turns and frowns at Teague. He nods to Dove, signaling that everything is okay.

Lorinda stares at the nose profile of Teague. “Mr. Haywood will be explaining to you in greatest detail later this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon. Right, Inspector Haywood?”

Teague turns and nods to his FDA boss. “Yes ma’am. I will do that properly after our meeting has concluded with your decision in regards to any further non-criminal investigation of this particular Miss Nadean Garland FDA Inspection case, Lorinda.”

Lorinda turns and frowns to Dove. “Damage is done. Miss Beller, the United States Federal Government issued the HIPAA act in the year 1996. The acronym is the health insurance portability and accountability act which monitors all physician offices and medical hospitals, hence all of our work cycles around both physicians and hospitals. Therefore, we are judged by our actions of the act. The act requires that we respect and ensure confidential all protected information when it is transferred, received, handled, and shared by oral, paper, or electronic means. The bank must provide a disclosure form signed by Miss Garland to allow them to share her information, while the FDA must provide a search warrant to accept an American’s information like name, address, phone number, email address, bank accounts, age, weight, height, hair color, freckles, and the list goes all the way to the moon. Inspector Haywood has committed a HIPAA violation and will be written up accordingly for that specific action.”

“Yes ma’am.” Teague nods to the nose profile of Lorinda.

Dove pouts. “Lorinda, I don’t understand. Tomcat and Bobcat were scratching like cats around the three other street apartment addresses without a legal search warrant.”

Lorinda shakes her curls. “You don’t understand, Miss Beller. The IRS provided the FDA with an invalid address of Miss Garland. Then in proper legal procedure, the senior FDA inspectors made the proper decision to advance to the next uncovered proper street address. I should close this investigation down. However, we have been blessed with another mysterious lead of the gambling marker named Nadean Garland. The senior FDA inspector will travel to the Third National Bank of Florida and dig out any more information on Miss Garland. Then please report back to me, immediately. So I can make the next decision to contact or not the FBI for any and all further gambling assistance.”

Teague nods. “Yes ma’am.”

Lorinda turns and leaves the conference room.

The door opens.

Teague reaches and pats Dove on the collar bone with a smile, turning and sweeping up the rows of papers for the new assignment of finding Miss Nadean Garland and dumps into his worm briefcase.

Bobcat reaches and jerks Teague by the shirt collar with a sour frown. “Come on. Let’s wrap up Miss Gambler and call it a day and go fishing…”

Bobcat and Teague turn and leave the conference room

The door closes.

 

 

1:02 p.m.

Third National Bank of Florida

(5 miles east of FDA branch office)

Lobby setting

 

 

The door opens.

Bobcat and Teague enter and move to a teller. Bobcat presents his FDA badge for the non-criminal investigation.

Teague stands by Bobcat, holding his worn briefcase with all the stacks of paper for Miss Nadean Garland without his FDA badge.

This has been the routine as FDA inspector partners for twenty five years.

Bobcat does the talking. Teague does the listening. And both do the observing.

The worried bank teller nods and calls the bank manager on her landline at the teller window.

The bank manager appears and nods in silence with the FDA investigation, turning and moving to a side door with a set of individual business office. He leads and stops inside the archway, viewing his employee with a stern face. “Mr. Loyce. These gentlemen have some very important questions about one of your recoveries, Miss Nadean Garland.”

 

 

1:14 p.m.

Private bank business office of Duff Loyce

 

 

Loyce exhales with a huff of concern and removes his eyeglasses, standing and turning to see Bobcat and Teague behind the bank manager and says with a sour frown. “What has she done this time?”

The bank manager enters the room, stopping and standing behind a set of two empty chairs in front of Loyce’s office desk.

Bobcat enters the room, stopping and standing beside the bank manager with a confused brow to Loyce, a tall pale skinned and overweight male, “This time?”

Teague enters the room, moving with a smile and a handshake to Loyce. “I’m Mr. Haywood. This is Mr. Fulton. We come from the FDA Inspection…”

“My good gawd, is this about drugs or drug running? I can’t believe Miss Garland has added to her illegal repertoire?” He shakes the hand with a sour frown to Teague.

Teague releases the handshake, back stepping and standing beside Bobcat in front of the empty chairs with a nod and a stern face to Loyce. “I think you should let us ask the questions, sir. And I believe you should start the process by explaining your business relationship with the female named Nadean Garland, Mr. Loyce.”

The bank manager moves and taps on the back rest of one of two empty chairs with a nod and a stern face. “This is Duff Loyce, a bank recovery money consultant for Third National Bank of Florida. Our bank has recently invaded some of the major townships of Alabama with individual banking branches in Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Huntsville. We’re doing very good business. I’m original from Florida like many of my co-workers, starting as a bank trainee and working my way up into the banking management. A bank recovery money consultant receives a bad bank customer with a set of their bad finances before their bad finances inflict damage upon our good company in the way of bank accounts, bank transfers, bank credit cards, bank loans, and such like money financial media. In today’s financial society, all banks, including our own corporate headquarters, have overextended bank loans to every low paying waitress and seasonal migrant worker throughout the USA. Miss Garland is one with very bad credit, making her a very bad credit risk. But with the kind and brilliant assistance of Mr. Loyce, she has maintained a minimum bank account balance with us. She’s a ripe candidate for our free recovery program. The Third National Bank of Florida helps her save money, purging her outstanding debt of many, many US dollars without siphoning off interest dollars from our good customers by using their personal saving accounts. Mr. Loyce monitors her spending and saving, daily.”

Loyce frowns and views his manager. “How much personal private bank information am I allowed to share with these fine gentlemen of the FDA, sir? I’m worried about a HIPAA exposure for me, you and the bank, sir.”

Teague shuffles side to side, cutting his eyelids to Bobcat with a stern face without a repeat HIPAA lecture again.

The bank manager says with a stern face and a nod to Loyce. “Based on the collected hard evidence from these gentlemen, the situation is very dire, Mr. Loyce. Please provide all your bank information to the FDA about Miss Nadean Garland. You have my permission and the bank’s support for the FDA investigation.”

Loyce turns and smiles to Teague. “I will be very happy to comply. But all our bank information on every customer is hundred percent electronic. We don’t like killing the innocent trees. That rule has been mandated by the corporate office, sir.”

The bank manager grins to Loyce. “We have moved away from paper items into the electronic age, painfully. Mr. Loyce will not possess any report printouts in a filing cabinet or a hard copy of Miss Garland’s bank information.”

Bobcat frowns and views the bank manager. “What about a signature card for opening a new checking account? And a valid driver’s license for verification of person? And all the paper deposits and withdrawal slips of cash?”

The bank manager turns and grins to Bobcat. “We handle the paper items swiftly while photocopying everything and then destroy everything immediately. We don’t want any trouble with the US Federal Government over a single HIPAA exposure. Since a single HIPAA exposure could land me in jail with an orange jumpsuit. I don’t like good in orange. All these tasks are done at the bank teller line. Mr. Loyce has access to all electronic paperwork and monthly bank financial reports for the last twelve calendar months. If this is not sufficient, gentlemen, then I can request an additional three more calendar years from our computer information systems department. The delay would be only until Wednesday morning. Can you gentlemen wait that long of time?”

Teague shakes his curls with a sour frown to Loyce. “Naw, we can’t and won’t. We’ll take what you got inside your trusty laptop today,” he looks down and scans an empty desk plus office credence, and three cheap art paintings on each wall, wishing that his office desk so clear and neat. He turns and views the bank manager as the lead on the FDA case. “Then if we need to go back trace another three years, we’ll return Monday morning. How’s that, sir?”

The bank manager nods to Teague and Loyce. “Very good, Mr. Loyce, please print off all the electronic reports for the FDA right now.”

Mr. Loyce turns and smirks to Teague. “Miss Garland pays for a safety deposit box at this bank branch.”

Bobcat gasps and views the bank manager. “We need to see that box, sir.”

The bank manager turns and nods to Loyce. “I can provide both sets of keys to open the lid, since Miss Garland is a high risk credit candidate to the Third National Bank of Florida. What is her safety deposit box number, Mr. Loyce?”

Mr. Loyce smiles at Teague, “818, sir.”

Bobcat turns and nods to Teague. “That box might reveal a lot of missing information which we can’t seem to locate.”

Teague nods to Loyce. “Ya go, Bobcat. Find out the contents of the safety deposit box. I’m going to peruse all hard copy reports, since we have the services of Mr. Loyce for the rest of the day.” He moves and scoots into one of the empty chairs in front of Loyce’s office desk, watching Loyce.

Loyce turns and hums, sitting in his chair, typing on the keyboard of his laptop.

The bank manager turns and leads out the office.

“Shore,” Bobcat turns and leaves the office.

Teague can’t see the computer screen but hears the typing and humming actions of Loyce, saying with a grin of excitement. “How many recovery money candidates does the bank help?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin, “Lots.”

Teague leans forward with a grin of excitement and taps his knuckles to the familiar song of Loyce on top of the empty desk with impatience. He is so close to cracking this FDA investigation. Then Lorinda will be happy and Bobcat will be happier. “How many recovery money candidates are assigned to each consultant?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard, “Depends.”

“How many recovery…”

The computer printer produces a single sheet of paper with a ding.

“I have successfully retrieved and printed Miss Garland’s oldest bank statement in the month of January, last year.” Loyce turns and presents a single piece of paper Teague with a grin and a hum, returning back to his keyboard to type.

Teague accepts and studies the paper with a confused brow. “Deposit of cash. Withdrawal of cash. Deposit of cash. Withdrawal of cash. I don’t see any check payments for a car note or a house mortgage or a bank credit card,” he looks up with a puzzle brow to see the nose profile of Loyce. “Every single working American has a car note for transportation and a place for sleeping and a credit card for buying gas and groceries.” Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard. Teague exhales with huff of frustration. “I’m reading the bank statement correctly, Mr. Loyce. This statement looks a little bit funny to me.”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin. “Miss Garland pays in cash.”

Teague drops Loyce’s paper on the table surface, looking down to his briefcase and pulls out one of the apartment applications to compare to the bank statement. “Why’s that, buddy? Can your desk printer print the bank reports faster?” He drops his papers on top of the table surface and verifies the matching PO Box address on both the apartment application and the bank statement. “I know the bank can send financial statements to a PO Box. But I need her physical address. What’s her street address, sir?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin. “The desk printer is cheap and slow like a pregnancy cow, as ya’ll Southerns say up here. Her address is on top of her bank statement. What has Miss Garland done to call out the FDA on her person? What type of jurisdiction do you have within the financial bank world rim, Mr. Haywood?”

Teague lifts and pings the paper with a sour frown. “I don’t see it here. For her to transfer any amount of monies, it has to be stated here, right, Mr. Loyce? This statement for January last year doesn’t have her social security number displayed either.” He views the nose profile of Loyce.

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin. “A social security number is part of the protection information for an American under the HIPAA Act of 1996. You can have that protected number, if you kindly provide me a search warrant for suspicion of her criminal charge at the FDA. Otherwise, I am obeying my supervisor by providing you all the hard copies of her bank statements for the past twelve months.”

Teague exhales. “Why does she use only cash? Why isn’t there a set of ticks for each payment check for her monthly purchases too?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin. “Part of that answer is within the bank statement itself. This is a saving account bank statement, not a checking account. A saving account doesn’t really allow for processing and payment of personal bank checks. Miss Garland pays in cash.”

Teague frowns. “You’re repeating yourself, buddy. She receives cash and uses cash to pay all her purchases and invoices. How much outstanding debt does she owe?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin. “Her current debt is precisely 2,999,700 dollars and fifteen cents…”

“Yeehaw,” He points the computer screen with a grin and a nod. “That’s what I was looking for. I need a printout of that report, Mr. Loyce.”

Loyce hums the song types on his keyboard with a grin. “This is not in report format. I will try to produce a print screen from the computer. Will that help?”

He waves a hand with a sour frown, “Never mind, Mr. Loyce! Now, tell me why doesn’t her bank statement show me a three million dollar deposit transaction?”

Loyce turns and frowns to Teague. “I beg your pardon, sir.”

Teague exhales. “Miss Nadean Garland is under investigation for placing a gambling bet of three million dollars in Las Vegas, Nevada.”

Loyce grins. “The last time I read our American laws. It is not against the law to gamble being over the age of twenty one years old.”

“She has placed a single bet of three million dollars on the upcoming championship football game between Burn U and Bam U.”

Loyce chuckles, “She’s smart. Burn U, based on all the good odds plus the Lord’s good blessing, will receive its fifth National University championship football title.”

Teague nods. “I’m a Burn U fan too. Miss Garland has placed her three million dollar bet on Bam U.”

Loyce frowns. “Hmm, that does not seem quite logically to me.”

Teague nods, “Me, either! And I can’t find her. She has disappeared off the planet or hiding on the dark side of the moon. I wanna ask her that question too, because, buddy, when someone places a bet against the favored team for a payout of over three million dollars, there’s something stinky up the toilet bowl?”

Loyce nods. “My logical argument is that both teams are equally matched. You’re just playing with good luck for either team to win.”

“One single play could tip the game from one team to the other too. This is the FDA justification for investigating Miss Garland.”

Loyce smirks. “Tomorrow is game day, sir. Everyone is off their day jobs and home, partying with friends and family. Maybe, Miss Garland is with her family members for the rest of the week on vacation from her paying job. Alas for me, it is a working day. I am voluntarily sacrificing to work while my co-workers enjoy the championship game.”

Teague grins. “You’re a great guy, Loyce. Her job? Her employer?”

Loyce chuckles, “She is a waitress at The Donut Hole inside the small city of Gardendale. I have eaten there many times. The sugary white powdered vanilla crème donuts are my ultimate favorite with fresh brewed black coffee. Lots of my co-workers will be attending the game, electing to take vacation time today and tomorrow for the Alabama historical event of two centuries.”

Teague leans forward, cutting his eyelids at Loyce’s laptop screen. “Know that. Does your computer show a deposit of three million dollars for her within the past twelve months?”

“Searching…” Loyce turns with a grin, humming the song, typing on his keyboard.

Teague leans back and looks down into his briefcase, pulling out each apartment application and reviews. He sees the job position of waitress but not the name of her employer.

The nasty Spanish lady explained that the lowly paid tenants worked seasonal jobs only requiring the monthly payment of cash for a rental.

Teague mentally reminds to inform the IRS of the Valleydale Apartment system of cash collection, believing the asshole owner needs an IRS butthole audit.

So far, Loyce has come through for Teague, providing a valuable piece of missing information for the FDA. Teague can use this new datum to convince Lorinda to continue the illegal hunt of a gambler marker Nadean Garland. He exhales with a huff of intrigue. “How many recovery candidates did you help?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin, “Lots.”

Teague leans forward with a smile and raps his knuckles with the familiar musical song on the table surface with excitement and impatience. “How many times per week do you meet with each recovery candidate?”

Loyce hums the song and types on his keyboard with a grin, “Once.”

“Do you meet each one at the bank or call the person on the telephone?”

Loyce turns with a grin and points to his laptop screen at Teague. “I believe that I have found your answer, Mr. Haywood. Look at this.” Teague stands and moves behind the rear skull of Loyce, staring down at the laptop screen. Loyce turns with a grin and jabs a finger at his laptop screen. “This is a picture of her electronic bank statement right this moment in January, this year. There is a single deposit transaction of three million dollars on Friday morning. Hmm, then Miss Garland has electronically transferred the entire amount of three million dollars to an unknown bank account on Saturday at midnight. I am sorry that is all the information from my laptop.”

Teague raises his arms with a grin and a nod of happiness, back stepping from the rear skull of Loyce. “Bingo was his name. O man. I can tell ya where it went to the Las Vegas gambling sports center for her three million bet for Bam U to the win the championship game. Can I get a printout of that, sir?” He claps his hands with a smile, turning and dancing side to side back to his chair and sits.

The computer printer produces a single sheet of paper with a ding.

Loyce turns and grabs his paper with a smile. “Here you go, Mr. Haywood.”

The bank manager and Bobcat rush and enter into the office, stopping and standing behind the rear skull of Teague.

Bobcat says with a smile and a nod, lifting the object to his lips. “Tomcat, her safety deposit box is loaded with stolen jewelry. There’re emeralds, rubies, and diamonds plus thousands of dollars in cash.”

“What diamonds, cash?” Teague snatches the paper from Loyce, standing and turning with a puzzled brow to see a gem stone ring in Bobcat’s fingers while cramming the printout down into his briefcase.

Bobcat grins. “This girl is dealing drugs or a drug mistress plus a jewelry thief and uses her cash to hide her sorry-ass whereabouts.”

Teague drops his mouth, turning with a stern face to see Loyce with his order. “Mr. Loyce, please can you provide me a thumb-drive with all the electronic bank statements for my FDA review today? I’ll return to pick it up in a few minutes,” he frowns and views the bank manager. “We’re going to confiscate her money and her jewelry for her crime charges, sir.”

The bank manger turns with a stern face in silence and leads Bobcat and Teague back to the safety deposit wall of boxes.

 

 

2:02 p.m.

FDA Office Building

Conference room setting

 

 

Teague moves and leads the new junior FDA inspectors through the archway of a large conference room for the team meeting, toting a bag of gem stones with a hum, standing in front of Lorinda.

Lorinda says with a smile and a nod to Teague in front of the conference table. “Tomcat, you have redeemed yourself and my faith in your ass. But do not push my exit button for a second time. I unlike the sport of baseball don’t give ya three strikes before hitting the homerun. You screw up again then you get to start your retirement, yesterday.” Teague nods in silence with a stern face. She back steps with a sour frown, turning and sitting at the head of the table as the other FDA inspectors move and scoot around for a chair, sitting and looking at Lorinda. She says with a stern face and a nod. “The hard evidence of stolen gem stones plus hidden cash along with Miss Gambler’s high risk status at the Third National Bank of Florida has made the business suites piss and stain their white briefs. Tomcat has provided both legally and illegal about hundred reasons for me to lean over and pull an earlobe of the FBI. Let’s be logical here. Miss Gambler can gamble away her house profits, since she has placed a monetary gambling bet. The bet is legitimate. We are tracking her ass down, reminding Miss Gambler that she needs to pay her State of Alabama incomes come April fifteen next year. Then we hand it off to the State of Alabama Treasure Department little boys and girls, since our greedy Alabama governor wants a pay raise from the treasure chest. We do this without causing any more major trouble. Tomcat has the baton.”

Teague looks with a stern face to each employee. “She’s a ghost, floating somewhere inside the red clay dirt of Alabama. I think that makes her our major problem. She might have done the same scan and scat in Florida, thus selling a baby mansion. That house has four bedroom, four bathroom, four garages, and four lots of sandy land. Maybe, she married some old sucker and then murdered him and then ran off with his money of the house while leaving his little children and home pets to starve and stray. I don’t know. I’ll let our boss-lady decide if she wants us to investigate that one.”

Lorinda grins. “You’re so cute when you’re sucking up my air molecules today and the rest of the week, Tomcat. Ya got your money funding for some new additional information. What do you need from the FBI folks, Tomcat?”

Teague says. “The DMV Florida and Alabama driver’s licenses plus car tags, US Federal Income tax forms, and any Alabama and Florida warrants or police records including traffic citations.”

Lorinda nods, “Will do. I’ll get a search warrant now from the circuit judge before he leaves for the day to start his celebration of the championship game early like the rest of the lucky Alabamians while we work for our pay. Then we’ll be good to go, if we happen to locate her hiding nest. As always, please interrupt me with your professional problems,” she stands, turning and leaving the conference room with her most trusted and experienced FDA senior inspector Teague in charge.

Teague says. “I need a team to question her co-workers at the Donut Hole.”

Elf looks down and views his mobile telephone with a confused brow, “Which Donut Hole place? There’s one in every village between here and the Florida line.”

“That’s a very good point, Elf.” Tom stands, turning and moving to the wall map of Jefferson County, thumbing the map. “I have learned that she was employed as a waitress at the Gardendale location. Let’s break into teams…”

Duckie says. “Tomcat, Miss Gambler listed her employment as a waitress on her application at the Green Springs Apartment Complex in the heart of Birmingham. That’s about ten miles from Gardendale. Why would a poor working waitress making two dollars per hour travel over ten miles when there’s a local Donut Hole around her living apartment?”

Teague nods to Duckie. “Let’s not question why? Let’s go find out why?”

Elf says. “I agree with Moose. I’m reviewing all four of her application forms where she listed her employment as waitress. This is interesting. She moved into the Green Springs Apartment in the heart of Birmingham and then moved into the Valleydale Apartments in Homewood. Then she acquired a new place in Fultondale and finally the fourth apartment is in Gardendale, ten miles north of Birmingham. I would speculate that she was employed at the local Donut Hole and then transferred to the closest one near her new apartment sight. The Donut Hole is a large profit organization that allows employees to work in different restaurants through the USA. That makes more sense, Tomcat.”

Teague says. “We’re piecing the slices together like vomiting up the entire pecan pie outside the pan and then slipping the dry pieces into place while the wet piece fossilizes in shape.”

Duckie gags. “Gross, man, you’re the most disgusting human male on the fucking planet, Teague.”

“Thank you, kindly.” Teague chuckles, “Are we done with the working theorems children? Good. I lead. I’m leader. I want a FDA team to visit each Donut Hole in Birmingham, Homewood, Fultondale, and Gardendale and interview the managers and employees. Then we all come back home to nest, so we can roost about our new information. Go.”

The FDA inspectors stand, turning and leaving the conference room for the assignment of Miss Gambler.

 

 

4:48 p.m.

FDA branch office

Conference room setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime

with parted clouds and dull sunshine

 

 

Teague sits at the same conference room table with his same set of FDA inspectors, after gathering new information on the assignment of Miss Gambler, and looks with a stern face to each employee. “What we got, homies?”

Bobcat stands in the archway with a sour frown, pointing down to his wrist watch. “When do we go home, Tomcat? Five o’clock, my work shift’s done for the day. I wanna go home. Otter’s at your apartment, Tomcat. We can do our hot flash there. Then I do my body flesh with Otter after our heated working session.”

“Too much 411, man!” Teague stands and moves with a chuckle toward Elf, “Okay, gimme your reports or folders or stuff, so I can review during my suppertime, tonight. So everyone can go home until eight o’clock tomorrow.”

Elf stands, turning and presenting his folder as Teague accepts and stuffs it down into his worn business briefcase. Elf says. “The Alabama DMV Office told me on the telephone while I wrote it on a sheet of paper. Her current Alabama address is 222 Valleydale Road in Homewood. Miss Garland renewed her Alabama driver’s license three years ago. I ain’t got no pretty picture photo either, because the Burn U and Bam U fans are gone and at home celebrating the win. The office is official closed at three o’clock for the game of two centuries. However, if I call them on Thursday morning, someone would be happy to help me.”

“Fucking shit,” Teague frowns.

Moose moves and stands behind short Elf with a sour frown to Teague. “She didn’t change her new and current address when she moved. You’re supposed to change it. You have ten days to change and update from an old street address to a new street cited by the Alabama DMV Office. That’s against the law. Why didn’t she keep her street address updated, Tomcat?” He turns, shaking his skull, leaving the conference room for home.

Duckie stands, moving and gathering his gear for home. “She’s a fugitive of the law, as well as, an addictive gambler, as well as, a jewel thief. Tomcat, ya called her right, Miss Gambler,” chuckling.

Peacock stands and moves to the other side of Tomcat, lifting and presenting her paper folder as Teague accepts with a smile and stuffs it into his briefcase also. She says. “The Donut Hole folks didn’t know a waitress named Nadean Garland at any of the stated locations. I left a message with the headquarters in Boston, but everyone had already left for the work day. I’ll finish my investigation into his matter tomorrow, Tomcat.”

“Thanks, Peacock. Have a nice evening,” Teague smiles. She smiles, turning and leaving for home too.

Dove stands and moves to Tomcat, lifting and presenting her paper folder as Teague accepts with a grin and stuffs it into his briefcase. She says. “The IRS told me over the telephone the four previous city street addresses. Then I printed them on a sheet of lined paper for ya, Tomcat. I have nice handwriting,” she winks at Teague, “Along with a second piece of paper and my personal cell, sweetie.”

Bobcat stands between Tomcat and Dove with a sneer. “What in tarnation for? Everything’s computerized with the computers for accessing any Alabamian data with ease now.”

Dove smiles at Teague. “Not at the office of the State of Alabama Internal Revenue Service in Birmingham before the big rough and tough game of the century. Everyone’s home inside someone’s arms warming up for the game.”

Bobcat watches Dove flirt with Teague, saying with a sneer, “The State of Alabama Internal Revenue Service office in Montgomery, our lovely state capital.”

Dove winks at Teague. “Placed me on hold on fourteen times with music, then hung up on me nine times with static, and then lifted the telephone receive off the hook without pretty music three times.”

Teague winks to Dove. “Man. Dove should be paid hazard duty for all that extra homework. Thanks for your digits. Maybe, we can do a late dinner tonight.”

“Maybe, we can.” Dove winks and turns from Teague, moving out the room for her home to wait.

 

 

7:13 p.m.

Apartment of Teague

(12 miles south of FDA branch office)

Living room setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright stars

 

 

Teague, Bobcat, and Otter greet and meet inside Teague’s apartment and around the dining room table to work and solve the FDA case of Miss Gambler with the accumulated working folders of the FDA inspectors this evening

The door opens.

“Teague…” Otter uses her prescription eyeglasses to read the papers, sitting at the dining room table.

“Tomcat,” he stands and turns from the archway, slamming down the numerous hot pizza boxes on top of the coffee table. The coffee table acts like an eating table, since the dining room table is being used as an office desk.

Bobcat moves inside the apartment, standing and saying with a sour frown to his wife, “Pizza for Teague. Where’s my supper, Otter?”

The door closes.

Otter scans the papers. “This is Teague’s apartment, so Teague has called and provided supper, Bobcat.”

Teague stops and sits on top of the ratty and torn sofa, lifting the box lid, grabbing and chewing the pizza with his fingers and turns with a smile of food particles to Bobcat, “Pizza and beer. Sit down, Bobcat. We are working late on the missing mysterious Miss Gambler-bitch.” He swishes the top and drinks the cold beer.

“Miss Gambler-bitch?” Bobcat frowns and marches to Otter.

Otter wears an assortment of gem stone rings on her fingers, bracelets on both her wrists, numerous necklaces around her throat with a tiny diamond tiara over her hair roots, looking up with a smile to her husband. “Tomcat renamed her proper royal title a few seconds ago.”

Bobcat leans down and kisses Otter between the sharp tiara points and her hair bangs, pulling back with a grin. “Is there a Halloween Ball later? You like mighty pretty, princess.”

“I couldn’t resist the temptation of gems, darling.” Otter giggles, fluttering the ruby ring beside an emerald ring on her jeweled fingers.

Bobcat chuckles and kisses her hair roots for a second time, pulling back with a grin and a nod. “When Gambler-bitch is jailed, the FDA will auction off them gem stones. So I’ll buy them all up for you, honey.”

“Can the FDA do that, Tomcat?” Otter turns with a sour frown to see Teague, since she doesn’t believe her husband but trusts her brother.

Teague mouth spits food over his hand, the box, and the table. “Once Gambler-bitch is caught and captured and confessed, she’ll have to sale all her assets to pay for a fancy criminal lawyer. The FDA can buy them from her. Then I can buy ‘em for you, sister.”

“I’m her favorite man.” Bobcat turns and frowns down at the hair roots of Teague.

Teague looks up with a smile of food particles. “I’m her favored male.”

Otter turns and smiles at her brother. “That doesn’t sound right, Teague.”

Bobcat lifts and plunks several slices of pizza on top of the paper plate next to the pizza boxes, since Teague doesn’t cook only eats. He doesn’t clean either only trashes the plant environment with more plastic and paper dry goods. Teague needs a new wife to realign his earthly priorities and responsibilities.

Otter turns and points to the paper with a stern face. “First, you own me big time for spending my night with you, instead of fucking my husband.”

Bobcat shakes his skull, sitting beside Teague on the ratty sofa with a plate of pizzas. “Ah naw. I get fucked. Ya be my subservient baby-mama.” He eats the pizza.

Otter smiles at the papers. “Suburban baby-mama with a day job, not a night job, darling. No sex from figuring out this big mess with a bigger headache. Second, this is really sad, Teague.”

“Tomcat, what’s sad?” He eats and listens to his smart sister who serves as an accountant on their daddy’s farm for thirty years.

Otter stares at the papers. “I have viewed, compared, and reviewed each final move-out inspection report on Miss Gambler-bitch and her numerous occupied and abandoned apartment rentals. Each and every management office from all the different apartment complexes cheated his girl…”

Teague mouth spits his food with a sour frown, “Miss Gambler-bitch.”

Otter turns and frowns to Teague. “They cheated his girl out of her hard working money.”

Teague mouth spits his food with a sour frown. “Whores get paid lots of money and drugs and fun and more drugs, money, and fun. We’re breaking up her fun. That’s all.”

“She moved first into the Green Springs Apartment complex, renting there for six months. Then she rented into a second studio at the Valley dale Apartment complex which crossed the same time period for fourteen months. Since most rental apartments really require a twelve month payment system, making the money rentals cheaper for the renter.”

“Why did she cross the road?” Bobcat smiles and eats the food.

Teague says. “Why did she pay for two different apartments? Ya can’t sleep in two different places unless ya renting one for your Pimp Lord?” He slurps the beer.

“Enough, Teague,” Otter frowns at the papers.

“Tomcat…” he mouth spits his food with a grin.

“She…” says Otter.

“Miss Gambler-bitch…” Teague mouth spits his food with a grin.

Otter reads the report for all eardrums. “Miss Gambler-bitch left her Green Springs apartment after a fire destroyed the roof top, the internal walls, and the floor. This is the local Fire Marshall’s report dated on October twenty fourth. The fire started from an old chimney at the end of the building then spread across the asphalt tiles, burning through the wood and the insulation. Some of the apartments were reported burned while some apartments received slight fire damage from falling fiery ash. Management for the Green Springs Apartment complex will repair the fire damage to each five apartments without charging the renter…”

“…without charging the renter…” Teague frowns.

“Tough shit,” Bobcat eats the food.

Otter rattles and views the other documents. “Apparently, a renter is responsible for any type of incident man-made or mama nature-made. It is listed in her legal agreement in paragraph sixteen, section two. So, the best I can figure out here. Miss Gambler-bitch’s apartment was one of the five damaged with roof fire that flowed down into her studio apartment which was one room with one shower stall for one person. The apartment probably smelled like smoke and looked like shit. She walked over to the Valley dale Apartments with a good credit rating and rented a new apartment for a new time period of twelve months.”

Teague frowns, “She paid for two apartments and two electricity bills all at the same time. How much monies?”

Otter says. “The first apartment monthly expenses were a flat two hundred dollars per month for six months which is one thousand two hundred dollars, including water and…”

Teague frowns. “Otter, I don’t have all fucking night. I got a date coming in an hour for my personal fucking lesson. So girl, come and gave me the cliff notes.”

Otter exhales. “She moved from the first apartment because of the fire. She paid for two electricity invoices and two monthly rentals. She moved from the second apartment because of the tornado damage. She paid for two electricity invoices and two monthly rentals again. She moved from the third apartment because of third robberies inside her apartment. She paid for two electricity invoices and two monthly rents again. Then she moved from the fourth apartment after a flood…”

Teague mouth spits his food over the pizza boxes with a sour frown. “Bullshit, Otter. You made that one up just for me to feel sorry for the bitch. How can you flood an apartment?”

Otter rattles the report. “She lived on the ground apartment. The apartment complex in Gardendale renovated the top floor level, accidentally busting the water pipes. Her apartment was flooded in the laundry area and the bathroom floor. She moved out three days later after the flood when the apartment complex promised to fix it that afternoon,” she removes her eyeglasses and turns with a sour frown to see Teague. “This is criminal neglect, Teague. She is a renter with rights to live in a descent place without fleas, floods, and freaking faults of the management company. I am reporting all this information to the Better Business Bureau.”

Bobcat mouth spits his food with a sour frown. “You’re not a lawyer, Otter.”

Otter exhales. “Well, I wished that I were a lawyer. This poor girl hasn’t been given a break in almost five years. I believe that she deserves some good luck now.”

Teague frowns. “She’s a drug addict, a slut, and a gambler, Otter. You know that The Good Book says that the Good Lord punishes the wickedness. I find that so true here. Miss Gambler-bitch is the wickedness of them all.”

Bobcat laughs. “Miss Gambler-bitch is extremely unlucky. I guess that’s why she betted on Bam U. What a she-dumbass?”

“She-dumbass?” Teague fist bumps with a laugh to Bobcat.

Bobcat frowns. “Is that it, Otter? I’m almost finished my meal. Now, I wanna fuck.”

“Go and fuck at home, man.” Teague frowns.

Otter shakes her curls with a sour frown. “No, gentlemen, that is not it. You asked me to review all these financial documents too. And this is really weird.”

Bobcat says. “We say sad, weird. I like the word, solved.”

Otter rattles and read the new stack of papers. “I have seen every type of financial bank statement on every month for the past thirty years in regards to our daddy’s farming bank account, since I balance the revenue with the outgoing expenses. But this particular one is truly different. It shows lots of money deposits and lots of money withdrawals. All the money has been deposited by using the old hand written paper slips plus two electronic deposits every month. Now, an electronic deposit is always from an employer. And the electronic deposit amount always displays the name of the employer. Sometimes, the name is truncated like USA for the United States of America. But this bank statement is missing the employer’s name. It states the four capital letters plus a single number TNBF1. Hmm, the same ID is repeated on each bank statement. You have provided me with bank statements from Birmingham, Alabama. This is a bank registered and operated in Florida first. Where are her Florida bank statements? I want to compare the employer ID code to them also.”

Bobcat says. “The Third National Bank of Florida is a home-grown Florida bank chain, but any Alabamian can become a new bank customer with hundred dollars cash or check opening a new checking account.”

Teague says. “That’s a saving account bank statement, not a checking account, Otter.”

Otter shakes her curls, reading the papers. “This is the strangest saving account bank statement I have ever seen this, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine withdrawals of cash. There’s no saving account in the USA that lets you withdraw eight times within the month without a penalty or closing your personal bank account down. The bank limits the number of withdrawals for the customer, so they can lend the money out to other businesses in bank loans. This is more than a saving or checking account. My guess is a high-end investment account or a trust fund account. An investment account is open ended, allowing a customer to deposit large sums of money and withdraw large sums of money without paying a monthly fee. That’s another thing missing from her bank statement. There is no monthly bank fee.”

Teague grins. “As long as, you maintain a particular monthly amount there is no monthly bank service fee. That’s explained. Move on, Otter.”

Bobcat turns and grins at the nose profile of Teague. “The bank manager hit ya up with the marketing advertisement of the Third National Bank of Florida crap too. I turned his ass down before I turned his ass over the teller counter for a smash-down for the same ploy. Boom.”

Teague turns and smiles with food between his teeth to Bobcat. “Yep. It made him feel better and talking a lot faster and providing me lots of useless shit.”

Otter turns and gasps to Teague. “You have opened a new bank account with the Third National Bank of Florida. Why, Teague?”

Teague smiles with food between his teeth to his sister. “Tomcat. Just for fun, I might transfer my bank account from the US Federal Government Credit Union, once I retire. Then I can take advantage of the good financial loan services and purchase a new tractor for the farm,” he eats and laughs at the same time like a good Bama redneck.

Otter drops her jaw. “Retire?” She turns and smiles to Bobcat. “Are you going to retire this month too with Teague?”

Bobcat lifts the pizza with a smile and a wink. “End of the year, Otter. Don’t get her babbling banter all night, Tomcat. We…him and me…have talked about doing it on December thirty first, our last day together at the FDA inspection office.”

“Boom!” Otter raises both palms into the air with a smile and a nod without damaging the gems.

Teague points and flings tomato sauce from his finger at the papers. “Only if we solve the mysterious missing Miss Gambler-bitch, I’m totally stumped on her whereabouts inside Birmingham.”

Bobcat turns and frowns to Otter. “She’s operating out of the metro Birmingham area. That’s why we can’t locate her ass in Birmingham. Tell him, honey?” He turns and frowns at the nose profile of Teague. “So, we can drop this case on Dove. Dove needs to learn about HIPAA rags and legal shit, right, Tomcat?”

Otter turns and reviews the paper, “This girl is a robot or an alien.”

Teague chuckles, “Me and Bobcat have been speculating all day, if this chick is white, black, red, brown, or yellow. Otter has determined an alien from outer space. Ain’t they pink, Bobcat?”

Otter says. “Every Monday, she withdraws three hundred dollars from her bank account. That’s the maximum allowed amount during the day and spends it probably to pay her invoices in cash. Her entire bank financial statement is only deposits of checks or withdraws of cash. There isn’t one single written paper check against her bank account for a house payment, a car note, an electricity bill. I’ve never in my life seen a financial statement like this. Is that strange, Bobcat?”

Teague mouth spits his food with a sour frown. “Criminal, a criminal only deals with hard cash, because only a criminal carries hard cash. The real hard-working Americans deposit their titty bitty paychecks then pay their bills every two weeks. The ones, they can afford anyways.”

Otter reaches down and raids the briefcase of Teague, pulling out and resting the paper folder in front of her chest, and flips it opens. “Folder number one is marked Donut Hole. The FDA teams interviewed four separate Donut Hole restaurants and none of the working managers and employees did not realize the name Nadean Garland.”

“Lies,” Teague mouth spits his food with a sour frown. “Those type of establishments harbor and encourage young drug users. The establishment hires young dumbasses that work like mules when not stoned then pay them peanuts in wages. If one of the stoned waitresses don’t show then the establishment replaces her with a new sober young dumbass. And the cycle never ends, folks. The manager’s probably her fuck-daddy. He’s not going to admit she works there when she’s stoned or drunk or puking her guts from whiskey, the next morning. That’d explain her moving from restaurant to restaurant to restaurant. A Donut Hole manager makes about thirty thousand dollars per year, a pretty good living with benefits without a college degree. So she fucks him and spends the night at his nice posh pad.”

“Pad?” Bobcat chuckles, “You are definitely aging your face, daddy-o.”

“Teague…” Otter reaches and raids his worn briefcase with her ringed fingers again, pulling out the paper folder, resting it in front of her chest and flips it open, reading the contents.

“Tomcat,” He smiles with food particles between his teeth to his sister.

“Folder number two is marked DMV Alabama Driver’s license. Her current Alabama street address is 222 Valleydale Road in Homewood. That can’t be correct. That’s her second renter apartment.”

Teague mouth spits his food with a sour frown. “Right, sister dear, me and Bobcat run around half the city, tracking down all her invalid addresses. Jeezus, ain’t there a law that requires a valid Alabama driver’s license to match a person’s current home street address?”

“Naw,” Bobcat drinks the beer and swallows, eating the pizza.

Otter reaches down and raids the briefcase for a third time, pulling out the paper folder over the table, reading the contents. “Folder three is marked Alabama Income taxes. Nothing is here. There aren’t any valid green and white Alabama tax forms from any tax years. The note reads that last year, she filed taxes, showing an address of 555 Walker Street in the small town of Fultondale. Huh? I’m getting suspicious now. As an accountant, it’s really important to update your financial records with your employer for IRS tax purposes. This girl has purposefully avoided updating her driver’s license, her bank statements, and the IRS. The IRS receives an employee’s current city street address from the company’s payroll records. Nadean Garland has not provided the IRS with her current street address. Hmm, I’m beginning to believe that she is a true criminal who’s hiding out from the police in Miami. That’s where she ran from, right, Teague?”

Bobcat nods. “Good analogy, Otter.”

Teague frowns. “These damn idiots at the Alabama IRS, a copy of her current tax form would tattle her current or previous employer, since the Donut Hole managers ain’t confessing the real truth here. We’re still clueless about this bitch. I’ve never worked with such pussies in my thirty years.” He exhales with a huff of annoyance, turning with a nod to see Bobcat. “I’m ready to retire after this mysterious mess is solved, yesterday.”

Bobcat grins with food particles between his teeth. “The big day, before the big game, Tomcat. Every happy fool has started drinking beer and eating chicken wings, this morning at nine. No one is working at work. They’re at work, not working. I’m totally surprised we got this much tiny information from them pussies. After Burn U wins the championship, the workers will be sober and back to normal. We shove the case to the side until Thursday at ten,” chuckling.

Teague frowns. “I can’t digest greasy chicken wings at nine in the morning.”

Otter smiles, “Yay Teague! And what does Bobcat say about his retirement also? I can bake a batch of store brought cookies for your retirement party tomorrow morning, honey.”

Bobcat frowns. “Tomcat, we ain’t the FBI, CIA, NSA, or other right mix of alphabetic letters. We investigate drugs that lead to bodies then we call in the FBI for assistance of the bodies. We just want the illegal drugs or leeches or maggots,” he smiles.

Otter frowns. “Possum pookie on Bobcat, I want both of you to retire, tonight. Let a junior FDA inspector take over this complex FDA case.”

Teague smiles, “I like that wise advise, Otter, because a junior FDA inspector is taking over my body tonight in about an hour. Let’s get done here.”

Otter frowns. “Mama and Daddy said the barbeque starts at two in the afternoon. And Teague, you cannot absolutely bring a slutty date with you to their home.”

“Uh, ho,” Teague laughs.

Bobcat frowns, “Otter, darling?”

“Uh, ho,” Teague laughs for a second time.

Bobcat points to Teague with a stern face. “Otter, sweetheart, me and him have to work the championship game. But I can get you a ticket. I promise in the skybox or the twenty yard line. Or wherever ya want, sugar?” He smiles.

“I want both of you to quit the FDA, right now.” Otter pouts. “I don’t wanna be alone inside a skybox or on the twenty yard line without you, Bobcat. I’ll miss you. So I just drive home tomorrow morning to our old homestead and watch the game with my elderly crazy parents.”

Bobcat smiles, “She’s such a loving supportive adorable cute wifey.”

Otter smirks. “That’s because me and you don’t argue in front of the blood kinfolks, honey. It’s rude southern belle behavior. So just wait when we get home, sugar.”

“Otter, darling,” Bobcat stands with a sour frown. “I sorry…”

Teague stands with a sour frown to block Bobcat from Otter. “Finish this now,” he sits with a laugh. “So I can get fucked tonight. And Bobcat don’t get any Otter ass,” chuckling. “Otter, find me that bank statement in the month of January, showing a three million dollar deposit, then we show Lorinda tomorrow. That’s all the proof we need that Miss Gambler-bitch possessed three million dollars from her dead uncle then pissed it away, after losing her gambling bet. We hand off the case to the FBI. The FBI has bigger and better resources to trace Miss Gambler-bitch down than us, rednecks. The end,” He rises and toasts the beer bottle with a nod and a grin to Bobcat.

Otter turns with a sour frown rattles and flips the papers. “I printed out the January bank statement and all the other bank statements, Teague. There is not a three million dollar deposit here,” she hands and rattles the papers to Teague.

Teague stands, moving to Otter, wiping both dirty hands on his blue jeans. “Yeah, there is one. Loyce showed it to me this afternoon during Bobcat’s treasure hunt.”

Otter shakes her curls, flipping the papers. “Uh, ho, no, I don’t see it. And I didn’t recall a deposit of three million dollars. I’m a numbers person, Teague. And that big fat number would have dinged my bell.”

Teague snaps his fingers. “Loyce showed me on the computer screen. Bring up the January bank statement.” He stops and leans over her collar bone to see her laptop.

Otter looks up and types on her keyboard, pointing to the computer screen. “Okay. Here’s the January bank statement.”

Teague shakes his curls with a confused brow. “Naw, that’s January last year. Loyce showed me January of this year. Find that one, Otter.”

Otter scratches the tiara with a puzzled brow. “Loyce showed you a bank statement for January, this year. But the month of January hasn’t ended. There are more bank money transactions for the remaining days of January to record and then process. That’s impossible, Teague.”

Teague leans down to the computer. “I saw it with my own two eyeballs.”

Otter types on the keyboard with a nod. “Yeah, I believe you, Teague. In the accounting world, all money transactions are recorded by computers every minute of the day until midnight of the next morning of a new month. I’m not finding any money transaction from midnight of January first until now.” She points to his thumb drive. “This is a copy of Loyce’s computer application for historical bank information. Based on all my banking, accounting, and computer knowledge, Loyce can’t copy the January transactions from his computer without specific computer programming. That’s probably why the electronic report is not displaying here on the computer.”

“Ah shit. I need that electronic transaction money report.” Teague snaps his fingers. “Loyce printed the January report for me. And I slipped into my briefcase,” he reaches and dumps the contents of his briefcase over the table with a smile. “There is it. Sorry, Otter. I had the document.” He lifts and reads the paper report with a confused frown. “I don’t see a three million deposit inside her bank account.”

Otter scoots the chair and stands beside Teague, looking at the paper report too. “Are you suggesting that there is supposed to be a deposit of three million dollars on this transaction money sheet?”

Teague says. “And a withdrawal of three million dollars on this transaction money sheet too?”

Otter says. “So she deposited three million dollars on what date?”

Teague closes his eyelids. “Loyce told me,” he opens his eyelids, staring at the far wall. “Friday, the three million dollars was deposited on Friday morning and then the withdrawal occurred at midnight on Saturday morning.”

Otter looks down to the dirty carpet. “A credit on Friday and a debit on Saturday equal nothing.”

Teague turns and frowns at her tiara. “Is that right?”

Otter looks up and grabs the report for review. “Okay, there is no three million dollar deposit recorded on the last two Fridays or a withdrawal on the last two Saturdays. This is correct.”

Teague frowns. “What, explain? I saw it on Loyce’s computer. Why isn’t it on this statement?”

Otter exhales, looking up to see Tomcat, rattling the paper. “In the accounting world, a deposit is a positive number. A withdrawal is a negative number. When a positive and a negative number collide…”

“It’s a negative number, Otter.” Bobcat frowns.

“In the math world, it is a negative number. In the accounting world, it is the number zero. You have a glass jar which is your empty bank account. When you place three million colorful marbles into the glass jar, you see the colored marbles. When you remove the three-million marbles, your jar is empty again.”

Teague nods. “She emptied the jar when she transferred the money into the Las Vegas bank account for the three million dollar bet.”

Otter smiles, “Excellent, Teague, yes!”

Teague frowns. “This doesn’t help me in my meeting with Lorinda, tomorrow. I still don’t have any hard copy criminal evidence. How do I do that, Otter?”

Otter smiles, “I believe truly within my loving heart, dear brother and dear husband, that the Good Lord is telling you to dump this FDA inspection case.”

“Come on, Otter, a real answer.” Teague frowns.

Otter exhales. “You get the Third National Bank of Florida to slice off some the electronic piece of the January bank statement and then download into an electronic folder. The bank can email to you as your proof of the three million dollars to Lorinda. Ta-da!” She removes all the jewelry and drops them into the cloth bag from Teague, becoming plain old Otter again.

Bobcat turns and smiles to Teague. “Then we are done, Tomcat. This is getting to IT complicated for my old brain cells. Do what Otter says. Get us out of this tomorrow, boss-man,” chuckling.

“Shore,” Teague exhales with a nod. “I’m too old to play with the techie kiddies.”

Bobcat asks. “Did we finish analyzing all the FDA folders and the bank papers for our good bye meeting with Lorinda? Is your briefcase emptied, Tomcat?”

Teague turns the briefcase upside down over the table surface. “Yeah, we are done.”

Otter reaches down and raids the bag with the gems, lifting a stack of money. “How much cash is here? Has anyone counted it?”

Teague turns and moves his briefcase back to the wall for his work tomorrow. “Naw, Bobcat didn’t steal any I watched him.”

Bobcat cleans up the food boxes and plates, moving and toting them into the kitchen for Teague to trash. “Bullshit. You were flirting with the handsome bank manager.”

Teague chuckles, “Naw, I was flirting with cute bank teller.”

“O.” Otter smiles, “How much did you steal, husband?” She sits and dumps each money stack over the table surface.

Bobcat moves and returns into the living room with a smile. “I admit that I’m too honest of a man to steal from a criminal.”

Otter touches each money stack with a grin, “Ten, twenty, thirty…”

Teague spins around and gasps, moving to the dining room and stops with a puzzled brow. “You have counted up to thirty thousand dollars, Otter?”

Otter laughs. “Naw, Teague, I’ve counted up to thirty dollars. The stacks of money are wrapped one dollar bills. She steals from the elementary school lunch money from minors.”

Bobcat stops at the table and laughs in the nose profile of Teague. “Gawd damn, I feel like a shit. I didn’t notice the money denomination. We need to peddle this case to Elf. He ain’t as stupid as we.”

Teague turns and points to Bobcat with a smile. “What we, buddy? That word swirls into…m.e…me. That means you, dumbass,” he shoves Bobcat to the door with a grin, “Time for you and you to leave my space! My fuck will be here in thirty minutes. I need to shower and change.”

Bobcat stops and turns with a sneer into his face. “Are you really going to fuck her? We work together, Teague.”

Teague smiles, “She’s not my junior. Elf is. So I can fuck any babe at the FDA. I even riddled it,” chuckling.

Otter reaches down and dumps the money back into the cloth bag with the gem stones, seeing a folded letter on the bottom of the cloth. “O, a letter,” she jerks it up. “A letter, Teague,” she jerks it open. “O my gawd, Teague, o my gawd,” Teague and Bobcat stop cat fighting and turn to see Otter. She looks up with a sad pout to see them, rattling the letter. “O my gawd…”

Teague turns and frowns at her face. “What, Otter? Where did that letter come from?”

Otter sobs with her tears, looking down and reading the letter. “The letter was in the bottom of the bag and attached to the glue from one of the money stacks. This is the baptism certificate for Nadean Orion Garland from Brier Church in Brier, Alabama, our Nadean from our Brier.” She stares and holds the letter.

“Fuck, naw!” Teague moves and stomps to Otter, stopping and looking over her collar bone at the letter too, “Nadean Orion Garland.” He turns and looks down at the gem stones, the money, and the bank statements. “Hell, naw!”

She gives him the letter. “Our Nadean is the gambler.” Otter moves and stops, sobbing with her tears in the collar bone of Bobcat.

“Hell, naw!” Teague accepts and reads the letter.

Bobcat frowns. “I pulled that letter from the safety deposit box at Third National Bank of Florida along with the cash and the gems stones.”

Teague reaches down and touches the gem stones. “I believe you, Bobcat, because, that son of bitch Loyce has pulled the wrong Nadean Garland bank account. Fucking shit! We saw Duchess at the hospital. She’s a physicist living in Mobile. Physics requires an education. Duchess graduated from college. And anyone can own a safety deposit box in Birmingham. Hell, her parents are right up the street in Brier from B’ham. That makes perfect sense. She possesses a bank account shared by all the branches, including Birmingham. And Mobile is right along the edge of the Florida state line. The Third National Bank of Florida is invading all the major cities in Bama. The bank manager told us that this afternoon, Bobcat. Nadean banks there too. That’s why son of bitch Loyce fucked up and fucked us, a fucking asshole.”

Bobcat frowns as Otter sobs with tears and sadness in his arms. “What about the house in Florida?”

Teague shakes her curls, “Duchess don’t live in Florida. She has lived in Bama all her life. Fuck, naw, son of bitch Loyce has screwed up and screwed us. Fucking asshole, I’m going to bank tomorrow and kick his ass for involving Duchess in this turkey shoot.”

Otter turns and sniffs with tears to Teague. “Are you shore?”

Teague smiles, “Yeah, Otter, I’m certain about Duchess being innocent. She’s a sweet girl. We saw her on Friday. She looks damn pretty too.”

Otter nods. “Well, I feel much better,” she drops her jaw. “Teague, if the Third National Bank of Florida has accidentally involved Duchess in this financial fiasco, it could permanently ruin her bank credit kinda like some type of identity thief.”

Bobcat nods. “Otter’s right. I think we should contact Duchess and mention that her identify has been mistaken for another girl with her same surname.”

Teague nods, “Very good point, I don’t know her contact information like a telephone or a mobile cell or an address.”

Bobcat snaps his fingers with a nod and a smile. “I can go back to the Birmingham Hospital and inquire with the Radiation Therapy department. She must’ve been a guest speaker last week at the conference. They would have all her contact information.”

Teague chuckles, “Perfect! And I will do an un-friendly visit with Loyce first, then the bank manager second. Damn it. They have both screwed up this FDA inspection. Shit, Lorinda is going to tan my ass for messing this up.”

Otter smiles, “Resign tomorrow, Teague. Then tell Lorinda good bye and good luck, baby.” She laughs.

Teague smiles, “Otter was always the smartest sibling within the Haywood family. What do you say, Bobcat? We kiss the FDA’s ass goodbye and…”

“Go fishing instead of just a wishing.” Bobcat laughs.

 

 

Tuesday January 12th

 

 

7:45 a.m.

Third National Bank of Florida building

(17 miles northwest of Teague’s apartment)

Parking lot setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with dull sunshine

 

 

Teague drives from his apartment and parks his baby, the sports car at the bank, killing the engine, sitting inside the car.

The bank operational hours are posted from nine am to four pm, Monday through Friday, but the working staff arrives an hour earlier. He admires the red brick building that greets the bank manager coming into work every morning.

The building looks like an antebellum house with a set of four columns of concrete that are sculpted fluted, not smooth.

Fluting is a popular classical architecture style in the South, copying the ancient Greeks civilization that is long time dead. The column shaft is articulated with vertical hollow grooves called fluting. The wooden square shaft is wider than the top wooden part which looks like Bobcat’s childhood home in Brier.

The term fluting also reminds Teague of flute playing.

Duchess had played the flute, a woodwind musical instrument without a sticky sweet tasting reed like a clarinet.

Teague played the trumpet.

The flute is a hollow horizontal cylinder of silver with a mouth piece that parallels into the lips like kissing a girl. He remembered when Duchess played her flute for him outdoors and inside the horse pasture while he pretended to kiss her cute pouted lips.

A flute produces a sound when a stream of air is directed across the hole to create a vibration of air at the hole.

Teague told Duchess that ancient flutes were made out of tibias, the shin bones of dead Native American Indians. Then she quit playing her flute for the rest of the week from that bad-ass moment of old American History.

The bank manager stops and parks his car, sliding out and moving to the entrance door

Teague scoots out of the car, running to catch the ass of the manager and tapping on the collar bone of the manager with a stern face. “Hey, buddy.”

The bank manager pivots with a smile and a nod. “FDA Inspector Haywood, hello, what can I do for you this cheery morn?”

Teague wants to punch his mouth but says with a stern face. “I have some vitally important information to share with both you and Mr. Loyce. Is it possible to meet with you, right now?”

The bank manager says with a smile and a nod. “Yes, of course, we can meet especially when it has to do with our banking interest. Have you arrested Miss Garland? You must have invaded her hiding nest? Do you, chaps in the FDA use your hand guns like the FBI when shooting a criminal?” He turns and moves to the door.

The door opens.

 

 

8:08 a.m.

Bank lobby setting

 

 

The door closes.

Teague enters and moves behind the ass of the manager again with a sour frown. “Sometimes, we don’t enjoy doing that. Does Mr. Loyce come in early too?” He turns and scans an empty lobby, hearing the classical music over the hidden speakers.

The bank manager moves across the floor with a nod to the other business offices. “Yes, Mr. Loyce is always punctual, bright and early. Let me announce our arrival, should we? I don’t like to interrupt my employee’s morning ritual. I’ll be right back. Stand here. The other administration offices are specifically locked for bank security purposes. I hope you understand, Inspector Haywood.” He does not view Teague, moving ahead to the offices.

Teague nods. “I do. I need some cash anyways,” he turns and moves to the ATM, pulling out and slamming his bank card into the slot and pockets hundred dollars, pivoting to see the bank lobby with a row of teller windows and the closed money vault.

Years ago, Teague had recalled the FDA raid of a bank president. The bank president had purchased illegal drugs from a local drug thug. The bank president was currently serving his time in jail for that illegal action selling drugs to kids around the street corners and the school crossings.

He and Bobcat had entered the bank vault, seeking and searching for any pouches of hidden cocaine, since the cocaine had been kept inside the office drawer of the bank president. The vice-president of the bank had been overly concerned the cocaine cloth bags were disguised as bank money bags, since the cloth’s texture had been similar in color and material.

He had seen the bags of coins, the rolls of coinage, and the stack of bills.

There had been a stack of ten golden bars too.

Teague had wanted to purchase a gold bar, but the price tag had been set at 325,600 dollars, US.

A gold brick was not like a red brick for building an Alabama house.

This golden brick was larger by two cubic inches based on standard international gold transactions.

A gold brick weighted four hundred Troy ounces or about twenty seven point five pounds. The gold value varied on a daily basis. This particular day it had been eight hundred fourteen dollars per Troy ounce. So, four hundred ounces timed eight hundred fourteen dollars equaled 325,600 dollars for each gold brick, fifteen years old.

Teague had purchased some gold coins valued at fifty dollars for his six year old daughter. She had enjoyed the surprise, playing with the coins like a dolly until bored.

Then he had deposited the coinage into her college fund. He wasn’t trying to encourage his daughter to love money but learn the value of money being a humble, generous, and thrifty guy.

Teague has saved a good nest egg for his future retirement as a working man of thirty years which might be happening, really soon.

Duff Loyce has royally messed up this on-going gambling FDA inspection case.

Lorinda will not be happy, probably firing Teague on the spot with the royal fuck up which also has involved an innocent bystander Nadean Garland.

He smiles, thinking of Duchess.

The bank manager returns to Teague with a sour frown. “I am so sorry for the delay, Inspector Haywood. I can’t seem to locate Mr. Loyce. And I must answer an important telephone call from my district supervisor. You can wait inside Mr. Loyce’s office. He won’t mind. The door is unlocked, since Mr. Loyce doesn’t have scheduled any appointments of his recoveries candidate. Please follow me.” He turns and moves into the private bank office.

Teague says, “Shore, thanks. Does Mr. Loyce see in person all the participating bank’s recovery candidates here at the bank or does he telephone?”

The bank manager says and leads down the hallway. “Here. The recovery candidate must report with a face-to-face session with Mr. Loyce or face termination of their legal bank account. Then we will confiscate the bank account monies and turn them into the Credit Bureau as bad credit risks. That threat keeps them in line. We’re not harsh but just. We value the other American’s hard working monies and don’t want to toss and lose pennies into the water forever.”

“I can understand. So Mr. Loyce met face-to-face with Miss Garland.”

“Yes, many times, he can discuss her physical appearance. Is that the question you needed addressed and answered right now? So you have found someone and need identification. The Third National Bank of Florida would be both happy and honored to perform that simple task getting that criminal.”

“Shore.”

The bank manager stops at the open archway and points inside the office with a nod and a smile. “Please sit, Inspector Haywood. I’ll be only a few moments. I’d offer coffee, but I’m not a secretary. However, I will be swift. Then we can answer all your questions, once Mr. Loyce arrives. He’s probably inside the IT department updating the daily transaction sheets for his work tasks today. Since he and other workers are not really rooting for either Burn U or Bam U as the football national championship being a Florida man like myself.”

Teague grins. “That’s okay. I drink sweet tea, anyways. Take your time. I have all day morning. Then I’m off to the championship game, this afternoon.”

“Very well,” The bank manager turns and moves down the hallway to his office.

 

 

Private business office of Duff Loyce

8:17 a.m.

 

 

Teague turns and scans the office of Loyce with a whisper, “Son of a bitch.” He moves inside to the laptop, stopping and stands, tapping on the laptop keyboard of Loyce, seeing the bank logo with a smile.

The computer is not a security encrypted machine as required by the HIPAA Act of 1996. This must be Loyce’s personal laptop which houses his personal information, as well.

Teague is pissed that Loyce has smeared Duchess’ good name and reputation. He slams the ENTER button on the personal computer laptop of Loyce. A bank menu appears with a prompt to enter the bank customer’s name.

Teague types with one finger the name Nadean Orion Garland and watches the computer think. And then an electronic report displays Nadean Orion Garland, January first, this year. He leans down and reads the money numbers, seeing no deposit of three million dollars.

His theory was correct that Loyce had selected the wrong Nadean Garland, accidentally giving out Nadean’s privately guarded bank safety deposit box number. The gem stones, cash, and the baptism certificate all belong to his Duchess, Nadean Garland from Brier, Alabama. Now, Duchess can sue the Third National Bank of Florida for the big ugly screw up of her privacy data, remembering that one of her smart brothers is an attorney. Teague backs out of the menu which erases her name from the laptop like he isn’t snooping, turning and sitting in the chair in front of the desk. He pulls out his mobile telephone and types a text to Elf at 8:18 am with instructions for the day and stares at the far wall with a sour frown.

Bobcat wants to quit the FDA field office in Birmingham today, moving back home to farm town of Brier, Alabama, a triangle of land between Huntsville, Athens, and Decatur. He wants to take over his daddy’s farming business, since his daddy is older, desiring to do nothing but eat and fish every day.

And Teague feels like fishing too.

He looks down and views his wrist watch with a sneer. The time is 8:38. He stands, moving and standing in front of the laptop of Loyce, surveying the cables of the computer that does not show an outlet connection, making a free standing computer. He reaches and steals Loyce’s laptop, tucking it underneath his armpit, turning to the archway and leaves the bank.

 

 

9:03 a.m.

FDA branch office

(5 miles east of Third National Bank)

Parking lot setting

Cold temperatures with bright sunshine

 

 

The truck is parked in front of the FDA office building. Teague stands and leans against the truck bed, waving a hand and a smile to Bobcat.

Bobcat drives and parks his truck illegally inside a handicapped space beside Teague.

The door opens.

Teague moves and stands at the open truck door with a smile and a nod to Bobcat. “Is Otter off?”

Bobcat slides out with a smile and a nod. “Yeah, she has already arrived at your folks safe and sound while helping with the barbeque, explaining our absence. Will you parents be miffed at you, missing the game with them?”

The truck door closes.

Teague shakes his curls, “Naw, my daddy don’t care about no good game, only the good eating barbeque. I guess when your bones are older all the priorities change. What about Duchess and her telephone number at the hospital?”

Bobcat laughs. “You wanna it that bad, huh, Teague?”

Teague frowns. “I want Duchess to know about the careless ID thief. That’s a fucking serious issue that can become a fucking serious problem for her. I pissed that Loyce fucked me, you, and her figuratively.”

Bobcat nods. “Well, these assholes at the hospital didn’t give me her personal information either. Then they sicced their legal lawyer on my ass who escorted me into a private conference room without locking the door. Then she cited HIPAA regulations until I couldn’t produce a dang search warrant. Then she invited me back for a tour of the hospital with lunch, if I ever produced a dang search warrant. Damn, everyone is touchy these days.”

“Did you flash your badge?”

“I did everything but shove it up her nose.”

“You should always try everything before you quit at job, Bobcat. I thought your daddy taught you that valuable concept.”

Bobcat punches Teague’s arm. “Fuck off, Teague. Did you shove your boot toe up Loyce’s ass?”

Teague laughs. “Naw, I couldn’t find the bastard. Then the bank manager took his sweet tea fucking time looking and calling for Loyce. He did everything but burp the bastard. I waited and waited. I stood and stood. Then I grow tired and pissed. So I compromised,” chuckling.

Bobcat looks down with a puzzled brow to see the naked hands of Teague, the gun of Teague and the smile of Teague. “Compromised, that word means you used your gun or your fists or your brains.”

Teague grins. “I used my brains. I delivered all the electronic missing pieces of information to Lorinda, so she can wrap the mysterious gambling case. We are free to go fishing, buddy, before the big game this afternoon. And I don’t wanna attend the game in person rather just watch on daddy’s big screen plasma with Otter and you.”

Bobcat parks both hands on a belt with a sour frown. “We are all assigned drunkard fan duty this afternoon at the game. Hmm, I heard the word, electronic. You got the missing information from a computer, belonging to the bank, but you didn’t talk with Loyce. You said Loyce blow you off. So, that means you…”

Teague laughs. “I stole it.”

Bobcat frowns. “Jeezus, you stole Loyce’s laptop from his office desk. Tomcat, have you lost your fucking neurons? How are you going to explain that to Lorinda?”

Teague chuckles, “I’m giving her an early Christmas present and then tell her to kiss my ass. I quit this fucking job, starting my retirement and send out the first pension check. Yeehaw, let’s go fishing, Bobcat.”

Bobcat frowns. “What about Duchess?”

Teague thumbs back over a collar bone to the truck of Bobcat with a smile and a nod. “Yeah, let’s go and visit her parents in Brier. They can give us her personal contact information. Since I won’t be working anymore, I might plan me a trip to the beach in Mobile.” He back steps, turning and moving to the driver’s seat.

The door opens.

 

 

9:08 a.m.

Birmingham University campus

(3 miles southwest of Birmingham Hospital)

13th floor apartment setting of football player OT Sims

Cold temperatures of wintertime and bright sunlight

 

 

I stand and knock on the door with a smile.

The door opens in front of the face of Nadean, the mother of OT Sims.

OT drops open a mouth, “Mama, why are you in a business suit? You like very nice, thou. The color matches your hair and your boots,” he leans over and lightly kisses her cheekbone, pulling with a smile and a nod. “Come on in, Mama.” He grabs and drags her, back stepping and turns, moving to the ratty sofa. “You told me that you’re off work. Why are you going into work today, Mama? I thought you would be off work like the rest of the Alabamians for the big football game today. The game starts at three o’clock, Mama. You deserve a vacation day. Don’t you get vacation days, Mama? You should quit and retire. You work too long and too hard. Move over here in the kitchen. I got a big surprise for you, Mama.”

I move and sit at the stool bar as OT moves to the kitchen counter and prepares the food plates. I smile and stare at his back spine, “No, sweetheart, I’m not going into work for today. And I do have a vacation day, today. When one of the transportation vans broke down yesterday in Mobile, I elected to stay the night and travel with some of my co-workers very earlier around four o’clock this morning.” I yawn and cover my lips. “The sun wasn’t even awake. I left my car parked inside the hospital garage. While picking up my car keys, I played your recorded telephone message on my office’s telephone for the food invitation. So I’m here.”

OT fiddles with the food and the dishes over the stove with a smile. “I love you, Mama. Good, you’re here to stay. Ya got your blue jeans and your cowgirl boots inside your car?”

“Yes, son.”

“And how was your work conference?”

“Boring, mostly, I had to attend a face-to-face conference. Now, I am done.”

OT slowly turns and moves with two food plates to the dining room table. “I made us brunch, since I have to eat and then leave for the game stadium. I be hungry again. I ate breakfast at six am.”

I stand with a smile, following behind OT. “You’re becoming a wonderful chef.”

OT shakes a skull, resting the two food plates on top of the place mats. “Naw, some dishes are easy when you’re big and hungry. I prepared omelets with tiny onions and green peppers, the way you make it. The guys love my omelets with tiny onions and green peppers, the way you make it, Mama. Let’s move to the table. And I decorated it the plates from my great grandmother’s china that you give me. The stone is real smooth and soft.”

I stop and view the table with a smile. “You did a fine job on the table. China plates. Cloth napkins. Crystal goblets.”

OT turns and assists her to sit in the chair like a southern gentleman. She sits. He turns and sits, placing his elbows the table surface the way she do not teach him, diving into the food without a prayer too. He mouth spits his food over the plate and the table. “Yeah, I learned to set a pretty table for a pretty girl. Girls like pretty things. Then I get a pretty good fuck from ‘em,” laughing.

I look down and view the plate with a red face. “I’m so glad that enjoy updating me on your sex life, sweetheart.” I scoop the food and eat.

He looks down and touches his plate with a grin of chewing food, swallowing the food with a nod. “The girls love the baby blue color around the edge with the unique pale buttercup flowers in the middle. I make my angel hair pasta, the way you make it, Mama. Then that girl coos and purrs right into my arms all night long.”

“The way you make it…” I stared down at my great grandmother plate, “Uh, ho.”

OT chuckles and chews, staring at down at her silvery colored hair roots, “I’ve heard that saying for years. Where did you learn that musical note, Mama?”

I view my plate. “Catch phrase from your great grandfather Sloan, I do believe. What have you done now, OT?” I turn and scan the rental apartment for any broken plasters or wooden staves made by his Burn U rowdy football friends. I don’t see any physical damage. I part my lips, staring at OT.

He chuckles and chews with a grin, “Nothing, Mama! I promise on hearts and artichokes. Nothing, I’m innocent of any and all wrong doings. No cell phone problems. No damaged furniture. No nothings.”

I exhale with a puff of relieve. “Alright, I believe you, son. You did nothing,” I lift a fork to my mouth. “Why I am invited here, today?” I eat and chew.

He smiles. “Because, you are my mama, this is my last ever university football game, Mama. I wanted to spend my last university football lunch with you before I go into the stadium. Inside the locker room, there are meeting rooms, training classrooms, and gathering rooms. We go into a gathering room kinda like a church. We concentrate and focus on the big game. A ritual calming our emotions and burning off hyped energy. Once I’m inside the gathering room, I’m not allowed to talk or contact you, Mama. I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking about the game and you, Mama.”

“And what about inviting your biological daddy to your good-bye last ever football game college lunch?” I slurp my food.

OT frowns. “Sevilla is spending her afternoon with my biological daddy. That bitch ain’t ever invited to my playground. This is about you and me, Mama. You’ve sacrificed everything for me. I’m so grateful, Mama. I’m going to help Burn U win its fifth National University Football Championship.”

I smile. “I pray for that, sweetheart.”

“I know for that, Mama. Man, I got the Professional Football recruiters sending me roses, Mama. It’s kinda funny to me. They sent me roses, candy, cards, gift certificates for food, and merchandise just like a fucking secret lover. They can’t send me money, thou. That’s illegal,” he stands and shuffles to the sofa. “They sent the roses to you, Mama. They don’t your name. You’re so smart Mama not letting any person in the USA know of your existence. Or you’d be bombarded with this shit instead of me. So they place on the pretty pink card: To OT’s Mom.” OT stops and holds a set of two flower bouquets in each hand, resting the items near her arm and away from the food plates and turns to sit with a smile. “They’re trying to influence you to influence me to go with their Professional Football Team. I’ll tell ya a secret, Mama. I’m the number one draft pick in the USA. Me!”

“OT, I’m so proud of all your accomplishments. But you promise to finish getting your degree from Burn U first. Do you plan to accept the professional football position?” I eat and chew.

He nods, “Yes ma’am. I’m going to play for one or two years and start law school. I took the LMAT. I’m been accepted into Burn U School of Law. I wanna earn all my degrees in my youth years like you, Mama. Then I can have fun for the rest of my old age years.”

I smile. “That’s a wise choice, sweetheart.”

OT finishes eating his food and stands with a loud burp while she cleans her plate too. He turns and shuffles into the kitchen. “Mama, I wanna for ya…”

I stand and hold my dirty plate. “I’m clean all the dirty dishes and pans for you, sweetheart. I can hear the stomping of boots in the hallway, OT. Is every player heading out to the stadium for the gathering?”

OT turns and views the door, gently dropping the plate into the sink of water, grabbing her plate and gently drops on top of his dirty dish. He twists to the faucet, washing his hands, grabbing and plowing her dirty hands into the water for cleanliness. OT towers over her with a smile. “Don’t bother with the dishes, Mama. I got a surprise for you,” he shuts off the water and dries both their hands, wrapping his semi-wet hands around her waist. “I got a maid service, Mama.”

“You do?” I have uncovered the new four hundred dollar expense on OT’s rental apartment invoice that I must pay every month.

He turns and moves to the sofa. “Let’s move to the sofa. I gotta a present for you before I leave for the stadium.” OT rushes her to the sofa. She sits on the sofa as he kneels on the floor and looks up with a smile, resting an envelope in her lap. “Mama, this is a ticket for today’s game, my last university football game. You’re not near the grassy field but along the top tier of metal bleacher stand. Jeezus, one single football ticket is selling for twenty thousand dollars.”

“OT!” I gasp.

He smiles. “I asked Vester and Vassar…”

“OT!” I frown.

He chuckles, “Naw, Mama, I really wanted to ask if Vester and Vassar they had acquired a couple of championship tickets just for fun. They do seem to acquire some unique toys and tools for entertainment, thou.”

“OT!” I frown, “You are to never ever ask your uncles for anything but love. I’m your mama and provide everything you need, since the first wonderful day of your birth,” smiling down at my baby angel.

“…including your unlimited love. I’m sorry, Mama. It was silly josh. I didn’t pay twenty thousand bucks for a single National University Championship Football ticket either. I got it from a friend of a friend of a friend for free. I don’t have twenty thousand bucks either. And I would never ever ask Vester or Vassar for anything but their back slaps. So I just fucked an ugly chick and got the ticket for free. The chick wasn’t a bad fuck either…”

“OT!” I laugh.

OT turns and grabs the other items, lifting to her with smile. “And I got you some binoculars to see me tackle that Bam U quarterback. I’m going to hit that sucker about eighteen times today to impress you, Mama.”

“OT!” I whisper and hold my tears of happiness.

OT frowns. “I’m pissed that my daddy blackmailed you into giving up your football tickets for my games. And I tired of my daddy and that bitch, seeing my real live football performance. I tired of the media reporters, thinking that bitch is my mama. She ain’t. You’re my mama. I wanna ya to fight your way down to the twenty yard line. I know that you can fight with your heart and your hands both literally and physically. So come down to the twenty yard line. I’ll meet ya there right after the football game and jump into the bleachers. Then the entire world will see you and me. My real mama will be hugging me for the winning championship game.”

“OT!” I whisper and hold my tears of joy.

OT leans and wraps his arms around her. “I love you, Mama.”

“I love you, OT.” I whisper and hold my tears of love.

The door sounds with a series o knocks and then opens, revealing an unknown male.

An elderly male enters through the archway, staring at Nadean with a sour frown. “OT, boy, you are not supposed to entertaining the company of females in your football suite, especially before the big game. Get your ass to the stadium. We’re loading the bus. And who in the hell are you, miss?”

I stand, sliding and hiding my ticket, hoping OT isn’t going to get into trouble, since family members are not encouraged to bother their sons during the football season.

The elderly man sneers at her, “A reporter, how in the fuck did a reporter got passed our dorm security? OT, son, you’re not supposed to talk to any media reporters. Miss…”

“Naw,” OT stands with a puzzled brow and waves his hands, strutting to the male. “Naw, Mr. Yates.” He turns and points to Nadean with a smile and a nod. “May I present my mama, Nadean Garland?”

“Your mama?” Mr. Yates frowns at Nadean. “I see your daddy at every football game with your…”

“Naw,” OT sneers. “That bitch ain’t my real mama, sir. Mama, come over here. I want you to meet Mr. Yates. He’s one of the many guys on the University’s board of directors being a former linebacker at Burn U, too. This is my biological mama.”

I stumble over the floor in my fashion heels with a smile.

Mr. Yates says with a smile and a nod, “I be damn. She is your mama. You and she appear just alike in the face with her silver hair, her gray eyeballs, her coffee skin tone, her tallness.”

“I got my tallness from her brothers. They’re six, eight, sir.”

Mr. Yates extends a handshake to her. “Howdy do, Ms. Sims.”

OT cuddles Nadean. “She’s Dr. Garland, being divorced from my daddy. She’s a physicist at a local hospital here in Birmingham.”

Mr. Yates smiles, “You are definitely a lovely secret from me and the entire world.”

OT nods, “Mama don’t wanna deal with all that media shit, sir.”

Mr. Yates nods. “You are definitely one of the smartest females in the world too. The media reporters are kind when things are going good and vicious when things are going bad. Wait a minute.” He turns and frowns to OT. “OT’s four complimentary football tickets are located in that one particular section. How come I only see your dad, OT?”

OT nods. “Mama is at work on Saturday, helping dying children at the hospital.”

“OT!” I whisper and hold back a smile.

Mr. Yates nods, “My word, that’s a noble cause than a silly football game on a Saturday afternoon. So have you been able to attend any of Burn U’s games, Dr. Garland?”

OT smiles, “Mama’s a graduate of Burn U too. She twirled a baton as a majorette in the Burn U marching band in the year…”

I smile. “Many moons ago, OT.”

Mr. Yates claps. “I know. Why didn’t you join me inside the Burn U skybox for the championship game, today, Dr. Garland? It was be grand. And OT will be great as always.”

I display the envelope with a smile and a nod. “OT has given me a ticket for the game today, sir. That’s mighty nice to invite me.”

OT nods. “That’s a great idea, Mama. And you can see me on the replay television screen over and over, again. And there’s food too.”

“And alcohol.” Mr. Yates nods.

OT turns and frowns to him. “Mama doesn’t drink alcohol being a church-person, Mr. Yates.”

Mr. Yates bows a chin and uprights with a stern face, “My apologies, Dr. Garland. There will be assortment of food items and beverages, including both soda and water. The skybox is directly over the forty five yard line, a clear view of the entire game.”

“It is so tempting.” I say.

OT frowns, “Naw. It is so attended,” he leans over with a whsiper into her eardrums. “Mama, I’ll feel better knowing you’re safe indoors rather than around some drunk college students that vomit beer and spit chewed tobacco.”

I smile, “Alright, OT has commanded like a prince.”

OT nods. “And Mama, stay right here inside my apartment then Mr. Yates will send the limo to pick ya up in style for my last football game. Right, Mr. Yates?”

Mr. Yates smiles, “I can do that, Dr. Garland.”

I shake my curls, “No, sweetheart, that’s very generous, Mr. Yates. I just came back from a work conference being away over the weekend. I really need to go home and feed my cats.”

OT shakes his skull, exhaling with a huff of annoyance. “Fine, Mama. Feed the damn cats. But come back here and wait for the limo. The limo will drop you off at the steps of the stadium. We won’t have to walk from the parking lot. Then it’ll bring us back here for our celebration.”

I shake my curls. “Sweetheart, the time’ll be tight along with the tighter security inside the Burn U campus. I don’t have a special car pass.”

Mr. Yates nods. “Your mama’s smart, boy. This is the football game of two centuries, OT. No one is getting onto our Burn U campus unless the Good Lord has sneezed on ya and then maybe not. Once she leaves, she can’t return, son.”

OT exhales with a huff of annoyance, wrapping his arms around her. “Alright, Mama, I will see you on the football field. Enjoy the game. I’m dedicating my ‘lastest and bestest’ football game to you, Mama.”

Mr. Yates nods with a back step out of OT’s apartment. “Excellent, Dr. Garland, I’ll post your name on the clip board with our Burn U security detail. They stand at the doors to keep pesky invaders out. Just tell them your name Nadean Garland. I look forward to seeing you there, Dr. Garland.” He extends a handshake.

I shake and release his hand with a nod and a smile, “I, too, Mr. Yates.”

OT hugs and kisses her cheekbone. “See you on the twenty yard line, Mama, I love you.”

I whisper the famous Burn U motto into his face with a smile, “Burn pig. Burn cow. But, Lordy, don’t Burn U. And, I love you, OT.”

OT chuckles, turning and leaves his apartment, following behind Mr. Yates.

I follow behind, turning and watching my son and Mr. Yates disappear down the hallway.

The door closes behind the back spine of Nadean.

 

 

10:09 a.m.

City of Brier

(60 miles north of Birmingham)

Farm and home of Jadean and Urall Garland

Living room setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright sunshine

 

 

The door opens into the face of Teague.

“Hello,” Dorcee stands in the archway with a sour frown. “You are Tomcat and Bobcat from my high school. Hey, boys, come on in.” She back steps and swings with a smile to a solo chair across from the long sofa.

Teague enters through the archway to the sofa with a smile and a nod, turning and sitting on the fabric, “Hey, Dorcee. This isn’t a social calling. It’s a business calling. Is Urall here?” Bobcat sits beside Teague with a smile too.

Dorcee sits and stares with a grin and a giggle at Teague, “Naw. I can handle the business calling. What do ya’ll need? Looking for some beef calves? Daddy gots a good herd, this year, except thou, Daddy don’t sale to individual folks usually just the US Federal Government.”

Teague shakes his curls, “Naw, we are looking for Nadean.”

Dorcee laughs. “Nadean lives in a hell hole in B’ham. Ya’ll should see it, sugar, tiny, more like a one room with four walls, a big window to see the green forest woodlands.”

Teague frowns. “B’ham, the city of Birmingham? I thought Nadean lived in the city of Mobile south of Birmingham near the Gulf of Mexico.”

Dorcee shakes her curls, “Naw, she lives in Birmingham in the center of the State not near any water or cows or us. Why’da ya thinking she lived in Mobile, honey? I don’t anyone that lives in Mobile. All my kin lives here in Brier.”

Teague turns and views Bobcat with a confused brow. “I thought I heard that somewhere. That’s all.”

Dorcee giggles. “Hold the ponies. Bless my soul. You and Bobcat are police officers. I remember that someone told me. So Nadean’s in trouble with the police law again. Ain’t she?”

“Why’s that, Dorcee?” Teague turns and frowns at her. “Again, when was she in trouble before?”

Dorcee grins. “She be in Florida then she be moved back to Bama, running from the law or go to jail. What’s a girl going to do, honey? What she do this time? Did she murder someone? Or stole money from the bank?”

Bobcat frowns at Dorcee. “We can’t discuss a federal case.”’

Dorcee lifts and slaps her hands on her dress. “Hot damn, she’s going to jail for shore. Ain’t she?”

Teague sneers instead of punching the ugly face of Dorcee. “Where are your parents, girl?”

Dorcee grins. “At the bank, my daddy’s renegotiating the homestead, the farm, and the house. He does this every year just to piss off the banker.”

Bobcat turns and views the hanging family photos on the wall, “And your brothers?”

She smirks, flipping her hand. “Moved out, long time now,” she points Teague. “But I heard a hot rumor that you moved back home, right, Tomcat? I heard you be divorced from your wife now.”

Teague nods, “Yeah.”

Bobcat turns and frowns at her. “And where’s your loving husband, Dorcee?”

She thumbs over her collar bone to the window with a smile, “In the back forty for the rest of the day and night too, this farm is too big for my daddy’s limited farm hands.”

Bobcat frowns. “The farm does well.”

She grins. “Yeah, the farm makes good money from growing corn, cotton, and cows.”

Bobcat thumbs to the side table with the family picture, “And your passel of kids?”

Teague turns with a chuckle to see Bobcat, “How many in a passel, Bobcat?”

She grins, “Five kids. Some married. Some at work. Some in college. The grandchildren are in school for the rest of the afternoon until suppertime,” she winks at Teague. “We got some new pear trees in the south cow pasture. Ya like sweet pears, Tomcat?”

Teague says, “Naw, we’re here to hear about Nadean.”

Bobcat turns and frowns to Teague. “We should come back when Urall and Miss Jadean is presence, Tomcat?”

Teague narrows his eyelids at Dorcee, “Naw, we came out here to hear about Nadean. She moved out of Urall’s house right after high school graduation to attend Burn U. Did she graduate the university with a college degree?”

She nods. “Nadean graduated college and never ever returned back home to our daddy’s house. She just upped her ass and moved to Miami, Florida with her new fancy schooling degree. She gots a job doing physissy work.”

Bobcat says. “Nadean was a physicist at a local hospital in Miami too. She is currently a physicist in Birmingham.”

She grins. “Can’t you look that stuff up on a police computer database with all the new technology? Do you have a new mobile telephone?” She lifts her mobile telephone to her smile. “I got one of the newest ones with 6Gs and stuff on it. See here?”

Teague frowns, “Nice, Dorcee. And that was thirty years ago, girl. Computers didn’t exist. As FDA inspectors we rely on good information from honest folks like you, Dorcee.”

She smiles. “Okay. What else do ya’ll want to know?”

Bobcat asks. “Please relay any information from high school to present, Dorcee. That would be very informative.”

She turns and smiles to him. “Ya still married, Bobcat?”

Bobcat smiles, “Happily.”

“Ya coming back to Brier, too?” She smiles.

Bobcat nods, “Happily.”

She exhales. “Nadean is very secretive like she’s a spy or something. I don’t know a lot of her private life in Florida. She don’t talk to us about it.”

Teague asks. “Did Nadean visit the farm during holidays or summertime?”

She exhales, “Sometimes. She don’t come up Christmastime to see us. She don’t like the cold weather, ice, snow. Nadean stayed in warm Florida. Call us at Christmas bragging it be eighty degrees in December. Did ya know that, Tomcat? It will eighty degrees in the wintertime in Miami. I wished that I could visit there, one time. Nadean visited sometimes in the summer hot when it be hot like around July. The weather here is sizzling hot like Tomcat or hell.”

Bobcat chuckles, “The one and the same.”

Teague sneers. “Shut it, Bobcat.”

She says. “If Nadean came here, she drove her fancy sports car. That car had three gas pedals.”

Teague nods, “A manual transmission. Nadean had learned to drive a stick from Urall.”

She smiles. “I guess so. I drive a new car. Ya wanna see my new car? It has four doors, golden like honey with fancy electronics that talk to me.”

Teague shakes his curls. “Naw, Dorcee. Please tell us about Nadean? She traveled in her car to Alabama. Did she travel any place else?”

She nods, “Gawd, yeah, let’s see. Nadean went all over city places in the USA like Atlanta, Vegas, LA, Tampa, New Orleans. She went out of the USA to Bahamas, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.”

“What in tarnation for?” Teague sneers.

Dorcee waves her hand with a smirk. “Business trips, she claimed, all business, no play. She always works to pay for that great big mansion. Ya should’ve seen that castle in Miami.”

Bobcat nods. “I would be very interested in hearing more about Nadean’s mansion in Miami, Dorcee?”

She waves her hand with a smirk, “Yeah, Nadean gots a mansion in Miami. O my gawd, her castle, Mama called it that. Nadean’s castle had a swimming pool, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, four garages. The property was worth one million dollars. Then one day, she get rid of her pretty castle and then moved back here to Bama, poor thing.”

Teague asks. “Is Nadean married?”

She shakes her curls. “Not very long then divorced, just play around with the men. Ya know like a whore.”

Bobcat turns with a smirk to see Teague. “Ya wouldn’t ever marry a whore, right, Tomcat?”

Teague grins to Dorcee, “Never.”

Dorcee turns and frowns at Bobcat.

Bobcat asks. “When was the last time you saw Nadean?”

She grins, “This year, a week ago in her crappy tiny apartment. She just moved into a new place. I guess running from the law. That’s why ya here. Right, Tomcat? Ya know she might just up and run away to a new state like Georgia?”

Teague asks. “Did she move from metro city of Mobile recently?”

She shakes her curls, “Naw. She left out of another crappy apartment in B’ham. She’s always doing that. She moves into an apartment then trashes it with her wild parties. Her wild parties gots beer and cigarettes. Then she just ups and leaves that apartment without a clue. Then Mama finds out that Nadean has moved into another tiny crappy apartment.”

Bobcat frowns. “If you did not approve of her wild partying with beer and cigarettes, why did you visit your sister, Dorcee?”

She exhales. “Mama made me go. Nadean don’t come up for Christmas. I just told ya’ll that. Ain’t ya’ll listening to my fairy tale. So Mama surprised her. Nadean was pissed. We just showed up and banged the wood off the door before she opened it, allowing us into her tiny room. Mama generously gives Nadean presents every single year at Christmastime. But Nadean don’t do the honor. I ain’t got a gift from Nadean for almost thirty years now.”

Teague smirks. “She be mean to ya Dorcee for thirty years.”

She smirks. “Naw, more like Nadean be poor like a church mice, as they say.”

Teague frowns. “Poor? Nadean is a college educated physicist.”

She waves her hand with smile. “Then she must skip work a lot, not getting paid for being drunk on alcohol. Alcoholics do that.”

Teague frowns. “Nadean is an alcoholic too.”

She smirks. “Alcohol. Cigarettes. Drugs. No man. No house. No life. No job. No future. Always poor. Always secretive,” she points with a smile to Teague. “Tell me if I’ll wrong about Nadean, Tomcat?”

Teague smiles, “Well, I guess our next move would be to see Nadean’s tiny apartment in B’ham. Can ya give us the city street address, Dorcee?”

Dorcee smiles, “Shore,” she stands and moves into the kitchen.

Bobcat leans to Teague with a whisper. “What in the hell…?”

“Not here.” Teague sneers. “We’re FDA Inspectors, collecting more information.”

Dorcee returns and stops in front of the sofa.

Teague and Bobcat stand.

Dorcee moves and holds the paper in front of Teague’s chest with a wink and a grin. “Here ya go, cowboy.”

Teague doesn’t touch it.

Bobcat leans and snatches from her hand with a sour frown. “Thanks for the information, Dorcee, you have been a big help.”

Teague moves and leads to the front door.

Dorcee turns and moves behind the ass of Bobcat. “Come back anytime, Tomcat. I’ll show ya my pear trees. Okay?”

The door opens.

Teague yells through the archway. “See ya, Dorcee.”

Bobcat moves outside behind the ass of Teague. “Bye, Dorcee.”

The door closes.

 

 

10:32 a.m.

Pickup truck ride of Bobcat and Teague

(50 miles south on Interstate 65)

Cold temperatures and warm sunshine

 

 

The door opens.

Teague scoots and slides into the passenger seat inside the truck, whipping out his mobile telephone and viewing Nadean Garland’s printed name on the FDA Gambling Watch List Report.

Bobcat starts the engine with a sour frown, looking and reading the dashboard for any colored lights.

Teague says, “An alcoholic, an addict, a whore, a slut. That’s not Duchess. She is…”

“…was a good girl, Tomcat. Thirty years is a long, long time. Sometimes, things change. Times change. People change. Duchess lived in nasty town Miami in Florida. Lots of stuff happens in Florida, not like Bama. Remember, Bear? Remember, Rosaline? Remember, we were on assignment in Miami. We saw all that nasty mess. Duchess left out here a nice girl from Brier. Those big bad metro cities turn nice girls into something else. Remember, Rosaline lived in nasty town Miami too.” Bobcat shoves the gear into reverse, backing out of the driveway, driving straight to the roadway.

Teague stares at her address. “I don’t believe any of it, Bobcat.”

Bobcat stops and pulls out onto the highway. “I want to disbelief too. We possess hard core physical evidence. Her apartment hopping year after year, who does that action? It’s very expensive to move furniture and furnishings, year after year. The best solution is to stay put, absorbing the small annual money increases in the rental contract, saving money and resources.” He stops at the traffic light. “No one can find her or track down her ass. Why’s that? She sold a three million dollar house in Miami based on her previous street address. Why’s that? And Nadean lied to both of us, standing inside the hospital that employs her as a physicist. She told us that she lived in Mobile located on the other end of the state. She lives right here in Birmingham with us. Why, Tomcat?”

Teague stares at her address on the sheet of paper. “I don’t know. She must have a very good reason or explanation other than the syrupy flap jacks from Dorcee’s chapped lips.”

Bobcat drives with a sour frown and a nod. “I admit you can’t trust a bitch, who gets pregnancy in high school, marries the bastard, and all the entire passel lives unhappily after ever in her daddy’s antebellum house. Good thing. That old house is big and windy like Dorcee.”

Teague says. “I don’t believe Dorcee.”

Bobcat drives with a sour frown. “We go home, get some hot food. We can discuss, trying to prove Nadean’s innocence, somehow. How’s that, buddy?”

His mobile telephone rings.

Teague swishes the icon and lifts to his ear. “What.”

Pauses and listens to the voice of Elf on the other end of the telephone call.

Teague grins down at the floor mat, “Great job, Elf! You’re the man today. Tell you what? I’m going to promote you to me. You lead that expedition and collect all that datum.”

Pause.

“Naw,” He stares down at his boots, “Me and Bobcat are working on something new. You’re the leader, Elf.”

Pause.

“Search it good. Then you and the gang report back to the office, we’ll hold a hot wash, exchanging all the collected information.”

Pause.

Teague chuckles, “Bye, Elf.”

Bobcat drives with a puzzled brow. “What’s it?”

Teague turns with a smile to see the nose profile of Bobcat. “My little man, Elf, he found the hidden location of the real criminal Nadean Garland. And it ain’t my Duchess.”

Bobcat drives with a confused brow, “Where? How? When? Why? How much? Share, man?”

Teague smiles, “On the edge of her application form copied from the Gardendale apartment office, there was a set of faint alphabets and letters that looked like a city address. Elf played and punched a combo of letters and alphas onto his mobile telephone’s geographical map location app. Then he matched an actually name and street address. If the new apartment complex office manager followed procedure, she would have dialed and dinged the old apartment management to investigate a new renter. Since Miss Gambler-bitch moved out in November like always after her annual lease terminated the new apartment complex office manager was inquiring about her good payment record, so Elf has found her secret hideaway.”

“Where is Miss Gambler-bitch’s secret hideaway?”

Teague shakes his curls. “I don’t give a damn, Bobcat, so I didn’t inquire from Elf that specific address location. Since, we’re going to Duchess’ new apartment instead, because I wanna see Duchess and ask her what the hell’s going on here.”

Bobcat drives with a confused brow. “Yeah, I agree. What’s her address?”

“It is 777 Hart Court in Warrior, a small farm town that is two miles north of Gardendale.”

 

 

11:01 a.m.

City of Warrior

(50 miles south of Brier)

Apartment setting of Nadean Garland

Cold temperatures and bright sunshine

 

 

Elf stands in the middle of the tiny concrete floor space, saying and scanning with a confused brow. “Wow! This room is a perfect rectangular. White paint. No art work. No pets. No windows, except for the sliding glass door, leading out and down into green woodlands.”

Peacock moves and steps into the room with a confused brow. “Where’s Tomcat?”

Elf says. “Tomcat made me boss-man. Scout out. Let’s see if we can find some more information about the real Nadean Garland. We’re supposed to collect the datum and report back to the office and Tomcat.”

Bull shakes his skull, scanning the room too with a puzzled brow. “This is a garage, Elf. Flat. Concrete. Cold.”

Duckie says with a puzzled brow too, scanning the tiny room. “A garage for a midget. My car wouldn’t fit inside this room, if it was empty of the three pieces of beaten up furniture. A twin mattress. A tall four-seater table. A loveseat.”

Moose scoots and scouts around the tiny room along the walls. “Naw, Elf. This garage goes lengthwise east to west, not north to south. The sliding glass doors replaced a set of operating garage doors.”

Bull says. “Damn, is this even registered as a living residence? My refrigerator is bigger than this place.”

Duckie says, “Flat.”

Moose chuckles, “Round.”

Duckie shakes his skull, “Naw, this space would be labeled as a British flat which is another name for very small tiny studio apartment.”

Moose moves and touches the flat counter in the tiny kitchen. “How did Miss Gambler find this private isolated exclusive place? I’m surprised that she hasn’t kidnapped the old lady landlord and dumped the bitch in here without leaving the warm heater on. Then she could live and lounge luxurious inside the mansion on the hill. That old woman’s both mean and ugly.”

Elf says. “Word of mouth, mostly, you can seek out a room within someone’s house on the internet, in a renter’s guide, or in the newspaper’s classified section. A rented room runs you about three hundred dollars unfurnished or four hundred fifty dollars for a fully furnished room, being Betsy’s sweet purple balloon-patterned bedroom. Mama rented it right after Betsy left for four years of college. I found out from the bitch-landlord that her son works at Birmingham Hospital. He posted the vacant rental space onto the bulletin board inside the Radiation Therapy Department hallway.”

Bull shakes his skull. “This rectangular room is about thirty feet across east to west, and twelve feet long north to south, and ten feet high from heaven to hell. The room is divided by a square archway between the living room and dining room, sorta.” He stands at the archway almost touching the rough concrete ceiling with his middle finger.

Dove moves and stands near the clothing rack, saying with a puzzled brow. “This room is cozy, clean, and neat. I don’t see or find nothing here.”

Moose moves and stands in front of the appliances with a puzzled brow, opening and closing the door and drawers. “I declare the west wall is some type of kitchen space for preparing and cooking meals. The stove top has two working eyes for soups and hot tea. There is a soup bowl for heating soups and hot tea. This girl lives a very primitive life style. There’s a baby refrigerator that comes to my ankles with three full bottles of spring water. The counter is both empty and cleaned. There’s a stacked set of a washer and dryer,” he slams the door shut. “Empty.”

Peacock shakes her curls, scanning the tiny room near the entrance door. “Not good, Elf, this girl is on the run, watching and waiting for her millions.”

Elf turns and asks to Moose. “What did the bitch-landlord tattle about Miss Nadean Garland?”

“Before or after she fainted…” chuckles Moose with a grin.

Elf smirks, “Before she fainted?”

Moose says. “Well, let’s see. I knocked on the new metal red door and showed her my FDA badge and the search warrant. She cursed the word, shit. Then she fainted but Duckie caught the bitch, before she busted her nose.”

Dove giggles. “Thanks, Duckie.”

Bull says. “Someone should go and check on that bitch.”

Duckie grins. “Not I, says the little chicken shit.”

Elf stands in front of the sliding glass door, watching the roaming cats. “She has stray cats probably feeds them,” he back steps and steps forward to the glass. “See. They’re hungry and come running when a shadow advances near the glass. Animals lounge around when food is provided.”

Duckie smiles, “Aw, sweet, Miss Gambler has a heart, no money.”

Bull touches the chair. “Fuck. What’s up with that crazy house décor? The four table chairs are facing the wall and are not underneath the table. The back rests are all against the wall.”

Elf turns and studies the chair design on the wall. “Hmm, I’d guess that she uses the chairs as a set of stools or maybe as a set of tall tables, since this chair holds a set of clean and folded bathroom linens of towels and hand cloths.”

Peacock smiles, lifting and holding the clothing item from the hanging rack. “I have pink hospital scrubs. I thought she was a waitress.”

Duckie points to the eating table. “There are some papers here in Greek or something weird-ass writing. I can’t read it. Miss Gambler must be a foreigner illegal alien.”

Elf moves and stops at the eating table, studying the items. “The words are Spanish. Can’t ya’ll rednecks read nothing but beer labels?” He laughs. “These are legal documents too. I can make out a couple of Spanish words, not entire sentences.”

Bull moves and stops at the eating table, looking down at the papers on the table too. “Damn. She can read and write in a second language. That makes Miss Gambler smart, smarter than this. I don’t understand why she lives here.”

Peacock says. “Some people don’t like to flaunt their money, Elf.”

Duckie shuffles with a grin and a chuckle into the small archway. “She should flaunt a little more of her George Washington’s and get a bigger space. My ass can’t find into his bathroom.”

Dove laughs. “There’s nothing inside the bathroom, Duckie.”

“I gotta pee.” Duckie shoves his body between the wall and the door.

Dove turns with a stern face to see the nose profile of Elf, “Jeezus, we can’t take the baby to the grocery store for peanuts and beers without any incident, Elf darling. Go pee outside, Duckie. This spot is very private and secluded for hiding out for being almost a newly rich bitch.”

Duckie slides into the bathroom. “I can’t fit into the door. What lives here, the seven dwarfs?”

Moose scans the room. “The home was built in the 1970s.”

Bull laughs. “People were smaller in the 1970s.”

Peacock smiles. “From too much cocaine dope, making their bones retract.”

Dove turns with a grin to see Peacock, “Really, that explains my whacky grandparents.”

Peacock laughs. “Don’t tease Duckie. He’s trying really hard to learn plus he admires your balls, Elf.”

Elf chuckles, “Thanks, bro, I like your hairy balls, too.”

Duckie shouts from the tiny bathroom. “I can’t lower my ass down onto the baby toilet. Is there another bathroom cause this one for a three year toddler for learning to piss?”

Elf commands, “Duckie, finish your business, so we can do our job.”

Moose says. “This girl owns two cooking pans, a tea kettle, and a boiling pot…”

“Boiling point?” Peacock giggles.

“Naw, a boiling pot,” Moose says.

Peacock smiles. “Your hillbilly sounds like redneck. Go back to first grade, Moose.”

Moose lifts and holds the object with a smile. “No sharp weapons, only a pair of scissors that looks dull, not rusty.”

Bull chuckles. “So’s she left her weapons here.”

Peacock says, “Soak them in olive oil that will vanish the rust, making them clean, shiny, and deadly.”

Elf nods. “Okay, ya’ll, Popeye and Olive oil report?”

Bull chuckles. “New nicknames, please repeat mine. Since, I didn’t catch it the first time, new boss-man?”

Bull lifts and holds a new object. “Found it?”

Elf turns and frowns to his co-worker. “What did you find, Bull?”

Bull smiles. “A nice set of steak knives, yeah, baby, these are fine and very expensive, located in the back of the bottom shelf. There seems to be a complete set of fine bone china in the color of pretty baby blue around the edge with buttercup flowers in the middle.”

The door opens in front of his face.

Teague dashes with a worried brow through the archway, scanning the floor and people, moving to the familiar china plate, and says with a serious tone. “Her great grandmother’s china,” he turns and frowns at the buttonhole of Bobcat. Bobcat is scouting the small space near the sliding doors. Teague grabs and caresses the plate. “Damn.” He looks up with a confused brow to see each of his employees. “What in the hell are all of you doing here?”

Elf says with a smile and a nod to his boss. “I am boss, today, remember, Tomcat? I told you on the cell. I found this city street address on the edge of one of her apartment application form. I picked out one or two words and then played on the map app. Then I found it. This is home of Miss Gambler.”

Peacock frowns. “How did you recognize that particular plate pattern as her great grandmother’s china, Tomcat?”

Teague exhales, scooting around the concrete, parking both hands on a belt, “College. What else did you find in here?”

Peacock lifts and holds the object. “There are pink scrubs. Is she a nurse, Tomcat?”

Teague frowns, “A medical hospital physicist.”

Bobcat stands near the sliding glass door. “Was there a hospital badge inside here or any other ID about her current working job?”

“Naw,” Moose shakes his skull.

Elf turns and points to the table. “There are some papers in a foreign language over here on the eating table.”

Teague turns and moves to the eating table, stopping and touching the legal documents with a worried brow. “Duchess speaks Spanish and French, since first grade. In college, she graduated with a foreign language major.”

Elf turns with a confused brow to see Bull, “College? That’s becoming a common noun here.”

Teague turns and moves to the sliding glass door, stopping and standing beside Bobcat. Bobcat stares down at the cats that patiently wait on food. The food dishes are empty. He says with a stern face and a serious tone to the glass. “She’s long gone, Teague. The tiny room is clean. No ID. No electronics. No food. And the cats are hungry,” he looks down to see his boot toes. “She left on Friday when we accidentally encountered her escaping from the hospital at work. She possessed a gym bag of clothes, a hand bag of money, wearing a fur coat. It’s cold in Nevada this time of year. Nadean…”

“Naw,” Teague exhales and pivots with a worried brow. His FDA inspectors stare at him for orders. He looks down to see his boot toes and up to see with a stern face and a serious tone to his employees. “Her name is Duchess. And we are going to find her before the football game ends. Elf, take everyone back to the office and go through all the collective datum piece by piece, looking for any type of lead of Duchess’ location. Pull our expensive electronic toys paid by Uncle Sam for some county traveling,” he turns and views Bobcat and his employees. “We might have to do some searching on the go from home base. Does everyone understand? Good. Bobcat and I have a vague lead to follow. We’ve be back within the hour. Go. Good luck, ya’ll.”

“Duchess?” Bull turns with a confused brow to see the nose profile of Elf, moving through the archway toward his car.

All the cars leave the resident home for the FDA inspector duty as Tomcat and Bobcat leave and drive in the opposite direction.

 

 

12:02 p.m.

City of Brier

(50 miles north of Warrior)

Farm and home of Jadean and Urall Garland

Living room setting

Cold temperatures and bright sunshine

 

 

Teague leaps out from the rolling truck before it halts, moving and jumping over the porch steps and stops, banging a fist on the front door, instead of shouting and breaking down the door. He respects the privacy of Urall just a little at the moment. Newer houses are built with a metal door and a set of roof tiles rather than real wood which drains the rain water, since wood rots over hundred years time on an old dilapidated home, “Dorcee?” Teague yells and knocks on the door. Bobcat stops and stands beside him in silence and a stern face. Teague yells, “Tomcat, I come back for a second visit. Can I come inside?”

The door opens in front of the face of Teague.

“Shore, Tomcat.” Dorcee stands in the archway with a smile, turning with a sour frown to see Bobcat, “Bobcat’s coming inside too.”

Teague shoves her aside, entering and scanning the room for the owner. “Yes, he is. Is Urall home?”

Dorcee back steps from the door.

The door closes behind the back spine of Bobcat.

Jadean moves and appears in her eyeglasses and her bedroom house slippers, standing and staring at her guests inside the kitchen archway. “Who be company here, Dorcee?”

Teague turns with a fake smile and a nod to see her. “Miss Jadean, it is Teague Haywood and Eckward Fulton.”

Jadean says with a smile and a nod, adjusting her eyeglasses, narrowing her old eyeballs at the young men. “I be slopping the hogs. Ya’ll young men have grown into big fine young men. How a seat on our fine new white furniture?”

Teague stands with a fake smile in the nice living setting of Ural with both hands on a belt. “The furniture’s very nice, Miss Jadean. Is Urall here too?” He stares at the older lady with a bun of gray hair and a face of weather brown colored wrinkles.

Jadean turns and looks out the window at the sun with a stern face, “Close to naptime, pulling up in the truck any minute, now.”

“Teague?” Tall and elderly Urall moves and stands behind the hair roots of his shorter wife Jadean as Teague and Eckward stare at the gentleman with a head of white hair and a chin of white whiskers on a tone of bronze tinted skin.

“Yes sir, Teague and Eckward,” Teague steps forward a nod, extending a handshake with respect of the elderly couple of the home.

Jadean moves and sits on the long sofa, patting the new fabric with a nod and a smile to Teague and Eckward.

Urall moves and accepts a handshake from each boy with a nod and a smile. “Hey, boys, been a long, long time. Ya’ll visiting with your daddy, staying for the weekend and coming to church?”

Teague releases the handshake, slapping his hands on his blue jeans. “Sir, we are here, inquiring about Nadean.”

Dorcee swings around with a grin, moving to the side chair, and sits. “She lives in city B’ham. I told ya, this morn. Ya want to see my pear trees, Tomcat?”

Urall frowns and stares at Teague, “Nadean, what about Nadean, son?”

Teague frowns. “I’m afraid that Nadean is in some trouble with the law.”

Jadean frowns, “Trouble? What kinda trouble?”

Dorcee crosses her arms with a grin and a nod to see the nose profile of Jadean, “Told ya, Mama, Nadean stays in trouble. Good thing. She didn’t book a motel room here. Good thing. Ya told her to get. Good thing. We be in her trouble too.”

Urall stares with a worried brow at Teague. “Hush, girl. Ya tell us the trouble that Nadean’s in then maybe we be sharing some information?”

Teague says. “She’s involved with some type of gambling scheme. Gambling is illegal in Bama. She has placed a very large amount of monies on the championship game tomorrow.”

Urall shakes his skull. “That’s not against the law. Ya can bet in casinos in Nevada or Mississippi.”

Bobcat moves around the room, looking over the furniture and items like a police officer. “And you can bet on-line with the same casinos too. Making a bet is not illegal, since Nadean is not under eighteen years old. Her large pool of money is being investigated and questioned. Therefore, we are the FDA…”

Urall frowns, “FBI?”

Teague shakes his curls, “Naw sir. We work for the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration and we have jurisdiction in gambling matters within the Bama boundaries.”

Urall frowns. “Nadean can place a gambling bet, anywhere and anytime. I didn’t rightly know that she gambled. But that be beside the point. I still don’t understand your issue, Teague.”

Dorcee smirks with a nod at the nose profile of Jadean. “Nadean does bad stuff all the time smoking, drinking, and now a new one, gambling. Told ya, Mama, she’s a bad apple.”

Urall frowns. “Hush, Dorcee. Let Teague talk.”

Teague nods. “Yes sir. Nadean can gamble her heart out. We’re required to remind her that all winnings of monies must be filed on her Alabama State and US Federal income taxes, first. Second, we’re investigating her large financial money source of the wager. It is just a formality.”

Urall frowns. “Then ask Nadean? She lives in B’ham.”

Bobcat says. “We are having a little difficulty, connecting with Nadean.”

Dorcee smiles, “Ya got her address from me.”

Teague frowns. “That’s part of the problem.”

“Told ya, Mama, Nadean’s been gambling again,” Dorcee smiles.

Teague turns and frowns at Dorcee. “When was that precise time period that Nadean started gambling, Dorcee?”

Dorcee grins. “O. Four years ago, she gambled away her big house in Miami then she came belly-aching and ass-crawling to live with Mama free of charge again like a high school fart. Mama was smart told her naw.”

Teague frowns, “Four years, ago?”

Dorcee smirks, “Heard tell? She gambled away three million dollars. Get flat broke and broken then moved up here for a new fancy physissy job.”

Urall frowns at his baby daughter. “Where did ya heard that tall tale, Dorcee?”

Dorcee turns and smiles her daddy, “From Winfred, one time, when he called up here looking for his son. Winfred always liked me and always talked to me during the summertime stays.”

Teague turns and frowns to Urall. “Back to Nadean and her gambling problem, she has a single wager on one team to win the championship game.”

Urall frowns at him. “Gambling ain’t against the law, Teague. So’s why’s she in trouble?”

Teague shakes his curls. “Usually, a gambler will follow a particular team throughout the year of the football season, placing a series of large or small bets, depending on the spread of points. Nadean has placed all her eggs in one basket. If she loses, then she will lose a lot of chick eggs, sir.”

Urall shakes his skull, “Her money, I can’t control what Nadean does with her money. She has a job. She never asks for any money from us.”

Dorcee frowns. “Yet, if that girl loses everything that Teague says, then Nadean will be bunking in the den for the rest of her breathing days.”

Teague grins. “Sir, as good stewards of the law and the good friends of Nadean, we want to talk to her about this large financial money transaction. We thought maybe she might be visiting ya’ll here, since the championship game is this afternoon.”

Urall shakes his skull, “Naw, Nadean works all the time. Did you try her work place in B’ham?”

Bobcat nods. “Yes sir. She has taken time off from her employer for the next two days of Wednesday and Thursday.”

Jadean shakes her curls looking down at her bedroom slippers and up with a sour frown to see Urall. “Then she be with them, Urall.”

“Them who, Miss Jadean?” Teague turns and frowns to her.

“Her brothers?” Jadean turns with a sour frown to see Teague.

Teague says, “Vester and Vassar.”

Jadean whispers with a sour frown, “Yeah, them.”

“Alright, thanks for your time. We really appreciate your information. And we are so sorry to disturb your afternoon.” Teague nods to Urall and Jadean, swinging around with a stern face stare at the front door.

“Hey, I’ve seen this kid before, the tall one.” Bobcat stops with a smile and points to the frame picture, snooping like a good police officer. Either, the family is feeding Nadean information. Or they just don’t care about their long-last daughter. He lifts the frame to his face with a confused brow. “I know this kid from somewhere. I’ve seen his face.”

Jadean stands and dances with a smile and a nod in her slippers, “Orion Tanner Sims, that be Nadean’s boy and my grandson.”

Teague turns with a sneer to see the hair roots of Dorcee. “Nadean has a son. You didn’t mention that Nadean had a son when we were here this morning, Dorcee.”

Dorcee stands, turning with a smile and a nod to see Teague. “O that, it slipped my mind.”

“This morn?” Urall turns and frowns at his baby daughter.

“Forgive the child, Teague.” Jadean flips her hand with a smile and a nod, dancing side to side again. “That’s our only grandson, OT.”

Bobcat stares at the picture, dropping open a mouth. “Geez, OT, OT Sims, his daddy is Winfred Sims,” he looks up with a shocked face to see Dorcee. “Geez, I didn’t catch the name during the conversation.”

Teague moves and stops beside Bobcat, staring at the family photograph. “That’s OT Sims. I’d recognize his body size anywhere. He’s Nadean’s son. Golly, he favors her in the face too and looks like…”

“Vester and Vassar in the chest and legs,” Bobcat points the limbs in the picture.

“He be taller than his uncles, thou,” Urall smiles.

Jadean smiles and dances side to side, “OT, he visited us every year when he was a little boy, growing into a big strong teen. Now, he busy like his mama, all the time. No time for us.”

Teague whispers, “Busy sacking quarterbacks and eating footballs for supper.”

Bobcat shakes his curls at the photo. “I don’t understand, Tomcat. Why would she be…”

“Urall,” Teague turns and jerks Bobcat by the arm from the table as Bobcat drops the photo to the table. They move and extend a handshake to depart from their home. Teague stops and extends a handshake to Urall, saying with a fake smile and a nod to them. “Urall, Miss Jadean, ya’ll been a great big help. We just didn’t realize that Nadean enjoyed visiting with her brothers. If I remember correctly, they reside in B’ham, too.”

“Not here, ever!” Dorcee shakes her curls with a sour frown, crossing her arms.

“That solves our little issue. We should be locating Vester’s home in B’ham. Ya’ll have a nice evening.” Teague swings with a stern face and shoves Bobcat to the front door first. “Bye, Dorcee.”

Dorcee turns with smile, follows the asses of Teague and Bobcat to the door, and stops, waving and giggling to them. “Come back, Tomcat. I wanna show ya my pear trees.”

“Next time, girl,” Teague stomps onto the front porch with a yell, seeing the new metal front door, the new painted columns, the new glass windows, hearing some rumors about the Garland boys which has made them all true.

The door closes.

Bobcat leads and scoots into the truck, starting a cold engine, without closing the door.

Teague moves and scans the lawn and the house. The door opens. He slides into the front passenger seat, slamming the door in fury, viewing the house and Dorcee at the front door. She waves and blows a set of kisses to Teague. He growls. “I be gawd damn deep fried. Dorcee’s a bitching liar and lady cheat.”

“What are you thinking, Tomcat?” Bobcat looks up to see Dorcee wave with a smile from the open front door also.

The truck door closes.

He sneers at Dorcee, “I’m thinking that gawd damn family don’t give a shit about Nadean. Nadean didn’t place that no three million dollar bet.”

Bobcat slaps the gear into drive, backing out the driveway. “Horse shit, her son is OT Sims and he plays for Burn U. Burn U is going to win its fifth National Championship title five years in a roll, Teague. You know that everyone’s placing bets on Burn U to win?”

Teague turns with a worried brow to see the nose profile of Bobcat. “Then tell me why has she betted against Burn U, playing on the Cougars to win? That’s makes no kinda fucking sense, Bobcat. Shit. Nadean has a four college degrees. She’s smart.”

“Book smart,” He steers to the end of the driveway, stopping and moving onto the roadway, driving slowly through the tiny city of Brier.

“Naw, she’s smart-smart. This entire scenario is all messed up, almost backwards. If my son played for Burn U, I’d bet the entire farm house, barns, cows, and cotton on them to win, including the lock, stock, barrel and then the bull’s eye. And we can’t locate Nadean. She took off work, because she was in a conference in Mobile. Now, no one knows whereabouts of this girl.”

“Look up Vester’s home address. We go and visit them boys now. I have heard some rumors about them, rednecks.”

Teague finds and pulls out his mobile telephone with a nod and a stern face, looking up the telephone number, punching the numbers into the keypad. “And I’ve heard the same rumors. Therefore I don’t believe Nadean is with them. We go back to her apartment. We call Vester. I also heard that his and Vassar are computer geniuses. We need to break into Loyce’s computer laptop.”

Bobcat shakes his skull. “That’s the dumbest idea, you did. And that’s the smartest idea, you proposed. Loyce and Nadean are in this together, Tomcat. Loyce worked for Third National Bank of Florida in Miami, when Nadean lived in Miami at the same exact time period. Then Loyce and Nadean moved into metro city Birmingham at the same exact time period of days and years. That’s too much coincidence and too much consequence. Loyce is the money. Nadean is the computer. She’s smart-smart.”

“I do not believe that crap shit.” He hears the phone connection, “Elf?”

Teague pauses and listens to the voice of Elf on the other end of the mobile telephone.

“Where are you at?”

Pause.

“Good! Bobcat and I have some new data to share, not on the cell. But I need you to go and get that laptop of Loyce’s off my desk. Then I want ya’ll to tarry your tails out to Nadean’s apartment. Do not enter. And bring me a UV light. Do not use it. Bobcat and I are…”

Bobcat says “…thirty eighteen minutes.”

Teague says “…thirty eighteen minutes away. And one more thing, I wanna you to go and scare that old bitch out of her residential house. We need more leg room for working in that bitch-landlord’s house over Nadean’s tiny apartment, yeah.”

Pause.

“Naw, man! You can’t use your gun. Use your brains or your dick. I don’t give a shit. But you scare her into leaving the house for an hour or two. Tell her…?”

Pause.

Teague laughs, “A bomb, that’s a cool lie. That bitch’ll be in the sunshine state of Florida by suppertime. Good smart thinking. And good shitting fun, Elf.” Teague ends telephone connection and looks up Vester’s telephone number on his mobile telephone.

Bobcat drives with a sour frown to the roadway at an unsafe speed, “A bomb, are you crazy, Tomcat?”

He punches the number into the keypad, lifting and listening to the ring tone. “That bitch should get some permanent jail time and then bomb her fancy house with her lousy social graces, mistreating Duchess. I don’t like her. And I plan to let that bitch know after Duchess is safe and found.”

Bobcat shakes his skull. “She’s not part of the plot.”

Teague says with a smile into his mobile telephone, “Vester.”

Pauses and listens to the voice of Vester on the other end of the mobile telephone.

“Hey, buddy, this is Teague Haywood.”

Pause.

“Yeah, I still go by that sissy nickname Tomcat for the lady kitties.”

Pause.

“Yeah, a sorry-ass joke! Look, man, this is about Nadean.”

Pause.

“Naw, man! I’m divorced about eight days ago from my ex-bitch.”

Pause.

“Vester, I believe that Nadean is in some kinda trouble. I know that she trusts you.”

Pause.

“Great, man! I’m heading back to her apartment in Birmingham. Do you know the place?”

Pause.

“What? Why not? Never mind, the address is 777 Hart Court in the city of Warrior.”

 

 

1:07 p.m.

City of Warrior

(50 miles south from Brier)

Fifth apartment setting of Nadean Garland

Cold temperatures and bright sunshine

 

 

The truck stops.

The door opens.

Teague scoots out the truck, moving and standing in the middle of his team of FDA inspectors, turning with a stern face to see Elf. “That bitch gone?”

Elf thumbs back over a collar bone with a grin and a chuckle. “Running for them there hills of Tennessee.”

“She don’t like water,” Duckie grins.

“And she don’t like spiders and snakes,” Bull laughs.

Moose chuckles, “And she don’t like Santa Clause and Elf.”

Elf turns and points the house with a stern face and a serious tone. “Our stuff, computers, equipment, the mobile medical laboratory is all set up and ready to go Tomcat inside her big pretty house which once upon a time used to be clean house.”

“And she gots some good sodas.” Bull smiles and burps, lifting and crunching the soft metal can.

Elf frowns. “What’s all this about, Tomcat?”

Duckie thumbs back over a collar bone with a sour frown to the tiny garage apartment. “Loyce and she are working together. She lives inside a partial covered garage, pretending to work a real day job. He has access to millions of free money as a banker. So they are in the Bahamas, right now, laughing their asses off at us.”

Bobcat shakes a skull, “Naw, OT.”

Teague shakes a skull, “OT.”

Elf frowns, “OT?”

Duckie frowns. “O? T?”

Bobcat nods. “OT Sims.”

Teague says. “Nadean Garland is the biological mama of OT Sims.”

Elf parts his lips. “Well, shit! That explains a lot of everything’s, everyone’s, and every where’s.”

Teague frowns. “Loyce somehow has stolen Nadean’s bank account and used it, transferring a three million cash dollar bet. Then he someway set up the gambling bet in Duchess’ name, her real name is Nadean Garland. Now, he somewhere has stolen Nadean, betting her son OT Sims will toss the championship game. The end!”

Bull shakes a skull, “My ass.”

Elf points with a nod to Bull, “His ass.”

Duckie nods. “He will. I love my mama too. I’d throw a game for my mama’s precious life.”

Elf nods, “Me, too.”

Two cars stop and slide into two horizontal lines behind Bobcat’s truck as Teague turns with a smile to see the new visitors.

“Who that?” Duckie narrows his eyelids at the cars.

Vester kills the engine, standing and scanning the landscape property, and turns with a stern face and a nod to see his partner Tank. Tank stands from the car, turning and moving to the rear trunk. The trunk opens. Tank stops, reaching down, grabbing out all computer equipment. Duke pulls out all of the computer equipment from the rear truck of Vassar’s sport car too.

Vester and Vassar move and advance to Teague with a stern face.

Teague says with a smile to his employees, “Our free consultants.” He swings with a smile and a nod, moving to intersect Vester and Vassar.

Elf stares at the car with a grin. “That’s a Bugatti.”

“Booger, which tall boy is named that?” Duckie stares at four men taller than him, since he is taller than everyone else at six feet and six inches.

Elf grins. “Naw, the dark midnight blue sport car with the orange interior, the convertible is a Bugatti’s signature supercar, the fastest car in the world with a top speed of two hundred fifty five miles per hour. That fine beauty goes from zero to sixty miles per hour in 2.6 seconds.”

Duckie frowns. “Shit! Who are them boys, Bobcat?”

Bobcat turns and stares the two exotic foreign sports cars which are built for riding two persons. “Nadean’s brothers.”

Elf grins. “The Bugatti is the fastest road-legal production car in the world that was designed and developed by Volkswagen Group and priced at two million dollars with tags, taxes, and toots.”

Duckie frowns. “Nadean has brothers that drive a two million dollar sports car. Why don’t they help her out here with money troubles here?”

Elf smiles, “One single Bugatti fan belt cost 84,000 dollars made of smoked sapphire crystals and over hundred handcrafted parts from stainless steel, solid gold, and titanium. There were forty four cars available and sold in the USA. And one’s right here in Bama…” exhaling. “The other exotic dolly is a McLaren. Bruce McLaren was born in New Zealand in the year 1937 and died in the year 1970, testing his own car. The McLaren is great power and gorgeous look for another three million dollars.”

Bull frowns. “The red paint job with the slick curvy bubble-top over your skull looks similar to the Lamborghini…”

Elf grins. “Except it has a 3.8-liter, V-8 engine with a new titanium exhaust system increase the output to 660 ponies.”

Bull smiles. “Golly! I want one for Christmas.”

Teague extends a handshake with a nod to Vester and Vassar. Vester thumbs back over a collar bone to Tank and Duke, who stand behind the car trunks. “My boys need to set up.”

Teague turns and points the house with a new order. “Dove, please escort Vester’s…”

“Partners,” says Vester, since he isn’t in a good mood for explaining nothing until he hugs his sister.

Teague nods. “Please escort Vester’s and Vassar’s partners into the house. They have computer equipment to help find Duchess. Give them anything they need and want. And you stay with them. Because I ain’t leaving here until we locate Duchess,” he swings and moves with a stern face toward the tiny garage apartment. Vester and Vassar surround Haywood. Teague says with a stern face. “That house belongs to Nadean’s bitchin’ landlord but she be gone now. She doesn’t know the situation. And I don’t want anyone to know this situation. I believe that Nadean has been kidnapped by a man named Duff Loyce. He works for the Third National Bank of Florida.”

Vester says. “Don’t bank there.”

Teague says. “Don’t ever. He somehow embezzled three million dollars, sticking it in Nadean’s name. Then Loyce has directly deposited all that money in a lump sum fashion directly into a Las Vegas betting pool for Bam U to win the championship game via the Internet.”

Vester sneers, “OT.”

Teague nods, “Right, my new friend.”

Vassar nods. “OT can affect the outcome of the game in Bam U’s favor.”

Teague turns with a grin to see the nose profile of Vassar, “When did you start talking, Vassar?”

“After withdrawing from my mama’s home…” says Vassar.

Teague turns and looks at the closed door of tiny garage apartment with a nod and a sneer. “Yeah, I encountered an unfriendly visit looking for Duchess. They didn’t help one lick. And after I find Duchess, then I will be paying them my own unfriendly invitation. Anyways, that’s my working theory without working police. I believe that Loyce has already grabbed Duchess from here inside her apartment. And I’m about to prove it to everyone’s eyeballs,” he raises his palm as Duckie slams it with an object. He moves and stops in front of the door.

The apartment door opens.

Teague turns and stands in the archway of the tiny apartment with a stern face to see each face. “Everyone, please stand back while do my thing. Bobcat, can you close the blinds on the glass siding doors for me, please?” He enters further into the tiny room.

All the other people enter and gather inside the archway of the apartment door.

The door closes.

“Shore thing, Tomcat,” Bobcat moves around Teague and stands in front of the sliding door window, pulling over the thick curtain, blocking the sunlight, and spins around, crossing both arms.

Teague moves forward deeper into the room, and stops, scanning the rough white concrete with his naked eyeballs. “Flip off the lights, please.”

The room goes dark.

Vester, Vassar, and the FDA inspectors huddle in front of the closed entrance door within the darkness, too.

The UV light switches on, showing a purple hue against the walls.

Teague drops and braces a hand on the floor with a butthole in the air, sliding down into a three-legged doggie pose, moving ass-backward to the front entrance door and the huddle of people with a stern face. He shines and waves the UV light to the left and to the right over dark concrete. There is a four-seated eating table on his left and an open space on his right.

The patio leads into the dull colored woodlands and wildflowers, sloping down into a valley of naked trees of wintertime.

The UV light will highlight any human particles, such like spit, semen, and blood from a human body.

Teague slowly back steps within a bend body, watching the glowing light. The three purple spots appear on his right. “Blood.” he says.

Bobcat moves and squats next to Teague and the purple light, scooping one of the blood tears with a cotton swab stick, “Nadean’s.”

“Yeah,” Teague exhales.

Bobcat stands and turns, handing the blood stick to Elf.

Elf is a trained paramedic and responsible for medical advice, treatment, and procedure on any FDA inspection case or cowboy. He covers the blood stick with a protected hand, turning to the door.

The door opens.

Elf leaves the apartment, jogging to the house for performing the DNA test with the mobile medical laboratory.

The door closes.

The room is dark.

Teague drops and stands on a folded hand, shining and waving the UV light again over the concrete, stopping and finds more blood spots between the open spaces on his left, ramming an ass into the standing bodies with a grunt. He stands upright with a sigh, handing the UV light to Duckie with a stern face.

The lights illuminate the tiny space again.

Teague moves forward, swinging around with a stern face the door and the crowd, point to the door. “Nadean is here at her home. Loyce comes to visit. He knocks on the door. Nadean answers, moving to stand about fifteen inches from the door. Then Loyce bullies or charms his ass into her apartment as Nadean back steps from his obese tallness. Loyce lungs a left hand, being his dominate strength at Nadean. Nadean is right-handed. She back steps on her left foot, rearing a right folded fist at the bastard and punches with a sailing arm. Nadean misses. Loyce slams a right fist on her neck as Nadean drops on fours, the palms and the knees, tapping her nose bridge on the hard-ass concrete floor. That’s her blood. Not a lot of blood. He doesn’t bust her nose. She doesn’t blood out. Loyce wrestles and ties her like a hog and totes her ass on his shoulder. Right out that open damn door. Shit. There’s no one without home-run distance here.”

Moore thumbs back over a collar bone to the door with a nod and a stern face. “The main house is isolated with that bitch-landlord, playing the television loud enough for her angels in heaven to go deaf. An atomic bomb could have exploded in the back yard, she won’t have heard it.”

“Now what, Tomcat?” Duckie looks down and studies the area of blood spots but can’t see in the bright overhead artificial lights.

Teague says. “Let’s go up to the house. There’s computers and monitoring equipment. Let’s figure out where in Birmingham that bastard has Duchess hidden.”

The FDA inspectors turn and exit the tiny apartment, moving up the hill to the house.

Teague grabs and drags Bobcat out of the apartment room into the sunshine and away from Vester and Vassar.

Vester and Vassar enter the tiny room.

Bobcat turns with a worried brow to see Teague. “Do you think Loyce will harm Nadean?”

Teague shakes his curls. “Do you think Loyce with harm OT?”

Bobcat says. “We should contact the Burn U authorities for help in protecting OT during the football game?”

Teague looks down with a worried brow and studies his wrist watch. “Naw, the game doesn’t start for another hour. Let’s pray to God for help in finding Nadean.”

He frowns. “Nadean might be dead now. You gotta face that fact, Teague.”

Teague shakes his curls. “Naw, fiction, Loyce needs Duchess alive. He has or will have to place that VIP cell phone call to OT with his evil demand blow the championship game or else. And OT is going to do just that saving his mama’s life. Hell, I would, too. So, we forget about OT. He’s safe and plays the last football game of his life.”

He frowns. “If OT is accidentally faulted for losing the championship game, his professional football life is over.”

Teague frowns. “And if OT accidentally loses his mama, then his entire life is over. Family comes first. And we ain’t letting that happen, Eckward.”

“I fucking promise, too, Teague.”

Teague says, “Go up and check on the layout and activity of our Command Center. And call that dumbass bank manager at the Third National Bank of Florida, let him know that his employee is a bank robbery. Tell him to call the bank robbery crime into the FBI. We get the ball rolling with all possible law enforcements officials for looking out for Duff Loyce. Then maybe we’ll get real lucky and find Duchess with him or near him in that coon chase.”

He nods. “Shore’s a good idea.”

Teague turns and views the room. “Vester and Vassar need some time, okay?”

“Shore,” Bobcat nods, turning and leaving the tiny apartment and moves toward the house for his assignment.

Vester exhales with a huff of worry, standing and lifting the cheap-ass thin bedcover from the tiny twin mattress as his eye catches color. He tosses the pillow aside, seeing a photograph. Four year old OT, Nadean, Vassar, Tank, Duke, and Vester were posed during Christmastime at the Cartoon Theme Park in Orlando, Florida. He smiles, turning to see a portal hanging rack of Nadean’s clothes, worrying about her whereabouts. He ponders if OT will be living with him forever. He grabs and pockets the precious photo into his blue jeans with a deep sigh.

Teague enters the tiny room with a stern face, stopping and stands behind the back spine of Vester.

Vassar stands and slams open the door with a grin and a laugh, “The tiniest bathroom in the world, do you gotta pee, Vester?”

Vester turns with a stern face and a serious tone to see Teague. “We didn’t know about this place, Teague. Nadean has always been an extremely private girl.”

Vassar moves and stands next to Teague with a nod and a stern face. “Nadean would ever never accept charity from no body, either.”

Teague nods. “I know I’ve had one helluva of time, trying to locate her person. And I failed terribly. Duchess didn’t do anything wrong here, boys. Loyce is the criminal and Duchess is the victim. I truly don’t know if he plans to…” exhaling, “I am not going to let that happen. I fucking promise,” he swings to the archway with Vester and Vassar following behind to the house.

The apartment door closes.

They surround him. Teague says with a stern face. “Duchess has a job. She pays her own way. Based on the sketchy information collected over a two-day period, Duchess married and lived in Miami, Florida. But I guess you know that being her brothers. She divorced that ex-bastard husband named Winfred Sims. But I guess you know that too. Maybe, you, boys can fill in the blanks. Nadean moved to Florida after her college graduation.”

Vester says. “Nadean received her first paying job as a physicist at Miami Hospital after she inherited Aunt Collie’s house in Coral Gables.”

Teague frowns. “Your blood-kin all live in Brier. I didn’t know Aunt Collie.”

Vassar says. “Aunt Collie lived in Florida, almost all her life. Honestly, we met her two times. She was very similar in mind, body, and soul of Nadean, another mystery for everyone to ponder.”

Teague says. “I don’t want to ponder Duchess. I wanna find her like now. Okay, Nadean moved, lived, and then sold her house in Miami. She sold that sucker for three million dollars. Now, I can understand. Miami is a high cost of living real estate even drinking water costs money down there. So, I guess three million must be low end for selling houses there. I can guess why she sold the house. Her son is OT Sims. I didn’t even know that slick information until thirty minutes ago.”

Vester says. “Nadean didn’t want any television media attention drawn to her person. OT became an instant football superstar right after his first football game four years ago as a linebacker. She has rights to her privacy. Vassar and I always respected that. Nadean had given Winfred the free football game tickets from Burn U more for invisibility rather than friendship. She didn’t attend any of the football games in body either.”

Teague smiles, “Duchess is one smart lady. Yeah, I saw OT’s daddy with that short bitch named Sevilla,” he shakes his curls. “I just didn’t put one and one together.”

Vassar says. “Burn U is very overprotective of the young athletics. I, for one, applaud that action. These are young teens that need direction and guidance in all aspects of their lives. OT wasn’t allowed reporter interviews before the television cameras either. If he had been, you would’ve recognized Nadean within his facial features…”

“And his uncles’ body size. Gawd! Is OT tall like ya’ll?”

“OT is two inches taller, good nutrition and good genes,” chuckles Vassar.

 

 

1:31 p.m.

House of Mrs. Abercrombie

Dining room setting

 

 

Teague leads through the front open of the house. Vester and Vassar follow behind. He stops and stands at the dining room table which has been loaded down with beeping computers and numerous sets of ugly cables. Vester and Vassar surround Teague with a stern face. Teague says with a stern face, “Everyone, meet Duchess’ biological brothers, twins and gay. So, everyone get over your fucking prejudices, now, because I ain’t taking that shit here and now, while Loyce has Duchess hidden from me. Anyone got a problem with them or me,” he looks to each face, saying with a nod. “Excellent, we have the right team for the right job,” he looks down to see his wrist waist. “The game starts in forty-five minutes at two pm sharp. Loyce wants OT to throw the game, so Bam State wins the championship. Then Loyce wins nine million dollars from the Vegas bookies. Not fucking happening on my turf. We all of us are going to stop Loyce. I don’t know who’s going to win the championship game. I’m a gawd damn FDA inspector, not a fucking fairy godmother. I would like a status of the situation, ladies and gentlemen.”

Elf stands at the side table with a smile and a nod, rattling the paper to his boss. “Tomcat, the spilled blood matches Duff Loyce, not Nadean Garland.”

Teague turns and frowns to Elf. “Why’s Loyce’s DNA inside the FBI database?”

Moose stands and watches behind Duke who plays on the computer screen. “Loyce is a banker from the city of Miami. In Florida, these boys treat folks as criminals, first and Americans, second. Last summer at the Third National Bank of Florida, one of their former employees got shot and killed, trying to rob his own bank customer or some bullshit like that. So, the bank headquarters decided to finger print and piss test all employees forever, making Big Brother both alive and well.”

Teague smiles, “Good for Duchess, she’s a strong girl always had a good right hook, busting that bastard’s nose holes. That’ll help ID his fat ass quickly at the airport hard to miss with a white bandage over your blooding nostrils.”

Vassar turns and smirks to Teague, “Really, a good right hook?”

Teague turns and chuckles to Vassar. “Real good right hook.”

Vassar shoves a shoulder into Teague. “I got a good right hook, too, Teague.”

Teague shoves a shoulder back into Vassar. “We can ramble later after we beat the shit out of Loyce’s face,” he turns and views his employees. “Report to me anything good, bad, or ugly.”

Bobcat moves into the room, looking down and disconnecting the telephone call on his mobile telephone, and stops beside Teague. “Fuck. The stupid bank manager of the Third National Bank of Florida doesn’t believe me or my story. He thinks his brilliant employee Loyce is home sick with the flu being a hard worker. Loyce called in leaving a voice message at six this morning, coughing and wheezing over his cell. And he doesn’t believe that Loyce was involved either financially or socially with Duchess, since Nadean is a bad credit risk to his bank. And he has closed off all the bank services for the rest of the day, since everyone is at the game or watching the game or sleeping through the game which means that we can’t access any more business files even with our search warrant.”

Vester turns with a grin to see Teague. “That will work to our advantage, Teague.”

“How?” Teague turns and frowns to Vester.

Bobcat chuckles, “Hey, Tomcat, that stupid bank manager still hasn’t figured out that you’ve stolen Loyce’s laptop either.”

Elf says. “I tried getting the local police to do something. They’ll not issue an all points bulletin on Duchess until we file all the proper police papers plus produce a couple of eye witnesses like her relatives or her neighbors or her friends.”

Vester nods with a smile. “That will work to our advantage, too, Teague.”

“How so?” Teague frowns.

Peacock lifts her mobile telephone with a sour frown. “I can’t get anyone at Burn U to answer the stupid telephone. The voice mail records ‘enjoy the game, Burn U.’”

Bobcat shakes his skull. “Forget it. The campus is sealed up tighter than a virgin’s pussy.”

Vester smiles, “That will work to our advantage, too, Teague.”

Teague shakes his curls at Vester, “How?”

Bull frowns. “Duchess is at the championship football game. Why are we standing here debating?”

Vester shakes his skull to each face. “I do not believe Loyce to be that stupid.”

Bull frowns. “Then Loyce is at the game, eating hotdogs and drinking beer, waiting for the ending, so he can claim the nine million dollars. Bam U odds are three to one that they might just beat Burn U by one lousy point.”

Vassar says, “I do believe so, except it would theoretically require a battalion of law enforcement personnel to locate Loyce within the crowd of one hundred thousand wild and slightly crazed football fans.”

Duckie frowns. “We can’t sit here.”

Teague commands, “Someone turn on plasma. I wanna watch the game, studying OT’s sacking performance. I wanna know if he knows that we know too.”

Duckie turns with a nod and leaves the room to find the television, whistling an old country song with nervousness.

Vester says “We are knowledgeable of one item. Nadean doesn’t own a cell, computer, landline, television or any other electronic toy. If she did, the cell would be inside her hand bag or inside her car, since her car is missing with Nadean. Therefore, we have lost a valuable resource. We cannot tag or track her whereabouts with an electronic signal…”

“…like a regular person,” Elf shakes his skull. “Duchess is unique. When we get her back, someone give that girl a cell, please.”

Teague chuckles, “I will, I promise.”

Vassar nods. “Our sister is also very smart. If Nadean is conscious, she will try to contact me or Vester to save her son.”

Vester says. “Therefore, we go on the next obvious item. Nadean has been taken and tucked away for safe keeping somewhere within Birmingham. Her missing car is located within the surrounding area. She is not with Loyce. So, we search by computer for any leads of pinpointing her hidden location. Loyce is like any other criminal, who likes familiar landmarks that has been recorded, marked, and measured within his electronic files via pictures, written, and verbal literature.”

Elf shakes his skull. “How, Tomcat? That seems more like science fiction to me. Technology is advanced enough. Any computer geek can trace ya down on a cell or through the email system. But you’re asking each one of us to read through files and files for something of nothing tangible without a clue to what we are locating.”

Vester turns and smiles at the nose profile of Teague. “Elf is both perspective and smart, Teague. You should promote him to supervisor immediately.”

Teague turns and smiles to Elf. “Shore thing.”

Vassar turns with a smile to each face. “We invade all electronic files, since every working person in America is watching the game of two centuries. Tank will attack the Third National Bank of Florida databases, where Loyce works and Nadean banks. Duke will raid the Birmingham Hospital database, where Nadean works,” he turns and views Teague. “I need your best geek tech.”

Elf raises his palm with a smile and a nod “Me.”

Teague points with a nod and a grin to his employee. “Elf, he’s the man.”

Vassar moves and stands in front of the dining room chair with a free standing computer. “Elf, please sit inside the empty chair on the fourth laptop. You will invade the Burn U databases, where OT plays football. I’m going to assault Loyce’s personal laptop. I need three FDA members paired with our searchers. We find that four eyeballs and two brains are much better than one.” Elf moves with a nod and a smile, sitting in front of the computer, typing on the keyboard. Peacock skips and sits in the chair next to Elf, viewing the screen too.

Dove says with a smile and a wave. “Me.”

Vassar points the man. “Please sit with Tank.” Tank raises his hand, viewing the computer screen.

Dove moves and cuddles on the chair beside Tank with a smile into his nose profile. “Whose wife are you?”

Tank fiddles with the computer with a smile, “Vester.”

Dove grins. “Too bad, you’re gay. You’re a cutie…”

“And rich…” chuckles Tank.

Dove frowns down at the laptop. “What a way to bust my pinky-pink bubble?”

Tank chuckles and fiddles on the laptop. “I’ll give you a private ride in my helicopter to our private mountain for dinner with me and Vester. How’s that sound?”

Dove gasps, looking up with a smile to see his nose profile, “Private mountain, you own an entire mountain?”

“Gray rock, yellow ridges, and baby blue sky,” Tank turns and winks to her. “Plus, a red sunset all on our mountain tonight, after we find Nadean.”

Dove smiles, “Shore.”

Vassar moves and stands in front of a side table in front of the dining room, looking to see each face. The table holds the laptop of Loyce. “We are looking for common, non-common, anything, and everything,” exhaling, “I would suggest at this moment just relax. Let your brain do all the work. If you run across something weird, show Vester. He’s team leader.”

Vester moves and stands in front of his laptop with a stern face and a serious tone, “Go and find Nadean.”

Tank frowns and points to the computer screen. “Vester, come here. I’ve accessed the Third National Bank of Florida financial records. Currently, Nadean has a trust fund account at the bank. You only are assigned one with very large amounts of inflow or outflow of liquid cash usually a minimum of one million dollars. I back traced the sell of her house in Miami. She sold and deposited all the money on May 28th. On May 30th, the three million was completely gone from her bank account. Nadean had withdrawn all the monies for a special purpose and then her account was wiped out clean like a thistle.”

Vassar turns with a confused brow to see Vester. “I do not know.”

Vester nods to his brother, turning with a stern face to see Tank’s computer screen. “Can you perform a financial search to answer that question?”

Teague shakes his curls. “Don’t bother. That’s past history. Did you see anything to pinpoint Duchess?”

Dove frowns at Tank’s computer screen. “No.”

Tank shakes his skull at his computer screen. “No.”

Teague commands the order, “Move on.”

Elf raises his hand with a confused brow at his computer screen. “Vester, come here. I’ve successfully raided the Burn U databases with the help of your sophisticated alien software. And I want my own copy of this good illegally stuff,” he points to his screen. “And I can explain why Duchess lived and paid for a shitty ass studio apartment rental for the past four years and seven months.”

Teague, Vester, and Vassar move and gather around Elf and Peacock. Elf says with a stern face and a serious tone. “Duchess was required to pay his school tuition, including food and books, since OT was admitted as a transferring junior instead of an incoming freshman. He was awarded an associates’ degree in Spanish at the Coral Rock High School in Coral Gables, before he was admitted into Burn U. Smart kid. But Burn U refused to award and honor OT’s sports scholarship for the past four years. OT graduated Burn U with an accounting degree, two years later and finished up his master’s degree in business, last year. Currently, he’s working towards his doctoral degree in physics. And OT has been accepted into the Burn U School of Law. He’s a really smart kid. But Nadean paid for every damn cent of his college education, but the football jersey on his back. And that boy lived it up right inside a high-rise apartment, an array of electronic toys, and a new sports car. He lived on campus too for sun and fun. And OT likes to hit things quarterbacks, footballs, plaster walls, and telephone poles. The electronic reports come directly from the Burn U campus security department.”

Vester sneers. “I wished I had known that particular piece of information. I’d beat OT’s ass for that stupidity.”

Vassar sneers. “And I’d beat Winfred’s ass for that stupidity, too.”

Vester slaps the collar bone of Elf with a smile and a nod, “Excellent work, Elf. Please keep digging.”

Elf nods, typing on the keyboard with Peacock watching.

Duke lifts and waves his arms with a sour frown. “Here. Come over here.” Vassar, Vester, and Teague move and huddle around Duke and Bull. He points his computer screen with a nod. “I’ve successfully retrieved some useful datum from the Birmingham Hospital database. Nadean was labeled a part-timer, working a regular scheduled shift on Sunday for fours, Monday and Tuesday off work, eight productive hours on Wednesday and Thursday. Saturday, she worked a full eight hour day.”

“Wait.” Teague closes his eyelids. “She didn’t possess a television. Fuck. Duchess didn’t get to see her own son play football in one damn game.” He opens his eyelids to the computer screen

Duke laughs. “That particular hospital department contains the latest state-of-the-art equipment, including plasmas and paid television for the patients’ families. Nadean watched her son play football inside the Radiation Therapy department every Saturday. That’s why she offered to work on Saturday’s. There are not any patients or physicians. She got paid to watch OT and the football game both at the same time in living color. And these television applications allowed her to see the games which are not traditional televised. Nadean did not miss a game is the better explanation,” chuckling. “She’s a smartass just like her twin brothers.”

Teague turns with a sour frown to see the nose profile of Vester. “Some of the games are not available on public television, only sitting inside a stadium seat. Didn’t ya’ll see OT play too?”

Vester shakes his skull, looking at the computer screen. “The Burn U football tickets are very hard to acquire.”

Teague elbows Vester with a grin. “You gave your football tickets to your un-loving family members. Awe! Wished I was your brother or sister?”

Vester smiles, “Teague, we never missed one of OT’s football games,” he turns with a grin and a wink to see Teague. “Let’s say that our spy cameras are very good.”

Teague chuckles, “Invite me, one day for beer and ball.”

“Shore,” Vester nods.

Duke says. “The internet and the mobile phone allow for ease of tracking any hot body on the planet, using this juvenile spyware software that was created our competitors, Vester. I checked Nadean’s emails on the hospital service account. There are only hospital business emails to hospital vendors or her co-workers. Nadean didn’t even ping to OT or Loyce. She must be the only American in the entire USA that has never abused her employer’s email or internet services. Nadean is an honest woman.”

Teague turns and frowns at the computer screen. “I found out that Loyce monitored his client in person at the bank, every week. Therefore, Duchess met him. He met her. That explains how he was able to come inside her apartment too quickly. And Loyce didn’t stalk her electronically, since some of the more current murders and kidnappings are being done by the internet and mobile phone. An electronic trace can be monitored and tracked by any computer. Loyce is both super-smart and super-sneaky…”

“Snaky,” says Vester.

Vassar moves and stops, sitting inside the dining room chair, typing on the computer keyboard of Loyce, “Bypassing Loyce’s lousy personal encryption. Nadean’s personal bank account at the Third National Bank of Florida was accessed by three different sources, including her ATM card, her paper withdrawal slips, and an unknown encrypted user. I have quickly de-coded the secret authorization, belonging to Loyce. He used a back door in layman terms to enter her trust fund account, since he was authorized to monitor her personal bank account. Loyce made an electronic deposit of three million dollars on Friday midnight and then an electronic transfer on Saturday midnight, therefore negating the money transaction.”

Teague moves and stands beside Vassar with a nod. “In mathematics, a plus minus a negative is a negative. In money accounting, a plus and a negative equates to zero.”

Vassar types and stares at the computer screen. “Loyce has created a duplicate of Nadean’s original and valid monthly bank statement with a set of fake numbers very conveniently with her trust fund account. These types of money accounts handle million to billions of dollars. A bank IT auditor wanted look twice with at a three million dollar transaction, coming in and slipping out within a twenty-four hour period of time. Loyce’s a genius. He deposited the three mill and withdrew the three mill, leaving a zero balance. The electronic transactions inside Nadean’s original monthly statement are untouched, but the fake monthly statement looks messy and messed up on-line. However, Nadean didn’t use the banking on-line system for her banking needs like a regular person. She didn’t possess a separate checking or saving account for financial auditing like a regular person. She did withdrawal large sums of cash and paid with money order formats of cash, unlike a regular person.”

Tank waves his arm with a smile, staring at his computer screen with Dove. “I grabbed the HR files inside the bank which has led me to uncover Loyce’s long-term work experience. Duff’s a washed out NSI man.”

Vassar turns with a sour frown to see the nose profile of Tank. “Fuck. You’re joshing me? I do not recognize that name, Vester.”

Tank points the computer screen with a grin and a nod. “He was a brilliant Fortran-programmer, once upon a time. FORTRAN is an olden and dead scientific computer language of the 1970s, a petrified fossil like Loyce. He was shifted out of his paying job into an internship without benefits of both vacation and sick pay. Then he refused to learn any more new programming skills. NSI give him a couple of badass yearly reviews plus reducing his payroll wages. He left NSI to come and work for the Third National Bank of Florida, boys,” laughing.

Teague turns and frowns to Vester. “You washed out of NSI, too?”

Vester smirks. “Naw, we washed up with the NSI.”

Tank says. “Loyce is younger than us, boys. We were out of the NSI when he just started.”

Vassar views the computer. “Nadean used only cash and money orders for her living expenses, including rent, food, gas, electricity, and the car note. Her bank financial statement consisted of electronic markers of deposits and withdrawals visible to the naked eye.”

Vester types on his laptop with a grin, “Loyce’s mistake came when he needed the entire three million dollars transferred at one time from the solo bank account for the single gambling bet at the Las Vegas Gambling Sport Center.”

“How’s that, buddy?” Teague frowns at the nose profile of Vassar.

“And it was poor timing for Nadean, Loyce, and Teague,” Vassar points with a smile and a nod to his computer screen. “Nadean was standing inside the bank lobby of the Third National Bank of Florida, getting cash from the ATM machine at 8:18 am, while Teague was texting Elf at 8:18 am. I accessed your cell records, Teague. Loyce’s computer camera was watching and recording the outer lobby. See the video strip on his computer?”

Teague moves and stands behind Vassar, narrowing his eyelids at the still photography on the computer screen. “How do you do that, man?”

Vassar smiles, “Loyce scrambled the pixels of the digital picture like eggs white for his viewing pleasure later at the end of his work day whilest at his home to see in private. So I just made an omelet for my eye viewing pleasure.”

Teague frowns, “Dog-gone it, she was right there. I was right there. I could’ve nabbed her right there.”

Vassar says. “Any single money lump sum over the amount of ten thousand and one dollars is tagged for the next business day’s deposit, even if Loyce requested the computer to ping the deposit amount at 12:01 am. The three million dollars was deposited on Friday midnight 12:01 a.m. But it didn’t leave her bank account until Saturday at midnight at 12:01 a.m. Nadean was leaving for a work conference on Friday afternoon, so she ran by the bank withdrawing money. She doesn’t misuse resources, including paper and always checked her balance by electronic pinging from the ATM machine, since she doesn’t own a cell phone or a telephone landline. The electronic ping is a frozen picture of time. On Friday at 1:36 pm, time surprised both Nadean and Loyce. Nadean is a creature of habit and her bank statement proves it. She withdrew three hundred dollars in cash money every Monday morning, paying her monthly bills. The hospital uses the payment method of a direct deposit of her payroll check into the bank on Tuesday. And she collects her consulting work checks on Tuesdays, making all the deposits and verifies each one at the ATM machine from the bank lobby in person. Loyce was able to spy on her movement and observe her habit for months, maybe years.”

Vester shakes his buzz cut with a sour frown. “Nadean was the perfect victim of an electronic heist.”

Teague frowns. “Plus, her son is the infamous linebacker OT Sims, who can affect the outcome of any game by sacking the quarterback and eating the football.”

Duckie returns to the dining room, humming a song with a smile and sits the television screen on top of another table. “Found a TV.” He powers it on, standing to the side. “Hey, the coin toss is done. It’s 1:48 pm. Both team captains are running and headed back into the locker room to pray and to prepare for the deadly battle of national champs of university football.”

Bull turns and stares at the television plasma too with a worried brow. “Both teams will return to the field in seven more minutes at 1:55 for the football fight.”

Vester stands behind his brother, crossing both biceps with a grin and a nod, watching the computer screen. Vassar types with a smile on the computer keyboard. Vester says to all eardrums. “Loyce will call OT with his deadly damn demand within seven more minutes before 1:56. I promise.”

Peacock turns and exhales, staring at the television plasma. “Seven is a lucky number, ya’ll know?”

Elf turns and types with a worried brow on the computer keyboard, “What we do now, Tomcat?”

Teague moves and grabs a chair, sliding it across the floor and sits in front of the television, watching the championship game, crossing his biceps with a stern face. “We wait and watch, ladies and gentleman.”

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:48 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

OT….”I exhale with worry.

Each wire cuts into the ulna or the elbow bone of both my wrists on the side of my little finger. The ulna is the bony compact tissue. Or I might bleed to death if I slice one of my vein arteries, waiting for Duff Loyce from the Third National Bank to come back and then murder me.

I tug at the wire on a left ankle bone and feel the burn on my skin, closing my eyelashes, inhaling deeply from the pain. I am strapped down in a spread eagle pose and attached to a set of four wires on each ankle and wrist, feeling a cool breeze over my semi-nakedness as I wear only my bra and my girly panties underneath a soft partial blanket.

Loyce stands at the side of the bed mattress with a chuckle and a nod. “I know that you are awake, Nadean. You are resting on top of a newly purchased naked queen size bed mattress inside an undisclosed location of a dirt enclosed cavern underneath the red clay of Alabama, without any frozen waterfalls, dear. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a new dosage measurement for the sleep aid zolpidem. The wet mist, I sprayed into your face. It really wasn’t fast enough to sedate your tallness. You have an excellent right hook, Dr. Garland,” he reaches and touches a busted and bruised nose. “I would punish you for that slick maneuver but the electrified wires are doing that for me.”

I tug at the wire on a right wrist bone and feel the burn on my skin, closing my eyelashes, inhaling deeply from the pain.

Loyce watches her with an evil smirk. “Based on the current FDA researched data, when taken at night, the blood levels of zolpidem remain high enough in the morning wake-up time to impair an activity that requires alertness, such as, driving with your hands or keeping your wrists away from a set of four smooth steel wires,” chuckling.

I tug on the wire at a right ankle bone and feel the burn on my skin, holding my breath, relaxing my mind and my body from angry and nervousness.

“Be very careful, Nadean,” he smiles. “I read in this medical journal magazine that it takes forty three muscles to frown like a clown; seventeen muscles to smile silly; eighty muscles to laugh, and forty nine muscles to cry. And it takes eight muscles to reach out and bitch slap someone.”

I exhale and tire of his banter, wishing that I could bitch slap one of his fatty pinky cheekbones straight up to the moon, tugging on the wire of a right ankle bone and feel the burn on my skin. I hold my breath, relaxing my body and my mind again.

“But I would not recommend any laughing or giggling or maybe not any breathing, since the wires are gently gliding across your exposed flesh. To extend an arm, you use four muscles. At rest, the body uses three hundred muscles, pumping red blood into your beating heart or breathing oxygen through your diaphragm or snoring with your tongue movement. You tongue actually works at night back and forth, draining the salvia from the mouth cheeks. If you turn about in your sleep, which is not highly required with your beautiful shiny decorative bracelets, complements of me, then your body uses the stomach, the arm, or the leg muscles to accomplish that feat.”

I tug at the wire on a left wrist bone and feel the burn on my skin, holding my breath, relaxing my mind and my body again.

“The new FDA guideline for zolpidem suggests administer only fifty percent of the recommended manufacturer medicine dosage of ten milligrams for a girl, because the new research data has proved that a girl takes longer to eliminate that nasty drug out of her female biological system. I wished that I had read that FDA issued monthly informative report before. Then, I would have given you the ten milligrams, instead of five. So therefore, girlfriend, you ain’t going be your selfie for a few more hours, maybe not until the late afternoon, since you do not seem to eat enough daytime meals, either. You should take better care of your person, Nadean. After all, you do have a son.”

“OT…” I whisper and tug at the wire on a left ankle bone, feeling the burn on my skin.

Loyce chuckles, “Now, I know you truly love and care for your boy OT. Each time you move or grunt or exhale, the wire will burn your skin.” He turns and views the new pink marks on her exposed right ankle skin. “You are right-dominate. Therefore, your right limbs are going to possess more burn marks. The wires configuration is designed to trap you permanently, until I return. If you try to swing a foot from the wire, then your other three bones shift sideways the right way into the individual wiring, thus burning you. I am genius, of course. You stay put. I suggest totally relaxing while sleeping it off until the end of the football game. I would use that little concept called mind over matter, because the wires are going to matter to you, Nadean.”

I tug at the wire on a left wrist bone and feel the burn on my skin, holding my breath, relaxing my mind and my body again.

Loyce looks down and punches a number into the mobile telephone in his hand with a smile and a chuckle. “I know that your son loves and cares for his mama. I’m going to call OT on my new mobile telephone. Don’t worry, honey. This phone call cannot be traced back to me or to you. I greatly desire for you to instruct OT to throw, toss, or blow the national championship game for Burn U. I cannot guarantee that Burn U will win the championship football title, this year. But I can ensure that Burn U will lose the championship football title this year, since your son is the star linebacker. What do they say about him? O yes. He eats quarterbacks and footballs for breakfast, brunch, lunch, supper, and dinner. That is quite an impressive hillbilly honor from the local rednecks.” He lifts the telephone to his eardrum with a smile.

“I agree with the professional sporting announcers that OT Sims can affect with an ‘A’ for very good. So, OT Sims will affect the outcome of the championship game like lose, when he discovers that his mama is in dire straits. Or the ‘bestest’ words would be closer to death. Nadean, I see that you are struggling. When you tug on one or two of the thin steel wiring, surrounding a wrist or an ankle bone, it will slice into the skin and then burn it raw. So please do not move and breathe lightly, darling,” clearing his throat with a smile.

I tug at the wire on a right wrist bone and feel the burn on my skin, closing my eyelashes, breathing slowly and release my fighting fury to survive for OT.

I open my eyelashes, seeing a dirt ceiling, a dirt wall, and Loyce. He holds the telephone to his eardrum, waiting to threaten my son OT with my eternal death, if OT does not blow the national championship game today by five pm in favor of Duff Loyce and his millions of gambling dollars.

I exhale with a heavy puff of angry and worry and feel the burn on a left wrist bone, closing my eyelashes, thinking of emptiness, nothingness, seeing darkness, where no pain or worry or sadness or happiness lives within my active and worried mind.

“OT…” I whisper and feel the burn on a left ankle bone, seeing a dirt ceiling and close my eyelashes, relaxing my mind and my body into an event of my childhood.

I slowly exhale and relax, lounging my mental mind on a sea shoreline then on a mountain peak, then in a valley of wildflowers, and finally inside my mother’s womb.

I relax and remember the description of my newborn birth.

Nadean Orion Garland was the first born child of Urall and Jadean Garland of the small rural town of Brier in the US State of Alabama about fifty three years ago on May eighteenth.

 

 

 

Seven days old newborn daughter Nadean Orion Garland

 

Thursday May 25th

8:08 a.m.

City of Brier, State of Alabama (sixty miles north of Birmingham)

Physician office setting

Hot temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

“Cold and crying,” the mom of Nadean, Jadean Garland said with a sour frown, rocking the newborn baby between her arms, looking up with a stern face to see the physician. “She be a little like one of them midgets and sleeps, not moving all the night and the day then awakes up hungry, wet, and crying. Something’s wrong with her, doctor.”

The physician looked down with a smile to see the pink blanket. “Mrs. Garland, you are a new mama that creates worry and concern over your newborn. But I can attest that babies grow while they sleep into big strong kids.” He turned and stared the medical chart of newborn Nadean. “Hmm! She came into the world weighing in at five pounds and six ounces, measuring at seventeen inches, which is very, very tiny for a newborn. She has gained a little weight and looks nice with glowing pink skin.” He reached over and unfolded the blanket with a smile and a nod at the pink newborn. “Ah, she’s a pretty thing.”

“What’s a pretty thing?” Jadean looked down with a sour frown at her newborn daughter Nadean.

He reached down and gently patted the black curls of newborn Nadean as the baby kicked and yawned from her newborn slumber. “Endearment mostly, if I had to assign a definition, I would say a property of pretty.”

“Pretty means no smarts.”

He shook his skull with a smile at newborn Nadean, “Not necessary, Mrs. Garland. There are many women in the big world that possess both beauty and smarts. The combination traits are documented and recorded throughout ancient and present world history.”

“This ain’t history. This be a doctor’s office.” She gently rubbed a hand over the skull of the newborn and presented her covered hand to the physician. “Look. Her hair falls out. Something’s wrong with her.”

He gently rubbed a hand over the skull of the newborn too, holding a set of short black curls with a smile and a nod. “There’s nothing wrong, Mrs. Garland.”

“I find it all over the place in her crib, on the floor, in her bath water. She be going bald. The baby be a freak like at the circus. She be in a freak show, when she grows up. Make her hair stop falling out, doc?”

The physician gently pulled and rested the newborn on top of the medical examination table with a smile and a nod. “Mrs. Garland, large scale hair loss is quite normal in newborn babies. Her black hair will be replaced, maybe, blonde…”

“Blonde? I ain’t blonde. I gots black hair. My mama gots black hair. We all gots black hairs. Ya be insulting me, doc? I be pure in my loins, when I gots married. Yes sir, I be pure.”

The physician touched and examined the newborn with a smile and a nod. “I was explaining that her hair might change color. Mr. Garland has a sister with a head of blonde hair.”

Jadean sneered. “Don’t see her. How ya know her?”

“I graduated from Brier High School too. I remembered…”

“She lives far, far away from Brier, away from her family. She likes living away from the family. She don’t like Bama or her family.”

“Your baby is healthy and growing. I would predict that the baby’s hair will completely off out and then re-grow within the next couple of month.”

“She be bald.”

“I promise. Pretty thing will have lots of beautiful hair, Mrs. Garland,” the physician lifted and handed the newborn back to the mother with a smile and a nod.

Jadean sneered at her newborn daughter.

 

 

Four years old daughter Nadean

 

Thursday July 1st

11:11 a.m.

City of Brier

Farm and home of Jadean and Urall Garland

Living room setting

Hot temperatures and bright sizzling sunlight

 

 

I looked up with a stern face to see her for the first time. She was tall like my daddy.

Her daddy reached and wrapped an arm around her collar bone, looking down with a smile and a nod to see four year oldest daughter, “Nadean, this is your Aunt Collie. Aunt Collie flew on an airplane from the US State of Florida. That be far, far away from here, slick. She came to Alabama for your Grandma Garland’s birthday party. We celebrate with a family reunion every year around the Fourth of July.”

Aunt Collie squatted down in her pretty party dress with a smile and a nod to the four year old child. “Nadean, that’s a pretty name. I brought a little gift, a Palomino pony.”

“Pony…” I grabbed and hugged the new toy with a grin and a giggle from Aunt Collie.

Aunt Collie reached and patted the hair of Nadean. “The pony has a head of blonde hair with a tone of golden tinted skin like me and you, sweetheart.”

Her daddy squatted with a smile and a nod to Nadean too. “What’da ya say, slick?”

“Thank ya, Aunt Collie,” I patted the pony with a giggle and a grin.

Aunt Collie extended her hand with a smile and a nod to her niece. “Nadean, would you like to eat some barbeque with me?”

I nodded with a grin, taking her hand, cuddling my new pony with a giggle.

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:49 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

OT….” I whisper and feel the burn on a left ankle bone, seeing a dirt ceiling and close my eyelashes, relaxing my mind and my body into an event of my childhood.

 

 

 

Six years old daughter Nadean

 

Friday August 17th

7:45 a.m.

City of Brier

Home of Jadean and Urall Garland

Living room setting

Hot temperatures and partly sunny with clouds

First day of Brier Elementary School

 

 

“Bus,” Jadean squatted down and lifted up her six year old daughter from the floor and away from the active television with a sour frown, turning to the front door.

I continued to stare at the funny cartoons with a giggle and a smile behind the collar bone of my mama.

She stopped and dropped the child at the open front door, pointing at the bus with a sour frown and a matching tone. “Tara and Ashley is on that bus, Nadean. Ya sit between them. Ya hear me, girly? They take ya to school to Mrs. White. She be your first grade teacher. And ya mind your manners and listen to her, girly.”

“Don’t wanna go…” I turned to see the parked yellow school bus and did not want from my spot and leave old my friends, the television and the blanket.

The door opened.

“Get, girly.” Jadean shoved Nadean out the door from the antebellum house with a set of six tall white columns.

The front porch had four windows. Each window was so low. I could climb onto the ledge in my bare feet. And so high, I could stand, without touching each side of the window frame. But I was not supposed to do that. Or I would get whipped by my mama’s horse riding crop which stung, when it encountered my tender baby skin.

The far window on the second floor of my house was my private bedroom. The far window on the first floor on the ground floor was the sewing room with lots of colored fabrics, sharp needles, geometric shaped buttons, and a sewing machine, where my mama worked to make my party clothes or fix my daddy’s work shirts.

I did not play there but got stuck a lot, when my mama pinned up my homemade dresses for hemming the fabric. She would stab my legs too. Then I cried. Then she yelled at me and then I left the sewing room for my bedroom on the second floor.

I dashed down the steps of the front porch and ran over the grass to the school bus, climbing the steps alone, moving through an empty narrow aisle with a smile and sat between my cousins Tara and Ashley on the school bus. They were older tall girls and two of the cheerleaders at the football games plus my cousins from the Garland family tree. I used to see them at Sunday school class, when I went. But I did not go anymore, since my mama had three more babies. So we stayed home and watched the black and white television device.

 

 

7:55 a.m.

Brier Elementary School

Mrs. White’s first grade setting

Cool morning air temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

Tara stood from the seat and led her six year old cousin Nadean off the school bus and into the elementary school building, moving down a crowded hallway of small children and parents to the first grade classroom.

I stood at the archway with a confused brow.

Tara shoved Nadean into the elementary room which was filled with an assortment of school desks, adults, and children.

I turned and moved to an empty school desk, sitting inside the cold wooden seat, cupping both my hands over the smooth surface with a stern face.

In front of the room, a row of individual metal chairs stood against the black board, where an array of the biological parents occupied each seat. The parents were all females which represented one mother from one first grader.

In the middle the row, Abby sat next to Corene. Abby leaned over with a whisper and a frown to her farm neighbor friend, “Corene, is that Jadean’s oldest daughter, walking in front of us and sitting at the school desk?”

Corene turned to see the boot heels of the first grader with a nod and a smile. “Yeah, she’s a little doll. Isn’t she?”

“She’s different looking.”

Corene frowned with a whisper. “Her appearance is called exotic-looking like a foreigner from that country of Japan over the Atlantic Ocean near the country of England, Abby. You aren’t supposed to be envious or jealous sayeth the Lord.”

“Just a comment,” Abby smirked with a nod. “The child’s features are bizarre at best with her frosted hair of silver that matches her hunting gray eyes coupled against her bronze skin. She could be in a horror movie in Hollywood.”

Corene frowned with a whisper, “A nasty comment, Abby. Her hair is called platinum blonde. Hollywood movie film stars spend hundreds of dollars to dye their roots that color and hope for the best. The locks of Nadean are truly natural. But I can’t figure where it came from on her family tree. She has her daddy’s gray eyes plus his bronze complexion. See? There’s not much mystery there, Abby.”

Abby shook her curls with a confused brow and a whisper. “I don’t know about that. Ya know the gossip going around about Jadean? She drunk all the time with that harder stuff whiskey, not wine during the child’s conception and smoked like a sailor with five cigarettes a day. I didn’t smoke that much a day and stopped, when I found out about Zeeta. Then I started back with one cigarette a day. It helps with the stress of a rising a brilliant and talented child.”

Corene parted her lips with a whisper. “Abby. That’s just nonsense. Whiskey and cigarettes aren’t going to change a child’s hair color.”

Abby nodded with a smirk and a whisper. “Well, something did? Jadean has dark midnight black hair like her baby girl Dorcee. That’s from her great grandmother Sloan. My mama says that elderly woman was meaner than a rattlesnake.”

“Your mama calls everyone meaner than a rattlesnake, including you, Abby.” Corene smiled.

Abby frowned. “Dorcee is pretty like Jadean with her black hair and her pale skin on a heart shaped face along with her big green doe eyes. She’s going to break a lot of cowboy hearts as a teen.”

Corene nodded with a smile, “Dorcee’s definitely competition among the pretty cowgirls for drooling cowboys. She’s one years old. And the twins are cute as bugs with their carrot top fuzz and tone of pink skin like a pair of baby piglets at two years old.”

“Every one of them kids looks different from each other. I wonder if Urall’s the real daddy…”

“Abby, stop your gossip…”

“One wonders with a mama like Nadean’s Grandmother Garland, who thinks she’s the queen of Brier. She researched her family tree and found that she’s the thirty-fifth cousin to Queen Catherina Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII. He was king of England a long, long time ago. If really so, she still looks like a coot, wearing that jewelry around her neck, arms, and earlobes.”

Corene frowned with a whisper. “Another cat claw extended, Abby. I know for a fact that her sons purchased that fine jewelry of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, jade, pearls, and diamonds from all over the world as world war two soldiers, giving those presents to their mama.”

“She birthed sons like kittens. Urall is number eight of eleven children and the baby.”

“Half her children are dead. Ya should respect her courage and commitment to carry on, without her loving kids, Abby.”

“I do, Corene. I’m just commenting on some of our more elaborate citizens of Brier, including Nadean. She favors the Garland’s more than the Sloan’s. She is so skinny and frail, coming from Jadean’s whiskey consumption. And I know that fact. Look at her stumble in her cowgirl boots with those skinny little legs and big feet.”

“She’s a growing child, Abby. She might be tall like her daddy…”

“Or short like her mama, her aunt, and her grandma. All the females on the Sloan side are short, while the males on the Garland side are blind and tall.” Abby chuckled.

Corene frowned, “Another nasty comment, Abby? I hope you repent in church on Wednesday night.”

Abby pursed her lips. “You are snobby, today, Corene. I state a historical fact that every single male on the Garland family tree wears eyeglasses and stands over six feet tall. Mark my words, those Garland twins will wear glasses and stand tall.”

“I hope Olivia is tall. She has seemed to slow down growing.”

“Did she cry when you pulled Teague out the door this morning for his first day of school?”

“Mewed like a kitten for her mama. But her grandma is baking chocolate chip cookies and her grandpa is riding her on the stallion until Teague returns this afternoon from his first day of elementary school. I’m so happy they’re close as brother and sister. Olivia will start next year right here with Mrs. White, if Teague and the other cowboys didn’t run her off the school ground. I see Stratton, Purcell, Eckward, Brock, and Kersey. These little boys drive their mamas loco. I hope Mrs. White can handle them.”

Abby smiled with a whisper. “She’s been teaching first grade, since we were seniors and graduated from here, Corene.” Corene nodded with a giggle.

“Class,” Mrs. White stood with a head of gray tinted hair and a pair of thick eyeglasses, slapping the wall with her hand and a stern face. “I am Mrs. White like the color white on the wall here.”

Corene frowned with a whisper to Abby. “Did she do that when we were in the first grade, Abby?”

Abby shook her curls with a confused brow and a whisper. “Naw, I think that’s a new behavior.”

Mrs. White said with a stern face, “White, the color of the wall,” she reached and slapped the board next. “This color is black, not white. The chalk board is black. My name is Mrs. White. Please stand from your seats and move to the rear wall,” she turned and viewed Abby. “And you, mamas are the new room mothers. Please stay inside your metal chairs against the chalkboard and help me with the roll call. The children will be seated in alphabetic order, starting with the letter ‘A,’ occupying the first seat in the first row until we get to the letter ‘B.’”

All the first graders scooted out a school desk, turning and moved to the rear wall, stopping and standing in a long line against the fresh white paint with a sour frown.

Corene leaned with a puzzled brow and a whisper to Abby. “Is this normal?”

Abby whispered back with a stern face, “Her classroom.”

Mrs. White pointed and motioned to the first grader. “Renita Anderson.” The tall girl stared at the teacher with a confused brow. Mrs. White said. “Renita, please sit in the first seat by the door. Come on, honey.” Renita pranced to the first chair with a smile and a giggle.

Abby smirked with a whisper to Corene. “Not smart, not pretty, but good limbs for cartwheels. She’ll be a cheerleader for shore.”

Corene frowned. “Why ya say, not smart? What in the world are you basing your traits on, Abby?”

“Corene, we know every single parent of these children. We all go to church on Sunday morning preaching, then Sunday afternoon lunch, then Sunday evening supper and on Wednesday night singing. We see each other in the only grocery store for buying gas and loaf bread and shop at the same local department store for clothes and furnishings. Then we meet each month at the church’s fellowship hall for the school’s PTA meetings and farm stuff. On top of all that, we went to school with their parents. And their grandparents went to school with their grandparents. So my assessment is based on decades of observance and studying their blood-kinfolks.”

Corene nodded with a grin and a whisper. “I accept that explanation. Renita’s mama was a cheerleader with us. And the tradition must continue at Brier High School.”

“Nettie Ayers,” Mrs. White pointed and motioned to the first grader. The girl marched to the second chair with a smile and a giggle.

“Pretty thing,” Abby smiled with a whisper.

Corene parted her lips with a sour frown and a whisper, “Pretty thing? That word is both disgusting and degrading for a young Southern girl.”

Abby smiled. “Naw, Corene, a proper method of description. These young girls do not have much smarts, but really cute. Future husbands look for them pretty things to boss around and do their pleasuring.”

Corene frowned. “Abby Trummer, are ya telling me that little cute Nettie will only be a piece of meat and a taste of pleasure for her future hubby. She might decide to go to college and be a rocket scientist.”

Abby smiled, “Pretty thing, first, Nettie might, but her mama ain’t. Daughters do exactly as told by their mamas. That’s the Southern way…”

“Kersey Bibb,” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader. The boy galloped with a laugh and a grin to the next empty school desk.

Abby smiled. “Class clown, his family’s wealthier than the Lord. But he’s a whacky little boy, not mean to the other kids, but whacky like he’s crazy.” Corene nodded with a smile.

“Norbert Blakely.”

He slowly moved from the wall, stopping and sitting in the new seat with a smile and a nod.

Abby frowned. “Ya know that little boy is very odd always staring at…”

“Whacky, odd, bizarre, you’ve learned some new adjectives, Abby. You have been seeing too many soap operas on TV instead of spending value time with the family.” Corene smiled.

“Rosalina Burns.”

She slowly moved from the wall, stopping and examining the new school desk and sat, placing her large cloth bag over the school tray with a stern face.

“Pretty thing, her mama’s an alcoholic. Poor little thing’s going to be just like her mama too.” Abby nodded with a sour frown and a whisper to Corene.

“Joelle Claiborne.”

She waddled from the wall with a smile, scooting into her new desk.

Abby sneered. “She’s fat like her sisters. There are three others in the family. All of them are started out with baby fat then thinned out as teens, looking pretty. I think that she’ll be part of the marching band. Her sisters are also.” Corene nodded with a grin.

“Prebble Coggins.”

She ran from the wall, sliding into her new school desk with a grin and a giggle.

Abby said. “She’s friends with the Claiborne girls, part of the marching band too.”

“Zondra Durcarpe.”

She slowly moved from the wall with a smile and a giggle, sitting in her new desk, cupping her hands over her notebook with a nod to the teacher.

Abby smiled. “She’s smart like her brothers. Both of them were valedictorian too. One’s studying to be a doctor now.”

“Stella Ellis.”

She ran from the wall, sliding into her new desk with a giggle and a smile.

Abby narrowed her eyelashes. “She’s not really pretty but has an athletic type. But she ain’t cheerleader material. Hmm, I just don’t know about Stella.”

Corene nodded with a puzzled brow. “Teague doesn’t like her. Don’t understand his reasons. But Teague has good instincts for folks. There must be something there.” She watched Stella too and witnessed her son Teague and his buddy Purcell horseplay against the rear wall. They were shoving on each other.

“Nash Ellis.”

He did not move from the wall until one of the boys shoved his body. Then Nash raced to his school desk with a laugh and a grin, sitting.

Abby smiled, “Redneck extraordinaire. Is his daddy still in jail for beating his mama?”

Corene smirked. “Hattie Jean has a gun, Abby. No one beats on her. That’s why Holland went to jail, because she threatened to kill Holland. So the sheriff arrested him for his protection, not prosecution.”

“Purcell Emerson.”

He shoved Teague one more time, turning and strutting down the aisle to his new desk, sitting and slapped the desk surface with both his hands and a laugh.

Abby smiled with a nod, “Football player. His brother’s a beasty too. He’s in the second grade. This class might make the football champion playoffs in their senior year.”

Corene smiled with a nod. “Tyson’d be tickled pink if Teague and his buddies brought home the Division I AAA champion trophy to small town Brier. I swear I don’t know how the men-folk function without Friday night high school football games and Saturday afternoon college university football games either.”

“They would spend more time with us,” Abby smiled.

Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader. “Finnis Ferguson.”

He ran from the wall and slid into his school desk, beating on the table surface with his hands like Purcell.

Abby said. “That’s Margaret’s son. She’s getting a divorce from Jimmy Dean. Heard tell? Jimmy Dean’s moving into the big city out of the house and off the farm.”

“Her daddy owns all these cotton fields and farmland. Real sad about that divorce, too, since that’s so usual here in Brier.” Corene nodded with a sad face.

“Flossie Furman.” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader. The girl slowly pranced from the wall, touching the collar bone of each boy with a grin and a giggle, stopping at her new desk and sat with a giggle.

Abby smiled with a nod. “Flossie is like her mama, an innocent silly flirt. That must be a genetic flaw in that family tree. She’s a cute thing but not too bright.”

“Pretty thing,” Corene smiled.

Abby nodded with a smile, “Yeah, a pretty thing, but she can twirl a baton like her mama. I see her practicing outside her yard during the summertime. She’ll definitely be a majorette in the Brier marching band.”

“Nadean Garland.” Mrs. White pointed and motioned to the first grader with a stern face.

I moved and stomped to a new school desk, sliding inside with a stern face.

“Pretty thing,” Corene grinned.

“Teague Haywood,” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader.

Teague turned and punched a fist into the chest of his friend Eckward, marching forward to his new school desk, sat inside the chair, and slapped the table surface with both palms with a chuckle and a grin.

Corene frowned, “Uh, ho.”

Abby turned and frowned at the nose profile of Corene. “What’s wrong, Corene? Are ya sick feeling?”

Corene shook her curls with a worried brow. “Poor little skinny Nadean. She’s sitting directly before Teague.”

“Maybe, there’s another letter ‘H’ before Haywood.” Abby turned and scanned each child, “Out of luck, Corene! Teague is the only letter ‘H’ and Nadean is the only letter ‘G.’ So it seems like they’re made to rumble. Can’t do nothing about it, Corene. She’s different from the other kids. If Teague has good instincts like you say, then he’ll stay far away from that pretty thing.”

“My boy will drive her crazy. I see that I’m going to have a talking to with that young man.” Corene nodded with a stern face.

“Shelby Irvan.” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader. He did not move from the wall at first, standing with a laugh and then marched forward to his new desk and slapped Teague on the collar bone.

Teague turned around and slapped his hand at Shelby, missing.

Corene frowned. “Too bad, Shelby wasn’t behind Teague that’d keep my boy in line.”

Abby gasped. “Corene, ya sound vicious. That’s your baby…”

“Baby tiger, when fully feed,” giggled Corene.

“Danielle Issum.” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader.

The girl slowly moved from the wall, sitting in her new school desk with a smile.

“Pretty thing,” Abby smiled.

Corene frowned. “Be careful, Abby. She’s the preacher’s daughter. If Mary overheard these words, she’d faint.”

“Warned,” Abby nodded with a giggle.

“Purdy Jones,” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader.

She slowly moved from the wall, waddling to her new desk and sat with a smile.

Abby frowned, “The second fatso of the class. Her mama is fat. Her grandmother is fat. Her aunt…”

“Abby, God created us different, not the same.” Corene shook her curls with a sour frown.

“Eckward Lowman,” Mrs. White pointed and motioned with a stern face to the first grader at the wall.

The boy ran from the wall, sliding into his new desk with a laugh and a grin.

Abby said. “Seeing Eckward reminds me, I’m supposed to mention the meeting for our men-folk about the new government program. The thing is called the Cotton Research and Promotion Act.”

“Is this dangerous for us, folks here in Brier, Abby?” Corene frowned.

Abby shook her curls. “Naw, the program’s coming from the US Federal Government.”

“A government man here at Brier? That must be the first time.”

“And the last time, Webster says that this new government program is only for tonight’s meeting. He’s very excited about it and has called all the Brier farmers to come to the church’s fellowship hall after supper tonight at six o’clock. Tell Tyson that Webster wants to participate in the government man’s show too?”

Corene shook her curls with a worried brow. “Participate in what, Abby? I don’t know about this G-man.”

Abby giggled, “G-man, that’s clever, Corene. Webster explained to me. We grow cotton. So the government wants to buy our cotton for lots of money. Then it ensures that we got a steady income, every year.”

Corene nodded with a sour frown. “That sounds too good.”

Six year old Teague stabbed the eraser into her back spine with a grin and a chuckle, “Uh, ho.”

Mrs. White slapped a hand on the white wall for attention as the children jumped up inside each chair. She said with a stern face to her students. “Children and all the room mothers, please stand. Every morning at this school along with thousands of children across the United States of America, we will recite in unison the Pledge of Allegiance to our United States flag. Place your left hand across your chest above the heart. And say with me. I…”

All the students and the room mothers stood and chanted in unison. “…pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Mrs. White said, “Please bow your heads for the morning prayer, Our Father…”

All the students and the room mothers bowed a chin and chanted in unison. “…who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.”

Mrs. White looked up with a stern face to see the children and mothers. “Sit, children and room mothers.”

All the children and the room mothers sat inside a seat in silence.

“Amen. Amen. Amen.” Kersey stood with a cheer and a clap.

“Thank you, Kersey. Sit down.” Mrs. White ordered and sat behind a long desk, without any papers or pencils or apples with a stern face.

Corene stood and turned, moving to the teacher, leaning down with a smile. “Mrs. White, I believe some of the children are having trouble seeing the writing blackboard. Why don’t you place the taller kids along the rear seats, while the little ones occupy the closer desks?”

Mrs. White turned and viewed her students with a stern face and a nod. “I agree. We have five perfect rows with five students each. So I will take the first two rows, shifting the children around. You take rows three and four, Mrs. Haywood.”

“Thank you, Mrs. White.” Corene smiled with a nod, turning and moving to the third and fourth rows of first graders.

Mrs. White stood and turned, moving to the first row of students. “Kersey, you and Rosaline switch places now.” Kersey stood with a laugh. Mrs. White said with a stern face. “Grab your notebook, Kersey, and swap desks with her.”

Rosaline stood near her new desk with a confused brow.

Kersey reached and shoved Rosaline away from his new desk with a laugh and sat, slamming his notebook down over the table surface with a laugh and a grin. “I’m hungry.”

Mrs. White frowned. “Lunch is at eleven o’clock. Hush, child. Renita, move into Norbert’s desk.”

“I like this desk in front of my friend Kersey.” Norbert slapped the table surface with a smile and a nod.

“Up, Norbert. Please take your notebook.” Mrs. White jabbed a finger at the empty school desk. Norbert stood and moved into the new seat with a frown.

Kersey burped and stood from his new seat, turning and facing the kids, scratching his body like a monkey with a set of funny sounds.

All the students sounded with laughter and pointed at Kersey.

Mrs. White frowned. “Hush, Kersey. Or ya get your nose put in the corner for punishment.”

Kersey picked his nostrils and ate his boogers, turning to seat at his new desk, slapping his hands over the table surface and chewed his boogers.

Corene strolled to the child with a smile and a nod, touching his collar bone. “Eckward, please stand and move…”

Abby stood, turning and moving to the third row with a smile and a nod to her daughter. “Zeeta, move over here, sweetie. So, you can hear and see your teacher better to make good grades.” Her daughter stood from her old seat and moved to the empty one with a smile. Her mama straightened the pretty bow around her hairline with a smile.

Corene moved and touched the collar bone of female child, “Nadean, sweetheart, please move…”

“Naw,” Teague stood and slapped a hand on the other collar bone of Nadean, shaking his skull with a sour frown. “Naw, Mama, she stays right here in front of me.”

“Don’t you want your friend Eckward next to you, Teague?” Corene smiled down at the blonde hair roots of her son.

Teague turned and pointed to his buddies with a smile and a nod, keeping a hand on the collar bone of Nadean. “Get up Stratton, Eckward and come over here. And redneck Nash, over there.” Nash turned and waved with a smile to Corene as she turned and smiled at Nash in silence. Teague ordered with a sour frown. “Get up, Stella. Eckward sits there. Ya move over yonder near Waverly.”

Stella huffed at bossy Teague, standing and moving to a new school desk.

Eckward stood and moved, sitting inside the new chair, slamming down his new notebook on the top of the table surface and slapped Teague on the shirt with a chuckle and a grin.

The room mothers assisted in moving the taller children to the rear of the room and the shorter children to the front of the room. Then all they turned and moved back into the row of metal chairs for the classroom lesson for the first day of Brier Elementary School.

Mrs. White grabbed and held a wooden yard stick, facing the children, slapping it on a line of colorful symbolic alphabetic letters which were glued on the wall above the chalk board. “Children, please sit. And please quiet down. Today, we are going to learn our A, B, C’s.” She turned and pointed to the letter with a stern face. “This is the letter ‘A’ for apple. See the red apple beside the letter. Say ‘A.’”

“A.” The first graders chanted in unison.

“Say: A is for apple.” Mrs. White banged the yard stick against the wall for a second time.

“A is for apple.” The first graders chanted in unison.

Teague slapped the collar bone of Nadean and leaned into her blonde hair. “Hey. What’s ya name?”

I leaned forward from him, bumping my chest into the edge of the table surface of my school desk without answering.

Mrs. White banged the yard stock against the wall again with a stern face. “This is the letter of B. B is for ball. See the blue ball next to the letter. Say: B for ball.”

“B is for ball,” The first graders chanted in unison.

Teague continued to stab the eraser of his new school pencil into her back spine with a giggle and a grin. “Don’t ya get a name, girl?”

I rolled my eyeballs, stretching my arms over the table surface of my desk, trying to move away from Teague and the eraser tip of his big first grade pencil.

Mrs. White banged the yard stock against the wall again with a stern face. “This is the letter of H. H is for house. See the white house next to the letter? Say: H is for house.”

“H is for house,” The first graders chanted in unison.

“Teague be my name. What ya called, girl?” He chuckled with a grin, stabbing the eraser tip into her back spine again, touching her pretty blonde hair with his other hand.

I leaned over my table surface of my desk with a sour frown, shaking my hair from his dirty finger tips. I knew Teague from all the church picnics and our corn fields. He was my farm neighbor.

Mrs. White banged the yard stock against the wall again with a stern face. “This is the letter of M. M is for mouse. See the gray mouse next to the letter? Say: M is for mouse.”

“M is for mouse,” The first graders chanted in unison.

He leaned over his desk surface into her long hair with a chuckle and a smile. “Hey, girl, ya be Nadean? That be your name. Now, ya know.” Teague continued to poke the soft eraser into her back spine with a laugh.

Mrs. White banged the yard stock against the wall again with a stern face. “This is the letter of S. S is for star. See the silver colored star next to the letter? Say: S is for star.”

“S is for star,” The first graders chanted in unison.

“S…s…s….s…” Kersey sounded like a hissing snake, standing from his chair with a chuckle, bowing his arms with a silly grin.

Mrs. White turned and frowned at Kersey. “Kersey, we do not stutter our alphabets.”

Kersey nodded with a grin. “Yeah, ma’am, animals stutter the alphabet, Miss White.”

Mrs. White shook her curls with a sour frown to him. “No, Kersey.”

Kersey nodded with a grin, “Yeah, ma’am. Last week, I was on the back porch with my little tiny kitten when our big dog came running around the house corner. My little tiny kitten arched its back and went ssss, ssss and before she could say shit. My dog ate her.”

All the students laughed, bouncing up and down in the seat, pointing at Kersey.

Kersey turned and bowed at the waist with a laugh and a grin.

All the room mothers gasped in a seat, slapping a hand over a mouth with a set of giggles.

Mrs. White banged her yard stick on the wall, breaking it in half with a sour frown.

 

 

 

Nine years old daughter Nadean

 

Friday November 13th

7:07 p.m.

Brier High School

Harvest Moon Festival

Auditorium setting

Cold temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

The Harvest Moon Festival was an empty time between the completion of the football games and upcoming exchange of the Christmas gifts. Each school grade voted on a boy and a girl couple to represent their academic class from elementary to high school. Then every mama baked a tray of cookies to sell for raising money. Thus, the academic class and the boy-girl couple with the highest money sale of baked goodies won the title of Brier royalty in the Harvest Moon Festival for the year.

Tonight, the festival had collected and counted all the money from each academic class and was prepared to crown the royalty of Brier elementary, middle school, and high school.

“Jadean,” Abby appeared inside the open archway of the gymnasium and stopped with a smile and a hand wave. Jadean spun around with a puzzled brow and scanned the crowd of students and parents for her name caller.

I found the name caller, staring with a smile at the pretty mama of my class mate Zeeta.

Her big boobs bounced side to side as and Abby moved away from the archway and stopped in front of Jadean with a puff of relieve, smiling with a nod, “Jadean, thank goodness! I found another mama from Zeeta’s third grade class. Zeeta has the measles.”

Jadean back stepped from Abby with a sour frown, since measles was a contagious childhood disease. She fake a smile with a nod. “O the poor dear child, I hope not too bad. She gets healed soon thou.”

Abby lifted up and held a cloth bag near the smile, “Yeah, ma’am. My little pumpkin will get better very soon. But she is scheduled to appear in the Harvest Moon Festival in thirty minutes,” she turned and viewed Nadean with a smile. “Can Nadean substitute for Zeeta in the Harvest Moon Festival, right now, in thirty minutes?”

I shook my curls with a sour frown, “Naw!” Since, I hated Zeeta first. And second, I hated Teague more, because both Teague and Zeeta were voted as our third grade Harvest Moon Festival prince and princess.

“I guess.” Jadean frowned at Abby.

I shook my curls and both of my dirty hands, “It is princess Zita and prince Teague. Naw! Go and get…”

Jadean reached out and grabbed, squeezing the collar bone of Nadean with a sneer, “Hush, girly!” Jadean smiled with a nod to Abby. “Nadean, she be very honored to substitute for poor sick ill Zeeta.”

Abby presented several objects from the bag to Jadean with a smile. “Here are both the dress and the shoes and this storage bag.”

“Why does me need a dress and a pair of shoes?” Jadean stared down at the two items.

Abby nodded with a smile. “Teague and Zeeta are set to wear matching outfits while they march from each side of the gym’s theater stage.”

I continued to shake my curls and both my dirty hands with a sour frown, “Naw.”

Abby dumped the clothes down into the hands of Jadean and swung about with a worried brow for her daughter, stopping and spun back around with a smile and a nod. “Jadean, keep the dress and the shoes over the weekend. I’ll get it from you on Monday afternoon. Zeeta is very contagious, right now,” she turned and left the gymnasium.

I continued to shake my curls and both my dirty hands with a sour frown and a sissy tone. “I be catching some bad bugs, Mama. Cough. Cough. Getting sick like Zita, now, if I wear…”

“Hush, girly!” Jadean smiled. “Ya can’t catch something you ain’t near.” She reached out and grabbed, dragging Nadean down towards the smelly old locker room inside the gymnasium building, where the older girls changed their clothes for physical exercise.

“Mama!” I whined with a sour frown from the painful hand clamp on my arm and the nasty thoughts of wearing Zeeta’s clothes and standing next to Teague.

“Sh, girly!” Jadean moved down the concrete stairs releasing the arm of Nadean and turned, strolling towards one of the open lockers.

I turned and skipped around the enclosed locker room with a worried brow while looking for a she-ghost. My school had been built over hundred years ago over a set of dead girl bones underneath the concrete per my smart classmate Retina. Retina said that all the teachers came together and killed all the bad kids for something evil.

Jadean reached down and patted the dress with a smile. “What a pretty dress? I bet it be mink.”

“Naw!” I skipped around the room with a sour frown and a hiss for seeing Teague too soon and wearing Zeeta’s clothing too much. “It…uh…vel-tan…”

“Velveteen. That be a form of the fabric velvet. It feels like a rabbit. O my! The piping around the round collar, both arm sleeves, and the little bow in the middle of the bodice is rabbit fur.”

“Why did Zita killed a rabbit to wear on her dress?” I skipped around the room in another circle, looking for the misplaced or sleeping she-ghosts.

“No, silly girly! A hunter with a shotgun killed the little white rabbit. Then a seamstress stitched the fur into the dress. This flock be so pretty.”

I frowned and skipped around the room, “Naw!” Since pretty was sitting down my butthole on top of the second bleacher, tossing a set of individual popcorn kernels at Teague with his school buddies as I laughed at his sucky princely performance within the Harvest Moon Festival.

“Take off your shirt and skirt, Nadean!” She patted the dress with a smile.

I skipped one more round of ghost hunting and stopped, standing in front of Jadean jerking off the shirt and the blue jean skirt, feeling cold in my pink girly panties and my pink and blue cowgirl boots. Jadean reached down and slipped the dress over the skull of Nadean. The dress was soft like kitten’s fur attacking my naked skin as and I reached down and smoothed the short hairs up and down on my stomach with both my hands with a giggle and a grin.

“Stop that, Nadean! Sit down on the locker seat. Hold your right foot up.” She ordered with a stern face as Nadean slowly scooted backwards and sat down with a giggle, lifting up a cowgirl boot. Jadean wiggled the boot and the sock off, jerking on a white tinted lace sock and a pretty black colored new shoe with a smile.

I dropped the foot down to the concrete with a sour frown, “The shoe is too tight.” I leaned over and whacked the shoe bow with a giggle.

“Them white socks be so fancy with a satin bow and a curve of pretty lace.” She wiggled the second sock and shoe over the naked foot of Nadean. “Stand, girly!”

I dropped down the second foot with a sour frown and stood upright from the locker seat in a pair of new stiff shoes, suffocating my toe bones, “Mama!”

“Nadean, this be a good thing here. Get ya good with all your school teachers. You ain’t a smartie, girly.” She smiled with a nod, pressing down the dress over Nadean’s chest, shifting the hands over the body of Nadean.

I yelled out loud, “Ouch, Mama!”

She combed out the messy hair strands on Nadean with a sour frown, “You gots a bush of long wild silver wavy hair. Don’t you own a brush, girly?”

“Yeah, ma’am!” Since I owned a hair brush but didn’t brush my hair, because I was not going to attend church or visit my grandmother Garland at her home for a lunch meal. Jadean continued to run all fingers from the crown down to the curly ends of Nadean’s hair.

My hair had always fascinated and failed my person, since it was not naturally curly or naturally straight. It was part straight or part wavy, depending on the humility of Alabama at six o’clock in the morning.

Jadean had given up dressing her first born daughter for school each morning. Since, Nadean was first born making the twin brothers birthed second and then third. And baby sister Dorcee was fourth born, who screamed for undivided attention from both her parents all the dang time.

I was pretty independent for a nine year old kid but I had to obey my parents as The Bible stated.

Jadean smiled with a nod, removing her fingers. “Ya look pretty, Nadean. I hope ya win.” She grabbed and dragged Nadean by the arm through the locker room, up the stair and posed her on the gym floor.

Mrs. Clarkson turned and pointed with a smile and a nod at an empty spot between the second and fourth graders princesses.

I performed a slow putt-putt towards an empty spot looking down at the rabbit cloth bows on the dance as each bow danced side to side. Then I stopped in the right place.

Mrs. Clarkson leaned over the blonde hair roots of Nadean with a smile. “You’re a little pretty thing, Nadean.”

“Thanks!.” I defaulted with a whisper to my southern belle manner while fidgeting a body side to side with annoyance of seeing Teague.

On the gym floor at the side table, Principal Holden stood upright from the chair and held a microphone with a smile and a nod seeing the audience, “Howdy there, folks! Welcome to the forty-first Harvest Moon Festival event here at Brier high school.” He clapped with the audience with a smile. The applause stopped. He sat down in the chair still holding the microphone, looking down to read the note cards of the students. “Okay! We start the night with the introduction and crowning of the Little Miss Princess and Little Master Prince of the Harvest Moon Festival. Them little tikes come from the elementary school section of Brier high, represented by the grades of one through three. Each boy and girl winner receives a great big golden trophy, donated by Harvey’s Hardware Store. Give a round of applause to Harvey, folks!” The audience sounded with a series of claps and then silenced.

He nodded with a smile. “Okay! And an arm bouquet of pretty pink roses for the sweet royal princess, queen, and empress, donated by Alice’s Flower Shop. Give a round of claps to Alice, folks!” The audience sounded with a series of claps and then silenced.

He smiled, “Okay! And for the winning places of a prince, a king, and an emperor, a fifth of moonshine,” chuckling, “Naw, folks! I’m just joshing there, ya’ll. The royal boys get a shiny gold belt buckle sculptured with an Indian head on it. Since, we are the fighting braves of Brier. Go, Braves! Give a hand to Harvey again for the belt buckle!” The audience sounded with a series of claps and then silenced.

He smiled. “Okay! And that’s not all, folks! The pretty royal gal gets a shiny crown, donated by Lawanda’s Tea Shop, being modeled by last year’s Empress Tianette Barnett. Show ‘em, honey! And give a hand to Lawanda and Tianette!” Tianette entered from the side archway and slowly strolled around the parameter of the gym floor with a hand wave and a smile. The audience sounded with a series of claps and whistles and then silenced.

Principal Holden grinned with a nod. “Thank you, Tianette! She is the daughter of Russ and Bloomie Barnett. The royal guy gets a new cowboy hat, a white smooth felt with a black band. The hat and the belt buckle are donated by Garth’s Feed Store. He says that ya’ll boys can trade up the hat and the buckle for a new pair of cowboy boots, if your daddy agrees to pay the sales taxes. Just come into the store tomorrow morning on Saturday. Give a hand to Garth!” The audience sounded with a series of claps and whistles and then silenced.

He smiled. “The judging has been fair and square, folks. Each winner of each division was determined by the highest number of homemade chocolate cookies sold by all the students in each class. All cookies were sold at ten cents each. And all the money sacks with the dollar and coin cash were turned in, well, to me. Me, Dobbie, and Carson counted the monies, third times. Then we determined each winner. Let’s meet all our royal couples first. The first grader little princess and prince couple is represented by Little Miss Elma…”

Mrs. Clarkson was the fourth grade teacher at Brier elementary school in charge of all the princesses, squatting on a set of kneecaps, sweet breathing into the nose profile of Nadean. “Nadean dear! Since Zeeta is sick and you didn’t practice the princess walk, I’ll give you the instructions. Okay?”

Geez! I will move away from her and trot down into the middle of the floor waiting for the announcement of the winner coming from Principal Holden, hoping it was not my person, because the Brier newspaper totaled ten pages with a front and a back section all inclusive of numerous pictures of children, teenagers, housewives, horses, and the smiling winners of the Brier High School Harvest Moon Festival. You could not find one single article on the latest USA or world new events. Since there was no room between the smiling faces of Brier jackasses like my classmate Teague Haywood.

“You will slowly walk in a straight line, following the end of the theater stage and then stop and smile. Show your pretty face. Then you turn slowly to your left,” she touched the arm of Nadean with a smile and a nod. “That is your left arm, honey. Then ya’ll see Teague on the opposite side of the gymnasium floor. He will come from the boys’ locker room to meet you. Then you slowly walk in a straight line to Teague, meeting him in the middle of the floor. You hold Teague’s hand…”

“Naw!” I shook my curls with a sour frown and a tongue of mouth spit, “I ain’t holding Teague’s dirty hand for nothing.”

“A southern belle is always escorted in public by her southern gentleman, little miss. Teague holds a right arm out. Then you grab it and hold with your left hand. Your mama has taught you this, Nadean.”

“Yeah, ma’am!” I surrendered with a puff of annoyance as a true southern belle under distress of the adult supervision.

She nodded with a smile. “Good girl! You and Teague slowly walk towards the center of the gym. Ya’ll stand on the head of our mascot, the lonely red brave. Do you understand my instruction, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, ma’am,” I frowned.

Principal Holden smiled into the microphone at the table. “The third grade little miss princess representative is Little Miss Nadean Garland, who’s the daughter of Urall and Jadean Garland. Pretty Nadean is substituting for Zeeta Trummer, since she got the measles. The Harvest Moon Festival little master prince is Teague Haywood.”

I rolled my eyeballs without moving after hearing my name from Holden and returned the eyeballs to stare at the audience inside the gym bleachers. Clarkson gently shoved Nadean forward into the floor. I slowly moved and turned a sharp left facing Teague on the opposite side of the gymnasium floor. I curled my lips sideways refusing to smile at Teague, who wore a stupid grin. However, he looked really cute in his dark red colored sports jacket, a slick black bow tie, a pair of comfortable blue jeans, and his favorite pair of cowboy boots.

They met in the middle.

Teague plowed a bow tie right into her face, standing a head taller than Nadean with a chuckle and a smile, backing up with a wink and grabbed her naked arm.

And then they turned and slowly moved towards the circle that held an Indian face, stopping, standing on top of the feather headpiece.

Teague had rehearsed his prince walk with Zeeta three times, since she bragged yesterday. He knew where to stand as the prince representative of the third grade class.

Teague stopped as the bows on her dress wiggled side to side. He leaned over with a whisper and a smile into her nose profile. “Ya look pretty, Nadean.”

“Uh huh,” I looked up and scanned for my mother within the audience bleachers.

Teague continued to smile and whisper into her nose profile. “Ya dress shines like purple grapes.”

“Nu huh,” I turned and scanned the bleachers for my father.

“Ya hair looks like star twinkles.” Teague moved closer and cuddled Nadean with a smile and a whisper into her nose profile.

“Ugh!” I turned and scanned the bleachers for my twin brothers.

Teague smiled. “I hope me and you win, Nadean.”

I continued to scan for my parents with a smile and avoid his cute smile. “Don’t you wanna know about your girlfriend Zeeta?”

Teague smiled. “She gots red bumps over her face and her body. Her mama told my mama on the telephone tonight.”

I turned and frowned at his smile. “How do you know?”

He smiled. “Her mama told my mama on the telephone that you and me…”

“Naw!”

“Yup!”

Principal Holden smiled into the microphone. “This is it, folks. The winners of Little Miss Princess and Prince are Nadean Garland and Teague Haywood from the third grade.” The audience sounded with a series of claps and whistles.

Teague drugged Nadean by the arm towards the reward table of gifts and tiaras, since he was getting a new hat and a belt buckle. And then they stopped as the old winners of prince and princess decorated their bodies with the prizes.

Glenda slammed the set of sharp teeth on the tiara into the skull of Nadean. I yelled out loud with a sneer. “Ouch! That hurt, Glenda.”

Last year princess Glenda sneered into the nose bridge of Nadean. “Who cares? You ain’t the real princess, Nadean. This be Zeeta’s crown.”

Teague turned and sneered at Glenda. “Shut your mouth, girl! Before, I pop it with my fist.” He curled up a free hand. The other hand held the belt buckle. He wore the new cowboy hat.

“Nadean substitootes for Zeeta,” Glenda turned and sneered at Teague.

Teague sneered again. “Nadean is my princess now. So, shut up, Glenda.”

Last year prince Albert turned and sneered at the nose profile of Glenda too. “Shut up, witch!”

Glenda turned parked both hands on her dress with a sour frown at Albert. “I’m tattling to my mama on you, Albert.”

Albert chuckled. “Go and tell, witch! Then my daddy’ll beat up your daddy for bad-mouthing me.”

Glenda turned and reached out, fiddling with the flowers. “Wrong, Nadean! You supposed to hold the roses in the right arm like a real princess.” Nadean fumbled with the long stems of the flowers with both of her small hands. Glenda laughed. “See? She ain’t no princess.”

Albert nodded to Teague, reaching out, dragging Glenda backwards by the hand. “We’re done here, witch.”

Teague cuddled Nadean with a smile. “Now, we got to stroll around the gym like a princess and prince.”

“I’m not the real…”

Teague moved forward with Nadean, waving the arm with the belt buckle with a smile and a nod. “Yeah, you are, Nadean! Zeeta ain’t here. Hold the flowers in the air like ya waving good bye to your mama for school.”

“If you let go of my arm…”

Teague pulled her closer to him with a laugh. “Naw! I like holding your arm. Wave like me! But use your right hand and wave with the flowers.”

I lifted up the flowers away from my tiara that was pulling at my hair roots. Then I tucked the flowers into my body, since the rose petals were falling from my twirling action.

These were not my roses but Zeeta’s. Since my mother had taught me not to touch or harm other people’s property or suffer the consequence, a belt whipping.

I danced beside Teague. He continued to wave the belt buckle in the air at the audience, squeezing the blood from her hand with his other hand and stopped, performing a knightly bow. The audience sounded with a series of claps, cheers, and whistles.

Teague lifted upright the torso, turning and moving around the outer parameter of the gymnasium floor with a smile and a whisper to Nadean. “When I stop, again, you belle-curtsey to the folks. I bow like a gentleman. My mama teaches me to do that.”

“I…” liked that idea but I was not the real harvest Festival Moon Princess.

“You be my princess, now, Nadean! They like us. Do ya hear the claps and see the smiles?” Teague turned and smiled at her.

“Okay,” I surrendered to his cute smile.

Teague stopped and bowed. I curtseyed. He turned and assisted Nadean to stand like his mama had taught him to do also.

They circled the floor back to the trophy table. Teague grabbed and collected both trophies. They spun around and strolled towards a setting of the iron patio furniture which was covered in a plastic pattern of baby green frogs on a white background.

Teague acted the Southern gentleman again, dropping a trophy on each side of the patio loveseat, swinging around and assisted Nadean to climb the raised platform. She twirled around and sat down on top of the soft padding. Teague stood before her, gently grabbing the rose bouquet, placing it next to Zeeta’s princess trophy also.

“The patio furniture has been donated by Wally’s Furniture Store. Please clap for Wally and new little prince and princess of the Harvest Moon Festival!” Principal Holden said with a smile. The audience sounded with a series of claps, cheers, and whistles.

Teague swirled around and sat down next to Nadean, scooting into her dress with a giggle, wrapping an arm around the frame of the loveseat and leaned over into her cheekbone with a smile.

“Teague,” I frowned with annoyance, feeling his sweet breathe on my cheekbone.

Holden smiled into the microphone. “Now, the next category is the Junior Prince and Princess of the Harvest Moon Festival. The representatives for the fifth grade prince and…”

“Yes, dear,” Teague giggled into her nose profile.

“I should leave and get off the chair and go back…”

“Naw,” he looked down and slapped the fabric on the patio loveseat. “Then, I’m all alone with the stupid frogs.” He looked up and smiled at her nose profile again. “Please stay, princess!”

“Teague?”

“Please!”

“Okay. I stay.”

“Yeah, princess!” He leaned into her cheekbone, sweet breathing onto her nose bridge.

I wiped my face from his warm breath. “I’m getting hot…”

“I’m getting hot, too,” Teague leaned so close that his hat presented like an umbrella that covered her sparkling tiara.

“The winner of Junior Miss Prince and Princess Harvest Moon Festival is…” said Principal Holden smiled into the microphone. The audience sounded with a series of claps, cheers, and whistles.

I smirked. “Ya know, gossipy folks’ll tattle to Zeeta about me and ya, Teague?”

He smiled. “Naw! I ain’t doing nothing but sitting by a pretty girl.”

“I see you do this thing to Zeeta on top of the church pew, last Sunday.”

He winked. “Do you spy on me, princess?”

I looked down with a gasp to see the dress, pawing the soft fabric. “Naw, Teague! I don’t spy on your ugly face. But I did see you bump heads with Zeeta on the second pew, far end near the stained glass window on the left side of the church.”

He winked. “Yeah, you do spy on me.”

I looked up with a sour frown to see his smile. “Naw, Teague!”

Holden smiled into the microphone. “The representatives for the ninth grade prince and…”

“Do you see me do this?” He reached over and held her hand with a smile and a giggle. “Your hands are soft like a kitten’s paw, princess.”

I exhaled. “Thanks, Teague.”

“Your fingers are long and skinny. Do you play the piano too?”

I nodded, “Yeah, Teague.”

“I take piano teach lessons after school on Thursdays. Gawd! I hate Miss Ballard. She slams that little baton on my knuckles when I hit the wrong keys.”

I giggled, “Me, too! I go on Tuesdays after school. Then my daddy picks me up from school. So, why didn’t you quit the piano?”

“The winner of High School Miss Prince and Princess Harvest Moon Festival is…” said Principal Holden. The audience sounded with a series of claps, cheers, and whistles.

Teague smiled, “Naw! My mama says right after the recital. Then I quit for good.”

I frowned. “What recital?”

“The Christmas recital.”

I gasped. “Do you mean we have to play a whole piano song in front of our folks?”

“Yeah, we play in front of our parents, not the town.”

“Woo! That’s good. I got nervous in front of Miss Ballard. I’ll mess up good for shore in front of my parents.”

“Naw, princess! I bet you’ll do good.”

“What song?”

“Jingle bells.”

“Mrs. Ballard don’t tell me that.”

“My mama asked. So I can practice and sound good.”

Principal Holden stood with a smile and a nod from the chair. “Thank you for coming out to support Brier High. Good night, folks!” He moved ahead towards the newspaper photographer with a smile pointing at the row of winners. “I want all pictures of each winner for the newspaper on Sunday morning. All the parents will buy lots of newspaper with the kids, who smile pretty on the front page. First photo is Little Miss Princess and Prince Harvest Moon Festival.”

Teague held her hand and stood upright from the chair with a giggle and a grin. “That’s me and you.”

I stood upright with a sour frown while wearing the tiara. “Teague, I ain’t the real…”

He leaned over with a smile and a whisper into her cheekbone. “You are my princess. I am your prince, Nadean.”

“I shouldn’t be in the newspaper picture…”

He pouted. “The prince will be lonely in the newspaper picture, without his princess.”

I frowned. “Zeeta will get mad.”

He cuddled her with a smile and a wink, “Naw! I sweet talk with her, make her smile. Come on and stood beside me.” Teague released her hand and moved down the steps, spinning around, grabbing up the two trophies. They moved ahead and stood in front of the newspaper photographer.

The photographer pointed down at the circle on top of the feather head piece with a smile. “Come over here and stand here, Teague and Nadean!” Teague and Nadean moved ahead and stopped, standing in the circle. The photographer squatted down and shoved the single camera lenses into pair of faces. “Good pose, princess and prince. Say cheese!”

Teague smile and as Nadean laughed, “Cheese!”

The photographer snapped the picture.

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:50 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

O Teague” I whisper and feel the burn on a left wrist bone, slowly exhaling, relaxing my mind and my body into another event of my childhood.

 

 

 

Ten years old daughter Nadean

 

Saturday June 5th

3:03 p.m.

City of Brier

Farm of Jadean and Urall

Cow pasture setting

Hot temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

I patrolled the cow fence, searching for any type of bent barbed wire, completing my task which was assigned by my dad for a dish of dessert tonight, after eating my supper. I stopped and leaped off my pony, allowing him to graze as I saw the two approaching figures.

My school mates and my farm neighbors Teague and Eckward, each were running a horse through the unplowed crop fields of my daddy’s property for some cowboy fun.

Teague turned and spotted Nadean behind the gate with a grin and a laugh.

I swirled around and jerked my BB gun out from the pony’s saddle. I used my gun to destroy pests that were invading my dad’s farmland, including rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels, and Teague. I swung around and swiftly strolled towards the closed wooden gate, swinging my gun low against the leg, so Teague couldn’t see my surprise.

Teague and Eckward, they stopped and dismounted a horse as Eckward nudged Teague with an evil laugh and a wicked grin. And then they both advanced forward towards wooden gate and the surrounding wooden railing between the crop field and the homestead yard.

I jerked the gun up at my waist like my dad had taught and pointed it at Teague, since he was meaner than a rattlesnake. Teague stopped with a silly grin, raising both his arms with a laugh. I yelled out loud with a lady sneer. “Don’t come any closer, shit ass.” I utilized my new word that I had learned from the older girls in high school.

Teague frowned with a snarl. “What did you say to me, girl?”

“My daddy says that I can shoot any trespassers on his land. If you touch that gate, I shoot ya dead, shit ass and other shit ass.” I did not know if there was such a word as shit asses, so I did not to take the chance of looking stupid, only smart.

Eckward paced forward with a sneer. “Girl, ya said bad words like my daddy. When I said bad words, my daddy whips my butthole good. I’m going to whip your butthole good, little girl.”

Teague and Eckward swiftly ran ahead and stopped in front of the closed gate. Teague crossed his arms, shaking a skull with a chuckle and a grin. “I ain’t a trespasser. I’m your neighbor. And I don’t wanna touch the rough gate. I wanna touch something softer,” chuckling.

I pumped the handle and fired a single BB shot straight into the wooden gate as Teague back stepped from the sound with a sneer. “Girl, do you wanna rumble with me? Well, you get one, now. Get her, Bobcat!”

Eckward turned to the side and ran to the left as Teague turned and ran to the right side of the gate, bolting over the wooden railing. I fired another BB shot hitting the wooden railing next to Teague. He stopped and snarled.

I pumped the handle for another shot with a lady sneer at Teague.

And then a pair of hands reached out and grabbed the gun from Nadean maneuvering from behind her back spine as Nadean kicked a boot heel backwards and connected to something soft. Eckward yelped in pain and tumbled backward, falling down onto his back spine over the soft grass.

Teague dashed ahead to Nadean and then crawled through the in-between space between the two wooden railings, racing ahead and collided, hugging her body. They both twirled and fell down over the grass. Teague rolled on top of Nadean, stopping and holding her skull within both his hands with a smile.

I smelled a faint ting of peaches coming from his breath, jerking back my hands, my two arms, my two legs, and my boot heels, without success.

Teague rested over Nadean, looking over with a worried brow to see Eckward, since she had hit his family jewels with her boot heel. He yelled out loud. “Are you okay, Bobcat?” Eckward moaned with pain, rolling over the grass. Teague turned with a grin to see Nadean. “Now, I get to hold something really soft…”

“Boy! Get off her right now, before I hickory-switch your butthole into bleeding.” Urall leaned down with a growl and jerked Teague up by the collar bone, flinging Teague into the air and to the side of the soft grass. Teague landed down and rolled over the grass, coming up on one kneecap, snarling at Nadean.

The truck stopped on the side of the dirt road, “Teague!” Tyson, the father of Teague yelled out loud from inside the pickup truck cab at his son while seeing the boy over Nadean. He scooted out the truck and raced across the field toward Teague with a sour frown.

Teague stood upright from the grass and faced his dad, jabbing a finger at Nadean with a sneer and a sour frown. “Daddy, she…”

Urall lifted his daughter up from the ground to stand, wiping off the dirt and grass from her clothes and her arms with a worried face. “Nadean honey, are you hurt?”

“No, Daddy!” My pride was hurt and embarrassed, thou.

Tyson stopped and touched Teague on the collar bone with a sour frown. “Son, what happened here to cause a scene like this? Did you hit her or what?”

Teague shook a skull and jabbed a finger at Nadean with a growl. “Naw, Daddy! She fired at us with her BB gun. Look over here. See the BB?” He ran ahead towards the wooden railing and stopped, grabbing out, touching the BB with the finger.

Tyson spun around with a puzzled brow and followed behind Teague, stopping, examining the wooden railing with a worried brow too. “Teague tells the truth. The boy never lies. There it is.” He reached out and rubbed the wood, feeling the lead pellet. “That’s a fresh BB shot. That’s Nadean’s gun, isn’t it, Urall?”

Urall leaned down to the ground and retrieved her BB gun with a sour frown, standing upright, checking the fired weapon. “Yipe! Nadean, did you shoot at Teague?”

“Yes.” I nodded with a smile.

Urall frowned. “Why, honey?”

I smirked. “You said that I can shoot dead all pests on our land.” Both the fathers laughed out loud, turning to see Teague, who fumed with fury at Nadean.

Tyson nodded with a smile, tapping on the collar bone of Teague. “Okay! The war has ended. Boys, go and get back into the rear of my truck. I’ll tie the two horses on the tail gate whilest all we trot home.”

“Bobcat’s hurt.” Teague pointed down at Eckward, who was still rolling and moaning over the grass.

“Bobcat, can you walk upright, son?” Tyson moved ahead with a chuckle and squatted down, lifting Eckward to stand upright with a grin.

Urall turned and winked at his daughter. “You be a good cowgirl, honey. I don’t think they’ll be bothering you again. And you defended your land. I’m proud of ya, slick.”

“Thanks, Daddy!” I turned and stared with a sneer to see the back spine of Teague. Teague raced ahead behind his father and spun around, sitting down on top of the lowered tail gate of the truck. I turned a face and mouth spat on the grass, stomping it with my cowgirl boot for his eyeballs. Teague chuckled out loud with a smile and a goodbye hand wave to Nadean.

 

 

Friday August 19th

8:01 a.m.

Brier Elementary School

Mrs. Golden fourth grade setting

Warm temperatures and parted clouds of dull sunlight

 

 

The first day of school, I limped into my new room of ugly, seeing a wall of educational posters of the mathematical factions and the literature poems of some author. Then I see a huddle of five ugly unfriendlies, swiftly veering towards the side wall, before the painful man-pull on my arm.

Teague reached out and grabbed, pulling Nadean into the huddle of kids with a smile into her nose profile. “Say ‘hi’ in Spanish? Olly,” giggling. He was taller in height and broader in shoulders than last year.

I missed the school bus this morning, since my mom drove all of her children to the elementary school building. My baby sister Dorcee was beginning her academic bondage in first grade, this year.

“Hola,” I corrected his bad pronunciation with a stern face to cute and tall Teague.

“Right! Old like.” Teague wrapped an arm around Nadean with a chuckle, pulling her into the inner circle, “New year, new grade, new nickname, ya’ll meet, Duchess. That’s Nadean’s new nickname.”

Zeeta turned and sneered at the nose profile of Nadean. “Why does she get a nickname, Tomcat? Nadean ain’t part of us.”

Teague turned and winked at Nadean with a smile. “She’s a duchess for being pretty and proper like all of them princesses that I saw on my television screen during the summertime.”

“Nadean,” I exhaled and spoke my real name to the dumb fourth graders.

“Duchess,” Teague smiled. “I started this new tradition, this new year, on our first day of school. Me is called Tomcat. Eckward is called Bobcat…”

“Grr!” Eckward raised both of his hands, scratching the air like a set of pretend tiger claws.

Teague pointed with a smile to his girl. “Zeeta is called Kitten.”

“Meow,” smiled Zeeta.

Teague pointed to his other Bama buddy. “Stratton is called Lark.”

“Toot, toot,” Stratton laughed.

Teague pointed to the other girl. “Prebble is called Cricket.”

“Twit, twit,” smiled Prebble.

I frowned at Prebble. “Crickets sing by rubbing their back legs together.”

“Twat, twat,” giggled Prebble.

I turned and frowned to Teague. “That girl is really dumb, Teague.”

“I be called, now, Tomcat. Remember, Duchess?” Teague smiled. “This summer, I killed me a tomcat and earned the right to that name.”

I looked down to see the clean floor with a sour frown. “Dead tomcat.” I looked up with a puzzled brow to see Teague, “Like a male cat as in a farm kitty that lives off the claw shredded guts of dead little gray mice underneath the barn stalls while the horses poop on their tiny heads.”

Eckward playfully slammed a fist with a chuckle into the chest of Teague with a nod. “I got my nickname by chasing away that wild bobcat after all the mama chickens and their chicks outside my daddy’s hen coop.”

Stratton chuckled with a smile. “And the scary little bobcat kitten went running back home to his mama too.”

“Good going, Eckward!” I slapped a hand over my giggles.

“I be called, Bobcat! Remember that girl!” Eckward turned and frowned at Nadean.

The fourth grade teacher stood at her school desk with a clap and a smile for attention. “Please sit down in any student desk. I am Mrs. Green. I will be your only teacher for the entire fourth grade class. And I know each and every one of you by name and by manners, Nash. Your school lessons will include reading comprehension, math tests, and spelling tests along with a couple of new subjects, writing abilities, and science facts.

“As in past history, the first day of school for all Brier student ends after lunch time. We are having hamburgers in celebration of the upcoming football game tonight at seven p.m. Our first task for the morning will be a short academic test. There are twenty four students total. I want the first row of six students to stand and follow behind Mrs. Golden. She will lead you into her testing room. Please follow her instructions.”

The first row of student stood and turned, moving out the door, following the fat ass of Mrs. Golden into a new room.

 

 

Testing room setting

8:08 a.m.

 

 

Mrs. Golden moved and stood in front of the class with a smile and a nod. “Good morning, children. Our first test is reading comprehension. Each child moved to a seat inside the funny looking desk which is called a booth.” The children moved and select a booth, sitting. She continued. “The booth has three walls, so you cannot look at each other written work assignment. There is a booklet, a pencil and a sheet of paper for your use. Please flip your booklet over to the first page of the story, read the story and then write in your own words what is happening to the character named Farmer Brown. When you have written the words of your version, please place the papers into the booklet and stand for me to see. You may begin.”

 

 

I flipped the booklet over, turning to the first page and read in silent.

 

 

 

Farmer Brown owns three beautiful peacocks with bright red, green, and purple feathers that live with the farm chickens inside the hen coop on his property. Today, Farmer Brown will sell the three peacocks to Mrs. Black.

 

Mrs. Black is the owner of a hat shop on the street of Wilmington Boulevard in the city of Huntsville. She plans to pluck each decorative feather from the three beautiful peacocks and design six elaborate hats for her family relatives, consisting of her Aunt Martha, her niece Helena, her Grandmother Nancy, her cousin Betty, and her great Aunt Sarah for the annual church picnic in the month of September.

 

Please question the following questions.

 

How many peacocks does Farmer Brown own? How many hats will be crafted by Mrs. Black? What will be the fate of the peacocks?

 

Please use the adjective words of elaborate, decorative, boulevard, and beautiful in your essay?

 

 

 

I sat inside the booth chair and read the story in silence, composing a short and sweet novelette with a smile on the paper with the pencil.

 

 

The three beautiful peacocks which are owned by Farmer Brown outside the city of Huntsville will provide six elaborate hats for Mrs. Black’s family relatives.

 

Mrs. Black will attend in the month of September the annual church picnic for fun and fellowship.

 

The peacocks will live happily ever after at hat shop which this located on the street of Wilmington Boulevard.

 

 

I smiled down at my essay and stood from my booth, back stepping and scanning the rear skulls of my five other classmates. I was the first student to finish my complete assignment.

Mrs. Golden approached and touched Nadean on the collar bone with a smile and a whisper. “Turn around and go stand against the wall, without disturbing the other working students, Nadean.”

I turned and moved to the far wall with a smile, swinging around and standing in front of it, holding my sheet of paper as more of my classmates joined me.

Mrs. Golden stood on the opposite wall, motioning with her hand and a smile. “Al the students have finished. Nadean, please come and stand beside me and read your creative essay to the class.”

I strolled forward to her side and swung around with a smile, looking down to read out loud my story. “The three…be…be…” I stuttered with the new word.

Mrs. Golden leaned over the hair roots of Nadean with a smile and a nod. “Beautiful…”

“Beautiful…pea…peacockies…”

The other classmates giggled.

“Peacocks…” said Mrs. Golden with a confused brow.

“…peacocks which are owned by Farmer Brown outside the city of Hunt…Hunt…” I stuttered the new word also.

“Huntsville.”

“Huntsville provide six…e…b…”

“Elaborate,” said Mrs. Golden with a puzzled brow.

“…hats for Mrs. Black’s family relatives. Mrs. Black will attend in the month of September the annual church picnic for fun and fellowship.” Mrs. Golden reached and pulled the paper from the sweaty palms of Nadean, gently shoving her to the chair on the side wall. “Please sit, Nadean. Nash, please come and stand beside me and read your composition to the class.”

Nash ran down the aisle and swing around, standing and reading his essay with a grin and a giggle. “Three peacockies…”

“Nash,” Mrs. Golden frowned.

Nash smiled. “Three peacocks are beautiful with decorative feathers on the six hats crafted by Mrs. Black, where they all live fat and happy on Wilmington Boulevard. The end.”

Mrs. Golden shoved Nash to the chair with a nod and a smile. “Nice job, Nash. Please have a seat. Nadean, please stand and follow Mrs. Blue for more testing today.”

 

 

7:07 p.m.

Brier High School campus

Musical band room setting

Warm temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

I scratched my nose first, underneath my right armpit second, and between the ass-crack of my tights third that rode up and into my butthole from the needles that were biting into my body. I wore a new majorette uniform, performing a set of one handed flips with my baton, blowing a set of individual pink bubbles.

I was a baby majorette for the Brier high school marching band without a set of glued bird feathers or a series of painted rainbows on my naked face. I wore a sleeveless top which was shaped like a robot plus a skirt that was trimmed in an array of silver one inched itchy fabric which was called eyelashes.

The silver needles were vertical straight eyelashes like a human eyelash as I continued to scratch and itch over my individual body parts, spinning my baton and popping the bubbles.

I turned and viewed the bigger twirlers who were called majorettes. The majorettes painted red lipstick on their faces and wore the same fabric underneath a pair of bulging breasts and a set of long legs, looking sexy to all the teen males.

The majorettes and I were waiting for the band director Pole to finish his inspection of the individual band members that were fidgeting in the car parking lot of the high school.

I was inside an air conditioned room as a ten year old child.

Tonight, it was a football game, where the band performed at the half-time show, marching across the field of dirt and blood, playing an array of musical songs. I twirled my baton to the musical songs with a fake smile as ordered by my mom Jadean. Or I would get slapped by my Jadean for not obeying her wicked commands.

I didn’t primp nothing on my body, not even my hair, since my mom had sprayed a half-can of flat beer over my curly locks. It made my curls fossilized until Christmas day.

My curls loved the humid weather and bounced and flew over my eyeballs, my earlobes, and into other people’s food plate, if I was close enough for some shooting practice.

My mama painted my dry hair with a comb of wet flat beer and strangled my hair roots with a complete set of fashionable pink plastic rollers and an array of black hair pens until the wet flat beer dried for some reason. Then she ripped out all the plastic rollers from my scalp along some root hair as I screamed for help.

Help never came.

So I watched my curls float down a back spine which lasted for three whole days and nights until I washed my hair on Monday after school or after suppertime or after her yelling.

The building door opened.

Zeeta stood inside the archway. She was the second baby majorette that twirled with Nadean on the football field, because her mom Abby wanted Zeeta to be the only baby majorette, who was twirling in front of the marching band. But the wise old band director Pole-cat overruled Abby, creating two of them sadly. She moved into the room with her mom Abby. The door closed.

I turned and viewed the majorette uniform on Zeeta which differed from mine.

Zeeta wore the themed-costume mascot brave of Brier high school. Her outfit was made of soft leather which was shaped like a cylinder with a string of alterative red and white around her collar and a string of fake bird feathers on top of her forehead.

The head majorette had told me four times on the school bus to wear the itchy silver eyelash costume and not the brave costume as I turned and viewed Alice.

The head majorette Alice turned and stomped her pair of shiny white tinted majorette boots towards Zeeta, sneering over the hair roots of the fourth grade. “You’re supposed to wear the silver outfit…”

“That outfit is too small for my baby daughter, Alice,” Abby sneered at Alice. “Zeeta has grown a full inch, since it was cut and made in the month of May. She has to wear the brave outfit for the football game.”

Alice shook her hair sprayed curls with a sour frown and a matching tone. “Then she can’t twirl. We all are wearing the silver uniforms. Because I’m head of the majorettes and I select the outfits for the football game.”

Abby turned and frowned at Nadean. “The baby majorettes twirl together. Then Nadean can’t twirl either.”

Alice turned and smiled at Nadean. “Nadean wears the silver one like I ordered. She twirls but Zeeta can’t.”

Abby turned and sneered to Alice. “I want Mr. Pole to make that decision, Alice. He is the band director…”

“…with my input. Since these are all my majorettes for each football game.”

Abby sneered. “The bigger majorettes belong to you. But the two baby majorettes are too young for a teenage girl’s direction. That’s why Mr. Pole is in charge.”

The door opened. Polecat stood in the archway with a stern face and a serious tone at Abby and Alice. “We seem to have a miscommunication here between someone.”

Abby turned and smiled to Pole. “Zeeta can’t fit into the silver eyelash custom anymore. The mascots have to twirl in their brave outfits, until I can get her a next one by next week, sir.”

Mr. Pole turned and viewed Nadean with a stern face and a serious tone. “Where’s your mama, Nadean?”

I smiled, “My mama is sitting in the bleacher stands with my two brothers and my one sister and my one daddy too,” giggling.

He nodded with a smile. “Run and fetch Jadean for me!” He turned and viewed Alice with a smile. “Better yet! Alice, escort Nadean down to the grand stands and explain to Jadean that there has been a change in clothing plans. The mascots will wear the Indian outfits.” Alice nodded with a sour frown, extending her hand.

I grabbed the hand of Alice and moved out the room, and down to the football field, spotting my mom and my dad inside their seats in the stadium.

Jadean turned and gasped at Alice and Nadean, standing upright and running down the bleachers and stopped in front of Alice.

Alice said with a sour frown. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Garland. Zeeta can’t fit into the silver majorette outfit. Mr. Polecat said to get Nadean to change her majorette outfit before the game. Or she can’t twirl.”

Jadean nodded in silence to the older majorette. Alice nodded with a smile and turned, jogging back to the band room. Jadean grabbed the hand of Nadean, jerking the child toward the gate, leaving the football field. She moved to the car, opening the door.

I crawled into the front passenger seat in silence and actually relieved to rid of the itchy customer. But I couldn’t say that to my mama.

Jadean moved around the front bumper, sliding into the driver’s seat with a sour frown, starting the car and drove onto the roadway to the house. She shook her curls with a sneer. “That woman! Abby always gets her way come hell or high water. Well, this be the last year you be going to twirl for the marching band. No more! Naw!”

I turned and frowned at the nose profile of Jadean. “You begged me to try-out for majorette. You begged me to twirl the baton. You begged me to…”

She drove with a sour frown. “Don’t sass your ass at me, girly.”

I looked down with a smile to see the floor, kicking my majorette boots on the seat. “I like the brave outfit better than the silver one. This one itches my…b…body.”

She drove, shaking her curls with a sour frown back to her house. “Thank the good Lord! We be close to the school. Ya change your majorette uniform. I place ya in all of them beauty pageants and that baton twirling lessons and that flute playing, so you marry a good man. That be your lesson for the day, girly. Remember? Folks be mean, not good to each other. Ya gotta watch your ass all the time, Nadean. Remember that? A good lesson in life.”

I nodded with a smile scratching at itchy majorette outfit.

 

 

 

Thirteen years old daughter Nadean

 

4:04 p.m.

Saturday July 6th

City of Brier

Fair Grounds livestock competition setting

Hot temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

The competition judging and awarding of prizes had ended four minutes ago. My dad was helping my mom load up all the homemade pies and the cakes into the truck bed for the trip back home. However, I was leaning against the concrete wall between the set of empty animal pens that had contained a set of baby bulls, since all the bulls were already loaded into the cow trailers.

Teague strutted side to side in front of Nadean in his new jacket, winning third place at the livestock competition with a smirk. “Why do you think we, boys raise babies of livestock for selling at the fairgrounds, Duchess?”

“Money!” I continued to wave the first place financial reward with a smile and a giggle for winning the best cow within the livestock competition. I had competed with all the teen males in the county, including cute ass Teague. He stopped and faced Nadean. I hoped that he would leaned down and kissed me, please.

“Yeah!”

I winked with a giggle, waving a single hundred bill for first prize. “I’ll get you a soda, a hotdog, and a moon pie, Tomcat, to celebrate my success. How’s that?” Teague only addressed Nadean as Duchess which annoyed the horse crap out of her butthole.

His hand slammed into the wall and as his body leaned closer to her nose bridge with a smirk. “Why do you think happens when Mr. Hocks gets home with Betsy?”

“Feed and water her.”

“Her! How did you know that it was a girl cow?”

I slapped my chest with a giggle, since Teague was almost kissing my lips, “She is a girl like me.”

His face leaned closer down to her nose bridge with a smirk. “Yeah, you are a fine girl, Duchess.”

I smiled. “What do you want, now, Teague, my money?”

“Your respect.”

“I respect you. Okay. Are we done here, Tomcat?”

“Naw! Betsy is going to be supper steak for Mr. Hocks next week.”

I gasped, “What?”

“Yep! Betsy is going to be a plate of steak dinner for a couple of months.”

“He’s going to…” I sobbed with a distorted ugly face.

Teague slipped both of his two hands around her collar bone with a smirk and a whisper into her cheekbone, “….slaughter Betsy. Yep, he invited me and my family over for the first fest.”

“Kill….” I sobbed with tears for my cow Betsy in that slaughter house.

The Hocks family income was killing food animals around the county, packing the fresh meat in a set of square and taped white butcher paper.

My dad came home at the end of month in August with a set of six boxes of white square and taped small packages, containing our dead beef cows.

I had raised my cow Betsy from a tiny wobbling four-legged skinny calf when she didn’t want to drink the warm milk from her mama’s teat. Then I got up at every morning at four am, walking with my dad to help feed baby Betsy as my lazy family siblings slept late inside a warm bed.

My mom was up from her bed, cooking breakfast for all the hungry faces too.

I did not know why I was so emotional and stupid, since I always mentally thought of a different happy ending for Betsy. My cow Betsy would live out her farm life as a mama cow that would birth more baby calves on Mr. Hock’s cow ranch.

Then I vividly recalled that short tense conversation at the supper table that stormy evening, my dad had offered for my brothers to tend the young motherless calf. Vester flat out refused. Vassar said nothing as usual, looking down at his supper plate with a sad face. And then my dad turned with a smile and offered Nadean the proposal the same night at the supper table.

Dang! I created the tragic ending for Betsy.

Teague reached and touched her wet cheek as Nadean sobbed more tears. He smiled. “The nicer word is slaughter, Duchess. Where do you think a beef hamburger and a T-bone steak come from, darling?”

Geez! I knew that beef came from a cow, pork from a pig, chicken from a hen, veal from a lamb, and venison from a deer. I sobbed with my tears and my sissy soprano.

Teague softly say with a smile. “I wanna thank you for participating in the livestock contesting, since you’re a pretty brave girl, Duchess. But did you know the cows, the goats, the pigs, and the chicken ain’t a set of pets, honey? They are a food source as told in The Bible by Almighty God. So I just wanted you to know that for next year, when you place Betsy’s daughter back into the county livestock competition.”

Gawd! I was dumbass.

My cow Betsy did not have a biological daughter, because part of the livestock competition was selling off all the blue-ribbon prized virgin animals for either making a new baby or eating the fresh meat. I was too upset as I was not able to perform a simple mathematical calculation like one plus one equals two. I slumped down into his chest with my tears.

Teague cuddled Nadean, patting her hair and kissing her temple with an evil smirk. “Are you feeling okay, Duchess? If not, I’m right here, darling.”

 

 

 

Fourteen years old birth day girl Nadean

 

Sunday May 18th

1:01 p.m.

The Swimming Hole

Birthday party setting

Hot temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

The only entertainment establishment in rural farm town Brier was owned by my uncle. My grandmother Garland had twelve children and was going to be eighty-four years old in a couple of more months, since she was born in the last century on August 18, 1888.

Flossie turned from the huddle of girls and dropped open her mouth with a gasp, pointing her newly manicured fingernail at wide glass window. “Honey child, come and look who’s walking from a set of two shiny pickup trucks. They’re coming in here to your birthday party, Nadean.”

I was celebrating with my girls from Brier middle school. My mom had arranged for the local manicurist to paint each finger nail and toe nail in a set of sinful fire engine red color or pretty prancing pony pink or slick seductive orange along with the local hairdresser to fix each skull lf hair roots. Then they would rest and relax by the swimming pool, tanning the skin golden brown in the bright hot sun.

The Swimming Hole featured a large swimming pool, a roller skating ring, row of picnic tables over a patch of torn-up red dirt without grass for the little shits that made a big mess with the cake frosting and ice cream drools like my baby sister Dorcee.

Dorcee would turn eight years old in the month of July and then her birthday party would fly outdoors with the big nasty black horseflies, the big green June bugs, and the screaming little girls with a set of colorful balloons.

The Swimming Hole had a set of indoor eating tables for birthdays, wedding receptions, baptism lunches, funeral wake dinners, church afternoon picnics, township lunch conferences, and school parent teacher evening meetings to accommodate all the Brier folks. The Swimming Hole was across the street from the Brier church.

It wasn’t built on purpose like that. It happened like that.

I stood in a faded blue jeans skirt with a pair of real high heel leather sandals coming from my Aunt Collie. My mom was jealous with the cool gift coming from Aunt Collie which was such a whore-like object. I loved them. My dad smiled with an approving nod in silence.

Dorcee was numb. She was too young to understand summer heels, painted toenails, and teen emotions.

“What?” I ran ahead with a gasp and tripped over my new fashion whore-like heel, stopping and staring out the window too late.

The entrance door opened. Cute male teens Teague, Eckward, Stratton, and Brock strutted with a smile and a laugh through the front door, toting a pink covered gift too.

Flossie turned and tapped her manicured hand against each shirt with a smile and a giggle for her attention, accepting the pink covered gift also for Nadean’s birthday party.

I swung around and stormed towards the ring leader, grabbing a naked bicep, shoving him away from the door, his boys, and my girls. My twin brothers of nine years old ran and leaped over the boot toes of the other older male teens for fun.

Eckward, Stratton, and Brock grunted and laughed with Nadean’s rough and tough twin brothers as Urall turned and approached the teen males with a handshake, a back slap like a proper southern gentlemen to welcome them to the birthday celebration.

Teague side stepped around Nadean into the wall corner with a chuckle, swinging her around as she hit the wall with a soft thud. And then they stood in each other face.

I leaned into his nose bridge with a growl and a sour frown. “What are you doing here, Teague? This is a private celebration for me.”

He smiled. “I’m invited by Urall to entertain your brothers whilest your mama entertains Dorcee and the little runts. And you entertain your girls. I brought you a present.”

“Yeah, I saw you give it to Eckward. He placed it in the heap of bows.” I didn’t miss a thing.

Teague smirked. “You owe me.”

I frowned. “Owe you? What in tarnation for, Teague?”

He leaned closer into her nose bridge, sweet breathing mint with a smile.

My girls and I were about to parade outside around the swimming pool for some teen girly gossip time as Teague and his boys showed up unexpectedly.

Teague smiled. “The band uniforms of blue jeans. I got my mama to talk Polecat into letting the kids wear blue jeans during the first football game half-time show last year. ‘Cause the warehouse with the old uniforms burned down to the ground, then we got a batch of clothes three weeks later. Remember, darling? And you promised me a favor. So I am here to collect, girl.”

“O.” I looked down with a worried brow to see my red sinful colored toenails. “I thought you forgot about that.”

Teague leaned into her hair, smelling the fresh sense of roses with a smirk. “I never forget, darling.”

I looked up with a sweet smirk to him. “Give you a rain check.”

“I don’t like rain.”

I winked. “Well, you can have one of my thirty-six birthday presents, sweetheart.”

“Dirty sex…” Teague sniggered with a nod.

I gasped. “Thirty-six birthday presents, Teague. You pick one of my thirty-six birthday presents, now.”

“I don’t like girly pink. You got thirty-six birthday gifts?”

“There’re lots of them Garlands on the Christmas tree each year.”

“I just wanna collect one particular Garland.” He smirked.

I giggled. “And what you do plan with that particular Garland, Teague?” He did not correct his proper name with his silly nickname, meaning that he liked my flirting action which was harmless.

He grabbed her biceps and shoved Nadean into the cold concrete with a growl. “I want you to pay me my debt.”

“Next week…” I bad breathed my three hotdogs with yellow mustard and white onions all over his distorted face.

Teague gritted his teeth, “Now, here…”

“This is my birthday party now, here. Next week, I meet you at the creek bottom for shore.”

“I be busy next week, hauling cows into their trailers, but your birthday is an excellent time to collect my debt.”

“Naw.”

He smirked. “Then I wanna give you a personal birthday present for becoming a pre-teenager.”

“I turned thirteen, a pre-teen last year, Teague. I’m fourteen years old today.”

“A mature woman, I like.”

“And I don’t.” I smiled with a giggle. My hands and arms were down my side, actually daring Teague to do something to me. All I had to do was shout-out. Then, my dad would come running to my rescue. Teague gently placed both hands and elbows against the wall, boxing Nadean into his body with a smile. I smiled, “Teague.”

“My debt,” He dipped a face down to her with a smile, tenderly placing a set of pouted lips over her flat lips.

I felt emotions of excitement and heat-ness then felt immediately hot-ness and nervousness. Teague pressed his soft flesh into her softer flesh for her first ever golly kiss from a boy.

Nadean!” Jadean yelled out loud inside the eating room. “Come and cut your cake, right now.”

Teague broke the sweet connection and smirked with delight into her pretty face. I blinked my eyelashes open, seeing my classmate and my next door neighbor in a different light. Teague grunted with happiness. “Paid!” I lifted both hands and shoved him from my face, turning and moving from the wall and cute sexy Teague.

Teague yelled out loud with a laugh, leaning against the wall. “The bank’s open anytime for another loan, Duchess.”

I ran and tripped again on my whore-like fashion heels, hoping my womanly makeup hadn’t melted off my heated face.

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:51 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

O Teague…” I whisper and feel the burn on a left wrist bone, exhaling with a small puff, relaxing my mind and my body into another past historical teenage event.

 

 

 

Seventeen years old daughter Nadean

 

Wednesday March 2nd

5:05 p.m.

Farm and home of Jadean and Urall

Private bedroom setting of Nadean

Cool temperatures and partly cloudy with sunlight

 

 

I scratched at no hair lice bugs but stimulated my gray matter into one single simple idea for the annual Brier High School science fair due tomorrow. Or I would face the letter grade of ‘F’ in my science course plus my mama’s nasty look when I messed up, embarrassing her with my poor academic grades again.

I tuned and stared at the pretty sky and the sun through my second story clean glass window, since springtime had arrived with warm weather, making my boots secretly scream to be freed from the wardrobe closet for some outdoor activity. I would like to go outside and practice twirling my baton or riding my mare down to the creek on my daddy’ property near Teague’s barn.

I bet that Teague was outside, saddling his stallion for a ride or shooting something for fun with his childhood friend Eckward.

I scribbled and pen-doodled a set of imperfect circles over the empty lined paper, hoping my mama didn’t barge into my room, seeing the wasted sheet of page or the ink from the pen. She would have a heart attack, fainting and falling over my non-shiny wooden floor for abusing the poor notepaper and wasting poor my daddy’s hard working money while nagging in my face again.

I was not genius smart, only average something. And I was still discovering my hidden God-given academic talents which were not twirling a baton or winning beauty pageants either.

I looked down to see the ugly doodles and flipped the paper, pen-doodling a square box which was not easy. Then I pen-doodled a figure-eight, going side to side in a smooth motion and ease.

I turned and stared into the mirror, thinking that I could not ask my mama about a science fair project, since she was stupider than I. Not my daddy, since he was busier than I.

So I pondered something average for a passing grade other than the letter grade of ‘F.’

I could ask Teague for a suggestion, since he liked to give me free advice and helpful information. And Teague was really smart, making a ton of good grades.

I looked down and drew an oval, making me think of an egg. The egg made me think of a hen. The hen made me think of supper, since my mama was cooking fried chicken for supper. I smelled the bacon grease coating over the chicken’s skin, drifting up into my room on the second level of my house.

I turned and moved to the closed door.

The door opened in the face of Nadean.

I stomp from my bedroom and down the staircase in pondering frustration, entering the kitchen and heard.

 

 

5:08 p.m.

Kitchen setting

 

 

Jadean sat at the breakfast table in the kitchen with the family, turning with a smile to see the nose profile of Dorcee. “Dorcee’s going to be a great cook and win every 4-H cooking contest in Limestone County,” she turns with a sour frown to see Nadean. “What’da ya doing locked into your room, girly?” Nadean pulled out the chair and sat at the table, picking up the fork, eating the food. Jadean turned with a smile to see Dorcee. “This year, the spring pageant has lowered the age limits. There’s a junior division, Dorcee. That’s you. For the first time in Brier’s history, the Cattlemen’s Association is sponsoring the spring pageant to include girls with good academic standing…”

“Not Dorcee…” chewed Vester with a grin.

Dorcee turned and chewed with a grin to see Nadean. “That’s never stopped stupid Nadean from winning a crown.”

Jadean grinned. “Good social skills and ladylike presentation for the following new categories, Miss Maiden of Cotton, Junior Miss Maiden of Cotton, Diary Cowbell queen…”

“Miss Cow dumbbell queen…” I chewed with a grin.

“Shut up, stupid.” Dorcee sneered.

Vester parted his lips with a chuckle. “What no Miss Soybean queen?”

“Shut up, more stupid.” Dorcee sneered at Vester.

“Naw, I am the next Miss Cow dumbbell, Miss Horse turd, Miss Farmer’s girl. So, I will be it all.” I dropped my fork, raising both my hands with a giggle and a grin, slapping the hands between Vester and Vassar with a giggle and a grin. I pointed to Dorcee with a sour frown. “And if you repeat any of this to Teague, I swear to God…”

Dorcee frowned. “Tell Teague? Why does he care about your beauty titles, Nadean?”

Jadean said. “Do not use the Lord’s name in vain, Nadean. And you mind own about Nadean’s affairs, Dorcee.”

Dorcee smiled. “She has a secret, Daddy.”

Jadean said. “The secret is that Nadean hasn’t won. This is your year to be crowned Limestone County Maiden of Cotton, girly.”

I frowned. “Geez, how many tiaras does a princess really need, Mama?”

Jadean yelled with a sour frown. “Don’t sass your ass at me, girly.”

Urall chewed and swallowed with a sour frown to his wife. “Jadean, we conduct gracious social manners at the dining table.”

Jadean turned and sneered at Nadean. “Talk to your smart ass daughter, Urall. These fine pageantries provide her with scholarship money for the university. Next, Dorcee be entering all them same beauty contests for getting money for college, too. I didn’t get to attend. Mark my words, girls. Ya are going to college and make something of your sweet selves.”

“I like wiving.” Dorcee chewed with a grin.

Jadean nodded with a smile. “Wiving is nice, when married. Now days, there be more social opportunities for young girls like you and Nadean, Dorcee. Ya can be a nurse or a teacher or a secretary…”

“President of the United States…” I chewed with a giggle.

Vester turned and nodded to his dad. “I wanna be rich and have my own business. Then I can be boss like Daddy.”

Jadean frowned. “Nadean, after supper, we pin your new pants suit for the Miss FHA Pageant on your body.”

I gasped. “I’m supposed…” to do the sewing project with my hands at school and not give it to a semi-professional seamstress like my mama.

Jadean frowned. “Ya supposed to smile and win, that be your slogan, girly.”

“Are you going for the title of Miss Cowbell this year, Nadean?” Vester laughed.

I giggled, “Naw, Miss Cow turds.”

“Miss Horse patties,” Vassar chewed with a grin.

I smiled. “Naw, it is Miss Horse crap and Miss Bullshit…”

Dorcee frowned, “Mama, make her stop insulting the beauty pageant that I wanna win.”

Jadean frowned. “Stop being a smart ass, girly! Do you hear your first born child, Urall mocking both me and you?”

I turned and winked to my dad. “Between the gasps of laughing air, he don’t?”

Dorcee frowned. “Shut up, Nadean!”

I chewed with a grin. “I’m having a little fun…”

“…which ain’t allowed at suppertime only in-between food meals,” Vester laughed.

Urall frowned, “Boys?”

“Men?” Vester said in an unnatural manly baritone for a twelve years old child.

Jadean frowned at Urall and smiled at her twin boys. “Why do you pick on the boys only? Nadean started the whole thing.”

I exhaled. “Okay, Dorcee gets to be Miss Cow turd, Miss Horse crap, and Miss Bullshit.”

Jadean yelled, “Enough, girly.”

I swallowed the food with a grin. “I can be every royal title in America by the time I’m eighteen years old. But I like country princess ‘bestest.’”

Jadean stood with a sour frown. “Supper’s done. Boys, ya clean up the kitchen and feed the dogs the table scrapes.” She turns and leaves the eating table. Dorcee stands and leaves the kitchen, following her mama.

Urall wiped his mouth, dropping the napkin and standing with a smile and a nod to his sons. “Boys, we be going over football stances after you wash the dishes. I got some old play books that ya’ll need to memorize for practice.”

I stood with a confused brow, “Practice to play a song book? Vester and Vassar can play the guitar, banjo, drums, piano, and trombone from the Brier marching band. What musical instrument are you learning to play now?”

Urall smiled with a nod, “Football play books for the upcoming junior football games, next school year in August. The coach told me that practice starts on Monday afternoon, boys.”

Vester said. “Yes sir.”

I turned and frowned at Vester. “They wear eyeglasses, Daddy. How can my brothers play football with eyeglasses made with real glass?”

Vester turned and moved from the table to the washing sink. “These are corrective eyeglasses, sis. Our eyes have grown into our brain. We don’t need wear them anymore. We possess perfect vision.”

I frowned at my dad. “Football is mean and messy, Daddy. Remember last year, when that boy got his leg broken, then he couldn’t walk for months.”

Urall smiled, “Part of the suffering while learning to grow into manhood.”

I turned and viewed the back spine of my brother Vester. He was washing the dishes with Vassar, doing a better job than my mama. I turned and frowned to my dad. “My brothers are smart. They didn’t need to learn football plays. They’re going be rocket scientists, sending people to the moon. Football games are for…”

Urall frowned. “I know my boys are smart like you, honey. And they be going to college too like you, honey. But they be going to college and playing sports on the football team. Remember, that senior boy from Brier, he went to Burn U on a scholarship. The university pays for everything the schooling, the food, and the housing. Vester and Vassar can do the same dang thing. Let Burn U pay for their schooling, free of charge. Just like your mama, she puts you in them beauty pageants, but you be going to Burn U free of charge with the beauty scholarships,” he shook his skull. “The university is lots of money. Money, I don’t have or can’t get.” He turned and viewed the glass window. “Raising cotton’s easy but pays poorly for a large family.” He turned and smiled at Nadean. “But my kids are smart and resourceful. Your mama and me want ya to get a good education, be something beside dirt farmers.”

I frowned. “Nothing’s for free, Daddy.”

Urall nodded. “You’re right, Nadean. Hard work is free.” He turned and left the kitchen.

Vassar leaned over with a whisper to Vester. “I like dirt farming.” Vester nodded.

I turned and left the kitchen, softly cussing at my dad.

 

 

5:45 p.m.

Sewing room setting

 

 

I entered through the archway of the sewing room with a worried brow for my brothers.

Dorcee pranced around the room with a sour frown for her mama to view the length of the dress and stopped. “I don’t wanna wear Nadean’s dirty hand-me downs. She worn this old dress,” she turned and frowned at her older sister, “How many times, Nadean?”

I stopped at the side table, grabbing and pressing the tiara into my skull with a giggle. “Let’s see Miss Cow dumbbell, Miss Horse turd, and Miss Farmer girl. That’s three. And there’s more. I just can’t concentrate with all the combs, sticking though my skull.” I jerked it off with a giggle, placing it back on the table with the other sewing objects.

Jadean kneeled on the floor and pinned up the long dress on Dorcee. “Nadean has grown another inch and can’t wear it anymore. The waist line fits you perfectly but the hem is too long. So I’ll cut the hemline to your knees and dart up the armpits, since you’re only a pre-teen not a teenager. Then ya’ll look like a little porcelain baby doll and win your division, Dorcee.”

Dorcee crossed her arms with a sour frown and a nod. “I wanna new dress, Mama.”

Jadean crawled over the floor again. “The dress must be made of hundred percent cotton fabric. Or you be disqualified from the princess competition, Dorcee. The yellow tea length chiffon will be adorable over the knee-length crinoline with your black locks floating over the sweetheart neckline. We add my wrist-length white silk gloves…”

“No one wears gloves anymore, Mama.” Dorcee frowned.

Jadean stood with a wink and a smile to her baby daughter. “That’s our secret weapon in looking like a southern lady rather than southern redneck. Ain’t it, Dorcee?” Nadean chuckled. Dorcee reached and pitched three balls of yarn at her older sister, missing. Jadean fiddled and pinned the waist line on the dress. “I’ll add a red dyed hunk of cotton bolls around your wrist as a bracelet over the white glove for that touch of cotton which the judges will notice. Ya be sure to win Limestone County Junior Miss Maiden of Cotton, Dorcee. I can feel it in my bones.”

“‘Cause it going to rain, Mama…” I smiled at my dark humor, turning to see the dark clouds in the window.

Jadean said, “Lucky for you, Dorcee, that Cherry gots good taste,” smiling. “Ya look divine like a goddess, Dorcee. If I had pearl earrings…”

“Grandmother Garland has plenty of jewelry, Mama.” I nodded. Grandmother Garland had given Nadean some of fine gem stones, when Urall had tattled all of her good deeds at home, at school, and at church.

Jadean sneered. “Huh! Your grandmother Garland gives to no one. Take it off, Dorcee. Nadean, take off your shirt and jeans. I be pinning your pants suit next.”

I smiled. “Yes ma’am. May I ask her, Mama?” I remove my shirt and my pair of jeans.

Jadean turned and measured the fabric. “Ya can try, Nadean? But that old coot gives nothing to none ever.”

Dorcee removed her gown, turning with a gasp to see Nadean. “You’re not wearing a bra.”

“Close your eyes then.” I stood in my girly panties, folding both my arms over the naked breasts.

Jadean turned and frowned to her eldest daughter. “Where’s your bra, Nadean?”

“In my wardrobe drawer…” I moved closer to my mama and stopped, feeling the cold air around my nipples.

Jadean frowned. “You wear a brazier always, girly. Only whores walk around, flapping their tits in the air. Do you hear me, Nadean?”

“Yes ma’am.” I thought only whores cussed like sailors similar to my mama also.

“Stand still, Nadean. I have sharp needles pinning the fabric around your legs.” Jadean measured the fabric.

Dorcee observed with a giggle and a grin at her older sister. “Nadean’s skinny like a skeleton.”

“Hush, Dorcee.” Jadean said.

Dorcee giggled. “And she’s short like a midget pony. Ya know that Mr. Hocks owns three midget ponies? Mama, Daddy’s going over there for some reason. Can I go pretty please?”

“Please go, runt.” I ordered to my annoying sister with a sour frown.

“I’m not the runt of the kitty litter, Nadean. Mama says I be tall…taller than you at nine years old.” Dorcee rocked back and forth with a smile.

Jadean nodded with a grin. “She’s right, Nadean. Dorcee will be a fashion model, one day.”

I smiled. “Since, she got no brains to be a rocket scientist.”

Jadean pinned the fabric with a sour frown. “Be still, girly. Or I’ll draw blood. Go with Daddy, Dorcee. Leave me to my work.”

“Yes ma’am.” Dorcee turned and ran out the room with a smile.

Jadean smiled. “I’m excited about the FHA Fashion Show, Nadean.”

I frowned. “Not me. I do this just to get an A-plus in my home economics class, my first ever A-plus too.”

“Nevermore…”

“What?” I cut my eyeballs down at Jadean on the floor, pinning the fabric.

“Zeeta’s mama told me that the winner of the fashion show will represent Brier high school’s Miss FHA in the Christmas parade.”

“So…”

“Then, Miss Junior FHA competes in the Limestone County show. Since the Miss FHA sponsorship offers five hundred dollars in a saving bond for every winner, girly.”

“O…” Another beauty pageant as I lived out my mama’s dead dream of becoming Miss US of A, because my mama was impregnated by my dad in her senior year at Brier High School at the age of seventeen years old which was tattled by Cherry Hilliard, my first cousin.

“O, that all you can say, girly? I’m working my fingers to the bone on this magnificent pants suit,” she looked up with a sour frown to see the chin of Nadean. “And you say, O.”

“O goody.” I stared at the chipped paint of the historical out old southern antebellum house. Maybe, I will donor my five hundred dollar saving bond certificate to paint the walls, since my Mama lived here, transforming me into a creature of beauty or in front of the kitchen oven for daily meals.

The sewing room contained a sewing machine between the two windows, so my mama’s poor eyesight could see a tiny needle and a tinier strand of thread without injuring a finger pad or two.

I heard, one time, my Mama talked about a seamstress sewing a fingernail into the dress.

Jadean was an okay seamstress, since she was a housewife and mother first and did not depend upon to make a living for the family like Urall. So, she toyed in mending all the family clothes that came from her spoiled brat niece Cherry Hilliard or her other fast-growing Garland cousins.

Since, I grew slow.

Jadean was short and dumpy, so I was short but skinny. Dorcee was both dumpy and tall, so she would be tall and skinny.

“Lift your arms, Nadean. You be short waist like me. I can’t where any thick cloth or leather belts around my middle stomach. It cuts off my air breathing, so you be having the same medical problem, Nadean. But ya got a set of long legs. Men like long legs on a girl, girly. You be finding a fine husband with your long legs,” giggling.

I did not giggle, because I planned to go to college, finding an education first.

Jadean smiled. “Dorcee’s got a pair of short stubby legs from me. I can see that when she walks or prisses. Girls with long legs glide like a princess, while girls with short legs prissy their fanny side to side like a whore.”

Jadean called that one right, recalling the short legs on teen-whore Cherry Hilliard and long popular reputation with the boys via Teague’s smirk and hot gossip tattle.

“I am done.” Jadean unpins the pants. “Step carefully. The fabric is full of sharp pins. And don’t mess up my markers.”

“Yes ma’am.” I stepped out of the pinned fabric cloth over the carpet and to my regular clothes.

“Ya says something about the front of the blouse, Nadean.” She stood and moved to the sewing machine to start work on the school homework assignment for her daughter.

I dressed in my shirt and my jeans. “Yeah, I gotta put a design on the front of the blouse.”

“What kind of design?”

“I’m doing embroidery in my home economics class with pretty threads of red, green, and sky blue. I was thinking of drawing three sunflowers like an outline of the four petals in red with a green round ball in the center.”

“I can outline three flowers. Where? How about on the right breast and then over down under the left breast, then over to the extreme left, right above the waistband.”

“Yeah, Mama, you’re smart that gonna like real neat. And get me an ‘A plus’ for school.”

She holds the cut fabric in the air with a smile and a nod. “Yeah, you win for shore with that nice set of colorful flowers. Your platform shoes are yellow, right, girly?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Ah, I see where ya got the idea of matching yellow and red. Your platform clogs are colored yellow with two red flowers. Good thinking, Nadean. I get Grandma Sloan to embroidery them flowers for ya. She’s talented with her fingers, doing embroidery, crocheting, and needle pointing all the southern belle old fashioned mending techniques. Grandma learned from her mama, your great-grandma.”

“I’m supposed to…” carefully saying with a grin.

She frowned, “Too what, girly?”

“I’m supposed to turn my sewn pants suit into the teacher for grading…”

“That’s after the fashion show, right, girly?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Once you win Miss FHA, it will be a shoe-in for Dorcee to win Miss Little FHA title in her elementary school. The teachers place that honor on the student, but she’s your sister. The teachers like ya, Nadean, being a good kid.”

“A good pawn…” I turned and left the room, hearing the song inside the sewing room.

Jadean sung off-key, performing the old church song, working around the house and on her sewing projects, since no one had the heart to tell her the truth.

 

 

6:06 p.m.

Water creek and pond setting

Farm of Jadean and Urall Garland

Warm temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

I retrieved the pearl necklace from my Grandmother Garland for the gown of Dorcee with ease and decided to track down Teague for my lazy afternoon. He was busy mending the broken fence post between our farm property lines.

The steam of creek water separated the two farms, but the water flowed on the side of Urall’s farm only.

I yelled from the rolled window inside the stopped truck that was used to hay the horses in the meadow fields on my dad’s farm with a giggle and a grin, “Dumb shit.”

Teague stood from the broken fence post, flinging the sweat from his face and scanning the woodlands. “What?”

It worked every time. I scooted out the truck, moving closer to the creek as Teague climbed over the fence with a smile and a nod. I yelled with a giggle and a grin. “Hey, smart ass.”

Teague moved closer to her with a smile and a nod without hearing the nasty insult, “Tomcat.”

“Hey, Tomcat,” I stopped with a smile and a nod, admiring his sweaty T-shirt and muscles on the teen stud. “Can you tell my brothers about football?”

Teague wiped off his sweaty face with a smile and a nod. “Yeah, I can.”

I nodded with a smile. “They started practicing for seventh grade football last week. Can you evaluate their skills and figure out the best positions for my brothers? I was thinking maybe a kicker position for Vester.”

Teague winked. “Shore, Duchess. Do ya own a bikini?”

“What?” I parked both my hands on my empty belt loops with a sour frown.

He smiled. “You own a bikini, since I see ya lying on the back porch in the hot sun.”

“What?” I parted my lips, slamming my hands down to my jeans.

He winked. “I need payment.”

I smiled. “I will bring you the bikini. But I didn’t know you were that kind of boy.”

He advanced to her with a sneer. “Fuck. What did you mean, Duchess?”

I smiled, “Ya be liking boys…”

“Naw,” He shoved and slammed Nadean into the side of the truck door with a growl. “Naw, I not be liking boys, only girls. So, if you want me to evaluate your brothers than…”

“No,” I shoved him off my breasts with a sneer and turned to see the door.

Teague turned and followed her ass with a chuckle and a grin. “I’m good at football.”

“Asshole, you are an asshole, Teague,” I touched the door handle of the driver’s side.

“Tomcat. Hey, Duchess, bring your suit. Then we play for while in the creek for fifteen minutes. I promise.”

I turned and frowned to him with a puzzled brow. “Fifteen minutes, it takes fifteen minutes.”

He winked with a chuckle. “What takes fifteen minutes, Duchess?”

“O nothing,” I turned and opened the door of the old pickup truck.

He bowed his arms with a smile and a laugh. “Come on back, Duchess. I’m real good at football.”

I turned and smiled at him. “Is that your glorious teen pick up line?”

He looked down to see view the dirt. “Pick up? What the fence post? I just fixed it.”

I shook my curls at the teen stud with a giggle. “Teague’s the brilliant quarterback for the football team. I just don’t get it.”

He looked up with a smile at her, “Tomcat. Looky, I help. I promise. Just bring your bikini! I wanna see ya in it. That’s all.”

I frowned “I’ll show off for five minutes.”

“Fifteen.”

“Six.”

“Ten.”

“Seven.”

“Eight.”

I exhaled with a puff of annoyance, viewing the dirt and Teague. “Okay, I’ll priss around you for eight minutes. Then, you evaluate my brothers at football.” He smiled with a nod in silence.

And I entered the truck, moving back to my house.

 

 

6:21 p.m.

2nd floor shared bedroom of Vester and Vassar

 

 

I stood and knocked on the closed door, turning the knob and entered the shared bedroom of my twin brothers.

Vester stood in front of the window, flipping a coin.

Vassar was beside Vester, watching it land into the palm of Vester, saying with a stern face, “Heads.”

I had always been curious why Vester tossed that coin in the air, flipping it over his five digits and then tossed it for a second time. When the coin landed, Vassar measured the result.

Vassar said, “Tails.”

Vester watched the coin, “Our family is what psychologists call, dysfunctional.”

I moved and stopped in front of my twin brothers with a sour frown. “We’re all going to die, Vester.”

“Heads,” Vassar viewed the twirling coin.

Vester watched the coin land inside his palm, “Naw, it’s a fancy term, meaning our roles didn’t sync together in the proper respective places of mama, daddy, sister, and brother.”

Vassar watched the coin, “She dis-fucks-us-all,” he paused, “Tails.”

Vester watched the coin. “Correct, Vassar. Our guardians pretty much enjoy fucking us over while treating teens like adults. And adults like toddlers.”

“That’s so true.” I watched Vassar and the coin with a nod and a smile.

Vester said. “Anyways, that’s a new and upcoming word in the study of human and family behavior. Vassar and I plan to cite the term and our family members in a college paper. That should gain us some national media attention.”

I turned and frowned to Vester. “I thought ya didn’t want money, fame, only respect.”

Vester watched the coin. “I have found that money is highly more respected than respected honor respect, Sis.”

“Heads,” Vassar watched the coin.

I frowned. “Teague’s going to give ya’ll pointers in football.”

Vester flipped the coin. “We understand football, Nadean.”

I exhaled with a puff of worry. “But you must select your proper football position. Teague can guide you into good positions so…”

“She worries that we will get hurt, Vester,” Vassar watched the coin, “Tails.”

I pouted. “You’re my little brothers.”

Vester flipped the coin with a stern face and a serious tone, “Bigger brothers both physically and intellectually, Sis.”

I pouted. “I concern about you playing this nose bleeding sport as dictated by our daddy.”

Vassar turned and viewed Nadean with a smile and a nod. “Teague could be very valuable, Vester. We can ask him about impact percentages and sprinting times.”

Vester turned and nodded to Nadean. “Correct, Vassar. We’ll meet with Teague, Nadean. When? Where? What time?”

I swayed side to side with a smile and a nod. “In forty five minutes, down at the creek bottom. I’ll introduce you to Teague.”

Vester turned and flipped the coin again. “We know Teague. We all attend church together. His house is behind the fifty three horizontal rows of Indian corn on our dad’s property, sis.”

“Tails,” said Vassar.

I smiled. “I gotta track him down before your meeting within the next forty five minutes. Thanks for listening to me,” I moved forward and rose on my tiptoes to kiss each cheekbone, pulling back with a smirk. “Teague, he’ll be a big help to ya’ll.” I turned and left the room, moving down the hallway and to my room for my bikini and Teague with a smile and a giggle.

 

 

6:31 p.m.

Water creek and pond setting

Warm temperatures and sunlight

 

 

The truck halted. The door opened.

I slid out of the seat, raising both my arms, looking with a smile and a giggle at Teague. “I’m here.”

Teague lounged inside the cool water of the creek without a shirtless and with a grin, watching Nadean, “It be under your shorts?”

I slowly moved with my booted feet to the bank of the creek but not into the water with a sour frown, “Yeah, it be under my shirt and my shorts.”

“Off.”

“Okay, okay,” I slowly slipped off my jacket first.

“Faster, naw, not faster. Slow down, stop.”

I frowned at him, “Teague.”

He smiled, “Tomcat, call me, Tomcat. And I want ya to strip your clothes like them nasty girls in Bear’s magazine.”

I frowned, “Teague.”

He frowned. “Do it, Duchess! Or no evaluation of my great footballing skills for your dumbass brothers.”

“Fine,” I dropped both my knees down on the dirt.

“Naw, stand.”

I exhaled, “Teague.”

“Stand. Call me, Tomcat.” I stood, grabbing my cowgirl boot, dancing around and ripped off my boot and my sock and panted for air. Teague chuckled with a nod and a grin inside the cool water. “That’s good, Duchess. Do the other one.” I grabbed the other leg and danced around with the other boot and pop it off as Teague chuckled with a grin. “I like.”

“Tomcat.”

“Your shirt off.”

I unbuttoned one at a time, watching Teague, who leaned against the muddy bank while watching me. I unlatched the last button and toss the shirt to the ground, revealing another shirt over my breasts and my bikini with a giggle and a grin.

“Duchess, ya be a tease, girl?” Teague leaned forward and backward with a smile and a chuckle. “A great tease. Take off the other shirt.” I dropped my shorts first when my long shirt covered my belly button down to my kneecaps. Teague grinned. “Duchess, you’re a pro.”

I frowned. “Teague, that’s nasty.”

“You’re making me nasty. Do it, girl! Take off the shirt. Remember our deal?”

I moved near the water. He wasn’t the only one, thinking nasty thoughts. I dropped a right foot into the cool water, since the day was hot. I swirled my naked toes around the water.

Teague watched her foot and licked his lips with a smile.

I slowly removed my foot, letting the droplets attack the clay. Teague watched her foot. Then I slowly lifted my foot and pointed the toes straight down to the dirt even with my ankle as he watched.

I lifted a foot even with my calf muscle as Teague wiggled his shoulder blades. I lifted my foot even with my kneecap as Teague leaned forward, parting his lips. Then I lifted my foot even with my hip as Teague shifted from to the muddy bank through the water to the bank. Then my foot was even with my waist as I cupped the heel.

Teague watched with a smile.

I lifted my kneecap even with my lips, extending the foot upward being a flexible girl.

Teague stood from the water, staring at her foot. I extended my leg up to the sky with a giggle and a grin.

“Duchess…” Teague reached and flexed his naked biceps beautifully, trying to jump on top of the dry creek bank as a blur of speed passed Nadean.

Teague and Vester fell backward down into the creek water together as Vassar moved and stood beside Nadean with a chuckle and a smile at the two drowning teens inside his daddy’s creek pond. “That’s a quarterback sack. Is that correct, Teague.” I laughed as Vassar turned and winked to her sister and back to the two drowning teens. “My twin brother Vester performed a flawless football tackle. Is that correct, Teague?”

Teague drowned with Vester on top of his skull. Then Vester sailed his body to the side, turning and getting out of the water. Teague emerged with a snort. Vester turned and stood on the edge of the water, crossing his arms with a smile and a chuckle. “I like swimming in the creek. It cools my temper when I got mad,” grinning. “Does it do the same thing for ya, Teague?”

Teague stood and moved, jumping up from the water with a sour frown, standing and viewing a taller Vester with a puzzled brow. “Ya grow during the wintertime, Vester.”

Vester chuckled. “My daddy stands at six feet and six inches tall. Did you know that, Teague? My mama says that we are still growing might be taller than six feet and six inches tall too. What do you think, Teague?”

Teague turned and bumped his face into the muscular chest of Vassar, who hissed and calmed with a smile and a nod. Vassar grinned. “What positions do you recommend after that speculator performance, Teague?”

Teague cleared his throat, turning with a sour frown to see Nadean, “Linebackers, both of you will do well as a pair of defense linemen, tackling the quarterback.”

Vassar nodded with a smile. “Good, that is my conclusion, as well. Thanks for personal assessment and years of football experience. We really appreciate your cooperation and time.” He turned and viewed his sister. “Let’s go, Nadean. Our daddy told us to hay the cows in this part of the ranch. Bye, Teague.” He swung around, moving with Nadean back to the farm pickup truck.

Vester smirked. “Teague, I want to remind that creek is on our daddy’s property. Do remember that, please. Right, buddy? Our daddy does not like trespassers on his farm property. If so, sometimes, we got to shoot them critters for target practice while keeping our gun skill perfect.” He nodded with a smile, swinging around with a chuckle, moving to the truck with Vassar and Nadean.

Vester and Vassar had ridden the horses bare back to the truck, spying on their neighbor Teague and protecting their sister Nadean.

 

 

Spring Break

Friday March 3rd

9:01 p.m.

Sports car ride of Nadean

Warm temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

During the annual school break of spring, all the school teachers conducted school meetings for school while all the students had fun with picnics at the church’s fellowship hall, the particular night.

I drove to home as a flash of red passed me. Then the car blazed its bright tail lights. I cursed and slammed on the brakes, plowing to the dirt and veered right into an empty high School parking lot to continue my heart attack, before I really crashed my car and damage my fragile flesh.

The second car pulled up behind Nadean.

The door opened in front of the face of Nadean.

I slid out of my car, hyperventilating with panic and relieve, running the car.

The dark shadow bolted to Nadean with a worried brow, squatting and cuddling her. “Duchess, I’m so sorry. I just wanted your attention. Are ya going to puke?” She shook her curls, covering her mouth as Teague said with a worried brow. “Ya okay? Do I need to drive ya home? We both live on the same road. That’s no problem for me.”

I caught my breath with a sneer. “I’m fine.” I pulled back from his warm hug and slapped my hands against his shirt with a sour frown as he chuckled. I yell with fury. “Teague, what are you trying to do kill me or something?”

Teague hugged her with a grin and a chuckle. “Naw, I saw your car. I wanted to chat, Duchess.”

I pulled back again with a sour frown. “Chat!? We just finished chatting and eating and giggling at the church picnic less than ten minutes ago. I was there with you all morning and afternoon and less than ten minutes ago.”

He nodded with a smile. “Yeah, I know. But you were way across the room on the other side.”

“You could come over any time and chat.”

“I wanna tattle that Cherry’s gossiping about you.”

I frowned “She’s my cousin. She talks about every one, gossips about everyone too. So?”

Teague frowned. “I know. Everyone knows that you don’t have a date to our prom. Cherry’s going to set ya up with a date for the dance.”

My heart sunk down to my toe bones with this unhappy information.

Cherry had set me up once before when I turned sixteen years old with permission to date from my parents. She told my parents that I was safe with her and the young well-mannered redneck she selected for me with all of us going on a double date together for a couple of hamburgers and then a Hollywood movie.

The boy had wanted sex, since I was a naive virgin, whereas Cherry wasn’t.

I had baled from his automobile being literally dumped from his car, making that decision all by myself. I planned to walk from his vehicle, turning and trotting down a crowded street of Huntsville, walking ten miles back to my house in the rural farm town of Brier.

However, the night had ended well for me.

Her grandfather Sloan had stopped and picked up Nadean from the street curb. Then they had consumed a dish of ice cream and watched a Hollywood movie as her pretend first time date. Then her grandfather had taken her home for the evening which was nothing short of a miracle. Her wise old grandfather had learned to watch and care for both his teen granddaughters.

Cherry was the other granddaughter.

“I…” was shock and embarrassed, exhaling with a puff of worry.

He hugged her again with a worried brow. “I’d take you to the prom, but I’m going with…” Teague frowned. “I can talk to the guys…”

I pulled back with a sour frown, raising my hands in fury. “No. You will not talk to anyone about any of this. I do not obey Cherry. She is only related by blood, bad blood.” I exhaled. “It is no secret in my family about Cherry. Everyone knows but pretends not to know. Ya know? Every family has their black sheep. So the axiom goes. Thanks for telling me, Teague. I really appreciate the warning. I need it to battle with my mama.”

“I can talk to your daddy like men-folk do. He’ll understand…”

“He will kill Cherry, literally. If my daddy only knew half of the things we…” I exhaled with a sour frown. “Wait. How do you know Cherry? She attends a different school on the other side of the county. Her parents live near the city, not on a farm like us, country hicks.”

He chuckled. “Every male knows Cherry Hill…”

“Naw,” I shook my curls and my hands with a confused brow. “Her name is Cherry Hillard. See? You do not know her. Is there another Cherry along the county line near Brier?”

He chuckled with a grin. “I like cherry pie. Naw, Cherry Lane. Naw, Cherry Hill. Yep, how’s it go? I broke her cherries. Naw, busted her cherries. Naw, popped her cherry.”

I parted my lips, “No way.”

He chuckled, “Cherrie-o, she’s a really good county ho…hold lot…totally opposite of you, Duchess.”

“Ya fucked her?” I dropped a jaw.

“And her cherry pie is really good enough to eat, twice,” Teague winked.

“Ugh! I’m glad it’s night, so you can’t see my red face along with the surly slightly curved lip muscle on the left side of my mouth from way too much information flow into my cleared eardrums about you and Cherry, making you a really bad boy, Teague,” giggling.

“I can turn up the brights on the headlights…”

“And you’re betrothed to Zeeta.”

“Cherry ain’t.” Teague snorted.

“Enough, cowboy, ugh, this conversation has terminated. I’m going to the prom, stag. No date. It’ll be fun…” exhaling, “…sorta.”

“That’s my girl. Tell ya what if Cherry shows up at your house with that date, ya bring him to our prom? I’ll sucker punch a hole through his nostrils so hard he’ll be eating from a straw for six days the same amount of time the Lord took to build His universe.”

I shook my curls with a smirk. “Ya don’t know Cherry well enough, Teague. I would not make it to our prom with that date.”

“O. You’re a smart one, Duchess. Then call me and stall him while my shotgun and me arrive to burn a hole in his ass.”

I laughed with a smile. “You’re a sweet cowboy. Zeeta’s a lucky girl. But my daddy gets that honor of burning that ass…hole.” Teague laughed and hugged her as a set of bright headlights blinded her eyelashes.

The car turned and slammed a set of tiny pebbles over the pavement of the parking lot, killing the engine.

The door opened in front of the face of Cherry.

Cherry scooted and stood in the bright moonlight.

I turned and dropped down on my knees, squatting in the gravel, touching the tire of my car. “Tire looks good, now, Teague.” Teague turned and dropped down with a chuckle next to Nadean.

A pair of walking boots crunched over the loose gravel of the high school parking lot and stopped behind Teague and Nadean as her fingernails clicked with an off-beat on her golden bracelets.

I stood first and then Teague stood.

They turned with a chuckle to see Cherry.

I smiled, “Hey, Cherry.”

Teague grinned with a wink, “Cherry Hill…”

I stared at the two young kids, who had mated with each other for intimate fun, since I never had sex with a boy. And I had only been kissed at the age of fourteen on my birthday party and then nevermore.

Sadly, the only other male to touch me was my mama (she wore the pants in the family) and my daddy. My daddy did not do the fatherly kissing thing on a cheekbone or the fatherly hugging thing around a collar bone with any of his blood-children. And my daddy did not dare plant a physical kiss on the face of my mama or another body part in front of his innocent kids.

They must have performed the ‘wild thing’ three times, including one of the following, at least, kissing, hugging, and mating in private. Therefore, I concluded in my wise but short years of seventeen that this was an old-fashioned southern religious church thing, because my grandparents did not kiss or hug in front of their grandchildren either.

If not for both Cherry’s headlights and Teague’s headlights glowing over their heads, my spying would be quite difficult.

Cherry stood on one side of Nadean as Teague occupied the other side like a proverbial triangle thingy. Cherry watched Nadean with a left eyeball and flirted with Teague with a right one.

A weird talent to possess, but I digressed.

She batted her eyelashes, holding both her hands in front of her sundress, ironically knocking against the position of her vagina, looking that right eyeball at Teague. Then she shook her hips side to side, tossing a hip left with the kneecap bend for two seconds, then a right hip bent for three seconds and then started the side to side hip shaky again.

I concluded that it must be some kind of secret code for “sexual mating” that I had missed in my tenth grade health class.

Teague licked his lips and grinned at her, responding to her mating ritual.

Cherry clearly communicated to Teague: Do me!

I could understand her lusty desire as my teen hormones kicked in over the male hunk, making my tail lights flash too.

Teague stood at six feet and one inch of vivacious youth and manly strength with a pair of large hands for holding a football or a girl, since he was the star quarterback of the Brier high school football team. He possessed a head of blonde tinted hair with a set of bangs, a sweetheart shaped face, and a pair of baby blue eyes, drowning out his peachy-rose complexion. His broad shoulders and sculpted biceps were covered with a stark white long john cotton shirt, caressing his muscles, peeking out from his elbows down to his wrist bones which was below a rolled up long-sleeved flannel shirt.

There was not much of dress code in the rural country life style. At my school, the kids had un-officially adopted they own fashion statements.

Jocks and cowboys strutted around in a pair of faded blue jeans and a pair of polished cowboys boots which was paired with a flannel cotton shirt over a long john cotton shirt.

Eggheads and gentlemen wore a nicely pressed dress shirt which was paired with a set of pressed trousers and a pair of polished leather shoes.

Rednecks walked around in a pair of faded and ripped blue jeans, a dirty shirt, and a pair of polished cowboy boots.

“Hi, Tomcat,” Cherry turned and smiled at him and then at her. “Nadean, ya got troubles?”

Teague chuckled, “Low tire, but I fixed it good.”

“Hmm, you are usually very good.” Cherry swung her hands and her hips as Teague chuckled.

“Okay,” I clapped with a sour frown before my eyeballs saw something that would never ever leave my brain cells. “I’m fixed up.” I turned and moved to my open door.

Teague side stepped and blocked her path with both his hands and his body with a smile and a nod. “Check the other tires, Duchess.”

“Duchess?” Cherry parted her lips, turning with a confused brow to see the nose profile of Nadean and Teague.

“One of Teague’s humor nicknames,” I giggled.

Cherry frowned with a nod to Teague. “She’s got a nickname too. You gave her a nickname, Tomcat?” She crossed her arms with a smirk and a nod to Teague, “O, I hear Duchess and Tomcat. I see a corn field crow pairing. So, Nadean has earned herself a nickname, too. Who would’ve guessed? Not me? And I bet your mama don’t know…”

Teague reached over and shoved Cherry back to her car with a sneer and a sour frown, “Time to go home, Cherry, in your own bed, this time for the evening for some real sleep. I’m fixing the tires, so the car don’t ride rough. You should clearly understand that mental concept, as well as, the vocal command. Good bye, Cherry Hill!”

Cherry moved and slid into her car. The door closed. She dropped the window with a smile and a wink. “Call me, Tomcat.”

Teague leaned into her window with a sour frown and a sneer. “I got a girl, Cherry. See you not around here ever.” He jerked up from her window, standing and turned with a smile to see Nadean.

Cherry cranked and revved the engine of her sedan, turning and spinning the tires out of the parking lot into the street away from Nadean and Teague.

I turned and watched the four-door sedan of Cherry with a puzzled brow. “She’s going the wrong direction. Home is the opposite way.”

Teague grabbed and tugged Nadean to her car, shaking his skull with a sour frown. “Man. I really screwed up with that bitch. Are you okay, Duchess?” He turned with a smile to see her nose profile.

I turned with a stern face to see Teague. “You should be apologizing to Zeeta, not me. I know how to avoid Cherry and Cherry’s tree limbs,” giggling.

“Naw,” Teague said.

I smiled. “They are just words, Teague. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me. I’m going back home before my daddy’s worries and my mama’s yells. Bye, Teague.” I move into the open door, scooting into the seat.

The door closed.

I turned inside the parking lot, driving onto the main road in front of the school. There was an intersection down the street with a pair of stop signs. The east and west bound drivers had the ride-away to and from the high school.

The road intersection surrounded a section of unplowed cropland, since the cotton had been harvested and delivered to cotton gin for processing, leaving rows of tall and naked stalks of green plants.

Teague entered his car, turning and speeding over the main road of the school. He caught up and drove even with her car in the left hand lane of the main road, turning with a silly grin to see Nadean as his overhead roof lights blinded his right side of the road.

We both veered closer to the road intersection with the two stop signs, since we both had the ride-away to proceed down the road, even performing a set of illegal speeding in the late evening on the empty road.

Then I turned to see a car on my right as the car sped to the stop sign.

Teague drove faster and pulled ahead of Nadean in the left lane.

The speeding car was not slowing down for the stop sign at the road intersection.

I pressed the gasoline pedal, running all V-8 cylinders, accelerating to eighty mile per hour over the naked road at night. If I could pass Teague back over the two-lane road, then I would slam on my brakes, forcing him to slow down and see the other speedy car.

Teague blew the horn, holding both his hands in the air from the steering column, wiggling his tongue at Nadean with a laugh.

I saw but ignored his silly mouth movement, speed passing in the right lane. My bumper overtook his front tire, his front bumper, and then his grill.

And then I was out in front of Teague.

Teague released the gas pedal, turning with a sour frown to see the other car in the perpendicular roadway.

I slammed on my brakes. The third car ran the stop sign, touching the right bumper of the Nadean’s car.

I spun to the left and pressed the brake, rotating my car in circles. I released the brake as my car moved and headed to the crop field.

And then the car stopped with a puff of smoke.

 

 

9:09 p.m.

Sports car race of Nadean and Teague

 

 

I saw a scene of blurry darkness through the window of my car.

The door opened in the face of Nadean.

Teague kneeled, sweet breathing and touching her face without shaking her semi-conscious body with a nervous timber. “Duchess, wake up! Can you hear me? Can you see me? Wake up, Duchess! I’m here. Ya wrecked. The car’s wrecked. Are ya bleeding? I can’t see without more light.”

In the distance, a series of emergency sirens sounded over the country toward the car accident.

The personal pickup truck stopped inside the plowed crop field as Eckward scooted out the cab and trotted over the dirt to the wrecked car with a hand wave and a yell of worry. “Don’t move her. Let the Zondra’s daddy examine her. He works for the volunteer fire department. He knows what to do. He’s trained in first aid.”

Teague touched her face, smearing her blood with a worried face. “Duchess, don’t move! Stay still and breathe! Can we hear me? Grunt or moan…”

“What happened?” Eckward viewed the sports car of Nadean.

Teague exhaled. “Cherry ran the damn stop sign, knocking her car into Nadean.”

Eckward stood, turning to see Cherry in the distance. “She’s okay. Cherry’s out of her car, crying. She don’t look hurt.”

Teague touched her face with a worried brow and a sour tone. “And do ya think I give a shit about Cherry Hill?”

Eckward viewed the Cherry’s wrecked car. “She’s in a tank. That car could break a hole into three feet of cedar block.”

Teague touched her face with a worried brow. “Nadean, she’s alive and breathes. But she’s not really aware of me, my voice, my hands. Get help, Bobcat. Help her. Someone help her.”

Eckward kneeled, looking at Nadean with a worried brow. “She’s in shock. She needs a blanket.” Teague stood and ripped off his jacket, landing it across the chest of Nadean, kneeling and touching her face with a worried brow.

The emergency vehicles stopped over the grass, releasing all the emergency personnel.

Zondra’s daddy moved, trotted, and squatted next to Teague with a worried brow. “Let me take over, Tomcat.” Teague stood. Zondra’s daddy checked her vital signs, reaching and holding her hand with a worried brow. “Nadean, I got my finger in your hand. Squeeze it. If you can hear me, honey,” he paused and smiled. “She’s squeezing. Good, honey. Does anything hurt other than your head? You’re probably got a concession and seeing things funny. That’s normal. Does your chest hurt? Squeeze my finger for no.” He waited as she squeezed his hand tenderly.

He smiled. “Good, she says, no. Squeeze my finger, if you can feel this.” He stroked a sharp needle against her skin. “Good, she feels in her left arm. I am doing it again.” He stroked the needle against her skin. “Good, she feels her right arm. She isn’t paralyzed in her upper body.” He stroked the needle on the skin of her leg. “Do you feel this, sweetheart?” He waits. “Good, and this one?” He stroked the needle on skin of her knee. “Good, she isn’t paralyzed. We can move her. Let’s rip all this metal the wrong way over. I don’t care about the damn car door.”

The teenagers and adult men grabbed and jerked the car door, shoving opposite of its normal closing direction as it fell over on the ground, exposing the driver’s seat.

The fire truck arrived over the grass too.

Zondra’s daddy turned with a hand motion and a yell to the firemen. “Bring the cot. We’re taking Nadean to the emergency room at Athens inside the fire truck. The emergency room physician should check her over for any internal bleeding or body injuries, since I’m not trained in medical science.” He grabbed and shoved Teague and Eckward from the car and Nadean with a worried brow. “Ya boys, go and get Urall and meet us at Athens Hospital. Tomcat?”

Teague nodded with a worried brow, “Sir.”

Zondra’s daddy shakes his skull with a stern face and a serious tone. “Do not let Urall drive the truck. He’ll be really upset with the bad news but be sure to tell him that Nadean is okay. She just needs to be seem by the doctor for good measure. You drive Urall and Jadean, boy. Can you handle this, son?”

Teague nodded, turning and running to his undamaged sports car.

 

 

9:09 a.m.

Spring Break week

Monday March 6th

Huntsville Shopping Mall (ten miles south of Brier)

Warm temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

I strolled with my mama and my sister Dorcee down the sidewalk, viewing the dummies in a set of new clothes, searching for a long gown for my prom next Friday evening during Spring Break week in the month of March.

Dorcee stopped and pointed to the clothing boutique with a smile and a nod. “Mama,” she ran and disappeared into the dress shop.

A short male stood against the wall with a smile and a nod in front of a table, pointing to the objects, saying to the group of other females around the table. “This is the Miss Alabama Cosmos Pageant. The winner is crowned Miss Alabama Cosmos and receives a boatload of prizes, as well as, a crown and a scepter.”

Dorcee stopped and pointed the tiara with a smile and a nod. “Are those diamonds, Mama?”

Jadean stopped behind Dorcee with a sour frown to the object. “They be rhinestones, fake diamonds.”

Dorcee danced side to side with a smile and a nod, clapping her hands. “Can I enter, Mama? I wanna be Miss Cosmos. What’s a cosmos, Mama?”

The male turned and smiled to Jadean. “Cosmos is the princess of the universe. You must live here in the great state of Alabama and be eighteen years old.” Nadean stopped beside Jadean with a sour frown. Jadean patted the arm of her oldest daughter with a smile and a nod to the male. “That’s you, Nadean.”

The male lifted and hold an object with a smile and a nod. “Please fill out the pageant application and provide a hundred dollar non-refundable entrance fee. Then your young miss can enter the pageant being held at the Huntsville Civic Center this week.”

Jadean reached and snatched the paper from his hand with a smile and a nod. “Are ya taking girls this late into the week? I gots money.”

I turned and frowned at her nose profile, “Mama.”

“Hush, girly,” Jadean smiled and thumbed over her collar bone to the door with a smile and a nod to the male, “I gots money in my car. I be quick. Follow me, girls.” She turned with her girls and moved to the door.

The door opened.

Jadean led her girls to the family car.

I followed with a sour frown behind her ass, “Mama.”

Jadean stopped at the car and spun around with a smile and a nod to see Nadean. “We lucked out, Nadean,” she looked down to read the paper. “Ya can win this and become Miss Alabama Cosmos. List of prizes. Ya got a fur coat, made of mink,” she looked up with a smile and a wink. “Mink, Nadean, that be very expensive…”

Dorcee frowned. “I wanna win it.”

“A diamond necklace…”

Dorcee frowned. “I wanna win it.”

“Cash of one thousand dollars and a car,” Jadean looked up with a smile and rattled the paper with a nod in the face of Nadean. “This be saving your fanny, girly. One of them prizes is a new car. Ya wrecked your car. Your daddy’s upset about it…”

I frowned. “I apologized for the car accident. And it wasn’t my fault. Cherry…”

Jadean stomped her boot heel with a sneer. “Ya wrecked that car, girly.”

I stomped my boot heel right back with a sneer. “I didn’t wreck that car. Cherry wrecked that car when she crashed her big four-door sedan into my little sports car, Mama.”

Jadean snarled. “That car be wrecked, not running and not working, girly. You drove that car, girly. That be destroyed and can’t be repaired,” she rattled the paper with a sour frown. “Ya get a new sports car. Get in there, girly.”

I reached and snatched the paper from my mom, reading the instructions with a frown. “I turn eighteen in the month of May not…”

Jadean turned and opened the car door, reaching and grabbing the metal box of cash. She withdrew the money, turning around with a smirk to see Nadean. “Ya turn eighteen, this year. That’s the truth.”

“That’s still a not…”

Jadean sneered. “Hush, Nadean.”

I frowned. “This is about you, not me. It’s always been about you, Mama. I did everything you asked, everything.”

Jadean shook her curls with a sour frown. “Jesus suffered for you. You suffer for me. That’s your lesson here on the planet, Nadean.”

“Mama,” I frowned.

“Hush, girly, you win and get that brand new car, so your daddy or your granddaddy don’t have to get you another one.”

I looked down with a sad face at my unpolished cowgirl boots. “I will try.”

Jadean frowned at the hair roots of Nadean. “You will win. Just smile and win, girly.”

I exhaled with a puff of frustration and a whisper for my eardrums only. “Just smile and win.” I turned and moved back into the store on the heels of her boots, feeling one thousand and one butterflies inside my stomach about the wrecked car, the car accident and the new pageant.

 

 

9:13 a.m.

Huntsville Dress shop setting

 

 

The door opened.

I entered the store and faked a smile with a sexy southern twang back to the unfamiliar male and the table with the tiara. “Hi, I wanna be Miss Alabama Cosmos, ya’ll.”

The male stared with a smile and a wink at Nadean. “Hey darling, you are a beauty.”

I faked a smile with a giggle. “I am a beauty kitten. That’s me. What do I do, sir?”

The male lifted and held the ink pen with a sign and a nod. “Sign this form. Give me hundred dollars. And be eighteen years old. That’s all, darling.”

Jadean stops beside Nadean, patting the arm of her daughter with a nod and a smile, lifting the wad of cash near her smile. “She’s qualifies. And here’s the cash.”

The male accepted the wad and counted the money with a smile and a nod. “Come to the Huntsville Auditorium on Wednesday night at six o’clock sharp. The judging begins immediately. You are only required to wear an evening dress, any style and any color. Then we crown the winner.” He placed the money inside his pocket, looking up with a smile and a nod to Jadean.

I signed the form with my hand writing and handed the piece of paper to him with a sour frown. “That’s a church night, Mama.”

The male frowned. “I beg your pardon.”

I frowned. “Wednesday night. Ya know lots of folks go to church, eat supper and sing church songs? That’s the night scheduled for Jesus…”

Jadean slapped the arm of Nadean with a smile and a nod to see the male. “Okay. It be okay to miss church for one night, honey. Nadean’s an angel in church, a perfect little angel. She never misses church,” because Jadean required all her children to attend church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.

The male frowned and stuck a hand back down into the pocket of his pressed trousers. “Do you want me to return your money since Wednesday is a church night for you, ma’am?”

Jadean shook her curls with a smile. “Naw, Nadean be there all pretty and sweet and angelic.”

I turned and rolled my eyeballs, moving to the door, without my mother.

The store door opened.

I exited the store and moved to our old family car for the trip back home to Brier with a sour frown and an upset stomach.

The store door closed.

 

 

10:10 a.m.

City of Brier

Farm and home of Jadean and Urall Garland

Bedroom of Nadean setting

 

 

The door was opened.

“Fuck…” I raised both my arms with the paper, stomping with a loud shout into my private bedroom.

Vester and Vassar turned and followed Nadean into her bedroom with a set of worried brows also. Vassar turned and surveyed an empty hallway, gently closing her bedroom door. Vester stood and stared with a puzzled brow at his older sister. “Don’t sing work that in piccolo music, Sis. What’s wrong?”

I turned and sat on top of the nice bedspread with a sour frown, looking down at my unpolished cowgirl boot toes with a whisper, “Mama, she’s black mailing my ass. We’re trotting around boutique shops in Birmingham, looking for me a prom dress when Dorcee saw a sign for Miss Alabama Cosmos.” I lifted and extended the pamphlet to my brothers.

Vassar reached and snatched it from her hand, reading it with a stern face. And he was very quick with a laugh. “Miss Alabama Cosmos Pageant, this is a great step above the little homegrown local Brier beauty competition, Nadean. You are required to wear a swimsuit and a formal evening gown and a costume of purpose.”

“A costume of purpose,” I looked up with a giggle and a grin to see Vester. “I represent the small town of Brier, a briar. I’ll go as a briar patch, a thorn…”

“A rabbit,” Vester laughed.

“A mouse,” I giggled.

“A kitten,” Vester smiled.

“An angel,” Vassar slapped the pamphlet with a smile and a nod to see Nadean.

“What?” I turned and frowned to Vassar.

“An angel,” Vassar pointed down to the paper with a smile and a nod. “The pamphlet states that you must represent a symbol of your town. Our town is the first church in the Alabama territory of the year 1813.” And only Vassar would remember that silly piece of trivial about Alabama, Brier with a smile to her. “You would theoretically be the first angel of Brier.”

“I like.” I smiled with a nod to Vassar.

Vester frowned. “Nadean, you must live the fairy tale not read the pages from the storybook. You are not going to win this silly beauty pageant. You are a beautiful girl and smart but lack total self-confidence.”

I looked down with a sour frown to see my boot toes and the floor. “Uh, ho.”

Vassar frowned. “Her ‘uh ho’ mice squeaks, when she is confronted with fear of defeat.”

I looked up with a worried brow to Vester. “So what do I do?”

“Act your true self, Nadean,” Vester smiled with a nod.

Vassar frowned. “Do not let our mama’s failure, fail you. She desired all the tiaras that you have mendacious accumulated. Our mama could not as she was pregnant with you as a developing fetus in her senior class at Brier high school.”

I parted my lips. “Ya knew the truth?”

Vester nodded with a grin. “We are intellectual geniuses, Nadean. Vassar and I know lots of cool shit and nasty secrets.”

I smirked. “I wanna hear your nasty secrets.”

“Naw,” Vester smirked.

Vassar frowned. “You posses what is medical called stage fright.”

I looked down with a sour frown to see my boot toes and the floor. “O. That’s that feeling when I’m going to puke, but not. When I’m going to stop breathing, but don’t. When my heart thumps in my throat, echoing up to my earlobes like a cave,” viewing Vassar.

He nodded with a worried brow. “Yes.”

I asked. “How do I overcome stage fear?”

Vester shook his skull. “You cannot without a psychiatrist’s medical treatment of hypnosis and prescription medication.”

I exhaled. “I’m not sick for a doctor. I just afraid of…”

Vassar frowned. “You are not stage fright. You are stuck with obeying our mama’s verbal commands.”

Vester nodded with a sour frown. “She rules. Our daddy drools, having no balls to slack her flapping jowls.”

I parted my lips, “Vester, you would encourage our daddy to display violence by hitting our bitch mama in the teeth or the nose or the mouth, producing red blood on the clean kitchen floor,” giggling.

Vester chuckled. “Naw, I would discourage our mama into displaying violence by hitting our daddy if he ever questioned one of her vicious bitch commands.”

I nodded with a giggle. “That’s mean.”

Vassar grinned. “That’s disfucktion, ya’ll. Or did she fuck, ya’ll?”

I grinned. “Wow, I learned a new weird vocabulary word that I don’t really like.”

Vester grinned. “That’s the intriguing prospect of higher education, Nadean. But we both agree that our mama’s interior mad scientist evil motives are pretty good. You have accumulated a massive amount of monetary funding to pay for your post-education college degree at Birmingham University.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I have both saving bonds and real cash from my birthday parties and those beauty pageants.”

 

 

4:45 p.m.

Sewing room setting

 

 

I stood on the floor and exhibited a set of white crocheted rounded caps over each breast which was cross-stitched over the original white swim suit fabric, making my flat breasts look bigger, where the rest of the one-piece bathing suit was a color of solid muddy brown down to my thigh bones.

Jadean snapped, gathered, and pulled the extra brown fabric around my waist, creating a sleek illusion of the infamous tiny Scarlett O’Hara eighteen inch waistline, sliming the right parts while aggregating the wrong parts.

I looked like a skinny brown stick with a set of two crocheted caps over my two flat breasts, since the color of the one-piece swimming suit almost matched my natural coffee skin tone.

Jadean finished her snapping, turning and placing the scissors on the table and lifted and held a pair of summer heeled sandals of brown mud, matching the swim suit.

I accepted and slipped on the sandals over my naked feet, growing to the height of six feet. “Thanks, Mama.”

Jadean moved around and fiddled with the swimsuit on Nadean with a smile and a nod. “The continuous color theme of brown will slim the suit down into your legs, carrying the color, puddling onto the floor.”

I giggled. “I thought only newborn stumbling puppies puddled on the floor. O. I get it. A puppy puddled on the swimsuit too.”

Jadean frowned. “Don’t sass my ass, girly.”

Vester and Vassar appeared and invaded the sewing room, holding an armful of items, spreading and placing them on the floor. Vester looked up with a smile and nod to see Nadean. “The angel team has arrived. We are going to create Nadean’s angel costume for the Miss Alabama Cosmos pageant.”

Jadean looked down with a sour frown to see the loose materials, “From all that mess?”

“Yes ma’am.” Vester nodded with a smile to Nadean. “We have all the necessary materials and tools,” he held up and snapped the sharp pair of scissors with a smile and a nod.

Jadean turned with a sour frown to the archway. “I be fixing our supper. Come on into the kitchen when your twin brothers finished the construction of them angel wings for us to see, girly.”

“Yes ma’am.” I answered for my kin.

The white chiffon dress was sliced really close to my fanny plus one inch, exhibiting my long legs. The dress displayed an exposed V-neckline front and back collar which was tied at the waist with a silky satin sash, making an hour-glass figure on my body. My white dress was both sleeveless, without a single decoration. I wore a pair of four-inched summer sandals with a tiny white bow at both of my pinky toes.

I displayed an airborne halo which was made of store-purchased white feathers, not the feathers from chicken farm of Lark’s dad. My cool genius twin brothers hand-wrapped and hand-glued each fake white feather around a circular strip of electric wire.

The halo was attached to a cloth fabric leather headboard, hanging behind both my ears and around a forehead. My forehead is covered with a set of my grey bangs, disguising and making the halo float in the air like magic.

The coolest feature of my angel costume was a pair of wings. Vester worked on a right wing while Vester did the left.

A dazzling pure white exuding rhinestone sparkles coupled with sequin flashes of silver light, making a glowingly aura of Angel wings, curving around both shoulders above the dress hem.

Each wing was soldered onto a steel wiring unit. The frame unit was formed by a set of wardrobe coat hangers, where my brothers had straightened and bent into shaped a wire mold over my shoulders and around my armpits disguised by the dress.

Each feather is glued with zillions of baby seed pearls, translucent sequins, and toy fake diamond stones plus a few pewter beds, giving it depth of shadow among the sea of shiny for Dorcee’s Christmas present, a jewelry decorating set. Since, Vester robbed the fake gems stones for me.

Vester and Vassar had a good time of designing, decorating, and dolling up the angel wings, making Nadean wonder some interesting mentally thoughts about her brothers.

 

 

Wednesday March 8th

6:35 p.m.

Huntsville Auditorium (ten miles west of Brier)

Miss Alabama Cosmos

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

I left my house with my entire family and arrived at the Huntsville Auditorium, entering the side door with my new pageant costume and my new makeup kit. I found a dresser bureau, turning and exploring the back stage for some fun. However, I stood in the wrong spot in the back of stage, seeing and hearing.

“I’ve heard of you, pudding,” the tall beauty contestant said into Nadean’s face.

I didn’t really enjoy that particular new southern endearment from another southern belle. The geographical place called the “South” which was infamously favored with “them” endearments. The endearments were formed by family, friends, and sometimes foes from a set of cute playful nicknames to silly clownish names to puppy-love names to annoying shitty names.

I personally possessed numerous endearing empty sweet names. My mama called me that annoying “girly.” My daddy said to me that lovely “slick.” Teague proclaimed to me that sweet “Duchess.” Dorcee just called me “bitch” behind our mama’s back spine.

The teen female was tall with a head of black curly hair, a pair of big breasts inside her Greek goddess dress.

But I had the best tan next to her pale chunky arms. “Me…” I meekly said before starting a fighting rumble of double folded fists as the other ugly contestants huddled around me, mostly her.

All the glittery painted cosmetic eyelids stared at Nadean.

“You are Nadean Garland,” sneered the beauty girl contestant.

I turned with a smile to the unknown belle, “Nadean, and you are, honey pie?” I began the battle of the endearments when you didn’t know the proper name of the other bitch.

“Antoinette McCravy Donze.” She turned with a smirk to see all the other girls and then with a sneer back to Nadean. “Well sugar, you are out of your league here. We are the pros. This is the big time, babe. You are competing with thunderstorm weathered and rainy seasoned beauty queens from every county in Bama. I was Miss Honeydew, Miss Peach Orchard, and Miss Apple Dumpling.”

Gawd, I hadn’t entered for fun to smile. I was following directions from my mama, hoping to win the car to drive to school.

The Master of Ceremonies moved from the theater stage and stopped behind the huddle of teen girls with a stern face and his new order. “Please dress in your individual costumes, ladies. The show starts in thirty minutes.”

I exhaled with a puff of relieve that I didn’t receive a black eye before the show, turning and moving to my dresser station and changed into my costume.

 

 

7:07 p.m.

Miss Alabama Cosmos Pageant

Pageant stage setting

 

 

The Master of Ceremonies (MC) started the show, introducing each candidate in some kind of weird order, making Nadean the third contestant without a number or a title, only a name and place of origin.

I waited for the other beauty bitch to finish her introduction as she moved away from the single microphone on the top of a pole in the middle of the stage and stopped with a fake smile too. I moved from behind the dark smelly curtain inside the old auditorium, without being nervous, only annoyed at my mama and her continuous selfish ways which had landed my ass into another beauty pageant. I glided in a pair of high heels like a fashion model, seeing nothing but blinking stage lights and stop at the microphone as my eyeballs adjusted to the bright blinking light. “Hi there,” pausing with a fake smile. “I’m your sweet angel,” I winked down to row of the judges. “Nadean Garland from Brier, Bama,” I back stepped from the microphone with grace and side stepped with elegance, swaying the art work contraption to the right and to the left over my shoulder blades, remembering I’m part machine and part human. Then I slowly prissed side to side in my white dress, fluttering my wings up and down like an angel to an empty spot near the first girl, turning and posing to see rest of the costume waltz.

The wings could not flap or fly but seductively twinkle and flutter up and down as I prissed my ass side to side from Vester’s bold advice, bouncing the huge pieces of heavenly art work, tickling my elbows with the dancing fluffy feathers. I smiled until both cheekbones almost cracked open and bleed, thinking about the college scholarship money, moving away from my mama, and strutting to my spot without tripping in the fashion heels.

I turned with a fake smile into the semi-darkness, looking within each smiling face and pair of white eyeballs for my angel crew. My mama was the hair stylist. My brothers were the designers. Dorcee was jealous mad. And my daddy was home, sleeping off a full belly of good supper.

Contestant number four moved and stood at the microphone as I searched the audience for my family members. “Hello, I’m Jean Ann. I’m a beaver from Beaver Dam, Alabama,” she swung around a furry brown colored body suit to the opposite side of Nadean.

The next girl moved and stood over the microphone, saying in a sexy alto. “Hey, I am Antoinette McCravy Donze. I’m a bear from Bear Cove.” She turned and moved, posing beside Nadean.

I gave up trying to find my family members, watching the rest of the costume waltz with a fake smile and an occasionally wink when one of the judges admired my wing contraption.

Finally, each southern belle was introduced with a costume and a name, turning with a fake smile and a wink to the judges, posing for the flashes of photography bulbs.

The MC clapped with the introduction. “Give each girl a clap and a smile back. Ladies, please change into your bathing swimsuits next.”

The bathing swimsuit competition provided more roars, whistles, and claps from the audience, ending without an announcement of a winner also.

I was beginning to suspect the entire program was a rip out of my mama’s hundred dollars and one of the ugly southern belles was the daughter of the MC. So far, there were not any photographs or awards of beauties.

The MC clapped with a fake smile, saying into the microphone. Ladies, please change into your bathing swimsuits next, the last leg of the competition with the awarding of the new Miss Alabama Cosmos.”

Honestly, I had never heard of the Miss Alabama Cosmos beauty pageant. I turned and wiggled my ass of the stage with the other girls and back to my dresser station, reapplying more fresh lipstick and a pink rosy cheekbone powder to my sweaty face. I exchanged the swimsuit into a pink pretty plantation dress without a set of sleeves or a collar dressing. I back stepped from the small mirror and looked like I was seventeen years old, because I was seventeen years old. I could see in the background of my mirrors the other sexy dresses on the eighteen years old and older mature girls.

Each dress was a sheath tight hugging body style of sparking hues of silver, gold, emeralds, sapphire, ruby, or black.

I whispered for my eardrums only. “Yeah, I’m junior league here.”

And some of the girls possessed sexy alto voices from smoking cigarettes, since Zeeta’s voice had changed from a sweet piercing soprano into a dark mysterious alto from her constant cigarette smoking habit.

The MC stood on the stage with the microphone. “Welcome to the final stage, the evening gown competition. The first contestant is Antoinette McCravy Donze. She is a bear from Bear Cove.”

Antoinette wiggled side to side in her golden tinted sheath dress with one shoulder, flipping her black long hair side to side, stopping and posing with a fake smile and a wink beside the MC.

The MC faked a smile. “Our question is: if you were the ruler of the world, what new law would you enforce upon your royal subjects immediately?”

The rest of the girls huddled near the smelly dark curtain, hiding from the audience, listening to her answer.

I stood behind the huddle out of elbow and spiky heel range without a worry. Vester had researched all numerous responses to the previous popular beauty pageants and had provided me with an overall global answer to any question. I will recite my well rehearsed response during my turn and finally end the ache within my arches from the heeled fashion shoes.

Antoinette faked a smile with hesitation “Uh. Yes. Of course, as the ruler of the world, I would propose peace on Earth. Goodness to all the people. Yes, of course, I would,” waving.

“Thank you, Antoinette. She is the bear from Bear Cove.”

Antoinette turned and moved to the end of the stage, watching and waiting for the rest of the girls.

One of the contestants gasped with shock, jabbing a finger at the wiggling butthole of Antoinette. “She stole my answer. That’s my answer for my question. Why do I do now?”

The second contestant is Cathy Douglas Catskill, Alabama. She was a cat from Catskill, Alabama.”

The other girl shoved distraught Cathy through the curtain onto the stage with a giggle and a grin. “Fake it, honey.”

I stood and watched from behind the tall dark curtain as each girl prissed to the microphone, receiving the same question, answering with the same response, sorta.

The MC looked at the contestant and smiled into the microphone. “And the last contestant for the night in the Miss Alabama Cosmos beauty pageant is Nadean Garland. She is an angel from Brier, Alabama.”

I waltzed from the curtain, waving my hand with a fake smile into the blinking lights to the microphone without knocking it over.

The MC smiled. “If you were ruler of the world, what new law would you enforce upon your royal subjects?” The MC repeated the same question for Nadean.

I turned and smile to the audience. “Peace on Earth. Good will to all mankind…,” pausing, “…and carry a coon dog in the rear of your truck bed and a sawed off shotgun underneath the pickup’s bench seating.” I followed Vester’s bold advice with a hand wave and a wink, swinging from the microphone to see the perfectly distorted face of Antoinette, who was boldly reacting to my clever response.

The MC nodded with a chuckle. “Thank you for your creative royal law, Nadean. She is the angel from Brier.” He turned and viewed each judge. “Judges, please quickly decide the new Miss Alabama Cosmos beauty queen for the evening. While our judges cast their final votes, I would like to thank all our lovely contestants and award a number of prizes. Miss Congeniality will receive an armful of flowers and a knee-high golden plated trophy. This year’s winner has been selected and voted by secret ballot, naming Connie Wilmore from Coon Lodge, Alabama. Come on up here, Connie.”

Connie slapped both hands over her open mouth, flooding her eyeballs with tears, running in place first and moved to the MC, accepting her flowers and her trophy.

The MC shifted from the runny snot, standing in a new spot on stage with the microphone up his nose with a fake smile to the audience. “Each arm bouquet of yellow roses for the winners was provided by the Huntsville Flower Shop. Each trophy for the winner was produced by the Huntsville Hardware Store.”

And then a white piece of paper appeared at the edge of the stage.

The MC moved to the paper, snatching from the gopher with a smile, back stepping near the table with the other flowers and trophies, and a sparkling rhinestone tiara. “Ladies and gentlemen, the moment has arrived. I am holding the two names of the first runner up and the winner of the Miss Alabama Cosmos. The first runner up will receive an armful of flowers, a knee-high trophy, a crisp hundred dollar bill, and two thousand dollars in college scholarship money. We here at the Miss Alabama Cosmos support the new opportunity for any and all young girls. First runner up is Nadean Garland.”

I did not eye roll or gasp or cry but swiftly moved to the Master of Ceremony with great joy of more college scholarship money plus a great disappointment of no new car. So I will drive my dad’s old pickup truck to the school yard in my senior year. The MC handed me the envelope of money, an arm bouquet of flowers, and a heavy trophy. I accepted the items and scooted to the edge of the stage, placing the trophy on the floor, waving my envelope as the thorns of the flowers cut into my naked arm flesh.

He turned and smiled to the other contestants. “There is one more name on my note card.” He swung around to the audience with a smile. “The winner of the pageant will receive an armful of flowers, a knee-high trophy, a sparkling tiara, a long mink coat, a new car, and four thousand dollars in college scholarship monies. The mink coat is compliments of Huntsville Fur Store. The car comes from the Huntsville Automobile Dealership. Please visit all our listed sponsors for a good deal on furs and cars. And the moment of the night, Miss Alabama Cosmos is Antoinette McCravy Donze.” She moved and run to the stage, crying with a giggle, waving both her hands, turning and stopping in front of the table and the MC.

He dressed her hair roots with the sparkling tiara and her naked arm with the flowers, leaving the envelope and the trophy on the table.

Antoinette turned and moved into the darkness on the edge of the performing stage, blowing kisses, snot, and tears over her hand and the floor, spinning around with a smile, moving to the center of the stage for her pose.

The Master of Ceremony moved and blocked her advancement to the center of the stage with a sour frown and a matching tone. “Every one, please remain in your seats. Contestants, please remain standing.” He waved his arm with the microphone.

I fingered the soft petals of the roses, wishing that Teague could have seen me in my sexy swimsuit and my pretty gown, narrowing my eyeballs, finding my family members in the audience.

The twin brothers of Nadean were bouncing up and down on the floor, wiggling a set of two handmade signs with her name. I truly appreciated and loved my brothers for being queerly weird and quirkily genius.

Jadean stood, crossing her arms, shaking her curls. That meant I was definitely driving the old truck to school in August.

Her sister Dorcee was clapping and smiling with happiness, since I had lost the pageant.

The Master of Ceremony extended a palm with a confused brow. “Please show me the item inside your hand, Antoinette.”

“O,” she giggled, placing the object into his extended palm with a smile and a nose of snot. “This is a false eyelash. It came off when I cried my happy tears of joy for winning the Miss Alabama Cosmos tonight. I am so grateful and happy to win and be Miss Alabama Cosmos tonight.”

He looked down with a confused brow to see the wet sticky object, “A false eyelash.” He looked up with a sour frown to see her wet red colored face. “Does that mean that this eyelash is not part of your natural biological body?”

Antoinette touches her tiara with a smile and a nose of snot to the audience. “A false eyelash is not part of the real me. It has been carefully glued over my real eyelash, making me look beautiful to win the Miss Alabama Cosmos Pageant. I am so grateful to the sponsors and the judges for selecting me as the new Miss Alabama Cosmos pageant. I will do my best job for all of my family and my friends and my…”

No artificial flavoring. No chemical preservations. No fake eyelashes or false boobs or artificial finger nails. Vassar had verbally read all those pageant rules to Nadean, since he enjoyed ripping apart the non-beauty components of the Miss Alabama Cosmos Pageant.

The Master of Ceremony shook his skull, jabbing a finger at the wet sticky object in his palm with a sour frown. “I am afraid that you have broken one of our many rules stated within our Miss Alabama Cosmos pageant handbook, Antoinette. This action thus disqualifies you from the pageant tonight. Therefore, you will not be Miss Alabama Cosmos. I am so sorry for the misunderstanding…”

“What?” Antoinette turned and swung the roses at him as the MC back stepped from her lousy girly aim. He motioned for the auditorium security.

They ran and dragged a sobbing Antoinette out the pageant stage.

I shook my hair sprayed curls with a sour frown, since I was not tromping around the heated and blinking pageant stage for a second time in my angel costume or the brown muddy swim suit or in the four inches fashion hells. I wanted to go home and take a hot bath and eat a piece of pecan pie.

The Master of Ceremony turned with a smile into the darkness of the quiet audience, waving an arm, saying into the microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am so sorry for the misunderstanding. The Miss Alabama Cosmos only will crown a lucky maiden, who is truly beautiful and genuinely natural. Therefore, the first runner up Nadean Garland is the new Miss Alabama Cosmos. Nadean receives the tiara, the diamond necklace, the fur coat, the cash, all the college scholarship money of six thousand dollars, and a brand new sports car.”

“Yeehaw,” I lifted both my arms, wiggling my dress with a smile and a nod of happiness.

Vester and Vassar whipped their homemade signs over their buzz cuts. My mama clapped with a smile. And my sister Dorcee sat in the chair, pouting like the loser that she was born to be.

 

 

7:07 p.m.

Friday March 10th

Brier High School gymnasium

Junior and Senior Prom

Cool temperatures and full moon with bright stars

 

 

I drove my new sports car to the high school gymnasium, parking in the lot first for a night of dancing, exiting out my new car, waltzing in my pink plantation dress from the Miss Alabama Cosmos pageant with my big bags of stuff.

The gymnasium was opened and unlocked with the school principal and some of the twelfth and eleventh grade teachers there to assist with the set up of the photographer booth, the food tables, and non-alcoholic beverage tables before the influx of the rowdy teens.

I moved through the archway, finding a table and a chair inside the lobby for my contribution to my prom for the night, unloading my sacks with a smile and a giggle.

Zondra, the president of the junior class moved through the open door and carried her two objects into the gymnasium floor and stopped at the food table with a smile. “I brought two set of pretty flowers from the garden.”

Renita was fiddling with the dishes and cups at the food table, turning and touched the flowers with a smile. “Ya robbed your mama’s flower beds? Lordy child, she is going to beat your bee-hind with a hickory switch.”

Zondra frowned. “She can try. But she’ll never know unless someone that I trust tattletales to her mama, who then tattles to my mama while they sing at church, tomorrow morning.”

Renita shook her hair sprayed curls and a pair of pouted red colored lips, slapping her naked chest with her gloved hand. “Not me, darling.”

Zondra grinned with a nod. “Good to hear, Renita dear. Now, go find me some pretty vases for the flowers inside the physical education’s office, where the photographer is set to take each prom couple picture and come back. Then I’ll place them around the food table.” She rested the flowers on the floor as Renita swung around, waltzing in her ankle length dress to the office door on the side of the room. Zondra turned and moved over the floor in her ankle length dress, checking the sagging paper streamers and a set of colorful balloons over each two archways, stumbling into the open lobby with a gasp.

I had finish setting up my display on a long naked table, sitting inside a metal chair behind the table with a smile and without a date.

Zondra moved and stood in front of the table with a confused brow. “What are you doing here inside the lobby, sitting all alone a table, Nadean?”

I spread my arms with a smile and a nod over the table of items. “We should elect a junior princess and a prince and a senior king and a queen prom royalty tonight. Ya know start a new tradition to be carried on by our grandchildren at Brier High? Does the class president approve?”

Zondra reached and touched the tiara and the flowers with a smile and a nod, “A junior princess, that’s a fine idea, Nadean. All the teens will be happily surprised. Where did you get all the royalty gifts, honey?”

“I used my charms and wits acquiring all the items around town,” I smiled with my secret.

“Nice flowers too.” Zondra reached and touched her naked throat with a confused brow. “Are those real diamonds around your neck?”

I smiled, “Yeah.”

Zondra grinned. “Your pink dress and the shiny diamonds make you look the good witch of the south.”

“I guess that I am. Thanks for the compliment. And I’ll also play the poll taker, getting everyone to vote for their choice of prom royalty,” I patted the box with a smile and a giggle.

Zondra looked down with a sour frown at the box. “Is that a…”

“…box with a round hole, not square. The voting box is for the prom royalty, ya like, Zondra?” I smiled with a giggle.

Zondra looked up with a smile to Nadean. “It’ll have to do, I guess. Have fun, Nadean?” She disappeared into the ball room.

 

 

7:17 p.m.

Gymnasium lobby setting

 

 

I sat behind the box, handing out a set of blank slips of paper and an ink pen with a smile and a nod. “Vote for prom royalty tonight…”

Teague stopped and cuddled Zeeta in front of the table with a smile and a nod. “Hey, Duchess, you look purr…” A flying fist slapped into his chest. He turned and frowned to Zeeta. “What?”

Bear moved and stopped with to his girl nicknamed Fawn, grinning down at the box. “What in tarnation is that?”

I lifted a set of blank slips of paper with a smile and a nod. “Each one of you can cast a vote for a prom princess and a prom prince among the juniors or a prom queen and king in the senior class. Each royal gal gets a glittery crown plus arm roses and the guy gets…”

Lark chuckled. “Beer…”

I shook my curls. “Naw, Lark.”

Teague released Zeeta and elbowed Lark with a nod and a chuckle. “If I get free beer, I will be voting for myself,” he spun around to his redneck buddies, slapping his fancy dress shirt with a cheer and a chuckle. “Hear me. Vote me, prom prince for the free beer.” He turned around with a chuckle and a wink to Nadean. “Then I’ll share with you, Duchess.”

Zeeta leaned over and filled out the paper, handing with a smirk to Nadean, “Duchess, she don’t drink. As a matter of fact, Duchess don’t do nothing,” she popped her gum with a wink at Nadean. “Right, honey?”

Cricket popped her gum, filling out the slip and handed to Nadean. “This ain’t no politicking, Kitten, just vote. Thanks, Duchess, great idea for making our prom special.”

Bear winked at Nadean with a smile. “What does the prom prince get?”

I thumbed the item next to my elbow. “A cowboy hat…”

“…and the lead dance with the prom princess,” Zeeta moved and bumped her hip with a wink and a bubble pop into Teague.

Teague chuckled with a wink and a smile to Nadean. “Good enough for me.” He slipped the paper into the round hole and parted his lips. “Is that a…”

“…box with a round hole, not square, Teague. Yeah. Ya got perfect vision, son. Thanks for prom voting. Good luck, cowboy.” I smiled.

Bobcat slipped his papers with a chuckle and a grin into the hole. “Looks like a bird house.”

Bear chuckled with a wink to Nadean. “If it looks like bird house and decorates like bird house, then it must be a bird house, right, Duchess?”

I smiled. “Ya passed your wood shop class with Mr. Ferris. I’m impressed, Brock.”

Teague knocked on top of the bird house with a smile and a wink. “See ya on the dance floor, Duchess.”

I faked a smile. “Doubt it but a good try. Thanks, ya’ll.” I viewed the next couple with a smile and a repeat of my words. “Vote here for a prom prince and a princess from the junior class and a prom king and a queen from the senior class.”

Flossie moved and stopped with a smile, patting the jacket of the unfamiliar teen male. “Nadean, this is my date, Michael.”

I smiled, “Hey, Michael.”

Flossie turned and viewed the empty chair next to Nadean. “And where’s your date?”

I winked, “Parking the car at another prom which ain’t here.”

Flossie leaned over the bird house with a whisper and a confused brow. “What happened to Paul that friend of Cherry?”

I frowned with a whisper to her smile. “We discussed that hot topic in depth last Friday night when you spent the night at my house away from your two nosey sisters. I wanna keep my virginity until my wedding honeymoon. Cherry ain’t all that noble.”

Flossie popped her bubble gum with a grin. “Just asking? Have a good time with the…” she looked down with a confused brow and stared at the wood box. “Is that a…”

“…box with a round hole, not square. You should mention your mystery conclusion to Teague too.” I grinned.

Flossie turned and viewed the entrance door into the floor. “Why? Is he stag too?”

I shook my curls with a giggle. “Naw, he’s with Zita.”

Flossie shook her curls with a giggle to see Nadean. “She ain’t noble or nice either,” she winked to Nadean. “See ya’ll later, Nadean.”

“Later, Flossie and Michael,” I smiled at the next couple. “Vote here for a prom prince and a princess,” gasping. “Cherry. What the hell are you doing here? This is the Brier High prom night.”

Cherry patted the jacket sleeve of the male with a smirk. “My prom date brought me. I do declare that you do remember Waverly Rubin.”

I turned and grinned to my school mate, “Hey, Waverly.”

Waverly bowed his chin with his good southern manners with a smile, patting the arm of Cherry. “Good evening, Nadean.” He looked down a confused at the box, parting his lips, “Is that a…”

I touched the wood with a nod and a smile, “Voting box for prom royalty, tonight.”

Waverly looked up with a confused brow to see Nadean. “Please specific the category. I was completely unaware that we selected royalty during the annual prom dance.”

I smiled. “New tradition initiated and crafted by me.”

Waverly smiled. “You are very creative, Nadean. What must we do?”

“You’re very crafty, Nadean.” Cherry smirked.

I lifted the slips of blank paper and an ink pen with a fake smile. “Cherry can’t vote, since she’s not part of Brier student body. But you write down your choice of a prom prince and a princess for our class. The seniors will select a prom king and a queen.”

Cherry stared at the tiara in the hair of Nadean. “What does the prom princess get a crown or something?”

I turned and frowned at her. “You can’t vote, Cherry. Remember, you attend a private school in another city like Decatur?”

Cherry sneered. “I’m just…”

“…nosy, as usual,.” I smiled. “The guy royals get a new cowboy hat from Harvey’s Hardware Store.”

Waverly turned and smiled to the new black hat on the table surface, “Excellent idea, Nadean!”

I lifted my arm with a smile. “You, guys want real stuff, not glitter. And the girl royals get bouquets of roses too.” I pointed to the other items over the table surface.

“The princess receives a pink rose bouquet and a tiara,” Cherry turned and frowned at the items on the table surface.

“And a portrait of the royal couples, compliments of the photographer,” I smiled.

Waverly turned and frowned at his school mate. “I do not understand, Nadean. I am the treasure of our class. We used all our entire funding for buying the limited assortment of sweet and fruity refreshments and the most valuable catch one set of portraits. The set includes a single five inches by eight inches plus four wallet sizes for each student. The last accounting of funds has been exhausted. We are broke, Nadean.”

I parted my lips. “O. I know that, Waverly. I flirted with Harvey at the hardware store for the cowboy hats. He obliged. Then I begged on both my hands and my kneecaps for the fresh arms roses from Flora and her flower shop. She was more than happy to provide. Once, I explained it for our only one-time-ever-prom. Then, I renegotiated with the photographer for two more set of colored portraits just for the future prom royals, tonight.”

Waverly smiled with a nod, patting the gloved hand of Cherry. “Nadean, you are fabulous. You must join the yearbook staff for next year. We require raising monies to pay for the production of the yearbook cover by utilizing a set of clever advertisement marketing. You are a natural business woman.”

I grinned. “Thanks, Waverly. I…”

“…can tattle how Nadean negotiated the photos for the prom royals. You give up your single set of portraits. Am I right? Why bother getting a picture of a single dole troll at her prom, right, Nadean?” Cherry turned and smiled to the nose profile of Waverly. “Nadean doesn’t have a date,” she turned and smirked to Nadean. “Do you, dearie?”

I reached with a smile and touched my tiara. “The bold truth is shared and tattled. I am stag,” I turned and winked to Waverly. “But, I plan to dance with every cowboy here before midnight. So, save me a dance, Waverly.”

Waverly nodded with a smile, “A selfless act for the cause. Well done, Nadean. And you interrupt me any time before midnight.”

Cherry parked the other glove on her waist with a sour frown. “Where did all the tiaras come from, Nadean? You don’t bother to mention who you conned for those two beauties.”

I tilted my head with a smile to Cherry. “O, I donated my own tiaras for the noble cause. I only have about twelve of them, since I win another one last week.”

Waverly smiled with a nod. “Nadean is Miss Brier High, our local beauty queen as well as winning more than a few beauty pageants throughout Limestone County. I saw that you have been recently crowned Miss Alabama Cosmos. Well done, Nadean! Our little town of Brier glows in outer space not just in the great state of Alabama, Cherry. Congratulations, Nadean.”

I smiled with a nod. “Thanks, Waverly.” I lifted and handed the blank slips of paper and the ink pen to Waverly, “Ya going to vote?”

“Yes, I’ll love to provide my input into our prom royalty. This is an outstanding and social caring idea, Nadean. Thank you so much for initiating the concept. I hope all of the Brier fellow students enjoy their future proms to come,” Waverly spun away from Nadean and Cherry, secretly scribbling the names on the two pieces of paper.

Cherry leaned with a sour frown and a sneer over the bird house to nose bridge of Nadean. “You cheated in the Miss Alabama Cosmos contest. The rules state that the contestant must be eighteen years old. You ain’t eighteen years old, Nadean. You are only seventeen years old, since our birthdays fall in the same month of May. Ya cheated, witch?” She bad breathed down into the face of Nadean, “Except, I won’t tell, if I get something very special.”

I frowned. “You can have the tiara.”

Cherry grinned with the chewing gum, “Naw, I want the diamond necklace around your neck…”

“Done…”

“I want the mink coat hanging in your closet…”

“Done…”

“And I want the thousand dollars cash. That’s all just a little tiny small sacrifice for a tea tiny dark black secret.”

“Done…”

Cherry lifted up her big breasts from the bird house as Waverly returned to the voting table. He reached and stuffed the slips into the box. She grinned with a giggle. “You are a good cousin, Nadean. I hope that you win more beauty pageants before you turn eighteen again.” She turned with a grin and a giggle to see the nose profile of her date. “Waverly, did you pick your princess?”

He smiled with a nod to Nadean. “Yes, I did. Enjoy your evening, Nadean.” He turned and led them to the archway from the table.

I smiled, “You, too, Waverly and Cherry Hill.”

Cherry swung around with a sneer and a smile at Nadean, moving into the gymnasium floor.

Zondra moved and waddled to the table and Nadean with a smile and her date Winston. “Everyone’s present and accounted for here. Did ya vote, Nadean?”

I slipped my two pieces of papers and slapped the top of the bird house with a smile and a nod, “Done.”

Zondra nodded with a smile. “Great, me and Principal Holden are going to tabulate the results. Winston, please carry the bird…box. I’ll take the crowns, the flowers, and the cowboy hats.” I stood and aided Zondra to gather the items into her arms. She turned and entered the gymnasium floor with the soft music. “Thanks, again, Nadean. This is a nifty idea.”

“You’re welcome.” I sat back down in the chair at the empty table, hearing the music, pondering my delicate situation.

I pawed my diamond necklace, feeling the smooth cold stones. I would have knocked everyone’s cowgirl boots off, if I had worn my Grandmother Garland’s entire diamond jewelry collection with the real tiny diamond tiara, the arm bracelet, and the two earrings. She had received the gems from her sons when they toured around Europe, Africa, and Caribbean during World War Two. They brought back the jewelry for her and then she gave them to her granddaughter one piece at a time for being a good teen in school, at home, and in church, since Nadean was ten years old.

I earned my first piece of jewelry and my last, since I must give it to Cherry from her clever blackmailing scheme. She read the fine print on the application form that all contestants were supposed to be eighteen years old. I told my mom that this would bite back. And it bit back at my ass.

My bigger dilemma was the one thousand dollars ransom. I used the money to pay my own car insurance for my new sports car, my new prom dress, my new prom shoes, and the greedy photographer. Thus, I possessed ten dollars in my new black matching purse.

I had a pink piggy bank of ceramic pottery holding money from many resources of birthdays and beauty pageants. I will bust it open, giving Cherry her extortion monies.

I leaned and parked my face into the two sweaty palms, knowing that I was spreading bacteria over my skin but who cared. I didn’t have a date and not going to get a dance either.

Then I exhaled with a puff of frustration, lifting my chin without wearing makeup.

I stood and scooted the chair near the doorway, watching the dancers having fun over the ugly beige and black stripped gym floor. I was only in the eleventh grade in high school but ugly cupid had shot his entire pouch of arrows at all my school mates.

Renita and Kersey enjoyed entertaining each other while Kersey acted the fool and entertained everyone too. But Renita did not seem to mind, giggling like a little kid at him.

Norbert and Finnis were inseparable as buddies in the wall corner, eating and laughing. These boys did not seem to hang with any of the other females from any other school grades either.

Joelle grew out of her baby fat, dancing with redneck Nash. They made a cute pair. She had tamed his wild side, dancing all over on dirty floor.

Flossie, my friend was looking for freedom, bringing a new guy to her prom.

Teague and Zeeta were eating and hanging with Lark, Fawn, Bear, Cricket, Bobcat, and Otter, who was Teague’s little sister. Bobcat and Otter are setting up wedding plans after their college graduation. I did not know Otter, since she was a sporting cheerleader with Zondra and Renita.

Waverly Rubin came with Cherry, out of all the freaking female teens on planet Earth.

The eggheads, valedictorian Zondra and her future hubby salutatorian Winston danced while planning to marry and then attend college after high school graduation.

The music ended.

Principal Holden in a green tuxedo moved and stood on top of the platform stage and dinged a spoon against the punch cup with a smile and a shout without a microphone. “Good evening, kids. I am glad to see everyone having so much fun. I understand for the first time in Brier High School’s history that you have selected and elected prom royalty. I’m very thrilled to be a part of the Brier Junior-Senior prom history. Zondra, do you have the names please?”

I stood and stopped inside the archway, listening and watching too.

Zondra turned and grabbed a tiara and a cowboy hat, moving and standing while handing two pieces of paper to the principle. Principal Holden accepted and read the slips of paper with a smile and a nod. “The prom prince is Teague Haywood.”

Teague turned and twirled Zeeta around in a circle with a smile and stopped, kissing her forehead, scooting around her to the principal. Zondra turned and handed a new cowboy hat. He grabbed and placed the hat on top of his hair, smoothing the brim for drama as the students sounded with a series of cheers and claps.

Principal Holden grinned with a nod. “The prom princess is Nadean Garland.”

I did not move from the archway.

I was used to my name being called for receiving a beauty pageant crown, but my classmates had voted me as prom princess. I smiled as Teague turned and grabbed the tiara from Zondra.

Principal Holden grinned with a nod. “The prom queen is…”

Teague spun around and moved ahead to Nadean with a smile, stopping in front of her, “Hey, princess, you need your princess crown to be the official prom royalty couple for the evening.” He gently sat the teeth of the tiara on top of her hair roots and reached down, grabbing her hand, leaning his face into her nose bridge with a smile. “I like to lead the dance being the man.” He turned and dragged Nadean onto an empty gymnasium floor.

Principal Holder turned and smiled with a nod to the DJ. “Start the music for the prom royals to perform the first dance together.”

“Dance,” I turned and viewed Zeeta, who was not smiling. Then I turned and looked with a puzzled brow, “Teague.”

Teague spun around and cuddled Nadean on the dance floor with a smile and a whisper into her nose bridge, pulling her close into his chest, “Tomcat, ya gotta call me Tomcat during our royal dance. Say it.”

“Teague.”

“Naw! Say it, Tomcat?”

“Fine, Tomcat.”

He held her closer to his fancy ruffles shirt with a smile and a whisper. “Ya got a pretty southern accent, Duchess, not a twang like some of the hick girls.”

“Thanks.”

Teague wrapped his arms around her waist with a chuckle. “You grew tall, too,” he looked down to see her shoes. “Are you wearing high heels like Kitten?”

I shook my curls with a whisper, too. “Naw, I grew during Christmas break. My bones hurt from stretching inside my skin.”

He looked up with a smile and a whisper, “Yeah, I know the feeling. It hurts inside out, not outside in.”

“Yeah, it does hurt inside out, not outside in,” giggling.

He touched her nose with a chuckle and a grin. “You know me and you are alike, Duchess? We’re tall, live on the same dirt road, like riding horses. Now, we are prince and princess.”

“Yeah, we are sorta alike me and…”

“Tomcat…” Zeeta moved onto the gym floor and stood at the nose profile of Nadean with a sneer.

I pulled away from Teague with a smile and a nod. “Thanks for the royal dance, prom prince Teague.”

Teague smiled with a nod to Nadean as Zeeta moved and stood in front of his fancy ruffled shirt with a sneer, wrapping her arms around his muscular biceps.

 

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:51 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

O Teague…” I whisper and feel the burn on a left wrist bone, relaxing my body, thinking about another event within my past teenage life.

 

 

 

Eighteen years old daughter Nadean

 

1:01 p.m.

Saturday May 19th

Farm of Jadean and Urall Garland

Cow pasture setting

Hot temperatures and bright sunlight

 

 

Jadean started her springtime cleaning jot the day after school got out. Everyone had an assignment. I was working outside in the grass meadow like a farm hand, since I tolerated grass chiggers and the itchy hay over a set of brown recluse spiders and the spider webs which were planted inside the wall corners of all the unused rooms inside our house. I spread grass seedlings to the left and then mosey to the right, getting my exercise and working on my suntan.

School was out for the summer time months of June, July through the middle of August, before I official became a senior at Brier High School.

I heard the roar before the red showed the sports car of Teague. He rolled down the official county road which separated our two farms and slammed on the brake lights. The car backed up and halted at the mail box as I looked up and watched his driving performance with intrigue.

And then Teague exited his car with a smile, turning and moving over the lawn of Urall.

I whispered with a sneer, “Dang, what’s he want, now?” I jerked a face and my two working arms back down to the seedlings, working and hoping Teague found me completely invisible in the bright sunlight.

He strutted from the car and crawled over the fence post, trucking directly to Nadean as she felt his heat. Teague laughed. “What’s your pleasure, Duchess?”

I stood and did not body swing to damage a body part with the garden rake, saying with a sneer. “What ya peddling, boy?” Then I looked up with a confused brow and dropped the rake.

Teague moved by Nadean to Urall.

Urall sat inside a forklift, shifting clunks of dirt from the hillside and covered up the washed out soil from the spring rains. Then Nadean covered the new dirt with a plot of grass seedlings and yellow hay strands for growing food for both the cows and the horses.

Teague moved and lifted a hand wave with a smile, “Howdy, Urall.”

“Hey, Tomcat,” Urall looked up with a smile to see Teague.

I moved and came from behind, shoving a shoulder into the back spine of Teague.

Teague leaned and shoved back into Nadean with a chuckle and a smile “See your daddy calls me that infamous nickname too?”

I leaned and shoved into him again, seeing a red lipstick imprint of Zeeta with a sneer. “Fudge you, Teague.”

He chuckled with a grin. “Fudge you, too, Duchess.” He turned and smiled to her dad. “Urall, does Miss Jadean have a sack of fudge icicles inside your cold freezer? I suddenly feel like licking something.”

I shoved into his shoulder again, moving to Urall and the forklift with a sneer. “Tick off, Dick.”

“Blow off, Duchess,” Teague turned and smiled at the twin brothers, yelling to Urall. “Ya got the twins working, hauling hay?”

Urall nodded with a smile to Teague. “Hard manual labor expands that lean muscle. Getting ‘em boys some meat on them bones. They grow taller than Johnson grass during the hot summer time months. They stand over six foot and just turned fourteen years old. They be going into the ninth grade, too.”

Teague turned and winked to Nadean, moving to Urall and the forklift. “They will be playing football, right, Duchess?”

I shoved a shoulder into him for a third time with a sour frown and a sneer, moving to Urall and the forklift too. “Defensive tackles, right, Teague? You suggested that important bruising piece of information. And you actually tested that working out theory with Vester. Ya should work out with Vassar too. Right, Tomcat?”

Teague shoved with a sour frown to the nose profile of Nadean. “Go cook something, girl. I got some private business with your daddy.”

I shoved back with a growl and a whisper. “Over my dead body…” I stopped and watched Teague climb onto the lowest step of the running forklift.

Teague nodded with a smile and a shout to her dad. “Urall, ya look real comfortable on that there forklift, operating both the foot and hand pedals at the same time. These gears work together to raise and low the cradle. I can see that. And ya didn’t spill a drop of clay dirt.”

Urall grinned with a nod to the dirt and Teague. “The Good Lord gives me a gift, I guess. I can operate any piece of metal, cold or heat. Motorcycle. Car. Truck. Tractor. Forklift. Bulldozer. Even drove a semi-tractor trailer for a spill. Not hard. Just gotta be coordinated with some fast reflexes, ya know?”

I crossed both arms, narrowing my eyelashes at Teague, wondering what hard turd was about to drop from his tight ass. Then, I cut my eyelashes to Urall, who nodded with a smile of pride of his talent to drive a variety of big and small transportation vehicles. Then, I swung my face to see my twin brothers.

They were hidden between the forklift and the meadow, working like a pair of old farm mules, lifting and tossing twenty five pound bales of hay from the rear bed of the truck which was not an easy job to give the cows a night time snack. Urall was correct that the manual exercise would build some muscles on the pair of her skinny skeleton-looking twin brothers. They were not starving. They were taller than every kid between the sixth and eleventh grades at Brier High School. And Urall was correct that they would be taller than him too.

I wished that I could toss a subtle hand signal to Vester for his individual attention, since he did not like Teague either.

Both Vester and Vassar would dangerously ensure that Teague and his sports car left both their daddy and their dad’s property’s line alone.

Teague nodded with a smile. “Yes sir. I know that I do have fast reflexes for football and other extracurricular sports. Ya sound talented with the rolling machines both fast and slow. Well I gotta get. That’s really good to know all that information, Urall,” he turned and jumped down from the machine, moving with a smile and wink by Nadean. “See ya around, Duchess.”

I turned and watched Teague. “Daddy, do not…”

Urall wiped the sweat from his face with his handkerchief. “Slick, go down and see if lunch is ready at the house.”

 

 

11:01 p.m.

Bedroom of Nadean setting

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

My tummy growled with emptiness, flipping off the bedcovers from a naked body with a giggle. I stood and moved to the bath robe, dressing my nakedness with a yawn.

Cherry slept in her birthday suit too since birth, fibbing about everything she did or did not do.

I had accidentally eye witnessed that epic event at the age of twelve, when I started spending the night at her house, because Jadean could not deal with four of her own children and Nadean, who caused the most trouble. Dorcee was the family cry baby for the most attention and her twin brothers were studious and stared at tons of informational books as two small quiet children.

The door opened.

I slowly moved through the hallway and down the steps, making squeaking noises on the two hundred year old wooden stairs without the she-ghosts, turning to side and adjusted my eyeballs to the bright overhead lights from the kitchen.

I heard the faint voices of my parents around the breakfast table and stopped, slumping into the dark corner, waiting for them to leave. I wanted food.

 

 

11:03 p.m.

Kitchen setting

 

 

Jadean sneered. “Why she be driving her new car to Montgomery, Urall?”

Urall grinned. “She’s a good driver, Jadean.”

“She wrecked her car.”

He frowned. “Cherry wrecked both cars that collided into Nadean.”

“Not the way, Cherry tells it.”

He exhaled. “Not the way, Cherry tattles tales it.”

“Nadean don’t drive fast. Cherry would tattle on her, if she did. And if she did, then the car won’t be wrecked. Naw, Nadean don’t goes fast.”

“Nadean has that new muscle car. It goes very fast. I taught how to drive faster than a quarter horse.”

“So’s?”

“Jadean, Tyson needs all three loads of the cotton bends hauled to Montgomery. Or they didn’t get paid for their cotton this year.”

“So’s?”

“I’m going to be driving the big rig, hauling the three bends.”

“Why’s?”

“I can drive a big rig. No one else in Brier can.”

“Tyson can hire with his own money some other cowboy.”

“I am going on this run, Jadean.”

“Why ya so friendly to Tyson and them other farmers, Urall?”

“My business and my personal relationship never changed with Tyson and the other local farmers. We all be farmers, owning and operating our farms here in Brier.”

“I don’t like ‘em.”

“Jadean, stop your rivalry jealousy with Abby and the other farmer wives. We all be neighbors, first off. Second off, we all be friends here. Third off, we all went to school here. Fourth off, we all die here too.”

She gasped. “Die? Don’t wand a curse at me. I be too young to die.”

“Ya understand my meaning then? The cotton has to be hauled to Montgomery in two working days or Tyson, Webster, and the rest of the Brier farmers forfeit their cotton monies.”

“This ain’t your beeswax, Urall.”

“Tyson says that I can join the US Federal Government cotton subsidize program.”

“Why’s?”

“Because we need the extra money, I’m tired of asking your daddy or my mama for handouts.”

“We all be family here. My daddy doesn’t mind helping out. Lord knows the real truth. He shoved me out of the house on my own, making my own living without his help. He owns me lots of years back.”

“I love my family but wanna make a living for my family without my kinfolks’ money.”

“Then you be getting the US government’s money for your cotton, instead of selling to the local Cotton Exchange.”

“I get to sell to the Cotton Exchange plus the US Federal government. Tyson makes any extra sixty thousand dollars a year.”

“Naw, He fibs.”

“Naw, he don’t. He showed me the US Federal government paper check. The US Federal government will buy my cotton like Tyson then sell to them foreign government like Japan.”

“The Japs from World War Two? Them are our enemies.”

Gawd, Jadean was a dumbass, living her mind and her body in the past. She needed to grow up, smell the roses, and see the wrath on television. The television showed all the current events of wars, starving people in the country of Africa, and all the dead dinosaur bones in a foreign country called Saudi Arabia.

Teague had given a book report in American History on the topic.

Urall frowned. “Times have changed, Jadean.”

“Like paying them colored folks with real money, not hogs or chickens, working for you and other the farmers.”

“We lost the civil war over hundred years ago. They’re trying to make a living like me.”

“I be part of your living. I do cleaning, cooking, sewing, washing…”

“Ya do, Jadean,” says Urall. Jadean became pregnant with Nadean at seventeen years old, so Urall had to marry her.

Dang, I vowed right here not to be a whore like Jadean and Cherry. I vowed right here to be a virgin like Mary in the Bible. And I vowed right here not to fall in puppy love at the first boy that I would date based on his looks or his money. I desired to fall in love with my future husband and not be forced to wed with a shotgun in my back spine.

Jadean frowned. “Ya should show more respect for me, Urall.”

“I show just as much respect for you as you do, Nadean.”

“What that mean, boy?”

He exhaled. “Jadean, ya pull at Nadean too much her schooling, her twirling, her friends, her beauty pageants.”

“She be dumb.”

“She’s very smart and very pretty.”

“Pretty thing for some other farmer, she be a good wife. Lance Morris is looking for a wife. And ya need more help here…”

“Nadean is going to college. I told her. Ya told her. Ya did a good job, helping her get all that money for her university studying.”

“Nadean ain’t ever going to the university. Unlike you, I talk to my brother-in-law. He graduated from fancy Huntsville University, making a good living with lots of money for my sister and her daughter Cherry. He told me that a high schooler needs good grades to get into the university. Nadean makes bad grades worser than you did, if I remember rightly,” chuckling.

“That’s good stuff to know. She makes the letter alphabet of C’s. That should be good enough for schooling. I talked with Morton at church picnic on Sunday.”

“She makes the letter alphabet of D’s. Dorcee makes A’s. My smart boys makes ‘A pluses’ since first grade. My boys be going to college with money scholarships. The university pays for their schooling, all free. Not cost us a dime, Urall. My boys will graduate and become medical doctors then makes millions of dollars. My boys take care of me for the rest of my days.”

“Ya need to tell Nadean about the college grades. She can study over the summertime, improve her grades then go to college.”

“Nadean’s stupid, since the first grade. She can’t read.”

Urall exhaled. “Nadean couldn’t hear with her ears in the first grade. Her tonsils were swollen up something bad that the tissues covered her eardrums. Remember, what that doctor told us?”

“She gots a medical problem. And my other healthy kids get their tonsils out. Cost us some sweet money for that hospital room and paying that doctor.”

“Nadean was very sick. Her tonsils would have exploded.”

“She got well quick but still dumb.”

He frowned. “Nadean wins all the local beauty contests.”

“She’s a pretty thing. The Good Lord done give me a pretty thing, Urall.”

“The Good Lord gave us a beautiful intelligence daughter, Jadean.”

“A pretty thing wins just, as long as, she don’t run her pink lips. That be how she won the Miss Alabama Cosmos. She says nothing.”

“Nadean can win any beauty pageant.”

“Back to your trip to Montgomery, you do not go.”

“I…I am going to help Tyson and the other farmers here in Brier. And Nadean’s going to drive her car, helping me haul all that cotton to down to Montgomery. I love you, Jadean. But the Good Lord asks us to help folks. And Tyson has asked us to help him. Good night.” He stood from the table, turning and moving to his bedroom with a sour frown.

 

 

2:02 p.m.

Sunday May 20th

Brier Cotton Gin (2 miles west of Nadean’s house)

Parking lot setting

Hot temperatures and bright sunshine

 

 

I slammed the brakes, sliding my car over the hard pavement, stopping in front of the closed double doors of the cotton gin office, without hitting the set of porch poles and turned with a smile to see my father.

Urall sat in the front passenger side with a smile and a chuckle. “Slick, ya could be the first woman race car driver, if ya were not going to college to be the first female rocket scientist.”

“Thanks, Daddy.” I killed the engine, pulling out the car keys, pondering our visit to the cotton gin. I never came to the cotton gin with Urall before.

They exited from the sports car, turning and moving to an old and ugly semi-tractor truck and a row of back spines of Brier farmers. The truck had a green colored cab which was attached to three long empty trailer beds, without fruit or cotton.

I stopped and stood at the end of the row of farmers in awe of the long transport next to Urall, hearing the terse conversation of the farmers of Brier.

The father of Zeeta, Webster stood between Urall and another farmer, shaking his skull, staring at the semi-trailer truck with a sour frown. “That explosion at the fertilizer plant between the cotton gin and my barn ain’t normal. We all know cow shit don’t ignite.”

The father of Bear, Owen turned and mouth spat on the pavement with a sneer, “A set up.” He looked and turned to stare at the rig.

The father of Lark, Evan shook his skull with a sour frown, looking at the semi-trailer truck, “A warning.”

Urall leaned over with a grin and a whisper to the nose profile of Nadean. “Tomcat and them other farm teens are inside the cotton gin. Go and see what they be doing, slick.”

I nodded in silence and back stepped from the row of farmers, turning and dashing to the front doors of the cotton gin.

The father of Flossie, Lewis crossed both biceps with a sour frown, looking at the semi-trailer truck too. “Them business people in blue suits come by a couple of weeks ago visiting us at the farm. I was nice and polite like my mama taught me, but I tossed them out on their ears. Heard tell? They wanna buy up the lands between the airport and here. They talk about a new part of the Interstate 65, bringing in jobs and new companies. Heard tell? They can’t bring the Interstate in if we don’t sell the land to them. We own all this land from here way yonder towards the interstate. So, we be the ones that holds up the interstate throughway between Decatur and Huntsville.”

The father of Bobcat, Axson crossed his arms with a sour frown and a nod, looking at the semi-trailer truck too. “Then they be doing sabotage on our buildings and burn them down to the ground. We be forced to sell our land, since we need to feed our families first. Sheriff and his deputies are patrolling our lands. I got Bobcat, Tomcat, Bear, Lark, and some of the other farm boys on horseback at night. We’ll catch them boys then serve our justice our way in a manner of time.”

The father of Tomcat, Tyson turned and frowned to Axson. “Think they be locals?”

Axson turned and sneered to Tyson. “Think they be runners from inside the city of Huntsville. Don’t know spit about country Brier ways of handling manners or matters or madmen.”

Evan reached and patted the metal of the semi-trailer truck with a sneer. “Lookie, they cut the wires on our three loaned new rigs. But our old buddy Cochran was shore nice enough to give some others. But they be in sad shape, of course, since he had to borrow ‘em from the Cotton Exchange in Montgomery.”

“I get first attack on our old buddy Cochran.” Webster turned and sneered at the nose profile of Tyson.

Tyson reaches and shoved Webster from his face with a sneer. “We all get a turn on our old buddy Cochran but first our money. We all got annual invoices of cotton seedlings and tractor notes to pay. Or we all lose our farm equipment. That’s first. I don’t wanna a nasty word about beating the shit of Cochran. That’s come later when we be drunk and foolish after the money’s inside the bank account. Now, me and Webster have figured out that the temperature gauges don’t work proper. Best, I can tell they carry hot, hotter than hell in this summertime weather. We all know mold starts growing at seventy seven degrees which ruins all our cotton bales fast.”

Evan nodded with a stern face. “Hauling temperature of seventy seven degrees is acceptable but better at seventy degrees, so the cotton don’t dry out and become hard and brittle, losing elasticity of the fibers for stringing. The same with the sunlight, little or none. The bales will fire or burn at 410 degrees. Mold develops between the temperature ranges of seventy seven to ninety five degrees while freezing temps like thirty two degrees will stop rotting wet cotton from getting damaged and prevent more deterioration of the threads.”

Axson leaned over and pointed a finger to the farmer with a smile. “Urall, ya can run a big rig. Ya did it in the Bama National Guard right out of Brier High.”

Ural nodded with a stern face, looking at the semi-trailer truck. “Yeah, I hauled a similar pig-back system but not with three traitors, thou,” he turned with a sour frown to see the nose profile of Tyson. “Is this thing legal, Tyson?”

Evan shook his skull and stared at the semi-trailer truck with a sour frown. “We don’t give a shit as long as the three trailers full of cotton bales make it into Montgomery. These bales of cotton be expected at six in the morning, tomorrow. Or no cash for our cotton.”

“Been awhile,” Urall reached and rubbed his neck muscles of worry, turning and staring at the long transport.

Lewis turned and viewed the forklift of cotton bales with a stern face. “We run at night when the temperatures are cooler. The cotton be slightly cold preventing spoilage.”

Owen turned and nods to the forklift of cotton bales. “Right, Lewis.”

Webster turned and viewed the nose profile of Urall. “Urall, ya be in with us or not?”

Urall turned and nodded to Tyson. “Yeah, I’m in. But if ya suspect foul play, I bet we be tailed, once we leave our home in Brier.”

Evan leaned over and chuckled to the nose profile of Tyson. “We be getting a personal escort service.”

The male moved and pulled up beside Tyson with a chuckle and a grin, slapping the collar bone of Tyson too. “I feel my ears burning. My mama told me that means someone be talking about my butthole.” Jimmy Ray squeezed between inside the single line of farmers.

Evan moved and slapped the collar bone of the male with a smile. “Jimmy Ray, boy, how ya doing here?”

Tyson turned and smiled to Jimmy Ray. “Coming with us, son?”

Jimmy Ray thumbed the roadway with a nod and a smile. “Hell, yeah, we be watching your buttholes until the I-65 river water bridge. That’s the end of Limestone County. Lawmen didn’t like other lawmen in their territory like feisty coyotes. So we slide behind you and shadow the local Alabama State troopers, whilest ya keep trucking down to Montgomery.”

Owen turned and grinned to the nose profile of Jimmy Ray. “We be speeding to Montgomery starting at one in the morning.”

Jimmy Ray turned and frowned to the farmer, “Ya be blind at night, Owen.”

Lewis turned and chuckled to Jimmy Ray and Tyson. “Naw, they be more blind, when we just show up at sunrise. Right, Tyson?”

Jimmy Ray back stepped with a nod and a smile from the row of farmers, “I be waiting at the corner for you, boys. Ya call me with the exact time for rolling. Good luck to us all.”

“Bye, Jimmy Ray.” Lewis tossed a hand with a smile.

Tyson turned and nodded with a smile, “Right, Jimmy Ray.”

Urall turned and watched the forklift load the cotton into the first trailer, pointing at the semi-trailer truck with a worried brow. “Tyson, what’s this thing?”

Tyson turned and exhaled with a sour frown to the semi-trailer truck. “Cochran lent us an eighteen wheeler.”

Urall turned and frowned to the nose profile of Tyson, “His daddy from the small town of Madison, right next door to us, Brier folks, right?”

Tyson nodded with a grin, “Land of cotton, too. He gave us a rig with tandem axle for our extra heavy load of three trailers.”

Urall turned and exhaled at the forklift and the semi-trailer truck. “One truck for all that cotton.”

Tyson frowned and stared at the rig, “One truck.”

Owen dropped and slip underneath the cab of the rig with a shout. “How much does this big rig weigh, Urall?”

Urall exhaled. “The cab is about 16,000 pounds plus an empty trailer is 15,000 pounds. So a whole sixty five feet long pig-back semi-trailer truck weighs over 30,000 pounds. How heavy are the cotton bales?”

Evan moved ahead and kicked one of the wooden staves of cotton with a smile. “This forklift is holding twenty five pallets, weighing about 2,550 pounds of wrapped cotton bales.”

Urall said with a stern face. “If you add another ten tons of weight, then ya add another hour of driving time.”

Webster jabbed a finger at the rig with a stern face. “How long is this rig?”

Urall frowned. “A normal trailer dimension varies a bit but it’s about one hundred and eight feet by fifty three feet by nine feet. The cab length is about twenty one feet from the center of the rear wheel to the center of the steer plus a trailer of eighty feet. That’s makes up the one hundred and eight feet. If I ain’t dumb at math or my eyes are too old, then this rig is longer than one hundred and eight feet, Tyson.”

Evan jabbed a finger at the rig with a stern face. “The trailers are about sixty feet each, so sixty times three equals one hundred and eighty feet. Then ya add the cab of twenty one feet then ya got two hundred and one feet of rig.”

Urall reached and rubbed his neck muscles with worry, staring the long transport. “The legal weight per axle for steer is 12,000 pounds. The drives are 34,000 pounds. And a single trailer is 34,000 pounds for driving with the interstate traffic with no extra government permits. That is a total of 80,000 pounds.”

Lewis grinned with a smile. “So we got three small trailers about 30,000 pounds. That be a grand total of 90,000 pounds or forty five tons.”

Webster swishes his tongue and mouth spits his tobacco on top of the pavement with a sneer. “Gawd, moving a tank would be easier than three trailers filled with cotton bales.”

Urall frowned with worry. “Most engines can be rebuilt over and over sometimes lasting twenty years or longer with roughly one hundred thousand to one hundred twenty thousand miles annual is reasonably possible. If not possible, the owner usually exchanges them every three to six years, but this thing…”

Owen scooted and crawled out from underneath the cab with a sour frown. “It got an old V8 cylinder engine, Webster.”

Urall frowned with worry. “There are a few old V8, V10, and V12 diesels out there but not many, since everyone goes for V6 in-lines for fuel efficiency. The old series 72-diesel had eight cylinders with two-stroke and four-exhaust valves per cylinder in the heads and intake ports of the chambers. She will travel four to eight miles per gallon on average for fuel mileage with a 150 gallon dual tank system. That gives ya 250 gallons of fuel which will take about ten gallons lost gas due to the pickup system inside the gasoline tanks.”

Lewis nodded. “Normally, it takes me about 210 minutes or about three hours, thirty minutes to arrive in Montgomery. The Cotton Exchange Station is located east of I-65 on Clay Street right before ya hit the city limits.”

Urall frowned with worry. “Our fuel consumption will be affected by the roadway being flat or over mountains…”

Owen nodded with concern. “Ya gotta drive the Appalachian Mountain Passage between the cities of Decatur and Birmingham.”

Urall exhaled. “We drive up a set of real high mountains with a real heavy load. This old semi is probably at best six miles per gallon, while a new semi gets ten to twelve miles per gallon heavy on flat ground. Twelve to fifteen miles per gallon with a light load on flat ground. Two to four miles per gallon on a light load, going uphill. Two to three miles per gallon on a heavy load, going uphill. And at an idle speed going downhill with a light load is about thirty miles per gallon.”

Webster moved and slapped the collar bone of Urall with a smile and a nod. “We got the right truck driver for the big rig, boys.”

Urall frowned with worry. “Once we leave Limestone Country, we go uphill until the city of Jasper using about two miles per gallon. How many road miles from the city of Decatur to the city of Cullman?”

Lewis grinned. “The rural city of Belle Mina to the city of Priceville is eleven interstate miles. The city of Priceville to the city of Eva is fourteen interstate miles.”

Webster nodded. “The big city of Huntsville to the tiny town of Eva is thirty six interstate miles.”

Evan nodded. “The city of Priceville to the city of Jasper is forty two interstate miles.”

Tyson said. “The city of Cullman to the rural town of Gardendale is thirty one interstate miles.”

Axson said. “The city of Decatur and the big city of Montgomery is 168 interstate miles.”

Owen said. “The city of Jasper to the city of Cullman is thirty-four interstate miles.”

Urall calculated the math inside his head with a nod, “Those be the numbers I’m looking for. We will get two miles to the gallon between the hilly city of Priceville and then up to the mountainous town of Jasper. Then we will go downhill into the low town of Cullman for eighty one miles. If we use two miles per gallon of gas, we waste 162 of the 240 tank which is over thirty percent of our fuel.”

Tyson turned and grinned to Urall. “Okay. We stop off at the city of Jasper and fill up and roll down through the city of Cullman, gliding through the city of Gardendale and fill up in the big metro city of Birmingham. The bright lights will disguise our mission since the highway bears avoid the big city traffic.”

Urall frowned with worry. “A 240 gasoline tank, if lucky, gets us six miles per gallon. Then we will go forty miles needing more fuel. That’s Jasper. So we fill for shore three times in the city of Jasper, the metro city of Birmingham, and the farm town of Clanton right before Montgomery.”

Lewis frowned with concern. “So we need some scouts to find some open gas stations for the early morning pre-dawn trip from Brier down to the Montgomery.”

Tyson turned and smiled with a nod to Lewis. “Our teens will do the gas hunting for us.”

Urall turned and stared at the rig with a worried brow. “This trailer has five axles plus terrible fuel mileage with an ancient engine. On a rig, the governing navigation system is normally between sixty two to sixty eight up to eighty five and to ninety miles per hour with a set of normal load conditions. But we be heavy, so we be traveling about fifty miles per hour cruise range.” He squatted and pointed the exhaust system underneath the cab with a worried brow. “See the un-muffled engine brakes.” Tyson squatted with a nod at the gears in silence. Urall said with worry. “We’ll have some problems with noise in parts where city ordinances are enforced by the police.”

Evan stood, crossing his arms and shaking his skull. “Naw, not on I-65 with them Smokey bears, the police-boys don’t give a damn about the noise.”

Urall frowned with a nod. “In the small town of Gardendale, we detour off of I-65. We might get pulled over and fined. That’s money plus cited some city tickets for air and noise pollution along with that busted light.”

Webster lifted and held the masking tape with a chuckle and a grin, “Naw, we taped it good now, Urall.”

Lewis chuckled with a nod. “Yup! We fixed it good, Urall.”

“Ah, shit.” Owen shook his skull with a chuckle and a grin at the fixed tail light of red tape.

Urall pointed to the tires with a worried brow. “Tyson, look at this.” Tyson turned and frowned at the big tires too. Urall said. “Cochran called this a tandem axel.”

Tyson nodded. “That be the words he used.”

Urall exhaled. “Ya got a single axel or a tandem axel. The tandem is being the second axel underneath the truck. See here? A true tag tandem is mainly used on the county’s dump trucks and can be lowered or raised to add support for heavier payloads. I suspect that someone rigged this semi for specifically us to use.”

Lewis squatted down to the pavement and stared at the axel with a sour frown too. “We use it. It be the only transportation to the Cotton Exchange.”

Urall reached and patted the first tire and its sister tire with a worry brow. “The dualies are weak, Tyson. Them two set of tires right here on this tractor trailer is known as double wheels, dual tires or dualies. They are used for safety redundancy, so if one tire blows the other will continue to hold up until ya can repair the spent tire or replace. Someone has messed with the tandem axle. The correct definition of tandem in a semi-truck is a set of two axles with one axle immediately following the other. By distributing the load over two axles, each axle bears less weight. Because, the law limits the amount of weight the rigger can carry on each axle the distribution of the overall weight over all the tires allows greater volume of weight.”

Tyson frowned. “So we got the greater weight on top of the weak dualies.”

Urall turned and winked to the farmer, “Ya be a quick student, Tyson.”

Webster turned and mouth spat on the pavement, shaking his skull, staring at the rig with a sour frown. Tyson and Urall stood. Webster frowned. “Urall, drive the gawd damn thing into the ground as long as the ground ends at the Cotton Exchange in Montgomery. That’s all we ask and pray.”

Evan nodded with a smile. “And a prayer is all we got, boys.”

Urall turned and smirked at the nose profile of Tyson. “Did your old buddy Cochran mention any type of insurance?”

Lewis shook his skull with a sour frown. “Naw, why?”

Urall turned and winked to Lewis, “I hope he got some, because this piece of shit will run out of steam right after we reach the Cotton Exchange.” He turned and smiled to Tyson. “Ya looked worried, Tyson?”

Tyson exhaled at the rig. “How much time to stop this rig in forward motion, Urall?”

Urall exhaled and viewed the rig. “The length of time to stop an eighteen wheeler is about forty percent greater than one of them fast muscle cars, depending on the weight of the load, if the car is bobtailing. That’s driving without the trailer attached and the road conditions like bad weather and not being pursued by police either. Semis only have ten brakes, not eighteen. An eighteen wheeler is 80,000 pounds or forty tons compared to that car that weighs around 5,000 pounds. If Tomcat or one of them boys gets in my way, I can’t stop what happens, Tyson.” He nodded with a sour frown.

 

 

2: 22 p.m. early afternoon

Brier Cotton Gin Office setting

 

 

I sat cross-legged on the floor of the office, studying a map of Alabama with blue colors for water, green colors for railroad, red color for roadway Interstate 65, the longest interstate in Alabama.

Teague crawled and pointed at the map with a stern face and a serious tone. “All the exchange points are marked and trail down south to the seaside city of Mobile on this map. And the exit ramps are fixed points. So we use them to our advance and advantage point.”

Lark looked down with a sour frown at the map, “How?”

“We plot the attack points using the fixed landscape. I’ll been eight times with my daddy hauling the cotton trailers down to Montgomery,” Teague turned and smile at Bobcat. “But Bobcat goes every single time, since the fourth grade.”

“First grade,” grinned Bobcat.

Teague nodded with a smile to Bobcat. “There ya go. You be the boy for the man’s job. Close your eyes, Bobcat.”

Bobcat shook his skull with a smile, “Naw.”

Lark leaned and punched Bobcat on the bicep with a puzzled brow. “Do it, man. Close your eyeballs. What in tarnation for, Teague?”

Teague sat back on his kneecaps with a chuckle and a grin to see each teen face. “Bobcat gets to envision his daddy’s cotton haul drive down to Montgomery. Describe each exit ramp using terms like flat or hilly or upgrade or downgrade or open or hidden?”

Lark shook his skull with a sour frown. “They’ll grab us at the first exit in the city of Mooresville.”

Bobcat grinned with a nod. “Then we should loop-de-doop, fooling them G-men and exit off the ramp in the city of Athens instead.”

Teague shook his skull with a smile, “Naw. Pretty near sixteen miles between the city of Athens and the city of Mooresville, that is a waste of time and gas going in the wrong direction for the wrong reason. I trust our sheriff. Jimmy Ray and his boys got all that covered for us going south with their police cars and their loaded guns. We should be good until Priceville, south of Decatur, when the county line changes names. Jimmy Ray has no jurisdiction in another Bama-land county.”

Bear frowned. “Mooresville to Priceville is six miles.”

Bobcat closed his eyes with a stern face. “I remember, seeing the interstate entrance ramp in Priceville. It is too open and a flat roadway,” he opened his eyelids with a nod to Teague. “You can see a truck coming from a one mile north off of Highway 43.”

Teague nodded with a smile. “Skip it. That’s one safe. What about the Hartselle exit, six more miles south?”

Bobcat closed eyelids. “Too hilly, the goose chase will be an uphill climb race for them G-men cars,” he opened his eyeballs with a smile. “They be driving passenger sedans or slow trucks, not running fast muscle cars.”

Teague looked down with a stern face and pointed the map. “Right, Bobcat. The next exit ramp is Falkville, seventeen miles south.”

“Flat and open,” Bobcat shook his skull and blinded his eyeballs again.

“Pass it.” Bear looked down with a stern face to see the map.

Teague pointed to the next red box on the map, “The town of Cullman?”

Bobcat nodded with a sour frown. “The Cullman exit is different and very well hidden. The road falls down from the interstate bridge exit and it is also a favored Bama highway patrol’s speed trap. They just sit on the sloped edge of the entrance ramp like a spider and catch the truckers who go passed the speed limit. And the driver can’t see any hidden or stationary cars until you pass underneath the bridge.”

Teague tapped the box with a nod and a sour frown, “A perfect trap for dang shore for our convoy.”

“What convoy? A convoy is a line of semi big rigs and trucks.” Lark shook his skull with a confused brow.

Teague sat back and slammed his chest with a smile and a nod. “Our convoy is us. A choo-choo train of loose muscle cars with the semi-tractor trailer as the caboose that holds our daddies.”

“Who’s daddies, Tomcat?” Lark frowned with worry.

Teague turned with a stern face to see each teen. “My daddy’s the leader like me.”

“I’m leader of our redneck team.” Bobcat frowned with a nod. “You be the enforcer of my laws.”

Teague turned and nodded with a smile to Bobcat. “Right you are, Bobcat, but this is an adult team, so my daddy’s captain, leading the convoy.”

“Shore,” Bobcat nodded with a smile.

Teague turned and nodded to Nadean. “Urall is co-captain…”

“Hell naw.” I stood and shook my curls, crossing both arms with a sneer. I didn’t understand my dad’s request for me to accompany him for the cotton haul to Montgomery, but now I completely understood the teen meeting inside the office of the cotton gin.

Teague stood and cuddled Nadean with a stern face and a serious tone. “Urall is co-captain of the convoy. Your daddy is driving the big rig, Duchess. Your daddy’s the only one that can drive a big rig. He’s get the magic gift of operating machines. He has volunteered to help us. We Brier folks help each other every day.” He whispered. “Duchess, are you going to help Brier?”

I nodded with a whisper. “I am Brier, too.”

Teague grinned with a nod. “Damn straight.” He back stepped from Nadean, kneeling down over the map. Nadean sat cross-legged again. Teague pointed the map with a stern face and a serious tone. “The bastards will be waiting right here in Cullman for our daddies to pass. But the teens are going to surprise their asses first.”

Lark frowned with concern. “How, Tomcat?”

Teague looked up with a smile to see each face. “We drive our headlights up their ass. Duchess leads…”

Bobcat turned and frowned at the nose profile of Nadean. “Why she lead? Why she even come?”

Teague reached and slammed his fist into the chest of Bobcat with a sour frown. “Because she’s smart, asshole, Duchess leads. Then we follow, watching for a trap. Once the trap’s springed.”

Bobcat said, “Sprung.”

Teague lifted and held four fingers with a smile and a nod. “This is the master plan. Four muscle cars. Four drivers. Four CB radios set to channel 777 for triple good luck. Duchess takes the Cullman exit then crosses over the interstate bridge and then plows right back down the exit ramp. But she will be leading the enemy convoy. Then we, three surprise the children.”

Bobcat frowned with worry. “And when they get off the toilet from shitting with their loaded shotguns on her ass?”

Teague turned and winked to Bobcat. “Then we implement the U-box formation.”

Bear frowned. “What U-box formation, Tomcat? Ya make no sense. There’s a drafting concept with the formation of cars in a straight line for saving gasoline and energy used in stock car driving on a race course.”

Teague nodded with a smile. “This is my new car formation shaped like the letter U. Duchess leads first, speeding away from the enemy car. Then we smash their birthday party when they give take chase on her.”

I frowned with worry. “Me?”

Bobcat turned and sneered to Nadean, “See, she don’t need to drive her muscle car. I do it being the ‘bestest’ driver.”

I shook my curls with a sneer, “Bullshit, Bobcat and Bear and Lark, I be the ‘bestest’ driver of my muscle car. Go to hell, boys.”

Teague chuckled with a smile. “Duchess has debated good her driving claim. Shut it, Bobcat. Then we, three cars surround the last trailing enemy car on each side and rear. The bastard can’t drive in reverse on any interstate, only go forward. Then I am co-leader with Lark as my hunter. Lark shoots the bird first and then his hunting knife second, slicing the rubber right off the tire.”

Bobcat frowned. “Shotgun’s better.”

Teague shook his skull with a worried brown. “Naw, they shoot back. And we use some older but sharper hunting knives, Bear.”

Lark grinned with a nod. “I like.”

Bobcat frowned with worry. “Did you run this hunting knife exhibition passed your daddy for approval, Tomcat?”

Teague nodded with a smile. “Yeah, I did, Bobcat. He liked it and understood it. He’ll be with Urall inside the cab. He’ll be watching for the U-box formation around any enemy vehicles, since we be using knives as our only weapons while directing Urall and him out of danger.”

And then silence as eyeballs stared at the map.

I looked down with a worried brow to see my hands, exhaling with a puff of nervousness.

Bear cleared his throat with a meek voice. “What’s the next exit, Tomcat?”

Teague pointed down to the map with a stern face. “Jasper to Cullman is seven miles.”

Bobcat closed his eyelids. “Cullman to Warrior to Gardendale is hills.”

“Naw,” Bear shook his skull with a stern face. “Duchess’s antebellum house sets on a top of the highest hill in Limestone County. Those are the end points of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Teague nodded with a smile. “Bear’s right. The G-men won’t give chase, since them mountains leads into the hilly city of Birmingham. The B’ham police and Bama patrol bears will give ass on any and all road speeders first.”

 

 

Monday May 21st

1:01 a.m. early morning

Brier Cotton Gin

(188 miles south to Montgomery)

Parking lot setting of sports car and one semi-trucker trailer

Warm temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

Tyson stood upright inside the huddle of the teens, the farmers, and the police officers of Brier with a stern face and a serious tone. “Urall drives. I ride shotgun. Scouts in front. Sheriff in rear. Move out.” He turned and moved to the front passenger of the cab.

The rest of the farmers back stepped from the rig, watching and praying for the safety of the convoy and the cotton. The teens turned and dashed to each sports car with a cheer and a clap. The police officers turned and moved to the three police cars also.

Urall turned and moved to the driver’s seat of the rig, sliding inside the open door, shifting the gears and checked the desk console for a warning light.

The door opened.

Tyson slid into the seat, staring at the gear box with a confused brow, “How many gears on this rig?”

The door closed.

Urall fiddled with the gears and checked the console for any warning lights. “Most common amount of gears in an eighteen wheeler is ten forward and two reverse gears, although they can range from nine, ten, thirteen, fifteen, and eighteen gears. This machine is old. Cochran set up us good. There are nine gears, seven-forward and two-reverse. Our night trip is going to be long but downhill.”

Tyson turned and frowned at the nose profile of Urall. “Downhill? Don’t get it.”

Urall pressed and revved the gasoline pedal with a grin. “Once we pass B’ham and the Appalachian foothills, we coast downhill into Montgomery on this ancient truck. Signal the start of the race, Tyson.”

“Yeehaw,” He leaned out the window and fired his shotgun into the air.

The teen scouts led the convoy, speeding on the roadway Interstate 65.

Two squads of city police cars followed behind the rig from the farm town of Brier, going to the metro city of Montgomery, arriving before six in the morning of a pretty sunrise, shouting a new day.

 

 

2:22 a.m.

City of Jasper

(47 miles south of Brier)

Gas and food station setting of Brier teens

Warm temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

I pulled off the interstate and rolled up the county road and slowed, seeing an open gas station on the side of road.

Teague pulled up behind Nadean on the interstate exit ramp in the darkness.

I turned and stopped at the first gasoline pump station.

The door opened.

Teague stopped at the gasoline pump station behind Nadean. Lark sat inside the car and communicated the location of an open gas station to Urall and Tyson inside the rig on the CB.

I scooted out the car and looked over to see an empty interstate roadway and the dark sky with bright moonlight, a good night for romancing an ugly rig to Montgomery with a grin and a giggle.

The door opened.

Teague exited his car and moved into the store for payment of the gasoline for both cars, returning to Nadean with a smile and a nod. He picked up the pump handle on the gasoline, turning to place gasoline into her car. “I’ll pump your gas, Duchess. Good job finding the gas station.”

“Part of the plan, Teague, the first picnic basket.” I turned and slid into the driver’s seat of my car, waiting for a full gasoline tank from Teague.

Lark left the car and entered the store, returning with a paper bag for Teague, moving to pump gasoline into the muscle car of Teague.

Teague accepted the paper bag, turning and sliding into the front passenger seat with Nadean.

I turned and cranked the car, driving to the edge of the parking lot pavement out of the way for the rig to gas up and go to Montgomery.

The door opened.

I scoot out of my car, moving and leaning against the grill of the car, watching for my dad and the ugly rig.

Teague scooted out the car and moved to the grill too, leaning against the hood, providing a soda drink and a bag of chips to Nadean.

I accepted the food with a worried brow and turned looking for my dad and the ugly rig. “Thanks.”

He ate and chewed with a smile and a nod. “The plan’s working.”

Bear and Bobcat stopped and turned, pulling into the same gas station for a new tank of gasoline too.

I opened the lip of the potato chip bag with a worried brow, looking for my dad and the ugly rig in the darkness on the roadway, “So far, but I worried, Teague. We’ve only driven to Jasper, forty seven miles out from Brier in ninety minutes. We still got another one hundred and forty one more miles to go. Cruising at fifty miles per hour, we’ll hit Montgomery at seven instead of six this morning.” I ate and chewed the food, needing the energy for my worries.

Teague chewed and stared at the southern roadway. “We made it up flying over the mountains. We got lucky. No cars riding on the interstate.”

I stared at the southern roadway with a worried brow. “Monday morning, everyone’s at home inside their warm beds asleep, then they will be up later for work or school. Most of the schools get out the later part of the week.”

“Jasper to Cullman is fourteen more miles down south on Interstate 65. I’m concerned about the hidden ramp at Cullman. Duchess, you lead. If you find a nasty surprise, you high-tail away from them bastards, speeding faster than light,” he scooted and moved closer to her, dropping an arm around her collar bone with a stern face and a whisper. “I promise I’ll never let anyone hurt you. You believe me, Duchess?”

I elbowed him with a sour frown. “Yeah, I believe you, Teague.”

He grinned at her nose profile, “Tomcat. Between Cullman and Gardendale, there’s nothing but rolling mountains neither G-men nor Smokey bears give chase on our tails, unless they wanna be crushed flat. Urall can’t control the down shifting weight of three trailers even a machine can’t protect you.”

I chewed and swallowed with a worried brow, looking into the darkness of the interstate for my dad and the ugly rig.

 

 

2:23 a.m.

Truck cab ride of Urall and Webster on Interstate 65

Three miles south to Jasper exit

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

“Why’s the rig’s engine idling like tapping a snare drum in Brier marching band?” Tyson held the door handle with a sour frown.

Urall drove with a smile and a laugh over the dark road. “It’s a diesel. The tapping is pretty characteristic noise between the injectors and other metal vibrations more so than the gasoline engines like in Corene’s Cadillac.”

“Know that, redneck…”

“If I had to guess with this old rig, it’s the exhaust brake which is typically a ‘jake brake’ that makes a lot of fuzz which is used to help slow the rig down during compression braking. So you don’t wear out the brakes when ya don’t need too. The jake brake’s used a lot going downhill to avoid burning out the brake pads.”

Tyson nodded with a smile, “So the brakes be good.”

“Brakes be good. But I don’t like this gauge measurement.” Urall reached and tapped the glass with his thumb nail and a worried brow. “The CO2, that’s carbon. This is the CO2 detector needle inside the truck detecting sudden changes in the location of any toxic exhaust fumes, before the driver passes out and dies in a wreck. The reading is twenty five which is usually around five. The alarm goes off at seventy.” He tapped it twice and gunned the gas pedal with a nod. “Check the muffle in the rear of the rig, Tyson.”

Tyson rolled down the window and stuck a face out in the air, pulling back with a grin and a chuckle. “The prettiest midnight black exhaust bellowing out the bottom muffle of our rig.”

“Shit.” Urall drove with a nod and a grin. “That explains the funny smelly fumes inside the cab. Are ya dizzy?”

Tyson turned and frowned at the nose profile of Urall. “I’m going to die,” he shook his skull. “Naw, wait. Cochran’s going to die first then I will be sure to follow him into heaven.”

Urall chuckled. “Cochran’s going to hell, trying to kill some good church folk-men like us, Tyson.”

He nodded with a laugh. “True.”

Urall reached and slapped the button on the console. “Did ya happen to see them flashers?”

“Naw,” He laughed.

Urall reached and slapped the button again with a sour frown, “A set of four-way yellow flashers like Corene’s Cadillac, it is a courtesy for folks to steer clear and give room to us, especially up steep slopes. The semi tends to go much slower than most traffic. I activated them. Ya didn’t see me winking at your face, when ya ate that nasty air?”

“Naw,” He laughed.

Urall shook his skull with a sour frown, “Another dang problem.”

Tyson looked ahead with a chuckle and a smile at the clear dark road. “That be why we drive at night, so the black smoke don’t attract attention and flashers ain’t needed, because, we ain’t stopping for nothing but the cement dock at the Cotton Exchange in Montgomery. I can barely see the light on the road, so the front head lights kinda work.”

Urall drove with a nod and a laugh.

Lark said via the CB, “Buster.”

Tyson reached and picked up the CB microphone with a stern face, “Buddy.”

Lark said via the CB, “The first picnic basket is full, Buster.”

Tyson grinned with a nod into the CD. “And we’re hungry, buddy.” He dropped the CB down to the seat with a smile. “The kids have found an open gas station in Jasper. Our plan is working perfectly.” He turned and stared at the same tree on the side of the roadway with a worried brow. “Urall, I don’t wanna be an ass. But are we moving? I feel like I’m stuck on a roller coast in neutral.”

Urall drove and checked the gauges with a nod. “When climbing a grade, I have to downshift to get more torque to keep the trailers moving as fast as possible uphill, not downhill. So your ass feels right, we lost some speed. Yeah. We are moving,” he reached and tapped the glass with a smile and a nod. “The gauge reads forty miles per hour.”

Tyson exhaled with a huff of worry. “The first of many mountains…”

Urall drove with a stern face. “The engine specs read V8-diesel with 650 horsepower with 3,000 feet per pound of torque at 2500 RPMs. The rig is tossing at 2100 RPMs now, going up the steep grade.”

Tyson turned and frowned at the gauges on the desk console. “Are we going to redline?”

“Naw…”

“Where did ya get these math stats?”

“Here,” Urall reached and pitched the paper manual to Tyson with a sour frown. “Cochran, he supercharged this dang thing.”

Tyson exhaled with a sour frown, “Which will make our road journey expensive in gasoline and long in hours too.”

Urall turned and checked the shattered side mirror of the rig. “When the rig speed drops below forty five miles per hour, the Alabama roadway law requires me to put on my pretty yellow chick colored flashers for a visibility warning. Since, we are moving a lot more slower than other speeding cars.”

Tyson chuckled. “What speeding cars, Urall?”

“The invisible police cars…”

Tyson chuckled. “Naw, if we are tailed by Cochran’s boys, then they spot us for damn shore, obeying the Alabama roadway rules.”

Urall chuckled and cleared his throat with worry. “What’s really going on here, Tyson?”

He exhaled. “It all really started when the US Congress passed the Research and Promotion Act entitling US farmers to experiment with different types of blended cotton seedlings within our crops. The US Federal Government gives you money for your crops without the truck hauling it to the Cotton Exchange for sale and trade. Axson does me a favor hauling my cotton bales down to Exchange every summer for selling.”

“Nice.”

Tyson nodded. “Cotton is an enormous commodity outside the USA. We export cotton to the countries of England, Spain, France, all over Europe, and South Africa shipped by Uncle Sam.”

“American citizens can’t do business with any foreign government as stated in our US Constitution.”

Tyson grinned with a nod. “You were always one of the smartest students at Brier High, Urall. So the Brier farmers plant the blended cotton seedlings, then the US Federal Government gives it back in sixty thousand dollar subsidizes per year, per farmer. I suspect that our money deal is too good as seen by some of the local corrupt Alabama government officials. Rumors are flying around that the new roadway interstate exchange will run right through our corn fields from Decatur into Huntsville. Huntsville’s growing faster than your sons, Urall. I agree with Owen. I don’t wanna sale my land. I wanna live on it and be buried there. I figure that some government officials think if they scare us, then we just surrender and give up.”

Urall laughed, “Naw.”

“Hell, naw. We, Brier folks are tough like a batch of real patch briers and not moving just keeping growing. All that is good then and now, including the US Federal Government subsidize program. But the cost of cotton seedlings increases, each year plus the cost of repairs on the old farm equipment increases each year. There’s only one land. Ya got four kids, Urall. I got two, Teague and Olivia. I’m encouraging Teague to attend college after graduating high school for freeing the land up for Olivia.”

“What about her marrying a farmer or a lawyer or a physician?”

“I can’t predict the future, Urall. This is a man’s world, since Adam ate that damn apple. I worry more about my daughter rather than my son. My son will become something a farmer or a lawyer or a physician. My daughter will be…fill in the blank.”

Urall drove with a nod and a smile. “My sons are smart. They be going to college too. My first born, I don’t worry about Nadean. She got a good head on her shoulders.”

Blue and white lights paired with the sound of sirens blared behind the rig.

Urall slowed the rig and pulls it into the paved roadside, cutting off the engine to hide the bellowing black smoke. “Shit.”

The door opened.

Urall dropped out the cab, racing to the grill to meet the police car.

The door opened.

Tyson moved and dashed to stand beside Urall in front of the grill of the rig too.

The Alabama highway patrol officer stopped his police car in front of the rig, sliding out with a sour frown, turning and moved to stand in front of Urall and Tyson, holding his ticket book with a serious tone. “Good evening, sirs. I must tell ya that eighteen wheelers are required to show their visible grill and tail lights blinking off and on going up a mountain side, sir. This is a requirement of both law and courtesy to warn all passing vehicle drivers. I am going to have to write you a citation for not following the law, sir.” He looked down and flipped open his ticket book with a stern face.

Tyson elbowed with a chuckle on the bicep of Urall, “Told ya, Urall, use the damn chick yellow colored flashers.”

Urall nodded with a sour frown. “Yes sir.”

The three Brier police cars stopped and pulled behind the rig.

The doors opened and closed.

Jimmy Ray and his three deputies moved from the cars and trotted to the the cab. Jimmy Ray smiled with a hand wave and a shout to the huddle of men, “Howdy there, I’m Sheriff Jimmy Ray from the city of Brier. This is my buddy, Urall.” He stopped and slapped the collar bone of Urall with a smile and a nod to the other police office. “Is there a problem here, State Trooper?” He thumbed over his collar bone with a smile. “We be shipping some highly secret weapons for the US Army in Huntsville, Alabama, the secret missile base at Redstone Arsenal. That be why we move at night in the darkness.”

The highway patrol trooper looked up with a confused brow to see Jimmy Ray, “Sir?”

Jimmy Ray smiled with a nod. “Boy, ya wanna be part of Alabama’s secret mission?”

He frowned, “Sir.”

“Ya be an American, right, boy?” The officer nodded in silence as Jimmy Ray grinned with a nod, “Good, son, we need a pit stop at Jasper and then an escort straight down to Montgomery hauling all this secret government weapons,” he reached and patted the grill of the ugly rig with a grin and a chuckle.

The highway patrol trooper shook his skull with a stern face. “I can’t go all the way down into Montgomery. But I can take ya’ll into Jasper for gas,” grinning.

Jimmy Ray reached and extended a hand shake with a smile and a nod to the trooper. “You be a good-hearted American citizen, boy. Please lead the way for us, sir.”

The trooper turned and moved back into his police car.

Jimmy Ray slapped the collar bone of Urall, turning with a grin and a chuckle, moving back into his police car with his three deputies.

Tyson slapped the bicep of Urall, turning and dashing to the open passenger door too.

Urall turned with a smile, shaking his skull and scooted into the rig.

The door closed.

The trooper pulled out the road first, leading the convoy to the city of Jasper.

 

 

2:43 a.m.

City of Jasper

(47 miles south of Brier)

Gas and food station setting of Nadean and Teague

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

“Three-speed manual transmission with a floor shifter, sporty steering wheels, bucket seats, and a nice big ugly bird on the hood,” Teague moved and strutted around her car with a grin and a nod. “Your new muscle car has got style and sport like you, Duchess.” He stopped and leaned into her nose profile with a smile.

I leaned against the grill and drained the soda can, burping with a sour frown. “It’s a car, Teague.”

Teague frowned. “This just ain’t no car, babe.”

I narrowed my eyelashes at the empty road in the darkness with a worried brow. “Where’s my daddy, Teague? It’s been too long. We’ve been sitting here for almost twenty minutes. We were only ahead by ten minutes.”

Teague leaned into her space with a smile. “We wait, Duchess.”

“Wait for what? I don’t wanna wait. I wanna find my daddy. Something holds them up.”

“I trust my daddy. Do ya trust your daddy, Duchess?”

“Yeah, I do.”

Teague turned with a smile and pointed at the flashing blue and white lights of the police car in the dark with a chuckle, “Looky there, your daddy done sweet charmed old Smokey bear into a personal royal escort to the gas station for a refueling job. Let’s go, Duchess. We head out and scout the Cullman exit, while our daddies are under the protection of the Bama highway patrol car.” He turned and dashed to his sports car.

I exhaled with a puff of relief, turning and scooting into my sport car and started the engine. I backed from the edge of the parking lot and turned, leading the other scout cars over the roadway and down the interstate entrance ramp to the city of Cullman at eighty miles per hour. “Yeehaw…”

 

 

3:01 a.m.

City of Cullman

(61 miles south of Brier)

Entrance and exit interstate ramp setting

Sports car ride of Nadean

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

I slammed my brakes, seeing a parked sedan over the dirt of the exit ramp, heading down toward the interstate roadway. “Shit.” I shifted into second gear, speeding down the ramp, yelling a verbal warning into my CB microphone to Teague, Eckward, and Brock. “Trap, Teague.”

And then the sedan moved and followed Nadean down the exit ramp onto the interstate.

Static on CB devise.

Teague said via the CB microphone first, “We see him. He’s moving down the ramp, tailing ya, Duchess. Box formation, boys.”

Static.

Bobcat said via his CB, “Box formation.”

Static.

Bear said via his CB, “Box formation.”

Static.

Teague said via his CB, “Go, go, go, Duchess. We take him out.”

Static.

Teague said via his CB, “Duchess?”

Static.

Bobcat said via his CB. “She’s doing her job, leading the car. We do our part, stopping the car.”

Static.

I shifted the gears and drove at seventy miles per hour with the bastard on my tail lights and down shifted the gear, jumping to eighty miles per hour and heard the voices on the CB which was wrapped around my throat.

“Go right side, Bobcat.” Teague drove his sports car on the left side of the sedan. Bear drove and blocked the sedan from the rear bumper. Teague said inside the car. “Kill his rubber, Lark,” then Teague slid his car around, twirling and driving backward over an empty interstate at three in the morning.

Lark dropped the window, turning with a smile to the sedan. The driver of the sedan dropped and opened his window with a confused brow to see Lark.

Lark lifted and showed the hunting knife first and tossed it out his window at the front rotating wheel second.

Teague blew the car horn as the three teenagers separated and split from the wounded sedan. The rubber tire delaminates on the sedan.

Teague, Eckward, and Brock slammed on the brake pedal, stopping and slowing down and away from an out of control sedan.

And then sedan spun around and hit the medium dirt safely, stopping.

Bear laughed via his CD, “Great slice, Lark.”

Static.

Teague laughed via his CD. “Good job, ya’ll. Duchess, ya there?”

Static.

I smiled into my CD, “Yeah.”

Static.

Teague said via his CD. “Slow down, Duchess. We’re moving faster than an Apollo rocket ship to catch up with you.”

Static.

I shifted into neutral, allowing my car to slow over the interstate for the other teens and yelled into my CB with a grin, “Yeehaw.”

 

 

3:23 a.m.

Truck cab ride of Urall and Webster

Cullman exit on Interstate 65

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

After filling the tanks completely full with gasoline and paying the casher, going to the bathroom, Urall and Webster slid back into the cab, slowing driving away from the gas station, down the entrance ramp, and onto the Interstate 65, cruising with a puff of gray smoke from the exhaust pipes at fifty miles per hour.

Teague said via his CD into the truck cab of Urall, “Buster.”

Tyson reached and picked up the CD into his lips with a stern face. “Go, buddy.”

Teague said via his CD, “Clear night. Watch your left for the crying child.”

Tyson grinned with a nod, “Gotcha, buddy.”

Urall drove with a worried brow underneath the Cullman exchange bridge. “Shit, Tyson. The kids found one of them G-men. This ain’t no pretend Hollywood movie set. Our kids are going to get hurt.”

Tyson watched the dark road, shaking his skull with a smile. “Naw Urall. The boys play sports. Little blood. No broken bones. Quick flexes. Sharp minds. Sports prepares a boy to be a man.”

Urall drove with a worried brow. “Nadean’s my precious daughter.”

Tyson turned and nodded with a smile, seeing the ditched sedan. “And your precious daughter is a smart woman, Urall. She’s both pretty and smart. She leads the wolf pack for us. She found them G-men, Urall. She’s brave. Don’t worry about Nadean. That’s one gal who can take care of herself. Concentrate on the road, buddy. Get us and this old rig to Montgomery.”

 

 

3:44 a.m.

City of Gardendale

(92 miles south of Brier)

Sports car ride of Nadean

Detour point from Interstate 65 in Gardendale

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

I slowed down from fifty miles per hour while leading the semi-trucker trailer with my dad Urall and detoured off from Interstate 65, since the interstate was not completed to the next town.

The passage between the city of Gardendale and the metro city of Birmingham held a big mountain with a grove of tall trees and a patch of wildlife which needed to be removed before the road could be built through the interstate roadway, so all the interstate traffic of cars and trucks had to detour off the interstate roadway, running through the farm town of Gardendale for both gas and food.

“Yeehaw,” I screamed with a grin, slapping the steering wheel both my hands, enjoying driving fast. I stopped at the traffic light, staring at the rear view mirrors, seeing the parade of muscle cars and the big rig behind them.

Teague steered up her red tail lights and squeaked the rubber tires at the rear bumper, reversing his car and drove into the other lane, pulling up beside Nadean. Lark rolled down the window as I tapped on the cool electric button.

And my window dropped down along with my smirk.

Teague turned and chuckled to Nadean. “Duchess, you’re doing great. If you finish first, I’ll let you kiss on Lark.”

“Fuck out, Teague!” I shouted out loud with a sour frown. The traffic light turned green. I did not floor it, since I might accidentally draw attention to my cool sports car. Then the cotton trailers won’t get through to Montgomery. And my dad won’t be invited to join into the Cotton Exchange for the extra money he needed to keep farming and feeding his family in Brier.

Teague was wise also. We both rolled ahead inside our cars, obeying the speed signs.

Bobcat slowly passed Nadean, saying via CB. “I lead. I know this road.”

Static.

I jerked the gear stick into neutral, coasting over the roadway, turning to see all the neon lighted advertisement signs for clothing and food stores. I was not really hungry but more anxious. We had driven eighty seven miles in one hour and forty five minutes.

The convoy maneuvered slowly through each traffic light. Bobcat hit the last traffic light, advancing his speed over the posted sign.

I did not ram but charged behind his exhaust pipe with a giggle of excitement.

Tyson said via his CB. “Sirens”

Static.

Teague said via his CB. “Veer right into the hotel parking lot. Stay put. We wait and see, ya’ll.”

Static.

No one hollered back over the CD and each sports car turned and stopped inside a parking spot at the hotel.

 

 

3:48 a.m.

Hotel parking lot setting

 

 

Urall saw the blue and white police lights through the shattered side view mirror, flipping the gears and slowed the rig, pulling into a wide parking lot at one of the tiny shopping malls.

The door opened.

Urall slid out the driver’s seat, moving to the rear of the rig with a worried brow.

The police car stopped behind the rig.

The local sheriff and one of his deputies scooted out the car and stood side by side, moving and stopping at the rear of the ugly rig in the bright city street lights. The sheriff looked up with a stern face to see Urall. “Your warning lights are out on your semi-trailer truck, sir.”

Urall nodded with a stern face, “Sorry, sir.”

He pointed at the bumper of the rig with a stern face. “Flashing lights are made so a driver can know that your rig is going slower than regular folks. That’s required by Alabama law, so you will receive another ticket, sir.” The sheriff turned and stared at the rig with a confused brow. “How heavy is that eighteen wheeler?”

Urall cleared his dry throat. “Different trucks have different weights…”

The sheriff looked up with a sour frown to Urall. “But most are between 15,000 to 19,000 pounds. The most common type on the road is 20,000 pounds, when empty for a single trailer plus the cab. But you, boys seem to have much, much more than that with three full trailers of…”

Urall nodded with a stern face. “Yes sir. We do. A tractor and trailer hauls about forty tons or eighty pounds on the average rig, traveling over our great US transportation system. Now that tonnage is spread over several axles, normally we have five axles, including the steering axle and over the load bed. So we have more axles to keep it close to the required 32,000 pounds per axle. But with a special US Federal Government exemption clause, a driver can haul up to forty thousand pounds per axle with drop axles, spreading the weight out for a heavier load of cotton. This allows us to drive over the 80,000 poundage max with the extra axles.”

The sheriff sneered. “Boy, I see that you’re carrying over eighty thousand of poundage across this here US highway. This ain’t Interstate 65 which is paid with US Federal Government money. This here is our little farm town of Gardendale with no government money for big ass potholes and snaky cracks in the road from…”

Urall smirked. “Officer, please let me explain. Rigs can be automatic or manual transmission. I prefer manual giving me greater control, better fuel mileage, and more durable. I use a gear ratio of 3:55:1, 3.73:1, 4.11:1 commonly used on all highways and interstates with two-speed rear ends. I obey the speed limit range set between fifty five and sixty seven miles per hour. After our cotton is delivery to the final destination point, I will be hauling an empty weight of 44,000 pounds. And I operate my rig within the United States eleven hours on duty within a fourteen hour time window. The trailer tire air pressure reads between 95 to 105 PSI,” he pauses. “These are the reference specs of any eighteen wheelers for North America, not Canada.”

He frowned. “Canada? Ya drive this big rig for another foreign country, sir?”

Urall shook his skull with a smirk, “Naw sir. We spotted a Canada driver speeding down the great State of Alabama on I-65, hauling about ninety tons or 180,000 pounds of grade oil, liquid and flammable elements, heading probably down to sunny seaside Mobile.”

He parted his lips, “When?”

Urall grinned with a nod. “It passed us doing…”

Tyson nodded with a smirk. “Eighty…”

He frowned. “There’s a Canada trucker going eighty miles per hour in Alabama.”

“Heading to Montgomery…” Urall thumbed over his collar bone to the interstate with a grin.

The sheriff and his deputy showed a set of parted lips. Then the sheriff reached and slapped his buddy’s chest with a smirk and a nod. “Let’s go, Lester. Forget them there traffic citation, boys. Ya’ll be good Southerns,” he spun around and dashed to the police car with a chuckle and a shout. “Let’s go and get us some Yankee boys, Lester. Yeehaw.”

Urall and Tyson grinned with a chuckle, turning and loading back into the semi-tractor trailer for Montgomery.

 

 

5:51 a.m.

City of Prattville

(10 miles south to Montgomery)

Truck cab ride of Urall and Webster on south Interstate 65

Cool temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

Inside the cab of the semi-trailer truck, Urall drove with both hands on the steering wheel at a steady sixty miles per hour making up lost time with a smile and a nod, “We be almost there to the Cotton Exchange Station with another ten miles or so, Tyson. I can’t believe it. And I see a nice sunrise and the high rise of tall buildings of Montgomery.”

Tyson held the CD with a smile, saying into the device. “Ten more miles, buddy.”

Static.

Teague said via his CB, “Hang tight, buster.”

I ran up the exit ramp of Prattville in my sports car, jerking the gear into neutral. There are three parked sedans over the nicely paved road side. I cursed into the open CD microphone. “Shit.”

Teague said via his CB. “Duchess, what up?”

I sneered into the CB. “Another mouse trap,” I slapped the manual stick into second gear, flying down the entrance ramp into the interstate, passing the three parked cars at seventy miles per hour.

However, the three sedans were alerted by the sports car but did not chase after Nadean over the interstate.

Teague slowed his speed but passed the interstate bridge with a confused brow, saying into the CB, seeing the red tail lights of Nadean in the lead. “Slow. Slow. We passed ‘em.” Then Eckward, Teague, and Brock rolled over the interstate in a row, occupying the new three lanes of no traffic.

Two second later, the old rig passed the same entrance ramp. And then the three sedans gave chase on the rear bumper of the semi-trailer truck.

I viewed my rear view mirrors, leading the convoy and then slowed. The three sedans were not chasing after me but my daddy inside the semi-trailer truck. I couldn’t leave my daddy to the fight. The old rig was smoking black stinky fumes that I could smell a mile away.

Static.

Tyson grabbed and slammed the microphone into his face, saying with a sour frown into the CB, “Company.”

Static.

Teague said via his CB. “See ‘em. We’re coming…”

Static.

Urall reached and grabbed the hand device from Tyson, slamming it into his lips with a worried brow, yelling into the CB. “Get and go to Montgomery, kids. Get outta here now. Move. Get away from the G-men now. We’ll handle this.”

Static.

I slammed my brakes as the lead scout car, moving into the smooth median strip and waited with a lady sneer.

Teague drove passed Nadean, slamming his brakes, yelling via his CB, “Duchess!?”

Urall passed by Nadean.

Teague slowed and moved aside, allowing Urall to pass too while Bobcat and Bear slowed down also.

Then, I down shifted and jumped into fourth gear, driving at eighty miles per hour and squeezed between Urall and the three approaching sedans. I followed behind the black smoke, since one, my daddy was driving the big rig. Two, I was not leaving my daddy, who was driving the big rig.

The three cars chase after us as we weave side to side over an empty interstate, preventing sabotage to the big rubber tires on the rig.

I jerked to the right without letting the bastard harm my daddy and slammed the brakes. The bastard slammed his brakes, falling behind my bumper by five feet.

Then I remembered from the big Alabama map in the cotton gin floor and yelled into my CB, “Teague, the exit ramp on Coosada is not completed being under road construction. There’s no return access ramp back onto the interstate.”

Static.

Teague said via the CB. “Avoid it.”

Static.

I smiled into my CB. “Use it. I pretend to exit down on Coosada then pull away before I run out of interstate roadway.”

Static.

Teague said via the CB, “Naw, that’s a two G-force or more. Duchess, the car can’t handle it.”

Static.

I smiled into my CB. “A muscle car can, not a sedan.”

Static.

Teague said via the CB, “Duchess.”

Static.

I switched the CB channel with a grin, “Daddy.”

Static.

Urall said via his CB. “Ya, slick?”

Static.

I smiled into my CB. “Daddy, mile marker 176, county road 143 going to Coosada is under road construction. Veer right then cut back to the interstate on my mark, Daddy.”

Static.

Teague switched the CB channel, saying into the device with a worried brow, “Duchess.”

Static.

Bobcat listened on the same channel, saying with a sneer into the CB. “Shut up, Teague.”

Static.

I smiled into my CB, “My mark, Daddy.”

Static.

Urall said via his CB. “Copy, Slick.”

Static.

I shifted side to side over the roadway behind a plume of blinding black smoke and out the rear exhaust pipes as my daddy veered to the right, pretending to exit the side road of Coosada.

The three cars pulled directly behind Nadean, speeding at eighty miles per hour for the capture and containment as ordered by Cochran.

I couldn’t see beyond the black smoke, but my daddy trusted me to give the word.

Urall hit the exit road on the right, tossing shit onto my wind shield, but I stayed the course. I speed closer to the rig fender, since the pebbles didn’t hit into the middle of my window but more along the edges for seeing the road. I looked and viewed the rear mirrors, watching a group of the headlights when the last car rolled onto the smooth pavement to the roadway of Coosada.

The Coosada exit ramp sloped down. However, the rig was powerful enough to smash the gap of rocks and patchy asphalt, since Urall was an excellent truck driver and understood the rig controls.

I watched the cars line side by side over the roadway and the media, blocking an escape from my ass with an evil grin and a chuckle. My left rubber tire touched the exit ramp as I yelled into my CB, “Now, Daddy, cut back left.”

Teague, Eckward, and Brock raced ahead of the convoy out of sight, pretending they missed the exit point too and slowed their cars, sliding and twisted around sideways over the interstate to see.

 

 

5:54 a.m.

Truck cab ride of Urall and Webster

Five miles south Interstate 65 to Montgomery

Coosada road construction exit to crop field of corn

 

 

Urall drove with a worried brow and a yell. “Hold on, Tyson.” He jerked the three gears into neutral and twirled the steering column to the left as the rig squeaked in ripped rubber and screamed in tearing metal over the fenders. The steering column shook like the rig might jackknife.

A jackknife would cause the cab to kiss the first trailer. Then the cotton trailer would not have been delivered to the Cotton Exchange in Montgomery at six in the morning on time.

Urall twirled the steering column to the right, avoiding a deep ditch on the left side of the interstate, roaring the engine, drumming more tearing metal from the sides of the rig. The steel underbelly slowly straightened out over the roadway as sweat poured from his forehead and both his hands.

Urall jerked the three gears into second, fourth and fifth, pressing the gasoline pedal down into the floor, rolling the rig forward down an empty interstate with a plume of black and white steam behind.

I cut my steering column to the left, tapping the stick into neutral and slammed the brakes from fright as my car spun and rotated in a pinwheel of left circles. I released the steering column, the clutch pedal, and the brake pedal, allowing my car to spin left all the way across four lanes of empty interstate roadways, praying and cussing.

My car hit the medium pavement on a left rear tire than the clay dirt with a right rear tire, roughly gliding over the grass into the low ditch as my heart tried to blast out of my shirt.

Static.

Urall grabbed and spit on the CB with a worried brow, “Slick!?”

Static.

Teague said via his CB, racing down the interstate to the exit point, “Duchess!?”

Static.

Urall said with a worried brow into the CB, “Nadean!?”

Static.

Teague said via his CB, slamming the brakes with worry. “Duchess, I’m coming back to ya.”

Static.

I coughed and yelled with a croak of fear, “Fine, go, Daddy, get the cotton home now.”

Static.

Teague said via his CB, “Duchess!?”

Static.

I said with a cough into the CB, “Teague, go with my daddy. Help our daddies, now.”

Static.

I didn’t have time to be afraid or cry, seeing the exit on Coosada. The three sedans slammed into a field of mature corn stalks from the construction site. My car ran with damage as I slowly tapped the stick into first gear and stomped the gasoline pedal, turning the steering wheel, speeding to catch my daddy.

The rig bellowed in a plume of black smoke from a raising sun, looking bad and beat.

I feared for my dad’s life in the metal machine.

The rig occupied the middle of three lanes, wobbling to the left and cut back to right.

I was not a mechanic.

But the underbelly was bleeding black oil and green slimy liquid.

Urall wasn’t talking on the CB, concentrating on keeping the rig from jackknifing.

I flung the CB devise from my neck, concentrating on my illegal speeding. I passed over the river bridge, turning to see a three-story warehouse structure on the water on my left and swing my eyeballs to see Clay Street exit on my right. The exit street turned to the left and led straight down into the Cotton Exchange Station along the river bank.

Urall shifted into a right lane for a wicked ninety degree left turn and hit the bridge concrete and then the wire fencing with a right tail light, tearing a big hole in the fence and the air currents.

I cringed from the booming noise, following behind but not too close to feel pebbles of concrete.

Teague stopped and moved from the parking lot of a building, pulling the car up beside Nadean with the window down, using a hand motion to stay back. Nadean ignored it. Then he down shifted the stick and roared the engines ahead, blocking Nadean and slammed on the brakes.

I slammed my brakes without hitting Teague and shouted for my eardrums only without the CB. “Shit, Teague, I’ll beat your ass later, after your daddy and mine are safe.” I almost kissed the rear bumper of his car with my front bumper.

Teague flipped a hand motion to the side of the road.

My eyeballs turned and follow to a high buff above the Cotton Exchange Station. The warehouse station rested along the Alabama River. During antebellum days, cotton bales were loaded onto river flat boats to New Orleans, Louisiana and Savannah, Georgia.

I turned and followed Teague. Brock followed Nadean. Eckward was last in the sports car parade. Teague turned and parked first in the row over the pavement.

I stopped the car with a sneer, killing the engine, sliding out the sports car and moved to stand with Teague over the high buff of land.

The rig was shiny ugly in the morning sunrise with a set of broken tail lights and a series of bend metal over the body. Urall slowed the rig going down the steep slope, pressing the brake pedals.

However, the big rig was not slowing down.

I jerked both my hands over my mouth with a sob of tears.

Teague hugged Nadean as they both watched in silence prayer and bold worry.

The fast speed of the rig plus the heavy weight shimmied to the right and to the left, rolling down the hill as Urall held a steady direction with his hands over the steering column. The grill, both headlights, and the engine hood were directly aimed at a hundred foot wide loading platform on the Cotton Exchange Station which was made with tons of solid concrete.

A military tank couldn’t bust it.

“Daddy…” I whispered with worry, feeling Teague’s gently touch over my heated body of fear.

 

 

5:57 a.m.

Truck cab ride of Urall and Webster

Clay Street of Montgomery

(one mile to Cotton Exchange platform)

Warm temperatures and dull red and blue sunrise

 

 

Urall slid all gears into neutral, since the rig was nicely rolling down a steep slope under its own power to the loading dock.

Tyson held the door handle and the console dash with a worried brow and a sissy whine. “Urall, stop this thing.”

“Can’t Tyson. Stow the shotgun. Get down on the floor mat. We’re going to crash into that concrete platform. We lost the brakes. I suspect the green stuff leaking over the roadside is brake fluid.”

Tyson reached and unloaded the shells from the shotgun, placing the weapon behind his seat and jumped down over the floor mats. Urall swirled the steering column to the right, forcing the machine sideways, which was the best chance of survival for a human body within a fortress of metal.

The cotton bales would not die but delicate flesh and bones would, if cut and chopped like a T-bone steak.

The rig roughly whipped to the left, wanting to rotate in a circle as Urall cut the steering column about half-way to the right. The rig quickly lined up in a wiggling sideway line parallel to the horizontal docking ramp. The tires were steaming in white smoke, since the rig was confused about going in a sideway direction, instead of a forward or a backward maneuver.

Urall couldn’t stop the rig and its impact with the concrete platform but continued to shift his two calloused hands and his set of tired aching biceps to the left and to the right. He saw it with a grin.

The rig was side to side and had lined up the three trailers behind the cab for a sideway collision with the two hundred feet concrete platform on the Cotton Exchange Station.

Urall yelled with a worried brow. “Move over, Tyson. I’m jumping down on the floor too. We be hit with sharp glass and shit. So stay put!”

The rig was fifty feet from the platform.

Urall released the steering column.

The rig wiggled a rear end side to side, but the weight of the trailers coupled with the flatness of the docking lot kept the rig sideways for a perfect collision with the concrete platform.

Urall slid down from the steering column and landed on top of Tyson with a grunt.

The left rear bumper of the third trailer impacted the concrete first and then the front bumper of the second trailer second as the first trailer split from the second trailer. The front bumper of the cab collided with the concrete next as the second trailer jackknifed to the right.

And then the rig stopped as metal squeaked from the melting heat of two chrome bumpers.

Urall did not move while Tyson cursed.

 

 

5:58 a.m.

Cotton Exchange Station

(188 miles south of Brier)

Warm temperatures and dull pink and yellow sunshine

 

 

Urall wiggled to the left and to the right, feeling for any broken bones and then stood on top of his kneecaps as his eyeballs peeked over and above the dashboard. Clouds of raising steam drifted up from the engine. He reached over and killed the engine before starting a fire.

Tyson shoved and pushed open the stuck passenger door with a smile to the door for Urall. “Thank you God, Jesus, and Urall.”

Urall wiped the sweat from his brow with a puff of relief. “Let’s just thank Almighty God and Brother Jesus. Don’t do much!”

Tyson wiped the sweat from his brow, sliding out and standing in front of the non-damaged passenger door with a grin and a nod. “But, ya get us here. Good job, sir. Let’s go and see Cochran’s stunned face.” He turned and moved around the healthy steps on the side of the docking platform.

Urall slid out the same passenger door with a sour frown and a matching tone, pulling up beside Tyson. “I rather punch out Cochran’s stunned face.”

Tyson turned and moved up the steps with a chuckle and a nod, wiping the sweat from more of his body parts with a dry handkerchief. “Now, let us be gentlemen of Brier, before the violence of men.”

One of the laughing Cotton Exchange workers moved and stood near the edge of the messy broken concrete, holding a cup of coffee with a smile and a nod to two men. “Elegant maneuver, son.”

“Thanks.” Tyson moved beside Urall with a grin and a nod over the platform.

Another Cotton Exchange Officer ran from the side door, lifting up his arms and stopped, standing at the edge, jabbing a finger at the broken platform and the steaming rig with a sour frown and a serious tone, “Who? Why? Where? What the hell’s going on here? Tyson Haywood, you there, sir. What’s this mess doing here? The station platform is busted and broken and falling apart. Your vehicle has damaged the concrete.”

Tyson stopped with a slight wobble of shaken nerves with a smooth grin and a smooth timber. “Correction, Arthur. This fine road transport belongs to Cochran Carter from Madison, Alabama. And the farmers from Brier, Alabama have delivered all our cotton bales on time before six o’clock in the morning to the Cotton Exchange Station for our money payment.” He exhaled with a huff, wiping the sweat from his face. “And can someone kindly point me in the direction of the Men’s bathroom, please?”

Urall and the other men laughed their asses off.

 

 

Thursday August 16th

7:54 a.m.

Brier High School

Senior year first day of class

Warm temperatures and windy with partly cloudy

 

 

I had survived the summer from my parents, my sister, and Teague to arrive at my first day of my last academic year at Brier High School with excitement and giddiness. I drove and parked in my favored spot: first row, five spaces down from the driveway of the school.

I displayed my muscle car right next to the other four muscles car, consisting of Bear’s neon orange Dodge, Bobcat’s silver Mustang, Lark’s puke green Nova, and Teague’s red Corvette. I parked beside Teague, sitting in silence with a smile, caressing the steering wheel with my naked hands.

My sister and my two brothers exited the car without fanfare, moving to their respective classes in silence.

I reached and cracked open the door with a smile, sliding out and standing near my car.

The other students are moving into the building for the first day of school too.

I reached and gathered my baton and my purse, slamming the door with my hip, placing my car keys inside my purse. I swing around, moving over the sidewalk and up the staircase of concrete to the front doors of the school building.

I parked my car in a space which was in the middle of the building, but I preferred to walk around to the front of the school building rather than the other side with the other snot-nosed younger teens and little elementary kids.

My boot toe hit onto the flat level porch of concrete, moving to him with a sneer.

Teague blocked the entrance archway with a leg and a boot toe with a grin and a chuckle to Nadean, “Ya can pass for a kiss, sweetheart.”

I didn’t miss a stride, slapping my twirling baton on top of his ankle, “Smartass. I wouldn’t kiss your butthole for a million bucks, Teague.”

He pulled the leg into his chest with both pain and a laugh, turning to watch her priss in her blue jean skirt and boots, “I’ll kiss your butthole for free, Duchess.”

Bobcat stood from the ratty coach and moved nose to nose into the face of Teague with a sneer. “What’s that thing with you and her?”

“Nothing,” Teague stared at her ass with a smile.

“Man, you watch her, stalk her, and admire her. I want to know why, Tomcat. You’re engaged, remember, Teague? What about Kitten? What might she think of your redneck behavior? ” Bobcat sneered.

“She’s sweet.” Teague smiled as Nadean disappeared around the wall corner to the homeroom classroom.

Bobcat turned with a sneer to see Nadean, “Duchess?”

“She’s special.”

“She’s a pretty thing.”

Teague turned with a sneer and shoved Eckward from his face with sour breathe. “What’s that mean, Eckward?”

“She got no brains just property for some cowboy, pretty property for some other cowboy, slick.” Bobcat turned and moved back to the ratty chair with a sneer, sitting and elbowing with Brock and Stratton.

Teague moved and propped a leg and a boot toe over the archway with a sneer from the nasty comment of Eckward.

 

 

8:11 a.m.

Hallway school locker setting

 

 

The first day of school was both short and slow. All the academic students had to sign up for both classes and locker assignments. Then at noon time, the entire student body was dismissed for the weekend and the first football game for the year.

I waited in a semi-crooked line with the other seniors to purchase a locker for my school books, returning to my new locker, placing my baton inside for my first class of the first day of school. I swung around and hit a wall of muscle with a sneer, “Teague.”

He looked down and smelled her lavender smelled hair roots. “Duchess, we’re sharing the same locker this school year.”

I looked up with a smile and a giggle, thumbing over my collar bone to my new locker. “I paid my fifteen dollars and no cents and was properly rewarded with this mathematical locker number, seventeen. The same number as last year, while we were celebrity juniors. So I’m guessing here. Ya followed the same procedure and get the locker below me.”

“I do like the thoughts of me being below you, Duchess.”

“Teague!”

The school bell rang for the first hour of academic class.

Teague reached and dumped his notebooks into my locker as I smelled his mint breathe with a smile. “I like the thoughts of you using the top locker, since your skull touches the ceiling. I kindly accept the bottom one, since I’m shorter,” winking. “How’s that, redneck?”

“You’re smart, Duchess. How’s about we share? I get my fifteen dollars back from the school office and buy ya a soda at afternoon break.”

“Soda costs twenty five cents, Teague.”

He looked up with a stern face to the ceiling and down with a grin and a wink to Nadean. “Then I’ll buy ya sixty sodas which should work until the middle of November, right before Turkey Day.”

“How about I move my books down into the bottom locker for nothing?” I winked with a grin. “But ya can still buy me a soda for the rest of year just for being sweet.”

He winked with a chuckle, “Done deal, Duchess.”

“Tomcat…” A female voice moved and yelled behind the bee-hinds of Nadean and Teague.

Teague blocked Nadean from escaping from the locker with a smile and a chuckle.

I smiled. “Your kitten mews.”

“Tomcat,” Zeeta yelled and moved closer to the bee-hinds of Nadean and Teague as Teague continued to block Nadean from escaping from the locker with a grin and a chuckle.

My eyeballs darted to the petite pretty female. “Your cat meows. Zeeta’s behind ya, Teague. She stomping cowgirl boots toward ya, coming closer. Zeeta looks like she’s ready to kick your ass, Teague,” giggling.

Zeeta moved and stood at the nose profile of Nadean, popping her pink bubble gum as Teague continued to block Nadean from escaping from the locker with a smile and a chuckle.

Zeeta lifted and jabbed a red colored manicured fingernail at the cheekbone of Nadean, turning with a sour frown to see the nose profile of Teague. “Did ya wash out your ears, sugar? I’m calling ya, Tomcat, sweetheart. Come on and walk me to class.”

“Shore…” he winked with a grin. “See ya next bell, Duchess.”

Flossie turned from her locker and dashed to the nose profile of Nadean with a giggle and a grin, looking at the ass of Teague. “What’s that all about, darling? Are you and Tomcat mating or something over here in the corner of the school building?”

I turned with a moan and placed my baton inside the bottom locker, slamming the door with my boot toe with a sour frown. “Ugh. I’m sharing locker space with Teague. He’s on top. I’m on bottom now. I used to be on top. Then he was on bottom.”

Flossie licked her lips with a giggle. “Yummy. I like these multi-visual sexy images. And that’s bad in what cute-like way.”

I turned and frowned at her nose profile. “How do school lockers get assigned? Do you know? Come to think about it, I had this particular top locker last year as junior and the year before as a sophomore. Who was my bottom mate late year?”

Flossie turned and smiled at Nadean, “Bottom mate, cool vibe. Do I know him?”

I frowned again. “Think with your brain, not your breasts.”

“I think they assign lockers alphabetically, Nadean.”

I nod. “That’s a good lawyering defensive point as logical. So I’m the letter ‘G’ for Garland, the only letter ‘G’ in our class. Haywood is the letter ‘H.’ Are there any other Brier students with the letter ‘H’ before Haywood?”

She looked down with a stern face to the floor and Nadean. “Let’s see ‘E’, ‘F’, Garland, Haywood, Henderson. Nothing strange about that sequencing, Nadean,” smiling.

I exhaled with a puff of annoyance and swung to our homeroom classroom with a sour frown. “Even the logic is flawless.”

Flossie turned and moved with Nadean with a confused brow. “What does that mean, honey?”

I shook my curls with a sour frown, “Nothing, I don’t like English Literature.”

 

 

7:07 p.m.

Thursday December 13th

City of Brier

Brier Christmas Parade on Brier Road

Convertible car setting of Miss Merry Christmas Nadean

Cold temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

I sat inside an open convertible car, freezing my ass off first and wearing a tiara while freezing my earlobes second. But my Aunt Collie came through. She sent one of her used and older ankle-length fox furry coat from her wardrobe closet, after I won the title of Miss Merry Christmas for the Brier Christmas Parade.

Of course, I would not have entered the holiday pageant, if Jadean didn’t whine worse than Dorcee about the collection of college monies.

A shadow jumped inside the car seat as I turned and frowned with a yell, “Teague.”

He scooted and cuddled her, wrapping an arm around her fur coat with a smile and a nod, “Tomcat.”

I frowned. “Get out, boy.”

He reached and patted a naked hand on top of his hand gun underneath his winter coat with a smile and a nod. “I’m your protection, brought my twenty-two.”

“Shit, there ain’t no attacking Injuns here. They all live in the state of Montana.”

“Rednecks live here also.”

“Get out!”

“Ah, naw! Zeeta says I can stay.”

“Zi-ta….” giggling.

“She’s head majorette in the majorette square. Ya should know that being a majorette in same the majorette square for the Brier Marching Band. But Zeeta always says that you’re pretty but dumb.”

I frowned, “Well, me and her do both know how to shoot a gun. And she’s going to use your twenty-two on me, Teague.”

He shook his skull, “Tomcat. Ah, naw, I got her permission.”

“How’s that southern belle possible?”

He cuddled her closer to his chest in the cold with a smile. “She told me to push you off the edge of the convertible onto the road pavement then let the horses’ hooves stomp your face.”

I frowned. “Murder me. Lovely, if you toss me from the warm blanket, then I’m taking ya with me, Teague.”

He lifted and reached a hand, patting the arm of her coat with a smile and a nod, “Tomcat. She joshes with you. But not that coat, is that real?”

“Fox.”

“A real dead fox.”

I laughed. “Well, when you explain like that, yeah, it’s dead on my body.”

He patted the coat with a smile. “It’s soft.”

“My Aunt Collie lives in the warm weather of Miami, Florida. She’s married to a doctor. He treats her very well.”

Teague continued to pat the fur coat with a smile and a nod. “Wow, I’m learning some slick city ways from you, Duchess.” The convertible jerked forward as her body tilted backward. Teague caught her movement and cuddled her closer with a smile and a laugh. “We’re off.”

I lifted and jabbed a gloved finger to the city street with a sour frown. “Teague, ya got enough time to jump off without rolling like a log on the hard pavement.”

He turned and frowned at the moving hard pavement. “Tomcat, I’ll bust my face.”

“Zita’s dream comes true for her, not me.”

He turned with a smile and cuddles her into his cheekbone with a whisper. “We’ve had one fun year, Duchess.”

“This is only Christmas. There’s five more months of school…”

“Five more months of fun stuff left. Then we start our new life of college.”

I said with a confused brow to Teague. “Ya sound sad? I’m very excited about college life in Birmingham.”

He exhaled. “I talked with a college recruiter from Burn U. They’ve offered me a sports scholarship.”

I reached and hugged him, pulling back with a smile and a nod. “Congratulations, Teague.

He nodded with a stern face. “My daddy can’t stop grinning. He’s happily than I. I’m living his dream of playing football at the college level,” exhaling. “Boy, I hope I am up to it.”

“Ya sound scared, dude.”

“These are the big boys, Duchess. I’m shitting scared.”

I nodded with a grin. “You’re a good player.”

“Ya got that right. I’m a…g.o.o.d…player, not a…g.r.e.a.t…player. I will be hitting against some great high school and university football players,” exhaling. “Man, I hope I’m up to this.”

I frowned. “Ya got a brain, Teague. Just go to academic class and forget football.”

“Ya go and forget marching and majoretting.”

I shook my curls with a stern face. “Naw, my grandfather Sloan drove down and then cheered me on at the Burn U marching band majorette tryouts.” I exhaled with a nod. “Yeah, he’d be greatly disappointed in me.”

He nodded with a grin. “Forget football. Forget the dream. Forget the team. Ah naw. What are you going to major in at college, Duchess?”

“Foreign language, I can read and write Spanish and French.”

He frowned. “What good does a foreign language do, here in Brier?”

I winked with a grin. “I ain’t coming back to Brier, Teague. I’m looking and reaching for a star. Once I graduate, I’m leaving Brier foreverly.”

He frowned at her nose profile. “What in tarnation for, Duchess? You’re blood-family’s here in Brier.”

“Then I can come visit them as much as I like, right, Teague?”

He cuddled her with a wink and a smile. “I hope ya come and visit me too. I plan to graduate move right back to little township of Brier.”

“Have a passel of kids?”

He chuckled with a smile, “How many in a passel, Scarlette of Brier?”

I smiled. “Hell, if I know Ashlee of Brier?”

“Four or five.”

“Five or six.”

Teague nodded with a smile. “Yeah, I want six kids to beat the shit out of Bobcat’s six kids.”

I shook his curls with a smile. “You ain’t going to have six kids, Teague.”

“Okay, two boys to beat the shit out of Bobcat’s boys.”

I giggled. “You are going to have a cute little precious girl.”

He frowned, “Dang, girl, you just wanded me a curse, predicting a baby girl.”

“Girls ain’t bad,” I giggled.

“Girls are trouble.”

“Girls are pretty,” I giggled.

“Pretty girls are danger.”

“I pretty,” I giggled.

He cuddles her with a smile. “Yeah, you are both pretty and dangerous, Duchess. You did a fine job driving your sports car helping move all that cotton this summer.”

“Teamwork, Teague.”

He smirked. “Damn right about that! I was stoked for three days after our illegal drag race.”

“Did your daddy get into trouble with the Cotton Exchange folks? My daddy crashed that borrowed semi-tractor trailer.”

“Broken-down semi-tractor trailer,” he shook his skull. “Naw, that government-man got into trouble, thou. He tried to rip the Brier farmers of their legitimate cotton monies. I heard tell that he also went to jail for that illegal act by a judge.”

I nodded with a stern face. “Good. Justice was done.”

He smiled. “Life is about justice for all of us. Nadean, you and…”

The car halted inside the parking lot.

I stared into his twinkling eyeballs with a smile as his lips moved.

“Tomcat,” Zeeta moved and stood at the nose profile of Nadean, since the convertible sports car had completed the entire parade route. But Nadean didn’t notice, since she was gazing into Teague’s eyes.

My eyelashes blinked back into reality.

I pulled back from his warm cuddle with a fake smile with a puff of disappointment. “Well that was a really short ride. Bye Teague. Night, Zi-ta!” I turned and climbed off the back seat of the car to my sports car for my home.

And then the parade had ended for us.

 

 

Friday May 17th

5:05 p.m.

Brier High School Graduation

Humid temperatures with bright stars

Barn of Teague setting

 

 

The pickup truck stopped.

The door opened.

Teague reached and pulled Nadean out of his truck onto the moist grass with a smile and a nod, after they had left the school’s campus from graduating without honors at Brier High School.

I stood and scanned the darkness, recognizing the short stalks of gathered corn inside the fields with a confused brow. “Where are we going, Teague?”

He turned and grabbed her hand with a smile and a nod, “My spot.”

I pulled up beside his nose profile with a puzzled brow. “Where’s your spot?”

He lifted and pointed to the object with a grin and a chuckle. “There, this be my spot.”

I frowned, “A rusty broken down pickup truck underneath an ancient two hundred oak tree in your daddy’s unplowed crop field which is right behind my house.”

Teague stopped and climbed into the bed of the old truck with a grin and a chuckle, resting on his back spine over the soft blanket, looking up with a smile at the bright clear night of stars. “My spot, I like to watch the zillions of stars at night.”

“Star gazing.” I stopped and stood in front of the truck with a grin and a giggle, climbing into the bed, resting on my back spine beside him on top of the blanket.

“I bring Zeeta here.”

I look at the stars with a confused brow. “Wait a minute? You bring your girlfriend to make out here inside this broken down truck bed?”

“More than that…”

I lifted my torso, looking with a sour frown at the blanket between my legs. “Geez, is this blanket clean?”

He lifted his torso, turning and leaning with a chuckle and a smile into her cheekbone. “Ya wanna meet it dirty with me, Duchess?”

“Naw, Teague.” I laughed. “You fuck Zeeta here, watching me dance around in my room.”

“Why ya twirl around naked with your tits floppy?”

I parted my lips, turning to stare down into the dark grass with an embarrassing face, “You…you see me naked inside my room.”

Teague nodded with a smile and a grunt into the bright stars, “A great turn-on too. I get real long and hard watching you then fuck the shit out of Zeeta.”

I covered my face, spreading the germs over my clean face with a whisper. “Why’s this important, Teague?”

“With these…” he reached and presented the object to her nose profile.

I released my face, turning with a confused brow to see the object. “O my gawd, binoculars, you see…” I snatched the binoculars, lifting them to my face, viewing my house ahead of the broken down pickup truck before the rows of short corn stalks with a gasp. “I see my room and the shelf with all my tiaras.”

“They shine nice underneath the light overhead lamps. Your tits I mean. They are pale against your dark suntanned skin.”

I dropped the binoculars from a sour frown, turning with a puzzled brow. “O gawd, this is too much, Teague. Why am I here again?”

“Show you my spot, Duchess. We are leaving next week to college at Burn U.”

I shook my curls with confusion. “You are a man of few words, Teague. You sit out here and watch the stars and me.”

Teague turned and looked down with a sad face, patting the blanket of the truck bed. “I’ll miss it.”

I lifted the binoculars and viewed my room again with a sour frown. “Watch me like a spider.”

He turned with a smile to see the nose profile of her. “I like to watch ya, Duchess.”

“Ya know a mama spider saves her young by eating the daddy spider?”

“Granddaddy long legs.”

I scanned the interior of my room with the spy binoculars with a sour frown. “I said spider, Teague.”

“I’m watching the granddaddy long legs nesting in your silver hair.”

“What?” I tossed the binoculars from my face, lifting and running all my fingers through my hair and jumped down from the truck bed, running away from the spider, the truck, and Teague. I danced and shook side to side with a new Indian war path dance, “Ah gawd, gawd, gawd! Out, out, out…” I screamed for my guardian angel to assist here.

Teague leaped from the truck bed with a grin and a chuckle, walking and grabbed her throat with a grin, jerking Nadean upright as she cried and screamed. He released her throat and gently brushed the spider out of her hair, pulling her close with a smile and a whisper. “Calm down, Duchess. Its back home. They don’t hurt. They don’t bite.”

I pant with fear. “Teague, Teague, Teague.”

He cuddled her into his chest, whispering into her eardrum. “Tomcat, sh! Its home. Sh! You’re not much of a country princess.”

“I live in the country. I was just surprised. That’s all.” I pulled back from him with a sour frown. “We…me and…”

“You…” He stepped back with a grin and a nod.

I turned and moved to his truck with a sour frown. “We should get back to Zeeta’s graduation party at her house.” I wiped the tears of embarrassment from my face.

He exhaled with a huff of disappointment. “Yeah, Duchess, shore,” Teague moved and jogged to the driver’s seat of his truck.

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:52 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

O Teague… ” I whisper and feel the burn on my right ankle bone, relaxing my mind and my body, thinking about another one of my teenager’s memories.

 

 

 

Nineteen year old college student Nadean

 

Saturday June 1st

City of Birmingham (60 miles south of Brier)

11:01 a.m.

Birmingham University campus

Hot temperatures with bright sunshine

Shared townhouse of college students Nadean Garland and her cousin Cherry Hilliard

 

 

I slammed the knuckles of a right hand against the closing front door before I got locked out of my new rental townhouse home. My granddaddy Sloan was paying for the townhouse as I moved in and prepared for my first day of college at Birmingham University in the city of Birmingham.

I entered the living room and halted with a sour frown and a yell, holding the last cardboard box with my personal possessions from my sports car, “Teague.”

Cherry reached with a free hand and touched the tight shirt on Teague with a smile and a nod, holding an object in the air inside her other hand. “Nadean, ya remember our darling boy Tomcat?” she looked down with a smile at the plate. “Tomcat darling, this is my grandmother’s plate.”

I parted my lips with a gasp at the object. “Hey, that’s my great grandmother’s china bone dinner plate which about hundred years old. Put it back now, Cherry. My grandmother Garland on the other side of my blood-kin family gave that to me for my high school graduation.”

Teague reached and snatched the delicate plate from Cherry, looking and touching the smooth edges with a smile and a nod. “It feels soft like silk, baby blue around the circle and three pale yellow buttercups, very nice, Duchess.” He looked up with a confused brow to see Nadean. “Why buttercups?”

“Pretty flowers like me.” Cherry reached and touched her big breasts with a smile and a nod, looking up to see his chin of whiskers.

I smiled to Teague. “Ranunculus is a genus of six hundred species of plants, including buttercups with white or yellow petals of five or six. Ranunculus is Latin for ‘little frog.’ In the southern region, a buttercup is called ‘coyote’s eyes.’ From an old American Cherokee Indian ledge, when the coyote was tossing his eyeballs up in the air and catching them again and again then a flying eagle flew down and snatched them away. So unable to see, the coyote made eyeballs from the two buttercups. Buttercups are poisonous when eaten by cattle, horses, and other livestock with blistering pus on the mouth.”

Cherry frowned. “Yucko, Nadean, tell us a happy story now and break that curse.”

I stood and hold the heavy box with a smile to Teague. “The natural buttercups cause dermatitis in humans too. Six petals times three flowers equal eighteen. My great grandmother Garland had sixteen kids plus two adults equal eighteen.”

Teague smiled with a nod to Nadean. “Can we eat on your great grandmother’s dishes, Duchess?”

“Shore, Tomcat,” Cherry shifted her hips side to side with a smile and a nod to his chin, “I’m a great cook. Great wives make great cooks. We have supper here tonight celebrating our first day at college with Nadean’s plates. How’s that, Tomcat?” She winked at his chin of whiskers, since Teague was smiling at Nadean.

I stood and held the heavy box with a giggle and a grin. “After lunch comes dinner and then comes mama with a baby carriage.”

“Duchess, let me get that.” Teague turned and gently replaced the china plate back inside the open cardboard box, swinging and dashing to Nadean and grabbed the box with a wink. “How about the bedroom just me and you, un-zipping the…”

“How about the floor at your feet? Whilest, I decide what closet for my pair of faded and worn blue jeans?” I jabbed a finger at the floor with a sneer.

Teague dropped the box at her feet, lifting his torso and his smile to her. “How about lunch…”

“Love too, sugar,” Cherry turned and chomped on her bubble gum, prancing and bouncing into the ass of Teague with a grin and a giggle. She was five feet and two inches short when she was compared to six feet and four feet of Teague.

And Cherry had left a great big mess inside the kitchen which consisted of a half-eaten turkey sandwich on one of Nadean’s great grandmother’s china bone plate along with every imaginable condiment created by mankind in the kitchen. Plus, sliced lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, an open jar of dill pickles, an open jar of mayonnaise, an open jar of yellow mustard, and a sack of ten rolls of white bread, all items were scattered over kitchen counters.

Cherry arrived yesterday into the shared townhouse while accompanied by her biological parents as they graciously unloaded a set of two cars and then sweetly loaded her stuff inside the master bedroom of the townhouse.

I, on the other hand, loaded my sports car with all my personal possessions, including three ripped and worn pairs of blue jeans, two pairs of worn and unpolished cowgirl boots, six clean and laundered shirts, a few pairs of girly panties, bras, and a single pair of white long johns, since a pair of long johns for the wintertime season only appeared in the color of white.

I drove down from Brier this morning after getting a kiss peak from my dad, a sneer from my sister Dorcee, two big hugs from my brothers, and a snigger from my mom.

Jadean’s parting motherly words spoken to her first born daughter. “Ya fail in schooling. Ya a dumbo like me. And ya be back here next month. Then ya marry Lance Morris and a farmer wife like me…”

My parting daughterly set of whispers spoken with a sneer. “When hell freezes over, Mother!”

Cherry reached over and latched onto the fit waist of Teague with a giggle and woman-pulled him into her big soft breasts as Teague wiggled his eyebrows up and down with a wink at Nadean.

I rolled my eyeballs before the puke came up between my tonsils, since my tonsils were removed in the first grade.

Cherry bounced up and down with excitement. “I wanna visit that haunted place called Scary-side.”

I squatted and opened the box to view the objects. “Southside, Cherry. The popular tourist attraction spot is called Southside, not Scary-side.”

Cherry had grabbed the master bedroom inside the townhouse with two walk-in wardrobe closets as I received one wardrobe closet. But I was a country princess needing only a pair of cowgirl boots, a pair of blue jeans, and one clean shirt per week.

“I’m scared thinking about it. Do you get scared, Tomcat sweetheart?” Cherry released and scooted around Teague, hugging his side rib cage with a giggle and a grin.

Teague back stepped from Nadean with a wink and a laugh, dropping his arm around Cherry, “Naw.”

“That’s so nice. You can be my personal escort so no ghosts don’t get me,” Cherry smiled.

They turned and moved to the front of the townhouse.

The door opened.

I turned and stared with awe or fright or something.

The door closed.

 

 

Friday October 4th

7:07 p.m.

City of Brier (60 miles north of Birmingham)

Home of Jadean and Urall kitchen setting

Cool temperatures with bright stars

 

 

I parked my dirty sports car inside the worn driveway, exiting the car, moving and standing at the front door of the house.

I knocked on the door, since I did not official live here.

The door opened.

Jadean stood in the archway with a sour frown and a sneer, “Why ya here, girly?”

“Homecoming game,” I scooted around Jadean with a smile, moving into the kitchen, sitting at the dirty breakfast table.

Jadean turned with a puzzled frown, following behind Nadean, standing inside the archway of the kitchen. “Are you preg…nancy?”

I shake curls. “No, Mama, I am not preg…nancy. I’m a virgin. Believe it or not, I don’t date boys. I just drool over their seats after they exit the classroom,” giggling.

“Ya chase after boys? That’s a floozy. Ya look like a floozy in them boots up inside your ass, girly.”

I smiled. “I’m a flutist, not floozy.” I reached and grabbed the cold late-over supper, eating the food.

“What be that thing on your body?”

I stood and twirled in a smile and a nod in front of Jadean, “My dress and my thigh-high boots.”

She frowned. “Where ya got that thing from the Salvation Army store? It be square shaped in colors of black, yellow, orange and green ugly. I know ya be poor, since I don’t send ya money. How do ya eat, girly?”

I smiled. “Aunt Collie sent me all her old clothes and used stuff like purses and shoes.”

She frowned. “Collie sends ya money too?”

“No, Mama. I work a part-time job at the college to pay for gas and tampons, since you don’t supply used female products for my monthly girly biological system.”

She sniffed with a sour frown. “I smell flowers.”

I touched my breasts with a smile. “That’s called perfume, Mama.”

“From where?”

“Perfume, makeup, shoes, boots, clothes, coats which are used, and abused stuff from Aunt Collie.”

“She sent ya boxes from Texas. Ya best be bringing all them stuff here, girly. We all share in Collie’s treasures. Dorcee needs some new clothes. Be there any diamond rings or necklaces?”

“No, Mama.”

She moved and stopped at the kitchen counter, reaching and grabbing the cloth, cleaning the kitchen counter. “Why ya here, girly?”

I sat and ate the food, chewing with a set of good manners, “The homecoming football game…”

“So?”

“Homecoming queen.”

She frowned. “Ya ain’t the queen.”

I laughed. “Naw, I ain’t the queen. Rosalina stole the tiara from me.” Rosalina was a nice, smart, pretty, and a very good high school friend.

“Rosalina be crowning the next homecoming queen tonight, not you.”

“And Rosalina goes to college too. They have an away football game on Saturday afternoon. She’s on a bus somewhere in Georgia. She asked me to crown for her.”

“Ya ain’t the queen.”

I turned and frowned at her. “I know that. I am not the Brier homecoming queen last year or the year before or the year before that.”

“The year before, you were a junior. A junior girl ain’t no the homecoming queen, only a senior girl can be the queen.”

“In my senior year, I was one of many homecoming princesses. I got a tiara.”

“A little tiny one…,” laughed Jadean.

I smiled. “Yeah, a little tiny one, Rosalina called Principle Holden and asked for permission to send a replacement, me.”

Jadean cleaned the kitchen counter with a sour frown and a sneer to Nadean. “Ya ain’t the queen.”

I chewed and swallowed the cold food, standing and wiping my mouth with a smile and a nod to my mother. “Principle Holden called and told me to come on down and take the both cake and ice cream.” I turned with a grin and a giggle, leaving the Garland home for the football game.

 

 

7:35 p.m.

Brier High School homecoming football game

Cool temperatures with bright stars

 

 

Bobcat and Otter snuggled next to each other, since Otter was a cheerleader and a senior at Brier High School. The homecoming court sat in a special section inside the bleachers away from the nosily band and the nosy parents.

Teague turned and rubbed as cold nose into her naked eardrum with a smile. “I like your perfume.”

I stared at the football game with a grin and a giggle, sitting next to Teague in a set of cheap patio lounge chair in front of the game field fence, “Fleur de doux.”

He stared at her earlobe with a laugh and a smile, “Turd de toot.”

“Sweet flower, ya got a bad draw on your southern redneck twang, Teague.”

He smiled. “Girls twang like sweet molasses. Guys draw like a gun from the hostler.”

I turned and smiled into his grin. “I ain’t seen ya around my townhouse, my classroom, or my football field, Teague. How’s school going?”

He exhaled with a sour frown, “School.”

“How’s football practice going?”

“Practice.”

“When will the coach put you into the game?”

“Game.”

I reached and patted his naked hand with my glove and a sour frown. “Sorry, I shouldn’t stick my nose up your ass.”

Teague reached and rubbed her glove with a smile and a nod into her face. “I’d like for you to stick your nose up my ass. It’s everyone else’s nose that I don’t like up my butthole.”

I fiddled with my soft leather on my thigh-high left boot with nervousness. “Yeah, I feel many noses up there too when I come home to visit. I get the same question-answer session too. Except, my dad’s only question: When are you going to graduate the university?”

Teague grinned with a nod, “Three years and two semesters from now.”

I smiled. “My dad’s a farmer. He doesn’t know what a semester is. He might know what a siesta is, thou?”

Teague leaned into her face with a whisper and a smile. “Ya make me laugh. That’s why I love ya, Duchess.”

Eckward moved and squatted with a sneer into the rear skull of Teague. “Hey, Tomcat.”

Teague smiled at Nadean, “Hi, Bobcat.”

Eckward turned and stared at Nadean with a sneer. “Where’s Zeeta? You’re pre-engaged fiancé.”

Teague smiled at Nadean. “Zeeta has college finals this week. She’s going into nursing school. She has to maintain the letter grade B or higher, even be accepted,” he turned with a smirk to see Eckward. “So she’s always studying her ass off like you, buddy.”

Eckward frowned. “Nice to see you, again, Duchess. Don’t be late for football session tomorrow morning, Teague.”

Teague nodded. “Shore, Eckward.” Eckward stood, turning with a sneer, moving back to Otter on the bleacher, “Another nose up my buttonhole.”

I watched the ass of Eckward scoot and sit beside Otter at the end of the bleacher with a confused brow. “Bobcat’s your best friend.”

Teague turned and smiled to her. “Best bro, best future bro-in-law, and best seat warmer. College is a lot different from high school, Duchess. There’s more pressure studying in both academic classes and football practices. Man. After practice, I shower with cold water to keep from waiting in line for the hot water then hit the bed naked,” exhaling. “I don’t care. I just wanna sleep.”

I turned and winked with a grin to him. “Ya can use my hot shower, anytime ya want, Teague.”

Teague parted his lips with a smirk, “Really, a hot shower with you, Duchess? I’m honored, fucking honored.”

I frowned, “A hot shower with only the hot shower on your naked body, only your naked body, Teague.”

He nodded with a smirk. “I wished you lived a lot closer. Then I’d really use the hot shower after football practice. Why are you so far from the college camp grounds?”

“My grandfather rents the townhouse that me and Cherry share. He picked that one, probably at a lower and reasonable rental lease which is far from the campus grounds. I do not pry into my grandfather’s business affairs or private affairs or money affairs. He loves me, wants me to finish college, get a good job, and make my own way in this world.”

“Yeah, our young generation is more independent than three years ago. Girls got married and had babies, instead now girls go to college…”

“Get a degree and then get married and then have a baby. Some girls follow that slightly old fashion route. I will not. I’m going to finish my degree in physics.”

“Physics, what’s physics?”

“The study of movement, coming from and coming into…”

“Movement?” Teague chuckled, “Can you study my pen…”

Mrs. Silverman moved and stopped, standing and tapped on the arm of Nadean with a sour frown and a whisper. “Nadean, you must place a tiara on every princess head, tonight, during the football half time program.”

I turned with a sour frown to see all the princesses in front of the marching band, “Dang. Can’t each girl do it herself? Ya know I’m only the substitute homecoming queen.”

Teague lifted a palm with a smile and a nod. “I’m help too.”

Mrs. Silverman turned and frowned at Teague. “Nadean, you are to place a tiara on each princess head, now.”

I faked a smile, “Fine.” I stood with Teague.

Mrs. Silverman reached down and handed the first tiara to Nadean, dropping her hand and shoved the tiara cart to the other high school girls. And then all four moved and rolled over the grassy field towards each girl.

Teague moved ahead with Nadean, leaning over with a chuckle and a whisper to the cheekbone of Nadean, before the first crowning of the rhinestones. “Why girls gotta win tiaras all the damn time?”

I grinned at the first crownless princess in the circle. “Why guys gotta win games all the damn time?”

“Bragging rights.”

“There ya go. I’m cheering for Olivia to possess bragging rights for a year.”

Teague and I stopped and stood in the semi-wet grass as the announcer called out the first homecoming princess. The girl slowly moved and approached Teague and Nadean, stopping and standing with a smirk. I stabbed the comb of the tiara into her naked hair roots. She turned and winked to Teague. “Hi, Nadean, I see that ya finally caught Tomcat from Kitten.”

I smiled. “Naw, he’s my paid escort for the night.”

Teague chuckled. “Hundred bucks gets ya a lot of man until midnight, darling.”

A few minutes later and an almost empty tiara cart, the announcer called out the last homecoming princess. Olivia jumped up and down in her long dress as the new Brier High School homecoming queen. She and Eckward moved and stood in front of Teague and Nadean.

I stabbed the biggest and sparking tiara down into her naked hair roots with a smile and a nod. “Congratulations, Olivia.” We four stood around in a semi-circle with smiles and nods.

Eckward reached and hugged Olivia with a smile and a whisper. “Otter…”

Otter turned and grinned to him. “Bobcat…”

Bobcat grinned. “Otter…”

Otter grinned. “Bobcat…”

“O butter…” I giggled. Bobcat turned and sneered at Nadean. Teague laughed. Olivia was too happy to really care.

Teague leaned over with a smile and a whisper into the cheekbone of Nadean, “Now Duchess, we all can’t be the queen of Brier.” He reached and hugged Nadean with a chuckle and a grin.

The announced said. “That’s the end of half-time, folks. Everyone, please move off the playing field for the approaching football teams to continue the homecoming game.”

Teague and I turned and moved from the field into a pasture of grass as the local newspaper photographer squatted down in the damp grass under a full moon, a romantic night as I did not have a handsome date, like always.

The photographer motioned with a hand and a smile to Nadean and Olivia. “I want a picture with the old queen and the new queen. Nadean, stand on Olivia’s right while placing the crown on her head.” Nadean and Olivia moved and posed in place. He lifted and snapped the picture with the camera, dropping the camera with a smile and a nod. “Okay. Give her the bouquet of flowers, Nadean,” he lifted and snapped another picture, dropping the camera with a smile and a nod. “Both of you stand side by side. Smile.” He snapped the picture, dropping the camera, motioning to the males. “I want the escorts, too. Bobcat and Tomcat, plant your boots around your girls with a big wide smile.” He lifted the camera and snapped the picture, dropping down the camera with a smile and a nod. “I’m done with this set of photographs. Old queen, you’re done here, too. Thanks, Nadean.”

I turned and moved to the nose profile of Teague. He stood and stared with a smile at his sister Oliver. Bragging rights were true and sure.

I leaned over with a smile into his blonde whiskers, without kissing his cute face. “Teague, why don’t we all go and get a burger and some fries at Dee Dee’s after the photo shoot.”

He smiled and stared at Olivia. “Naw, I gotta do the ‘sister-princess’ thing with my folks and my grandparents around Brier. All my relatives want to talk congrats, showers kisses, and take pictures of Otter for the scrapbooks.”

I frowned. “O yeah,” I smiled with a nod. “Then we can all go and get a burger after the football game.”

Teague smiled and stared at Olivia. “Naw, Olivia’s only seventeen. She can’t stay out passed eleven pm even with Bobcat.”

I snapped my fingers with a nod. “Right, we’re eighteen. We…me and…”

“Tomcat…” Zeeta moved and stood behind the ass of Nadean.

Teague turned and hugged with a smile on Zeeta. “Kitten…”

“Not me…” I back stepped with a fake smile from Teague and Zeeta.

Zeeta pulled back from Teague, turning with a sour frown and a sneer to Nadean, “Duchess.”

I smiled. “Present.”

Zeeta sneered. “Why are you here imitating the queen?”

“Thank you,” I smiled.

Zeeta frowned. “Betty, be gone for some foolish reason was named homecoming queen, last year.”

I sneered. “Rosalina, her name is Rosalina, Zi-ta. Rosalina received an academic scholarship to Western Bama Junior College, twirling the baton for the marching band.”

Zeeta laughed. “O yeah, lady loser, again, Betty, be gone ain’t good enough to go to the big university, settling on a two year college.”

Teague turned and frowned at the nose profile of Zeeta. “Bear goes to the same Western Bama Junior College too. He plays football as a kicker. Bear ain’t no loser and smart, too.”

Zeeta turned and smiled at Teague. “Ya talk to Bear, sugar?”

Teague shook his skull. “Naw, he be busy like us with classes and practices.”

Olivia moved and shoved her way to her brother with a smile, “Teague.”

Teague released Zeeta and hugged his sister with a smile. “Otter, you’re so pretty, darling. Congratulations, sugar. Let’s go and show you off to our mama and daddy.” Teague, Olivia, Zeeta, and Eckward turned and left Nadean alone in the field of grass.

I stood in my glittering tiara of silver, feeling shitty like I was phasing. That was an actually scientific term. Phasing was the ability to go in and come out. My mind was phasing from the silly high school atmosphere into the mature college scene. I felt trapped inside a bubble and couldn’t pop it to escape to somewhere.

“Catch ya later, Tomcat.” I meekly whispered.

Petite and plump Dorcee side stepped beside Nadean as the marching band moved off the field after completing the half time show. She watched the back spine of Teague with a sneer and a sour frown. “I saw Tomcat kissing your ear.”

I grinned and watched Teague hug his mother. “Actually, Teague was licking my ear and kissing my cheekbone. Does that clarify your visual effect for the Brier newspaper, Dorcee?”

Dorcee turned and grinned to the nose profile of Nadean. “You shouldn’t gossip like that, girly. Zeeta’s his girl. Teague’s her man. They be getting married next year.”

“Three years, and two semesters from now,” exhaling with disappointment.

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:53 p.m.

Hidden underground cave of red clay and gray limestone rock setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

O Teague…” I whisper and feel the burn on my left wrist bone, relaxing into my mind, recalling another teenage memory.

 

 

 

Twenty three years old daughter Nadean

 

Wednesday February 1st

6:06 p.m.

City of Brier (60 miles south of Birmingham)

Home of Jadean and Urall

Dining room setting

Cold temperatures and clear night sky with moon light

 

 

The door opened.

I entered and slammed the door with a smile and a yell. “I’m home.” I moved and stood inside an empty kitchen, back stepping with a puzzled brow into the parlor room of whiteness that included a set of new furniture and a grand piano. I step sided into an empty living room with a confused brow. “Dang,” I snapped my fingers with a smile and a nod, turning and invading the dining room.

The dining room was only used for a special occasion like the Christmas dinner, the Easter dinner, and the birthday dinner.

I stepped and stood inside the archway of the dining room with a puzzled brow, seeing Jadean, Urall, and Dorcee without my twin brothers.

Slender and short Dorcee turned and sneered at her older sister. “Nadean’s here.”

I moved to the decorated table of food with a nod and a smile “Yeah, Nadean’s here. Let’s start the party.”

Dorcee held the fork of food with a smirk and a nod. “The party started and ended with blazing fireworks. You’re late, as usual, Nadean.”

I pulled out the chair and sat with a puff. “Traffic was bad. Classes were long. And I’m slower in my old age,” giggling at my lame joke among sour puss faces.

Dorcee smirked. “When ya going to finally graduate Burn U, Nadean? Ya be going to school, since I was in the seventh grade. I be in the eleventh grader, now. That’s five long non-suffering years. Mama says ya be a dumbass. Me guessing, she be right all along.”

I sneered. “You can add simple math, Dorcee. That public school education is paying off big time,” I turned with a sour frown to see Jadean.

Dorcee still held the fork of food with a sneer. “And ya still living freely and fine in that ratty ole townhouse, being paid by our grandfather Sloan for five long non-suffering years.”

Jadean stabbed the meat with a fork, eating and chewing with a frown. “My daddy paid out of his pant pockets for your schooling, girly. And don’t ya be forgetting that, child.”

I exhaled with a puff of annoyance. “I would never ever forget that because you remind me every time I can come to visit, Mama.”

Jadean looked up with a sneer and a new order. “Ya stop by and visit your grandfather. He asks about you all the time. Ya need to call him or drop a note in the mail. He worries about ya. Go wash up before eating supper, girly.”

I nodded with a stern face. “Yes ma’am, I will.”

Dorcee held the fork of food with a sneer. “Ya too dumb to graduate, Nadean?”

I turned with a sour frown to see Dorcee. “I’m in…” I smiled with a nod. “You are too dumb, Dorcee.” I turned with a confused brow to see Jadean. “Where are the birthday cakes, the birthday presents and the birthday boys?”

Jadean looked down and stirred the food, “Upstairs, in their room.”

I frowned with fury. “Why are the birthday boys upstairs inside their room, instead of eating the birthday dinner inside the dining room on your good china plates like always?”

Jadean looked up ate and chewed the food, “Their choice.”

I shook my curls. “Their choice? I understand that their actually day of birth was on Wednesday. I couldn’t come home on Wednesday evening. I had classes. But we’re celebrating their birthdays tonight on Friday. Vester told me.”

Jadean dropped her fork and her mouth. “When did you talk to Vester, Nadean?”

I smiled. “On Wednesday night, I told both of them happy birthday.”

“We celebrated them birthdays, now. It all be done and over with.” Jadean looked down and stirred the food again.

I turned with a puzzled brown and viewed three dinner placements, not five. “Is this the official birthday party for the birthday boys? And where’s the damn birthday presents? And where’s the fucking birthday cakes? And what the hell is going on here, Daddy?” I turned with a sour frown to see Urall.

Jadean sneered. “Don’t sass your ass at me, girly.”

Urall stirred the food with a whisper, “In their room.”

“Fine,” I stood and slammed the chair against the wood with a sour frown. “I am going upstairs into their room for a complete explanation, because I am in Burn U law school, becoming a lawyer. And I betta not need the use of my newly free learned college education on a bunch of backwoods hillbillies.” I turn with a sour frown, leaving the dining room and hearing with a set of perfect eardrums.

Jadean sneered at the ass of Nadean, “Urall, ya going to let your daughter talk to us like that.”

 

 

6:12 p.m.

2nd floor shared bedroom of Vester and Vassar

 

 

I stomped through the rooms and up the staircase, stopping and knocking on the closed door.

The door opened.

I hugged a wall of muscle without extending both my arms around the big bulk with a whisper. “Vassar.”

Vassar released her and pulled back without a smile. “Nadean, thanks for coming.” He back stepped and turned, leading her to the bed mattress, sitting on the floor.

I sat on the bed mattress between my tall brothers on the floor with a worried brow and a serious tone. “Is that bitch treating you well? If not, then…”

Vester looked up with a stern face and a serious tone to Nadean. “We are both at the cross-roads in our life, Nadean.”

I smiled with a nod. “Don’t sound so serious, Vester. You’re young, barely eighteen years old and two days. Ya got plenty of time and energy and brains, maybe some more growing to do.”

Vester nodded with a grin. “We both have been availed a unique opportunity to work on a grand endeavor that will change the lives of millions of folks throughout the world. The outer space program has provided thousands of new inventions from brilliant minds from breakfast foods to the world wide web…”

“World wide web, is that a new military war in Europe?” I frowned.

Vassar smiled with a nod to Nadean. “It is shared knowledge through a computer.”

I nodded with a grin, “A robot, gotcha!”

Vassar turned and smiled at Vester. Vester nodded to his brother and smiled to Nadean. “We have both been accepted into an engineering internship at NSI, the National Space Institution in Birmingham.”

I nodded with a grin. “You both have been interning free of charge for the NSI, since fourteen year old, Vester. You both had worked on calc linear regression tables to launch the space rockets from planet Earth.”

Vester smiled. “Nadean’s smart.”

“Like her brothers…” I smiled with a nod.

Vassar turned and smiled to Nadean. “We both are working on a new prototype spacecraft that will launch like a rocket into outer space and deliver a satellite around planet Earth for orbit. Then the space ship will re-enter the atmosphere and fly back down to planet Earth without catching on fire. That is really important. The space ship does not catch on fire with live folks aboard.”

Vester smiled with a nod. “We will get paid about nine thousand dollars plus a set of employee fringe benefits, such like, vacation, sick leave, and college paid tuition for the entire years of schooling at Burn U.”

I frowned. “You both have received a full time academic scholarship for Burn U in August of this year as a freshman at Birmingham University.”

Vester frowned. “Only if, we receive a high school diploma and transfer the academic transcripts from Brier High School in the month of May.”

“What the fuck?” I sneered.

Vassar smiled with a nod. “We have taken and passed the GED.”

I frowned, “GED.”

Vester smiled. “GED is the standardized test which relieves us from the rest of the days of Brier High School.”

I parted my lips, “The senior play, the senior prom, the senior fun night, the senior graduation walk…”

Vester shook his skull. “These things do not really interest us. We are both most eager to submerge into the adult world along with the adult problem solving matters. We both enjoy the new computer scientific work, Nadean. We do not want to be forced to surrender a life-long dream of helping mankind to stay inside a one-dimensional institution of gun-toting and tobacco-chewing rednecks just to get a piece of colored paper.”

I parted my lips. “Whoa, you are talking like a college professor. Dang, your brains have grown up along with your height.”

Vassar nodded with a grin. “You are very perceptive, Sis.”

Vester said. “The Limestone County school board of education has denied our request for a formal high school diploma on a piece of colored paper with the set of sky blue ribbons.”

I shook my curls. “You have a good paying job, without the good paying college education. Go to work and to college like other kids. I know lots of kids that have to work to earn money for college, before they can take one single academic class.”

Vassar nodded. “We concur with your brilliant suggestion.”

I frowned. “What’s the problem?”

Vester frowned. “Our mother, mostly, she demands the traditional colored diploma to mount on the living room wall. I find the display both tacky and useless, since we both will accomplish much, much more over a given period time of ten years. Our daddy wants us to play football instead of work a paying job. Our mother has taken away our car, since the car is owned by our father. And our mother has ordered our father to cancel the driving car insurance, meaning we’re trapped here at home without transportation. We will be walking to Brier for class time or riding with our mother to school, next week.”

Vassar said. “And our father is mad that we are not a tax write off anymore unlike you.”

I nodded with a frown. “Yeah, I get the mad feelings on my return visitation, short and painful.”

Vassar said. “Our mother is the dictator and our father is the enforcer.”

I nodded with a sigh. “Yeah, I get that feeling, too,” smiling. “What do you want to do? Because, I do not give a piece of warm horse crap about what our mother dear desires outside of her black heart.”

Vester smiled. “We want to work immediately at full time status at the NSI. We have a pretty reliable transport to work, since Vassar and I pooled our money resources with your kindly donations. The vehicle looks and smells like cow shit but runs like a race car, after we have slightly modified some metal and rubber,” chuckling.

I nodded with a grin. “I’ll buy the car from our daddy, putting it in my name while removing his name on any and all risk liability. He will be happy and our mother will be happier with my money too.”

Vassar smiled. “And we both have a flexible schedule of full time plus overtime productive hours for working our jobs. And we both are going to start Burn U in the month of March.”

I frowned. “How can you start college in the month of March? That’s in the middle of the semester between January and May even I’m stuck in law school classes until the end of May before I graduate.”

Vester smiled. “Burn U has a separately approved work-ship program, especially with one of the biggest employers NSI in the state of Alabama, first. Second, we both will be attending a maximum of academic and scientific classes, since Brier High School has inadequately prepared us for advancement placement classes in the subjects of science and mathematics. Therefore, we both are required to be present inside an academic classroom…”

“…and debating with the college professors about quantum mechanics,” smiled Vassar.

I smirked. “Be nice, Vassar. But how can both of you go to school inside a classroom way down in Birmingham plus work on a job located up here in Huntsville. That’s humanly impossible unless you really are a heavenly angel. By the way, I think both of you are earth’ angels, guiding and helping me, too.”

Vester grinned. “Nadean, you will be a wonderful mother, one day.”

Vassar stood on his kneecaps, leaning and hugging on Nadean and pulled back with a smile and a nod. “I feel that you will have a son like me, one day.”

I smiled at both my brothers, whom I lovingly cared about more than my parents and my mean sister. “I truly hope I have a little boy. And he grows up to be just like you Vassar, a loving, honest smartass.”

Vassar smiled with a nod, “Thanks, Sis.”

Vester lifted and pointed at his temple with a smile and a nod. “We work with our minds, not pushing a number two pencil over a piece of paper. We have computers like a machine robot to compute the mathematical formulas from our minds. Work smarter, not harder, Nadean.”

I smiled with a nod and a soft clap, “Gotta remember that one. Okay, you both got jobs. You both share a car. You both got school. And you both got a new home. You come and live with me while attending Burn U.”

Vassar shook his skull, “Naw.”

I smiled with a nod, “Yep.”

Vester smiled with a nod. “Yes.”

Vassar turned and sneered at his brother. “Naw, Vester. We can live here with a free bed, a stove of free food, and freely not disturb our biological parents, since we will be away from them twenty out of twenty four hours, working, studying in-between our normal sleeping rituals.”

Vester smirked. “Naw, Vassar. We should live with Nadean which will be nice and isolated from our biological parents.”

I smiled. “I got that feeling, too.”

Vassar turned and smiled to his sister. “I like.”

I smiled with a nod and a soft clap. “I love. And you both need a high school diploma to please our lousy selfish parents. That should be easy peasy for a lawyer to solve.”

Vester frowned. “You are only in law school, second year. You are not a real lawyer, Nadean.”

I smiled. “I know lots of real lawyers. I do declare one of my law professors will enjoy fighting this child abuse. He’s big into bruised and abused legal cases. The Limestone County School Board of Education is abusing your gray matter, brains, neurons, no, your intellect.”

Vester nodded with a grin, “Excellent defense strategy, Nadean.”

I grinned. “That’s just the conceptual idea of a non-lawyer. I’ll go back to school, talking with my law professor, since I work independently for him as a translator too. I translate his legal documents from English into Spanish and French, using and abusing my foreign brain matter. I’ll inquire how to defend your cute asses against the Board of Education, using an abuse claim.”

Vassar frowned. “You will be bringing trouble to us with the un-educated and suspicious biological parents.”

Vester shook his curls of long red locks, growing over his collar bone. “Tell us more, Nadean?”

I exhaled with a puff of nervousness. “My law professor will be the real attorney here. I will be like the…”

“The assistance coach,” Vester smiled.

I nodded. “Correct, Vester. I don’t get to call the play or the glory of the game. But I get to do all the shop talk inside the courtroom.”

Vassar frowned. “I do know that a licensed lawyer requires money, lots of money for their personal law services for any poor or rich folks.”

I nodded with a grin. “I’m free as a student and your sister. In the field of law, the client usually pays the attorney. I’ll negotiate with Dr. Hople while providing his legal service for free too.”

Vester narrowed his eyelids. “Nothing is free in this world, Nadean.”

I nodded with a grin. “I know that. But I’m learning to be a good lawyer and the experience will be beyond the classroom setting of value for me getting a future job. And Dr. Hople is an elderly law professor, doing this partly for fun and partly for teaching. He had served his time in a courtroom, during his early young adult and middle aged years. And I’ll offer to translate the future foreign language legal documents for free for a couple of months. That should cover all and any courtroom fees and legal expenses for Dr. Hople’s time.

“He’s always interested in a challenge in the legal courtroom battle. And you, dear brothers have been denied a proper high school diploma which will be a very good challenge for Dr. Hople. He’ll win. And we’ll win too.”

Vassar turned and laughed to his brother, “And if not, Vester and I play university football at Burn U. Maybe next year, we will help them break that ugly bad luck losing streak for the past three years being denied another University National Championship football title.”

Vester raised both his arms with a sour frown and a laugh, “Ah, naw.”

 

 

Tuesday February 14th

11:11 a.m.

City of Athens

(12 miles northeast of Brier)

City Hall location

Courtroom setting of Nadean and Dr. Hople

Cold temperatures of wintertime with bright sunshine

 

 

I stood and fidgeted inside a designer business suit which had been donated by my Aunt Collie of Florida. She always sent to me her hand-me-down expensive clothes and shoes, since we were the same height and weight, which I greatly appreciated but never used.

I was the first chair which was the principal lawyer of the legal team. Vester was second chair. Vassar sat next to him with Dr. Hople at the end of the long table.

Dr. Hople leaned into his chair, watching and listening while occasionally passed a hand printed note down to Nadean.

I was nervous and excited.

Buford sat inside the defense table with a smile and a nod to the magistrate. “I am counsel for the Limestone County School Board of Education, Buford Howlett of The Dandy Law Firm based in Athens, Alabama. We have served as legal representations within legal matters for hundreds of teachers and students throughout the great US State of Alabama.”

The magistrate was a judge of minor civil matters which do not involve a criminal action and was assigned in a geographical district over a county or two.

I smiled with a nod. “I am Nadean Garland, the attorney for young masters Vester Orion and Vassar Orion Garland.”

The magistrate looked at both lawyers with a stern face and a nod, sitting behind a long naked wooden with a sign of his name. “This is a hearing of determination and it is not an official court of law in a courtroom for prosecution and sentencing of a violent crime. I will hear both sides of the debate. Then I will decide the outcome. The plaintiff will start then each lawyer gets to debate their legal points to me, kinda like a debating forum. At the end, when you both stop talking. I will decide. Is this understood by all parties in attendance?” He paused. “The plaintiff’s lawyer may begin.”

I nodded with a stern face. “I am present here in this courtroom to encourage other victims of high intelligence life forms to come forward and to help determine how extensive this issue is and fight for your right to be smart…”

Buford laughed with a smile. “Smart ass, kid, this is a kiddie kangaroo court. Miss Garland is not a licensed attorney for the State of Alabama.”

I turned with a smile and a nod and pointed at Dr. Hople. “Correct, I am under the supervision of a licensed attorney for the State of Alabama while working on a lawyer degree at Law School of Birmingham University.”

The magistrate read the file. “The lawsuit filed on fourteen of January alleges that Brier High School is interfering with advancement of intelligent life forms. The lawsuit alleges that the School will not release within the hands of the Garland boys the Limestone County School Board of Education High School academic requirements. The lawsuit alleges that the School can only issue a valid and accredited high school diploma, while the students are in good attendance for any type of academic credit that will not be false and invalid. The aim of the lawsuit to help other academic gifted students, who are victims of unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices committed by public institution owned by the state of Alabama.”

Buford stood with a sneer and rapped a folded fist on the table. “Bull shit.”

The magistrate looked up with a smile and a nod to Buford. “I prefer saying horse turd, Buford. Sit your ass down, since you will have your say so next. I would like to hear the plaintiff’s attorney now.”

I exhaled with a puff of excitement and nervousness. “My twin brothers have filed a lawsuit against the Limestone County School Board of Education alleging abuse of intelligence life forms…”

Buford turned with a confused brow to see the nose profile of Nadean. “What in the heaven’s name are you doing, kid? How is this possible for a second year law student to appear in a true court hearing along with defending a bunch of high school students?”

I smiled with a nod to the magistrate. “I have filed a legal lawsuit for abuse without recognizing a set of highly intelligence life forms. This particular unique legal law case does not specifically fit into the category of abuse of power or abuse of process or abuse of emotional stress. So I have lumped all of the together for my law defense.”

The magistrate chuckled with a nod, “Clever strategy, Miss Future Attorney of Law in Bama.”

I sit down in the chair with a stern face like a lawyer. “My twin brothers possess an IQ measurement of 180…”

Buford turned with a sour frown and jabbed a finger at Vester and Vassar. “They are two fine boys out of nine million US adults, who don’t possess a high school diploma and are therefore blocked from any type of college enrollment and many employment opportunities. However, there is only one way to test out of high school and it is through the General Educational Development which is called the GED program. The American Council on Education administrates the test. You have to sit at a table in a hard chair in front of a proctor or a test and pass all five components of the test. The GED is recognized by every US State Education Department in the continuant USA, the Federal Department of Education, and more importantly both colleges and employers accept this piece of paper,” he lifted and held an object with a smile. “And they have successfully passed the GED on January thirteenth, the date of their official birth at age eighteen years old. These two papers are the GED certificates of Vester and Vassar Garland proof that they passed…”

“…with flying colors. And my twin brothers aced the SAT, the ACT, and the standardized test of geniuses.” I said with a stern face.

Buford smiled. “The GED will get them a job. It is not a fraudulent credential. It is worth the paper it is printed on as the axiom goes…”

“…on and on and on like a broken record,” I said with a stern face. “And they face the embarrassment of a class reunion in ten years, in fifteen years, and in fifty years, since the GED only states the institution of testing, not their home town school. And they face the frame of a non-colorful ugly green and white sheet of paper on their living room wall, their business office wall or in their mama’s den wall too.”

Buford frowned. “Magistrate, sir, I conclude that the twin brothers are not victimized by a scan of red and black tape of local county government bureaucracy. The twins have elected to leave their high school environment for a working job at the legal age of eighteen. A noble cause but worthless adventure here in this courtroom, sir. Please dismiss us.”

I said with a stern face. “The original GED test was first administrated in the year 1942 during World War Two and was designed to get all the numerous veteran soldiers who had been ripped from their childhood quickly back into a high school atmosphere. Then the devoted men and women could trot on a pathway toward a college or a technical career. Since the year 1942, twelve million people have been granted GED credentials which is the source of the US Federal Department of Education. I know all about the GED program too. And I know about a high school diploma also.

“And I know all about walking down the gymnasium on top of a polished honey colored wooden floor to receive my single sheet of paper, a high school diploma with the colored flags of Bama, a red stamp, my name, and my school.”

Buford chuckled. “Imposters abound in the academic world of intelligence life forms, too. And the lowly intelligence life forms are duped into believing this hog wash, today. Well, I don’t. Please dismiss this hearing, sir.”

I said with a stern face. “The Limestone County Board of Education has denied my twin brothers a set of twin high school diplomas, if they decide to leave their high school in pursue of a dream job at National Space Institution as two scientific engineering intern students…”

Buford laughed. “I don’t know how many victims of intelligence life forms have occurred nationwide in our great USA being a unique but clever argument, Miss Garland. But I will be most certain to file a complaint with the state attorney’s Alabama office and the Limestone County’s attorney’s office, starting tomorrow. How’s that one, Miss Garland? We can even assign it a committee within the Alabama congress when they come back on session next week.”

I lifted and held an object with a stern face. “I present Exhibit A to the court of law. The two pieces of papers are the IQ tests which were administrated by Brier High School for entrance into the Brier gifted program. I hold Exhibit B also. The federal money invoice of Brier High School received for the federal funded gifted program, including my twin brothers and a couple of other highly intellect life forms.”

Buford shook his skull. “Sir, Brier High School is not hiding dirty politics about internal disputes, kangaroo disciplinary procedures, discrimination of life forms, altering student academic tests, destroying legal documents, or spying on the private parts of teens inside the school’s bathrooms. I again ask this court to dismiss this silly kiddie legal case.”

I lifted and held another object with a stern face. “Brier High School is opposing the award of a high school diploma, simply because these boys are minors in their parents’ home. They do not have a proper means to support their persons without the benefit of a working job. My twin brothers need a high school diploma with the utmost sense of urgency without making them a victim of a set of highly intelligence life forms. My twin brothers do not shun hard work either. I present Exhibit C. This is a photocopy of their individual high school transcripts from the first grade until present. They are currently in the twelfth grade at Brier High School.

I looked down and read out the wording of the paper. “The first grade comment from Mrs. White for the Garlands twins at the age of six years old states that the boys can read in full sentences at the third grade level and perform math problems at the fourth grade level. I have advised Principal Holden of the intelligence growth potential of the two young minds and recommended one of our high school guidance counsels instruct each boy, each day while inside my classroom. The Brier high school guidance counsel was a retired colonel from the Army military service, holding a doctoral in physics.

“The first grade report card displays a set of ‘A’ pluses in every course and in every column. This is Exhibit D. The Brier report card from the eleventh grade shows the letter grades ‘A’ pluses in every course, in every column.”

Buford lifted his palm with a sour frown. “I object.”

The magistrate turned and smiled at Buford. “And I object to wasting my time right before lunch. We’re having meatballs. Give them brilliant boys their high school diplomas with the pretty blue ribbons.” He turned and nodded to Nadean. “We, here at the Limestone County School Board of Education, greatly support and encourage the bright and brave young men and women in pursue of education and happiness and not detour young kids with a de horse turd of antiquity like Buford. Have a nice day, ya’ll. My courtroom is dismissed.” He stood from the table, turning with a smile, leaving the room through a side door.

Buford stood and slammed his chair into the wooden table, moving and leaving the room too.

Dr. Hople stood and moved to Nadean, extending a handshake as she stood and shook his hand with a smile and a nod. He smiled with a nod. “You did a fine job, future attorney Nadean Garland. And you won your legal law case with a set of flying colors also. I will see you in your academic class next week. Congratulations, young men. Now, make your sister proud, sirs!” He shifted and extended a handshake to Vester and Vassar also as they shook hands. Then he turned and moved out the courtroom.

I turned with a smile and a soft clap to see my twin brothers.

Vester and Vassar stood and moved, hugging on Nadean. They pulled back with a set of smile. Vester grinned. “This is the best Valentine’s Day present ever in the USA history, sis. What do you say that we take our girl out for a Valentine’s dinner tonight, Vassar?”

Vassar nodded with a smile, “Our treat, Sis.”

I smiled with a nod. “Whoo-woo, I got two dates on Valentine’s Day.”

 

 

Friday April 21st

2:12 p.m.

Birmingham University Law School

Picnic table setting of college student Nadean

Warm temperatures and partly sunny

 

 

I sat outside the pretty day at one of the school’s picnic table with a tall slender blonde haired Rosalina, turning with a sour frown to see them. Rosalina turned with a smile to see them too. I exhaled with a puff of disappointment. “I wonder if Teague sees us across the street at the table, eating our lunch. What does he see in her? She’s short. She’s smoke cigarettes. She’s fat. She’s ugly in white.”

“Tomcat doesn’t see above her 34-double D’s,” Rosalina ate her food.

“Her big ass 34 double D tits, now, someone tells me.” I turned and looked down at my breasts with a sour frown. “I don’t possess double D’s or double C’s. So that’s my problem,” I looked up with a smirk to see Rosalina. “When did you start calling Teague, Tomcat?”

She turned to Nadean and chewed, swallowing with a grin. “Bear says it all the time. I guess I picked it up.”

I played with my food with a smirk. “And where’s Bear, when he says Teague’s nickname all the time, Rosalina?”

She looked down with a blush to see her food and up with a smile to see Nadean. “We went to the same junior college together before transferring to Burn U. He played football. I twirled the baton.”

“And I twirled the baton with you, before I entered law school. That’s old news. Gimme some newer news? Or when do you have time to get with Bear while he talks about Teague?”

She smiled. “You’re famous, Nadean. The method you achieved to acquire your twin brothers their high school diploma in front of a real live magistrate and filing a lawsuit against the entire Limestone County School Board of Education. That took guts, girl. We study your slick lawyering skill in Professor Hople’s lecture class.”

“Mixture of gravel and horse shit really. I didn’t do much but remind the school board that my brothers did graduate a county public school just a tad early than the official ending of the academic school year. The Alabama law dictated the legal ruling in my favor.”

“They live with you still.”

I smiled with a nod. “My blood-family comes first; the shotgun comes second. I didn’t think you were the type to keep in touch with the Brier patch thorny gossip, Rosalina.”

“Bear, mostly, he enjoys visiting his mom and is homesick for Brier,” exhaling. “He will be moving back after graduating from Birmingham school of law.”

I shook my curls. “Ah, shit, I feel a heartache coming on. And you will be moving too where after graduating from Burn U law school.”

She smiled. “Miami, Florida, my uncle moved there for both the weather and the work. He’s a plastic surgeon.”

I grinned. “Gawd, can your Uncle Dickie get me some breast implants?”

She shook her curls. “No, Nadean, those things are extremely dangerous. He has lost three patients from that experimental medical procedure.”

I frowned. “He still works as a physician.”

“Miamians are vane with money and beauty. I’ll going to help run his medical practice. He doesn’t trust the accountants or lawyers.”

“Good plan. What about your love life?”

She exhaled. “I’ll survive like always.”

I turned with a sour frown to see Teague and Zeeta and then Rosalina. “Why didn’t you come with me to Burn U after high school? You could’ve shared the townhouse with me and Cherry, met some of Cherry’s reject rednecks. And believe me? There were a lot of them until her dad jerked her ass from Burn U, leaving me sweetly alone in blissful peace.”

“Seeing all you made me think of….” she looked down with a sad face at the food.

I frowned. “I’m so sorry hearing about your mom and your sister. I guess that’s why you wanted me to go to homecoming football game.”

She nodded. “Thank you.” Rosalina looked up with a stern face. “Yeah, it was very hard to face everyone in Brier, the old memories.”

I grinned. “Everybody asked about you.”

She shook her curls. “Everyone did not ask about me. That’s okay with me. I was really shy and awkward in high school. I like coming to college. Everything is fresh and different. And I wanna thank you, Nadean. I consider you my best friend in school. I really appreciated everything you did for me back there.”

“Just being a friend.”

“A good friend,” She smiled with a nod.

I turned with a puzzled brow to see Teague and Zeeta. “I wonder if Teague knows my classes are across the street from his building.”

She giggled. “No. Do you spy every day, Nadean?”

I turned with a giggle and a grin to see Rosalina. “Only with you…”

She smiled. “Zeeta works daily, nightly, and weekends when the boss lady calls while saving her nickels and dimes for their honeymoon to Jamaica and big wedding at the church. Are you planning to attend the grand social affair of Brier, Duchess?”

I parted my lips. “Amazing, how secret information flows one way?”

She grinned. “How many times do you talk with Dorcee?”

“Zero, life sucks for everyone and is about suck more for Dorcee. She’s a true whore like my mama,” I cringed with a sad face. “Sorry, I don’t mean to insult your memory.”

She shook her curls. “My memory can’t be insulted. I can change. I couldn’t change her. I loved her, since she was my mother. But I have moved on with help and love of Uncle Dickie.”

“You don’t call him, daddy, or some fatherly version?”

“Uncle Dickie loves me like a daughter. I love him like a father-figure, but he wasn’t there every day of my like a true father. With his wisdom and his guidance, I’m decided to become a lawyer to help folks and not a physician.”

“I’m moving far away from here too, after graduating from law school to become a real lawyer.”

“The baby?”

“Far away from the baby…”

“Boy or girl?”

I laughed. “Don’t give a damn, Scarlett.”

“Your parents happy?”

“They just pretend for Dorcee’s sake, making two more mouths to feed. Ah, I can read your mind…”

“Apparently not, slick, since I gotta ask my inquiries one at a time. Just tell me everything at one. Before, I shoot ya with my thickly loaded ketchup French fry, while I eat my cold hamburger. Since you possess the wonderful ability to suck down food and talk at the same time, Nadean.”

I exhaled with a puff of annoyance. “Okay, here goes. Dorcee, she quit the majorette squad after the first football game.”

“Naw.”

“Yeah, of course, at the time, she told my parents that the band majorette sponsor won’t break the rule for the makeup wearing and the fingernail polish shine. But the truth is told now. She was about four weeks preg…nancy with the child and the child was causing great waves of puke green vomit…”

“Not while consuming my food, Nadean.”

“I thought you were the physician-in-training. Sorry, I forgot. Dorcee experienced bad morning sickness until New Year’s which I guess proved she was definitely preg…nancy. She skipped lots of school and get bad grades, but that act wasn’t abnormal for her. But when she went from a size one pair of blue jeans to a size five in the month of March at six months, everyone got kitty-cat curious.”

She frowned. “I hate that expression.”

“What expression, preg…nancy? My mama asked me that specific question every time that I visited her home during my college days. And the answer was always the same. Naw. I’d hate it too, if I had to get marry by shotgun underneath the two hundred year old oak tree at sunset,” giggling.

“No, wing ding, the kitty-cat curious expression.”

“It’s a cool expression like right on, yeah, hell, hell, naw.”

Rosalina cheered with a giggle, “Burn U.”

I nodded with a smile. “Dorcee is graduating on May twenty second and the baby is due on May twenty sixth.”

“Who’s the father?”

“Lance Morris.”

“She’s married to Lance Morris.”

I grinned with a nod. “He always wanted a Garland.”

She smiled. “Heard tell? Your mom had arranged for you to be the right Garland about five years ago.”

I parted my lips. “Do tell?”

“Bear’s fountain of old knowledge, he heard a rumor from his mom, who heard from Lark’s mom, who heard from Zeeta’s mom, who heard from Dorcee.”

“I hate that girl.” I sneered.

“Don’t be that way. She’s your only sister. My sister was meaner than a rattlesnake too. But I wished that I had gotten the chance to help her first. Now that’s all gone. Where are they living?”

“They wed, honeymooned, and fucked inside the big old antebellum house, taking up the second floor which used to belong to me and my brothers. My parents live downstairs. My dad closed up the hallway between the living room and parlor room. Who uses a par-lawd, now days? They didn’t. That old room smelled before, during, and after the shotgun wedding of eight minutes, thirty two seconds. And yes, darling, I timed it and then I was outta there.”

She dropped her mouth. “You timed it?”

I smiled. “The purple carnations were making me nausea along with the purple rental tuxedos and the purple cake icing. Dorcee loves her purple. I like pink. My wedding…”

“…to Teague.”

I turned with a sour frown to see Teague and Zeeta and Rosalina. “Now, I really want him, desire him, and need him. But my wedding color will be pink. Hey, what do you think? If I ran over and kissed Teague on the cheekbone to piss Zita off…”

“No.”

“….to have some fun?”

“No.”

“….to have a laugh?”

No.”

“…to have some revenge?”

Rosalina frowned. “No, Nadean. Your brothers are both working and studying at Burn U, too.”

I turned with a smile and a nod to Rosalina. “My twin brothers are having a blast at making their academic smartass instructors crazy, since they got tons of free money scholarships while doing a long-term student internship for the NSI. They’re sending space ships into outer space for some dang reason. They’ll graduate in another year with me, while I finish up my law degree. Yeehaw,” I ate the food, chewing.

“The big letters begin with ‘N’ and end with ‘I.’ No surprise there. They’re smart…”

“…funny loving and the happiest two critters of planet Earth.”

“Heard tell! They lived and slept in the same room in Brier.”

“Heard tell, right! Your earlobes burning, Rosalina?”

She frowned. “That’s kinda weird, Nadean.”

“My twin brothers have been weird from the get-go, when they both started reading my first grader reader at age four. Okay?”

“That’s French fried freaky weird.”

I exhaled with a puff of weirdness. “They are both geniuses like Einstein and like their privacy. And I respect that. And I love them from whatever alien mother fucking space ship dropped them down from their native foreign planet, which clearly ain’t planet Earth at our doorstep as tiny pinky-pink babes. Even thou, our mother swears to Almighty God, Brother Jesus, and all her heavenly angels that she delivered them. Vester and Vassar got me out of her antebellum house permanently. Or I would be having Lance Morris’ baby instead.”

“Cherry Hill?”

I giggled with a nod. “Well, ain’t that a blast from our Brier past? I don’t fucking know. Do you hear gossip or rumors?”

“I eat, shit, and breathe law for the past year. Your turn?”

“Don’t remind me.”

“The first year is the hardest. It’s easy breezy now.”

“That’s good to know. You look skinny, Nadean. Are you eating?”

“Just tired.”

“I worry about you, Nadean. Heard tell, your parents kicked you out the house and out of Brier, to boot?”

I parted my lips. “Gawd, Bear’s information is very good. My mother was pissed. One, I didn’t marry Lance Morris. And two, I didn’t fail in college. And three, her genius boys wanted to leave their home. Our dad was mad that his sons were not playing football for the great Burn U or Bam U or another redneck school in the South. My twin brothers are truly geniuses, avoiding that bloody mess.”

“I’m rich, Nadean. My uncle set up a trust fund in my name a long time, before I graduated from high school. If you ever need anything…”

“Thanks. You’re sweet, Rosalina. We are doing fine.”

“I understand living without certain household items, Nadean. You are my friend from little Brier. We have known each other, since six years old. You helped changed my life.”

“Your uncle is paying for your post graduate education. Your education changed you.”

Rosalina said. “I meant that my uncle watched over me. But sometimes, an outsider can provide that extra kick of confidence. Nadean, you encouraged me to be a majorette. Then I gained confidence and my class elected me as homecoming queen. My uncle, he couldn’t do those things for me.” She looked down with a sad face at her food and Nadean. “I’m not trying to embarrass you or me. I just understand when money is tight. Okay?”

I nodded with a grin. “Okay.”

“Why did you attend Dorcee’s wedding?”

“Saving my mom’s butthole, gossip would be flying faster than a pair of wing on a June bugs, if me, Vester, and Vassar were not present at the hottest social event of the year.”

She giggled. “Yeah, it did.”

I frowned. “And my monthly expenses are nothing. My beauty pageant money covers both my tuition and my books. My grandfather Sloan still pays for the townhouse and the heating utilities. I have a meal ticket for free food at the cafeteria. And I work as a model for beer money.”

She giggled. “You don’t drink beer, Nadean. I do see your face inside the newspaper. Do you get to keep all these pretty formal evening gowns?”

“Part of my payment, the dress is soiled with my sweat underneath the hot lights. And then, I’m a foreign translator for the International Studies Department at Burn U while working on my doctoral degree in physics.”

“How did you graduate with a bachelor’s degree so fast? I didn’t think you were a genius like your twin brothers.”

I giggled. “I’m not. My beauty monies like the school or the school likes my beauty monies. I doubled my course load and the school doubled my tuition for the free money. And I started the summer session in the month of June while Teague was at football practice too. And you were at majorette camp. I finished my bachelor’s degree in three years then started on my master’s degree in one year at the same time in law school. Now, I’m wrapping up my doctoral.”

“Then what, Nadean?”

I turned with a smile to see Teague and Zeeta. “Do you think Teague would notice me, if I was Dr. Garland?”

She giggled. “You wait ten years later to figure out that you wanna fuck him with the baby on the way.”

I turned with a gasp and parted my lips. “Zi-ta is preg…nancy?”

She frowned. “When are you going to stop slimeing her Christian name?”

I giggled. “When Teague stops calling me, Duchess.”

“Tomcat and Kitten are getting hitched after he graduates pharmacy school and passes his pharmacy license.”

“Hmm! Maybe, he’ll fail his test, then I can have Zita’s reject then.”

She shook her curls. “Doubt it. Teague really is smart. Who knew? I always that the cowboy a bit on the dumb side. He started out smart, then once he started dating Zeeta, his brain cells went south.”

“These sex acts do that to your brain cells.”

She giggled. “Don’t know, babe. I ain’t been fucked yet.”

I smiled with a nod. “Join my virgin world. Maybe, we should get fucked then.”

“No, sugar, we get graduated, then get married, and then get fucked.”

I giggled, “Smart ass.”

Rosalina winked with a grin. “Yeah, I am.”

 

 

Present day and place

City of Birmingham within US State of Alabama

1:54 p.m.

Hidden underground cave setting

Humid temperatures with damp air conditions

 

 

O Teague…” I whisper and feel the burn on a right wrist, relaxing my body as my mind remembers another past life experience as a young adult.

 

 

 

Twenty five years old daughter Nadean

 

City of Birmingham

Tuesday January 7th

2:02 p.m.

Shared townhouse of college students Nadean, Vester, and Vassar

Living room setting (one mile west from Burn U)

Cold temperatures of wintertime and bright sunlight

 

 

The door opened.

Vester stood in the middle of the room and held an object with a sad frown.

I stomped inside our township with a smile and a nod, staring at the letter. “What is it?”

Vester said with a worried brow and a serious tone. “The owner of the townhouse is listing the real estate property for selling. A ‘for sale’ sign will be placed in the yard, tomorrow.”

“What the fuck?” I stopped and snatched the professional vanilla colored business letter, ripping it open, reading out loud with a sour frown. “Any damages sustained during the rental period will be assessed and then subtracted from one time received security deposit of six hundred dollars. Any outstanding financial assessment money will be billed and charged to Percy David Sloan…” I looked up with a gasp and worried brow to see Vester, “Granddaddy Sloan, he can’t pay out more money for this dump. Gawd, he’s ill with a bad heart, now. This bad news will kill him for damn shore.”

Vassar turned and scanned the interior of the township with a worried brow. “What are we going to do, Nadean? How long will it take to sell this ugly tiny townhouse?”

Vester said with a stern face. “It is a piece of prime real estate which is very close to Burn U. Lots of parents would jump at this hot spot for their academic student. That was the particularly reason almost six years ago why Granddaddy Sloan secured this place. He has been very lucky that Mrs. Crumb has not raised the rental lease payment or sold the place before now.”

I viewed the letter and Vester with a nod. “This letter is signed only by Mrs. Crumb. I suspect that Mr. Crumb’s dead. Therefore, the bitch wants to release her burden of a shitty dump. She, as the new bitch-landlord, has done nothing to update or repair any features on her townhouse. When Cherry and I moved into the place, it was freshly painted. The appliances were new and shiny. Lucky for us, the flooring is wood. Wood needs to be spit polished like a good worn pair of leather boots at least once per year. And I can’t estimate the damages in terms of a money value.”

“We have.” Vester looked down to read a sheet of paper. “Painting at three hundred dollars; wood polishing at five hundred dollars, and the wall repairing at one thousand dollars.”

I exhaled with a puff of worry. “That’s about two thousand dollars or a little more. Since, folks love money, especially from a group of poor unemployed academic students.”

“We ain’t unemployed students. We are working students.” Vassar had worked a job at eighteen years old. At the age of twenty one years old, he will be close to receiving a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

Vester said with a stern face. “We might be able to buy the townhouse from Mrs. Crumb.”

I shook my curls. “Not with a price tag of sixty thousand dollars.”

Vester turned and frowned to Vassar. “The only viable plan is to surrender the townhouse and move back to them.”

Vassar shook his curls. The two brothers had allowed the hair roots to grow out and down over a pair of collar bones, because Nadean, Vassar, and Vester barely made enough money for food, water, and gas. He said with stern face, “Ah, naw.”

I said with a stern face. “Dorcee and her munchkins occupy every room inside our dad’s house. She has. What six kids?”

Vassar smiled, “Five sweet little girls.”

I frowned, “Sweet, my fucking ass, Dorcee has never been sweet to my fucking ass.”

Vester said with a worried brow and a serious tone. “Nadean, we have no option. We can’t purchase the townhouse. And we can’t abandon our college educations either. We’ll graduate in the month of May with an engineering degree. Then we’ll receive a big hefty raise at NSI. But right now, we don’t have ready cash of sixty thousand dollars.”

I looked down with a stern face to finish reading the letter. “Any outstanding financial assessment money will be billed and charged to Percy David Sloan at five thousand dollars for the estimated payment of phantom damages per this damn letter,” I looked up with a sour frown to see Vester. “Who the hell tattled?”

Vester and Vassar said in unison with a sneer, “Cherry.”

I exhaled with a puff of revenge and a nod, “Yeah, another bitch in my short term life. Damn, I’m tired of bitches purring my engines.”

Vester said with a nod and a stern face. “Vester and I have a very small tiny savings account. We can pull and withdraw our monies to pay the need repair costs to Mrs. Crumb. Granddaddy Sloan doesn’t have the money for that either. Then that debt of five thousand dollars will be paid.”

Vassar turned and frowned to his brother and his sister. “Where will we live, Vester? The two thousand dollars is almost all our saved funding. Do you have any extra monies, Nadean?”

I looked up with a smile and a nod to my brothers. “Some. That I would willingly share with both of you without delay. Fuck, our mother. If she wasn’t such a nasty cunt, then we all could live inside our dad’s fancy antebellum mansion like a real loving and caring blood-family. Shit. Heard tell? Our dad got that shitty place on the US historical civil war society book. That means our dad pays nothing in real estate county property taxes to the State of Alabama. And I talked to the Limestone County courthouse clerk and filled out the US federal government paperwork and the application for that prestigious honor. Did our dad thank me? Naw. Did our mom thank me? Naw.”

Vester frowned. “This isn’t the issue, Nadean.”

I inhaled with a fury of more words. “And our dad receives free money in terms of an annual grant from the US federal government too, when our mother opens the par-lawd room for four weekends out of a fucking year for a civil war showcase. Of course, no smart Brier would parade around on our mom’s stark white carpeted floor. Did you see her white carpet at Christmas time? No one’s allowed inside that room for the other 364 days in the week.”

Vester frowned, “Nadean.”

I moved and touched the object with a smile and a nod. “Okay, I’m older and wiser. We start selling stuff that’s not attached to the walls like this here television.”

Vassar frowned. “Is that ours?”

“Yeah,” I scanned the room with a nod and a smile. “I…we own all the furniture and electronics. I had purchased them over time. The television in my room belongs to Cherry. But she forfeited it, when she abandoned her education over fucking over her biological dad. He was highly pissed about her failing grades and falling boys and then jerked her ass out of Burn U. So we sell the televisions, the stereo, and the telephones.” I grabbed and touched the landline with a smile and a nod. “And I’m cancelling the telephone service too. I really don’t wanna talk to our mother anyways,” laughing with my brothers.

Vassar frowned. “I really don’t enjoy her terse conversations either. How are you going to explain the immediate termination of communication services?”

I smiled. “That’s the beauty, I never do. Heaven forbid that our mother and our dad ever visit us here in Birmingham. They never came to a football game to see me twirl the baton and I provided a couple of free football tickets for them.”

Vester smiled. “We can ask around our work place and see if anyone wants to purchase some or all of the electronic items first. We might get a better deal than advertising to another poor college student.”

I nodded with a smile, “Brilliant idea, my brilliant brother. And I’ll run around to all the consignment shops around B’ham and sale my line of designer clothes from Aunt Collie and my almost brand new former gowns. I might get several hundred dollars to cover our monthly expenses.”

“What exactly are the monthly expenses, Nadean?” Vester frowned.

I moved and marched to the side table with a hidden drawer and sit at the chair, reading and flipping through all the stored paper invoices. “We now are responsible for paying rent, electricity, telephone. But that last one’s being cancelled as soon as I call then you can take the pretty pink telephone to your work office tomorrow. Water,” I turned and laughed to Vassar. “No more bathing from here on out on our stinky ass bodies,” I viewed the invoice with a worried brow. “Okay, the total invoices are about seven hundred dollars per month.”

Vassar said with a stern face. “The petro gasoline invoice is fifty dollars per month for each car. Both cars are due for an oil change and a tire rotation. But under our new circumstances, we shall delay.”

I nodded with a smile, “Yeah, as long as, the car go-goes, we’re fine.”

Vester said with a stern face and a serious tone. “The grand total is about eight hundred dollars for the remaining months of February until May. Four times eight hundred equal 2,400 dollars. Our saving accounts each have one thousand dollars. There is almost all the money for the next four months to live and survive.”

“Woo, that was too close,” Vassar smiled with a nod. “The month of January is paid by our loving grandfather. So, we are fine until the month of May and then we will graduate.”

“Okay.” I nodded with a stern face to my brothers. “We do not touch the saving account money. We might need it for some type of urgent emergency. That’s our backup plan. We plan before we spend,” I turned and viewed the January invoices that were not paid. “Yeah, the month of January is paid. We start saving our pennies, nickels, and dimes for the month of February. This is January seventh. The end of the month will come fast and furious.”

Vester frowned. “You have missed a big expense item.”

“What?” I frowned at the unpaid January invoices.

“Food,” Vester nodded with a worried brow.

“The refrigerator’s empty.” Vassar nodded with a worried brow too.

I turned and frowned to my brothers. “Damn, I hold exactly eighteen dollars and fifty three cents in my personal bank account. I have a twenty dollar bill on me and I need gas. Do either of you have any cash in your pockets?”

Vassar pated his ripped and stained blue jeans, shaking his curls and lifted one quarter with a smile.

Vester frowned, “Naw.”

I frowned. “I can sell my jewelry.”

Vassar frowned. “What jewelry?”

“Naw,” Vester shook his curls with a stern face and a serious tone.

I nodded with a stern face, “Yeah.”

“No, Nadean, our Grandmother Garland gave you all her fine jewelry in good faith for you and not some greedy rich people to enjoy. No, I absolutely forbid it.” Vester folded his arms with a sour frown, shaking his curls.

I frowned. “I want to honor Grandmother Garland’s memory, too, Vester. But hear me out. If we need money to eat food, I will sell a small emerald ring for something to eat.”

Vester nodded with a stern face. “That is acceptable. But we are not in that situation yet.”

I frowned. “And we spent tons of our funds on Christmas gifts for our selfish blood-kin-folks too.”

Vester said, “Past history. Present solution.”

“The five sweet little girls squeaked like little piglets with our thoughtful Christmas presents, Nadean,” Vassar smiled.

I exhaled. “I just venting to ya’ll. Our parents are…”

“Dis-fuck-tion-ya’ll,” laughed Vassar.

I laughed, “Hell, yeah, use some of your bank account monies for food.”

Vester viewed Vassar. “We should eat at work. It’s free.”

I viewed Vester. “We ain’t improvised, just poor mouse. That money’s for food. We have the month of January covered in expenses, right?”

“Correct.” Vester nodded.

I nodded. “Okay, use your bank account money. Or I’ll sell a piece of jewelry.”

“Nadean likes to kidnap, blackmail, and exhort. Does she murder too?” Vester laughed.

“Naw,” I snapped my fingers with a smile. “I’ll go back to the dress shop. I can work more hours, making some good money, prancing in formal wear. Then I can get some more foreign language legal contracts from Professor Hople. These are big bucks. Then I’ll get a slick little job, making more money. I’ll working on my doctoral thesis, so I don’t need to attend any class room time, only my oral presentation the first week of May.”

I smiled. “Between all of our numerous jobs, if Mrs. Crumb sells the townhouse, then we can rent a two bedrooms or single bedroom apartment, pay the electricity, water, gas for cars, and food. That’s all. We need to live until May, when we all graduate from college foreverly.”

Vassar laughed. “Foreverly?”

I giggled. “A cute word, that means forever and ever and ever. Then the both of you will get a really good job with really good pay. Someone can hire me, paying me big bucks as a junior lawyer. Then I’ll buy this gawd damn bitching house from that bitch. The end!”

Vassar nodded with a smile. “Good idea, Nadean!”

 

 

2:22 p.m.

Mary’s Dress Shop

(three miles from Nadean’s townhouse)

 

 

The door opened.

“Hey!” I moved inside wearing the fur coat from Aunt Collie and stopped at the cashier counter with a smile and a nod to the owner.

The door closed behind the back spine of Nadean.

The elderly male smiled with a nod to Nadean. “Pretty thing is here, Ma.”

“Pa,” the elder lady came around the wall corner with a smile to see Nadean. “Howdy, pretty thing.” Nadean really hated that improper name. The elderly lady waved a fat arm at the young girl with a smile and a nod. “Glad ya here, pretty thing. We’re retiring, honey. Our kids took over my dress shop.”

My heart dropped down into my painted toenails as I whispered. “O…”

A tall fat girl stood inside the archway with a sneer. “You are one of these majorettes from the Burn U marching band.” She moved and marched to the cash register counter.

I frowned, “Many moons ago.”

She leaned over the counter with a sneer to Nadean. “Your skinny ain’t needed here anymore.”

I back stepped from her bad breathe, faking a smile. “Okay, well, been fun, thanks for allowing me to model your pretty dresses.” I swung around to face the door, feeling both belittled and deflated.

The door opened in front of her face.

I exited the dress shop forever.

The door closed behind the back spine of Nadean.

I marched with a soft curses, a distorted face, and a sour attitude back to my car, sliding inside and raced home, finding Vester and Vassar at work, since their car was gone.

I parked my car over the broken pavement of driveway.

 

 

2:31 p.m.

Living room setting

Shared townhouse of college students Nadean, Vester, and Vassar

 

 

The car door opened in front of her face.

I slid out the car.

The car door closed behind the back spine of Nadean.

I ran and dashed inside our shared townhouse and up the staircase into my private bedroom. It was the former private bedroom of Cherry with the cracked plaster wall, when one of her many boyfriends got intoxicated drunk, using the wall as a punching bag.

Teague was contacted for body protection of Nadean. Both Teague and Bobcat arrived for the rescue. Bobcat contained the guy, carting him out the townhouse, while Teague stayed behind. Then Teague spent the night on top of the sofa in the living room, in case the boyfriend came back, since he had stolen the house key from Cherry too.

The next day, Cherry came back home to the townhouse and blackmailed Nadean again, discovering Teague on top of the long sofa, half-naked.

I was inside my private bedroom fully clothed and frightened with a shut and locked bedroom door, but Cherry used it all to her advantage point, as usual. I was forced out of my newly painted bedroom into her trashy room.

I opened the closet and grabbed, dressing in one of the donated expensive designer business suits from my aunt. The business matched my silver hair for a stunning professional look of employment.

 

 

2:35 p.m.

Law Firm Building

(five miles from Nadean’s townhouse)

Business office setting

 

 

I parked the car on the street and slid out, looking professional nervous and pranced into the first law office on the street corner.

The door opened in front of her face.

I entered with a nervous smile to the receptionist. “Good morning, I don’t have an appointment. But I’m a newly graduated law student from the Birmingham State School of Law. I’m looking for my very first paying job. My name is Nadean Garland.”

The door closed behind her back spine.

The middle-aged blonde-graying woman looked up with a smile and a nod and stood. “Wait here.” She turned and left her desk, marching through a side door.

I back stepped and sat on top of a new sofa, pondering my shrinking bank account. I had used all my modeling money for a set of Christmas gifts, since Vester and Vassar wanted to re-established the old blood-family ties with our mom, dad, Dorcee, Lance, and the five sweet little girls which had been broken four years ago when I defended by brothers from the imprisonment of my biological parents. Then my mom kicked them out of her home, but they came and lived with me, while our grandfather continued to pay for our shelter, the townhouse.

I spent my foreign language monies paying for fun stuff like Hollywood movies, popular music, and fast food joints. Now, I really needed all those monies back from the past for us to find a new apartment for the present.

The twins were paid nine thousand dollars per year. Nine thousand was divided by fifty two weeks equal 173.08 dollars per week. Then the US federal government took thirty percent, leaving a grand total of 116.54 dollars per week. Their money was used for gas and food and more food for two six feet and eight inches giants of constant emptiness.

So I could not depend upon the working jobs of Vester and Vassar to pay the apartment rental and utilities.

A short male lawyer stood and smiled in the archway. “Good morning, Miss Garland. Come this way.” He turned and moved down a long decorated hallway to his private office as Nadean stood and scurried behind him. He entered an open archway, turning and pointing at the chair with a smile and a nod, sitting in the opposite chair. “Have a seat. So you have graduated from Burn U. We all are alumni too.”

I rushed and sat in the pre-offered chair on the edge with a nod and a smile. “Yes sir. Last week, I just took the law bar on Monday.”

He frowned. “Monday? We require our lawyers to pass and possess a state license before we can employ them for a full time position.”

“I concur. I will pass.”

He nodded with a grin, “A noble attitude, young lady. On occasion, the law student does not successfully complete all four sections on the first try. Therefore, we rely upon the official paper stating you are a licensed attorney for Bama. What is your field of specialty?”

“Tax law, that’s a new field at Burn U, maybe, I can become a part-time paralegal in your private law firm, doing some research while learning the ropes as they say.”

“Tax law is not a popular area of jobs, since some of the local law firms have a licensed CPA. Have you interned or worked in the law field before?”

“Not exactly, I converted some legal documents from Spanish into English at the Burn U.”

“Do you speak Spanish?”

“And French,” I smiled.

He smiled with a nod. “Well you are very gifted, young lady. But you don’t engage any foreign clients, only local rednecks. I am so sorry. Your inexperienced skill set doesn’t mesh very well with our established law firm. And we just hired a batch of new intern clerks, who have their licenses. I would advise that apply though the law internship at Burn U, when you have your law license. A law firm will snatch you up really fast. You can continue looking for a job. However, I will advice that any law firm will withhold employment until your secure that license.” He stood and extended hand shake for the end of the meeting. “Good day, Miss Garland.”

I stood and shook his hand with a fake smile and a bruised ego. “Thanks for the chat, sir.” I swung around, holding back my tears of disappointment, dashing through the hallway to the front of the office.

The door opened.

I rushed to my car with a nod and a grin.

The door closed.

I entered my car, driving to the campus of Birmingham University to visit Professor Hople.

 

 

2:39 p.m.

Birmingham University

(four miles from Nadean’s townhouse)

International Studies Department reception setting

 

 

The door opened.

I moved inside without the fur coat of Aunt Collie and stopped in front of the receptionist desk.

The door closed behind the back spine of Nadean.

I smiled with a nod to the elderly woman. “Hi. I’m Nadean. Could you please tell Professor Hople that I’m here today? I’m sorry that I didn’t arrange an appointment in advance. It’s the New Year with too much fun and celebration,” giggling.

The elderly woman frowned. “Professor Hople?”

I grinned with a nod. “Yes ma’am.”

She frowned. “How long has it been seen you have lasted visited with Professor Hople, young miss?”

I looked up with a stern face to see the far wall and her. “I was in contact with him before the Christmas break here at Burn U.”

“You are the pawn,” someone said behind the butthole of Nadean.

I flipped around with a gasp to the middle age male. “I beg your pardon.”

A tall middle age male with a head of black grayish hair smirked with a nod. “You are the pawn that Hople used to translate the foreign language legal law contracts.”

I nodded. “I did translation work for Professor Hople.”

He frowned. “You should not announce that too loudly. He died before the Christmas break.”

“I am so sorry.”

“I am so sorry. You were taken, young lady. Professor Hople has a son, who owns his own law firm here in Birmingham. The son acquires clients among the immigrants and foreigners employed in Alabama. Therefore, he needed a person to translate the many, many legal documents. You did that job for peanuts, my dear. A properly bonded and issued foreign language translator receives about two thousand dollars for fifteen pages of legal work,” chuckling. “I guessing here but I bet Hople didn’t pay you two thousand dollars in one year.” He smiled with a nod. “I reviewed some of your legal work. It’s very good. And you’re a pretty girl,” frowning. “Are you an illegal immigrant too? Your dark skin coloring and silver hair is very exotic for someone living in Bama?”

I twanged with my accent. “Naw. Southern belle, ya’ll.”

He smiled. “You have a beautiful talent. But Hople was illegally abusing you and the legal contracts. These documents are supposed to be translated by a bonded and licensed business company that employs bonded and licensed folks, a Bama state law. If his son is ever audited by the Alabama Bar Association, he’ll be in big trouble. Therefore, young lady, you will never come here to the Burn U International Studies Department again. Do you understand?”

I back stepped with a nod and a stern face, hitting the closed door. “Yes sir.”

The door opened.

I back stepped into the hallway, turning with a sour frown.

The door closed.

I jogged down the hallway with a whisper and a sour frown. “Shit. Two thousand dollars for fifteen pages of legal work, I was taken to the dry clothes and washing laundry mat. O well. I’ve definitely learned a life lesson here. So I’ll go to the hospital now, pleading for a janitorial job for four months.”

I exited the building forever, marching to my car, driving to the hospital for a job.

 

 

2:44 p.m.

Landlord Mrs. Crumb

(10 miles south from Nadean’s townhouse)

Front porch setting

Cool temperatures with parted clouds without sunshine

 

 

I parked the car, sliding out, moving to the front of the house and double counted the cash in my hands. I knocked on the front door.

The front door opened.

An elderly lady with a bun of gray hair and three missing teeth peeked around the door with a sour frown. “Are you a lawyer?”

I smiled. “Mrs. Crumb. No ma’am.”

She smiled with a nod, showing her frontal body wit a smile to Nadean. “Well, are you interested in my townhouse?”

“I rent your townhouse. I’m the current tenant, the college student. My grandfather is David Sloan.”

She frowned. “You own me money. He owns me money six hundred dollars for this month’s rent due on the first of the each new month.”

I nodded with a fake smile. “Yes ma’am, I have the money, cash. May I get a receipt, also?”

She looked down with a sour frown to see the money. “Cash, as in greenbacks, it is in danger walking around with six hundred dollars in cash. Is that real?”

I handed her the wad of cash with a fake smile and a nod. “Yes ma’am. It is. I’ll be coming each month to pay in cash for the townhouse rental.”

“Why? Ain’t ya got a checking accounting?”

“No ma’am, I’m a college student. I have a saving account. I pay with cash for all my purchases. And I can pay you in cash each month. I just need a receipt for the six hundred dollars…”

“Blab, receipt, the check was the receipt. Where’s Sloan?”

I frowned. “My grandfather is both elderly and sick. He doesn’t live here in Birmingham. He lives in Brier.”

She lifted both palms into the air with a sour tone and a matching face, “Blab. Sick. Blab. Cash. I take your cash,” she extended a palm. “Next time, you give me a cashier’s cash, acting like cash. I can’t tote around six hundred dollars. I’ll got robbed or raped. The townhouse is for sale. I’m selling it quick soon as someone gives me a check for sixty thousand dollars. Then you will leave, girl. Gone!” She turned and scribbled on the paper near the door.

I looked down with a worried brow to see my shoes. “Yes ma’am, I will leave.” I looked up with a smile and a nod to her. “In the meantime, the townhouse is clean and ready for touring.”

She torn and handed a piece of paper to Nadean with a sour face and a matching tone, “Blab. You paid for the month January. Hope I don’t see your face in the month of February.”

I hoped not either, bitch. I faked a smile. “Bye, Mrs. Crumb. Have a good day.”

“Blab,” she back stepped and slammed the door.

I spun and raced to my car.

The door opened.

I slid inside with a worried brow, slamming the door. “Do not cry. Pray. Dear Lord, I need some help here. I need a job, any job to pay for a new apartment with Vester and Vassar, my loving brothers. P.S. Please help now. Amen.” I did not start the car with a worried soul.

I could not receive any job, without my lawyer license. The bar results would take eight weeks. My brothers could not wait eight weeks. But the monthly rent was paid for the month of January.

I didn’t have the heart to tell Vester and Vassar that I had to cover the rental lease monthly payment of rent and utilities with my money from my personal bank account. Now, I’m almost wiped out too.

Granddaddy Sloan was very sick being close to eighty years old and was going to die soon if my mom’s latest information was accuracy.

Everything happened in three’s. Granddaddy Sloan will die. The townhouse will sell. And we will live on the street like a set of stray dogs.

I beat on the steering column with a sour frown and a yell. “Fuck you, Mama. And fuck ya, Dorcee and your five rotten bratty kids.”

Gawd, I was so miffed. I possessed a bachelor’s degree in physics and accounting, a master’s degree in physics, and almost a doctoral degree in physics. And I had a law degree, not an Alabama lawyer license. And I couldn’t find one lousy job while all my previous work contacts had died or retired.

I started the car, moving slowly over the street, feeling sadness and see the help sign in the window.

 

 

3:03 p.m.

Birmingham Diner

(six miles west of Nadean’s townhouse)

Cash register setting

Cold temperatures with bright sunshine

 

 

I parked the car, stripping off the business jacket and changed into sneakers inside the car and exited the seat, closing the car door.

The front door opened in front of her face.

I slowly moved to the front door with a fake smile and tons of nervousness.

The front door closed behind her back spine.

I moved to the cashier counter, standing in front of the elderly lady with a smile and a nod. “Hi. I saw the sign. I’m your girl for that waitressing position.”

The tall fat elderly woman frowned at Nadean. “Ya waitressed before, honey?”

I smiled and shook my curls. “No ma’am. But I be a quick learner.”

“Ya be a student at…”

I nodded with a smile. “Yes ma’am, I be a very poor but studious student at Burn U, getting a college degree like all the other redneck young’uns.”

“Hmm, ya look healthy for lifting tubs of dirty dishes.”

I nodded with a smile. “Yes ma’am, I be strong and healthy. I can start right now.”

“I need ya, tomorrow. What about ya Burn U classes?”

I grinned with a nod. “I take easy classes like racket ball and dance.”

She winked with a laugh. “Ya be a dumbo but a pretty thing. Can ya add, dearie?”

I grinned with a nod. “Yes ma’am, I can read, write, and add great big whole numbers.”

She grinned. “Come at five in the morning. Can ya remember to do that, honey?”

I grinned. “Yes ma’am, I can remember to be here at five in the morning.”

She winked. “Start ya on the morning run. It be early for the real working folks in B’ham, not students. Students come in the middle of the afternoon or at night.”

I grinned. “Yes ma’am.”

She winked. “Ya need to wear a short shirt with heels. Ya got more money giving tips that way and I get more money paying customers. Then me and you can do a good business together. Waitressing is easy just get the customer’s order right, the first time. Then they come back. If ya mess it up, then ya don’t come back. Hear me, girly?”

I grinned with a nod. “Yes ma’am.” I turned and dashed to my car, driving home with a smile and a hum.

 

 

3:13 p.m.

Shared townhouse of college students Nadean, Vester and Vassar

Living room setting

(4 miles south from diner)

 

 

I parked my car next to the other vehicle, sliding out with a smile, moving to the front porch.

The door opened.

I lifted my arms with a smile and a nod through the archway. “I got a job. Hurray for me!”

The door closed.

Vester sat on the long sofa with his text books, looking up with a worried brow to see Nadean. “What kind of job, Nadean?”

I moved and sat on the arm rest with a smile. “Waitress for…”

Vassar frowned. “Ah, naw, you possess a master’s degree in physics.”

“…with no hospital experience.” I shook my curls. “These were the exact words from the real working physicist at the local hospital. I slid into the human resources department at Birmingham Hospital then quickly gained a ripe interview. The physicist liked me but didn’t like my ‘no experience handling radiation equipment.’”

Vester frowned. “You possess a law degree.”

I frowned with a nod. “And I slid into one of many local law firms. No legal license yet. The place won’t touch my left breast, figuratively.” Vester and Vassar laughed.

Vassar said. “The dress shop work will be more than enough to cover our small invoices, Nadean.”

I frowned. “No go either. I got canned today. The elderly couple gave their dress shop to their fat, ugly, and mean girls. The older girl fired me, this morn.”

Vester frowned. “I am so sorry, Sis.”

I shook my curls. “Naw, I had a good run on the dress shop. My closet is full of pretty dresses. I wonder if I could sale them back to the dress shop for money,” giggling.

Vester said, “Probably not, and Professor Hople’s translation work?”

“He di…didn’t have any new legal contracts today,” I looked down with a worried brow at my hands. “I’ll try next week.” I looked up with a smile to see Vester, “Big bucks there.”

Vester frowned. “You have a college education. What about interviewing for a temporary secretary position at a local company? Then you can quit in the month of June.”

I shook my curls. “I’m over qualified, Vester. And we need the fast cash now. A real job takes up interviewing time, where I can be working for waitress tips, tomorrow morning. The owner’s placing me in the morning shift.”

Vassar smiled with a nod. “Actually, that’s a very good work slot, Nadean. The early construction and manufacturing workers are mostly men who eat breakfast and leave a pretty good tip. You will do very well. You’re pretty. So kinda smile and giggle more then you’ll get a better tip.”

I looked down with a worried brow to my dirty sneakers. “Good advice. I’m kinda nervous.”

Vester frowned. “I’m kinda worried. Are in shape to work on your feet for eight hours, Nadean?”

I looked up with a smile and a nod to see Vester. “Yeah, I feel fine. And I don’t have a choice. I don’t have time or money to run around Birmingham looking for a job, when I have found one on my first day. This is a miracle. We only have less than five more months. Then we’re done with Burn U and start our new lives.”

 

 

Wednesday January 8th

5:05 a.m.

Birmingham Diner

(4 miles north from Nadean’s townhouse)

Dining table setting

Cold temperatures of wintertime with moonlight and bright stars

 

 

I moved from the counter and pranced in my mini-short blue jean skirt with a pair of high heels and a cute flirt to the table. “Hi there, may I take your order, ya’ll?”

The four adult men smiled and grunted. One ordered the food with a wink. “Coffee and breakfast plate number one.”

I wrote down the food orders, getting them all correct the first time while attracting lots of marriage propositions, date propositions, and butt slaps for the noble cause. At the end of the ten hour shift, I held 112.25 dollars in waitress tips with a smile.

I had made an average amount of fifty dollars per day, working seven days per week. I had traded some evening shifts with my co-workers, bringing in about 350 dollars per week for two weeks.

By the end of the month, I had lost ten pounds from my active waitressing and my eating on the run coupled with staying up late while working on my doctoral thesis. I never saw my brothers. They left at five in the morning and returned home at midnight and then slept, starting their ritual over again.

We sold all the electronics and all my designer clothes for about eight hundred dollars which was safely stored inside my personal bank account for an emergency.

 

 

Tuesday February 2nd

7:07 p.m.

Shared townhouse of Nadean, Vester, and Vassar

Living room setting

Cold temperatures and clear night with bright stars

 

 

The door opened in front of her face.

I stood inside the archway, seeing the object with a whisper and a worried brow. “No.”

Vester held another new letter with a nod and a worried brow, “The same law firm, same vanilla colored business envelope.”

Vassar said. “We paid the rental for the month of February. What did we do wrong, Nadean?”

I giggled, “Yeah, I paid her in cash, again, yesterday. Mrs. Crumb must’ve sold the townhouse. How many visitors came yesterday?” I turned and viewed the taped paper at the doorway. “I don’t see any red clay dust particles on top of our homemade paper mat from numerous shoe tracks.”

Vassar looked down with a stern face to see the home made paper foot mat too. “We really don’t know, sis. We leave at five am and come home at eleven pm with both work and school. And using my memory banks, I don’t remember seeing any red dirt clay on the white paper, since we laid that trap.” He turned and viewed Vester. “I do not believe that we have visitors during the daytime hours either.”

I looked down with a sour frown to read the letter. “Because our bitch-landlord has priced her tiny townhouse out of the real estate market, the waitresses that I work with are street smart, not book smart. They told me that this geographical area sell homes around thirty thousand dollars, not twice the sweet price tag. That old bitch’s looking to pay out some heavy debt left by her dead husband,” I looked up with a worried brow to see Vester. “The NSI is working your asses off. I hope they pay you a good salary, after you get your college degrees.”

Vester grinned with a nod. “The exuberant real estate price will benefit our cause of staying. Don’t worry, Nadean. Vassar and I have learned some valuable shit that only we know how to do. Once we got that single sheet of paper, it’ll be a gold mine for us.”

I nodded with a smile. “I’m glad. Ya’ll work hard.”

Vassar smiled. “Hard work is good for the soul. There’s nothing wrong with hard work and an active mind…”

“….only if ya got tired feet.” I opened the letter. “Dear, Ms. Garland. Please come at ten on Wednesday, February third.” I looked up with a worried brow to see my brothers. “Shit, that’s tomorrow. I gotta take the day off work. My boss isn’t going to be happy. And I lose a day of cash tips.”

Vassar said. “We graduate in exactly fifteen weeks.”

I frowned. “The real estate paperwork takes about six weeks, leaving us short of cash and time. And I’m not fixing the wall or the carpet. She can have the entire money deposit of six hundred dollars for that expense.”

Vester frowned. “She’ll sue our granddaddy.”

I shook my curls, “Naw, I disagree as a lawyer, unlicensed, but still a legal Alabama lawyer. Mrs. Crumb wants some fast cash for a lush retirement or her Bingo night at the church. That property townhouse fix is too expensive for our mealy bank account. The new owners can fix it being parents of another group of students anyways. That’s the prime reason for selling the prime real estate property.”

Vester nodded. “Correct.”

I moved and marched to the writing desk, pulling out the draw and the object, turning with a stern face to see my brothers. “I’m reading from top to bottom the apartment legal contract. I’m a lawyer after all, but still not licensed. Maybe, I can find a loop hole, keeping us in the townhouse until the end of May. Or I can charm him into dialing the move-out date at the end of the semester.”

Vester frowned. “Would there really be a legal clause to keep us here until the end of May, allowing us some more breathing room?”

I viewed the lease. “Uh, ho,” I looked up with a smile to see Vester. “I found something that my brain cells didn’t think about. I want both of you to go around this shitty townhouse and write down every single thing that does not work properly, right now. You’re future engineers. I trust your judgment and even cite the peaceful fire ants in the tiny yard too.”

Vester nodded with a grin. “And we can assign it an estimated repair cost too. I understand your order, Sis.”

“Excellent, bro,” I turned and moved up to the staircase and my room with a smile. “I got some reading to do.”

 

 

Wednesday February 3rd

10:10 p.m.

Lawyer of Mrs. Crumb

Law office setting

(2 miles west from Nadean’s townhouse)

Cold temperatures and partly cloudy with sunlight

 

 

I parked the car, sliding out the seat, moving to the front of a very nicely manicured lawn of the unfamiliar law office campus.

The door opened.

I entered the nicely decorated reception space with rows of soft sofas and walls of fresh plants, moving to the pretty receptionist at the office desk with a silly giggle and a nervous timber. “Hey,” I popped the bubble gum for annoyance with a grin. “I be Nadean. I be the granddaughter of my grandfather.” I waved the business letter like a southern dumb belle with a giggle and a grin. “I got this here letter too. So, I need to talk with someone, too.”

The receptionist stood with a fake smile, extending a hand, trying to capture the letter. “May I see the letter please?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. It’s my letter.” I cuddled the nice vanilla colored stationary.

“I need to see which lawyer is assigned to your case, miss…”

“I be Nadean.” I extended the letter and popped my bubble for more annoyance.

The receptionist grabbed the letter, pulling into a distorted face with a nod, looking up with a smirk to see the young girl. “You are the tenant of Mrs. Crumb. I must inform Mr. Richardson of your presence now. Please excuse me. Have a sit over on one of the sofas. I will return shortly.” She turned and moved through a narrow hallway out of sight of Nadean.

I turned and paced around the floor with nervousness without sitting and praying for a miracle. So my brothers and I could stay inside the tiny townhouse until the end of May for our college graduations and then we would move someplace else.

The receptionist returned and stood between the archway frames with a wicked grin. “If there is something that you would like to present to me, then you will not have to see the big bad lawyer? Our lawyers are very busy at the moment. We do not want to disturb them until it is extremely necessary.”

I turned with a fake grin and a giggle like a high school teen, “Naw.”

She gasped. “Well then, you will be seen, now. Please follow me.” The receptionist turned and moved down the hallway to the third door on the side with a smile and a sexy priss.

The door was opened.

I entered and moved in front of a long wooden desk, sitting with nervousness inside the office leather chair, dressed in my old torn pair of blue jeans, a messy ponytail, and a pair of un-polished cowgirl boots without makeup as I purposefully appeared like a poor starving college student which was not far from the truth.

A short fat bald lawyer occupied the opposite chair beside Nadean without a smile and a formal name. “I am very, very busy. Is there something that you will like to present for me? So, we can meet our meeting short and sweet.”

I smiled and chewed the bubble gum, “Naw.”

He tapped on the paper folder between a pair of obese hands with a sour frown and a nod. “I have verified that your biological grandfather is Mr. David Sloan, who lives in Brier, not in Birmingham. And he was unable to attend this business meeting due to sickness, but you were suggested to act as his legal representative. Therefore, let us wrap up this business quickly. You had paid Mrs. Crumb in cash for the months of January and February, consisting of six hundred dollars even. First, she kindly asked that you provide her a personal check, a cashier’s cash, or a money order, sufficing for the greenbacks. You are a young lady. But, in today’s society, cash is not generally carried around which could lead to some type of violent incident. Therefore, Miss Garland, you are to pay the next month’s rental payment of six hundred dollars by one of three optional methods, a personal check or a cashier’s cash or a money order. All of these former methods can be acquired at your bank for a slight monetary fee. Do you understand me and my request from Mrs. Crumb, who is my legal client?”

“Naw,” I acted like a high school student and chomped on the bubble gum as I was really a lawyer, without the license, of course. “I don’t understand, but I do read,” I lifted and rattled the rental lease which Mr. Sloan had signed five years ago with Mr. Crumb. “And I did not read inside my grandfather’s signed and dated lease from five years ago that cash is not acceptable as one of many forms of rental payments. Since everyone loves cash, easily acquired and spent. Therefore, I will continue to pay Mrs. Crumb by cash in the form of dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, if I feel like it on the first day of the month, whether rain, sun, snow, or hail. Do you understand me and my legal right as the legal representative of David Sloan, my grandfather?”

He smirked. “You are very smart, Miss Garland. The second item for discussion is the occupation of strange guests inside the t