Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Stranger Came to My Door (A True Story)

Hey, Y'all,
Yesterday, I was sitting in my living room, working on a quilt, when the doorbell rang. You know, when you are expecting someone to visit, you almost always know it will be them at your front door. However, when I opened the door to a stranger, my surprise must have shown on my face (unfortunately, what I am thinking almost always registers on my face). Looking at the man, I took in his unkempt appearance, and I'm sure he could see my reaction clearly.

However, when I said, "Yes?" he replied, "Ma'am, I'm not a salesman, well, actually, I guess I am. I am trying to sell these candle holders so I can buy my children some gifts for Christmas."

I looked then at the contents of his hands. He was holding two of the ugliest Christmas decorations I have ever laid my eyes on. To describe them: they were two sections of wood about eight inches in length, that had been cut from the kind of timbers one puts around flower beds. You know, the kind that is flat on two sides and rounded on the other two sides. A hole had been cut about an inch and a half into the center of the wood. The hole held a small candle, and the one side of the wood had a painted with tempera paint decoration. 

He then proceeded to tell me that he couldn't find work, and that he was a convict and wanted to buy his children some presents and was selling those decorative candle holders for ten dollars each. 

While he was talking, I noticed he had a tattoo on one of his arms that said "Rattlers". He was wearing a white tee shirt and wrinkled blue jeans. He also had one of those badges that attaches to the wearer's clothing that stated his name and that he had a permit from the city of Bedford (where I live) to sell his goods. 

We talked about the tragedies that had taken place recently and (I was the one who brought them up, not he) I told him I would take both of the things he was selling, and asked him to wait right there. He was still outside the house, of course. 

Within a minute or so, I was back with twenty dollars and handed it to him. His response was a hearty thank you, and then he said, "ma'am, are you sure you can afford this?" I said, "Yes". Then he said, "Last chance to change your mind, ma'am." I think he believed I really couldn't afford it, because I was wearing my old red dress that has seen better days. 

I assured him that I wanted him to have it, and told him I would be praying for him and his family. He thanked me again, and said he was glad I would be praying for him. I sent him off with a "God bless you."

After he left, I had many thoughts about him, wondering about his situation. Did I do the right thing? I don't know...All I know is that perhaps I had a visit from Jesus seeking help. I couldn't turn him away.       

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happy Birthday to My First-Born, Carol

Good morning to you, my friends and family. I am taking a break from my fictional scribblings today to wish my first - born, Carol Deanna Grey Bennett, a happy birthday. It is a big one for her since she will be turning a zero at the end of the number. I'm not saying what number is in front, for that is for her to say if she wishes. 

Carol is a very busy woman, very much taken up with family and friends, doing, always doing for others. She is loving and giving, caring and beautiful. 

We are so blessed to have her in our lives. 

We will be celebrating her birthday at her and Daryl's home this evening, with most of her family.

Teresa and Tom in back. Me, Carol and Daryl in front

   This is a photo taken last year when our family from Alabama came in to spend Christmas with us. Teresa is my dear youngest daughter. We had a really great time then. But then, we always have great times together. 

Happy Birthday, Carol! I love you!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cookie Jack's Adventure - -Part Two

Soon we were in the air, flying over the woods where I had been lost while looking for a safe haven. That is one place I sure was glad to be out of, but I was still very much worried about my friend, Lucy Mae. I knew that she would soon be out of a job that she hadn't even begun working at yet. She was to begin on Monday, and it was very late Friday night. What a mess! 

I couldn't even visit her, because if I did, the security guard would see me, and know that the jig was up, that I had somehow escaped being killed by Hank and his boys. I didn't dare go to try to warn her, but I knew someone who could.

The noise inside the helicopter made it useless to try to carry on a conversation, but as soon as it landed at the hospital, I was helped off the plane and told the Looie I had an idea. 

"Oh, really? Another bright idea, like investigating Hank and his boys?"

"No, no... nothing like that! This is a good idea of how we can get Lucy Mae out of the kindergarten without stirring up any suspicion."

"Hmmm. Okay, let's go get you checked out and then we will talk about your idea."

Soon, I was on a gurney, back in the emergency room, being checked over by a handsome young intern. It made it kind of nice being looked at by such a good-looking fellow. I smiled at him, and asked him how long he had been working at the hospital. He just said, "Lie still, ma'am, I need to wheel you back to x-ray and see if you have any injury to your brain."

Uh-oh! Not a very talkative young man, I thought to myself. Wonder what his problem is? So, I lay still, but kept talking; cause after all, you don't have to move your head to talk. 

"So, has it been a long night for you, young man? You seem to be in a bit of a bad mood. Anything you'd like to share with me? I'm a good listener, ya know." My friends know that I never see a stranger, and am always ready to talk to anyone I see.

Then he smiled at me and said, "Sorry, ma'am. There was a bomb went off tonight and several victims were brought in. I just finished working on some of them that made it, and it wasn't a pretty sight. I've been working in medicine for some time, but those were the first people I've seen in such a condition."

"Bless your heart, honey," I replied, not knowing what else to say. It just proves you never know what someone else is going through when you see no smiles on their faces in reply to your smile. I patted his hand in understanding.

Well, he took me back to x-ray and waited while the technician did his stuff, and then brought me back out to the emergency room. Then he examined my arms and legs and told the nurse to clean the scratches and apply some ointment to them. By the time she was through, he had my x-rays and examined them. He pronounced me okay and told me I could leave. 

Going back out into the waiting room, I found Lieutenant Shannon, Jack, and my little Clancy. I told the Lieutenant about my idea.        
"Say, Lieutenant, I know a way that we can get Lucy out of the Kindergarten for several days while you all scope out the action," I told him.

Raising his eyebrows, he said, "Yeah? And how would that be?"

"Well, you know, her son could be needing her, because of maybe a supposed accident while moving away, perhaps in his drive to the town where his wife is in prison, and he could need her help in looking after the children. Now, you know that pastors can have unsuspected entry into almost any place. What if we got Pastor Joe to go to the Kindergarten with news that her son needed her immediately, and she could leave without any suspicion that it was bogus. We could have him tell her as though it were true, and then when he got her out, we could tell her the truth. That would make it realistic enough that she would be all flustered and in a hurry to leave. Since they don't know anything about Hank and his boys being captured, it should work."

"I believe it would, AnnieBee, I believe it would. Like I said before, I'm glad you're on the side of the law! You have a sneaky way of thinking and planning."

I turned to Jack, and hugged him again. "Jack, you have got to lay low for a few days, too. We don't want anybody that was associated with Hank and his boys asking you any questions that you don't have an answer to. I guess maybe that will give you a chance to spend some time with your girl, Lily, eh? I keep tryin' to remember where I've heard her name before...hmmm, it'll come to me, I'm sure." 

Jack colored up when I mentioned Lily to him; he blushed clear to the roots of his hair above his forehead. 'Ah, young love', I thought, 'there's nothing like it.' 

Turning back to the Looie, I asked if they had searched the premises of the Auto Shop and gotten the books Hank was keeping and the files in the cabinets. He replied that they had all of it in custody and the District Attorney was most likely using them as we spoke to build a case against Hank and his sons. It seems they had been using the premises as a chop shop as well as a drug operation.  He and Jack had been talking about it while I was back in the emergency room. 

"Say, how come you knew anything about the operation to begin with? What put you on to it?" I wanted to know.

"Well, Jack came to us and told us of his suspicions, so we were ready to get all of them at one time, but they moved up the delivery of the drugs to an earlier time, so we missed our chance to nab them at midnight, like we had planned. Jack called us when the delivery was moved up to eleven, but couldn't when the security guard came earlier than eleven. Sorry we missed it, and you  all had to go through that harrowing experience."

"Well, I'm sure glad you all were on top of it as well as you were. It sure made me appreciate my life even more when I thought I was a goner. Now, about Lucy, can we get her out of there today sometime, since today is Saturday already. Or maybe Sunday afternoon would be better. That would certainly make more sense. Then it would be closer to the time that you would see deliveries of the drugs taking place." I was making plans like I was the one in charge. Ha!

"Now, Miss Busybody, you just let me take care of the details. You know you can trust me to do what needs to be done. Speaking of laying low, you  might want to do just that. No walking around anywhere even close to the Sunny Bright Kindergarten. You would most surely be recognized, and I'm sure that by now, the Principal there knows about your part in the whole matter."

Well, I certainly did not want Lucy to be harmed, and I guess I needed to trust the Looie to take good care of her; but it was going to be difficult for me to not have a hand in it. 

"Come on, now, AnnaBelle and Jack, let's be going. I'm going to take you back to the station house with me. I need to get your statements while they are still fresh in your minds. Then we can find a place that is open early for breakfast and I'll treat you all to a meal. How about that? Is that agreeable? I know I could sure use some food. How about it, Clancy, old fellow? You all must be tired after all that walking."

I must admit that all sounded good to me! I was bone-tired and weary, but still had plans running through my head. 

.It was only a short ride to the station house and as we went up the steps, I could hardly place one foot in front of the other. After all I had been through, that was just about all I could  do. The Looie took my elbow to help me up the steps and into the station. I felt like an old lady for the first time ever. Well, that wouldn't last very long - all I needed was a good night's rest. 

Inside, we went up to the second floor where the policemen did their actual paperwork, and it was just about deserted. Jack had picked up Clancy and was carrying him, because my little dog was just about as tired as I was. His little ears were drooping and his tongue was hanging out, so Jack stopped at the break room and got him some water to drink. There was also a stale doughnut and Jack gave that to Clancy as well. Then they came on into the Lieutenant's office. I had taken my bathroom break at the hospital, and believe me, I had needed one. 

I sat down at the desk and the Looie turned on a tape machine so that I could relate everything that had happened the evening before. Then he asked me questions in order to clarify any misunderstandings that anyone could have about my experiences. Then it was Jack's turn to tell his story. I listened in awe to his statement. 

It seems he had been working with an undercover policeman to whom he had been feeding information about his Uncle Hank's operation of the chop shop and drug scheme. Hank's boys would steal cars and bring them into the auto shop at night. Some of them they would take apart, and sell the parts; others they would ship to Mexico without doing anything with them. Sometimes, cars in Mexico belonging to tourists would be stolen and shipped to Hank and they would have huge shipments of drugs in them. These cars would then be chopped and sent to dealers looking for those specific parts. 

It seems that the police had already had an idea that Hank's auto shop was involved in these illicit operations. With Jack in a good position to find out, an undercover cop, knowing Jack had an excellent honest reputation, contacted Jack to see if he would help in the investigation. When Jack agreed, it didn't take him long to worm his way into "the business". It did take a little bit of convincing, but Jack told Hank that he needed to earn some money because he had a girl friend and wanted to impress her. 

Then it dawned on me as to the identity of the undercover cop! So I asked the question. 

"Say! Could it be? Is Zeb an undercover policeman? Is that why he seems to be everywhere, slinking around, looking like he doesn't want to be noticed?"

Lieutenant Shannon grinned as big as a possum eating persimmons. "Why do you ask that, AnnaBelle? Didn't I tell you that he is always into some kind of trouble, and has to be brought into the station to be questioned? You do have some crazy notions, doesn't she, Jack?  Zeb is just another street person like yourself, AnnaBelle. If he were an undercover man, do you think I could tell you? Then he wouldn't be undercover any more, would he? Just get that idea out of your head, my dear inquisitive lady!"

Well, I was certainly entitled to have my own ideas, and I was going to do some investigations into that one. 

The Lieutenant gave the statements to someone who was working late to get them printed up, and within a short time we were signing them. Then we were on our way to breakfast. 

We went to an all-night diner that seemed to be frequented by policemen. so I knew the food was probably like what you would find in a greasy spoon. The waitress certainly knew the Looie, from the way she smiled at him. She looked tired as she asked for our drink orders, so apparently she had been working all night. 

I had no sooner ordered than I said, "I think I'll just rest my head a few minutes." Laying my head on my arms, I immediately went to sleep and missed the next thing that happened.

I had noticed when we entered the diner that it was almost empty. There was just one other customer in the place. It was just kind of a "hole in the wall" place and had one of those counters that had the round stools, so we had sat down at them. While I sat there with my head on the counter, the Looie (who, by the way, was in plain clothes, not wearing a uniform anymore except to important functions like official funerals) and Jack had gone to the rest room while we waited for food. 

I was awakened suddenly by an arm around my neck. Someone was standing behind me and had pulled me to my feet. He spoke quietly in my ear, "Okay, lady, behave yourself and nobody's gonna get hurt." I could feel what seemed to be the barrel of a gun pressed to the back of my head. Uh Oh! Now, what? 

In my periferal vision (I couldn't turn my head), I saw the Looie and Jack returning. It didn't take them long to get the lay of the land, so to speak, and they saw I was in real trouble. (Why did trouble seem to dog my steps?) Speaking of dogs, I looked down at Clancy, and told him to be still. I didn't want him shot or hurt in any way.

"Okay, lady, shut up if you want to get out of this alive!" he whispered to me. Then he barked at the man behind the counter. "Give me all the money in your register and don't make any sudden moves or the old lady here gets it in the back of the head. Everybody else sit down, and don't be gettin' any funny ideas about callin' the police."

I tried to get the Looie's attention and raised my eyebrows. I saw he was looking at me intently, trying to figure out what I was intending on doing. He slightly shook his head at me, telling me not to do anything, but I was tired of being the victim and decided that was a thing of the past. "No More" I said to myself, and elbowed the man in his gut, causing him to let go of my neck. I knew then that the Looie would have a clean shot, because I dropped and rolled away from the hoodlum.

Sure enough, Lieutenant Shannon had his revolver out and within seconds had the guy on the floor. 

I happened to look over at  the other customer who had his cell phone out and was taking my picture as I sat up. Then he ran over to me. "Hey, Lady! That's one of the bravest things I've ever seen! I'm a reporter for the Daily News! I need your name for my story, please?"

Oh, my goodness! I didn't need my picture and name plastered all over the daily newspaper! It would put Lucy in jeopardy, before we could get the place raided. The crooks (the security guard and Ms. Wilson) would put two and two together and Lucy's goose would be cooked. I looked over at the Looie, and told the reporter to please wait for just a few minutes. 

I ran over to the Looie and told him the guy who had just taken my picture was a reporter and wanted to run the story about my bravery.
"Well, we'll just see about that," replied the Looie. Going over to the reporter who was on his cell phone, clicking away with the camera, the Lieutenant politely reached over and turned off the cell phone and confiscated it. 

"Listen, buddy," he stated. "We have a situation here that we need to talk about. How would you like an exclusive? If you agree to hold off on your story, I promise you a much bigger one that will sell more papers than you ever dreamed of."

"Ha! I'm a news reporter for the local television station, not the newspaper. This is on the spot news reporting."

"Okay, then, a television exclusive is what you will have if you will just hold off! This little set-to here is nothing compared to what you could have, besides which, you will be saving two little old ladies' lives if you will just wait. How about it?" The Lieutenant was using his hundred watt persuasion on this little dude. 

"Well, I gotta hear more about this so-called great story before I agree. Can you tell me a little more? Can somebody, anybody, tell me a little more?"

"Okay, this little lady right here can give you the scoop if you will promise to hold off till I get things set up for the final part of the story," the Looie said, indicating me. "Then, if you will promise to keep out of the way, I will let you be there when we close down the operation. Is it a deal?"

"Sure, sure! Wow! I'm finally going to get an exclusive!" The young man was jumping around like a grasshopper among a bunch of live coals. Other customers were beginning to come into the diner, because the streaks of dawn were beginning to show over the rooftops. 

"Let's all get out of here," said Jack and the Lieutenant,  simultaneously. The Lieutenant had cuffed the perpetrator and soon had him into the back of his unmarked car. Jack got in next to him, holding Clancy, and the reporter and I got into the front passenger side of the auto. As the Lieutenant drove, I began talking to the reporter. 

"What is your name, young man? Before I begin tellin' a story for the news, I want to know who I'm a talkin' to!"

"My name is John Dover, ma'am. I think I know you! Aren't you the lady that helped nab a murderer several months ago? And nearly got killed in the process?"

"Howdy, John. I'm right pleased to meetcha! Yep, I reckon that was me, all right. Seems like trouble jist kinda navigates itself towards me, don't cha know?"
With the Lieutenant driving, we were soon at the station and I had related the major points of my story to the young reporter. He had asked me if I minded his recording me as I told the story. I looked over at the Lieutenant and lifted my eyebrows. The Looie replied that he reckoned that would be okay. 

The young man asked several pertinent questions, very intelligently, as I told him the story of my capture and of the chase. He looked at me admiringly, as if wondering how an old lady could outwit the criminals as I had done. Well, as I had almost done, that is. 

We arrived at the station house and went in. I was so very tired, I could hardly move, and it seemed every muscle in my body was screaming for relief. We had a job ahead of us, though. We had to get Lucy out of that place before it was raided and for that we needed Pastor Joe. So much had happened in the last couple of days since she had gone to work there, and now she was in danger. It was all my fault. I felt like kicking myself, but then, maybe the ordeal I had just been through had served as that self-kicking. 

I looked at the young man, John Dover, and saw he was talking on his "Smart Phone" a mile a minute. What was he doing? Who was he talking to?  Oh, well, I guess he had to check in every so often.

The Lieutenant took me to the breakroom. They had some casual chairs in there and he told me to take a rest while he did some strategic planning with his men. I reminded him about Lucy and getting Pastor Joe to come and get her out of the Kindergarten. He shook his head yes, and just before I drifted off to sleep, I thought I saw the Weasel in the hallway. "Hmmm, he must be in trouble again," I thought to myself. Clancy settled himself in my lap.

I must have not been asleep more than ten minutes when I awoke to the shouts from the hallway. 

"Hey, Lieutenant, Ya gotta see this!" One of his men was running up the steps to his office, shouting to him.

Just then, I saw Pastor Joe come through the hallway, looking like he had seen a ghost. He was looking in every door. When he saw me, he ran into the room. "AnnaBelle! Are you okay? When I saw you on television, I could hardly wait to get here."

Staring at him as though he had two heads, I replied, "What are you talkin' about? What am I doin' on TV? What in tarnation are you sayin'? 

"Why, the way you elbowed that guy that was trying to rob the diner! That's what I'm talking about! It's all over the early morning news. They broadcast it live from the diner, and apparently, it's being rebroadcast every fifteen minutes in news recaps. They keep saying, 'more news to come'."

Forgetting about my aches and pains, I jumped up from the chair where I had been resting and ran into the Looie's office. I know my face must have been white as the proverbial sheet as I quickly made my way in. When I got in there, several of the men, including Zeb and the Looie were standing in rapt attention watching the news on the television receiver that was in his office.

I stopped in my tracks to catch what the news reporter was saying and the short clip of video they were watching. There I was, as large as day, jabbing my elbow into the diner robber's ribs, and the reporter was relating how my act of bravery helped catch the guy.
"Looie! What are we going to do? What if the security guard at the Kindergarten has seen this? Lucy is going to be in all kinds of danger!"

"Now, now! Don't worry, AnnaBelle! Everything has been taken care of. The DEA swat team is raiding the place, even as we speak. They went around to the back so they could get Lucy out quietly before they busted into the front, to catch the security guard. I'm sure she is okay. Just a minute, something is being said to me, right now."

He put his finger up to the miniature gadget in his ear, then his face turned as white as mine had been, and the reassuring smile that had been on his face slowly disappeared as though an eraser was passing across it. 

"Well, it seems there has been some kind of glitch in their plans, but they assure me everything is going to be okay. They weren't able to get Lucy out yet. But they do have the place surrounded, and are quite sure that they will get them. Now, don't you worry, AnnieBee. Those drug enforcement guys are good; they are real professionals, and they'll come through for us."

I looked around for the reporter; he had some questions to answer to and I wanted to know why he had gone against his promise. I also wanted to know how much more he had told his people at the station, if anything.
Just then, I heard a familiar voice coming from the television receiver. 

"Good morning, folks! This is Tanya Jane Harlow, coming to you from in front of the Sunny Bright Kindergarten. I am standing here with a SWAT team from the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Apparently they are preparing to raid the kindergarten. According to unnamed sources, they believe the owner to be part of a drug ring operation. Also, according to our sources, the security guard who lives and works here is a major player in this so-called drug operation."

Turning to the man in charge, she asked, "Can you tell me what you all have done so far, Lieutenant? I was told that you were already raiding the place. What is the holdup? What about the lady who lives in the back, Ms. Lucy Wilkins? Wait a minute, is that the same Lucy Wilkins who is the mother of the man who ran for city commissioner? Is she involved in the drug ring?"

Standing there watching this fiasco play out on public television, I felt rooted to the spot. How could this be happening? Wait till I got my hands on that John Dover! Where was he? But wait! I couldn't leave the television set until I knew how this was all going to play out. Why was the SWAT team waiting...what were they waiting for? As we watched, we saw the bright lights from a helicopter that had just appeared on the scene. It was a news helicopter from a nearby large city network affiliate of our local television station. Apparently, the news had gone national from our little podunk station. Now what???

Just then, the door to the Kindergarten opened, and Mrs. Wilson stepped out, dressed elegantly, and Lucy stood beside her, looking bewildered about all that was going on. Lucy, however, was wearing her housecoat, and slippers, like she had just gotten out of bed minutes before. 

"Gentlemen! To what do I owe the dubious pleasure of your early morning company? Why have you surrounded my home bearing arms and wearing protective gear? Are you looking to be attacked by little old me? I'm afraid I haven't prepared breakfast yet, or I would invite you in for coffee. Now, what can I do for you?" Mrs. Wilson was the soul of kindness to the SWAT team, but I noticed she did not welcome them inside the building.

Tanya Jane stepped forward to speak to Mrs. Wilson. "Good morning to you, Mrs. Wilson. I'm Tanya Jane Harlow, with the our local television station, WTLK, and we have been informed that your security guard is involved in a local drug operation. What can you tell us about that?" Tanya then stuck the microphone into Mrs. Wilson's face. 

"I can tell you that it is not really any of your business, young woman! However, just for the record, I fired him last evening for insubordination. He left before his evening shift was over, and I do not like employees leaving during working hours. I will not keep anyone who shirks his duties in my employ. Right now, I have no idea where he is, and I don't care. As for his being involved in a drug ring, that is not in my knowledge. It wouldn't surprise me, though, since he is a former street person. As you may know, not all of them are trustworthy. I believe in giving people a chance, and if they mess up, then they are back out on the streets. Now, gentlemen, apparently you had ideas about coming you have a search warrant?"

The SWAT team leader produced a search warrant that had apparently just been delivered to him. He handed it to Mrs. Wilson, and she stepped back, allowing him and his men into the building. I saw Lucy step to one side, as well, her eyes as big as saucers, and hugging her housecoat to her chest. The door was closed in Tanya Jane's face and she turned to the cameras, beginning her running comments again. 

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you  have it. We will wait outside the kindergarten to see what happens and to see if they carry out anything. In the meantime, we don't have the name of the security guard in question. We are not sure exactly of the hours he is supposed to work, either. Rest assured that it won't be long until we have that information in hand. Perhaps we can interview Ms. Wilkins when she is available. She can probably provide some news to us. Stay tuned." Tanya Jane seemed to be out of ammunition at the moment.

Turning to Lieutenant Shannon, I asked, "How did such a snafu take place? What happened? Why hadn't they already gone in? What were they waiting for?"

"Well, AnnaBee, apparently they were late getting the search warrant. They had to wake up a judge to get it signed, and he was reluctant because Mrs. Wilson is a big contributor to some of the charities he promotes. They had to do some big talking to get his approval. Now we'll just have to wait and see if they find any evidence of drugs inside."

I began looking around again for John Dover. Of course, I didn't find him. He was gone, but you can believe he wouldn't get any more information from this source! Now, with the guard missing, I was still in danger, along with Jack. The guard knew we could identify him. 

Gazing around the room, I saw that we were in a wait-and-see mode. The men that had gathered here were now kind of lounging around, almost all of them had a cup of coffee in their hands. It had been about fifteen minutes since any news from the SWAT team had been televised.

Of course, by now, we could see bystanders had begun to show up onscreen. Tanya Jane was talking to them and getting their opinions. It didn't matter to her whether they had anything important to say. She was very talented at getting people to respond to her questions. It was said that she could get answers from a fence post if she had enough time.

The helicopter seemed to be have landed, and a news crew from out of town had emerged from it and had their cameras set up to catch any bit of action taking place. What a circus it had all become!

Another ten minutes and the team emerged from the building, empty handed, except for a gun they had found in Mrs. Wilson's night stand. The lady stood at the door with a smile on her face, and said, "Come back any time, fellows. If you'll call ahead I'll be sure to have coffee and doughnuts waiting for you." Then she turned to the news crews and remarked, "Sorry, you all, I just have nothing for you this morning. Please take care not to trample the flowers on your way out." Then she closed the door quietly. 

Tanya Jane, not being the type to give up, spoke to the leader of the SWAT team, and asked about the gun.."had it been fired lately...did it have any cartridges missing...did she say why she had it...did she have a permit for it..." and so on. 

The reporter with the out of town team also had questions for them, such as, "where do you think the guard you think she really fired you think she is really connected to the drugs...why didn't you bring the sniffing drug dogs with you have any of them..

All the answers were, of course, in the response mostly. It seemed as though there was a lot the DEA team didn't know, and I would need to find out, somehow, if possible. 

Now that Lucy was aware of the problems in which she was now involved, I wondered what I could do to help her. Should I press her to get out? I knew I needed to visit her, now that the guard had disappeared and I was free to go there. 

I looked again around the Looie's office. Although it was a fairly large office, it was really crowded with so many people in it. I needed to get out of it. I stepped over to talk to Pastor Joe, who was still there talking with Zeb. 

When they saw me head toward them, they stopped talking and Zeb tipped his hat and was on his way out of the room. It made me wonder again just what he was doing there; he was always turning up at the most unexpected times. 

Clancy was curled up in the corner. All the excitement had taken its toll and he was tired. Smart dog! He was doing what I needed to be, but I was just too wound up. Ideas were running through my head a mile a minute, and I had questions that needed answers. 

Jack had disappeared as well. Now where did he go? 

Going over to speak to Pastor Joe, I decided to ask him if he knew anything about Zeb, since he had been talking to him. 

"Hey, Pastor Joe, I'm sure glad to see you. We were thinkin' about comin' to see you to get Lucy out of that Kindergarten place, but now it seems like we won't be needin' to. There is somethin' else I'd like to ask you, though."

"Hello, again, AnnaBee! I'm mighty glad to see you're okay. Tell me about what all you've been up to last night. I hear you've been on a wild goose chase, but that you were the goose being chased. Is that right?"

"Well, yeah, you could say I was the Snipe in a Snipe hunt, so to speak. Bein' chased by people with guns intendin' to shoot me was sure an experience I wouldn't want to happen again. But who told you about it?"

"Well, Zeb mentioned that somebody had told him about it. Seems like you're becoming one famous person in this neck of the woods," replied Pastor Joe.

"I really don't much like that expression 'neck of the woods' much anymore. Anyway, I wanted to ask you about Zeb, and what you know about him. He seems like a mystery to me. He is always around, he's very polite, but sometimes it seems as though he is following me. What can you tell me about him?"

"He's just another street person, like yourself, I believe. I think he may have had a difficult life in earlier years. Why don't you ask him, yourself? I'm sure he'd be glad to talk to you. As for his following you, perhaps, since he seems to be living on the streets, maybe he's just going the same way as you. I do know that he knows the Lieutenant and some of the other men stationed here, but I'm not sure in what capacity."

"Nah, nah! I'm not that interested in him, to be talkin' to him. Maybe sometime, I don't know. Listen, do you know where Jack has gotten to? I wonder if he is going to try to open his Uncle's auto shop, or if it has been closed down for good. I really need to talk to that young man." My mind was still going a mile a minute.

 Just then I heard a familiar voice.

" Chasteen.. I know my name is probably mud right now, but I just wanted you to know I'm sorry about that whole snafu that took place this morning. I didn't realize the importance of keeping that earlier story quiet, because I was sending the story of the robbery as it was happening. Then when I heard the rest of what you were involved in, I knew my boss would fire me if I didn't get it. I just got married a little over a year ago, and I have a new baby. I can't afford to get fired, don't you see?" John Dover was pleading with me to forgive him. 

"I see, all right! I see you don't have any ethics for keeping your word. Young man, if you are going to be in the news business, you need to rethink your morals! Your thoughtlessness could have cost people their lives early this morning. The police may have lost their chance to break up a drug ring, and my good friend, Lucy, could be dead by now, just because you had to run a story. The people don't always have a right to know, if others' lives are in danger because of it!" I must admit, I was boiling mad. "I believe the Lieutenant will want to have a little chat with you, too."

Turning away from him, with tears in my eyes (I quite often get very emotional when I'm angry), I looked again for Jack. Then I saw him over in the corner, talking on the phone. He was gesticulating and smiling. Ahhh! Lily...He must be talking to his girl friend. I edged a little closer...not exactly eavesdropping, you understand, but I did need to know a little more about them.. like were they getting really serious about one another.

"Yes, honey, I'm perfectly fine. There's a lot I can't tell you yet, but soon I will be able to. The whole story has not come out yet. Yes, AnnieBee is fine, too. I'll see you later today. We can have lunch together at our usual place., too. Bye." Jack turned around and saw me sitting in a chair and inspecting my fingernails. 

"Boy, I didn't realize how dirty my fingernails got while I was scrabbling around outside that cave. Just look at them!" I held them up for him to view. 

Jack just smiled at me, "Curiousity killed the cat, don't you know?"

"Well, maybe I just wanted to know how you are feelin' right now. That was a terrible thing you went through, too, thinkin' that I was goin' to be killed. We have been friends for a long time, and I wasn't sure which side you were on, either, but I just couldn't believe you'd shoot me. I kept hopin' you'd take 'em out somehow." I got up and went over to hug him again.

Jack and I went over to the Lieutenant and told him we needed to be leaving if he didn't need us any more. 

"Listen, you two, you are both in very real danger until we catch that security guard. You two are the only ones that can identify him, except for Lucy and Ms. Wilson. Ms. Wilson is not talking, and I don't really want to question Lucy right now. We have to make Mrs. Wilson think she is in the clear. I am going to assign two men to keep their eyes on you two. You won't see them, but they will both know where you are and what you are doing. Now, why don't you all ride back to the Mission with Pastor Joe. Don't forget Clancy over there in the corner. Oh, yes, AnnaBelle, see if you can keep your nose clean and out of my business for awhile." This last was said with a smile. It seems the Looie knew how difficult it was for me to mind my own business. Ha! As if I would.

I looked over at Clancy and realized he was curled up next to my pushcart. When they had found my cart near the auto shop building, they must have put it into the trunk of the squad car.

I gathered my stuff and followed Jack and Pastor Joe down the stairs to the first floor, with Clancy trotting along beside me. The little fellow had more rest than I but he still didn't seem to have all his energy back yet. I picked him up and carried him; he looked up at me gratefully and licked my face. Poor baby! He had been through a lot the night before as well as I had.

There was little conversation as we rode back to the Mission in Pastor Joe's old green Chevvy. We each seemed to be lost in our own thoughts. Then Joe turned to me and asked, "What in the world were you thinking to go messing around that auto shop after dark when supposedly no one else was there?" Uh oh! He was letting me have it with both barrels, and I had no defense. 

"Yeah, AnnaBee! What were you thinkin'?" Jack asked from the back seat. "Do you know or have any idea how worried I was when I saw you layin' there on the ground outside after you fell off that stupid dumpster? I knew I couldn't do much to protect you from my uncle and cousins. How could you?"

Well, I just puffed up self-righteously and crossed my arms defensively against the double barrage of their attack, as though they were in the wrong and I was in the right. 

"I had to know, is why I did it. I thought I could get inside with no one the wiser, and then when I saw the light comin' through the bay doors, I had to know what was goin' on. If I hadn't forgot that I was on the dumpster, I could have gotten away. Then you would never have known I was there."

The tears began to flow from my eyes in a slow stream, and then I put my face in my hands and cried. That verbal assault from my friends after all I had gone through the night before was just too much. Clancy began licking at my face through my fingers, and Jack reached up between the front seats and patted my shoulder, apologizing, but still standing his ground that I shouldn't have snooped around.

Pastor Joe, like most men, just was not sure what to do, so he kept silent. 

Pretty soon, I wiped my eyes and said, "I'm okay, and I forgive you all for jumping on me with both feet. Maybe, just maybe, I deserved it, but I would probably do it again, and be more careful the next time."

"We know, AnnieBee, we know. A tiger can't change it's stripes any more than you will ever change. We love you anyway." This came from Pastor Joe. "Now, when we get to the Mission, let's have some breakfast. I know from the news that you never got your breakfast, because that robber came into the diner while you were resting your head on the counter, waiting."

"Say, you're right. No wonder I have no energy left!" I exclaimed.

However, when we got there, what should we see but...
WTLK's news van waiting in the street, apparently to catch us before we went into the Mission. I told Pastor Joe to please keep driving and to go around to the back. Maybe we could avoid talking with Tanya Jane, 'cause I knew she would be the one waiting for us. That girl loved to lie in wait, like a cat waiting to spring on unsuspecting victims. Well, I intended this to be one time she missed. At least until Jack and I got some rest. Little Clancy, sitting in my lap, growled. He knew I was upset. I scooted down in my seat to get out of sight.

Pastor Joe went on around the block and parked behind the Mission, and we climbed wearily out of the vehicle and went in through the back door, through the kitchen. 

"Ah!" I said to myself. "We've outsmarted that little vixen!"

We went through the kitchen into the dining room, and found ourselves face to face with her; where she sat at one of the tables, watching the front door and surrounding areas. I knew when I saw her that it was no use. 

"Ah, ladies and gentlemen of our viewing audience. Here is the heroine of the day! AnnaBelle Chasteen, come over here and tell us all about your bravery, not once, but twice, during the past twenty-four hours! You are one of the bravest ladies I have ever interviewed. I could hardly wait to speak with you!

"Sorry, Tanya's just too fresh in my mind and I am so very tired and hungry. I haven't eaten since sometime yesterday and, as you said, I've been through some traumatic experiences over the past twenty four hours. I really need to have some breakfast and rest for awhile. I'm just not up to an interview right now." I gave her as pitiable a look as I possibly could.

"Well, while it is fresh in your mind is a good time to do the interview. I won't keep you long. Isn't it true that you were captured by men who then chased you through the woods as though you were an animal being hunted, and used your own little dog to find you? Oh, is this sweet looking little dog the one?"

When she reached down to pet him, Clancy growled at her and snapped his jaws. She pulled her hand back quickly. I patted Clancy on the head and felt like kissing him. He could sense my animosity toward her, I guess. 

Tanya Jane backed up as though he were a snake getting ready to strike her. 

"Well, I guess we'll let you get some rest right now and some breakfast," quipped Tanya Jane. She then turned to Jack and began quizzing him.

"Young man, aren't you Jack Jones, the nephew of the man who had Ms. Chasteen in captivity, and weren't you one of the men involved in chasing her? How come you aren't in jail, too, as I hear the other men are?"

I turned back to Tanya Jane and told her to keep her questions to herself. "Jack is an honest young man who found himself in a predicament, not of his own making, and he deserves to be commended instead of castigated. Now, please leave us alone!" 

Clancy barked at her, and she backed up again. 

"Well, folks, I guess they really do need to get their breakfast and rest. More later. This is Tanya Jane Harlow, returning you to the station." Turning to her camera man, she turned off her microphone and said, "That's a wrap. Let's get out of this place. It smells in here!"

Pastor Joe, Jack and I smiled at each other and headed for the breakfast line. It certainly smelled good in here to us!

Then I thought about the missing guard. I wondered where he was right now.

The rest of the day passed by quietly. I stayed awake as long as I could and waited until the proper time to go to sleep. Then I claimed one of the beds in the Mission shelter, with Clancy snuggled under the bed and we both slept. My sleep was littered with dreams filled with being chased through the woods and being shot down by Jack. I awakened in the middle of the night, shouting. The people around me were shushing me and telling me to either be quiet or get out. Tendering my apologies to them, I lay back down, covered up and turned over, drifting back to sleep.

The next few days, I kept on the lookout for the security guard, expecting him to turn up trying to do away with me. I never saw him and was beginning to feel safe again. Although the Looie had said he was assigning someone to keep watch over me, I never saw them either. Was I losing my touch? 

About the third day after I was rescued, I decided to go over to the kindergarten to visit with Lucy Mae. I was feeling pretty chipper by then, and felt the need to see my friend and ask her how the recent events had affected her, if any. I needed to see how she was doing, don't cha know?

As I left the Mission after breakfast that morning, I saw Jack come jogging up. He was loping along at an easy pace, with the sweat dripping from his nose, wiping his face with a small hand towel. When he saw me, he slowed down and walked over to me.

"Hey, AnnaBee, good morning! Have you already had breakfast? Why don't you come in and sit with me if you have, so we can talk."

"Well, sure, Jack! I reckon maybe I could drink another cup of coffee with you. We haven't had a chance to really talk  since everything that happened to us last weekend."

As we turned to go back into the Mission, I noticed a man coming down the street whose face was red as a beet, and who looked like he had been dragged through a knothole. He seemed to be limping along as though his feet were hurting. 

"Jack, don't be obvious, but look at that man back there, coming toward the Mission. He looks like he's in pain."

Jack gave me a smile and said, "He's my shadow. I've been doin' my five mile run and he's apparently a little out of shape. Poor guy."

I raised my eyebrows, leaned back a bit and looked at Jack. "So that's what has slimmed you down lately! I should have known or guessed somethin' like that. I reckon I've just been too preoccupied with other stuff to figure it out." Looking down at Clancy, who of course was my shadow always, I said, "Come on, little feller, let's head back indoors."

As we entered the door, we saw Zeb on his way out of the Mission. He nodded to Jack and tipped his hat to me, then went on his way down to the street. 

Jack said, "Why don't you get us a seat and I'll bring your coffee when I get my breakfast tray. I have some things I need to discuss with you."

Hmm. This sounded serious.

Jack smiled, replying, "Actually, I've known her almost a lifetime. You remember, I told you about a girl named Lily who helped me learn to read when I was in the sixth grade? Well, it is the same girl. I had to move away because I changed foster homes; and then she moved away, too. She just moved back to our town a short time ago. I saw her one day at the supermarket. She recognized me first, and spoke to me. That was the beginning of our re-acquaintance."

Well, to say I was floored would be an understatement. I jumped up and ran around to Jack and threw my arms around him, giving him an extra strong hug. He grinned and hugged me back. Then I went back around and sitting down again,  said, "Tell me more! Tell me about your runnin'. When did you begin that? And why?"

"You see, I wanted to slim down some and after talkin' to Lily, I realized that I was usin' the cookies to try to fill up space that was just hungry for bein' accepted by other people. It was a hold-over from bein' a kid that wasn't treated right by adults and other kids. So, I quit eatin' cookies that I didn't need, and started runnin' to take off some of the extra weight I was carryin'. I've been takin' night classes to learn what I missed in high school. Lily has been helpin' me with them, too."

Well, I could see this young man had certainly been busy with a lot more than was evident. Needless to say, I was very proud of him. And now, he was planning on getting married? I felt like I had been putting my head in the sand, to have all that going on and not knowing about it. Maybe our Jack was just good at keeping his own counsel, so to speak.

"Another question for you, Jack...what about where you  and Lily will live when you marry? And what does she do for a living? You're not going to live on the streets, are you? You say you're planning to open your own motor repair shop...where do you plan on doing that?"

"Whoa...slow down, AnnaBee.  Lily is working as a first grade teacher, and loves it. Lily lives in a house she inherited from her grandmother and since I haven't proposed yet, I don't know about where we would live. First she has to say 'yes'. As for the shop I want to open, I was thinkin' maybe about where my Uncle Hank's shop is. I could maybe rent it for a good price since he won't be using it for awhile."

I could see that Jack had put a lot of thought into all this. Then I had an idea. 

"Say, Jack - how about if we go over to the shop and check it out, see if anything has been happenin' over there? It's been several days since we were last there. If you wanted any input from me on ideas, I could help you do a little plannin', maybe."

"Aren't you still kinda worn out from all that happened a few nights ago, AnnaBee?  I'll bet you've still got sore places from all that running and scrabbling about."

Jack's was the voice of sensibility speaking to me, but somehow, I just couldn't seem to hear it. 

"Well, if you won't go with me, I'll just take Clancy and go myself," I replied stubbornly. "For Lucy's sake, I'll stay away from her for a few more days till we get this matter resolved of the missin' security guard. But I'm a free agent, and I reckon I'll jist go where I want to. I'm not wantin' to 'take it easy'. I want to go look for myself. Maybe I can see some clues about where the guard might be. I might pick up on some clues the police missed when they were searchin' around."

Jack looked at me as if I had two heads. Then he shook his in disbelief. "I can't let you do that, AnnaBee. You could be heading right back into a passel of trouble. I've got things to do, and you just can't be running off to get yourself killed, maybe. Wait till tomorrow afternoon and we'll both go then. You might spend some time at the library, if you wanted something to do. I really do want you to go with me to look at the shop. You always have really good ideas on organizing stuff."

"I guess I could do some readin' and research. Sure, that's a good idea, Jack. I could go visit the library and check out what's been goin' on in the newspapers. Thanks for the ideas. I've been kinda at loose ends the last few days. I really miss my buddy, Lucy Mae, too. Maybe I could go lookin' for some empty cans and bottles for recycling. I'll see ya later, Jack."

Taking my pushcart in hand, I whistled to Clancy and we were off to the out of doors. I had purpose now and I was going to do some checking on stuff. 

As I walked along, I noticed the air had quite a chill to it. Winter was definitely on its way. Gazing up at the sky, I saw that it had a rather leaden look to it. Uh, oh! Those clouds were hanging low, and looked like they were filled with water. Just what we needed...more rain. It had rained some the night before, but had stopped sometime during the wee hours of the morning. 

Clancy and I headed towards the outer limits of town. 

I was headed towards the auto repair shop, but decided to change my course and make a detour to the Sunny Bright Kindergarten, and just kind of set up some surveillance from across the street, but out of sight. There happened to be a small park across the way, and since the children came to school around nine a.m., I had time to observe their arrival. Theirs was a very short day, since they were so young

Finding a park bench underneath an overhanging tree, I found I could observe unseen by anyone unless they came very close to me. I put the leash on Clancy so that he would be unable to wander away, and looped it over the back of the bench where the arm of the bench came up. He would have plenty of room to move about and there was a puddle of water nearby where he could drink. 

There happened to be a newspaper in my cart so I pulled it out and placed it on the bench, which was still damp from the rain the night before, so that I could sit down and take up my vigil. 

It wasn't very long before a limo pulled up to the front of the school and the chauffeur got out, closed his door, went around to the other side, opened the rear door for the child, taking him by the hand, walked him to the door of the school, which was immediately opened by a security guard. Handing the child over to the security guard, he shook hands with the guard and returned to the limo. Did he get something from the guard with that handshake?

As I sat there watching for the next twenty-five minutes, the process was repeated for each child that was brought. Looking around, I couldn't see that the police still had the place being watched, like the Lieutenant had told me they would. Had they given up? Maybe because they hadn't found any incriminating evidence when they searched the place, they had given up. Well, not me! I was not going to give up, especially with my good buddy, Lucy Mae Wilkins, in there, maybe in grave danger. 

What to do? It looked like all the kids were probably in class for the day. I couldn't stick around here much longer without casting suspicion; maybe I had already been spotted. I got up, picking up the newspaper and decided to walk around through the park, seeing if I could find any cans or empty bottles. I needed to get up and move around some, anyway. Taking a path through the park, I decided to let Clancy run about, so I took him off the leash and told him to stay close by. 

Whoa! He saw a squirrel and took off after him; of course, I had to run after him and that was difficult what with pulling my cart along behind me. As you may remember, my cart is a folding one, that can be pulled along behind one, as well as being pushed in front of one. Well, what a sight we must have been, with Clancy chasing a squirrel and barking, and me running after him, shouting and pulling my cart behind me. 

I must have chased that little rascal for a full twenty minutes, clear to the other side of the park, near the lake. The leaves in the park were slippery from the rain the night before, and I slid down and landed near the edge of the lake.

Looking down at the leaves and brush near my feet, I was not prepared for what next came into my line of vision.

Twenty feet from the edge of the lake, something was floating in the water. It looked like it had once been human, because it seemed to be wearing clothing. Now it was just a blob of something bobbing about in the water, with arms and legs and a head. 

My heart began pounding like it was going to burst. I lay back, resting on my elbows, trying to catch my breath. I called Clancy over to me and fastened the leash to his collar. I needed to get the police out here, but I didn't want to go over to the kindergarten to do so. 

When I had fallen, my cart had gone flying as well, so I got to my feet and walked over to where it lay, and setting it aright I looked around to see if anyone else were anywhere near. Seeing no one, I began walking hurriedly through the woods and out to the street some ways down from the kindergarten. 

As I hurried to the police station, a patrol car passed me in a hurry. I nearly ran all the way to the station and hurried up the steps. Clancy ran along beside me, as though it were great fun. Hurrying into the station house, I came up to the desk duty sergeant and hung onto the edge of his desk. 

"Why, Miss AnnieBee, what's got you all in such a dither? Is somebody chasin' you through the forest again?" he joked. 

"This ain't funny, Sergeant Greene! I jist saw a dead body a floatin' in the lake! I need somebody ta come 'n' take a look."

"Aw, shah! You're pullin' one of your pranks, aren't cha?"

"Listen, you doubtin' Thomas! I'm tellin' ya true. I was jist over to the lake near the kindergarten, and there was a body floatin' in the water about twenty feet out. Jist wait a minute, is the Looie in? He'll believe me! He knows I don't joke about dead bodies. I'll jist go up and tell him. Come on, Clancy. We don't have time to waste with underlin's like Sgt. Greene, here."

With that, Clancy and I went up the stairs to Lieutenant Shannon's office. I just left my cart where it was, next to the duty desk. The Looie was talking on the phone to someone as I came in. 

"Hey, AnnaBee, I hear you found a body floating in the lake. I've already dispatched a team over there to check it out."

"Wait a minute! How did you know there was a body in the lake? I jist got here!"

"Have you  forgotten that I have a man looking out for you? He saw you discovering the body and gave me a call. Thanks to you and your surveillance - oh, yeah, we know you've been watching the kindergarten this morning - we know about the body. We've already dispatched the coroner to the lake, along with a team of men to investigate the scene. Your shadow couldn't stay with the body, because you were really on the move, and he had to keep you in sight. He said you move pretty fast for an old lady." The Lieutenant was grinning when he said that last thing about me being an old lady.

I just gave him a punch on the shoulder, like I was irritated by that last remark. 

Hmmm. Whose body was out in the water? Was it anyone I knew? Maybe Ms. Wilson? 

Going over to one of the chairs in the Looie's office, I sat down to rest and wait. Then I decided I needed to go to the rest room and that Clancy probably needed a drink of water, so I took him with me. Before I left the office, though, I picked up an empty styrofoam cup from the Looie's desk, so I could get Clancy's water in it. 

We came back into the office and sat down again. 

"Say, do ya  have any coffee, Lieutenant? I sure could use a cup of it."

"Sure, AnnaBelle, I'll go get you a cup personally."

Sitting back in the chair, I got to thinking. The clothes I saw on that person out in the lake looked kind of familiar to me. Where had I seen them before? 

Just then, the Looie came back with my coffee and a sticky bun. That would bring my energy level back up. 

The ringing of the phone on his desk caught our attention and he went over to answer it. 

"Shannon here. Yes, who did you say it was? Oh, my. It has been awhile since I've heard that name. How did he die...can you tell? Hmmm. Now that is strange, and what would he be doing out near the lake, anyway? Okay, be sure and get back to me. Right, I'll tell her."

Turning to me, he said, "Well, that was one of my men. The coroner says the body belonged to William Hankins. William was once a police detective, and his story is a sad one. In fact you know him, probably. He was one of the people who lived on the streets. They called him Wino Willie."

At that information, I sat up and I know my mouth must have dropped open in amazement. Wino Willie had once been a policeman. Who would ever have guessed?

"Say, Looie, how did he die? Was he drunk and jist fell inta the lake?"

"Now, AnnaBelle, you know I'm not supposed to discuss police business with you. I will tell you he didn't die of natural causes, but that's all I can tell you right now."

"Well, at least you can tell me the sad story you were talkin' about, can't cha?"

"I suppose so... well, you see, one night he was on an undercover stake-out and it was the dead of winter. He hadn't been in touch with his family for quite awhile, and their house somehow caught fire while they were asleep. His wife and children burned to death. He never recovered from the loss, and turned to drink, gradually losing interest in everything. Consequently, he lost his job as well. He was one of the best detectives we ever had."

The Looie's story about Wino Willie brought tears to my eyes. Who would ever have thought about old Willie having been a top-notch detective? Wonder what he was doing out there at the lake to meet a suspicious death?

As I sat there, chewing on the sticky bun, I was also chewing on an idea. Yep, that was what I was going to do, all right. I was thinking that some of the other people Willie and I knew in common would have some idea what he had been up to. Old Willie the Wino couldn't keep his mouth shut when he was around his friends. 

"Looie, I sure would like to know how Willie got killed. Could ya jist give me a kind of hint?" I began watching his face as I asked my questions. I knew when I hit on the answer, he would probably shut me off. "Did he get shot? Or maybe strangled? Or did he get stabbed? Say, maybe he got clubbed over the head with a blunt object?"

"Now, AnnaBelle, I told you, I can't divulge that information. If you're thinking about getting involved in this investigation, you can just forget about it. You still have that guard to be concerned about. You are supposed to be keeping a low profile."

I now knew that Willie had probably been clobbered over the head, maybe with part of a tree limb, or some such thing. Had he been doing what I had done that morning...observing the going's on at the kindergarten from across the street? Brrr...kinda made me shudder. 

"Yeah, I know. I promise not to get into any more trouble, Lieutenant. I'll be real careful and not irritate anyboy. Thank you for the sticky bun and coffee. Clancy and I need to be going now; we've taken up enough of your time and I know you've got important things ta do."

The Looie gave me a strange look as if to say, 'what? Going already without sticking around to see what more they find out at the lake?' but he replied, "Okay, AnnaBee, you be careful and stay out of police business. You hear me? I mean it. I don't want to have somebody finding your body laying out somewhere, dead!"

I just smiled sweetly at him and said, "Now, don't you worry none. I'm gonna be jist fine, young man. I'm gonna be fine."

Clancy and I went down the stairs and walking over to the duty desk, I got my cart and out the door we went, after waving goodby to Sergeant Greene. 

We headed downtown to talk to some of Willie's cronies. I just knew they would know something about what he was doing. I could get to them and get answers before the police would. Ha! 

Say, maybe if I looked back every once in awhile, I could spot the policeman that the Looie had assigned to watch me, and I could ditch him. I hadn't been paying enough attention to that little detail. The trouble was, it was now the middle of the day, and there were quite a few people out and about. Well, I'd worry about that later. 

Right now, my mind was on finding some of Willie's friends that he hung out with. Ah! There was Jimmy Jake, standing on the corner, with his hat out, trying to get people to put a dollar or two in it. He had on dark glasses and carried a white tipped cane. I knew he wasn't blind, but the average citizen didn't know it. 

Walking over to Jimmy Jake, I spoke to him and asked if he had seen Willie the Wino lately. (Yeah, I know that would be a dumb question to ask someone who is supposedly blind!)

"Who wants ta know?" he replied, like he didn't know me.  

"I do! I have some information that I bet you'd like ta have, too. I know somethin' about him that is not common knowledge."

"Say! AnnieBee, did he tell you about what he was goin' ta do, too?" 

Wow! I hit paydirt, right off the bat! Jimmy Jake had known all about what Willie had been doing. Now, to get it out of him without him knowing that I didn't know.

"Seems like he was goin' to do some investigatin' around that kindergarten, wasn't he, Jimmy Jake?"

"Yeah, he figgered since he was a'dyin', he'd go out in a blaze of glory, catchin' the people in that drug ring. The story was out on the street, all about that guard that was involved in the dealin' of drugs."

"Ya say, he was dyin'? How come him ta tell ya that?" I wanted to know. 

"Well, I saw him one day a few weeks ago and he was jist comin' outta the free clinic. He'd been hurtin' somethin' fierce in his belly, so he went ta find out. Doc told 'im that he had Cirrhosis of the liver and he didn't have too much longer ta live. Willie figgered it was all the drinkin' he'd done over the years. Old Willie was still mighty smart.

"Then about a week later, he heard some rumbles on the street about drugs and then a few days after that he heard about the kindergarten raid, and decided to investigate. Ya know, he'd once been a really good cop."

"Yeah, I know, Jimmy. Well, here is somethin' ya didn't know; I found his body this mornin', a'floatin' in the lake out across the way from the kindergarten. It looked like he'd been there for several days. Now keep this under yore hat, cause it ain't common knowledge yet. Apparently, somebody saw him sneakin' around and clobbered him, then dumped his body in the lake. I'll bet they were in a hurry and tried ta weight it down, and didn't do a good enough job of it.

"Well, he'd been around askin' questions of people we both know, and some we don't know, and he must of asked the wrong people. Listen, AnnieBee, I know you think you're a detective an' all, but you'd best be careful who you go around a'talkin' to. Sometimes you can get inta trouble a'pokin' your nose inta other people's business. Seems like you nearly got yours a few days ago, didn't cha?"

Now, I didn't like having people like Jimmy Jake telling me to mind my business. It was okay for the Looie, but Jimmy Jake?  Please. You know how Jimmy Jake got his name? He got the Jimmy part from his life's profession of going around jimmying windows open and burgling houses. The Jake part was already his given name "Jacob". Hence Jimmy Jake. 

Well, I bade him goodbye, because I knew I had got from him all the information I was going to get, and I had other people to talk to. Some of Willie's drinking buddies seemed like a good place to start.

Heading for River Street, I knew exactly where to find some of Willie's drinking buddies. They didn't frequent the bars too much; instead, they bought their gin and wine in the many grocery stores that sold it cheaper, and went to the alleyways where they wouldn't be disturbed. They got the cheapest stuff they could find, since they were mostly homeless. The ones that weren't lived in dumps, cause they'd lost their families by drinking, and were living on their social security or welfare. It was a sad way of life for them.

I had Clancy with me for protection; he wouldn't let any one try to hurt me without gnawing their leg off. Of course, he was not a very big dog, but he could do a lot of damage to anyone trying to get to me. I felt quite safe. 

As I walked along these back alleys, I saw lots of bottles and cans, so I picked them up as I went. Clancy saw a stray cat and tried to chase it, but I called him back. It wouldn't do for my protector to be off running after a cat, now would it?  Every once in awhile I saw a homeless person, scratching through the trash in a dumpster and went over to talk to them. None of them seemed to know anything about Willie. 

I was beginning to get hungry because it was past lunch time, along about three in the afternoon, and I wasn't feeling very successful about my search for information. I left the alleyways and headed toward the street; my feet were acknowledging the fact that they had been tramping up and down all over creation and my back was getting tired, too. 

Spotting a greasy spoon diner, I picked up Clancy and put him in my cart, covering him so that only his beady black eyes were showing. Taking my cart back to the rest room, I washed my hands thoroughly and then used the facilities. I then took my little buddy out of the cart and got him a drink of water in my hands. Then I put him back in and washed my hands again. I had picked up a bunch of filthy bottles and cans that afternoon.

We went on back out into the diner, where I chose a spot near the back so that I could watch the people entering. I might yet see some of the people that Willie and I knew in common. 

Ordering a Blue Plate Special from the frowsy waitress, I sat back and rested, waiting for my food. She brought me the cup of coffee that I ordered when I sat down, and I enjoyed the fragrance. These greasy spoons might serve lousy food, but the coffee was always top notch. 

When the waitress brought my food to me, she handed me a folded piece of paper. Hmm. That was curious; why would she be doing that? Looking up at her, I lifted my eyebrows in a questioning gesture. 

"That fellow at the bar over there asked me to give it to you, said you would understand."

Looking over at the bar, I asked, "Which fellow? I don't see anybody."

She turned back to the bar where she had indicated, and replied, "Oh, I guess he must have left right after he gave it to me."

"What did he look like? Can you  describe him to me?"

"Oh, he just looked like a lot of the lowlifes that come in here. I didn't know him. Sorry."

I looked at the paper in my hands and unfolded it. I gulped. This one was a first for me.

Looking down at the unfolded paper, I read it a second time. Yes, the words were the same as I had just read. 

"Nosey people find theirselfs in deep water."

Well, I knew one thing about him. He was uneducated. He could be any one of several ignoramuses wandering around the streets. I reckon maybe he meant business though. that meant I was stepping on somebody's toes. 

Hah! I was hot on the trail of Willie's killers. Willie might have been a drunk, but he was basically a good man, and his death should not go unpunished. 

I sat there and began thinking about the various people i had talked to that day. Which one could it be that had tipped off the writer of the note? Maybe I had actually talked to the note writer. Let me see, now. 

There was Eddie the Moocher who sat on the corner of River Street and Main. He seemed really interested in talking about Willie. He had a lot of questions for me about what had happened at the lake. He seemed to get more from me than i did from him. 

Crazy Hattie (we call her that because she loves to pick fights with people and accuse them of trying to steal her junk) was quite entranced by my questions. She wanted to know why I was at the lake. Of course I couldn't really tell her. 

Hamlet had lots of questions about what I was doing and why. (We call him that because he is always quoting Shakespeare - I think he must have been an English professor in his former life.) He told me that word on the street was that one of Willie's pals had come into a lot of money, but he couldn't tell me any more about it

I realized that it was all tied up with the drug business and 
I knew that very few people living on the streets could afford to buy drugs, except those women who worked at night, plying their trade, and most of their money went to the boss they worked for. Sometimes the bosses were the ones that supplied them with drugs. Maybe those women were the ones I should be talking to. Yeah.

Suddenly, I really wasn't very hungry any more, but I knew I needed to eat something, so I went ahead and ate what I could. It might be a long evening before I go another meal. 

As I ate, I started thinking about all the people I had talked to today. I needed to make some notes while it was all fresh in my mind; maybe as I made the notes, I could make some deductions or come to some conclusions about where the threat to me was coming from. Maybe instead of asking any more questions, I just needed to observe for a while some of the people I had been talking to. Yeah, that's it. Observe.

I had ordered a piece of meat for my meal, but decided Clancy could do it more justice than I could, so I passed it to him as he waited patiently in my cart. He looked at me gratefully, and began to chew on the meat. I could still see his beady little black eyes looking out at me, from under the stuff in my cart. What a wonderful companion he was, never complaining, always happy to be with me, loyal as no person could ever be.

I reached over into the cart and brought out my old purse so I could get my little notebook, and pencil, also I needed to pay for my dinner. Now that my job was over, I would need to really watch my pennies. It was a good feeling to have a little money in the bank, you know, but it wouldn't last long. I always contributed to the box in the Mission when I could. 

Looking at the notebook, I began writing down the names of everybody I had talked to today, and what they had told me. Which of them had passed on my questions and to whom? Perhaps, they had passed them on quite innocently, not knowing the harm they would do. 

This was going to take quite a bit of thinking and also conjecturing about who could be the 'leak' to the drug dealers. Actually, it could be any one of those I had spoken to. Okay, instead of talking to the ladies of  the evening, I would just do some quiet observing.

All I needed was an empty doorway on River Street that wasn't already being used by someone else. The evenings were getting rather cool by now, so I would be using my blanket tonight that I had gotten at the Goodwill place just last week, preparing for the winter. 

It was still early in the day (so to speak), around 5 p.m. and I could still do some questioning of a few more of Willie's friends. I could go into one of the pubs that were scattered along River Street. There was one called "Lucky Lou's" that one of his friends had told me he used to go into once in awhile, because some of the cops still went in there after hours. Now, if I could just go in quietly and unobserved. 

There it was, just down the street from the diner where I had eaten the late dinner. (Down South, we call lunch dinner, and what Yankees call dinner, we call supper). Just letting you know, so you don't get confused.  

Walking slowly down the street, I looked around to see if anyone I had talked to earlier was still there. Actually, I was trying to determine if the fellow who had sent me the threat was anywhere around. Nobody looked suspicious to me, so I just kept strolling along, pulling my cart behind me. I had set Clancy out on the sidewalk with his leash attached and he was trotting along beside me. Bless his little  heart!

Reaching the Lucky Lou's pub, I reached up to get the door, and a man stepped up behind me, and opened the door for me. I turned to look at him, questioningly. It had been awhile since that had happened. I was that surprised when I saw who it was.

"Hello, AnnaBelle Chasteen! Imagine meeting you here, going into a dive like this," Lieutenant Michael Shannon said to me.

"Ulp...oh, hi, Looie. Yeah, imagine that," I gulped out. 

"Well, since we're here, let's go on in and find us a little corner for a chat, okay?"

"Sure, why not?" I was holding onto the cart and Clancy's leash as we entered the Lucky Lou's Pub, like they were lifelines.

The Lieutenant headed for an empty booth in the back of the room, moving along beside me in a protective manner. I had a feeling I was in for it, for sure. 

"Er...ah...I'm not very thirsty, but I guess I could maybe drink a root beer, if we have ta order somethin'," I stammered.

I had begun to recover my wits, and believe me, he had really scattered them, coming up behind me that way. 

The Looie ordered himself a cup of coffee, and a root beer for me. Then he turned to me with a look of chagrin on his tired face. 

"AnnaBee, do you remember how your Billy and I used to go fishing when I could get the time off? You would pack us a lunch and sometimes you would even go with us. But mostly, it was just Billy and me."

"Yes, I remember. He used to say you were like the son we never had, and of course, I agreed with him. We always enjoyed havin' you come over and spend time with us. He always told me he'd trust you with anything he had."

"And he did trust me, Annie. He entrusted your safety to me. How do you think it would make me feel if you came down here in this muck and mire and got yourself killed. You don't normally frequent this part of town; you don't know the vermin that live in this place. Some of them would just as soon hit you over the head as to look at you. You can't keep doing this kind of thing, AnnaBelle. Please, would you just leave the detecting to us?"

Well, when the Looie turned those green eyes on me, and gave me that little sermonette, I felt lower than a snake's belly. I knew he had promised my Billy that he would look after me, and I knew I needed to get out of this part of town. I'd just have to get my answers in a different way, if I could think of a safe one. Should I show him the threatening note I had received a little earlier? Nah, it would just worry him more, bless his heart. 

"Okay, Mike. I promise I'll leave this part of town alone. I wasn't pickin' up much info anyway. I did find out, though, that one of Willie's friends had come inta a bunch of money, but I don't know which one. Listen, I'm goin' ta see Lucy on Friday evenin' and see if maybe I can get her to come out with me for awhile, and have supper with me. Do ya think that'd be okay? Should I kinda ask her a few questions about the school, now that she's been there for a week?"

"That would be okay, I guess, but be careful. Listen, bring her to the Mission for supper and I'll just casually stop by and I can ask her a few innocent questions about how she is getting along and how she likes working there and so on. Okay?"

"Right, Looie. I'm apologizin' right now for puttin' you to so much worry. I promise to stay outta trouble as much as I can, okay? And I'll stay outta this part a' town, too. It does kinda' give me the creeps ta be wanderin' around down here, don't cha know?"

Looking around, I noticed a fellow over at the bar giving us a little more attention than I thought we deserved. He saw me observing him, and quickly turned his head to look at his watch, and as though remembering an appointment he had to keep, he got up and threw some money on the bar, and left. 

That fellow was quite dirty looking, with a scruffy beard, and wearing old jeans, topped by a hooded jacket like these hip-hop singers wear. He had a do-rag wrapped around his head. Could that be the fellow who had sent me the threat?

"Say, Mike, Did you happen to notice that fellow that was sittin' over there at the bar that had a yellow do-rag wrapped around his head? He sure was watchin' us like he was interested in what we were doin' in here."

"Yeah, I saw him watching us, AnnaBee. Have you seen him any time earlier today, by any chance? He is a known felon, and suspected drug dealer. Guys like him are one of the reasons that you shouldn't be in this part of town, especially given the questions you have been tossing about today."

I felt my face turn several shades of grey, as I sat there thinking about the threatening note. 

"Okay, Annie, tell me what has happened to you. What were you just thinking about? You're looking kind of sick, all of a sudden. Did you eat something that didn't agree with you while ago at that greasy spoon?"

"Uh... yeah...that could be it...yeah, yeah. I think maybe we need to leave, so I can get back to the Mission and rest. Maybe I could sit in Pastor Joe's office and rest a while." Come on, Clancy. Let's go, little buddy."

I grabbed my cart and Clancy's leash and stood up while the  Lieutenant left some money on the booth table for the waitress. As we passed the bar, the bartender called me over and handed me a piece of paper. 

Uh oh! Another threatening note? 

"What was that he gave you?" questioned the Looie. "Let me see that, please!"

Reluctantly, I handed it over to him. Opening it gently, he unfolded it carefully. 

"Been swiming latly? Rember, I told ya. It kin be dedly." he read aloud. "What is this, AnnaBelle? What is it? What does it mean?" 

I looked at it as he held it out, but not letting me touch it again, I replied, "Well, for one thing, it means he can't spell fer beans. Another thing, it is the mate to another note I got while I was in the greasy spoon diner. I reckon maybe I am steppin' on somebody's toes."

"Oh, and you weren't going to tell me about the other note, I suppose? Where is it? At least I can have them both fingerprinted. Maybe the fingerprints are in the system."

I handed the other note over to him and he put them both in a a little plastic bag, then into his pocket. 

"Let's get out of here; we're drawing attention that we don't need," stated the Lieutenant. "My car is over here across the street. You and Clancy get in, please, and I'll put your cart in beside you. We need to take a little trip down to the station house." what?  Was I going to be put under the bright lights and given the third degree?
When we got to the station, the Looie helped me out of the car and we walked up the steps and into the building. 

The sergeant at the desk, observing our progress, quipped, "Oh, oh...Lieutenant, are you bringing in Public Enemy No. One? Has she been out running over old people with her cart?

"Yeah, I gotta take her back here and give her a going over with a rubber hose and put her under the bright lights. She's been giving me all kinds of back talk," the Looie joked. 

At least, I hoped he was joking. Nah, I knew he was, actually.

We made our way back to what I knew was the "booking section" of the station house. I had been in and out of this place enough to know something about the way it was set up. 

Lt. Mike Shannon took me back to a desk and took out a black ink pad, with orders to me to give him my hand, which I did. He then proceeded to take my fingerprints. "Now, you go clean your hands, Nancy Drew, and then come back in here. We have some more talking to do."

Hmmm. Maybe he was going to shine the "third degree" lights on me. Did they even do that any more? 

While I was in the restroom, I used the facilities, and then washed my hands. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I noticed that I was looking a little grungy and fluffed my hair with my fingers, and washed my face with some paper towels. 

When I got back to the booking area, Mike took me to one of the rooms that had the two way mirror. Oh NO! I was in an interview room and he was going to question me! Was he going to book me, too? 

"Can I bring Clancy back here with me? He gets nervous when he's not with me."

"Okay, sure. Here, boy, stay with AnnaBelle." He whistled for Clancy to come in.
He indicated one of the chairs at the table and then placed a tablet and pen in front of me. He was going to take my statement? I couldn't believe it! I was being interviewed like a common criminal! Then what? 

"Okay, start talking, Ms. AnnaBelle Chasteen." He turned on a small tape recorder and said, "For the record, please state your name, then tell me everything that has happened today. Please don't leave anything out of your statement."

I started talking, and told him everything I had done that day, and tried not to leave anything out. Was he going to arrest me for interfering in police business? What was going to happen to me?