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Walk About, Chapter Thirteen


Darlene Franklin-Campbell's new novel, Walk About, is being posted online chapter-by-chapter, for people to read for free. Previous Chapter: Walk About, Chapter Twelve, or start at the beginning: Walk About: Chapter One.

Chapter Thirteen

By Darlene Franklin-Campbell

"Jennie, are there any stores in this town that sell evening gowns or cocktail dresses?" Pinky asked as she set her morning coffee back on the table. It was already her second cup as she had taken her first one in her room where she had been combing through the morning paper again.

Jennie deposited a plate of homemade biscuits in front of her, "Oh goodness me. There is one on Main Street. But I've never been in there. The prices are so expensive. Only people that ever shop there are kids getting ready for prom or some of Mr. Filmont's family. When I need something nice, I always just go to the rag pools," Jennie said. "Then I bring things home and alter them to fit me. You should see the outfit I altered last year and wore to the church's Fancy Night Christmas party. It was shiny red with little sequins shaped like light bulbs all over it."

"Rag pools?" Ace asked.


"Yes, that's where you go to the community center and a truck brings in big bundles of clothes. Then they throw them on the floor and you kind of have to just dive in and try to get the good stuff before someone else does."

"Sounds violent," Pinky said.

"You mean like dumpster diving for clothes?" Ace asked.

"Well, sort of, except the clothes aren't nasty and there's no garbage. They just dump an enormous amount of clothes out on the floor, and you can get stuff for like a dollar. I got a genuine imitation rabbit fur coat last month. I mean it's not real fur but it's a name brand and well, it looks like they killed a hundred rabbits to make it but not a one really died."

"How about really nice clothes?" Rosie asked.

"Oh sure," Jennie said. "You just have to spray them with water and hang them up for a while so the wrinkles fall out and you might have to take some tape and get all the lint off them." Her eyes lit up. "Hey, I just remembered. They're having the next rag pool tomorrow at the old candy factory. You girls can all go with me if you want."

Pinky cleared her throat, "Um...Well, I...."

"Do they have hats?" Clyde blurted. "I want a new hat."

"Sometimes they do," Jennie said.

"Then I'll go," Clyde said. "Do they still have c--candy in the factory?"

Her sisters glared at her.

"Well, not really. It's where the Women's Club meets every fourth Thursday except when it lands on the Quilt Club's bingo night. They do still have the gum ball machines though."

Clyde grinned as she spread butter on her biscuit.

"Where's that guy, John?" Rosie asked, changing the subject.

"Oh, he rarely takes breakfast downstairs," Jennie said. "He'll run down here in a little while and carry a ham biscuit and a cup of black coffee back up to his room. That young man must be a scholar. He studies all the time. He drinks a lot of coffee but he hardly ever really eats."

"Studies?" Pinky asked.

"Yes, I suppose that's what he does. He spends a lot of time in his room or sitting at the dining room table, writing and figuring."

After breakfast Jennie gathered the dishes to wash.

"Do you need any help?" Rosie asked.

"Oh, lawsy no," Jennie said. "You girls paid for a bed and breakfast and that's what I'm giving you. This here's my job and I take a lot of pride in it."

Pinky motioned for her sisters, and they went out to the stone picnic table.

"Okay, here's the plan," she began, "Ace, you and I are going to that gala I told you about so we need to look...."

"Hey, what about me and Clyde?" Rosie interrupted.

"You are going in as servers," Pinky said.

"A server?" Rosie squawked. "I'm the one that was married to a rich man so why do YOU two get to go in looking beautiful?"

"You were married to a Boss Hogg," Pinky snapped.

"And this is more like a Thurston Howell the third," Ace said.

"They're W.A.S.P.s" Pinky said.

"In...insects?" Clyde asked.

"Well traveled, highly educated," Pinky said. "Ace has been to finishing school, and I have traveled abroad and am a polyglot."

"A lie detector?" Rosie asked.

"That means she speaks many languages," Ace said.

"Let's focus here," Pinky said. "We need to drive by the Filmont estate, get a look of the land, the layout, the house. Find out all the ways to get onto that property. Then, Ace and Rosie, you need to go window shopping.

"Obviously, we are not getting evening gowns at a rag pool, and they are expensive. Ace, Rosie, you two go into town this morning and look at the prices of the gowns in that store.

"Drop Clyde and I off at the public library. I need to read everything Mr. Filmont has published on his company and anything else I can find out about him, all the little details. Clyde is going to locate maps, maybe walk around the town, study the layout of it, discover back streets, alley ways, electrical relays or whatever else she needs to know. We need to know exactly what we're dealing with here.

"After you drop us off at the library, come on back here and Ace, talk to Jennie, find out who knows who and what connections we need to get Clyde into that mansion before the gala. I'll call from the library when I'm ready for you to pick us up again. Now, let's get cracking."

"What about me?" Rosie said. "What else can I do?"

Pinky, bit her lip. What else did she need Rosie to do today? Just then she saw a shadow pass the kitchen window. "When you get back from town, hang around here, and keep your eyes on Jennie and John."

"Huh?" Rosie said. "You mean spy on them?"

"Yes, and at the first indication that either of them recognizes us or is suspicious of us then...."

"We kill em?!" Rosie gasped.

"Oh, good grief," Ace moaned.

"No, we don't kill them," Pinky snapped. "We just leave."

"Oh, I see." She looked toward the kitchen. "So my assignment is to stalk that man?" She grinned. "I think I can handle that."

"And for God's sake, be discreet," Pinky said.

"My job. My way," Rosie said. "I'm always discreet."

***

"Can you believe that?" Jennie asked as she switched off the television set. "What's the world coming to?"

Ace felt a twinge of uneasiness as she squirmed a bit on Jennie's vinyl sofa. Pinky and Clyde were still in town.

Rosie was in the dining room, looking through a catalog.

"I mean doesn't that just send chills down your spine?" Jennie said.

The news had been talking about a woman who had poisoned her husband and sealed him up in a basement wall. The event had happened in the late 1960s and the case had gone cold, but upon the woman's death a young couple had purchased the house from the bank and decided to renovate. That's when they found the late widow's missing husband in the wall.

"The world's full of crazy people," Ace said.

Jennie stood in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. "Well, I guess we have to pray for people. You know, we have to be the light in this world. Still, I don't understand how a woman's heart can be so dark as to kill her husband."

"Maybe she wasn't mean. Maybe she was just stupid, one cue ball short of a game."

"Yeah, but to hide him in a wall," Jennie said.

"People get real creative sometimes when they're afraid of getting into trouble," Ace said.

Jennie shook her head, "This world is just full of lost people. Well, Ana Maria, I'm getting ready to go to my Wednesday afternoon ladies' prayer meeting. Would you like to go? It's a real friendly little group."

"I might enjoy that," inside she cringed at spending the afternoon with a bunch of sweet, little old ladies, but that was her assignment. Find out who was who in the town and who knew what. "Who all attends if you don't mind my asking?"

"Oh, a few of us older women in the town. I'm sure you wouldn't know any of them not being from here and all but let's see, there's Mrs. Jenkins, and Edith Peabody, Stacey Grogkin and oh, Mildred Filmont. Her son's that bizillionare I told you about this morning, but Mrs. Mildred's great-great-grandpa built had that church built himself and so there's been a descendant on the board ever since. Now she was a Miller before she married. Yep, Mildred Mae Miller. My granny told me that she was a corker back in the day, but I reckon she tamed down a might after she got older and her daughter up and married into them rich Filmonts...Oh, Sweetie, I'm boring you. I'm so sorry."

"No, that's okay," Ace said. "What time are you leaving?"

"Oh, here in about fifteen minutes. Soon as I can do something with this spooky head of hair."

As Jennie left the room to go tame her hair, Ace got up and changed the channel. John walked into the room at that moment. She studied him as he meandered in the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee.

She was getting vibes off him, but not jerk vibes. Still, they weren't good vibes, either. Today he wore jeans and an untucked button-up shirt with his sleeves pushed up to the elbows. His hair was tussled, and he had a five o'clock shadow. He was consumed with something. She sensed that strongly, but what? Not a woman. He didn't have that forlorn love lost look that she had seen so many times. No, he was the driven type. He had that air about him. There was something sharp about him, an intelligence. He had not spoken a dozen words since they had first met him and when he did speak it was polite and to the point.

Rosie came into the kitchen. She went to the coffee pot, "Oh, I see you drink coffee in the late afternoon. I do that, too. All the time." She poured herself a cup. "Oh, and I drink mine black, too, just like you. Well, what do you know?"

He gave her a quick half-smile. He studied her a minute then turned to go. Ace observed. So, he thought Rosie was pretty, but he wasn't interested in her. Was it because he was married? He wasn't wearing a ring if he was. Was it because he was gay? No. She just knew he wasn't. She watched his body language. It wasn't Rosie. It was him. He wasn't about to get involved with anyone because whatever had brought him to Jennie's did so because, like them, he was trying to fly below the radar. He was running, too. Ace wondered what he had done.

After he left the room she said, "Rosie, remember what Pinky said. Be discreet."

"I am," Rosie said.

"No, I mean it. There's something off about that guy. So, just be careful."

"You mean besides the fact that he's so cute?"

"Yes, he's hiding something."

"Well," Rosie shrugged. "So are we."

"I don't trust him," Ace said.

"Is your jerk meter going off? You don't have to tell me anything about men," Rosie said. "I know what men like and...."

"That's not the point!" Ace snapped. "The point is that there is something dangerous about that guy."

"Maybe that's why I'm attracted to him," Rosie said. "Maybe I like good-looking dangerous men, like James Bond."

Ace rolled her eyes. "You're attracted to him because he's wearing a two-hundred-dollar watch and he looks like MacGyver with glasses."

"Well, that's true," Rosie said. "He has on high quality jeans and tennis shoes, too. You know how I feel about shoes and clothes."

"Just remember," Ace said. "You're only supposed to keep your eyes on him, nothing else. I have to go to a prayer thingie with Jennie, so behave yourself while I'm gone."

"Don't worry," Rosie said. "I'm a regular Mata Hari."


Darlene Franklin-Campbell, an Adair County native, holds an M.A. from Lindsey Wilson College but has also done post-graduate work in storytelling and literacy at Western Kentucky University and is an alumnus of Campbellsville University. She is a member of the Elizabeth Maddox Roberts Society, the Adair County Arts Council, The Adair County Genealogical Society, The Green County Genealogical Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the Mysterium Society (an IQ society for linguists). She has attended the Appalachian Writers Workshop, WisCOn, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. She currently teaches Art at the Adair County Primary Center. You may visit her webpage at https://www.dardet.com or her writer's blog at https://whisperingwind.blog to check out more of her work.


This story was posted on 2022-03-08 08:48:48
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