Climate Change: A Nina Bannister Mystery (The Nina Bannister Mysteries Book 7) (5 page)

BOOK: Climate Change: A Nina Bannister Mystery (The Nina Bannister Mysteries Book 7)
3.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Will God tell us when we get to Heaven?

Here is who killed Kennedy, and here is what really happened at Candles in that late afternoon in August.

These things Nina found herself wondering.

Until finally Mildred said:

“We was about to walk out. And the phone rang.”

“Aha!” said Margot.

‘Aha’ mused Nina.

“I picked it up.”

“And then you put it to your ear and then you put it closer to your ear and then you said hello and then you waited a second and then…”

I’m going crazy
, she thought.

“And who was it,” asked Margot, “who was calling?”

“That man from Chicago.”

“What man?”

“The man who does the bookings.”

“Ah! Amidon Phillips!”

“That’s him! He said he’d been trying to contact you but––”

“Go on, Mildred. What did he want?”

“He was real excited. Said he had great news. Great for The Candles. Lot of money involved.”

“Okay, and this is bad why?”

“He said we needed to get in touch with you quick because they was coming day after tomorrow. Only that’s tomorrow now, because the rest of that night and all day today we’ve been trying to call you but––”

“All right, so what is this thing that was supposed to be great for Candles?”

“They booked a group in, Ms. Gavin.”

“A group?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“But you were supposed to have a few days free. This was everybody’s vacation!”

“I know, Ma’am. We was all expecting it. Was ready to go into town. But the phone rang and––”

“All right, all right. He booked a last minute group in. I’m sorry about that, Mildred. I wish I could have talked to him and tried to talk him out of it. But it’s a group and they’ll pay money and we’ll have bonuses to pay all of you. Surely it can’t be so bad.”

“It’s not that, Ms. Gavin. You know we don’t mind workin.’ Even at short notice. We never let you down, not that I can recall. You need a meal fixed, we come out and fix it. Something breaks, we fix it.”

“I know, you’ve all been wonderful, and Candles is lucky to have you. So I don’t see why this particular group should––”

“You told us they wouldn’t never come again. Never. Not after that last bunch in June.”

“But I don’t––”

Margot stopped in mid-sentence, as though her mouth had been clogged.

“Oh God,” she whispered. “Mid-June. You don’t mean––”

The woman across the table from her nodded, the machinery which was her physical being screeching and moaning softly as though in need of oil.

“Yes, Ma’am. It’s writers.”

“Oh, no. Oh, no.”

“You told us it would never happen again, Ms. Gavin.”

“But, I––Amidon––how could he––”

“A lot of us wanted to quit after that last bunch. We could take the painters and the actors and the singers and the fiddle players and all those others out of Chicago and New York City. They wasn’t so bad. They made funeral music all the time and got paint on the curtains and tried to make little jokes that nobody could understand––but not everybody has a proper upbringing, and parents to teach them about the real world. So we could understand them and not let ‘em worry us too much.”

“I know.”

“But them writers––”

“Mildred, I––”

At this moment, a young and haggard-looking once-blonde, now dirty straw-blond girl stuck her head in the kitchen door and, having apparently overheard part of the conversation, half shouted:

“We’re still trying to get those scrambled eggs out of the carpets!”

A teen-aged boy stuck his head over her shoulder:

“The dog ain’t really right yet! I don’t know what they did to Borg!”

Mildred attempted to shoo the two away:

“Go on about packing up, you two.”

“Tell her we’re through! Tell her we won’t––”

“I’m telling her! I’m telling her!”

The kitchen door closed.

Mildred continued, quietly, as though reciting a dirge:

“Them people—you see them just walking along, not talking with each other like real people would but—seeing things in the air, making little waving motions, muttering to themselves––”

“Well, Mildred, they’re writing things, they’re making things up.”

“What are they seeing, Ms. Gavin? Who they talking to?”

“No one knows that except for other writers, Mildred. And, of course, they aren’t really mentally stable people to begin with––”

“Yes, Ms. Gavin.”

“So it’s best to leave them alone.”

“Then why they coming here? Why they all want to get together?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know, Mildred.”

“Why can’t they leave folks alone?”

“I don’t know that either.”

“I called the police, you know.”

“The police?”

“Yes, Ma’am. Soon as I knew they was coming. Officer Thompson—you remember James Thompson—he said, after last time, that we ought to never have a bunch like that out here again, and to let him know as soon as possible if one was coming.”

“So what did he say?”

“Oh, he was real mad. He said to keep them out of town.”

“Can he send any people out here to Candles?”

“Oh, no, Ms. Gavin. He said we was on our own. He said two of his people from last time still wasn’t the same. And that woman officer is teaching school now.”

“I’m so sorry about what happened to her.”

“And Ben—Ben still can’t figure any of it out. How they got that big wagon into the upstairs bathroom––”

“Well, it was hot and––”

“You know the County Board of Health says we still can’t use that room down in the basement.”

“You haven’t told them, have you?”

“Oh, no, Ma’am!”

“Thank God!”

Nina saw a shape in the doorway.

It was Ben, the scarecrow, gesturing for Margot.

“Excuse me, Mildred. I have to talk to Ben.”

“You do what you have do, Ms. Gavin.”

Margot rose and walked toward the door, then through it and out onto the porch.

Nina followed, not wanting to be left alone with Mildred, and thus in danger of hearing again that all of them had attempted to contact Margot, but had been unable to.

She was, she realized, probably never again going to forget those lines.

Once on the porch she saw Ben move closer to Margot and whispered:

“They coming again, aren’t they?”

“Yes, it appears so.”

“All right then. I done the best I could for you, Ma’am. You know there wasn’t much time. We only found out about this yesterday. But I done the best I could for you.”

“In what way? What are you talking about?”

“I used all my contacts. Two guys I know in Pottersville, and one in Crossland. But in only a day and a half––”

“I still don’t understand––”

“About thirty pounds, I was able to round up and have shipped out here.”

“Thirty pounds?”

“Pot, Ms. Gavin. Weed. We put it all in that big trunk up in the attic. The one with the Rebel flag painted on it.”

“There’s thirty pounds of marijuana in the attic?”

“All I could get my hands on, given the short notice. It might get you through tomorrow night, but after that––I don’t know what you’re going to do.”

“I’d forgotten––”

“Yes, Ma’am. Last time we had sixty on hand but when that ran out––well, that was when they started going after the dog.”

“I remember now.”

“He was a good dog, too. Just kind of lumbers around now.”

“I know. I know.”

“Well, anyway. I done the best I could. We all gotta go now. They not supposed to show up until tomorrow but––well, ain’t none of us want to be here if they arrive early. Not be here after sundown. Not with that bunch.”

And it was true. The sun was a sliver of peach above a hazy, wood-shrouded horizon. The five workers who were still within the grounds of Candles could not seem to take their eyes off it. Every action, every bit of packing, of locking, of hiding away, of whispering encouragement and support—seemed to be timed so as to fill the two cars and leave before those last rays of sun were exhausted.

Until finally they were in the cars, Ben driving one, Mildred the other.

It was she who leaned out the window and shouted above the chugging motor:

“I’m sorry to leave you here like this, Ms. Gavin. But I have children. We all, all of us, are part of families.”

“I know. I know.”

“I want you to have this though––”

She was leaning out still farther, and offering something silver and shining to Margot.

Finally, Nina could see that it was a cross.

Margot took it, squeezed it, and put in into her purse.

“God be with you. God be with both of you.”

And then the cars drove away.

And then the sun set.

And then the two of them were alone.

Waiting for writers.

“Well,” said Nina after a time, “what do we do now?”

Margot thought for a time, then rose.

“Come on.”

“Where to?”

“We talk to Amidon. And find out what’s really going on.”

“How do we do that, Margot?”

“We Skype with him.”

“You can barely remember to keep your cell phone powered. Do you really knowhow to Skype?”

“Yes. Had to in the museum job. And now, even out here, both Amidon and Goldmann working together have put together an impressive display of technology in the music room. Come on. You’ll see.”

Nina followed, up one flight of stairs, around a corner, down a corridor, and then another.

Finally, Margot opened a door.

BOOK: Climate Change: A Nina Bannister Mystery (The Nina Bannister Mysteries Book 7)
3.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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