Table of Contents
Also by Ann B. Ross
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding
Miss Julia Takes Over
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in 2003 by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Copyright © Ann B. Ross, 2003
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Ross, Ann B.
Miss Julia hits the road / Ann B. Ross. p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-11834-4
1. Springer, Julia (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Women—North Carolina—Fiction. 3. North Carolina—Fiction. 4. Widows—Fiction. I. Title.
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I am grateful to a number of people who took pity on my ignorance by answering my questions with both patience and enthusiasm. Some answered a specific question; others instructed me in long, but highly entertaining, monologues. A motorcycle enthusiast is truly that. Here they are, with my thanks: Greg Rummans, Cathy and Steve Gospodinoff, Tim Sitton, Diane Ludden, and Dennis Dunlap.
I occasionally needed help in other areas of expertise so, for being willing and available, I thank Delin Cormeny, Jon Blatt, and John Ross.
My thanks, also, to Pamela Dorman for her dandy idea, and to Susan Hans O’Connor for always calling back with the answers.
Finally, I want to thank the woman, whose name I can’t recall, from whom I first heard about Poker Runs. That mention during a casual conversation gave me the idea for this book.
For Pamela Dorman
Susan Hans O ’Connor
They don’t come any better.
Pushing through the swinging door from the dining room, I started talking before I got into the kitchen good. “Lillian, I need to ask you something, and I want a serious answer. What in the world is wrong with Sam Murdoch?”
She turned away from the sink and squinched her eyes at me. “They’s not one thing wrong with Mr. Sam. An’ what I think, Miss Julia, is you ought not be pickin’ on him.”
“Well, he’s acting strange, if you ask me.”
She turned back to the sink, mumbling about not having heard anybody ask anybody. Lillian was bad to mumble under her breath whenever she disagreed with somebody, namely me. I didn’t mind, though, since I’d been known to do a little mumbling myself on occasion. She’d been taking care of my house, my meals, and me for so long now that we pretty much knew what the other was thinking, whether we spoke up or not. And I knew she never liked hearing anything against Sam, which was why I hadn’t brought up my concern about him before now.
“Lillian, please,” I said, “Would you just come sit down and help me with this?”
“If you want these green beans for supper, you better let me finish stringin’ ’em.”
“For goodness sakes, you can do it easier sitting down. Bring them over here and let me help you.
“Maybe the first thing I ought to do,” I went on, as she brought the plastic bag of beans and the bowl of snapped ones to the table, “is ask what’s wrong with you. I declare, Lillian, neither you nor Sam have been yourselves lately.”
“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout Mr. Sam,” she said, busying herself with spreading the morning’s newspaper on the table. “He actin’ like he always do, far’s I can tell.”
“No, he’s not. You just don’t know the half of it.” I took a handful of beans and began stringing them on the newspaper. “He’s been sending flowers, for one thing. Well, you’ve seen them. They’re all over the house.”
“That’s ’cause he know you sad an’ lonesome with Miss Hazel Marie and Little Lloyd gone to live with that Mr. Pickens. He know you miss ’em, an’ he tryin’ to cheer you up.”
“That’s probably true.” I nodded in agreement. “But
potted plant would’ve been a gracious plenty for any cheering up he wanted to do.” I dropped snapped pieces into the bowl and reached for another handful of beans. “About the time one arrangement begins to wilt, here come two more. And the notes, Lillian, you just haven’t seen those notes.”
“No’m, ’cause you won’t let me.”
“No, and I’m not going to. Or anybody else, for that matter. Embarrassing is what they are.”
Lillian cut her eyes at me, then laughed in the old way, her gold tooth shining. It struck me that she’d done precious little laughing since Hazel Marie and Little Lloyd had packed most of their belongings and moved in with Mr. J. D. Pickens. Just to see if it’d work out, Hazel Marie’d said. Mr. Pickens was that private investigator I’d once hired, who set about winning Hazel Marie’s heart without one word being said about making the situation legal. Except by me, who’d had plenty to say on the subject. Believe me, I won’t ever employ a handsome man with a roving eye and an aversion to matrimony again.
“What them notes say?” Lillian asked. She got up to turn down the heat under the pot where she’d put a chunk of streak-of-lean on to boil.
“Never mind what they said. But you’d be worried about him, too, if you knew.” I took a trembling breath, recalling some of the poetic passages that had accompanied the flowers, all in Sam’s handwriting. “Then, Lillian, he calls me every day, just wanting to talk, he says. Now, you know how I hate talking on the telephone when nobody has anything to say. At all hours, too, as if some people aren’t already in bed or busy with important matters.” I stopped, then went on to tell it all. “And another thing. He drops by to see me without a by-your-leave or anything, just shows up right out of the blue. To see how I’m doing, he says. You’ve noticed that, Lillian, don’t tell me you haven’t.”