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            The  weekly flea market which used the cities fair ground was filled with vendors that Saturday morning in March. Every nook and cranny of space was being used by them to the max. Each one of the vendors were selling what they had in order to make a dollar as it appeared the foot traffic was in a spending mood. Being a warm spring day had brought the people out of their houses. It was nice to see so many without their winter coats.

            The added plus was that a group of the area’s farmers and small businesspersons were selling items they either grew or manufactured to sell. Homemade soaps, fresh bakery items, honey, maple syrup, and herbs were just a few of the available products on hand for the prospective customers. Some of the early spring vegetables were starting to show up to the customers delight.

            If I had not been here for a purpose, I would have picked up some of the fresh cheese and garlic bread, a banana loaf, and a peach cobbler from the Amish ladies who were dressed in their usual attire. Their products had the reputation of being top notch. As a result, they were usually sold out of some items if you did not get here early.

            The flea market ran every weekend from the first of March until then end of June. Then would reopen after Labor Day when the dog days of summer had begun to wind down and go through the end of November.

            The heat of the summer had caused a lot of tourists money they could not afford when the frying of an egg on the road stunt was pulled on them. The only other time it was closed down was when the Semo fall fair was running.

            I was here for another reason. I was on the hunt. I work as an investigator for the State’s Attorney General’s office out of Jefferson City. My area of coverage includes this region, so we had set up my regional office in the Cape Giradeau police department.

            We were working on a tip that stolen antiques were being sold in our area by an multi layered interstate organized crime ring that focused on antique furniture. It had come from the Attorney General’s office in Tennessee.

            In crosschecking with representatives from the two other states involved we had learned the crime ring would steal items from the upper class in one state then sell the items as antiques in the other two a couple of months later because they knew those looking for them had moved on to other things. Until recently we had nothing with a serious way of identifying something easily. About three months ago a break in had netted them something we could trace.

            Today I was dressed as an older gentleman worn down by time and life. I was hunched over and walked as if I could not straighten up. It clearly looked by my appearance that the years of life had taken its toll on me. The makeup and molded body parts I wore accented my image making me appear that my age and time had physically broken my body down.

            My old worn and faded hat contained a small video camera that could record everything. No one would be able to see my real age as the facial actors makeup I had applied hid any traces of what I looked like. Tight skin like gloves covered my hands which would have been a sure give away.

            I used a weird-looking homemade thing with four wheels on it as a walking aid which appeared to have an oxygen tank on it with a breathing line leading up to my nose. It actually carried the pieces I need to convert it into something that could be used to transport objects in.

            I was looking for three Hungarian carousels made in the late eighteen hundred stolen from a well-known former country star out of Nashville. Two of my favorite songs of his called eight by ten and still had been two of my father’s favorites as I was growing up.

            I deliberately walked slowly to enhance my image while pushing the aid in front of me. The running shoes I had on needed the laces tied up because they appeared to be untightened. The way I walked made it appear that I was having a hard time keeping my balance. I was one row over from the food vendors which ran down the middle of the grounds when I saw them.

            At the moment there were two very well dressed nice looking ladies inspecting them very closely. Both were dressed in a style and class that was well above the normal attendees. It was clear to see that from the vender's point of view, they had the appearance of having a lot of money.

            No doubt the vendor was going to try to milk these ladies for as much money as he could. Looking over the area they were in I noticed the six vans with out of state plates, parked around the cab with a twenty two foot container trailer behind it. It led me to believe that the tip had been right. I turned on the hidden video cam and made sure that it caught all the Tennessee plates.

            One of the females was a few years older than the other. Both were quite good looking. I could tell from their appearance that they seemed to be related because both seemed to have  style, grace, and mannerisms that showed their closeness in relationship.

            I moved in closer wanting to hear what the older one of the two was discussing while trying to talk the vendor into bringing his asking price down. She spoke like she had knowledge about the items she was bargaining for. I knew I had to find a way to make it appear that she did not.

            The older female a redhead had a nice shape to her curved frame, was dressed in black dress slacks, wearing two inch heels, with a soft yellow sweater that covered the upper body part of her body. I could see the outline of her cleavage, which implied she carried plenty. What caught my attention was the fact that she wore truly little make up because she apparently didn’t need it.

            The other female was more like the younger generation dressed in a top that exposed the ripeness of her female breasts. I mentally asked myself if she was dressed that way in order to draw attention. To me she had dressed a bit extreme and lacked tact and modesty. She had yet to learn that leaving a little hidden left a lot for a man’s imagination. It implied that she was not yet comfortable in who and what she saw in the mirror and was still experimenting in finding her image.

            I slowly knelt down as if time had made it a chore for me to get down and back up again to inspect them as my camera continued to record. I lifted the first one up on an angle to see if I could find a serial number. My camera captured it. I repeated the process on all three. I smiled. It was a gold mine. I had found what I was looking for.

            I had a serial number that matched.

            The original owner had put a small plate on the bottom of them with an identifying number. Now I had to find a way to buy them. I began to tap on them to make it appear that I was listening to the sound it made while holding a tin box that I pressed down and released. It created the sound that I wanted and implied that the bottoms were made of cheap metal. By the look in the vendor face I knew I had captured his interest.

            The older lady wasn’t happy with my interruption because the vendor wasn’t willing to negotiate any further on the price because it appeared to him that he had another person interested.

            Finally, she said, “I give up, let’s go Tina,” as she started to walk away.

            I mumbled in a slow broken English. “Good thing you did because these are not real but cheap Russian imitations made in the nineteen-thirties.”

            “How do you know that” the one named Tina asked?

            That was when it came to me. I could use the owners identification number to my advantage, so I replied, “The Russians put serial numbers on their imitation of the originals and since we can’t prove they work I would only by them as salvage for parts,”

            The vendor's face went white so did the lady’s face who was trying to buy just one.

            “To find out if the ivory looking horses are real you would have to disassemble it and put back together again. The sound echoing from the bottom implies a thin section of wood has been glue to a section of tin.”

            “So, what would you be willing to buy them all for,” the vendor asked?

            I mumbled, “at the most a hundred bucks. If you bought them for more than that they must have seen, you coming.”

            I watched him take his cellphone out of his side pocket. I knew that I had created some doubt about them which was what I wanted. After tying my shoelaces, I slowly began pretending to struggle to get back up to a standing postion. The older lady came over and offered her support as I used the walker to help to pull myself up.

            After making a quick phone call that became quite heated, he said, “If you can take them with you, sold. We can’t afford to have imitations questioning the quality of the rest of our products.”

            I paid the man with five twenty-dollar bills which I did slowly so that I didn’t give myself away . Making sure I caught his face in the camera as I counted them out to him. Less than five minutes later my weird walker was dismantled and reset. It was now a long cart with four wheels.

            The three, two-foot-high, three feet wide wooden carousels with horses made of ivory  were now strapped down and were being gently pulled by me. I was being very careful as I did not want to damage the glass, they were encased in. Even though there had been a lot of damage done to them caused by transportation I knew they could be restored because the ivory looked tired but had not been touched. I had shut my video camera off by using an app on my cell.

            I deliberately cut between the vendors to get into the food section as I headed back towards my truck. What I came looking for had been found. The vendor and I would be meeting again later that day. The heat of the day was getting to me as underneath the body molds I was beginning to sweat.

            I was now walking faster than I had before because of the amount of people surrounding me hid me among the crowd. I was looking forward to getting out of my disguise and getting into my everyday clothing. That was when the same two ladies who had watched me purchase them started to approach me. I quickly turned the cam back on.

            The older lady was a natural redhead whose curls in her shoulder length was being twisted and turned by the mid-morning breeze. Her look and build reminded me of the actress Maureen O’Hare who had starred with John Wayne in the movie McLintock. With those sparkling blue eyes, vibrate smile and the determination to match I knew she was going to be a handful.

            Just by watching that movie on reruns I knew how I would have to handle her if the impression she was giving me was right. If she acted the way that Maureen had in the movie McLintock I would have my hands full. My gut was telling me that she would, so I would have to act towards her the same as John Wayne did. I would have to stand my ground.

            “You are a crook and I’m calling the cops!” she said rather loudly as she came to a stop directly in front of me. Those nearby came to a complete stop. The last thing I needed was this idiot drawing attention to me that I did not want.

            I mumbled, “Get lost lady” and continued walking at a slower pace because I wanted to make it appear to those who may be watching that she was harassing an old worn down man.

            She grabbed my arm trying to keep hold of me. I pulled it loose and stepped to the side of her in an attempt to get by her. I could see her temper rising as she swung her right arm at me. Those watching us could hear how hard it landed on the side of my face.

            “Calm down young lady. You have no idea what you're getting yourself into,” I mumbled to her while trying not to react.

            She started to swing again, so I straightened myself up until I was completely upright. It threw her for a loop which caused her to lose her balance and fall into me. I learned that I was about two inches taller than her in her heels.

            “It’s been a long time since a youngling as soft as yourself threw herself at me. Thank you for giving me that thrill again,” I mumbled while laughing. “But if you were trying to make an old man, feel young again it didn’t work.”

            My smart assed remark seemed to inflame her anger more.

            Her next swing landed on my left cheek.

            “That’s three, don’t do it again,” I mumbled with a stern voice.

            I pushed past her and moved on. A few more minutes and I was at my truck which was a small cargo van with a raised back. The same type that the delivery services used. That Lady was persistent and just would not give up. She was still right beside me like a dog who had found a bone. I had reached the point that I had enough of her ongoing interference.

            “I’m calling nine one one,” she said, “there never were carousels made in Russia. I know I just Googled it.”

            I could not argue that point because I knew the lady was right. I just needed the vendor to believe that so I could purchase them as cheap as possible.

            “No call _ ___ ___ ____ and ask for Beth and put the speaker on,” I mumbled and said, “and explain the situation to her.”

            I opened the back of the van and began loading the three carousels into it along with my equipment. Beth asked her who she was and how she got this number. As I listened to her explain to Beth what had transpired, I finished putting every into the back of the truck. I got a smile on my face because I knew what was about to come.

            Once Trish was done speaking, I turned in front of Miss know it all and spit the two marbles, I had in my mouth out. The two ladies were shocked that I could do something they considered gross.

            “Hey, Beth, have you got her name and all the basic’s,” I asked in my clear normal voice? Beth said “yes.” “Then tell this halfwit just who I am.”                                                     

            “Trish, His name is James Scott Tait. Let me put it this way, he’s an undercover investigator who works out of the state’s Attorney General’s office,” Beth explained.

            It was fun watching this miss know it all twit go into complete shock. Maybe she just realized that she had bit off more than she could chew.

            “Beth, I will forward by email a video I just shot. I found those stolen carousels we were looking for and bought them,” I said with authority. “Let the captain know there are about six different groups of vendors working together. All from out of state. I got visuals of their vehicles plates. Let me know via my cell when the team is ready to come in. I will join them in the takedown. Run a background check on this lady. I will detain her until you get back to me before I decide what to do.”

            “What are you thinking of charging her with,” Beth asked?

            “Three accounts of assault, a charge of interference with an officer in the line of duty, aiding and abating in the process of a crime. I got it all recorded with the video I’m about to send you,” I said in anger. “The way these two are overdressed they were not shopping for products but looking for the kind of trouble that comes with two legs. She’s a BBBB and that means trouble. With the mood this twit has put me in I’m going to give her exactly what she wants.”

            “Scott, calm down,” Beth said, “I’ve never heard you this angry.”

            I ordered Trish Malley to stick her hand out. The way she was looking at me said it all. Taking the cuffs out I cuffed her right hand and attached it to the step-up support handle at the side at the back of the truck. She went to speak. I hushed her.

            “The best thing you can do for yourself is to remain quiet and don’t say a word,” I said. “The last thing you want to do right now is dig the hole you’re in deeper.”

            I could see a slow burn showing up on her face. With that temper, if she weren’t worried, she would have let me have it.

            I took off my hat which had the long scraggly grey hair attached to it. My natural short thick dark brownish black hair stood out in all its glory going everywhere. Both the ladies seeing me realized that I was disguised with makeup. Trish and the lady with her watched as I took the chip out of the hat’s hidden compartment. Reaching into a sports bag I pulled out my laptop turned it on and sent the video in. I then upload a copy into the laptop. I took out the original chip and bagged it, marking it as evidence.

            From the sports bag, I pulled out another chip and made a copy of the video to the chip.

            “How do you know Trish?” I asked the younger lady with her.

            “She’s my older sister. My name is Tina,” she said.

            “Well, if your parents sent you with her to chaperone her it didn’t work. She still got herself in a lot of trouble,” I said. “You don’t ask a dimwit to look after a halfwit at any time.”

            “We were just killing time this morning before our lunch date,” Tina said with a smile.

            “This is a copy of the video I took today,” I said while handing it to her. “Her lawyer may find it useful. I’d offer it to the halfwit, but she most likely would lose it.”

            Tina started to laugh. “She actually not that dumb.”

            “After what she did to me you would have a hard time convincing me of that,” I said.

            “You’re not going to give her a break, are you?” she noted.

            “At this moment in time I cannot afford to,” I said, “If the crooks are spooked it could us cost thousands in additional costs to capture them.”

            With that, I walked around to the front of the van and turned the box lights on. I came back and climbed into the box explaining I was going to get out of the rest of my disguise. I pulled down the back door from the inside.

            It took me about ten minutes. I could hear the two sisters talking about the situation the older one was now in. The body molds were built into the clothing. Taking the makeup, false nose, and beard off took most of the time. I used actors lotion to wash it off of my face. Making sure that I did not miss a spot thanks to the small mirror I had hanging on the side wall.

            Once done I stepped out fully clothed wearing blue jeans with a custom made weighted blue jean long sleeved shirt. My handgun was secure in a hidden pocket. I now looked like I normally did.

            I came out to find I had two incredibly surprised ladies looking at me. My appearance had changed that much. At age thirty-three, I still had a lean straight frame with no body fat since I worked out regularly. I had inherited my mother’s side of the family genes and was six foot two. I turned and pulled the door down locking it.

            My cell rang.

            “Hi, Beth, What's up.”

            “Scott it will be about three hours before they can get there. Some of the guys have to go home and get changed. The captain doesn’t want us coming into the fairgrounds uniformed. We don’t want them to have a chance to run because of our appearance,” Beth said.

            “That’s ok I will stay and watch,” I said, “if they haven’t been spooked.”

            “As for Trish Malley. She is a registered nurse, aged twenty-nine, never married. Works in the Southeast hospital maternity ward. No history of anything. Go easy on her,” Beth suggested. “I have seen the video, I too Googled, what she said was the truth. I just think her anger got to her because you seem to be able to push her buttons. It is also clear by your reaction that she did the same to you. Think about it before rushing to judgment.”

            “Ok thanks,” I replied ending the call.

            I looked at Trish Malley with a fresh set of eyes thanks to Beth’s third party wisdom and decided I was overreacting just as much as she had.

            I undid the cuff on the support handle then took it off Trish Malley's wrist.

            “I’m giving you a break, I’m dropping all the charges except for one, because of your very public harassment of me the crooks may have been tipped off,” I said. “If we have a successful takedown the only remaining charge of interference will be mute. If not, I will arrest you where you work on Monday. You're free to go.”

            I went and turned the box lights off, locked the doors, and I started to walk away.

            “James, wait for me,” Trish said. “I’m not leaving your side until I know for sure I’m not going to be charged.”

            “Don’t you think our appointment is important too,” Tina asked?

            “Yes, but this horse’s ass can do anything,” Trish said. “He’s already shown it. If I am going to be facing charges, I am going to know what it is for. This way, he will have to take me in today instead of Monday.”

            I had refused to stop so Trish had to run to catch up to me.

            “Are you always so cold and rude James?” Trish asked when she got to my side.

            “Scott, I use my second name and I don’t get friendly with those I may have to charge,” I said. “I have to keep it straight and clean.”

            “Then I guess we will just say if anyone asks that I am being detained until it all plays out,” Trish stated. “Tina call Mom and cancel the luncheon.”

            We headed towards the food court where there were several picnic tables available tied down with stakes and chains. I picked the one that allowed me the best view of the vendor I had bought the stolen goods from. I asked the ladies if there was something they would like to eat. They both said they loved sausages but the vendor who sold them did a poor job cooking them that they would do without.

            I smiled, then pulled out my wallet and handed it to Trish saying, “Go to the juice vendor and ask him for three of his Scott specials. If he refuses payment open my wallet, show him my badge and ask him if he is trying to get you further in trouble.”

            I got up and said, “I will meet you back here if Tina will keep our seats.”

            A few minutes later I returned with the sausage vendor carrying four plates. Trish had already returned with our cold drinks. Once I had set down the ones, I was carrying I took my seat.

            “He tried just as you said he would,” Trish said as she handed me back my wallet. “He helped me carry them back. On the way, he told me you were a good man and disclosed that without your help he would not be here today. I guess he was trying to make me feel better about my situation without prying.”

            I introduced Barry to the ladies. Then I asked them to taste the four different styles the sausage were prepared in and give us their honest opinion. Both had their favorites but in general thought, they were all a big improvement from what they had tried before. It made Barry smile when they said they would have no problem buying any of them. Barry thanked me over and over again before I had a chance to explain.

            “Barry those are your wife’s recipes that you refused to try,” I said. “Go close up, cut your losses for this day. On your way home pick up some roses and beg her for forgiveness for being such a stubborn ass.”

            I watched him walk away and said, “I don’t know how a sweet woman like his wife could fall in love and marry an asswipe like him.”

            “Are you always this opinionated?” Trish asked.

            “Only with those, I feel comfortable with,” I said. Tina laughed.

            We had been there about an hour making small talk without revealing too much. When Tina spoke. “We have an incredibly determined lady walking this way. She appears to be looking right at you Scott.”

            “About five foot six, long brunette hair, blue eyes, most likely wearing skintight blue jeans that accent her sexuality while wearing a white blouse with a yellow butterfly embroidery sewn in around her right shoulder,” I said without looking.

            “How did you know?” Tina asked.

            “That’s Linda,” I said. “I swear she can smell my scent a mile away. She’s the daughter of a good friend of mine. I could be a needle in a haystack and that girl would find me.”

            I watched Trish and Tina's eyes as Linda walked towards me picking up speed. I could tell that they were checking the female walking towards me out as if they were sizing her up. When she reached me, she stood behind me wrapping her arms around my neck. Then she leaned down to give me a kiss on the cheek.

            “Are you going to introduce me as your girlfriend, Scott,” Linda asked?

            “Linda this is my mistress and her sister, their names are Trish and Tina!” I said with a straight face. “You can figure out for yourself which is which.”

            It was interesting to see the two T’s trying not to tell me off.

            Linda stood straight up. Her face got determined as she spoke in seriousness. “Ladies if this is true then we have a real problem. I will not let you be involved with this man, He’s mine! I’m going to marry him in just over two years.”

            “Dream on girl, I’m too old for you,” I said with a smile. “After all, Linda if I was a couple of years older, I could be your dad.”

            “Yes, he could,” said her father.

            I turned to see him and his wife. “Hi, Bill, hi Marge good to see you again. Trish and Tina, I’d like you to meet Linda’s parents.”

            After Bill had sent his daughter and wife to get them all some fries and cokes, he said, “we were stopped for a red light. When she saw your truck. She was out of the car and over the fence before the light changed.”

            “You got a nice looking daughter Bill how old is she,” Trish asked?

            “Sixteen a week ago,” he replied noticing their surprise. “I know she can pass for twenty at least thanks to him.”

            That was when I caught the questioning look from Trish. I frankly didn’t give a dam.

            It was then my notification signal went off. I read the text, it said ten minutes. Marge and Linda had returned we were all chatting as a group. When my cellphone rang, I stepped away to answer it noticing that Trish was watching me. I returned to say it was time for me to go back to work.

            Before leaving I winked at Trish and said, “it’s turned out to be a good day for someone after all. It appears that she is now off the hook.”

            We moved in, the six of us to take the group of about fifth teen down. I got jumped and was trying to take two men down when their wives decided to join in, in an attempt to stop me from arresting them. A crowd of watchers had started to gather. I had gotten one down and had started to cuff him when I felt a knife penetrating my shoulder blade.

            At that moment Linda said, “Scotts been hurt I got to go,” and started to run off towards me. Trish told Tina to run to their car and get her medical first aid kit out of the trunk. Linda pushed through the onlookers. Her parents and Trish followed.

            “Get your hands off of my man you two bitches,” Linda yelled.

            One of the women still fighting with me turned and went towards Linda while holding the knife. Linda rushed towards her and kicked it out of her hands. Her second kick knocked the wind out of her. Before she caught her breath, Linda kicked the side of her face knocking her out.

            “One down one to go,” Linda said as she pulled the second female off me throwing her to the ground. As she was getting up Linda kicked her hard forcing her down again.

            I handed Linda a couple of plastic hand ties, told her to tie their hands up behind their back and take their right shoe off. While I secured the second man.

            Afterward, I walked over to her as the crowd watched in complete silence. I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was bleeding.

            “Thanks, Lynn,” I said. “For saving my ass.”

            I noticed that she had started to cry so I pulled her into my chest figuring she was coming to terms with what had just happened.

            “It’s the first time you called me Lynn and acknowledged that I am a woman with all the feeling,” she said. “Now give me a proper thanks like you would if I was your woman.”

            “I can’t, if I did that your dad could rightfully throw me in jail,” I replied.

            Bill hearing what I said, said: “Give her what she wants Scott. After what she did, she deserves it.”

            I leaned down lowering my head to her as she was raising hers. I held her tight and gave her a deep long French kiss as if she was my woman. Then I started walking away.

            “Scott!” Linda said. “I will no longer believe that you don’t believe in love because that kiss showed the real truth about how you feel.”

            I turned and faced her. “Lynn I never said I didn’t believe in love. I said because of my family's history that its best for all that I don’t allow myself to love. Sad to say it’s still true.”

            By this time Tina had brought back Trish’s medical bag. Trish ran up to me as I was walking away.

            “Scott take off your shirt now!” Trish said.

            “No!” I said turning to face her as she set the bag down. “I don’t show my man titties to anyone especially a lady I just met.”

            “Fine!” she said as she slapped me then proceeded to rip off the sleeve at the shoulder. After checking the area out, she said the wrong side and ripped the other side off.

            Still not satisfied she grabbed my shirt from the front and ripped it apart and pushed what was left off of my shoulders. She then pushed me down into a chair and sat on me so I could not easily get away.

            Looking directly into her eyes I was impressed. It had taken this bitch less than two minutes to ruin my custom made shirt.

            “You got a two-inch knife wound in the back of your shoulder,” Trish said. “It does not appear to have done any permanent damage, but you will have to go to the hospital to get it stitched up. I will bandage it up.”

            “Do you have the equipment needed to stitch it up,” I asked?

            She said yes, but I have nothing to ease the pain. I told her to go ahead and do it. I said there was no way in hell I was going to the hospital. It took her about ten minutes to get it all done. I pulled what was left of my shirt back onto my shoulders. By that time, she had put her medical stuff away. Standing back up I grabbed her and forcibly put her over my knee.

            I slapped her tush three times with the palm of my hand while telling her never to hit me again. Then I released her. I hadn’t hit her hard, but I surely had embarrassed her. Being Irish her temper flared. The four letters swear words that came out of her mouth could have made most men blush. She picked up her medical bag and was going to knock off my head with it.

            “Knock it off you two,” The police captain said. “From what I have seen you both have been behaving like immature children. Now both of you put your hands out in front of you.”

            To our complete surprise he put a cuff on my right wrist and attached the open side to Trish's left wrist.

            “These items will have to be watched over until we can bring in the trucks to load the stolen goods up. You two either volunteer and agree to stay cuffed together until we get back or its jail until we see the judge on Monday,” The captain said.

            “I guess were volunteering,” I said.

            “Yes, we are,” said Trish.

            The captain had a strange smile on his face as he walked away. Trish and I found two lawn chairs and sat down. Both of us were feeling embarrassed.

            “It’s been a long time since I felt like I was in detention because of something I had done,” I said.

            “I guess I’m the one that started it all,” Trish said. “After all I was the one that accused you of being a crook.”

            “We were both at fault,” I said. “You came on like Maureen Ohara and I responded as if I were John Wayne.”

            Trish started to laugh. “I’ve seen that movie too. You called our behavior just about right.”

            Tina walked over and took a few pictures with her cell. “Mom and dad won’t believe this without proof. Hell, I saw all it unfolded and I’m still having a hard time believing it.”

            “How long are we going to be stuck here?” Trish asked.

            “They will stay away until the crowds peters out, so I figure around seven to eight pm,” I responded.

            “Sis take my medical bag and my purse. Be back at seven tonight to pick me up,” Trish said.

            Linda walked over and looked at us before speaking. “Dam I wish I had known that all it took was a set of cuffs to get you to spend time with a woman I would have bought a set long ago.”

            As soon as Tina left, we started taking a closer look at some of the items the illegal vendors had been selling. There was a lot of older furniture of good quality. Some in good shape some not. I learned that Trish had a good eye to what was quality but had no clue as to age or period. Two sets caught her attention the first was a couch and a love seat. The second was a dining set. The table needed a major repair. Most would look at it and pass on it because of it.

            “It's beautiful,” Trish said. “But if you stripped it to repair it, it would lose its Fatima and be worth a lot less.”

            “Not if a true master in the restoration of old furniture was doing it,” I said.

            We had our moments, but we got through them. The hardest was when Trish had to go to the bathroom, but we got through that difficulty. I had to use my badge to clear the bathroom so she could use the stall while I stood with my back to her.

            By six that evening, a lot of the vendors had packed up and left because the traffic had petered out, so Trish and I walked back to my van and brought it down.

            I called my next-door neighbor’s son Brad. I asked him to stop at my house to pick me up a t-shirt, a twelve-pack of beer then asked him to pick up two large Pizzas from Papa John’s and be at the flea market by seven.

            Brad and Tina pulled in at the same time. I introduced them to each other, as I paid him for the pizza’s that were still quite warm. It turned out they were both going to the local university. When Brad saw the cuffs, he had to ask. Tina went into great detail explaining it all while we ate and drank beer. Brad had to say so it took a set of cuffs for Scott to spend major time with a female.

            Both Trish and I picked up their instant attraction to each other as we ate until we were all more than full.

            It was almost eight when the team showed up. The captain said sarcastically it's nice to see you two did not kill each other as he undid the cuffs. He once again had a huge grin on his face as he grabbed a slice of the leftover pizza. I asked him about it, and he said he would explain it to me, in due time.

            I opened up the back door so they could take possession of the three carousels into evidence. We talked for a few while I took my ripped shirt off, slid the t-shirt on then put back on the remnants of my shirt. It took them about forty minutes to take anything that would allow us to identify who it belonged too. I got the boys to load the couch and sofa Trish liked into the back of my van before they left.

            We asked the ladies to climb into the van so we could hand up the dining set to them. Once we were done, they climbed out of the back of the van.

            “Trish where do you want this furniture delivered to,” I asked? “I talked to the captain, since it can’t be traced, we decided to give it to you because you were a good sport about it all. What's left will be picked up in the morning for the annual police auction.”

            “Let me make a phone call first and I will answer you,” Trish said as she opened her cell.

********

            “Tina take my car and meet me at our parents,” Trish explained. “Do not park in the driveway. Scott will have to back his van in so we can unload it.”

            “How are you getting there,” Tina asked?

            “I will ride with Scott,” Trish replied. “That way I can direct him.”

            I wondered why Tina seemed surprised by that thought.

            Her father had moved his vehicles out of the garage so we could move the furniture in. As Brad, the ladies and I unloaded it he took pictures of it with his cell and sent them to somebody. We put the couch in first then used the old newspapers to provide protection for it. That allowed us to lay the love seat in reverse over it. We brought the table in and did the same with it. That allowed us to gently layer some of the chairs on top. The two captain chairs we set in front.

            Trish then introduced me to her parents, John, and Hellen Malley. Tina had gone in and brought out a few cans of cold beer. Out of curiosity, her dad had to ask me what happened to my shirt.

            “These are the facts. A lady I had met for the first time walked up to me and asked me to take off my shirt. I refused. The lady said fine. Then she slapped me hard on the face. While I was dealing with that, she ripped the right sleeve off. Looked for something, not seeing what she wanted she quickly ripped the other off only to find the same result. She grabbed the front of my shirt and tore the buttons off as she opened it up. Slid what was left of my shirt over my shoulders,” I said. “Then she pushed me down into a lawn chair and sat on me. I was impressed because it only took her about a minute to ruin what had been a custom made shirt.”

            “What did the lady want?” John Malley asked.

            “You have to ask Trish that,” I said with a smile that only he could see.

            “You Asshole you just had to say that” Trish said in laugher. “Scott was bleeding from a knife wound in his shoulder. Scott, you better let me look at it again to make sure it’s not infected.”

            I sat on the step and took my torn shirt off. Then I pulled my T-shirt off.

            Under the porch light, she washed the excess dried blood off while saying. “There appears to be no infection and its healing well.”

            Tina saw the look of puzzlement on her parent’s faces.

            “Mom, Dad, Trish met Scott this morning when she tried to arrest him. She did not know he was a police officer working undercover,” Tina said while still laughing. “You will not believe what these two did to each other today. They both ended up being cuffed to each other. Believe me, this is one day my sister will be teased about for the rest of her life.”

            “The knife wound I received while arresting members of a stolen goods ring. Mr. Malley your daughter has a strong right. That was the fourth time she had hit me, and I had had enough,” I explained. “I was so mad. Still reeling in the pain from being stitched up. That I physically turned her over my knee and spanked her tush.”

            Her parents both gasped.

            “When I let her up, she picked up her medical bag and started to swing it at me,” I said. “That’s when the police captain stepped in and cuffed us.”

            “You missed lunch because of trying to arrest Scott are you crazy?” Helen asked.

            “Mom this is what Scott looked like when my sister tried to arrest him,” Tina said as she handed her cellphone to her. “Scott was undercover, he actually made himself look and act as an old man would.”

            Helen had to admit that there was no way anyone would believe the old man was me.

            “Mom I got a video clip that I can show you how they actually met later. Also, I caught the look on Trish’s face when Scott spit the marbles out of his mouth so he could talk like he would normally,” Tina said.

            I decided it was time for me to go so I thanked them all for their hospitality and started towards the van. I needed to go load up what furniture was left behind before it disappeared.

            “Scott,” Trish said.

            I turned back to look at her. Trish had just picked up a full can of beer as I said, “What?”

            “Denny’s at eight,” she asked? Before I could say a word, I saw the shocked look on her parents and sister's faces.

            “Sounds good, but I will be in a disguise again,” I explained. “I have to go investigate another swap meet tomorrow because I’m the closest investigator available.”

            “How will I recognize you,” she asked?

            “Look for this shirt, without the dried blood on it,” I replied.

            “What should I wear?” She said seriously.

            Not thinking I blurted out, “That depends on what you’re shopping for.”

            “You Asshole,” Trish yelled as a result of her quick temper.

            Next thing you know there was a full can of beer flying towards my head. I raised my hand up and caught it and slowly walked back towards Trish whose face displayed to perfection, her anger.

            “You know Miss Maureen O'Hara. You and your quick temper have been riding my ass all day. There is only so much that a man can take,” I said firmly when I arrived in front of her.

            “So, what, there is nothing you can do about it now,” Trish said with a sarcastic smirk. “This is holy ground. You would not dare trying anything here.”

            “Lady there is more than one way to skin a cat,” I said.

            Her mom went to say something, but her father said, “stay out of it. Let the two of them work it out.”

            I was now right up against Trish. We were looking at each other eye to eye. I switched the beer can to my left hand and wrapped my right around her pulling her in tight. Lowering my head, I brought my lips to her and gave her a long tender tongue exchanging goodnight kiss. Meanwhile, I was using my left hand to shake the can even more.

            Both her parents caught on to what I was doing.

            After ending the kiss, I said, “Here’s your beer back maybe that can cool your temper off until the morning.”

            I started heading back to go when I heard her snap open the beer can. It went everywhere soaking her down.

            “Dammit Scott,” Trish cursed. “You can be a real asshole, you set me up.”

            “Especially when one's temper forces me to be,” I said in laughter.

            As John her father walked with me to the truck he asked, “have you two been like this most of the day?”

            “Pretty much,” I replied.

            “Yet you're holding your own,” he said.

            “Well, I have seen this rodeo before a few times in an old movie called the ‘The Taming of the Shrew’,” I said as I climbed in to drive off.

            I guess it hit John as funny has he started to laugh and was still laughing when I left their driveway. As soon as he went back into the back yard, he got confronted about what was so funny. He refused to explain.

            “Dad, did your insurance adjuster friend give you any names that I could use to restore the furniture,” Trish asked?

            “He texted me five or six good names but there was only one he would recommend if you wanted it back in mint condition,” John said. “The problem is two-fold with him. He does it for favor’s owed down the road and he is almost impossible to get a hold of.”

            “What’s his name,” Trish asked?

            “James Scott Tait,” Her dad responded.

            John was puzzled. Trish was sitting there not saying a word, yet she had a huge smile on her face. Tina walked over and sat beside her. Taking her hand.

            “What's the problem Sis,” Tina asked.

            “It’s been nine years since I got stood up at the altar and swore off of love and romance,” Trish said. “Then he had to kiss me after all the bickering we have done. How can I work with someone I’m attracted too when I swore off of those types of relationships?”

            “Sis you’re not afraid of him. You both share for different reasons the same fear. That’s why you find yourself bickering with him. Like he is with you. That fear is bonding the two of you together,” Tina said.

            “What fear, your full of it, I’m not afraid of anything neither is Scott,” Trish responded.

            “Yes, you both are afraid of falling in love. Scott admitted that to Linda today. We both know that she would marry him if he would let her. I just wish I knew her story.”

            “I will tell you later, I learned about it while Linda was helping Scott,” Trish said quietly.

            Standing up Trish said. “Before we all go into to see how Scott and I met I want to tell you, Dad, that I will get James Scott Tait to help me restore the furniture.”

            “How are you going to do that,” John asked?

            “That’s Scott’s full name,” she said. “I just have to figure out how to approach him about it.”

            They watched the video clip from the start to the finish. Trish’s father felt it was a hoot. Then Tina sent an email to her mom containing all the clips she had taken. All four of them watched what Tina had shot. From the meeting of me by the truck until I had taken my disguise off. She had captured the fight from when Linda entered the brawl until right after I had spanked Trish.

            “Who’s that lady named Linda,” Asked Helen?

            “Mom she’s sixteen years old. Her maturity is years beyond what is normal,” Trish said. “When she was twelve, she got involved with some sixteen and older-aged boys who took advantage of the situation. They ended up having a party at her parents’ house that went overboard. Scott saved the day for the family by stepping in and agreeing to be there while she was under house arrest for the summer. During that summer she had to work with him as they repaired the damage.”

            “It was during the second week of school that Linda’s parents were called in by the school counselors. Because of the change of her personality, they thought she had been sexually assaulted. After going through all the hoops and whistles the professional determined that Scott had been the first person to treat her as an equal.” Trish continued, “He taught her to think all things out. To use her senses as assets, and how to protect herself. Tricks about life that would take other’s years to learn, she learned that summer. Her maturity level was years above other students. On the last day of her house arrest, her parents arrived home to find she had cooked the complete dinner herself. Her father a master chef was blown away with how well it was done.”

            “Every male person Linda meets gets compared to Scott. Its result is that she has convinced herself she is in love with Scott, and no one is going to prove to her anything different. She took judo classes and excelled. From what her father said she’s about to get her black belt,” Trish said. “That’s why she stepped in to help.”

            “Wow how does that affect Scott's relationship with her parents?” asked John.

            “He tries to avoid Linda as much as possible,” Trish explained. “Yet sees her parents a lot. Scott has helped him at times during special events when needed. Mom I need to borrow those old used blue jeans you wear when cleaning the house. Scott thought I was overdressed so I am going the complete opposite tomorrow.”

            “Scott has always walked alone,” Brad said. “My parents thought for years that he was gay and tried to limit my association with him. The clip I took of him kissing Trish clearly showed his reaction and will erase any doubts my parents have.”

            Helen and John were lying in bed trying to digest the day. For the first time in almost nine years, their daughter Trish had become involved with a man.

            “What’s attracting those two to each other is the question I can’t figure out,” she said to her husband. “Their bickering and snipes show that they are.”

            “I don’t care what it is,” he responded. “Our daughter is finally starting to let go and heal. Scott has gotten her mind off of what happened. Perhaps it’s because Scott treats her as an equal not just as a woman. Give them a chance to work it out between themselves and stay out of it.”

            “I will, I promise. It was my pushing that caused what happened in the first place. I’ll not make that mistake again,” she said.

                                                ----------------------------------

            I noticed Trish standing by the entrance to Denny’s talking to a gentleman as I drove in. I was in a modified old Ford farm truck with a flat deck on it with wooden rails down the side. It had been used in parades and had a few bells and whistles to it that could not be seen. For years it had been used in a circus for the clowns. I had bought it used. Restored it and modified it. In the back was a rocking chair permanently tied down.

            Using sound effects, I could make it sound like the engine was on its last breath. It would blow blue smoke out of the rear end or behind the back seat and make farting sounds on command.

            The outfit I was wearing made me look like a good ole local boy from the south. It gave me a big ass, wide thighs, massive forearms, and wide thick shoulder blades. I wore a long black hair wig tied with a ponytail at the back. Matching trimmed beard and mustache. A pair of John Lemon style sunglasses and a St Louis Cardinals baseball cap on backward. My now sleeveless blue jean shirt with no buttons hung off my shoulder in all its glory.

            I stepped down out of the truck knowing that Trish did not see me. Walking towards her I noticed the person she was talking to seemed to be quite interested in her. I reached the step up to the entrance and stood beside the man who was talking to her before she saw my shirt. She broke into a smile.

            “Excuse me,” I said to the gentleman with her. “Is this young lady your girlfriend?”

            “No, we just work together,” The man said.

            I said good and moved in towards her. After removing my sunglasses, I pulled her into my arms and lowered my head giving her a deep good morning kiss. The man with her was stunned.

            “Well, I can take that off my bucket list,” I said.

            “What’s that,” he asked?

            I replied, “I have always wanted to kiss an angel good morning.”

            “Where’s your purse,” I asked Trish?

            “No purse, identification, and money with a cellphone in the pocket,” Trish replied.

            Without a word, I bent over, picked her up throwing her over my shoulder and started walking back to the truck.

            Giggling she said, “You goofball I wanted breakfast. Stephen the man I was talking to is part of the security team at the hospital. We are going to be the talk in the halls tomorrow.”

            “Brad called me last night. He’s having breakfast with Tina later, so we got together and did some planning. I’m taking you for breakfast now and when we are leaving Brad will arrive with your sister and clean up after.”

            We got into the truck, and I started it.

            “Trish open up the glove box and switch the second lever up,” I said.

            I slowly back out of the parking spot as the truck backfired. We drove around towards the exit but had to come close to the entrance of the restaurant before leaving.

            “Get ready to flick the fifth and sixth lever up when I say go,” I stated.

            When I said go the back of the truck was right beside Stephen. The sound of a large fart could be heard, and a puff of blue smoke appeared. To those entering it was believed that Stephen had let one.

            As soon as I hit the main drag, I had her turn the sound effects off. Trish was shaking her head. We drove through town ending up on a small ridge above the local casino. Brad and I had erected a huge tent over the picnic table. We had brought a gas flat grill and set it up. It gave us an elevated view of the mighty Mississippi River as it flowed south.

            The first thing I did was pour us both a glass of champagne and orange juice in a flute glass. We talked about general things as I made us both three egged cheese omelets with peppers and onions in them. Fried some sausage rounds and home fries on the side. I even had some handy wipes for cleanup.

            “You surprised me with everything you did this morning,” Trish said. “You turned a meeting for breakfast into something special. The rest of the day is going to be boring after this.”

            “You’re welcome to go with me to the swamp meet if you like, but it will take us two hours to get there so it is going to be around three before we get back,” I said.

            We were soon on the highway driving south heading for Tennessee. Trish and I were still keeping our conversations lite. We were heading to a small town just south of where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers melded into one. It was around noon when we pulled in. I found a spot to park. We were strangers to the locals. Reaching behind me I took down the banjo I had hanging up in the back.

            “I’ve been given a contact here to meet. He’s an old-timer so I got to approach him in a way that won’t seem out of place,” I said. “Those I am looking for will be watching for anything because of what happened yesterday. Trish I am going to play a tune of the banjo and if he responds we know he’s here.”

            I sat in the rocking chair and played for a bit. As soon as I quit the contact started. It was not long until we had our own version of dueling banjo’s going on. Finally, after about twenty minutes I lifted my hands up in a sign of surrender. As I was getting down a lady walked up.

            “My father wants to meet you,” she said. “I want to thank you for getting him playing with emotions and passions again.”

            We followed her across the parking lot. The elderly gentleman was standing there.

            “It’s been a long time since I’d been schooled like that,” I said while holding out my hand.

            He laughed and replied as we shook hands. “It’s been just as long since I’ve been pushed like that. You play like an old-timer young man.”

            He opened up a side on his work truck and pulled out a two-gallon jug. Pulling out the cork he said. “Have a taste young man.”

            I tipped it to my mouth leaned my head back and tasted it. Holding it in my mouth and gargled with it before allowing it to flow down my throat. Not to be outdone he did the same then handed it back to me. I took a second and handed it back to him. He offered me a third one.

            “No way. Your mash is like a woman’s breast one’s not enough but three would be too many,” I said honestly.

            He roared. “What’s brought you down this way?”

            “The missus picked up a set of dining chairs and table she wants to restore this winter,” I said. “Wants to find a full-sized hutch to complete the look she’s going for.”

            “Barbie would it be okay if we went with them?” he asked his daughter.

            “You guys go ahead, and we will follow.” She responded.

            We had gone through about half the meet when Trish’s eye was captured by a hutch that had a china section sitting on top. She said to us over this way. By the time we got there, she was looking intently at it. I heard her ask the vendor how much. He replied with a price that seemed too high.

            “Now if you think we're going to pay that for something that I might have to junk because I can’t un wedge that drawer you have been smoking something,” I said.

            “But dear,” Trish said catching my drift, “it’s a perfect match.”

            “That might be but not with my pocketbook. If they could have gotten it out, they would have,” I replied.

            We ended up picking it up for less than half because I became the hard ass. The vendor who sold it to me I recognized from the photo the city detectives had sent to me. The two ladies carried the top us men carried the bottom. After covering it in protective blankets I strapped it in. I went off and made a phone call. Letting the old man know I raised three fingers up.

            I heard Barbie whisper to Trish he’s a keeper thank him for helping my dad to get out of his grieving for a while.

            We got into our truck to head back. I warned everybody before we left that the old girl would backfire till it warmed up. Trish made sure it did. She even added in a couple of puffs of blue smoke herself.

            I told her once we were out of sight that the local police officers would be coming in at three. The information gained in interviews last night had revealed this as part of the ring. The authorities in Arkansas would get the remaining one.

            I asked her about the hutch and what attracted her to it. She explained that when her grandmother was a child, she had signed the bottom of a drawer on her grandmother's antique hutch they had just bought. The wedged drawer might be it.

            When we got back to Cape, I stopped in at Ace hardware and picked up some bee’s wax. Then swung into Walmart to pick up some dental floss and a package of long thin sewing needles.

            She had called ahead to ask her dad to move his vehicle so I could back in. Before pulling off the tarp I pulled out two small a-frames built into the back setting them up three feet apart. After unwrapping the two parts to the hutch. We set the lower half down and pulled out all the drawers except one wedged in. The reason it was stuck was something had gotten stuck behind it.

            Trish watched me thread the sewing needle with the dental floss then push it through the beeswax. Carefully and slowly, I waxed down the side that was wedged tight. I had to rethread and repeat the process numerous times. Her two nephews asked a bunch of questions as they watched me work. As soon as I had my hand underneath the back of the drawer, I told Trish to slowly begin pulling it out. The beeswax worked. It was slow and hard but what had been wedged in finally fell as the drawer corrected itself and came out.

            I had one of the boys catch a video of what we were doing. As soon as the drawer was safely out. Trish reached in and pulled out a small jewelry box. She opened it up to find a diamond necklace. We then moved the last two items into the garage.

            We went to the police station to turn it in and explain how she came into possession of it. The police officer was shown the video the boys made. As the officer filled out the report, I quietly flashed my badge. So, at the bottom of the page, he wrote verified by “Mrc” before signing it and giving Trish a copy.

            “If it's not reported stolen. It will be returned to you within six months,” The officer said.

            Trish whispered, “Does the initials ‘Mrc’ mean Mr. Claus?”

            The officer replied. “I can’t honestly answer that?”

            We went through the drive-through window at Dairy Queen and ordered milkshakes. I told Trish to turn on levers 3 and six. All of a sudden, a fart could be heard coming from the back seat with a flicker of blue smoke.

            The woman at the service window face showed her total disgust.

            “Sorry Mame, I apologize, I told the wife not to feed our boys' refried beans for breakfast. Now boys apologize to your mom,” I said.

            Following my lead, the boys said together, “Sorry Mom!”

            As soon as we left the window the boys broke out in laughter. Trish I could see was blushing from embarrassment while laughing.

            “I can’t believe I fell for that,” she said.

********       

            When we got back to Trish parents place the boy's parents were there. I grabbed the sports bag off of the floor. Carrying it with me I placed it on the edge of the picnic table. Opening it up I took out an ice cream bucket and asked Trish to pour a little dish soap and warm water in it. Trish went in with her sister to get it from the kitchen. I took off my torn shirt and laid it on the table along with my wallet.

            “Sis it's nice to see you with a man, but what do you see in that fat man,” Trish’s sister asked?

            “I see the man inside. Remember,” Trish said with a chuckle, “we were taught not to judge a book by its cover. I can’t believe you are that shallow.”

            When the two ladies came back outside, I had the boys named Billy and Bobby grab one sleeve each. When they did, I told them that when I counted down from three to zero, they were to pull has hard as they could. I counted down and the boys pulled as hard as they could which caused my whole costume to come off in two sections. Both boys fell to the ground. Leaving me with nothing on but my shorts and shoes. I asked them to place the two pieces in my truck. Terri and Robert looked at me in amazement. It appeared that I had just lost one hundred pounds. Trish started laughing.

            “I was as shocked as you were the first time, he took off his disguise,” Trish said.

            Trish than handed me the bucket of warm water which I used to help take my beard and mustache off. Then I removed the wig.

            “Terry and Robert, I want you to meet Scott,” Trish said. “Scott this is my middle sister and her husband. They are Billy and Bobby's parents.”

            I shook their hands.

            I went to the paved driveway and told the boys that once I soaped myself down to spray off all the soap with the garden hose. In less than five minutes I was done. I grabbed the sports bag and went into the garage to change. When I came out fully dressed, I called the boys over.

            “Open up my wallet and tell me what you see,” I said?

            “A badge you’re a police officer,” Bobby said.

            “Actually, I’m an investigator that’s higher than a detective,” I said. “Your aunt helped me on a case this morning. As you see at times, I have to wear disguises. I need you to promise to me that if you ever see me in a disguise that you will not approach me.”

            The boys agreed.

            “Ok sis,” Terry asked. “How did you meet him? Was it at work?”

            “I presume mom told you why I did not make lunch yesterday?” Trish said.

            “Only that you got tied up with the cops,” Terry replied. “Was that Scott?”

            “Yes, it all started out because I tried to arrest him,” Trish said with a smile.

            “You didn’t,” Terry said.

            “Oh yes, she did,” Hellen and John said. “We got a video clip that shows it. It’s a wonder these two didn’t kill each other. What amazes me is the Scott was not afraid of coming back for more,” John added.

            “So, you spent the whole day with him yesterday, and most of the day today,” Terry stated. “So, what's the difference?”

            “Today so far Trish has not lost her temper,” I said. “I count that as a blessing because that means that I have not had to act like John Wayne.”

            “But that did not stop you from embarrassing more than once today although I must admit it was in fun,” Trish responded with a grin.

            “Maybe she’s learned that as hard as she can dish it out you will give it back,” John said. “I had told my wife to leave you two alone to work it out and it appears to have worked because you see each other as equals.”

            “Since we didn’t get to celebrate your birthday yesterday, Trish, we thought we would do it today,” Helen said. “Tina said Brad and she will be here after she gets off of work at six. Scott, we are expecting that you will stay.”

            “All things considering, I think this whole weekend has been one of the craziest birthdays ever,” Trish said. “This one just because of all the twist and turn will be hard to beat.”

            “What I want to see right now,” said Terry “is the video clip of how you met Scott.”

            We watched as all of them went into the house to watch it. Trish got us each a beer and sat down beside me on the step.

            “Dad called an insurance adjuster friend last night to find out who he would recommend for the restoration of my furniture. He gave him five or six good names but said the best would be you,” Trish said. “He said you were hard to find, only did it for a favor down the road.”

            “What do you want me to do?” I asked.

            “Teach me how to do it,” Trish said. “With my schedule, I have a lot of free time to work on it.”

            “The problem is the full garage is still not enough space. You could attach a partial temporary addition using a tent style of formation that could only be accessed through the garage door,” I said. “Otherwise, you will have to find a place to rent.”

            “You can use the garage and add the tent section if you want to Scott,” John said as he stepped outside. “We can park our cars outside until you two get it done.”

            Trish looked at me with her excited eyes.

            “Before I say yes or no, we best talk to the neighbors,” I replied. “We don’t want complaints about noise and air pollution.”

            Since we had can cover’s on our beer. Trish and I walked door to door to talk to all the neighbors. It took us about an hour to walk around the block. Most were very appreciative of our forethoughts and gave their blessing on our proceeding. Trish asked me why we did it. I said it makes them aware at times that there will be chemical smells in the air at times and cuts down the curiosity factor. We learned later that Helen got six phone calls from the neighbors letting them know how thoughtful her daughter and boyfriend had been.

            When we got back John and I went into the garage, and I explained how I would have to reinforce the outside wall to give it extra support. I would have to drill three holes from the inside out across above the garage door frame for a pipe attachment. The garage would, in fact, become the fourth side of the tent.

            That’s when I learned he had always wanted to put a sidewalk down the full length of both sides of his driveway. He showed the lumber he had stacked behind the garage he had bought over the years to build a proper outside patio area. It was still wrapped up in its original shipping wrap.

            At six they started getting the meal ready. Brad and Tina showed up shortly afterward. Before we sat down to eat Trish had to open all the cards and gifts. That was when I told I would teach her what she wanted to learn.

            Trish got up and ran into my arms giving me a hug and a deep kiss.

            Terry looked at her mother who was smiling and walked over to her. She whispered in her mother’s ear, “can we actually believe this. Trish has not done something that spontaneous in years.”

            Helen whispered back, “each of them has their own wounds and that kinship in spirit is helping them both to heal.”

            Before I left John had given me the spare key to the garage.

********

            Trish was taking a needed break after the morning rush in the maternity ward. She was behind the counter entering information into patients' files. Her co-worker was also her best friend and had been since before they started high school. Jennifer was already married and had two growing daughters. As Jennifer came around to sit beside her, she heard Trish softly humming. Jennifer remembered well the last time she had seen her girlfriend this happy and that was an hour before she got left at the altar.

            “Okay stop for a minute Trish and tell me what’s going on,” Jennifer said. “Everyone is asking what’s got into you this morning. You’re not being you. You’re acting with the excitement you had in life when we were starting out in nursing school. It must have been one hell of a birthday on Saturday.”

            Just then Stephen showed up, back in his uniform saying, “I wondered if you would be here today Trish after the way I saw you being carried off by that redneck rube yesterday.”

            Jennifer watched as Trish started to giggle. Soon it was a loud laugh. Trish’s eyes were sparkling in the thrill of life. Jennifer hoped whatever was going on kept happening for her best friend.

            When she got control Trish said, “The whole weekend was planned down to the littlest detail. It got thrown away because I had two hours to kill and went to the swap meet. In anger, I tried to make a citizen’s arrest of an undercover investigator. One thing led to another. Before it was over, I was cuffed to him for six hours.”

            Trish started laughing again. “Stephen that redneck rube you saw me get picked up by was him in another one of his disguises.”

            That led her to explain in general what happened during the weekend over the rest of the day. Of course, Jen had lots of questions. Jen was in awe that Trish had stitched up Scott without any pain medication only to end up being turned over his knees and spanked. It had caused her to wonder what he looked like.

            It was four o’clock in the afternoon when I walked into Southeast Missouri Hospital. I looked like any construction worker did after a hard day’s work. I needed to leave a message with Trish. I had gotten Brad to skip school to help me dig out along both sides of the Malley’s driveway using a small bobcat and frame it in. We put in the wiring for yard lights and all needed accessories by tying it into the electrical box in the garage. We moved the excess dirt over to the area where John had said he wanted to put in a patio, leveled it out, and pressed it down to compact it. We also built a drainage system to take the excess water off the floor when it rained before we poured the concrete.

            At one pm the cement truck and the pumper truck arrived. It took about an hour to pour it and level off both sections. The owner of the concrete company had owed me a favor and I had called it in. It was quick-dry, and you could walk on it after four hours, but it needed until Wednesday to cure.

            Trish was not at the counter so I said I would wait. It didn’t take long till I saw her walking down the hallway.

            She saw me and her face brightened up. “What are you doing here,” she said.

            “I need you to tell your parents that they can park in their driveway, but they can’t walk on the poured concrete till after nine o’clock,” I said. “By the way you look good in pink.”

            “I work this week three twelve-hour days, Next week will be four,” Trish said. “Can we put the tent up on Thursday.”

            “Sounds good to me, the freshly poured concrete will be cured by then,” I said. “See you then.”

            Trish watched as I headed out. So did Jennifer. She was pleasantly surprised to see that we were both attracted to each other.

            “So that’s Scott,” Jennifer said, “not bad, not bad at all. It must have been interesting to be cuffed to each other for a few hours and unable to get kinky.”

            “Neither one of us are looking for love,” Trish said. “We’re just becoming good friends.”

            Jennifer said to herself that it is likely what you’re both saying to yourselves, but the body language and the open attraction towards each other are saying something else. Jennifer decided right there and then that her best friend was beginning to fall in love again even if she didn’t believe it. It had begun the moment they stopped fighting themselves on Sunday.

            Helen and John pulled into their driveway to discover why Trish had called them. On both sides of the driveway was the freshly poured sidewalk with protection tape all around. After getting out of their car they walked down to the city sidewalk to come in through the yard. Both of them were surprised to see the concrete slab poured for where he wanted to build the patio with the gazebo on top of it.

            All the rest of Jennifer’s and Trish’s workweek the talk was about the changes they were seeing in Trish. She was still her professional self but a gentleness they hadn’t seen before was coming out. It had blown Jennifer’s mind when Trish asked on their last shift where the best place was to by some stylish tank tops and blue jeans. She had not worn blue jeans since she had gotten stood up. It was as if she had become a dotting aged spinster overnight. For the first time in years, Trish was looking forward to being off.

            Just before four o’clock Trish called the Cape police department and asked to speak to Scott. She was informed he was out in the field. She asked the person to put her through to Beth in dispatch and was connected immediately.

            “Beth speaking how may I help you?”

            “Beth Its Trish Malley, I need you to get a message to Scott,” Trish said.

            “That I can do, what is it.” Beth asked?”

            “Tell him my number is ___ _____ and have him call me, thanks,” Trish said.

            “Not a problem I will have fun teasing him about this for weeks,” Beth replied. “Have sent the text message to him already. Is it about what happened last week because I can inform you no charges have been laid.”

            “In part,” Trish said. “When the captain finally uncuffed us, we had become friends.”

            “Trish, what’s this? Nobody said anything about this. Can I add your number to my contact list and call you later?” She asked. “I want to hear the juiciest details.”

            “Sure,” Trish said.

            Jennifer said, “so you two were so sidetracked by each other that you didn’t even get each other’s phone number.”

            “Look it just didn’t come up,” Trish said.

            “Then explain why your blushing,” Jen responded.

                                                --------------

            Trish finally got her breakfast at Denny’s. She had an omelet with hash browns. I had their Grand Slam. She told me her father wanted to talk to me about the cost of the cement. On the ford flatbed, I had some tools, equipment, pipes, and the tent tied down. I had bought it years back from a store that sold used military supplies.

            We unloaded it then went to the lumber yard so I could get the lumber I wanted to use to reinforce. The first thing I did was to reinforce the bay doors wall. Then I measured and marked the spot where I would need the three holes drilled through. The middle one came out just below the roof. Once that was done using two ladders, we bolted the pipe holders in. We had to redo one because we got one installed with the wrong side up.

            It took us two hours to put the frame up, I got a kick out of Trish making sure that the top pipes were level as I adjusted the height of each pole following her direction below. We started in the middle because it was the highest one When it was framed out. I reinforced the top with sections of pipe that snapped in place that had both ends shaped like a c. While waiting for help I moved my tools and equipment in after I had laid down a tarp to cover the concrete driveway.

            Brad showed up about two in the afternoon. I had the six-line winches set up. We started by throwing the rope up and over from the front. Trish watched as we wound the winches causing the tent material for the front to rise from the outside up over the frame onto the roof. When it was stretched tight, we locked the winches in place with a hand lock. We repeated the same for both sides. There was a thin line still open at the center of the top. The final thing to be done was to throw the top cover on and snap it down. While we did that Trish strapped up the window coverings after rolling them up.

            Brad and I built a frame out of pine two by fours, for the chairs measured to be as high as Trish’s waist. We designed it so two of the legs of the chair would fit in hole cut for them while the back of the chair rested on top. By turning the chair over we could hand sand every part of the chair that needed it.

            We could use the same frame when we started to reapply the natural color or stain using the same items as they were made when originally done. That was what most did not understand about restoring antique furniture. You had to imitate the material, stains, and paints as close as possible to what was used when the piece was originally created. If you did not it became worthless.

            When Brad left, I parked the truck on the road. Trish and I using her car ran to the market to pick up steaks, baking potatoes and the ingredients for a salad. We were busy in their kitchen preparing it when her parents got home.

            When John got the chance, he asked he asked how much he owed me for the work that had been done. I said the wood was basically nothing and the concrete cost me nothing as I had called in a favor that was owed me from the owner of the cement company.

            The attorney general was pleased to see that I was using some of the banked time off I had built up. It allowed Trish and me to work on her project straight for four days.

                                                -------------------

 

             

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Marlboro Man

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