His letter from prison read like a fairytale without a plot.
September 20, 2013
A VG Serial: Borrowed to the Bone
Willy bought a quick draw holster for his Colt .45. After work each day, he went to his shop and strapped on the gun and holster, put on his hat, took the same folding chair and sat equidistant between his art treasure and the well that contained a loan shark’s dead body. It was the only time he felt safe, away from prying eyes.
On the fourth day of Willy’s ritual, Trez’s curiosity finally got the best of him and he risked incurring Colleen’s wrath by stopping by to find out what was going on. Irene had told him that the feed sacks were gone. He especially wanted details on Buck’s shotgun.
Willy told him only that Clark sent a man with a letter authorizing him to collect the bronzes. Nothing more. Certainly nothing about the Japanese artwork, the jewels, or the dead body. He couldn’t resist bragging a little about the way he and the fellow from the Dixie Mafia had stood up to Buck and taken his shotgun from him.
Trez, like Willy, had hoped to somehow cash in on the bronzes, but he was happier knowing that they were gone and there seemed to be no connection to him. “You think Clark recovered that one piece that was left in the old washing machine I sold?”
Willy seemed annoyed by the question. It opened up a can of worms he had effectively sealed. “How else would he have known about it if it wasn’t him or one of his buddies that got it in the first place? He never as much as took his eyes off that loot, even had somebody watch it every day while he was in prison. Trust me; Clark’s got that piece.”
About the time Trez headed home satisfied that he was not going to be killed to get at the loot, a Kentucky farmer was plowing just inside the state line with Tennessee when he saw a white van with Ace Plumbing on the side being pulled over by two cars with bubble lights, but no identification. Four other cars, including a black van, soon joined the spectacle on the side of the little-traveled highway.
The next morning, the farmer read about an incident in the Mayfield paper. It seems that the Department of Agriculture stopped the van on suspicion of transporting agricultural products into the state without declaring such products at the border. Several sacks of dangerous feed and seeds that contained possible harmful pests and insecticides were confiscated. The farmer breathed a little easier that his crops were made safer.
The next morning, a black Chevy Suburban stopped in the shaded driveway of a regal century- old mansion in the University Park neighborhood of Dallas. The old home had been meticulously maintained. The stately oaks in the large lot had been trimmed and encircled with fresh flowers that were out of season. A middle-aged couple, both a little taller than average, followed two sun-glassed men from the home. The man carried only a small briefcase and the woman only a purse. The two sunglasses each carried a small piece of luggage that they deposited in the rear of the Suburban.
The man’s thick, dark hair was flecked with gray. He was dressed all in black with black basketball sneakers. The woman had fawn-colored coiffed hair and carried a little extra weight, but her expensive clothes hid it well. Her manner of walking, her expression, her makeup, even the texture of her skin bespoke a life of wealth and privilege. They entered the rear side door of the Suburban and sat on upholstered benches facing each other. The woman reached across to take his hand as the Suburban pulled away.
At lunchtime, another visitor arrived at the same home, crossed the lawn in shoes that left a waffle print. He entered using a key. In less than half an hour, he exited the same way he entered, but this time he was carrying a large, expensive suitcase. He walked down the sidewalk at a brisk pace, whistling a merry tune for the duration of the twelve block trip to his own stately home.
Less than an hour later, University Park Police knock politely on his door. A plain clothes detective presented a search warrant. A half hour later, the occupant of the house is led away in cuffs. A uniformed cop wearing rubber gloves carries the expensive suitcase.
The next day, a parcel arrives at the Riverby Post Office addressed to PO Drawer 7. Inside a padded envelope is a small maroon, velour bag secured with a draw string.
A week later, a letter arrives for Irene Blanton. She recognizes the handwriting as her brother Clark’s. The letter seems disjointed at first, almost childish, like a child’s fairytale without a plot. The sentences don’t seem to form any coherent whole—until she remembers the instructions Clark left her when he went to prison. A code of sorts, so that he could get her messages without being discovered by prison authorities.
He had never used the code before, so it took her almost an hour to find the instructions and another half day to translate what he had written into the message he meant to convey. She got in her car and headed to Riverby, to Ben Tom, the only person in the world she dared share the story with.
Chapters of the serial are published on Friday.
You can learn more about Borrowed to the Bone and other titles by Jim H. Ainsworth on his Amazon Author Page.