Murder in Mayberry: A Pleasing Shape [MultiFormat]
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eBook by I.M. Tillerman
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime/Fantasy
eBook Description: When his marriage of thirty years seems doomed to divorce, a seventy year-old Jason needs to get away. He chooses to retire to Mayberry, North Carolina, where he meets the County Sheriff, Andy Taylor. During his trial separation from his wife, as Jason attempts to clear his head and ponder the future, he discovers that this supposedly peaceful town is not what he expected. All is not what it seems to be. Something sinister seems to be lurking beneath its serene exterior?
eBook Publisher: SynergEbooks, Published: SynergEbooks, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2010
Mea Culpa All to Hell
3 Reader Ratings:
Even though I had taught A Tale of Two Cities as a college English Professor countless times in my thirty years to heads bobbing in ennui, it wasn't until I first met Andy Taylor of Mayberry that I truly comprehended Dickens' famous oxymoron, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." The sheriff of that quaint North Carolina town--elevation 671 feet; population less than 2000--was precisely what I had expected him to be, but not precisely what I had expected him to be. He indeed was, as he once quipped to his intrepid deputy and best friend while they dined at an exclusive French restaurant in Raleigh, a "plain hick." Yet, no country bumpkin, the Sheriff Taylor whom I met uttered neither "golly" nor "shucks" during the weeks that had I conversed with him on a daily basis.
In fact, the disarming, unvarnished sophistication of the man put me at ease instantly when I walked through the Courthouse door for the first time and introduced myself as Jason Van Brunt.
"Nice to meet you, sir," he responded with such an intense level of sincerity that its residual effects certainly would have lasted for several hours had he said nothing more to me in the interim.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Van Brunt?" he asked, rising casually to his feet and reaching across his large, walnut desk for a handshake reminiscent of the vise grips my father stored in the toolbox back on the Dakotan farms of my childhood.
I glanced at the wall calendar: "June 1961." Wow, I thought, over fifty years ago. The Sheriff--or some ombudsman on his behalf, perhaps Deputy Fife--had circled Monday, June 26th, and had penciled in "Mayor's office, 9:00, garbage report."
"Mr. Van Brunt?" the southern lawman repeated emphatically, his sonorous voice tinged with neither discourtesy nor impatience.
"Oh," I said, smiling with heavy eyelids, "Sorry, Sheriff. Groggy, I'm afraid. Long bus ride from Chicago."
"Please have a seat," he insisted, motioning for me to sit at one of the hard, wooden chairs lined up in two rows of four each to his left, "and let me know what I can do for you, sir."
Dickens' paradox seemed even more immediate when I observed that, as I had expected, he wore no tie or hat, his long, thick, wavy, neatly trimmed hair combed back over his right ear. However, this was no "Sheriff without a Gun"; to my surprise, a silver, snub-nosed .38 was strapped inside a short, black leather holster that rode high on his belt rather than low on his right leg, like the .45 revolver of a gunslinger. It struck me that this cowboy rarely, if ever, practiced his fast draw, although I wondered if the Barney Fife of this Mayberry did so.
Butzy and Jude had been right earlier that day (but half a century later), as we had chatted uneasily, hugged, and then finally had said goodbye next to Herbert, my remarkable long case clock; somehow I had conned Marie into letting me take it to my apartment on the day that we began our three-month trial separation, the grumbling movers nearly dropping the mammoth antique from Victorian England several times while they lugged it up the stairs. "Shit!" one of them ultimately declared, puffing like the locomotives that used to plow through Davis, South Dakota, my birthplace; "This fucker's heavy!"
"Sorry," the exhausted worker had said shortly thereafter as he and his cohort rested on the landing, the towering clock nestled between them. "Sorry 'bout the profanity, sir."
"Don't apologize, son," I had answered, pointing at Herbert; "This fucker is heavy."
"Now don't expect everything in that Mayberry to be the same as the Mayberry you remember on TV, Papa," Butzy had reminded me one final time, sounding more like her mother than my daughter.
"That's right," Jude had kicked in, brow stern with wrinkles, yet still savoring her rare role as resident expert. "Some things will be different. God knows, Joyce and I learned that the hard way at the 4077th."
I shook my head in compliance, grateful for the redundant refresher. And after all, Joyce and Judy were twenty-five and twenty-three respectively: these grown, educated young women, nearly fifty years my junior, were well worth my attention.
"Are you absolutely certain that you need to do this?" Joyce asked, slightly stooped in Poe-like trepidation.
"Yeah. Are you absolutely certain?" her sister echoed, creating the sensation of an old reverberation chamber. "What you're going to do is precarious at best, you know, Father, even potentially dangerous."
"Precarious?" Joyce snickered, left eyebrow raised in derision at her younger sibling.
"That's a pretty hefty word, there, Picasso. When did you learn that?"
"Shut up, Einstein!" Pablo fired back. "I am a college graduate, you know."
"That's right, Starbuck!" I snapped, feigning reproach while kissing my youngest pup's forehead in synchronized affection and support. "You ain't talkin' to a jerk, ya know!"
"Well, I guess not!" First Mate of the doomed Pequod relented, sliding one arm around me and the other around her sister. "Mea culpa all to hell!"
After a prolonged, three-way embrace, one that was difficult to break, Jude looked at me with simultaneously inquisitive and apprehensive eyes and asked, "Do you suppose Barney really will say, 'You ain't talkin' to a jerk, ya know?'"
"I wouldn't be a bit surprised, Pocahontas," I answered, yanking her right braid. "I wouldn't be a damn bit surprised."
"You will be careful, right, Father?" Joyce asked, dubiously, now a mile deep in second thoughts.
"I shall be careful, Joyce."
"Expect surprises," her sister ordered me, genuinely jittery now, her eyes fluttering like lemons in a slot machine.
"I shall expect surprises, Judith."
"All right, Herbert," Starbuck began, resignation in her voice, patting the huge grandfather clock on the corner of its backside like a baby's freshly powdered bottom. "Do your magic, fella."
"This is not, nor cannot, come to good, Father," Judith warned, hoping--or so it seemed to me--that her illusion to Hamlet, my favorite literary character, would impress me, and ergo, would bring about a change in ship's course.
"It's okay, honey," I reassured her. "I'll be careful. I'll be okay. I'll only be gone for two months, and then I'll be back in the glorious suburbs of the Windy City. And besides, we're going to check in with each other regularly over those couple of months, right?"
"Ten-four," Joyce verified with right thumb lifted high, her quasi-military voice stretching for confidence and determination, mostly--I surmised--for the benefit of her foundering sister, whose head was now cradled in her sister's upper left arm.
"Now...you remember the check-in procedure, right, Starbuck?"
"Every Monday and Thursday morning. We'll take the Sabbath off."
"Drop off spot."
Each of Butzy's responses was louder and more staccato than the one before it. Einstein was irritated. I let it go.