A Southern Sisters Mystery
(Read or print)
The way my sister Mary Alice got us arrested was simple enough; she hit the president of the bank over the head with my umbrella. Grabbed it right away from me and 'thunk' let him have it. I think he was more surprised than hurt. There was hardly any blood, and everyone knows how much head wounds bleed. There wasn't even a very big knot. Probably wouldn't have been one at all if he'd had any hair. But he screeched like she'd killed him and the security guard came rushing in, saw Mr. Jones staggering around holding his head, and pulled a gun on us. He looked like Barney Fife, the guard did, and chances were the bullet was in his pocket, but you just don't take a chance on things like that. At least I don't. Sister said later that she might have hit the guard, too, at least knocked the gun out of his hand, if he hadn't looked so pitiful standing there shaking like a leaf. She also said she was surprised that Alcorn Jones, being a bank president, didn't have a higher threshold of pain.
This sounds like my sister is aggressive, and she is, a little bit. For sixty-six years (she says sixty-four) she hasn't bothered a lot of times to knock on doors. Things like that. But she"s not aggressive as in going around hitting bank presidents with umbrellas aggressive. Not usually. In fact, the whole time we were waiting at the jail for my husband, Fred, to come get us, she was worrying about whether or not the ladies of the investment club would think she was common as pig tracks for having hit Alcorn. I assured her that they would consider her a heroine, a true steel magnolia who had been protecting her honor.
"You reckon?" she asked, looking up hopefully.
"Absolutely. You were protecting the club, too. After all, he was doing all of us wrong."'
"That's true."' She was beginning to look downright cheerful. "He got what he asked for."
I didn't know about that. It had landed us in the Birmingham jail. I had lived for sixty-one years with nothing but one speeding ticket on my record and here I was, incarcerated.
"Mouse," Sister said, "let's ask the lady that put us in here for some stationery. We could write Haley a letter from the Birmingham jail. She'd love that."
She probably would. Haley is my daughter who is currently living in Warsaw, Poland, with her new husband. She'd think it was funny that her mama and Aunt Sister had landed in jail.
"All sorts of famous people write letters from the Birmingham jail," Mary Alice continued.
"We're not famous." I was beginning to wish for my purse and some aspirin; I rubbed my temples. "Why do you think the police took our purses?"
"'They have us on a suicide watch."
I looked at my sister in amazement. I swear she's half a bubble out of plumb. In fact, if our mother and father hadn't sworn that we'd been born at home, I'd have been willing to bet that we had been mixed up somewhere. We don't even look anything alike. Mary Alice is six feet tall (she says five twelve) and admits to two hundred fifty pounds. I'm a foot shorter and weigh in at a hundred five. She used to be brunette with olive skin; I used to be what Mama called a strawberry blonde, more wispy blonde than strawberry. Mary Alice also used to be five years older than I am, but she's started backing up. This day in the Birmingham jail, she was Beach Blonde and I was more gray than strawberry. But I still had better sense.
'Why would they have us on a suicide watch? They don't even have us locked up." This was true. A very nice police lady had put us in a small room and closed the door with a "Y'all want anything, just holler."'
"That's what they do routinely." Mary Alice sat down across from me at a small table and looked around. "If these walls could only speak."
"Lord." I rubbed my temples harder. "You know you broke my umbrella."
"I'll get you another one."
"But that was my kitten one. The one where you could see the kittens like they were looking through stained glass. Fred paid thirty-eight dollars for it at Rosenberger's just because I was admiring it so." Tears welled in my eyes. 'We were eating supper at Chick-Fil-A and I spotted it in Rosenberger's window."
Sister sighed. "I wish I had a Chick-Fil-A chicken salad sandwich"
The door opened and a policeman came in holding a clipboard. "Patricia Anne Hollowell?"
I looked up. "Yes."
"And Mary Alice Crane?" Sister nodded.
"Your lawyer is here."
"My husband's coming to get us," I said. "We don't need a lawyer."
"Oh, yes you do." Debbie Nachman, Sister's daughter, stood in the door, looking very lawyerly in spite of the fact that her briefcase was clasped over a significantly pregnant belly. "What have you two done now?"
"It's all your mama's fault," I said without a moment's hesitation and with no guilt.
Mary Alice didn't miss a beat. "My feet swelled like balloons before you were born. I had to stay in bed for the last two months."
Debbie grinned. "Point taken, Mama." She pulled out a legal pad. "Now how about y'all tell me what happened."
"It's a long story," I said. And it was.
Sister grabbed my arm. "Just the highlights, Mouse. I'm starving."
MysteryNet.com: The Online Mystery Network.
Copyright © 1999 Newfront Productions, Inc. and Avon Books