Harlan woke the following evening and briefly wondered where he was. He felt very low to the ground. He looked around. The room was sparsely decorated, only Terracotta wallpaper framed by cedar beams and paneling. As far as furniture, there was only the mattress he slept on and a small credenza beside him. He sat up slowly. Then it hit him. He was in one of Seanaís spare rooms. Vaguely bits of the conversation from the morning drifted into his head.
The real McCoys, Seana had said. Then she ordered them not to pursue the matter. He rose and walked out into the upper hall. From downstairs he heard Seana call up to him. "Harlan, you put that mattress back into the cabinet. I want that room kept neat."
Neat or empty, Harlan thought as he walked back in and stared at the barren room. As he stowed the mattress and covers, Wayne walked in. He looked as though heíd slept equally as awfully.
"So?" Harlan asked as he shut the cabinet doors.
"She hasnít come out," Wayne answered. "She wonít let anyone in. The doorís locked."
"We could always pick it," Harlan responded thoughtfully.
Wayne shook his head. "She bolted it from the inside. Only way in is to force it."
Harlan nodded in agreement. "She probably wouldnít like that course of action very well."
Wayne walked out into the hall and lit a smoke. Harlan followed and shut the door behind him. They walked to the stairs, pausing momentarily at Sarahís door. Harlan thought he heard her moving around inside. They proceeded down the stairs.
"Well the first order of business is to talk to Andre," Harlan announced as they hit the main hall.
"I thought Seana told you to leave this business alone," Damianís familiar voice stated from behind them. The men turned. He had an early edition of the Wall Street Journal in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. "I hope this time you will obey your orders."
"We always follow orders," Harlan responded. He quickly added, "The spirit, at least. Besides, she suggested we talk to Andre."
Damian sighed and walked past them. "Very well. Good luck."
"You seem to know something about it," Harlan said observantly.
"I do," Damian answered.
"I donít suppose you would want to talk about it?" He asked.
"I do not." With that, Damian retreated into his study and shut the door. The men exchanged a shrug and headed to the garage.
Andre was performing an autopsy when they arrived. She smiled and said, "I finished the work on that arson victim. Iím afraid that an accelerant was used. Gasoline. It was in the few fibers of the shirt that was imbedded in his skin."
"Then he was probably the arsonist," Wayne said as he looked over the report sitting on the table. He pulled out two x-rays. "These his dentals?"
"Yes," Andre answered as she took a saw and cracked open the chest. "I assume your friend at the FBI will be able to make a match. The police werenít able to yet."
"Probably," Wayne answered as he placed the x-rays back in the file.
Harlan watched as Andre skillfully and quickly pulled the cadaverís ribcage apart and clamped it open. "Fascinating."
"Pardon?" She asked.
"Just the human anatomy," he responded.
"Yes, isnít it," She answered proudly. "You know the pulmonary system alone is more complicated in itís design than a . . ."
"Iím sorry, Doc," Wayne interrupted. "We didnít come for a biology lesson. Is there somewhere we can talk more privately?"
Andre noticed the look of urgency on Wayneís face and directed them to her office. She spoke to the other pathologist for a moment then followed. The other doctor proceeded with the autopsy.
She shut the door behind her and asked, "Coffee, Harlan?"
He had already taken out two cups and was pouring. "Sugar?"
"You know better," she answered as she took the cup.
"Thought Iíd be polite," he responded as he scooped spoonful after spoonful of sugar into his cup.
"What do you need to talk about?" She asked as she leaned against the desk.
"About Sarah," Harlan answered cautiously.
Andre sighed heavily, "Is she drinking again?"
"No!" He exclaimed. "No, sheís just very spooked."
"Spooked?" She asked. "What happened?"
"What do you know about Gravesville, WV.?" Wayne came right to the point. "Seana says youíve been there."
"Why do you want to know?" She set the cup on the desk.
"We had an encounter there last night," Harlan answered.
"Sarah let you go into Gravesville?" She asked in disbelief.
"Actually we were at a convenience store about five miles away," Wayne replied.
"The Briar Patch?" She queried.
Wayne nodded. She thought for a moment then asked, "What happened?"
"Actually," Harlan interjected, "We were hoping to hear about your experience first. Then we can compare notes."
"There isnít much to tell," She responded. "You see, we were on a trip from New York to Hudson City. We had gone to visit Damian; he was living in New York at the time. We were also picking up Seanaís new Mercedes. She couldnít wait a week to have it shipped, so she sent us. Sarah spent much of the evening before we left drinking, so I insisted on driving.
"She was passed out for most of the drive, but I knew the route. When we had just entered the West Virginia Appalachians, I felt the need to . . . explore the area."
"So did I," Wayne interjected.
"Well, I took a back road off the interstate. I canít remember the name of the road but I do remember it led into a place called Gravesville. However, I felt this undeniable urge to stop at the Briar Patch and look for . . ." She hesitated momentarily as if the next part was too painful.
"Look for what?" Harlan pressed.
"To look for homemade pecan logs." She admitted with a bit of guilt.
"Thatís okay, I wanted fudge," Harlan sympathized, "and Wayne wanted . . ."
"Obviously some sort of force was controlling our desires," Wayne interrupted. "Please continue, Doc."
"Well, I pulled up to the pumps, filled up with gas, despite the fact that I had filled up less than an hour before, and went into the store. While I loitered around in there, three large farm boys entered and stared at me for a very long time. I started to feel sleepy. Then Sarah honked the horn and yelled at me to come out. I reluctantly went outside. I hadnít paid yet, and she had the passenger side door open. Before I could say a word she dragged me inside and sped off. When I told her I hadnít paid, she took out a fifty and threw it out in the driveway. She didnít slow down until we were almost twenty miles down the interstate. She never told me what was going on." She suddenly fell silent.
"Think of something?" Harlan prodded delicately.
"Was she very upset?" She asked.
"Yes." Harlan answered. "Quite."
"With me too," she walked over to the door.
"Answer me one more question, Doc," Wayne shifted in his seat, "Were you followed?"
She twirled a strand of hair thoughtfully for a moment then said, "Yes. By an old pickup with one headlight."
"So were we," Harlan and Wayne followed her out of the office. "Well Doc, thanks for the file and the info."
They both walked to the main door. Before they headed out, Andre called to them. "Hey guys, was there an old man in overall sitting outside?"
"Yeah, why?" Harlan responded.
"I seem to remember Stitch mentioning a man similar to that one time," she replied. "At the time I thought it an odd coincidence, but it is possible somewhere in his muddled brain he has a memory of visiting that place. He may have more detailed information."
"Thanks, Doc," Wayne answered and the two headed out.
(Copyright 2002 Gina M. Wood - Random Quote Productions)
Back to Real McCoys Main