The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 3 - First Visit to Town

The sun woke me up before I was ready, my fault for not pulling all the drapes shut last night. I stretched in the big doubled bed, took a deep breath of clean, crisp air and opened my eyes a bit wider. The details in the room seemed so posh, so elegant, so shiny. Everything metal gleamed, everything not metal glowed. No dust. No rust. No fade. The dark royal blue draperies were really dark blue, even against the east window where the direct sunlight hit them every morning. Hm. I slipped my feet into my fuzzy slippers and meandered to the bathroom. The fixtures in here were really shiny, too, I noticed. And the floor tile was shiny, and the enamel on the claw-footed tub was shiny. It was all so new looking, that is, as it would have looked twenty or thirty years ago new. I bent over to turn the hot water on in the tub and noticed another smaller doorway. It led to a ceramic tiled sit-down shower with lots of glass windows overlooking the back lawn. Eight shower heads and a steam control panel provided an array of choices for the achy back. This didn't look twenty-years old, it looked brand new to me. I decided to go for the shower and skip the tub soak, and it was worth every minute of it. I made a mental note to ask Jones about this shower. Like when was it installed and by who. I couldn't see Aunt Myrtle splurging on something this fancy.

Dressed in my usual jeans and pull-over, I headed downstairs to the kitchen.

"Morning, ma'am. Breakfast will be ready in a jiffy." Smith was wearing tan slacks and a white tee shirt this morning, covered by a wrap-around apron big enough for the both of us.

"Coffee?" I asked hopefully. She handed me a large mug with the name Myrtle printed in royal blue letters, steaming black coffee already poured. Grateful for such a fast provision of my necessary wake-up medicine, I looked around for creamer. In Smith's hand was a small cream pitcher, ready to pour. "Say when." I said when and sat down at the kitchen table. In five minutes a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, fresh canteloupe and two slices of dry bacon was in front of me. I wondered a moment how on earth she knew my favorite breakfast foods, then dug in. Despite my entreaties Smith refused to join me at the table, saying she and Jones always had an early breakfast. Two coffee refills and fresh-squeezed orange juice later, I pushed back from the table.

"Is Jones around?" I wondered when the work day actually started, it being close to 8:00 AM.

"He's in the office, ma'am, I'll ring him for you." She pressed a little button on the telephone and suddenly a voice spoke in my ear. Intercom built into the wall. "I'll be right down." And he was.

"Just updating some records, doesn't pay to let them get behind. What would you like to do first?" No ma'ams here, just matter-of-fact friendly conversation.

"Horses?" Since I hadn't taken time yesterday, I thought this might be an appropriate first activity.

The stables were within walking distance but some of the other outbuildings weren't. We took a golf cart.

I learned more about horses, grooms, stables, tack, feed, training, selling, boarding, other employees, other owners, than I could possibly remember in two hours' time. We visited several stables, watched trainers put their charges through their paces and met one of the other owners, a nice young teenage girl. I came away with several beliefs. Horses were beautiful, big, lively and quick, and I really didn't need to ride one.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll want to learn once you're here a few days," said Black, the fellow in charge of the horses. "I have an idea that you and Grable will be old pals in no time." Grable was the oldest of my two horses, a very gentle ride who loved people. She was used to being ridden by children and seniors, according to Black. Being neither one, I wasn't sure that was a compliment, but I just said "Maybe another day."

Black was a peculiar name for this fellow, I was thinking. Jones. Smith. Brown. Now Black? He was chunky, crew-cut gray headed and very tan, his face lined with creases and his hands covered with calluses. That seemed appropriate considering his line of work. Jones and I continued our tour of the grounds until nearly lunch time. Parting from me at the kitchen door, he suggested I take the golf cart into town and look around. "It all belongs to you now. Might as well inspect, don't you think? You could grab a bite of lunch at the saloon." A twinkle in his eye made me wonder. "I would make one suggestion... don't introduce yourself the first time around, see everything in its natural setting first off, so to speak."

I collected my wallet from the bedroom, ran a brush through my hair, then took his suggestion. My first stop was at the Simsville Saloon. I parked the golf cart between a late model Ford sedan and an older Pontiac Firebird and went inside. Saloon was a bit of a stretch, the interior looked more like a cross between a soda fountain, Irish pub and pool hall. The menu was hand-chalked on a board over the bar and boasted of sandwiches on whole-wheat buns, grilled chicken, tuna, hamburgers, fries, salads, coleslaw, soft drinks, coffee or tea, apple pie and ice cream. No veggies. Oh well, I like hamburgers and fries.

My order was taken by a jolly gray-haired woman who weighed two hundred pounds at least. "Hi, doll, what can I get you? Everything's good, I fix it myself, eat it myself too, ha ha ha ha ha." I gave her my burger order and she brought me a cup of coffee and a metal pitcher of cream, without asking for my beverage preference. Hmm. "Just passing through?" She asked with a smile, leaning on the counter with one elbow while writing up my bill. I had the oddest feeling she already knew the answer to that.

"No, I'm here for a few days." I turned away before she could ask something else, picked up my coffee and walked to a booth. Sitting there sipping, I watched as several other customers came in and ordered lunch, some sitting at the counter, a few taking booths. A couple of younger guys started a game of pool while waiting on their lunch. When my burger and fries were ready, the waitress brought them over.

"My name's Green, well really it's Judy Greenland, but everybody calls me Green. Let me know if you need something else, hear?" and with another smile she left me to go collect somebody else's order.

Green? Oh really, that's too much, I was thinking. There is something weird going on here. But this is a delicious burger, I told myself as I dug in. And the price isn't too bad either. I finished my meal, left a moderate tip and went on my way. Next stop the bank, need to open an account. Wonder if a Mr. Orange runs the bank.

The little brick building appeared substantial, set right on the sidewalk with planter boxes filled with blooming flowers. The front door was half-wood, half-glass, and heavy. A soft tinkle-tinkle sounded as I entered the hushed atmosphere. Three other people were in the lobby. One serious looking slender lady behind the counter was obviously the cashier. A sandy haired gentlemen at a desk in the far corner seemed to be the manager and the third man was in uniform, stationed just inside the front door. A bank guard? In this day? He wore an ear piece and sported a walkie-talkie on his belt. He seemed to be in his forties, had short-cropped brown hair and stood very straight. He nodded as I walked by. "Afternoon, ma'am."

"Afternoon," I replied. I slowly walked the few feet to the back desk, noting that the man sitting there was working at a computer terminal. He smiled when he saw me, rose and extended his hand. His handshake was firm and friendly.

"Welcome to Simsville. Need to open an account?" I was not speechless, but a bit surprised. Why would he assume that? Maybe I just needed to cash a check or get an advance on a credit card or something.

"No, why do you ask?" A slight expression of amusement flashed over his face.

"Then how may I help you? I'm Thomas Johnson but everyone calls me Johnson." How refreshing, I thought. His name is not Orange or Purple after all.

"I'd like a brochure about bank services, if you have one," I said. I didn't offer my own name. Let him wonder and guess, I thought.

He slid open a drawer in his desk and handed me two full-color brochures, one containing information about the bank and its services, the other about the town itself courtesy of the Simsville Town Council. "I think these should give you the basics, please ask if there's anything else." He seemed to focus all his attention on my response, not impatient to get back to his work.

"Actually, I need to cash a check. I have appropriate identification." He walked me the five feet to the cashier's station and introduced me to Alice Gold. I should have known. Not Orange, but Gold. Alice was cordial and unquestioning as she cashed my check for two hundred dollars, counting back to me a mix of tens and twenties. I left the bank with my curiousity even more aroused and headed for The Town Cryer, the little glass storefront across from the bank. I figured this was the Simsville newspaper, such as it was. I'd drop in and ask for the current issue.

The glass door was covered with handbills, sale notices and assorted announcements, with just an inch of clear space here and there. Window blinds on the other side of the glass kept me from seeing inside, so I turned the knob and pushed the door open. I was immediately faced with a long countertop with little floor space in front of it. Few of the overhead fluorescent lights in the long open room were burning but there wasn't much to see. High tables were piled with clipping books, newsprint, pens and pencils, tall backless stools, and stacks of prior editions of the Informer. No-one was in sight but a noise came from an open doorway at the back of the room. It sounded something like a lumberjack's axe kerPLUNK chuck, kerPLUNK chuck. I pushed open the swinging gate at the end of the counter and made my way through the tables toward that sound. A tall, very thin white-headed man with his back to me was pushing a button on an old printing press, printing one legal-sized page at a time. Not wanting to startle him, in between two loud PLUNKs I rapped my knuckles on the door frame.

"Ah, hello there, be with you in a jiffy." He flipped a switch and the press came to a halt. "Can't hear much with old Bessie running." He wiped his spindly fingers on an old towel and glanced down at the stack of pages. "They'll be okay here for a bit, need to do about that many more," he commented as he walked toward me.

"I'm afraid I'm a mite inky or I'd give you my hand," he apologized as we walked back toward his desk behind the high counter top. He offered me a straight-back oak chair, then sat down in his swivel desk chair with a sigh.

"Looking to run an ad?" His voice had a hopeful pitch.

"No, just thought I'd pick up one of your newsletters is it? I'm not sure exactly when it comes out. The Informer?"

"Oh yes, that's what I'm running back there, it'll be out soon as I get the last of that batch done. Distribute them myself around town. Be glad to give you one soon as they set a minute. Ink needs a minute or so to dry or the smudges will get you. Like a cup of coffee? Or better yet, iced tea that'll do the trick while we wait on 'em to dry." He rose by pressing his palms down on his knobby knees. Turning sideways a little, he pulled open a long, deep drawer built into the counter. It contained an apartment sized refrigerator complete with ice compartment. Another drawer contained china mugs, instant coffee, packets of sugar and dried creamer, a four-cup tea pot and a hot plate. He pried open a zip-lock bag and pulled out four tea bags. "Like my tea a bit stronger for the ice, you know."

He kept up a running conversation while he fussed with the pot, the tea bags and the hot plate. This seemed to be a familiar ritual. Several minutes later he was carefully pouring boiling water over the tea bags, filling a serving bowl with ice and offering me several sugar packets. Tall tea glasses rested on a layer of paper towels. I added sugar to my glass and poured in a bit of steeped tea to dissolve it, filled the glass with ice and poured in more tea. He handed me a long silver teaspoon and several slices of real lemon. By then he had told me all about the current issue of the Informer. Lost calico cat and found baseball glove. Fund raiser for a new set of curtains at the hall (formerly the church). Meetings, get-togethers, assorted want ads and sales. I wondered if I would need to read the paper at all, seemed like I was getting all the information it contained first-hand. I wondered why he didn't ask who the heck I was...

"Now, then," he finally sat down with his own tea glass in hand. "What do you want to know, really?" His smile seemed genuine but pointed, and his voice was not as wavery as it had been a moment ago.

I sat there and sipped my tea, looking him right in his baby-blue eyes. He knew who I was. So did the banker, and the waitress. So did the whole town, probably. They all knew. Who told them? The lawyer? Or Jones?

"My name's Silver, by the way, John Paul Silver, but everybody calls me Silver." I choked on my tea, and once I started laughing I thought I'd never stop.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 |