What else to do on a rainy Friday night but write? Here you go…
While Myrtle was working on the filing project the following morning, she let her mind wander. She kept coming back to the ex-wives as the most likely to have reason to kill Pop. They had to be the first priority for her and Vera. Even through her sadness, the morning hours seemed to move quickly. She was surprised when she looked at her watch and saw that it was already noon and time to go meet Vera for lunch. They had plans for a quick hamburger at Hardees.
“I know I sound like a broken record but did you hear the news?” Vera asked as soon as Myrtle walked in the door.
“No, what is it now?”
“They’ve made an arrest and say that a local meth head killed Pop.”
Myrtle was so surprised she almost dropped her purse – which would have been tragic as it was a favorite and if it touched the floor of a public place she’d have to trash it.
“Let’s get our food and sit down. I need to think about this.” Myrtle said to her friend.
With their trays of hamburgers, french fries and soda, they found a booth and sat down to eat. After a few bites, Myrtle was ready to talk.
“Tell me what you know, Vera.”
“I saw Officer Murray as I was walking out of my office and he told me about the arrest. I know his name is Barry and he is known to the police as a local meth user and small time dealer. He went to the hardware store and tried to use a few hundred dollar bills to pay. Jerry has run that business for over 30 years and he knew to watch out for counterfeit or fishy bills. As soon as he saw the 100s, he knew that something wasn’t right. He called the police and, sure enough, it was some of the money that had been taken from Big Pop.”
“OK. But, why would he kill Pop? He could have just stolen the money. Most of these meth heads aren’t killers.”
“Their theory is that Pop must have said something to set him off or refused to hand over the money.”
“Sorry, Vera, I’m not buying it.”
“Well, Officer Murray did say that Barry was denying everything. He says that he found the money. You know, Myrt, that he wouldn’t admit that he killed Pop so of course he is going to say whatever he thinks will get him out of jail.”
“That may well be but still. I think we need to continue on with our investigation.”
“How did I know you were going to say that?”
The friends agreed that the first person they should interview was Shelby. The most obvious suspects were the ex-wives and she was the most likely to give them something they could work with. They decided to show up at her house the following Saturday morning.
As they were driving to her house on Airport Road, Vera started having second thoughts.
“Are you sure we are doing the right thing? I mean the police still have Barry in custody and Shelby has no reason to tell us anything.”
“Exactly. Shelby has no reason NOT to tell us anything. With Barry in jail she will feel safe and we are just there to offer condolences, right?” Myrtle looked at Vera and laughed. Vera could only shake her head and pray for the best.
Luckily, Shelby was home but it took two rings of the doorbell to get her there.
“Hi, Shelby. Do you remember me? I’m Myrtle and this is my friend, Vera. We just thought we would check in with you and offer our condolences.”
“Condolences for what?”
“We saw you at Pop’s funeral yesterday and I know how hard it is to lose a husband. Even if you had been divorced for a while.”
“Loosh a husband. That’s funny.”
Myrtle looked over at Vera to see if she had caught that Shelby was slurring her words. Vera’s eyebrows were creeping up her forehead but she was holding her tongue so far.
“Shelby, can we come in for a few minutes?” Myrtle asked.
As Shelby moved aside to let them in, Myrtle started to wonder if they made a mistake by coming there that morning. Something clearly wasn’t right in Shelby’s world but Myrtle couldn’t imagine her going out in the middle of the night and shooting someone in cold blood.
“Really, why are you guysh here? You’ve never even shpoken to me before. Why today?”
Vera decided it was time to join the conversation after she saw Myrtle’s face. “Myrt and I wanted to check in with you. Like she said, we don’t know each other very well but it has to be hard losing someone you once loved and we just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be? I mean the only man I loved ish dead and everyone knowsh he didn’t love me back.”
“What makes you say that, hon?” Vera asked softly.
“Don’t patronishe me. He was infatuated with me for a while and I think the whole town was just taking betsh on how long it would take for him to get me in bed. That’s all I as good for.”
Myrtle and Vera looked at each other nervously. “That’s not true, Shelby. Can I get you some coffee? Is it okay if I go into the kitchen?” Myrtle asked
As Myrtle eased through the kitchen door she took a deep breath. This morning was not going as she had planned and she was unsure how to continue. She started to search through the cabinets for coffee and filters as she had a sneaking suspicion that Shelby had been drinking. Opening the cabinet beside the fridge, she found a half empty bottle of Vodka and another full one behind it. While she knew it was none of her business she was sorely tempted to pour both bottles into the sink. Instead she kept looking for coffee until she found it. Once she got the pot brewed, she poured a large mug and took it into Shelby.
“Here you go, Shelby.”
“Thanks. Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Look, Shelby, I don’t know you very well but I hate to see anyone throw their life away. You’ve got to make a decision to take care of yourself.” With a sigh, Myrtle continued, “I’m not here to lecture you. Live your life. But, don’t let bitterness eat away until there is nothing left.”
Shelby took a few swallows of the coffee and stared at the mug in her hands. “I know. I’m trying.”
“We are going to leave you alone in a few minutes but I did want to ask if you knew anything about what happened between Laura and Rhonda at the graveside service. Things seemed to get tense for a while.” Myrtle decided to get to the heart of the matter and not waste any more time.
“I couldn’t hear everything but I think Laura was talking about Pop’s will. She said that she was sure to get a big chunk of his estate because she was his first wife. I think she said something about the ‘extra’ wives getting nothing. Rhonda got tired of her talking about it and finally had enough so she decided to knock some sense into Laura. Not that she would ever understand. “
“What do you mean, she wouldn’t understand?” Vera asked.
“Laura lived in her own world. She was convinced that she always deserved more and more. I’m far from perfect and I know I’ve made some mistakes but I’m happy with what I have. I don’t want any of Pop’s money. His kids should get it.”
Shelby seemed to have more to say so Myrtle and Vera just waited her out. It finally came. “When I walked into the funeral, I was so angry. At Pop. At everyone there to watch the service. And, honestly, at God. How could he take such a man so violently?”
Myrtle recognized the grief and it explained the look on Shelby’s face during the funeral. Anger caused a lot of problems in the world and solved few.
“If you ever want to talk, Shelby, please call me.” After giving Shelby her number, Myrtle stood up. “I mean it. A long time ago I loved Pop too. We can talk about that sometime other than today. I have to tell you that I’m so glad that we stopped in. I’ve never gotten to know you and that was a mistake. I hope we can spend some more time together. Thanks for seeing us today.”
As Myrtle’s words sunk in, Shelby’s face was transformed. She smiled at Myrtle and grabbed her for a hug. “Thank you for coming. You are welcome anytime. You too Vera.” She spun around and hugged Vera too. Vera was surprised but returned the hug.
“Well, that was a bust.” Vera said after they started down the road towards Myrtle’s house.
“What do you mean?”
“We learned next to nothing other than Shelby likes to take a nip and Laura is selfish – but, hey, we already knew that.”
“It’s true we didn’t learn much about Pop’s murder. But I wouldn’t change it. That woman needed us today and I think we may have helped her.” Myrtle looked at her oldest and truest friend. “Plus, you are never too old to make a new friend and we may have done that with Shelby.”
“You could be right but don’t go thinking that we are putting together some T Swift squad. My social calendar is full enough, thank you, and I don’t need a posse of friends.”
Vera always had to have the last word.