After nosing thru the dredges of the take-out boxes, hoping against hope I would find neglected pork filled hom bow amongst them, I remembered my earlier research. I waited until Sarah finished her rant on why she firmly believed no one under the age of seven should come into contact with clowns (Wood pulling faces to illustrate her tale), before asking my question.
Wood: “You should call her Bee, it would save time.”
Me: “You’ve known her for years. Beatrice works fine for me.”
Wood: “But, she buzzes like a bumble bee between books.”
He looked very proud of his string of alliterations. Sarah sat back, trying not to laugh at our exchange. I wonder if Wood nipped a sip of something from the shed’s liquor cabinet during the move.
Beatrice (sounding slightly insulted): “Is that why you call me Bee? Because I remind you of a bug?”
Wood: “In the best possible way.”
Me (trying to save Wood from himself): “Anywayssss Beatrice, I figured out Pumpkin Mountain is somewhere in the North Cascades. Does this narrow it down enough to help?”
Beatrice (turning in her chair started to peruse the books next to her): “Yes, it does. Give me a minute.”
Wood: “Oh! Sounds like a place you’d find Tim Burton filming.”
While Beatrice flipped thru books calling out numbers, Wood stood by the flat files leafing thru maps which may or may not have corresponded to Beatrice’s numbers. While they amused themselves, I focused on Sarah and went straight to the point.
Me: “So what’s Little Ben’s plan?”
Sarah (grabbed her purse and pulled out a manila envelope): “I snagged a press packet for you, but the gist? His Highness bought MacGregor farm lock, stock, and box top from the widow. He’s keeping the oldest son on to manage the farm and Mrs. MacGregor for tours.”
Me (leafing thru the glossy-paged packet): “Ok, where is he placing the pet cemetery? Not near the fields or farm animals, I hope.”
Sarah: “No. He’s earmarked the strip of land adjacent to creek’s bank on the farm side.”
Setting down the papers I leaned back in my chair, rubbing my fists in my eyes, wishing Sarah had better news.
Sarah: “I did ask him why. He said the ground was soft enough he could use the old equipment you’d retired from Nevermore. So with the tax deductions from donated harvests, without the purchase of new equipment, no longer paying your salary and reducing his personal expenses, he believes he’ll recoup the money spent buying the farm in less than eighteen months.”
Me: “Crap. No one’s tried talking to him about alternative areas?”
Sarah: “I think the MacGregor’s tried but didn’t get anywhere. Why? Is it that bad?”
Swiveling my blurry eyes towards Wood’s enthusiastic drawer pulling, I grabbed his cola and took a sip. Whiskey. I knew he filched something! Swapping his cup for mine, I continued to work on his drink and Sarah’s information.
Me (finally finding the Sunny Valley Farm map amongst the literature and pointed at the proposed area): “MacGregor Farm sits directly on Iron Creek and floods periodically right where he intends to place the pet cemetery.”
Sarah: “So bad.”
Wood (his interest diverted back in our direction): “Why?”
Me: “Caskets are surprisingly buoyant. Combine that fact with soft ground and flood waters? They’ll get worked up to the surface in no time flat then get washed downstream onto public land. Can you imagine some unsuspecting person, probably kids, finding and opening one?”
Wood (taking a sip of his drink and looking quizzically at it): “So bad.”
Beatrice (holding a map in her hands): “You don’t work there anymore. Nevermore isn’t strictly your problem anymore.”
Wood and Sarah swapped glances while studiously avoiding mine.
Me (sighing): “Nevermore is my responsibility, I promised to look after it.”
Beatrice (her gaze inscrutable): “Okay, how can I help?”
Me (finishing Wood’s fortified soda): “Not sure yet. Did you find Pumpkin Mountain?”
Beatrice (looking down): “Help me clear off the table, I’ll show you.”