The Cardboard Box Chapter 22
If Tom, Duke, and I could get to the garage before whoever was coming opened the garage door we could escape out the secret door to the hillside opening. We flew down the stairs and into the garage just as someone manually pulled up the old rusty wide garage door. We were almost through the escape entry when someone said.
My ability to have rational thinking had left the building. Tom and Duke had made it through the secret door but I was left with what was surely the last of my 14 cat lives. I knew Old Tom would take care of Duke upon my passing. Yet I wanted to know why I had to give my life for this old run down mansion with a jail on the second floor and ghosts up the butt on the third floor. I remained still as a statue while Joe Don Waller faced me with a pistol. I silently told God, his Angels, his Mother, and all the saints I could remember considering I was Lutheran that I dang straight didn’t want to die at the hands of that low life scum bucket creep. I also informed God & Co. I believed hadn’t been bad enough for these consequences in all my twenty some years. Pretty sure I was somewhat in silent begging mode. Joe Don was taking steps closer when in the door came Tilton Boyer. If I had not had a pistol pointed at me I would have shouted something like; “Why am I surprised?” Guess it was bad timing for such behavior. Then low and behold behind him came Timothy Haines. At that point I did say a lot. Hell I figured what did I have to lose besides my life.
The losingest loser of them all, Joe Don Waller couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He stated rattling off in poor English how he couldn’t wait to watch all the blood from my stupid brain spill out all over the floor of that place.
Haines told him to shut up and take me outside to finish the job. His next instruction was to dump the body in the nearby river where the current would take me all the way to the Gulf. No it wouldn’t but what was the sense in arguing with ignorance. My soaked ass would end up stunk in a tree branch a mile down river and Joe Don’s bullet would be traced back to all of them. I would die in vain.
I instantly threw up in my mouth but I didn’t pass out as usual. My brain seemed to realize there was no time for that. Actually I had run out of time. Even if Tom and Duke crashed through the door to save me they would be instantly shot. No, it was over. I had gone too far by not listening to Tom. God I hoped he wouldn’t blame himself. And that is when I saw Reed out the corner of my eye behind finkface Joe Don’s vehicle. Was he their backup or was he there to help me?
I said, “Well if you’re going to kill me at least tell me why. “
Badass Joe Don spoke up saying they didn’t have to tell me anything. God he was nasty. His hair resembled a D.A. you know? Combed back on each side to meet in the back and resemble a duck’s ass. I hadn’t seen that style in Wisconsin before I left. Heard in these parts it was called a “duck tail.” To add to that he had a pack of Marlboro’s rolled up inside the sleeve of his white T-shirt. And then Ratfink Uncle Tilton interrupted Joe Don by starting to “sing” the whole story. He always wanted to show off, be the big man he never got to be as a kid, and so he did. As he told me the story of a tangled family web I could see Miles Reed moving closer up the left side of Joe Don’s vehicle….. I decided not to divert my eyes from Tilton for fear they would catch onto Miles. God I hoped Miles wouldn’t be killed. God I hoped I wouldn’t be!
I interrupted Tilton. “What’s the big deal? I don’t care who owns this house or anything else about Pam or Jake or any of you.”
Tim Haines asked me what I was doing there if that were the case.
I didn’t really have an acceptable answer so I told a big lie. Told them I thought the old place was cool. Like a haunted house on Halloween. I added they could make a bundle of money taking people through it every October. Of course they just stared at me as Joe Don once again repeated how he couldn’t wait to watch all my blood drain from my stupid brain. I decided to put out what I knew to move this party on. I told Tim I came back because he had told me the staircase was behind the fireplace when in fact it was in the pantry. So I knew there was a secret in the fireplace. But I didn’t find anything so now will you please let me go. No wait, I would like to know when Pam Hawkinson lived in this place. And why……
Tilton told me for once to shut up. Obviously he wanted the floor and he got it. He told me how he was Pam’s adopted father Emil Boyer’s brother. Pam was his niece by marriage. He said Tim and Jakes Dad had an affair with Pam’s mother. Thus, Pam’s adopted father Emil killed Tim and Jakes father in a jealous rage and then drove he and his wife onto the highway into a fast moving oncoming rig right there on that property. The continued stress drove their mother to the insane asylum near Ft. Worth where she resides to this day. We all felt we had paid a terrible price for the wrong doings of their parents and my brother so we forged the WILL and took over ownership of all bank accounts as well as properties. Upon the death of her parents Pam was sent to live with an Aunt in Missouri. We figured we would never see her again until she showed up here all these years later. Said her aunt had told her she was raised here when she was a small child. We figured we had to get rid of her before she figured out who we were. Townsfolks and their gossiping and all. So we took her in as family, got her into using some drugs and falling for Jake until we could figure a way to get rid of her. She would run drugs to the younger Amarillo kids while we ran the larger operation. That is when you showed up in town putting a wrench in our plans.
I said, ‘But Pam caught onto Jakes lies. She simply decided she couldn’t handle one more lie in her life. Not one more con she told me. I see now there were many secrets no one told her about. All you grown men took advantage of a young woman for what? An old run down mansion and a Negro Church?”
Tilton actually laughed at me. Told me the real estate business, the church, Timothy’s fake legal status were all cover ups for laundering big drug money out of Chicago and St. Louis. They used the mansion for drug exchanges and a possible hide out if necessary. The church was also a great place to deliver goods on a cheerful Sunday. As for Pam, she didn’t know too much. She thought Jake loved her and they would ride off into the sunset together forever. Tim told her he had fake ID’s made for the both of them to leave the country soon. Told her they had family in France. Of course it was all a lie. It’s her fault anyway. If she had just stayed in Missouri she would be alive. Dear God they just blamed her for all the shenanigans they put her through that led to her death. Narcissist bastards.
Joe Don hollered that was enough of this talk as he popped the lid off a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can. God he was a scum bag. Damned if a scum bag was going to take me out. I just couldn’t stand it one second longer. I instinctively lifted my leg with some unknown force other than my own and kicked Joe Don’s Pabst Blue Ribbon to the moon. He was still in shock when I kicked again this time his pistol flew out of his other hand. God he was dumb as a stump. The secret door hatch opened and Duke came out with a vengeance. He bit and pinned Joe Don to the ground not to mention the blood pouring out on the cement floor. I almost laughed but I was too busy being terrified. Tom grabbed me and held me as approximately sixteen FBI agents swarmed out of every corner and door in the area. It was then I noticed Miles Reed walking very slowly away from everything he has just heard. Walking away from the daughter he never got to hold. He had been waiting for just the right time to pull her from that nest of criminals. He had put her on the payroll as an undercover agent but her love for Jake overrode it all. I believe if she had known Miles was her father she would have left Jake. Or maybe not.
Pam’s aunt had contacted him the past year with the truth. He had moved to Amarillo to find his daughter. He found her but instead of a happy reunion he found she had gotten into a serious drug dealing ring. Miles did his best to keep track of her up to her last day on earth. He was about to tell her he was her father when she gave up on life. He also knew Tom and Duke were being held captive on the third floor of the mansion. He told me later he was very sorry for that but he had to wait until he had more proof but he had made sure they were as comfortable as possible. I asked him why he had interrogated me so long regarding Pam. He said he wanted to know as much as possible about his daughter and how to help her out of the pit she had dug herself into.
It was quite enjoyable to watch the FBI take Joe Don dufus out of there crying like a baby. As well as Tilton who would never see the inside of his fancy schmancy sports car again. Nor would he ever again have a reason to read a book on how to invest “drug” money. But I will add the saddest of all was the quiet Timothy fake attorney Haines. He was oldest boy, then man always in the background quiet and scared as a church mouse. And now his family was all gone, either dead or imprisoned.
Tom and Duke and I piled into my beautiful Pink Cadillac and just sat there. I felt like I had run fifty miles and swam two considering I couldn’t swim. Duke was still running on adrenalin. Tom……
He said, “Miss Julie, youse very important to me but I jis caint take no more of all dis. I tink I will jis work at da Rice Motel and be done wit it. I tank you fer all youse done fo me and my family. Now jis take me home okay?”
I thought I would cry a river. I had gotten the old man kidnapped, shot at, and above all so excited about his new church. No one sang or spoke a word all the way back to Old Tom’s shack.
When I pulled around the corner to let Tom off I thought I may never see him again and felt it was an awful way to leave things. Instead, there was Miles Reed’s car waiting for us. Not sure how he knew we would be there but then I wasn’t sure how he knew Tom and I had gone to the Mansion either.
Tom greeted Miles with a strong handshake. Me, I was more walking with my tail between my legs. Duke he was happy to be anywhere but that mansion. Miles asked if we could sit and talk a spell. Tom and I agreed and we all sat in the torn lawn chairs outside. Shamika made a batch of good old Texas ice tea with fresh lemon. Miles started to talk and I interrupted as usual. He stopped and waited the gentleman he was. I asked Tom to give Miles the papers we found in the fireplace. Tom pulled the folded papers out of his top pocket and handed them over. Miles asked what it was. Told me if this was FBI business it could wait. Tom and I shook our heads in unison while Duke looked at me then Tom then Miles and then again. Miles just stared at the document and note. A tear ran down his tanned face as he told us he waited too long to tell Pam she was his daughter. He never knew he had a daughter until six months ago. Then when he did find her she was already wrapped up in the drug ring. He said he was trying to free her from it when she fell in love with Jake. Said he shouldda killed him. She’d still be alive if he had killed the bastard. Then he told Tom he had no use for a Pentecostal Negro Church or even for God anymore. He would be signing over the property to Tom Baird as long as I paid the back taxes and repairs per city codes.
Old Tom took Miles by the hand and told him he weren’t takin’ no church unlessin’ Miles promised to come at least twice in each month. Told Miles God didn’t kill his daughter. God tried every way to save her. In the end she made her own decision. That she be watchin’ down on her Daddy and he expected Miles to make her proud. Miles looked up and smiled at the old man. Shamika said a beautiful prayer of Peace for Pam Hawkinson and her Daddy Miles Reed.
It was then my brain came back to me full circle. I said, “Whoa, wait a minute, how did you know Tom and I were at the mansion. Damn we almost got killed!”
Miles actually laughed at me as he told the story of my Grandfather contacting Director Ferguson who contacted Miles. He told us how Ferguson got him off his pity party and back into action. You owe him a debt of gratitude Julianna. Your Grandfather’s people discovered Tim Haines fake lawyer status as well as the property deed changes made illegally. Your Grandfather informed us you would not leave our fair city if this situation was not solved. That he feared for your life as this time you had gotten in a bit over your head. We assured him we would not let you out of our site and we did not. After a few laughs and a wish for a couple shots of C.C. I recalled something.
“What were the jail cells for on the second floor of the mansion?” I asked.
Miles said no one really knew for sure. Talk from the old timers said it had something to do with the Spanish American War. Then after that it was used during prohibition. Said he'd seen pictures of Whiskey stills all over that property hidden in the woods.
“So Miles, do you think you might tear it down?” I said.
Miles smiled as he announced his plans to us. “No Julianna, I am going to renovate the old place and make it a home for wayward teens and young adults who have no family or have lost their way. They will enjoy all the hidden staircases and tunnels.”
In the days to come Miles received a new birth certificate from Pam’s aunt in Missouri. It stated under Father: Miles Reed. One would have thought he was just given a gold bar. I also got me a new pair of Pink boots while I did keep the old ones to remind me not to jump out of moving trucks ever again. And a pretty pink western studded shirt to replace the one the bull may still have hanging on his horns out in that pasture!
I stopped by Tom’s on my way out of town the following Saturday. In the yard of his old shack were at least thirty people from his congregation. All ready to renovate the shack and his yard. So many happy people in one place I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. Tom came over and gave me the biggest fatherly hug I had probably ever had. He whispered in my ear he loved me and to keep in touch. And then he said.
“By the way, Miles Reed stopped by. Told me to tell you he is naming the mansion, “The Pamela Reed House of Peace.”
I was jumping up and down when old Tom stopped me and told me there was more.
“The west wing will be named “Julianna Rowe West Wing.” I bawled like a baby. In fact I think I bawled happiness almost all the way to Sante Fe. And somehow I knew Old Tom would be right in there helping Reed with those kids.