Chapter 21 “Whose Your Daddy”
I dropped Tom off at his shack. Couldn’t much call it anything else considering the sight of it. I knew when the church deal went through his church “flock” would make sure Tom and his family had more suitable living arrangements. My goal was to leave that entire drug dealing business behind me and get the sale papers viewed by someone other than Timothy Haines so I could move on. I certainly didn’t want the old preacher signing anything that could have gotten him into any shady legal matters. No I was going to make sure everything was on the up and up before I headed West.
After a good night’s sleep Duke and I had breakfast. I then made the call to Granddaddy in Austin with a request for his people to look over the legalities of the church I had found for Tom Baird. The church I was prepared to purchase and repair for him that is.
Grandaddy’s secretary put me right through to him. Of course he asked me where I was and when I said Amarillo he immediately figured something was wrong. Probably because time wise I should have gotten to Los Angeles already, instead I was only a few hundred miles from Austin heading back to Route 66. I assured him I was fine but had been waylaid due to some ratfink planting drugs in my Cadi. I realized after I said it I should not have said it. Granddad about flipped his grey comb over as well as I could hear the familiar sound of the bottom desk drawer open and the bottle of Canadian Club hit the top of the desk.
“Grandad, I am okay. Listen to me now. I met an old black man name of Tom Baird whose family was down on their luck. I tried to leave them all behind and drive onto Santé Fe but you know I couldn’t do it Pops. They live in a run-down shack where his son is disabled and his daughter has a three year old. To make matters worse the old man lost his job too. He’s a preacher man Granddaddy and I found him the neatest outta sight little church you ever saw with a ready made congregation.”
Granddad abruptly interrupted my running on saying he wasn’t helping me buy any church for any old Negro man. Furthermore…..
I quickly intercepted before he could say anything further. “Granddaddy, you are not buying a church for anyone. I am. I need the expertise of your legal team to look over the paperwork so Tom Baird and I don’t get hornswoggled amidst a bad deal. That is all I am asking regarding the church deal. On the other hand we have found ourselves in the middle of some sort of drug operation in small town Amarillo, U.S.A. Tom and Duke were kidnapped, Miles Reed the FBI investigator's vehicle was run off the road and then he was hospitalized. T hen I found him sobbing at the cemetery over Pam Hawkinson's grave after she killed her lover and then herself basically in front of me and her uncle, the realtor selling us the church. And …..”
“For the love of God Julianna, how the hell do you get yourself into these situations? I want you to get your dog and put the Cadi on the highway and get the hell outta there today! Do you hear me youngin’? Just look at the mess you’re in again. Another God Damn cardboard box you’re able to crawl out of but you don’t. It’s a cardboard box Julianna and I don’t want to see it turn into damn coffin.” That is what he said in a loud crackling voice that ran through me as if it were God himself shooting bolts of hot lightning all around me with their tiny tributaries hitting my brain.
I was silent for what seemed minutes but of course was only seconds. I didn’t know what to say considering I had already said too much. Probably a result of the special brewed ice tea I had for breakfast. Whichever the reason it was too late whereas I heard nothing on the other end of the phone line. It wasn’t like Granddaddy to hang up on me but then I had given him quite a bit of stress the past month or so. And then the deep southern voice of my Grandfather spoke.
“Send me the paperwork!”
“I meekly said, “Thank you sir.” And we hung up. I could see in my mind’s eye Grandad’s next steps as though I were sitting across the desk from him. He unscrewed the cap from the jug of Canadian Club Whiskey, took out a shot glass, filled it to the brim, downed it and smiled. And then he did it again. I was wishing I could get away with that but I knew better. He could hold his liquor from the years of practice whereas I never indulged to that degree of which I was thankful.
I made my way to the local Amarillo Post Office only to find it closed for lunch. Simply dandy I thought. Federal employees get to close the building for lunchtime. They had much more power than other business’s and they pulled that bully card whenever possible, especially in the federal legal system. I did some shopping while the Fed’s ate lunch then returned to mail the copies of the church legal papers to Granddaddy’s office in Austin. I had no idea how long before I would hear from either his attorney’s or he himself. Guess it was time to settle in for a bit of Amarillo sightseeing. Although so far my sight-seeing days in the fair city were nothing to write or call home about. Fact was they had been rather frightening.
I shopped at almost every store on Polk Street, then 7th and 8th Street. The next day I went back downtown to the Paramount Theatre and saw “Party Girl.” During my shopping sprees Shamika babysat Duke. He loved it there as well as it always lifted Shamonta’s spirits to the moon. And of course I would bring a Cadi full of presents for everyone upon my return. Tom had gotten his job back at the Rice Motel Restaurant and all seemed to be going smoothly for everyone. I hadn’t seen or heard from Miles Reed at all nor did I make it a point to search him out. I was dang tired of talking, hearing, or seeing, anything to do with drug activity, murder suicides, interrogations, or kidnapping’s, in Amarillo. Nope, I was shopping, sightseeing, and waiting for news from Granddaddy and or his legal people. I had been in Amarillo for Thanksgiving and now we were headed for Christmas. It was way past time for Duke and me to hit the road again. Granddad had contacted me once since our initial conversation to let me know he had a trickle of good information for me but it required a bit more time. He had also spoken to Tilton Boyer who placed a pending sale on the property. I did wonder how Granddad made that happen but I did not question it for now.
On Tom’s day off we had gone out to walk the grounds of his new church home. Our visit that day to Christ the King Pentecostal Church was for fun, future plans, and of course some serious prayer. I told him I also wanted to make a stop at the mansion. Dear God and all his Angels and Mother Mary I thought old Tom would fall dead on the spot. Why his brown face turned pale. Never had I seen anything such as that, but then I hadn’t personally known very many Negro’s who fainted.
As he leaned against one of the beautiful tree’s he said, “Is youse bored missy Julie? I is show we can come up wit sometin betta and safa ta doo wit our time and lives.” And he walked away from me. That was the first time old Tom ever spoke to me in such a fatherly manner. I was embarrassed at my lack of sensitivity for what I failed to recall he had been put through at that evil place. Even Duke walked off from me with old Tom.
I said, “Wait, I’m sorry. I just thought we could, um, find out, um, investigate, and get some answers.” Neither Duke nor Tom acknowledged my intentions in any way. They just kept walking. “Fine then, I will go by myself after I drop you and Duke off at your place.”
Old Tom stopped dead still never uttering a word. Just standing there like a dang statue. Duke did his usual looking back and forth at Tom then me, then Tom then me.
At that instant Tom said, “Use yoer head child.”
I suppose he was right in hindsight, but as we all know I rarely did that until after the fact. We finished our church planning visit I seemed to have ruined for everyone. I was beginning to wonder if the church deal was ever going to go through, although Tom was becoming more acquainted with his congregation as the days and weeks passed. They would meet him every Saturday night and Sunday morning at the Church. They brought lawn chairs, musical instruments, some of the instruments were homemade and folding tables full of food. Tom would stand on the steps of the church and preach as well as led the people in song. It was truly exhilarating to be a part of.
Duke, Tom, and I piled into my beautiful pink Cadillac and sat there in silence. Finally Tom said, “Fine, goes to dat damn mansion ifin’s youse must!”
And so we did. When Duke realized where we were he started whimpering like a baby. I felt as bad as I guess I should have. Tom was equally unhappy with me as he attempted to sooth Duke’s fears.
Tom said, “Now youse goin’ to take to breakin’ in? Youse breakin da law Julie! Anyways da doors gonna be locked so let’s goes home girl.”
I told him I wanted to at least try the door and when I did it opened. I was smiling ear to ear like I had won something big. Tom on the other hand was shaking his head saying, “Shit!” I learned that day preachers cuss on occasion too. I pushed the creaking door open. Duke started barking and Tom was still shaking his head is frustration. I think he had stopped saying shit by then. I told Tom I wanted to see what was behind or around the fireplace. Pam had told me the hidden staircase to the third floor was behind the fireplace but it wasn’t. It was inside the pantry. Dang place was almost as eerie as my run in with the Ghost of the outer edge back in Illinois or was that Missouri? Townsfolk said the ghosts of Tim and Jake’s Father and Pam’s Mother walked the third floor for years. And now Pam and Jake were most likely stuck up there also. Tom drew the line on going to that floor. He said no way would he subject himself or Duke to that horror ever again. And I agreed.
We got to the main floor kitchen and I began inspecting the fireplace. Tom sat at the table with Duke hugging his leg. In fact if Duke could have he would have been in Tom’s lap. I pushed every brick on the face of that fireplace wall hoping for a magical door to open or an entire wall to move aside. Nothing. Then I moved to the walls where I pressed spots where there was no reason to press spots. I kicked the fireplace, hollered at it, hit it, and begged it. All the while Tom sat staring at me like I was a spoiled child who didn’t think before she acted. It was with that realization I stood very still and listened to my spirit. I did not hear anything, but I saw something in my minds eye. It was a coal black square with a small metal ring in the center. I turned and looked at Tom with unspoken wide eyed intention.
Tom said, “What?”
I didn’t respond, rather I laid on the floor as close to the fireplace opening as possible and reached inside. Closing my eyes so I could use my other senses to find the black coal colored square, and then I squealed like a greased pig in a rodeo race! My finger hooked the latch and I pulled. Tom realized what was happening and sprang into action shining my flashlight into the black hole of a possible treasure find. The brick fell out from the wall and behind it was a metal box. I was able to pull it lose from its captivity and it fell to the floor of the fireplace as though it knew I was freeing its hidden mystery. Tom grabbed it and set it on the table. We both starred at it with some unearthly feelings. Like maybe this wasn’t real.
I said, “Open it Tom! Hurry.” Although old Tom never did much of anything in a hurry, because he was slow, steady, and thoughtful, unless he was preaching. And so Tom unemotionally pried it open and inside the box we found folded papers. Tom carefully unfolded the papers and once again his eyes got big as saucers.
I said, “What, what! What is it?”
His mouth was hanging open and his eyes were still way too big to look normal as he handed the papers to me. I took them into my hands, shone the flashlight onto the typewritten paper and read aloud.
State of Texas Birth Certificate
Mother: Agnes Hawkinson Father: Unknown
Child: Baby Pamela Jean Hawkinson Date of Birth: 1-22-1940 and so on as a legal document read. And then I saw the note attached to the birth certificate. The note was the reason for Tom Baird’s eyes to bug out like he’d stuck his finger in an electrical socket. The note read: Upon my death please notify my daughter Pamela J. Hawkinson that her birth fathers name is Miles Wilson Reed of Galveston, Texas. And please forgive me for never telling you the truth my loving child.
Behind the note and birth certificate was the deed to the mansion and the little white church. They had been left to Miles Reed and Pam Hawkinson upon the death of Agnes Hawkinson.
“Holy Shit Tom!” I said.
Tom agreed this was a lot. to take in. It was big. Someone we’d known had been hiding a very big secret. Tilton said the mansion was owned by Tim and Jake Haines. No wonder Jake was going to kill Pam. They wanted to inherit the property. But why? It’s a run-down old prison where ghosts live. And the church is a Negro church. Something is still missing I told Tom. Oh my gosh no wonder Miles was beyond grief when Pam died. He must have known she was his daughter. And here I thought they were lovers. He interrogated me so he could learn more about Pam and keep his eye on Jake whose father murdered Pam’s mother for having an affair with his father. And all that talk about Jake being a Frenchman must have been a cover up to keep me out of the loop. I was not sure Miles was aware he owned the properties. I was zoned out inside my head with all this new information. When I came back to earth I looked up and noticed Tom’s face had saddened. He suddenly realized he may not get the precious little white church after all. Tilton and Tim Haines must know my legal team will find out they do not really own the church. We could be in danger once again.
And then we heard a vehicle coming up the gravel driveway. My baby browning was in the Cadi. We could either go up to third floor or race to the Cadi. Neither was a good option. That is when I heard Preacher Tom say, “Shit!” And I prayed it wouldn't be the last time I ever heard him say it.