“WHEN SHIRLEY MET TALLULAH”
As I walked away, Oneeda waved bye, then began pushing her way through the crowd toward the diva. Shirley Dawkins came out of nowhere and grabbed hold of Oneeda’s skirt, using her for interference. They inched their way through the crowd. I stopped to watch.
Shirley was a shrimp of a thing. Her red eyes and dark circles suggested she’d been crying for days. Shirley was about to meet the woman who’d shot and killed her husband. I wasn’t about to miss this.
I lost sight of them, so I did what I had to—I stood on a chair.
She broke away from Oneeda and stumbled into the movie star’s arms. Shirley straightened up and delivered a walloping smack across Ivey’s left cheek. The crowd hushed. Two women kept Shirley from crumpling to the floor.
Unfazed, Tully Ivey placed a palm on her cheek. “How thoughtful of you, my dear. I do believe I missed an application of rouge this morning. Right here. I’d like to see if the color on both sides matches now.” She exhibited her best camera pose. The photographers ate it up.
When the flashbulbs stopped, she looked at Shirley. “Darling, you must be the wife. I am deeply sorry for what happened. But, dear, it was an accident.”
Shirley twirled and lurched back through the crowd. People helped her to the outside ring of on-lookers. Oneeda grabbed her and they left through the kitchen’s back door.
I met them outside. Oneeda was holding Shirley up, keeping her from falling to the ground.
“Oh, Shirley, I am so sorry,” I said. “Oneeda, how can I help?”
“I’m going to take her home. I’ll stay with her. We’ll be all right. Catch up with you tomorrow.”
Shirley wouldn’t stop sobbing. Looking up to the sky and back to the ground, she kept asking, “Why? Why was Andrew there, Lord?”
On the white rock road, Ivy’s black sedan serpentined between the granite headstones, home to hundreds of Calvary’s long forgotten.
The next day, I drove to the sheriff’s department in Greenlee, ready to get my copy of the note Andrew had in his hand. Sheriff Turnbull handed me the original, secured in a plastic evidence bag, but I could read every word.
I don’t deserve you. I will always love you. I just want you to know the proof of your innoçençe in the Rod Russell shooting is in safe deposit box 4918 at City National Bank. One day I will explain why I didn’t tell you earlier. The key is on the ledge ~ Andrew
Hmmm, seemed Andrew may have loved her after all. But, what was this Rod Russell shooting about?
Sheriff Turnbull interrupted my thought with the same question. “What in tarnation is this Russell shooting about?” He wasn’t speaking to me, just thinking out loud. “It makes no sense. What would Andrew Dawkins know about her shooting some man in Los Angeles?”
“The note mentions some key to a lockbox,” I said. “The answer is in there. We need to see what’s in that lockbox.”
“There’s no we here, Martha. I give the orders. And you’re not involved. Besides, there ain’t no key.”
“On the ledge. Right here in the note. It says he left a key on the ledge.”
“We searched for hours. There was no key.”
“What about his pockets?”
“Look at me. We searched his pockets. We had four men scour the entire area for three hours. They found nothing. Now, you have to understand, this is a police matter. You are not part of this department. We’ll take it from here.” He turned to walk away.
I looked closer at the note. “Wait, Butch. Why is there tape on the note? Did you put it there?”
“No. I figured Dawkins never had a chance to tape it to the window.”
I picked it up again, studied it. “Look, this is odd. The tape is on the wrong side of the note. Why would he leave a note for her to read if he taped it facing outward? He would have placed the tape on the backside of the note, so she could read it from inside the house. The tape is on the wrong side.”
“What? Let me see.”
Taking the note, he flipped it again and again, studying the tape. “You’re right. The note was intended to be taped on the window so it showed out, not in.”
“Did you check it for fingerprints?”
“Why would I? It was his note.”
“You should check it for prints. I would.”
“So, you’re a detective now, huh?”
“Maybe I should be.”
If I were on the inside of this investigation, I could learn a lot more.
“Look, I’ll make you another deal. Deputize me and I won’t write a story about this note in the Gazette.”
“Again? You’re trying to blackmail me again? I have a mind to—”
“Call it what you want—blackmail, white mail, I don’t care. Do it. Make me a deputy.”
He tossed his straw hat on the desk and eased a hand through his crew cut. “Martha, Martha, I appreciate everything you did to help three years ago, but you know I can’t make you a deputy. It’s not possible.”
“Butch, if there’s one thing I know you can do, it’s deputize a citizen who can help. Says so in Mississippi law and you know it. ‘In times of crisis a sheriff can appoint deputies.’”
“Right. In times of crisis.”
“What do you think this is?”
“This is not a crisis,” he said.
“Oh, but it is. I bet there’s going to be another murder.”
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