As if pulled by the same string, both Trixie and Jim ran for the car. Not more than ten feet from it however, the glowing figure disappeared. "Whered it go?" Trixie breathed.
"I dont know," he replied, walking the rest of the way. He moved to the hood and ran his fingers over it. "Trix, feel this. Its stone cold."
While she also moved her fingers across the metal, Jim walked around the Escalade, looking for anything unusual.
"Do you feel that?"
He looked blankly at her. "Im not sure I know what you mean."
"Its cold. Not just the hood, but the air as well."
The night air had been breezy but humid at the same time. Jim stood still and now noticed that it felt as though an air conditioner had been just turned off near them. "Trix dont say what I think youre about to say."
"Jim, why not? You know as well as I do that many of the stories of ghosts and hauntings report feeling a cold presence or wind blowing."
"And I shouldnt have to tell you Trix, there are no such things as ghosts."
"Then you explain what we just saw and felt."
"Trix, I dont know if I can yet. But there is an explanation for it that is not a supernatural one."
Trixie merely shook her head at him, whistling the first few bars from the X-Files theme. She crouched down low to the ground, creeping around the car as Jim had done, but also came up with nothing. Presently, they both agreed that it was past time to return to the hotel and left the beach area. Trixie turned down the sound on the stereo so it only played softly.
"Jim, there is something that we havent spoken of. I know that with the personal concerns about your relationship with your dad, its kind of a bad time, but what do you think about the note he was given? Do you suppose there is anyway that it has something to do with whats happened since we got here?"
Jim sighed. "I dont know, Trix. But I kind of doubt it. I mean, how can a little threatening note be compared to what all has happened here?"
"And I dont know if I can answer that. But you can bet I will. I just have a feeling that this is all connected somehow the gambling issue, these horrible things, and even our little glowing ghost. Of course that last one is what puzzles me the most."
Jim looked briefly over at Trix. "But if I know you, youll figure all this out with any help from us," he smiled.
"Whatever," she said airily. "I need you I need you guys to help me on all our cases."
"And what are you figuring on doing when Brian, Mart and I are busily running my school?"
"Ill work that one out when the time comes. But for now, youre here, arent you?"
He smiled one last time before they exited the road to drive over the connector. "Always, Trix," was his soft answer.
In some ways, both Trixie and Jim wanted the night to continue on. They had enjoyed a rare opportunity to spend some solitary time with the other. But they knew that the night had to end. Sooner than either hoped, they were driving up to the hotel and on their way to their respective rooms. Sliding her card key in the door slot, Trixie turned to Jim, who was waiting to make sure that she got in safely.
"Good night, Jim," she whispered.
He merely mouthed his response, his eyes seeking hers out. Goodnight.
The next morning
The streets of Charleston were filled with any number of bakeries and places that served breakfasts in the style of the low country, and Mart it seemed, wanted to try them all.
"Mart," Regan said firmly. "Youve scouted about 6 places so far. Were hungry. Would you please pick one?"
The others laughed, as it became obvious that Mart had no idea how many places he had circled in his guidebook to eat. While Trixie, Jim and Honey had concentrated their efforts on finding sites to visit, Mart had characteristically carried the food guidebook like a baby blanket ever since their first night in Charleston. He finally stopped in front of a restaurant.
"You have got to be kidding me," Trixie moaned.
Matt Wheeler looked to his side. "155 Meeting Street," he read. "He looked back over at Trixie. "What?"
She tilted her head up and raised her eyebrows to the sign unobtrusively announcing the restaurant as Dianas Restaurant."
Mart opened the door and took a flying leap inside before the others could comment. He did not fail to notice however, the grins on the faces of his company. They followed him inside and were soon seated. It took almost as long for Mart to make up his mind about what to eat as it had to decide on the restaurant, a fact that Trixie was now thinking had been a deliberate move to throw them off the nature of his true intentions. Trixie had decided to have the Overstuffed French Toast, currant-berry bread filled with cinnamon apples, and finished with apple cider syrup and whipped cream, so while Mart was in the throes of decision making, she took out the newspaper she had swiped from the hotel.
"Theres an article about the bridge in here!" she cried.
"Read it, Trix," Honey said, taking a gulp of her orange juice. She had decided to have the house specialty, which was an open-faced omelet topped with grilled Zucchini, Portabella mushrooms and Pepper Jack cheese. In the spirit of the lowcountry, she had asked for grits instead of the fries.
"It says here that while the cause of the bridges collapse was still being investigated, they think it was caused by an explosive device. Evidence around the cement and girders near the two ends suggest this."
"Was anyone hurt?" Jim asked.
"It goes on to say that there were two cars that were unable to stop in time after that part of the bridge essentially fell into the river in front of them," Trixie said, her voice lowering. "The gap is in the part of the bridge fairly close to land on the Mount Pleasant side," she read. "We saw that last night. But it adds that there was one person in one of the cars, and two in another. One of those two died while the other two are in the hospital in serious condition. Apparently there were a number of injuries caused from crashes that occurred when people couldnt stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front of them." She stopped as the waitress came to take their orders.
Regan, still feeling a bit spend-thrift and lowly, in spite of his employers frown, ordered The Classic #1, 2 eggs, country ham, grits and biscuits.
Mr. Wheeler was in a different sort of mood. "Daddy!" Honey admonished. "Thats not very healthy."
"Ah, but your father has captured the true flavor of the Carolinas. Our Lowcountry Favorite of biscuits and sausage gravy is the best around," their server returned with a grin.
"I dont know that Ill be much better," Jim laughed. "Ill have the Cajun Eye-Opener. I sure could use a little eye-opener this morning."
"Late night?" Matt Wheeler put in.
"You could say that." Jim gave a small smile to his father, hoping to cultivate some of the peace that he longed to have again with Matt. Matt tried hard not to notice that Trixie had suddenly found interest in the salt and pepper shakers.
"Well, Jim you just decided for me. Ill be stealing some of your shrimp and crawfish etoufee with grits, and I just have to try a fried green tomato, but personally, Ill have the Charleston Surf and Turf," he said to the waitress as her pen hovered patiently. "Oh, and can you add an order of grits to that. Oh and some pancakes as well?"
"You do realize that the steak on the English muffins is a pretty big steak, right? And that there are a large number of shrimp covering it? And I can substitute the grits for the fries."
"Nope. Ill have the whole thing as well as the rest."
"Mart forgot to eat last year," Trixie explained to the waitress.
She walked away laughing to herself as Trixie began reading once more. "Apparently there were no cars on the actual part of the bridge when it collapsed. The only ones that went in the river were the ones that ran off the edge too late to stop. Oh wow," she said, her eyes widening. "One of the people in the hospital is Mr. William Carole. He owns one of the huge resorts on the Isle of Palms and is considered one of the richest men in town. I wonder " Trixie mumbled, more to herself.
"Oh no. Trixie, I told you before this trip began that I would not have another repeat of Mississippi. Youre here to sight see, and sight-see only," Matt Wheeler stated. "I wish I had never told you about that note ." He stopped abruptly.
"I never mentioned the note. So you do think that it wasnt a mere prank. It was a real threat!"
"Trixie, how could that childish note be connected with the collapse of a bridge. What in the world could that have to do with the gambling controversy?"
"Because you werent the only person who got a note," she finished triumphantly.
"How in the world do you know that?"
"While waiting for Honey to finish her shower this morning, I turned on the radio in our room. They were talking about an explosion that occurred off shore last night." She was not about to mention that she and Jim had seen it happen. "A sporting yacht blew up. They dont know the cause yet, but a Mr. Steven Jacobs, who incidentally happens to be the CEO of the Rington Corporation, owned it. Hed docked his yacht offshore while he came into town for some business. They mentioned that the Rington Corporation was a huge maker of gaming tables and casino type machines and that Mr. Jacobs was in town this week and next to join the "Vote Yes" campaign. When we read the newspaper about the incident at the ballgame, it mentioned that one of Charlestons more prominent citizens had been there and hospitalized. I just told you about the resort-owning man on the bridge. I bet that all of those men have something significant to do with the controversy and I bet they all received notes just like yours Mr. Wheeler."
Silence descended on the table while their food was brought. Trixies words needed digesting before the food did.
"Trix " Matt started softly.
"Mr. Wheeler, please just think about what I said. Youre important but really, why would you be the only one to get a note like that?"
He ate a bite of food and chewed for a moment, "Okay Trixie. Lets say that youre on the right track. What are you going to do about it? Ive laid down the law. There is to be no investigating while here in Charleston. Especially if you are right."
"No buts, Trixie. Ill speak to the other men involved with this huge hyped-up controversy when Ive had a chance to, later on today in our first meeting, and see what I can find out. If youre correct, well go to the police with what we know. But you," his look included Mart, Honey, and Jim as well, "are to stay out of it. Am I understood?"
He received 4 nods. "See that they do to the extent of your ability," he said to Regan, who nodded miserably. He knew how very hard it was to reign Trixie in and was not relishing his job. Breakfast was finished in near silence as the latest news was worked out, and soon Mr. Wheeler was off to his meetings, and the Bob-Whites and Regan off to Sullivans Island.
Getting to Sullivans Island was a matter of heading in the direction of the seafood restaurant they had visited the night before, and driving an extra five or so miles until they crossed the Ben Sawyer Bridge to get onto the island.
"It might be said that Charleston has some major issues with bridges," Mart commented as they crossed the waterway. "This bridge was actually upturned and blown partly into the water during the infamous Hurricane Hugo that swept through on September 20, 1989. Residents had almost no way off the island except boat and contrary to popular belief, not everyone who lives on an island these days has one. There was also the small factor that the next morning, those who did have a boat found it down the road a few hundred feet."
"How perfectly horrible," kindhearted Honey said. "I thought some of the hurricanes we had back home were terrifying. Hugo was that bad?"
"Hugo," Mart continued "reached winds of 135mph and had a storm surge of 20 feet. It left 7.2 billion dollars in damage to not only this state but states farther north and behind it in the Caribbean, 26 people dead in South Carolina alone, 5,100 homes destroyed and twice that many uninhabitable."
"And to think how upset we got about our clubhouse. That wasnt even somewhere we had to live."
"Honey, its not wrong to feel bad about that," Jim said. "But what Mart just told us does kind of show us the true picture of the extent to which people can be affected by natural disasters. The next time we hear about something like that happening, I hope Im able to go and help."
Jim had by now turned the car to the right after coming to the last stop sign before it looked like they would drive straight into the ocean had they continued driving forward. He was following Trixies directions, who was reading a map while quietly listening to the others comments.
"Just keep driving and we should see signs in a little while," she said. "Jims right. Those storms are always tragic to everyone. And wouldnt it be great to be able to help then next time one happens. I mean, not that I want one to happen, but if it does happen than . Well, you know what I mean. Especially since we almost lost something dear to us because of a horrorcaine, as Bobby would say. I remember moms and dad saying that they had lost some Crabapples from that same storm because it came so far up the eastern coast."
Honey shuddered. "Lets hope that this season brings no hurricanes."
"Well hurricane season just started so hopefully, things will indeed be quiet this year," Regan answered.
Jim drove the car around the curve of a road and stopped abruptly. They all looked left to see a tall black and white lighthouse.
"I suppose youre about to tell us which lighthouse that is, and its history as well?" Trixie asked, teasing her brother.
"I most certainly will do that as this particular lighthouse is not open to the public. Notice the unusual triangular shape of the structure, better seen from the air, but we will have to make do as the Wheeler jet is currently back in New York State. In any case, it bears the distinct resemblance to an air-traffic control tower. This lighthouse, at 163 feet tall, was built in 1962 when Charleston Harbor shifted its layout and the lighthouse on Morris Island became obsolete."
Trixie had to bite her tongue to refrain from commenting on the fact that though the lighthouse was indeed obsolete, it was still beautiful. Shed had no time to talk to Honey since arriving very early in the morning with Jim and was not entirely sure how Honey would react to the news of her night out. She was almost positive that her best friend would be happy for her. Maybe it was just that she wanted to savor the private feelings a bit longer before she shared. There was no way that she would be telling Mart any of it. Shed never hear the end of it. Sighing, she tuned back into what Mart was saying.
"Note the black and white color, a very familiar pattern with many lighthouses on the mid-eastern coastal states. It once bore the paint in a red and white design. Another interesting feature is the modern amenities that this lighthouse boasts. It has air conditioning, a rarity, and is the only light house to have an elevator for reaching the upper level. A small staircase must be used to reach the lamp room however. The first lamp placed in the room had an amazing brilliance of 28 million-candle power. This proved to be hazardous and so it was reduced to a lamp shining of just over one million-candle power. It might sound like a paucity of light, but rest assured my friends, the Sullivans Island light can be seen from over 26 miles away."
"What are those little buildings beside the tower?" Honey asked.
"Those would be the life saving station and attendants house, built in 1898. It is no longer in use as such and is owned and maintained by the National Park Service, which is the same organization, incidentally, that is trying to get their hands on the lighthouse as well. The Coast Guard no longer desires to care for the structure but the Park Service wants the land to remain in historic value. The deal is, should it come through, that the Park Service would maintain the grounds and structure, while the Coast Guard would man the light. A most satisfactory arrangement if you ask me."
Regan gave a small laugh and shook his head as Jim put the car back in gear. He had waited long enough for Honey and Trixie to take pictures with their cameras and for Mart to finish his discourse and Regan was anxious to get to the fort, being somewhat interested in military history himself. Trixie and Honey werent entirely sure how they would like this place on their list of sites, but Jim and Mart were every bit as enthusiastic as Regan. Before long, they had reached the Fort and pulled into the parking lot. Making sure they had their cameras, they trooped inside to the air-conditioned lobby of the visitors center.
"Hi. Welcome to Fort Moultrie National Monument." A man in a tan and olive green uniform stepped up to them. "Have you been here before?"
"Nope. Were from out of state," Trixie volunteered.
"Great," he said enthusiastically. "Welcome to Charleston and were glad you stopped over at Fort Moultrie. Sumter gets a lot more business," he laughed.
"We havent been there yet," Honey said.
"Well, thats not bad at all. Its actually a good thing to come to Moultrie first because its an older fort with Revolutionary history leading up to the Civil War. Sumter was started after the War of 1812 and basically its real history starts and ends with the War Between the States. So youre just going in order. The movie about Moultrie starts in about 3 minutes, and its 20 minutes long. After its over, feel free to look around in here where we have a number of items on display and some that will inform you about the fort even more. When youre finished inside, you can walk across the street to the fort and look around over there. The grounds hold a number of cannon as well. All we ask is that you dont walk on things that shouldnt be walked on, and try not to walk on the grass. Some kids last summer thought it would be fun to roll down the hills that are in the structure," he added as an aside. "Actually, I thought it was funny too, but we have to maintain appearances and all that. So anyway, be careful, have a good time, and yall have a great time here in Chalstn."
They said good bye to the talkative park ranger and went inside the small theater. The movie was indeed informative and they were glad they had chosen to see it. "I feel like I know a lot more about history now," Trixie giggled. "Thats a good thing too. Dont we have to take U.S. History junior year?" she asked Honey.
"Yep," Honey grinned. "And I know what Im writing my history term paper on too. Well, at least I know a bunch of things Im going to choose from," she giggled.
They were now across the road, prepared to come back inside to look in the gift shop on the return trip to the car. A brown sign announced that this was indeed Fort Moultrie. From here they could see a tall central structure with many flags, as well as cannon, gates, and tunnels. Agreeing to split up and meet back in an hour, Jim, Regan and Mart headed for the small internal structure that apparently had many displays inside from various wars, and Trixie and Honey started forward to the upper most part, from which they could see the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Plaques every now and then described the fort and its history.
"Look, Honey. This one says that this fort was where the first decisive victory in the American Revolution was. In June of 1776, before independence had even been declared, guns managed to repel British troops." They moved on.
"This one is telling about the battles here during the Civil War. It says that in April 1861, when the shots were fired at Fort Sumter from Fort Johnson, that was a signal to this fort to open fire on Fort Sumter as well," Honey added.
"We should be able to see Fort Sumter then." Sure enough, when the girls scanned the horizon, about a mile out in the harbor was Fort Sumter, flags flying high.
"Apparently the fort was actually rebuilt after the revolution and this structure that were standing on, or in I cant honestly figure out which is the third such structure. It was built in 1809 and except for the walls that have been removed from damage due to bombardment, remains as it did then."
"Now this is really neat," Honey continued. "The fort was maintained until 1947 just incase of attack. It was out of date but would provide easy and cheap defense if needed. 1947 was two years after World War II ended."
"Its kind of disheartening when you think about it."
"What do you mean," Honey asked, turning towards her friend.
"We went from cannon and guns at the beginning of a war and ended it with the ultimate weapon of mass destruction thereby making forts such as this obsolete. I mean, not that anything used to kill is good, but at least individuals had a chance with a cannon ball. With a nuclear bomb, tens of thousands can be killed in a split second. Its just frightening and sad to think that the whole world is out to get one another, so much so that we even have to think along these lines " Trixie finished her sentence on a gasp.
"Whats wrong Trix?
Honey looked around her. "Trix, normally I can understand you, but Im a little off today."
"Oh Honey, if my theory is correct " she paused. "Why did I not think of this? If my theory is correct, your father is in danger."
Understanding dawned on Honey, paling her face. "If all those men have received notes, and something bad has happened to at least three of them, something could happen to daddy. Oh, Trixie, lets go find the boys. Then we can figure out what to do."
Trixie nodded and they raced off to find the others, heedless of their promise to the ranger to be careful.
Trixie and Honey had found the boys drooling over displays of World War I weapons in a dingy tunnel of Fort Moultries underbelly. It took little to convince them of the need to inform Mr. Wheeler of their latest revelation, not knowing that he himself had long since thought of it. Making haste through the rest of the displays, they hurried to the car not even bothering to stop back inside the visitors center and were soon headed back on the road towards Charleston.
Mr. Wheeler had been making the rounds at the mornings activities. Companies from all over the world were represented with displays and models of their proposed interests in turning Charleston into another gambling haven. Their booths covered the ballroom of the Omni Hotel.
Some of the representatives he knew personally, but most were entry level college graduates whose job it was to learn all they could about their company, enabling them to climb the corporate ladder. But like himself, there were also many men, the CEOs of their companies, who he had met and associated with before. He was speaking with one such man now.
"Matt, how are you?"
"Im fine David. And you?"
"Cant complain, cant complain. How is that beautiful wife of yours, son? And your daughter?"
Matthew Wheeler was one of the youngest of the Fortune 500 crowd and it was not unusual for someone to make a kind but condescending reference to his age. He was well known for his good business sense, but almost even more known for his age, good looks and beautiful family.
"Theyre doing just fine. Madeline decided to stay home on this trip. Shes redecorating the place again, and Honey is actually here in Charleston with some of her friends."
"How old is Honey?" he inquired.
"Shell be 15 towards the end of August."
"Ah, good, good. And your son, how is he doing. I only remember meeting him once at the Christmas party last December."
"Jim just graduated from high school actually. Hes here with Honey and we brought along two of their friends as somewhat of a graduation and birthday gift. Hell turn 17 at the end of this week."
"Seventeen and already graduated high school. Well, Matt, he might not have come from your loins," the man joked with a hearty clap on Matts shoulder, "but he must have picked up your sense somehow," he finished, laughing.
The two men were quiet for a brief moment until Matt spoke. "David, what do you think about all the controversy surrounding this venture."
"Well, I havent thought too hard about it. We decided only to attend this week at the last minute and I myself was going to let Jack, my CFO, handle things. But he bowed out at the last minute. His wifes having a baby and he didnt want to leave her."
"So you really havent paid it much attention?"
"No!" he boomed. "Whats a little controversy. It makes the blood run is all. Matt, I see Howard Greenman signaling to me. We agreed to meet for a few minutes before this afternoons slide presentation. Well meet up later for drinks, okay?"
Matthew Wheeler nodded and watched the man walk away, digesting the information, or lack thereof, that he had gained from his colleague. He circulated more through the crowd, looking for any more of his associates with whom he might glean some idea about whether or not any of them had received anything threatening. Although he had made it seem like he had placed no great stock in Trixies theory, even he had to admit that there was too much for the events that had happened to be bad luck or coincidence. Wonder of all wonders, he thought, their "detectiving" is rubbing off on me.
Making his way to the side of the room where a continental buffet of sorts had been spread, he filled a juice glass with orange juice and turned around when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Behind him stood a man not much older than he was.
"Matt? Jerry Lawrence from the Cityguard Corporation."
"Oh, yeah, Jerry. Its nice to see you again," Matt responded. "I hadnt realized Cityguard would be here in Charleston."
"Yes, we decided to throw our names in for a few bids here and there. Security is a major factor in some of these casinos and who better to take care of it." His tone was modest but Matt knew that this man had made the Cityguard Corporation what it was and he also heard the pride in Jerrys voice as he spoke. He had great respect for his business acumen. "I figured Wheeler International would be in the thick of things."
Matt laughed, pleased somewhat at his companys reputation. "Actually its not WI directly. We bought out Dakotalina and managed to turn some things around when it looked like they might be going under. Theyre thinking about throwing their hat in to the sludge and asked me to represent them here as Im still CEO on paper, at least until the end of the year at which point in time, Garrett Julius becomes CEO and President."
"Thats good news," Jerry said, nodding his head. "Hes a good man."
Matt sighed. "And thats really why he asked me to come down here I believe. He doesnt want to start his term there on a controversial or bad note, and this of course has the potential to be both. But if I make the recommendations, well, the shareholders can question my business decisions all they want," he grinned.
"Good position to be in," Jerry finished, looking around him. Matt had noticed before that as they stood talking, Jerry would often glance around the room as if looking for someone or something. He placed his arm on Jerrys shoulder. "Jerry, is everything okay?"
Jerry turned towards Matt with a somewhat wary look in his eyes. "Im not sure what you mean."
"Well forgive me for saying so but youve been as antsy as a cat ever since we started speaking."
Jerry looked across the room before he allowed his eyes to rest on Matt. Might we go some place a little more quiet?"
"Sure." They refilled their glasses from the pitchers and walked over to where one section of the ballroom had a balcony overlooking a courtyard.
"The skittishness you see is partly because of my job," he gave a small smile. By training, he was a security guard but had transformed a small security company into a huge firm from the ground up with little more than desire, will and a very small inheritance from a grandmother. "But its also because were concerned about this convention. I cant say much more specifically Matt lets just say that it would be best if you looked out for yourself while here in Charleston. Short of giving that warning to everyone standing down stairs, Im telling whom I can, and whom I think will heed it. Theres something not right about all this."
Matt was silent for a few moments. "And you cant be any more specific than that?"
"Im afraid not. You see, Im not only here with designs on getting security contracts for the potential new venues, but Cityguard is providing the security for this event itself. Im sorry Matt, but I can only say so much. Just watch your back."
Matts eyes narrowed slightly. "People dont know what theyre up against if they choose to go against me."
"It could be they do. Perhaps thats why they might. Youre a powerful man, Matt. More modest than most but still at the top when it comes to success and fortune. Those are dangerous things to have down here right now. Ill find you later."
Matt simply nodded, watching the man walk away. He continued to peruse the crowd from his spot on the balcony until a uniformed attendant came to him. "Matthew Wheeler?"
"Sir, you have a call at the concierge courtesy phone."
"Thank you." He followed the man to the desk near the front entrance to the hotel and picked up the phone, not noticing a man standing nearby listening to Matts end of the conversation.
"When did this happen?"
"Tell me youre kidding me."
"Ill be right there." He hung up the phone more forcefully than was necessary. "I need a taxi," he said to the concierge.
"Immediately, sir." The man picked up his phone, punched a few buttons and asked for a cab. A few minutes later he was told it was just outside the door. He slid in and gave directions to the driver and was soon on his way thinking over and over again, I hope theyre all right.
The taxi pulled up at the livery where Matt had stabled his horses. As he got out, he noticed that the rental vehicle of the Bob-Whites had already arrived. The paging he had received had been from Jim. Jim had taken a phone call on Matts mobile phone from the stable owner, Mr. Dawkins. The horses, he had said, were in danger. Jim promised to get in touch with his father and presently they all stood at the door to where the horses were kept.
"Im sorry I had to reach you in such a roundabout way, and I really hope I havent pulled you away from something important, but I felt it would be best if you saw for yourself."
Matt could tell the man was terribly worried and nervous, and not only out of concern for the horses. He waved a hand at him, not willing to become irate until he knew more about the situation. "Why dont you tell us what happened?"
"Well, we exercised the horses this morning as usual. Some of the boys mucked while this was going on and the horses were put away. We were tending to two sick horses just after this. Dr. Kyle Michaels, the vet, came in to help. We were with him in the third building over there," he pointed, "for a good half an hour. Peter, one of the boys, came out briefly to get something Kyle had left in his car. He says that he noticed a car that was in the drive but parked somewhat out of the way. No one had come in to see us and so he thought this to be strange. He also said that the door to the stable where we keep your horses was open. This is fairly unusual," he continued, as they stood by that same door, "because we try to keep at least the bottom half closed at all times. In any case, Peter went inside the stable and apparently was knocked unconscious by someone. We found him a few minutes later when he hadnt returned."
"Where is the boy now?" Matt asked.
"Weve got him inside the house, resting. I didnt want to call the police until you had heard and seen what happened. I immediately checked the horses and they appeared to be fine." He hesitated. "But I found this." He held up a plastic bag. Inside they could see what appeared to be a syringe filled with an amber colored liquid.
"I dont want to jump to any conclusions, Matt, and I dont want to cause a panic, but I think whatever this is was meant for your horses. Theyre the only ones in here."
Matts eyes narrowed. "And this was the only item of suspicion you found?"
"Yes. Were assuming that Peter scared the man off. We heard a car drive out of here pretty quickly just before we came out to look for him. Shortly after this, he regained consciousness and told us what he had seen. I took the liberty of having Kyle check the horses. He found no evidence of puncture marks in any of them. Of course we only found one syringe and the intruder might have taken any others he had with him. So I sent some blood samples and Kyle is having them analyzed. The results should be back soon but his initial examination revealed no abnormal pupil dilation, reflexes or blood pressure."
Matt had been nodding while listening to Brandon Dawkins story. Regan and the Bob-Whites were performing their own cursory examination of the horses, if only to reassure themselves that they were indeed still there and alive.
"My question to you, Matt, would be, should we involve the police?"
Matt was silent for a moment and then answered, "call them in. We dont have much to go on and as far as we know yet, no crime was actually committed against the horses. Theyll have it down on record though. But Peter might want to file an assault charge at the same time incase they do catch whomever it was."
Trixie motioned Honey aside while Honeys father, Regan and Brandon went inside the house to phone. "So he does think something is going on," she said excitedly.
"It would appear so," Honey replied with worry in her voice. "Oh Trixie, if this is connected to the gambling thing and those other men who have been hurt, we were right. Daddys in danger."
"Or something important to him," Trixie mused. "In any case, were going to stop it."
"How?" Mart asked. Neither girl had noticed the boys come up behind them in the stable.
"By hunting for clues first of all," she answered. "Mart you and Honey look around in here. Search the stable and stalls. Jim and I will go outside to see if we can find anything."
They split up and Trixie and Jim walked outside. "Do we know exactly where the car was parked?" Jim asked.
"Well, I noticed Mr. Dawkins motioning over in this direction as he spoke and there is a short branch of driveway that leads just past the back of this stable building. I noticed it yesterday when we were here. Im assuming this is where the car was parked." She began to walk more slowly, searching the ground for clues.
"Well, I see tire tracks," she said uncertainly. "But I dont guess that proves theyre from that particular car."
"I dont know about that Trix. Over here those same tracks look like the car spun out a little when it left. The tracks head back in the direction of the road like someone turning a car pretty sharply at a fast pace."
Trixie crouched down low to the ground. Sure enough, in the sandy drive there were tracks indicating that a car had made a very hasty exit from the back of the stables. "Of course, the problem with sand is, while tire tracks are more consistent and go on for long enough to be identifiable, foot prints are more difficult to handle."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, look at this." She pointed to a slight depression in the sand, with a similar one next to it. "Doesnt this look like someones shoe print and that one as well? But the slightest wind will blow sand everywhere and practically take any identifying marks away. About the only thing we might be able to tell from these prints is the size of the shoes he was wearing."
"Youre assuming its a he."
She shrugged. "Whomever it was knocked Peter out cold. I suppose a female could have done that but isnt cold-cocking someone a typically man thing to do?" Trixie grinned up at him.
"Probably," he conceded with a smile. "At least we know these things are being done by a real person and that there is no ghost."
Im not so sure of that, Trixie said to herself. Jim went on, not hearing her. "Im chalking both occasions of seeing our friend up to having too good of a time. I suppose the police could take a plaster cast of the tire tracks, or maybe even identify probable make and models from a photograph," he finished.
"We can ask when they get here. Lets go inside and see what Honey and Mart found."
"They entered the stable door to find Honey and Mart crouched down in the empty stall next to Pancake. "Trixie, look at this. We found it in this stall. I guess Mr. Dawkins didnt look for anything in the empty stalls," Honey said, not bothering to look behind her. She pointed to an object that was half embedded in the hay.
"Whats a horseshoe doing in here without a horse?" Trixie asked
"Look closer," Mart said.
"Theres a dark stain on it," Jim muttered. "Trix, that look like anything to you?"
"Blood," was the reply. "As much as Id like to take the evidence for ourselves, theres little use. Maybe the police can find out something. Hopefully he left some fingerprints," she looked up at Jim.
"I guess were about to find out."
He had been looking out the stable door where a Charleston Police Department squad car had just pulled up. They walked to the door in time to see Matt, Regan and Mr. Dawkins coming out of the house to meet the vehicle.
Two police officers stepped out of the car and headed towards the men. "Brandon, how are you?" one of the Officers said.
"A bit harried this morning, Todd. But hopefully we can turn things around now that youre here." He turned towards Matt, Regan and the teenagers. "Id like yall to meet Todd Jenkins from the Charleston PD. He and some of the other officers have done freelance security for me before some of the big races. Todd this is Matthew Wheeler, the owner of the horses I spoke to you about, his groom, Regan, children Honey and Jim, and their friends Trixie and Mart."
Todd Jenkins shook hands with them as he was introduced and he in turn introduced his partner, Jake Woods. "You mentioned a man was hurt earlier today, probable foul play? Well need to get his story."
"Well Peters inside. He seems to have recovered sufficiently enough to talk. Hes even added a little to his story. We can take you inside."
Meanwhile, Trixie had been bouncing up and down. Matt looked over at her. "Yes, Trixie, what is it?"
"While you were inside, we sort of looked around and found some things," she said almost shyly. Her past experiences in dealing with the police werent stellar. Apparently Matt remembered this as well.
"Trixie. What Lieutenant Ogilvie told you in Mississippi applies here too." A wry grin softened his words. "However, to avoid you chasing down these clues yourself what might you be talking about?"
"Well, wed have to show you," she said, looking around at the others while Officer Jenkins tried to hide a grin.
"Woods why dont you accompany Miss "
"Miss Belden and her friends. Ill go inside and speak with Peter."
Officer Woods nodded and began to follow the Bob-Whites while Officer Jenkins walked with Mr. Dawkins, Mr. Wheeler and Regan into the house.
Peter lay reclined on a couch in Mr. Dawkins living room. He slowly sat up as the men came in. "Peter, you remember Todd Jenkins. Hed like to hear your version of what happened."
"Gladly, cause Id like to find the guy who did it."
"You know it was a man?"
"Unless it was a she who wears Old Spice soap. There was just a hint of it, but my dad wore that for my entire childhood. You dont ever forget it. Not to mention, I dont know what he hit me with, but it was a pretty hard hit."
Jenkins merely responded with a low sound, perhaps of agreement. "Not hard enough to call an ambulance?"
"No need, I dont think. Everything is clear, Im breathing. Ive survived falls that had me down worse than this and didnt have to suffer a stint in the hospital. Dont see why that should change now."
"Yes well - why dont you start at the beginning?"
"I left the others in 3 thats the third stable building where the horses were sick. Dr. Michaels had left some release forms in his car and I went to get them."
"Where was his car parked?"
"Just beside the house, nearest to where you left your car."
"So as I approached his car, I noticed that there was a car parked in our driveway in that little turn around running up behind stable 1, you know, where his horses are." He motioned towards Mr. Wheeler. "Its where we back up to turn around a lot and so we dont leave cars there."
"What did it look like?"
"Dark blue, late model foreign car, sedan. I didnt look at it all that closely."
"Well, as if the car werent strange enough, we never leave the entire stable door open and both halves were wide open. Since no one had come to see us, or called out, I went to look in the stable. I walked in the door and the next thing I know, I woke up with Mr. Dawkins here trying to find my pulse."
"When you entered the door, did you find anything amiss?
"What do you mean?"
"Did you notice right off that something was strange? See or hear anything funny?
"Well " he paused uncertainly and looked at Mr. Dawkins.
"Go on," his supervisor said. "Tell him what you told me."
"Well at first I didnt really remember this, but when I walked in the door, it seemed as if a bright light was coming from somewhere. It was much brighter than any of the lights we keep in there. It was almost blinding."
"And you have no idea what it might have been?"
"Hmm. Ill note it. Just before you were knocked out, do youll recall any movement?"
"No. Well maybe a bit of a rush of air you know, like the kind when someone makes a sudden movement? But it didnt occur to me that it was a person and even if it had, Im sure I had no time to turn and face them."
"And you virtually remember nothing else except the light?"
"Well its not much to go on, but maybe Woods has found something with the kids. We can go outside to meet them."
Matt Wheeler and Regan smothered grins at each other. They had no doubt that the kids would have found plenty. There was just no telling what it would be.
As it was, they did not need to return to the outside at all. Trixie walked in, followed by Jim, Mart, Honey and Officer Woods.
Jenkins wasted no time. "What have you got?"
"A probable murder weapon, some suspicious tire tracks, and a possible shoe print."
"My. You have been busy beavers." Officer Jenkins made his words sound sarcastic but they could not miss the impressed look on his face. "Lets go see what you found." He led the way outside and waited while Officer Woods motioned him to the tire tracks. They made remarks and motioned about them for a few minutes, promising to take some pictures themselves as well as send one of their photographers out as soon as possible. Inside the stable, the horseshoe was carefully picked up and bagged.
"So do you think this might have been what was used to hit Peter?" Trixie asked. The shyness had departed now that she knew the officers were somewhat impressed with the clues they had found.
"If it is, hes lucky hes regained consciousness. These things can do damage. Might not have been a hard enough hit though, but it did its job. Well take it downtown and see what we can pick up from it but of course more than likely, the blood will be Peters. As for prints well have to see. But you kids did a good job in not touching it or disturbing anything. I think we can handle things from here."
Trixie sighed inwardly. The penny drops. Why is it that adults seem to think were wonderful when we find clues, but incompetent at following up on them? We can handle things as well. Besides Im still convinced that ghost has something to do with this. She gave a small smile to the officers as they went to the car, still speaking. "I have to say that I have no idea what the light could have been that Peter supposedly saw. But with the tire tracks and horseshoe we might be able to at least make some sense out of this. In the meantime "
"What light?" Trixie interrupted, trying to keep the excitement out of her voice. Sounding casual was not an easy effort.
"Peter says he saw a bright glowing light just before he was knocked unconscious," Officer Jenkins said offhandedly. He turned back to Mr. Wheeler. "As I was saying, in the meantime, you might want to consider hiring 24 hour security specifically for your horses if you really think that this person was after them. Otherwise, theres not a lot we can do at this point."
Matt nodded, thanking the men as they got into their car and drove off. He turned towards the Bob-Whites, giving only a slight shake of his head not to say anything more about the mornings events. "Brandon, I think to be on the safe side, I will be hiring some extra security if you dont mind."
"Absolutely. Its no problem. I know of a few firms that other owners have used from time to time during race season. If youre interested I can run in and get them."
"That would be great and would you mind calling a cab for me as well?" He smiled as Brandon Dawkins walked swiftly to his house.
Matt turned towards the others. "I know youre probably thinking this has something to do with my little predicament hold on Trixie," he said as Trixie opened her mouth to speak. "And Im not so sure you wouldnt be correct in that. However, I dont want to do anything more until we know more. Ill get some security out here and if I have to pay for them to stand in the stalls with the horses to keep them safe, then thats what Ill do. I not only want to protect my property, but they are living creatures as well and I dont relish the thought of them getting hurt. But as for you four, my sentiment of this morning still holds. This not for you to get involved in. Now, I want you guys to have a good time here. Theres still plenty to see and do while in Charleston and I dont want you to miss it chasing after some cowardly people."
"If you dont mind, sir, Id prefer to stay with the horses until the security people send someone out," Regan said.
Matt smiled. "I figured youd want to. It shouldnt take them long so why dont the lot of you stay and ride a little bit until they get here. Im sure Brandon will have no problem with that. Then you can all go back into town and enjoy some more things there. I have meetings this afternoon and I need to get some lunch before then or Id stay and ride with you."
They nodded their agreement just as Mr. Dawkins came out, a cordless phone and piece of paper in his hands. The arrangements were soon made for a security company to send someone out from town.
"If I might give my professional opinion Matt?"
"I know the kids must be anxious to ride but I think it might be best not to give them too much yet. They only arrived yesterday and have been out once today. We do have a rather short but nice and safe trail that they can ride on. It leads right past one of the plantations up the road. The trail itself is clear of roots or anything that might be dangerous for the horses."
While Matt knew a great deal about horses himself, it was his grooms responsibility to make sure that they were tended to properly in all ways, especially before beginning serious training for racing and he paid him well for his judgement. He looked briefly at Regan and seeing the red head nod, turned back to Brandon. "Im sure the kids wont mind at all and as far as I am concerned, Ill let you and Regan handle the particulars as to what can and shouldnt be done."
Brandon Dawkins nodded. "Very well then. Ill get you two of my personal horses to ride. Then I should go inside and see to Peter again. If you need anything, just let me know. Ill be there or back in stable three with the sick ones."
A chorus of thanks went around. Shortly, the taxi having arrived in response to Brandons call, Matt slid into the back seta, arranging to see them later that night before dinner. He was to attend a formal dinner party himself while the BWGs and Regan fended for themselves.
While Trixie, Jim, Honey, Mart and Regan waited for Mr. Dawkins to bring two more horses, they bantered about who would ride which horse. Soon it was decided that they would switch horses throughout parts of their ride so everyone would have a small chance to ride one of the new racehorses.
"Susie and Lady will get jealous," Trixie giggled to Honey, speaking of their two favorite horses back in New York. Lady was actually Mrs. Wheelers horse, while Honey had a strawberry roan, appropriately named Strawberry. But because Mart normally enjoyed riding on him, Honey didnt mind riding Lady at all. Susie was a small black mare that Trixie normally rode. Within a short while, they were all mounted and riding down the trail, making plans for their lunch and the rest of the afternoon in Charleston.
Late that afternoon, the Bob-Whites and Regan drove back to the hotel to meet Mr. Wheeler briefly before dinner. They had spent the afternoon shopping at Charlestons market, a narrow line of buildings that ran the length of four city blocks. Charlestonians had sold their wares there since 1841. Not being much for shopping, Mart, Jim, Regan and Trixie had been sure that they would spend their afternoon doing nothing but holding packages for Honey but admittedly, even they had a wonderful time looking at the items. There were foods of all types, jewelry, clothing, books, toys, woodcrafts, leather goods and to their delight, women sat on the street corners weaving sweet grass baskets, a skill that had been passed through their families for generations. At one point, they had to drag Honey away from a woman who was making a particularly intricate basket, but not before she had purchased several of the baskets for people back home. Jim had found plenty to keep him occupied with the many books, pictures and paraphernalia on sportsman type activities. Regan was excited at these as well, but more so at the booths that had anything to do with horses, of which there were plenty. Mart and Trixie had both tried to outdo each other with the naming of Cosmo McNaught and Lucy Radcliffe titles they both had. But in the end, both walked away equally with three books that neither of them possessed, and at less expense than had they purchased them in a bookstore. As promised, they stopped back at the Speedo store, which was a mere one block up the road. In the end, everyone but Regan walked away with a new bathing suit or jacket. Regan seemed content to live his life in worn jeans and boots. Honey poked her head in the Laura Ashley shop and shortly walked out with a new set of linens for her bedroom.
After taking a brief spell for resting, at 6:00, Trixie, Honey, Mart and Jim knocked on the door of the room that Matt Wheeler shared with Regan. Regan opened it and moved aside to let them enter. Matt was standing in front of the dresser mirror, adjusting his bow tie. While Honey moved in front of him to help, he asked, "Do you all know where youre going for dinner yet?"
"Actually we thought wed accompany you to your function, daddy." Honey giggled as he looked dubiously down at her jeans and new T-shirt sporting a Charleston logo.
Jim laughed. "Theres a wing place downtown where we were shopping today called the Wild Wing Café. They have every imaginable wing sauce you can think of and its all you can eat wing night. I dont know about the girls but we men were just saying how hungry we are."
"Great," Trixie laughed. "If Marts hungry, the Wind Wing will regret they ever thought of all-you-can-eat. But I must admit, the shopping has made me hungry as well."
"Well, Ill be sure and think of you all drowning in chicken wings as I munch on whatever fancy things theyve thought of for me to eat tonight. Personally, I think Id rather be wading through wings with you. Perhaps we can go there again before we leave," he sighed. "Thanks," he smiled at Honey, pulling her in for a brief hug. Trixie gave a smile as she thought about how close father and daughter had become since Honey had used to be a very shy girl at the time they moved in to the Manor House near Trixies farm. "I need to head out, but we can meet for breakfast. I dont expect this to be an early evening." He picked up his wallet and room key and headed for the door.
"Daddy," Honey said abruptly and rather loudly, given the closeness of the quarters.
"What is it sweetie?"
"I was just I mean well be careful."
Matt smiled. "I will. Dont worry about me." And he walked out the door.
There was silence in the room for a few moments until Honey gave a loud sigh. "What is it sis?" Jim said, putting a concerned arm around her shoulders.
"I just cant help thinking that we should have hired a guard for him," she replied. For this, there was no answer.
Later that night, long after Regan had retired to his room, Trixie, Honey and the boys sat in Mart and Jims room discussing the days events.
"I still think that light was our ghost," Trixie argued. "What else could it have been?"
"Trix, it could have been anything," Mart said with a hint of exasperation. "Maybe he only thought he saw something. Maybe he dreamed it. Maybe because hed been hit the overhead light was brighter than normal to him. Maybe he really was hit pretty hard and suffered some sort of near death experience and it was the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe "
"Alright, alright we get the picture," Jim said. "Although I do find it strange that youd believe in a near death experience and not a ghost," he added wryly. "In any case," he continued, "Im sorry Mart, but Im taking Trixies side. You havent seen this thing. I have. I figured I was just imagining it the first time. The second time Id like to believe I was seeing things but I have to admit that I cant run from the truth any longer. After today Mart, I dont see what other choice we have but to believe that there is something rotten going on as far as this gambling business is concerned and that for whatever reason, this ghost is part of it."
"Is that how you feel too?" Mart asked Honey quietly. It was not often he was the dissenting Bob-White, but for some reason on this trip well, maybe he didnt want to believe.
"Well I guess whether or not Ive seen this glowing figure Mart, I trust that Trixie and Jim have and even if they have simply been imagining things, I dont think there is any doubt that something is definitely going on here. But aside from all that, I just think daddy is in danger."
"Honey Im not disputing that. I think we do need to figure out whats going on and try and stop anything else from happening. But I just dont know about this glowing ghost angle. I did my own bit of research before we came down here as well and came up with quite a few ghost stories. None of them fit this description."
"Maybe weve found a new one." Trixie sat up tall on Jims bed where shes been slouching against the headboard with Honey.
"To what point and purpose?" he asked in return. "Weve already pointed out that the specters tend to forewarn of things before they happen. Didnt you ever see The Mothmen Prophecies? What is the point of one hanging out after something has happened? And if its not a nice ghost, meaning to do someone harm well Id say there have been plenty of chances for that."
"Maybe it was the ghost that harmed Peter?" Honey commented.
"If thats the case, wed have to really say that it was also the ghost that caused the deadly fumes at the ballpark and the bridge to collapse and the boat to explode. Which by the way, none of us saw the ghost at the time the bridge was collapsing."
"Maybe we missed it," she replied. "Wait!" she yelled, jumping off the bed. She had barely finished her other sentence.
"Quick, somebody reign Trixie in before she takes flight," Jim laughed.
Honey made a motion as if she were throwing something to Jim. "You can have that job, big brother. I cant hold her back when shes on the scent of something." Honey smiled affectionately at Trixie as she spoke.
"Somehow I dont think Id be able to either," Jim answered, giving Trixie a fond look.
"You guys are silly," Trixie continued. "Anyway, I just remembered reading an article I found maybe a few days before we left. I had come across the website to the Charleston Post and Courier and I dont know how I ended up on the obituary section " she paused as Mart raised one eyebrow. "I think it was near the editorials and there was one on how the private investigation of one of the city council members was going. Anyway, I scanned the obituaries and one caught my eye for a Mr. Jeremy Bloodsworth. He and his wife were pillars of Charleston in that their families have been living here since the city was founded in 1670, I think it said. Apparently it isnt money in Charleston that makes one a pillar of the community. Anyway, he was one of the workers on the bridge project and an accident caused him to fall to his death about a month ago. The obituary said that he was survived by his wife, Yvette and added that people always thought he had the ability to foretell when bad things were about to happen. It didnt say more, I guess because they have to be kept short. But I remember thinking it was sort of neat at the time. It just didnt occur to me until now. But maybe we could go and see his wife and talk to her.
"Trixie I think I see where youre making the connection but first of all, its a long shot. Second of all, shes now a widow of only about a month at the most. Do you think shed want a bunch of kids barging in on her asking questions?"
"I should think shed enjoy the company. They had no children, or at least no surviving ones. Maybe shed like visitors. In any case, maybe we wont have to. It said she was a carriage driver for the Charleston Carriage Company. We were planning on taking a carriage ride and seeing downtown. Maybe shell be back at work already and we can ride with her."
There was silence greeting her words.
"Well what could it hurt?" she asked adamantly. "I have a feeling about this."
"Okay Trix, you win. Well go on a carriage ride tomorrow," Mart said sighing. "But for heavens sake, have some tact when we talk to her about her husband. Even if she is back to work, that doesnt mean shes over it. In fact she might be back because shes trying not to think about it."
"Tact is Honeys department," Trixie acknowledged. She knew her weaknesses. "Ill let her do the talking. Come on Honey, lets go to bed."
"K," Honey replied sleepily. They said good night to the boys and went to their room, shutting the door behind them. After they undressed and took care of other nighttime rituals, they lay down and turned off the light.
"Trix?" Honeys voice came softly.
"Do you think Daddys alright?"
"I think so Honey. And I think were going to figure this out before anything else can happen. Try not to worry," she said.
"Thats easier said than done."
"I know. Which is why we have to act fast and track down every clue."
"Okay." And she fell into a rather restless sleep.
Honey awoke early the next morning wishing she had thought to have her father call their hotel room when he got in. She got out of bed not wanting to disturb Trixie who appeared to be sounds asleep and dressed quietly. Slipping out the door, she jogged down the hall to her fathers room and knocked softly. It took a few minutes, but after her rather persistent tapping, the door was partially opened by Matthew Wheeler himself. He stood in the doorway dressed only in a pair of boxer shorts and a T-shirt. Honey recognized it as one that she had given him from Washington, DC on their trip to Virginia. She knew he often wore it to workout. But now, he merely looked sleepy from what was apparently a long night as he stared at Honey who was looking at him with her wide hazel eyes.
"Honey? Whats " He stopped as he finally focused on her eyes. It took little for him to realize why she was standing outside his door long before breakfast. Knowing hed never have done this 3 years ago without some reservations, he opened his arms in invitation. She embraced him as if she could not believe he was actually standing in front of her.
"Honey, they wont touch me."
"Youre not made of steel," she said, her voice muffled by his shirt. "And the unsinkable ship still sunk."
Matt sighed. "Weve come too far for that. This ship isnt going down." As he said these words, he looked up to see Jim standing farther down the hallway, an unreadable look on his face. "You need to realize that," he continued, nodding at Jim who gave a small wave of understanding. This moment was for father and daughter. Father and son could share on their own, later. He smiled as he backed up and walked quietly down the hall. He could still hear Honeys muffled sniffles as he closed the door to his own room.
Breakfast however, was a more cheery and less personal affair. Trixie, excited about their carriage ride was amusing Mr. Wheeler with the way she was treating her chair like a launching pad, barely able to eat the meal that was put in front of her. They were also entertained by Mart, though more for educational value. He was treating them to an entire discourse on Charlestons history. Jim and Honey merely listened, content to be happy that everyone was together and safe.
"What is on your agenda today after your carriage ride?" Matt asked. "Regan is out working with the horses already this morning but I do want him to join you in the afternoon. Oh and in between meetings yesterday, I went ahead and picked up two more mobile phones. I think to be on the safe side, we should be able to communicate with one another."
"See, you are worried Daddy."
"No, I think its more than about time Jim had his own phone, and frankly since mine has all of my numbers stored in it, I want it back," he grinned. "And I want Regan to have one as well. I gave him his before he left this morning. Ill get Jims when we return upstairs before we leave for the day."
"Well, were saving Patriots Point and Fort Sumter for tomorrow when we have an entire day, so we though this afternoon we would drive out to Charlestowne Landing. Its the area that the settlers first arrived at. They have historic sites and buildings, a mini zoo of animals that were prevalent here at the time and some demonstrations of things like soap and candle making, and shows about how things really worked when Charleston was founded," Jim replied, breaking away from his grits for a moment. Although the New Yorkers felt grits were a decidedly acquired taste, they were all determined to try them at least three times before making final judgement.
"So he should probably meet you somewhere downtown for lunch?"
"That sounds good. Give me the number to his phone and well call him on mine so well be able to tell him where to come." Regan taken the Escalade out to the livery, as the Carriage Company was close enough to walk, as was everything else downtown.
They finished their meal and went upstairs to gather up the things theyd want with them for the day. As she checked the contents of her purse, Trixie turned to Honey. "Honey, I wasnt as asleep this morning as I led you to believe. I figured you were going to see if your father was okay. And I want you to know for sure that its not that Im not concerned about what happens to him. I am. I guess I didnt show that very well last night. But I really believe that were really on the verge of solving this and when we do, we wont have to worry anymore."
Honey smiled softly at her friend. "I know Trix. I know you really care. You really are one of the most unselfish people I know. Id never think you didnt care. I just had to run down there when I woke up, just to be sure. I have you to thank for bringing my family close you and Jim. And that would never have happened if you didnt care. So come on. Ill try and stop worrying so much and lets go have a great day."
Trixie grinned at her friend and together they walked out to the hallway. Matt was showing Jim how to answer his new phone. Mart had not appeared yet. "Thanks, Dad," he said as Matt programmed his own, Regans, and Mr. Dawkins numbers into the phone. Hed already set up the voice mail at the service providers store.
"You deserve it. Call me if you need anything," he said, hugging Honey and then Jim. He looked behind Jim at Trixie and let go of him to reach for her. "Thank you," he whispered as he hugged her as if she were his own daughter.
"For what?" she asked quietly.
"One day youll know." And he headed down the hall for the elevator, stepping quickly in as the car arrived, not looking back for fear they would see the tears in his eyes. He knew perfectly well that he was not invincible.
The Bob-Whites began the short walk down a few streets to reach the Charleston Carriage Company. Agreeing to let Honey do the talking should they come upon Mrs. Bloodsworth, they went inside.
"Good morning," the woman behind the counter said. "My name is Jo. Are you interested in a carriage tour?"
"Yes, we are," Honey answered for the group.
"And will you want a private tour or a group tour with other visitors?"
Honey looked around at the group. "I think wed like the private tour, just for the four of us, if we could. And we were wondering if there was a tour guide named Yvette working today? We had heard that shes a wonderful guide."
"Yvette just came back to work actually but I dont think shes scheduled to come on for another half hour. You can wait and Ill be happy to assign you to her or I can give you someone else."
"If its not too much trouble, wed like to wait," Honey replied, stepping on Trixies foot to keep her from bouncing up and down too much at this news.
"No trouble at all. You can have a seat to wait if youd like and as soon as I help these people, we can go over the rates."
"Thanks." She smiled at the woman as she turned to help a couple who had just come in. The Bob-Whites sat down on some cushioned seats to wait. Presently, an older looking woman walked in the door. Jo immediately put down the forms she had been filing and went around the counter to hug her. "Yvette, how are you?"
"Im fine," the woman smiled. "You know darn good and well that the good Lord takes whom He wants when He wants and it was Jeremys time. Ive done my mourning and its time to move on until its my time as well. Ill see him again one day. But until then, Im raring to go. Whatve you got for me?"
"Yvette, I should have known youd feel that way," Jo sighed with a soft smile. "Actually, I have a private tour for you. These four young people would like for you to take them to see the city. And I must say, they could not have a finer guide."
"Well now, Id be delighted. I love the privates. You actually get to know who youre driving! No sense in carting people around, tellin em about your home if ya dont get to at least talk with em instead of at em! Well dont just sit there!" she said to the BWGs. "Lets get movin!"
They scrambled up and followed her out the door. Waiting at the curb were two carriages, one, open topped and built for no more than four people and a driver, and the other covered and built to seat at least 12. The smaller of the two had a large horse hooked to it. "This will be ours for the morning. Oh, and how long did you pay for?" she asked.
"We wanted the three hour tour," Mart spoke up, trying not to laugh at his own words.
"Good. Then I can really tell yall about my city. Hop in and well get movin. Now keep all parts of your person inside the buggy, and if cars honk or get impatient and zoom past, do what I do ignore em. You guys lower our taxes by visiting and so we can go as slow as we like," she grinned. Her smiled was infectious and it was almost difficult to believe that she had just recently lost her husband.
"So where do you come from?" she asked, preparing the carriage and performing checks.
"Were from New York. About 45 minutes outside of the city," Mart answered.
"Come all the way down here to visit our humble city, did ya?"
"In a manner of speaking," Jim answered. "Our father is here on business and as a graduation present, he invited us along. Weve only been here a few days but were pretty excited to see it all."
"Well good then. Now tell me your names, and well get going."
"Im Trixie, and this is my brother Mart," Trixie said as she took Jims hand to step up into the carriage. She sat on one side while Mart faced her. "Jim," he said, helping Honey up. "And this is my sister Honey." Honey winked at Trixie and took the seat next to Mart.
"Well Ill probably call yall Fred, so dont cause a fuss, just answer. Here we go," she laughed.
She pulled the carriage out into the street. "Charleston was founded in 1670 when a few ships sailed up the Ashley River, past Oyster Point, now called White Point Gardens and landed at Albemarle Point, which is now called Charles Towne Landing because it happened to be the first high ground they found. They named it such in honor of King Charles II of England. Similar to Boston, Charlestown was to be a small version of London, aristocratic and fine in every way and they were both designed as such. It quickly became the cultural center of the antebellum south as gradually, the city became built on the waterfront. Well be passing many points to today, detailing Charlestons history. The first place I want to point out, as we approach is the United States Custom House located at 200 East Bay. It overlooks the historic market in the front, and Charleston Harbor in the back. The building is cruciform in shape and its grandeur signifies when Charleston was one of the busiest port cities in the country. Notice the Corinthian columns, and if we could get out and walk halfway up the stairs to where you see a large landing of sorts, youd notice that the landing is tiled with marble in the form of a giant chessboard. Marble is used throughout the building. The building was designed in part by Ammi Burnham Young who was the Supervising Architect of the Treasury building in Washington, DC. It was completed in 1879."
The Bob-Whites were so fascinated with the awesome design of the building and the story of its conception that it almost slipped their memory of why they had asked for this particular guide in the first place. Honey smiled at Trixie to let her know that she had not completely forgotten. But the time was simply not right just yet.
"Charleston is known as Americas best preserved city," Yvette continued. "It has survived major fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and two major wars have been fought right on this soil. But between the years of 1690 and 1720, Charleston was actually a walled city because of the danger from French and Spanish invaders. What we know about the walled city mainly comes from maps done by Edward Crisp, dated about 1704. It had defense forces in the center called the Half Moon Battery upon which now stands the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Well be passing that in a few minutes. When the Exchange was being restored in 1976, parts of this battery were unearthed and if you visit there, youll be able to see it. The wall simply made Charleston into a fortress. Entrance to this fortress was through two draw bridges near Meeting and Broad Streets. Remember that," she commanded heartily, "as well be coming upon those streets and some very important buildings later.
Only one structure from the Crisp Map still survives today. We wont be going past it but I encourage you to visit. Its the Old Powder Magazine. Its located at 79 Cumberland Street and was built in 1713. Part of the wall that belonged to the old city is still associated with it. Its the only surviving public building from the Lords and Proprietors era of the city, which ended in 1719. It served its last functional use as a storage place for gunpowder during the Revolutionary war.
Now I mentioned the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon earlier. Located at 122 East Bay, were passing it now, and its history is much too detailed for me to go into, but what I can do is pull over and tell you a bit about it. That is if you want to hear it. You seem a little quiet," she frowned.
"Quiet?" Jim asked. "I think were in awe. I could spend a year here and never learn all the history of this place. And I have a feeling youre only scratching the surface."
Jo smiled and winked. "Good. Young people these days all they want is the beach and a volleyball net and theyre happy. You want that stuff, you can hop on up to the Isle of Palms. But stick with me and maybe youll learn something."
"I feel like we should be taking notes," Trixie whispered to Honey, who giggled in return. "I know what you mean. Shes a riot!"
"Construction began on the building in 1768, over what was once part of the Half Moon Battery, a site at which many pirates and their mates had been tried and held. The designers wanted the Exchange and Dungeon to rival Bostons Faneuil Hall and Philadelphias Town Hall for design and construction and it in fact did, being finished in 1772. Since that time, it has served as a customs house, including storage for seized items, the first of which seems to be over 250 chests of taxable tea from the East India Trading Company that the citizens did not want precisely because it was taxable. The tea was actually sold in 1776 to provide funds for the Revolution.
From here, the history turns more gruesome. In 1781, Isaac Hayne, a Colonel in the South Carolina militia who had made a loyalist oath but then broken it and become a disturbing foe to the British, was captured and held prisoner in the basement of the exchange. Balfour, the commandant in charge of Charlestown, which had been overtaken by the British, insisted on making an example out of Hayne to discourage others from becoming traitors to the British crown. Unbeknownst to Cornwallis, the Commander supposedly of higher rank than Balfour, Haynes was executed on August 2, 1781.
Beginning in 1815, the Charleston Post Office was housed here and ran smoothly until the 1830s when northern abolitionists began mailing anti-slavery literature to southerners through the post, infuriating them. This was in the days when people were required to go into the post office to receive or mail items in person. After incidents where Charlestonians stormed the post office and seized the offending mail, taking it to the town square to be burnt, a change was made in 1849 to allow mail to be delivered directly to the residents themselves. In addition to this, because of the difficulties encountered here, the first United States postage stamps were created in 1847. Still with me?"
"My history teacher will be impressed," Trixie laughed.
"Good. Now in 1860, South Carolina and a number of other states decided that they were fed up with the conflict between states rights and federal rights. This occurred not completely, but largely due to the slavery issue. A number of meetings went on here, and secession was finally voted upon on December 20th, 1860. As you probably know, the war started in April of 1861. The building was damaged during the Civil War, or as I believe you call it, the War Between the States and wasnt fully repaired until 1875. It was scarred severely again in 1886 during the Great Earthquake, which by the way leveled a lot of the city making it amazing that it is still as preserved as it is. And finally in 1896, the post office moved to the corner of Meeting and Broad. Wait -!" she held up a hand as Mart began to speak. "Thats not what I wanted you to remember about that intersection. Well get to it when we get there. Right now," she said, as she pulled on the reins, "were heading down towards the battery. But to finish the history of the Old Exchange, in 1913, the building was declared historic and worthy of preserving, although there is no guarantee that it has to be preserved. But the Exchange Building Commission holds the current lease and they have the option of renewal for the next 75 years. So I dont think we have to worry about any time soon. Further restoration began in 1981 in a 1.5 million-dollar attempt at preservation and in October of that year, it finally reopened primarily as a meeting hall and museum. Its location on the waterfront adds to its attraction for smaller city functions."
Trixie could keep quiet no longer. "Wont the proposed gambling project here devalue the waterfronts appeal though?"
It would have been impossible to miss the intense look of anger that flashed through Yvettes eyes.
Almost as soon as it had appeared however, it was gone and replaced with one of intense sadness. "My Jeremy fought so long and hard to keep that vile habit away from these shores," she said, almost to herself. "And now it looks as though it will happen anyway. But enough about that Im sure its the last thing you young folks want to hear about."
Trixie started to mention that it was she herself who had in fact brought up the subject, but a sharp look from Mart gave her pause and she kept silent. Honey merely waved her hands down to the floor as if to say, "pipe down, Ill handle it."
"The next place I want to show you is somewhat of a Charleston landmark. You cant go back up north without taking a painting, shirt or wicket of Rainbow Row with you."
A wicket? Jim looked at Honey while raising one eyebrow. She smiled, and shrugged.
"Rainbow Row encompasses the buildings on East Bay from 107 down to 79. Notice that they are all multi-story attached buildings. They were built in the 1700s during the time when shopkeepers preferred to live above their places of business. We call them attached houses, much like youd have an apartment today, but these are indeed houses."
"The colors are magnificent!" Honey exclaimed. She tended to have a more appreciative eye for these things when compared to either of the boys or Trixie, who appeared to be much more fascinated with the upcoming view of Charleston Harbor than the pink, blue, yellow, lavender and green pastel houses. "And people still live in these?"
"How wonderful that must be," she said dreamily.
"Note, if you will, the circular pieces that appear to be sticking out of the end of each of the houses with points in their centers. After the earthquake in 1886, many houses had these placed in to add further support, and they appear to have served hem well. While Charleston has not had another earthquake since then, we have survived many hurricanes, which can often be just as damaging. The city is due for another quake at any moment though, so stay a while and then come back and help us as we try to pick up the pieces." It was easy to tell that this woman loved her city very much.
"Were now at the beginning of the High Battery, called the East Battery for the direction in which it faces. If youll look to our left, you will see Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter guarding its entrance, and to our right, the high battery homes. Many of these date from the 1700s and there are many of even more notable historic interest. Ill point them out as we move along."
She told them many stories of the homes that they were passing, all of which were tall and stately. Nearing the end of the street at the park that they had left their car at their first night in town, she stopped the carriage once more.
"This is the Edmondston-Alston House, of 21 East Battery. It was owned by a family of rice planters who made their dynasty, as did many others, from the rice and cotton crops. The mansion was built in 1825 and is actually still owned and inhabited by members of the Alston family. You may take tours on certain days. Inside, you will find beautiful architecture and antiques. The south is often stereotyped for its cotton crops but people often forget that rice was a huge plantation crop as well." She skillfully pulled the horses back into the line of traffic and made a right turn.
"This is the South Battery. Here you will again find many antebellum homes and the land boundary to White Point Gardens. I mentioned this earlier in conjunction with the founding of Charleston. Because of the huge oyster beds upon which it sits, it was formerly called Oyster Point and marks the convergence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers and hence, the pinnacle of the Charleston Peninsula. Folks, we are at the point of the city. The park is the site of many wedding receptions, joggers, historic cannon and memorial plaques and is one of the best places in the city for a picnic. Overlooking the harbor is the seawall on which you can walk and I do recommend you do so if you havent yet. Just dont do it at night."
Jim looked to the others with a I told you so smile. The carriage drove a short way down the street and again turned right onto Meeting Street. Meeting is yet another of Charlestons popular streets. There is much to see and do."
"Arent we staying on Meeting?" Trixie asked aloud.
"Where are you staying?" Jo asked.
"The Mills House," Honey replied.
"Ohh, thats a nice one. A little ways up Meeting, we are, but well be going just past it," she smiled. She pointed out a building that sat on the corner of the South Battery and Meeting Street. "This is Two meeting Street Inn. It was completed in 1892 and has been touted as one of the most romantic bed and breakfasts in the country. In 1890, a Charleston jeweler by the name of Waring Carrington, asked one Martha Williams for her hand in marriage. Her father, a merchant named George Williams, must have approved of the union because over 2500 invitations were sent out. It was Charleston societys event of the year. He furthermore presented the young couple with a check for $75,000 to build a new home on land he had purchased at the corner of Meeting and S. Battery. We are now looking at the result of that money. It was quite the wedding gift. It is Queen Anne in style with Tiffany stained glass, English Oak woodwork, and crystal chandeliers. It would be a great honeymoon spot if any of you young people are ever so inclined."
While Mart and Honey looked at each other with grins, Trixie and Jim avoided each others eyes. The carriage continued up Meeting Street. Yvette talked about the Calhoun Mansion at 16 Meeting, formerly home to John C. Calhoun, a United States Vice-President and staunch proponent of states rights, and the Nathaniel Russell House which dated to 1808, having been built by a Rhode Island Merchant. Jim and Mart were aching to return to tour that house which featured the marvelous architecture of a three story free standing spiral staircase.
When they reached the intersection of Broad and Meeting, Yvette pulled the carriage over in front of a huge white church. "Now are ya planning to take in the services while youre in town?"
Jim looked briefly around at the others. They had not discussed going to church while in town. "Is there somewhere youd recommend?" he asked with a grin.
"Here," she said, making another grand gesture to the large church, "This is St. Michaels Episcopal Church. Its a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest church building in Charleston. It was also the first church building south of Virginia to house an Anglican congregation. St. Phillips Episcopal Church has the distinction as a body of people being an established church longer, but that building there at 80 Meeting was the first formal place of worship.
"The church opened for services in 1761 and the building itself largely remains as it was then. The architecture is similar to that by Sir Christopher Wren of the Colonial period. The steeple is 186 feet high, having sank a full 8 inches during the 1886 earthquake. George Washington worshipped here in 1791 as President. General Robert E. Lee has also been a guest. People were more serious about their faith back then," she added dryly, smiling to herself at the chagrined looks of the young people in her charge.
"The chandelier inside was imported from London in 1803. When you go inside and I suggest you do, even if not for worship, you will notice immediately that the pulpit is located at the beginning of the pews in a very prominent place, more prominent even than the altar. This attests to the fact that at the time of St. Michaels was built, there was a large debate at seemingly placing more emphasis on the sermon than the place of sacrifice.
"The decorative stained glass in the chancel, where the altar is located, was completed in 1893 and depicts St. Michael casting out the dragon, a scene from Raphaels famous painting."
"Di would love that," Honey whispered to Trixie.
"The pipe organ is original, having been installed in 1768. In 1994 it was restored to its original configuration after several alterations. The clock tower is thought to be one of the oldest functioning ones in the country, having been useful since 1764.
"Now the church itself has wonderful history as well. During the revolution, the white tower was painted black because British gunrunners liked to aim for it. This unfortunately made it even more visible against a Carolina blue sky. The lead roof was melted down and used to make bullets to aid in the war effort. During later years, the steeple was used as a navigational landmark, observation post and fire lookout. The bells of the tower were sent to Columbia for safe keeping during the Civil War but were cracked in the 1865 fire and had to be recast in England in their original molds.
"The place of the churchs location holds significance as well. Notice around you these buildings. The United States Post Office sits to our left," she pointed. "The Charleston County Courthouse is catty corner to us. And Charleston City Hall is across the street from us. Here we have Federal Law, County Law, City law, and most importantly, Gods Law. This intersection is called the "
"Four Corners of Law!" Mart shouted. "At Broad and Meeting. This is what you wanted us to remember, isnt it?" he asked.
"You learn quickly. Indeed it is. The entrance to the old walled city was at this very intersection where the laws all meet. You can see how the city has grown a bit since then," she grinned. She picked up the reins and moved the horse down the street.
"Theres our hotel," Honey exclaimed.
"The Mills House hotel is one of the, if not the most respected in Charleston."
"We can certainly see why. Its been wonderful," Trixie said.
"Whomever picked it for yall to stay in certainly had great taste. When my Jeremy was alive, hed take me to the Barbadoes Room each year on our anniversary. Said there was no place that was more like Charleston." She glanced away from it quickly, mumbling to herself. And these whippersnappers want to come here and change it all. They dont know what theyre up against. Trixie strained her ears to catch what the woman was saying. Mart, sitting almost directly behind Yvette, winked at Trixie to let her know that he had heard and that hed share it with her later.
"Were almost to the Circular Congregational Church at 150 Meeting, also a Historic Landmark. Though this is the third building on the site, it dates from 1892. The original congregation from 1881 was composed of English Congregationalists, Scotch and Irish Presbyterians and French Huguenots who banded together to form this somewhat independent church. The first building of 1695 was called the White Meeting House and the street it sat on became known as Meeting Street. At the beginning of the 1800s, Robert Mills, a Charlestonian who was known to be one of the first American-born architects, designed a circular structure reminiscent of Greek revival temples. Mills, by the way, later went on to design the Washington monument that now stands in the District of Columbia. The circular church structure was burned in 1861 and was left in ruins until it was completely destroyed by the earthquake in 1886. The current church was built using bricks from the older structures and the grounds contain the citys oldest graveyard. One marker remains from the 1600s. Today, the church is associated with the United Presbyterian Church, USA."
"Why is it circular?" Jim asked.
"I can answer that," Mart broke in.
Trixie reached over and placed a hand over her almost twins mouth. "We know you can" she smiled, "but wed like Yvette to."
Yvette smiled around at them. "I see we have a smart one here. Well its said that the reason church structures were made circular is so that the devil could not hide in the corners. " She sighed and continued sarcastically," so he runs rampant through the city where no amount of prayer and religion can will him away."
There was silence in the carriage. "I apologize," she said. "Im letting my troubles run away with my mouth."
"Yvette," Honey spoke up. "Perhaps it would help to talk about whats going on how youre feeling. Wed be more than happy to listen. Perhaps we might even be able to help. Would you like to eat lunch with us after the tour?"
Yvette gave another sigh as she drew the reins to move. "Id like that. Its been a long time since I have had anyone to really talk to. I only will have a short lunch break but if youre sure it would be no trouble?"
"None at all," Honey finished, looking for the others to confirm. After a brief moment, Yvette nodded and the tour continued.
Yvette mentioned to them other points of interest as they wound their way back to the carriage house. They included the Dock Street Theater, the French Huguenot Church, the Old Slave Mart, the Edward Rutledge House, home of the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence, St. Phillips Episcopal Church and the College of Charleston which was the oldest municipal college in the United States. It was after noon when the carriage pulled up and rolled to a stop outside the door they had left over three hours before.
"Ill run in and get my things and let them know Ill be back shortly," she said, hopping down.
"Lets let Yvette suggest a place to eat," Honey said. "She might know of some places that you wouldnt really find in the guide books."
"Sounds like a plan," Mart said excitedly.
"If it has to do with food, its a plan, Mart," Jim grinned.
"You know what the funniest thing about all this teasing is," Mart replied. "Is that you all love food as much as I do."
"We cant deny that, dear brother. But you have the monopoly on food consumption," Trixie answered while smiling at Jim. Fortunately, Yvette walked out of the building just then.
"Where to folks? She said I could go ahead and take as long as I want. She still doesnt think Im up to being here," she snorted indelicately.
"We were hoping that you could suggest some place kind off the tourist map," Honey said warmly.
"Well," Yvette murmured. For once shy as she was asked her opinion, "I suppose if were going to talk about my Jeremy, we should go to one of his favorite places. Poogans Porch is a Charleston favorite for everyone, locals and tourists alike. Its a bit on the fancy side and youre supposed to have reservations but they know me pretty well. I think I can charm them into letting us in," she finished softly. "That is, if youre interested. Its low country cuisine and the chef is outstanding."
"It sounds perfectly perfect," Honey said, linking arms with Yvette. "Why dont you lead the way."
They walked up the street until they reached Meeting. Turning left, they proceeded down Meeting until Queen and turned right, shortly coming to a stop before a beautiful old Charleston mansion. A sign out front had the words "Poogans Porch" written in script. There was a balcony on which they could see tables set with fine silver and linens. Yvette led them up the steps and into the foyer of home.
Just inside the door, standing behind a podium and talking with one of the hosts, was a young man of average height and build, but rather distinguished looking with shoulder length black hair tied back in a pony tail. His black eyes looked warmly at Yvette. Wordlessly he walked to her and enfolded her in his arms, merely needing to look into her eyes to know that she was indeed okay.
The embrace lasted a few more seconds and he pulled away with a smile. "Five for dinner?"
"Always so formal Jonathan, always so formal. Yes. These are my friends from out of town, New York to be exact. This is Trixie and her brother Mart, and Jim and his sister Honey. They took a carriage ride this morning and on the way, we got to know each other a little bit so here we are."
"And you have come to the right place. Right this way." He led them up the stairs and to the balcony they had glanced at on their way in. There was no one seated on it yet and after pulling out chairs for Trixie, Honey and Yvette, he walked briefly over to a serving cart and delivered goblets of water to the table along with a basket of homemade bread and menus. "Our chefs special for lunch is the apple encrusted shrimp served on a bed of low country rice and peppers with a sweet yet spicy glazed crabapple sauce. It comes with steamed seasonal vegetables."
He turned away to go back into the house while Trixie and Marts eyebrows shot up as they looked at each other.
Honey giggled. "Well, I think its decided that one of you has to have the special."
Trixie laughed. "If its good we can talk to the chef and get the recipe. The name of our farm is Crabapple Farm," Trixie explained to Yvette who was looking around at the group with curiosity. "We have dozens of old crabapple trees and moms is always trying to think of new ways to serve them."
"Well we can certainly call him in and ask," she smiled just as Jonathan reappeared.
"I will be happy to take drink and appetizer orders at this time."
"I believe Ill have an iced tea," Jim said.
Jonathan smiled. "And because you are from New York, shall I presume that you wish it to be unsweetened?"
Jim laughed. "Well, when in Rome. Make it however people down here drink it."
"And for you, Mart?"
"That sounds good to me as well."
"Very good. Ladies?"
From Honey and Yvette he received two orders for water with lemon while Trixie broke the mold and asked for Strawberry pop.
"Trixie, something tells me that might not be a commodity in a restaurant like this," Mart laughed.
"Ah, but we do have it. Its amazing what type of beverages you can find in a restaurant that has a stocked bar," Jonathan grinned. "And now, in the way of appetizers?"
"What do you recommend?" Jim asked.
"If youre adventurous and really desiring to be like the locals, the Carolina Alligator, to be sure. It comes with buttermilk dill-butter and a honey jalapeno sauce. The Fried Green Tomatoes are also a southern delicacy. They are served with pecan encrusted goat cheese and spicy peach chutney. If you like seafood, the Oysters Queen Street is heavenly and is eaten with smoked bacon zuccotash, tomato sauce and Monterey Jack cheese. I would highly recommend any or all of those."
Jim looked around at the group. "Guys, what do you think? I think they all sound great. Id have a hard choice deciding."
"Then I say we dont." Mart said happily. "Lets get them all."
"Mart," Trixie said warningly, trying hard not to laugh.
"Why not. If we find out theyre really great, we can tell Mr. Wheeler and come back tonight as well."
Jim rolled his eyes and looked sideways at Honey who gave a barely perceptible shrug and smile. "Okay, well order all three. I am pretty hungry myself," he winked at Trixie.
"Excellent choices," Jonathan said, nudging Yvette gently with his hand as he left with their order, noticing that she was having difficulties refraining from laughing.
"Every man for himself when it comes to the entrée," Jim laughed.
"Thats going to be equally as hard," Trixie said. "Everything looks so wonderful. I think its about time I try some grits again. Still dont know about them, but this would be a place to try them. I think the pork medallions and slow cooked grits are sounding good to me."
"Trix, I might have to carry you home if you get tipsy. Theyre made with peach brandy you know," Jim teased her.
"Like shed object to that," Mart whispered to Honey, who let out a rather unladylike laugh.
"Oops," she said. "Ahem. I think after all the appetizers that Ill take it easy on the entrée. "This Chef Nicks Crab and Sweet Corn Chowder looks good. That and a small salad should do it for me. I want to try this peach poppyseed dressing."
"We might have to carry you home as well. Doesnt opium come from poppys?" Trixie asked.
There was laughter around the table. "Youre right, Trix, but Im not sure what the seeds have to do with the flower. I think shell be allright. But youre right in that pork does sound good. Im eyeing the tenderloin myself. Something about this Creole marinade just sounds interesting."
"Tenderloin," Trixie mumbled. "You just have to be different."
"Oh dont worry, now that Im accustomed to grits, Ill be eating off your plate as well."
"Careful. Youll turn into my brother, the garbage disposal."
"Well we couldnt have that now, could we," he said under his breath to her, merely smiling when she raised huge eyes to him. "Yvette, what sounds good to you. And I want you to get whatever you want, this is our treat."
"Oh, no, I couldnt do that." She was interrupted by a chorus of insistent pleas from the rest of the group. "Well, if you insist. I cant resist the Pesto Penne. There is just something about the combination of the shrimp, pesto, sundried tomatoes and basil cream that he gets just right every time. And Ill have a salad too if thats okay." Jim waved a hand as if to suggest it was no trouble at all.
"Which leaves me," Mart said. "And I decided to get the special when Jonathan first mentioned it."
"Perfect. Chef will be pleased." Jonathan had returned with their appetizers to hear the tail end of Marts remark. "Miss Honey, what may I get for you?" he asked after all had been able to reach and help themselves to the alligator, tomato and oyster dishes.
The group gave their orders one by one, marveling in the way in which Jonathan had not only remembered their choices but their names as well. "He is amazing," Yvette confirmed with a smile. Hes been rather like a son to Jeremy and I. That is, until Jeremy passed."
"Would you like to share whats on your heart?" Honey said softly. "Please dont think you have to, but it might help."
Yvette looked up at her and smiled. "Jeremy was such a loving man. He had your disposition. We met and married in such a short amount of time, as was often the case back then and I have never regretted it for a moment. We had three beautiful children. And they grew from infants to toddlers to children so fast you could almost see it.
But one day everything changed. We had gone to the ocean to swim in the surf. Jeremy thought it was important to teach our children from a very young age how to swim and so we had brought them up in the surf, but at 8, 7 and 4, they were still novices. As he played in the water with the oldest two of our children, he was bitten by what they later found out was a tiger shark. Its not unusual for them to be in these waters, and they even swim up the two Charleston rivers. He cried out. They are rather painful things and he wasnt sure exactly what it was that had happened but he was having trouble staying on his feet he later said. Blood was covering his limb when he lifted it out of the water.
Kevin, the youngest of the two, being fearful as children often are when they dont understand something, backed further and further away from his father as Jeremy tried to figure out what had happened. Libby, a little more mature and naturally concerned for her dad tried to hang on to his arm to help him. Neither one of them noticed that Kevin had backed so far out into the surf that he was in a dangerous situation until Jeremy turned and saw the lifeguard on shore running into the water, yelling and pointing. This was about the point that I noticed something had gone terribly wrong.
Everything from then on seemed to happen in slow motion. A wave knocked Kevin down. He must have swallowed a great deal of water. As the lifeguard, and Jeremy who was trying to get Libby to run for the shore and myself, finally reached Kevin, they found him face down in the water. The lifeguard pulled him out and carried him to shore. It was confusing because by this time people were all over the place, trying to help but doing more harm than good, and I had only just reached Libby. Two lifeguards performed CPR for what seemed like hours. But I know it could only have been five minutes before the ambulance arrived. I still dont know who called for it. Kevin was taken to the hospital but pronounced dead upon arrival. The whole thing took about 6 minutes. It couldnt have been more than 30 seconds, Jeremy said from the time he felt the pain of the bite to the time that he and the lifeguard reached Kevin. He had been carried out even farther. But as we were told later, 30 second is all it takes sometimes.
Jeremy was in shock by the time they reached the shore with Kevin. I remember him just sort of numbly watching and crying as they worked. He lost consciousness on the way to the hospital here in town because of blood loss and his mental state I would imagine. He didnt even know until an hour or so later when he regained consciousness, what had happened.
A freak accident, it was called. We never blamed anyone, because we didnt think there was anyone to blame. It was just the time for it to have happened. We coped. If for no other reason than we had to. Libby and Sandy, our youngest survived and were a close family, and of course we met Jonathan a few years after that. He was the child of one of my best friends who had lost her husband in a plane crash. But I know that one day when they have children, which should be very soon for both of my girls, memories will resurface and they will have to contend with some rather painful things. They were resigned to living without a brother and I, without my son. Jeremy Jeremy was a different story. He accepted what had happened because he had no other choice. But something changed in him that haunted us throughout the rest of our life together. And that something is continuing to this day, even though he is no longer on this earth."
Trixie and the others had been sitting at rapt attention, feeling both pain for the woman and what she had experienced, and curiosity as to how it all related to the present day. A gentle breeze blew across the high-topped roofs of Charleston. But Trixie sensed that some significant and perhaps ominous news was about to happen at their table. Noticing that Jonathan was about to deliver their main courses, she refrained from making any comment, merely noticing that even though the breeze was of the hot, moist air of Charleston, she was shivering.
As Jonathan was about to depart again, Yvette reached out and took his arm. "Stay. You can cant you, just for a few minutes?"
He hesitated. "Well, I did the breakfast shift so I am due for a break. Let me go ask Monica to take over some of my shifts and I will be back."
"He knows the whole story as well. And frankly as I have never told anyone this, I thought it might do to have some support. Some of what I have to say might sound a bit farfetched."
"Oh weve seen and heard it all," Mart said. "Why take my little sister here "
"How about we not take me and instead listen to what Yvette has to say," Trixie broke in before Mart could continue. Yvette merely smiled and looked up as Jonathan returned. He sat down with a glass of tea in his hands and a new bread basket.
"Jonathan I think these people need to hear the story of Jeremy, The whole story."
He raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
"After Kevin died, Jeremy became, shall we say, sensitized to the needs of people in danger. Hed have premonitions that something tragic was about to happen and it affected him to the point of physically hurting when something was going on. Sometimes he would even be able to figure out what was going to happen and try to reach the person or situation. This might seem like a gift to you and indeed it might have been. But Jeremy never saw it that way. You see, he never once reached the person that was in need until it was too late. Once he felt that a womans life was in danger from a rapist. He found the alley where it had happened. She was alive but had been beaten and raped only minutes before. He sensed at another time that something was going terribly wrong with a drug sting and called the police station only to find out that casualties had happened and been heavy. It took us months to convince the Charleston PD that we had known nothing about the drug operation, but only were having an "ESP" moment. I think they wrote Jeremy off as crazy. So without going much more into his ability, thats the way our life has been. I dont think he ever really forgave himself for never being able to get to the victim on time." She paused, looking at Jonathan who was slowly shaking his head in affirmation. "And thats the way he died. The morning he went to work on the site he was so proud of being placed on the bridge project. The twin spans are very characteristic of the look of Charleston, but they are simply unsafe. He was proud to be able to help the city build the new one. But before he left that last day, he told me to take care of myself. He never said that, ever. It was always good bye or I love you, or Ill see you later. Take care of yourself was the phrase we used when we werent planning on seeing someone for a very long time. I think he even had ESP about his own death. Late that afternoon he fell from the highest part of the bridge they were working on and died from the impact."
The silence at the table was overwhelming. Everyone had stopped eating, looking down at their plate. Yvette merely looked out at the building across the street for a few minutes. Suddenly, as if shaking herself out of something, she sat up and began to eat. "I think about him all the time. But I believe in nothing but that it was simply his time to depart this earth. I dont believe that his work is finished however."
"How so?" Trixie asked with growing excitement, almost sure that she knew what she was about to hear.
"Jeremy loved Charleston. We were both brought up here and though there is a fine line separating those who live in the district on one side of the fence from those on the other side, if you know what I mean, the common bond of having ancestors here for generations brings us together. Charleston natives recognize the bond of sharing a love for this city. He hated it when anything horrible happened here and had, perhaps an overblown to some extent, sense of protectiveness for it."
"This is where the gambling comes in," Trixie asked softly, leaning forward.
Yvette took a sip of her drink. Looking at Trixie over the top of her glass she said, "youre a shrewd one. Yes, if I actually thought he was in it, Jeremy would be rolling over in his grave at the thought of the meetings this week concerning the gambling. It would ruin Charleston and everything it has stood for over 300 years. And thats why I know that though his body might be lying in St. Michaels cemetery, his spirit is right here with us trying to stop it. He wont leave this earth until his work is done," she finished almost defiantly as if daring them to disagree with her.
"Have you seen him?" This question came from Jim.
"No. But I think you have."
Jim was quiet. "Perhaps. I dont know that we could describe him, but whatever it is, excuse me whomever it is does seem to appear in conjunction with the tragedies that have been plaguing this city ever since we got here."
"Since before you got here," she corrected. "Jeremys death was no accident. Who do you think spear headed the anti-gambling campaign before it was turned over to a professional manager? And does he show up before the event or after it?"
"So far as we have been able to tell, after. Although pretty close to."
"Exactly. Hes still trying to prevent. And hes just not making it. When have you seen him and describe him? Please," she asked earnestly.
Jim looked at Trixie, not quite believing he was about to discuss the possibility of a specter as frankly as if such ghost were dining right beside him. He shrugged. "Well, the first time we saw him was the night that the fumes at the ballpark hurt so many people."
"One of those people was a pretty significant player in the gambling controversy," Mart added.
"Jeremy wouldnt hurt people to get his way," Yvette looked up sharply.
"The second time we saw him was out on the beach when the boat belonging to the millionaire blew up. He was sitting on top of our car. I got a better look at him this time than last time, but still not a detailed one. Just the figure of a man, albeit a glowing one. He was glowing bright red that time. The first time it was just an aura of light around him. Now that I think of it, we never saw him in conjunction with the bridge collapse."
"Maybe you just didnt notice."
"Someone tried to harm our horses. Our father bought some from Aiken and we have them stabled here until we head back up north. The person who discovered it says he noticed a bright shining light, but he never saw what it was coming from."
"Were the horses hurt?"
"No, not that we know of."
Yvette breathed a sigh of relief. "Then perhaps he made it this time " She stopped abruptly. "What is your father here for?"
Although Jim had known that by telling their story, it would eventually lead to this side of the conversation, he had to admit that he was not quite prepared for it. "He represents a company that is investigating the feasibility of extending their business to Charleston if the gambling is approved."
Jonathan had been silent up to this point but now let out a slow whistle. "Oh my."
"Im not saying that we are all in agreement on what we think should happen here, but I dont see it as relative."
"Its relative in that he was obviously a target for whoever wants to end the proposal."
"Yvette, if the reason all of these things are happening is to make the people who are potentially going to benefit from gambling here, vote against it, why would Jeremy be fighting against them? Theyd want the same thing. I know you said hed never harm anyone to get his way, but even you must admit how this looks," Honey asked.
"I know. And youre right, it does seem odd. But I know that he would rather see gambling on Charlestons waters, than hurt a human soul. He spent too much of his life trying to protect lives."
"Do we know for sure that these people committing the crimes are trying to stop the gambling?" Mart asked, having finished his meal. Looking around to see what he could scout from someone elses plate he added, "perhaps they are trying to scare the people into voting for the proposal."
"Id think theyd be targeting people who were dead set against it," Jonathan commented. "All of the people so far, your father perhaps being the exception, are those who have expressed positive interest in having the gambling coming here. I am rather curious about the fact that the attack on his horses was on such a small scale compared to the baseball game, bridge and boat."
"Father just bought three racing horses whose potential worth has been highly appraised. Should anything happen to them, the insurance company pay out would range in the millions. In any case, father loves animals and would be more concerned about their welfare than the money."
"Ah. Well that does indeed explain things."
"But I also question this why us?"
"Jeremy had an amazing ability even before Kevin to discern peoples hearts. Perhaps he has even more access to this sensation now that hes no longer alive. I dont even have to know much more about yall to know that youre well intentioned people and that perhaps you have a history of helping others?"
The four youngsters blushed. "And wed like to help your husband, too. But to be honest, we have no idea where to begin. Weve only see his presence. We havent had any idea who these people are or where they will strike next," Trixie said softly.
"But youre the people Jeremy has chosen. I know you will help him and we will end up winning in the end."
"Yvette, please dont think me disrespectful. But while I do not share his views, we do have our father to consider," Jim gestured to himself and Honey.
Yvette merely leaned back in her chair, pointing out something on a menu for Jonathan to bring back, who had gotten up to leave. "Yes. Yes you do. And would this not be the best way to prevent him from coming to harm?"
Jim nodded his head once in concession. "I see your point. But I still stand with my reservations."
"And they are noted." She sighed. "I must get back now, but I took the liberty of having Jonathan bring you a special treat. Please contact me when you have more information. And if you have a chance to see my Jeremy again tell him hello." She stood up, her voice wavering. "Thank you for lunch. I know well talk again before you leave Charleston." And she was gone.