Friday, November 6, 2015

Willie Knows Something

Jake had promised to do what he could in helping Morgan to investigate her mother’s disappearance. After what happened when they requested access to the police reports pertaining to the disappearance, Morgan felt the local constabulary could not be trusted, so he found himself conscripted into service as chaperone, chauffeur and middle-man—not that he minded. He pulled up to the old cabin, put his truck in park, turned off the ignition, and stepped out on the grass. Morgan followed.
   “We’ll I’ll be.” The old black man did not rise from his rocker. “If it ain’t Miss Lilli come back from the dead.” He pulled a pipe and a bag of tobacco from his pocket.
   “Not Lilli.” Jake corrected. “Her daughter, Morgan.”
   Willie packed tobacco into his pipe. “I knows who she is.”
   “Willie, how long you lived on this mountain?”
   “Near bout seventy years I’d say. But I can’t say I seen you up this far more’n a handful of times yo whole life. This must be ole home week. I’s git’n poplar these days. “The Mayor Hisself come to see me yestiddy.” He stuck the pipe in his mouth and gripped it between his teeth. “What brings you?”
   “Lilli Alexander. What do you remember about the time she disappeared?”
   “Oh, I remembers. Lots mor’n I want to.”
   Morgan’s face lit up. Her longing to understand what happened tugged at Jake’s heart. She tried so hard to be tough, but now that she was convinced that she had not been abandoned, that foul play was indeed involved in her mother’s disappearance, she just could not hide her emotions. Truth be told, he was a bit excited himself. It was obvious that Willie knew something.    
   Jake did not let his excitement show. “Why do you say that Willie? Everyone says she abandoned her daughter. That she ran off with someone.”
   “I knows whut dey say.”
   “The case was closed on her disappearance.” That was true enough. No need to let it out yet that the case was re-opened. “The investigation proved she left of her own accord and did not want to be found.”
   “Uh huh.”
   “You know something you’re not telling, Willie?”
   “I done tole all I know and been called a liar fuh my trouble. I said all I got to say seventeen years ago.”
   “Willie,” Morgan interjected. “I always believed my mother abandoned me, but now I’m not so sure. I know you don’t know me anymore, but if you know anything about my mother’s disappearance that would help me to understand what happened, I would be indebted to you. Will you help me?”
   Willie’s voice softened. “You best be gittin on home, Little Missy, Green Briar ain’t no place for you. It ain’t no place for nobody no more. Not for a long time now.”
   “The day I arrived in Green Briar, there were several men at Buchanan's who obviously knew my mother. Can you tell me their names? I’d like to talk to them.”
   Willie took his pipe from his mouth and leaned forward. “I can give you their names, but it won’t do you no good. They ain’t goin to talk to you.”
   “But why not?”
   He stood up and fixed his eyes on his unexpected guests, then directed his words at Morgan. “Missy, this town is livin a lie and dyin of a disease called fear.  That crowd done sole their souls to the devil. They cain’t be helped and they cain’t help nobody.”
   “What about Mr. Buchanan. He seems nice enough.”
   “He ain’t gone to talk to you neither.”
      “But why not? All I want is the truth?”
   “You ain’t wondered why dey’s no citified chain store across the street fom Buchanon’s? You kin ask him bout that too—not that it’ll do you no good—an then hightail it right back to where you come from. Cause there ain’t nuthin but heartache fuh ya here lil lady, and maybe worse.”
   “I can’t do that Willie. You know that. I am not leaving until I get to the bottom of what happened to my mother. How did Addie Stanfield end up with my mother’s half of our interlocking lockets? I believe her when she says she found it in her driveway a few weeks ago, but how did it end up on her driveway. And how did it stay in perfect condition for seventeen years?”
   “Can’t say as I would know the answer to dat, Missy.”
   “But you know the answer to other things don’t you, Willie?”
   Willie put his pipe between his teeth and let his gaze wander to the tree line. Jake knew the conversation was over for today, but Morgan wasn’t giving up.
   “I’ll come back Willie.”
   Willie placed his unlit pipe back in his pocket and turned his back on them. The slam of his screen door told them that the visit was ended....

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