“He’s the only one…and he’s part of the family.”
Aieshia smiled. She rubbed her right hand through her hair and in the process flashed her fingernails. The thumb was painted a metallic gold. Her index finger was metallic aqua with her middle finger metallic gold, ring finger metallic aqua
and small finger metallic gold. On her left hand the thumb was metallic aqua and the color scheme was reversed. “If it be an S-P-I-D-E-R den he really be crazy. And an A-N-T make it be even worse.”
“What’s wrong?” J Dub asked.
“Da smalla da animal da more scared he be.” She went over to console Pabby. “It’s okay darlin’. Da dog be gone.”
Pabby was shaking. He grabbed Aieshia’s hand as she reached up to help him down from the table top. “Okay?” Pabby asked.
“Yes, it be fine,” Aieshia said as Pabby inched his way to the edge of the table. His eyes were glued to the floor trying to catch a glimpse of B2.
“The dog is back here with me,” J Dub reassured the lad. He reached down, grabbed B2 by the collar and escorted him out the door.
The pro could barely make out the wording. “How old is this?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe three or four years. I won it at some raffle.”
J Dub examined the piece of paper. “What does that say?” He showed the certificate to the customer.
“Beats me. I can’t make it out,” the golfer said.
“This thing is so old that the expiration date has come and gone,” J Dub said. “I think that this thing expired over two years ago.”
“You don’t want our business?” the guy asked.
“No, no. That’s not it at all. We’ve just cleaned out our books for that year and this isn’t good anymore.” The pro looked at the way the foursome was dressed. Tattoos covered the arms of one of the guys in a muscle top. “One of our policies here is that golfers must wear shirts with a collar,” he told the group. “You guys can play, but it would be better if you could go over to the shelf and pick out a golf shirt to wear.”
“We’re not gonna do that,” came the reply. “It’s hot out. We want to play golf.”
“Do all of you have your own clubs?”
“We can’t share?”
“No, everyone has to have their own bag,” J Dub said.
The guys looked at each other. “It doesn’t sound like you want us to stick around.” They glared back at the pro.
“No, that’s not it all. We have our policy. If we start bending the rules for one or two people then everyone will want those privileges extended.
Julie glanced at J Dub trying to catch his attention. “Can I say something?”
“Sure,” J Dub answered.
“In private,” she said as she stepped away from the register and headed to the office.
J Dub followed. “What?”
“Just let them go. We need the money. There’s nobody out there today.”
“The gift certificate isn’t any good,” he said, “and they look like crap.”
“Don’t worry about it. The other three will pay.”
“If other golfers see those muscle shirts we’ll have every biker on the river road up here wanting to play in leather and tank tops.”
“Take the money. We have bills to pay,” Julie said in her most persuasive tone. As the bookkeeper she was constantly worried about having enough money at the end of the month.
J Dub gave her a look. “I don’t know.” Julie tilted her head down and puffed out her lower lip. “What can I tell them now?”
“Just give them a warning.”
J Dub shook his head. He didn’t like to be persuaded by emotions. He turned and approached the golfers. “Since you fellas are already out here you can go ahead and play. We’ll simply make you aware of the dress code in case you come
back. As far as the gift certificate goes, we’ll honor that too.”
“Do you know what all of this means?” Doc asked as he pointed to the stats in the racing form.
Pabby shook his head negatively.
Doc reached into his pocket and retrieved his reading glasses. Pabby watched as they fell halfway down the bridge of his nose. Doc licked his lips and reached to turn the form slightly. “This paper tells you all about how fast these horses
“Have you ever been to a horse race before?” Paul asked.
Pabby shook his head. His wide eyes did not conceal his excitement.
“Maybe we can take you to one someday,” Doc said.
“I’d like that,” Pabby said.
“But if we’re going to do that maybe it would be better to show you how to read one of these so that you’ll be able to appreciate the horses more.”
“It’s a lot more fun to watch the horses that win the race than the ones that lose,” Paul explained.
“If we can pick the winning horse then we might have an opportunity to go down to the winner’s circle and stand close to it or get our picture taken with it,” Doc said.
Pabby gnawed at his lower lip as he watched the words come out of Doc’s mouth. “Yeah!”
Doc twisted his head so that he could read the form better. “Now look, each one of these horses has a name.”
“And each one of them has a jockey,” Paul followed, “you know, a little guy that rides them during the race.” He pointed to a spot on the racing form. “His name is listed right here.”
Pabby soaked it all in.
“Now this is very important,” Doc continued.
J Dub and Curt retreated to the office while the guys continued their banter in the clubhouse. J Dub tossed the lawsuit on the desk. “What are we going to do about this crap?” He picked the document back up and flipped through the pages. “I read it again last night.”
“It’s a bunch of fiction,” Curt said.
“You know that and I know that, but we can’t ignore it.” He propped his elbows on the desk and rubbed his face.
“Once in a while we have to worry about something more than the weather and cutting grass. I went in to see him. It’s your turn to talk to Crash.” Curt glanced at the phone. “Go ahead and call him. Let’s get this settled somehow. We need to find out what the insurance company is going to do.”
Reluctantly J Dub picked up the phone and dialed. “Could I speak to Muss?” J Dub paused. “Tell him it’s J Dub.”
“This is Muss.”
“Hey, Crash. J Dub. How have you been?”
“Trying to retire.”
“Aren’t we all?” J Dub listened. A few seconds became a couple of minutes. “But Crash, you’re my insurance agent. That doesn’t make any sense.” He listened again for a minute. “What the heck have we been paying about twenty thousand a year for?” J Dub held the phone a few inches from his ear and
made a face at Curt. “That doesn’t make any sense. Crash.” He waited. “Crash.”
“What happened?” Curt asked.
“He hung up. Not because he didn’t want to talk to me, but he said that he couldn’t talk to me.”
He studied Pudge for a reaction. The attorney was busy digging into a folder. “You kind of fall in that category, you know.”
“I’m here to help you.”
“Then let’s see what kind of progress you’ve made.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“The court denied our request for a change of venue.”
“Judge Porter denied our motion to dismiss.”
“That was expected.”
Pudge fumbled through some documents. “Oh, I almost forgot. The judge also ruled that he does not have a conflict of interest. The suit will stay in his court and be heard by him.”
“So we want this nuisance lawsuit to go away and we’re already 0-for-3.”
“Well I wouldn’t exactly look at it that…”
“How else can I look at it? That’s like saying I would have been three under par standing on the fourth tee if the twelve-footer on one would have gone in and the six-footer on two and the twenty-foot putt on three. But instead I’m even par still scrambling to keep a good round going.”
“That’s one way to look at it.”
“No, don’t misunderstand. That’s the only way I’m looking at it. I want this frivolous lawsuit to go away and I’m already spending way more money on this crap than I wanted to.”
“We can always settle.”
“I saw their request. It’s asinine and this thing shouldn’t even be in court. The demands are ridiculous.”
“So we fight.”
“I’m a peaceful guy that’s minding my own business. I don’t want the hassle.”
“What does the insurance company want to do?”
“That’s where it all gets complicated,” Pudge went on to explain. “It’s like the plaintiffs want to separate all the defendants. They sued the golf cart manufacturer, the tire company and the asphalt company that put down the cart path. Everybody is forced to come up with their own evidence and
try to figure out what happened.”
“We’ll give each other written requests and share what we found.” J Dub listened intently. “Expert witnesses will be called. We’ll start the depositions and ,,,"
“No, no, no! I don’t want to go through all this stuff. We’ll spend thousands of dollars just to prove that we’re not liable.”
“Tanner knows that. That’s why he is trying to get you to make him an offer. He thinks that you’ll want to give it to him and his client rather than spend the money on testimony and take the risk of losing.”
J Dub looked at Curt then turned back to his lawyer. “If we go through all that what is it going to cost us?”
“It’s hard to say but depositions aren’t cheap. Neither are investigators. You’re probably looking at a hundred thousand or more and then there is the cost of the trial.” Pudge opened his hands to the ceiling. “All told it might cost you four to five hundred thousand.”
“That’s crazy! The legal system bankrupts Middle America! All you guys are crooks!”
“Whose side are you on?” Curt asked. “Nobody wants to reach a settlement. Every single one of you wants to keep the cloud over our head, hold us in limbo and wait it out until one side or the other gives in.”
Pudge could feel their anger. “After we go through the depositions we can ask the judge for summary judgment.”
“It’s asking the court to dismiss the case based on the evidence.”
"We’ve got a fat chance of that.”
“Then we’ll go to trial. We can either request a jury trial or have the judge decide the case.”
“We’ve got a lot of real attractive options, don’t we?”
“That’s the way our system works.” Pudge was a like a wheel on a car. He was a component of the legal community. It was like they all were—numb to the people that lived life outside the courthouse.
J Dub buried his face in his hands then glanced at Curt for help. The older brother sympathized and then spoke up. “Then let’s recap the options that we have sitting on the table. We can either spend over a hundred thousand dollars to conduct our own investigation. Or we can admit liability and maybe settle for less with the guy that flipped the cart. Of course another option is to go to trial and spend upwards to a half million bucks with no guarantees that we’ll win. And on top of all that we can’t talk to our insurance guy because he’s a defendant too and that is a conflict of interest.”
“Don’t take it personally, Pudge,” J Dub said, “but I oughta tell you to get your butt out of here.”
“Pabby. That’s enough.” J Dub placed his hand on the teen’s head and looked back at DeWitt. “He’s our resident expert on animals. He can tell you everything possible on every species in the world.” J Dub shook his hand on top of Pabby’s head and smiled. “By the way DeWitt, this is Pabby.”
“Are you my buddy?” Pabby asked and smiled hopefully.
The elder man extended his hand. “You bet I am.” They shook. “And after our little hunting trip we’ll be better friends.”
The guys headed to the vehicles. “You guys get in with me. T-Berry has the dogs. He can follow.” DeWitt and J Dub climbed in the driver’s side. Pabby and Doc walked around to the passenger side.
The second Doc opened the rear door for Pabby the teen screamed. “No! No! No!” Four falcons sat on a perch behind the back seat. Each wore hoods.
“They won’t hurt you,” DeWitt said. The birds were tethered, a cord held them on their carpeted stand.
“No. I’m not going in there.” The men looked at each other.
“How about if I get in the back seat and you ride up front?” Doc proposed.
Pabby took a second to think and then agreed. “That’s better.” He remained apprehensive. “They won’t fly toward me?”
“Not at all. They are tied down and won’t leave their spot,” DeWitt explained. With that minor detail worked out Pabby climbed into the front seat. He nervously kept looking over his shoulder toward the birds as DeWitt started the car.
“Where are we going?” J Dub asked from the back seat.
“We’ll go down to a couple of farm fields on the bottom. We can flush some ducks out of the drainage ditches between the river and the bluffs.”
Conway Jobe was the voice of American horse racing. His fluent, rich voice provided the perfect amount of excitement and urgency as the horses bolted from the gate, jockeyed for position down the backstretch and rounded the final turn for the home stretch. CJ, as he was known across the circuit, was in his fourth decade of announcing. When the bell rang his voice reverberated
over the loudspeaker in the Turf Club.
“They’re off in the third race of the Thoroughbred Challenge. Acey Deucey breaks early followed by Silo Express, Pandora’s Jar and Tar Heel Nation. Bamboo Lampshade is running a close fifth,” CJ barked.
“Come on Bamboo Lampshade!” Pork Chop urged as Doc returned from the window holding the tickets in the air. Doc and J Dub had a hundred bucks each on the ticket. Pork Chop had half that. BT, Paul, BowTye, Curt, Elia, Paco, YouWho, Fred, Scotty P, Trot and Captain Jer had between five and twenty dollars on the ticket. “How much did we end up with on the bet?”
Doc kissed the ticket. “Four hundred and ten dollars. I got it in five seconds before the bell.”
“Help us get the first horse home. If we lose one race we’re out.” The guys gathered around the various monitors. Pabby placed his head on the table and looked to be asleep.
It was CJ’s turn with the call. “And coming off the turn it’s Spiked Haircut on the rail with a charging Bamboo Lampshade on the outside.”
“Get home, baby. Get home.” The guys were glued to the race. Roars went up in the club as the horses raced for the line.
“Uh oh,” Julie blurted. “We better be ready whether we want to be or not.”
“How does an attorney sleep?” the comedian barked. Blank looks were abundant. “First he lies on one side and then the other.”
Groans were followed by silent chuckles. “Trot, spare us this morning. Pleeeeease,” Julie begged.
Trot looked in her direction. “I mean it was soooo cold last month that . . .” He prompted Julie by rolling his hand in her direction.
“I give up, Trot. How cold?”
“So cold that I saw a lawyer with his hand in his own pocket.” More groans followed and then a hearty belly laugh came from Pork Chop.
The performer was in his element. He loved playing to the crowd. “Why do lawyers display a copy of their bar association card on their dashboard?”
“So they can park in handicap zones.”
“I know one that did that!”
Trot turned to Julie. “Did you hear about the lady lawyer that dropped her briefs and became a solicitor?” A dumbfounded look followed. He was just starting. “What do lawyers use as contraceptives?”
“That one is really ooooold,” Julie complained.
“Their personalities.” He turned to Julie and gave her a high five. “Yeah, I know but it is true.” He paused and thought for a second. “If one useless man is considered a disgrace, what are two useless men?”
“You’ve got me.”
“A law firm.” The guys erupted.
“Don’t stop now,” Captain Jer prompted. He was holding his side.
“What’s the ideal weight of a lawyer?” Blank looks were abundant. “About three pounds including the urn.”
DeWitt drove the SUV off the golf course property, down the bluff and onto the state highway. The headlights reflected across the rain-slick pavement causing elongated reflections. “You know what the plan is if anyone happens to question you.” J Dub shook his head in agreement. “Just tell them that you had a cave exploration trip planned for weeks. Predicting rain that far out was impossible.”
“Tell me about the Purdy Palace,” Julie said. “J Dub said that you mentioned several people had died there.”
“Yes. Eight. It does have quite a history,” DeWitt started the story as he pointed the vehicle toward the River Road. “St. Louis became a large manufacturer of beer in the early to mid- 1800s. Philippe Vaugh-Purdy started the brewery back then. What is known as today’s palace was the original home high on Lighthouse Point. The area thrived on the manufacturing of beer and many of the breweries capitalized on the caves that were located in the bluffs up and down the river because they provided natural refrigeration.”
“So that is why they chose that site.”
“One of the reasons. I’m sure that travel on the river and shipping was another reason. Anyway, the beer business may have been financially lucrative for the family but it wreaked havoc on the personal lives of those that benefitted. One of Vaugh-Purdy’s sons had gone off to fight in the Civil War. He was wounded and came home, only to die in his bedroom.”
“He was the first?” Julie asked. Morgan and Stud sat in the back and enjoyed the storytelling. It was easy to listen to DeWitt. His grandpa-like distinction added to the ambience.
“Number one,” DeWitt confirmed. “Then the old man was caught having an affair. Soon thereafter his mistress was found hanging in one of the rooms.”
“Was she murdered?”
“Public opinion thought so but the death was ruled a suicide.”
“Money was talking way back then it sounds like,” J Dub suggested.
“Could have been.” DeWitt slowed as traffic in front of him came to a stop. “We don’t need this. We’re running tight on time as it is.”
Pabby and Shae, teens with special needs, hoping to expand their experience outside Footprints of Hope Foster Care Center arrive at Prairie Winds Golf Course on the east side of St. Louis.
Innocence and youthful enthusiasm get caught in an undercurrent of sinister events.Civil injustice prompted by an unethical attorney arrives in the form of a bogus insurance claim.
Alcohol and greed taint a dishonest judge. An Internet dating site feeds an affair. Shady police work attempts to stain the reputation of head pro, J Dub Schroeder.As the court spins out of control an ethics board investigation and an edgy game of instant messaging tempt the hands of fate.
Savant-like tendencies, dementia and flying falcons intertwine with Native American customs, thoroughbred racing and a trip up the river road to Lighthouse Point.A retired barrister hints about a corrupt underground society.
Can revealing a dark secret settle PABBY’S SCORE?
The collection of books by James Ross is for the avid reader. They are delivered from Prairie Winds Golf Course which sits high atop the Mississippi river bluffs east of St. Louis.