Friday, November 6, 2015


Working title GREEN BRIAR LIES: Who's lying in Green Briar? Everybody!
    After what happened when they requested access to police records on Lilli's closed case, Jacob Chandler had promised to help Morgan find out what they could about her mother’s mysterious disappearance. It was obvious to them both, that the local constabulary could not be trusted in this matter. So he found himself conscripted into Morgan's service as chaperone, chauffeur, and middle-man between the city girl and the mountain people who populated the Appalachian township of Green Briar.
   Not that he minded. 
  He pulled up to the weathered cabin, put his truck in park, turned off the ignition, and stepped out onto the grass. Morgan followed.
   “We’ll I’ll be.” Willie Johnson did not rise from his rocker. “If it ain’t Miss Lilli come back from the dead.”
   “Not Lilli.” Jake corrected. “Her daughter, Morgan.”
   The old black man pulled a pipe and a pouch of tobacco from his pocket. “I knows who she is.”
   “Willie, how long you lived on this mountain?”
   “Near bout seventy years I’d say. But cain't say I seen you up this far more’n a handful of times your whole life. This must be ole home week." He packed tobacco into his pipe and tamped it down. "I’s git’n right poplar these days. The Mayor Hisself come to see me yestiddy.” Willie raised himself from the rocker. “What brings you?”
   “Lilli Alexander. What do you remember about the time she disappeared?”
   “Mor’n I care to.”
   Jake watched Morgan’s face light up. Her new-found longing to understand what happened tugged at his heart, and he vowed to do everything he could to help her. She tried so hard to be strong, but ever since a recent discovery convinced her that foul play had indeed been involved in her mother’s disappearance, the knowledge that Lilli had not abandoned her, as the Sheriff's dept insisted was the case, had filled her with guilt. The feeling that she had betrayed her mother's memory gnawed at her heart relentlessly. She had been unable to hide this from Jake. And she couldn't hide it from Willie--her mother's dear friend--either.
   It was obvious he knew something, and Jake, hoping for a break-through, was a bit excited himself. But he was careful not let his excitement show. “Why do you say that Willie? Everyone says she abandoned Morgan. That she ran off with a mysterious man. Even sent a good-bye letter from the mid-west.”
   Willie clenched the unlit pipe between his teeth. “I knows whut dey say.”
   “The case was closed on her disappearance.” That was true enough. No need to let on, yet, that the case had just been 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?”
   Willie took the pipe from his mouth and said, “I done tole all I know...and been called a liar for my trouble. I said all I got to say seventeen years ago.”
   “Willie,” Morgan's quiet interjection drew his gaze. “I always believed my mother abandoned me, but now I don't. I know you don’t know me anymore, I've been gone for many years. And I don't blame you for hating me. But if you know anything about her disappearance that would help me understand what happened to her, I would be indebted to you. Will you help me?”
   Jake watched as memories and a long-suppressed-affection for a small girl, rose in the old man's heart and shone from his eyes. His countenance softened along with his voice, “You best be gittin along. Go on home, lil gal. Back where you come from. Green Briar ain’t no place for you. It ain’t no place for nobody no more." He emptied the tobacco from his still unlit pipe, carefully pouring it back into the pouch. "Not for a long time now.”
   Morgan persisted. “The day I arrived in Green Briar, those men at Buchanan's obviously knew my mother. Do you think they can help me?”
   Willie stepped closer to her. “You'll have to ask them. But I can save you the trouble. It won’t do you no good. They ain’t goin talk to you.”
   “But why not?" The hitch in her voice, betrayed just how close her emotions were to the surface. "What do you know?”
   He fixed his eyes on his unexpected guests but directed his words only to Morgan. “Lil gal, 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 else.”
   “What about Mr. Buchanan, he seemed nice enough?”
   “He won't talk to you neither.”
     “All I want is the truth.”
   "That's jist whut they's afraid of." Willie spat on the ground. "You ain’t wondered why they’s no citified chain store across the highway from Buchanan’s?  Ask'im bout that if you want—not that it’ll do you no good." His tone softened again. "You best listen to me and hightail it back where you come from. Cause there ain’t nuthin but heartache here for you, and maybe worse.”
   “I can’t do that Willie." Admiration filled Jake's heart, as he watched determination march across her delicate features. "I am not leaving until I get to the bottom of what happened to my mother."  Her voice took on an indelicate edge as she asked, "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 back. But how did it get there? And how did it stay in perfect condition for seventeen years?”
   “Can’t say as I can answer that, lil gal.”
   “But you know the answers to other things," her eyes narrowed, "don’t you Willie?”
   Willie crammed the pipe and tobacco back into his pocket as his gaze wandered to the copse of trees separating his property from the Garvey Place. Jake knew there would be no more conversation today, but Morgan wasn’t giving up.
   “I’ll come back, Willie.” 
   Without a word, he turned his back on them and disappeared into the cabin. The slam of his screen door signaled  the interview was over.


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