The note was written in a scrawl
Chruchail receives a card from the Deck Of Life
quietly took the note from his pocket and placed it on his desk.
Strange how the note felt warm and made him laugh because he had no
idea what it meant. Each time he read it, it said something different.
used the magnifier, and read it again. It was different. He started
over, and it was different again. The words were scrawled together.
This is crazy. I should see the doctor.
looked at the law degree on his wall, and it didn't change. Closed one
eye and looked at the print, and then the other eye. His eyes were
He muttered, why is this so hard to read?
the day, he found the note in his desk drawer under a sheaf of papers
and almost threw it out until he saw his mother's name written on the
bottom. It was written in old brown ink. He didn't remember seeing it
before, and then realized his mother's name wasn't there at all.
That afternoon he was scheduled to meet with the road supervisor who was bringing a payment from the bridge builder.
It was a hefty amount, needed immediately to keep construction on schedule. Otherwise Churchail would have to shut it down.
The appointment was delayed. Churchail kept thinking about the note, and read it again.
word Bank kept popping up, and the note turned cold in his hand. It was
unnerving. His face started to sweat and he almost threw the note away
That was it. He canceled the appointment and started thinking about the election.
had to get Statewide Bank on his side, which meant losing support from
the Upstate Boys, which was dangerous, but fighting against the bank
was more immediate since his payoffs were handled by Abbeyville Bank
... until they became Statewide Bank the month before.
His old ally,
Ricky Buehler, a timely man of good Swiss European stock, was fired
over missing money, and a new bank manager brought in.
Monty Gephart, the bastard northern ballcounter was all numbers and refused to chum up to Churchail.
But more worrying was that ol' friend Ricky might be discussing the County Commissioner's banking habits to avoid prison.
Statewide wanted to fulfill Mrs Churchail's dream of sending Mr Churchail to prison, but bank records were missing.
Ricky's mismanagement and sloppy record-keeping, plus his secretary's
relationship with the Churchail family, and propensity to lose
documents during the bank takeover, caused a befuddled array of
confusion among examiners.
Statewide needed one more deposit from Churchail to have proof.
They knew he was expected to take a payment from the bridge builder and would come to the bank.
Churchail found reform at the last minute, canceled the appointment,
and called Monty Ghephart for a meeting. The exchange was down so the
operator answered and said, that's 812, I'll ring the number.
Ghephart, expecting the call, gleefully agreed, and called
long-distance to his boss in the capital to report that Churchail's
arrest was imminent and they should expect Lever Lanky to win the
election. The bank was sending additional men to audit Churchail's
house once the arrest was announced. Good news for all.
entered the bank expecting the usual greetings. He waved to the teller,
but she didn't look at him. That put a gray feeling the air and his
knees felt weak. No matter, his newly found soul was determined to meet
doom with optimism.
Statewide already knew Churchail didn't accept
the payoff, so they faced a choice. Either hope he took the payoff
later or scare him into confession now.
Inside Monty Gephart's
office, Churchail was invited to sit down. Another man was there, and
they acted all cheerful, except the lack of greeting from the teller
told him it was a fix. It also revealed they weren't arresting him. And
since they hadn't arrested him before, Churchail knew it was a bluff,
causing him to laugh out loud, embarrassing poor Monty. Heh heh, it had
been a long time since he played the game, but he had 'dem boys by the
The tricky part was Monty Ghephart still thought
there was a chance to nab him, despite quite visible signs that he
They needed to add sugar to the trap. And Churchail
needed to stop the investigation since it would hamper resumption of
Fortunately, Churchail was a gifted master of
pulling stories out of his trousers, and he just fished up a 10-pounder
Although his personal reform seemed questionable, his
mind was clear now. He had been wrong all those years, not that he was
planning to pass out refunds, but he felt bad for ignoring the plight
of fellow citizens.
Isn't it amazing what the double barrel effect of prison can have?
needed a loyal commissioner to upend the Upstate Boys' grip on local
business, plus grease the wheels of progress that let the bank destroy
Churchail was their man.
He said, you know Monty, I've been thinking about this for a while, you don't mind if I call you Monty now do you?
decided to shed his lizard skin and add a foil of pleasantry, and said,
oh no Mr Churchail, we have an open door here with our customers.
previous manager kept fresh flowers in the office that were replaced
with grim looking filing cabinets. It was a point not lost on
Churchail, who saw a way to stir the hash with these new guys.
I understand the bank is unhappy about the way we do things around
here. We can change that. There are some boys that cause a lot of
problems. They're running up the cost of doing business. You know what
Yes, Monty said. We know about that. Aware now that Churchail was willing to get his hand out of their pocket.
other man sitting there was Statewide's Regional President, Louis
Lockman, a former boxer and wizard at creating consumer debt for the
reason that debt creates money while stealing ownership. He was the
perfect man for commercial excavation of farm properties, and had no
interest seeing Churchail in prison, having faced prison himself during
the war years for haphazardly shooting a few extra townsfolk following
a bank robbery.
If Churchail could rid them of the Upstate Boys, it was worth switching support in the coming election.
Monty said, we got a problem with Lanky because he's going to win the election.
Churchail said, I'll take care of it.
How are you going to do that?
The men sitting there knew that Lever Lanky Johnson would get plowed under by the conflict over big money.
used the opportunity and said, let me say this, we all know money is a
river. You need an experienced man who can wade out there and get it
flowing the right direction.
If you put the bank behind me I'll get
things done with Lanky and he'll go back to college and do what he does
there, and we can get down to business here.
Monty looked at Lockman.
They needed to know if Churchail was really double-dealing the Upstate Boys?
Churchail turned and looked at Lockman, smiling.
bank was planning to play both sides and Churchail knew it, but that
was ok, he was the experienced bullshitter they could trust.
this point, with the election just a few months away, it was improbable
he could beat Lever Lanky, but Churchail had a plan to derail the
professor's slide rule.
However, there was another factor. The
Upstate Boys were unlikely to take the loss without dealing death to
someone, but it wasn't Churchail's problem because the chance of them
shooting somebody else was better than him going to prison. That chunk
of anti-social reasoning caused him to chuckle.
In the meantime,
Mrs Churchail was sequestered in her house, hiding from friends and
wishing to be knees to ears under Mr Lanky. She was a thin, well
proportioned lady who carried her aristocratic upbringing to win the
state beauty pageant when she was in college. Which is where she met
the pandering philander Mr Churchail, not that she was inexperienced
herself in the desires of men that fairly accelerated as she got older.
Or to put it more directly, many men carried memories of her handiwork.
Mr Churchail got home from the bank a renewed man and found his wife hiding in the second part of the house in an upstairs room.
She was surprised to see him looking like a younger man. Almost fit.
dropped to one knee and confessed, All these years, my only love has
been for you. It's my fault. We've been apart too long and I want you
Really, would you fall for that?
Except Mr Churchail was
serious. He didn't know it was true until he said it. She was his only
true love since they met and he wanted her now more than ever.
next 20 minutes of kissing and crying, oh you are my love kitten, that
culminated in the bed with a respunked old man doing his best to regale
The next morning found the lovebirds chirping in
the dining room with toast and egg omelets delivered from the kitchen
by a Negro servant girl.
Mrs Churchail blissfully said they should
go to the Lever Johnson rally tonight, oblivious to Mr Churchail's
possible rage, fondly remembering Lanky's large course of mathematical
dimensions, and thinking that her brash attendance, accompanied by
husband, would prove the rumored affair was untrue.
loved-blinded by his stunningly beautiful wife, calculated likewise
that their attendance would stamp his ticket to re-election, dreaming
about the previous night when it came true twice.
Mr and Mrs Churchail, dressed in finest wear, did indeed go to the Lanky rally.
event was underway and spectators overflowed at the tent entrance.
Churchail's driver drove directly through the crowd, forcing them to
move out of the way as he dropped off the Commissioner and his wife at
The people couldn't believe their eyes as the royal
couple entered. The crowd parting as the Churchails, arm in arm, walked toward the
stage. Greetings were shouted and Mr Churchail turned and smiled at the
Mrs Churchail fixed her gaze on Lever Lanky who was on the
stage, and forced to stop talking. Sweet peach in a bowl, that woman
was hotter than a searchlight and he had no idea what to do, except
return the stare.
Lever's lips went dry, and his pants twitched.
Churchails walked up the steps and onto the stage. She waited at the
edge while the Commissioner walked to Lever with his hand out in
Lever the fool, stuck out his hand and smiled.
Churchail wrapped his arm around Lever's shoulders and moved to the microphone.
and gentlemen, let me tell you, Mr Lever Johnson here is a fine, fine
man. He is not a Yankee. He is one of us and a true man of the South.
The crowd cheered. Churchail had 'em going now. Lever had no choice but
to step away and let Churchail take over his event.
Churchail's voice boomed out, we need to make changes in this county, and we're going to do it. More cheers.
My wife is with me tonight, and she is the finest woman in the state. We've been together 20 years and I love her.
Blah blah for another half hour, like a drunk preacher talking about jumping off a roof.
When they left the stage, the crowd mobbed them.
there he was, the trot horse of human excess, Thomas Churchail, happily hamhanding the
voters at Lever Lanky's political rally, with his wife by his side.
tide of the election was turned. And Churchail's arrival cleared Lever
of being a Yankee, and solidified Lanky's reputation with womanhood in
general, despite warnings from local houses of worship to avoid devious
thoughts of temptation. Everybody won that day except the voters, who
were going to lose anyway.
Churchail tucked the note away in a desk
drawer forever, needing more reformation en route to salvation but he
was catching on, then he sent a potted plant, flowers and a puppy dog
to Lanky, with personalized stationary saying thanks.
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