The note was written in a scrawl
Prologue.
Chruchail receives a card from the Deck Of Life


Chapter 8) The Forgive Card
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Churchail 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.
He 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.
He 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 working.
He muttered, why is this so hard to read?

Earlier in 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.
The 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 again.
That was it. He canceled the appointment and started thinking about the election.

He 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.
Apparently, 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.
Instead 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.
Monty 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.

Churchail 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 shorties again.

The tricky part was Monty Ghephart still thought there was a chance to nab him, despite quite visible signs that he already knew.
They needed to add sugar to the trap. And Churchail needed to stop the investigation since it would hamper resumption of former habits.

Fortunately, Churchail was a gifted master of pulling stories out of his trousers, and he just fished up a 10-pounder for Gephart.
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?

Statewide needed a loyal commissioner to upend the Upstate Boys' grip on local business, plus grease the wheels of progress that let the bank destroy local farmers.
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?
Monty 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.

The 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.
Look, 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 I mean?
Yes, Monty said. We know about that. Aware now that Churchail was willing to get his hand out of their pocket.

The 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.
Churchail 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.
The bank was planning to play both sides and Churchail knew it, but that was ok, he was the experienced bullshitter they could trust.

At 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.
He 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 back.
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.
The 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 her passion.

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.
Mr Churchail, 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.
The 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 front.
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 people.
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.

The 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 friendship.
Lever the fool, stuck out his hand and smiled.
Churchail wrapped his arm around Lever's shoulders and moved to the microphone.
Ladies 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.
So 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.
The 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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