Twin Beeches -- an Illinois Love Story
Author: paul schoaff

Chapter 49
The Whirlpool of Fate

I do the Devil’s Work


Eddie didn't leave me long to think about it.  When he and Buddy were sure David was working in the other house, not paying any attention to mine, he explained to me what I had to do for them, today.   He waited until almost noon before getting all the details figured out.


“I need a pen and paper and an envelope and a stamp,” he said.  I was surprised, but I hurried to get it for him.  I had one stamp left in my wallet, and the other stuff was in the cabinet in the kitchen.


Eddie found his old briefcase behind the door where he had left it, reached in and took out a pair of $100 bills.  He looked at a scrap of paper he pulled out and put back in, then wrote something on the paper, folded it and slipped it into the envelope.  Buddy and I were both watching him intently. 


He sealed the envelope, and after looking at the slip of paper in his briefcase again, addressed the envelope to a P.O. Box in Peoria, applied the stamp, and said, “Okay, I want you to take this to the post office in Havana, The first thing you do is rent a P.O. Box, a big one, for three months or more, if you have to.   Put the number of the box on the envelope as the return address, and mail this envelope.   Then bring back the key to me.   If you're not back in one hour and 30 minutes, we are going to leave and take your baby with us.”


Before I could raise the point, he picked up Baby's car seat, and he had put a pillow in it so it looked like the baby was in it.   “Now, go, and remember not to tell anyone anything.  Just get the P.O. Box, use the number for the return address, and get back here.  I'm sure Baby will be fine.”


I walked to my car and got in, waving at David as he came out of the house to see if he needed to know where I was going, and if I could bring him back some brushes he had left in town -- he told me later.   I just kept waving and kept going as though I had something very important to do, and I could see him standing in the driveway watching me go down the lane, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.  “Please, God,” I prayed, “Don’t let him go anywhere near my house!”


The trip to Havana -- bet you didn't know it was named ‘Havana’ because an island in the river at the point where the town was growing was shaped like Cuba, not to be confused with the town of Cuba, west of Canton, named Cuba because it was somewhere near Havana -- and back took less than an hour.  For some reason, the Post Office was unusually quiet and the person in charge of renting boxes was unusually efficient and the pen in the stand where you fill out paperwork hadn't been either broken or stolen.  I put the new Box number on the envelope and dropped the letter into the slot.  I asked the Postmaster how soon a letter I mailed today would be delivered to a Box in Peoria.


“Tonight, most likely”, he said.  “They'll have it in hand tomorrow morning.”


If I had guessed right, whatever Eddie was trying to do would come back to Havana to the Box there as soon as the day after tomorrow.  Maybe, just maybe, we could maintain the charade until then.  Surely I can keep David for two days, and when Eddie gets what he wants, he'll be gone.


Hurrying back toward the house with the 'pillow baby' in the car seat, I saw David almost immediately leave Mama's house and stroll across the driveway, passing the cupola as he came.  I knew I had to intercept him, and, without being told by Eddie or Buddy, I turned around and met him at the edge of the driveway.  The further away from the house, the safer for all of us.


David had brought her a sticky bun from town.  She had confessed it was one of her weaknesses, and he remembered.


“Hi,” he said, and handed her the bag. She looked edgy, with her eyes almost unable to look at him directly.   “Are things okay today?  Is the baby okay?”


“Everything is fine, David.” she said, “The baby is a little colicky, I guess, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't come over and wake her up.  She just dropped off on my way back from the store.”  I held the baby car seat so David couldn’t see there was just a pillow in it.  MJ hoped he wouldn’t notice her trip to the store didn’t involve any bags or sacks or boxes.  He stepped closer and spoke quietly to keep from waking the ‘baby’….


“Okay, MJ, I won't.  Anyway, there's a sticky-bun in … Oh!  Did you hear?  Two local guys broke out of Rushville jail and they haven't caught up with them yet.  Folks think they must be in Iowa or Missouri by now!”


“Uh, yes, I did hear.  I sure hope they catch them soon!” she lied, to try to cut the conversation shorter.  If David wondered how I had learned of it, he didn't say, but I think he just assumed that I had picked up the news on the local radio station while I was on my shopping trip.


David shuffled his feet, smiled a little and looked over at the house and at the storm windows on the back porch. “Just two last things…your Mama says she’s going to try to come out after work today, and, do you want some help one day getting the rest of those storm windows off?  It'll be a lot cooler on the porch when they are down.”


David's continued conversation and his gesturing at the windows were two things too many to suit Buddy.


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