Hi There, Okay, I’m working toward a draft publication slot at the moment (which I’ll tell you as soon as I’m convinced it’s feasible) and then hopefully, you can re-read all these chapters and the rest without my waffling!
My thoughts: What is an Aeron story without Mrs. Squirrel popping in? and… of course… Aunt Bess. I really enjoyed giving little snippets of Aunt Bess’ time in CIG and Lilia’s relationship with her, Eli’s girls… along with the intrepid Grimes and his badge… You get a lot out of listening to them chat…
Full Circle exclusive. Copyright © 2018 Jody Klaire. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, electronic or mechanical without permission in writing from the author and publisher. Please note: all scenes are the intellectual property of the author and that online exclusive scenes may differ from the published version.
Bess sat in the driver’s seat waiting for Grimes to detain the two young whippersnappers interrogating him over his credentials. Ruth and Louise were good. Grimes was sweating as they examined his badge. The guy would buckle and confess, she could see it… and they’d be here for hours at this rate. She wound down her window. “Ladies, your Uncle Grimes ain’t planning on hurting you. Besides, you got me for protection,” Bess said and leaned on her windowsill. She weren’t technically supposed to be alive let alone driving around her hometown but a lady had to make herself useful. The girls looked up, grinned to each other, and hurried over. Considering she didn’t know them a whole lot, they smothered her with cwtches and kisses like she did. “You here to bust out Aeron?” Ruth asked, still clutching Grimes’ badge. “I’m a respectable old lady, I don’t do the busting, I just do the boring stuff.” She leaned back and shoved open the back door. Two whippersnappers clambered inside——still in possession of the badge——while Grimes shut the door and headed over to take shotgun. “That’s not what Momma Lilia says,” Louise said in her fancy tone as she made sure Ruth was belted in like her. “She says that you sweep in and bake cookies.” Bess raised an eyebrow. “I ain’t guilty of nothin’ of the sort.” Grimes fixed his seatbelt and tapped the console between them. “Don’t listen to her, I’ve seen her make cookies. Double chocolate chip cookies.” The girls “ooh’d.” Bess tapped him on the hand. “They were for you. You weren’t supposed to go confessing it.” The girls giggled again. Yeah, yeah. “So, where’s Daddy?” Louise held up the badge to Grimes who started sweating again. “He’s in work,” Grimes said with a wobble as Bess drove them from the schoolhouse toward O’Reilly’s farm. “Lilia is in the house making dinner.” “Daddy is ‘thuth-thpended,’” Louise managed. Suspended sounded a whole lot cuter in whippersnapper speak. Bess smiled. “Yeah, but he had to go shoot the breeze with the boss ‘bout it.” Ruth and Louise gasped. Bess pulled her pistol, scanned the horizon, and was ready to cover them. “What, where?” “He shot grandma?” Louise hugged Ruth and they both hugged the badge. Grandma? Eli’s momma had passed long ago and Jenny’s mom was still in town. Did they mean Jenny’s mom? Why would Eli shoot her? Sure she was a mean old bat and Bess may well have pelted her with pickles in high school but was that any reason to shoot the woman? “How do you know he shot her?” Grimes reached over the seat to comfort them. “Aunt Bess just said.” Louise hung her head. “Daddy jumps a whole load when she’s around.” Grandma… Eli jumping… Had to be Nan. “Ladies, your daddy didn’t shoot Nan, she’s as meddling and breezy as always.” Oh wait, shoot the breeze. Bess rolled her eyes to herself and her stomach removed itself from her throat. “I meant your daddy went to talk to the boss.” She holstered her pistol and peeled her white fingertips off the wheel. “Didn’t know you knew Nan?” Louise nodded. “She talks to us a lot. She told me all ‘bout Aeron.” Whippersnappers exchanged a look. “What did she say?” Grimes prized his badge off them. “I’ll teach you how to make your own.” Louise clapped. “Do you know how to bake cookies too?” Ruth asked, peering at him. “I do something better.” He grinned. “I go to the grocery store and buy them.” Bess shook her head at him. “Focus, man.” She glanced in the mirror as they headed down the lane guarded by the redwoods. Yeah, she could feel her momma so strong here. “What Nan tell you ‘bout Aeron?” “Oh,” Ruth said exchanging a glance with Louise. “That she is sneaking ‘round places looking for crumbs and that she even took on some folks who attacked.” Gone was the fancy tone. Her momma was as sneaky as a squirrel. “Did she say anything else?” Louise nodded and lowered her head to Ruth’s like they were conspiring. “She said that Aeron is calm and that she has a musical crumb.” “Breadcrumb,” Ruth said in a haughty tone. “Aeron found a memory and put it in a musical breadcrumb.” Breadcrumbs… Huh. She nearly forgot to brake as they reached the cabin. Guess it was good to test the seatbelts. “Aeron’s calm?” Grimes asked getting out and opening the door for the whippersnappers. “Yeah,” Ruth said as Bess got out. “She told me Aeron keeps jabbing her pinky. I don’t know why she got to jab her pinky.” Lilia appeared in the doorway and the girls sprinted to her and were wrapped up. “Grimes, why don’t you show them how to make a badge while I shoot——I mean tickle the breeze with Twig here.” She was gonna have to change that saying now. Didn’t feel right. “You got it,” Grimes smiled at her and headed into the house. Lilia met her eyes, kissed the girls on their whippersnapper heads, and joined her on the patch they’d spent hours in as kids. Bess took off her socks and stuck her feet in the river and Lilia, just like when she’d been a kid, crossed her legs and started to make a pattern from the daisies Mrs. Squirrel had dug up. “Momma got some wiles,” Bess said with a chuckle and smiled into the gentle breeze. “I swear she don’t rest for a second.” Lilia smiled and tucked her hair behind her ears. “She’s always been the same.” Bess wiggled her toes. “Guess Eli ain’t getting any slack from the boss.” Lilia glanced at the door. “He went to a hearing, another one. This time he was interrogated about the fact that Sam’s fingerprints were found near Jenny’s body. Internal Affairs guys are all over him. They want to know why Eli didn’t report that Jenny was scared Aeron would hurt the girls.” “But the investigation is just to see if Eli did something wrong, it ain’t to place guilt on Shorty’s shoulders.” Bess reached over and patted Lilia’s knee. Her shoulder was still bothering her but Lilia would pretend she had never been shot for the girls. “Yes, but it feels like they are looking for Eli to slip up and confess Aeron is guilty so they can reinvestigate.” Lilia kept working her daisy bracelet. “Which is just crazy talk.” Bess hummed her agreement. “The IA need pickle juice?” “I would say so but they are as keen to find out where Aeron is as we are.” Lilia shook her head. “Eli is just playing along in case they come up with something.” “Don’t they get that Sam Casey is guilty an’ the judge——before he got found in the river——went and said so?” Bess smiled at her hoping she could cheer her. “Yes, ish. The only way they are happy to believe Aeron is truly innocent is if they can talk to Renee face to face but I don’t trust that sending her in won’t place her in extreme danger.” Lilia finished her bracelet and placed it on the river. “But Blondie is gonna head in anyhow, just like any of us would.” Bess looked out at the forest and Blackbear Mountain. Mrs. Squirrel was flicking her tail and grumbling at something on the ground. “So, what’s your titbit?” Lilia tutted at Mrs. Squirrel. “He’s your son. There’s plenty of nuts to go around.” Mrs. Squirrel ceased her grumbling and sat upright, glaring at Lilia like she was saying, “mind your own nut-stash.” Bess chuckled. “Like I said, Nan has been helping. Seems she told the girls that Aeron is calm and following memories in musical breadcrumbs and she’s jabbed her pinky with it.” Lilia sat forward, eyes full of hope. “She has?” “I’ll give Mousey a call and see if she’s rustled up the cheese.” Bess chuckled and shook off the water from her feet. “That’s not the only bit,” Lilia leaned up and touched her hand. “No.” Lilia peered up at her. “Tell me.” Bess sighed. “I found my box of memories and can’t find the key but I remembered that Charlie and I… well… we were somethin’ once.” “I got that feeling.” Lilia’s smile was a sad one. “I dreamt this morning… well… remembered I guess… Charlie and I were an item. We were nothing more than kids and we were the same rank so that had to be before he could sprout hairs.” She shook her head. “We were on an assignment… can’t remember what… but our POI got into trouble and we had to step in. It got messy and violent an’…” She sighed, knowing the hollow ache in her heart confirmed the memory was real. “I lost a peanut.” Lilia put her hands over her mouth. “Because you got hurt?” Bess nodded, then straightened up. “Anyhow, let’s go find Mousey.” She turned to stride back to the house but Lilia caught up to her, carrying her shoes, socks, and a pack of sweets. “Why didn’t you tell me back then?” “Tell you?” Bess shook her head. “In them days, I was an unmarried momma-to-be. The army would have fired me.” She hesitated at the door. “Besides, I don’t think Charlie and I ever got over it.” “He still loved you.” Lilia held her hand and lifted up the sweet packet. “Oh, we loved each other something awful but unlike Shorty, we didn’t have the guts to say it when it counted.” Bess pushed open the door and smiled as the girls got pen all over Grimes as much as the card he was helping them color in. “Although Grimes says he loves me just as much.” Lilia squeezed her arm. “Then maybe he’s the guy you’ve been waiting for all along?” Bess cleared
her throat. “Don’t go giving him ideas. I look crazy in a white dress.” Lilia chuckled but she had a twinkle in
her eye like Nan. Bess popped a sweet in her mouth and headed over to the whippersnappers. Too much like Nan. She weren’t wearing no white dress. Nuh uh.