The following is an original short story by Sue Cartwright of Allegany
County, New York. Sue is a long-time student of criminal justice, a former
judge and a former agent of the US Customs Service who saw action in the war
on drugs along the United States Border with Mexico.
by Sue Cartwright
Picture this! A quaint old Victorian style house, in a small town near you, in need of paint, repair and attention, but the windows are covered with delicate lace curtains, ruffles and all. The property that this house is on, has beautiful flower gardens and a inviting vegetable garden in the back yard. Who owns this house? Why does it seem like there is something weird going on there, behind close doors and in the twilight hours out in the garden? Who is Miss Grettle? Who is TC? Why is there a trail of white powder from the garden into the back door of the house? Why does Miss Grettle take so many trips to the big city? Why, why, why? All these questions and more will be answered. Just keep reading.
Miss Grettle, mind you had been a history teacher for over 30 years at Connerville High School in the rural town of Connerville. She had taught over 1000 children in her lifetime as a history teacher. Many of her students were now grown and living in other areas of the country. Some are married and have families. She sees many of them when they come back to town each June for alumni activities. Miss Grettle keeps in touch with a few of her prize students, but mostly sticks by herself, not totally involved with community activities. No one knows exactly why she is this way, as she is a rather nice, friendly person, not some eccentric that seems to fit the profile of an “old maid” school teacher. But something isn't right. No, one can not put an exact finger on it, but something seems amiss. What little secret is she holding i nside? Why does she seem so happy on one occasion, then the next time you see her, she seems very depressed? Her neighbors, who live down the road, notice her rather peculiar behavior lately, but, as neighbors go, they do not stick their noses in where they don't belong. The same holds with the grocer, banker and post office in town.
Connerville is a friendly rural town with a population of around 2500 people. Many have lived there all their lives. Farming was a way of life for most of the folks, especially those who lived just outside the town. Businesses, many in the area had been there forever, so it seems. Family run for generations. Lately new gas stations and mini marts have moved in, knocking one of the older gas stations out of business. Same thing with the old general store. Post office too, has updated, giving less personal attention to those who come in to chat and do business. As the elderly population grows older, there is a sense that the “old days” are gone and what was once a town with a “family” atmosphere, is now turning into the likes of “anytown USA”, growing into a place that has lost touch with individuals only to become more involved with the newest trends, some good and many bad.
The high school had been there for over 50 years. It was the only school in town, serving kindergartners through 12th grade. But now it only has classes for students grade 8 through 12, because a newer elementary school was built for the growing population. Parents have decided to move out to the rural areas to get away from the stress of city life, hoping to bring their children up in a safe environment. But, as we shall see, this isn't always necessarily so.
Miss Grettle is in her late 60's, grey haired, trim and fit for her age, yet somewhat old fashioned in her style of clothes and mannerism. She tends to her gardens almost religiously, each and every day, pulling weeds here, watering there, trimming, pruning, planting and replanting when needed. She spends most of her days working outside and gives a friendly wave to the rural mail carrier when he delivers her mail. Once a week, she runs into town to attend to her business of grocery shopping, banking and the post office. Occasionally she stops at the local hardware- feed store to pick up a gardening tool or plants for her garden. She doesn't spend much time talking before she heads back home in her older model, but in excellent shape, dark green Chevy. Not wanting to be away from her house too long, she hurries to complete her business and is on her way.
Back home, she puts away her groceries, changes back into her gardening clothes and returns to her vegetable garden in the rear of her house. To see this garden, is to view a picture of a perfect garden one that might be in a gardening magazine. Every row of beans, lettuce, beets is so straight and trim. The tomato plants are all staked up nicely. Carrots are lined up in a perfect row. She even has a row of very tall sunflowers. Oh, I forgot, she has a rather large patch of parsnips too. What are they, you say? Well, they are a vegetable in the shape of the carrot, but creamy white and have a rather strong flavor. Some of the “old timers” love them boiled and fried in butter. This garden area is complete with a white picket fence all around it to keep the unwanted rabbits and wood chucks from entering.
Out front, with a worn and peeling white picket fence surrounding the front yard, are some of the most beautiful flowers ever seen in the area. In fact, Miss Grettle, if she had entered the contests at the local county fair, she could have won easily for her prize flowers. Up close to her porch, she had tall holly hocks, double and single ones. Beneath them she had all sorts of perennials, including rose bushes with fragrant huge blooms of red, pink, peach and yellow shades. Up the walkway, she had daisies, snap dragons, pansies. Over on one side of the front of the house, she had a wagon wheel with climbing morning glories and sweet peas. Oh, it was such a beautiful sight. The air around there was filled with a sweet smell of those flowers and butterflies, bees came and went all day long. Once in awhile, you'd see a humming bird or two, buzzing in to sneak some sweet nectar, then buzz off to wherever. Picture perfect, you say? Hold that thought.
Sometimes when Miss Grettle went to town, she was going to her doctor for a visit. This doctor was fairly new in town. He was tired of the rat race of the big city and decided that he wanted to practice in a small town. Knowing that she was getting older, she wasn't surprised to learn that she had some of the health problems related to aging, but this one time she went, she was almost in shock when she learned she had an illness so rare, that there was no known treatment , at least not one, near by. She was very worried as her teacher's retirement and health insurance was not enough to cover experimental procedures. Miss Grettle did not know what she was going to do. The doctor told her that because her illness was so rare, that there was only one place she could go for experimental treatments and that they would be costly. But she wondered, “how can I afford to pay for these treatments? My insurance will not cover the costs and I don't have that kind of money in the bank.” This doctor, Dr. James Thomas, knew a person in the same city, where the hospital was, he would make arrangements to help her to find enough money to pay for her medical expenses. While she wasn't much for meeting strangers, the doctor assured her that this person would help.
Off to the big city, Miss Grettle drove one sunny morning. It was a two hour trip from her little quiet community. All along the way, she was thinking of how nervous she was, about having the medical treatments that might save her life and mostly, meeting this “stranger” who was suppose to help her find the money to pay for these treatments. “Ah, maybe this is all wrong,” she said to herself as she was driving along the road. “Maybe I should just figure that when my time's up, it's up.” But then that was only a brief thought. She drove along, getting closer to the city, watching for street signs and looking occasionally at her little map, given to her by Dr. Thomas. “My, what is this place,” she thought to herself. The little street map given to her by the doctor, directed her to a part of town that really didn't look too safe to be driving in or especially leaving a car parked in for any length of time. She pulled up to the address written on the piece of paper she had in her hand. Not wanting to get out of the car right away, she briefly looked around and thought, “well, I'm here, I might as well go up to the door and knock.” She quickly left the car, locking it behind her and hurried across the street, knocking lightly on the door. It didn't take very long and after a buzz, the door started to open. There was no one at the door to welcome her in, but a voice came over an intercom saying “please shut the door behind you and proceed directly to the end of the hall. I will meet you there.” The hall was dimly lit and shadowy, sort of scary to say the least. But, Miss Grettle walked ever so slowly to the end of the hall and waited. Finally the door on the left opened and she saw a man- maybe in his late 20's or early 30's, tall, handsome and rather clean cut. She wouldn't have expected this, especially in the area of the city where this address was located. He invited her in, closing the door behind her. The door made a locking sound as it closed, which sent a chill down Miss Grettle's back. She was saying to herself, “this place gives me the creeps”, all the time she was tentatively smiling.
This mysterious man started to speak again, saying, “I have been in touch with Dr. Thomas. He tells me that you have a medical problem that needs immediate treatment, but you can not afford the experimental treatments as your health insurance will not cover them. Is that correct?”
Miss Grettle, started to speak with a tremble in her voice, “yes, that is true.”
The mysterious man then tried to calm her a bit, assuring her that she was safe and nothing would harm her while she was in his office. It took awhile, but eventually she did feel more at ease, especially after the mysterious man offered her a cool drink of ice tea. What she didn't know, is, that this ice tea was laced with a tasteless drug that would mellow her to the point she would become relaxed and even a little tipsy. She really didn't know that anything was happening to her. All she did know was that she was more relaxed and wasn't so scared.
“Well, Miss Grettle, lets see what we can do to help you out financially. Are you willing to do me a few favors if I can find the money for your treatments?”
By this time, Miss Grettle would have said yes to almost anything. She asked him, “what do you want me to do?”
This mysterious man said, “Oh, you don't have to do much, but I need you to deliver some small packages to certain people, back in your town. You will need to collect money from them and every time you come for a treatment, you will need to stop by here, drop off the money and pick up more packages. You must not tell anyone where these packages come from, not even the people you collect the money from. I will give you a code name”Grey Rose”, so that those who must give you money in return for the packages, will know that you are the one that I sent. When you return home with these packages, do not leave them in your house or anywhere in plain sight. You must keep them securely hidden until it is time to deliver them. Once you have delivered the packages and collected the money, hide the money in the same place where you stored the packages. When you come to the city for your treatments, stop here first and bring the money with you. Then you can go have your treatment, stopping by here on your way back and pick up your next order of packages. There should not be any problems with receiving your treatments. The cost will be taken care of, as long as you continue to do these 'favors' for me.”
“But is this all ok? What are in these packages, that I must not tell anyone about them? I'm not one who likes to take chances, at least not big chances. Do you understand? I just want to tend to my garden and spend what time I have left, reading history and gardening books. I do not want any trouble. Could these favors bring me trouble?” Miss Grettle nervously asked.
The mysterious man answered, “You needn't know what is in these packages. Just know that as long as you continue to do me these 'favors', your treatments will continue and there will be no trouble. Here are your first set of packages. Remember, do not leave them in plain sight. Cover them in your car and do not get any traffic violations on your way home.”
Miss Grettle, left as she came, out the darkened hallway and out to the street, shutting the door behind her. She couldn't wait until she unlocked her car and got in, hoping that no one saw her leave. She quickly drove off, heading for the hospital to talk to the doctors who were to treat her with the experimental drugs for her illness. She couldn't wait until she could leave this big city and head back to her quiet home.
Breathing a sigh of relief as she unlocked her front door, she burst into tears, once she was inside. “What am I going to do? Where can I find a place to hide these packages and what if.....?” Her stomach was all tied up in knots. She was so nervous and her hands were shaking so much she almost dropped the packages. She did not know what was inside of them. They were very small and wrapped in plain brown paper with initials on each one. She did have an idea where to hide them. A place where she thought that no one would ever find them. She opened her back door and looked nervously at her vegetable garden. “Ah,” she said, “a perfect place- the parsnips. No one would ever look there.” So she changed into her gardening clothes and proceeded to take her little packages out to the parsnip patch, digging a rectangular hole about 6 inches wide by a foot long. Hurriedly, while looking all around to see if anyone was nearby, she buried the packages and the little box for the money. Then quickly pulled the dirt all around patting it so it didn't look like anything was amiss. When she had finished this, she returned to the house, changed into her everyday house clothes and tried to relax by eating supper. At her usual time, she headed for bed and a night of restless sleep.
The next morning, she awoke, more tired than when she had gone to bed. She had tossed and turned the whole night, wondering if what she was about to do, was ok with her, after all. She wanted those treatments. She didn't want to die so soon, but she didn't want any trouble either, not if it meant physical trouble in the sense that she would be harmed. The “mysterious man” did not mention that she would be harmed, but his voice told her that it could be a possibility if she went against his instructions.
A week went by, Miss Grettle went to town to visit Dr. Thomas. He would be checking up on her more, now that she was into the experimental treatments or so he said. It was on the day of those visits, that she was to meet certain people in that town, newer residents, who really didn't know her or what she had done in the past. They would address her as “Grey Rose”. At this point, she knew that they were the people she was to give the small wrapped brown packages to and in return, take the money they would give to her. She would then drive home, change into her gardening clothes and bury the money in the little box she had placed near the parsnip patch.
She would repeat this every week, driving two hours one way to the big city, stopping by the “mysterious man's” office, dropping off the money, going on her way to her treatment, then returning to his office and pick up more packages before driving back home. Once home, she would bury the packages in the parsnip patch, carefully covering them so no one would suspect that anything was out of place. This went on for most of the summer and into the first weeks of September when school once again began.
Connerville had it's own local newspaper. It wasn't a very large paper, by paper standards, but it did give all the local news, which the “big city” paper did not. Many, if not all residents of this small community, had a subscription to the “Connerville News”. It was only published once a week, but there was plenty of local news in it along with community activity dates listed. The local businesses supported the paper by running their ads weekly. As smaller community papers go, it was filled with the usual obituaries, births, classifieds, police reports and local news along with a “letters to the editor” column. Actually it was a very informative paper for it's size. Announcements for various activities were listed each week with contact telephone numbers and names. For those who lived outside the town, the paper would be mailed to them as part of their subscription. Miss Grettle was one of them who received her issues by mail.
School was open and the school buses passed by Miss Grettle's house each morning and afternoon. She would wave to them as they rode by, if she was outside working in her garden. She'd pick up her mail each day and on Thursday her mail also contained the weekly issue of the “Connerville News”. She would go up to her porch and sit down for a bit, sipping on ice tea and maybe munching on a cookie or two, resting from her gardening to take time to read her paper. She was beginning to notice that it seemed like there was more trouble with students lately. At least it seemed that way. The police report stated that a student was caught with drugs and was taken into custody. Of course, the student's name was not revealed, his age being a factor, but week after week, it seemed like there were stories of drugs being found here or there. She was surprised as she didn't think that there were any problems with drugs in her small community. No, not in Connerville. She thought that the next time she was in town, she might inquire at the post office to see if any of the people there, knew what was going on at the school. She even thought of calling the high school to see if there was anything she could do. After all, she didn't feel as though she was totally out of the loop, concerning the trends of the day. She went inside and decided to call the school, talking to the principal briefly. She mentioned that she had been reading the articles in the paper and was somewhat concerned about the problems at school. She still cared about what went on there, even though she was retired from teaching. In fact, once in awhile she would go in to sub if the administration could not find anyone else who was qualified to teach history.
The principal, Mr. Pike, told her that there had been some trouble with drugs, lately and that he was deeply concerned about the direction that some students were taking. In the conversation, both were wondering what could be done to stop further drug problems in the school as well as the community. Miss Grettle suggested that members of the faculty and parents, plus community leaders gather in a forum to discuss this problem and see what could be done. Mr. Pike, thought that this was a good idea and said he would discuss it with those persons he felt would be interested in forming a group. He would get back to her about the idea, sometime soon.
Miss Grettle never missed the appointments for her treatments in the “big city”. She would sometimes go and then decide to stay overnight, returning the next day. She thought that with fall leading to winter, she'd be better off finding a place she could stay overnight if the weather was such that travel was hazardous. Each time she would go to the “big city”, she would go through the routine of stopping by the “mysterious man's” office. Each time, he would offer her a glass of ice tea. She really came to love it. In fact, she finally got the nerve up to ask him what brand of tea he used because she wanted to purchase some of it before she left the city to return home.
The “mysterious man” laughed and told her that the ice tea was “special” and that you could not buy it at the market. She really wanted to know what made it so special. Sometimes she would have tree glasses full, not knowing that it was becoming addictive to her. She always felt so good after drinking it and knew that she'd like to have it after a warm day working in her garden. “Can't do” the “mysterious man” said. “If I told you, the secret would be out”.
“What secret”, Miss Grettle asked. “Is there something in there that you don't want anyone to know about?”
“Well, yes, that's about right”, the “mysterious man” said. “If I told you, you might not understand.”
“Understand what?” Miss Grettle said with an annoying tone in her voice.
“If it makes you feel better, that's all you need to know,” the “mysterious man” said as he showed her to the door.
She left, still wondering what was in the ice tea and why did she feel so good after drinking it. She never thought that the tea might have anything “bad” in it as it didn't taste funny.
A couple more weeks went by and more disturbing articles were published about drugs being found on kids and in the school. This was getting to be the topic of conversation, no matter where you were in town or when ever more than a couple people met. All wanted to know what could be done. Some thought it was the newer people coming into town. Others really didn't believe that there was a problem or that what ever it was, it would blow away after a short while. Besides many people, especially the older ones, believed that drug problems only happened in the big cities, not in rural communities.
It was almost that time of year for the Connerville High School alumni banquet. The school decided to have their alumni banquet in the fall because other schools held theirs near graduation time in June, leaving a dilemma for those who had spouse alumni banquets or other obligations during the month of June. Many of the former students would come back to town, just to visit the school and attend the banquet. Some were even former students of Miss Grettle. One of the most outstanding students of recent history, was that of Travis Conner, TC for short. The town was named after his great-great-great grandfather. He graduated the last year before Miss Grettle's retirement, going on to college, then special schooling to become a drug enforcement special agent. He made quite a name for himself and the town was always proud to have him come back each year for the banquet. Many times he would come earlier in the week and stay on after the banquet to visit old friends and family. This year was no different. He arrived in town a week before the banquet and upon reading the local newspaper, he became aware of the problems that Connerville was having with illegal drugs. He went to the local police and talked with them. The police chief, knew that TC was a special agent for DEA, but while he was in town, he normally didn't involve himself in law enforcement. This time was different. The police chief had a worried look upon his face, after briefly filling TC in on what had been happening in his town. TC couldn't help himself, his investigative tendencies got the best of him. He wanted to help and offered his services to the police chief, under one condition. That condition was that he was to work under cover. No one was to know what he was up to. As far as they were concerned, he was there just for his usual yearly visit and to attend the banquet.
The police chief asked TC to meet him at the police station the next morning. He would then discuss what he thought were some leads as to who was selling drugs in the town. The next morning, at the appointed time, TC showed up at the police station. The police chief made sure that the morning shift was out and on duty before he called TC to his office. Closing the door behind him, he asked TC to have a seat.
Once seated, TC asked “What kind of leads do you have?” Then he asked, “Do you think someone in this town is bringing in drugs and selling them to the students at school?”
The police chief nodded, stating, “ I have my ideas, but nothing firm, mind you. I have had reports that the 'Old Maid' school teacher, Miss Grettle has been acting very strangely and taking trips out of town often, returning and going directly to her vegetable garden at the rear of her house.”
“Na...that can't be.., “ said TC, “why she was an outstanding history teacher. Never could I suspect that she might have something to do with selling drugs in this town. What makes you believe that she could be involved with something so dreadful as this? She has a good retirement set up- most teachers do and she certainly doesn't look like she's rolling in the kind of money drug dealers seem to have. Are you sure of this?”
“Yep,” said the police chief. “I wouldn't be telling you this if I wasn't so sure something was up. Well, lets make out a plan to investigate what you have now heard. Remember that you must not discuss this with anyone, ever. She has been resident of this community for all her life and people here, at least the older ones, have known her all that time and we'll have a almost impossible task of convincing anyone that she could be the 'one'.”
“So where do you want to begin, TC?” the police chief asked.
“Where do I want to begin? Boy, I don't like this one at all. You know she was my teacher too, at one time, right? How do I even begin in this situation?, TC asked.
“Well, you know”, the police chief said, “you will be seeing her at the Alumni Banquet, right? Maybe you can suggest to her that you had noticed that she had some minor repairs that needed to be done at her house. You might offer to come out and fix that broken shutter and fix the torn hinge on her gate by the mail box. That would be just for starters. The outside of the house really needs a good paint job as it is peeling everywhere. The porch steps are rotting away and could use some reenforcement and finally her screen door seems to have a few holes in it that could be mended. I'm sure she would welcome the offer and might even take you up on many of these little projects. How long did you say you were staying in town?”
TC gulped and looked tired out already from the list of repairs the police chief had mentioned. Answering the police chief, TC said, “ Well, I was planning on staying for two weeks, but with this list, it might take longer than that to complete the repairs you mentioned. Now I'll have to think of some way to approach her and hopefully she won't catch on that I am trying to check her house out for drugs. Do you really think there is probable cause to suspect her illegal activities?”
“Yes, I believe so and I know that you will figure something out. You always said she was your favorite teacher,” the police chief murmured. “I can see the wheels turning already,” he said with a smile on his face.
“OK, “ TC, thinking out loud, “Maybe if I drive out there this afternoon and take a closer look at what needs to be done, then offer to repair some of the things. How's that for a start? Maybe I can go get my friend's drug sniffing dog and have him tag along with me one of these days.”
“Sounds good to me. I'll have Judge C. Wright sign a search warrant so you can take the dog for a 'look around'”, the police chief said as he rose from his desk chair to see TC out.
The police chief looked relieved that this investigation was underway. Now all he had to do is to make sure that no one found out what they were up to.
Meanwhile, back at Miss Grettle's house, the events of the last several weeks were beginning to catch up with her. She now had lost most of her reluctance to “do these favors” for the “mysterious man” and in fact, actually looked forward to the trips each week. She even seemed to get a “rush” or a bit of a thrill, thinking that she was doing something that didn't quite fit her pattern of the “Old Maid” syndrome. Part of it was due to the fact that she was becoming addicted to the drug that was placed in her ice tea by the “mysterious man” and the other part was that she felt that all her life she had been so “down to earth”, never doing anything out of the ordinary, not even taking any trips to far off destinations as some teachers do. There were some fleeting moments when she'd sit on her porch admiring her flower garden that she thought, “what if I'm caught? What would the “mysterious man” do to me? He never said that what I was doing was illegal.” Then in a blink of an eye, she let the thoughts fly away, almost as fast as the humming birds who buzzed in and out of her garden.
Another day passed and Miss Grettle was working, as usual, tending to her flowers and then to her back yard and the vegetable garden. Many of the vegetables were now ready to pick, freeze and can, so she started to prepare shelves in her fruit cellar for the jars which would be filled to the brim with the season's harvest. The parsnips, though, had to stay in the ground one more year. This was a normal thing and no one would question her working around the patch until the snow started to fall. But today would be the start of what was to be a very disturbing time for all. Miss Grettle didn't have a hint of what was about to happen.
About 10:30 AM on a bright sunny early September morning, a car pulled up in front of Miss Grettle's house. TC opened the door and got out, walking to her front gate, unlocking the latch and walked up to her front door. He rang the bell, but no one answered. He waited a few minutes and then decided to walk to the back of the house to see if she was in the vegetable garden. She was.
“Hello, Miss Grettle”, TC said. “I'm glad to see you were here. I rang your front door bell and you didn't answer. Now I know why.”
“Yes, yes, come on back,” Miss Grettle said with a friendly gesturing of her hand. “I spend many hours out here now as it's time to harvest all these vegetables.”
“I don't want to take much of your time, but I have noticed that there are a few things that needed to be repaired out front. I will be in town for a bit longer and certainly wouldn't mind coming out and fix what ever I can,“ TC said.
Miss Grettle got up from her knees down near her role of string beans and walked over to TC. She was somewhat puzzled but had her usual friendly smile on her face.
“You want to help repair my front fence and porch?,” she said in a quiet voice. “That is so nice of you to offer. You know you were one of my favorite students. I always knew you were such a good boy.”
“It's no problem, Miss Grettle”, TC said, smiling. “You were one of my favorite teachers also. I just would like to help you if I can. I know it must be hard to do some of the repairs yourself and I have some spare time before I have to head back to my job in the city. I know that it's hard to find people you can trust, now days, when it comes to repair, so I just thought I could help you. I can start tomorrow, bright and early. Is that ok?”
“Well, that would be fine,” Miss Grettle said. “I'll bake us some cookies to have with our lunch. Ok?”
“That sounds good to me, Miss Grettle. I'll see you tomorrow, about the same time. I'll bring some tools and paint brushes,” TC yelled as he started to leave the backyard.
The next morning, bright and early, TC gathered his tools and headed out to Miss Grettle's house. The sun was streaming through the front window of his pick-up truck and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. TC still could not believe that this little old teacher could be selling drugs. It was one of the hardest assignments he had ever had.
Arriving at her front gate, TC parked his truck and got out, bringing his tool box. He started to walk up the stairs to the front porch and Miss Grettle came out to greet him.
She greeted him with a smile and said “I'm so happy you are here. I hope that fixing the fence and the porch will not be too much of a problem.”
“Not to worry, Miss Grettle”, TC chuckled, as he opened his tool box and retrieved his measuring tape. He knew that in order to fix the porch steps, he'd have to measure them and then go back to town and purchase lumber to fix them. He measured the steps and wrote down the information on a pad he had in his shirt pocket. He knew that he would have to come back the next day to work on them, so he turned towards the fence and started to check it out.
“I see I'll have to buy another set of hinges for the gate, Miss Grettle.. Is that ok with you?” TC asked.
“Sure, I'll give you the money and if you need more, just let me know,” she said as she turned to go back into the house.
TC figured he could start some of the repairs, finishing what he could before early afternoon, then leave to for the building supply store in town.
All seemed to be working out as planned and Miss Grettle didn't have a clue as to what was actually taking place. TC was clever in that he didn't give any clues as to why he was actually there. She was just happy to have the company and someone to talk to. He went about hammering a nail in here and there while she tended to her flowers, cutting away the dead ones and pulling weeds ever so carefully. Lunch time was approaching and Miss Grettle took off her gardening gloves and put down her pruning shears on the table sitting near her porch chair. Then she went inside and after awhile, she came back out on the porch with a tray filled with sandwiches, a plate full of oatmeal cookies and a large pitcher of ice tea.
While she was inside preparing the lunch, she remembered that she had one of those “small packages” the “mysterious man” had given her and she had somehow forgotten to bury it along with the others in the parsnip patch. It was in her purse. She had found it when she went to get the money out to give to TC for the building supplies he was going to buy for her. She noticed that the little package was damaged and the brown paper wrapping was torn on one corner, letting some of the contents spill out into her purse. “Oh,” she thought. “What are these little pills?” They looked about the size of those sugar substitute tablets I used in my pickle recipe. She didn't realize that she had some of the powder from these pills on her fingers and when she went to pour the ice tea, she took her finger and stirred the ice cubes at the top of her glass of ice tea, licking them off. She tasted something familiar... And couldn't quite figure out what it was that she tasted in her mouth. After all, she had just licked her fingers after mixing her ice tea. ICE TEA???
“That's it!. That's the “special ice tea” flavor I tasted at the “mysterious man's” office,” she whispered to herself. “Maybe those pills are what makes the ice tea so 'special'”, she thought to herself. “Maybe if I put a few of these pills into this pitcher of ice tea, it will be more refreshing. It certainly has been a warm day and this should taste good.”
“TC, how about taking a break for lunch?” Miss Grettle said. “It's around noon and I'm getting hungry.”
TC came up onto the porch and sat down in one of Miss Grettle's porch chairs. He was glad for this lunch break as it was getting extremely warm for a September's day. They sat there talking about the alumni banquet that was being held at the end of the week. It was always a topic of conversation around town at this time of year. Who would be there. What class would have the most members present. Who would be the oldest alumni present and who the youngest. Miss Grettle and TC would talk about some of the same things. TC and Miss Grettle, both took large sips of their ice tea after finishing off a couple cookies a piece.
TC finished his ice tea first and Miss Grettle asked him, “Would you care for a refill?”
“Not right now, Miss Grettle, but maybe later. Thanks,”TC said as he got up from his chair and headed back down to the front gate to fix one of the latches.
Meanwhile, Miss Grettle got up from her chair and took the tray with the empty plates and the almost empty pitcher of ice tea back into the house. When she set the tray back down on her kitchen counter, she reached for the pitcher and filled her glass once more.
Out by the gate, TC started to tighten a loose hinge. He started to think that something that he ate or just drank was making him feel “funny”. He thought that maybe it was just the heat, after all, it was extremely warm for that time of year. As he continued to work, he didn't feel any better, in fact, he was feeling rather “hi”. He clearly could tell that all was not right. Something was definitely in something that he had eaten or drank, just a few minutes ago. He shrugged it off and continued to work. When it neared 3:30 or so, he started to pick up his tools and once again stepped up on the porch and knocked on the screen door.
“Miss Grettle, I must leave now if I am to get to the supply store before it closes,” TC said. “I will be back here tomorrow earlier than today, so that I can finish up the gate and start on the steps.”
“Here, TC,” as she placed some money into TC's hands, “the money for the lumber and new hinges.” “Oh, I won't be here tomorrow, TC. I have to go to the “big city” for an appointment. I will be back later in the day, so help yourself to what ever you need in the way of tools and help yourself to the salad that's in the fridge for lunch. If you need a ladder, it's in the garage.”
“Ok”, TC said as he stepped off the porch, walking back to his truck. “The plan is working”, he said to himself, as he closed the truck door, waving to Miss Grettle, standing on the porch.
Now all he had to do is to figure out a way to get his friend's drug sniffing dog out here with out anyone knowing. When he returned to his parents house in town, no one was home. He thought, “this is great, I can make a phone call to my friend and ask him to bring the dog out to the house tonight.” He called his friend and set up a time that they could meet with the dog. TC would bring the dog home and put him in his parent's garage. They always parked there car outside the garage until the weather turns bad in November. So for now, the plan was still working. He would contact the police chief and give him a report and let him know what his next step was in this investigation.
Next morning, Miss Grettle left early for her trip to the “big city”. She always left about the same time as she now had pretty much memorized the directions to the “mysterious man's” office and to the hospital, where she was still being treated for her illness. Although the treatments were at a stage where the doctors would be able to tell if the experimental medications given to her, were working, they really could not see any difference in her condition. They made plans to tell her of their findings this day. Of course, those patients who have had experimental treatments, know from the beginning that it is possible that what treatments they receive, do not always work and their condition worsens. Most doctors, realize this, but still hope for the best.
When Miss Grettle arrived at the “mysterious man's” office, she did as she always had done, rung the bell, walked in after the buzz and continued down the darkened hall to the last door on the left. There, the “mysterious man” greeted her as usual. She was becoming more brave with each visit and this time decided to ask the “mysterious man” about the pills which were in those little brown paper wrapped packages, she took home with her each week.
Clearing her throat, she started to talk,” I am afraid that I ruined one of the packages last week. You see, I put them in my purse when I leave here, taking them home and then depositing them in a great hiding place, a place where no one would suspect. I went into my purse a couple days after I came home from here the last time, only to find one little package way at the bottom. It had a little damage to it. The corner was ripped and some little white pills fell out into my purse. You know that I have never questioned you about these packages, but now that I have seen these little pills, I really need to ask you again about them. What are these?”
The “mysterious man” replied, “I have told you that I could not tell you what they were, but now that you have seen them, I will fill you in. You must not tell anyone about them or what they are. If you do, there will be consequences...... These pills you have seen, are in great demand. Dr. Thomas, back in your town, keeps an eye out for those persons who want to purchase them. He contacts me with the number of orders he has and I make sure you get the right amount of packages to take back with you each week. These pills are something called 'ecstasy', which seem to bring a “good” feeling to those who use them. The kids of junior high through high school seem to really go for them and because they are cheap, can afford to buy them often. They really aren't too harmful if taken accordingly to the directions written by Dr. Thomas. So you have nothing to worry about. Just continue to deliver these to the persons I have instructed you to so and there won't be any problems.”
By then, Miss Grettle was even more puzzled, but decided to keep quiet and do as the “mysterious man” had told her. After all, she was feeling more adventurous each time she brought these little packages home and hid them. What's more, she knew that if she stopped doing these “favors”, she would not have the money to continue her medical treatments. She handed over the money for the last weeks shipment and left to go to her treatment appointment. She would return later to pick up the next week's supply.
All the way to the hospital, Miss Grettle was thinking about what the “mysterious man” had said to her. She knew things were different now and she would have to be more careful not to upset him. She knew she had to be more careful with the packages, not to damage them and most of all, not to let any hint of what she was doing, escape from her lips.
Once at her treatment appointment, she did the usual thing, changed into the hospital gown and robe provided and quietly laid down on the hospital bed to wait for the doctor and nurses to come in and start her treatment. When the medical staff came into the room, they were not their usual happy faced individuals. The doctor had a more serious look on his face, then he usually had. Miss Grettle wondered what was wrong. She turned her head to him and asked, “Doctor, why so gloomy? Is there a problem with my treatments?”
The doctor responded, “Miss Grettle, you have had over 10 treatments and by now we should have noticed a difference in your blood work. We have not and have come to the conclusion that these experimental drugs we are treating you with, are not working as they should. We believe that we have no other treatments that will accomplish a cure at this time and therefore have decided that it would be best if we discontinue your treatments as of today. I will want to follow up on your case on a monthly basis and will instruct the secretary to schedule appointments for once a month for the next 4 months. If during that time, we find some other treatment that might work, we will be in touch with you and have you come in to the hospital once again. I am sorry, but you must know that this experimental treatment was not guaranteed to be the cure you were looking for when you first arrived here.”
Miss Grettle, looked stunned and could not speak immediately. She was beginning to tear up and was trying not to cry. But the tears flowed and with an emotional voice, she looked into the doctors face and said,” Isn't there anything else you can do at this time? I know that the treatments were experimental, but I was so hoping...”
“I'm sorry, Miss Grettle,” the Doctor said. “I know of no other treatments at this time.”
Slowly, Miss Grettle rose from the bed, changed back into her clothes and made preparations to leave the hospital. She felt so defeated, she could hardly speak to anyone as she was leaving. She went to her car and unlocked it, sniffling as she got in to leave the parking lot. “What am I going to do?”, she spoke softly to herself.
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