Mallard Heir
Chapter 02

Copyright© 2016 by Ernest Bywater

Day Five of Cleaning

Mort checks his emails after he has his breakfast across the road and finds one from Sissy about some of the gear they want being ready for him to collect in a bigger town an hour’s drive away. He emails her to buy a suitable trailer from the same people and to have them put it all on the trailer. He tells her he has to buy a car so he’ll buy one with a tow hitch to take the trailer with the gear to the house. Once she confirms she’ll buy the trailer he locks up the room, gets on his bike, and rides off.

When he arrives in the larger town he finds he has a choice of two dealerships: GMC or Ford. After checking what both have to offer Mort ends up back at the Ford dealership looking at a demonstrator they have on special. He asks one of the sales staff, “Why is this one cheaper than the other demonstrator when it has more extras on it?”

She grins and says, “My brother thought it’d sell, but he made one big mistake. People around here go for black, silver, white, and even blue, but no one buys red four by fours. In all our small sedans red is the best selling colour, but not for the pickup trucks.” Mort half frowns. “Look, the bulk of the small sedans are sold to ladies and girls for around town while the pickups are sold as work vehicles or the high-school boys. How many boys want a bright red pickup?” Mort nods his agreement, now he sees why. “So, are you really interested in buying a long bed F one fifty Lariat with all the trimmings at a good price.” Mort looks the vehicle over in fine detail. It has a towing package, the fancy window into the back, dark windows which look a bit odd on the red body, plus a three and half litre motor. He does like the six and a half foot long bed this has, and it’s the only large crew cab on the lot with the long bed.

Mort says, “I’m not that happy about the colour and I don’t really need a skylight, but I do like the bed length and the price.” He turns to her and asks, “If I pay you cash can you have it ready to go today with a canopy on it coloured to match and a good liner in the bed?”

She grins and says, “Pay cash and I’ll throw in the canopy as we’ve got an unpainted one we can finish to have it put on the truck just after lunch. I’ll also give you the bed liner and pay for the registration transfer. Just give me your insurance company and your details.”

“You seem a little anxious to get rid of it!”

“If I get this moved Dad and my brother will owe me, big time. Dad said if it doesn’t sell soon my dear brother has to buy it. But he wants one of the sportier vehicles. I’ll also throw in the next year of services plus a full tank. Let’s get the paperwork done.” Mort grins and goes with her to an open office area to do the paperwork. A quick call to Sissy and the arrangements are made to register the truck to the trust with their insurance coverage while Mort pays for it from his own bank account.

As soon as the paperwork is signed Doreen, the salesgirl, is on the phone ordering the painting of the canopy and the people to put in the liner. A few minutes later two staff have the liner in and one is taking the signed papers to get the plates for the truck. Twenty minutes later the plates are on the truck, Mort has all of the paperwork, and Doreen says, “The canopy won’t be ready to put on for another two hours. They use a new fast setting paint, but it still takes time to get it done.”

Mort holds out the piece of paper with the address of where he has to collect the gear as he asks, “Can someone show me how to drive this tank by taking me over to collect some gear at this place?”

Doreen grins, grabs the keys off the desk, and says, “I’ll be glad to.” She raises her voice and calls out, “Dad, I’m taking a client for a ride in a truck, be back soon.” A faint acknowledgement comes from another part of the shop. “We’re going to have to go by his office when we go, and he’ll have a fit when he sees what we’re taking.” While giggling she leads the way to the truck and they get in. She shows him how to start it up and they drive off the lot.

It takes Mort half an hour to inspect and sign for the gear then hitch it up the F 150. On the way back to the dealership they stop to get some lunch at a take-way Doreen recommends. Back at the lot they park and one of the mechanics helps Mort to put his bike on the trailer then tie it down for the trip back to Mallard House. Even so, the large trailer with the generator, steam cleaner, accessories, pool, and Mort’s bike looks very empty. In order to get a trailer she felt was tough enough Sissy bought a heavy-duty double-axle unit that’s eight feet long and four feet wide.

With nothing else to do Mort sits in the dealership checking things on his laptop computer while they wait for the canopy to be ready. He smiles when Doreen’s father comes out to congratulate her on selling the big red truck. Mort figures they may not have made much profit on it but they didn’t lose anything either, while he got a good deal.

Mort’s phone rings and he answers it. Sissy talks about the coins and how she wants him to keep them safe for now, then she adds, “I just had to check on it. However, according to the motor vehicle registration database, outside of a few fire departments, you own the only red pickup truck in the state. People will think you’re the local fire chief when they see you driving it around.”

Both laugh and Mort asks, “Sissy, is there a family or trust motto or image of some sort?” He gets a negative answer so he says, “Why don’t you see if you can find a good image of a mallard duck in flight and buy the rights to use it on our letterhead and the like. We can use it as a logo for the trust, the house, and any business I set up.” She agrees and promises to look into it.

Mort drives to the town locksmith to purchase sets of new keyed alike locks for the Mallard House buildings then he goes back to his new home-town. He stops to see if the vacuum cleaner has turned up yet, and he’s surprised it has. He puts it in the truck and drives up to the house.

After pushing the old pickup to the back of the stables Mort has room to put everything from the trailer into the stables before he locks the door again. He parks the trailer under the covered area beside the stables and he chains it to the uprights as well as chaining the wheels. He drives his new truck to the hotel and cleans up before moving the truck over in front of Kevin’s Kitchen for an early dinner.

He parks right in front of the eatery and gets out of the truck. Jenny is at the counter talking to her father so Mort hands her the keys as he asks, “Is this good enough for your transport, Fair Lady?” Jenny grins, takes the keys, and goes to look at the truck’s interior.

Kevin asks, “A pickup is useful, but why red?”

Mort grins and replies, “It’s a demonstrator with just a few hundred miles on it. But no one was interested in buying it because of the colour, so I got it for about half price. With what I saved on the purchase I can have it repainted a few times if I want to.”

Kevin laughs and says, “A damn good reason to buy a red truck. Anyway, no one will mistake your truck for someone else’s truck.”

“That’s true, unless they think I’m the local fire chief.” Kevin laughs harder while he nods his head in agreement with Mort.

Jenny comes back and says, “Around here the fancy interior won’t stay clean for too long. I like the colour. Now, do I need to tell you what the special is today or should I just order for you?”

Mort grins and says, “Why change a good working system? Just order what you think I should be eating, please.” Jenny smiles and writes on her pad while walking to the kitchen.

Kevin says, “Well, that explains why you keep ordering Jenny’s favourite meals.”

“She’s teaching me what the local cuisine is like. So far it’s all been tasty and I like it, so I’ll keep at it to see how it goes.” Kevin smiles as Mort walks to his table. He sits down and waits to be surprised by what he’s served for his meal.

After another very nice meal Mort goes to the hotel to change then down to the sports centre to exercise. After an hour of exercise he goes back to the hotel for a bath and a night’s rest after he plugs the vacuum cleaner batteries in to charge. The unit comes with one battery and he has two more batteries with an extra charger. The batteries fit a range of gear by the same manufacturer so they’ll be useful when he buys more of their gear, which he plans to do, but not today. He’ll get the new tools when he sees a need for them soon. This way he won’t spend more money than he has to right now. He does have a budget limit.

Day Six of Cleaning

After a good breakfast Mort drives to Mallard House, opens the front door, and takes the vacuum cleaner inside, then he returns for the spare batteries. A few minutes to put on his goggles, breathing mask, and gloves, then he takes the cleaner, batteries, rubbish bin, and bags up into the attic. He has to move the ladders to get into the attic, but he’s soon in the attic running the vacuum cleaner over the sloped ceiling walls and the floor to get the last of the dust from up here. He also cleans up the trunks and boxes there, moves them, and cleans under them.

It’s lunchtime when Mort is finished with cleaning the whole house with the vacuum cleaner. The rubbish bin is almost full with more dust, so he takes it out to the garden, digs a small hole, and dumps the dust in the hole before he shovels the dirt back over it.

Mort has his lunch then he gets out the notepad, pencil, and the laser measure he bought yesterday. Back to the attic, draw the floor, and get the exact measurements with the new laser measure. The overall sizes and the distances from the stone chimney sitting near the middle of the house toward one end of it as well as the thickness of all the walls and the sizes of the windows. Then he does the same for the top floor and the ground floor. The last task is to set up posts to get the building’s overall dimensions. After a check of the dimensions he knows there are no hidden rooms, but there could be hidden caches in the walls.

Mort gets out the new locks, the needed tools, and is soon replacing the locks on the front door of the stables and its side door into the covered area. Over to replace the lock on the workshop and the locks on the house are last. In the mid-afternoon the locks are all changed and Mort is packing up when a pickup truck drives up and stops. A man Mort doesn’t know gets out, looks at the garden, and says, “I’m Fred Kelly, Mister Moreland. You’ve not had much time to do much, but it sure looks like you’ve got a good start.” Mort nods his agreement while shaking the man’s hand. “I’m here to have a look at the place for the township council. How easy is it to get up to the ridge from here?”

While shrugging his shoulders Mort says, “I don’t know. I had a look at the cliff back there and I figure I’ll need climbing gear to get up it.”

Both men walk to the east side of the small plateau the house is on to look at the very steep slope, and Fred can see why Mort calls it a cliff. It isn’t really a cliff face, but it’s not far from being one. They walk along the bottom of the slope for a couple of hundred feet in each direction. Back at his truck Fred gets out a contour map and examines it, then compares it to a plan map of the area. He turns to Mort and asks, “Do you know why the lawyer wants us to post the township limits?”

Mort grins and says, “Yes, I do! Once you post the limits I’ve got to get up there to get some wind measurements plus some GPS locations to arrange for the installation of a few wind turbines to be all inside of the township limits or all outside of the township limits to simplify the paperwork on getting them put in to power the house. It’d be so much easier if the township limit wasn’t the centre of the ridge itself.”

Fred looks up at the ridge, back at the map, and grins. He turns to Mort, and says, “With the current township limits we control to the middle of the ridge. Damned if I know what we get out of it.”

Mort looks at the two maps Fred has and points at the property plan while saying, “If I’m reading this right all the town property boundaries along the ridge are actually at the bottom of the slope and not the ridge itself. Why not make life a lot easier on the township council by pulling the township ridge boundary back to the property borders and let the other township have the whole of the ridge to take care of?”

A grinning Fred says, “That’s a right good idea. Because, if we don’t, I’m sure they’ll want me to post the border along the ridge. I’ll put it to the township council at next week’s meeting. By the way, what sort of wind turbines are you putting in?”

“A modified Savonius design. Normally the Savonius turbines are like a drum on top of the generator shaft catching the wind coming in from any direction. This has a tube around it with a double vane on its top to turn the tube into the strongest wind direction. The tube is wider at the front to the back. Both ends have a screen to keep the birds and animals out. There’s also a motor and lock on the tube so you can turn it out of the wind to shut the turbine down for servicing or in extreme weather conditions. It’s a new design which is a bit dearer, but it can be painted to fit in with the environment better and it’s less vulnerable to damage by a strong wind. They also don’t sit as high up or make as much noise as the big sail ones do. A better option for near a house, in my view.” Fred nods agreement, the two shake hands, Fred gets in his truck, and drives off.

Mort thinks it’s a good time to quit for today and to do his washing. He drives back to the hotel, changes, gathers his dirty clothes, and goes to the house Denny told him about half-way to Ben’s farm.

At the house Mort meets and talks with the widow who lives there. She makes some extra money by doing washing for other people. She doesn’t have many clients and it’s not a commercial laundry operation, so she uses her household washing machine plus a protected area to hang the clothes up to dry in any weather. The washing isn’t her main income, but it is a nice bit of extra income to make life a little easier for her and her family.

Ten minutes later Mort is at the sports centre getting his exercise in. Back to the hotel, a hot bath, clean clothes, and over to Kevin’s for his dinner. Tonight Jenny doesn’t even bring a menu out to him, but she does stop to talk with him about what they’ll be doing tomorrow. She tells him when and where to meet to take her to church and where they’ll go for their picnic lunch afterwards.

All week Mort has taken his time over dinner to chat with Jenny, but tonight is longer than usual. He goes back to the hotel and spends the evening checking things on the Internet after he sends his daily report to Sissy. He sets his alarm for in the morning and goes to sleep.

Note: The details of the usual Savonius wind turbine are at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savonius_wind_turbine

Sunday

Mort is at Kevin’s in time to have a simple breakfast before he has to place two large hampers in the bed of his pickup. He wonders about the amount of food for lunch until Jenny walks out dressed for church with two of her sisters. He grins at having the two girls along to keep an eye on them. He greets them all, opens the doors, helps them all get seated, and drives them the short distance to the church. If they weren’t going out for a picnic after church it wouldn’t be worth driving the short distance to the church on the southern edge of the town.

Like in all small towns Mort is the display of the week on his first visit to the church. Jenny holds his arm while she takes him around to introduce him to everyone before they go in for the service.

He enjoys the simple service with a short sermon, and the ladies with him enjoy the attention they get while standing beside him outside the church during the short period of chatting before people leave for other things they’re doing today.

Jenny gives Mort directions to the open area beside the river near a local bridge where they’ll have their lunch. They drive to a nice looking large flat area along the riverbank. They park and Mort helps the ladies from the pickup before getting both of the large hampers out of the back. A few minutes later Jenny and Diane are setting out the two blankets for them to sit on and the hampers are set up above the blankets.

No sooner do they get settled than several other groups arrive to have a picnic lunch here. Mort looks at Jenny who shrugs and says, “It is the best picnic spot in the area.” He laughs and shrugs too.

They have a good time talking about many things while slowly eating and watching the river flow by.

Jenny asks, “Mort, how long do you intend to stay in town?”

He turns to her, glances at her sisters, and says, “I’ll be here for some months while fixing up Mallard House. After that I can arrange to stay here full-time if you want to stay here.”

Diane sits up and says, “I thought you were looking for a job while also doing this temporary work!”

Mort replies, “The type of work I’m qualified to do means I can work for another on fair pay right now, if I can find a job I like. Or I can set up my own business if I don’t mind not getting as much money to live on right away.” He sees their frowns, “I’m a computer programmer and I can do that anywhere I have Internet access. I also have enough money in the bank to do a few things, if I choose to.”

Jenny grins, “So that explains how you could buy a new truck so fast. You have some savings to call on!”

“Yes, I do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to make them last, nor sit around doing nothing. What it does mean is I’ve options and I’m not under as much pressure as those who don’t have any savings.”

Diane looks over at Jenny and asks, “Did you see what Tom Hawk was doing after church today?” Jenny shakes her head no and looks worried. “He was watching you with Mort while talking on his phone.”

“I guess we can expect to see Darby back from his hunting trip in a day or two.” Diane nods yes while Jenny turns to Mort and adds, “Tom is Ian’s brother and is always trying to curry favour with Ian and Darby. So I’d say he was calling Darby about you and me being together at church today. Thus Darby will be back to tell you to leave me alone.”

Mort smiles and says, “Well, he’s in for a disappointment when I tell him I’m staying. If he wants to make something of that it’s his problem, not mine.” Jenny looks worried, so Mort just smiles at her.

They talk about many other things before they head home in the late afternoon.

After dropping the girls at the eatery Mort has just enough time to clean up, change, and be back for his dinner. The sports centre is shut today so he does more planning and he goes to bed early.

Monday, Day Seven of Cleaning

The day starts off as normal with breakfast and driving up to the house. There’s not much cleaning left to do so Mort gets started on the last tasks. First is to go through the house removing all of the old curtains and the old mattresses. The one Henry used is foam rubber but the rest feel like old horsehair mattresses without any springs. It doesn’t matter what they are, Mort isn’t taking any chances on what insects etc. may be in them. All ten mattresses are taken out to the pile at the back of the shelter by the stables. His next task is to take a strong bin with him while he goes around all of the windows to remove the last of the glass still in them. By the time that’s all done it’s lunchtime, so he stops to eat while thinking about what to do next.

After eating he gets up to have a good look at the pile of rubbish. He grins, takes out his phone, and talks to Sissy, then he calls Ben. When the phone is answered Mort says, “Ben, it’s Mort, I’ve got a pile of junk and rubbish here that needs to go to the dump. Can you bring your dump truck up here and help me load it up. Give me the bill when we finish loading and I’ll get it paid before you drive off with it.” He’s on the phone talking to Ben for a couple of minutes before he hangs up. Then Mort goes back to planning and writing out tasks to do.

Half an hour later Ben turns up with another man and the three get busy tossing the pile of rubbish into the back of the dump truck. When they have it all in it makes up about three quarters of a load. Ben writes a bill, Mort photos it, sends it to Sissy, and gives Ben the receipt number he’s told she has after paying it over the Internet. While writing paid on the bill Ben says, “Good timing, Mort. I’ve got about a quarter of a load I need to toss, and now I can get paid to take all of it to the dump.” All three laugh: no sense in making two loads when it’ll all go on one trip.

Mort spends the rest of the day moving the furniture in the house around so he can have most of the rooms empty. He takes all he can downstairs, in some cases he has to take it apart. The beds are easy to disassemble and the chests of drawers are light after the drawers are taken out, but there are two larger items he has to slowly lower down the stairs on their back while he stands at the top to feed the rope out from a pulley he sets up on a rope he strings between two doorways.

Small tables and chairs are also simple to take downstairs to put in the dining room. By the time he’s finished putting all of the furniture in the large dining room or the kitchen it’s late enough for him to call it a day. So he tidies up, locks up, and takes his pad with him so he can work on his plan of action for the house.

Back to the hotel, change, down the road to do his exercises for the day, followed by a hot bath, and sit at the desk to work on the house action plan for a little while. He sits there looking at the floor plan for a few minutes because he has a strong feeling something isn’t right about it. But he drew it up from the exact measurements taken on the site.

Mort stands up and walks to the window to stand there staring out at the farms and ridge on the other side of the valley. Then he realises what’s worrying him about the floor plan. He turns to have a good look at all of the other houses he can see. Every house in sight with a chimney made of stones has the chimney stuck on an outside wall, yet the chimney for Mallard House is at the centre line a fifth of the way in from one end of the house. He goes back to look at the floor plan and notices something else, the house has eleven bedrooms with nine upstairs and two downstairs. Most two story houses of that era have all of the bedrooms upstairs, not split between floors like these are.

He stands at the desk staring at the floor plan while thinking about how the interior looks. After a few minutes he smiles. From the look of the exterior the whole house was built at once, and from the look of the upstairs interior and attic that was all built at once, But, was all of the house built at once? is his thought. The plan shows the house is sixty feet wide by thirty feet deep and in five strips of twelve feet. The rooms are all twelve feet by fifteen feet, or twelve feet by ten feet beside a hall, or multiples of those two units. He assumes the upper level and attic were done at the same time, but what about the ground floor. By the time he’s ready to go to dinner he’s sure the house was built as a single room house with the chimney on an outside wall, it was then expanded to one side, then added to again to make an ‘L’ shape, then they enclosed the kitchen, boxing in the chimney. Later the dining room was added just before, or at the same time as the upstairs. Thus the odd location of the chimney and the way the house is now set up for use.

Happy with having resolved his nagging concern about the chimney and the house Mort goes out to have his dinner. Jenny is happy to see him and they spend a lot of time talking about many subjects between her trips to the customers and the kitchen. They’re both enjoying their talks and Mort takes a long time over his meal due to the amount of time he spends chatting with Jenny.

Mort is quite taken with Jenny’s sense of humour and ready wit, more so when their conversation is over a delicious meal, such as he has at Kevin’s Kitchen every time he eats there. Never before has Mort enjoyed the company of a young lady as much as he’s enjoys his time with Jenny, no matter what they talk about.

It’s a good thing he’s happy when he pays his bill because things are soon to change when he walks out of the restaurant to go back to the hotel to settle down for the night.

Party Time

Mort walks out of Kevin’s Kitchen to head toward the hotel at the same time as a pickup truck comes racing down the street to come to a screeching halt and a cloud of dust in front of the hotel. He thinks, If I hadn’t parked in the area behind the hotel my truck would be covered in dust from that cloud. I wonder what they’re all in a hurry for. He starts walking along the side-walk at the same time as four early twenties men get out of the truck to go into the hotel. A few paces later the four come out of the hotel, spot him, head his way, and the one in the lead shouts out, “You Moreland?”

“What’s it to you?” is Mort’s reply.

“I hear you’ve been sniffing ‘round, my gal.”

Mort thinks this must be Darby so he decides to make him angry and not thinking. He says, “Not me. I’ve no interest in the bulldog bitch in heat at Ben’s. So she’s all yours. I’m courting Jenny Cullen, a lady.”

The loud voices have people sticking heads out of windows or doors all along this part of town. Quite a few grin at Mort’s comment on Darby being after Ben’s bulldog bitch. Darby’s response is to reach into his back pocket while screaming, “You mother f•©ker! I’m gunna kill ya!” The other three with him speed up while also reaching into their back pockets. However, Darby is pulling ahead of his support crew and his hand is coming forward with a fair sized knife in it.

Mort steps down onto the road to give himself some room to move in. Darby rushes up while swinging the knife across in front of him. Mort steps back and to his left while grabbing Darby’s extended right arm with his right hand then he pulls Darby forward and to Mort’s right. As soon as Darby’s body starts to pass him Mort turns to his right, grabs the back of Darby’s collar and his belt, lifts him up while still turning to his right, and slams Darby face first onto the concrete side-walk. All can hear the crunch when he hits the concrete. Mort thinks Darby is now out of this fight and due for a long hospital stay, so he continues to spin to his right to come back around to face his next attacker just before the person covers the short distance to reach Mort.

A quick push aside with his right arm and Mort is pushing the left handed attacker’s knife aside while Mort’s left hand is coming around, across his body, then the palm of his open hand slams into the chest of the attacker. The man’s eyes almost pop when Mort’s blow knocks all of the air out of his lungs and he’s knocked back into the next attacker.

The third man is trying to move around his friend now falling back toward him when Mort spins back to his left and kicks out with his right foot. Attacker number three screams in pain and collapses when Mort’s steel cap boot slams into his balls. He’s hit so hard even Mort grunts with the pain of the hit because it hurts his ankle.

The fourth man is now in attack range and Mort isn’t able to move as well as he’d like to. So he goes for a simple punch to make the man back off. The hard left hook Mort swings at the guy’s face couldn’t have been more telegraphed if he sent him the message yesterday, but the guy keeps coming in to be hit hard on the side of the head by Mort’s fist. The only sound of this hit is Mort’s heartfelt shout of, “F•©k, that hurts,” while the man falls to the road to Mort’s right.

After a quick look around to make sure they aren’t getting up real soon Mort rubs his left wrist while he limps away from the combat zone. He looks at the growing crowd and asks, “Can someone please call an ambulance. I need my hand looked at.”

Suddenly Mort is knocked on his arse by a solid hit from the side. He’s still trying to work out who hit him and has him in a bear hug when Kevin says, “Let him be, girl, before you break his ribs.”

Denny says, “I called the sheriff and the ambulance, when I saw Darby’s pickup coming up the street. They should be here soon.”

Mort nods his head to acknowledge what Denny said because he still can’t breath too well due to Jenny holding him so tight. He decides to just lie in the road until Jenny lets him get up, which she does when they can all hear the sirens coming up the road. Mort sits up and she helps him to stand by pulling on his right arm.

The first to arrive is the deputy Mort spoke to on his first day in town. The deputy says, “I thought you agreed to let us handle any trouble that came up?”

Mort replies, “When this bunch jumped me I was too busy trying to stay alive to call you. Anyway, that agreement was about trouble up at the house, not here in town.”

The deputy’s eyes go wide at his cheeky reply. He sucks in his breath, takes a look at who’s lying in the road, then laughs and says, “Yes it was! It now applies to trouble in the town too. Right!”

A smile and a nod of agreement is all he gets from Mort.

The ambulance pulls up and Jenny is helping Mort to limp over to the ambulance. A paramedic opens the back and waves for Mort to sit on the step while the other starts to check up on the ones on the ground. He checks the guy Mort punched in the head, looks up at the deputy, and says, “You best call in the sheriff and the coroner. This one’s dead.” He moves on to the man Mort hit in the chest, and shakes his head no. He moves over to check on Darby, gives another head shake, and moves back to the one Mort kicked. They know he’s alive due to his moans.

The paramedic tells Mort, “I think it’s sprained, but we need to get it x-rayed and I want the doc to have a look at your ankle as well.”

Mort nods his agreement, reaches into his trousers with his right hand, gets out his car keys, and he hands them to Jenny while saying, “My truck’s behind the hotel. Can you drive it in to pick me up, please?” She nods yes, stunned he’s letting her drive his brand new truck. “I’ll probably be an hour or so before they kick me loose, so there’s no need to rush in. Take your time and drive safely, please!” She nods again. A moment later Mort is sitting in the ambulance while the two paramedics lift the gurney with the hurt man into the ambulance.

The deputy says, “Mort, I’ll catch up with you at the hospital for your statement.” Mort waves to show he heard him, and the deputy shuts the ambulance doors so they can get on their way to the hospital.

Forty minutes later Mort is being bandaged up after the doctor confirms his ankle and wrist are only strained. While the nurse wraps Mort up the deputy is taking his statement. When he finishes and signs the statement, Mort asks, “Was the guy with the broken neck mentally deficient? I was swinging wide and hard to get him to back off, but he took another two steps closer while watching my fist come at him.”

The deputy grimaces and replies, “Fred Hawk never had much to work with upstairs. He always needed a long time to work things out for himself. That’s why he always did what the others told him to do.” He checks his notes and adds, “Darby Hawk died because he hit the side-walk so hard his ribs broke then they got punched back into his lungs and heart. Ed died from internal bleeding. You broke his ribs but Ian’s knife sliced through a few vital organs when Ed fell back onto Ian. The doctors are calling Ian’s injuries traumatic castration. I’m surprised you didn’t break your ankle instead of just strain it.”

Mort grins and says, “I always wear safety boots with a steel toe cap because I don’t like getting my toes stepped on.”

The deputy laughs and continues, “There’s plenty of witnesses so it is a clear cut case of self defence. However, that’s up to the county attorney to make a decision on, not me.”

The nurse asks, “Did this fellow get hurt getting rid of Darby and his henchmen?” The deputy nods yes, and she adds, “They won’t charge him because they know they’ll never get a jury who’ll convict him for taking out the garbage.” The deputy nods his agreement.

The deputy has his statement, Mort is all patched up, so he’s taken down to see administration about the bill. He calls Sissy at home to ask how he should handle this, which requires a long explanation about what happened, and why. Sissy has him hand his phone to the hospital admin person who is then busy writing a number of things down before she hands the phone back. Sissy tells Mort, “You have to pay her a hundred bucks and the rest is covered by the trust insurance. You got that, Mort?” He acknowledges it, pays the money, and turns around to find Jenny waiting. She takes him to the truck, where he falls asleep.

Tuesday, More Planning

Mort wakes up in a strange bed with someone wrapped around his left side. He’s lying on his back so he turns his head, and he can see it’s Jenny who has him wrapped up. So he deduces he must be in her bed since it’s not the hotel bed he’s been using. He moves to get out of bed and Jenny is instantly awake. She helps him to stand, gives him her robe to put on because he’s in only his underwear, and helps him down the hall to the toilet, waits for him, and helps him to limp back to the room.

When they re-enter the room he sees all of his gear is here so he turns to her and she says, “You need to be looked after so I booked you out of the hotel.”

Nodding to acknowledge her action Mort smiles and says, “Now you’ve slept with me you have to make an honest man of me and marry me.” Her eyes go wide, her mouth opens and shuts, then she realises he’s joking with her, so she slaps his arm, hard. He grins and asks, “What do your parents have to say about me being here?”

“It was Ma who helped me get you up the stairs. When she started to help me Pa shut his mouth and he went to pack your room to get your things. I only have to worry about what Grandma will say.” He raises an eyebrow in query. She giggles and says, “The Clan Matriarch, Harriet Cullen, can cause a lot of trouble if she chooses to object.”

Mort laughs and Jenny frowns. After a long laugh he says, “Guess who told me to ask Kevin to court you so soon? If left alone I would’ve taken another week or two before I asked to court you.”

Jenny grins and says, “If Grandma approves of you we’ve no problems at all.” She opens his bag to take out clothes for him to wear today, gets some out of her cupboard, and then helps him limp to the bathroom. Jenny is very embarrassed when she has to undress to help him in the shower, but she does so. They wash and dry each other as much as they can within the restrictions of Mort’s injuries. Thus Jenny ends up doing all the lower body work. Back to her room to get shoes and a few other things for the day.

Mort opens a small pocket in his bag, gets out a small item, turns to Jenny, and holds it out while saying, “Please wear this for me.” She looks at the ornate ring he’s holding, and looks up at him. He adds, “I know it doesn’t have a diamond, but it’s my maternal grandmother’s engagement ring which has been in the family for hundreds of years. I think your grandmother will be happy to see you wearing it.”

A smiling Jenny realises he’s serious about getting married, takes the ring, and puts it on. On their way out the door they grab his shoulder bag with his computer, notebook, and notes.

Several minutes later Jenny is helping the limping Mort into Kevin’s Kitchen by the side door. The place has a lot more people than usual for a weekday breakfast. Jenny seats Mort and goes to start work. She’s soon back out taking orders and delivering food already ordered.

When Jenny places a cup of coffee in front of Harriet Cullen the lady says, in a louder than normal voice, “That’s a nice ring you have there, Jenny. May I have a closer look?” Jenny holds her hand closer so Harriet can have a better look at it. After examining it in detail Harriet says, “So, when are you talking to the preacher about a date?” Which gets a lot of attention from the rest while Jenny’s eyes go wide. “I know it doesn’t have a diamond, but that’s a fairly modern convention. This is a very old family heirloom. It’s a ‘Claddagh Ring,’ a very ancient Irish tradition of showing betrothal, that’s what the two clasped hands at the front of it mean. The rest of the engraving relates to the family history and shows it to be unique. Take good care of this, Jenny, it’s worth a fortune.”

Jenny turns to look at Mort and he says, “It may be worth a lot of cash in a store, but what it says, and where it is now, is worth a lot more than a jeweller can pay.” She smiles and nods yes. This starts a migration of females to examine the ring and to talk to Jenny about dates.

Harriet walks over to Mort’s table and Diane brings Harriet’s coffee over for her. Mort says, “I hope you’ll pardon me if I don’t stand Missus Cullen. My biggest problem is getting up.” She nods yes and sits down. He adds, “When I can steal Jenny from her work I’ll tell her all there is to know about the ring, and I hope she’ll still want to wear it, afterwards.”

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