Gold Mountain
Chapter 12: Roadblocks

Copyright© 2020 by Graybyrd

Lawyer Adams had dealt with the three stooges but it didn’t solve his most pressing problem: how to pry the prized real estate loose from Purdy Kendricks’ unwilling fingers. His attempt to approach Kendricks in his hospital room at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane proved equally hopeless.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Adams. There is no patient registered here by that name,” he was told.

“Was there a patient by that name who has since been discharged?” he asked.

“I’m sorry again, Mr. Adams, but we cannot release that information. Is there anything else we may help you with?” the voice answered.

“No thank you. You’ve been helpful enough,” he blurted sarcastically before slamming the handset down.

It took a week and $500 in private investigator fees and another $100 in ‘special charges,’ bribes, to learn that Purdy Kendricks had been discharged. Further inquiries and bribes revealed that Purdy had been picked up by a private ambulance service and taken to the Spokane airport general aviation facility. A ‘compensated’ dispatcher at the ambulance company named the driver of the ambulance crew, who in turn ‘for a small consideration’ divulged that their patient Kendricks was met at the airport by a private pilot and a nurse and loaded into a single-engine airplane. Another inquiry with consideration paid to the fuel attendant at the fixed base operations office opened their fuel sales log, which identified the federal ‘N’ registration number of the aircraft. That, in turn, led to the owner’s name and residence. That, of course, led to pilot/owner Molly Brubaker of Twisp. Further inquiries identified the nurse as Emily Jameson.

Adams was learning, painfully, that rural area residents could be damned tight-lipped around strangers.

A quick trip out to Wolf Creek to pound and shout at Kendricks’ cabin door produced nothing but silence. The old man wasn’t there. The cabin was locked up tight and there were no signs anyone had been there. No tire tracks, no footprints, nothing but the fresh tracks he’d just made.

Friends and neighbors busied themselves to find suitable lodging for Purdy’s recovery. A number of practical reasons prevented his returning to his isolated bachelor cabin. The cabin was unsuitable quarters for a live-in nurse and attendant. An unspoken reason was the serious matter of security. Purdy would be an exposed and mostly helpless target.

“Sister Agatha and I can, and most certainly will, tend to him,” Father Ambrose offered. The group had gathered in Doc Jameson’s home. “We’ve got a guest room in the rectory, all made up for him. Sister Agatha is nearly always there, and when she’s out to shop or run errands, I’ll be there. And it’s here in town so Nurse Emily can pop in whenever she needs to check on him,” he explained.

“It’s also nicely secluded in its riverside setting,” Doc Jameson added. “There’s no need for anyone outside our group to know that he’s there, so that will prevent intruders from disturbing him.”

Pilot Molly and nurse Emily carefully eased Purdy into Ambrose’s Buick sedan at the Twisp-Winthrop Intercity airport; he was still quite weak and unable to walk unassisted. Doc Jameson worried about him but he’d determined that with sufficient rest, a careful diet, and good company, Purdy would recover in his own good time. Purdy insisted, to Doc’s relief, that he not be confined to bed. He wanted to be upright, even if it meant he’d do it in a rented wheelchair. He did consent to being lifted and stretched out for a nap each mid-day, but otherwise he wanted the freedom to wheel around and keep track of things for himself.

“Here’s some compensation for his keep.” Mike held out an envelope to Father Ambrose.

“And you’ll be sticking that back in your pocket, ye damned heathen!” Ambrose growled. “I’ve still got more money in the Valley Relief Fund than I know how to spend from your last compensation envelope! We don’t need that one, and I’ll not take it.”

“All right. Be stubborn,” Mike smiled. “But you’re setting a parlous example, priest. If word gets around that you’re turning away offerings ... who knows what could come of that?”

“I’ll trust in the Lord to keep your lips shut, and my collection plate full,” Ambrose retorted. “Not that He’s been much bothered with that, given how full you and your helpers keep it.”

Mike and Father Ambrose were an odd partnership. Ambrose disbursed the charitable funds both in the valley and to the Colville Reservation to the east. Mike, Jim, and now Graydon managed the ‘resource’ side, providing the funds from their gold sales. Mike invariably called Ambrose ‘priest;’ Ambrose called Mike ‘heathen.’ Sister Agatha called both of them ‘silly boys’ for their irreverent teasing of each other. In turn, Mike and Ambrose reverently and respectfully called her “Sister Agatha.” Mike and Ambrose had rescued her and her order of Sisters from a rapacious Bishop and a penurious Church administration a few years earlier. Few in the valley knew, nor did they need to know, that Father Ambrose and Sister Agatha had served hard, perilous years together in southeast Asian missions. Agatha’s service continued long after Ambrose was forced to leave. At the end, she too, was forced to leave by hostile insurgent forces, but not before a grateful Prime Minister had awarded her his nation’s highest civilian honor for her service.

She’d settled into managing the affairs of her Order in the Church cathedral where Mike and Graydon had been forced to intervene against the Church’s concealed child abusers. During their intervention, Ambrose discovered that the Bishop’s self-promoting budget diversions would force Agatha’s Order to close and sell its building. The Sisters, all of them retired and frail, were facing eviction and the dubious mercy of public charity.

Mike and Graydon intervened. They defeated the Bishop’s plan and embarrassed Church officials into restoring the Order’s budget. But Sister Agatha was tired, and she missed the cherished association with her old friend. Only a few months later she had trained her replacement to lead the Order. Then she accepted Ambrose’s invitation to move West and join him in his Twisp parish. If one had listened quietly at the Spokane Bishop’s door, they’d have heard him scream in frustration:

I had one maverick, unmanageable Priest on my hands; now I’ve TWO willful, headstrong subordinates! That impossible priest and now a NUN! Lord, what have I done to deserve this?

The eastern Washington Bishop had done nothing. Nothing to compare, that is, to Father Ambrose and Sister Agatha’s lifetimes of service to the poor and faithful. The Bishop considered their posting to the ‘poverty pocket’ of the isolated and insignificant Methow Valley as just punishment for their intransigent independence; they considered it a blessed sanctuary.

“Thank’yuh most kindly, Sister Agatha” Purdy smiled, taking the small plate of cold cuts and cheese slices from her frail hand. “I’d much rather be serving YOU, than layin’ here helpless like a crippled dog,” he grumbled.

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