With the exception of Pip, our story’s narrator, the character who seems to get the most interest is Cracker the parrot. That amuses me, because Cracker is a character that I never anticipated. That’s the fun part of deliberately not planning this serial and letting the “ingredients” you send drive every aspect of it! I would have never planned Cracker.
A reader from across the pond, Spock’s Sister (aka Penny) quoted a nursery rhyme, and jokingly suggested that Granny might snap and put the parrot in a pie if Cracker kept pushing Granny’s buttons. That is where today’s three ingredients originated. Here in Episode-12 something does go amiss with our dear but mischievous bird. However, Granny Fanny didn’t have a hand in it — I promise.
Keep the story going by leaving a comment with three ingredients. Remember — you’re driving!
12. Rye, Pie, Dainty Dish
As the Model-T bounced and jostled on the dirt road, I bent down and felt under the seat. However, my fingers didn’t touch what I hoped to find, or much of anything at all. There was hardly even a bit of dust. Well, I reminded myself, Granny did baby that car. I found a tiny grain of something. Inspecting my fingers I muttered, “Rye?”
Granny Fanny grumbled. “Honestly… more of that rye? Some of it spilled weeks ago when I bought the makings for marble rye bread. It seems like I’ve been trying to get it all cleaned up ever since,” Granny said still focused on the narrow road, the back way to the Vales’ place.
Still contorted as I searched under the seat, I gasped out the question, “Granny, where is your shotgun?”
“My shotgun?” she exclaimed.
“Of course your shotgun. Have you got something better?” I asked while I rummaged in the pocket on the inside of the passenger door, hoping to find anything we might use to defend ourselves. “You don’t think I’m going to sit by like some silly doll? Like some kind of, of,” I sputtered. “Like some dainty dish, do you?”
Realization dawned on me like a block of ice in my stomach. I stopped and turned wide eyed to my grandmother. “Granny… Surely you don’t mean to tell me that we’re headed toward an entire gang of mobsters and rumrunners without any weapon?”
Granny took her eyes off the road long enough to frown at me with one eyebrow raised nearly to her hairline. Then she turned her attention back to the road just as a deer sprinted across. The deer’s white tail flashed as if she waived a handkerchief at us in quick farewell. I reminded myself that a white flag was a sign of surrender and maybe I should give up this argument before it actually got started.
“Paisley,” Granny began, and I knew I was on thin ice or she would have called me Pip. “Think. You’re always saying you want to be a ‘modern woman’ so use your brain. A gun is no good if you never get the chance to use it! My shotgun!” she said acerbically. “Even if we each had a shotgun in one hand and a pistol in the other, it wouldn’t get us anything but dead against half a dozen, maybe a dozen armed men who have no compunction about killing.”
The tone of her voice and the pain in her eyes sent a wave of guilt across my stomach. Had I been selfish? I was only thinking about what I wanted to do, not the reality of what had happened.
All I could think about was Marshal Myrick being ambushed, and how Dabney said the man who heard the radioed distress call had lost count of all the gunshots because there had been so many. An image of the scene came unbidden to my mind. There must be bullet holes and blood everywhere.
I lifted my hand to push my hair out of my eyes. Looking at my hand, it seemed odd that I would notice but there was still a bit of rye on my fingertips. Then I realized my hand was shaking. I was shaking. Desperately I tried to stop my wayward mind from imagining what might already be happening to Dabney Daniels if he ended up crossing tracks with the villains. Alone.
It wasn’t really a question, but I nodded. “Yes, I suppose so. But if we’re not going to help, then what are we doing?” I asked.
“Oh, we are going to help. We’ll help however we can. I keep a first aid kit with bandages under the back seat. We can at least try to stop the bleeding,” she said with a frown that gave me the surprised thought that she had done that kind of thing before. “And we can help get the injured to Veronica and Vincent,” she added before abruptly hitting the brakes.
The Model-T skidded on the dirt road. I grabbed the dashboard. Granny gave me a quick glance to make sure I was okay, before looking skyward and pointing. I saw a brightly colored streak go across the sky. “That dad-blasted bird!” Granny exclaimed.
Granny sighed and then punched the gas pedal, throwing me back against the seat. Then she began to murmur in a singsong voice.
Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty parrots (she inserted drolly) baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King?
“Applesauce! Was that Cracker?” I cried. “Oh no! How did she get out of the house?” I said before I thought about the fact that the clever bird could probably do just about anything if she put her mind to it.
My grandmother looked upward at the direction the parrot had flown and shook her head. “That nasty bird… Just when I was getting fond of her. Well, there’s nothing for it right now. With Moses and Dabney—” her voice choked off before she finished. She wiped her eye with the knuckle of her index finger and turned her attention back to the road. Granny cleared her throat. “When all this is over, we’ll get some sunflower seeds and apple slices… We’ll drive around and see if we can spot her. Maybe we can use a treat to coax her down.”
She chuckled quietly and sniffed, not looking at me. “No, Pip. Cinnamon Bun would miss her. Did you know that he brings her treats?” she commented.
I knew that we both were trying to avoid thinking about what we might encounter in a few minutes, when we reached the scene. However, I didn’t realize Granny knew about the bunny bringing tidbits to the parrot. I laughed and nodded. Brushing my hair back again I looked at my hand once more. I was steadier by then. I looked at my palm. I did palmistry whenever I got the chance. But my hand didn’t tell me what to expect. “Do you still read tealeaves, Granny?” I asked the woman who had taught me palm reading.
No answer was forthcoming. Abruptly Granny hit the brakes and then threw the Model-T into reverse. Then she turned onto a trail that was barely wide enough for the car to get through. I saw her cringe as a blackberry bramble scrubbed the side of the car. I held on for dear life as we bumped along the trail. A couple of times I thought my tailbone was going to pierce the seat, because I landed so hard.
Granny Fanny focused intently on the path ahead. As if she hadn’t heard me, she spoke about Cracker again. “What was the new phrase she came up with? Four and twenty?” my grandmother asked and tilted her head as if she was deep in thought. “Four and twenty… rye… rye that I bought for the marble rye bread… cilantro!” she finished with a gasp.
“Pip!” she exclaimed. “You told me Dabney had his men checking at dairy farms for E. coli contamination, but you never said that any farm had been shut down.”
“Detective Daniels said they didn’t turn up anything,” I said, wondering at her seemingly disconnected train of thought.
“Wetson’s mill, where I got the rye, they have a few milk cows. They’re not really in the dairy business, but sometimes they barter or sell a little milk if they have extra, mostly to folks they know. Their main business is herbs, including cilantro. Their place is called the Queen of Clubs Herb Farm.”
“So you think that’s where the dead man from the theatre, Cracker Jack Daddy — Cracker’s owner, got the cilantro all over his shoes? But what made you think of it now?” I wanted to know.
“Because of the direction the parrot was flying. Do you remember me telling you how playing cards were once used for readings? Cartomancy is much older than card games. The suit of clubs represents the element fire. Another word for whiskey is fire-water,” she explained but I shook my head bewildered.
The Model-T nearly stopped when we came to a deep rut in the road. After carefully driving across it, Granny continued. “Moses had a hunch that ‘Queen of Clubs’ was a code name. He told me there was a powerful group of bootleggers run by a woman called the Queen of Clubs. She used card names for her underlings. And, while it isn’t spread around too awfully much, there have been rumors that the Wetsons make rye whiskey. Moses thought Cracker Jack Daddy fit into that group as the Jack of Clubs,” she told me.
“What about the ‘fourandtwenty’ Cracker started squawking?” I pondered aloud.
“If there’s a Queen of Clubs, then there must be a king somewhere. Moses thought the ‘king’ was a higher level mobster, not a common bootlegger,” she said.
Why would Marshal Myrick tell you those things?” I said in astonishment. “Unless… Applesauce! Granny, did that revenuer send you to spy on bootleggers? And that fancy party he wanted you to cater — that’s where the ‘king’ fits in, isn’t it! That’s too dangerous, Granny!”
“This from the girl who was going to take on a whole gang of armed men with one old woman and one shotgun?” she said dryly.
I didn’t have a response.
Up ahead I could just barely make out where our deer trail met the real road. Then I heard gunshots — several of them. Granny hit the gas to move to a place on the right where the trail opened onto a meadow. She pulled the Model-T off the trail and out of sight from the road ahead. I could just barely see between the trees and blackberry brambles. A moment later a car sped down the road. A man leaned out and fired his gun one more time. They drove off in the same direction Cracker had gone.
My heart raced. I strained to listen for more gunfire, for other cars, other sounds that meant there might be more gangsters behind that carload. After a minute Granny drove the Model-T back onto the road. I expected to see Dabney’s car speeding after the crooks. But his car didn’t come. I swallowed hard and held on as Granny Fanny punched the gas.