Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Wow, you’re the berries! I’m glad to see you back at Jazz Age Wednesdays!
When I posted a Halloween story, Pip in the Field of Fear, you got to meet Pip’s friend Hank Hertz. Those of you who have read Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I also know Hank. Awhile back, I collaborated on a post with Kirt Tisdale at The Wall Gallery. Kirt also has a “sepia gallery” which is giving me a lot of inspiration for The Skull of the Alchemist (my National Novel Writing Month project).
For that tale, Kirt’s photo (below) inspired me to write. However, it didn’t make me think of Pip. Rather it brought me a backstory for Hank Hertz. Without further ado, meet Hank.
On the Radio — Meet Hank
No harm in trying one more time, Hank Hertz thought as he stacked all manner of electronic components on the counter.
“Hi, Mr. Hardscrabble,” Hank mumbled, trying to avoid eye contact with the hardware store’s proprietor.
“Hank, I already told you. Your ma told me not to sell you any of this gadgetry tomfoolery. You might as well put all that stuff back on the shelves, son.”
Hardscrabble put a hand to his balding head in a frustrated gesture. He found his spectacles there and smiled because he’d forgotten where he put them. However, he brightened when the door opened. One of “Savannah’s finest,” Detective Dabney Daniels strolled into Hardscrabble Hardware. His finely chiseled features remained neutral, but he raised an eyebrow at the tableau at the counter.
“Now get on with you, boy. Put everything back. I can’t take your money,” the store owner repeated before turning to a real customer. “That boy gets more like his granddaddy every day. Detective, what can I do for you?”
“No need to rest on formality, Homer. I can’t find my flashlight, so I’m here for another one,” the detective replied then looked sheepish. “Go ahead and laugh about things going missing at a police station. I can tell you’re holding it back.”
Hank watched the exchange between the tall detective and the portly shopkeeper as he reluctantly made trips from the sales counter back to the shelves. He could have carried more things at one time, but he delayed the inevitable, hoping Mr. Hardscrabble would change his mind. As he picked up a few more items to return to the shelf, the detective stopped him.
“What is all that stuff, son? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were building a ham radio. Or at least intended to before Homer shut you down.”
For a moment Hank’s face lit up at the mention of his passion — all things electronic, especially radios. He looked dejectedly at his feet.
“Momma wants me to study law. She says electronics and inventions are a distraction. She even said they were toys!”
“So all the old fogies are conspiring against you, huh? Well, you’d better ankle all that stuff back where it came from, like Homer told you.”
After supper Hank got an armload of books and headed out the kitchen door. His mother looked at the heavy tomes and gave a satisfied nod. Hank knew she was watching from the window above the sink as he walked to the little red barn. Vines of Cherokee roses ran riot over the building. The Hertz family used the barn for storage, but Hank made it his personal spot to study or just hang out. He also had a workbench tucked in one corner where he discretely kept his radio equipment.
The horizon blazed red with sunset when Hank slipped out of the barn. He pedaled the motorized bicycle he had made until he was far enough away that his parents wouldn’t hear the noise of the motor. Dusk descended as he rode into town.
Hank didn’t pay any attention to the dark Ford parked on the corner, or to the fact that someone sat inside it. He rode down the alley and came up behind Hardscrabble Hardware. The back door was locked, but he found a window he could open. He took his flashlight and climbed into the store.
He knew exactly where to find everything he wanted. So it didn’t take Hank long to gather all the electronics he tried to buy that afternoon. He stood at the sales counter and added up all the prices. He figured the tax. Then he left the full amount of the purchase, plus two cents, because he didn’t have enough pennies to leave the exact change.
Putting everything into his bag, Hank turned toward the back of the shop. It felt like an electric charge shot from his neck down his arm when he heard a cough behind him. Hank jerked around to face the sound.
The boy thought he’d lose everything he ate for supper when he saw the police detective standing there, arms folded.
“So you actually broke into the store and paid for the things Homer wouldn’t sell you? Son, I don’t know what to make of that.”
Hank stumbled back a step. He wanted to run, but the copper knew who he was and where he lived. Besides, Hank had a pretty good idea that those long legs could catch up with him before he got to his bicycle. His breath caught in his throat. Hank couldn’t have spoken even if he’d known what to say.
The detective closed the distance to the counter in a single step. He pointed his new flashlight to the paper where Hank had added up his purchase. Then he pursed his lips as he thought. He stared at Hank as if he could see every fib the boy had ever told. Hank gulped.
“Where’d you get the money for this stuff, son? Allowance? Money for odd jobs?”
Hank only nodded, still unable to talk. Finally he found his voice and croaked out a reply. “It’s my money sir. Fair and square. I wouldn’t steal anything.”
“I guess I’m going to have to have a talk with your parents,” Dabney Daniels said, slowly shaking his head.
Poor Hank felt like he might sink through the floor, right then and there. His knees felt weak.
“But this,” the copper motioned at Hank’s bag full of stuff. “I don’t see as any law has really been broken. After all, I walked in through the front door, which was unlocked. I know Homer leaves through the back door and forgets to lock the front. But being as you’re here, I assume he left it open for you.”
Hank gazed at Daniels in wide eyed confusion.
“Besides, I hate doing paperwork. If you had actually broken into this store, I’d have to haul you to the station and spend the rest of the night writing up the report. I do have to talk to your parents though,” he added causing Hank to sink further.
The young man managed a groan.
“You know, I really need an intern down at the station. I think your mother will see that working for me would be a good learning experience for a future lawyer. In a way, that’s where law starts isn’t it? With the police? Meanwhile you can put your talent with radio gadgetry to use. How does that sound?”
I hope you enjoyed this backstory for one of the Murder at the Bijou characters.
Now you know what I have to do next… I must do the shameless self-promotion… Here are links to the books about Pip and her friends.
Thanks so very much for visiting. You’re the cat’s pajamas!
Copyright © 2014 and 2017 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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