Authors: Patricia Rockwell
FM For Murder
A Pamela Barnes Acoustic Mystery
by Patricia Rockwell
Copyright 2011 by Patricia Rockwell
Published by Cozy Cat Press
Saturday, shortly before midnight, December 15
“Okay, folks out there in radio land, that was Calliope’s Doom with their new song, ‘Cursed Bones.’ Their newest tune, following closely on the heels of their first big, success—Entrails of Love. This is Black Vulture with the best of death and dying, torture and blood. The most alternative of alternative rock for those of you who have nothing better to do on a Saturday night. Make that Sunday morning now here at KRDN, 933 on your FM radio dial. Just a few minutes after midnight. And for those of you crazy enough to stick with me until 4 a.m. (or should I say, those of you, without anything more interesting to do), I’ll be playing a host of your favorite songs from some of the best alternative bands in the country.
For example, there’s a new CD I just got in from one of my favorite new bands—Ochre Fugue. As you know, Ochre Fugue recently played locally to a packed crowd at the Blue Poppy in downtown Reardon. That was a gig, wasn’t it? Obviously, they have lots of fans here in our little berg. I was lucky enough to get to interview Jake Millet with the band. I know, I know; you’re all jealous. Well, eat my liver. Getting to interview bands is one of the perks—one of the very few—of my job here at KRDN. Believe me, I don’t work here for the pay (hope the station manager isn’t listening).
Ah, shoot! Gotta do a commercial now. This one is for—hmm, let’s see—Avery’s Auto Repair on South Jackson. Let me try to read this with some energy: ‘Hey, guys (and ladies), Avery’s will fix your wheels for a fair price’—and let’s face it—most of us don’t have new cars so we probably need a fix-up more often than not, right? But, ‘the Avery brothers have been in Reardon for—ever. Simple, honest, repair work. They don’t have a fancy location or building, but they do good work. So, check ‘em out.’ And I’d add to that--especially you students. I mean, Christmas break’s coming up in a week or two and if you’re planning on driving home to visit Mommy and Poppy you’d better be sure your wheels will make the trip. And you’d better be sure you arrive wearing clean clothes too; parents like that that sort of thing. So I hear.
Okay, now, as I said before, I’m going to be playing a track from Ochre Fugue’s new CD. In just a minute. What are you waiting for, right? I first heard this group in the Big Easy, several years ago. I was makin’ the rounds of the clubs and ran across this band at a vampire underground party. What a sound they have. Dark. Scary. Like blood, you know, from the coffin. Makes you cringe all over. The bass player has a great get-up. I’d describe ‘em in more appropriate language if it weren’t for the FCC breathin’ down my neck. You know what I’d like to say, though, don’t you? All two of you. Don’t expect there’s too many fans listening in after midnight on a Saturday—unless you’re a real loser. Like me. Still working on your graduate degree after six years. Right?
Anyway, I got the Ochre Fugue disc prepped for you. Let’s see, which track should I play? Oh, wait. Just heard a car pull up outside the studio. Looks like I’ve got a visitor. Well, what do you know! That hardly ever happens this far out in the boonies—especially this late. Well, that’ll be su—per! I get bored all alone out here at the studio all night long—deejaying and doing all my own tech work. If any of you guys ever want to drop in and visit—great. Just come on by—if you can find it. Okay, here he comes in the door now. Hey, maybe it’s a she—better yet! My lucky night!
Oh, hi! Come on in! I’m Theodore Ballard—Black Vulture to my fans. You a fan of alternative rock? What the? Hey, that’s a gun! What do you need a gun for? Why’re you pointin’ it at me? Wha--? No! No!”
Earlier that week--Tuesday, December 11
Wisps of thin white hair on a small otherwise bald head were all that was visible, peeking out from under the gold satin spread on the large mahogany four poster bed. The old man tipped his head up slowly and squinted in the darkened room.
“Daniel,” he whispered to the young man just entering the quiet bed chamber.
Daniel Bridgewater was not tall. He was clean cut and neatly dressed. His round face was unremarkable except when a warm generous smile lit up his soft blue eyes.
“Father,” replied the young man, hurrying closer to the bed and grabbing the old man’s hands in his. “You’re awake.”
“They don’t let me sleep,” said the old man, “They’re either giving me a shot or taking my blood pressure.” He slowly patted the young man’s hands, gnarled veins showing prominently on his hands and arms.
“I’ll speak to Katherine,” said the young man. “You need your sleep.”
“Forget it,” answered his father, “Sleep is a waste of time and I have lots to do.”
“Right,” said Daniel, laughing gently. “I thought we agreed you were going to let me take care of things and you were going to rest.”
“Well?” replied his father, “If you’re taking care of things, do I get a report?”
“I just came from the office and this morning I was at the plant,” said Daniel. “You’ll be happy to know that Fredericks is ahead of schedule on the new broadloom design.”
“Good. What about the state government special order?” The old man squeezed his son’s hands.
“Almost finished.” Daniel closed his palms protectively around his father’s clasped hands. The intensity was there, he noted, but the strength was lacking.
“Hmm,” his father snorted, “Maybe there is hope for you yet managing this company.”
“Glad to hear you have so much faith in me,” said Daniel, smiling warmly. He sat up straight and reached for an empty glass on the night stand. Immediately he rang a small silver bell that sat near the glass. Almost at once a middle aged woman in a nurse’s uniform complete with an old-fashioned nurse’s hat entered the room.
“You needed me, Mr. Bridgewater?” she asked, remaining standing at the door.
“Yes, Katherine,” said Daniel, standing, glass in hand, and walking over and handing the glass to her, “Would you please bring my father a fresh glass of water?”
“Yes, sir,” she responded and turned and exited.
“I don’t need any more water. I need Scotch.”
“Scotch? Sounds like you’ve taken a turn for the better.”
“And I’d be better still if you’d let me have the Scotch.”
The nurse returned with a glass of water and handed it to Daniel, then exited the room.
“Let’s try this first, okay?” he said, bringing the glass to the bed. Sitting on the side of the bed, he held the glass up to his father’s mouth. The old man grabbed the rim with trembling hands and gulped noisily as Daniel slowly poured the liquid into his mouth. His father’s mouth was dry, his lips cracked. Daniel could tell from just looking at him that his father’s health had not improved in the week he’d been in bed. His talk was bravado. He was having difficulty moving and his hands were shaking. Although his words were the same powerful, autocratic demands that Charles Bridgewater was known for; his voice was different--weak, shaky.
“Father, I wish you’d try to relax,” said Daniel, replacing the glass on the night stand, the liquid inside only partially drunk. He placed his hand on his father’s shoulder and gently eased him back down in the bed. “I’ve been managing Bridgewater Carpets for—what?—two years now. I think I know what to do without you in the office every day. And besides, I practically followed you around every day for years before that. If you can’t trust me to run things, who can you?”
“Daniel,” said his father, pulling the young man’s shoulder down closer to his ear. “I’m not just concerned about the company. I’m concerned about you.” Daniel could smell a rancid odor in his breath.
“Father,” said Daniel, stiffly, removing the hand from his shoulder, “I thought we agreed that I can run my own life.”
“You can’t!” replied Charles Bridgewater, making a sort of gagging noise, seeming to choke as he tried to express his anger. “You’re over thirty. You have no private life because you spend all your time running my company. Lord knows, I’m grateful to have you—particularly now. I don’t know what I’d do without you. But, you need to be married, you need to be producing heirs. Good God, the Bridgewaters are one of, if not the most, socially prominent families in this entire area. At the rate you’re going, the entire family will die out with you. I was hoping you—“
“Father, one thing at a time,” said Daniel, squeezing his father’s hand tightly and exhaling loudly. “My main concern right now is you—in you getting better. My second concern is the company. Marriage is way, way down the road.”
“It should be right on your path. You should stumble over it,” replied Charles, squeezing his son’s two hands with his, a twinkle in his eye.
“You were obviously quite the ladies’ man in your day, Father,” said Daniel, shaking his head and chuckling. “Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit any of your charm.”
“Hell,” said Charles, scowling, “you’re charming enough. You’re rich, Daniel. That’s all that those young women care about. Now, listen. When Harold gets here, I want you to talk to him about this woman he knows in Alton. I forget her name. She has a daughter about your age and the family is very well known in---“
“You’d deny your dying father his last wish?”
“You’re not dying,” replied Daniel.
“I am if I say I am.” Charles Bridgewater flung himself backwards dramatically—two inches or so onto the pillow.
“For God’s sake, father,” said Daniel. “You are the most exasperating person.”
“That’s why I’ve been so successful. I know what I want and I go after it. How do you think I got your mother?”
“I never heard this story. You chased after mother?” Daniel stood and paced toward the bay window.
“No, not chased. I just conducted a non-stop full-scale blitz until I totally wore her down and she had to agree to marry me.”
“Sounds very romantic.” Daniel wandered around to the other side of the bed and stood looking down at his aging father. The thin strands of grey criss-crossing his father’s otherwise bald pate did not make Charles Bridgewater look very romantic.
“Believe me, it was.” The old man grabbed Daniel’s hands.
“You don’t have a romantic bone in your body.” Daniel smiled wide, his eyes twinkling, and stifled a laugh.
“Maybe not any more. But I did. I did. When she was alive…” The old man leaned back on his large pillow, his small head almost vanishing in the white puffs either side of his head. His eyes drifted upward and he seemed to escape to a different world.
Suddenly, the old man’s eyes blinked open, as he glanced up at Daniel, seeming somewhat surprised to see his son in the room. He shook himself as if to gather his strength. Then, speaking with a direct and pointed effort, he pointed a wobbly index finger in his son’s face.
“Daniel, you get the name of this girl from Harold. Set up a date. You propose. You marry. Step by step. Think of it just like taking over a small company. Shouldn’t take too long. Harold can help with the details of the wedding.”
“Thanks, but no thanks, Father. I can do my own romancing and I don’t care to consider my love life like a business take-over.” He shook his head in amazement that such a sick old man could find the strength to play Yentl.
“Obviously you need help or you’d be married by now. And besides, you’re all I have left now…”
“Father, you know that’s not true. You have….”
“Quiet. I told you never to talk about…. Never ever.” He stared at Daniel, a grim set to his mouth. Suddenly, he waved his hand. “Give me more water.” With that, the old man started choking uncontrollably, reaching his arm up, gesturing for water. Daniel ran around to the other side of the bed and grabbed the glass on the night stand. He quickly dripped a steady stream of droplets into the old man’s mouth. He felt like a mother bird feeding a chick—a bird that was all mouth and no body. His father was the most stubborn person he knew—the most determined, but the most stubborn. Well, he thought, I’m his son. After a few swallows, the choking subsided. The old man laid back on his pillow, exhausted. Daniel looked at him and shook his head.
“What I want, Father, is for you to get well, and I’m not going to even consider thinking about anything else—except the company of course—until you’re up and about and your old self again.” He put his hand on the old man’s head and traced the thin top hair with his finger. “It’s almost Christmas. You love Christmas. You should see the office. Bernice has it decorated beautifully. And over at the plant too. Everyone is concerned about you. They want you well.”
“Don’t count on it.” The old man closed his eyes. Daniel waited a minute to see if it was a ploy or if he was being dismissed. After a few moments, he realized that his father was through with their discussion. He hadn’t been able to browbeat him into submission with the strength of his personality—not anymore. Now he was just a sick old man. Daniel was right and he knew it. His father needed to concentrate on getting better—not on managing the business or on his son’s personal life. But, Lord, it would be hard for him to give up doing what he’d done for so many years.
Daniel quietly pulled the covers on the bed up under his father’s chin again. When he was certain that his father was resting comfortably, he tiptoed out of the bedroom. There he immediately saw Katherine, the nurse, sitting on a nearby chair, reading a magazine. She jumped up when Daniel entered.
“Mr. Bridgewater,” she said, “Dr. Knowles would like to speak with you for a moment. He just stepped out but he’ll be right back. I’m going back to sit with your father….”
At that moment, a tall middle aged man came down the long hallway of the old mansion. He carried a stethoscope in one hand and a medical bag in the other.
“Mr. Bridgewater,” he said to Daniel. The nurse nodded to the two men and slipped into the bedroom.
“Doctor Knowles, I’m glad you were able to stay. I’d like to find out how you think my father is doing. He certainly seemed in better spirits today.”