“What in the world do you need at a rummage sale?” asked Nellie, shouting into the phone.
“Not about need, Mom,” I answered, holding my so-called smart phone inches away from my ear as I sat in the car checking over my list. “Besides, this isn’t any old rummage sale. This is St. Nick’s! I found that antique Persian rug of mine here. And some Dansk dishes. I also found those cool Pyrex bowls and a sewing kit with a gold charm bracelet in the bottom and…”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Nellie. “Other people’s junk, I know.”
I put the phone on speaker and set it on the dash. It was a perfect Saturday…as sunny and bright as you could hope for and, even better than the weather was the parking spot I had scored in St. Nick’s parking lot.
“What time does the thing start?” demanded Nellie.
“Eight,” I said, opening my notebook and taking a sip of my coffee.
“It’s six-thirty in the morning, Jane. Maybe you ought to buy a watch there, one that still tells time.”
“I got here early for the parking spot. I am closest to the door of the auditorium where the heavy stuff is–you know the furniture, the kitchen stuff, the books, the sports equipment. The treasure room is in the other building, but…”
“Okay, okay, I get it. You got a good parking place. When you get done with all that junk, I want you to get down here to the tavern.”
“Yeah, okay. Anything wrong?
I admit I was only half-listening, because, after all, something was always wrong in Nellie’s world and I still had homework to do before the doors opened. A new client had asked me to scout vintage fishing lures and since those cool little works of art were new for me, I needed to memorize the pictures of the kind of lures and baits he collected.
“Yeah, something’s wrong. Carp hasn’t been in here for three days. You know the last time he missed three days of propping his elbows on this bar? Never that’s when. I want to go over there and knock on his door, but your dad says that’s invading his privacy, but shoot, all of these guys invade my privacy every damn day when they come in here and order food and beer and want the ball game tuned up louder so I say we better go find out if Carp’s still breathing.”
When I heard the name Carp—the nickname of an old-timer I had known all my life—I laughed since I was at that moment looking at pictures of L & S fishing lures which, coincidentally, was a bait company started in Kankakee. I love it when one thing leads to another and another and I started thinking about some of the spots I might just find some of these lures if I went down to Kankakee today, so I tuned back in to my mother’s voice.
“Why are you so worried about Carp again?”
“Holy Mother of…. Were you listening? Put down your pictures of junk and your cup of coffee and your pencil and paper and listen to me. I want you to come down here and find Carp because he’s missing. And you want to know the last time he missed coming in on a Friday for a bowl of my vegetable soup? Never that’s when. Something’s fishy,” shouted Nellie, finally coming up for air.
I laughed out loud.
“Oh yeah, that’s funny alright. An old man goes missing, might be dead in his bed, and you sit there laughing and thinking about buying more junk.”
I heard something in Nellie’s voice. Something I never associated with my mother. Concern? Worry? Compassion?
“Carp looked like hell last week and his hand shook like a leaf when he tried to drink his coffee. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me something bad was coming. He was scared, Jane.”
“Okay,” I said, closing the book with the colored photos of the fishing lures.
“Okay what?” asked Nellie.
“I’ll be there. I’ll come now if you want,” I said, my voice almost breaking when I thought of the twelve long months between today and next year’s sale.
“Nah, you got that good parking space. Just come when you’re done. And see if they got one of those great big colanders. Big one. Mine’s bent all to hell.”
“You sure? I could …”
“”If Carp’s dead, he won’t get deader. Get me that colander then get down here.”
I got of the car to take my place in the line that was already to forming to get in when the doors opened. I was still shaking my head.
Imagine that? Nellie wanting something.
You can read more about Jane in LUCKY STUFF, the eighth book in the “Jane Wheel” mystery series. The first book in the series is Killer Stuff.
Jane Wheel is a Chicago area PPI, a picker and private investigator, who uses her eye for treasure hunting at estate sales, rummage sales, garage sales and flea markets as a tool in assisting her partner, Tim Lowry in their antique business and her other partner, former police detective, Bruce Oh, in their investigative/consulting business. Jane’s parents, Don and Nellie, own and operate the neighborhood tavern, the E Z Way Inn in Kankakee, Illinois and Nellie, a flinty character with a heart of…mostly flint…drags Jane in and out of trouble by both assisting her and resisting her in both of her professions.
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