Averyell A. Kessler
Kate Beacham was still fuming. Her untimely exit from the horse show party at our house was a hot topic for weeks. Belhaven gossips worked overtime. Sadly, no photo existed of me modeling Kate’s rubberized girdle and heavily decorated brassier, but the scene was still as vivid in everyone’s mind. My mother was ecstatic. Kate, fully aware that achieving social status in Jackson was now impossible, ©purchasing a pair of binoculars, a Smith and Wesson 32, and three cartons of Pall Malls, she spent days shadowing my grandfather WG until she learned his routine.
During the week, he stayed at the Robert E. Lee Hotel because it was close to his business; weekends were spent in his small cottage in Avery Gardens, located on a two-lane gravel road north of Jackson known as County Line Road. He’d almost forgotten about Kate when he arrived home late on a Friday afternoon. The October sun was almost down. The day edged to darkness as WG pulled inside his gate, hoping for a quiet weekend. It had been a long, brutal week, and he was exhausted. He parked in front of his house, tossed his cigar into the bushes, and gathered up a 1000-piece jigsaw he planned to attack on Saturday. Ping! He stopped. What the #%@$##? A pinecone falling onto his hood? A squirrel scampering across the roof? He saw nothing. A single Jay fluttered into a giant camelia near the driveway, but the air was still and twilight quiet.
Ping. He heard it again. He knelt by his new baby, a black Lincoln Continental Mark II, and inspected the tires, running his fingers over the treads and checking the hubcaps. Nothing. Then he saw it, a small indentation in his left front fender. It looked like….. holy #$%$#! He was staring at a bullet hole. Crouching low, he dashed into the house, locked the door, and telephoned Robert Stockett. “Get out here quick, Stockett,” he screamed. “Some son of a bitch is shooting at me.”
“Stay inside,” Robert growled. “I’m on the way.”
The third ping hit hard, shattering the rear windshield, and sending a shower of broken glass onto the driveway. All he could do was watch as a small man in a leather bomber jacket and plaid pants oozed from behind a spreading yew tree near his car. A brown fedora concealed his face and he held what appeared to be a police revolver as well as shiny Louisville slugger. Ping, ping. In an instant his two front tires hissed and went flat. Then mystery man waved his bat.
“Where the heck are you, Stockett?” WG screamed, as he watched in despair as his front windshield crumbled into a spider web of cracks. The next moment, sirens split the night, and Robert and the Hinds County Sheriff screeched into the driveway. The attacker dropped his bat and fled into the bushes. WG dashed out of his house, waving his arms and yelling, “That way! He ran towards the pond.”
An intense foot chase ensued, with all three men searching under azaleas, slogging through day lily beds, and galloping around pine trees like skiers on a downhill run. They found the culprit almost half a mile away when the sheriff spotted a pair of skinny legs dangling from a low hanging oak branch.
“Get down outta that tree,” the sheriff shouted, raising a Remington 12 gauge. “You’re under arrest for destruction of private property, attempted murder, assault and battery, kidnapping, perjury, grand larceny and whatever the hell else I can think of.” He fired a thunderous blast into the clouds; the tree branches rattled like skeletons in the wind.
“WG Avery’s not worth that air he breaths,” mystery man yelled. “He’s a no-good skunk, as useless as tits on a bull.”
“Last warning,” the sheriff yelled. “Next one’s going between your eyes.”
Mystery man dropped from his hideout and fell on the ground in a heap of misery. “Stand up, “the sheriff ordered. “Who are you?”
When he stood, the fedora fell off exposing a tumble of raven hair and flaming brown eyes. The leather jacket opened, revealing Kate Beacham’s lush figure.
“It’s a woman,” Robert yelled. “Dadgummit, the guy’s a woman!”
“Don’t care if she is,” the sheriff shouted. “She’s going to jail.” The next moment, Kate was in handcuffs.
“You can’t arrest me,” Kate yelled. “I’m a friend of WG’s. I was just jokin’.”
“Had me fooled,” Robert said.
“Mr. Avery, do you know this woman?” the sheriff asked.
WG rubbed his chin and inspected Kate’s face. Her eyes were saucers. “No,” he replied. “Can’t say as I do.”
“How dare you,” Kate screamed. “You know me as well as the back of your hand.”
“What about you, Mr. Stockett? You know her?”
“Nope,” Robert said. “Never seen her before. Could be a gypsy.”
“A gypsy?” Kate hissed. “I swear to God I’ll make you pay!” Her cheeks were scarlet, her lips sputtered like an outboard motor. She was still screaming when the sheriff loaded her into his car, cuffed her to the door handle, and turned back towards town.
“Hell hath no fury,” WG said as the sheriff drove away. “I must have scorned her pretty bad.”
“What are you planning to do?” Robert asked.
“I’ll bail her out in the morning.” WG answered.
In the end, my grandfather agreed not to press charges. Kate promised not to contact him again. She returned to the coast, opened Kate’s Cut and Curl, and married a shrimper from Moss Point. WG settled with the Great Peril Insurance Company, repaired his car, and decided to stay away from flamboyant women with raven hair. At least, for a few months.