by Lorie Lewis Ham
Lorie has been singing gospel music and writing since childhood. Her first song and poem were published when she was 13 and she has gone on to publish many articles, short stories and poems throughout the years as well as write for a local newspaper. Lorie continues to sing and her mystery novels are set here in the San Joaquin Valley, with five of the six featuring gospel singer Alexandra Walters.
When I caught up with him, Stephen was on the other end of the park at the Baptist Women’s pie booth paying for a chocolate cream pie.
“Thanks, Milly. For the pie and the help.”
She blushed. Milly was in her sixties but Stephen’s charm spanned the generations. Sometimes it was annoying but, at least he was always sincere. He never said anything he didn’t mean. He had a gift for being able to think of something nice to say to anyone, a trait I wished more Christians possessed.
I followed him to his current rental car, a red Corvette. He had nice taste in cars. “Let’s get some Chinese takeout to go with my pie.”
He put the container on the backseat and headed for Shanghai. Sounded good to me, I was way overdue for some Chinese takeout. Once inside, we ordered and got sodas to sip while we waited.
“So, did you learn anything?”
“No one I talked to had a clue who this Pete Potznak fella is. David should be able to track down something on him tomorrow though. And I didn’t learn anything new about Toews or the murder. It was kind of a bust except for the pie.”
I took a swallow of the Pepsi and wondered what the world did before soda. Then I shared the info I’d gotten from Lizzie Toews.
“Interesting. Do you believe her?”
“Yes, I do. She was far too candid to be lying and had no reason to tell me all this private stuff. I’ve noticed, since becoming a pastor, people tell you all kinds of things. Sometimes things you don’t want to know. Besides, what would her motive be?”
Stephen laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. Money, not having to live with that creep anymore… need I go on?”
My gut told me he was wrong. “She could have divorced him and still had plenty to live on. I don’t think anyone would have protested her getting a divorce in this situation. No, I believe her.”
“Now we check out the chief and his daughter. That should be fun.” His eyes twinkled with mischief. He was going to enjoy checking out the cops for a change. Personally, it bothered me but I knew it had to be done.
“There just aren’t any good suspects yet. Seems like we’re running in circles,” I said, letting my frustration get the best of me.
“Preacher Boy, now you know what real investigating is like. It’s not like you see on TV.”
I slurped the last of my soda before speaking again. “I wish we didn’t have to delve into Glenda’s past. I don’t want to do anything to hurt her, but the father of her child might be a viable suspect.”
Stephen stood up. “Would you like me to check into this? For me, it would just be business.”
I shook my head. “No, this is delicate. I think I should handle it myself, whether I want to or not. What did Milly have for you besides a pie?”
“She said, if anyone in town would know who Potznak is, it would be George.”
Stephen nearly chocked on his soda. “And you call yourself a reporter? I thought everyone knew who George was. Why, I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of going to him first.”
“So who is he?”
Our food was ready at that moment so we paid and headed for the car. When we got inside, I pushed the issue. Stephen seemed to be enjoying my frustration.
“I just can’t believe you don’t know the best source of info in town.”
“Enlighten me!” I yelled loud enough to make him flinch in the confines of the small car.
“All right, chill. George owns George’s Little Mart. It’s a little grocery mart on Fourteenth Street. George has probably owned it for fifty years. He knows everything and everyone. We’ll run over there after dinner.”
“Aren’t you going to the football game after dinner?”
Stephen gave me an odd look. “You know I don’t like football. Now, hockey, that’s a real sport.”
“We should go to the football game. Quite a rivalry I hear, and it’s the only time that the two local high schools play each other. Besides, maybe we’ll learn something.”
Now I had his attention. “You want to find out more about Glenda. You might make a good P.I. yourself one of these days, Preacher Boy.”
I opened my fortune cookie. It’s Not Your Day. I sighed and popped the cookie in my mouth, glad I didn’t believe in fortunes. “After the game, it should be late enough to run over to KKNG to talk to Jim.”
As we ate our food in the car and talked more about the case, Stephen went on to inform me that George’s Little Mart was such an institution not even the supermarkets had put him out of business. It was on a corner just off the main street. Double swinging doors led inside.
After finishing our food, we went there. George stood at the meat counter and waved as we entered.
“Hey there, Stephen. What can I get for you today?”
“How about a pound of salami?”
The tall old man smiled, took the salami from the counter and began to slice it. His hair was completely gray but still thick. He was slightly stooped over but it was barely noticeable. On the way over, Stephen had told me George was eighty-two years old. You’d never know it by looking at him — his movements were still fairly spry and his dark eyes sparkled with life.
“Anything new around town, George?” asked Stephen, as he picked up a loaf of French bread from the rack behind us.
“I hear you were part of the action at the park,” said George. He efficiently sliced the meat without even looking down.
“Yep. I was hoping you could help with the investigation. Have you ever heard of Pete Potznak?”
He scratched his head, and paused the slicing. “Potznak. Hmm. Don’t see as I have. But that name does sound a bit familiar. There was a Potznak family living here in Kingsbury about twenty years ago. I believe Mr. Potznak owned a dry cleaners. But they left for back East a long time ago.”
George was amazing. Since the address on the ticket had been in New York, it sounded like the same family. But I still found it hard to believe he came all the way to Kingsbury just for the Fiesta.
The meat finished, George wrapped it in butcher paper and handed it to Stephen. “Anything else for ya, boys?”
“Just this here.” George took the bread and headed to the cash register.
“Five bucks even. Would you like a box?”
“No, that’s fine. If you think of anything else, let me know. Wait a minute though, if you were to make a guess who killed Toews, who would you guess?”
George’s response was just like most; he began to laugh, then stopped himself. “Sorry, shouldn’t show disrespect for the dead but that man had more enemies than Carter had pills. The real question is who would have the nerve to finally do what everyone wanted to?”
We thanked George and headed for the door with the groceries.
“Pastor Mike, I give a preacher’s discount if you’re ever interested. And I extend credit to those who qualify.”
This stopped me. This man really did know everything. He knew who I was without a word from either of us and he knew I needed to watch every penny. This was a man I needed to get to know better.
“Thanks. And feel free to come on over to the church sometime. Love to see you there.”
George smiled. “Sure thing.”
When we got into Stephen’s car, he handed me the food. “How is it he knows so much?” I asked.
“Haven’t you heard? Word around town is he used to work for the FBI.” Stephen grinned as he started the engine. I was sure he was joking. Or was he?
Originally published by PublishAmerica, © Lorie Ham 2003