Saturday Serial

Saturday Serial — 11/18/2016



The Saturday Serials always showed the last reel from the week before—usually the hero going off a cliff in a wagon or being blown up in an explosion.

You can see what happened last week by clicking here.



Mike and Stella sat with their mouths hanging open, a look of disbelief on their faces. Finally, Stella managed to blurt out,

“C’mon, Bubba; you got to be friggin’ kidding us. No way Junior’s involved with Bessie, friggin’ Lloyd. That’d be weirder than Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts.”

Mike nodded in agreement and said,

“Yeah, you got your wires crossed on this one.”

“Fraid not; our boy’s been servicing Little Miss Astor for the last six months.”

Stella shook her head and said,

“Don’t tell me he’s fallen for her.”

“Naw. Junior doesn’t fall for his ladies; he just provides them with physical relief.”

Mike took the last bite of his strawberry shortcake, licked the spoon, and asked,

“Okay, I know enough about Junior’s conquests to buy that he’s just in it for the feel good, but what about Mrs. Lloyd? How’s she feel?”

Bubba poured another cup of coffee and replied,

“I have no idea; never met the lady. But usually Junior leaves when the new wears off, and by then, they’re ready to see him go. And by the way, Junior’s a helluva lot better looking than Lyle Lovett.”

Mike laughed and said,

“Yeah he is, and while I’ve never seen Lovett in the shower, I have seen Junior, and I have to admit, this is not all that surprising.”

Stella groaned and said,

“All of y’all are still in Junior High School. Boys and their johnsons will always be a mystery to me.”

Mike and Bubba said together,

“You’ve never seen Junior in the shower!”

“Okay, I got the general idea. Junior’s hung. But hung or not, he needs to keep it in his pants.”

“Well, in the case of Mrs. Lloyd, I’m afraid it’s too late for all that. The next question is, what is Mike gonna do?”

Mike looked at Stella and said,

“Yeah, Stella, what am I gonna do?”

“Why are y’all looking at me? I don’t have a clue. But telling Warren Lloyd that Junior’s banging his wife can’t happen.”

The three of them sat in silence for a moment letting it all soak in, then finally, Stella said,

“Mike, what was the first thing we learned in our criminal justice courses at State?”

Mike smiled and said,

“Follow the money!”

“Well, I guess that’s what you need to do.”

“I might as well begin by following this retainer check to the bank. I need to pay some bills.”

Stella stood and said,

“Now that we’ve got that settled help me haul this stuff in and y’all can hit the road. I still have to clean up.”

Bubba went over to grill to be sure it had cooled and said,

“Tell you what; I’ll stick around and give you a hand, then I can spend the night here.”

“I guess we can make that work. How about you Mike? Wanna hit the sofa?”

“Naw, I need to wake up on my own cot, and I’ve got to figure out what to do next. Thanks anyway, and Bubba, you can relax, I’m not staying.”

Stella and Bubba were washing the dishes when Mike left. He drove back to Leesburg and parked on the grease rack, then fell asleep watching the Braves play the Cardinals.

The next morning, he sat at his desk and pulled a fresh yellow legal pad out. He wrote “Follow the Money” across the top and double underlined it, then started an outline.

  1. Find the money.
    1. Check on the financial condition of First National Bank of Tupelo.
    2. Check on Warren Lloyd’s personal financial situation.
    3. Check on Bessie Lloyd’s financial condition.
  2. See who needs more money.
  3. Check out the relationship of Billy Ray Burton with both of the Lloyds.

He stopped writing and sat staring at the yellow pad, chewing on the pencil eraser. He thought;

Okay, let’s get this done and see what shakes out.”

He decided to stop by the bank to deposit the retainer check and get a couple of hundred in cash for expenses. Once he had the money, he pulled into the Waffle House and ate a three-egg cheese omelet, two orders of hash browns, and two orders of sausage. He ate the last of the Texas toast slathered with grape jelly and drained his coffee cup.

He signaled his regular waitress, Roxie, to refill his cup and then punched a number into his cell phone. The phone rang a couple of times, then a voice said,

“You got Emery. You know the drill.”

When the message tone sounded, Mike keyed in 3965 and hit the pound sign. There was a series of electronic clicks, and a voice said,

“Double wide, haven’t heard from you lately, I still got your business don’t I?”

“You know it; I’m putting away a nest egg for football season? Gonna three-team parlay your ass right back to the Big Easy.”

Emery Oxford laughed and said,

“I’ll take any of your misguided action whenever I can get it. Wanna to try a little baseball?”

“No, definitely not. You bookies have too much of an information advantage in baseball, but I do need your help with something.”

“Whatcha need?”

“I have an interest in knowing the financial condition of a dude named Warren Lloyd.”

“Lomax, do I look like Dunn & Bradstreet or a credit bureau?”

“No, but you’ll know stuff about folks that D&B can only dream about. What’s your take on Lloyd?”

“This can’t go any further, but he’s into me for over 100 big ones.”

“No shit! Is he paying it off?”

“I’m letting him pay interest only until he can sell some stuff and raise the cash. I made the deal to give him 60 days with that sleazy lawyer he’s got.”

“Billy Ray Burton?”

“Yeah, I had to cut that asshole off five years ago. His action was so bad that I started booking it myself rather than lay it off. You know he’s gotta be bad.”

“You haven’t done that with Lloyd, have you?”

“No way, he bets too big, he’s into the boys in New Orleans. I’m just the middleman. They make the credit decisions.”

“Sounds like they made a bad one here.”

“Yeah, but believe me, they have a collection agency that you never want to see pull into your driveway.”

“You’d think that as President of the Bank he’d just sell some of his stock and pay you off.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured too, but it seems that all of the bank stock is tied up in a trust fund. He can vote the shares, but he can’t sell them. He better figure something out before the sixty days expire, or he’s gonna need a good bit of orthopedic work.”

“Does he get the picture?”

“Yeah, he and his lawyer buddy have come up with a plan.”

“Really? Have they shared the plan?”

“No, and I don’t really give a damn what it is, as long as it works.”

Mike thought for a moment, then said,

“Hey, man, thanks for the scoop. It won’t go past me. I owe you a big one.”

“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind in case I ever need a private dick. Sure you don’t want some baseball action? Atlanta’s playing St. Louis at home and the Cards are a three to one favorite.”

“No way, but you’ll be hearing from me come August.”

Mike killed the call and walked up to the counter and paid his bill. When he was stuffed into the VW, he punched in another number into his cell. A female voice answered,

“Good morning, Carroll County Commercial. How can I help you?”

“Good morning to you. This is Mike Lomax. May I speak to Stuart Fong?”

“Mr. Fong is out of the office. May I take a message?”

“Yeah. When he gets back from his coffee klatch at the drugstore, tell him that I’m on my way to Carrollton, and I expect him to buy my lunch.”

“I’m sorry, what is your name again?”

“Mike Lomax. He’ll know me.”

“Do you want him to call you?”

“No, I’ll see him before noon.”

Stuart Fong was from Marigold, Mississippi. His family had come to the Mississippi Delta in the late 1800s to work on the railroad and his father quickly saved up enough to open a small grocery in the black part of Marigold. After a year or two, he’d saved enough to bring his bride-to-be from China, and they lived in a small apartment over their store.

Stuart had been, like most Chinese Deltans, smart, with a good work ethic. He excelled in school and played guard on the football team. After high school, his parents sent him to Mississippi State, where he walked on the football team. He was way too small to make the team, but he became a manager. Stuart rose to head manager his senior year, and he and Mike had become good friends.

Stuart graduated from State and attended graduate school at Missouri’s School of Journalism in Columbia. He returned with a new master’s degree, and with his family’s help, he bought the newspaper from its retiring editor. He soon became a factor in Carroll County political affairs, and the paper prospered. He and Mike had kept in touch, and Mike had invited Stuart to a couple of the Bear’s home games at Soldier’s Field.

Mike drove out of the Waffle House parking lot and hit the Natchez Trace National Parkway just south of town. The Trace offered the most direct route to US 82, which led toward the Delta. Most people refused to take the Trace because the speed limit was 50 MPH, and was enthusiastically enforced by a bevy of U.S. Park Rangers who were still pissed to have been sent to rural Mississippi, rather than to Yellowstone.

The 50 MPH speed limit didn’t bother Mike; the VW could rarely reach 50 unless it was heading down a long, steep incline. It took almost two hours to hit 82 at Mathiston, and another hour and a half to make it to Carrollton. Mike found a parking place on the square down the street from the paper’s office.

He walked into the paper’s office, and the young girl who had answered the phone looked up and said,

“You must be Mr. Lomax.”

“I am. How’d you guess?”

“Mr. Fong said to expect someone who looked like an approaching thunderstorm, and you sure fit the bill. Mr. Fong told me to send you to his office.”

She pointed to a glass-walled office in the back of the building. Mike walked up and saw Stuart banging away on a MAC, and tapped on the glass.

Stuart looked up and motioned him to come in.

Mike entered the cluttered office and said,

”How in the hell do you ever find anything in here?”

Stuart saved what he was working on and replied,

“Use very inscrutable oriental filing system round eye will never understand,”

“Fong, you are about as oriental as I’m Polish. You’re just messy.”

“See? Told you that you’d never understand. What brings you to my office on this beautiful summer day?”

“I need some information, and I figured you’d be able to help.”

“Go on.”

Mike explained his case, then asked,

“What do you know about Bessie Malone?”

“Her great-grandfather, Patrick, was one of Carroll County’s pioneers. He came to the Delta straight from Ireland to work at a sawmill. When he died, he owned three other sawmills and over 10,000 acres of cropland. Bessie inherited it all when her parents died.”

“Is there any reason to believe she would be in financial trouble?”

“No way! She’s richer than three feet up a bull’s butt.”

“What about her husband, Warren Lloyd?”

“You mean Colonel Rebel? He owes everybody in the Delta. He ran through his father’s estate like salts through a widow woman.”

“Do you know who inherits if Bessie dies?”

“It all goes to their children, but Lloyd is the executor and will have complete control.”

“What do you think she’s worth?”

“Easily over a $100 Million.”

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