Drafting–Colton & Sandy tour house, unload & attempt to hide the RAM

Pop’s place was a small two-bedroom one story clapboard-sided house built in the fifties on a one-acre wooded lot. At the rear of the house was an attached two-car carport. Sixty-feet to the northwest was a single-car detached garage, currently locked, with an attached shed used by Mildred Simmons to protect her riding and push mowers, and an assortment of lawn-maintenance tools, including weed-eaters, blowers, edgers, and seed-spreaders. Pop’s house, as well as Mildred’s and the other ten houses on this side of Ruskin Drive, faced south and were surrounded on the north and east by the 3,500 acre Busse Woods Natural Preserve, itself encircled by a paved biking trail that meandered parallel to the homes rear boundary lines.

The inside of Pop’s house didn’t look like it had changed since it was constructed nearly three-quarters of a century ago. The floors in the utility room, kitchen, and both baths were linoleum. The other rooms—a large den, a small study, and two bedrooms—had low-pile shag carpeting, either yellow or green. The latter reminded Colton of guacamole, without the onions.

“Your Pop lived rather sparsely.” Colton had noticed several bare walls in the bedrooms and the absence of any type desk in the study.

Sandy looked inside the refrigerator, then opened every cabinet door, top and bottom, and each of the drawers. “At least she didn’t take the pots, pans, utensils, and a pound of coffee.”

“Your sister? But, she took the antiques and paintings you mentioned.” That explained the house’s empty feel.

“About two weeks ago. Sarah hired a moving company. She flew here and supervised the loading, and flew back to Phoenix without even a phone call.” Sandy said, leaning against the kitchen sink.

Colton returned to the den but still within Sandy’s earshot. It was odd an American Gothic hung on each of the den’s four walls. No doubt, reproductions, since the original of the 1930’s painting is in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. Apparently, Pop liked the now dead but still famous painter Grant Wood who favored scenes of rural people and Iowa cornfields. American Gothic portrays a farmer and his daughter standing in front of an Eldon, Iowa house. The farmer is holding the handle of a three-speared pitchfork while his daughter is staring at someone or something to her left. Colton would never have known these details if it weren’t for a visit with Molly and Millie to the museum shortly after they started dating. It was something to do with a school research project. That too was odd, since at the time Molly was only in the forth grade. “I guess Sarah didn’t like reproductions.”

Without responding, Sandy removed a notepad from a kitchen drawer along with a pencil and started writing a grocery list. “Coffee, creamer, sweetener, beer. Do you like pot pies?”

“Only if I’m starving. Let’s unload the truck, make a pot of coffee, and keep brainstorming our strategy. We’ve got lots to think about.”

They walked through the combination laundry and utility room to the carport. Colton made two trips, bringing in two duffle bags, a metal lock-box filled with a cache of pistols, and a briefcase stuffed with bank statements and a spiral notebook Millie used to capture names and addresses of plumbers, heating & air repairmen, carpenters, electricians, and anyone else she believed might be needed in the future. Sandy made one trip with a suitcase, a smaller duffle, and three extra-large pillows.

“Where’s the key to the garage?” Colton asked after depositing his things inside Pop’s bedroom. Naturally, Sandy had chosen the one he occupied in the summers while growing up since Sarah rarely visited.

“Pantry. You best be glad Pop was organized and a creature of habit. Or, we’d be looking for a hacksaw or bolt cutters to open the lock.” Sandy opened the narrow door beside the refrigerator and grabbed the labeled key from a small pegboard filled with an assortment of keys and screwdrivers.

Since making the decision he and Sandy had to disappear, Colton wondered what to do with the Ram. He knew they couldn’t use it in Chicago. At first, he’d thought about going out of town and trading it for something else. But, that seemed to swap one problem for another, given the near-certainty investigators would check the Department of Motor Vehicles database. Ultimately he’d gone with Sandy’s suggestion to use Pop’s Buick.

Colton sat in the Ram and turned up the heat. The weather was deteriorating. Snow was thickening. The temperature was falling. He eased the truck forward as Sandy crunched through two inches of the white stuff.

The key worked flawlessly. Sandy removed the Master Lock and raised the over-sized garage door. He couldn’t believe what he saw parked inside. Colton put the Ram in park and exited. “What the hell?”

The dark blue Mercedes Sprinter van looked brand new. “Damn, Pop lost his mind. He hated traveling. Was an absolute homebody.”

“These things don’t come cheap.” Colton added, walking to a locked driver’s side door. “Run grab the keys.” If Pop was so organized, the key would be on the pegboard. Yet, the key to the Buick was under the floor mat.

“Something’s wrong.” Sandy said, walking to the passenger side, checking the locked door, and peering inside the cab. “I bet this isn’t Pop’s. Two reasons. One, he wouldn’t dare spend this kind of money, and two, he’d never have a Branson, Missouri brochure.”


“On the seat.” Sandy pointed as Colton joined him and stared at the colorful front page advertising Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction.

The sound of an approaching vehicle from Ruskin Drive caught their attention. At first, given the near-blinding snow, all they could see were two headlights. But then, a 1990’s Impala appeared and parked behind Colton’s Ram.

“Shit, that’s Mildred Simmons.” Sandy said, recognizing the car Pop’s favorite neighbor had purchased new when he was a ten-year-old lad.

Without exiting the Impala, and while leaning her red-haired head out a lowered window, the ancient woman with more wrinkles than an African bush elephant, half-screamed, “I’ve called the police. You’re not going to steal my van.”

“Well, that explains it. Just the hell we need.” Colton spouted, remaining in front of the Sprint.

“Rusty, it’s Sandy, Pop’s grandson. We’re not stealing anything.”

It took three attempts to convince her, including the inspection of Sandy’s driver’s license, and the correct name for the Pekingese Mildred, Rusty, owned fifteen years ago. After some deliberation Sandy said, “Scarlett.” No doubt, the dog was red.

“Oh my goodness.” Mildred said as she made a smooth exit from the Impala. “I’m so sorry about Pop, and for not making the funeral.” Pop’s death had been sudden, six months ago by heart-attack. Sandy and Rusty reminisced over bygone days with him silently regretting his near-failure to visit his grandfather during the last ten years of his life.

Fortunately, shortly after two Elk Grove police officers arrived, they departed with repeated assurances from Mildred she’d made a mistake in calling 911. The deciding assurance was her detailed narrative of the van purchased a year ago and Pop’s insistence she park it inside his detached garage. She even showed the officers her key that fit the Master Lock.

After Mildred returned home, Sandy lowered and secured the garage’s overhead door while Colton backed the RAM once again inside the carport.
Shivering, both men returned to the kitchen for more coffee. “Rusty is going to be a problem.” Sandy said as they stood with their backs to a five-grate gas heater just inside the den.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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