Elbert Lee Jones dutifully did as instructed by Raymond Cooper, but that didn’t mean he was pleased about the situation.
“Why is it,” he wondered, “I always get stuck with the dirty work?”
Let’s face it. If Raymond had an important task to get done, he would assign it to Marvin Walsh or Farley Puckett. Even postman Earl Goodman, the town’s only federal employee, was higher on the pecking list than Elbert Lee.
“Sure,” Elbert Lee, one of two primary dairy farmers in the area, thought, “if Raymond wants eggs prices to go up a nickel, he calls me. Or if he needs something or someone hidden for a while, I’m the guy. But it’s always Marvin or Farley on his radio show.”
This particular assignment took the cake, as far as Jones was concerned.
“Why on earth,” he pondered, “does Raymond want me to take Bascomb Finch to lunch and — on top of that — buy him a few beers?”
It didn’t make sense. Nonetheless, Elbert Lee did as instructed and found Bascomb at Levitt’s Oil, where he pumped gas among other duties.
“Bascomb,” Elbert Lee shouted as he entered the glass door, “you need to find someone to cover the gas pumps for a while today.”
“What in the world are you talking about?” Finch asked innocently.
“Raymond wants you on his show today,” Elbert answered. “And to show his appreciation, he wants me to buy your lunch.”
Bascomb wasn’t the type to get much attention, outside of his recent “sighting” of A.J. Fryerson, so an invitation to be on “Renderings With Raymond” was quite the surprise.
“Really? He wants me on his show?” Finch stood a little straighter as he contemplated the idea. “Why does he want me on his show?”
Elbert Lee was getting a little impatient.
“I don’t know, Bascomb. Maybe he wants to brag about how you uncovered the A.J. Fryerson story. After all, you’ve been the talk of the town for weeks.”
While not necessarily true, it was enough of an ego stroke to get Bascomb to lower his guard.
“I’ll meet you at the Hoffbrau at noon,” Jones told Bascomb. “We can have lunch, then walk over to the radio station. Raymond wants us there at 1 o’clock sharp.”
When Elbert Lee returned to the radio station, he noticed Cooper and Walsh had been joined by Farley Puckett, who had just arrived after opening his hardware store. There was no time for pleasantries.
“Did you get it done?” Raymond snapped at Elbert Lee. “Is Bascomb meeting you for lunch?”
“He’s coming. He’s coming,” Jones shot back. “Where’s the fire anyway?”
“I’ll tell you where the fire is!” Marvin, Elbert Lee’s best friend since high school, shouted. “If you don’t get Bascomb to lunch and get a few beers down him, this whole A.J. situation could blow up in our faces!”
While Raymond and crew held their “high level” meeting at the station, Iris and her “co-conspirators,” as Raymond called them, were still busily talking at the Hoffbrau.
“We can hold it in the fellowship hall of my church,” Sarah told her friends.
“That would be okay,” Iris replied, “but it might be better if we could get the town hall, to give it the appearance of a community-wide event.”
Jessie offered, “I can get the food catered by the ’Brau. We’ll do it at our cost.”
Back at the station, Raymond plotted with his allies, “We have to put out an issue of The Patriot next week.”
The Valley Patriot, Cooper’s once-weekly rag, hadn’t been on a regular schedule for a while.
“Farley, I’ll need a full page ad from you, so it doesn’t look like a last-minute deal. We can use one of your old ones and change the date on it if we need to.”
Farley asked the obvious question. “What are you going to write about? We don’t know what those women are up to. Are you going to make something up?”
“Don’t you worry about that,” Raymond quipped. “We will have plenty to write about after today’s show. Plus,” he added, “we have the whole weekend to come up with other stories.”
When high noon came, Bascomb Finch walked into the Hoffbrau and saw Elbert Lee waiting in the same corner booth previously occupied by Iris Long, Sarah Hyden-Smith and Juliet Stoughton.
“What can I get you to drink?” Jessie asked, surprised at the pair in front of her. She couldn’t ever remember seeing those two together.
“I’ll have a Coke,” Finch replied.
“No, you won’t,” Elbert Lee interrupted. “You’ll have a beer.”
Bascomb was confused. “But it’s just noon, and I have to go back to work later.”
“You’re having a beer,” Jones insisted. “Raymond wants to thank you properly.”
Visit LennoxValley.com to get inside information about Bascomb Finch and A.J. Fryerson “Lennox Valley: The Book” is now available at Amazon.com and other booksellers.