The ladies in Caroline’s Beauty Salon were on pins and needles after hearing Raymond Cooper, host of the daily radio talk show, "Renderings with Raymond," utter the chilling words, "I have the biggest news flash in Lennox Valley history," just after Vera Penrod announced that Elbert Lee Jones and Marvin Walsh were scurrying into the radio station across the street.
While all the good ladies in Caroline’s were getting their hair just right for Sunday services, Iris Long, editor of Lennox Valley Hometown News, was sitting down at her desk to write what might be the most important story of her career.
With four days before Hometown News went to press, Iris knew it would take a miracle for Marvin and Elbert Lee to keep the news from Cooper that Jones had just confessed to being part of an egg price-fixing scheme hatched by none other than Raymond Cooper himself.
That’s when Long heard Raymond’s announcement about the upcoming news flash. Her heart sank. She had dealt with the Valley’s most prominent celebrity long before he bought the town’s only radio station and ran for mayor. Cooper was notorious for getting himself into trouble and, just as quickly, finding a way to escape the consequences of his actions.
Iris took her fingers off the keyboard and waited. There was nothing more for her to do.
Back at the radio station, the frantic atmosphere had calmed a bit. In the background, the old gospel hymn "Trust and Obey" played. Raymond had told his listening audience seconds earlier that he had been inspired by his conversation with the previous on-air guest, Brother Jacob, to play a few gospel tunes. In reality, he needed time to scheme.
A few moments earlier, as Jacob exited the station’s front door, Marvin and Elbert Lee almost knocked the young pastor over as they hurried into the lobby while "top of the hour" commercials were playing over the air.
"What has gotten into you?" blared Raymond as his winded friends caught their breath.
"Elbert Lee has gone and done it this time," Marvin shot back. "He told that newspaper editor that you were behind the egg-price deal."
"Exactly what did he say?" asked Cooper.
Marvin answered, "He said it was ‘that radio man’s fault.’"
"That was all he said?" asked Cooper.
"Wasn’t that enough?" Walsh shot back.
Cooper told everyone to calm down. "Give me a minute to think," he said coolly.
And think he did. Raymond always had an idea. The more trouble he seemed to get out of, the more his listening audience praised him as their champion. Cooper knew he just needed the right angle.
As the final hymn played, Raymond heard the words of the gospel favorite just as his listeners heard it, "Be of sin the double cure. Save from wrath and make me pure."
As the final chorus of the hymn played, Raymond went over the plan one last time with the two farmers. Elbert Lee was having such a hard time staying calm that Cooper finally told him to go sit in the lobby.
Word had spread throughout the town, and more than two-thirds of the good folks of Lennox Valley were sitting by their radios waiting for the news flash.
"Welcome back, friends," Raymond began. "I now know why the good Lord led me to play those calming tunes a moment ago. He must have known what was about to happen."
Iris could hardly believe her ears. Just how was Cooper going to get out of this mess?
Cooper continued, "I’m sitting in the studio with Marvin Walsh and Elbert Lee Jones, two respected farmers and leaders of our community. They’ve come to me, wanting to confess something to all the good folks in our Valley."
You could hear a pin drop in Caroline’s Beauty Salon as everyone listened.
"It seems," continued Raymond, "that my prayer earlier in the show caused these two to do some real soul searching. Elbert Lee just told me they felt led to come here to tell the citizens of our community that, while largely due to issues with the Federal Reserve, they feel some responsibility for the rise in egg prices over the past two years in our community."
Iris sank in her seat.
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.