Saturday, November 12, 2022

Thumb Thing To Think About

Just for a few moments, let's do some thinking about your thumbs. That's right, those stubby little fat fingers on the side of your hands. 

Thumbs are important, even though society has not always been kind to thumbs, coming up with such sayings as "Thumb your nose at someone."

In fact there are many sayings about thumbs, most of them derogatory: a clumsy person is "all thumbs," someone got the "thumbs down," something "stands out like a sore thumb," cheating by "putting your thumb on the scale," and someone doing nothing by "twiddling their thumbs."

It's definitely an insult to say someone is standing around with their thumb up their rear end. 

But there are also many references to thumbs that are positive: "thumbs up," that person has a "green thumb, or " thumb through an interesting book."  

Many thumb references contribute an interesting thumbprint to American language: thumbing a ride, a rule of thumb, living under someone's thumb.

And one of the first things every baby learns is how to suck their thumb. 

Thumbs In Opposition

But where would mankind be without thumbs? The one thing that separates humans from animals is our "opposable thumbs," that is something with which we can pick up a hammer and hold a nail with. Many homes across the land were built by opposable thumbs hammering nails, holding paint brushes and using screwdrivers to attach cabinet doors. 

Many thumbs were also smashed by hammers missing one nail and hitting the thumbnail instead. 

So thumbs up to thumbs. They certainly come in handy, especially when something smells bad and you have to hold your nose for a minute. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Houston Hotel Lobby

 One Christmas vacation I decided to go to Houston for the holidays. After visiting with some relatives, I headed downtown with my camera and just wandered around, taking pictures of the urban landscape, the fountains, the sidewalks surrounded by tall buildings and the underground shopping center. 

The photo below shows the lobby of the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel from one of the interior atrium balconies. The bank of elevators are at the top of the frame. 

This view became important later on because when I wrote my science fiction novel "The Gafferty Perspective" a few years after my visit, the final moments of the novel took place in the atrium lobby of the hotel. 

The last chapter of the novel was revised during a subsequent visit to the Houston area, where I used a typewriter in the offices of the The Woodlands community newspaper to put the finishing touches on it. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Microscope Camera

 I found a microscope camera that hooks up to a computer. Here are some photos taken with the gadget. 


Computer monitor

Cellphone screen

Edge of a dime minted in 2017

A metal ruler with a sixteenth of an inch between the marks

Bristles from a toothbrush

Contacts on an SD memory card

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Mount Cheaha

 Every so often I drive to north Alabama to take in the mountain roads and long-range high elevation vistas. While there are a number of good views and curvy roads up around Chattanooga, the best combination of those are found over on Mount Cheaha near Anniston, which features "the highest point in the state."

I find myself going back to Mount Cheaha State Park every few years, just to sit on the overlook balcony and watch the sunset. I lived near there when I was an editor for the newspaper in Pell City, and even then I would drive over to Mount Cheaha every other week to take in the scenery. It helped that the state built a lodge, a picnic grounds, a campground, a motel, and a great little restaurant with a great big window you can look out of while eating. 

Here are some photos:

The roads are steep with a lot of sharp turns, but once you get there it is worth the effort. There is even a four story stone tower at the "highest point" that you can climb up to the very top and be the highest person in the state, out of breath for sure, but still the highest person if you don't count people in aircraft. 

I went there a few weeks ago, and the place was about deserted. There were only about four people staying in the 120 room motel, the restaurant was closed due to a shortage of people to staff it, and the buildings looked a little shabbier than when I last saw them. Perhaps that was due to smaller maintenance budgets, perhaps due to the buildings getting older, or perhaps my memory of them being too forgiving since the last time I saw them. 

CovID 19 threw the state park for a loop, no doubt. Probably  not many people drive their motor homes and travel trailers up the long winding roads any longer.  I hope it will bounce back and revive. Until then, I will hold onto my memory of eating a full Thanksgiving dinner at the mountain top restaurant, looking at the fantastic view of the mountains receding in the distance, but for the same price of a meal at Shoney's down at the interstate exit.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Why Everyone Should Learn Algebra

Every so often, I think back to the days of my high school experience and wonder why algebra was so high on the list of things to learn. 

I don't remember what letter grades I made in algebra class, but I do know that if you were to peek into my brain today and open up the box marked "Things I Remember About Algebra," you would only find an X, a Y, and maybe a lowercase n. They have something to do with x equalling y divided by n. Why that is important, I don't really remember. 

The problems they gave you to solve in algebra were not very memorable. Something about two trains leaving stations. Now if the problem had stated that x  = 4 volts and y = 1000, how shocking would xy be? 4000 volts would have gotten my attention. 

And yet, here I am, decades later, not really knowing why x divided by y equals what it is supposed to equal. Sure, there are occupations where knowing algebra comes in handy, and at times it is probably a skill that proves to be life-and-death important. But for a writer, photographer and cartoonist, not so much. 

Now calculus was much more interesting. Maybe they should just call algebra a division of calculus. That would disguise it somewhat. For all I know, algebra may already be a division of calculus. 

The problem with algebra is just the "mystery" of it. If you are starting off with things you don't know, and you are representing these things you don't know with letters that you have just hap-hazardly assigned to them, then who's to say that x times y equals anything? Maybe x equals zero, and then the result of x times y would still equal zero at the end. 

Or better yet, x divided by y where y equals zero. Bells start going off. You can't divide by zero. Don't tell me I can't divide by zero. This is a free country. 

Anyway, algebra has its proponents, that's for sure. All those algebra teachers in high school and college, for starters. Maybe some chemist or electrical engineers adore algebra. But for us common folk, we very seldom run into a situation where, say, you are balancing your checkbook and you suddenly cry out, "If only I knew algebra!"

One day I will re-read one of my favorite non-fiction books, Mathematician's Delight by W. W. Sawyer. That's the book that helped me get through my algebra courses in high school and college. It tells the story of the actual pioneering mathematicians and why they came up with all these branches of mathematics, the history of why math grew increasingly important as civilization became increasingly more complicated. 

The book  helped by providing  a detailed explanation of why algebra was needed, how it came into existence, and what it contributes to bridge building and food industry formulations, especially in the production of oatmeal cookies. Not really, I just added that in at the last minute.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

What To Do With Leftover Grits

 If you live in the South, you are bound to have come across the question of what to do with leftover grits. There is no such thing as cooking too much (many?) grits, since a full pot of grits cooking on the stove provides just what you want to eat that morning (night?) plus the extra benefit of having leftover grits.

Since a full pot of grits takes just as much effort to wash and clean afterwards as a half pot of grits, you may as well cook enough grits for you and the family to eat right then and there, then whatever is leftover can be put in the refrigerator. That's right, northern friends, cold grits are almost just as good as warm grits. 

Cleaning a pot out in which you have cooked grits is a real challenge. Let's just say the automatic dishwasher is next to useless in this case. Pots with cooked on grits on their insides just laugh at automatic dishwashers.

Of course, fresh warm grits taken right out of the pot are somewhat fluid (depending on how long you cooked them), and when you scoop a pile of grits onto your plate and put a pat of butter on top of it, the butter begins melting rapidly, then slides down the side of the pile of grits as it finds the path of least resistance. Soon, what's left of the pat of butter sits at the side of the pile, thinking it has escaped.

But, no, that's when you take your fork and lift the butter up and smash it back into the steaming pile of grits, giving it a slight stir. By the end of this procedure, you wind up with enough butter mixed in with the grits to make them taste more buttery than gritty. Some like it more one way than the other, but to each his own. 

But the grits that are leftover in the pot, the grits that didn't get scooped and put on the breakfast plate, these are the grits that begin an adventurous journey into the refrigerator. They are scooped up and dumped into a glass (or other suitable container), then put in the fridge to cool. Sometime later, whenever the desire for grits arises again, just take the glass out of the fridge and slide the now solidified mass of grits out of the glass onto a plate.

The path now diverges. Some people will take a fork and start prying off chucks to eat right then. Some people will attempt to pick up the whole solidified mass and try to eat it like some kind of grit popsicle. 

But my wife tells me her family would take the cylinder of cooled down grits, cut it into rounded slices, then throw those into a pan greased with bacon grease and fry those puppies. I personally have never done that, being of the group that likes to eat their leftover grits straight out of the refrigerator. Probably with a fork. At that point, however, putting butter on the cold grits does absolutely nothing. It just falls off to the side. 

And such is the fate of leftover grits. It's just another episode in the "Greatness of Grits," soon to be a major motion picture. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Screaming Yellow Zonkers to The Rescue

 When I went to college I managed to avoid taking speech class until the very last semester. It's not that I don't like speeches, I go to them often and even listen to podcast speeches once in a while. It's just that I don't give speeches. The operative word is "give." It's more like a speech has to be pried out of me.

I have made speeches in the past. People have asked me to speak and once in a million requests I agree to it. It's just not my favorite thing to do. 

Anyway, along came "speech" class and I was required, once a week, to give a speech to my fellow college students. 

My first speech was about the evolutionary miracle that is the human hand. It was mind-numbing.

I remember only one other speech, and that was the time I read the front and back of a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Now SYZ was some kind of popcorn snack that I was fond of at the time, and noticing that I had a speech to make the next day, it would seem appropriate (and extremely entertaining as well as convenient) to just read the quips and jokes found on a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. 

The time came, I got up, and after a brief introduction (which was not necessary since everyone was consuming large amounts of Zonkers daily), I launched into a dramatic reading of the front and back of the box, humorous stories, puns, a zany cartoon or two. I think I threw in a side panel for a bonus. (I did not read the ingredients list. That would have been a bummer.)

But the speech was well-received, especially afterwards when I passed the box around for anyone who wanted to sample the product. 

So my suggestion is, if you find yourself pressed for a speech topic, turn to snack food. Always a hit with the crowd, especially if you pass some around at the end. 


Saturday, May 7, 2022

Squirrel World

This spring there seems to be more squirrels than there were last year. 

Everywhere you look there are squirrels hopping across the grass, climbing the trees, jumping from one tree to the other, running along power lines, and chasing each other around stumps. 

They even venture out into the middle of the street. Watch out, little fella, we don't want squished squirrel glued to our tires. 

But after counting the growing number of squirrels throughout the neighborhood, I've come to the following conclusion. Squirrels are planning to take over the world. That's right. What we see as playful leaping and running about are actually tactical exercises for ganging up on us humans, conquering the world. Will they succeed? Probably not, but as we all know, they do act a little.... squirrelly at times. 

A Sentry Squirrel

When you see a squirrel running along the top of your fence, just remember they are actually outdoor rats with big fluffy tails. I know, that's harsh, but I've seen rats and I've seen squirrels and they are first cousins, to be sure. And we must remember that rats almost conquered the world at one time, with them carrying disease and all.

Squirrels are a little more subtle than that. First, they work their way into our language. For instance, when you "squirrel" something away, it means to store it in a safe place until you need it, meaning something like extra cash, or in my case, oatmeal cookies. 

The aforementioned mental state of being "squirrelly" is another example. We all know people who act a little like that from time to time. If they start hiding extra acorns around the house, you know they are right on the edge. 

May I have a peanut, please?

Over the years squirrels have trained us to sit on park benches and feed them peanuts. Thousands of people around the world have a daily ritual of sitting on park benches and giving peanuts to squirrels. Come to think of it, if I knew someone who did that, I myself would probably just stop by and ask them how they were doing and what they thought the weather was going to do, and did they have any extra peanuts? Or maybe oatmeal cookies?

You may think squirrels are cute, innocent little animals, especially when you hear them chittering away in the tree branches. That chittering is actually their anger being expressed towards  you for installing a squirrel guard on the bird feeder. Squirrels shouting obscenities at humans is actually a well-documented biological phenomenon. Don't bother  to look that up. Squirrel sympathizers have deleted all references of it from the scientific literature.  

So watch out for those squirrels, their plans are in motion. 

My personal battle with squirrels started shortly after I made fun of them with my mock poster advertising a "Squirrel Slinging Contest." On that poster I had told the (fake) story of how Farmer Brown started slinging squirrels off his property, and that created the annual squirrel slinging contest. Participants were judged on slinging squirrels in three categories of competition: (1) accuracy, (2) distance, and (3) the highest number of squirrels slung in a minute.

Take my word for it, squirrels do not have a sense of humor. If you cross a squirrel they will remember it for two, maybe three days. As the renowned squirrel expert Horace Metcalf once said, "Befriend a squirrel, they will remember you for two or three days. Aggravate a squirrel, and they will remember you for two or three days." So, it's a toss up either way.

But the important thing is their ultimate goal, taking over the world. You may not be ready for Squirrel World, but you might want to keep a bag of peanuts on hand just in case. Or oatmeal cookies, your choice.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Murder Mystery at the Ornate Estate

 Every so often, I write a short story, but I never write murder mysteries. I don't even watch murder mysteries on television (unless there's a helicopter somewhere in the show). 

But this morning I woke up and decided to write a murder mystery. Here it is. It is called....

Murder at the Ornate Estate

The quaint little hamlet of Fleece was a quiet place, not a place where you would expect a heinous murder to take... place. Fleece was the sheep shearing capital of Pouty County, where sheep herding shepherds would occasionally bring their sheep herds to be shorn. The town's motto was "A Shear Delight."

It was a dark and stormy Monday morning as Inspector Hector settled at his desk at the headquarters of the Fleece Police. Hector was the Fleece police chief's right hand man, always ready to spring forth whenever called upon. It was around 9 a.m. when he got the ominous call. 

"Hello," said a voice on the other end of the line. "Someone's been murdered at the Ornate Estate."

Inspector Hector sprang forth. "Who is this," he asked.

"My name is Tad Ominous. I am the Ornate's butler."

"Did you do it?"

"Did I do what?"

"Are you the murderer?"

"Er, no. I'm calling to report the murder."

"Okay," Inspector Hector said. "I was just hoping I could wrap this up quickly. Who is the victim of this heinous crime?"

"How did you know?" the butler asked.

"How did I know what?"

"How did you know the name of the murder victim was Harriet Heinous?"

Inspector Hector paused. "I will there in ten minutes. Make sure the crime scene is not disturbed."

"The crime scene will not be disturbed," Tad said. "Harriet was the Ornate maid."

Chapter Two

Ten minutes later Inspector Hector arrived at the scene of the crime, an ornately decorated mansion on the edge of the city. It was surrounded by lavish gardens and landscaped terraces of finely pruned green leafy things that grew in the dirt.

The inspector rushed inside. There, in the parlor, he found five people sitting in various chairs scattered about the room. On the carpet, in the center of the room, was a chalk outline of a person's body sprawled on the floor.

Inspector Hector gasped, looking at the chalk outline. "Where is the body? Who moved the body?" he demanded.

"The body's in the pantry," an elderly gentleman said.

"Well, who drew this white chalk outline?" Inspector Hector asked.

"That would be me," said a youngish dapperly-dressed man, stepping forward.

"Who are you?" the inspector inquired.

"I'm Nate Ornate, the heir to this fabulous house and grounds, which I am going to inherit and then sell it all and live wantonly until I grow old and die alone of a drug overdose."

Inspector Hector looked at him. An honest chap, he thought. "Why did you draw this chalk outline on the floor?" he demanded.

The young man just shrugged it off. "Sometimes I have this sudden urge to do artistic things, draw things on sidewalks, the sides of buildings, people's cars. I always keep a piece of chalk in my pocket just in case."

Inspector Hector looked at him oddly.

"And you?" The inspector asked the beautiful slinky blonde who was sitting near the window. 
Even though it was a dark and stormy morning, just as Hector asked her this question, the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine came through the glass and illuminated her soft flawless face giving it the perfect air of innocence. 

"I'm Charlene McQueen, the girlfriend of Nate, the spoiled heir," she answered.

"I see," the Inspector said, slowly averting his gaze. He then turned to the elderly gentleman who was wearing a finely embroidered leather jacket and expensive shoes and rings on his fingers that just screamed diamonds.

"And you must be the patriarch of this house, the famed philanthropist Ormond Ornate," he said.

Mr. Ornate nodded. "Your powers of observation are astounding," he said wryly. "You've been here five minutes, can you just tell us who murdered the maid so I can get on with my day?"

Inspector Hector stroked his chin, not because he was thinking, but because it itched. He turned to the last two people sitting in the room. One was a middle aged tall lanky dude wearing a "I Do It In The Dirt" T-shirt and jeans. The other was a small, prim and proper, expertly dressed man, well-groomed hair, wearing white gloves and holding a silver tray with cups of coffee resting upon it. Apparently one of them was the gardener and the other was the butler, but which was which?

"Hi," said the T-shirt guy, jumping up from his chair and walking briskly over to the inspector, reaching to shake his hand. "I'm Gary Gardner, the gardener," the T-shirt guy said. "If you don't mind I have some pansies to pollinate and some wisteria to wister so can we speed this up?"

Inspector Hector looked at him, then nodded. There was one last unidentified person who remained in the room, and by the process of elimination, Hector guessed it was the butler. His deduction was also prompted by when the gentleman asked him, "Would you care for a cup of coffee, Inspector?"

"Okay, now, all of you, listen carefully," Inspector Hector said. "I want the person who killed the maid to confess, right now. Just step forward and say that you did it, so you can all go back to whatever it is that astoundingly rich people do on dark and stormy mornings."

The elder Ornate nodded in agreement. He liked Inspector Hector's direct approach. No one stepped forward.

"Does that ever actually work for you?" asked the butler Ominous. Hector glared at him. 

"Okay, we will do this the hard excruciating way," the inspector announced sternly. "I will ask you questions, and you will answer truthfully and completely. No lying allowed. If you try to lie to me, I just want you to remember - Liar Liar Pants On Fire." 

He paused briefly for impact, waiting for them to finish envisioning that horrifying consequence. "We don't want that to happen, now do we?"

All five in the room looked at him like he had lost his mind.

"All right, the big three considerations," Inspector Hector announced. "Motive, Opportunity, and ...."

"Means..." said the elder Ornate.

Hector glared at him. "What do you mean Means?"

"The means," the elder Ordate repeated. "The means by which it was done..."

"Yes," Inspector Hector said. "It was pretty mean to murder the maid, but I am looking for who had the opportunity, the motive, and the capability of pulling off  such a heinous crime."

"The means..." Nate Ornate said.

"Will you stop saying that!" the inspector declared. "Now, who of you had the opportunity?"

The five looked at each other accusingly, then realized they all had the opportunity. "We kind of all had the chance to do the dastardly deed," said Nate, and Charlene agreed. The gardener and the butler nodded affirmatively. The elder Ornate, somewhat irritated at how long this was taking, grudgingly concurred.

"Okay, let's move on to motive," the inspector ventured. "Who had a reason for killing the maid?"

"Well," the elder Ornate stated," she did spill tea on the carpet once. Hell of a stain."

Inspector Hector noted the indiscretion.

"And there was that time I tried to have sex with her, but she rebuffed me," said the younger Ornate, Nate.

"What?" screamed his girlfriend Charlene, somewhat alarmed by Nate's statement. "She rebuffed you? How dare she!"

The inspector made another little note in his notebook.

"And you, Miss McQueen, did you have a motive for wanting the maid dead?"

Charlene thought for a moment. "No, I don't think so. I didn't want her job. I didn't envy her in any way. I didn't want to wear her clothes, although it was interesting when Nate asked me to put on a chamber maid costume once when we were..."

Inspector Hector interrupted just in time, "That's okay. Thanks." 

He turned to the gardener. "Okay, how about you Mr. Gardner? Did you have a motive for killing the maid?"

The gardener looked at him, tears welling up in his eyes. "Well, no, inspector. I loved her. I never would have done anything to hurt her, she was my moon, my stars, my very being, my very soul..."

"Okay, we get the picture, thanks for your candor," the inspector said.

"My reason to live, the center of my universe, the..." Mr. Gardner continued.

"Thank you very much, that will be enough," Inspector Hector stopped him. Then he turned to the gentleman carrying the silver tray with coffee.

"And you Mr. Butler, what was your name?"

"Tad Ominous, I told you on the phone when I called you."

"Oh, that's right," the Inspector recalled. "Did you have a reason to kill the maid?"

"I told you on the phone I didn't kill her," the butler informed him.

"I know you told me you didn't kill her, but did you have a reason to kill her, a MOTIVE?" the inspector raised his voice.

The butler stepped back, "No, I had no reason to kill her, none whatsoever, except perhaps for that little argument we had about how we were both in the old man Ornate's will and how we would both get a chunk of money if he died, and she wanted me to put drugs in his tea and then she would push him down the stairs so he would die and then she would get the money and be able to ransom her teenage daughter  who is being held hostage by the drug cartel in  Honduras."

Inspector Hector wrote furiously in his little notebook. "So, what would your motive be to kill the maid?" he asked.

"Well, I suppose if the maid was no longer in the will," the butler said, "then I would get her share of the estate as well, then I could rescue her beautiful daughter in Honduras myself, and we could live happily together in a small hut on an isolated beach on the South Pacific island of Moco Placo, just southwest of Bora Bora... not that I would actually be thinking of doing that."

"I see," the inspector said. "Well, that could be construed as a motive," he pondered. "Possibly the most inane convoluted motive for murder I have ever come across, but still the same."

"Wait a minute," the elder Ormond Ornate suddenly said. "My butler and my maid were conspiring to kill me?"

Nate Ornate, his worthless spoiled son who was also his only heir, smiled. "Right on, that's brilliant."

Even Charlene thought that was a great motive for the butler to bump off the elder Ornate.

"Just a moment," Inspector Hector warned them. "Let's not jump to conclusions..."

"Or fall to contusions," Nate Ornate laughed, referring to the proposed push down the staircase. No one caught his drift, however.

"There's one more element to this case, and that would be the capability of actually carrying out the deed," the inspector said.

"The means," the elder Ornate repeated.

Inspector Hector glared at him. "Yes, the means. How was the maid killed?"

Charlene suddenly pointed to the gardener. "He did it!"

The gardener was at first shocked by her accusation, but he quickly dismissed it.

"No, he did it. I know he did it. He loved her, but she rejected him. People are capable of doing anything when they are overwhelmed by love," she went on. "Isn't that right, precious?" she said, turning to Nate. Nate looked at her. She smiled.

"Is there anyone you would like me to kill?" Nate asked her.

"Someone comes to mind," she answered, slowly turning to look at the elder Ormond Ornate.

"Don't you look at me young lady," the elder Ornate remarked. "You, if anyone, are certainly capable of killing the maid. We all know how much you despised her."

The gardener leapt from his chair, screaming, "you did it! You killed the love of my life! Well, I have a good mind to write nasty comments about you on Twitter!"

Charlene recoiled in horror.

Inspector Hector, a little entertained, and yet somewhat annoyed by these outbursts, called for everyone to calm down. "Well, I see we have entered the 'everyone accuses everyone else' phase of the murder investigation."

Chapter Three

The others calmed down and settled back into their chairs once again.

Just then the maid staggered into the room, a little groggy, and everyone stared at her in disbelief.

"Oh, excuse me for interrupting. I just passed out in the pantry I guess, a little too much grog last night," she stuttered.

Inspector Hector was aggravated by the turn of events, but a little relieved as well. Less paperwork, this way.

"You're alive!" the gardener shouted, tears of joy streaming down his face. He began to approach her for a hug, but she put out her hand as if in a warning. "You touch me and I'll kick you again." He backed off.

Just then the maid saw the chalk outline on the floor. "What the hell?" she yelled out. "What idiot drew this white outline on the carpet? That will take me hours to clean up!"

Nate Ornate sheepishly shifted his position in his chair, looking at the ceiling.

"You did it, you moron!" the maid screamed at him. "You and that little piece of chalk you keep in your pocket!"

Nate looked alarmed.

"I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch," she called, rushing toward him in anger.

Nate, seeing no way to escape her wrath, jumped out a nearby window, which, unfortunately for him, was still closed and locked. He fell ten feet the ground, covered in broken glass, hopped up and began running for his life. The maid stopped at the window and yelled obscenities in his direction as he disappeared behind the kennels.

"Well," Inspector Hector frowned. "There just might be a murder at the Ornate Estate after all."

The elder Ornate called to the maid. "Harriet, come here."

She turned and reluctantly left the window, and came to her employer. 

"Harriet, how much does the drug cartel in Honduras want in ransom for your daughter?" he asked her.

Her eyes widened, and she was somewhat surprised that he knew about her daughter's predicament. 

"Half a million dollars," she said quietly.

"Go fetch me my checkbook," Ormond Ornate said. "We'll take care of this matter forthright." 

Stunned, she left the room. 

Tad, the butler, approached the elder Ornate. "Thank you, sir, for your generosity. I trust there's no need to mention that small matter of my conjecturing about taking her daughter to some remote South Pacific island," Tad Ominous said soberly. 

"No need whatsoever," Ornate replied. 

"And I'm sorry she called Master Nate a son of a bitch," Tad added. 

"Well," the elder Ornate said, "his mother's maiden name was Gertrude Bitch, so it was all right to call him a son of a Bitch. Now please get me some fresh coffee." The butler left the room. 

"And you, Inspector Hector, I thank you for your deft handling of this situation and ask that you do me one small favor," he inquired.

"What is that?" Inspector Hector responded.

"If I am ever found at the bottom of the staircase, having fallen down and died as a result," he paused. "Please check me for drugs."

The inspector nodded. "It will certainly be foremost in my mind," he said. 

"And inspector, on your way back to the police station, please give Miss McQueen here a ride into town and drop her off at the train station."

"Oh, but I'm not going anywhere," she objected.

"Oh, yes you are," the elder Ornate stated. "Now that Nate is out of the house, I'm having the locks changed, and the will re-written."

"I see, well, then, Inspector I would appreciate a ride to the train station, if you would," she said in a huff.

Inspector Hector nodded, bid adieu to the elder Ornate, and he and Miss McQueen headed out the front door. On the way back to town, they passed a locksmith truck and a window repair service van heading for the Ornate Estate.