Carnie was on her way to Carsie’s new home at the Mobley estate. Of course, it wouldn’t become her sister’s permanent residence until after she married Dr. Mobley. But the wedding was only a week away. Carnie knew very little about the doctor. But she knew all she needed to know—he was rich.
She drove into Coreyville on FM-2208 and then went south on Highway 450. The Mobley property was three miles outside of town. The Georgian style home sat in the center of a 1,200-acre plot that was inhabited mostly by pine trees.
There was a security gate near the front end of the long, winding driveway that led to the house. The gate was hidden by a couple of strategically placed hairpin turns. It was almost impossible to make the 120-degree turn onto the driveway from the north.
Carnie was five miles out of Coreyville when she realized she must have missed the entrance. She made a U-turn and headed back north. This time it was easy to spot the driveway. However, it seemed to dead-end into the tall trees. But she turned onto it anyway. When she reached the end of the road, she saw that it was not really the end. The road actually turned sharp to the left. Then sharp to the right. The gate was closed, but she saw the intercom on the left side of the road.
Fancy, she thought.
She drove up close and pushed the button. After about thirty seconds, she heard a man’s voice.
“May I help you?”
“Yes. I’m here to visit Carsie Slitherstone.”
“And may I please have your name, Ma’am?”
“Yes. My name is Carnie Slitherstone. I am Carsie’s sister.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. I will connect you.”
Very fancy. After a few seconds, she heard her sister’s voice.
“Yeah. I’m here.”
“Okay. I’ll open the gate for you. And I’ll be waiting out in front of the house.”
“See you in a minute.”
The half-mile drive from the gate to the house had many curves, hills and valleys. Carnie could only imagine that whoever put in the driveway had taken the path of least resistance through the trees. Finally the road straightened out, and she could see the house. The ground sloped upward as she approached her sister, who was standing out front.
It was a two-story house, with a walk-out basement. It had been built by the doctor’s grandfather, Milstead Mobley, in 1923 and had been renovated in 1976. With its huge pillars, it reminded Carnie of a courthouse.
“Sure didn’t take you long to get here. Where were you?”
“Oh, just down the road a ways.”
“Why is everything always a secret with you?”
“It’s just the way I am, Sis. What difference does it make—I’m here. Now let’s have some fun.”
Carsie got into her sister’s car and directed her to the left side of the house. They drove past the three-car garage, and then took another left, around to a little parking lot concealed behind the trees. The two walked across the parking lot and along the walkway between the trees to the house. Carsie led her sister across the terrace and into the recreation room. There was a billiard table in the center of the room.
“Nice. How about a game of pool, Sis?” said Carnie.
“How about a beer?”
Carnie grinned. “Even better.”
Carsie led her into the adjoining room.
“You’ve got your own bar?”
“Yep. Take a seat, Young Lady.”
“What’ll it be?”
“Let’s see, Barkeep. I think I’ll have a Bud Light.”
“Coming up, Ma’am.”
Carsie grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge.
“Come on. I want to show you my favorite room.”
“Let me guess—the bedroom?”
“Not yet. We’re waiting until the honeymoon.”
“You’re kidding me.”
Carsie led her through a short hallway into the Media Room. There were two levels of theater seats facing a wall at the far end that acted as a screen for the projector mounted on the ceiling. Carsie pick up a remote and turned it on. The picture was huge and incredibly clear.
“Wow. No need to go out to the movies.”
“That’s right. Elmo and I watch a lot of TV and movies down here.”
“Yeah. That’s his nickname.”
“A doctor named Elmo? That’s pretty lame, Sis.”
“No, not really. His real name is Lilman Raster Mobley.”
“Ouch. His parents must have been cruel.”
“Lilman and Raster were old family names. But Elmo hated them, so he always went by L. Mobley—even in first grade. For the first couple of years, schoolteachers called him Mr. Mobley. The kids didn’t know what to call him. They kind of avoided him—thought he was weird.”
“I can understand why.”
“But then in high school he got real tall—six-foot-seven. The coach begged him to play basketball. And he got pretty good at it. So the kids started to like him. But they still didn’t know what to call him. Then one of the players came up with ‘Elmo’—from L. Mobley and from the Sesame Street character. And it stuck. That’s what everybody calls him now—except his mother. She still calls him Lilman. But it worked out great since he became a pediatrician. Kids usually hate going to the doctor. But not if it’s Dr. Elmo.”
“Dr. Elmo. That’s hilarious.”
“Okay, let me show you your room.”
Carsie took Carnie to the bedroom that was just off the Pub Room.
“This is handy,” said Carnie.
“Please go easy on the booze while you’re here.”
“What do you mean—‘while I’m here?’ I don’t plan to ever leave.”
Carsie laughed. “Funny.”
But Carnie was not joking.
Macy peeked in, expecting to see Mallie Mae in her favorite chair. Instead, she was standing at a front window, staring at the sky. The matriarch spent most of her time in her bedroom these days. She had everything she needed right there. The room was spacious and beautifully furnished. And Macy was ready to jump at her command.
“Did you finish your lunch, Mallie Mae?”
The 75-year-old Mallie Mae Mobley loved Macy like the daughter she never had.
“Yes, I’m finished. But tell Hadley the ham was dry.”
“You know that will hurt his feelings.”
“I don’t care. I won’t eat dry ham. I’ve told him over and over, but he keeps sending me dry ham.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’ll tell him.
Macy walked over to pick up the tray.
“What do you think about Lilman’s fiancé?
“She a nice young lady, I suppose.”
“Macy—tell me what you really think.”
Macy studied Mallie Mae’s face to make sure she really wanted to hear her opinion. “I’m not crazy about her.”
“I think she’s awful—a crude money-hungry tramp.”
Macy tried not to smile.
Mallie Mae went on. “If there was any way I could stop this wedding without alienated my son, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
“Just tell him how you feel.”
“No, no, no. Then he’ll be determined to marry her—and he’ll be mad at me. I wanted him to be a surgeon, you know. I had planned it since he was a little boy. He could have been a world-class surgeon.”
Macy had heard this story nearly every day since she took the job as a personal aide fifteen years earlier, after Mallie Mae had taken a fall and broken her leg.
Macy had grown up in Kilgore, graduated from the two-year nursing program at Kilgore College, and joined the staff at Coreyville General Hospital as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. Two years later, she had doubled her salary by going to work for the Mobleys.
She fell in love with Elmo early on, and dreamed that her life would turn out just like the lives of the women in her favorite romance novels. Eventually he would fall for her, and they would get married and live happily ever after. But it was taking much longer than she had expected. Then Carsie Slitherstone came into the picture.
Macy started listening to Mallie Mae again.
“…so he decided to become a pediatrician. And there was nothing I could do about it. Maybe if I hadn’t pushed him so hard to be a surgeon, things would have turned out differently. He despised me all the way through medical school. I’m not sure he ever completely forgave me. And I don’t want to do anything to make him hate me like that again. I don’t think I could survive it.”
“So, what can you do to change his mind?”
“Nothing. It’s hopeless. Unless that woman does something to rub him the wrong way. Maybe this sister of hers will accidentally tip him off to what he’s getting himself into. From what I understand she’s even worse than Carsie.”
“That’s what I’ve heard. We’ll see. He stayed single for all these years. At first I thought he was just being very picky. And I thought that was good. But now he’s 56 years old. It’s no wonder a lot of people started thinking he was gay.”
Macy had heard this speech many times. But it didn’t bother her before, since she always thought Elmo would marry her some day.
Mallie Mae continued. “Maybe the sister will blurt out something horrible about the lovely bride’s past. I just hope she does it before the wedding.”