Sweet Ginger Poison 3

Lacey stuck her head in the kitchen and said, “Brother Bideman is here.”

Ginger was still in deep thought, trying to come to terms with the fact that either Lacey or Navy had stolen her recipe book. “Oh. He’s a little early this morning.”

She went out to the dining area and spotted him sitting at their usual table. All the locals knew better than to take the table in the back corner. She and the reverend had their morning coffee together at that table every day—except on Sundays, of course.

Coreyville Coffee Cakes was closed on the Sabbath. But Ginger still got to see him. Elijah Bideman was the pastor of Corey Acres Baptist Church. On any given Sunday, she could be found in her favorite pew, listening to Elijah’s sermon.

There were whisperings around town that Ginger and the good reverend were much more than just friends. After all, Ginger’s husband, Lester, had died two years earlier, and Elijah’s wife had left him four years ago. Many folks figured it was about time the two admitted they were in love.

But Ginger was not in love with Elijah. She would not allow herself to fall in love again. Lester had been her one true love. There could never be another. That’s the way it was meant to be.

She picked up two ceramic coffee cups and filled them. Elijah took his coffee black, and so did she.

He was scanning the front page of the local newspaper, The Coreyville Courier. The Saturday edition was so thin and lightweight that paperboys had to worry about it blowing right out of a customer’s yard.

The Sweet Ginger Cake sitting in front of him had not been touched. He knew his breakfast partner would be arriving at any moment.

“Would you like some coffee to go with that cake, Sir?”

He looked at Ginger and smiled broadly. A salesman could only wish to have such a smile. His dimples alone could make a woman dizzy.

“Why, yes, I would, Ma’am.” He folded the newspaper and set it on the back edge of the table, against the wall.

Ginger placed the two cups on the small table and sat down across from him. “Got your sermon all ready to go?”

Elijah was notorious for waiting until the last minute.

“I’m close.”

“What’s the subject?”

“Uh…I’d rather not say. Let it be a surprise.”

“You don’t even know, do you?”

“Sure I do. I mean—I’ve got it down to three possibilities.”

Ginger shook her head. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“But I do it. That’s the important thing. I always get it done.”

“Yes, you do. And your sermons are always great. Inspiring.”

“Thanks.”

“I guess it really doesn’t matter that you’re the world’s worst procrastinator.”

“No, Ginger. I’m the world’s greatest procrastinator.”

She smiled. “Well, I guess it just depends on how you look at it.”

“That’s right. I’m a cup-half-full kind of guy.”

“Well, right now you’re a cup-getting-cold kind of guy.”

Elijah looked down at this coffee cup. “Not at all.” He picked it up and took a sip.

Ginger watched him as she sipped from hers. She always loved watching him—even when he was doing something as mundane as drinking coffee.

“Ginger, I’d like to bounce something off you, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“It’s about the parsonage. It’s been a wonderful place to live all these years. And I appreciate the church providing it for me, of course. But…”

“What?”

“Well, I’m 63 years old, and—“

“—you’re not thinking about retiring.” Ginger couldn’t bear the thought.

“No. It’s not that. I mean, sure, I’ll retire someday. But not anytime soon.”

“Good.”

“But I need my own place. The parsonage belongs to the church. When I retire I’ll have to move out. Then where am I going to live? In a retirement home?”

“I don’t know.” Thirty-two years ago, Ginger had been on the church committee that recommended the house to be purchased by the church and used as a parsonage. Usually, a pastor would stay a few years and then move on. She had never considered what would happen if a pastor retired from the church.

“I’m thankful for what the church has done—giving me a place to live, at no charge. But I need a home of my own.”

“So, what are you thinking?”

“Well, I’ve managed to save a little money over the years. And I found a spot just outside of town.”

“John Wilson’s old place?”

“Yes, that’s it.”

“But that house is eaten up with termites. It needs to be torn down.”

“I know. The house is no good. But I’d buy the land now. Then I’d save up for materials and build my own house.”

“With your own hands? You’re not a carpenter.” She took his hands and turned them over to the palms. They were as smooth as a newborn baby. “You’re hands would be bleeding in less than an hour. Have you ever even used a hammer?”

“Not lately. But I know I can do this.”

She could see the hope in his eyes. “Well, maybe if you had help from some of the men.”

“No, no. I’m not going to beg church members to build my house.”

“You wouldn’t have to beg. I’m sure they’d be glad to do it.”

“No.” He looked into her eyes. “Promise me you won’t tell anybody about this.”

“Well, I don’t see what harm it would—”

“—Ginger. Promise you won’t say anything to anybody.”

“Okay, fine.”

“Thank you.”

“But I hope you change your mind.”

“I won’t.”

They sipped their coffee in silence for a few seconds.

Ginger pointed to the newspaper. The headline read, King of the Kassle. Kipford Houston Kassle had recently been elected mayor of Coreyville. “What do you think about our new mayor?”

“I think he’s…awfully young.”

“Twenty-seven, I believe. The kids used to call him ‘Kippy.’”

“Oh, yeah. I remember that.”

“Well, he doesn’t like that anymore. Not since he graduated from that Ivy League business school. Now he’s “’K. Houston Kassle,’ or simply ‘Mayor Kassle.’”

“I’m sure he’ll do a fine job.”

“Really? Why? Because of his brand new MBA? Or because of his wealthy family? I can’t think of any other qualifications.”

“He’s bright.”

“I suppose.”

“Well, he was smart enough to earn a master’s degree and to get himself elected.”

“Or rich enough. But the first thing he did was to get his good buddy appointed as chief of police. And you know that Daniel Foenapper was not the most qualified candidate.”

“Probably not.”

The bell on the front door jingled as someone walked in.

Elijah looked to see who it was.

“Speak of the devil…”

“Our new chief of police?”

“Yep.”

Ginger sighed. “I guess I might as well get used to it. Excuse me.”

She got up and walked over to Daniel Foenapper, who was now standing in line. Daniel was only five-foot-nine, but his thin frame made him look taller. He was quite impressive in his new uniform.

“Good morning, Chief.”

He seemed surprised, yet pleased that she had addressed him in the proper manner. “Good morning, Mrs. Lightley.” His voice cracked, sounding exactly like it did in junior high.

No, please call me ‘Ginger.’ She thought it, but couldn’t bring herself to say it.

“Drop by anytime, Chief. It’s ‘on the house.’”

“No, Ma’am. I couldn’t do that—accept gifts, that is. It wouldn’t be right. I’ll pay—just like everybody else.”

Okay. Maybe he’s not so bad, she thought. “Suit yourself. But do come by often.”

He grinned. “I will. Your cakes are delicious.”

“Thanks. Well, have a nice day.”

Ginger stepped away, and was about to go back to Elijah when she heard the phone behind the counter begin to ring. She saw Lacey answer it. Ginger waited to see if the call was for her.

Lacey talked for a few seconds and then took the phone away from her ear and began to survey the dining area. She looked at Ginger and pointed to the chief.

Ginger went back over to where he was standing. “Looks like we have a phone call for you, Chief.”

“Really?” Daniel looked down at his police radio. He had forgotten to turn it on.

Ginger led him to the phone and Lacey handed it to him.

“This is Chief Foenapper…yeah, I forgot to turn it on. Sorry about that…I see…okay, I’m on my way.” He hung up the phone.

Ginger deliberately blocked his path. “Something wrong?”

“Yes. It’s Navy Newcomb.”

“What kind of trouble did he get into this time?”

“Did you send him out to the nursing home?”

“Yes. Well, no—I didn’t send him. He’s been volunteering—taking cakes out there every morning.”

“That’s it? He just picks up some cakes and delivers them to the nursing home?”

“Yes. The three-day-old cakes.”

He seemed disappointed.

“They’re still good. They’re perfectly good. I don’t give them stale cakes.”

“I see.”

“So, what did Navy do? You understand that he’s not an employee. He just volunteers.”

“I understand.” He tried to walk around Ginger, but she blocked him again.

“So, what’s the problem?”

“The problem is that Navy Newcomb…is dead.”

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