The Dog Who Ate the Burglar, written by Edward J. Coburn, is a story of murder and mayhem.

   When there's a rash of burglaries in Canary Corners, West Virginia, the sheriff asks Adam to use his finder skills to help figure out who the burglar is. Unbidden, Bagel, Adam's beagle, offers clues through the use of Boggle dice and the game of colors to help Adam and the sheriff solve the mystery of the burglar and the murder he has committed.

Here, read the first five chapters of The Dog Who Ate the Burglar. Then, if you like the book, you can order the ebook in Kindle format at Amazon.com .

Chapter 1

     Adam Martin Swope arrived at Marti Blossom’s house, in her well-kept neighborhood of Canary Corners, West Virginia, at precisely five fifteen as had been previously arranged.
     “Good evening, my lady,” Adam said after Marti answered the door. “Ready to go?”
     “Did you think there was any possibility I wouldn’t be?”
     “None at all. It’s merely something to say.” Adam leaned over, giving her a deeply passionate kiss. “Where are your bags?”
     “They’re in the bedroom. Follow me.”
     Adam had been in her house as far as the living room, but hadn’t been invited into the bedroom yet. He still held out hope that he would be and not only to get her bags. Just now, however, they were going to Maine to visit Adam’s sister, Sarah, and see her son in a play.
     Adam picked up the bags, heading for the front door.
     “Did you ever find out what play your nephew’s in?”
     “I did. It’s a musical called The Pirates of Blue Hill Bay.”
     Marti stopped and thought a moment as she fished her key out of her purse to lock the deadbolt on her door. “Never heard of it.”
     Adam didn’t respond as they walked to the car. Opening the back of his minivan, he put her bags next to his, and closed the tailgate. “I’m not surprised. According to Sarah, someone local wrote the play. It’s very loosely based on a true story about some pirate ships that used to frequent Blue Hill Bay in Maine.” He walked to the passenger side of the car, opened the door for her, and then hurried to the other side, letting himself in. “Apparently the guy took several years to write the play and compose the songs in it.” Adam pulled away from the curb.
     “How many songs are there?”
     “Sarah wasn’t sure. She hasn’t seen the entire play yet, but she thinks there are five songs, according to what Ryan has told her.”
     “Does Ryan sing in the play?”
     “Yes. He sings in the chorus on one of the songs and has a duet with a girl on another with a bit of a solo in that one.” Adam scanned the highway before turning left onto the highway to Charleston.
     “Cool. How’s his voice?”
     Adam shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know. I heard him sing in a school pageant several years ago, but haven’t heard him sing since. Apparently, his choir teacher’s been giving him private lessons after school. Sarah says he’s good now, but I take anything she says about her kids with a grain of salt. I think she’s a bit partial.”
     “She wouldn’t be much of a mother if she wasn’t.”
     “True. How was your week?”
     Marti thought for a few moments, taking the time for a deep breath before beginning to discuss the essays her students had written about their most memorable characters. She spent the rest of their short trip to the airport in Charleston regaling him with some of the better stories. He thought a couple of them were especially touching. Naturally, most of them were about their parents, but several were about a favorite aunt or simply a neighbor. Those were the ones he found the most interesting.
     Adam looked speculatively at Marti, though it had begun to grow dark so he couldn’t see her clearly. “Maybe I could interview a couple of the kids and their parents for ‘Ram’s Ramblings.’” Adam hoped to continue to hide from his past life as a dual lottery winner and his notoriety as a finder, by writing for the Canary Corners Tweet, the local newspaper owned by his longtime friend Larry Archibald. Larry hired him to write a blog and column for the Tweet called “Ram’s Ramblings.” Larry had always been a notorious skinflint, so Adam wrote for him without pay, under the condition that Adam could write about anything that struck his fancy as long as Larry deemed the subject matter appropriate. Adam didn’t need to be paid anyway, as he’d become quite rich from his fifty million and eighty million dollar lottery wins. He hid under the pseudonym of Robert Adam Madigan—or Ram—and had decided on the catchy title of his column and blog, “Ram’s Ramblings.”
     “I’m sure the kids would be thrilled to be interviewed for the Tweet. I imagine the subject of the interview would be appropriately excited as well, although some of them are not around anymore. Perhaps you could interview the ones that are, though. I don’t think it’d be wise to write Rambles based solely upon what my students have been told or perhaps witnessed. Their memories might not be very reliable. Besides which, kids have a tendency to, shall we say, embellish things.”
     That’s been my experience in the past, Adam thought. “Agreed. I could start with the students and then interview the subjects of their papers, if they’re still alive of course. You’re right that I’d need to check the facts, when possible, before publishing anything. Based on what you’ve told me, I could possibly get more than one article out of some of them.”
     “Not only possibly, I’d say probably.”
     That would depend on who’s available to interview, Adam thought. “We’ll have to see.”
     They reached the airport with no problem and Adam parked in the parking spaces set aside for those chartering planes. He got their bags out of the back of the car and they walked into the charter office, pulling their wheeled bags. They checked in with the clerk at the counter and were quickly shown to the plane. Adam shook hands with the pilots and then he and Marti settled into their seats for the hour-long flight to Bangor, Maine. Adam felt that because there were no direct commercial flights from Charleston to Bangor, chartering a flight had to be the only way his short weekend visit could be practical.
     They passed the time with small talk and an improvised game of Boggle, a word game that Adam and Marti played virtually every time they’d been together. Adam had shaken the Boggle dice the night before and written the matrices of letters. He had sixteen such letter sets and they played ten games before their plane landed. As a reporter, Adam considered himself good at word games, but because Marti taught high school English, she still had a slight advantage. She won six out of the ten games they played.
     “I ought to know better than to play word games with you by now,” Adam said, putting the pens and notepads back inside his carry-on bag.
     “You didn’t enjoy yourself?”
     I didn’t mean that, he thought. “Of course I did, but it’s embarrassing for a reporter to get beaten six out of ten times.” He grinned, feigning embarrassment.
     “I guess I’ve simply read a wider variety of books than you have. As I recall, you said growing up that you read mostly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Right?” She spread her hands in a questioning gesture.
     He nodded. “Good memory. That’s what I told you. You no doubt did read a wider variety of books than I did, beginning, of course, with Shakespeare.” Adam had told her he didn’t like Shakespeare and had never read any while she taught Shakespeare to her students. “Besides which, you’re smarter than I am, anyway.” He looked at her seriously.
     “There you go with the blarney again.” Marti always accused Adam of speaking blarney most any time he said something nice to her or about her to someone else. It’s not as if she didn’t appreciate the compliments he gave her, because she did. She only felt that she had to respond to the compliments in some way. Her Great Aunt Livinia, Adam’s neighbor in the Canary House apartments, had been the first to accuse Adam of being full of blarney. The first time Marti and Adam met, she emulated her aunt by saying he spoke blarney and, since that time, she couldn’t seem to stop telling him that.
     “Not at all. I have no doubt that you’re smarter than I am.”
     Does he really think that? she wondered. “Thanks. But I really doubt it. I couldn’t be a crime reporter, helping the police track down criminals like you seem to have a penchant for doing. I’d never have been able to figure out who killed Dr. Harrison as you did, especially considering the police seemed to have no clue.”
     “That was really no big deal. I simply had a few ideas, which led to clues, which ultimately led to Rodney Tabor, the killer. I only stumbled across him because I happened to get a flat tire and he happened to work in the tire store where I went to get the tire fixed.” He still remembered how dumbfounded he’d been when he’d inadvertently discovered Rodney working at the tire shop.
     As they left the plane after landing in Bangor, pulling their bags into the terminal, she said, “I want to thank you again for inviting me to come along to see your nephew’s play.”
      “No problem, I’m sure.” He turned to her with a serious expression. “Know this. I’ll always give you anything you desire as long as it’s within my means to do so and I’d be hard pressed to think of anything that would be outside my means.”
     “You bragging about your riches again?”
     “Absolutely not. As I told you before, I’m not proud of my wealth—I only came by my fortune by getting lucky with purchases and sales during the dot-com boom.” He used this story that he’d told the people in Canary Corners to explain his wealth, while he hid from being a finder and the notoriety that came from winning the lotteries. If they knew where his money came from, it probably wouldn’t be long before someone figured out the truth about his being the finder that had been written up many times by the Chicago newspapers. But, if they thought his money came from the stock market, there’d be no reason for them to pair him with the stories of the finder. “I only meant I’d be more than happy to purchase anything your heart desires.”
     “All my heart desires right now is to be here with you.” She reached over and put her hand in his. “I am, so I really don’t need anything else.”
     He leaned over, giving her a brief kiss. “I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am that you consented to come with me on this trip.” He squeezed her hand a bit as they walked up to the rental car counter.
     “As I said before, I’m pleased that you asked me. I’m looking forward to seeing Ryan in the play.”
     “I’m looking forward to it as well.” Adam turned his attention to the clerk. In short order, Adam had filled out the papers and gotten the keys from the clerk. As they walked out of the terminal to where the car waited, he said, “I don’t think I’ve told you, but I once thought that I might like to study acting in college. I was in a couple of plays in high school and naturally, I thought I was pretty good. A nice write-up or two in the school paper and I could scarcely get my head through the doorways into the classrooms.”
     “No. You didn’t tell me you were in plays in high school. What were you in?”
     He stopped and thought for a moment. “I was in a couple of one-act plays when I was a freshman and, honestly, I don’t remember what the names of the plays were. I really only remember the one I was in when I was a senior. I was Mortimer in Arsenic and Old Lace. I presume you know what that is.”
     She nodded. “I doubt that there’s an English teacher anywhere in America that doesn’t know the play Arsenic and Old Lace. You were Mortimer? That’s a plum part.” I really will have to ask him to join the theater troupe, she thought. “No wonder you toyed with studying acting.”
     “Yeah, but I was in a couple of one-act plays when I was a freshman in college, taking all the ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses that all freshmen have to take. Unfortunately, these one-act plays were comedies and I scarcely got a laugh. Because of that, I woke up to the harsh realization that I’m definitely not a comedic actor and scarcely an actor at all.” He waved a hand in dismissal. “That’s when I decided to switch to journalism. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Larry was my best friend and that’s what he was already majoring in. Not to mention we were in the same university.”
     They had arrived at the car. Adam loaded the bags in the trunk, unlocked the passenger side door, and helped her in. As he slid behind the steering wheel and started the car, she said, “Did Larry go to college with something else in mind?”
     “No. Being a reporter was all that ever interested Larry. Remember those nice reviews I mentioned?” She nodded. “Larry wrote one of them. He was no doubt overly nice.”
     “Well, I’m sure Larry’s glad he talked you into journalism school.”
     “Why? Just because I’m an excellent writer and he gets to use my talents for free?”
     “I really doubt that using you for free has anything to do with it.”
     “Oh yeah? You don’t know Larry like I know Larry. He’s a skinflint’s skinflint, a cheapskate’s cheapskate, a…”
     “Okay,” she said. “I get the picture. I doubt he’s as bad as all that, though.”
     “I could tell you stories. But I won’t bore you with them. Let’s talk about something else that’s a little more pleasant. Tell me about more of the essays you received,” He said as he found the highway he needed and headed toward Sarah’s house about an hour away.
     “I will, but first I want to tell you something that you may not know.” I think now is as good a time as any to tell him, she thought. “Just as you never told me you like to act, I never told you I like to act. I belong to the Canary Corners community theater.”
     “That doesn’t surprise me. A lot of English teachers dabble in the theater, as I understand it anyway.”
     She squeezed his hand excitedly and an extra sparkle came into her eyes. “We’re actually trying to get a cast together right now for this year’s Christmas performance of A Christmas Carol.”
     “That’s a great play. I must’ve seen it ten times growing up, and, naturally, I’ve seen a movie in one of its various incarnations on TV probably an equal number of times.” He thought about turning down what he interpreted as an invitation, but knew He really would enjoy trying out for the play even if, ultimately, He didn’t get a part. “You think there might possibly be a part in it for me? I assume you’re going to be in the play.”
     “I am if I get a part. I’d really like to play the Ghost of Christmas Past—that’s usually portrayed by a woman and I’ve played the ghost before.”
     “Well, you certainly qualify for that, being a woman I mean.” He grinned, although she couldn’t see him do it anymore.
     “All right, let’s not start that again. Yes, to answer your question, I imagine there’d be a part for you. I can’t picture you as Scrooge, however.” Although, she thought, he’d be perfect for the part. Instead, she said, “You’re much too generous for that part. It would hardly be type-casting.”
     “You don’t think I could play a curmudgeon?”
     “Sweetheart, I think you could do anything you put your mind to.”
     Adam smiled. She had yet to use a term of endearment. He hadn’t used one either. “Okay, enough about that. Let me hear some more essays.”

Chapter 2

     “This looks like a nice place,” Marti said as they drove up in front of Sarah’s house. “What little of it I can see in the dark. Nice front yard.”
     “It is a nice place. She and my mother bought the house before my mother passed away. My mother grew up near here. Several of her friends from many years ago were at the funeral. The daughter of one of her friends took care of Ryan and Sheila while Sarah spent time with Mom at the hospital.”
     Ryan opened the door and came running out while Adam walked around to the passenger side of the car to help Marti out. “Uncle Adam,” Ryan said excitedly, giving his uncle a hug. Marti looked at Adam quizzically, wondering why Ryan called him “Uncle Adam.” As far as she knew, he went by Ram. She wanted to ask him, but thought she’d wait until they were alone.
     As they walked to the house, a girl of about eight opened the door saying, “Uncle Adam,” before giving him a hug.
     “Adam,” Sarah said as she came into the living room. Sarah had been prepared to call Adam Ram or Robert but, because the kids called him Uncle Adam, she thought she’d better go along with the story he’d probably tell Marti, if he hadn’t already. I’d better ask him about it, she thought.
     “Marti, this is my sister Sarah. As you’ve probably surmised, this young man,” Adam pointed at his nephew, “is Ryan, and this beautiful young lady is Sheila.”
     Marti reached out a hand and Sarah shook her hand warmly. “So pleased to meet you, Sarah. Ram has told me a little bit about you and how lovely you are, but it’s nice to finally meet you and learn that he’s been telling the absolute truth. Ram has a tendency towards blarney.”
     “My dear brother speaks blarney? I don’t believe it,” Sarah said with a smile and a wink.
     “Based on your tone, I think you do believe it,” Marti said.
     “Yes. Adam does have a tendency to exaggerate the truth. He didn’t exaggerate about you, however. You’re every bit as beautiful as he described.”
     “I see you have the gift of blarney too.” Marti smiled.
     “If you say so.” Sarah looked at Adam. “Does she always have trouble accepting compliments?”
     She does indeed, he thought. “It seems so.” Adam looked at Sarah as if seeing her for the first time. “What’re you doing home? I thought you told me you were the new night manager of the Far North Hotel?”
     “I am. But even the night manager gets a night off now and again.”
     “Hello.” Adam’s Aunt Mary came into the room. “Sorry but I was in my room and fell asleep.”
     “Aunt Mary,” Adam said, taking Mary into his arms. “Aunt Mary, I want you to meet Marti.”
     Marti reached out her hand and Mary shook it.
     “I’m their aunt, Mary, their mother’s sister. She died a couple of months back.”
     “I know and I’m very sorry.”
     “Sarah tells me you’re staying here so she can be the night manager at the Far North Hotel,” Adam said.
     “I am.” Mary nodded. “There wasn’t anything to keep me in Bangor, so when Sarah told me about her promotion, I was happy to come help. I was only renting so it wasn’t a problem to stay here. Actually, I appreciate the opportunity to be with the kids. I never seemed to be able to get here very often when Agnes was alive.”
     “Everyone understood why not, Aunt Mary,” Sarah said.
     “That may be, but I still felt guilty about not being here more often to see Agnes before she passed.”
     “It wasn’t your fault you got a cold and the doctors wouldn’t let you visit Mom anymore.”
     Mary shrugged.
     “Did you have to rearrange your schedule to accommodate our arrival?” Marti asked Sarah.
     “No. I’d already made arrangements to be able to see Ryan’s play. But, even if I had, rearranging my schedule would’ve been worth it. I love meeting Adam’s friends and I certainly want to be here as much as I can while you two are visiting.”
     Marti turned to Ryan. “I hear that you’re playing a major character in the play and you sing a couple of songs.”
     Ryan nodded but didn’t say anything.
     “Is it true you have a solo?” Marti said.
     “Yes. I’ve been practicing.” Ryan nodded, looking at the floor shyly.
     “So you’re ready for tomorrow night?”
     “He’s ready. As a matter of fact, he’s getting antsy,” Sarah said.
     “Ah, Mom,” Ryan said.
     “It’s true,” Sheila said.
     Ryan punched at her arm good-naturedly.
     “Now none of that. We have guests,” Sarah said.
     “Can we play Yahtzee?” Ryan asked. They always played Yahtzee whenever Adam visited.
     Adam looked at Sarah, who nodded. “But only one game. It’s kind of late and you have a big night tomorrow,” He said.
     “Okay,” Ryan said, going into his bedroom to get the game.
     “While Ryan sets the game up, would you like to see the rest of the house, Marti?” Sarah asked.
     “I would. It’s very nice.”
     “It is. My mother found it. We flew out here to look at the house, the yard, and surrounding area and decided to buy it. Mom lived near here when she was no older than Sheila.” They all followed Sarah as she showed Marti the house and Ryan set up the game. When they finished looking at the house, they played one game of Yahtzee that Ryan won easily as he’d thrown the only Yahtzee.
     “Another game?” Ryan asked.
     “The deal was one game,” Adam said.
     Ryan hung his head in dramatic fashion. “Shoot.” He got up, walking around the table and picking up the score sheets.
     As Ryan and Sheila headed for the hallway, Sarah said, “No reading. I expect your lights to be out as soon as you get your teeth brushed.”
     “Yes, Mother,” Sheila said as she and Ryan continued down the hallway into the bathroom.
     Sarah turned around, looked at Adam, and said, “Shall we adjourn to the living room or do you want to go on to the hotel?”
     “That depends,” Adam said. “Did you reserve our rooms?”
     “Of course I did, and I made sure they knew you’d be in sometime after six.”
     “Then we don’t have to be in a hurry.”
     “Would you like some tea and, maybe, a piece of coconut cherry pie?”
     Adam’s eyes widened in surprise. “Mom’s recipe?”
     “Yes. I made sure she taught me how to make the pie before she got sick again. It’s not as good as she made, but it’s okay.”
     “I’m sure it’s good.” Adam looked at Marti. “How about you? Mom made a mean coconut cherry pie. If Sarah’s is even close...”
     “Please. It sounds yummy.” Marti licked her lips. “I love most anything made with coconut.”
     “So do I,” Adam said.
     “You want the pie with tea or with a glass of milk?” Sarah knew Adam didn’t drink coffee.
     “What kind of tea do you have?” Adam asked. “Marti and I like mint with sugar and milk.”
     “It just so happens I have some mint. With the pie, then?”
     Marti nodded and Adam said, “That’ll work.”
     “Do you need any help?” Marti asked.
     “I don’t. But you’re welcome to stay with me in the kitchen.”
     Marti looked at Adam. He nodded and followed Mary into the living room. Soon they were back in the kitchen where they all enjoyed the pie and tea. While they ate, Sarah told Adam what time he needed to be there Saturday for the play.
     As soon as Adam pulled away, on their way to the motel, Marti turned to him with narrowed eyes and tight lips. “I’ve got a question.”
     He glanced at her. Upon seeing her expression, he asked, “Am I in trouble?” I wonder what I did now, he thought.
     “I suppose that depends on how you answer the next question.”
     “Ouch. What is it?”
     “Why did Ryan and Sheila call you Uncle Adam? I thought your name was Robert.” She really hoped he had a reasonable explanation, but it had taken her by surprise.
     He’d prepared himself for this before the trip. He knew the kids would call him Uncle Adam. “It is. It’s Robert Adam Madigan. The answer to your question is easy. When I was growing up, I ran with a bunch of boys—several of them named Robert and a couple who went by Bob or Bobby. That being the case, I had them call me by my middle name, Adam. From then on, it sort of stuck.” I hope she buys it, he thought.
     “But I thought you told me that everyone always called you Ram.”
     “That came a bit later, after my sister already had the habit of calling me Adam. Then she continued to do so. Naturally, her kids picked up the name from her. Even my mom had the habit of calling me Adam.”
     “Well, no offense, but I’ve never really liked the name Ram. It seems a bit harsh, or something, for a man of your sensibilities. If you don’t mind, I’d like to call you Adam as well, unless you would rather I call you Bobby.”
     “Please, not Bobby. That was the name of one of my good friends in college who died a horrible death. You’re welcome to call me Adam.”
     “Adam it is. I hope you didn’t think I was too nosey, but I was a bit confused when the kids called you Adam.” She scratched her head absently.
     He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. “You weren’t being nosey. I’m sure the name change was a bit confusing. I should have told you before and then you wouldn’t have been surprised. I meant to, but I simply forgot. Can you forgive me?”
     “Don’t be silly. There’s nothing to forgive. I’m just glad my question had a simple explanation.”
     In another few minutes, the hotel came into view. They checked in and the clerk handed them two key cards.
     Adam sat Marti’s bag in her room and turned to see her leaning against the doorjamb. “Did I forget something?” Adam asked.
     “No,” she said, opening her arms. “I just want you to hold me for a minute. It’ll help me sleep.”
     “I hope you didn’t think I’d refuse an offer like that.”
     “I was hoping you wouldn’t.”
     He took her in his arms, pulling her into the room so he could close the door. He whistled softly as he left her room a short time later.
     After breakfast the next morning, Adam and Marti decided to take a drive because Marti had never been in Maine and Adam hadn’t spent much time there. When they returned late in the afternoon, they hurried to their rooms to change. Adam was waiting in the hall when Marti came out wearing a silver lamé gown. “My gosh,” Adam said, leaning against his door, “you’re more beautiful every time I see you.” He wore a light orange shirt with a blue sport coat and gray slacks.
     “You don’t look too bad yourself.” She put her hand in his. Together, they walked to the elevator.
     They reached Sarah’s house at about quarter after six. Sheila came outside to greet them this time. “Mom was starting to worry.”
     When they walked into the house, Adam said, “My confidant tells me you were worried. Surely you didn’t think we were going to miss this?”
     Sarah turned, holding a coat she’d pulled from the coat closet. She held it out to Sheila. “I knew you wouldn’t miss it, but I’d begun to wonder whether you were going to be here in time for us to take Ryan early enough.”
     “We still have almost fifteen minutes before we need to leave.” Adam glanced at the wall clock. “According to what you told me last night.”
     “Okay, you’re right. I guess I’m just a worrywart.” She grabbed her coat from the closet before closing the door.
     “Is Ryan ready to go?”
     “Yes,” Ryan said, coming into the living room.
     “Good,” Adam said. “Let’s go.”
     “We’re going to have to take both cars,” Sarah said.
     “Can I ride with Uncle Adam?” Sheila asked. Then, looking up at Adam, she added, “It’s okay, isn’t it?”
     “Of course it is. We’re happy to have you along.” Adam looked at Sarah. “Okay, sis?”
     Sarah nodded and the three of them piled into Adam’s car while Sarah, Ryan, and Mary got into Sarah’s car.
     Sarah took the lead as Adam didn’t know where to go. He followed closely, although he knew Sheila would be able to direct them if he somehow lost Sarah. They made it to the school without incident. Sarah and Ryan hurried into the school while the rest followed at a more leisurely pace.
     “Where do we go in?” Adam asked Sheila.
     “Follow me.” She went through a double door at the front of the school.
     Adam paid the admission price of two dollars apiece for all four of them. In the auditorium, they got as close to the front as they could. Mary slid into the seats first, then Sheila, and then Adam, followed by Marti. Mary made sure to leave one seat between her and Sheila for Sarah when she finished backstage with Ryan. Adam got caught up with what had been happening in Sheila’s life while they were waiting. He also asked Mary a few questions.
     When the play started, they all eagerly waited for Ryan to come on the stage. As is typical in a play done by junior high students, several of the kids forgot their lines, some stole other people’s lines, and several times they stepped on one another’s lines. One of the boy’s voices broke on the song in which Ryan sang in the chorus. They were all very attentive when Ryan sang his duet and both Adam and Marti were impressed by Ryan’s solo. He had good pitch and tone and, contrary to the way a lot of kids his age sing, his voice held strong and clear.
     When the final curtain fell, Sarah stood to say she had to wait for Ryan backstage. When the two of them emerged into the auditorium, Mary hugged Ryan, Adam shook his hand, and even Sheila patted him on the back. They tried to compliment him but the auditorium had too much noise for that to happen without them shouting, so they waited until they were outside.
     Adam said, “You did a wonderful job, Ryan.”
     “Yes, you did,” Mary said. “Were you nervous?”
     “A little bit,” He said rather shyly, looking down at his shoes.
     “Well, you didn’t look it,” she said.
     “Would you two like to come in for some tea and pie?” Sarah said as Adam got out of his car after they arrived back at her house.
     “Is there any left? I thought we finished the pie last night.”
     “I saw how much you and Marti enjoyed it, so I baked another one today.”
     Adam looked at Marti, who nodded. “Sound good to me,” he said.
     They all filed into the house, through the living room, into the kitchen.
     After their pie, Adam looked at Marti, “Marti and I really had better be on our way.”
     “I suppose we should.” Marti got to her feet and turned to Sarah. “Thank you so much for the tea, pie, and your hospitality. It’s been a lot of fun. And you, young man,” she looked at Ryan, “better keep up your acting. You have a real gift.”
     “Ah,” Ryan said but he was beaming with pride.
     “She’s right,” Adam said. “I’d better see you in the spring play. At least, I assume they’ll have a spring play.”
     “I think so,” Sarah said. “They did last year. Unfortunately, it had been already cast when we moved here.”
     “I hope you’re right that there’ll be a spring play,” Marti said, as they walked through the living room to the front door. “I look forward to seeing that one.”
     Adam gave Sarah a hug and reached down and kissed Sheila on the forehead before shaking Ryan’s hand. “It was an enjoyable performance.”
     “Thanks, Uncle Adam. “
     “I guess we’ll see you tomorrow,” Sarah said.
     “Count on it,” Adam said.

Chapter 3

     When they got back to the hotel, Marti and Adam said an amorous goodbye in the hallway, going to their separate rooms.
     Adam rang her room at seven thirty the next morning. “Good morning, Sweetheart. Did you sleep well?”
     “I did. Are you ready to go down for breakfast?”
     “That’s why I’m calling. Are you ready?”
     “I’ll be in the hallway in just a minute.”
     He already waited in the hall when she came out of her room. He wrapped her in his arms and they kissed passionately before they separated. “Shall we?” he said.
     The hotel had been built surrounded by a wooded area, so, after breakfast, they decided to take a walk to kill time. After a two-hour walk, they went back to Adam’s room and he pulled the Boggle shaker box out of his suitcase. “How about it?” He said.
     “I presume you mean Boggle,” she said with a wink.
     “I do. What did you have in mind?”
     “Only Boggle,” she said with a smile and a hint of a leer.
     “Okay, but I’m not sure I believe you one hundred percent.”
     “What do we write on, to change the subject?” She wasn’t sure she wanted to change the topic, but thought they’d better move on.
     “I thought Boggle was our subject.”
     “Okay, if you say so. Anyway, on what are we going to write?”
     “You know you don’t have to play English teacher when we’re alone.” She wasn’t sure what he was getting at, but she was sure he was teasing her.
     “What do you mean?”
     “I mean you can feel free to end sentences with prepositions.”
     “Oh. Occupational hazard. I try to be careful with my students and it’s become a habit.”
     “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it. I’m only saying you don’t have to strain your brain to do it.”
     “Okay. Now, about the game.”
     He pulled two small notepads out of his carry-on bag and handed one to her. “I presume you have a pen in that voluminous purse of yours.”
     “Now, don’t pick on my purse. It’s not that big.” She picked her purse up from beside the chair.
     “But do you have a pen?”
     “I’m sure I...” She dug into her purse, coming up with a pen. “Yes, I knew I had one.”
     He went to the desk, picking up the pen that the hotel left there for guests to write notes or postcards.
     “I’ll set the shaker box on the floor. That way we can both see it. I’ll time the games with the stopwatch on my watch.”
     “Do we want to play three-minute rounds this time?”
     “I thought we might. After all, we won’t run out of letter grids as we would’ve with the ones I wrote down. By the way, I wrote down ten more for our trip back to Charleston.”
     “Good idea. Now, are you ready to start?”
     He readied his watch and shook the shaker box until all the dice fell into the bottom. “Go,” he said, turning on his stopwatch.
     They finished that game and when they tallied their scores, Marti had won.
     “Are you throwing the game just to make me feel good?” She tried to give him a stern look, but her grin showed that she was only half serious.
     “Of course not. I’m much too competitive for that.”
     “Good. I don’t ever want you to do something like that. I never want something I haven’t earned.”
     “Is that an allusion to how I got my money?”
     “Absolutely not. I don’t have a problem with how you got your money. Whether you see it that way or not, I think you earned the money. Someone had to come out of the dot-com boom a winner. I’m just glad it was you. At least you’re doing something useful with your money by starting the foundation.” Adam had created the Rambling Foundation to help needy people in Canary Corners and in the surrounding area. He’d started by paying $50,000 to the local hospital for cancer surgery for a young girl. He’d also given the parents, Monica and Charles Swathmore, $20,000 to help them out of their current financial crisis. He’d paid for ads on the local TV and radio stations to let people know about the foundation and emphasize the people seeking assistance must go through the foundation’s business manager rather than contact him directly. He hired Debbie Harvard, the local bank president’s wife, as the foundation’s business manager to avoid dealing with the day-to-day duties of the foundation. Her duties included filtering the requests for aid so he didn’t get overwhelmed. In short order, there were hundreds of requests. “I just wanted to do something for the people of my new hometown.”
     “And I’m sure in no time you’ll be a hero with everyone, as you already are with the Swathmores.”
     “I don’t want to be a hero; I just want to help.”
     “That’s what I think is so wonderful. There aren’t too many people in this ‘What’s in it for me?’ world that would be anywhere near as generous without wanting as much publicity and back-patting as they could get.” She reached over and patted him on the back.
     He smiled. “I suppose you’re right and more’s the pity. But enough of that, let’s play the game—if you promise not to throw the game my way, either.”
     “Do you think I would?”
     “No, I don’t think you would.”
     She raised her right hand. “Do you have a Bible for me to swear upon?”
     “Now cut that out. You know your word’s good enough. Let’s play.” Adam shook the box until the dice had settled into the bottom and then started his stopwatch. This time, he won.
     They played ten more games before they thought they should be leaving for Sarah’s house. Marti won six of those games.
     When they drove up in front of Sarah’s house, Ryan waited out front.
     “Good morning,” Marti said as they walked up.
     “Good morning,” He said. “Guess where we’re going for lunch.”
     “Uh-oh. I sense pizza coming,” Adam said. In the past, when Ryan got the choice of food, he’d always chosen pizza.
     “How’d you guess?”
     Adam smiled. “Just a lucky guess…not. Is everyone else ready to go?”
     “I think so. You can check.” He jumped up, holding the door for both of them.
     “Thank you, sir,” Marti said.
     “You’re welcome.” Ryan gave a small theatrical bow.
     Sarah, Mary, and Sheila were seated in the living room. “Did you ladies let Ryan bully you into having pizza?” Adam said.
     “Absolutely not,” Mary said. “I love pizza.”
     “As long as I get cheese pizza,” Sheila said.
     “You can have anything you want, sweetie,” Adam said.
     “We should take both cars again,” Sarah said. “There’s no sense cramming all of us into one car.”
     “I agree,” Adam said. “I trust we’re not going all the way to Harper’s Pizza. I don’t think we should spend that much time driving.” They had traveled over an hour to Harper’s Pizza when Adam had been there for his mother’s funeral.
     “Granted,” Sarah said. “I hadn’t planned to go there. There’s a pizza parlor much closer and they have pretty good pizza, although Harper’s has the best.”
     “Anybody want to ride with us?” Adam asked.
     “I do,” Ryan said.
     “It’s okay with me if it’s okay with your mom.”
     Sarah nodded, whereupon Adam led the way to the car and the three of them got in. Once again, Adam let Sarah take the lead. It didn’t take long to drive to the pizza parlor.
     They ordered three pizzas: one cheese, one three-meat, and one supreme. When they all had their fill, there were eleven pieces left. They got two boxes from the waiter for the leftovers.
     “Ice cream?” Ryan said from the backseat.
     “I don’t know,” Adam said. “It depends on where your mother goes. I’m just following her.”
     “Okay,” he said dejectedly.
     Sarah drove straight back to the house. Ryan started to ask why she didn’t stop for ice cream, but she anticipated the question. “We still have pie left and you know Adam loves coconut cherry pie.”
     “Me, too,” Marti said.
     “Besides,” Sarah said, “we have your favorite ice cream, rocky road, for later.”
     They all followed Sarah into the house. Ryan did look appeased.
     Once inside the kitchen, Sarah served pie to all of them and then sat in front of a piece herself. They ate in relative silence. When they’d finished, Adam looked at his watch and then at Ryan, saying, “I think we have enough time for a quick game of Yahtzee before we have to leave. That is, if anybody’s interested.”
     “I am.” Ryan jumped up and hurried down the hallway. He quickly returned with the Yahtzee box. This time, Marti won because she’d thrown two Yahtzees.
     “Another game?” Ryan said.
     Adam shook his head. “No, I think we’d better be on our way.”
     “Okay,” Ryan said, picking up the scorecards and dice and putting them back in the box.
     They all walked to the door.
     “As I said last night,” Marti looked at Ryan, “you’d better try out for every play that comes along. You have a real talent for it, especially if they’re musicals. You have a great voice.”
     “And thank you.” Marti looked at Sarah, stretching out her arms. Sarah obliged by giving her a hug. “I had such a wonderful time. I can’t tell you how glad I am Adam asked me to come.”
     “We enjoyed having you,” Sarah said. “Adam really found a treasure this time.”
     “Oh,” Marti said with a wink. “Have there been that many others?”
     “That’s not what I meant at all,” Sarah said.
     “I know you didn’t and I thank you for the compliment, but I’m the one that’s found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” She slid her hand into Adam’s.
     “I think you both have,” Mary said. “You make a very cute couple.”
     “Okay, enough of the blarney, as Marti would say. We’d better get on the road.” Adam reached out with his free arm, without taking his hand out of Marti’s, to hug his sister. “Thanks for the pie, sis. It was terrific.”
     “I’m glad you liked it.”
     He let Sarah go and hugged Mary. “It was wonderful seeing you again.”
     “Glad you could come.”
     Now Adam did break Marti’s grip, which allowed him to lean down, giving each of the kids a hug while giving Sheila a kiss on the cheek as well. “We’ll be sure to come back in the spring if you’re in the spring play,” he said to Ryan.
     “How about me?” Sheila said.
     “Oh. Are you going to be in a play?” Marti asked.
     “The same goes for you, then. If you’re in a play, we’ll come back to see it. But for now, we’d better go.” He turned and opened the screen door. Taking Marti’s hand again, they walked out to the car.
     Marti and Adam waved as they drove away.

Chapter 4

     “Got anything in mind for your next column? After all, it’s been two weeks since you’ve turned in any copy,” Larry Archibald said when Adam walked into his office Monday morning.
     “I thought maybe the time had come to do the column about Canary House.”
     “That’s fine, if that’s what you want to write, because, as we agreed, I won’t tell you what to write.”
     Oh sure, just like that, Adam thought. “Why do I sense a ‘but’ coming?”
     “Probably because, as we both know, you’re at least a little bit psychic.”
     “All right. Lay the truth on me.”
     “Have you heard of or about Mathew Trimble?”
     “No. I’ve neither heard of nor about him. Who is he?”
     “He’s an old-time resident of Washington county. His father struck it rich with the Trimble gold mine in the late 1800s. Mathew sold the gold mine about fifty years ago for forty-five million but he still has a small fortune in gold that he’s kept. He has nuggets, as well as quite a few small sculptures made of gold.”
     “I’m not saying the Trimble story wouldn’t, but why do you think that would make a good column?”
     “Because I hear he’s quite a character.”
     “Couldn’t I do the Canary House column and then the interview with Trimble?”
     “You could, but Trimble isn’t in the best of health and he might end up going to either the Coal Mine House or Sunset Village.” The Coal Mine House maintained a managed care facility while Sunset Village consisted of only a nursing home. “If either happens, you’ll probably have missed your chance to see, and, hopefully, photograph, the gold.”
     “All right, you’ve sold me. If you want pictures of the gold, I assume at least some of it’s in his house.”
     “All of his gold is. He’s like a lot of the old-timers around here—he doesn’t trust banks. By the way, he lives in a mansion, not a house.”
     “Okay. How do I get in touch with Mr. Trimble?” Adam pulled out his notepad and pen.
     “I’ve already talked with him, and he’s expecting you at about one o’clock on Wednesday.”
     “You sly old dog.” Adam winked at Larry. “You knew you could talk me into it.”
     “Actually, I didn’t. If you hadn’t agreed to do it, I’d have sent Brenda.” Brenda McClung wrote the local news for the Tweet and, like everybody else on the small newspaper, filled in where the need presented itself.
     “I take it you’ve arranged for Ralph to be available to take the pictures.” Ralph Gibboon covered the national news and acted as the Tweet’s photographer, while also taking wedding and other types of photos on the side.
     “I have. You can meet him here at about noon. I suggest you don’t come early and you should eat first. You don’t want to go to lunch with Ralph. he eats like you wouldn’t believe and expects you to pick up the tab. Well, I’ll be. Look at who I’m worried about having to pay for lunch.” Larry held up his hands in deference.
     Adam ignored Larry’s allusion to his money. “I’ll make sure I have lunch and show up right at noon. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go talk to my foundation manager. She already had several requests we needed to talk about and she received several more on Thursday and a couple on Friday, as I recall.”
     “Go right ahead. I think we’re through here.”
     Wait a minute, Adam thought. “Just one more question. If Trimble keeps his gold in the mansion, do you think it’s advisable to advertise that fact?”
     “I hear that he has a very strong security system; therefore, he’s not worried about the safety of his gold. Besides, when I talked to him, he’s the one who suggested we take pictures. It’ll make a much better article with pictures then without and He knows that. He also told me it’s no secret He has a lot of gold in his mansion. It’s apparently fairly common knowledge in the area.”
     “Of course it’ll be a better article with pictures and, I guess if he’s okay with us writing about his treasures, I won’t argue. I only wanted to make sure you didn’t talk him into something that might not be wise.”
     “Now when have I ever talked someone into something they didn’t want to do?” Larry knew that statement wouldn’t get past Adam.
     It didn’t. Adam looked askance at his friend. “Do you want me to write the list down or just recite it to you?”
     “Funny,” Larry said, although he knew Adam probably could write a long list. “Now get out of here.”
     “Yes, sir.” Adam walked out, driving directly to Brigman’s Furniture. His foundation had an office above the furniture store. He smiled as he looked at the image on the door to the office. A local computer artist, Petrik Stavros, had drawn the image for the Rambling Foundation. Adam thought he did a great job. Adam had come up with a few ideas, but Petrik had expanded upon them to create the finished product.
     Debbie Harvard, manager of the foundation and of his personal finances as well, sat at her desk, poring over some paperwork when he walked into her office. “Good morning, Debbie.”
     “Good morning, Ram. Did you have a good time at your nephew’s play?” she said, looking up from her paperwork.
     “I did indeed. I don’t remember whether I told you, but it was a musical. Ryan sang one song in the choir and sang a duet with a cute little girl. He also had a solo in that song. As it turns out, he has a good voice.”
     “You wouldn’t be a little partial, would you?”
     Would you expect any less? Adam thought. “Of course I would. But you can ask Marti if you don’t believe me. She was impressed with his voice, too.” Marti and Debbie knew each other because they both belonged to the theater club. Debbie had lived in Canary Corners most of her life, so she knew most everybody in town. That’s one of the reasons Adam hired her as his foundation manager. It would be easier for her to decide which requests for money were legitimate and which ones weren’t.
     “Now, on to business. What do you have for me?” He sat in the chair in front of her desk.
     “We’re now up to thirty requests.” She pulled a couple of pieces of paper off one of the piles on the corner of her desk. “These are the three I think are the most deserving for our second distribution.” She explained the requests, which they talked about for the next hour. When they were through, Adam had decided to fully fund two requests for help with hospital bills but give only half the money requested by Sunset Village to replace a number of wheelchairs past their prime.
     Adam looked at his watch. “I’ll be darned. It’s almost lunchtime. Would you let me treat you to lunch, Debbie?”
     “It’s nice of you to offer, but I’m meeting Paul for lunch.”
     “Invite him along. I’d love to buy lunch for both you and your husband.”
     “That’s very generous. Let me call Paul to see if he’s interested. I’ll be absolutely flabbergasted if he’s not. I’ve never known my husband to turn down a free meal.”
     “I’ll wait in my office while you talk to him.” Adam left Debbie’s office and walked the few steps into his. He booted up his computer to check his email. He’d checked his email in the morning before he went to Larry’s office, and he didn’t have any new messages then or now. Instead, he found a news article to read online until Debbie walked in.
     “No surprises. He’ll be happy to join us, as I knew he would.”
     “That’s good. Where would you like to go?” His gaze drifted from the screen to her face.
     “How about Daphne’s Eatery? I hear they have a new cook and the food is much better than it used to be.”
     “Sounds good to me. I’ve never eaten at Daphne’s but if they’ve gotten themselves a new cook…. Is Paul ready to go now?”
     “Yes. He said I should swing by and pick him up.”
     “Why don’t you let me drive and we can both swing by and pick him up?”
     “Works for me. I never drive when someone else volunteers to drive for me.”
     “Let’s go then.”
     Paul waited in front of the bank when Adam drove up, and then Debbie guided him to the restaurant. Daphne’s had been set up in a small building and, even though it had a very small sign, no one would ever be able to miss it. It had been painted bright pink.
     “I’ve passed by this building, any number of times,” Adam said, “but I’ve never realized it was a restaurant. Of course, anybody passing by couldn’t help but notice the paint job.”
     Debbie nodded and then led the way into the restaurant. The young girl at the front counter picked up a couple of menus, saying, “Follow me, please.”
     She led them to a booth in the back. “Is this all right?”
     “Just fine,” Debbie said.
     “Your waitress will be right with you.” She walked back to the front counter.
     Almost before the other girl walked away, another young girl arrived at their table and took their drink orders. Paul ordered soda and Debbie ordered coffee, while Adam had his traditional Sweetwater. Sweetwater came from a type of mineral water that over a century ago became famously sweet by someone inadvertently dropping two sugar beets in the extremely hot water. The water boiled the sugar out of the beets and, since then, two beets were added to the water each month. Sweetwater had become a standard drink for the entire county, in addition to a large part of the state.
     After they’d ordered, their meals were brought quickly and they settled down to eat. When they were almost done, Adam’s phone rang. “Hello, Sweetheart,” Adam said as soon as he noticed that the call came from Marti.
     “Hello yourself,” she said. “If you don’t have any plans tomorrow night, I’d love to bake you a coconut cherry pie to see how I do.”
     He was a bit surprised by the week-night invitation. “I’d love it if you’d bake me a coconut cherry pie. Even more, I’d love to be with you. But I thought weeknights were a no-no.”
     “Not always. Whatever papers I have to grade tomorrow, I’m hoping to get done at school. If not, I can grade them while the pie bakes and cools.”
     “That works for me.”
     “I take it that’s a yes, then?”
     “It certainly is. What time?”
     “How about eight o’clock? The pie should cool off by then.”
     “What about supper?” Adam thought about suggesting a Mason sandwich, but wanted Marti to have what ever she had in mind. As it turned out, that is what she had in mind.
     “Would you mind terribly bringing over one Mason sandwich with fries for us to share?”
     “Just one?”
     “You know those things are huge. I think one will be enough for the two of us, considering we’re going to have pie for dessert. Also, would you like ice cream on your pie?”
     “That’s a good idea.” He nodded.
     “So with pie and ice cream, one sandwich should be enough. Don’t you think so?”
     “I’m sure you’re right, Sweetheart. I’ll see you at eight with one Mason sandwich and fries.”
     “I’m looking forward to it,” she said, hanging up.
     Adam turned to Debbie. “That was Marti, in case you didn’t figure it out.”
     “I had no doubt as to whom it was, considering you called her sweetheart. I take it you two are hitting it off well?” She got up from the table, picking up the check as she did so. She held it out to Adam, knowing full well he wouldn’t let her pay even if she’d wanted to.
     “We are. I hope we continue to do so.” He took the check, walking to the register.
     “I hope so, too. She’s a real nice young lady.”
     “Not to mention beautiful and smart.”
     “That, too,” Debbie said.
     When Adam drove Paul back to the bank, Adam said he needed to transfer some more money. He and Paul went in the bank while Debbie waited in the car.
     “How much would you like to transfer?” Paul asked when they were seated in his office.
     “Hang on to your hat.”
     Paul smiled, feeling the top of his head as if searching for a hat. “In case you didn’t notice, I’m not wearing a hat.”
     “Hang on to your topknot then.”
     “I won’t even comment on that one. Just tell me how much you’d like to transfer. You won’t shock me.”
     Adam wasn’t so sure about that.“Okay. How about one million?”
     Paul’s eyes opened wide. “Okay. I take that back. I’m shocked. You have that much in the bank in Chicago?”
     “No. I need you to transfer the funds from my brokerage account.”
     “That’s no more difficult than a wire transfer from your bank. All I need is your account number.”
     “Got a piece of paper?”
     Paul handed Adam a piece of paper and a pen. Adam pulled out a small notebook, flipped through a few pages, and then wrote a number down on the paper, along with something else.
     “I gave you the account number, the name of the brokerage company, as well as the direct line to the account executive I’ve been dealing with. Tell him to transfer the money from my money market fund.”
     “That should be sufficient,” Paul said. He grabbed a request for a wire transfer from the corner of his desk, filled the request out, and then handed it to Adam for his signature. “I specified that the money should go into the foundation’s account. I presume that’s what you wanted.”
     “It is indeed. It’s not as if I need a million in my personal account.”
     “Sign the form then and we should be good to go.”
     Adam signed. Paul picked up the phone, dialed the number Adam had given him, and spoke to the man who answered. “I need to fax this form to him. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
     He left, coming back two minutes later. He handed an acknowledgment receipt to Adam. “The money is in the foundation’s account. Anything else you need?”
     “No. That’ll do it.”
     Later in the afternoon, Adam’s phone rang. “Ram, here.”
     “Hello Ram, my name is Jeremiah Kinsmith. I’m a DJ for West Virginia Star or WVST radio here in Canary Corners. I’d like to interview you about your new foundation, if that’s okay.”
     “Sure, I’d love to give you an interview. The more publicity, the better. We really want people to know that the foundation is here to help.” As long as you do the interview my way, Adam thought.
     “That’s what I gathered from the news release I read a while back. I’ve been wanting to interview you for a while, but other things kept coming up. Personally, I think it’s a great thing that you’re doing, and I’d love to be part of getting the word out even more than your ads have done.”
     “Great. When would you like to do the interview?” Adam went to his desk for a notepad and pen.
     “I was thinking about tomorrow afternoon, if that would be okay with you.”
     “Are you going to tape it or are we going to be live?”
     “I thought we’d go live, and then people can call in and ask you questions.”
     Oh, no you don’t, Adam thought. “I don’t think so. You said you read my news release. Wasn’t it clear about the fact I don’t want to be contacted about the foundation myself? All inquiries are to go through Debbie Harvard, my foundation manager.”
     “I understood that. I just thought, for the sake of the interview, you might want to make an exception.” Actually, he was hoping he could talk Adam into taking calls because people loved to call in and the show got higher ratings when they did.
     “Any time you make any kind of exception, people will misinterpret and begin to ignore the rules that were set forth.”
     “That’s probably true,” Jeremiah said with a sigh of resignation, knowing the battle had been lost. “We can still do the show live. We just won’t accept any phone calls.”
     “That works for me. I think I know where the station is. What time would you like me there?”
     “Well, my show is between noon and four, so I thought about two o’clock, if that’ll work for you.”
     Adam scribbled the time on the pad and wrote WVST at the top, underlining it several times. “That’ll work just fine. See you then.”
     Adam arrived at the WVST station about ten minutes until two. He introduced himself to the secretary at the front desk and she ushered him into the station manager’s office. A sign on his desk gave his name as Augie Personable. “Hello.” Augie stood and stretched out his hand. “You must be Ram.”
     “Well, if I must be, I guess I am.” Adam quipped, shaking the proffered hand.
     “Are you ready for the interview?”
     “I am, as long as Jeremiah told you my ground rules.” I certainly hope you don’t intend to try to change them at this point, Adam thought. If you do, I’m out of here.
     Augie nodded. “He did and we’ll abide by them, though I really do wish you’d take some phone calls. It would add immensely to the show.”
     Adam shook his head. “If you really do want to do that kind of show, Jeremiah can interview Debbie Harvard, the manager of the foundation.”
     “That’s an idea. I presume you don’t mean in lieu of your interview?” He looked at Adam hopefully.
     “No, I’m not going to chicken out on you. I thought you might want to interview Debbie also.”
     “We’ll see how this interview goes, and then I’ll talk it over with Jeremiah. He’s my best interviewer, and it’s his show. I give him basically carte blanche when it comes to the show.”
     The receptionist stuck her head in Augie’s office. “Jeremiah’s ready for Ram now.”
     “Okay, we’re done here, anyway.” Augie looked back at Adam. “Misty will show you the way to the broadcast studio.”
     “If you’ll follow me, sir.”
     Adam followed her down the hallway. They waited outside a large window, where Adam could look in on Jeremiah broadcasting his show. A small electronic sign on the wall flashed “Live.” They waited until the sign went off. It meant that Jeremiah now played music or an advertisement because his microphone had been turned off. Misty opened the studio door, ushering Adam in. Jeremiah stood, shaking Adam’s hand.
     “So nice of you to come. You can sit in front of that microphone.” He pointed at a microphone above a desk opposite where he sat in front of his microphone. “I’ll signal you when were ready to go on the air.”
     Adam had to wait only a few more moments until they were live. Jeremiah asked him questions about the foundation, where the money for the foundation came from, and a bit about Adam’s past. Adam had prepared himself for all the questions he felt might be asked. When the interview ended, he felt like it went well and he hadn’t give any of his secrets away. He’d been slightly concerned he might slip, but, based on the softball-type questions Jeremiah asked, he didn’t even come close.
     Adam arrived at Marti’s house the next night with one Mason sandwich with fries, as promised. He gave her a prolonged kiss when she let him in and he held her tightly. She looked at the bag he held. “A Mason sandwich, I presume.”
     “You presume correctly. Did you think for one minute I wouldn’t bring you what you desired?”
     “Not for one minute because what I really desire is you.” She winked, leering at him.
     “I think I can accommodate a desire like that.” He sniffed the unmistakable odor of coconut cherry pie wafting in from the kitchen. “No offense intended, but I really would like to sample some of your pie before I sample more of you.”
     “Second best again.” A hurt look crossed her face.
     He knew she kidded as the pie had been her idea. “Your being second best would never happen. But a fellow’s got to eat. Shall we have supper? Then we can move on to other pleasant things.”
     “All right, if you insist.” She led the way to the kitchen. Adam gave a sidelong glance towards the bedroom as they passed.
     “I saw that.”
     “Busted,” he said with a broad smile.
     He set the bag on the table while she retrieved two plates from the cabinet. Pulling the sandwich from the bag, he unwrapped it and put half of the sandwich on her plate. Then he took the crispy, skin-on fries from the bag, giving her at least half of them. They immediately dug in, though both had other things on their minds. “I really do love these fries,” He said in a food-muffled voice. “Somehow they manage to get them crispy but still soft inside.”
     “Me, too,” she said between bites.
     After they finished their supper, she got up, retrieved two pie plates from the cupboard, and cut them each a generous piece of pie. It had been sitting on the counter beside the oven, cooling off. Then she got a carton of ice cream from the freezer and an ice cream scoop from a drawer under the counter. “Would you do the honors?” She handed him the scoop.
     “I’d be delighted.” He took the scoop, opened the carton, and scooped some out putting the scoop on one of the pieces of pie and then said, “How much do you want?”
     “Another half scoop should be enough.”
     He put a smaller scoop onto the plate and handed it to her. She set it on the table in front of the place where she’d been sitting. Putting roughly the same amount of ice cream on his pie plate, he picked the plate up, joining her at the table.
     He took his first bite without ice cream so he could taste just the pie. “Delicious.” He rolled his eyes to the ceiling in a parody of ecstasy.
     “As good as your sister’s?” I really hope it is, she thought.
     “Every bit.” He really believed it. “I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this pie and the ones my mother used to bake.”
     “That’s high praise indeed.” She smiled.
     “And I mean every word.”
     They finished their pie and ice cream without another word. When they’d finished, they put their plates in the sink and Adam hugged her from behind and kissed her neck.
     “Shall we move to the living room?” she said.
     “To start with,” he said, with his own leer.
     “You’re taking a lot for granted, aren’t you?”
     “Am I?” He tried an innocent, little boy look, and failed. They walked into the living room with his arm firmly planted around her waist.
     “I suppose not.” She smiled, kissing him deeply as they settled on the couch.
     He left her house about two hours later, feeling contented, satisfaction infusing every fiber of his being.

Chapter 5

     “Hello, Ralph,” Adam walked into the newsroom at precisely noon on Wednesday. Ralph had unruly red-orange hair atop his short and plump body with a 35mm camera hanging around his neck.
      “Hello. You ready to interview the old codger?”
     I know what he had for lunch, Adam thought as he noticed the tomato soup stain on the front of Ralph’s shirt. “Sure. Larry told me Trimble is quite a character. This might even be fun.”
     “As long as you’re ready, because Trimble is more than a bit eccentric, as you shall see.”
     “Be that as it may, I did say I’d get the interview. It’s not as if I’ve never interviewed difficult people before. Just try to get the truth out of a murder suspect some time.”
     “You’re the reporter, not me.”
     Adam nodded. “Shall we go?”
     Ralph picked up a tripod and a large camera bag that were sitting beside his desk.
     “What you got in there?” Adam asked.
     “Zoom and wide angle lenses, as well as three extra rolls of film.”
     “I see you haven’t moved up to the digital age yet.”
     “The cameras don’t have enough resolution yet. Maybe they will in a few years, but not yet. I’ve even read about the new cameras that’ll be coming out in 2003 but they’re just not there yet either. I’d really like a camera where I can take an almost unlimited number of pictures and not have to have those pictures developed, but until they reach the quality of a 35mm, they’re not for me. It’s amazing how many times I’ve taken a picture only to find some small portion of the picture where I captured something I didn’t even realize was in the viewfinder. Then I have to blow the picture up to see the small details. You can’t do that with a digital picture to the degree you can with a 35mm. At least not yet.”
     “That’s interesting, Ralph. But we’d better be going.” Adam turned to the front of the office.
     “Right.” Ralph followed Adam out.
     “Let’s take my car,” Ralph said. “I’ve got additional equipment in there I don’t normally need, but you never know what’ll come up.”
     Adam shrugged. “Okay by me. I don’t know where Trimble lives, anyway.”
     Ralph drove to the outskirts of town and up the side of a small hill. The house stood at the top of the hill in the middle of a stand of ash trees. Boy, is that ugly, Adam thought. The Trimble mansion had been painted an ugly, olive-drab color. It looked like military housing except for its size.
     “Was Trimble in the army?” Adam asked.
     “Not that I know of.”
     “Then why the olive drab paint job?”
     “You’ll have to ask him. I’m sure I wouldn’t know. It’s been this color ever since I can remember. It’s been painted several times since the first time I drove up here, and every time he’s used the same color of paint.”
     “Well, I think it’s hideous.”
     “You’ll get no argument from me. I’d definitely pick a more lively color myself. I think the mansion would look good in a light blue or tan or even a prettier shade of green.”
     Ralph had reached the front of the mansion. He opened the back door and took out his camera, the tripod, and the camera bag. His camera still hung around his neck
     They walked up to the front door and used the gold knocker. Adam knew the knocker had been painted gold, rather than being actual gold, because a small chip of paint had broken loose and the tarnished brass showed through.
     A veritable mountain of a man opened the door. He stood at least four inches taller than Adam and must have weighed in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds. A nose that looked like it’d been broken more than once took its place in the middle of his acne-scarred face. “Can I help you?” he said in a gruff, baritone voice, showing them a surly expression.
     “We’re from the Tweet. I think Mr. Trimble is expecting us,” Adam said.
     “He’s in the library. Follow me.” He walked off, leaving it to Adam to close the door because Ralph’s hands were full. They followed him down a long, dark hallway to the farthest room. When he opened the double doors, the light streaming in from the wall-to-wall windows immediately washed over them. The other three walls were lined with bookshelves, filled to overflowing with books of every size and description, many of them leather-bound. Adam could not read any of the titles from where he stood but he thought that many were probably first editions.
     In the middle of the room sat a wheelchair containing a shriveled remnant of what used to be a man. A blanket covered his legs. “Come in, gentlemen, come in,” said a quavering voice they could only guess belonged to the cadaverous man. He only gave the impression he’d been the one who’d spoken by turning their way. A distinctly medicinal odor hung in the air, tinged with the smell of vomit, as well as the pungent aroma of urine.
     “Mr. Trimble. We’re…”
     Mathew waved dismissively. “Yes, yes, I know who you are. You’re Ram,” He looked directly at Adam, “and you’re Ralph, the photographer.”
     “We are,” Adam acknowledged. “Is this a good time for you, sir?”
     “There ain’t no good times for a man as old as me,” He cackled with an unearthly squeal that ended with a hacking cough. “You better get this over with while I’m still around.” His smile showed three crooked upper teeth, with the rest missing.
     Adam took out the small digital recorder he’d recently bought. “I’d like to record this interview, if it’s all right with you, sir.” He also pulled out his notepad, preferring to take notes and using the recorder only as a backup in case he missed a salient point.
     “Don’t think you’ll remember my pearls of wisdom, huh?” He cackled again. His laugh seemed to crawl up Adam’s spine to lodge at the base of his brain. I’m going to have a headache before this interview is over, Adam thought.
     “I merely want to make sure I quote you exactly, sir. I hate inaccuracies in my stories.”
     “I read your story about Sweetwater. It was good writing.”
     “Thank you, sir. Is that why you decided to let me interview you?”
     “Partly. I also want to share my treasures with world before I kick the bucket.”
     “Speaking of that, do you think it wise to advertise you keep gold in your home?” Adam asked.
     “I have the best security system money can buy. My gold’s safe. Not to worry. Besides, I imagine most people around these parts know I have the gold, anyway. It’s not as if it’s ever been a secret.”
     “Well, don’t you think we ought to tell people about the security system? It might deter someone from getting the idea your gold would be easy pickings.”
     Mathew seemed to think for a moment or two. Then he nodded. “You can mention the security system if you want and you’re probably right. It might be smart to do so.”
     “Okay, I’ll make a few notes of the security setup as we discuss everything,” Adam said. “I’d like to start at the beginning, if that’s okay.”
     “Where else would we start?”
     “Okay. As I understand it, your father found the Trimble gold mine over one hundred years ago.”
     “He did.”
     “How did he find it? Did he find the strike by accident or was he looking for gold?”
     Mathew shook his head. “It was accidental. He was actually looking for coal.”
     “So he was looking for coal and stumbled upon gold.”
     “That’s it.” He nodded.
     “How did that happen?”
     “He was digging in the side of the mountain and dug out several nuggets. He had them assayed and then went back to stake his claim. The first year he pulled out $70,000 worth of gold. That was big money in them days. Then he hired several guys to help and next year dug out $150,000 worth. His crew grew until there were twenty guys working in the mine. He had a big haul most every year.”
     “Hold on just a second, sir.” Adam finished jotting down his notes and then asked, “What was his biggest year?”
     “It was actually my biggest year in about…Yeah, back in ’46. I was working the mine then. Papa died in a cave-in in ’38 and left the mine to me. We hit a big, new, rich, vein in ’46. We brought out ten million. That was when Yallow Mining offered to buy me out. I didn’t sell at first. Then they offered me more than I could turn down and I sold. They gave me forty-five million. I’d already taken out thousands in nuggets. They didn’t know and I didn’t care. They bought what was still in the mountain, but not my collection.” He screeched with laughter and coughed fitfully. As he start to say something else, the rasping coughs came anew and he had all he could do to breathe.
     “Where is the mine, if I may ask?”
     “It’s actually in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.”
     “That being the case, how did you end up in Canary Corners?”
     “I’d traveled to this area before and liked it. After I sold my mine, there wasn’t anything to hold me in Pennsylvania so I packed up and moved here. I lived in Frozenville for a lot of years before I found my mountain and had my house built here.”
     Adam knew He wouldn’t be able to resist much longer, so He thought he’d plunge in, softening his question with a compliment first. “And a fine house it is, sir. But, if I may, why OD green? Were you in the army?”
     “Never was. I just like the color. Always have.”
     Adam shook his head unconsciously, saying the nicest thing he could think of. “Well, everyone has different tastes. Would you like to show us your collection now, sir, or is there something else you’d like to tell me?”
     Mathew took a deep breath and then said, “Let’s go.” He jerked his head as an indication that the big man should wheel him to the collection. “Come, Lucas.” The big man complied.
     Ralph and Adam followed the pair down a hallway at a right angle to the one that had led them to the library. They stopped at a wide door with a card reader beside it. Lucas parked the wheelchair to the left of the doorway. He pulled a card out of his pocket and waved the card in front of the reader. The door opened outward into the hallway. Inside, behind a console, sat a man in uniform. Several overstuffed chairs and a couch, with a coffee table in front, filled the large room. One wall had a series of bookshelves. Small figurines and sculptures adorned almost every shelf. Beside the shelves, right behind the console, a huge walk-in safe had been built into the wall. Adam had to assume that a room existed behind it. “Good afternoon, sir,” the guard said.
     “As you see,” Mathew began as Lucas lifted him from his chair to the couch, “I have a nice collection.”
     “May I examine a few of them closer, sir?” Adam asked.
     “That’s why I asked you here.”
     Adam indicated that Ralph should come with him. Over by the shelves, Adam whispered, “I’d like to have photos of the nicest and the most intricate pieces as well as a panorama of the entire wall for perspective.”
     “If you want to examine any, just tell Lucas. He’ll bring them to the table,” Mathew said.
     “I would, actually, but we want to take a picture of the entire wall before we move any of them.”
     “That’ll be good,” Mathew said.
     Ralph set up his tripod, screwed the camera attachment into the camera, and then put the camera on top of the tripod. From his bag he pulled out a large flash as well as a different lens. He attached the flash, and then unscrewed the current lens and screwed on the lens he’d gotten from his bag. It took him only a few moments more to line up and focus the picture. He snapped off several shots, adjusted the focus again, snapping off several more. Some he took with flash and some without.
     “Will the pictures come out that you’re taking without the flash?” Adam asked.
     “They should, but that’s why I’m taking pictures with the flash as well.”
     “I thought most photographers had big lights that they use. All you’ve got is the flash that’s attached to your camera.”
     “It’s a very advanced and sophisticated flash. I’ve experimented with big lights and this flash seems to take as good a picture as I get with the big lights. Naturally, this flash is much easier to carry around than the big lights. In some situations, I really do need the big lights, but this isn’t one of them. Lights are one of the things that I carry in the car just in case.”
     Adam walked back to the shelves, looking closely at the carvings. There were several elaborately carved trees, even one with tiny birds and a squirrel climbing up the trunk. One of the most intricate pieces seemed to be a dioramic carving of a mineshaft with two miners pushing an ore car on tracks coming from the mine. The many figurines displayed included some female nudes.
     Adam indicated that Lucas should take the tree with the birds and squirrel, the mine diorama, and several of the figurines to the table. Adam sat in one of the chairs in front of the table. Ralph sat in the chair next to him. “Would it be better to take pictures of these here or back on the shelves?” Adam asked.
     “On the table, I think,” Ralph said. “At least we can take some here and then we can have Lucas put them back on the shelves and I can take some more there. That way we can have both images and choose the ones we like.”
     “A capital idea. Which picture would you like to take first?”
     “I really like that tree. I think I’ll start with that one.”
     “Can you move the other sculptures away from the tree, please, Lucas?”
     “I can.” He did as asked.
     Ralph got up and brought the tripod to the table. He lowered it until the camera became level with the table.
     That’s quite a tripod, Adam thought. “I didn’t know you could raise and lower those tripods that much.”
     “This is a good one. It has a lot of flexibility. I can position it any way I need to.”
     “I see that,” Adam said.
     Ralph focused the camera, and then snapped several pictures with and several others without the flash.
     “Can you put the diorama here now, please, Lucas, and put the tree back on the shelf?”
     Lucas nodded and complied.
     Ralph reached over and turned the diorama slightly. Once again, he focused the camera, taking several snaps with and without the flash. Then he turned the diorama to get a side.
     “Do you want to take the figurines separately or as a group?” Adam said.
     “As a group, I think. As long as there’s enough space between them, if we decide we want separate pictures, I can split them apart. But we might want a group picture.”
     “We might at that.”
     After Ralph took his pictures, he had Lucas put the figurines back on the shelves. Then Ralph repositioned the tripod, taking additional pictures.
     Adam turned to Mathew. “Would you like us to see what’s in the safe now?”
     “I’ll be happy to show you. Markel will open the safe.” Mathew waved a hand at the guard behind the console.
     When Markel punched a series of buttons on the console, the door behind him opened into a large room. The room had two shelves, one waist high and one chest high, along each of the three walls away from the door. A wide array of nuggets of various sizes sat on each of the shelves. In the center of the shelf directly opposite the door, a spotlight shone on the biggest nugget Adam had ever seen.
     “These nuggets all came from the Trimble mine?” Adam said.
     “Most of them,” Mathew said. “I collected them over the years I owned the mine. The one on the back wall weighs in at fifteen pounds.”
     “Wow,” Ralph said, thinking of the good things he could do for the community with the money he could get for selling such a prize.
     “Wow indeed,” Adam said truly impressed. “Is it the largest nugget in existence?”
     “It’s not. There’s a twenty-pound nugget that was found in Alaska. This is the biggest in the Lower 48. At least as far as I know. I’ve never read anything that says any different.”
     “I can easily believe that.” I can easily understand why Trimble is proud of his collection, Adam thought.
     “Can we take some pictures of the nuggets?” Ralph asked.
     “Sure,” Mathew said.
     “I’ll get my tripod.” Ralph went back out and came in with his tripod. He set it up, snapping several pictures of the fifteen-pound nugget and a number of pictures of the other large nuggets.
     “Is there a story behind any of these nuggets?” Adam asked.
     “There is. The largest one was found by my papa but not in the mine. He was walking at night and tripped over it. He dug where he found the nugget, but he didn’t find any more so no claim was ever filed on that spot. The rest are all from the mine. Two other big ones were found in the cave-in that killed Papa.” He laughed for the first time in a while. Once again, it crept up Adam’s spine. “Papa made me rich by dying.” He looked to the ceiling, saying, “I’m sorry, Papa. I didn’t mean anything.”
     “How big are they?”
     “One’s seven pounds and the other one is six pounds.”
     Adam glanced at his watch. “I suppose we’d better go and let you get some rest, Mr. Trimble.”
     “You need to know anything else?”
     “No. I think we’ve got all we need. Thank you for the interview and for letting us take the pictures. I’m sure we’ll find a place for many of them.” If Larry likes any of them, Adam mused.
     “I’ve got a question for you,” Mathew said.
     “Of course. What is it?”
     “Is it correct that you started the Rambling Foundation?”
     What an odd question in the present context, Adam thought. “That’s correct. Why did you want to know that?”
     “Just curious if I heard right. Let’s go, Lucas.” Mathew inclined his head toward the door.
     I need to find out more about the security system before we leave, Adam thought. Then he looked at Markel. “I’d like to ask Markel a few questions, if it’s all right.”
     “Anything you like,” Mathew said, waving at Lucas to stop the wheelchair.
     “What would you like to ask?” Markel looked up at Adam.
     “I noticed that a card’s needed to open the outside door.”
     Markel nodded.
     “That protects this room pretty securely, I’d imagine. How late do you stay here and does someone else take a shift?”
     “No, I’m the only security officer. I start at eight in the morning and I go home at five. That’s the timeframe Mr. Trimble set up.”
     “I see. Everyone thinks the door to this room is so secure, nobody needs to guard it after hours.” Personally I wouldn’t think it was that secure, Adam mused.
     “It’s not just that,” Markel said. “The last thing I do before I leave is lower massive metal shutters that cover every door and window.”
     “Then how do you get out?” Adam asked sensibly.
     “The closing cycle has a time delay of five minutes, which gives me time to get out. Once the shutters are in place, you’d need a Sherman tank to get in. In the morning, Lucas raises one of the shutters that covers the back door before I arrive.”
     “So the shutters have their controls only in the house and no one can open any of them from the outside?”
     “That’s right,” Markel said.
     “Okay, then. I really think I have everything I need now. I think we can go.”
     Ralph picked up his equipment and then he and Adam followed Lucas and Trimble out of the safe room, down the hallway to the front door. Adam thanked him again, and then He and Ralph were on their way.
     “You were right, Larry. That Trimble’s quite a character.”
     “I told you. Do you have enough for a column?”
     “Without a doubt. Would you like the copy for Friday’s paper?”
     “If you can do it.”
     “Ralph told me he’ll have the pictures done by this evening. I’ll write up the copy and decide what pictures I want to use. I think he has some good ones.”
     “I’m sure he does. Ralph’s a good photographer. I’m actually surprised he works for the Tweet. He could make much more money as a full-time photographer. I presume you know he has a studio and takes wedding pictures and so on during the time he’s not busy for the paper.”
     I’ll keep that in mind on the off chance I need some pictures take, Adam mused. “No, I didn’t know. And you don’t mind that he does that?”
     “Of course not. If I didn’t let him do it, he’d probably quit and become a full-time photographer. I’d rather let him do additional work with other customers on the side and still take pictures for the Tweet.”
     “Good plan. By the way, I’m going to mention something about Trimble’s elaborate security system in the article.”
     “I presume you asked Trimble about it.”
     “I did. He agreed that we should say something about the security setup.”
     “Well, then, it’s okay by me. I think it’s a good idea, too.”
     “Okay, why don’t you let me get out of here so I can go home and write my copy?”
     “Go on,” Larry said with a wave of his hand. “Get out of here.”
     Adam went directly to Canary House. The first thing he had to do when he’d been away from the apartment for a while was take Bagel for a walk. Bagel, the beagle, had quickly become an important part of Adam’s life after his mother had insisted he take Bagel after she died. She had explained that Bagel had been originally descended on a direct line from a beagle his aunt, many times removed, had before she had been burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials. She also told him that Bagel was basically a finder of the animal world and a bit psychic. Adam discovered it was true from the two games that Bagel liked to play: “colors” where he’d retrieve a toy of a named color from the large pile of his toys and, using the dice from Adam’s Boggle game, Bagel would separate some of them from the rest. Each time he’d done this, Adam had found a word of significance in several of these letters. Sometimes Adam didn’t recognize what word was significant because none of the words seemed to relate to anything Adam was currently working on or investigating, but, without fail, one always made sense in the end.
     After their walk, Adam settled in front of his computer to write his copy. With his voluminous notes and tape recording, he had no trouble finding enough material to write his column. When he finished, he went online, posting the copy on his blog. He’d added his pictures as soon as Ralph finished with them, adjusting the text to fit with the pictures he decided to use. About six o’clock, he called Larry, who was still working in the office, putting the paper to bed. He emailed his copy to Larry for Friday’s paper and then drove to the office and gave him a printed copy for good measure, telling him the copy had also been posted on the blog. Together, they reviewed Ralph’s pictures, deciding on the few they felt should be included in the article and adjusted the copy accordingly. Larry said the ad for the blog would specify additional pictures could be found there.
     When the residents of Canary Corners opened their papers on Friday, they found Adam’s Ramble. The blog and column, though there were slight differences due to the extra pictures in the blog, read as follows:
     “Ram’s Ramblings on an Old Gold Miner”
     This reporter was recently privileged to witness the vast collection of gold nuggets and sculptures owned by Mathew Trimble. Mr. Trimble was deeded the Trimble Goldmine by his father, who died in a cave-in. Eventually, the mine was purchased by Yallow Mining for $45 million. Mr. Trimble not only received the $45 million, he also kept several million dollars’ worth of gold nuggets and sculptures that he’d already collected from the mine and elsewhere.
     The pride and joy of Mr. Trimble’s collection is the biggest nugget ever found in the forty-eight contiguous states (see the picture at right). It weighs in at fifteen pounds. It’s not the largest nugget in existence, however, as there are several larger nuggets that were found in Alaska. The most interesting part of the story is that the fifteen-pound nugget was found purely by accident. It wasn’t mined; it was tripped over while Mr. Trimble’s father was walking at night. Mr. Trimble has two other large nuggets, one of seven pounds and one that weighs six pounds. These nuggets were found in the remnants of the cave-in that killed Mr. Trimble’s father.
     Mr. Trimble has a large collection of sculptures and figurines made of solid gold as seen in the picture at the top. A number of them are intricately carved, like the tree shown in the first picture at the bottom. Others are basically dioramas, such as the one of the miners pushing the ore cart, also shown at the bottom. The third picture at the bottom is a figurine of which Mr. Trimble has approximately one hundred similar ones. He even has some figurines that would appeal to those with more risqué tastes.
     To protect his treasures, Mr. Trimble has a state-of-the-art security system that, in this humble reporter’s opinion, would stop even the most diehard thief in his tracks. He has an extremely secure safe that is entered only by the use of a key card. It was also reported that his home is equipped with steel shutters that, when locked in place starting in early evening, would protect his valuables from anyone using anything short of a Sherman tank to break in.
     Respecfully submitted for your reading pleasure and edification by Robert Adam Madigan.