Southern Hospitality


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Chapter 10 - Fine Dining

Janice and Mel joined the rest of the Pappas’ in the formal dining room.  As they sat, the shorter woman scanned the impressive table, which was set with fine china and crystal ware.  A far cry from a mess kit and card table, Janice considered wryly.

The archeologist glanced at the Colonel, who sat down on Mel’s right at the head of the table.  He wore a dark blue dinner jacket and tie.  Janice’s gaze traveled to Mrs. Pappas, who was sitting at the other end, on her left.

The matriarch was, not surprisingly, perfectly coiffed and wearing an elegant lavender dress with matching earrings.  Janice looked at Melinda, who always looked great but seemed even more beautiful tonight.  It was the smile Melinda wore, Janice concluded with a smile of her own.

A handsome family, Janice noted, tearing her gaze away from her friend to glance down at her shirt and slacks.  Janice’s smile faded.

“I guess I’m a little underdressed,” Janice said softly to Mel.

“Nonsense,” Mel said.  “I am pleased you decided to wear pants though,“ Mel responded quietly with a smirk.  Janice nodded without a sarcastic response, surprising Mel.

“Oh I don’t know. . . she’s got nice legs,“ Brian, the now racoon-eyed brother, mentioned with a sly grin as he took his seat across from them.  His amusement rapidly faded under the very cold stares from the two women.  His eyes dropped as he sipped his water.

Ruby started serving the dinner with great efficiency.  As each plate was served, everyone smiled in anticipation of a delicious meal.  Janice recalled Mel frequently mentioning how much she loved Ruby’s cooking, though never once complaining about the many dinners of baked beans and beef jerky they had during the digs.

Ruby silently served the archeologist with a thin smile.  “Thank you Ruby,” Janice responded, seeing the thin smile grow . . .  in size but not warmth.

“Here you go, honey,” Ruby said warmly to Mel, placing her plate in front of her.

Janice was not surprised the housekeeper was cold towards her.  But Janice was surprised when the affection showered on Mel was not given to Brian, who put a napkin in his lap with irritation clearly on his face, apparently noticing as well.

“Thank you Ruby, it smells wonderful!”  Mel raved, making the housekeeper beam.

“I hope ya’ll enjoy it,” Ruby responded before leaving them to dinner.  She glanced around the table with a smile, which faded when her eyes fell on Janice.

As Janice picked up a fork, she noticed the family joining hands for a prayer.

“Oh,“ the archeologist said uneasily, putting down her fork and taking Mel’s hand.  Mel smiled warmly, knowing what she was thankful for - Janice came home with her.

Janice looked at her bandaged hand then Victoria who exhaled wearily.  The archeologist was not surprised when the older woman made no attempt to take the injured limb.  Mrs. Pappas quietly cleared her throat and said the prayer.

“Dear Lord, thank you for the many blessings you have graciously bestowed upon this family.  Thank you for watching over our Melinda during her surprisingly long and dangerous journey overseas and thank you, Lord, for bringing her safely back to us, where she belongs.”

Janice glanced at Mel, who unknowingly squeezed Janice’s hand tightly.  Feeling Janice squeeze back, Mel looked over with surprise and found quiet and unwavering support.  Then a devious glint filled Janice’s eyes.  When Janice quickly glanced to  Mrs. Pappas and back with a questioning look, Mel bit her lip, struggling to not chuckle during the prayer.  She would have to ask if Janice had thought up a polite gesture yet.

“. . .Thank you for providing our church with a new wing so that the community can be better served and thank you, lord, for this wonderful meal.  In your name, amen.”   Victoria looked up and exchanged smiles with her husband.

A shy smile emerged on the southerner’s face.  “I guess you’ll want that back,“ Mel said, glancing at their clasped hands.

“That’s ok.  I’m sure Ruby’s cooking tastes good cold too,” Janice offered with a smirk. Victoria’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Could you pass the salt, Dr. Covington?”  Victoria asked with a polite smile, eyeing the crystal salt shaker between the two women.

“Oh, sure,”  Janice relayed, releasing Mel’s hand to pick up the shaker and hand it to the older woman.

“Thank you,” Victoria said with a stiff smile and placed the unused shaker by her plate.

“So Janice, how is your hand?”  Colonel Pappas enquired.

Brian and Victoria stared at their plates as they ate, showing no interest in the answer.

“Better.  Thanks for asking, “ she said politely, making the Colonel nod.

Mel looked at Janice warmly, then looked curiously around the unusually quiet table.  Apparently, everyone was more interested in their meal than conversation.

Janice looked at her plate of food, utterly famished.  She picked up her fork and started to lift her bandaged hand from her lap when the proud woman realized she wouldn’t be able to use the steak knife.  Ah shit, she silently exhaled, looking longingly at her juicy piece of beef.

“So, I understand Reverend Baylor and Reverend Hammond are going to hold a church bazaar this year,” Mrs. Pappas offered, breaking the silence.

“Yes!  Reverend Baylor mentioned that to me.  I used to love the church bazaars,” Mel said enthusiastically, glancing at Janice who smiled.

“I wonder if they are going to have the shooting booths like they did before.  I bet they would bring in a lot of money for the church,“ Brian mentioned, stuffing his mouth with a delicious looking piece of steak, Janice noticed then poked at her meat sadly

Moving on to more manageable food, Janice took a fork-full of whipped potatoes eagerly into her mouth.  Her eyes widened.  Mel looked up at her curiously as the archeologist muffled a cough.  With supreme effort and a weak smile, Janice swallowed the most awful tasting potatoes she ever had.

“Remember that stuffed bear you won me dear,” Victoria smiled warmly at Colonel Pappas, who smirked back.

“I should, it cost me $10!” He announced, making his family laugh.  Victoria looked at the smiling archeologist, whose smile vanished under the cold matriarch’s gaze.

“So Dr. Covington, do you shoot?”  Mrs. Pappas asked with a polite smile.

“In self-defense . . . usually,” she answered, staring directly into the woman’s blue eyes.  Though they were a familiar blue, they lacked the warmth she readily found in Melinda’s eyes.

The chuckles from the Colonel and Brian stopped when they realized Janice was serious.  Mel forced an uneasy chuckle and picked up a water goblet.

“Do you have need for self-defense often?”  Mrs. Pappas asked with a raised brow.  Mel stopped in mid-sip and looked at Janice, willing her friend to change the subject.

“More than I’d like,“ she said, glancing at Brian, then Mrs. Pappas.

“I suppose it is even more dangerous being a woman on a dig.  I thank GOD Melinda came back to us all right,” Mrs. Pappas sighed and shook her head wearily.

“Me too,” Janice said softly, staring at her plate.

“Well, for everyone’s information I am FINE.  Janice has made sure of that,”  Mel announced firmly.  Before she could change the topic, her grandmother continued.

“I don’t know what possessed you to go off in the first place, dear,” Mrs. Pappas relayed to Mel then glanced at the archeologist, who looked surprised by that remark.

“Grandmother, you KNOW I wanted to be a translator.  And I’m good at it, like daddy was,” Melinda declared with familiar irritation.  This was not the first time she had defended her decision.  And since her grandmother was not inclined to let go of anything, she was certain it would not be the last.

“Yes dear,” Mrs. Pappas smiled politely and sipped her drink, signaling she was done discussing it for the evening.  Mel rolled her eyes.  The battle was over but not the war, Mel considered wearily.

“She is,” Janice confirmed, struggling to keep her growing irritation under control.   “I’ve  worked with a number of respected academics in my travels, Mrs. Pappas, and your granddaughter happens to be the best translator that I have ever worked with.”

Mrs. Pappas smiled politely, unconvinced by the testimonial.  Who could a Covington have possibly worked with that was “respected,” she thought.

“Really?”  Mel asked in amazement.

“I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true, Mel,” Janice responded with some irritation.

Mel beamed.  Colonel Pappas smiled and continued eating.  Brian rolled his eyes and looked at his watch.

Mrs. Pappas looked between the two with a furrowed brow.  There was a dangerously strong bond between them, she observed.  It was obvious Melinda picked up her rebellious attitude from this . . . this . . . woman.  Throw a few complements Melinda’s way and she became putty, Victoria noted with concern.

“Well, Melinda was always an intelligent child,“ Mrs. Pappas offered magnanimously.

“She’s an intelligent woman, Mrs. Pappas,“ Janice reminded the matriarch with an confident gaze.

Mel found this discussion extremely uncomfortable yet, oddly thrilling.  No one had ever supported her choice to follow in her father’s academic footsteps.  And no one had ever confronted her grandmother on her behalf like that.  No one. . . until Janice Covington, Mel considered.  She gazed in amazement at her champion.

Brian and William silently ate their dinner, wisely staying out of this conversation.

Mrs. Pappas forced a smile.  “Yes.  Yes, she is.  And an extremely eligible one, Dr. Covington.  I just wonder how she will be able to find herself a husband and settle down when you two are off. . .digging in a ditch somewhere.”

Mel’s mouth dropped.

“I don’t think you have to worry about that, Mrs. Pappas,” Janice said with a genuine smile.  Mrs. Pappas finally showed her cards, the poker playing archeologist considered.  “A woman as beautiful and intelligent as Mel will never have trouble getting a husband.”

Mel’s eyebrows furrowed.  “Now that you two have discussed my career choice and prospects for marriage, do you MIND if we discuss something else?”  Melinda said with annoyance, the discomfort of the conversation now outweighing the thrill.

Mrs. Pappas’ mouth opened to respond to her belligerent granddaughter but fell silent after her husband coughed lightly and shook his head no.

Beautiful and intelligent, Mel repeated to herself with a dejected sigh as she dragged her fork through the potatoes.  She wished it wasn’t her grandmother’s harping that prompted Janice to say that.

“Have you met Reverend Hammond yet, Melinda?”  Brian asked with a thin smile.

Janice rolled her eyes and scooped up some corn.  Eyeing the golden kernels, the famished archeologist considered that no one could screw that up.

“Yes, today at the junk yard. . . “ Melinda responded evenly, glancing at Janice, who coughed and quickly drank some water.

“Are you all right?”  Mel asked.

Janice glanced uneasily around the table before answering Mel.   “Went down funny,” she relayed with a dismissive shrug, briefly glancing at the kitchen with narrow eyes.

“You went to the junk yard?”  Mrs. Pappas asked, certain she didn’t hear right.

“Yes, to see Christine’s car,” Mel explained.

“Why on Earth would you want to do a thing like that?”  Victoria asked.

“Curiosity,“ Janice responded absently as she reached for a piece of bread from the basket in the center of the table.  She held the bread up to her nose and carefully sniffed it.  Concluding it was ok, she sighed with relief and took a bite, then noticed Mrs. Pappas staring at her.

“So, what do you think of the young reverend?” Mrs. Pappas asked Mel, trying to ignore the odd archeologist.

“He seems like a very nice man,” Mel said without enthusiasm.

“Reverend Hammond is,” Mrs. Pappas added, genuinely impressed by him.  “You will be surprised Sunday when you see the congregation.  It has almost doubled!  He has ministered to all kinds,” she gushed.  “You know the Everson brothers? Timothy, Thomas and Charles?”

“Didn’t Timmy serve time for car theft?”  Mel asked.  Janice smirked and silently ate her bread.

“Well, yes. . .”

“And wasn’t Tommy arrested for assault?”

“The POINT is Melinda, they have turned their lives around and are doing the good Lord’s work, thanks to Reverend Hammond.  He has an amazing way with people.”

“And their purses?”  Melinda added with a polite smile, irritating her grandmother.

“New wings are not free Melinda,” Mrs. Pappas countered. “And the money is going towards something worthwhile, not some temporary. . .fancy,” she added with a quick glance at Janice, who was reaching for another piece of bread.

The doorbell rang, interrupting Mrs. Pappas, who looked curiously at her husband.  “Are you expecting anyone tonight, dear?”

As he shook his head no, she heard Ruby talking to the visitor and smiled.  “Why speak of the devil !!“ she said happily, getting up from her chair.

As Mrs. Pappas left the room to greet the visiting reverend, Colonel Pappas exhaled wearily, “get out the checkbook,” Janice smirked and ate her bread.

“Is your stomach upset?”  Mel asked, noticing Janice’s plate still full of food.  Janice shook her head ‘no’ with a mouthful of bread.

“Reverend Hammond!”  Victoria Pappas greeted the young man, as she entered the foyer.

“Mrs. Pappas, I hope I’m not calling too late,” he said with an easy smile.

“No, of course not.  Please come in and have a seat in the living room,” she responded happily as she took his arm and guided her favorite guest to the couch.

“Can I get you something, Reverend?”  Ruby smiled warmly, as he sat down.

“No thank you Ruby, I’m fine,” he almost chuckled at the attention the two women were lavishing on him. . . as usual.

Mrs. Pappas smiled at the box of candy and small bouquet he carried.  “Are those are  for me?”  She asked coyly, though a small grin appeared.

“Uh, actually. . . no,” he admitted nervously, not wanting to insult the biggest benefactor of the church.

“Relax, Reverend Hammond,” she chuckled at his unease.  “I realize your interests lie  in a younger woman.”

“Well, Mrs. Pappas, you are married,” he offered with a grin.

“So I am,” she sighed sadly at the handsome young man.  Ruby shook her head with amusement.  “Let me not keep you waiting. . . I’ll tell Melinda you’re here.”

“Melinda?”  Reverend Hammond asked with confusion.  Mrs. Pappas looked at him oddly, not understanding his apparent surprise.

“Uh. . .Mrs. Pappas, I came to see Dr. Covington.”

“. . . and as he was passing right in front of the General, the Lieutenant ordered ‘eyes right.’  His saddle started sliding off the horse and he went right along with it!”  Colonel laughed along with Janice and Melinda.

“Poor man,” Melinda said with polite sympathy, pushing down her laugher.

“Terrible luck” Janice said soberly, then chuckled.

Brian sighed and finished his steak.

“Terrible luck, my ass!”  The colonel blurted with a grin, surprising Melinda.  “He was paying more attention to a sweet young thing, who was visiting the stables, than his mount.”

“Well, did he at least get a date with her?”  Janice asked and took another bite of bread.

“I don’t think Lt. Morrows did.  Did he Melinda?”  The Colonel asked with a grin, surprising Mel once again.  Janice eyed her now flustered friend with amusement.

Brian sighed and looked at his watch.

“Oh. . .so THAT was Lt. Morrows?”

“Well?”  Janice asked.

“Uh.  No. . . “

“Did he ask?”  Janice asked, finding the shade of pink on Melinda’s face quite becoming.

“Ah . . . yes.”

“Two big blows in one day. . . poor man,” Janice relayed with a smile.

“I was polite,“ Melinda said defensively.  The Colonel and Janice chuckled but quickly stopped when Mrs. Pappas returned to the dining room.  Her dour expression successfully extinguished the mirth.

“So dear, what did Reverend Hammond want?”  The colonel was almost afraid to ask, expecting another large financial commitment to the church.

“Dr. Covington,” Mrs. Pappas replied flatly.

The surprised archeologist looked at Mel, who’s expression became like her grandmother’s. . . dour.

Brian finally laughed.

Janice marched into the living room and spotted the reverend.  “Be nice,” she silently repeated Mel’s instructions to her when the archeologist blurted she’d get rid of him quickly.

“What do you want?”  Janice said bluntly as she walked to the couch.

Wayne quickly stood and presented her with flowers and candy.  She sighed heavily, looking at the offerings, then the man who presented them.  Pushing back the flowers, she deflated the man’s hopes.  However, with a raised eyebrow of interest, she took the box of candy and opened it.  His spirits soared.  Popping a chocolate in her mouth, she mumbled thanks.

“Ok, I’ll remember. . .’No’ to flowers, and ‘yes’ to candy,” he noted with a smile.  “I’m glad you have a sweet tooth.”

“I don’t,” she said flatly, eating another piece.  “Why are you here?”  She asked, repeating her original question a little less harshly.

“Uh, I was hoping to make a dinner . . . some dinner plans. . .  with you,” he said and swallowed hard, trying to nonchalantly wipe his sweaty palms on his shirt.

“Dinner?” she repeated with some interest, her stomach nearly answering for her.  “Why?” she bluntly added to quickly recover from that error, hoping he would back down.

“Uh. . . I’ve never met an archeologist before.  I like to meet new people and learn about them and their interests.”

“I hear there’s a pretty good library at the University,”  Janice said, popping another piece of chocolate in her mouth.

“Dr. Covington, I would much rather talk than read,” he said sincerely.  “Perhaps lunch?  I could take you to the church and have you meet some of the congregation and show you the new wing being built,” he said with enthusiasm.

“Well that’s a line I haven’t heard before,” she chuckled with genuine amusement, giving him hope.

“Then it’s a date. . .uh. . .lunch?”  He asked uneasily.

Janice sighed.  “Look Wayne, I’m not interested in . . . “

“Just lunch . . . a friendly lunch,” he countered quickly.  “What do you say?  A person never has too many friends,“ he added with a warm smile.

Janice stared at him, then ate another piece of chocolate.  A moment of silence passed as she chewed on this opportunity to make nice with the church folk. . . from the church where the Pappas’ were life-long members. . . where Mel attended regularly before leaving home. . . .

“Ok. When?”

“How about tomorrow!”  He suggested with excitement, then saw her frown.  “Uh, Saturday?”  He quickly amended.

“Why not,” she said, and ate another piece of candy.

Chapter 11 - Better than Chocolate

“You said be nice,” Janice finally said, sitting next to the unusually quiet southerner on a patch of grass overlooking the moon-lit river.  Mel hardly spoke on the walk from the house, Janice noted with unease.

“So I did,” Mel acknowledged evenly, her eyes fixed on the river until Janice shoved the nearly empty box under her nose.  Mel rolled her eyes at the unwanted offer.  “However, I must admit my surprise that you took that to mean DATE the man,” she added crisply.

“Jesus Christ,” Janice mumbled with exasperation, pulling the box back and popping the last piece in her mouth.

“You know, Janice. . . REVEREND Hammond just might not appreciate you taking the Good Lord’s name in vain,”  Mel informed her with a thin smile.

“And HOW do you know that just wasn’t a cry for the Good Lord’s help?”  Janice snapped back.

“And I don’t appreciate you making fun of what is important to me, Janice,”  Melinda responded firmly.

Janice looked at Mel, almost apologizing for something she didn’t mean to do, but she was too mad.  She exhaled and looked out over the water.  “What the hell did you want me to do, Mel?”  The frustrated archeologist asked wearily.  “Punch his lights out for asking me out on a date?”

“I thought you said it was just a lunch!”  Mel snapped, clearly upset.

Janice groaned and stood up.  “You don’t have to worry Mel,” she said testily.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I’ll do my best not to embarrass YOU or your family in front of REVEREND Hammond,” Janice snapped angrily and stormed off, taking her empty box with her.

After a healthy, brisk walk along the river’s edge, Janice sat down on a felled tree and stared at the slow moving water that disappeared underneath an old stone bridge.  If only her emotions were as calm, she sighed, wishing she had a cigar with her.

She nags about cigars, she nags about gambling, she nags about drinking, she nags about cursing, and NOW she nags about me having lunch with a GOD DAMNED REVEREND for Christ’s sake, Janice considered as her irritation resurfaced, cumulating in a groan.

“I guess that means you’re still mad at me,“ a soft southern voice offered, making Janice’s head snap towards the surprising presence.  Letting out an irritated breath, Janice eyed the tall woman then focused on the river.

“Just for the record,” Mel said softly, stepping closer.  “I never ONCE thought you would embarrass me or my family.”

“Well, maybe you should think about it,” Janice sighed.

“Why do you say that?”

“I’m not exactly the church going type, Mel,”  Janice responded with a thin smile.

“No, you’re not.  But I don’t think GOD counts the number of times you’ve been to church.”

An uncomfortable silence fell between them.  Janice shook her head with a sigh and looked out at the river.

“You said you were raised Catholic,” Mel recalled, sitting down next to the archeologist.

Janice chuckled humorously.  “You can force a girl to Catholic school but you can’t make her pray.”

“You don’t pray?”  Mel asked uneasily.

“No. “


“I . . . ,“ Janice said, then looked at the ground.  “I don’t believe it does any good, Mel,”  she admitted, then looked at Mel.  “Does that bother you?”  The question surprised Mel.

“Yes.  A little,“ Mel admitted.  Janice nodded, staring at her boots.

“Janice. . . ,“ Mel said softly, needing to explain.  “I hope someday, you’ll find faith like I’ve found.  Not because my prayers are always answered. . . tonight you’ve seen one clear example of that not happening,“ Melinda exhaled wearily.

Janice smirked.

“I just want for you what I have through my faith. . . a source of strength and peace when I’ve needed them most.”

Janice looked up at the southerner, who was suddenly afraid she had just insulted her friend.

“Not that I mean you don’t have strength, you of all people I know have strength, I just meant...,“ Mel rapidly blurted, making Janice chuckle.

“I know what you mean, Mel,” she informed her with a grin.

“Well it’s about time,” Mel answered with a broad smile.

Such a beautiful smile. “We should start back, it’s getting late. . . ,“ Janice blurted, bolting up from the log.

Mel nodded, with a small sigh of disappointment.  “We should come back here sometime and have a picnic,” the southerner suggested, enjoying a deep and cleansing breath of air as they walked back.

“Will you make the food?”  Janice asked hopefully.

“Ah . . . Ok,”  Mel responded with a shrug, looking curiously at the archeologist, who nodded with relief.

“Christine and I used to come here all the time,“ Mel offered as they walked, sharing her fond memories.  “In the summer, Brian’s friends would dive off that bridge and try to impress Christine,” she stopped and looked at the bridge with a grin.

“And you,” Janice added.

“Well, I don’t know about that . . . ,” Mel chuckled uneasily and pushed her glasses up.  “Anyway. . . one summer, Eddy happened to impress her most . . . thanks to the surprisingly strong current . . . which yanked his swimmin’ trunks clear off.”

Janice chuckled.

“Well, actually. . . I’m afraid the poor dear impressed her the least,“ Mel added dryly.  Janice laughed heartily.

“Of course, Miss Pappas, you were too much of a lady to look,”  Janice offered with a grin.

“You know, Janice, discretion is an important part of being a lady,”  Mel informed her and looked directly into her eyes, wondering if she understood.

After a silent moment a small smile emerged.  “Shall we?”  Janice asked.

Mel eyed her with anticipation, then noticed the younger woman was glancing toward the path to the house.  “I suppose we should,“  Mel said with a sigh.

As the two strolled along the path, they talked and enjoyed each other’s company.

“. . . Hallelujah!”  Reverend Hammond boomed as he raised his hands to the nearly empty church.  A few volunteers, busy polishing the wooden pews, paused to admire the young reverend, who was awash in a rainbow of light from the stained glass windows.

“Salvation and glory and POWER belong to our God, for true and JUST are his judgements,” the reverend proclaimed, placing his hand on the bible, which was opened to the book of Revelation.

“HE has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.  HE has avenged on her the blood of his servants.  Hallelujah!  The smoke from her goes up for ever and . . . . ”  Reverend Hammond abruptly stopped in the middle of his recitation and turned towards familiar footfalls as they approach the altar.

“I’m sorry reverend.  Please, continue. . . ,“ Reverend Baylor said warmly.

“Uh. . . that’s ok reverend.  I am actually getting a bit hungry for lunch and by the grace of God, hopefully will be able convince another lost soul he should be Baptized.  We have three Baptisms already this Sunday, I am pleased say,” he said proudly.

“That’s ten this month!  Son, I wish I had your energy,” Reverend Baylor remarked.

“Some have told me I have too much energy,”  Wayne offered with a shrug.

“Reverend Jamison?”  Reverend Baylor asked, gaining a nod.

“Don’t worry son.  This church needed a boost in the arm and you are it.  I thank the Lord daily that you’ve come to us,” he admitted, making the young man beam.  “And between you and me, there’s nothing wrong with stirring things up a bit.  Keeps the congregation awake,” he added with a wink.

Chapter 12 - Helpful Hints

“You sure you remember how to drive?”  Janice asked with a smirk as they drove away from the Pappas mansion towards Christine’s for dinner.

“I think I can manage, Janice,” Melinda replied, glancing at a smiling archeologist, who seemed to be much more relaxed when away from the house.

“And ‘red’ means?”  Janice queried.

“Hmm . . . Anger?”  Mel answered in a pleasant tone as she eyed Janice.

“Uh, Mel? You might want to keep your eyes on the road,” Janice suggested unnecessarily.  And she knew it.


“Hmmm?”  The passenger grinned.

“If you want to be a back seat driver, shouldn’t you be in the back seat?”  Mel asked innocently.

Mel watched in amazement as Janice took a second helping of Salisbury Steak, another heap of mashed potatoes and plenty of onion gravy to smother her entire plate.
Christine’s house keeper was tickled as she served the world traveling archeologist.  “It’s nice to have someone appreciate my cooking.  Miss Christine doesn’t ever have seconds,” Eunice complained.

“Eunice, you know I have to watch my figure.  If I ate all your good cookin’, I’d never get a man to give me a second look.”

“Mmmhmm” Eunice smirked at her.  “There’s pound cake for dessert, if you have room, Dr. Covington.  It’s my special recipe.”

“I think I’ll be able to manage a piece, Eunice.  Thanks,“ Janice responded, again pleasing the housekeeper, who left for the kitchen.

“I guess Janice doesn’t share the same concern,” Christine noted with a grin, then glanced at Mel.

“You’d think we didn’t feed you,” Melinda commented with an uneasy laugh, pushing up her glasses.  Janice looked at Mel uncertainly.

“Melinda!  If Dr. Covington, the woman who happened to save MY life, wants to enjoy extra helpings of Eunice’s cookin’. . .  I think the only hospitable thing for us to do is let her have what she wants,” Christine scolded Mel, who was going to say something but smiled politely, hearing a healthy AMEN from the kitchen.

“We southerners take our hospitality very seriously,” Christine informed Janice with a grin.

“Miss Christine is lookin’ to win the golden pineapple award this year,”  Eunice said as she returned with more coffee.

“Good luck.  Mrs. Redding or grandmother usually wins,”  Melinda relayed.

“Well I should win for having to entertain the army of visitors I’ve had since I got out of the hospital,” Christine remarked with a heavy exhale.

“Truly amazing how many people care,“ Melinda said dryly, getting a smirk from her friend.

“Pineapple?”  Janice asked.

“Oh, that’s the symbol of hospitality.  You’ll see pineapples all around Columbia. . .well all around the South, actually, “ Melinda informed an interested Janice.

“I see.  I was wondering if there was some reason pineapples were carved in my bedposts,“ Janice relayed to Melinda with a twinkle in her eye.  “Though, I’ve never heard it called ‘hospitality’ before,” she added, making Melinda very uncomfortable.

“Well, some southerners WILL bend over backwards. . . or, I suppose, in other positions, for their guests,” Christine offered thoughtfully, aiding to deepen Mel’s crimson shade.

“I think I’m going to like the South,” Janice relayed to Christine, who smiled.  “Especially that hospitality part.”

Christine nodded and started to respond but was interrupted.

“SO, Christine, what have you been up to?”  Mel interjected firmly, making her friends  chuckle.  Somehow Melinda knew the two of them would gang up on her.

“Oh, a little of this, and a little of that . . . “ She smirked.  “You know Amanda’s little sister Janie?”

Mel nodded.  Janice listened as she took a sip of coffee.

“Well she prefers “Jane” now and is already getting ready for her coming out ball,” Christine offered.

“All ready?”  Mel asked, eyeing the coughing archeologist, who seemed to have a lot of  trouble eating lately.

Janice cleared her throat.  “So . . . you have coming out . . .balls?”  The archeologist asked.

“Oh yes, every debutante has one,”  Mel relayed, surprised in Janice’s interest.

Seeing the perplexed look on Janice’s face, Christine explained.  “That’s when the young lady is formally presented to society.”

“Ah,“ Janice responded.  Mel looked at her curiously.

“So Janice, tell me what went through your mind when you first saw Miss Melinda Pappas at your tent,” Christine ventured slyly, amused at the glare Melinda gave her.

“Christine. . . . “

“Duck,” Janice blurted, surprising the two southerners.

“Duck?”  Christine asked.

“Yeah, I was thinking she’d better move her high-class ass or she’d end up looking like a six-foot piece of Swiss-cheese from all that lead flying around.”

“Janice . . . .”  Mel said uncomfortably.

“You were being shot at?”  Christine gasped in amazement, staring at Mel.  The woman who never did anything more dangerous than wear white shoes after Labor Day.

“Well, technically, they were shooting at Janice,” Mel pointed out with a sigh and pushed up her glasses.  She glared at a smirking Janice.

“Oh Dear!” Christine gasped.

“I really wasn’t that concerned. . . until that jerk held Mel at knife-point.”

“Only THEN you became concerned?” Christine asked, nonplused.  Mel raised an eyebrow at Janice.

“Well, yeah.  Knife wounds are usually bloodier than bullet wounds.  I didn’t want to have to clean up the mess,” Janice explained with a grin as she finished her potatoes.

Christine noticed Mel’s eyes narrow at Janice for the flippant comment.  Yet, she knew there wasn’t really anger behind that glare.  And somehow, she knew Janice would never let anything bad happen to Melinda.

“Oh, I hadn’t thought about that,”  Christine remarked with a smile for her old friend, who now rolled her eyes.

As the evening progressed, Mel cringed at each question Christine bombarded Janice with.  Although she was herself amazingly curious about the archeologist, Mel quickly learned to curb her constant questioning since it only seemed to annoy the redhead.  However, the tall southerner noted curiously, that for some reason, Janice didn’t seem annoyed at Christine or her questions.

She didn’t know whether to be pleased or irritated.

“I really don’t have one place that comes to mind,” Janice offered, sipping her coffee and glancing to Mel, who poked her pound cake with her fork with disappointment at the answer.

“How about you, Tina.  Do you have a spot that you consider most beautiful?”

Tina.  That name again, Mel considered glancing at her long-time friend, who in highschool, broke up with the quarterback, after throttling him with her purse, for the grave mistake of calling her by that nickname.  She’s probably just being polite, Mel concluded.  Janice did save her life after all, she considered, sipping her drink.

“Oh, I haven’t been to Europe or anyplace exotic like you two, but I’d have to say Harold’s cabin in the Smokies. . . no, I take that back, when Eli took me to the North Ridge of the Grand Canyon . . . no,” she corrected herself again.  “Niagra falls!  Hmmm, I see what you mean,” Christine admitted with a chuckle.  Janice smiled.

“Depends, doesn’t it?”  Janice offered.  “On your mood, who you’re with,“ Janice added, glancing once again at Mel, who was staring at the table.

“What about you Mel?”   Christine asked.

“Zemal,” Mel volunteered weakly, remembering the rare time they spend together with no demands of a busy dig, interference from armed gold smugglers, or Nazis.  Janice blinked at the unexpected answer and felt compelled to remove the disappointment she knew she caused.

“Uh. . .Is it ok if I change my answer to Zemal?“ Janice asked, eyeing the tall southerner, who looked up with uncertainty.

Well this is a first, I’m the third wheel instead of Melinda, Christine mused, wondering just what went on in Zemal as the pleased smile grew on Mel’s face.  Whatever it was it’s about damn time, Christine considered.

“Sure.  Whatever my guest wants,” Christine relayed absently, certain neither of them heard her.

Janice glanced over to Christine with a questioning eyebrow and smirk.

“Uh . . .  More cake?”  Christine quickly offered with a smile.

“No thanks,” Janice responded.

“So, where do you call home, Janice?”  Christine asked, a question Mel had wondered about ever since she had met the archeologist.

Janice hesitated a moment before answering.

“Wherever I am,” Janice answered with a polite smile.  Mel found that answer distressing.  Everyone should have a place to call home, the tall southerner considered.

“So, does this place have indoor plumbing or am I going to have to find an outhouse?”  The archeologist bluntly asked, making Christine chuckle.

“Down the hall and to the right,”  Christine directed the archeologist, who quickly left.

Returning her gaze to the table, the hostess eyed her friend.

“She is incredibly. . . interesting, don’t you think?”  Christine asked softly, carefully watching Mel’s reaction of a simple nod as she sipped her water.

She could have a home, Mel thought.

“Intelligent too,” Christine said quietly, watching Mel nod again as she poked at her cake, deep in thought.

With me, Mel considered.

“Not to mention . . . very beautiful,” Christine added with a grin, finally obtaining Mel’s undivided and uneasy attention.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Christine offered magnanimously.

“And what, exactly, don’t I have to say?”  Mel whispered with annoyance.

“I have known you since the first grade, Melinda Pappas.“ Christine countered firmly.  “Does the name Annie Townsend ring a bell?”  She added with a knowing smirk.

The name of a girl Mel had a huge crush on in high school made Mel very uncomfortable, especially since she never said anything to her friend about it.

“If you know so much, why pester me all these years about finding a MAN?”  Melinda snapped.

“Habit?  Besides that’s what best friends do.  Annoy each other,”  Christine blurted.
“You know, if you want to talk about anything, honey. . . I am here,”  Christine said sincerely, glancing back at the still clear hallway.

“There’s nothing to discuss,“ Mel said with uncomfortable disappointment.

“Really?” Christine challenged with a grin as Mel squirmed.

“There’s nothing to discuss, Christine!  Or should I say ‘Tina’ ?”

“You know, she’s probably afraid,” Christine noted helpfully, ignoring her friends denial and the name Tina.

Mel rolled her eyes.

“Janice Covington is not afraid of anyone,” Mel declared with conviction, almost laughing at her friend’s ridiculous suggestion.  “Least of all me.”

“She’s not going to approach you, you know.  You’re going to have to approach her.” Christine relayed strategically, making Mel nervously glance down the still clear hallway. “But of course YOU won’t do it,” Christine answered knowingly, shaking her head sadly.

“But I, I just can’t . . . it’s not. . . she’s so. . . I’ve never. . .I’m not sure. . . what if. . . she’d want . . . but. . . could I? . . . I’m not . . . I just can’t,“ Mel responded, flustered.

Christine stared at her babbling friend, strongly suspecting this was an uneasy subject for her.

“. . . it’s just not my STYLE, Christine,” Mel finally exhaled with annoyance.

“Honey, you don’t HAVE a style.”

Mel’s eyebrows furrowed.

“Hey, I’m just saying that you didn’t get much experience in courtin’ to prepare you for this.  And those debutante balls don’t count.  You’re grandmother chose those dates.”

“This isn’t the same thing as courtin’, Christine,” Mel replied, rolling her eyes.

“Isn’t it?”  She questioned with a smile.  “Suppose you wanted a guy to pay attention to you, what would you do?”

“I haven’t wanted a guy to pay attention to me,” Mel answered flatly.

“Hypothetically,” Christine countered to her still unamused friend, who sighed wearily.  “Fine, be difficult. . . then what would I do?”  Christine questioned, ignoring the stare.

“Throw yourself at him?”  Mel answered with a thin smile.

“Honey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”  Christine smiled.

“Tried what?”  Janice asked curiously as she entered the room, making Mel jump.

“Fondue?”  Christine offered helpfully, shrugging at Mel, who rolled her eyes.

Chapter 13 - Poor Bastard

No style?  Hmphf.  Mel focused on the dashed line in the country road illuminated by her headlights.  She took another annoyed breath and continued to tap her fingers on the steering wheel as she drove home.

“Too bad Tina couldn’t remember more about the accident, “ Janice said, eyeing the tapping fingers on the steering wheel, which only stopped long enough for Mel to grunt.

TINA.  Mel rolled her eyes at the name.

“I didn’t know you never had fondue,”  Janice ventured again after a moment, uncomfortable with the silence since she was unsure of it’s reason.  “It’s pretty good.”

“What??”  Mel responded in confusion.  “Oh. . . I never said. . . oh never mind.”  Mel exhaled wearily.

“You ok?”  Janice asked softly.

Mel glanced at the concerned archeologist.  “I’m fine, Janice,” she offered crisply with a small smile.

“Uh huh,”  Janice responded.

“I am,”  Mel said with irritation.

“Sure,” Janice added.

“You know, I am really tired of my friends saying they know me better than I know myself!”  She snapped.  “Well, I happen to know myself QUITE well, thankyouverymuch,” Mel blurted.

Janice wisely remained silent.

“Not one word,“ Mel cautioned her firmly, relieved the car was dark so her beat-red face was hidden.

“Pull over, Mel,” Janice said softly, surprising Mel until she also noticed the flashing red lights up along the side of the road.

Two policemen searched the wooded area by the river’s edge with flashlights as the coroner wrote some notes in his note book.  He shook his head sadly as his assistants wrapped the body up in a body bag.  His head snapped up when he heard shouting.

“HEY!  You can’t cross the police . . . “ A young policeman chased after Janice, who was marching straight towards the coroner and the body.  “Hey WAIT!!”

Mel quietly trailed the two, watching her step as she carefully descended the hill in her heels.

“Who was it?”  Janice asked the coroner as she stared at the body bag.

“Who are you?  A reporter?”  He snapped back with annoyance.

“No, just a nosey archeologist,” she responded simply, surprising him.

“Miss, you have to lea . . . “ the young police officer nervously told the short woman, who glared at him.

“Gerald?”  Melinda interrupted the young police officer as she squinted at the coroner through her glasses.

“Come on. . .both of you. . . “ the young police officer tried to assert himself, motioning with his flashlight.

“Melinda?  I heard you were back,” Gerald said happily.  “It’s ok, Leo,” he told the young officer, who exhaled with relief, leaving the pushy trespassers for the coroner to worry about.

“I see you’ve met Dr. Covington,” Melinda nodded towards Janice.

“Oh . . . so you’re THAT nosey archeologist.  Melinda wrote about you,” he offered warmly, making the shorter woman glance at Melinda with amazement.  “You know, I thought you’d be . . . uh. . .never mind,“ he said with a chuckle as he closed his small notepad and placed it in his breast pocket.

“Jesus, how homesick were you?”  Janice asked, the tall woman who ignored her question.

“So Gerald, what happened here?”  Melinda asked.

“A drunk fell in the river and drowned himself.  Poor bastard. . . oh excuse my French,” he said with some embarrassment, unaware of the tall southerner’s intimate knowledge of both the actual language and Janice’s version of it.

“Who was it?”  Janice asked again.

“Darryl Underwood, the junkyard owner,” he responded, noting the woman sigh heavily and shake her head sadly.  “You know him?”

“We met recently at his junkyard.  How do you know he fell and drowned himself?”  Janice asked, kneeling next to the body bag.

The coroner laughed.  “What else could have happened to him?  The man was a known drunk, living next to the river a few miles from here, the river currents are strong. . . . HEY, don’t touch the body!“

“Janice?”  Melinda asked uneasily.

“Come on Gerald, you said you already know how he died.  I won’t be disturbing any evidence then, will I?  I’d like to see. . . you must understand my curiosity,”  Janice gently persisted.

“Uh. . . of course, but . . . “

“Janice. . . “ Mel blurted, shivering at the gross thought.

“You shouldn’t be so repulsed, Mel.  The human body is an amazing thing.  Even in death.”

“Especially in death,” Gerald added and stepped towards the bag.

Mel was not sure of which disturbed her more.  The fact Janice asked to see the body or that Gerald was actually going to show it to her.

“Are you ok?”  Janice asked, returning to Mel’s side by the car.  She quickly left the body, not as interested in discussing the effects of drowning as her shorter friend.

“Did you HAVE to ask to see the body?”  Mel complained, still feeling queasy as she fanned herself with her hat.


Mel eyed her with alarm.  “So you don’t think he was drunk and drowned himself?”  Mel said uneasily.

“There was no evidence suggesting otherwise,”  Janice relayed, flatly.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Darryl spent his life by the river and probably most of his life drinking.  I just find it hard to believe . . . ,”  Janice said then stopped.  “I just have a feeling Mel.  That’s all I have.”  Janice said with sigh and got into the passenger’s side of the car.

As they entered the house, Colonel Pappas came out from the library with a book.  “You two are getting in kind of late?  Christine keep you chatting?”  He asked with a chuckle, then noticed the looks on their faces.  “What’s wrong?”

“Darryl Underwood’s body was found by the river.  Gerald thinks he was drunk and drowned himself,”  Mel informed him with a shiver.

“Poor bastard. . . ,”  Colonel shook his head.  “Try to get some sleep, honey,” he said and kissed Mel on the forehead.  Not many people could reach that high, Janice observed.

“Good night, Janice.”


“It is getting late,” Janice noted, alone with Mel.  “You going to be all right?”  She asked the pale southerner.

Mel nodded, not very convincingly.  Before Janice could say anything, Mel spoke.  “You should try to get some rest . . . .”

Janice looked at her and sighed.

“You’ve got a big date tomorrow,” Mel added with a thin smile.

“It’s not a date,”  Janice growled.

Chapter 14 - The Date. . . uh, Lunch

Mel watched out the window from her bedroom as Reverend Hammond shut the car door for Janice.  She sighed heavily as they drove away, down the long tree-lined driveway.

Ruby shook her head sadly for the dejected woman.

“Honey, don’t be so blue.  Mark my words, he’s gonna learn what kind of woman she is soon enough.  Then he’ll be knocking at your door, realizing just how foolish he was,”  Ruby offered and was met with a silent stare that made her uneasy.

“And what kind of woman IS she, Ruby?”  Mel finally asked, with narrowing eyes.

“Honey, she’s not. . . church going.  I don’t even think she’s Baptist,” Ruby offered carefully, hoping to help her see the real archeologist was not the person she had been putting on a pedestal in all those letters.

“No, she’s not Baptist,” Mel responded flatly, staring at Ruby.  “I didn’t realize that was a sin.”

“I just mean. . . ,“ Ruby responded, still determined to make her see.  “Dr. Covington is too. . . independent, honey.  She doesn’t seem like the type to be settlin’ down and raisin’ a family.  Reverend Hammond, or any man for that matter, will want a wife who  can take care of him, his home, and his children.  Now how can a . . . career-minded. . . woman do all that?“ the older woman offered delicately and smiled weakly with a shrug.

“If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the library,” Mel said flatly as she left the room, disturbed that Ruby’s observations on Janice settling down might be right.

“Did you always want to be an archeologist?”  Wayne asked, then sipped his iced tea.

“No,” Janice smirked.  “Would you believe I was going to be a nun?  Well, until I understood all the strings attached,” she smirked.  He nodded thoughtfully.  She rolled her eyes.

“The Catholic faith has always puzzled me.  The bible says be fruitful and multiply, yet that is the very thing priests and nuns are prohibited from doing. . . well . . .”  He sighed, shaking his head.  “Thankfully, there are all sorts of ways to do the good Lord’s work.  You don’t have to be a nun or priest . . . or reverend for that matter.  You just need to help others,” he said with a warm smile.

She smiled at the waitress who served her another soda.  “Could I have another piece of pie when you get a chance?”  Janice asked, making the reverend wonder if it was the first time she ate that day.  The waitress nodded with a smile.

“Is that why you know the bible so well?”  He asked, returning his thoughts to his favorite subject - religion.  “Because you wanted to be a nun?”

She almost choked on her soda.  “Well,” she responded and cleared her throat.  “In Catholic school, I couldn’t really avoid it,” she explained, with a dismissive shrug.

“Ah . . . but you remembered the verses,” he countered with a grin.  The waitress returned with the pie.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” Janice said to the waitress and received a curious look from the reverend.  “I have a good memory.  Thankfully, it helped me impress the nuns,” Janice continued with a smirk, remembering Sister Mary Katherine in particular.

He smiled. “I know I like it when Reverend Baylor is pleased with my work.  I guess we are alike in that way.”

“If you say so,” Janice responded and smiled at her pie with fork in hand.  Taking a bite she closed her eyes a moment, savoring the flavor.  “This is really good, you sure you don’t want a piece?”  Janice asked.  He shook his head no with a grin.

“So why archeology?” Wayne persisted.  “It’s certainly a different direction than a career in the church.”

“I wanted to prove my father’s theory about the Xena scrolls,” Janice mentioned uncomfortably.  “So, what does your father do?”  She asked, then ate more pie.

“He died when I was young.  But I followed in my father’s footsteps and became a preacher.  So I guess we are alike in that way too,” he suggested bashfully, looking at his tea.

“We’re so much alike. . . maybe we’re related,” Janice offered dryly.

“I certainly hope not,” he mentioned with an embarrassed chuckle.

Oh God. . . .

“So, where’s this church wing you’ve been raving to me about?”  Janice asked with a polite smile, making the young man beam.

Melinda sighed again as she reviewed her latest translation.  She did not get much further than she did in Greece.  She found this scroll particularly difficult to get through.  Not because the translation was tricky or there were missing pieces of parchment, but because she really was not interested in learning more about Xena’s adventure with Ulysses.

Though Gabrielle’s words had painted him as a handsome, heroic figure, Mel could not bring herself to see the King of Ithaca as that.  No, from the words that were not written and the unusually sterile account of their adventures by the normally passionate bard, Mel saw Ulysses as she believed Gabrielle saw him - another person standing in the way of two soul-mates destined to be together.

“Do you have a moment?”  Mrs. Pappas asked, surprising her granddaughter as she entered the library.

Melinda looked up from her scroll.  “Sure, I am due for a break,” Melinda informed her with a small smile.

Victoria eyed the old, musty parchment and sighed heavily.

“Is something wrong?”  Melinda asked evenly, ready for yet another argument about career choices.

“Nothing I can’t take care of with a little planning, dear.  We’ve all been invited to the Redding’s for dinner this evening.  It’s their anniversary party.”

“Tonight?  It’s rather last moment,“ Mel responded uneasily, imagining what Janice would say.

“Well, dear, we were invited about a month ago.  But I’m sure they will understand if you don’t go.  You’ve barely had a moment’s rest since you’ve returned home,” Mrs. Pappas noted, her thoughtful comment surprising Melinda.  “But that means you and Brian will have to fend for yourselves for dinner.  He isn’t up for socializing this evening,” the older woman informed her.

Melinda withheld a grin, wondering if the reason was embarrassment over his current appearance, and it’s cause.

“Where will Ruby be?”  Melinda asked.  Ruby rarely took time off.

“I gave her the night off.  I didn’t think she’d be needed.  If you want, I’ll tell her she should stay and make dinner for you,” Victoria offered with a thin smile.

“I can cook, grandmother,”  Melinda relayed with annoyance.

“If you say so, dear.”

The reverend drove up to the church, chattering away about anything and everything.  To her surprise, Janice found herself enjoying his company.  He was easy to be around.

Janice got out of the car before Wayne had a chance to get the door for her.  “You keep doing that!”  Wayne complained half-heartedly.

“I am capable of opening my own door, Wayne.”

“I know you are, it’s just that people will think . . . “

“. . . that I don’t like to wait?“ she interrupted him with a challenge in her eye.

“I suppose you don’t,” he smirked.  “Well, here it is.  The new wing. . .or the beginnings of a new wing.”  He motioned to partially constructed building, framed by scaffolding populated by a number of busy workers.

“Very impressive, Wayne,”  Janice noted as they walked closer to the building site.

“You mean it?”  Wayne asked, surprising Janice.

“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it,”  Janice said firmly, making the young man smile.

A few of the workers noticed the reverend and greeted him warmly.  Wayne waved.
“Looks good, guys!”  He called out.

Janice recognized one of them.  The doctor who had seen her in the Emergency Room, Doctor Reed, was pushing a wheel barrel full of debris away from the site.

“We hope to get it finished by next month.  So the real work can begin,” Wayne informed her, evoking a curious look from the archeologist.  “With the extra space and new facilities, we are going to hopefully recruit more and expand our congregation,” he explained.

Janice nodded silently, feeling curiously uneasy.

“Come on, let me show you the grounds,” he said with enthusiasm.

The two walked around the site, periodically interrupted by workers who wanted to say hello to the reverend and his friend.  When Janice was introduced, a few people told her Melinda had mentioned the archeologist in her letters.

Wayne chuckled at the less-than-thrilled  look on Janice’s face.  “You don’t like attention, do . . . .“  Startling Wayne in mid-sentence, Janice dashed to steady a wobbly ladder a worker was climbing up with his arms full of 2 X 4's.

“Hey thanks,” the man called down with a smile.  “. . . Dr. Covington,” his said flatly as his smile faded, still sore from her right hook.

“Jesus, Ed, you should get a helper, or try smaller loads.  You could have broken your neck,” Janice snapped with annoyance.

Wayne looked at Janice, a bit startled at her use of the Lord’s name.  He shrugged it off, owing the slip to her obvious concern for the careless worker.

“Yes, Ed, please be more careful,” Wayne called up to him.  “You’re a good man, I’d hate to have anything happen to you.”

Ed looked down at the odd couple and sighed with a nod.

Wayne eyed Janice.  “I didn’t realize you were so quick on your feet,” he grinned approvingly.

“I get a lot of practice,” Janice mentioned.

“Good thing for Ed,”  Wayne smiled, then looked back at the old church.  “So, what do you say about coming to our service tomorrow?”

“No,” Janice replied firmly.

“Ah. . .a Catholic,” he said with a knowing smirk.  “Well, perhaps we can persuade you sometime to take a look at what the Baptists are about.  You may find you like what you see,”  Wayne said with a warm smile, making Janice understand why there were so many volunteers helping with the church.

She mused at the collection of helpers recruited by this man’s charm.  She noticed Leo, the policeman from last night, working right along side of the Everson brothers, who Mel had mentioned had a bit of trouble with the law.  But from the number of women on the site, she suspected his good looks and dazzling smile also had something to do with it, she smirked.

“Perhaps, Mrs. Pappas can give you an idea what we’ve been up to...”

“Tell me Wayne, have you ever sold used cars?”  Janice interjected dryly.

“Ok, Ok,” he responded with a chuckle, lifting his hands in temporary defeat.  “Do you want to take a look at the plans?”  He asked eagerly.

“Sure. . . why not.“

Mel glanced around the large kitchen for a few minutes before she decided to take a look in the ice box.  “Chicken!”  She blurted at the find with a big grin, knowing Janice really enjoyed that roasted chicken in the New York hotel they stayed in their first night back.  If she liked that, she’ll love Ruby’s recipe, Mel thought happily as she dug through the treasury of recipes in the kitchen drawer.

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, she considered, then grinned, wondering if the same could be said for archeologists.  Her grin faded as
Christine’s blunt words to her the night before popped into her thoughts.  With a furrowed brow, the tall southerner searched the collection of recipes with determination and muttered “I have style. . . .”

“What’s for dinner?”  Brian burst through the kitchen door as Mel checked on the chicken in the oven.  Brian, she sighed wearily, knowing he would definitely cramp whatever style she had.

“Why aren’t you going to the Redding’s?”  She asked the third wheel.

“I’m tired,” Brian offered, surprised at her blunt question.

“You don’t look tired.  In fact you look like you’d rather be out on a Saturday night.”  Melinda offered with a thin smile.

“Well, I can’t,”  Brian replied with irritation.

“Why not?”

“I’m tired,” he offered flatly with an unenthusiastic smile.

“I see,”  Melinda sighed heavily.  Perhaps another day, she thought.  “Well, dinner will be ready in about an hour.”

“I’ll be in the billiards room,”  Brian informed her with an equally heavy sigh and left the kitchen.

Pealing a potato over the sink, Mel heard a car drive up.  Placing the spud down in the pot, she wiped her hands on her apron as she left the kitchen and wandered to the front window.  She watched as Reverend Hammond hopped out of the car and raced around to Janice’s door, almost in time to open it.

“Ugh!  You NEVER will give me a break will you??”  He called out, then chuckled at her stubborn streak.

“Hey, you’re pretty fast on your feet too,”  Janice smirked.

“Well apparently not fast enough,” he lamented.  “So. . . can we do this again?”  He asked, wiping the smile from Janice’s face.  “Look Janice, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.  I just enjoy your company and would like a chance. . . to sell you a used car,” he joked.

Janice shook her head and laughed.  “All right, Wayne.  We can have lunch again.  But I’m not buying any cars from you.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re Catholic, I know,” he said with a smile, and backed away like a school boy, bumping the front of the car and almost tripping over his own feet as he returned to the driver’s side.  “Bye,” he said sheepishly and waved.

Janice blankly stared as the reverend’s car drove away.


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