Authors: j l johnson
“The doctor is here and he needs us to step out for a minute,” he told her as he pulled her to her feet. “We’ll be in the coffee shop,” he nodded to the doctor and pulled her out of the room.
“I have to,”
“There’s a restroom right by the coffee shop,” Walter interrupted, smiling down at her. “How do you feel?” he asked. “That was all pretty stressful last night.”
“I was so scared for her,” she said, and then abruptly stopped walking. She turned to him and took his hand, “Thank you for everything, I’m not sure how I would’ve handled that without you.”
“You would’ve handled everything just fine, you know that and so do I. Hell, I didn’t even do anything anyway. And beside that, we both know you’re the kind of woman who needs a man about as much as a fish needs a bicycle,” he laughed, patting her hand. He cocked his eyebrow and leaned down, smiling, “but you do know I’ll always be there for you, don’t you?”
Ida Belle smacked his shoulder. “You need to find yourself a good woman, Walter.”
“I already have a good woman,” he kept her hand in his and started down the hallway again.
“I mean find one that’ll marry you. You know, you and I, well…”
“Oh, believe me, I know, and I think marriage is way over-rated. You’d probably get sick of me after a couple of decades or so anyway.”
“A couple of decades or so, huh?” she chuckled and then got serious, “I just don’t want you thinkin,”
“I try real hard not to think, it hurts my head.” he interrupted her, smirking. “Don’t ever worry your pretty head about me, Ida Belle, I know how things really are, and I’m just fine with it being what it is.”
Gertie was yawning as Ida Belle came back in her room, “I’m so sleepy, I just want my own bed. I wanna go home.”
“They’ll probably release you this afternoon, the sheriff wants to talk to you first.”
“Walter’s talking to him now. They didn’t catch that guy,” Ida Belle said, looking frustrated. “We were so focused on you, nobody saw him get back in that station wagon and drive away. They think they know who it was, though and they want you to tell them everything you can remember.”
“I’ll talk to him then and after that, can we please just go home?”
“Back to the cabins?” Walter asked, as he came back in with the sheriff in tow.
“No, home, I wanna go home.”
“It’s either the cabins or the car I’m afraid. We can’t go home at least until tomorrow, and he says,” nodding at the sheriff, “all the motels around here are booked tonight, even that scummy motel we found you in,” Walter said.
The sheriff nodded back. “Hurricane Carmen came ashore last night, and they’re still cleaning up the roads,” he pointed at the window, where the storm was still raging outside. “Feel up to answering a few questions?” he gently asked Gertie as he pulled a chair beside the bed.
Friday night, September 13, 1974
“Now, that there is a man, he’s just dreamy,” Gertie sighed, hugging a sofa pillow closer to her chest during the first commercial break. They were watching
The Rockford Files
, James Garner’s new show on NBC. “I’m pretty sure I would give up being single for him…”
They’d settled in Gertie’s living room to watch the show after spending most of the week cleaning up the mess Carmen had left behind. The two of them were in Gertie’s living room because Gertie had central air conditioning, running full blast, letting little of the outside air in.
Although Sinful hadn’t been in the direct path of the storm, trees were down everywhere and the bayou
flooded, this time leaving masses of foul-smelling mud throughout the parish.
Most of the mud had been removed, but the stench still hung in the air over the town like an invisible fog. Walter had reported his scented candle sales had skyrocketed when they stopped in his store earlier in the day.
“I don’t mind the sales, but we need a good rainstorm to clear out the remaining mud. That’s the only thing that’s gonna help. Lighting candles will help about as much as putting perfume on a pig, especially if that pig lived its whole life on Number Two,” he’d snickered when Ida Belle congratulated him on the sales.
“I invited Ida Belle to stay with me,” Gertie said as Ida Belle paid for her purchases, “but you know how stubborn she is.
“Geez Gertie, I’m standing right here,” Ida Belle exclaimed, picking up her package and elbowing Gertie. “I just like my own bed. So sue me.”
“You’d be more comfortable,” Gertie started to say.
“Give it up Gertie,” Walter interrupted her as he handed Ida Belle her change. “I know it and you know it. When she says no, she means no.”
“Oh dear me, how I know it,” Gertie sighed but then brightened up. “You never know though, a miracle could happen, one of these days.” She cocked her head at Ida Belle, “ready?” Ida Belle nodded and Gertie turned back to Walter, “drop by later if you want to. We’re gonna watch that new show, you know, the one with James Garner? I’m even making popcorn. I promise we won’t swoon too much.”
“Thanks Gertie,” Walter chuckled, “sounds like fun, but I think I’ll pass. You ladies have a nice evening though.” He handed Ida Belle her receipt, holding her hand in his a moment longer than was strictly necessary. He waved as they went out the door.
“Maybe for a night,” Ida Belle snorted, “he might be charming and ruggedly handsome but, under all those muscles and that attractive actor facade, he’s still just a man.”
“Speaking of charming and ruggedly handsome, you and Walter…”
“Don’t even start,” Ida Belle bristled. “I know what you’re thinking…”
“That was a pretty steamy kiss…”
“That’s got to be some kind of record for you; you didn’t mention it for a whole week. It was just a kiss. That’s all it was, he just caught me at a really weak moment,” Ida Belle said. “You were lying there all bandaged and unconscious and…” Ida Belle shrugged. “And I got weepy.”
“Aw, that’s so sweet.”
“Like I said, it was a weak moment,” she chuckled, “don’t get used to it.”
“I think Walter would like to get used to it…” Gertie wiggled her eyebrows comically up and down, and started to sing, “Walter and Ida Belle sittin in a tree… K I S S I N G… First comes love… Then comes marriage…”
“Gertie Hebert!” Ida Belle raised her voice, “you stop that nonsense right now! Somebody could hear you…” She ducked, avoiding the sofa pillow Gertie had launched at her. “Hush now, the show’s back on!”
“Okay, but we’ll continue this discussion later,” Gertie stage whispered and then turned back to face the undeniably handsome Mr. Garner.
“I think I’m gonna like this show,” Gertie smiled as she turned off the television. “Now, what were we talkin about?” she scratched her head. “Oh yeah, Walter and Ida Belle sittin in a tree,”
“Stop!” Ida Belle stood and shook her index finger in Gertie’s face. “Stop right now, or so help me,”
“Or you’ll what?” Gertie laughed, “say stop again?”
“You’d try the patience of a saint,” Ida Belle hissed.
“We’re still not Catholic, so I’m not buyin it,” Gertie said. “Okay, you and Walter? Did you talk to him about that kiss?”
“Of course we talked about it! You’re stickin your nose in where it don’t belong!”
“Doesn’t,” Gertie said. “Where it doesn’t belong.”
“Don’t you dare go all teacher on me right now!” Ida Belle huffed.
“I just love both of you and I don’t want either of you gettin hurt,” Gertie got serious suddenly. “You two are my heroes, ya’know.”
Ida Belle about fell back onto the couch. That had been the last thing she’d expected Gertie to say. “I wasn’t a hero. That was the scariest night of my life. I thought you were dead! I was so relieved when Walter told me you were still alive. And not knowing whether that man was still there or not…”
“I’m sorry Ida Belle. I think it was all harder for you than me,” Gertie chuckled, “I was passed out for most of it. I don’t remember much.”
“Just don’t ever do that to me again,” Ida Belle clutched her chest. “I need cough syrup, want some?” she asked, getting up and heading into the kitchen.
December 18, 1974
“The Casanova Killer is dead,” Walter announced, handing them the folded-over front page of that morning’s
when they walked into his store. “Did you know that’s what the newspaper called that guy who grabbed you?”
“Oh dear, that really
him!” Gertie gasped as she looked at the picture. “He actually killed people?” she asked Walter, her eyes wide open and her eyebrows threatening to go all the way up into her hairline.
“Nasty piece of work, he was. They’re saying he killed eighteen people this year alone. He claimed he killed a lot more but the FBI hasn’t verified any more than eighteen,” Walter shook his head. “He also raped some of those poor women... He was a nasty, evil excuse for a human being if you ask me.”
“I knew he was a bad, bad man. I knew we got lucky,” Ida Belle said, wrapping her arm around Gertie. “If we hadn’t found you when we did…”
“Hush dear,” Gertie interrupted her. “You two did find me in time, before anything horrible happened,” she smiled and quickly brushed a tear from her eye. “You really are my heroes.”
Thank you for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you did enjoy it, I’d love it if you’d take just a minute to write a short review.
I’d like to share a few thoughts on the story:
Although I fictionalized the majority of the story, quite a few events included in the text actually happened. We all know the name Carmen was stricken from the lists of future hurricane names because of the massive damage it did in late August, and early September of 1974.
On Labor Day Eve, September 1, 1974, in Austin, Texas at the University of Texas’ Memorial Stadium, there really was a day-long concert, called “ZZ Top's First Annual Texas Sized Rompin' Stompin' Barn Dance and BBQ,” and as Gertie lamented, there wasn’t a single comma in the entire ad.
It was also ZZ Top’s last annual concert. The stadium didn’t host another concert for years because of the damage done by the estimated 80,000 attendees. Someone carved out the shape of the state of Texas in the astro-turf and at one point during the long wait between bands, some of the turf caught on fire and sent clouds of smoke billowing throughout the stadium.
It was Bad Company’s first-ever, live concert appearance, and Jimmy Page really did land by helicopter to accompany them on the guitar during their second set. Joe Cocker was so drunk when he took the stage, he actually projectile vomited while singing ‘You’re So Beautiful.’ Roadies were finally called upon to drag him off the stage.
The concessions ran out of everything during the first few hours of the concert, forcing people to get creative in obtaining food and drink in the one-hundred degree heat. Human pyramids and blanket tossing kept the concert attendees occupied during the intermissions between acts, which went on for hours, and caused numerous accidents. First aid stations were kept extremely busy throughout the entire day.
ZZ Top wasn’t very well known back then, they were a regional act, and the members of the band wore rhinestone-encrusted nudie suits and cowboy hats for their performance that night. They had little facial hair in 1974; their signature long beards were grown much later.
Paul John Knowles (April 17, 1946 – December 18, 1974), also known as “The Casanova Killer”, was a real serial killer who was on the run, traveling all over the country, during the summer and fall of 1974. His killing spree took the lives of at least eighteen people by late November when he was apprehended. He claimed to have killed dozens more, but only 18 deaths by his hand have ever been verified. He was fatally injured during a shoot-out with an FBI agent while trying to make an escape on December 18, 1974.
Toledo Bend Reservoir, east of Milan, TX, and west of Many, LA, was completed in 1969. To this day, the lake is best suited to shallow-draft power boats because of the large number of trees and stumps that still remain in the body of the lake. Walter’s rubber raft wouldn’t have lasted long in the recently flooded lake.
And, last, but certainly not least, Friday, September 13th of 1974 was the debut television broadcast of "The Rockford Files" starring James Garner on NBC-TV.
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