Just a Little Bit Crazy, Chapter 14

This entry is part 14 of 19 in the series Crazy

Chapter 14

Jim stuck the steel blade of the shovel in the ditch bank and sat down beside it. He glanced at his watch. It was almost noon and there was a chill in the air. High valley had an altitude of over five thousand feet. It was much cooler there than down in the city of Boise.

His mind was on the happenings of yesterday. When they left here they were prepared to stay for several days. He hadn’t expected to solve this part of the riddle in only one day, but they had gotten lucky.

There would never be any doubt in either of their minds as to the identify of the Rogers woman. When she had stood just inside the doorway with her hair hanging over her eyes there had been much more than a family resemblance.

The greenish brown eyes the coarse features the hair hanging down in strands were all a Rotten trade mark. When she had walked to the back room, the sway of her body, the way she carried her head was very much the same as that of Martha Rotten.

Of course, there was no actual proof, but is there ever? Jim could just imagine seeing the two girls side by side and then standing Martha there. If you were to ask a thousand people which was the daughter, there could only be one answer.

Jim grinned. At least they wouldn’t be afraid that their offspring would resemble the Rotten family from Dead Horse Gulch!

Yes, they had found out who her parents really were. She would never meet them in this world and would never bear their name. But this didn’t matter. She had a mental picture of them, and it was a good one. And now her true origin was resolved she was happy.

His thoughts drifted to the other girl. At least one of the Rotten family had gotten a break. She hadn’t been born and raised on a ranch up Dead Horse Gulch and didn’t have a Rotten name.

No one but himself and Elly May knew this secret. No one else would ever know.

Doctor Reynolds had said that they could stir up a hornet’s nest, and he was right. They could but they wouldn’t. The Roger’s girl must never know.

At least part of the mystery concerning Elly May was solved, but there was more. What had happened to make her forget fourteen years of her life?

Could there be a connection between the two? He couldn’t see how, but he would keep his eyes open.

And there was Doctor Andersen, and then Uncle John came into the picture about the same time she had disappeared – the same time she lost her memory. Neither he or aunt Nelly would tell the girl what had happened to her. Why?

And the Rottens knew. When she had asked Martha she had said, “I am not free to tell you and don’t ask me again.”

Yes the whole damn bunch of them knew. Why the cover-up? Usually in a case of this kind there is a large amount of money involved. Here there was nothing, or was there? Suddenly Jim sat up straight. Maybe there was lots of money: From the looks of their house, the Battens could have been very wealthy.

Jim got up and started pacing up and down the ditch bank. Had the Rottens discovered that she was not one of them? Had they sent her to Seattle and held her as a hostage while they bled the Batten family dry? Was the Doctor and aunt Nelly in on the deal and had kept her drugged causing her to lose her memory?

Seth and the boys sure wanted her home all of a sudden. Yes something funny had been going on and he intended to find out what it was.

The Rottens hadn’t showed a lot of prosperity these last few years, but you could never tell about that bunch. The State had paid them a lot of money but they hadn’t been throwing that around.

Jim felt like he should get Seth cornered somewhere and beat the truth out of him. He had it coming, the dirty rotten bastard.

Yesterday after they had left the furniture store they had got in the car and drove around for awhile. Elly May sat staring out the window saying nothing. Suddenly she gave vent to her feelings and buried her head in his lap and cried softly.

No doubt this had been an ordeal for her to go through. One minute she was the daughter of the Rotten family that lived up Dead Horse Gulch. The next she was the daughter of the Battens that lived in the house with the swimming pool, tennis court and all the trimmings.

Jim had found a shady spot and parked the car. Elly May dried her eyes and attempted to smile. She retrieved some things out of her purse, powdered her nose and put on fresh lipstick.

She looked over at him. “Darling, you are wonderful. You have made my dreams come true. The other day at the ranch you told me that I was not one of them. I believed you. Somehow you have a way of knowing what is right, and you have been so right.” She drew herself close to him. “I know I will never meet my real parents, and I know we must burn our bridges behind us. So please, tell me what were they like?”

Jim held her close. Once again she seemed like a four year old.

He leaned back and closed his eyes. “Your father was a big guy, even bigger than me. He had dark curly hair and blue eyes, a straight nose, a firm chin, full mouth and white teeth. He was a real handsome guy. Everyone liked him.” Jim wondered how he was doing.

“And my mother?”

Jim reflected and continued, “Your mother was small, about your own size. Like your father she had big blue eyes. I guess that is why your eyes are so big and so blue. You take after them both. Your mother liked to sing, dance and play the piano. Oh yes, she had golden hair that hung in curls. She liked to be adored. For several minutes he rambled on.

He had looked down to see how he was doing. There was a smile on her face and she was sound asleep.

He had started the car and headed for home. He kept looking down at the girl beside him. She certainly had been through her share of troubles. He tried to put himself in her place. How would it feel to wake up some morning and not know who you are? All you knew was that you had to go to the john. That would be awful!

Everything around you would be strange, even the people! How would it feel to know that a dog was a dog and a cat was a cat, but you couldn’t remember how you had learned these things?

You might come to the conclusion that you were JUST LITTLE BIT CRAZY.

After they had arrived at the ranch and everyone was in bed Jim went to the book casein the living room. He pulled out a big black medical book and laid it on the table.

Years ago his mother had bought it from a book salesman. Doctor bills would become a thing of the past, the man said. The Green family had studied the thing and looked at the pictures. For years it had been lying here gathering dust.

He consulted the index then opened it to a chapter called: Amnesia. He began to read. According to the book it was caused by damage to the brain. It listed ways that the damage might occur: mental shock, physical shock and a high fever headed the list. Right at the last there was a notation. Be sure and call a doctor.

Jim got up from the ditch bank and dusted off his trousers. No doubt Elly May had somehow received damage to her brain.

The book had said mental shock could cause amnesia. Had she been frightened? Scared out of her wits, as the old saying goes. Maybe the thought of being one of the Rotten tribe and living up Dead Horse Gulch had been too much for her. That would cause most any sound mind to crack, Jim thought.

Physical shock was another. Had she been badly hurt? Had she been in a car wreck? If so why keep it a secret?

The book said a high fever was a possibility. Had she been real sick and had a high fever? Maybe she had spotted fever. His father had died of it and had been out of his mind in his last few days.

But this didn’t make sense No one would try and keep something like this a secret.

It had only taken them one day to find out who her real parents were. It shouldn’t take much longer to solve the rest of the riddle. He wondered where would be the best place to start.

He would only be inviting trouble if he went to the Rotten ranch. Oswald would have a mighty sore arm. There had probably been a big doctor bill and Seth would be madder than a hornet!

Uncle John and Aunt Nelly knew what was going on, but they were in Hawaii. He wondered when they would return.

He put the shovel over his shoulder and headed for the house. He was hungry.

He leaned the shovel against the big pine tree and looked around. The Buick was gone. Then he remembered his mother had said something about having dinner at the Grange Hall today. He opened the door and walked in.

Elly May was standing there, all smiles, in front of him. She stepped up on top of his shoes and put her arms around his neck. “Got something for me?” she whispered.

Jim kissed her on the lips. “Something smells good. You got something for me?”

She pushed herself back. “How about a nice big trout dinner?”

“Sounds and smells good. Where did you get the trout?”

“Out of the pond of course.”

“You mean to tell me that you caught a trout out of the pond?”

“Two of them.”

“How in the world did you know how to go about it?” “Your mother showed me how to put the worm on the hook. I did the rest.”

“And you cleaned and cooked them too?”

“Sure nothing to it.” She slid down off his shoes. “Come and get it while it’s still hot.”

Jim thought it was the best meal he had ever eaten. The trout fried to a golden brown were delicious. She also served him French fries and a salad topped off with a cherry pie.

Jim was amazed. This certainly didn’t look like the work of a four year old.

“Where did you learn to cook?” he asked.

“Aunt Nelly taught me a lot. For the last two years I have been cooking and keeping house for them. Both Uncle John and Aunt Nelly work most of the time.”

“What does your aunt Nelly do?”

“She is an R.N. and works at the hospital.”

Uncle John and Aunt Nelly would have a sizeable income, Jim thought. They were probably good respectable people. At least they had taught her a few things.

He felt great. Not only would he have the prettiest wife in the neighborhood but one that could cook as well.

Then when the meal was over she put the dishes in the dishwasher and came over and stood beside him. “I have everything put away. Shall we retreat to the back yard? It is so nice out there.”

Jim got to his feet. “Sounds like a very good idea. Lead the way.”

She took him by the hand and guided him through the back door. They walked over to where the water left the pond and sat down in one of the love seats. The water made sweet music as it went tumbling down over the rocks.

Elly May leaned her head on his shoulder. “Did you enjoy the dinner, darling?”

“It was wonderful; the best I hare ever tasted!”

“Oh I am so glad. I want so much to make you happy. You have been so wonderful to me, Jim. You are so kind and considerate.” Her little fingers were running through his hair. “Oh darling, I am so happy. I feel like I should stand up and shout! A few days ago I was nothing. I didn’t even know my name.”

The nimble fingers were doing things to his shirt. A little white hand slipped inside. Under her gentle touch the Goose pimples began to rise. She kept talking, “Life is a funny thing Jim. A few days ago I was so scared I couldn’t have thought of marrying you or bearing your child. I would died of fear. I would close my eyes. and I could see the little ones running around with black stringy hair and green eyes. Oh Jim, it was awful:”

He kissed her gently. “Everything is going to be just fine now. We got rid of that problem.”

“When will we be married Jim?”

“Right away. But first we must get some rings.”

She slipped over on his lap. The little arms were around his neck. She drew herself close her eyes were bright. “Do I get a diamond, a real diamond?

“As real as they get.”

“Oh Jim, I can hardly wait.”

“You won’t be waiting very long” he grinned, “but I might have to sell a cow and a calf.”

She kissed him on the lips. “Maybe Uncle John and Aunt Nelly can come down for the wedding.”

“that would be nice. By the way, have you called them or wrote to them since you have been here?”

“No, but I left them a note telling them I was going home for a visit.”

Jim thought this over. If the Andersens suddenly returned home and found the note they might become alarmed. There was no phone at the Rotten ranch so they would have no way of getting in touch with her. “Is there anyone staying at the house?” Jim asked.

She nodded, “Yes, a woman that decorates the house every spring. It is a very large house and it takes her quite awhile . She will be there for another week or so.”

“Does she stay there at night?”

“Yes, and I am sure she will stay there until the Andersens return.”

Jim thought for a moment. If the Andersens called their home from Hawaii the cleaning lady could give them very little information concerning Elly May They might be very worried. “Did you tell the cleaning lady where you were going?

“I told her that I was going home for a visit.”

“But she doesn’t know you are here at my place?”

The girl shook her head, “No she doesn’t. Do you suppose I should write her a letter?”

“Better than that, give her a call.”

“Right now?”

“Right now!”

She rose to her feet. “I will hurry darling. Wait right here.”

“If the cleaning lady answers give her our phone number. So that the Andersens will know where to get in touch with you.”

“Right you are, and I am on my way.” she took off on the run, like an obedient child, Jim thought. She was doing what she was told to do. She didn’t seem to know how to argue. Probably no one had taught her how.

He made himself comfortable on the bench, leaned back and closed his eyes. She was going to make him a wonderful partner. No longer was she a member of the Rotten clan and soon she would be his wife. He felt proud.

They had told his mother about their experience in Boise. She had not been a bit surprised and said so. They told her everything but the names of the people involved. This would be their secret forever.

One riddle had been solved but there was one left. And it was indeed a puzzler. It wouldn’t seem nearly so important if certain parties weren’t so damn secretive. Why the cover-up? They probably had a reason all right. What could it be?

When Elly May questioned Martha, she had answered, I am not free to tell you.” She also said, “I am in no way responsible for what happened to you,” and, “You are well now so why don’t you forget the whole thing.”

These weren’t the exact words but they held meaning. Martha knew what was going on all right. She wasn’t the most intelligent person in the world, but still a good hearted old girl. If she was covering up something it probably was to protect Seth or one of his worthless offspring.

Martha probably believed Elly May to be her daughter. If she did she certainly owed it to the girl to confide in her. If it was some sort of sickness that caused her to lose her memory she had a right to know.

Could it be that this was correct and they were afraid of a reoccurrence? Were they trying to protect her?

He didn’t think so. Martha had said, “Thank God you are well now.” He didn’t think she was putting on an act.

He swore under his breath, “Damn their ornery hides, we have a right to know and I will get to the bottom of this if it takes me the rest of my life.”

The back door opened and Elly May came walking out. Jim got to his feet. “Any luck?” he asked.

Elly Nay nodded. “Yes I talked to the cleaning lady. I told her where I was staying and gave her your phone number. There have been no calls or letters from Uncle John and Aunt Nelly.

“Good girl,” Jim took her by the hand. “We won’t have to worry about that any more.”

As they sat down on the bench once more she moved toward him and put her head on his shoulder.

He slipped an arm around. her drawing her close.

The big blue eyes looked up at him, “Jim darling, I am so glad you had me phone. It was stupid of me not to do so without being told. Forgive me?”

“There is nothing to forgive.

“Be patient with me darling and keep in mind that four years ago I hardly knew anything. It was only a few days ago that I learned that my name was Rotten. Then yesterday we discovered that it wasn’t Rotten at all. It was Batten.” The trace of a smile crossed her beautiful face. “Give me time Jim, I will learn.”

“We have lots of time,” He whispered.

She snuggled close, “And don’t forget darling. This is the first time that I have attempted to do anything on my own. I never left the house without telling Uncle John or Aunt Nelly. I really had so summon all my courage to catch the bus that morning.”

He kissed her on the forehead. “I am sure glad you did.”

“And I was so scared when I took off. I didn’t know if there would be anyone to meet me. Then you come walking up. I didn’t recognize your features but something down deep inside me told me that you were my man. Then like I knew my man would do you started taking care of me.”

The girl paused for a moment and kissed him on the lips.

“Then when you danced with me and held me close. I knew I had found what I was searching for.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Then you told me I had been your sweetheart before.”

“You were darling.”

“Oh, I was so glad and so thankful. I didn’t know how to act. I have had no experience with men before. I probably didn’t act at all like a lady should. But I couldn’t stand to have you leave me for just one second.”

Jim leaned over and kissed the red lips. “For an amateur you did alright.”

She slid over on Jim’s lap. Once more the little white hands were busy. The fingers on one of them seemed to be counting the bumps on his spine with the other tracing little figures on his chest.

She was in a talkative mood, “I don’t know much about men, but one day I heard Uncle John talking to another man who was evidently having trouble with his wife. After listening to what the guy had to say, Uncle John told him, ‘Some women are really stupid. They enjoy cutting off a man’s sex life. They expect him to pay for whatever he gets. Then they wonder why he goes out with other women.’”

“Sounds like your uncle is a very smart man.”

“He is, and Jim, darling, don’t you ever worry about me cutting you off, or making you pay.”

Once more the animal in Jim was coming to life. He pulled her close and kissed the ruby red lips.

“That is.” she whispered, “if you take care of me.”

Jim looked wildly about. Why was it always daylight? Prying eyes were everywhere!

Her warm breath was in his ear. “Your mother will be gone all afternoon darling. We can go to your room.”

Jim got to his feet and she was in his arms. They would be there in one minute. Time was wasting!

Series NavigationJust a Little Bit Crazy, Chapter 13Just a Little Bit Crazy, Chapter 15

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