Tea and Bills

The office had been one of the bedrooms on the first floor, and its large French doors led out onto the gallery in the front of the house facing the river. It was large and quiet; the furniture was a mixture of modern and republic. Mrs. Treacher settled in the chair facing the desk; she set her briefcase and megaphone on the floor beside her. Dinah opened her laptop in passing and reached for the teapot.

"Tea, Mrs. Treacher?" asked Dinah.

"That would be very nice, Diane," said Mrs. Treacher.

Dinah reached into her filing cabinet and pulled out the file marked Chloe Treacher Tours; and then sat at her desk.

"I was so surprised and sorry to hear Mr. Shepherd left Chestnutt Grove," began Mrs. Treacher, setting an expensive leather briefcase next to her on the floor. "We had such a rapport. You're certain you don't have his address on file?"

"Aha!" thought Dinah to herself. "Rapacious, that's the word I was looking for."

"No," she added aloud and grammatically correct. "How many tours would you like to schedule today?"

"I would like to do six," said Mrs. Treacher, reaching into her briefcase and instantly pulling out a typed list and a daybook. "Four adult activity centers and two bridge clubs. Here are the dates and times I'd like to see; I do have alternatives for most of them." She handed a typed list to Dinah.

Dinah consulted her calendar and the two discussed times and dates. More tea was poured.

"Well then, so we have all of them set except for the Magnolia Sisters Bridge Club."

"Hmm, yes, they are always difficult to schedule. I'll get back to you about that one."

"Now, as to your bill," said Dinah. "I see four tours that have not been paid for yet this year."

"Oh, I don't know whether I brought the checkbook," began Mrs. Treacher, rummaging through her briefcase as if it had suddenly become a vast jumbled purse.

"I'm afraid I won't be able to confirm these new tours until you can bring your account up to date. There are some bills here which are sixty days in arrears."

"Oh, here it is," said Mrs. Treacher, with a little sigh. "It's so hard to stay organized."

"I'll bet," said Dinah under her breath and "Nice doing business with you," aloud and with satisfaction. She took the check from Mrs. Treacher's hand and filed it in a box in her desk. Mrs. Treacher's eyes followed the check until it disappeared in the desk drawer. Dinah wrote out a receipt.

"Well, shall we see how the tour is going?" said Dinah. She shoved Mrs. Treacher our of her office and into the main room where Cheryl stood gesturing at an 18th-century map of the plantation.

"The house at Chestnutt Grove is one of only two structures left standing from the 18th-century plantation. During its heyday, there were over thirty buildings, including a kitchen, privy, two pigeon houses, a doctor's house, the sugarhouse, a blacksmith's shop, a stable, a carriage house, a garçonnière (where the young men of the house resided), the overseer's cabin, and of course, numerous slave cabins."

"What happened to the buildings?" asked a woman upfront.

"Some of them burned, some of them decayed. Fortunately, during the Depression, precise drawings were made of several of the buildings before they fell down. Here, for example, is a drawing of the garçonnière," Cheryl said, pointing to another drawing on the wall.

"Slaves," snorted a voice from the back. "I heard Thomas Jefferson slept with one of his slaves, is that true?"

Cheryl's eyes met Dinah's. "Likely," said Dinah. "DNA testing completed in the late 1990s revealed that some of the descendants of Sally Hemings, a slave on Monticello, Jefferson's plantation in Virginia, are directly descended from Jefferson's family. Her youngest son Edson has been proved to have been fathered by someone in Thomas Jefferson's immediate family. DNA testing isn't good enough to tell whether it was the president specifically or one of his relatives living nearby, but Sally was a slave at Monticello, and that certainly points to Thomas. There's a brother, Randolph, who has also been mentioned as a possible father."

"Hmmph. Father of our country, indeed," said the woman. "They should blast his face off Mount Rushmore."

"Thomas Jefferson's writing was the main reason every single person in this room can help decide who runs the country," said Dinah hotly. "With the possible exception of Mr. Palmer, who appears to have disappeared at the moment. And as to that abomination Mount Rushmore..."

A shriek of outrage poured out of Mrs. Treacher. "Palmer?" she shouted. "Palmer's missing again? Who is it this time?"

A nervous giggle came from the back of the room. "It's Mrs. Atkins."

"Mrs. Atkins! Will that man ever leave you girls alone!"

Next: The Palmer Method

Created by KKris. Last Modification: Tuesday 22 of September, 2020 07:52:30 EDT by KKris.