from the back cover…
“We expect the Wilson Touch.”
Wilson Parker has a reputation at Bedlowe Developers. He’s Aaron Bedlowe’s right-hand man for property acquisition. And Aaron wants property. His financial empire rests on his planned communities, and it’s time to place a jewel in the crown of his most recent venture. Aaron’s next target is Remainder, Tennessee, a rural community south of Nashville. And he’s charged Wilson Parker with the task of getting the land he needs. Parker’s already been in touch with a few people eager to make a buck selling land to the flashy company. One in particular, Ray Boone, has not only offered up his own property but is more than happy to help find more. Things look good.
But maybe Parker should have spoken with someone besides Ray Boone. Lyle Cummins, for one – de facto mayor of the unincorporated hamlet his grand-daddy founded. Or Ella Mae Knapp – retired teacher and government employee who understands far more about the world she lives in than many reckon. Or even Marty Jensen – the way-ward country singer/songwriter who enjoys raising his girls in this obscure little place. If only Parker better understood what he was taking on when he headed down Highway 70… …then it might not come down to a race between him and the son of a dying man.
an excerpt from REMAINDER
Someone knocked on the front door.
Ty turned and frowned. No one in Remainder ever went to a front door. Besides, everybody in Remainder knew his Dad. This must be a stranger.
He glanced back at his parents. He didn’t want to disturb them. They need all the peaceful time together they can get, he thought. Then his face flushed and he headed for the front door.
“Oh, hey.” A man he’d never seen before stood on the front porch beside the white wrought iron table and bench that had stood there his whole life. The guy wore a black suit and wire rim glasses. He was so bald his face looked like a waterfall coming down from the dome of his head. “Is this where Lyle Cummins lives?”
“Yeah. I mean, yes. Can I help you?”
The guy smiled at him like he thought he was some cute kid. Ty drew his shoulders back.
“Well, sure, son. I’m looking for Lyle. I’d like to speak to him.”
Ty’s instincts told him to throw the guy off the porch, but he was only thirteen, and he knew his Dad would think that was being a bad host – at least, until the guy did something to earn being thrown off. So he just asked, “Do you know my dad?”
“Well, no, not as well as I’d like to. Would you go get him for me? Or, why don’t I just come in and you can go get him.” And without another word, the guy brushed past Ty and into the house.
Damn it! Even for an adult, that was rude. “Um, look, sir, -” Ty began.
“Go on, go find your Dad. Tell him Aaron Bedlowe is here to see him.” The guy pulled a card out of his pocket.
It was enough to remind Ty that he was not a servant or some dumb kid, he was his Dad’s assistant, his partner, even. He took the card, but he paused to look at it. Then he held out his hand and stepped to one side.
“Just come with me, Mr. Bedlowe. I’ll take you to where my father is. My parents are out here.” With that he led the way through the dining room and kitchen to the door onto the porch. He held the door open for Bedlowe, gritting his teeth as he did so. Then he walked to where his parents stood and handed him the guy’s card.
“Dad, this is Mr. Aaron Bedlowe. He said he wanted to meet you.”
Then Ty stepped back to watch his dad in action.
His father was a polite, well-raised Southern man. But he didn’t – what was that literary-sounding phrase Mom used? Oh, yeah. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. And Ty just knew that this guy was a fool.
Dad grimaced before he spoke.
Must be the pain, thought Ty.
“Well, Mr. Bedlowe, here I am, Lyle Cummins.” He shook Bedlowe’s hand. “What can I do for you?”
“Mr. Cummins, Mrs. Cummins.” Bedlowe said. He looked expectantly from Ty to the kitchen door.
“Mr. Bedlowe, this is my son, Ty. I’m in the process of teaching him to run the farm. So he sits in on any meeting I have.”
“Okay, sure. “ The man looked uncomfortable with the idea. He didn’t seem to know how to continue.
His father nudged him along. “You said you wanted to meet me?”
“Yes, yes. I – I wanted to ask, hey this is a beautiful spot here, isn’t it? This all yours?”
“Fair amount of it is. And yes, it is beautiful.”
“Mr. Bedlowe, can I get you some coffee? Or, maybe, tea?” his mother asked. She didn’t sound as if she knew what to do with this early morning visitor either.
“No, no ma’am. I just had some coffee at that excellent little cafe in the village there.”
Lyle smiled. “Remainder’s not even a village, Mr. Bedlowe, but we are proud of our Leftover Cafe. I take it you heard my name there? “
Otherwise why would you be looking for me, because I know I don’t know you, Ty could hear his father say in his head.
The man cocked his head to one side and put on a self-deprecating grin. “Well, yes, yes, I did hear your name. Fact is, I heard something more. I hope you won’t think it remiss of them, but some people in the cafe mentioned that you were ill. Quite ill, in fact, although I will say you don’t look as sick as I imagined.”
Ty saw his dad stiffen and had to bow his head to keep from laughing. This guy was in for it now. His dad had a great tolerance for people being rude, except for when it came to making personal remarks.
“Nice to know I’m not living up to that particular expectation. Mr. Bedlowe, I don’t fault people for talking about my illness when I told them about it. I don’t remember telling you about it, though.” Lyle’s tone was mild, but pointed.
“Uh, no of course not. But I did feel I had to seek you out to discuss it.”
“You did, did you?”
“Yes, I did.” The man’s conviction seemed to strengthen. “Hey, mind if I sit down?”
“Perhaps you could just explain yourself, Mr. Bedlowe.”
It seemed to take a minute for Mr. Bedlowe to realize that Lyle was not inviting him to sit.
“I just – I well. Look. I know that illnesses such as yours,” he glanced Ty’s way again. “Illnesses such as yours, big illnesses, can result in high medical bills. “
“Yes. that’s true, but, pardon my bluntness, Mr. Bedlowe, what’s it to you?”
“Lyle, you should probably sit down,” said Jean, tugging slightly at his arm. “I’m sure Mr. Bedlowe will be done here soon, but you should sit anyway.”
Ty looked on. Was Bedlowe unaware that Jean had just disrespected him? Probably.
However, Lyle didn’t sit. Bedlowe was looking distinctly uncomfortable.
“I’m in a business, Lyle – Mr. Cummins, that might be able to make things a little easier for you and your family –”
“Insurance business? Is that it? Because I am adequately insured, Mr. Bedlowe. And if I weren’t, I’d seek out a company on my own, not take up with a stranger who barges into my house early in the morning.”
“Oh, now, it’s not that, not that at all. I’m not an insurance salesman! God, no! I am a businessman, however, and I’m able to offer you a sweet deal on your property here.”
Lyle stared at Bedlowe, who was perspiring now, even his bald head. Tyler watched his Dad, aware that his mother was watching them both. Then Lyle’s shoulders began to shake and his lips to twitch.
“Buy my land, huh? That is a good one.” He started to laugh. “You are a salesman, through and through, Mr. Bedlowe, I’ll give you that. Eager, too. Ambitious.” He was fully laughing now. “However, you’re operating under a misconception, and I’d hate for us to waste any more time. You see, I don’t know where you got the idea I might want to sell this place, but,” he shook his head,” I’ve got no more interest in selling my farm here than I have in giving in to the damned cancer that is threatening to separate me from it.”
“But – I – are you sure about that, Lyle? This could turn out to be a long, drawn-out, and expensive prospect. I’m sure you don’t want to leave your family with a load of debt. I mean, -”
“You’ve made it very clear what you meant, Bedlowe, and I think I’ve allowed you about as many gaffes as one man is entitled to. So I will make myself just as clear.” He stepped up almost nose to nose with Bedlowe. “I am not selling my property to anyone. It will belong to my wife and son eventually, but for now it is mine, and it is staying mine. You’ll have to buy yourself some other piece of land. Not mine.”