Posted tagged ‘Book Characters’

Billy Spurgeon

November 1, 2010

        In many ways, Billy Spurgeon was another Bones in the making. Bones always said Billy was the new and improved version. A good student, but not brilliant, Billy had one quality that made him a standout at Sandhills U. Medical School; he wanted to come home to Harvey County. He was the only one.

        Billy went to Harvey High, where he played first trombone and was sixth man on the golf team. He was lanky and dark-haired, and had a touch of myopia with the introspection that often accompanies it. He first met Bones Robertson as a high school student in the Medical Explorers Club. After a meeting, he wanted to know more, and Bones and Dr. Dee invited him out to eat at Chang’s Chinese.

        Even years later, Dr. Dee still laughed about it. “Bones about ran the kid off before we ever had a chance. After dinner when the boy was ready to go home, Bones walked him by that old Scout of his. He slapped it on the rear fender and said, ‘Now son, you have a chance to be just like us. If you work hard and you’re honest for a lifetime, all this can be yours.’”

        Bones always said every student he did that with had gone into a subspecialty in the city. When it didn’t scare Billy off, they knew they knew had a young man who might just go the distance.

        It was a big day when Billy showed up in town. Harvey Memorial CEO Marvin Stanley paraded around like the boy was his long-lost young’un.  The Harvey Herald stuck a mic in the boy’s face and asked him about Marvin Stanley and Billy said, “I’m sorry, Marvin who?”

        Stanley was infuriated, but the paper didn’t print it when Stanley threatened to pull an ad campaign for the new radiology center. 

        Billy was country, but he wasn’t dumb. He put his stock in Bones. “You gotta throw your hat in the ring with someone; I’m gonna put mine in with Doc. He’s like Indie; when the chips are down he won’t stand for a lie.”

        Bones considered it one of the highest compliments he ever got.

        Billy went to work and paid his dues without complaint. Bones was glad to get some time off, but was careful not to overdo it. Going from three docs in the call rotation to four was a luxury none of them took for granted.

        Back when Billy interviewed for med school, they asked him why he wanted to be doctor. He said, “I’m a lot like Dr. Bones Robertson. I’m good with books, and I want to help people.”

        “That’s what they all say,” they said.

        As it turned out, Billy Spurgeon was as simple as that; happy enough just to be a solid country doctor. It all changed with the case of the local Chrysler dealer, Jim Downs.

        I don’t have a thing against car dealers. Here in Harvey County Phipsy’s a good’un, as is Simmons Ruppe (Ruppert) of Bluegrass Motors over in Raleigh. I never did trade with Jim Downs though, and I had my reasons. He never did anything to inspire Billy to trade with him either.

Dr. B


The Negotiator

November 3, 2009

        This guy is just too good for you to miss.  I hope to secure his permission to tell more of his story in a second book called ‘Acquisition Syndrome.’  He had a peripheral involvement in ‘The Mandolin Case,’ which is now under review by several publishers.  He asked that I hold off on his full story until it is released.

         His name is Charles Franklin Thombley IV.  His everyday car is a Sunbeam Tiger, which is an Alpine with a 260 except he exercised an option for the Ford 289 V8.  He once won a sportsman’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Tiger had a car phone just like the one Maxwell Smart had.  The car was similar too, but Mr. Thombley’s is British racing green rather than red.  He thought it provided better camouflage. Somehow Thombley was connected with Max and guys like him, and I suspect he was a major factor in thwarting Chaos.  Mr. Thombley has not changed and remains just shy of middle age, still youthful but also wise.  

        He was an advisor in the Mandolin Case, but always stayed behind the scenes.  His involvement was so clandestine he does not appear in that novel.  If you asked him about it, he and the Chief would enter into the cone of silence.  He is tight-lipped and will only agree to his story in print if I encode it to the degree that I have de-identified him.  We are in high level negotiations at this time, but after he reads ‘The Mandolin Case, I believe he will go along.

        His people are from Atlanta and got their start in the business world at the time of the Civil War.  They bought up real estate futures right after Sherman came through, and never looked back.  Charles went to Oxford on a rugby scholarship, and has a three handicap at an exclusive club in Augusta he preferred not to name.  He owns lake-front property throughout the South and a home in Europe.  He usually wears sunglasses.  If you go out to eat with him in Atlanta, the owner of the restaurant will call him ‘Sir’ and seat you at a private reserved table in the back.  He is old southern but he married a lady from above the Mason Dixon line.  She was a Hamilton, and I think her people came from money.  It wasn’t new money. 

         He wears dark Italian suits and red ties.  He is of medium build and average height, but little else about him is average.  He has a wavy head of hair about like Lyle Lovett except there is just a hint of gray in the temples.  All the women want to meet him, but he is solid loyal to his wife.  He is also loyal to his clients.

          He doesn’t work from a contract, and never sends a bill.  Instead he conducts business on a handshake.  He always says, “I will do my best for you. You have to decide what it means to you and then determine my fee.”  Everyone who works with pays him well because they want him to stay on their team. 

        He is booked as steady as the guitar man I told you about a few posts ago.  Except for a few weeks off in Paris every year he always has a gig.  He remains available to his clients even when he Europe. He also has business there.  He sings in the church choir.  His favorite hobby is the financial revitalization of under-capitalized southern churches.

        In my next post I am going to give up the only work secret he will let me disclose at this time.  As I said we are in negotiations for the rights to the sequel to ‘The Mandolin Case.’  This story will reveal his ways in greater detail.  He will have to proof the manuscript to be sure it is sufficiently encrypted.  This process might take a couple years, but it will be worth it.  You will want to get inside his world because to tap into any small part of his skill as a negotiator will be invaluable information for you. 

        I can tell you this.  He reshaped the medical landscape in Harvey County, and cut a wide swath right down the Interstate all the way through the Tobacco Triangle a few years back.  One year my band played a gig in Raleigh and a doctor came up to me and said, “You and that masked man out of Atlanta changed everything and it was all for the better.”

         I told him it was a nice complement but I couldn’t take the credit.  It all belongs to Mr. Thombley.

        So, here is the one secret he will allow me to disclose at this time.  He often decides which clients he wants to do business with based on a pick-up truck.  Now, I know you must wonder.  How can a pick-up truck help a sophisticated man like Mr. Thombley decide which clients are trustworthy?  I have to go back to the doctor gig, but promise to explain this in my next post.

        Never worry about Dr. B.  You have come to know me well.  I have a good grown-up doctor brain, but I am just a little boy and have the heart of a child.  I do not understand business, and have no chance against the sharks who now circle the medical waters.  Don’t worry though.  He is the only man I know who understands business but also has a heart, and he looks after me.

        I am in good hands, because he is the negotiator, and he took me under his wing.

Dr. B

The Imagination Will Set You Free

September 26, 2009

        I had a patient who was confined to home her entire adult life.  Before the Internet she had a good life and many friends from all over the County, but after the Internet came in, she extended her connections around the world.  She could describe Australia better than many people who had been there.

       She was an early book editor for me and even inspired the character Mason Marley.  I would send her chapters by e-mail and she would read them and send back suggestions.  She once told me the installments reminded her of the eager anticipation of the “Saturday Evening Post’ as a child.  

         She especially loved to help embellish Mason Marley.  “Oh, have her smoke a cigar here, Bibey.” 

        “C’mon Mason, you don’t smoke.”

        “I can’t in real life ’cause of my lungs but I can in fiction.” 

        She wrote a book herself and had a lot of good advice on agents, editors, and lawyers that I follow to this day.  My only regret is the process is so long.  I would have given anything to be able to hand her a signed copy.

          I used to ask her about confidentiality.  “You know, as your doc, I’m supposed to protect your privacy.  I worry a little about this.  I’m afraid people will figure out who you are, or least who inspired the character.”

        “Oh Bibey, you are such a silly boy.  I hope you tell the whole world.”

        When I finally get around to that, I’m gonna tell you about her book too. She was one of the most special human beings I’ve ever known.  She knew the imagination had no limits to unlock a life of grace and dignity.  She showed me how every time I visited her. 

         Before she died I had not only permission but her encouragement to tell her story.  Mason understood with literature we can have a bit of immortality, and she cheered me on towards the finish line at every visit.   When I get there, much of the credit is to her.  

Dr. B

Turn Back the Hands of Time

July 22, 2009

        Indie loved his cabin.  He used to say it was the only place on earth where you could turn back the hands of time.  When he died the T.V. was still analog.  He had an old stereo but one speaker was blown out.  He’d keep the same Bill Monroe LP on the turntable for months on end.

        Indie had many talents.  He liked to work on antique watches.  One time he restored an old pocket watch and gave it to me for my birthday.  His casual outward appearance belied a meticulous side few knew of.  It made him a wonderful Doctor, a fine fiddler, and an expert craftsman.  He never bragged on it though, which is one reason I have always been compelled to write of him.

        As he got older, his Parkinson’s got worse.  When he’d work on watches he’d get into Barney the skeleton’s skull and for a nip of Jim Beam.  He said it steadied his hand, and toned down the tremor enough for him to do the fine work involved.

        Indie worried over me.  “Son, you’re a fine Doctor but you invented type A.  When you’re here at the Cabin you don’t need to worry about time.  I never think about unless you remind me.  Here time can stand still.  Hell, it can go backwards if you get your mind set right.” 

        I would laugh, but I knew Indie was right.  He taught me a lot about being laid back, at least when I was off duty.

        Not long ago Marfar was in the cabin kitchen and broke out in a big laugh.  The kitchen clock is an old Greensboro, N.C. Pilot Life Insurance company model.  (Indie gave her the bronze piggy bank to match.)  It dates back to the fifties.  You remember the song on the early ACC basketball games.  ‘Sail with the pilot…’  The center of the clock features the Pilot at the wheel.  He has on a yellow rain slicker.  Time has worn the old sea salt’s once chiseled features into an unrecognizable sand-blasted look.  His right hand serves as a second hand like a maestro’s baton.     

        “What’s so funny?” I asked.

        “Look at the clock.”

        “The Pilot?  Yeah, he’s a fixture.”

        “No, look again.  Check out the hands.”

        Good Lord have mercy.  They’re going backwards!”

        “What do you make of that?  I’ve never seen a clock do that.”

        I laughed.  “It’s Indie, hon.  He said time could go backwards at the cabin.  I bet that rascal got into his Jim Beam before he died and rigged up the Pilot’s hands to run backwards.”  The thought of Indie with a Barney brainstorm to remind me to relax after he was gone was too much.

        Indie always did get the last laugh.  I could just picture him and St. Peter yucking it up as they waited for me to figure it out.

        I’d try to get one on him, but his current location precludes it.  You don’t diss folks in Heaven.  But old pal, when I get there, you just wait…..

        By the way, I ain’t about to ‘fix’ that clock.  Indie already did that for me.

Dr. B

Maria Diosas (Colombian Green Card)

November 19, 2008

        Back at the time of the Mandolin Case, there was a girl who worked at Harvey Memorial named Maria Diaoas.  She came here when they started the green card visas.   Nowadays the term ‘Green Card’ is one you hear a lot, but back then it was unusual.  And I want you to know I am not making fun of anyone just because they weren’t born in this country.  Indie always said if your people weren’t Native American you came here from somewhere else.   Indie got along with most everybody, and I agreed with his views on treating people fair.

        This child stood out in the crowd as different.  Well, she wasn’t exactly a child, but more of a child in a woman’s body.  Back then most of us in Harvey County were either black or white, but her skin tones was some kinda nutmeg complexion.  She looked like one of those women on the cover of a travel magazines where Docs go to study about high blood pressure.  I never did understand why a fellow’d have to go to some faraway beach to study high blood- I bet we had a thousand folks with hypertension right here in Harvey County.

        Maria made an L.P.N while she was here, but worked as a secretary for Jim Olden, our hospital administrator.  She didn’t like to work nights and he got her a day job.

        I didn’t know the girl, but Snookers went out with her a few times.  He said she liked vodka and fancy cars and was too high maintenance for him to get along with.  Jim Olden said Snookers wasn’t kind enough to Maria, and saw to it she had a better apartment.  She bought Mr. Olden a music box that played the Dr. Zhivago theme.  One time Indie said Mr. Olden’s office was like a magical music box.  To demonstrate, he opened and closed the door a couple times over a few minutes.  Each time he cracked it open “Somewhere My Love” would come to abrupt halt.  It made Olden mad.  Indie just laughed.

        The girl was beyond mysterious, as exotic as an Italian pizza would have been in Harvey County back in the 60’s.  We were sure she came from Colombia, and her jet black hair and dark eyes fit the background.  But she also has some kinda Russian connection.  Snookers said her grandparents still lived there.  They’re gone now, I guess, that was about two decades ago.  She said her middle name was Kay.  I thought that was quite Americanized, but she would sign her name as Maria K. Diosas, instead of Kay.  Snookers said it stood for Katalina, but the cold war was winding down and she didn’t want to make that fact public.

        I think Snookers was right- she must have had some sort of Russian ancestry.  Not only did she like Dr. Zhivago (she pronounced it Doctor ‘Shee-KA- GO”- sort of like Chicago with a Spanish accent) and vodka, but she dug James Bond and “From Russia with Love.”  She liked “Goldfinger” too.  She said she preferred American men.  Snookers tried to tell her Bond was British.  She didn’t like that.  It was part of why they split after a few dates.

        I’ve got some age on me, but I ain’t so old I can’t pick a pretty girl out of a line-up, and Maria was a pretty girl.  In fact, she looked dangerous.  I could spot that in a line up too.  My ladies at the office have excellent intuition and they understood it on first glance.  Her skin was somewhere in between nutmeg and honey colored.  She was 5’6″ and 113 pounds.  Dark eyed, black haired, she was a long legged lanky Latino who looked like an SI girl.  Striking would not do her justice.  I guess she might perspire but she didn’t sweat- made a lot of men sweat though.  I kept my distance from her, but Snook said she smelled like a tropical flower, and Olden wrote lousy poetry on the subject for a decade after she left Harvey County.         

        I’m not sure if I spelled her last name right, or what it meant.  Mr. Olden lives just outside of Atlanta now.  Snookers went down there to try and find out more about her, but Olden sent word he didn’t feel up to visitors that day.  If any of y’all know what it means, let me in on it.  I’m still finishing up some last minute research for the Mandolin Case, and it would help me out.

Dr. B

Martin Taylor

November 7, 2008

        You might find it strange a doctor would come to respect a bad ass plaintiff’s attorney, but in the case of Martin Taylor it is true.  Not only did I respect him, but I liked the cat.  At the same time, I was scared to death of him.  If there was ever a human being I thought could take a doctor apart in a Harvey County courtroom it would be Martin Taylor.  Indie was lucky.  By the time of the Mandolin Case, Mr. Taylor had retired.  But, whenever his son Gibson signed on as the attorney I knew it would be a tough battle.

        Martin grew up in Norfolk, Virginia.  He practiced in Chicago a while.  After his mother became elderly, he moved back home to look after her.  It didn’t matter where his law practice home base was anyway, ’cause he had cases all over the country.  He had a private pilot and flew around in a Lear Jet to tend to his business.

        In his youth he was a fine welterweight boxer, and made it all the way to Madison Square Garden.  He still retained the soul of an athlete.  As he got older he found he had to temper his competitive spirit not to flatten an  opponent just because he had the ability to do it.  Instead he channeled his energy into justice, and especially liked a spirited fight for the underdog.   Most of all he sought the truth.  One time I told him it was his only Achille’s heel. 

        “Martin,” I said.  “You have one weakness. You have to have the truth.”

        “God, Bibey.  Don’t tell anyone.  I am a lawyer, you know.”

        Even though successful boxers used their brains more than what folks know, Martin worried he might get a sucker punch, so he retired from boxing after college.  He took up golf and became a fine player- a six handicap to be exact.

        Martin Taylor was unconcerned about money, but then he had been successful enough not to have to worry.  I admire folks who use their financial freedom to take their craft to an even higher level, though, so I had no problem with that.

        Martin was 5’11 and 207 pounds.  His eyes were a dark brown.  He wore size 9C shoes.  He smoked the same COHIBA cigars as Mason Marley.  He enjoyed bluegrass and traditional music, but did not tell his colleagues.  His liked the song “It’s Done Come Time to not Know Nothing.”  His favorite movie was the CIA saga, “The Good Shepherd.”  He had me watch it and do a movie review for a law bulletin.  He read “Crime and Punishment” three times, and still watched Perry Mason reruns on the Turner Channel.

        Martin is now retired and plays golf out of the Island Club at St. Croix.  He has invited me down for some of his money games, but I have been too busy working to get there.  But if he ever ran into the right match, I’d go- Martin is a player.  One time he had a game with a cat I knew was a cheater back in high school days.  He called me for a scouting report.  It was too late for me to go play but Martin cleaned the man’s clock.  Martin Taylor is just step away from a Mafia type- best to never try and cheat a man like that.

        Another thing about Martin-  he is 100% discreet and confidential.  We are from opposite sides of the aisle, but if he were to go first, I’d take my hat off at his funeral out of respect.

        I will always believe Martin Taylor had more to do with the resolution of the Mandolin Case than what he let on.  Maybe after I retire he’ll tell me.

Dr. B

Mason Marley

November 4, 2008

        Mason Marley was blind.  She also was somewhat crippled from polio as a child, but she was up and around until middle age.  After that, a combination of post polio syndrome and arthritis wore her down, and she would up in a wheelchair.  She didn’t get out much, but a lot of folks came to see her.  If you ever meet her, whatever you do don’t call her a polio victim.  “I ain’t a victim of nothing,” she’d say.

        Mason lived on the River, a couple miles upstream from Indie’s Cabin.  To get there, go north on the bypass.  When you pass the Waffle House take a right at Harvey High, home of the Hornets.  That will put you on Lee Highway.  Follow it a mile and a half to Mason’s.  Her place is the little white frame house with the neat hedges.  Wheatie Wallenburg kept them trimmed, at least when he wasn’t in the hospital.

        I never figured out how a little blind crippled lady gathered so much intelligence, but she did.  She knew everyone.  Back then if you were to go by her place and see a white Crown Vic with N.C. Government tags, it was Wallace Walton, our State Senator.  He said he was there to check on her, but I think he came by to get advice.  Like all of us he knew Mason was discreet, and you could count on her to be confidential.  We were confident she was connected,  too, but unsure of what all her connections were.

         Mason might have been blind, but she was the best read person in the County.  She could quote Shakespeare at length.  One time Mason wrote a book on commercial real estate handicapped access regulations.  She was part of the inspiration for me to write my story.  Neuse River went out and played for the book release party at her house.  When you see a grizzled bluegrass veteran like Moose Dooley kiss a woman on the forehead, you know she is a person who has earned folk’s respect.  Mason was the only woman in town besides my daughter who my wife’d let me kiss.  She trusted her that much, and I did too.

        As far as I know Mason only got burned once.  Her book was published without the benefit of an agent.  She trusted the publisher, and then got taken adavantage of.  When I started mine she called me out to the house.  “Bibey,” she said,  “Whatever you do, don’t publish till you have an agent and a lawyer.”

        “Yes ma’am.”  It was good advice.  As a matter of fact, Mason did the background check on my agent.  After her stamp of approval, I shook hands on the deal.  She said he was clean, and you can take Mason for her word.

        Mason often wore our Neuse River T-shirt.  She loved costume jewelry and logo sweat shirts, but on weekends and holidays she always put on a string of pearls.  I guess it is odd for a Doc to say about his patient, but is spite of the fact she was elderly and gray-haired, I swear the woman in pearls exuded sex appeal.  Maybe it was because she had so much soul.

         Besides bluegrass music she also dug classical, especially anything by Beethoven.  She drank Pabst Blue Ribbon, but sometimes OBAN if she had company.  She favored COHIBA cigars, and somehow could get the real Cuban ones with the La Habana band.  I knew they were illegal in the U.S., and asked how she came about them.  She said, “GK, Bibey,” which meant General Knowledge.

        At the time of the Mandolin Case, Mason was 68 years old.  She was 5′ 3′ but looked shorter because she was in a wheelchair.  Even though I was her Doc I never knew her weight ’cause she wouldn’t tell me.  Her hair was gray, but had been strawberry blond, and she still had some wisps of color, but she didn’t dye it.  Her eyes were green.  Her favorite movie was the ‘Ten Commandments.’  She read all kinds of literature.  Hamlet was her favorite.  It made her mad when old Lady Hamlett sued Indie over he sister’s lost mammogram report.  She said it wasn’t but a few months and the delay didn’t change the course of Sissy’s breast cancer.  She was right, but Indie settled for a small amount ’cause he felt sorry for Sissy- she had been slow since birth.

        Mason was right about a lot of things.  I suspect she was influential in the Mandolin Case, but I’m not sure all the ways she intervened, and she never did tell me.  Mason was the kind to only tell you she wanted you to know, but she always told me what I needed to know.  I was very confident in her intuition, and when she told me to take her word for it, I did.  If you were to move to Harvey County, I would tell you to make friends with her right away.  You can trust Mason, and she is a good friend to have.

        She has been retired as long as I’ve known her.  I never did figure out what she did for a living.  I asked her one time, but she never told me. 

Dr. B

Betty Wallendorf

November 2, 2008

        All y’all who’ve read my blog a long time know I have all respect for women.  I had a wonderful Mom who saw to it I had whatever I needed to grow up.  She let me play baseball and golf, but she also took me to the library every week.  She was an English teacher, so what little bit of culture I have is from the way she talked every day.  She was my first music influence, too.  When we had birthday parties she’d play the piano.  I was impressed.  I do think it worried her when I took up guitar, though.  She was afraid I might turn into a Beatle.

        I was lucky enough to marry good, and now I’m growing old with the same woman who somehow manages to stay young.  She gave me two fine children and the mandolin I play every day.  How could a man ask for anything else?

        I have a daughter I not only love, but respect, and I’ve worked along side of twelve women for more than two decades.  I get along with them just fine.  So, I don’t see how Betty Wallendorf could make a case I’m against women.  But she might try to.

        I put off this post a long time.  My dear mom used to say if you couldn’t talk nice about someone not to talk about them at all.  I thought about Betty Wallendorf at length, and decided to tell you about her anyway.  I figured if y’all were gonna read the story you deserved to know the truth.  But I have to say- I hope mama doesn’t read this.

        Betty had a motto.  I heard her say it in Sunday School class myself, so I know it for a fact.  She bragged she was the one who came up with it too.  She’d say, “There only two things that matter in life- Money and Sex.  If you have one, you can get the other.”

        I guess I could stop there, ’cause that says what you need to know about Betty Wallendorf.  She was that shallow.

        I didn’t know until some time back that Blinky was a fine baseball player when he was a young man.  He got hit in the head with a wild pitch right about when the Braves were gonna sign him.  He became a mechanic.  Betty didn’t have any use for him after that.  I don’t know why- he was one of the best ones in town.

        Whenever Blinky’d get real sick, she’d leave him at Indie’s office and tell him to call her when he got out of the hospital.  Sometimes I thought Blink would be better off if she hadn’t come to pick him up .

        Betty lived by her sex and money mantra, but she never acted funny towards me.  Maybe she thought I’d run her down, or perhaps it was ’cause my Marie is a black belt in karate and would jerk a knot in her neck.  Better she deal with Marie than my Marfar.  She’d a killed the woman.

        Like I told you before, Betty did make a pass at Indie once, and he flat turned her down.  Made her mad too.

        I will give her one thing.  When she was young, at least according to Indie, Betty Wallendorf was one more good looking woman.  She is now 5′ 3″ and 185 pounds, but Indie says she was 118 when she was 21.  She was a petite woman who wore size 7 1/2 AAA shoes and a size 2 dress back then.  Her hair is brunette, but Janie the Beauty Operator dyes it to keep it her old color.  He eyes are blue, and they are still striking.  I’ll bet she was a knock-out as a young woman.

        Her favorite song was always “We’re in the Money,” and her actress is Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.”  She read part of Michener’s Hawaii, but didn’t finish it.  You won’t be surprised to learn she enjoys “Sex in the City,” and “Desperate Housewives.”

        Not long ago, the Preacher gave a sermon I liked.  I remember he said with God a little bit of righteousness goes a long way.

        I’m gonna pray about it and ask for forgiveness, but I can’t think of much righteous or good about Betty Wallendorf.  When I do, I’ll post on it right away.

        For now, though, I need to go take in the church service.  Betty was  mean woman, but I feel bad to be so harsh towards her.  I’m gonna go pray for forgiveness, ’cause I don’t believe in grudges, and they ain’t good for you anyway.

        Come to think of it, I like to think redemption is one of the themes of my story.  None of us are perfect.  All we can do is our best, then ask forgiveness for the rest of it.  And that’s what I am gonna do today.

        Talk to y’all first of the week.

Dr. B


October 27, 2008

        Tag was the lawyer assigned to Indie’s case.  Her real name was Lucille Taggert, but Indie nicknamed her Tag, and it stuck.  When she first showed up at his office Indie did a double take, excused himself, and called me.

        “God almighty, Bibey.  They’ve done sent me one of the Bobsie twins.  I’m doomed.”  Tag was indeed young.  With her freckles and red hair she coulda passed for Little Orphan Annie in the school play.  All she lacked was to pull her hair back in pig-tails, but she wore a modern cut like what you’d see on cover of the Ladies magazines at the office.

        It was a no-nonsense look that fit.  When Tag opened up her briefcase and went to work, she was no kid, but a serious woman.  At the same time, she had grown up in the country and understood Indie better than most city folks. 

        When Indie’d get mad and cuss Tag would say, “Now Indie, I know you feel that way, but you gotta talk like your mama’d want you to.”  She knew horses and Indie won a few bets in the Derby based on her advice.

         Indie could be an emotional sort, and it worked out best to have a lady lawyer.  I think some high powered man mighta laughed at him.  Then all those bluegrass boys in Harvey County woulda beaten the guy up and Indie’d been in worse trouble than what he was to start with.  

        Tag could be be emotional too, though not as much as Indie.  She kept it in check most of the time.  When she did get mad though, she could send those male lawyers running for cover.  Jackson Leggett, the lawyer for Harvey Memorial made some comments about Indie’s character as to his relationship with little Molly, and it was a lie.  Well, Tag went right over to their headquarters and cussed ’em out.   They issued a formal statement of apology in a half hour. 

         Poor Indie spent a lot days just plum pissed off, and it was Tag who could get him outside the case.  “It’s just a thing, Indie,” she’d say.  “Something to work through.”  Tag knew all the bluegrass sayings, and could talk turkey with Indie ’cause of it.  Sure, it was a business to her, but she understood even though Indie was a rough sort, the Mandolin Case hurt his feelings.  After all, Blinky was his best friend, and in his heart he never believed he had done wrong.

        All you lady readers are gonna dig Tag.  She was plenty feminine, but she made her way in the world on toughness.  Who said women couldn’t fight?  In a war of ideas and words, I’d want Tag on my team any day.  Indie later went back and apologized to her for his first impression.  “Young lady, you’re tougher than a pine knot.  My hat’s off to you.”

        “For heaven’s sake Indie, don’t take off that cap.  The reflection of the sun’ll hurt my eyes,”  she said.

        “Shut the hell up, Tag.”  They both laughed.

        She and Indie talked like that to each other.  Folks who didn’t know them thought they were disrespectful.  I’m sure my readers know better.  

        Tag busted right through the glass ceiling and went to the top of the heap, and it was all on merit- she was Physician’s Liability’s top gun, and the first woman to be an ace for the company.  At first Indie thought she was a rookie cause of her youth, but he apologized.  Tag laughed and said it wouldn’t be the last time.  Besides, in her line of work she found it best to be underestimated, and to look young and innocent was a strategic advantage. 

        When we looked back, we were sure Physician’s Liability sent her ’cause she was a seasoned veteran.  Tag was the one they’s send when they were worried.  They knew the Mandolin Case would be a long slog right from the get go.

        Freckled, red haired, Tag was 5’9″ and 125 pounds.  She had hazel eyes and a smile ’bout like Mona Lisa when she had the goods on someone.  Picture Renee Zellweger with freckles and you’ve got it.  She was educated at Chapel Hill, both undergrad and law school, and did medical/legal defense work throughout her career.

        Her favorite T.V. show was Andy, so me and her got along good.  She loved Indie’s version of the fiddle tune ‘Rag Time Annie’- Indie said she looked like a little rag doll- but she was woman enough not to take offense.  Tag was a Southern girl, and loved ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Steel Magnolias.”  She’d cry in the same places every time and warn’t ashamed of it.  And she shouldn’t a been – Tag was one more tough young-un. 

        She grew up around horses and still knew how to ride, so it was easy for her to get to know Molly Tenbrooks in a hurry.  By the end of the Mandolin Case, she and Indie bet on the ponies on a regular basis.  Half the time they gave each other IOUs, and at the end Indie owed her $57.23.  He paid up right away.  Said it was the best investment he ever made.

        Tag loved the Beatles, and also Doc Watson.  She came to love Bill Monroe too after she got to know me and Indie.  After hanging out in Harvey County for a few years, she was just one of the guys, and won our eternal respect.

        Tag is one of the great stories of the Mandolin Case.  Old men should never be prejudiced.  A young woman can teach ’em a few things about the world if they’ll listen.  Indie could be stubborn, but he respected Tag.  When she spoke he paid attention.

        It’s a good thing he did.  In the Mandolin Case, Indie needed all the help he could get.

Dr. B

Wheatie Wallenburg

October 25, 2008

        Wheatie Wallenburg was a junkie.  At the time of the Mandolin Case he was middle aged, and on towards elderly.  Demerol was his drug of choice, and all the Docs in town knew it.  Wheatie got his name ’cause he loved the Breakfast of Champions cereal.  His usual breakfast was a bowl of Wheaties, a bag of barbecued potato chips, and a cigar.  Indie told him it was too many browns, but he couldn’t get Wheatie to change.

        Indie was his Doc, and I took care of Wheatie what little bit of time Indie was gone.  Wheatie was a house painter and yard man, and took pride in his work.  No one trimmed shrubs as neat as Wheatie Wallenburg.

        I don’t know how Wheatie got hooked on Demerol.  It was a long time ago.  I do know he was an ex-Marine and was in the first wave to land on Iwo Jima.  He didn’t talk about it much, but one night I made rounds at the hospital and some old war movie was on.  Wheatie just sat there and cried. 

        He only opened up to me on the subject once.  When you hear a man talk about how he’d spread sand on a boat deck in anticipation of combat so he wouldn’t slip on the blood of his buddies…..  well after those stories I never could find it in me to be too judgemental of Wheatie.  He lived through hell so I could live in peace the way I saw it.

        One time the State Board got after Indie and insisted he send Wheatie to rehab.  Indie thought it was a mistake to do that, and I agreed, but the Board threatened to yank Indie’s license so he complied.

        The second night there Wheatie asked for his Demerol.  And the way he told me, he was polite about it.  When the attendant refused, Wheatie hit the man over the head with a Thunderbird wine bottle.  The guy had to have stitches, and filed assault charges.  Ted David got it reduced to probation.

        We knew rehab was a mistake from the get go.  Wheatie had flash-backs and thought he was in a brig.  When you’ve been stabbed in the shins with a machete for begging for water, I can see how a man would think that way.  

        Wheatie in rehab was a wild animal in a cage, and both Indie and I knew it’d be that way.  It is hard for a guy who wears a suit and issues periodic pontifications to understand a cat like Wheatie Wallenburg.

        Wheatie came home and life returned to normal.  He’d check in the hospital twice a month for his Demerol, and Indie’d give it to him.  At first the Medical Board complained every so often, but at Christmas Indie’d write and tell them of Wheatie’s troubles.  He’d close and ask if any of them would kindly look after him.  After a couple of years the letters were returned to sender. 

        Even though Wheatie drank cheap wine he couldn’t be bought for any price.  He said me and Indie were the only folks from that side of town who paid him any mind, and he never forgot it.  Mason Marley was on a fixed income but paid him for his yard work upon completion.  At the end of the month, Indie’d find an odd job for Wheatie whether he needed it done or not.  Wheat worked one day for Jim Olden years ago, but he stiffed him, so Wheatie didn’t go back.  Olden was lucky Wheatie didn’t break his knees.

        One time Wheatie saw they were gonna have a ballet at Sandhills.  He begged me and Marfar to drive him over there, and we did.  He sat in the back seat on the way home and never spoke till I pulled up in the driveway.  “Thanks, Doc.  That’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life.”  At first I though Wheatie was just taken by the picture of the girl in the paper- she had quite a set of legs- but I’m sure he was touched by the performance.  Poor Wheatie.  I wonder how his life would have been if he’d grown up picking the mandolin intead of picking out machine gun nests full of young men to blow up.

        Wheatie was 5’8″ and 165 pounds.  I told him he would put on some weight if he quit smoking, but he didn’t buy into the idea.  He wore 10 1/2 DD shoes.  He lost a couple toes from frostbite one winter, and his feet were flat.  He said they had been all his life, but somehow he hid it from the recruiters when he volunteered.

         Indie taught Wheatie enough bass guitar to where he could get by, and he sat in on some jam sessions at the Cabin.  His favorite was ‘That Good Old Mountain Dew,” and he was proud he could play or sing it in any key.  He did not read much.  His T.V show was ‘Mr. Ed.’  He thought a talking  horse was hilarious.  When someone said it was too silly Wheatie scowled and said he’d had all the serious he wanted in the Pacific.  They didn’t bring it up again.  He liked ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’  He would leave the room if someone turned the channel to a war movie.

        Indie said we should accept Wheatie for what he was, and besides that Wheatie left his life on Iwo Jima.  Indie respected everyone for what they were, and I tried my best to be like Indie on that.  

        You will enjoy more on Wheatie in the Mandolin Case.  He might only be a yard man and a Demerol junkie with no education, but he was a big help.  I need to take him back to the Ballet.  He liked that.

Dr. B