Just as I predicted, the bistro folded after a month of struggling to make enough money to keep the doors open. They had one last hurrah and everybody in the neighborhood attended, including me and Jean. She remarked that if they had the kind of traffic they had the last day, they might have survived.
We had continued our regular Tuesday coffee klatches and gossip hour. The word around the neighborhood was that the town tramp and Ditto were having regular trysts and trying to keep them secret, but they should have known that secrets were impossible to keep as long as Jean lived there.
Winter was coming on and there was a noticeable chill in the air, which I loved. Our gossip hour had turned to the holidays and how the neighborhood decorated their yards. Jean said “we aim for uniformity as far as the color of the lights on our houses but it isn’t law.”
I was thinking that was a good thing because I didn’t intend to decorate the outside of my house nor the inside either, but I didn’t tell her.
Jean let out a cackle when she said “the town tramp replaces her panties with Christmas stockings around this time of year. It’s such a hoot.”
“Are the stockings filled on Christmas morning?” I asked. She laughed as she said “I don’t know. I guess it depends on who she makes ‘like her’ at the bar. I did tell you that’s her catch phrase, didn’t I? ‘I did that so you’d like me’.”
I said “no, but I imagine women of that ilk do all sorts of things to make a man like her.”
The next Tuesday, Jean was atwitter like I had never seen before. “Oh my goodness,” she said. “Sit down and listen to this!”
I sat down and told her I was “all ears” as she poured my coffee.
“Judge Carson has disappeared,” she said. “I mean, poof! Vanished into thin air. One day he was here and the next day he was gone and nobody knows what happened to him. He was married, you know and his wife says she has no idea where he is.”
I laughed and said “maybe he was Divinely raptured. You know how those God people are. They take the Bible literally.”
She said “I don’t know but they found his Bible on the corner where he used to preach. It’s just so strange. He’s been there for as long as I can remember and now he’s gone.”
“Maybe he moved to another neighborhood,” I said. Jean said “I could entertain that idea if his Bible and his wife hadn’t been left behind but there’s no way he would leave them.”
I smiled and said “maybe it’s just one of those mysteries that will never be solved…or maybe he wasn’t as Holy as he pretended to be. You know, preachers are some of the worst sinners, not to mention being chronic adulterers.”
Jean said “maybe but I nor anybody else would suspect any wrongdoing from Judge Carson.” I looked at her and said “don’t you know that it’s always the people you trust who will betray you? It’s not strangers you have to worry about. It’s the people closest to you. I’m thinking that maybe he ran off with another woman.”
Jean capitulated and said “you may be right but I just can’t wrap my head around it. It just doesn’t make any sense to me or anybody else.”
She got up to refill our cups, looked at my hand and almost frantically said “wait a minute. What’s this?”
“What’s what?” I asked. She was fumbling her words as she said “when did…how did…I didn’t know…”
“What ever is the matter with you Jean?” I asked. She recovered enough to say “you have a fourth ring on your thumb!”
“Yes I do,” I said.
Still trying to find her words, Jean finally managed to say “but you said the others came from the hands of your dead husbands.”
I looked at her, smiled and said “no. I said they came from the hands of dead husbands. I didn’t say they were mine.”