Four private investigators sit in folding chairs strategically placed on the lawn in front of the Hatch Memorial. Nelson Ouellette, Whitey to his friends, and his inamorata Nadine Butler, position themselves to the right of their ground tarp. Whitey’s niece “Frenchy” and her live-in partner, Ray Marino, sit to their left.
Nadine and Frenchy had prepared thinly sliced cucumber and chicken sandwiches, assorted pickles, fresh humus, and a huge sack of pita chips. A thermal jug of iced coffee held down one corner of the tarp, and another jug of iced tea held down the other.
Whitey swung his head around, “You know, a friend of mine, a long time ago, never missed one of these Fourth of July concerts. He lived near here, on St. Stephens street. Arthur Fiedler was the maestro then. Anyway, his name was Ted Atoka. He and I met once a month with a few other people who wanted to eventually become authors. Yup, Ted Atoka could crank out some of the most off-the-wall stuff you ever read.
“We all would meet at a cafeteria on Huntington Avenue, and talk about writing for hours on end. The management never complained, as long as we had a cup of coffee or a plate of something to eat in front of us. Those were good days. A lot of Fourth of Julys ago.”
“Ted is the only one of our writing group left, and he’s still writing. Oh, a few others fought their way to the top of the heap. Several published books that made best seller lists. They’re all gone now, except Ted. He lives in Oklahoma now, got some land and lives on the side of a dirt road. How do you figure that? Move from Boston, all the way across the country and settle down in a place famous for oil and tornadoes; I’ll stay right here, thank you.”
Nadine sipped iced tea, “I met him Whitey. You introduced us. We were at a function at the Museum of Fine Arts. That was way back when I was an adjunct professor and working in the forensic department. Yes, I’ve read some of his books and like them a lot. I feel like I know Fiammetta Shaidy very well, and her best friend Betty, too. Yup, Atoka can sure spin a tale. And for once Whitey, you’re right.”
“About what?” Whitey asked.
“A lot of Fourth of Julys have gone by since those days. We’ve all been through so much since then. Don’t worry Whitey, Ted’s a survivor like me. I’m sure he’s okay.”
Whitey sipped more coffee, “Must be that good healthy Oklahoma air. And yeah, a lot of fourth of Julys have gone by, and by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin we’re still here Nadine, you, me, and the two fruitcakes over there.”
Frenchy stood up and brushed invisible crumbs from her slacks, “It’s getting near that time folks, Better replenish your food. I’ll take your plates if you’re through. They’ll be starting soon.”
Whtey finished a few remaining chips, and handed his empty plate to his niece. “Did you bring them doughnuts I left on the kitchen counter Frenchy?”
“No. I thought you put ‘em in the car.”
“Damn. I gotta listen to this music, and no doughnuts to eat with my coffee?”
Ray leaned toward the retired policeman, “You want me to go buy you a dozen doughnuts Whitey? I can find a place that open around here somewhere.”
“You sit right where you are, Ray.” Frenchy said. “If you leave now, they’ll never let you get back in after the music starts. No, Ray, Whitey can wait until we get back. He’ll eat doughnuts then.”
Whitey stood in front of his collapsible chair, and reached for a long cloth bag that lay on the ground by his chair. He unfastened a flap and withdrew six sections of carbon fiber poles. One section had a very sharp point on one end, and he pressed it deep into the turf. He joined four of the remaining sections together, and added the fifth, to which was attached an international yellow, triangular-shaped pennant. Carefully he slid the sections into the ground pole section, stood back, looked up at the pennant, and held out his arms. “Yeah. Looks okay to me.”
“What in the world is THAT for?” His niece asked.
“I gotta pee.” Whitey said. “I’ll look for the yellow flag when I’m trying to find my way back. I’ll see ya, hope I make it back before the music starts.”
“Wait a minute, buster.” Nadine said. “You didn’t ask me if I had to go. Well I do, and I’m going with you.”
Nadine leaped out of her folding chair, adjusted her red-white-and-blue turban, and hustled off through the music lovers toward the rest rooms.