As I was leaving the courthouse, I stopped to speak with the old man: “According to the trial records, the DA could not prosecute the case because he was in fact the main witness against the sheriff. Is that man still around?”
“You’re lookin’ at him, Sonny. I can see you’ve got lots of questions, but I never miss lunch at the Blue. Martha, she can whip up a mean chicken fried steak the likes of which you’ve never encountered in all your born days.”
“I thought chicken fried steak was more of a southern tradition.”
“Martha’s from Texas, been here a long time, but she’s a Texan down to her boots. Now if you wanna buy me a Blue special, I’ll give you all the details, Sonny.”
The clock on the wall was of the opinion that it was only: 10:55. “Be happy to; not sure I’m hungry enough to eat anything myself,” I replied.
“Don’t you worry; once you smell that steak frying and the beer batter green peppers; you’ll change your mind. That’s a guarantee, Sonny.”
It was short walk to the diner. When we arrived, it was full of senior citizens, mostly men, and they were all talking back and forth as if they were sitting at the same table. As we headed towards a booth, the DA collected a few extra citizens to our project: “Come on Hugo; come on Bart, this fella’s got lots of questions about you know what. Lunch is on him today.”
Sounds like a con job to me.
Yeah I know, but I figured it wasn’t that much money to be worrying about.
I was referring to the waste of time listening to tall tales. You were probably wearing a suit, and they had you pegged as a city boy with no sense of reality.
You’re starting to sound just like Bob; I guess you really do know him.
What? Did you think I offed him and took over his home; seriously Dude, I’m not that stupid, not as stupid as Randall anyway. How was the chicken fried steak; sounds really good about now. I had some once upon a time when I stopped off in Van Horn, Texas, at the El Capitan: instant addiction.
The Copperplate Arms! I thought their claim to fame was Irish coffee.
You are welcome to have that, but I was thinking of the fish and chips, and they have more linear feet of local ales on tap than anywhere on the planet, give or take, he grinned oh so pleasantly.
Are we going in the jeep?
The Copperplate Arms is located in the older part of town, practically a newborn by East Coast standards, across the railroad tracks in the lower numbered avenues. As we rounded a corner, the Copperplate appeared snuggling into a shoulder of the Butte looking like a reactionary publican with its Old English manner of half timbering, dark beams showing, slightly tipsy, and the second floor overhanging the first. It was a well preserved old man girdled by a far younger generation. A rock wall kept the front yard—covered in heather and gorse—from tumbling onto the sidewalk.
Looks ancient, I mentioned as we stepped from the jeep.
Yeah, just had its 150th birthday celebration a couple of weeks ago.
We ascended a stairway hewn from bedrock crunching the remains of a hail shower underfoot. At the top of the stairs, Ben opened the door only after peering through thick, distorting glass, a necessity due to an entryway barely large enough to accommodate a single human as if the inn had been built without considering the need to get into it. To the immediate left a narrow stairway quickly disappeared in a cloak of darkness; straight-ahead there was a door as well as to the right. Without hesitation, Ben passed through the right-hand door followed by yours truly.
The interior was commodious but cozy due to the surprisingly large number of people crammed into the establishment, and it was so noisy with chatter that I couldn’t hear the creak of the floor boards, ancient floor boards softened in places by the tread of years not to mention ups and downs, yes indeed, it sloped first this way and then that, giving the impression of the deck of a ship as it sways gently in ocean breezes. In the air hung the undeniable aroma of beer combined with fried fish and old, old wood which set me to wondering if the wood started out old.
We headed for the only table available: Don’t tell me they keep a table reserved for you, I asked and got another grin in response. Too bad, it isn’t possible to drop those grins in a piggy bank and bring them out on a rainy day.
Have you noticed that it smells like really old wood in here, Sheriff, like maybe they used wood from the Mayflower or something. He nodded, and I continued. What if every single piece of this inn came originally from the Mayflower; what if every piece of the Mayflower could be found somewhere in this inn; would the Copperplate believe itself to be the Mayflower or would it think itself the Copperplate? Whose consciousness would it have, does it have?
Before he could answer, the waiter showed up: “Fish and chips today, Ben? or?”
“Of course and I guess a bone shaking IPA would suit me just fine.”
The waiter’s gaze fell upon me: “What kind of fish do you have. I’ve never been here before, so I don’t have the menu memorized.”
My question occasioned joint laughter from Ben and the waiter, after which he fell into a more serious mode: “We use salmon,” he replied proudly.
“How about other options, coconut prawns for example or smoked salmon or haddock?”
“From British Columbia, I suppose.”
Now he looked at Ben with exasperation on his face. “Maybe I should introduce you: Barry, this is Marcia. Barry is the owner of the Copperplate, and anything you eat here will be fantastic. He only uses fresh ingredients. Marcia can’t seem to help being annoying; yeah, she’s from out of town, just house sitting for Trooper Bob, or so she says. I’m hanging out with her as part of my investigation into Bob’s disappearance.”
“OK sorry, I wasn’t trying to be insulting. I’ve always wanted to come here. It seems so very Old English, kind of like time traveling; in fact it reminds me of a place I went to in England that was at least 500 years old and was reported to have mummified body parts in the walls; I had a very fine venison stew there, and I expect whatever you show up with will be in the awesome category,” which commentary put a bit of a smile back in Barry’s British; “I’ll just copy the sheriff’s order; I love salmon and a bone quaking, or whatever he said, IPA is bound to be unbeatable; furthermore, King salmon from Canada is a very good choice since it’s always fresh and is as close to wild as you can get without it actually being technically wild although I suppose it really is wild, sort of.”
“She sounds like an expert,” Barry replied but to Ben as if I weren’t even there.
“Only to the extent that I like to grill up a nice Copper River fillet with melted butter and marmalade from Scotland and blackening seasoning from Louisiana. You might want to try it sometime, Barry.”
Do you really think I murdered Bob,” I asked after the proprietor departed.
Don’t know, did you?
You just want me to make your job easy, but I’m not going to.
In that case, are you ready to get back to the story?
Absolutely! Can’t wait to find out what happens.