Grantville, summer of 1636
“What can I do for you, Mr. Underwood?” the young lawyer asked.
“I want an injunction compelling that bar to change its name. It’s embarrassing,” Deacon Albert Underwood said. “I asked the man politely to take that sign down and he laughed at me.”
Jimmy Dick found Albert’s polite request rude and demanding, followed by an even ruder ultimatum. Jimmy laughed at him.
“They have no right to use the name. They aren’t Baptist. That’s why we threw them out. Drinking is a sin and calling that place The Baptist Basement Bar and Grill is insulting. Baptists do not drink!” The last words rang with passion, fire and brimstone. “You know what I thought it said when I first saw it? I thought is said The Bargain Basement Bar and Grill; after all it surely couldn’t say what it does, could it? But I took a second look and lo and behold it did say what it does.
“I pointed out he could shorten the sign by two words and still use it. You know what he said? He said ‘if we take off and grill how will people know we serve food?’ The man is a cretin and a fool; they should throw him in jail and throw away the key!”
The young lawyer found himself wondering if the old deacon ever said anything without filling it with passion. “Mr. Underwood, I understand and I sympathize.” He told a social lie, but then lawyers are . . . well, (I guess I’d better not say. I don’t want to get sued.) “But I doubt if there is anything I can do for you. The word Baptist is in the public domain. It’s not like you’ve got a trademark on it and it is attached to a church after all.”
“But they’re not Baptist, neither the bar nor the church. They call themselves Anabaptist. They are against every thing we stand for, like decency and order and right living. Ask any of the down-time pastors. The whole lot of them are anarchist. Can’t you get them for false advertising or something?”
“Mister Underwood, it will not hold up. What defines a Baptist is adult-only baptism and baptism by full submersion which they have been doing since they opened here in Grantville even if they didn’t always do it before. So, I am sorry, there is nothing I can do for you.
“The chief of police is a reasonable man and he has a lot of influence with Jimmy Dick. Why don’t you talk to him?”
“I did! He told me to go see a lawyer.”
“Then I guess you will just have to learn to live with it, sir.”
“You mean the law will do nothing? Well, if that is the case, someone ought to just burn the place down.”
“That, sir, would be illegal.” Realizing someone as passionate about the subject as the old deacon clearly might actually go to such an extreme, the young lawyer thought to head off trouble before it started. “Since you’ve mentioned it, if anything happens I will have to tell the police about this conversation.”
“Attorney client privilege.”
“First, you haven’t paid a retaining fee so you are not a client. Second, the privilege does not apply when a client announces ahead of time that they are going to do something illegal. Good day, sir. I cannot help you.”
“Well, I wouldn’t do it anyway. But someone should.”
Not many nights later flames shot up from the roof high into the sky, as if the spirit of the building sought heaven. The walls were quarried limestone, but the furnishings burned nicely as did the floor and the roof, except for the roof slates, which, along with the stained glass for the windows, were the only things congregation purchased, except for song books, Bibles and modern plumbing. Unfortunately, the fire burned the walls to lime. They were still standing but the building inspector declared them unsafe. They would have to come down. Beyond question, it was arson. Someone used so much fuel oil or kerosene that some of it floated out on top of the water when the fire department got busy controlling the blaze.
At first light, the coals still glowing, Lyndon Johnson started investigating the fire. The fire chief estimated how much petroleum someone used.
“That much?” a shocked Lyndon asked.
“It takes a lot for some to float out like it did.”
A radio call to the dispatcher and a few phone calls to the gas stations established for a fact, no one bought any diesel recently which did not go into a vehicle’s tank.
“Well, that’s a dead end. Looks like someone’s been sitting on a stash all this while. We can look, but, if the sweep for fuel back in ’31 didn’t turn it up, it’s not likely we will either,” Lyndon told the fire chief.
“I didn’t think it would be that easy,” the fire chief replied.
Jimmy Dick stood there looking at the ash filled hole in the ground. The sign over the door, by some fluke, somehow, survived. He shook his head. “We weren’t even open a month. The worst of it is, I had insurance on my contents but the congregation didn’t have any insurance at all. At least it was all new stuff. I sold all the up-time furniture and furnishings to an Italian. I’m glad I kept the juke box at my house, or it would be gone too.”
“Why’d’ya do that for?” Bubba asked.
“Because, Bubba, it could be overheard upstairs. Some songs shouldn’t be heard in church, even if it is through the floor.”
“Oh,” Bubba said sadly looking at the ashes.
Lyndon asked, “Who wanted you out of business badly enough to do this, Jimmy?”
“I don’t know, Lyndon. Not the other bars. They were happy to get rid of Ken’s regulars. I can give you a list of the regulars who wouldn’t come; some because they wouldn’t drink in a church, others because I wouldn’t keep the krauts out. But, damn it, Lyndon, it is kind of hard to tell your landlord he can’t buy a beer in your bar. And if they were going to burn something down, they would have torched the beauty salon in the old building.”
Lyndon’s next question probed a bit deeper. “Who had it in for you personally?”
“Most of my family, half of the regulars, all of my ex-tenants and most of the current ones,” Jimmy replied.
Lyndon pushed, “Why the tenants?”
“I raised the rent. My family ’cause I ended up with the property and they thought it should have been split up. The regulars because, over the years, when they were being stupid idiots I pointed it out to them, and I wasn’t the least bit polite about it when I did it either.”
Lyndon probed deeper still, “Sounds like you got half the world mad at you. Why, Jimmy?”
Jimmy actually looked a bit sheepish. “Because I enjoyed being a jerk? Freud told me I have a death wish.”
“Like you talked to Sigmund Freud!”
“You mean you haven’t?”
“Get me the list of the old regulars who don’t come. I’ll start there.”
Back at the station, Lyndon found a note in his inbox telling him to call a lawyer’s office. Shortly he stood knocking on Deacon Underwood’s door. “Mr. Underwood, have you heard the Anabaptist church burned last night?”
“Serves them right. They never should have opened a bar in the basement.”
“Mind if I ask where you were last night?”
“Home, in bed.”
“All night long?”
“I can’t sleep like I used too. So I get up and read and then go back to bed.”
“Anything you want to tell me?”
“You mean like, ‘Yes, I kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.’ Well, I didn’t.”
Lyndon did not trust the gleam in the old man’s eye.
“Hey, Jason, any ideas on who burned the bar?”
“Hey yourself, Lyndon, and what you really mean is did I do it since I got a record as a suspected arsonist.
“They never proved it. I never said I did it, never said I didn’t, either. In this case I didn’t. If I find out who did, I’ll beat the crap out him before I tell you. He burned a church, Lyndon. I don’t go to church, ‘cept for weddings and funerals. It shouldn’t have been there. But I would never burn a church.
“You ask me, it was one of the pious hypocrites. The churches are full of them. You know how you tell a Catholic from a Baptist in a liquor store? The Catholics will talk to each other, the Baptists won’t.”
“Well, you were in town. and you might have it in for Jimmy, you both being Shavers after all.”
“I ain’t got nothin’ against Jimmy. But, he shouldn’t have opened a bar in the basement of a church. It just ain’t right.”
A few days later the chief asked “How is the arson case coming?”
“A lot of dead ends,” Lyndon said. “The only thing I’ve turned up is Jason Shaver’s being in town. He says everything is cool between him and Jimmy. I know better. So there’s opportunity and motive. I’d question him again but he’s back in Magdeburg at the glass works.”
“How’d they move the fuel oil?” the chief asked. “It wasn’t carried in by hand, not that much, not by one person anyway. Freight moves around town at night since the League of Women Voters got the daylight traffic ban voted in. Ask the haulers if they saw anything.”
“Herr John’s Son?” Lyndon just stepped into the gas station to sign for the tank of gas for the cruiser. The attendant said, “I have a question.”
“The police called the day after the fire and asked if anyone had been bought diesel, and I said no except into trucks.”
“Yes,” Lyndon prompted.
“Is it important? One man buys ten gallons into cans once or twice a week.”
“Do you know who he is?”
“The next time he comes in, call the station. Then stall him if you can and try to get a name.”
“Yes, Herr John’s Son.”
“Wesley, your electric truck was seen around town the night of the fire? Know anything about it?”
“Now that’s the strangest thing. When I came in the morning after, I found the big door closed but not latched. Nothing missing or out of place so I just figured we forgot.”
“You’re telling me someone could have used your truck without you knowing it?”
“How’d they get in?”
“Through a window, maybe? I didn’t check. Like I said, nothing was missing.”
“Any idea who could have borrowed it?”
“You think of anything, let me know. I should talk to your partner too.”
“Sure, she’s home getting over having her appendix out. Been laid up all week.”
“Just for the record, where were you that night?”
“Home in bed. Where else?”
Three days later a message caught up with Lyndon to call Wesley at the conversion shop.
“Hey, Lyndon, after we talked I added a bar to the door. This morning the bar was upside down. There’s some nicks you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking for them and the chalk marks on the wheels were gone too.”
“I’ll be over in just a bit. Don’t touch anything until I get there.”
“Hey,” Lyndon called out to the office, “I need a fingerprinter. Who’s up?”
The chief came out of his office.
Lyndon addressed him. “Maybe we just got a break in the arson case.”
A week later on a roof top in Grantville
“See anything?” the radio asked.
“What did I tell you an hour ago?” Rick asked in nearly accent-free English.
“What did I tell you the hour before that?”
“What did I tell you once an hour yesterday and four yesterdays before that?”
“Do you see a pattern here?”
“I see nothing.”
“Have you been watching Hogan’s Heroes?”
“Yes. Sergeant Schultz is a hoot. Talk to you in another hour.”
“Hang on, I see a light. Someone is in the building.” The soft noise of the carrier wave and the occasional mutter of voices in the background of the station were the only sounds for long enough to measure time in fractions of an hour instead of numbered minutes.
“Okay, they are opening the doors and yes the truck is rolling out. It’s comin’ down. Move.”
“People are in place, Rick. Come on down.”
“Let me guess, you’ve seen The Price is Right?”
“Sure, my landlady brought them home and we watched them over and over. A panda is waiting for you in the alley.”
“Yes, a black and white patrol car.”
“Where did you come up with that one? Never mind. I’m on my way.”
Wesley’s electric truck made its way to the fair grounds where things to be delivered downtown were left until the middle hours of the night when traffic wouldn’t endanger the swarms of kids and other pedestrians. The driver and passenger loaded up, made the three stops and headed back to the conversion shop. When the two of them were exiting the side door of the shop, car lights came on at both ends of the alley.
A voice called out, “Freeze.” Then, “Put your hands on your heads.” Then, “Abe? Is that you?”
Abe, a known hillbilly-ophile answered, “Rick?”
“What’s going on?”
“You tell me.”
“We were borrowing Wesley’s truck. He said we could.”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Yes, he did. We needed to help someone move and we borrowed his truck. When we brought it back I said ‘thanks’ and he said ‘any time.'”
“Abe, you know that is not what he meant.”
“It is what he said.”
“Come on. Let’s go down to the station.”
At the station, they called Wesley. “Sure, I loaned Abe the truck to move some old lady. But I didn’t mean he could use it for free anytime he wanted without asking.”
Lyndon nodded. “Rick tells me it isn’t a question of Abe misunderstanding either, even if he has the I-don’t-know-English-too-good routine down pat. Shoot, his proper English is better than mine and he can do hillbilly just fine.”
“So,” Wesley asked, “did they burn the church?”
“No. The dispatcher at the fairgrounds says Abe worked the other side of town that night and he’s got records to prove it. Only thing they’ve got to say is they saw a dark pickup truck go by on rubber tires and they sure wished your truck had rubber tires. So now I get to chase down every dark truck in town that still has tires, which is most of them.
“Are you going to press charges.” Lyndon asked.
“No. They didn’t hurt anything, but I am going to charge them rent.”
The next day Lyndon stopped for gas. Barely through the door to sign the chit the attendant spoke to him.
“Herr John’s Son, I have something to say.”
“I have a name. He is Abe Holt.”
“Thanks. We picked him up last night.”
“Then he burned the church?”
“No. He has a solid alibi.”
“I have been thinking, Herr Underwood, he has been buying a lot of diesel into his truck. I have been wondering why so much driving. And now, after the fire, he has stopped.”
“Oh, really?” Lyndon said. “Interesting. What color is Underwood’s truck?”
“It is dark blue, Herr John’s Son.”
“Hm. Thanks, Johann.”
“Any time, Herr John’s Son.”
“Hey, Lyndon,” the chief called out when Lyndon got to the station. “What did you get last night?”
“A red herring. The fellows using Wesley’s truck didn’t do it. But they saw a dark pickup moving through town. So I follow that lead next.”
“Well, over lunch someone from the CoC asked me about it.”
“Chief Richards, how is the investigation going in the religious discrimination case?”
“The religious discrimination case. Have you found out who burned the church down?”
The chief asked for an explanation, “It’s religious discrimination?”
“Of course it is.”
“Arson. The only church in town to be burned is a down-time church. Your up-timer churches are strange and crazy, but for the most part, they are staying put in Grantville . . . well, other than the Pentecostals. These people are a long-standing despised minority. They are actively expanding under your protection.”
“Maybe the bar was the target and the church just happened to be over it?”
“Don’t be crazy. Who would care about a bar? No. You need to be investigating the loud-mouthed Lutherans whose pastor, from the pulpit, called it an act of divine justice.”
“I got the distinct impression if we didn’t look into it the CoC would.
“I told him we weren’t calling it a religious discrimination case at this time, and if the Lutheran pastor had an accident one dark night, I would come looking for him.
“So, if you don’t have any other leads, check it out.”
“I may actually have something. It turns out Underwood has a dark blue truck, which I know runs on diesel. He fills up way too often, but not since the fire.”
“Oh, really,” the chief said. “Let’s go.”
“To see Albert.”
The door opened and Albert Underwood said, “Yes?”
“Brother Underwood,” the chief said, they went to the same church. The archaic greeting matched the man being addressed. “I have a problem, and as a deacon of the church I thought you might be able to help me out.”
“If I can I surely will. What’s the problem?”
“I’ve got a suspect in an arson case who’s got motive, opportunity, and ability, which is enough to bring him in and book him.”
The old man paled. “I didn’t do it.”
“I didn’t say you did. So far the evidence is purely circumstantial so a judge would most likely throw it out. Without more evidence, I don’t see any point of charging the suspect.
“But, that’s not the problem I want your help with.”
“If someone in town got burned out, especially if they didn’t have insurance, we, that is, the congregation, would take up an offering. Seems to me like we should help the Anabaptists out. Don’t you think?”
Albert’s mouth fell open. “You have got to be kidding! After they opened a bar in the basement? And called it what they did? No absolutely not! It needed cleansing and nothing cleans quite like fire.”
“Albert? Is there something you want to tell me?”
“Yes. If you propose we take up an offering to help them rebuild, I will vote against it. And I’ll make it stick too.”
“Albert, I got a situation. The CoC thinks this is religious discrimination. Those people tend to act on their beliefs. If they do, we’ve got serious problems. I need this settled. I need to make an arrest whether I can make it stick or not.
“Or come up with the money to rebuild the church. If an elder deacon says to take up an offering and if he asks the other churches to do the same, and he seriously encourages people to give, we can raise enough to rebuild and I can keep a lid on things.”
“And you want me to do it?”
“That’s the idea.”
“What about the bar in the basement?”
“Nobody’s business but theirs. You know they don’t see drinking as a problem.”
“I don’t like it! Not one bit!”
“Needs to be done,” the chief said.
“I didn’t do it!”
“I didn’t say you did.”
“What about the name over the door?” Albert scrambled to salvage something since he understood he wasn’t going to have any choice in the matter.
“Oh, I think, maybe, something can be done about that,” the chief threw the old deacon a bone. “What do you say?”
“I don’t like it!”
“Albert, I need someone to head up the funding drive to rebuild the Anabaptist church and I need that someone to do it right.”
Albert turned red. “This is blackmail.”
“Really? Just what is it I am holding over your head? Why don’t you stop down to the station tomorrow morning, bright and early, and let me know how I’m going handle this. See you tomorrow, Brother Underwood.”
Back in the cruiser Lyndon spoke for the first time since leaving the station. “Chief, that’s just plain mean.”
“Yeah. It is,” the chief said with a chuckle. “Either he raises the money to rebuild or he confesses. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.”
“So, Jimmy Dick is back in business.” Lyndon said.
“He says no. There’s not enough business. Too many of the regulars won’t come. But things have quieted down with the old 250 crowd, so maybe we don’t need it.”
The next morning Albert Underwood walked into the chief’s office. “Brother Richards, I’ve got something to say.”
The chief nodded.
“I’ve walked this earth for over eighty years. In my younger days I did a few things I probably shouldn’t have. Some called me a braggart and a bully, and looking back I’d have a hard time arguing about it. But I am not going to take the credit for doing something when I didn’t do it. And come judgment day I do not want to explain to the Lord why I helped build a bar. I can’t confess. I won’t go to my grave with a lie on my lips. I won’t do it.”
“Albert, I need to know what you did with the diesel you were buying, because right now it sure looks like you used it to burn a church down.”
“I didn’t do it. I’d be lying if I said I did. At my age I’ll be facing the Lord sooner rather than later.”
“What did you do with the fuel?”
“I didn’t use it to burn the church down.”
“I didn’t ask what you didn’t do with it. I asked what you did do with it.”
“I ain’t telling.”
“Albert you’re the only lead we’ve got on where that much fuel oil came from.”
“So be it,” the old man said.
The chief got up from his desk and walked to the door. “Lyndon, I need you in my office.”
When Lyndon entered, the chief pointed at the old man. “Book him.”
In a bit over an hour the chief’s phone rang. The judge currently handling arraignments asked, “Chief, Albert Underwood’s wife just came to my chambers. Is it true you’ve got him locked up?”
“Yes. He’s our only suspect in the arson case.”
“Do you consider him a flight risk?
“Do you think he did it?”
“I don’t know. If he could tell me where the fuel he’s been buying went, I’d say no. But he can’t, or at least he won’t.”
“Just a minute.”
After some faint mumbling the judge said, “His wife says he’s embarrassed to admit he’s been selling out of town.”
“If the fueling stations did that they’d be cut off. But there’s no law against it.”
“His wife says it bugs him because she’s making all the money. His pension is gone so he’s been looking for some way to make money. This is all he’s come up with.”
“Shoot,” the chief said. “I need something in the way of a break in this arson case.”
“This isn’t it,” the judge said.
A minute later Lyndon’s phone beeped.
“Yes?” Lyndon asked.
“We know what he did with the fuel. He’s covered, Let him go.”
A few minutes latter Albert bypassed the receptionist and knocked on the chief’s door.
“Brother, Richard, I’ve been thinkin’. Now don’t get me wrong. I still think the place should have been burned down. But you’re right. If it had been anyone else, I’d be happy to help in a fundraiser, but I won’t help raise the funds to rebuild a bar. If you can assure me they won’t open a bar back up, I’ll raise the money for them to rebuild.”
“Jimmy says he definitely is not going to open back up. Is that good enough?”
“I think so. But that’s not what I wanted to tell you. Lyndon said you know what I’ve been doin’. I wouldn’t want it to get around. An’ I’ve been thinkin’. The CoC might be right. The fellows I’ve been selling fuel to picked up a load the night of the fire. If you don’t have any other lead on where the fuel came from then it might be the fuel I sold ’em. I talked religion with them some. If you think I’m angry with the Anabaptists, you ought to hear them. They hate ’em even more than they hate the Lutherans.”
“So you think they stopped on the way out of town and torched the church?”
“Motive, opportunity, ability, what you said I had. Well, they had it too. They even had the supplies on the move that night.”
“Brother Underwood, do you have any idea who they are or what they’re doing with it?”
“I asked once. They said the French were paying top dollar for fuel at a research station. I wasn’t selling enough to fuel anything much like a boat or a tank or something and it’s not aviation quality so I didn’t see any harm.”
“How do they get in touch with you?”
“They stop by the house and ring the door bell.”
“Do you know when they’ll be back?”
“Another three or four weeks.”
“But you’ve not been buying any since the fire. How were you going to fill the order?”
“I’m ahead pretty close to a wagon load. After the bar burned down, the wife asked me what would happen to the house if what I had out behind the garage caught fire, and if maybe I should keep it down. I decided she’s right.”
“Can you let me know the next time your buyers are in town? I think we need to talk to them.”
“I’ll give you a call,” the old man said.
“At least this time it will be a short stakeout,” Rick told his partner.
“Be quiet and watch,” came the response.
A wagon full of barrels came down the road. But instead of turning left and heading out of town, it turned right.
“Shit.” He clicked the hand held twice and waited.
“Go ahead,” the dispatcher said.
“Call the army guys outside of town. Tell them they’re not coming. They turned right instead of left.”
“I’ll tell them. Watch them as long as you can see them, then come on in. I’ll get a tail on them.”
Shortly Lyndon stopped by in a patrol car. “Hop in.”
With the lights off, the cruiser crept along staying just close enough to see where the wagon went.
Lyndon grabbed the hand set to the radio, “Holy smokes, they’re stopping at the Baptist church. Get me some backup, pronto.”
“Will do, Lyndon. Do what you can, but be safe about it,” Chief Richards voice returned over the airways.
“Rick, you shoot one of the horses if that’s what it takes to keep the wagon from leaving. Don’t worry about anything else.” Lyndon turned to the other man, “Come on.”
One man waited on the wagon, the other walked out of the building.
Lyndon called out in German, “Hold it right there. Get your hands in the air.” The man drew a gun and Lyndon dropped him. The driver kicked off the brake and slapped the reins over the horses’ backs while at the same time yelling at them. It did no good because he now had a horse down in the traces.
Lyndon rushed the door. His companion took charge of the downed man. Lyndon rushed into the basement of the building to find a wooden barrel of diesel with the bung knocked out and fuel all over the place. A two-inch stub of a candle slowly burned its way down to the floor. The wooden stick match with a black head, made to a Grantville pattern, lay on the floor beside it. Lyndon picked the candle up carefully and carried it outside.
“How is he?” Lyndon asked at the door.
Another car pulled up and slammed on the brakes. Four people piled out.
“There’s a mess to clean up inside,” Lyndon told the chief. “One down, and one in custody.”
Back at the station the still-living half of the pair sang like a stool pigeon. “It was not my fault. I didn’t know he was going to do it. It was my first time to come. His last partner quit him. I didn’t know till we got here.”
“We can check if you’re new or not. If you are then you’re only facing one count of attempted arson. Did he say why he did it?” the chief asked.
“Yes, he said, he’s part of the Society of the Sacred Heart. It’s his God-given duty to stop the spread of heresy. He said this too is an Anabaptist church which re-baptizes people. It’s an affront to God, the church, and the souls of men. It was his duty to burn it down. He wished he could burn it when the people were inside to send them off to hell all the quicker.”
Chief Richards shook his head. “Book him.”
“When you called in, was that supposed to be a pun?”
“What are you talking about?”
“When you called in, the first thing you said, ‘holy smoke.’ I want to know, were you making a pun?”
Months later, Albert Underwood stormed into the chief’s office. If anger was heat, he could boil water. “You promised me they wouldn’t open another bar in the basement. I told a lot of people that when I went looking for money.” The simple truth being, he bragged about it outrageously. “If you don’t shut it down, I’m going to look like a fool. You promised. I expect you to shut it down.”
“Now, Brother Underwood, just calm down. Think back to the day you got locked up and released. Now, just what did I tell you?”
“You said they wouldn’t be opening a bar in the basement.”
“Did I? Or did I say Jimmy Dick would not be reopening a bar in the basement? I remember. Those were pretty much my exact words. Well, Jimmy hasn’t. The congregation has. They say it’s an evangelical outreach. People stop for a beer and see they aren’t a bunch of sticks in the mud like up-time churches. Part of the problem is the Gardens told them they can’t come back until they promise to stop talking religion. Since there’s nothing else they really want to talk about, they decided to open a place of their own.
“But, Jimmy Dick has nothing to do with it, which is all I promised.”
Albert set quiet for a moment. He didn’t want it. Then he smiled. “Brother Richards, when you were standing on my doorstep the day before I got locked up, you told me you could get them to change the sign. Well, they’re using the same sign, so they’re still calling it the Baptist Basement Bar and Grill. I expect you to see to it they change it like you told me you would.”
“Let me see what I can do.”
Preston Richards leaned over and rolled the passenger side window done. “Brother Granat, can I give you a lift?”
“Thank you,” Rev. Granat said, opening the door and getting in.
“Don’t mention it. There is something I need your help with.”
Rev. Granat cautiously asked, “Which is?”
“The sign over your basement door at the church. Albert Underwood is offended by the use of the word Baptist. Do you think you could help me out? He says I promised. I didn’t but I did say something once and I guess it could be construed as a promise. Whether it can or it can’t, he sure is doing it anyway.”
“After all of the money he raised, I think we can do something. The sign is okay as long as it doesn’t have the word Baptist in it?”
“I guess so,” Preston answered.
The chief answered his phone the next day. “Brother Richards,” Albert said, “thank you for taking care of the sign promptly.”
“I haven’t seen it. What did they change it to?”
“I have no idea. They haven’t put a new one up. But the old one is down and you said the new one wouldn’t have the word Baptist in it so I really don’t care.”
Two days later Lyndon told something in the station and everybody broke out laughing. The chief buzzed the receptionist and said, “Tell me about it? I could use a good laugh.”
“Chief, the sign over the bar is back up. They cut the sign into two pieces and inserted a third piece large enough to carve three extra letters, “Ana,” and put the sign back up. Lyndon hasn’t seen it yet, but he says he heard about it while walking to work and they couldn’t have put it up more than an hour ago. The whole town will be laughing about it shortly. Well, at least those who aren’t boiling mad or screaming bloody murder about it, anyway.”
The next day about ten o’clock the chief answered his phone, “Hey, Preston, I’ll buy you lunch if you’ll pick me up.”
“I can do that.”
“Pick me up at eleven so we can beat the rush.”
Preston picked up the smiling judge.
“Where are we going?” the chief asked.
“Where?” a puzzled Preston asked.
“The Anabaptist Bar and Grill. Annas’ place. I heard it called that three times on the trolley on my way to work this morning. Seems like everyone heard about Albert Underwood demanding they change the name, so they added Ana. Beside, the cook and the bartender and the waitresses are all named Anna. So it’s Annas’ place.”
The judge continued, “I tell you, they couldn’t have asked for better advertising. I want to see the sign. Beside, I hear the beer is good, and they say they’ve got a grilled brat that tastes just like the best brand name off a supermarket shelf.”
Looking at the sign over the door, the judge said, “Those three letters on the unscorched wood sure do stand out.”
When they were seated a buxom matron came to their table, “I”m Anna Gisa. I will be your waitress. What can I get you gents.”
“Gisa . . . “
“No, Chief Richards, here I am Anna or Anna Gisa.”
“Okay. Anna, where did you learn to take an order that way?”
“Is how Jimmy Dick’s waitress did. Is not right?”
“Yeah, it’s fine, just wondering. But why are you going by Anna?”
“Chief Richards, everyone is all the time calling Anna so is easier than to tell it is not our names.”
When she left with their order for small beer and brats, the judge said, “See, I told you, Annas’ place. If the food and the beer is half as good as people are claiming, they’ve got it made. But you know what is really funny?” The judge did not wait for the chief to answer. “Look over there in the corner. If you bring your kids with you in the evening they’ve got someone telling Bible stories while you have a beer or two. A bar telling Bible stories, now don’t that beat all?”
Months later Chief Richardson stopped in around three o’clock for a brat. He’d missed lunch and a brat sounded good. The lunch crowd gone, Preston sat at the bar.
He asked, “So, Anna, how’s business?”
“Chief, is very good. People like our beer, they like especially Henri’s brats. The number of families bring children is good. They have a beer, maybe two, maybe dinner. The kids hear a story. Some children start coming on Sunday, a parent too, sometimes. Everything is good.
“The only problem . . . ” Anna shook her head and tsked. “We have to tell our elders to argue more quiet. It disturbs other customers. Is getting tiresome. No wonder the Gardens told them not come back. Some nights I wish we could do the same.”